“Go DANCE!”

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THE HOUSE BY THE TRACKS

Your mood was in mint condition
When the furnace choked
And the toilet began coughing up rivers of water
Which proceeded to pour through the bathroom door
And onto the wood floor of the kitchen

The oven stood watching
And the fridge was ready to kvetch
As the broom stood in the corner
A skinny, mean wretch
Always looking for dirt

You can feel the whole house hurt
From being old
Right now, it’s creaking, complaining
Cold

Whatever happened to summer?

Time to warm the air
Call boiler repair
And, for sure, a plumber
Time to fix these old pipes and bones
And say goodbye to old appliances

Goodbye sink
Goodbye fridge
And stove
It’s time for new alliances
You have to be no more sentimental
Than science is

You have to forget
The way your mother and sister danced on that kitchen rug
Or the way your father once killed a bug
That looked like a dinosaur
You have to forget the beef brisket
The homemade cake that came from the oven
Or the cheerful pattern
That once graced the now-mangy hot glove
Left in the stuck drawer

You will fix the misaligned door
Mow the lawn
And take the wet, sad leaves out of the gutter
You will remember laughter
Fights, friends, music
Sex in the basement
And all the bright secrets you could never utter
To anyone
But the house

You go down into the basement
Fearing you may see a mouse
Or a ghost
But you go anyway

Upstairs the toaster makes a final slice of toast
Ah, there, there
You can smell the heating of the bread
Smells fantastic, like it always did
And you remember
All the yummy things you used to eat
Before going to bed

The basement leaves a weird, sticky darkness
On your feet
You go upstairs
And the toast pops up like it always does—
Complete

You put some butter on it
Then some jelly
Close your eyes
And eat

What survives is still sweet

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Glenn Hansen
April is Poetry Month Day 21

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THE PIECE THAT APPLIES

Spinning at the carnival
Pigs in the sty
The veil makes her feel fierce
She refuses to cry
All of the onlookers
Each human eye brings
Windows to dream

Rules don’t apply
The black horse is moving now
Stamping his hoof
The blackbirds are rising from
Some smoky, coughing roof

She pictures her mother’s face
From when she was young
The sword in her mouth
With that sharp, metal tongue
To swallow

Hollow and spent
She will enter the circle tent
Empty of sins
Almost content

The animals gather
As the circus begins
No one sees the injuries
Coming to gleam
Sparkling danger
A bright guillotine
Of risk

The circus clowns drumming
The animal-frisk
Below and between
The ladder to heaven
The fateful tryst
The flying trapeze slips
And offers its dare—
Seize life

She slices the air
With the greatest of ease
She remembers the elephants
On their knees
And the circus fleas
In their tiny dome
Still dreaming of home
She thinks of the mattresses
Of cold straw and foam

There in an audience
Waiting to shout
Flying above them
She crosses into doubt
Somewhere in the interval
Where love meets desire
She falls on her mother’s sword
She swallows the fire
And severs the cord
Of the thin, safety wire

Dreaming of a paradise
Toward which she can sail
This is the moment
She pierces the veil
To let go into nothing
Now
Releasing her hands
She stares at the audience
Hears the gasp in the stands

Let go of all destinies
Flying toward fate
To reach for the handle
Of St. Peter’s gate
Before she arrives
She must wait
And wait and wait

The ghost of her mother still debates her
From inside
Her hands meet the false hands
That reach out to save her
From the divide
From her plans
From the almost-dive
Into emptiness

The eternal sands
Of time’s hourglass shatter
Broken
But her heart commands her
To open another way
To what matters

To survive the audience
That gathers to escape
Or to see pain
They will not look away

She crosses the emptiness
And hears her own voice
Pray
To sustain this leap

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Johnny Milano
April is Poetry Month Day 20

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Old Dog

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WATERMARK

Invisible to the naked eye
The watermark
Scars itself paper-thin
Stark

The dark beauty of you
Mysterious quark
Impressing a shadow into my heart
Seen or unseen
You are there
I feel you
I inhale you
From what is sparkling of you
In the air

A pattern
An image
Shades of light
Transmitted
Through what cannot be pretended
Borrowed, faked
Or counterfeited

I admit it
Some things are always true
Like the words between us
Where you drew a tiny, perfect bird
Better than a photograph
Better than a word
That image was you

