Beinn Nibheis

Falling Omens

Leonids flew by here last night
escorted by a bluster
that blew the trees naked.

The spouse, brave soul,
weathered the pre-dawn cold
in search of signs from the universe
in the form of falling stars
inconsiderate and absent
in the frosty air.

The one warming the bed
waiting, lacking luster,
and never far enough off the ground
to rise, or fall, or notice
when failure was announced
sighed in the red glow of the alarm clock.

 “Why not just stay in bed,
you already know the outcome?”
It is clearly visible in the stationary sky.
The unmoving spaces howling
in between the lights.
Flashy signs like meteors are unnecessary
when luck is worn around the neck,
an albatross all feather and down.


Better to stay tucked
under the covers, hidden,
pondering success and failure
but mostly the void
created in the velvety blue
on your own terms.


Even if the signs from god are
noticeably missing on this cold November night
there is still room for chance,
encounters, and opportunity defiant.
Ready to grab lucks mantle at a moment's notice.

History may be already written,
but tomorrow, we hope,
will be here waiting for the both of us.
Perched on a branch,
arms outstretched
hoping to catch an omen
falling from the sky.
 
All Souls Day
 
The second of November heralds an arctic breeze
a blunt greeting to hunched shoulders
the quick steps of strangers
scurrying for commuter cars
groaning in the morning light
balancing coffee in chapped hands.
 
Every decisions should be as easy
as this gesture of empty seats.
Allowing forward movement
unencumbered and escorted
by spirits of dead relations
aided by those who remained
at home on this day of all souls.
 
 Ambition could continue
if the line didn't end here
on the cross road of middle life.
Rough skin and bitter cups
reminders that the beds we sleep in
are of our own making.
Sleep the only opportunity for dreams
until we join the minions
honored on this day of all souls.
 
Tornado in Brooklyn
 
She said there was a tornado in Brooklyn
watch out for flying debris.
Good advice always from a Pennsylvania mother of brotherly love.
What is the world coming to?
Old memories, roots, brown stones and elms
tossed about like Dorothy in the path of the storm.
 
Danger, she said, at every turn.
Memories spinning windmills outside the windows.
I wouldn't have known stuck as I was in the bowels of the earth
with the minion of others caught up in the crisis
corralled underground looking for an exit.
She reminds me water finds its own level
be careful where you stand.
 
At home the skies clear to reveal weak stars.
Lying in a bed that still spins, even with eyes closed.
I wonder what words of wisdom
I would have passed down to the children I never had
if they were stuck underground
storms blowing overhead?
 
Lay low and head into the wind?
 
Water finds its own level?
 
Be careful where you stand.
 
 
The Coffee Shop
 
Three women sit
sipping coffee in delicate cups
the color of mud, a hint of pink on the rim.
They haven't fared much better
since the sweet days of youth
when they would sit
at this same table
pulling apart yokes, their lives,
with a determined vigor
to get to the bottom of their plate
and their fate.
 
Sipping in a holding pattern
before a funeral of an old affair.
Thirty years gone in a flash.
Really, it is his wife they are curious about.
What did she have that made her so special? Deserving?
The bitch with the good legs and blond hair.
Her luck, an inheritance, a big house and bigger insurance plan.
Bitterness has left them hollow as the pit of growling stomachs
even after a sensible lunch.
All that is left are veins, sinew, wrinkles and space.
 
Three women sit
waiting as empty cups are filled, plates shuffled.
How much they have changed.
Black to gray. Thin to plump. Foolish to wise.
Then back to foolish once again.
Even beginnings of a hump
visible beneath comfortable clothes.
Talk turns to their grandchildren,
older now than they were then.
The check is split, three ways.
A tip, hefty, left for the waitress,
meant to make up for lost time.
 
 
Sleeping on Dinosaurs
 
Restless in an ancient bed
under a pink singing moon.
Slumber chased away by storms
that shook the rafters
and the dogs from sleep.
Waiting as rain
cascading from the eves
knocks the petals off an old rose
planted with young hands by the window.
Left are stems topped
with thorny stars.
Only a good imagination
able to restore them
to beauty in pink velvet
just like the moon.
 
