Sister Sirens

Love and Psychics

Ah, February, the month of love. As a poet, I am expected to shower my readers with love poetry. However, as a poet, I do, shall we say, lean toward the dark, the blunt, and at times, the snide. But stay with me, there will be love poetry. I promise. 

My poetry about love and marriage often speaks to disappointment and disillusion. This despite my long, love-filled courtship and marriage. Take for example this ditty written soon after my now-husband presented me with an unexpected, generously-sized diamond and declarations of “be with me and grow vegetables, children, and old together.”

Eklutna

We walk among the spirit houses
of the Athabascans,
a dozen years deep into marriage–
I think that I should build a house
to bury them like the Dena’ina
do their dead.

I dream of past lovers:
Peter, Paul, Mark, and John.
With how many of the apostles have I dined?
The pagan mixes as well with the church now
as it did then, in this graveyard dug
after Captain Cook, the missionaries,
and their lusts arrived.

I dream of being cruel to the children
for the sake of being cruel.
Hating you for no other reason
than to feel something more
than dish soap, chapped hands, shit
from the baby’s diaper.

You drone on about Russian
Orthodox influence, the use
of color in construction
and where to have dinner.

I’ll adorn the small
peaked roof with a cross.

But stay with me, there will be love poetry. I promise.

Somewhere in my tenth year of marriage, a friend’s husband committed suicide. She decided she needed a girls’ night. So, she invited her closest friends and a psychic/medium.  The medium was presented as entertainment, but it was apparent she wanted to ask her recently deceased some very unanswered questions.

But stay with me, there will be love poetry. I promise.

My meeting ended up being with my dead mother-in-law who, apparently, wanted to tell me that if I left her son, she understood and gave me her blessing. I immediately assumed she thought she was talking to my sister-in-law who, it was obvious, was dragging her feet but had a toe out the door. 

I concluded that if this was a message from the beyond, it could only mean I’d been putting too much negative energy into my poetry. I needed to change my ways before life began imitating art. I would do my best to avoid the enemies of good poetry—over sentimentality and the maudlin—and instead write of love to the best of my ability. My next reading at a book store in Philadelphia sent love songs to the universe with the hopes my mother-in-law would revise her opinion of the state of her son’s marriage.

Here, at last, is love poetry. 

Spring Thoughts
For Karl

Long after we’re dust,
The dogwood I carefully
Pruned and you healed,
The daffodils you dug
And transplanted, the crocus
That surprised us each
And every March, will
Multiply, spread, reach
Toward the sky, cover
The hillside and field.
This never needed us, not
Once. But it was we
Who needed it.
A reason to glory in our
Command over the earth,
Life, and love. When all the time
It was beneath the surface
Waiting to grow wild,
Out of our control.

Ours is a Love Story

Told from atop culm piles,
flames burning beneath our feet,
fed by long, thin veins
of anthracite and fatal labor.
A tale spun further in the mountains
and peaks of Alaska–
Belugas circling in the inlet,
Dall sheep peering from rocky outcrops,
the highway in between.
All roads led to Valdez.
The climax occurred somewhere
near Denali. The slow falling action,
so comfortable, so sweet, began
on the ferry from Kodiak.
Interrupted only by the breeching
of two grey whales, impossibly rising from the sea,
filed away for a flashback near the resolution.

Happy early Valentine’s Day.

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