Effing Love Poems: Undiscussed

I love the stars
not because they are bright,
possibly because they are far
(farther than I can comprehend the measure),
but mostly because they make me feel small
and small things are unimportant and free

I love you
not because you are beautiful,
possibly because you are sharp
(with words and thoughts sharper than I can hold with soft skin),
but mostly because you are separate from me
and separate things maintain their identities

Some nights I wake up and think
oh gods, could I love you more than I love the stars?
How could I know that?
Could I love you more than Betelgeuse or Kastra?
I’ve never studied them like I’ve studied your face
I’ve never been to them like I’ve been to the hollows
your clavicles make

Some nights I wake up and reach
over to the hollow where you usually sleep
and find it empty.

Today I Am a Cat

The cats are curled nonchalantly on the couch next to me.  The thunder?  They could give a damn.  Even Pan, my boyfriend’s cat, master of the outdoors, has nothing to say on the matter.  He only licks himself.

I feel like a cat.  The thunder?  Ha.  Rain is good for the garden.  I want to sleep in a puddle of fur by the window sill.

Today is submission day.  I’ve gotten it into my head that one day every week or two I ought to set aside for just submitting work to various magazines.  Sending all these finished stories off to markets and seeing what sticks.  It’s likely a good practice.  I’m likely muddling through trying to set a schedule in a way that would make a more practiced writer, a more published writer, cringe.  Some days I make myself cringe.

But today I am a cat.  I will approach the submission rounds with the nonchalance befitting my breed.  And when I am done, I will drink a glass of milk, thunder be damned.  Then I will curl myself into a tight tiny ball, with other tight tiny furred balls gathered purring around me, and I will sleep.

A Nomad’s Garden Comes to Rest

I knew most of it was old seed, likely wouldn’t germinate.  But I had seventeen pots, and enough good earth to fill them and then some.  Besides, the sweet potatoes were growing like they were preparing for the apocalypse, and the okra was going to be a little while yet.

So I took my soil and filled my pots, and used pack after pack of old seed: black beauty eggplant, Siam queen basil, cayenne pepper, garlic chives.  Weeks ago.

And today, my luck runs half.  Three pots of baby basils, but no sign of eggplant sprouts.  One little shoot of cayenne pepper, but the chives rolled over and slept.  There was a small rosemary bush two and a half weeks ago that isn’t quite so small anymore.  There was a golden cayenne that was demanded by boyfriend, already grown and now its peppers are yellowing to ripe.

Then there was the ginger.  I had tried this trick, trying to get a supermarket root to sprout, send off shoots.  I failed.  But a friend watched in horror as her ginger grew white nobs and sent off tight green spikes groping for light… on her counter.  I inherited this wonder root.  It’s growing in an old plastic Folgers coffee canister, with drain holes drilled in the bottom.  I see no reason to waste a perfectly good potting container just because it came with some bad coffee.

This is my garden: a series of recycled cat litter buckets, liners for decorative pots, some salvaged terra cotta sitting in a happy circle in the sun.  The okra is growing in drilled out plastic storage bins, and the sweet potatoes live in giant laundry baskets.  It’s a renter’s garden.  The bounty of a vagabond girl, just before phase B of her big move.

Come August, these buckets and pots will be moved again, across town instead of across the state.  The compost comes too.  And then?  Then there will be a yard.  I don’t quite know what to do.  It’s a vast thing to care for, to consider, and I have not been responsible for one in some time.

I want there to be pomegranates.  Blueberries.  Blackberries.  Peaches.  These things struck me all at once: I can grow them.  Here.  Rabbiteye or southern highbush.  I’m thinking about winter chills needed.  I’m thinking about soil requirements.  Rabbiteye, then.

In just a few weeks, we’ll pack ourselves in caravans, migrate a few miles north, and there we’ll stay.  I will line the walk with basil pots.  I will find ways to make planters of old machines.  I will sculpt my own garden statuary, a DIY gamer’s garden, with a shrine to Azura, and signs warning visitors away from the fish pond: “Beware of Kelpie.”

But I’ll have my own garden again.

Me vs. the Page

I am the kind of person who doesn’t make a lot of excuses when it comes to writer’s block. I have the notion that it’s a largely invented condition, a state brought about by any one or more of the following: feelings of overwhelmedness, stubbornness in insisting one can only work on one writing project at a time, over-editing in the draft phase, or a lack of confidence in one’s words (which is the hardest of these to rebound from). 

Lately, or rather just for the past few days, my writing has suffered from none of these. It’s fallen victim to a case of bluh. While in bluh, it’s hard to do any of the following: do chores, read a book, play a video game, garden, get out of bed, or even eat. It is not a state I recommend highly. In my experience, bluh is the precursor to a depressive expanse lasting I don’t know how long. Yes, there are management tricks. Yes, they require effort to employ. The energy to employ them is in short supply.
So where does that leave my writing? Do I doggedly slog through? Not yesterday or the day before, I didn’t. Maybe today holds promise, right? More like: go see someone about this. It’s a pattern. I’ve lived with it for a while. Let the moving settle out, and ask for a bit of help. Maybe I’ll be surprised. 