I used to dream
about sleeping on the tails of dinosaurs.
Secured in rough scales
and toughened hide,
the harshest comment
unable to penetrate.
It was the weather
that took them down,
petals and scales,
on the precipice
of water and time.
Knocking the last of our
bloom to the ground.
Leaving only bones
in the shape of stars.
 
 
Tar Beach
 
We would sit
the three of us
on tar beach
no sand to reflect the heat
or water to quench the burn
only the scent of a salty brine refuge
where we perched on an abyss of black
surrounding our little islands of pink.

We would sit
the three of us
listening,  
to the sirens of car alarms
the screeching wheels of the Jour own hearts beating
waiting and wishing for transformation
into something other than what we were.


Cocooned in foolishness,
three pale girls alone in the world
ribs digging into soft flesh.
Talk of the meaning of dreams,
octopus with the eyes of a man,
flying without wings,
devils in the basement,
invisible souls growing in wombs
too small to contain their meaning
yet too large to ignore.
 
We would sit
the three of us
perfuming skin with orange laced oil
sliding across translucent thighs
that would dance for boys
with a wild abandon
available only to the untamed
unbroken or mad.
Willows in wooden heels
bending to the gathering storm,
maelstroms  of reckless dreams,
hoping that Odysseus would succumb
to our wily ways
and save us from a future hidden
from vision in the shiny black sea.
 
 
The Cat
 
Every day the cat pisses in the sink
to protest his confinement and a life indoors.
Not on the patched comforter
or the couch, worn and old
whose embrace is an old friend
cushioning where he sits all day long staring,
waiting, waiting, waiting
for my return.
But in the sink,
where the stink of my own day
is washed down the drain.
 
Damn cat, with his constant reminders
that some are meant for grander things
Not to sit and watch the clock
praying for a key to open a fearful heart.
 
Piss on you my dear,
for trapping me here.
Caged against will, against want,
heart bursting at the seams.
Waiting on the sidelines as life streams by
in destiny’s shadows,
watching out windows in a waking dream.
The cat begs for release
as I wash the porcelain clean.
 
 
Swimming
 
Weeks past the equinox, 
a little past noon
you find yourself swimming in rough waters.

The sun warm, the surf strong
breakers pull you out,
then roll you back again.
A cork, in an ill-fitting suit purchased impulsively at K-mart.

The draw and the release consume your attention.
Body bouncing and tumbling along with crabs and shells
rough territory for tender feet trained for heels.
A child’s laugh released from salty lips is worth the risk.
You, neither crab nor young, relish the buoyancy
of  empty space under your feet
highs and lows,
over which you have no control.

On the shore, an umbrella stands, a little to the left
moving steadily with the current, soon out of sight.
An abandoned handbag, towel, Fritos,
a few cigarettes in case of emergency
are left unattended and prey to a hungry gull
prowling the sand like an offshoreman
roving back and forth, with angry eyes.
The motion of the sea still in his step.

You will feel it that evening, during the long drive home
sandy shorts, tight skin, with a rasp in your lungs.
Traces will be felt later
interrupting the slivers of winter
calling you back to the blue.
 
 
Brother, we all have monsters
 
Brother We All Have Monsters
Not all of them neatly hidden under the stairs.
Sometimes they mingle in polite company.
So much so, not even the neighbors would know.

An unwelcome manifestation in any situation.
That Jeannie out of the bottle
of a dark amber brew
no loyalty or wishes to fill a cup
of lotto vacant dreams
only something to haunt your steps
no skipping allowed.
 
It’s no surprise these patterns follow,
bleating an incessant alarm
on a tank long on empty
sharp quickening of hollow steps
beating the street bloody
soft itch time bombs
in a heart of hearts
kept well past prime.
A cache in a mind’s eye
blinded by what transpired long ago.

You won’t remember, can’t forget,
those monsters under the stairs
 
So carry on and comb your hair,
gently fix your tie,
each bootstrap lifts you up
for the stares
and a badge of bruised courage
from mother’s lacking love
father’s drunken rage.

Poor you, poor me, poor them
poorer than poor.
Destitute and lacking forgiveness
for unmentionables no one believes in
appetites not meant for the genteel
the only defense ambivalence
and silence to quell a shaking hand.
 
