St. Louis wouldn’t have done that for you

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

oh, Josephine! all fringe and angles
my stomach knotted up in ways
I didn’t understand (later I’d
feel the same about a boy)

mostly your smile sashayed like
your hips begging me to get up
hand extended for a wild dance
as if somehow we could be friends

I was nine — my friends played
Barbies but I wanted contrast
letters on pages or electron beams
black and white everything

later I learned your rebellion
home wasn’t good to you either
taking that pony to Paris
much braver than I, or less safe

you got on a boat
you conquered another…

time travel is complicated

comet Wirtanen/46P, art by debora Ewing, prints available

my heart splinters
molten drops
of concession and joy
sunlight across fallen
like testimony
damp, mouldering

giving in to the Earth-mother
aching on return

like a comet not knowing
whether it will see home
before it burns

the pause between knowing what you’re doing and not

photo by debora Ewing

some days it occurs to me
how many poems have been lost
in how many lifetimes
ill-conceived plots
wild passes
dreams that looked so very real

words dash off the nib onto paper
and the paper falls to the floor
trod upon in the tumult
of staying afloat

priorities can spin on a pinhead

suddenly I realise
all my words have already been written
giving them that much less impact
this page feels like such a waste

words self-seed
come back in the new season taller
more vigorous branches
facing the new sun

there’s always next year

If you enjoyed this piece, you may like:

I’m taking back this black spot

Virginia Sunrise, photo by deb Ewing

I run a loose memory
like a fingernail
across your rugged terrain
broad shining ridge above
the desert scrub against
shady watery caves

I once loved that wide valley
high dimpled hills
unsown fields rippling
under burning sun

you drew me with a promise
not yours to give
but I took that & the city
consoled by metal streetlamps
and from elderly sidewalk cracks
I took the message meant for you

my girlishness craved
unfamiliar terrain
confused your dark ways
with an arroyo’s mystery
with love

I’m taking back this black spot
against the brownstones I hold no grudge
they raised me like kind aunties
’til my legs were strong

I forgive the city instead of you

how do we know how much to remember?

they’ve cleaned up the angry dead
all these lawn clippings
signify remorse-
I made it nice for you, Mom. Sorry I’m late…
tending regrets
keeping them safe

on the nether edge
those unseen
less tidy
how can we know how much they’re remembered?
queries the cricket-plaint:
Judge not by dirty stone.

small baby, I’m sorry, I don’t know
your parents too are long passed
blessings to you, old oak
stretched over those whose grass grows long
thank you for watching them
accept my offering

how do you keep going through uncertainty?

photo by débora Ewing

I rise too late for crows — afternoon
reaches through window to the wall

long night of unsustainable objection
email acceptance from an editor

honey for my tea — voodoo or basswood
do I dare to live so easily

cat yaws from loveseat to sunspot
and nobody said pandemic

is this life sustainable? I mask
unseen birds titter along the driveway

what about the pipe-bombs
— were those sustainable?

get a grip manuscripts
dreams trusted to my heavy mind

toss medical texts and old clothes to
bin, to change what I can

and feel less impotent
we need to believe in ourselves

white wolves’ clothing stalk our rotunda
empty in hair but full of teeth

words carefully chosen one kin to the next
and still nobody said pandemic

for that one you can never resist

fishing fly & photo by Rob Coapman, Sound Visions Photography

once we were young
we were nymphs
we were dun
baby-fat tender oblique

maybe I looked like some bait for your hook
something the bigger fish seek

you circle again — I am sick of this game
always you lurk underwater

I don’t have a clue what I must mean to you
maybe your mother or daughter

. . . I should know better, I really know better
I should know better

a vacuum above but I’m choking below
my wings press against cohesion

I’ve given everything
surely you know
this is the end of my season

I spin & fall
for you

a mayfly on the wind

this is why I need to scatter your pieces

close-up of painted knife holder shaped like a person.
close-up of painted knife holder shaped like a person.
Julius Caesar knife holder, photo and art by debora Ewing

Today I want to break
vessels that don’t belong to me —
not for dominance,
nor revenge

but to know who’s real.
Vigilance makes me weary.

If I prick you, will you bleed
or keep your drops close
— are you that spare
Or vindictive?

Are you banking
for future battles
— do you find me

The scales are a gift —
weight from my father;
my mother gave me
the blindfold.

I see only disparity.

I don’t carry shame
house to house
but I keep finding it
on my stoop.

Drones promise belonging
in the form of boxes
unacceptably shaped,
no return address.

This is precisely why
I need to scatter your pieces.

If this piece resonates, you may like:

a Quarantine Quadrille

blurry birds, photo by debora Ewing

Numbers blend into words
clouds into birds
or fish
trees rise open-fist

I wonder
should they grasp the clouds
pulling forth some
well-proportioned head
an angry scowl
a golem

will he speak to me
numbers tumbling down
from his craw
to lawn

A response to this prompt:

rising is impossible when you can’t read the instructions

child running through water fountains
child running through water fountains
Georgetown Waterfront at night, photo by debora Ewing

I learned in this life
how to cling to the bottom rung
lift my feet before dragging

climbing up’s for better-fit
boots will catch you topside
best mind your place

if someone wants you to have
they will give it to you

my father’s legacy
dog-paddled frustration
set of unequal measures

a hand offered pulls back
when you’re too suspicious
expecting to get slapped

street sense is self-fulfilling prophecy
that life isn’t meant for the rest of us

Deb Ewing

I am a U.S. writer, artist, and oracle. I drop my wisdom like a crystal bowl at your feet. See my art at:

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