Flesh in Stone

Marble dust curled into the air, giving shape to the swirling breeze that had lifted the sculptor’s cloth that lined the workshop. The undulating wisps folded in on themselves, coming to rest slowly on the dizzying array of tools laid out before the cool block of white stone. Great mauls and hammers lay strewn about, although in a fashion that made them easy to pick from their resting places. Picks, axes, and files found their orderly place thereof. Hundreds of metal tools, each looking more nefarious than the last, lined the cart. Some were quite straight and menacing; there were heavy, thick, dull implements that seemed almost to quake as they vibrated with their potentiality; still others, curving wickedly, came to a point at the apex of their bend.

He plucked a fine-toothed comb from the cart, spinning it deftly in his hands. Smeared white chalk clung to his arms and fingers like ritualistic paint from a culture long-forgotten. Streaks of dried blood interspersed between the markings and his cracked, dry skin, lending him the fierce look of a savage beast.

When working with this stone, misplaced moisture was death. The tool ceased its whirring in a flurry of expert strokes. More of the cool shavings shot into the air, adding their counter-melody to the symphony of the stone-laden breeze. The tool, so full of life in his hands, collapsed, lifeless, back into its tomb.

His cheeks puffed out as he blew the settled dust away from his latest handiwork—an elbow. A raised vein snaked its way around the forearm, now, melting back into the skin around the wrist. Without looking, he could have enumerated every stroke, every turn of the skin, every cloven bone. His hands wiped his brow, mingled with sweat and the marble refuse.

The chips of marble had been flying that morning, leaving myriad cuts across his sweat-glazed chest and arms. The blood left by their projections melded into the marble dust, leaving behind a pink paste that dried across his stomach and arms.

His eyes darted under a close-knit brow—flitting from scene to scene: elbow; collarbone; gracefully bent knee; hands floating freely past a dress, frozen forever in the breeze that lifted her hair. The sweep of her was right. Her gait was graceful. Her limbs found their harmony in her well-balanced stance.

He had poured all of himself into the crafting of this, his first and only chance at mastery. Each appendage heralded a different virtue. Her lips curled around truth. Her arms, seemingly weightless, ushered in grace. He smiled, remembering shedding so much stone on her chin. It had to be upheld. It had to embody courage. That chin, lifted one degree more, would elicit conceit and arrogance; one less: rationalized servitude.

His fingers traced the line of her temple. His eyes were glazed over. He saw, instead, with his hands. His stroke, soft yet purposeful, met the loose strands of hair that had been caught on the crest of her ear in the wind. Days. He had spent days on that one small detail.

Her shoulders were not slumped. Her brow was not furrowed. There was an effortless grace about her visage that struck a tremulous chord in him as he took her in. Her jaw was thin, but composed—exhibiting the wiry strength of a bird wing’s bones. The faint line of it rode from her cheek to the underpinnings of her ears. She wore neither smile nor scowl. Her countenance was a thoughtful one—borne of the kind of depth that, met directly, could scare a man into looking at his hands. She wore no shoes, her feet bare and all the more resolute for it. Her breasts were proudly displayed beneath the supple flow of the dress which she wore. Their curves could make a young man blush and an elderly woman flush. Unashamed of the femininity which they represented, she did not seek to suppress them or apologize for their presence. Neither, though, did she flaunt them. They rested on a proudly erect chest, thrown defiantly at the wind which sought to revile her; to define her. A great calmness emanated from her eyes, as large as the sea unbound and as arresting as its tide.

Every crease of that dress he had traced countless times with his weary fingers. Each limb had found its shape at his incessant touch. He had caressed her every curve, first with chisel and hammer; then with pick and maul; then with precise strokes of a knife as sharp as sin; finally, he turned to the file to define her flesh. His lips had kissed her every contour. His cheek had rested against hers as he cut into her an ever-lasting testament to what a woman should be. He had found peace in her like he had yet to find any place else on earth.

