Awake at 3:45am

Katrina Kaye

Here is Sleep,
stretched on my right side,
exuding warmth and calm
so close to my chilled skin.

He is distant despite the proximity
promised by the hands of clock and
length of lingering darkness.

The lights from the street and
solitary passing car slip between
slightly parted blinds into long stripes
across far white wall,
chasing shadows to restful corners;
their claws receded.
No longer do they unfold
toward me in the lonely dim.

In spite of the vow of peaceful nightfall,
I am awake with stale breath held in chest,
deconstructing a nightmare into
a coiled grey sweater left on floor.
The simplest of terrors paralyze,
leaving me vulnerable prey to the night.

It is impossible to be lucid
in the muck of these early hours,
when the tiny tragedies of  
the ever turning world imprint dreams,
causing Sleep to lack the relief
he once promised.

Indifferent to my mistrust,
Sleep breathes, soft and rhythmic,
a silentious invitation to join him,
the only sound breaking the night.

The trees spread out

At sundown, we said goodbye

to several species, knowing 

at dawn they would be murdered 

for their bodies. I wonder 

sometimes what my mother thinks 

about the trees being taken, 

about the planet having a fever, 

ground hardening, water coming 

with storms of rage. Here, 

there is frozen grass, crunching

under foot, a wildness sprung 

from weeds. The cool tint 

of winter light in branches, a quiet 

before a slaughter of aging trunks 

and the wisdom they grew with.

I wonder if my mother knows 

what projection is, if she would say 

I project my own humanity and fear 

onto the trees or if she knows 

I hug at least one of these mammoths 

every day, no matter the color of sky, 

no matter the temperature of earth.

.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

We are not

Katrina Kaye

We are not architects.

We are incapable of designing even
the most rudimentary of concepts.
We are not ranch style homes
with islands in our kitchens,
shiny steel pots hanging from hooks.

We are not adults when we are together,
We are not day jobs and early nights.
We are not rational.

We are not quarterly clocks
or forgotten promises,
we are not clean slates.

We are not Christmas traditions
or dinner table arguments.

We are not first loves.

We will never be that old couple on the beach
watching the sea.

We are not pegged legged or one armed,
and although capable of swinging,
we do not always land on our feet.
We will never be lawn mowers or garden tenders.

We will never be teddy bears or multicolored legos.
We are too old to be children.
We are not competent with building blocks.

We are not good liars,
we are not without the burden of guilt
and the expectation of consequence.

We will never be nuclear.

We will never be suits and formal wear
We are not made of plastic,
our colors run,
our sides bend.

We are not indestructible.
We are merely chemical.
The reactions of our exchanges
through touch send easy fever.

We are not poetry.
We are not romance novels.

We are instruction manuals
and wings pieced together
from the remnants of kites.

I don’t know what we are.
When I ask you,
you can only tell me who I am.
You can only say how you feel.
There is no we.

Dare I say
we are holding each other in the dark.
That we are not thinking about tomorrow,
but counting this moment for all it is.
Dare I say all we are is right now.

Winter came again this year

brought snow that covered 

the dirt gravel yard 

of the house across the street,

dressed it up in a wedding gown

until neighbor kids walked circles all over it,

left trails of footprints, laid down 

and made snow angels. One of their coats, 

the bright red, painted mud when he stood, 

the ground, a stained hem,

breathed through the white.

.

Winter came again this year

with the promise of cold air, 

but hitched to wind, like a one-night stand

that went on over and over again every week 

until we called it a four-month affair,

then wind finally ran off with spring,

howling at winter to leave.

.

Winter brought cold and snow 

one last time, as if trying to show off, 

to show force, to tell us how much 

we need the quiet hibernation.

We tried to tell winter we were grateful 

for the dark, for cold fingers and toes, 

for the alone time, the inhale-like gasp

of cold air, but spring had already 

colored the parks, the trees, the forest.

And winter left again just as expected 

without holding on too hard.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

While she sleeps,

Katrina Kaye

I watch the clouds gather
outside the bedroom window

the snow is coming

please let the snow come

the hush of the early morning
wraps itself around me
turning my breath to ghost

While she sleeps,
I make coffee
enough for both of us
but I know hers will go cold
before she wakes

when she wakes

if she wakes

I watch the sky
and pray for snow
let coffee bitter the tongue
release the air
stockpiled in my lungs

when I woke
I was colder than I have
ever been
I was talking to ghosts
that are still clinging to flesh and blood

When I woke,
I was alone so I stayed
beside her while she slept

across the room

in a blanket and chair

by the window

sipping the coffee and
watching the sky
praying for snow
hoping she wakes soon

so neither of us
will be alone

Twilight Apache Plume

My tendrils reach to sun
even in twilight, the voice 
of each one comes to life, 
like a collective hum, 
a soprano praise to sky 
and to light even on the shortest day,
when everywhere the darkness 
opens wide, like the mouth of a cave.
In my stillness, I wade in, 
slowly, hide the sound
darkness struggles to let out. 
Even as I find myself between 
the teeth, in the swallow-throat 
of cavern into belly, the fluidity 
of darkness hung around my neck 
like jewelry, but more necessary, 
more imminent, like this cycle 
we are a part of without ever 
having signed up for it.
As soon as I have come to terms 
with the bitter taste of this song 
of darkness in my mouth,
light begins to emerge. 
I see it in the colors I become, 
hear my song at a higher pitch 
as I see the lips of the cave, 
exit through them again.
Tomorrow, I will remember and forget 
this and the next day too, 
when the sun comes. 
I will stand tall before it, 
and I will reach for it, reach.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

This poem was for a prompt our group wrote to in honor of the late Julie Brokken and as an ekphrastic piece to one of her photos “Twilight Apache Blume.”