Some Anniversaries

I turned 32 four days ago.  One year ago, I was on Fort Lauderdale Beach, feeling and the sky crackle with sparks, weighed down with lead.  I don’t know that girl now.  She died that day.  I won’t mourn her.

With Effort

I tried, that 4th of July,
the fireworks suicide bright,
the concussive flash
and the smell of burnt:
burnt sky, burnt aluminum & magnesium,
burnt gunpowder, burnt rubber.
I tried to add one more:
burnt flesh,
hoped to push through the grille
of that Ford F-250
to cook on its diesel engine
as I rounded the corner.
I tried.

They tried 
out on the barge, but the
mortar never hit air,
ground-bound, but not aborted,
and it lit the water low,
just like the sparks that flew
as the truck’s tow chains dragged tar
and the brakes squealed
before my bicycle.

But I drew another breath,
and stood under
a sky blooming with
funeral flowers
calcium chloride chrysanthemums,
lithium carbonate dahlias.
I couldn’t hear the shouts
over the reports and crackle,
mouths flapping silent
as I dismounted
the bike, walked numb
to the curb.

And when it was over,
smoke rising away,
it left something 

But I tried.

Effing Love Poems: A Cold Patience

My jacket is thin against

the cold. Other times,

it’s a kind of magic:
heavy in autumn after a summer
of naked sunburnt arms,
and then so light in spring
once we’ve put away
the down coats,
the scarves and ski jackets.

A late snow killed all
the crocus. The forsythias
are confused. I want to
ask you to dig out the
heavy coats and wool–
it seems we cleaned for
spring too soon.

But I have faith
in summer.
Please have faith in me. 

Knowing Your Place

Moving is weird.  It’s uncomfortable settling into new routines, and it’s made me retreat into a tiny shell this time around.

I’ve done it often enough, hopping across town, even jumping states.  Flying from one end of the universe to the other.  I’ve travelled often enough, too.  But you get handed odd opportunities.  You do things you never thought you would.  That’s life.

So I’ve moved to Tallahassee.  I liked it, when I visited, but it felt small and cramped.  It’s smaller than Tampa in population, by just over half.  Fort Lauderdale had fewer people… but the secret isn’t in how many people.  It’s how many people in how big of an area.  Tallahassee is far less dense than Tampa, and though Tampa boasts a higher population than Fort Lauderdale, Tampa is less dense by half than the latter city.  Tallahassee?  It kind of sprawls languidly over sinkholes and the south, its 180,000 people dotted around here and there, tucked into hills.

There are no high rises here.  It’s not dense enough for that.  Can I tell you a secret?  High rises make me feel safe.  High rises, skyscrapers, buildings that loom: they make me feel like a city is real.  They set people to meandering about their bases like ants.  Ants are an appropriate analogue for people.  High rises give us a glimpse of our tininess, since we don’t realize it often enough by looking out at the sea, or up at the stars.

So moving here gave me doubts.  But I’ve learned a neat trick to get to know a place.  I’ve used it to become a Floridian in a way that other transplants never do.  I wander backwoods.  I traipse through wilderness on the days that no one wants to be out there.  I stop and watch wildlife.  I break in a place by letting it break in my shoes.

That’s how I came to love Miami and Fort Lauderdale: I cycled over 90 miles from there to the middle of the Keys, planting myself in Islamorada (though I have to admit, loving cities as I do, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with them).  This is how I came to know Sarasota in my college years: hike the backwoods of Myakka, and fall in love with the Florida prairie.

Here, I drove only a short way south to the Apalachicola National Forest.  Shortest drive out to wilderness I have ever taken.  I could cycle there.  The Leon Sinks Geological Area had caught my fancy.  So I slung my bag over my shoulder, and wandered out into the forest.

The first thing I noticed was the smell.  It had been raining for days, and much of the area was dotted with pines.  It was not the pine flat woods I’d come to know on Florida’s west coast, all slash pine and palmetto, with its hot dry pine smell, and the needles crackling faintly under every step.  These could be longleaf pine, or even loblollies. I wasn’t sure.  But the scent was a rich loamy pine smell, earthy and sharp, and the needles were damp and giving.  I took the low trail, the long way around.  I wanted to see the sinkholes, yes, but the real treat was to come to know the land.

I have said before that the wilderness is a city busier than we can comprehend.  I discovered in the woods here a city of splendid death, its morticians draped in red and gold.  That’s what many fungi are in a forest: corpse consumers, feasting on dead trees.  There are other kinds, who live in symbiosis, but I’m a foreigner here; I do not speak the language, so I could not ask to know whether their dance was one of life or death or both.  They were everywhere, ruffles and lace, exhaling the breath of the wild.

In the lowlands, swamp bottom lands, the boggy ground was dotted with tupelo gums and cypress. You could follow the dark line of the bright high forest and the murky edge of the swampland.  The air hummed with mosquitoes.  In the shadows of the wide-bottomed swamp trees, I felt at ease.  This was somehow more familiar.  This is was something I knew.

And it was enough.  Wandering through the forest, I could see the gradual change from the south Florida land I knew, could see aspects of the soil that were familiar to me from my travels in Georgia, could see the way the landscape flowed into what I’d seen in Tennessee.  It was a link, a connection.  Suddenly, my picture of the landscape made sense.  That’s enough for me to feel easy with a place.