Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Intricacies of Love

Love keeps unknown silences — 
moments when hearts must speak, but should not,  
if only for the sake of our belovéd's peace —
and thus, our own, as well. 

Untethered words which might cause harm or dismay,
however innocent their intentions,
are kept secluded within dark corners, 

far from the clarity of light, 
so it will not reflect its unwanted prisms of melancholy, 
of shadows, their separated shards. 

When we feel we shall burst from lack of sharing,
we must subject these thoughts to dire analysis before they are set loose; 
not everything must be revealed to be understood.

Portents of passion, substances of submission 
do not always maintain the sanctity of one's promises;
subdued wings are no less flightworthy.

When we are grounded, the sky is still within our view.
When we are aloft, the earth below looks small and insignificant,
yet we know it is neither.

Perspective is a seduction to which we must not surrender, 
as alterations are made with every step.

Love remains a tender bloom, however bright its hue -
it requires constancy and nurturing,
a gentle, knowing hand it can trust.

When obsession is near, we are in danger 
of losing what is precious, what is sacred,
those unbearable instants when we do not realize 
lasting memories are being born. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

This Gentle Harvest

                — Inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "I know I am but summer to your heart"

I shall be the mere brilliance of autumn
swirling within your eyes,
leaves drifting on more fragile winds
than we may endure with grace.

Humility be mine own,
as I hold out a trembling hand for you to grasp;
we will find succor from this gentle harvest.

Winter will shield us from its frigid breath
as we burrow beneath blankets we have woven
from tears once shed in futility
and echoes of remembered laughter gone before. 

There will be comforting silences to soothe
the noises of a busy world; we shall lay upon them,
our spirits seeping into each other 
to keep us dry within the flood,
to sustain us through a bitter drought.

Should one of us go too soon ahead, toward that final home,
reminiscences will retain their finery and fervor;
there will be no sorrow to enrapture our shuddering hearts. 

Plums shall again ripen beneath warm breath
as snow flies under the wooden sill where once we stood,
together, alone in our solitude,
yet, never in dismay.

poem for Ann

Column: Ann Menebroker

                         — for Ann Menebroker

Do not refer to me as "poetess" —

I earned the right of leaving off
that ghost-burdened appellation; 

I am a poet, damn it — 
my haunted eyes and ink-stained fingers 
my proof, my badge of honor — 

I am not some silly, frilly maiden from Victorian days 
"who knew her place", who dared not leave its cumbersome chambers,
loose its sharp-edged, barbed chains and venture forth 
into the wilderness, unchaperoned.

I walked into those smoke-filled dens 
filled with surly men unafraid, but not boisterous. 
I had confidence without need or desire to cause a scene. 

They accepted my presence, for the most part; 
those who voiced disapproval were swiftly hushed 
by others who tipped their hats, a courtly gesture by those 
who had seen displays of my quiet. unearthly prowess and power, 
who had felt the burn of lava as it roiled down mountainsides, carving creations — 
covering the very spot where Sisyphus spent monotonous centuries, 
straining to lift a single rock, over and over again.

I am not yet Legend, perhaps, but well on my way
to the secretive, hallowed halls gilded with portraits 
of sacred giants whose names are only whispered  
partly in admiration, partly in fear.

poem for Vic — Inspired by Bukowski

                                — Inspired by Bukowski

He had a bark loud enough to wake the neighbors; they'd glare at me 
when I went out every morning for another drenched newspaper, 
its wet ink as indecipherable as Sanskrit - and, sure, he'd bitch about it plenty
like it was my fault for not outrunning the dew when he was well aware he'd 
kept me up all night with his railing against this n' that, whatever had stirred his pot 
to boiling at that particular, peculiar moment, leaving me to clean up after words.

I can't say as I'd blame him (much) - I had plenty to simmer about myself
in those eclectic, electric days, those tornadic nights when sleep eluded us both.

His constant two-fingered pecking on his battered typewriter drove me
to despair and back, and I'd hiss at him for being a typist, not a writer.

He'd cackle and throw his empty beer can at my head - I learned to dodge
quick after that first blackened eye - was it his fault? I'd known before 
that he'd practiced his pitch until it hit the speed of sound, popping our windows - 
it didn't matter if it was wadded up paper, empty cans, a glass ashtray - 
he'd toss whatever he could manage to pick up, especially after I hid his keys 
to keep his sodden ass at home, to keep the rest of the world at bay - 

and yes, he bayed at the moon, too - perturbed it waned too often
for his sextant to find the galaxy he wanted when he wanted it, even if
he wouldn't wear those ugly, stupid glasses he'd picked out - he'd hide those
from himself. I think it was his vanity refusing to admit he'd gotten older,
but apparently no wiser. I never called him Hank - I called him Chas, Buk,
Pervert, Lush, Lech, My Lovely, anything to tease him or make him mad enough
to start his blasted two-fingered drilling again. Sometimes, it'd soothe me - 
at least, until he'd insist on reading it to me in his sloppy, slurred voice.

He could sing better than that, but refused to, damn his sorry hide.           

After all those years of unrestrained misbehavior, 
of tempestuous, fractured moments, I finally forgave him
when he had that picture taken for me in an clean suit and a Fedora;

he stood, slanted, somewhere between 
those terrible truths and a curvaceous curse.    

Scents of an Evening: Cereus

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Night tastes silent.
Sunlight diminishes mountains
within folds of my heart.
There is small recompense found in shadows;
these wild fragrances of the cereus beckon me near
in drifting grace.

The Elusive Icebergs — Inspired by Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

                          — Inspired by Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton

Titanic arrogance sunk long ago into vague apparitions; 
my ancestor survived the wreck, losing only fingers, toes
and a previously assumed innocence. 

