absconded

it was never you i fled from, you with a heart like a lighthouse and hands that pulled me up from the dirt, never minding when i left mud and wretch on your clothes; and it’s always you i carry through each hour, a glimpse of effervescent eyes and your ephemeral flickered grin, your shoes on my feet and your words braided into my hair. how many times now have i held my head between my hands and damned the chasm swallowing you, effacing me more every day? when was the last utterance of your tender sobriquet, a surprised shout calling from the sky? my stars still laugh in your voice, incandescent amidst the yawning swath of black. how long have you known my dear, that I’m not coming back? that twin bedsheets with blue and yellow stars would stay folded in the cupboard,  your glossy faces taped to walls you’ll never reach? transcend the corporeal swell of water and time, stay close to me and trace my footsteps on the moth-wing map. tell me once again that perilous distance and faces that have begun to set cannot dim the luminescence of your balefire eyes keeping watch over the ocean.

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full circle.

I have been leaving you out of our story. 
Perhaps I thought you forfeited your claim to grief 
with the soporific deathwish,
waking somnolence of your grave-still body
alive and looking at her anguish
dark curls stuck around her face as white as buried bones
breathing slowly and wishing you weren't.
                              
                                 Lock the door when you leave and don't you dare look back.  

You have no right to pummel the concrete 
until your knuckles shred, or let your screams
echo through the gouged bedroom walls
or weep when you place your grown-up hand
on the hollow cast of tiny stars.

Do not speak to me of loss
when it's you who dragged
your rancorous soul
through the dirt and down the road.

You need to give him credit, she'd say
and I stared down at her shoes
with ziptie laces and holes in the toe.
Felt the immortal bitter swarm
sting my heart
gorged on poison and memory
                                                                                                                   Darling, it's me.
                            Wake up; it's nearly noon and we set you a place at the table.

On the cusp of sixteen, I stopped asking
where you went
why there is (no
sound)
between the faceless walls

what happens after
the dear and mighty
fall without trace.

Fear's shadow slept over 
our bodies. Illusory reconcile
cast a strange and sinister light

a discord between
the man who slipped away
and the one standing
like a lighthouse beside my hospital bed.
                                                                                    I have not made this easy for you.

You who touched my nascent brow
before sunlight's exaltation,
who fathered two children and claims four
as his own, the sturdy wire
between fixtures in our constellation;

perhaps she is right,

and I will learn to write the chapters
thrown into the fireplace, edges burned
poignant viscera still legible beneath
ten years of dust and ashes.

There is more to this story than handprints 
on cheekbones, iv drips stabbing our crooked veins,
dark fringe over her eyes like a shroud,
gaunt hours under clinical florescence.
                                                                
                                                              Dear one, what is it you've done to yourself?

There is also this:
a homemade treehouse and firecrackers, tiaras and satin shoes.
Face paint and mardi gras beads and my dress-up clothes,
flowers blooming in your lapel and in my hair.
We're royals now, looking proud over the peeling balcony.
I am tall as the grass under our second-story feet
my hand enfolded in your palm like a prayer.

                                                                        When you're a kid again, will you come
                                                                                                 with me on the swingset?
                                                                           When I'm your size will we be too big
                                                                                 to remember how the story goes?

We hear her from the kitchen,
back door thrown open to mid-July swelter.

                                                                                                           It's half-past noon.
                                                  Stop dawdling around the yard and come inside.

Joshua

Do you remember when we were sprites?
darting through afternoon-gold grass
husky evening nipping at our heels,
but never catching us
because we sailed on arts-and-crafts wings.

I knew each fold
that appears when you smile
and I could coax them out
with an orange laugh
with a lavender embrace
You were my dandelion summer
and the auburn warmth
that swaddled me during grey November.

Do you remember when we were idols?
finding gold in cupid bows
glittering with noontime laughter,
and never sickened by the
end
because we believed it wouldn’t come

I skipped around a bonfire
and threw paper flowers
into the rabid flames.
Smoke rings around the roses
And we slept soundly

under a navy quilt
under scorching-white stars
that crossed
and watched
our supple skin
turn yellow.