He had spent months looking, touching, re-shaping. He had scoured her with metal combs, improving upon her perfections. He had conceived of her right arm aloft, in defiance of nature, and, at the last moment, found it by her side. He had agonized over decision after decision. At last, he placed the sheet atop her and watched as it cascaded down her length, shutting out the light of day, shutting out reality like he did every day when entering his workshop. The sheet rolled and twisted as gravity caught it in its dance. The white cover fluttered to a stop at her firm foothold.

——————————————————————————–

Months more passed before he went back to the workshop. The mysterious figure sat stoically in her dearth. The lifeblood of her coated everything, finally having settled in the absence of its creator. The dust, swirling about his feet as his boots crunched across the discarded chips of marble, wound its way up his length, throwing itself at his forest green trousers, clinging to him in hopes of finding a new resting place out among the grass.

The day had come. She had been wheeled out into the grove before his arrival. He wore nothing special for the occasion, feeling that his most fitting attire would be that which she had always seen him in.

His brown leather boots, cracked and weather-worn, wrapped around powerful calves birthed of the ever-askance posture of a sculptor. Dark green pants covered in tattered patches wound their way up to a gold buckle atop a broad belt. His tunic was tucked into his pants, allowing him the freedom to stalk about his subject, uniformly smothered in contrast to her free-flowing robes. A simple golden brooch lay loosened about his neck, the cape tied back over his left shoulder. On cold nights he would throw the workshop doors open to the stars and wrap himself in the cape, watching his breaths float toward her, engulfing her form as they broke upon her like waves on an ancient rock.

So much of sculpting was watching: hands as still as the stone that they were to enliven.

This was it. His hands, usually as still as a surgeon’s, had begun to tremble. He walked the gallows. Step after step up the ladder he pressed, closing his eyes in time to each creak of the ratty wood. He found his rest at its pinnacle, the unveiling upon him at last. He hadn’t thought of where to wrap the cloth around his fist for the unveiling yet. It was like that in life, too, he thought. You think so much about the events leading up to them, but the details are what demand your attention in the moment—so much so that sometimes you can’t even remember the moment, itself.

A toothy grin split the face of the only onlooker, the Miller’s son, who had wandered down from his daily perch of laziness in the nearby hillocks.

In a whirl, the sheet was whipped from her shoulders, no longer able to contain her. The marble dusting exploded into the air, mocking the blue sky with its blooming. Rippling to the ground like an alien substance, the sheet met the ground with a dull thud, its last breath causing the cloud of marble dusting to blossom once more. Through the cloud, she emerged.

The sunlight, before only there, now came in rivulets, tearing through the white cloud of spray. Bathed in light, her skin lost its translucence, turning opaque before his weary eyes. He ran a calloused hand down the crook of her upper arm, feeling its icy touch cool his thundering blood. Backing down the ladder rungs, he found his feet on the newly-whitened grass.

“Right beautiful, she is,” the Miller’s son stammered. “Coulda gone for a bigger bosom, though, ey?!”

The sculptor, though, didn’t hear him for all the deafening silence about his ears.

This “what”, within a span of seconds, had become a “who”, instead. He had crafted her. He had lovingly birthed her from unyielding stone: first by massive boulders, then by rough-hewn chunks, then by shaving dust from her tender, delicate skin. He had spent months with this woman, yet he knew her not. He knew her every curve, had spent his years among the folds of her, and yet could not lay any claim to her wild, uninhibited beauty. He had crafted her very essence, yet did not know her name. Those lips of truth, that chin of courage, the freedom about her visage, they were his ideals crafted, true, but together?

It was a stranger staring back at him.

He remembered how to breathe.

The Miller’s son had wandered off, leaving the intimacy between sculptor and sculpture to unfold. The statue, half-again as tall as he, was quite alive to him. He stooped, shaking the dust from his pant legs with a gnarled hand. He took her hand in his own. He placed his lips upon it, kissing the bones at their crest.

