Endangered Afternoons

These endangered afternoons hang
like eggshells, suspended from a sky bleached by
its own wind, the way a desert seems like its own fault.
These afternoons are a different kind of barren,
pierced by spindly fingers of trees,
half-cracked by wasted plans, fading indistinctly
into the extinction of a deep and perilous evening.
Were these the longed-for afternoons I sought
when, drunk on the bee-sting venom of a sweltering afternoon,
alone in the jungle of my discontent,
I swore to another bleached-through sky
I would only ever love the winter?

Had I known then what I know now, would I have
been so eager to cast off the beaded arms
of friendlier warmth – not tensed so soon
or so fully, and learned to love the scent of a morning,
and learned the language of insects as they
spun their symphonies above my head?
Or would it have mattered to a girl
too young to be built on, fragile in extremity,
hardened by fear, unwillingly tanned –
was it that she was always unable to appreciate
the curve of a mountain hung with the scorched fruit
of a season? Am I still so illiterate – willfully so –
that the language of afternoons yet leaves me
so mutely terrified of time?

The afternoon is dying, but
I bear the curse of still being young,
earning still the bone antiquities that plague a soul
slowly brittling,
slowly shaved to sharpness –
must this be the way I grow old?

©K Paige Medina 1 December 2017

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Rain

When I dream of water, I never dream of rain. That
insistent monsoon music has no place in
the soul of this siren – no,
only a sea blanketed by clouds,
or the fog of a morning seeping like secrets between
evergreens and swirling amid the twirling arms
of wind turbines – or the impatience of rivers, hustling
like businessmen or soldiers, confined within the
Earth’s fences, soil slowly yielding to the force of another nature,
another mother, whose sharp tongue froths and whips,
bearing new fruit from old loins – or,
cakes of ice, glassy and heavy and melting loudly,
bobbing like birds among the warmer waters of choppy seas.
Yes, it always returns to the seas.

Rain – that moody, weeping thing, gleaming like a veil
over a sky too full for words – or turning night streets to mirrors,
reflecting in its selfless way the lights of a species
hunched against its gifts, chilled through from wet—
I’ve never seen you quite right,
and I’ve never dreamt of rain falling into oceans,
only in the backyards of my memories, but
I suppose even the ocean must drink somehow,
and even rain must be welcome somewhere.

©K Paige Medina 28 November 2017

Cellos

Wrap me in a shroud of cello music—

Let me pay my boatman with

Close and heathery melodies –

What sphere’s music exists that is so fine,

So wise and yet so impossibly human? –

Lay me to rest to the tree’s lullabies,

The music of plants, who remember

And do not speak.

 

Place me in the house of strings,

And let the chapel be hung with the low

And whole notes of a mournful instrument,

And speak only with bow-kissed strings,

Let the only tremor be in fingers

Pressed, calloused, along the smooth cords –

 

For if I am bound up to death like Persephone,

Let it be to the sound of wind

And moors, furred with lavender,

Feathered with this fairy music,

For then I will not perish in death,

But come again into myself –

Like a butterfly or a bear,

Awakening into daylight

Unblurred, undrowsy, unashamed of sleep.

 

©K Paige Medina 20 November 2017

Medusa in a Mirror

Female anger sanitized by a male expression
The undulating danger of the monstrous made feminine,
Medusa in a mirror,
The gorgon in the blood,
The nefarious banal,
The shimmering echo of the demon in the throat,
Choked once more into sobriety
By Adam—
Giver of Names,
Arbiter of Shame,
Blameless Judas,
Are you still the only one who can tame
The witch in the woman,
Bottle the marid,
Set fire to the madwoman’s ghost,
And tell her to sit still?

That lick of insolence when you take a woman’s anger into your mouth –
Speaking a spell you don’t believe in –
Boy of flesh,
You have never understood the femininity of ragnarok
But I have.

Beneath the half-lit gas lamps of living in your world,
I, Woman, have bound myself to what is true,
Learning to distrust the light,
I have welcomed only stars, only moon,

Only the way my own eyes glint in mirrors,
When, once again,
You have come for my head.

 

©K Paige Medina 15 September 2017

Tío

for Uncle Jorden 

I never thought I feared death.
But I feel its presence in the way I can feel the soles of my feet
rise up into my stomach
when I look at the scaffolding outside my window;
the pain I can feel churning my insides into typhoon seas
when I see bloodied fingertips,
cuticles cracking,
skinned knees.

I always thought death would be
like a large room full of empty rooms,
the hollowness of wooden floors,
large and cavernous doorways beckoning slow movements,
a wandering, bare foot —
a place where billowing things were kept,
a place that, the closer it came to night, the more oppressive the emptiness became —
all the rooms suffocating in the staunchness of their silence,
unwhispered secrets stealing the whimsy out of curtains,
dipping white sheets into starch,

eternity kept like a madwoman in the attic.

