Gratuity

You feed me platitudes,

from an outstretched

robot arm,

like fine chocolates,

wrapped in shiny

foil, nuts and nuggets

sweet but suspect.

This arm reaches me

through bars on my

window,

a jail of your dis-ease,

and I realized

that the arm

is not your own,

it floats disembodied

upon your

nuance and diplomacy,

assigned there to

reinforce the captivity

your disdain has created for me.

A convenient arrangement,

but I no longer eat the chocolates,

as they pile up

beneath the bars,

like defecation from

a mechanical Easter bunny.

And as I try to break out

of this jail of my own

lack of understanding,

I shed tears of

not knowing

what it was I did

to be sentenced here,

to a term of

isolation,

solitary confinement,

watched over by

this robot arm of your

convenience.

An arrangement I somehow

signed onto,

without meaning to.

And I discovered

a fissure in the wall

of my own disillusionment,

a barrier of self-doubt

and self-deprecation,

self-blame being the

strongest mortar ever made,

and I chiseled at it while

the arm dropped its

offerings

upon the altar

of the gods of Cowardice and

Lies of Omission,

and I chiseled at it

until I made a hole

big enough to see through

to the other side,

and with sentimentality

biting at my toes as I

forced my way through,

I escaped into unfamiliar

terrain.

A new beginning

of realization,

that it was not me all along,

it was you.

Blind Optimism

The ground trembled beneath our feet,

but you thought we were dancing.

Twirling and whirling,

hands reaching for something

that isn’t there,

you thought we were ecstatic,

but the wind you felt

you generated from

your bliss,

was a storm.

Untroubled by the darkness,

you commented upon the night,

though it was midday.

Stumbling, you thought

you were reaching for

new heights,

gleefully.

But you were troubled

by the dankness.

How it rose from underneath

the surface that is

my despair.

How you could not

explain that

one,

troubling reality.

That smell.

So you blamed me,

and though I tried to tell you,

you walked away.

If but a Difference

What makes one person’s words

worth more than another’s?

Words stacked up

like bricks and mortar,

a wall in a pawn shop,

or a brokers lounge.

Words wrapped in gold foil,

like fine chocolates

that melt sinfully

decadent

on a lusting tongue.

Words that link together,

like the fine bodies

of dragonflies,

reproducing

in the summer evening,

adrift on a song

unheard by all but

the legions of tiny

bodies

that live but an eternity

in a moment.

A word is a number,

in an equation,

lost to time

by someone who

considered it and became

distracted.

When I write a word,

does it become immortal?

Or does it wither and

die

like so many soldiers

lost at sea,

adrift in a notion,

romantic and superfluous,

if but only to the person

they were meant to

rescue

on that one, final

night.

Tempestuous Nonsense

Driven by a Capricorn wind,

down an uneven slope

of unspoken awareness,

We battle fortitude,

tenacity and soliloquy,

which is overdramatic,

at best.

Pretension and grandiosity

send us shaking our heads

in a pithy of rage.

That is not

part of the rhetoric

advanced in the maze

of battle plans.

The peaks are as

valleys,

inverted in a sea

of unrest.

Until it is too late,

then,

it is better left

unsaid.

It Has Always Been This Way

I call you to me,

breathlessly,

truly divine, you are,

I thought.

With a word,

contained in a

whisper,

the two of us giggling,

inundated with

the glee

of a moments

passing.

We only maintain ourselves

separately,

together,

as one being.

It is a secret we share

always.

Looking around us

as if we don’t know

what it is,

only,

we do.

We are mistaken,

often,

yet we do not

mind.

No one understands

how we can be

one person,

only two bodies,

in orbit

around

each other’s

hearts.

Life is a Dream

I was planted in a field of masochistic mannequins

each made mute by the mask that overwhelms

our tightly bound faces.

Eyes shift left to right as we regard each other

from heads bound forward,

tight smiles painted upon faces that

nod approvingly up and down

in small, stilted movements.

It’s cordial.  It’s proper.  It’s polite.

