to evie, who had no say in it

my darling,

if I took you from my hearth it was to keep you safe
and every beat I think I hear
a recitative on how cold and still
I felt / you felt
as you sat on that palace shelf;
I left you unswaddled, unbathed
and caked in birthday vernix, with
no candles to light you to me.

(between us then a concrete wall,
your mama mute, your father gone
and none to ever sing in pathos or in praise
why was she born at all)

evie katherine, evie rachelle, evie jean,
the spring bloom promised and delivered in my vernal dream
by hand, by heave, by tear, by strife,
and just as soon taken
to keep my grief struck from your lullaby.

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crest

chalk, cuttle, the slow dissolve of years dried and crumbling
part ashore and part adrift, shards and strands,
some carbonate skeleton lost in depth and breadth and spread thin
reformed each year as some plaster mould dolphin
reformed and just and just as quickly relapsed

and still, today,
outside the grey and the muse of the spectra
the blue that comes through
is so pure unexpected

a single wavelength in a sea no longer with end,
no land in sight – and only the kiss of sky, no cliffs.
I am the water given curve and crest
again my skin is skin
my heart is heart
my bones a part of what holds me together
and I am alone
but I am together

I am made my own mama
I am made my own, mama
and I can rock myself to sleep.

freeze dry/july; to not want

i am afloat like an iceberg; mostly not.

i am keeping my stability dry like a leaky roof; there’s something quaint about the bucket, and at least i have a bucket

but the hole’s above my bed and the water drops right between my eyes and everything feels like slippery tile that never dries

i want the water in me to drain out completely, a brine dialysis, i want crystals in my cells from salt deposits and no more slow sliding lime

i want the water i want the water i want the water to wash me out of my self entire

i want to feed a seabird with my pickings and watch from the next wave i want to give over to the moon i could just lay back and let her i could keep swimming but why?

a complex taxonomy: hiatus interruptus

I say it all the time.
the first was a poem,
my coming out crafted, even then.
I came because I was called,
because the place in me that held some semblance
finally felt bigger than the bits that didn’t.
still, more echo than declaration,
between Wholefoods walls and the cheeks of my friends.

I say it all the time,
since I got the stamp of approval.
For that, I have to thank careful consent,
a damp lawn,
one catalytic sparkler and ash hitting my skin –
willingly branded by a Real Queer;
lips opening my own,
kissing me welcome here.

I say it all the time,
flicking through my book of receipts.
boy at home, girls at parties,
girls in my bath, girls in my bed;
girls girls girls (and some boys) in my head.
but I take my ring off at clubs, just in case,
and put it back on in the cab –
scoffing bravado in the safety of my room,
how utterly valid I am on paper.
in my heavy text, for investment more than entries,
I tally few but fathoms, and/or fingers, deep.

I say it all the time
preparing my speeches about how my life of lovers
correlates, never causes;
tesselates // even with the pauses
where my Thursday nights are, like now,
a one bedroom apartment
where everything is mine.
gone is the boy, so long my privilege,
gone is the girl, so long, my cred.

I say it all the time,
firmly in the face of that bullshit,
and the matter of fact
“at least you’ve got the other one!”
when one becomes an ex.
premature wipings of my tears smear careful lashing,
marking me open, bi, greedy;
some spoilt fat girl who dropped her ice cream
trying to hold on to her cake.

I say it all the time,
in desperate reassurance,
quietly to myself between the well-meaning sneers
of gold star friends
who want me to stop carrying him.
the women in my life by far eclipse in number
our years, our tears, and one day our plans,
but eight years of me had his hand in mine.
I want a name that honours that tale.

I say it all the time,
and despite this my mother asks,
so, are you gay now?
I have not shuffled off my chrysalis!;
I’m the same chubby, love-hungry caterpillar,
on a new tree, that’s all.
An empty fucking tree.
This play is hard enough without your lines.

I say it all the time, especially now,
when the receipt book, waterlogged,
leaves me lighthouse-reflecting,
single, at the edge of my sea,
queering my friendships,
queering my sprawling, empty bed.

