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All posts for the month July, 2012

Medusa

Published July 31, 2012 by rlmcdermott

A gorgoneia,
she could
not save
herself,

the smell
of baking
bread coiling
through
the cave,

her sister’s
laughter
and then
another
sound–
footsteps.

Even
the snakes
were
frightened

hissing
in the
nest
of her
hair,

she could
not comfort
them–
her own
heart
pounding.

She looked
at him,

her eyes wide
with what
was blinding
about her,

and waited
for his
bright gaze.

A shield,
a sword,
then all
was stillness.

Finally,
her
sisters
calling
her name
and then
a sound
escaping
from her
own mouth–
wings
and
hoofbeats.

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The Witnessing

Published July 31, 2012 by rlmcdermott

They are coming
to sell me Jesus
knocking on my door
in the late afternoon
as the sun slowly
retreats from the
apartment’s tiny alcove.

I still myself for God
knowing he would never
knock so conspicuously.
Brightly-colored pamphlets
sharpen their teeth against
the men’s rough hands.
Those hands mean no good–
they push at words
like they would push at me,
fleshy and insistent, always
wanting their own way.

They will take who I am
and sell it. For sale:
the alcoholic father,
the abusive mother,
the days of anger, terrible
words and blows, Sundays
barricaded in a shared
bedroom forced to whisper
the rosary because she said so.

They can have it–
the name,
the unsocial security
of compensations
that have outlasted
dangerous times.
I am a veteran
of my own pain;
stolen from life
by bigger enemies
than these small men–
who would covet a name
that means remembrance?

Bittersweet and Bitter Root

Published July 18, 2012 by rlmcdermott

Look what life
has done to me–
season after season
growing in this
blasted place,
fixed beneath
a paper tree,
watching you
not seeing me.

A flower in
a sunny place,
you turn your
head so often
that I can only
hope one day
you’ll see me blooming
all the colors God
forgot to give to you,
all the colors that
have seen me through.

Bittersweet
and bitter root,
all your turning
is a madness
that the sun
has forced on you;
while I am watching
from the shadows
hoping love will
see through you.

Visiting Aunt Mae

Published July 18, 2012 by rlmcdermott

Seen and
not heard,
we sat in
straight-backed,
wooden chairs
our feet barely
touching the
floor, our hands
hidden underneath
our dresses–
trapping the
words in
the warm
expectancy
of our thighs.

“Keep this
one for me,”
you would
say, passing
the word
along in
the moist
knot of
your fist;
and I would
take it, never
unraveling
its mystery,
burying it deep–
a stigmata of dreams
that we shared
in the long Saturday
afternoons spent
sitting in the
dark parlor
of a woman
who would
die of cancer
at the age
of thirty-five.

Love Poem

Published July 12, 2012 by rlmcdermott

This is the way to love a man–
pursuing him down dimly-lit theologies,
wrestling him to the ground,
undressing him with your eyes
until he is only bleached bone.

Jacob knew this as he lay
prostate on the ground beneath
the furious muscle of his lover’s arms;
his heart beat in his chest
as if a god had touched him
and not another man.

The excuses we make to ourselves
when we love, not with the senses,
but with the deep, murmuring
memory of a time when flowers
grew inside our cells and we
were all pistil and stamen and
certain that connection was only
dependent on ourselves.

Poem in search of a flower

Published July 5, 2012 by rlmcdermott

You are a flower
growing on the
side of a hill
held up only by
the wind. Your
season is short
and there is no rest.
You are beautiful
every minute,
every hour,
every day
of your brief life;
you cannot escape
from being beautiful,
it wears you down.
Every eye claims you–
the bee,
the bird,
the beetle
and even the sun
braiding the tall grass
like a young girl’s hair.