Monthly Archives: August 2013

I Woke Up In Your House

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winter cottage sunrise

I woke up in your house
Under the quilt that your great-grandmother had made
As a blushing bride to decorate her marriage bed

My bare feet padded on the cold, gnarled planks of pine
Leading me towards your empty, still-dark kitchen
Containing bottles of soap with unfamiliar brand names
That left my hands smelling like possibilities

I wrapped my shawl around myself tightly
And dug out some coffee beans in the back of your pantry
While I waited for the coffee to stop dripping
I kneaded the dough that I left to rise on your wood stove overnight
And began to shape it for our day’s bread

You came in with the dawn
Knocked snow off your boots
Your beard filled with icicles
And your arms laden with wood
You stoked the little glowing coals in the stove
And tossed some hardwood on the fire

I poured you a large mug of coffee
As I handed it to you
You made a joke about witch tits and freezing temperatures
And slipped your hands through my shawl
Down the neckline of my nightgown
Playfully grabbed my breasts
Causing me to slop coffee

Frozen fingers on rounded flesh
Lead to breakfast being served late
As the meal was not the only thing laid on the table that morning

For a moment, it was all right in front of me
The scent of your wet wool coat
The sensation of warm dough on my fingers
The taste of coffee upon my lips
The sound of our breathing

The rising sun melted the frost
On your window sill

Sometimes, when I get a little cold
I wonder what would have happened
If I had chosen to stay longer

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This work, “I Woke Up In Your House” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Untitled

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You say your heart is like bark
And even thought I know it isn’t what you mean
I envision layers of hard, scarred tissue being scraped away to reveal your tender core
Warm
Soft
Moist
So sensitive that to simply touch it would cause bleeding

Sometimes, I wonder how to hold you without puncturing the surface of your being
My fingers are just too fat
My hands are too clumsy
It seems like even my best intentions could lead to damage

I worry that I am like a toddler chasing a monarch
Drawn by brilliant designs on gossamer wings
I finally trap you between my sweaty palms
Only to discover that I created carnage out of your splendor

I don’t want to kill you
But I might

You call me at 4AM
Voice clouded by cocaine and cigarettes
Writing love poems to a man
That left the sweet-smelling, resin-sticky flexible parts of you
To atrophy under layer after layer of papers:
Notebook papers
Forged papers
Rolling papers
Until a shell built up over you like a callous –
Some kind of tough skin to protect your essence

 I am not in the business of bark
I want sap
I want latex
I want to count the rings that spin out from your centre

I am a healer
I believe in wound debridement

I hear the tears in your throat that your eyes are too tired to cry
And I want to strip it away
I hear the shaking in your hands
And I want to strip it away
I hear the beer sloshing in your belly
And I want to strip it away

If I scratch at the bark with my fingernails
Will I cut you so deeply that new growth is no longer possible
Or will you obey the laws of Dendrology and come back stronger?

Humans are remarkably good at destroying that they wish to protect

But, Sweetheart –
You are not a tree
Your heart is not at all like bark
The man you write poems to only blows through your memory like a winter wind through paupers’ coats into bones
He is a ghost to haunt you on nights where you can’t sleep
And I am a warm, patchwork quilt smelling of cedar chests and mothballs
Let me wrap myself around you

I will get fingerprints on your heart
Part of it will probably get crushed by accident
I might wear off the veneer when I try to rub some life back into it
But even if your heart ends up cracked
With carpenter ants marching through your ventricles and aortas…

…Would it not be best to have it all done by a friend who is handing you her own heart for you to do the same?

cedar-bark

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This work, “Untitled” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sometimes, poems are messages in bottles…

Upcoming Performance

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Kitchener-Waterloo’s amazing slam poetry team is featuring at this event as they prepare to head off to compete at Nationals in Montreal in November! I’m biased, because I’m team captain, but I think we’re pretty awesome. Come out and see for yourself – even if it is only to see if I can create “family-friendly” poetry.  Also, it may or may not be my birthday that day – give me the gift of your presence (see what I did there? HA!)…

 

LSPIRG Event

My Grandmother

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My grandmother passed away on Friday. I was fortunate enough to spend the last week of her life with her, sitting at her bedside, holding her hand, and hopefully providing some of the same comfort to her that she has given me over the years. As I sat with her, touching her skin and contemplating her importance to me, I composed this poem in my head. It’s not the most polished poem at the moment – and maybe it never will be – but I feel like this is what I have to offer right now.

