A clairvoyant once told me
that my patron goddess
was Athena.

Athena, born from Zeus
after he experienced
an enormous headache.
Athena sprang fully grown
and in armor from his forehead.

She came to embody wisdom
and rational thought.
Her spirit animal is the Owl.

My spirit animal is the Owl,
and I also give men
enormous headaches.

At the Pool

The boys showed up
around sunset,
seventeen to your thirteen.
*
We left the pool,
no longer ours alone.
*
I glanced over
as we wrapped our bodies in towels,
and one of them was staring up at you
the way we watch the most
beautiful of sunsets-
*
his mouth open,
eyes sparkling in wonder.
*
Get ready, sister,
I thought.
He might be among the first,
but he will not be the last
to appreciate
*
you
*
as a gorgeous gleam of light.
*
Who could fear the dark
after seeing you?
I need you to make a clean incision
along your left medial chest wall
*
remove the throbbing,
bloody heart from your chest
and I will remove my own
*
then we’ll exchange them,
for tonight
*
I will keep all the aching sorrow
your heart holds
I will feel your pain,
sit with your heartbreak,
honor your empathy
*
And you can feel, for a few hours,
all the love my heart holds for you
*
*
-transplant, for Chesa

Hafiz says that there is suffering in the world
because if everyone felt joy at the same time,
we would set the whole world on fire.

-Ready to Burn (His Winter Crop)

Kacey

One of her earliest memories
of our parents

is that Halloween they attended
the church costume party
dressed as Satan and an angel.
 
Frightened, abandoned,
she began to wail-
 
then saw the two of them
rush toward her
like a schizophrenic daydream.
 
Our father, red, in horns-
our mother, lit and lovely-
 
the profane and the sacred
rushing in to gather her up,
the whole world with all it’s complications
in a race to possess her,
stop her tears.

Toothless

“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

***

I met a goddess once.

“Yeah, me too,” you’re thinking,
but I don’t mean it the way you mean it.
I don’t mean that I met an incredibly beautiful,
intelligent, articulate, talented, neurotic,
engaging, enraging, whimsical, powerful,
woman. Women.
I mean that I was graced to meet
an actual goddess, and that somehow,
the holiness of that meeting was not lost on me,
despite my blindness.
We communed over Little Caesar’s Pizza
in a run-down psych ward that not had heat for two days
during an Oklahoma cold snap.
Her beautiful hair crawled with lice,
and when she found that I loved poetry,
she recited Shelley’s Ozymandias to me-
her complete lack of teeth giving the words
a lisping, breathless quality
that only made them more immediate.
This was not about an ancient king-
not about those who put their trust in power.
It was about a weary Goddess who knew,
from long experience,
that eventually, all is dust.

(But not while I’m alive.
I hold her voice, her beauty,
in worship
while I live.)

When I couldn’t pick up my daughter early today,
as planned, she sent me a series of texts-
a masterwork of guilt-trip and manipulation
for a twelve-year-old to construct.

I laughed.

When we got home, preparing stuffed mushrooms-
I called her, “Chef” and worked under her direction-

I read her texts back to her, aloud.
When her mouth curled into a smile,
I knew-

she knew.

“Don’t ever do this to another human,
and know that one day, a man will try to do this
to you. That’s the game.”

“I’ll be fine,” she calmly replied,
and smiled, knife close to hand.

The Knife

Upon being unable to fold up the weapon,
he tells me that I’m “such a girl”.
I forget that his insult is my compliment,

dousing him in ice-cold water,
and only hours later, giving him thanks.

The true insult would be his approval.
The true tragedy would be all of us,
all the time,
well-practiced in instruments
of death and mutilation.

His disregard for my sharp grace
is just a symptom of his blindness.

I am Other Girls.

The Reader

I live in words. I live on words.
I am a reader, an editor.
I weigh all your syllables judiciously-
eyes narrowed at the insincerity of your adverbs,
the impossibility of your adjectives.

Knife in hand, I am ready to make you
and your narrative,
bleed.

I don’t want a writer- those politicians.
I’m not interested in the cheap peddlers of words-
swindlers at the mercy of the crowd.
Keep your cliches, your easy tribute
to the lowest common denominator.

Antony, you changed their minds,
but I read you as I read the crowd that day,
and I was not impressed.

I do not come cheap,
and I have never been easily persuaded.
I’m through with explanations,
sick of defense.

I want a visionary.
I want a reader,

I have been reading you from the beginning.
Can you read me?

Women with Strange Hearts

Nothing stops your heart. Not even
deep dives into freezing regions of despair
that would kill the rest of us-
you find ways to survive,
coming back to your family, time and again.
*
*
Those who call you flightless,
watching you from shore,
have never seen you swim rescue-
never witnessed your speed and grace beneath the waves.
*
Those who thought they sized you up-
your quiet waddle over icy tundra-
have long since given up at trying to take you down.
*
The whisper of your daughters and grandchildren
might have warned them:
*
“She has the strongest heart in the whole world.”
*
Never underestimate the Empress.
*
-Kathi, The Emperor Penguin

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Photo via National Geographic