Julie Brokken’s website is beautiful with her art. You can see this photo: “Twilight Apache Plume” at this link at the bottom of the page. It is the next to last photo. Here is the link:

http://www.juliebrokken.com/botanical-beings.html

 

Center of Gravity

Today, I am the dawn

looking for the sun to rise.

The stretch of my aging torso

like the light in the sky 

remembering itself anew, 

weight of my legs, the lifting 

of night, crack of my ankles, 

sound of an awaking earth into day, 

proof I am alive. I love 

stepping outside my house

into this winter air, cold as frost.

Half of my face masked 

for a virus that haunts me, 

masked to prevent the freezing 

of my lips, my lungs, to block 

the taste of winter dew. My breath, 

as routine as the coming new year. 

I pace my walk, feel ever grateful 

to gravity, for holding me 

tight to earth. 

Dried leaves shiver in the wind. 

With my hat and mask, 

I am unrecognizable. 

There is an emptiness, 

an anonymity I didn’t ask for.

I have been walking again 

as if in a dream, having trouble 

sussing out reality. I reach out 

to what is frail and floating 

at the brittle base of night 

and what we least expect 

to appear in between greetings 

of hugs and handshakes, 

our shoulder-to-shoulder 

staff meetings, playground squeals,

the ding of elevators 

full of strangers chatting 

about the weather, time, 

new restaurants with green chile.

Even as the sun appears, 

its light in my eyes, interrupting 

what I want to be a dream, 

I am here drifting 

across the sky 

searching for gravity.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Desperation

Katrina Kaye

is not merely a flash of color.
You can caress it, cradle it,

wrap it around your fist
like the links of a chain.
It pinches the skin,
cuts to the pink.

I am not one to chew lips
or graze nail tips, but
on nights like this
desperation crawls beneath surface,

lurks inside rough veins roped around arm,
treads under the soft tissue of neck,
I can see it pulse.

The salt of it can
not be denied,
the stink can not
go ignored.
I have been playing
fill in the blanks
with crossed eyes only
to come to the conclusion
that all of this,

ALL OF THIS

is for nothing.

Can’t you see that?

The hiss of heartbeat
is not generous enough
and with every scratch
the healing takes a little longer.
If the skin is already dead,
then the venom will recede.
Not even a scar remains.

The cut was never that deep.

I tended my own wounds
before you ever had
a chance to see them.
There was never any pain,
I just didn’t realize
how easily skin could split.

Today

The cold air surprised me,

in addition to the fact 

that I couldn’t remember if the word surprise 

is written with an s or with a z.

I also forgot that last week 

that I ordered chocolate 

for my grocery pickup order today,

discovered it in the bottom of the bag.

I rip through the simple cardboard,

the delicate foil, place an inch and a half 

of deep brown cacao with salt flakes 

on my tongue, rest it at the top 

of the mouth to smell the flavor. 

Decadent, my friend says, irresistible, I say.

The noises of my tongue fully engaged.

My taste buds, wrapped around memory,

around the heart of all we forget.

This chocolate smells like Easter as a child,

a holiday whose scent, to me, is not of grass 

or white patent leather shoes restricting 

the feet with white tights, not of Jesus dying 

or gone missing and reappearing, or the scent 

of a holiday ham, but of sugar. 

Chocolate in the shape of a rabbit,

rainbow colored flavors of beans, colorful 

plastic eggs stuffed with candy, waiting in the yard. 

They are unlike the roses that collect 

dust, as if the only way to have peace is to grow old.

Candy that waits to belong 

to someone’s mouth’s desire, in spring. 

But now, the autumn of the heart 

has brilliant colors, ones that do not know 

suffering, protect the self 

from the wind and storm they did not birth.

The many things we can ask the heart 

may be a surprise. A surprise with an s 

may be softer than one with a z,

but a z always seems to be 

a letter that is more fun.

Impulse

Katrina Kaye

when is the last time
you held sand
felt the fall
of each gradual
and wished for nothing
more than the warmth
your allowed to slip from hands

I am lingering deep
in a list of what
could have been and
relishing the simple
I have attained

I call them albas
morning songs
gibberish
they are nothing to anyone
but the melody
reminds me of a memory

yes time has passed me
forgotten my name
and kept
rolling through
like the weather
like the waves
like the pull of the moon
these things aren’t forever
despite how far they stretch

after all
there is no such thing as forever
merely here and merely now
even our breath is compulsory

do we continue the ritual and fail
or do we learn and do we go on

where does the fall take us
if not to the next season