Linda Annas Ferguson
My only cousin lives in a condo
on the California coast, a place
called Kona Kai, its name
claiming "shelter from the wind."
In unexplained photos she sends,
there's no evidence of the ocean.
Fades and dark windows separate us
from the calm or rage of the tide.
My cousin hasn't called in years. She's
angry at remarks no one remembers.
We're the only two left, except
some aunts and a crazy uncle.
An old car that could hold a family of four
or five is parked in front of an open door,
the road divided by lanes going both ways
like a life with two endings.
There's not a solitary cloud, no threat
of rain in the idyllic sky, not a clue
to imply why she hides
behind this wall of loud noon light.
In a picture-perfect world, we would walk
on the beach at daybreak, seashells in hand,
talk, write each other's name in the sand
on the shore always protected from the wind,
pose for each other, witty and flippant,
as if flirting with a camera, a breeze
brushing away a lock of hair
that used to worry her brow.
Dance of Solitude
Dying is a dance they learn.
It begins with instinct,
a reflex in the womb,
the slight flinch of foot,
a discontented elbow.
Born kicking air
before they can breathe, they
want all the years they can get
of dying, not knowing how
much time they have to practice,
no specifics on endings.
The first step they learn
is leaving, trading Edens
for uncertainties, even leaving
Love when dancing feels like dying.
They all choreograph thek separations,
two divided by two makes one-
learn to keep the rhythm, stay in step
even though there is no music.
This is the dance of solitude.
They'll show you their feet
with the sores on the soles, legs
kicking high as they will reach.
Jammin' with Janis Joplin
The first thing you think of is sex
when you hear her scorch the air
with "Honey, get it while you can,"
But we all know "It" was more than that.
She was only twenty-seven when she checked out
at the Landmark Motel, the fourth of October,
1970, closed her eyes, snapped the heels
of her blue leather boots as if she were Dorothy
nearing the narrow yellow brick road.
She didn't stick around to see if the Lord
would buy her a less meaningful Mercedes-Benz
(the last song she sang), will waning,
the emerald city, a place still undefined.
Some say she didn't die, but was buried alive
in music-while others spread her ashes
over the Pacific, tiny pieces of her, decibels
above the gentle arpeggios of the water-
wanting her, the ocean never deep enough.
Under a full moon, you can hear her
moaning at midnight in measured time...
No, no, no. ..no, no, no, no, no
Get it while you can-
we may not be here tomorrow.
The Other Side of the Mirror
Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze... And certainly the glass WAS beginning to melt away,
just like a bright silvery mist.-Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
There's always a reason I'd rather stay home,
as I brush my hair, gaze into my reflection, sit
before the dresser where I combed my curls
as a girl, forever getting ready for the life
that hadn't arrived yet, Mama rushing me out the door
then so I wouldn't be late for the bus. Mirrors remained
unfazed, as I exchanged one image for another, changed
my hairstyles and hats. Mirrors are experts at waiting,
as I trace fingers along a scar, abandon myself
for imperfections, seeing my late mother in myself,
looking through me as if I were the ghost.
I have come close to escaping into another world,
an easy choice for Mama, a woman who taught me
bow to feel invisible. I can still hear
her voice urging me to get ready
for school. I listen as if I were there, always
about to leave or about to live, my eyes
child-like, clear as glass, considering what time
it must be... to keep from disappearing
into my own unbreakable stare.
Headline: 'Woman Suffers a Miscarriage after Learning of Her Sister's Death."
Did she read her paper alone
over tea, begin to complain
at the overpriced cost of plain
white bread, not hearing the phone
because a robin had flown
into the kitchen windowpane?
Did she notice the bloodstain
on the glass, the feather on
the sill, the sound of the blow,
labor over a crossword,
leave blank what she didn't know,
hum an old tune she had heard,
or think of the embryo
small in her womb like a bird?
Everything Real is an Illusion
Cold passes through the ark's walls
as Noah lies awake in early morning,
imagines he can enter objects by choice;
chair, floor, window, like a sudden chill.
Dawn hovers dense and opaque
beyond the sill. The cool gray of a dove
with one half-turn-slices through it,
a color so dull he can't decide
where separation begins.
Dew permeates an olive leaf left on his bed
of hay as it yields to gentle change. His mind
succumbs to half-sleep, inside this world, then
another, where thoughts are weightless
and dreams warm the walls of his body.
It is here he learns to trust the translucent, lucid,
yearns to fly without wings, float over reflections
of clearing sky, walk with uncertain sea legs
across field after field of glassy water,
their glittering lights hard as diamonds.
There is danger in preserving the past,
keeping it in a dim dingy room
of your mind like a prisoner
while your daily judgment shifts its shape.
Ordinary time can be so heavy
until you put it down, shadow
after shadow of the people you loved
walking out of your life into the chimera.
To all their backs you whisper
"forgive me" even if
you don't know why, even if
you thought you were the one wronged.
''Forgive me" you say over and over
to their dark dignity.
Seeking: The Confirmation
After many nights in the forest, the "seeker" meets with church elders and tells them of thoughts and visions.
Hours go by in the sky.
She sits in a cathedral of trees.
The elders have sent the student
to learn alone, to no longer
look with just her eyes.
Nature is her teacher as she watches
and becomes. She thinks of how
her two-week-old puppies
have finally opened their eyes,
how her grandfather
died with his eyes open, how
some people sit with their eyes
wide in the darkness at bedtime
waiting for sleep to come.
How close the words sleep
and seek. If she wanted to,
she could close her eyes
and stay awake a whole night.
It is the endings that wipe the palette clean for the next beautiful moment.
I see the world from behind two blades,
windshield wipers that never quite clean
the crust of an insect or let go
of a piece of leaf caught in the hinge.
The clock on the dashboard is wrong.
Music from the radio keeps time
with the rain, never breaking rhythm,
raspy song of rubber, fast on the highway.
On my journey, you are a distant place,
the road empty of others. I pass the dark
buildings, vacant lots. The sun pulses
on the horizon, the blink of my eyelid
counts the moments until it will be gone.
I listen to my breath, block out
the pounding sounds on the pavement,
hear my own heart beat.
I know the feeling of being inside,
inside the lamplights beginning to burn
as I turn the corner of your street, inside
the cool walls of your bedroom, inside
the heat of the 40 watt bulb by your head
inside the skin of your sheets, inside
the space between prayer and sleep,
where all that is fragile has entered you,
spread across your flesh like wrinkles.
Thoughts wind through your hair
like gray, whisper "Stay"
from the warm corners of your mind.
Nine Days at Sea
"A poet died today,"
the two-week-old newspaper reports
from beneath lifeless bodies of black bass
as I filet them, stew for the crew,
slide the slippery entrails and eyes to one side,
wash away blood, lay them out by the rail
like corpses on a slab, while others flail and lash,
shaking their small bucket of water and salt.
The poet's name was Barbara,
biology maintaining she was mostly water,
connected to all leaving things by the sea,
by rain and rivers, sweat and saliva.
The ocean and sky have glared at me so long
I feel bodiless. The deep, a communal soup,
watches all my motions, the surge and ebb of me.
Gray backs of dolphin surface
and disappear. Light, slight as a minnow,
dives into the dark of the liquid horizon.
YOUR ONLY SHINY THING
THE LIZARD IN THE WASHING MACHINES
MORE LIGHT THAN WE CAN HOLD