I say it all the time.
I’ve had to build so many new bridges
I’m not taking any chance
that the glittery, glowing hands I meet
might pass me up thinking I’m straight.
a throwaway here, a pun, playing it fun
in case my identity crisis spoils the party vibe.

I say it all the time.
I weasel it into conversations at work
and look, they don’t get it
and maybe they think I’m a manhating lesbian purist but most days that’s
better than the alternative.
sweet, straight, kindergarten teacher, married, two-point-five kids
I don’t WANT them to think I’m gay but
damn
they don’t know there’s anything else.

I say it all the time.
I bought a necklace
two new tshirts with Mary Lambert quotes
and quiet but ever fucking crucial
I ride the 86 up and back, up and back
thinking somebody in this Rainbow Town has to fucking believe me.

I say it all the time.
I try to say it every day,
new emphases and parentheses,
old conviction where I can summon.
I might even believe it.
I think, most days, I believe it.
the winter is over and my voice has recovered,
and you’re gonna hear me, damnit.
I’m here.
I’m queer.
my name is Ella Jean.

Love and the Taxonomy of “Tree”

If my heart is a garden, my love is a handful of seeds. I was told they were roses, romantic; daisies, innocent;  commonplace grass and the like. There were instructions for tendency, for training, for trimming; plans for plots, pots, and what is Proper; supplements for sorority, seduction, and the Singularity of Two. But when what grew followed no discernible rules, I threw out the book. I returned the paper to the soil. I put my ear to the ground.

Train as I might, sorting and selecting the seed that looks most familiar, I have never yet grown an identical tree, bean, or rose, even from the same stem. Love, alike, is infinite in its variety, however subtle, and still at once with so much shared ground that we might call them “plant”.

If no seed or shoot is identical, is any one rose so essentially different from a daisy that we must plot them in separate beds, lest they blur? Who is served by this homogeny? To whose agriculture am I indebted? To whose enslaved?

A wise botanist knows that the word “tree” means only “something that resembles a plant that one considers a tree”. There is no checklist for tree, or bush, or shrub, no height or width or number of branches to transmute one to another. We do not fight over the precision there when we discuss the stamen, the sap, the shape of a leaf. The tree knows nothing of category – the growth of any one tree is unmoved by name, and by any other canopy smells just as specific. A tree does not know, does not care, when it defies convention.

“Tree” is just botany shorthand for “the feeling we have collected around this plant, and how it exists beside all other plants we have known”. Thus is love, and thus we are its specialists.

impatient prayers: seabird

mama, make me one and enough.

mama I so want the water,
and tremble, long out of habit;
my heaviness rises, ready to sink,
to quell I skirt the shore.
beneath me warm dunes curve and slip
my feet arch high to swell –
to forge momentum to my balance.
o mama, make me one and enough.

mama lifted by the peering kind
I tie our crossbars underneath;
kiss-built, two by two, in song,
and brunch and tea and queer.
test stay and stead of each long plank;
I bless them bound together,
yet buckle tween the struts.
o mama, make me one and enough.

mama make me fit to launch
my salient span from sand to sky.
cast seabird single on the wind,
these winged dreams from out stale nests –
stretching, to be sure beyond the see.
o mama, make me one and enough.

mama now envelop me
lick salt my every wound –
sting and seal me from all sides.
I am the third letter and the writer all at once;
bent near double over faithful, faltering prayers.
I want the water, I want the water,
o mama, make me one and enough.

impatient prayers: a long littoral

the water is wide
I can’t cross o’er
and neither have I will to fly –
some seabird I became,
Icarus’s lonely sister on the shore.

forgive me, mother
it has been five months since my last immersion
when last I threw willingly my own self to you
and now I find I am foreign
in my own waters.

the water is wide
I can’t cross o’er
and neither have I strength to try
to wet even the ends of my hair;
my claws clutch driftwood in their clasp,
and shred my sailing gauze.

the heft, the rank weft
the sour nets I never mended
hung limp and unleaven while I warp within
and go hungry instead of fishing
– what bait could I provide.

the water is wide
I can’t cross o’er
and neither have I breath to cry
or call, or shriek articulate besides
the year’s first, hoarse, invocation

mama, i want. i want. i want.