Amphibious

You meet me at the bridge and ask me to discard my scales. Urgently: you say it’s time for me to join you above. It’s simple, you say, just pull them out like so many fingernails. You do not have them, so you do not know. You’ve given me no clippers so I must dig in and rip them out from the root.

It takes hours. You grow bored, you drowse beneath a tree nearby. My blood stains the swamp and it bubbles in my wounds. I’m cleansed by black water tannins. My sides and legs shredded and oozing, I roll onto the riverbank. You gather me up in the net of your arms.

You have a place for me in a nice suburban home. I’ll have a family: someone to look after me each day. There is awe and love in your eyes. I have hidden my gills; I hope that as I learn to breathe your air, they do not fall away.

Cosmology in Her Skin

I now allow myself to write
those velvet throats, those waves of female form,
without discrediting the work
as politic instead of rather than also poetic.

I touch a woman and learn long dead languages, taste her breath and tides pull me under,
where the ocean names my atoms
reminds me all I’d know
if the Earth herself were my politics.

The swamp is my reliquary, and deep within, death and life and death sing across the waters.
She too carries this candor, her body equally unnavigable without submission. I’ve learned this:
How could I see the naked world

and wish it clothed? How could I breathe good air filtered over light years, bequeathed to me by the stars I count beside my lover,

and wish to bottle it? Nothing, not poetry, not politics, will spare me if I cannot spare her.

Short Night Worries (9)

At night, I worry about contrived nonfiction. Why do writers do things “for the story”? When tragedy hits us, or when something wonderful happens, we are so aware of the brevity of time that the only way to memorialize the moment truly is to write about it. Not for anyone else, but for the sake of that moment and what it created in us, however briefly. We aren’t used to things staying the same, and when they do we start looking for the stories, for the changes, and if they aren’t there we go out and make them ourselves.

Elegy

Elegy

(For Aaron R Williams)

Places I’ve been would melt you;
the barrenness of iced-over marshes,
the grassy dropping cliffs of Moher
where our mother buried that lock
of your soft blonde hair
and piled smooth rocks atop the shallow grave.
Where our sister cut a lock of her own
and let the wind carry it over the edge
toward the fog-swept Aran island.

People I’ve loved would melt you.
You might have shook their hands roughly,
let them feel the scar on your knuckle.
You’ve been gone now much too long,
we’ve searched strange landscapes for blue, 
rare but for sadness and your eyes.
Why must every drop be saved for the sea?

 

Voices I’ve heard would melt you
into a strange raw fear of 
wordswordswords
phrases like butter that warm on your lips, 
but you cannot speak another word cannot 
break the filmy membrane
between the living and the dead.

 

Had your voice been carried over Irish farms
and rung in the caves of the south sea,
had they sung into our mother’s wind-chilled hands;
instead we had only your name,
whispered over the cliff edge to drift on the waves 
until at last it sank with a grief so deep and dark
it put the sea to shame.

Dry Tortugas Artist Residency

For the month of September I will be living and working off-the-grid on remote Loggerhead Key with my mother, Beth Williams, a signature member of The Pastel Society of America, as the Dry Tortugas National Park 2019 Artists in Residency!

Our hope is to complete a manuscript for publication consisting of prose, poetry, and pastel and oil paintings all inspired by the Dry Tortugas’ effervescent marine landscape.

Wish us luck, and don’t use straws!