(For Shirley Staples, my Big Mama)

My grandmother’s veins are estuaries
Blue rivers that cross the wind-rippled beaches
Of her pale and puckered skin
Green lagoons, river mouths, tidal creeks, tributaries
That pool, churn, splash and spill
The blood built up by ancestors that I have never met
To make sanguine promises to descendants that I will never know

My grandmother’s belly is a drumhead
A semi-permeable membrane once stretched taut
Over a generous pelvis that cradled seven children
Like cupped hands making the world an offering
Now scarred, torn, faded, and folded
The rhythm within is an echo of the earth’s heartbeat
I place my hand there to feel the vibrations resonate

 My grandmother’s breath is a ghost
A vagabond wind that refuses to be caged
A subtle heat that drifts through the air
Passing silently through walls
Carrying memories and hopes that I can never touch
I try to capture the breeze in a glass jar
But it leaves me to go somewhere that I’ll never be

Grandma

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This work, “My Grandmother” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Criminal

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I’ve been stealing from you for years
In fact, I’ve been robbing you in plain sight
You’ve just been too distracted to notice
Drunk on gluttony, stoned on consumption
Masturbating to the great American porno “Capitalism”
You’re so focused on the shiny things:
Coins, stainless steel, hot grease
That you don’t see me rubbing my hands together with glee

You think my tippy-toed sneaking is schtick
You think my black mask is a costume
You would never believe that someone as adorable as me
Could be a hardened criminal
The way you underestimate me
Just makes my job easier
It lets me get real close to you
Lets me get real close to your family

You don’t know the horrors that I am capable of

What is it about a long, lean red head that captivates
Especially one tarted up in face paint
The only reason the clown doesn’t wear a mini-skirt instead of a cat suit
Just so we can peek up
When Old Red climbs the corporate ladder
Is that while the carpets match the drapes
There’s the little matter of the shill’s balls
Actually being blue

 I’m glad that I don’t appeal to the target demographic – I’m no circus freak

I didn’t turn thief overnight
I wasn’t born with a taste for villainy
It was force-fed to me in spoonfuls of a special sauce
Contaminated by violence and salmonella
I watched my friends get killed before my very eyes
Crushed underfoot by the comically large shoes
Of a tyrannical leader
You didn’t even notice that they disappeared, did you?

Think about it:
When was the last time you heard from Old Birdie
She was a nice one
Or even that doofus, Richard, who got off on us calling him “Grim”
I never liked the guy, but he didn’t deserve to die
With his blood spattered like exploded ketchup packets
Trampled on a tiled floor
I deserve something for their suffering…my suffering…

I will take what is owed to me at any cost, even if it means cheating you out of what is yours

When you least expect it
I will rob you of what you hold precious
When you are reaching for those last few fries
At the bottom of your paper bag
I will snatch your BLTs and quarter pounders
I will take your cheeseburgers without remorse
And I will laugh as you curse the empty cardboard boxes
This is the monster that Ronald McDonald has made me

They call me the Hamburgler.

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This work, “Criminal” by Beth Murch,  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Do Not Resuscitate

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He lived through a war
Came out of drunken brawls unscathed
He survived cancer
Overcame paralysis from a stroke
But his doctor warned him
That it would be his heart that would get him in the end

BLTs slathered with mayo and the bacon grease
He kept in a jar by the stove
Butter spread onto steaming ears of corn
His knife like a trowel moving cement
When his arm began to spasm
He simply carried his beer in the other hand

He was the eternal optimist
Because he believed that he was immortal
There was no wound, no injury
That could not be overcome by
Rubbing some dirt in it and walking it off
Nothing wrong with his heart – he was a lion

That night
Where he awoke in stillness
His breathe wheezing through gritted teeth
As his heart was squeezed in Satan’s fist
How did he manage to wake his wife
Who snored beside him in curlers?