Brother, we all have monsters,
don’t think you are alone
look behind you,the darkness has spread
with a shadow’s tenacity
trailing the darkest of ink
binding any light through a peephole
or moral to the story
sorry there are no happy endings here
just our ability to whisper the tale
about camaraderie,
and of monsters
out from under the stairs.
 
 
Drink in the Darkness
 
Relief is required
at the close of day
when the light,
low to the ground,
stretches silhouettes across the lawn.
Purple fingers yawn from the shadows
in the last blast of sinking sun.
 
In the house, warm and dry,
amber sentinels sit in the stillness
on the top of the fridge.
Innocently tucked behind the onions
and potatoes in wicker baskets.
A thin coating of dust on a gold and red label
meant to fool an onlooker
into thinking that they are never touched.
Left to gather dust, in a sane house
of calm, peace and pets.
 
But some nights,
when the sun sets too soon,
dark fingers edge towards the foundation.
The undertow of darkness pulls even the strongest
swimmer where they don't want to go.
Tree branches no longer silent behind the window
rattle a warning to alert the guards
like the bell on a door.
Something is caught in the currents
just below the surface
of then, not now;
of now, not then.
Spinning in a whirlpool
of eternal amnesia.
 
Foolishness, you laugh to yourself,
shuffling plates like cards,
opening a can of neatly packed meat
for cats that curl around your legs.
You are too old to worry about shadows
and reaching fingers,
or the darkness spreading across the roof.
No need to remember what is not memorable,
Let it stay hidden to gather dust
like the solace on the fridge,
kept as talisman just in case you get shaken,
like a door in the wind.
 
But tonight, if the memories whisper louder than the gale,
the seal will be broken.
Amber will be fondled in a round fat glass,
the only reflections in the melting cubes
your own eyes looking for clues,
while claws and tails eat at your feet.
 
 
Good Bye (a poem for Molly)
 
“Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
may keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
while he who walks in love may wander far,
yet God will bring him where the blessed are."
 ~ Henry van Dyke ~
 
I hope when it is his turn to leave
it does not come easy,
that he suffers the same fate he gave to you
but without the goodwill of redemption.
 
On the ride home I wonder, what causes us to behave?
Is it only the fear of retribution, condemnation, come uppence?
Is that all that separates me from him?

From others, like you uncle, destroyer of children,
my only memory of you a pair of legs.
I think about how you would meet.
A sly wink, with a handshake and a smile?
 
They say god never gives you more than you can handle.
God who?
Why can’t he just keep it to himself, this doling of whim?
Mother always said “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
As I watch his teeth cut through flesh powerless to stop it.
 
Still, my friend,  I am afraid to see you leave
watch as you depart,
eyes up in your head,
holding my hand
as if you might grab my soul
and take me with you,
where I don’t want to go
not yet, not now, not ever.
Like flying, it is the taking off that scares me
not the soaring free
but traveling with eyes turned in,
shaking.
 
And who is this black haired woman
With ringed eyes that lament about purpose,
life, death and dead mothers?
What is her complaint?
Hasn’t she realized yet that
it is better to have had a dead mother
with a belief of love
than a living one with none?
 
I say goodbye to you at the door,
knowing you can’t see or hear me.
More to myself,
the one who will leave with you today,
the one I will never see again.
 
 
 
Pocket Change
 
We hold our memories like pocket change
not enough to be worthwhile,
only weight to remind us of the intentions of his hands.
The weight of walking the line
between child and grown
idiot and savant
blessed and condemned.
Children fingering the reason it turned out this way.
The fault on us
the guilty party long gone
under the weight of dirt.
Chiming a quiet note of despair
from hope
from anger
from fear
that he will come back again
waiting in the dark, to revisit our room.
Memories hiding in the dust
like a quarter in the floor board.
 
 
 
Still
 
I draw circles in the sand
still you break through.
White candles flicker.
Still the smoke is black.
Is there no talisman
to keep you outside the gate?
 
Heart hardened,
I sew buttons
on a shift that does not fit.
Sift through remnant shards
of breaking and entering.
I remember tips
learned at the knee of tv
of things I will never heed.
 
Still over and over
the same manifestation
of your face at the window.
Mistakes and missed signs
grim companions
making this possible.
 
Still.