We look alike, especially from

our sideways glances.

We should.  We are related.

There are walls that separate the kindred

into sections like pens

in a feed lot of misunderstanding,

dislike,

contempt.

Wearing platitudes on tags

around our necks

of professed gratuity.

We were planted there,

each with a number,

a lineage,

a placeholder of an ideal.

Trusted to carry on the

traditions

of silence.

We all stand there

as if waiting for something.

What is it we are waiting for?

Time ticks by, annoying as

it disturbs our cherished

awkward silence.

Impatient taps from restless

feet echo in the dimly lit room.

I squirm, uncomfortable.

It occurs to me that no one

ever told me why?

Or who this protocol

was set by.

It occurred to me that the iron grip

across the back of my neck

hurt, and that by turning and using

the muscles and the bones,

encased in the plastic that bound me,

might set me free of this

tyrannical propriety.

A loud pop and crack

sounded as I broke

the case that trapped me,

and it occurred to me that I could

make weird faces and didn’t have

to mimic the smiles that

surrounded me, forced as they were.

I detected hushed murmurs from

the field.

Cracks formed on the edges of eyebrows

raised in speculation.

Shadows were cast,

and tiny glows, like a light left on

in a closet began to filter towards me.

Stiff from the rigidity, I crept slowly around, playing

hide and seek with myself

between the legs and bodies of other mannequins,

some so tall I couldn’t see their faces.

A few I poked,

running away and peeking at to see if

they noticed.

One I tipped over

accidentally.

(Sorry.)

One tripped me

(on purpose?)

Tiredly, I felt

a yearning in the muscles

in my face.

A twitching spread

and sounds came out

that shook me,

and frightened me,

and then silenced me again.

With this new found voice,

I stated quietly,

“Not me.

I did not agree to

live in a cell,

alone.”

Tortured mannequins.

Containment suits

of wired fragments

of feelings

wound in balls,

like balls of yarn,

so stuffed away

that the colors of

the beautiful threads

are hidden,

tangled and despised.

So soon you

embrace the coffin?

So soon the stiffness, the stillness,

the coldness?

Can you not hear the child within

you, the one who came here

with purpose and intention?

With love?

Weren’t you the ones

who taught me that

differences were special?

If we can cultivate our palate

for strange drinks and

plates of foods that frighten

the best of us,

why can we not cultivate a taste

for each other?”

These things I muttered, shuffling among them.

I came to a door that led into another room.

I entered there, shaking the stiffness from

my limbs.

There were shadows and shapes of people

sitting at a large table

playing cards.

I squinted at them,

one by one,

and came to recognize

their faded features as

people I’d seen in

photographs; gray and old,

torn and yellowed.

A man gestured for me to join them

and I sat in a wooden chair,

too large for me,

but comfortable.

It creaked when I sat,

and I smiled at the faces

of my dead ancestors.

They smiled and nodded,

each in turn.

“Why are they like that?” I asked

the room at large.

They looked toward the door I’d

come through with one motion.

“They don’t have much time,”

they said, voices a chorus

of history.

“We were the same way,” a short and scrappy

woman said.  She smiled and winked at me, taking a bite of

crabapple pie.

“What changed you?” I asked.

“We’ve got all the time in the world,” she said.

I was puzzled, and spotted another door.

I rose and walked towards it.

Entering, I stopped inside,

seeing faces I recognized

as the banished.

Some were dead, and some alive.

They eyed me wearily.

Some I knew.  Some I didn’t.

“What is it all for?” I asked.

“We play cards with the others,”

one of them said.

“Sometimes.”

“I see,” I said.

I didn’t.

Petunia

“Petuni’s,”  Grandma called them.

I put them in the window box

lovingly,

as if I were tucking her into bed.

She could lie there,

snug and warm,

soaking up the summer sun

with a quilt of pinks and purples,

laced together with fine green stitching.

My fingertips pressed the earth

around their vibrant stems,

buds giggling like children,

in my Grandma’s dreams.