Now I see it
Now I understand
How life flows through us
Through the hourglass
Unplanned
We move like stars
Like dust, like sand

Now I remember holding your hand
At the very edge of the dock
As night took command
And the waves we saw
Disappeared into mystery

That moment is alive
That moment is history
That moment makes me wonder
If you would ever miss me
As much as I miss you

It doesn’t matter
Grief eats me like a shark
I wish I could join you
Where the waves stop
I stare into the infinite beauty
Of the eternal soft darkness
We still share

I promise to meet you there

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Francesco Tommasini
April is Poetry Month Day 19

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JOAN OF ARC

I wrote in sand
And bled your name
First the ocean
Then the rain
Then the day that never came

The thin red flower
Bled petals
Into a bed of thorns
A needle threaded
Pulse of veins

A storm

To speak your pain
Without a tongue
To blame them not
I turned my body to a flame
And shot myself a rocket
To your glory

Let me rise
In ash and story
Let the morning fall before me
As they sing their foreign words
I rise
To fly among the birds
Sky beyond me
Earth below
Sand and time
And names I know

Carrying this broken hymn
I sing into the perfect wind
Ash to ashes
Tears to rust
I rise in blood
And turn to dust

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Frida Aguilar Estrada
April is Poetry Month Day 18

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WELCOME OUTBREAK

The flowers are shouting purple from the lawn
The inset of daffodils is cheering them on
There’s the lost glove you thought was gone
Waving at us
Royal, grand
Like some happy, supernatural hand

This is spring
Inevitable, unplanned
Amen!
It seemed like good weather would never come again
It seemed like we had been in a gray basement
A locked shed
Circling the same conversations in our head

Let’s go outside for a deep, pink breath
Let’s see the trees show off their tresses
See the robins dress for success
This is more than we had expected
Or remembered
It’s the best spring ever yet
No less

Let’s go outside together and lay down in the grass
Let’s feel ourselves orbit the sun
And enjoy being passengers in this beautiful earth
The only one in all the universe
Where we reside

Let’s inhale all we can hold inside
From the bowl of the sky
Feast on beauty, feed the eye

Breathe together
Rise
Arms open
Fly

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema
April is Poetry Month Day 17

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MUON RIVERS

Bending wide across the arc
Of our understanding
The standard model of our design
We encounter mystery
Now
As the muon bends
Our minds

There are equations
That hold
Our understanding
There are understandings
That exceed
Whatever we can construct
Measure, communicate
Read

Out there in the field
Out there in the fields
There are understandings
That the infinite–Infinite
Yields

And every life
Every lifetime of pursuit
Studies the tree
Studies the root
Studies the ephemeral
Illusions
Of the forbidden fruit

But once given a taste
Of what we might possess
Embody, face
We allow ourselves to be disrupted
Into epiphanies
With which
We are invisibly interlaced

As our minds and bodies open
To the illusions that appear
We become one with the Oneness
That does not adhere
To the rules

We are divine fools
We are silly children
In this extraordinary game
Learning to discover
Learning our own reflection
To name
Atoms, electrons
The Higgs boson
The same
Labels for uncertainty
We attempt to tame

But here come the muons
To change
And reclaim that space
Where we realize
We don’t know much

Yes, we are here
We breathe, we think
We touch
We move through time and space
In a mortal rush
To live
A more meaningful
Allegory

But
When we wake up, we see
It’s all imaginary, a story
There are no atoms
There are no equations
There is nothing
But

Eternal glory

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Stacy McWilliams
April is Poetry Month Day 16

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NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

Like some lost swan
I waddle the lawn
Make my way to the pavement
Then to the street

I am ashamed of my shape
I am horrified by my grotesque
Webbed feet

Everyone stares
To see me making my way
To the neighbor’s swimming pool
Which has finally opened for the season

I woke up this morning like this
Can’t tell you how or why
Can’t give you a reason
But at least now I am floating
In this strange, man-made pond

The neighbor does not recognize me
I used to be blonde and leggy
I try to say his name
But it comes out a cry
Time to get out of the pool, I think
Time to fly

I manage to get up
At first flimsy
Then a little higher
Then high enough to find my way
Above the telephone wires
Right up to a bird’s eye view
Ah!
There’s a lake I can fly down into

Now I am landing at the water’s edge
Waddle, waddle across the stone ledge
And plop, plop into the lake
I am gliding now
I barely cause the water to break
Look!
Look over there
Another swan

I go over and say, hey
And it’s my husband
He says, I’ve been waiting here all day
And I say, how did this happen?
But it sounds like a bitchy swan-scream

And he says, I don’t know
That’s why I’ve been waiting for you
To come and explain
What does this all mean?