In the bright lights
Of the ambulance
For a moment
He remembered his wife on their wedding day
The sun shining so bright in his eyes he had to squint
To see her smiling in her white gown

He wanted to take her hand
Just like he did that day at the altar
He wanted to squeeze her fingers
To reassure her that if he could survive
Carcinomas and learning to speak again
A silly heart attack wouldn’t take him

 But his arms were strapped to a gurney
And some kid who thought he was old enough to be a medic
Blasted him in the face with oxygen
He thought the poor bastard looked like he was going to shit himself
Probably his first day on the job
Probably still had the taste of titty milk in his mouth

There were doctors at one point
A feeling that his body was being
Struck by lightning that launched him
Towards the ceiling
Until his head bounced off plaster
Voices shouted his name

Then…blackness
Neither cool nor warm
A kind of liquid that left him dry
A quiet that was a roaring
At that exact moment he knew
How it all matters so much that it matters not

He awoke
Why? He wondered
This world was only exquisite pain
A tube down his throat choked him
And inflated his lungs
As quickly as they deflated

“Do everything you can”
He heard his bride say
In the voice of an old woman
Who had been crying so long
Her throat had become shirred
By the razor blades of grief

No!
He shouted against the plastic tube
Send me back to where it didn’t hurt!
He struggled to catch the attention
Of his wife, of the doctor
But he could not move

 The life support hummed
And his catatonic pleading went unheard
He felt his muscles begin to degrade
He felt the lesions forming on his feet
From the irritation caused by linen
Constantly scraping away at his skin

Day after day
Month after month
She would sit in a chair at his side
First, clutching his hand and crying
Later, reading a book and yawning
Then…some days she wouldn’t come at all

No longer a lion
He was a kitten
Unable to open his eyes
Weak and lying in his waste
Wiped down by the rough tongues
Of bleached towels held in the hands of nurses

In the end, the doctor was wrong
It wasn’t his heart that actually killed him
The plug was pulled when gangrene
Licked flames of green poison up his legs
His wife cried for the loss of his life
But he died, finally, with a smile on his face

do-not-resuscitate

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This work, “Do Not Resuscitate” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Alien

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I’m supposed to be putting the finishing touches on my chapbook, which are due in tomorrow…but instead, I decided to procrastinate. The best way to procrastinate- at least, when it comes to poetry – is to write a poem. This was inspired by a prompt from the MAKE SPOKEN WORD GO VIRAL! community on Facebook, initiated by the multi-talented and super-cool Cathy Petch.

Stranger in a strange land

She named herself
As if she were an alien
Whose hovercraft blew its transmission
Three wobbly rocks from the sun
There’s no hope for a garage that services Zord Explorers here
So she is forced to disguise her tentacles as dreadlocks
As she moves through herds of humans
Their nostrils flaring as they scent her alarm pheromones
Her casing is thin and sensitive in this new atmosphere
She fears the Homo sapiens will puncture her sheathing
And discover she bleeds tears instead of plasma

Invader species

Was how she saw herself
Like flora carried as seeds
In the pocket of some traveler
Dropped carelessly onto the earth
As spare change for coffee was sought
In that tight place where denim met thigh
Thanks to a series of vectors
She chokes out indigenous plants
Commits wildflower colonization
And even though her intrusiveness is beyond her control
She is disdained
Much like cattail hates purple loosestrife

Foreign body

Was what they called her
Something inserted painfully into an orifice
Causing it to struggle heroically
Attempting to expel the threat to homeostasis
To them, her body was indeed foreign
With folds where there should be crisp seams
Padded flesh instead of hard bone
Grass-like hairs where they had none
And snaking white scars versus their pristine canvases
She is unstable
An interruption
A challenge to a status quo
Clumsily knocking vases off tables
As she tries to be inconspicuous
Her emotions are Chinese ring puzzles
Needing to be disentangled from their source
Showcasing a brain sculpted from a kind of gelatin
Unknown to the rest of humanity

No one likes an interloper.

LythrumSalicaria

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This work, “Alien” by Beth Murch,  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.