Bravely Confronting Mortality on the Ides of March
... or ... I Told You Not to Open that Second Bottle
They call these golden years? I disagree!
We stand and scratch, beneath a rash of stars
that pockle every corner of the dark.
My coughing writes a single sentence. Steam
sprays comets from your nostrils. We’re a team
of bronchial ghosts – two pale and barking sparks,
mere sputter-crones, with neither fit to start
a larger fire. The moon’s our mockery;
her blotchy crater cheek - her acne face -
remind us that we’re empty veins and skin
without a hormone left in us, no urges
worth half a mention. Ebb-tide estrogen
still chuckles as it flows away. Old age
has just one remedy. But we’re allergic!
Brenda Levy Tate (for Joanne)
losing the neighbours
moss cape rock wall
curled brown wire
oat grass gold
battered ladder A
closed back door
bare peace rose
window curtains down
torn backyard flag
wheel chains oil barrel
stoneskip flicker flight
workboot oval track
north line blaze
no good fences
cheek fist memory
survey tape flutter
mailbox mouth empty
home before dark
brenda tate March 2008
Dual, with Myself
I'm winedancing naked on frost and cedar planks.
The river slip-slaps to a meteoric stutter -- Geminids,
since it’s December. I drag my mouth along sharp air,
cut my lips on it. A scrawny moon chastises me,
You're fifty-eight, throbbing so hard in the indigo,
I don't know whether the zenith is falling or I just need
another drink. Fifty-eight, dear, and dry as a hoptoad.
I lean on the picnic table to think about this: a boozy
mermaid foundered ashore, lusting for any kind of rescue.
I can't feel my own legs. Coyotes shadow two deer
onto the lawn, pretend to be wolves. They improvise
minor riffs like a Saturday night jazz jam, then tail
their broken-note coda across the marsh. I toss my bottle
onto the grass and listen. It's so quiet, even the gods
must be on Christmas break -- somewhere young, warm.
But I'm still here, of course, gazing over the dark edge
after voices that will never forget how to wail. I should
be so lucky. Above my roof, one more cinder winks out.
Brenda Levy Tate 2006
Mini - my senior citizen cat.
It's after midnight (I'm in bed) -- no word
from street or sky. A purgatorial gloom
presses my walls. The curtains rise and sigh
their wakeful presence, while a light array
sparks green below my desk: the cable feed.
It glowers like the eyes of God -- but down
instead of up. Most people swear He's high
above the hills ... but what if they're all wrong
and really, He's below? Now, what I think
is this: He's underground. He swells the cells,
grows root and mold. He calms the tunnel-things
before they meet the sun and sacrifice
themselves to cats or snakes. He celebrates
the cilia, weighs every tree, unstops
a choke of fumaroles, gives voice to vents
with terror in their throats. He guides the springs,
whose subterranean worship gains Him praise
from wishing wells to aquifers. His reach
encloses melted stone and humus, corms
and coneflowers. In topsoil, He weds
fungi to orchids, marries ash to clay,
joins hidden grubs to decomposing skin.
He warns, "My way is dark but just. I strike
the holy balance between love and fear,
and keep it secretly beneath your feet.
The universe will move itself; it's lived
billennia, craves nothing more from Me."
The draperies exhale another time,
then quieten and fall -- both they and I,
too doubtful of our rest and too empty.
Old stars swim past the window as I squint
without either my glasses or the need
to search for Someone who's no longer there.
(c) October 2005 Brenda Tate
On the Rocks near Crawley's Island
and thin, parchment at the broken edges,
more than half smashed by years of combers.
Skulls and spines roll to the outer reaches
every spring with fresh currents. But this
is inshore, beside a dog-walking path.
It could be disconnected from a young
girl washed off the Cape Forchu rocks, below
the light - so long ago, her face is blurred.
Maybe it's a duck-hunter fragment, his boat
wave-given and salvaged, his lonely bones
impaled on a reef - head now wrenched off.
The dead recede like water down gravel,
their departure marked by the tideline, where
sad mothers shiver with snow in their eyes.
Two days before Christmas, a sudden time
for families with missing limbs to ask,
Are there any teeth? Can they tell its age?
Is there something we can do? Then they pull
childhood molars from envelopes, haircut
ringlets out of picture frames, still hoping
for the gift of a certain name -- or not,
since all will be finished then, put away
for good, no chance of error or reprieve.
I fridge-magnet the newspaper clipping,
though it may be a stranger's loss, and start
my angel cake. No need for mourning yet.
(c) December 2005 by Brenda Tate
This was inspired by a newspaper article taken from the December 23/05 edition of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. The partial remains are now being examined for identification.
rain combs back the snow
from yesterday's grasses and rubs
pomade on my pond
To Take Away the Chill
I girdle the wood like a lover,
release it into an iron frame.
My arms prick from the weight,
almost reluctant to abandon it.
Oak and maple ends are ringed
around their cores, like novae.
Tonight they will flare and fade:
cellulose bundles, ashen atoms.
These are their penultimate hours
of form, one last chance at being
themselves, veined remembrance --
trees with true hearts and limbs.
Last summer, from shore cliffs
I exhumed fossil fern and conifer,
drawn by their agate burning
against the coal-seamed rock.
These can never evaporate
or washed by rain and rivers.
They shine under my glass now,
boles no lightning can ignite.
I have offered them resurrection,
saved each stone = inflammable. But
my match kisses their kin, curls
the bark. Not a single stem cries out.
Sarracaena purpurea (pitcher plant) in my swamp
Villanelle for Lucifer
We grasp the fallen sparks, our fingers burning
for candle wicks and cordwood. Blessed by matches,
the nostril-gift of sulfur feeds our yearning.
From ghost remembrances, and songs past learning,
moralities or miracles in snatches,
we grasp the fallen sparks, our fingers burning.
Within the pit, a wheel of light is churning
this universe’s edge. A new star hatches.
The nostril-gift of sulfur feeds its yearning.
And now a sun expands – the darkness spurning –
above this holy bowl, an angel watches
us grasp the fallen sparks, our fingers burning.
A gate creaks slowly, broken hinges turning
like reptiles’ jaws – the prison where Old Scratch is.
Our nostril-gift of sulfur feeds his yearning.
For absolution fails, without our earning
release through blood. The devil’s door unlatches.
We grasp the fallen sparks, our fingers burning.
His nostril-gift of sulfur feeds our yearning.
Brenda Tate - February 2006
We grasp the fallen sparks, our fingers burning