Echoes of Hayden

I wanted to write a poem about being a feminist
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
that landscape belongs to women
who have experienced oppression in their bodies.

I wanted to write a poem about being gender-queer
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I might be queer but I’m pretty damn safe
in my expression and sparkle.

I wanted to write a poem about religion
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I don’t believe anything or not believe anything,
it’s all just irrelevant to me now.

I wanted to write a love poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
the lover it is about isn’t my lover at the moment
and maybe we will be together again but I don’t know.

I wanted to write a protest poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I am weary with outrage fatigue and I don’t really know
that I have any right to protest when I am so comfortable.

I wanted to write a poem to make everyone happy,
and I think I have, but I can’t read that one;
when children die by suicide how could I?
and besides, happy doesn’t sell anything.

There are lots of poems I wanted to write
and I have, but I can’t read them today;
this is the only one I can read today:
it’s where I start each day, full of possibilities
that I want to own but that aren’t my path,
browsing through joys and angers and frustrations
that aren’t legitimately mine, sorting them out
like the coins in my change jar when I get low on cash.

The poem I can write, this one
is not long, or complicated, or beautiful
but it’s real, and all I want any more
is to do whatever I have to
to start each day real, and alive;
to be faithful to who I am even when that’s not
who I wish I was in some odd fantasy;
there are so many things not right,
all you have to do is look under any bridge,
or talk to the parent of a child who has died,
or sit with someone whose cancer is overrunning
their body like the weeds in my alley,
to put the lie to “God won’t give you more
than you can handle” and other sentimental bullshit;
but I am convinced that if each one of us
tries to start each day as real as we can be, then maybe,
just maybe, together, we can heal the world.


You don’t mind when I have one of those days
where I want to listen to sad songs
and cry a little, for no real reason
If you’re here, the time I see you each week
you just snuggle up to me
and put your head on my shoulder
and sometimes, you tilt your head
and look up at me with those eyes
that pierce me into my deepest parts
and tell me I”m your daddy
Your tiara is hanging on a little place on my shelf
by the door to my bedroom, I see it
every time I go out the door and remember
the time we first realized this was our true desire
to be this to each other, for you to let me
nurture and hold and care for you
in ways my heart has always desired
and those times when your skin is against mine
and you look at me again, your eyes radiant
I live somewhere between joy and tears
holding what seem on the surface to be
disparate emotions but underneath are not
my joy and sadness are merged in your touch
and your pleasure cries open me up to parts
of my life that used to be dead, now awake
from your touch and your smile and your words


The leaves are dropping from some of my trees,
maybe heat stress, or they are confused
about the season, cause, here that’s easy.
I am confused at your ambivalence
you say we are only friends then want to go to bed
you tell me we wont talk about our relationship
but we do, you say, no contact for the weekend
when you are at a retreat and then text me.
Ambivalence is unsafe in my body.
My mother was loving and compassionate
helped poor people, volunteered in the community
and could fly into a rage and yell and slap us
and so ambivalence in a partner now lands in me
as inherently unsafe, unsafe in my body and heart
waiting for the slap or the anger even when it never comes;
the leaves are partly fallen and partly still green on my trees
and I so want to be safe with you, to draw you into my arms
every part of you becoming alive and me also, everything green.
I don’t know when that will happen.


All the little griefs
of a day or a lifetime
and sometimes, other’s lifetimes
gather in my chest
and without warning, unexpectedly
my body turns them into joy


there’s a familiar unfamiliarity between us
or perhaps it’s an unfamiliar familiarity,
the reverberation of times together;
the way you held my hand so tightly
after a long and intense joint therapy
at the end, your arms around me, you saying I love you;
later, that echo again, at dinner, then later
walking your dog, who I had missed so much,
when thinking that perhaps we were through,
realizing that in a breakup you break up with pets also
so that early in the evening, arriving to your house
when he greeted me in his total energetic exuberance,
as I was kneeling in your entry hall, holding him close
and scruffing his back as you went to dress
for a date that was not a date, picking out burrs
from his uniquely kinky fur, then, tears came, gratitude

because it wasn’t a breakup, it was something
beyond, unexpected, beautiful, unknown,
like the flower on my desert rose that hasn’t blossomed
for the 5 years I’ve had it, until this week;
like seeing you, so radiant, earlier, in our session, struggling
to bring the truth of your body into existence,
like feeling the sheer physical pleasure
of myself in alignment, of my edges being solid,
energy running up my spine, and simultaneously,
the barely defined path forward, hovering
in the space between us, fragile and unstoppable both,
something beyond the immediate past, new and old all at once
something with no label, starting to be.