“My dear one,” he began, “I have spent these last years ever by your side. I have given to you my most delicate peace and taken out on you my most bestial rage. I have crafted you from experience; I have lifted you from my failures; I have summoned you from my hopes; I have given voice to you from my loftiest thoughts; I have brought together those things which I most admire; I have harmonized all that is right and good in you, and I have given my dearest powers over to your creation. I have done all of this, and, yet, now I see that I do not know you. You are more than I am, but not more than I can be. Though it should take me the balance of my life to achieve, I swear that I will traverse your great chasms of courage. I will moor myself to you, and, in you, thrive. It is to be my life’s greatest journey to take the place at your side. I will have, in you, truth. I will give to you the entirety of my love. There are undoubtedly looming specters of discontent and of evil lurking about our peripheries, but I will stand against them with you. Every joy that is yours will be redoubled as it is mine, as well; every sorrow, I will lighten by taking it also as my own. I will stand by you even if the whole world forsakes you. I do not yet know you, but I swear that I will. I will love you. You are like air to me; like breathing.”

________________________________________________________________________________

“Geez, Alex,” she smiled. “I should have known better than to let you write your own vows! My makeup isn’t THAT waterproof! Next time, just try: ‘ I do.’ “ The priest gave a knowing smile, continuing the sacrament.

The clang of the hammers was silent. The clearing no longer played host to the sculptor crafting his subject. She was here. Those tools would lay forgotten, covered in a fine white snow, cool as ice. The stars, overhead twinkling, paid homage to the two. Her hand fit in his easily, like breathing. She laid her head on his shoulder, turning over on her finger a ring.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The sky was aflame with stars.

He felt her smile on his arm. “Oo! Did you see?! There was a shooting star! You hafta wish!”

An easy smile spread on his face, now, too. “And I suppose I have to tell you what I wished for now, too?”

“Well, only if you want to…” she said, smiling sheepishly.

He smirked. “I wished that I was a sculptor, but then I realized that I have nothing left to sculpt.”

“Ya know,” she said, “you couldn’t be a sculptor if you’ve never sculpted anything before. You say the most mysterious things, sometimes, and I love it.”

“Ah. You’re right, of course. And yes, I do, don’t I?” His easy grin melted into a laugh that had been pent up for far too long. She tore off ahead of him into the clearing, hair flashing past a tree and car under the burden of a heavy snowfall.

The vision of her eyes, bright stars, lingered with him. He dusted the snow from his jacket, content.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The marble dust wound away, caught on the wind, and rode into the night.

Musical Memory

All life is a harmony
that slides–
from one day into the next
it glides;

I have found my own to be
quite irregular,
and nothing at all could tie me
all together.

(All my warmest sighing;
my aggregate darkness trying…)

You
are the melody that my soul always
sang,
but I didn’t have time
to write you down
before
you floated away,
again.

Dreamscape

I wonder aloud
about a backpack
that I left back
in an old lover’s
room,
filled with dreams
of our
future
even as
her heart
cracked
as
she emptied hers
out for the things
she felt I
lacked.

I am no
Saint—
in fact,
I am just a
Sinner,
but I’ve always
known that—
and my heart’s
no thinner
for giving myself
the right
to let my
Love
shimmer
like broken
bottle caps or
sea glass
on the beach
in
Winter.

I have
emerged from
the chrysalis,
but no one knows
like me
where the
missile is
that I
hid as a child
from the eyes
of the nosy
kind of god
my brother
was;
thistle is
a kind of
hiding place
where a child
can go
to think;
this ill is
the kind
that finds its
own cure.

If I could be
anything
small,
I’d choose to be
a moment
in a poem
where the
reader whispers,
‘Wow,’
but then forgets
to stall
long enough
to mark the page
at all;
I’ll be here
when you come looking
for me
again
after he breaks
your heart
next Fall.

