"- Ellen Bass, “Basket of Figs” (via iameatingpoetry)
Bring me your pain, love. Spread
it out like fine rugs, silk sashes,
warm eggs, cinnamon
and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me
the detail, the intricate embroidery
on the collar, tiny shell buttons,
the hem stitched the way you were taught,
pricking just a thread, almost invisible.
Unclasp it like jewels, the gold
still hot from your body. Empty
your basket of figs. Spill your wine.
That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it,
cradling it on my tongue like the slick
seed of a pomegranate. I would lift it
tenderly, as a great animal might"
carry a small one in the private
cave of the mouth.
Death is comingand you must build a starshipto take you to Venus.Make it from a catsup bottle,a flashlight coil,a penny, the cat’s bell,Mom’s charm bracelet.They say that planet is torment,whipped by circular wind,choked in vitriol clouds.But no. When you get thereit is a light in the skyand I am with you.If you find nothing else,borrow the pleated wingof a winter moth,lighter than dust.
Funny, when your brain is intent on writing one thing and you heart knows so much better. Your heart says to your brain, those poems aren’t important, these are the poems you need to be writing.
To My Father
I do not understand the language
of the place you now inhabit.
You have claimed citizenship
to a country of ghosts,
of strange voices and hands in the dark.
I should walk beside you,
but I have no map
and those thick woods frighten me,
so I stand at a distance.
I am not proud of this,
I know they frighten you too.
The you I clung to as a child is gone,
but I can’t seem to let him go.
Standing under the soft spray
of our favorite waterfall,
I think they must’ve already called you.
I was young and didn’t recognize
and even now it is difficult to see
the truth of who we are.
I am not a little girl in your arms
and you cannot ignore
that country any longer.
How do we stop our hands from shaking?
How do I see the man you are
and not the memory I hold?
How do we find a way through
that foreign country
to a place where we are
whole and unhaunted?
To My Mother
How do you carry it,
this weight I cannot measure?
Not for lack of lifting
or because I did not feel
its heaviness in my arms,
but because I do not understand
the units it is marked in.
What secret math do you speak
and what are your shoulders made of
and what creature is it
that guards your heart so fiercely
from the lumbering weight
that stumbles darkly around your borders?
I would ask you to teach me,
but I suspect it is a system
I cannot learn. I suspect,
you would sigh and square yourself
(as I often do)
and say I must create my own.
You have spent years becoming skilled
in this art, this very particular love,
while I have only just accepted its existence.
Only now recognized
the way it changes shape
from man to something unfamiliar,
foggy. I still shy away,
recoil from its unknown.
I will pull on heavy boots
and mimic your steady step into the woods.
I will place a loyal dog at my door
and listen to the unknown of that fog
until I no longer shrink away.
I will learn the language of this new system
hold your hand as we walk,
trying not to quiver.
What I Should Have Said
We are not ghosts.
We are not ghosts
and you are not on that ship
there is no crew,
except the nurses outside.
I wish this was some bad dream,
but I can’t wash that room
off my skin or the smell,
awful sick smell,
from my nostrils.
Where have you been?
It was your voice,
but it was not you.
I can’t remember
the last time it was you.
I’ve been driving around in circles,
choking back fears
that this will get so much worse
and this song
never meant anything before.
I feel sick.
How dare you.
I did not agree to this.
I am not a child so, please.
Stop avoiding the subject
or assuming that I know
what’s going on because
I have no fucking clue
and I feel so small.
This room makes you look
so small, look your age,
and we’re throwing around
words like “psych ward”
as if they do not sting,
so which pair of shoes would you like
and do you need a sweater,
can I bring you an ipod?
Every haphazardly discarded bottle
is an old wound reopening.
I did not agree to this,
but neither did you
and I miss you too much
to stay angry.
When are you coming home?
Ghosty in the corner.