Watering plants on my patio, I reach down
to the feathery leaves on my copal tree,
the miniature of the ones we saw on the mountain in Oaxaca 2 summers ago,
many small leaflets, slightly green,
aromatic, leathery; I crush a few between my fingers.
The sticky resin on my fingers, fragrant,
reminds me of afternoons in our hotel, your sap on me
the limbs of our bodies connected; we have
put this aside for now or forever, we don’t know,
the rightness of that, the truth of it in my body
shocked me out of unawareness.
Bringing my fingers to my nose, I inhale,
the fresh scent of the copal leaves greener and brighter
than that of the burning resin, tears of the gods,
that exude from the trunk when cut.

Smoke rising from the charcoal in an incense burner
is the path we are choosing, transcendent and transitory;
your radiance and bravery burned me earlier.
What was before has to die, to be burnt into new fragrance,
for me to be whole, for our connection to be completed,
to open between us something unknown
and known, completely new and older than the day we met,
where perhaps we can both, finally, be safe.


I am standing in my kitchen making dinner for a lover
and suddenly I am overcome
it’s not the onions making me cry, this is real, deep sobbing,
I’m leaning against the counter with all my weight
so I don’t fall over holding the 10″ chef knife;

My brain wants to make up a story about it,
that it’s thinking about how the lover who is coming for dinner
is talking seriously, with her husband, about moving out of the country, for good,
whether or not the narcissicist-in-chief is reelected, that the bigotry and hatred
that is so evident in our country, that was hidden before, is too much for them,
and they are going on mini-vacations over the next few years
to check out different places to possibly live and see if they could do that,
and I know if they move I will see her maybe for a while on Skype
but it will be too hard and sad for both of us and we will drift apart;

or my brain wants to take me to why I don’t have pets now,
how I had to stand there by the vet’s table while my snuggle cat Artemis
was euthanized and before that my Bubba and my Otis and my Flea
or I had to see my Ditto-cat shivering in a cage at the vet’s clinic
who fucking didn’t treat his injuries and all my rage couldn’t reverse
what that asshole vet did fully on purpose to try to sell me
on expensive surgeries and procedures that wouldn’t have done anything,
all those things coming up in memory, knowing I can’t bear
to have another animal-love die; or it’s the dreams I have sometimes
way too often, too realistic, and too frightening, dreams of complete loss,
of standing in the cemetery at my Beloved’s family ranch,
standing at her grave with her siblings and dearest friends,
not knowing what happened, inconsolable;

or it’s the real-world, solid grief, of missing my brother
who died in 2008 of a sudden massive heart attack
while stoned, sitting in his hot tub, getting a blow-job
from his second trailer-trash wife who had to be SURE
my elderly mother with dementia knew those details,
and fuck, when I die, getting a stoned blowjob in the hot tub
wouldn’t be the worst way to go, except, I’ll have to get a hot tub first;
so he went happy, but I am still angry at him
for not taking better care of his health because I need him here, now, to talk to,
I am already older than he was when he died and he always accepted me
just as I was, and I know he still would, and there are days
where I need to know someone is out there who does.

My brain tries to make up all these stories about the grief
because that’d what brains do
but the grief isn’t about anything
some of it is older than me, inherited
some is just my anxiety magnified infinitely
so I simply stand there until my chest opens a little
and the tears stop and my heart is back to something like normal.

My lover will be arriving soon.
I think: vulnerability turns her on a lot,
maybe if I’m still crying I’ll get laid.
When I text her this, after the fact the day
I am writing this, she said: sorry you didn’t get laid.
I said, Princess, your head on my shoulder
was what I needed last night, and no more.
I think: it’s so easy to mistake boundaries for rejection
when she needs time alone, I feel cut off
when I need time alone, I don’t even need to explain
but I do and fuck it up
because I”m not being true to myself,
I’m trying to fit my need for quiet and solitude
into a framework not meant for that,
and maybe I can just say: tonight, I am enough
I am not broken, I care for you,
but my need is to be my own primary.

All that is going through my brain, leaning
against the counter, holding the freshly-sharpened knife.

slowly, ever so slowly, everything unclenches, the joy I have almost always now,
joy at being alive, joy at being in love, creeps back in, pushing grief ahead of it
like the tide pushing shells and rocks up the sand at the beach, and maybe, even,
just barely maybe, and I think this because hope is always hovering
over my shoulder in the same space where my connection to everything resides,
maybe they weren’t tears of grief at all but joy-tears, tears for all the beauty
I have in my life, so that I seriously need to ponder and uncover why
my brain goes to sadness as it’s default, because I have more joy
than I ever would have thought possible just three years ago:
deeply-connected lovers, new possibilities for more of the same,
women and men, some more closely connected already than others,
expanding each of my edges;

As I dry my cheek I realize they were cool tears, not burning ones,
cool water to wash away the silly distractions of the day that I got caught up in,
so that when my love arrives I am really, finally, completely here.
All this slides away as I hear her key turning in the lock.
In the end, only joy matters.