The quieter we are,
the easier it goes,
but I am full of
colors—brimming
at the nose—
and when I speak
of flowers,
the word flows
like Lethe toward
unutterable Hades,
where he shows
Orpheus
that Hell
is a place
behind and
inside him
waiting simply
for
his eyes
to un.close.

Ovid
ought to have
left Orpheus
with the rocks;
I know that I think of
him when I
stare at clocks
(with my ears
mostly),
and think of 
Shakespeare’s
‘thousand natural shocks’
and how I got
to be so shabby
and tattered;
so
practiced at being
sanguine
compared to
my
pristine
condition
when I came
‘out of
the box’.

What were the ways
in which
Ancients
held
hands?
(I toss up a question,
but don’t wait to
see where it lands.)
You see, I ask
because I have
plans
to shout the moon
down from the sky
and make of
her demands.
(I only hope
she
understands.)

The Strain Before the Sound

I like to write a thing that
no one else will claim;
like maybe it’s too
ordinary
or like
a poem
or a moment
slipped by
quicker
than you were
able to
determine
whether
it was
noteworthy
or not;

That’s what loving you
is like:

the noteworthy
moments
taste
just like
the others
at first,
but the
sweetness
creeps in
the back door
when
no one’s
looking
and blooms
on your
tongue
in rememberance
like askew smiles
of diffidence.

Recall the
feeling you get
when you see a
bow being pulled
across strings;
just before
striking
sparks
from them,
you can see
the tendons
rippling against
the skin–
the antepenultimate
breath of
nightingales’
melodious
Lydian
songs;

And what
I am
struggling
to say
is:

That’s what
touching you
is like:

the strain
before
the sound.

Give me
a shaded
grove
o’ercrowded
with hanging trees
and a lament
and I will
weave a flower
in the air
for you:

lilacs
like I imagine
you
to be.

Lilacs, though,
in the fragility
of youth,
vapors
preceding
the first
opening of their
star-blooms:

the strain
before
the sound.

A March Return to Winter

Nothing ever falls
beautifully
like they say it
will.

Limp-wristed lilies
leapt from my crooked
fingers
and
.th.lepped.
uselessly
on a dirt
floor.

I am in
a place
where
quiet things
never happen;
like heel-crushed
lily fragrance rising
to six-year old
nostrils with
swirl soft
inhales;
like hands
warmed by
tea
in old,
worn out
cups;
like eye laughter
or toes curling
in shoes;
like betrayal;
like finding God
or losing him.

Flourish-stroked
graffiti walls
match the tufts
of my hair
and no one
notices
my guilt.

I loved all things
equally
until I chose one
and then I loved
her
less
for the
choosing.

Nothing ever falls
_____bea.
________u
______ti
_______ful
_________ly
like they say
it
should.

Fears

I have a fear of falling through the ocean and landing in the sea,
Or of how she says airplanes make her feel romantic–shooting impossibly through
Whipped fields of luminescence. One day I’ll tell her how it is with me.

I feel as though I sneak into unlikely slipstreams
When she slides past me and furtively drops a glance on my ragged cheekbones;
I am constantly defeated by tree breath whispers that grip me,
And I like the way her silence sings with mine in subtle tones.

I am not made up of stardust, anymore.

It’s frightening how romanticism decays into pragmatism
And how natural and unhurried it makes you feel at the edge of a Tuesday evening.
I recall my wonder at the red candles lain out for catechism,
And I understand at last the way flame illumines even as it destroys everything.

I have a fear of falling through the ocean and landing in the sea,
It always starts with confusing the night sky with its face on the sliding black waters;
I have a fear of falling through myself and landing without me.

Tattered, Secondhand Apologies

I heard something,
but not from
you–
never from you
in
all
this
time.

We’ve both
left
the state
where our love
boiled over
those
four long
years
ago.

We ended up
in different states
from there,
and, again,
different from
one another.

I know someone where you are,
and she somehow knows
someone
who knows you.

She said that the
girl who knows you
has heard of me.