In recent days,
odd bacteria have decided to consume its rusted hulk
left alone, yet not forgotten, to drift beneath calmly surging seas.

Adrienne can no longer dive
and Anne still strains with her awful rowing. 

Courage is up to the rest of us now. 

Will we continue to set sail into the unknown, 
to seek uncharted shores or have we explored all,
once untouched by man's acidic hands? 

Navigation was never my strong suit; 
I got lost inside my own head several times,
only finding a pathway out when someone called my name twice
These depths are mighty and fearsome, you know.

It takes a certain braggadocio to even attempt to swim,
let alone go beneath the surface
where sharks dream of pale and tender flesh. 

I heard their seductive silence, an echo only in the distance, 
when I was creeping slowly under waves,
searching for ancient ships' rotted planks
hiding kingdom's coin of the realm.

I quickly left, no less poor than I was before I dove in, 
yet, much wiser.

I lost the map I once held in my hurry to surface, 
in my haste to leave such terrors and myths behind. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

subtle songs of sagebrush

Once it rained in the desert 
sage sang fragrances of dreams 
not yet discovered

darkness was a long journey
the path, strewn with stones
but we did not stumble 
or hesitate

dark were your thoughts
quiet was my heart
as night fell softly between our fingers

Once the wind, unkempt,
singed our hair with dust and desire

we did not falter nor fail in our destiny

we moved toward the descent of the sun
as music surged forth inside our eyes

Sheaths and Shrouds

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

There are cruel severings we must contend with, 
wretched silences which deafen us
to the thrum of what remains
after dusk has overwhelmed our eyes. 

We gain before we lose, no matter
what hues of sorrow grieving may weave
beneath our pale, parched bones — we trace outlines of shadows 
that beckon laughter away from our outstretched arms, 
steals the light
from voices longing for reprieve. 

We linger on an unmarked periphery,
more languid spirit than striding substance, 
trying to fill our hearts with something far more gentle
than the drifting sounds of autumn leaves.

Wings of hyacinths folded around my shivering frame
as I quietly read what I'd written for you — 
when I could bear to lift my eyes from their swiftly-rising rivers, 
I saw your face and gasped, not quite understanding
the vision shimmering before me.

We were in a dim, candle-lit room; 
yet, golden illuminations poured between you and the sky, 
an ethereal ceiling hovering between each breath — 
it was as if you heard wild whispers
descended from above that shaped its halo around you. 

At that moment, I knew you loved me once. 

After you fell into into a dark song's embrace, I tried to remember this — 
there were too many moments when I failed. 


Memory is dusty with fragrance;
seasons do not hum.

Woods are deep
with mourning.

nestled in turned leaves,
wounds silence.

I bend, drift, 

a wisp of smoke,


          — Inspired by Howard L. Peterson, aka A Prophet of 3

In his fingers swell curvatures of light - 
not always his own, but prisms of others 
who cannot speak to unravel 
these vast mysteries in attendance.

Beneath a frozen moon, he pauses and laughs,
not caring who hears or what they might think.

He carefully tends to remnants of life,
those raw edges no one ever wants to acknowledge
or imagine as becoming their own.

Adrift, he knows the direction of shore.

He is a precious, precocious bird,
a harbinger of dawn's adagio,
singing when all is still, silent and dark.


            — Inspired by "II" from "Twenty-One Love Poems" by Adrienne Rich

Arisen from the slow dream of your arms, its velocity gradual, 
I enter into an anxious, chaotic world no longer my own -

its boundaries, burled and stretched beyond recognition, 
its landscapes, altered by broad winds and truculent waves,
its sounds and scents, no longer pleasing - mildly disconcerting, instead. 

You are away from my eyes, adrift from my ribs, 
tenacious in your explorations of deep caverns' primordial marbling - 
there, a phrase scratched crudely onto a gray shadowed wall 
whose author has long been forgotten by dust. 

There is a certain heft, its slanted intentions as ponderous 
as quantum's forbidden transition, a forceful weight separating our flesh 
from each other, a lesson in physics we attempt to defy with every fluent breath.

if you only knew

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

if you only knew

you thread me in your tide; a slow surge of silk 
curls beneath your hands.

our rhythm tapestried by moments, 
we weave this life 
as frail as slivered moon, as strong as august sun.

in slumber, you are restless
until subtle movements cocoon;
you sigh as wings unfurl beneath my fingers.

if you only knew

these stained-glass eyes hold your luminescence within,
wildflower fragrances remembering flight.

here, somewhere

I could somehow bear it, you know, 
until I swallowed your words and swift silences 
gripped my hands, wringing too hard —

guillotines oddly streaked with roseate radiance, 
bursting blooms suddenly insistent: 
leather leashes must be loosed

I could somehow endure harsh sounds of tearing, 
canyons ripping inside my heart, 
torrents forming niches in rocks too old to remember 
what drought had wrought, what night had learned 
when stars were born, then quietly, brilliantly died 

barren horizons — 
wingéd things rendered flightless,
chords torn cruelly from tender throats,
etched, twined under shadows of barbed wire fences

what I could never write before 
has spilled, stolen from dry eyes 
onto, into white embraces of paper,
origami's unfolding anguish

as heaviness swollen beneath my ribs, 
its heft too wise as I lingered, 
dreading uneasy meetings with mourning

old photographs finally found 
do not tempt or taunt with the same intensity 
or gilded grace you held so softly
and I am still — 

here, somewhere, 
cleft where you cannot be

my songs are numb, 
yet I remember heroic horses' hooves thundering, 
wild manes whipping, such fierce wind as we flew

tumbling in forever's fields