There is No Place to Hide

Fences

We exist
only at the perimeter
of our minds.

Huddled near the fence,
we steal glances
at the diamond-shaped reality
beyond our grasp.

That’s the reality that looks
so very like our own,
except that it’s inhabited by
someone we don’t know.

There he sits.
There he waits—
in perfect peace.

We see his lips move,
as he forms one word.

But we shun his greeting,
pretending we neither see nor hear.

We stand.
We stare.
We despair.

The fence is too high to climb,
but just around the corner
is a gate, and it has no lock.

Still we stand, shuffling awkwardly.

There he sits.
There he waits—
in perfect peace.

Then, one day,
one of us takes a step.
A step—not shuffling, not fidgeting.

The real deal, and we all saw it.

The stepper looks at us,
daring one of us to speak,
and is met with astonished, frightened eyes.

Finally she cries, “It was one little step, for pity’s sake!”

But she doesn’t take it back,
and everything has changed.

Whispering

Whispering

Portia sliced her thigh
to make a point about secrets
and nearly died for her efforts.
Thankfully, our relationship
requires less extreme measures.
I long ago forgot your deepest darkest,
and you’ve never heard mine.

Attachment Issues

Susans Story

Twilight
has descended upon
Susan’s sunshine.

She shook off Daddy’s shackles
and has taken up with a gay man.
It sounds strange,
but when nobody’s wrong,
nothing is right,
and they make up the rules as they go.

Rules like:
1. Nothing bad ever happens
2. Love is all that matters
3. When you cry, do it loudly
4. Record every thought, move, and meal
5. Never hurt anyone’s feelings

Nonsensical to you and me perhaps,
but this isn’t about us.

Susan fears the responsibility that comes with freedom
and is desperate for more guidelines.
Five are not nearly enough,
but she strokes her long blonde braid
and comforts herself with the reminder that
she and her lover haven’t known each other long.

Besides, she’s very much aware of the problem
and is working to remedy it.
Little by little.
Baby steps will get her there.
Commercial breaks never go to waste;
every second is spent
thinking,
thinking,
thinking.

If only the ideas would slow down so she could catch them.
They flit in and out of the light—
She has to be quick.
Almost got one—
No! It’s gone,
and her show is back on.

It’s all right, she tells herself.
In six more minutes.
OK, now. Go!
Closing her eyes usually helps.
There!
A word,
another,
three more.

She’ll corral them this time.
Being happy—she caught a glimpse of that phrase.
Smoking, public, soda—what does it all mean?
She tries to gather and sort.
Why can’t this be easier? she asks the mom on the screen.
Then a smile slowly erases that vertical line between her eyebrows.

Two days later, Susan is waiting to be buzzed through
the front door of Balsam Acres.
The small, frail body
taking up too little of the bed in room 149
surprises Susan.
Was she always so gaunt?

Soon enough, the vellum lids flutter open.
Susan smiles, and makes small talk,
but is careful to keep it short.
Then she clears her throat, gazes into the ice-blue eyes
and asks, How did Daddy write his rules, Mama?

Rules? the woman asks with surprising volume.
Rules? Why, he lived by only two,
and he sure as hell didn’t make ‘em up.

That can’t be right, Mama.
Nobody can live with only two rules.
The sock rule! Remember that one?
And, and, the going-out-with-friends rule, Mama.
What about those?

But Mama answers with only a snort
and turns her back on Susan again.

Of Penguins and Prophets

Penguins and Prophets

The emperor is marching again.
We all know he’s an exhibitionist at heart,
a man with a flair for the dramatic
and a craving for adulation.

The crowd around me long ago learned to avert their eyes.
His sagging breasts and flaccid penis don’t phase them in the least.
In fact, I think some of them have contrived to convince themselves
that the sheerest organza covers the man’s protruding belly and stark white legs.

I’ve learned to retreat into my own head,
where I conjure images of a different man—
almost as naked as our tired tyrant—
wearing only ribbons of red and white linen.

A little boy once raised his pipsqueak voice
and announced what we all knew.
He was flogged for his innocent audacity
and made to march behind the bare ass assaulting our eyes now.

If I were innocent enough or brave enough or even faithful enough,
I, too, would raise my hand and raise my voice and raise my shirt
to receive the astonished looks, the nervous laughter, and the biting lashes.
Instead I’ll stand here and pray for strength or a gap in the wall big enough for me.