The Dance of Becoming Acquainted

The dance of becoming acquainted
at first, is just wild rock and roll
or maybe R&B,
you do your thing, I do mine,
perhaps we do them in the same space
with some influence that shapes
what the other is doing, but mostly
I move how I do, and that’s that;
I’m always moving to the slower beat
the one behind the main beat
feeling it in my hips and wanting to sway;
like one partner said, as if this was
an insult, I dance like a girl. yes, proudly so.

A little later in becoming acquainted, it’s more like Bachata
in open position; your hands above, mine inverted, yours resting in mine,
two arm lengths apart, but moving at least
in the same direction to the same rhythm.
Then, in dancing as in everything, I’m the lead
and I bring you into closed position
my right arm around your left side under your arm
hand on your shoulderblade, your elbow resting on mine
other hands giving each other enough pressure
to keep the form, sense the moves.

When I know you more fully, it’s Kizomba
chest and belly to chest and belly
my lead in my intent and pressure,
slow and sensual. There’s the old joke,
why do Baptists not have sex standing up?
Because someone might think they are dancing.
I think about that, and the Irish saying,
dancing is a vertical expression of
a horizontal impulse, when I see anyone I desire
across from me, their body moving in ways
that make my heat rise, energy moving up my spine;
or when I see her dancing with another man
her hips moving in ways I know from my bed
and sometimes, just sometimes
I get it exactly right, exactly locked into my partner’s intent
and we are like one body, the beast with two backs
but on the dance floor and not the bed.

One night at a dance workshop, where there were
separate rooms for each style, in the Kizomba room
the songs flowed one into the other without pause
and I watched a couple who had just met,
an older man and a gorgeous young woman
getting acquainted through their moves, his lead sure
without being oppressive, her follow only a moment behind
and my heart longed for that with each of my loves,
that connection, that intensity, so that my eyes were teary;
and then my dance and bed partner, seeing what I was watching,
leaned over and said, seeing them makes me wet, I want that with you;
and I realized that it’s not the dance of becoming acquainted
that I need to learn, but the knowing each other in every sense of knowing
that I need to let flow into my lead, so that whether or not we are lovers,
my follows surrender, as all good follows eventually must.

I look at you and hold out my hand and you stand and take it;
I lead you onto the dance floor, for now, perhaps,
in open position, or we can still dance rock and roll if we desire,
but inevitably, as we dance ever closer, learning the other’s stories,
opening our vulnerabilities, we will be dancing
belly to belly and chest to chest
and most lovely of all, for me, mind to mind and heart to heart.


When I was married, if a woman flirted with me,
I could count on a nuclear barrage when I got home;
even if I didn’t flirt back, all hell broke loose
she threw things or threw things at me
and there was no protection, like when I was in elementary school
and we had ‘duck and cover’ exercises getting under our desks,
as if that was going to make any difference
if an atomic bomb went off at the refinery a handful of miles away.

Nukes are no longer part of my daily life
that arms race I just walked away from
so now I can just figuratively sit back
and enjoy flirting, the energy, the fun, the playfulness,
although with you, well, the heat was almost
as fierce as a bomb blast, when you touched
my leg with your foot, or took my hand
and placed it on your ass, even though I had set
the container to only be making out,
that was a difficult, I should say hard, moment
to withdraw from.

Flirting is location and person specific.
Flirting is the wind going through the trees in my back yard,
sitting crosslegged on my couch, wanting to look
at your short skirt when it rides up, but instead
looking at your face, thinking about how your lips
will feel against mine. Flirting is the connection
when I put my arm across the back of the couch
and touch your shoulder. We talk about our histories, music, friends.
Your eyes are shining, radiant.

The energy of flirting is the energy
of fucking, 100 times slower; approach, withdraw; enter your space
move away, a little, from your space, each time a little farther in,
savoring the connection as much as I savored the salad you made me for supper.

More, please.

Picnic Table

I liked the way your hands felt
between mine, soft and powerful
I could feel the energy,
touching the inside of your wrists
your gaze changing, some hints of passion.
I like hints. I like the slow movement
with someone I am meeting;
the teasing out of story, of connection;
the possibilities, or not, that open.
Your eyes are soft and stern simultaneously.
When I approach a definition of self,
a naming of your path,
that fits you, your whole body relaxes.
My desire is to open that path
since where it leads can’t be known
from this side of the gate.

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