That,
sometimes,
when you’re blind drunk,
you talk about me
and how
you fucked it all
up
to people
who have never
even
met me.

You.

You who left me
heartbroken
in a ditch
and kicked mud
over my legs
for a quick
grave while you
made off
with
the faceless
misters
and hims
while
whistling
the
“Dies Irae.”

So this
friend of a friend,
who’s also friends with
you,
knows
of
me without
knowing
me.

She’s heard my
name
and knows
our
story.

I can’t
escape
an irony
like that.

I wasn’t even sure
if
you
still remembered
my name.

I should feel
relief,
but
instead I’m
just
tired.

It wasn’t
me
all along.

It turns out
that I was
worth a damn,
after all.

It turns out
that
I was
sufficient
and it was
you
who was
_missing_
something.

I should feel
relief,
but
instead I’m
just
tired.

I was right in
thinking
that you’d need
my forgiveness
one day
when
you looked
___b____a_____c______k.

(Remember
that I gave
you
a
_____________
l_.sealed.___l
l___________l
letter
forgiving you
if that day
ever came.

I kept a
copy of it
sealed up
with Holden’s
innocence
inside “The Catcher in the Rye”
if you
need it.)

I should feel
relief,
but
instead I’m
just
tired.

I cried
when I heard
that you told her
that you were
an asshole
for what you did
to me.

I had learned
to live
without your
explanation
or apology and
didn’t realize
what it’d
mean
to have one–
even tattered
and
secondhand like
this one
was.

I should feel
relief,
but
instead I’m
just
tired.

I was
surprised by tears
when she said
you hadn’t been
able
to date anyone
since me.

I wanted to feel
good
that your
life had been fucked up
by it all
like
mine was,
but I couldn’t
maintain it.

I didn’t want
that
for you;
I don’t.

I should feel
relief,
but
instead I’m
just
tired.

You whistle
the opening to
the “Dies Irae,”
and I’ll
remind you
how
the ending
goes:

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem.

Amen.

on sharing a jail cell with a stranger

Seven hours
and
we never
even
looked at
each
other.

Through my
periphery,
I memorized
the waffle-fabriced
plaid
shirt
he was
wearing
with its
cream
being
interposed by
maroon and
mint green
streets.

I noticed
the way
he preferred to
hold or
stretch
his legs,
and I marked
only 3
sighs.

We each
stared ahead
at our
_blank_
stretches of
wall,
and our
cryptic
kaleid.osc.ope
(ey)(es)
projected
onto those
walls
{hazy} scenes of
stars
being framed by
nothing.

Cinder block
serenades
were vibrating
all around
us,
and keys
chimed and
bars whirred
and the cacophony
of
solitude
crept up my
neck
and pressed its
silvered
speech up
against
my eardrums.

My once
cr.is.p
tongue
felt hollow
and unheeded,
and my heart felt
like
a hurricane.

There were
birds
outside
singing–there had
to be.

Heartbeat silence
pounded
on;

I just knew
there had
to be
singing
somewhere else
outside of
this
place.

Regret

Sometimes
I would like
to
smash the ocean
with my fists
until
it resembles
something
less
star-woven:
___flat___
like
I am.

The sky
is
bleeding
into
the sea
as wisps
of you
are
receding
from
me.

I’ve been here
before—
on nights
crack.ling;
crack.ed wide
like
bread crusts
or thunder.

Spread out
against
a backdrop
of skies
broken up
by leaves,
an ethereal
symphony
indeterminately
weaves.

___

(I recalled
the rhythms of
you
and the
sync.o.p.ations
of us
and how
silent smiles
popped
as your lips
parted—
until
they just
didn’t,
anymore.

I came
looking
for you,
once.

I thought that
in
your stardust
footfalls,
I
could discover
you,
again.

I wanted to find
the exact place
where
green
met
blue;
I had this
feeling
that
that’s
where I’d
find
you.)