The Contortionist’s Spine (a poem)

Two hundred and eighty-two days—
The number of days she hummed on my back
To the tune of B-flat and a black hole
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C

That’s where I’d like to go for a swim,
In star and moonshine
Somewhere between your green-apple flesh
In the taste of sugar lips and grapevine

That’s from where all glow descends
From far away and wholly too close to see
That’s from where I carry my heart
Between my legs–oh, my back, help, my back, help, my knees

Somewhere between B-flat and a black hole
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C
Sprouted a Pharaoh from a flower
And they say she conquered, but we both know she is too kind to conquer
Too stubborn, too curly, and far too clever to care

Will she sleep in her own bed?
Perhaps if we are calm as though air
Perhaps if we conjure up Time,
The contortionist’s spine,
And we bend back, back, and back further still
Until over it spill, spill, spills in a great navy sea—
A ceiling—
Beating and breathing and teeming and teething
And oh, here it comes—gasp, exhale—another feeding

Then forward we arch
Weightless we stand
Attracted to a universe strung like pearls in a band
Is the weight the dream? The universe, the mirror, the land?

I don’t know.

But I hear it; it echoes; and oh how it flows
And when I think I understand it—surprise! It grows

It crawled from outside inside and played drums with my art
It waddled from where we, the light, drove the darkness apart
Floating and sinking and slinking back with a pull
Tumbling and rolling and twirling and spinning
Leaping and falling and crying and grinning

Listening only as we do to the sound of One soul
Minus two hundred and eighty-two days
Minus you
Is minus me
Equals B-flat
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C.

But her–
Never minus her, for she was born at one hundred and fifty pulses complete.
The rhythm of our infant’s infinite infallible beat
Where you, and I, and the circle repeat

Oh my loves, you are my loves.
Always and in all ways. And forever.

Dedicated to my husband Evan Steele Fensterstock on his birthday.
Inspired by the art of Aldo Tambellini, whose work and talk I was fortunate to see recently at the Anthology Film Archives as the guest of dear friend Dan Koff.

And by a black hole, which, in fact, sings.

Your Thoughts Are Swimming Fish

I love rainy days.

When I was a child, my teachers would ask the class, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

I would tell them, “I want to be a peacemaker.”

The students would laugh.

I would return home and see the desperation in my mother’s eyes. The longing.

Even if you could get away from it, the Iran-Iraq war was always on television. Taunting us in its journey of suffering.

In the beautiful land where I was born, bombs fell outside my nursery room window. I was a baby floating in love. I am lucky. Perhaps that is why my heart always beats so fast.

Rainy days, the violence stopped. At least, I imagined it did.

Gurus and scientists say consciousness is a matter, like the air you breath, and the water you touch. Just think, your thoughts are swimming fish in a fast moving ocean. You are part of a wave. You can stop wars. You can part seas.

Do you notice how so many people call in sick from work on rainy days?

Maybe it is true. Maybe you are sick. You numbed it until nature told you:

“Temporarily Down for Maintenance. Your Soul Needs Repair.”

I wonder, how many reflective thoughts come from a rainy day?

Two. Two Trillion. The ripple of infinity.

How much innovation germinates? How much floats? How many old ways degrade, leaving space for new?

I wonder.