CLOUDBURST

church rosemont
I am teaching at the amazing Rosemont Writer’s Retreat.  The house in which I’m staying (below) is just across from this church.  When I’m here, I always end up writing poems about the church.  I think it’s lovely, enigmatic, and inspiring.  I wrote this one during a storm yesterday.  

Above the steeple, disgruntled sky slits her wrists, slashes lightning bolt veins until they bleed acid rain.

The chapel shudders, cinched tight in a crackling casing of kinetic energy and original sin. Gutters run red with communion wine. A stone Mary shakes her head, wondering at the mess. Clicking his honeyed tongue, Jesus thrusts out his sacred chest until his heart shows gold. Dogwood roots uncoil, soak sun from soil that hast not yet cooled, has not bothered to understand that this storm means business, is here to drive out all warmth, make refugees of rat families, drown entire ant populations in collapsing tunnels.

Remember how in the Bible they said heaven cracked? It was like that, only passing alley cats found no ark. For them, there was no Noah offering gopher wood salvation. Dripping, they bolted beneath staircases, twitching tails indignantly, howling. Hens tottered, beaks gaping wide, cursing God in six languages, aghast at their wet, dented feathers. Squirrels stood on hind legs to pen heaven a strongly worded memo written in the alphabet of snails, sentences looking something like the slick left behind by a terrier’s tongue on drywall, slippery and bumpy at once.

I wanted it to be like this, prayed for the sky to be angry,

like me.

I needed the wet to mean business, to make a damp tramp of the whole world, turn her saucy sweat to mud, drown her horrid history in the irascible sounds of thunder and the silent screams of dying sidewalk worms.

As if memory can be undone.

Once, I tried to uncarve your name from the elm where I wrote it, but it had sunk deep into the heart of the tree, become a piece of its spine. “Mine,” the hungry trunk said, and swallowed your name whole. I can’t say that I blame it. When I was young, I wrote your name in lipstick on bathroom walls, thick, red scrawls bleeding my love onto every surface I touched.

How can two syllables say so much?

Rain washes present tense away, erases the shaky line I have walked between invisibility and quasi-fame. Near-acclaim, like near-beer. A tenth of the flavor, none of the kick in the head.

Once, the game show host asked me what my favorite word was. I said your name. She wasn’t impressed. Didn’t she understand the miracle of you, that there is this man who stands taller the sun and wears rainbows in his hair?

I suppose she’d have to see you to get it, the same way the word “ocean” doesn’t do justice to the ever-swelling miracle of Pacific sand-sea-tide. “There are whales down there,” I told the host, trying to explain. “He holds whole schools of fish in his kneecaps.”

The earth burps at heaven, shrugs, unmoved by her tantrum. Sky slams her door. Grassy ground says, “Come out again when you are ready to act like a lady.”

The storm rolls bone white and cold over the horizon, disappearing two inches at a time,

like you.

I tried to hold on, but when was the last time lightning let anyone ride him bareback?

Sky emerges at dawn, dressed in pink gauze, wearing lilacs in her hair. Her singing sounds like the cardinals who gather on the steeple’s point, like drops of blood on the tip of the needle that pokes heaven in the eye.

Sky doesn’t cry this morning.

I huddle here beneath my upended umbrella, utterly undone.

mansion Rosemont
The incredible house in which I stay when I’m teaching at Rosemont.  “Beautiful” doesn’t do it justice.  I’m 96.8% sure it’s haunted, but I turn up my music really loud when I’m here alone so I won’t hear bumps in the night.  

 

 

 

IRREVERSIBLE MAGIC: (FROM ISIS TO OSIRIS, AS HE RATTLED IN HIS COFFIN, THIRTY-THREE SECONDS FROM RISING)

isis and osiris

I give you another poem based on the epic love story of Isis and Osiris, a story which is ultimately (in my mind) a story of the victory of the gods of love over the gods of greed.

Recap: The goddess and god Isis and Osiris, perfect brother and sister souls, rule Egypt with love, beauty, and grace. The graceless, greedy, ugly Set grows jealous and tricks Osiris into climbing into a golden coffin, promising Osiris that if the coffin fits his body, he can have the gold. Instead, when Osiris is inside, Set slams the lid shut and suffocates him. Afterward, the loveless, pitiful Set chops Osiris into pieces. That would be the end of the story if not for Isis.

Possessed by a profound love for Osiris, Isis sacrifices everything she has and many, many years to gather her beloved’s body and reconstruct it, after which she resurrects him.

I think often of that gorgeous love. We look at Egyptian myth and think of it as spooky and dark, but as I’ve delved into it, I have found it to be a gorgeous love story. How much must have Isis loved her Osiris to look for him so long? How potent must her love have been to possess the power to resurrect him from the dead? What kept her looking for him during all those long years, when she could have stopped along the way, taken another lover, become a different kind of queen?

Love. Love made her strong. Here is a poem from Isis to her beloved.

IRREVERSIBLE MAGIC: (FROM ISIS TO OSIRIS, AS HE RATTLED IN HIS COFFIN, THIRTY-THREE SECONDS FROM RISING)

At twilight, in the eyes of all the gods that matter, plummeting sun and blossoming moon, trickster stars, I sewed your name to my bones.

At dawn, when spirits made puppets of birds, abducting feathered throats, hijacking songs, I lit a candle, melted your marrow into mine.

I did not say, “‘Til death do us part.” I said there would be no parting.

And so this morning, after storm came and hurricane roared, hungry to rip your name from my lips, banish you from my bones forever, I woke weary but whole, your face still carved on my skull, knowing I would un-be yours the day I undid my own bones, scraped my marrow into a bin and dumped it into the sea.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.

That misshapen brujah poured her words through your lips, and so what? Her lies were not stitched to your eyes the way my name was when you looked at me that night and said not, “I do” but, “I did before the boiling earth gave birth to life.” And so that grasping hellhound chains you, keeps you from me (as if that were possible), and so what? We married not with our mouths but with our blood. And so the un-goddess’s henchmen hunt me, and what is that to me? They can cut my head from my body.  They can’t cut your name from my bones.

Pity her.

She can burn my love letters, make her haggard face into an ornament, hang it from every branch of your tree. She can brandish her hatred, drop her lies in your mouth. She cannot make you un-love me.

Pity her.

She is a blind, soulless crow, shitting incessantly, pecking desperately after shiny, worthless things.

Pity her.

Her bones are made of mud. Already they melt in the rain, rusting, and if she let you go, what would she be?

Pity her.

When she leaves this world there will be nothing left but sludge, no love to make her immortal. A desk full of contracts, dried out deeds, impotent seeds she thought might grow into something to make her worth noting.

As if ownership every had anything to do with love.

As if a fist can keep the wind.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.

And so tonight I lie naked, my swelling belly giving birth to moons, to visions of you, to lesser gods, to love in its purest form. Undiluted. Acidic. It bathes me, bites me, burns my skin until every pore gushes your blood.

Beloved, I sacrificed myself whole on your altar eons ago. Would be wooers come and go.  “No,” I whisper.  “No. Leave me. I’ll lie here on this stone forever waiting for him to find me, and if death comes first, I’ll fly to him the moment my last breath leaves my lips.”

Beloved, beloved, beloved, look for me in clouds, in rainbows, in the whipping sails of passing ships.

Two thousand years from now, they’ll find my bones bleached and cold on this ivy licked altar, still inscribed with your name.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong .

Pity her.

Love lives long after greed is gone.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.