risk

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If I let my mind wander

I might picture you, here

Where I am most vulnerable

Opening to you.

I might have allowed myself

The thought of

Drawing you into deeper waters

Than you have known before

To a place of emerald green secrets

That was only mine until now.

If I did not feel so much

And judge so little

I would not have such reckless fantasies.

(It is a far different thing

To bare soul than body.

What if, intertwined so completely with you,

I drown?)

But held here by the curiosity

Of how this might feel

I wonder if the risk of opening

Is worth the chance to find out.

to my ancestors

Were you also shamed

For being born female?

Did you feel the need to apologize

For being made of curved lines

And soft skin,

For having a mind of your own?

Did you learn how to cast down your eyes

Cover up,

Be respectable,

While a wild heart beat in your chest?

I picture you laced into a corset

Or maybe dutifully underneath a man you did not love

Your body like an offering.

Was your wandering mind

The only thing you could call your own?

To what exotic place did you go?

What poems did you write,

What music did you orchestrate?

Could a canvas hold all of the colors you dreamed in?

What rules did you defy

In the name of impropriety?

Who was the lover who finally tamed the wildness of you?

In the morning, when you dressed the part again,

Did you condense your ocean into a single drop

Hold it in your palm and feel the weight of it,

The passion and the possibilities that you would never live?

Was it a bitter pill to take?

Sometimes I look in the mirror

And see a demure set of green eyes

With worlds in them, unrealized,

Right before I blink.

Are they yours?

Did you swallow your screams when you brought your daughters into the world?

I sleep, and I dream your sorrow.

I wake, and I carry all of your pain and hope.

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baptism

Your heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, you said

And because I was 7 years old I believed you.

You fashioned nightmares for me of a lake of fire

Unfathomable terrors I could not comprehend

(You go on burning in agony forever, and ever, and ever, and the torture never stops) and so

I was baptized in a church basement by a pastor named Larry.

He had orange hair and thick glasses.

The curtains raked open, exposing me in dingy yellow light

A girl too small to see over the plexiglass, breathing fast, chest deep in water

Desperate for salvation.

It smelled like mildew and sweat

There was a large wooden cross on the wall behind me,

I felt the weight of it

Larry’s heavy hand on my shoulder, smiling

Asking me the formal questions

I answered eagerly, obediently, too quickly

As good little girls do

Yes, yes, yes

And now, upon your profession of faith

And the authority placed in me by Christ Jesus

I baptize you

(In the name of the Father)

I thrill to these words, awestruck

As if I received a benediction from God himself

I pull air quickly into my lungs

His hands are on my head, pushing me down

Into the water

Purifying me

Blessing me.

Under the surface, a strange dark silence

(And of the Son)

His words sound muffled, far away, detached

My hair floats around my face like seaweed

While he holds me there

In that moment I feel I am being murdered

But in a sense, I am.

I am dying to my wickedness

Soon to be resurrected a new creature

A lamb of god.

I am flooded with hope, anticipating.

Now his hands pull me, draw me up to the living,

(And of the Holy Spirit)

Saving me.

I break the surface, draw air

He sweeps the hair from my face

I stand chest deep and the water streams down

Washing me clean of all my sins

Listening, straining to sense my new heart beating

Looking for any sign of glorious differentness

As you do on the morning of your birthday when asked if you feel older.

But I perceive nothing different.

Dismay, then a paralyzing fear.

Was it enough?

My lack of differentness stands like an accuser.

The baptistry becomes my personal lake of fire

Myself, a fraud

7 years old.

A smattering of applause from the spectators

Rejoicing

Welcoming this lost lamb into the fold.

Larry’s broad smile,

His hand on my shoulder, heavier than before.

Let us pray.

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liquid

I am a cashmere heart

With fire in my blood.

My frame is steel

Wrapped in silk.

I am unbreakable,

Intangible,

Liquid.

Try to grasp me, and I will run through your fingers.

Try to contain me, and I will turn to ice

Or evaporate into air.

I am a restless ocean.

I could destroy you

Or heal you.

My eyes are green

My mind is every shade of blue.

You will not sound the depth of me

Nor discover where I begin or end.

Try to look for me;

You will find me in everything

And possessed by nothing.

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forty-nine cents

I dreamed of you last night.

I had not dreamed of you in at least half a year.

I dreamed I went into a place I knew.

It had changed.

It was disheveled, disarrayed

I bought a coffee

It was forty-nine cents.

I saw pictures of me

And newspaper clippings

Placed carefully, deliberately about the room.

I wondered why these reminders?

Then, water

First a slow drip through the smoke detectors

(So many smoke detectors for one room)

But quickly, a flood

I started to panic

But I could not escape.

There were no longer any doors

Just myself, a room, rising water,

A forty-nine cent coffee

And you.

I felt a familiar fear like electric shocks in my veins

You pulled me onto the couch with you

And kissed my mouth, hungrily,

As if you wanted to consume me.

No matter what, you will always be mine,

You said.

I woke up screaming

And drenched in sweat.

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seen

I want to see you

As you see you.

I want to know you in your skin.

I want to hear your story

The way you narrate it.

I want to find who you are beneath your layers.

You are part vulnerability and part mystery

I will honor what you choose to reveal.

I want to be a mirror

That lets you glimpse your perfection.

You deserve to be seen,

Gazed upon, admired, understood.

Everything asks for worship;

All you must do is look around you.

Beautiful things do ask for attention.

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taxi

Will you be there with me

When the show is over

When the curtain falls

When the applause fades?

In the forgetting,

Will you

(Take my hand)

Go with me into the rain

Without an umbrella

Run to the taxi

Let me lay my head on your shoulder

(I’ll invite you in)

Stay the night

Just this time?

We are not promised tomorrow.

I want to forget

And remember everything

All at once.

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bareback

I am a vast ocean

With the darkest shadows in her depths

I am a mermaid

Or maybe a sea dragon

I ride swift currents

Bareback

Scout underwater caves

With only my intuition to guide me

Fight the monsters of the deep

With the strength of my body

They give me a black eye

But I win.

I flirt with danger

The bubbles of oxygen, havoc

Sensual on my skin.

I tangle myself in seaweed

Thinking forbidden thoughts

I bury myself in silt

The weight of everything

Pressing air from my lungs.

And then, resting in the shadows

Floating as if in a womb

My body motionless but my mind soaring

Above the skies, past Neptune

I am a comet

Or maybe a meteor.

I dance too close to the sun

Just to feel the burn

I ride light rays

Bareback

I expand to fill the endlessness

The constellations a map

The stars like points of a compass

The faces of my ancestors smiling at me

This is the way

And with a black eye and a sunburn

There I meet the mind of God

(it is beautiful)

He asks, my love, my little fire dragon,

what took you so long?

She holds me and I rest.

night garden

There was once a place I thought

Sanctuary

Shouldn’t I have?

But blood escaped my veins

And waited patiently under my skin

In the places where love should have been.

My sanctuary was a night garden.

Flowering vines grew around my body

And curled around my throat like a necklace.

I carefully tended every dark bloom

While I feared their poison.

Was that darkness so comforting after all?

I thought I was more beautiful for my scars.

I thought I was.