I pictured it quiet that way,
but I forgot about the fire that kind of silence threatens.
Perhaps death cannot be so silent.

Perhaps it must be let out,

consuming air like water, like earth, like
the oblivion of city nights in the summertime.

Perhaps death is like August,
when empty rooms still trap heat in their ceilings,
when memories become cacophonous,
rattling their unwelcome spirits through the narrowing corridors,
never to be let out.

Will you tell me
when I see you again
if I was right?

 

Perhaps it is not right to ask,
when the silence of many years stretches still between us,
but I have only ever asked things from you
when it was too late to ask,
and you have only ever given me
the sunbleached memories of
tumbleweeds
and turtles,

the tenuous and safe way a child remembers
stories she heard from happy relatives who,
drunk and falling asleep beneath the warmth of Christmas lights,
could only laugh,
only clutch with their sleepy lungs
at air that would eventually calcify into
the fondness of imperfect memory.

I wish I knew you since.

I wish I could hear your voice now,
telling me perhaps not to be so sentimental.
Telling me perhaps that I was right —
that death is not so frightening as living.

Don’t say to me that

the reason I didn’t fear death was because
I didn’t expect it to come for someone else.

 

©K Paige Medina 04 August 2017

Oil

I want to be the man who rescues the dogs of the desert,
but I am not.
I am the desert, rustling drily beneath an unforgiving sun,
that I also am,
punisher of cracked seeds, the beating heat of a purgatory
I cultivated for myself.
But I am also the dogs, running, tumbling,
children trapped in the spiny grasp of an unkind world,
but the world is me
and I am dry
and I am sweat
and I am asphyxiating on the calcified fossils of unsaid words
dipped, acidic, into poisons I feed myself,
where the roots of my soul cling desperately to
aquifers full of toxic, molten, gangrene sunlight.
Tarantino sunlight.
The sunlight that brings death in a bride–
a poached kind of brightness that
bleaches in nuclear fallout the bones of dogs
unrescued.
I want to be that beautiful savior,
but I am the unsaved and the desert,
bearing yellow teeth,
oozing with the oil slick hatred that grows,
abundant
in the dry, buzzard air.

©K Paige Medina 25 May 2017

Cursed

I am cursed.

A doomed and unbeautiful creature, eyes and heart perpetually skyward, I have the curse of poets, the disease of Romanticism, seeing beauty in the ugliness and awkwardness and messiness of life.

Oh, do not say it is a curse.

The curse, then, of the unskilled poet – the off-key bard thrumming unwelcome odes to the sound of an incomplete melody,

A sawed-off kind of poetry,

A flea market poetry,

The poetry of gnats and electronics,

 

That which, once heard, cannot be silenced.

 

©K Paige Medina 10 May 2017

Poesy

Mosaic world,
Thief of my temperance,
Drifting sorcerer of the windswept
Places of my heart,
Return your cobbled, lighted being
Once more to my side.
Fill again these intimate cracks,
The fingers unruly around glass bottles,
Grasping like a child
In that uncareful way
At the delicate truths which live,
Which die,
In the small spaces of a morning.

Gilded mystery,
Breathe anew the unlit stories
Of the thousand whispered words you have
So generously,
So cruelly,
Bequeathed me.

Am I so different from
Those wiser poets, eyes of stars,
Mouths agape in the moment of ecstasy,
When time breached through the cool water of night
Another sunsplit morning?
Have I not the same breathless spirit encountered,
When, happening to look up from weary life,
I have been struck by a momentary lapse of presence
And been transported back
Back
Through sublimity, to that moment when all things
All poets
Speak the same language?

©K Paige Medina 09 May 2017

Before Rain

What is it about cloudy springtimes that prophesy some
tenuous complicity,
some unpardoned infliction?
Perhaps it is the flowers,
blooming silently in their waxy delicacy,
peering with expectation
at the watery gray delight of sky-borne promises.
Is it rather crows,
roaming the spaces between sky and earth,
calling primal, undignified,
the ugliness of their songs
like water filling porous rocks–
an erosion of sound,
an inkblot on the wind?

Is it trees, leafy, burdened with
green and bustling purpose,
fluttering noisily in northern breezes
and then, just before dusk,
are ominously,
expectantly,
silent?

 

Is it the nearness of faces,
awash in the crispness of gray light and thunder
yet unspoken,
bundled to eyes in black clothes,
walking hurriedly,
conspicuous eyes made of a curious haste,
darting every so often
toward the clouds?

©K Paige Medina 19 April 2017

Spider

Spider,
you tried to keep me afraid
but I met Ananse in Africa, and was

baptized in the silk of his tricks.
I learned to sweat out my anger
and not to kill what I feared;

your small spinner’s legs
are breakable too,
and I am no longer afraid of you.

©K Paige Medina 2 April 2017