After all
This is your dream

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Hasselmann
April is Poetry Month Day 15

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BROKEN ENGLISH

You crush the words
With your teeth
Pull sharp meaning
From the sheath of nuance
In order to break
Me

Words are darts
Words are swords
Words are knives
For cutting the cords that
Bind us
Or
Connect us

May the unforgiving silence
Protect us
From ourselves

There are books and books and books
On our shelves
In which we lose
And find ourselves
Unsung

Books that hold centuries
Of the mother tongue
In all her secrets
And revelations

These are the building blocks of nations
These are the castles
We inhabit
These are the magician’s hands
Pulling the rabbit out of his hat
Pulling a quarter from your ear
Making the ace of spades appear
And disappear

Words are like that
They conjure
They take shape
They take you to the exit
They take you to the fire escape
Or they lock you inside

You stare at me
And say
The words are the key

I could not believe you more
I have to say
I agree

The words are honey
The words are free
The words are full of love
And flowers and empathy

This is almost enough care
To smooth the jagged edges
To help the words
Repair
Themselves
And me

Thank you

Let the fresh air
Fill our lungs
Let’s walk together
And wag our tongues
Like puppy’s tails

Let’s comment on the clouds
And how they look like giant sails
Finding their way across the ocean of sky

Give the words a rest
Give the face a smile
Let your teeth be a wide wall of happiness
For a while

We don’t need to chew cruelty
We don’t need to speak dirt
Let’s find the comfort
That sits inside the hurt


Lift our hopes
On the breezy skirt of the day
Flirt with the infinite
See the wonder
That stays just under the surface
Always waiting to come out and play

Here are the words
I was meaning to say

I love you

I love you
Anyway

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Alex Iby
April is Poetry Month Day 14

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THE PARSON AND THE JESTER

Don’t look at me
I’m not in pain
My hand is not bleeding
I’m just holding a key-
Chain

And the Parson calls me
He does not know
I bit the tongue off the Jester
And I am not ready
To go

Over there

Stay in your corner
On the angel’s halo
On the devil’s horn

Maybe it was the Parson’s warning ringing
In my mind
Bringing us together
Maybe he was just waiting
For the storm
For the weather
For the Jester whose face is lined
Like leather

Waiting
For the ringing of the bells
For the toll that comes and tells us
It’s the end
It’s the truth
It’s time to stop
Pretending

The Jester is mute
And uncouth

But he knows what he would say
If he had a tongue
If he had words
If he had legs
To run away

Instead, he witnesses
Instead, he watches
He sees
The hands on the clock stop
To clap us back

The hands that hold us
The hands that will unfold us

Time will scold us in our own voice
And then it will grow tired
And the universe will rewire itself
And we will die of the shock and tedium
Of days repeated
Knowing it is not our place
To see the entire picture
Completed

We know
We are here as jigsaw pieces
We are here as mere tucks
And creases in the fabric of the world
The fabric of the flag of days
Unfurled into a life

Hand me the Jester!

Hand me my knife
I myself will take his tongue
His will
His life
Because I do not wish to know
My own edges
Sliced away

I will pretend I’m not afraid
I’m not alone
I’m not with the Parson
As he chews
With bloody, angry teeth
A bone
There is nothing left to own
There is nothing to bequeath
No Christmas tree
No Christmas wreath
No Santa Claus
Only this unbearable pause
Where we breathe
Until we don’t

You may fear this
But I won’t

Instead
I will go on
Holding fear and morality on a tight leash
Appreciating the senses that tell me
I matter

And maybe I do
And maybe just like you I came here for a reason
A season
With these strange, compelling dreams

I am awake now
The Jester is quiet
Playful
He has his tongue back
On its seams

And what does he do?

He cries
He laughs
He sings
He screams

As the Parson warns us

The fabric is torn

And we emerge
Exhausted
And bloody
And ready
To be reborn

© 2021 Julie Flanders
Photo Credit: Mona Miller

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