Do you remember
when the Fates called us by name?

Clothes

Hand-me-downs are better,
I think, than the stiff of new leather
or the cold crisp of a blouse hung primly.
I drape my body in the old wears
of my mother, the thin silk skirts discarded
at a thrift shop door
the stuffed-toe shoes from my aunt’s closet.
I am swaddled in their past and sometimes
their present if we agree to share.

Hands like tiny stars have clung to this sweater’s sleeves
a classroom of chalkboard imagination stitched into the yarn.
These shoes, shiny black, toes squeezed so they all point north
stomped across marble courthouse floors, making a case for justice
and mercy and the practicality of stiletto heels.
These earrings, drizzling chains of gold chiming
quietly in my hair
turned my grandmother’s ears into chandeliers and dazzled
all the men in nearby candlelight.

I am a living tapestry of beautiful women.
Their warmth hums in my seams.

Elevation

Roller coasters on the Fourth of July
swooped into a tufty sky.
Your child’s cries
from a middle-aged throat
mingled with my tiny squeals.
Your grown-up hand
encased my little star

Vertigo heights
that made my lungs swell
and bruised my chest
and stained my face yellow-green-
I weathered them because
your eyes glittered,
and I wanted to be why.

The encroaching night
blinded silvery eyes.
But the coaster roared on
thundered into blackness
I stretched thin,
blurred by foggy consciousness.

Rickety tracks
that rattled my skull
and churned my stomach
and trembled my bones-
I rode them because
you still clasped my hand,
and I prayed you wouldn’t let go.

I tugged at your sleeve
weathered by violent winds
and pleaded to go,
but
a new manic gleam
sparked in your eyes.

Vertigo heights
that made my lungs swell
and burst my heart
and sprained my diaphragm-
I rose and fell like a tidal wave
you,
the rattling earth.

At the stop,
cobwebbed rails harbored
no new passengers.
And you wanted eternal thrill,
But in my sickness
I stumbled
off to follow the fled.

I sat in the winter-dry grass
and watched you flying.
I wished my wings had not tired,
But eternal migration is too far
for a fledgling
with eggshell still in her down.

Yanking gravity
that urged you down
and pleaded reason
and harbored your little star.
You defied it because
you sought your riches
among the night’s jewels.

I trudged away from your nocturnal cries
for I knew my home was not in feeble gusts
You did not follow me.
You chased a fleeing life.
You chased the sideways eight
shrieking Glory
and inhaling the hand-me-down air.

In what voice do your stars laugh?

My dearest one, you were once so small that you held onto my shoulder as you put on your shoes. We hid under the bed covers reading night-time tales, and you nestled into the pillows and listened to the lullabies I loved to sing until you drifted away.

You were so small, but brighter than every star. In the summertime we danced in arcs of water, little feet squashing through the grass, the sprinkler turning, turning, turning. We ran around and I held your hand, because I knew that one day we’d be too far for you to reach.

Robins nested outside your window. We watched for them in the springtime and waved goodbye when they flew away. The years passed like that. I learned that I would give my life away if it meant you could look out the window and see the newborn wings every spring. I learned to cherish the sound of your breathing, the unsteady heave of fragile lungs. There was a time we thought you’d leave us, a newly-hatched babe gone somewhere in the sky. I never thanked you for holding on so tightly.

Now you are so tall, and you put your arm around my shoulder. I learned that it is alright to lean on you, just a little. Because in all your young wisdom, you know how to shine into shadows and speak in lovetones. Who taught you all this, dear heart? You are so grown.

The Least of These

I want to take you in my hands
and whisper prayers
into your hair. Little one,
hush and hide yourself

in my cornered room.
I will keep him away

and you can watch the butterflies
dance above our heads
below the ceiling
and while you sleep

under the iridescent colony
I will cast a warmth

and remind you
that nothing lasts forever, save
for Atlas and his weary treasure

and the fluttering, fearless,
final oaths
of chiaroscuro cocoons.