I was the penitent but now I am the lady.
I have moved through many lands.
Some of them are forever dead to me,
Some burn eternal in my broken hands.


We used to meet when I was young
In hotels and alleyways, forever on the run.
Candles burning down to the wick
As things were said and life was lived. 
I see images of your precious possessions 
Thrown upon the screen in my head:
Your copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead
With your pencil annotations
And your esoteric incense that bled
Red berry juice, poisonous onto my bed.
Your muscular back retreating down the path.
Your confident walk; your father's gun ...
The way that you growled ... the way you laughed.
My head was your raided tomb of antique fun. 
Your hands left roses blooming on my skin so young.

It was on a street that old poets had trodden
(Nike's wings strapped to their backs, caution forgotten)
That we had met, me with Cantos in hand,
You with eyes that told of travel to foreign lands.
You were the lady and I the penitent.
I wanted strict, but you were lenient 
Sending me coming to you for morsels of wisdom,
Alongside history obscured, the evening's news
Fueled by caramel bars, gin and morsels of Truth.
We walked in parks, together but apart:
Two clocks that told the same time
Temporarily bound by pain and art. 


There was time you see, for cups of tea
In stainless steel pots with UHT milk
That had a chalky unpleasant texture,
As we spoke of forbidden things and of
Our varied and dangerous misbehaviors. 
You preferred to sit in the kind of cafe 
Where the truckers and the dockers meet
Listening to their inane chatter that you 
Found so cooling to the radioactive heart of the matter. 
I found it all so unappealing, your devotion to
The blue-collar grease that you found so healing
Sugar in industrial pourers caked with flies 
And coated in yesterday's yolks and bacon waste
Where the plastic tomato sauce bottles 
Dispensed a red mixture with an unpleasant bitter taste. 
There was time for cheap eclairs and stale
Egg sandwiches taken with the chattering classes
As our fingerprints settled on cracked filthy glasses.
There was time for you and also for me.
Time to talk about the way the fire is fed by the logs
And then consumed by the endless angry sea.

You were so concerned about my little light,
My lantern that flamed up too fast, too high, too bright.
Concerned that it would burn out far too quickly,
And that I would not make the far bank 
Of my seemingly endless watery journey. 
You had your sculptors and your portrait painters
Ballet dancers, concert violinists and various losers and fakers.
I had my books, my Ouija board, and my Athenian owl.
I wanted more. 
You wanted less. 
We were friends and enemies both. 
We dueled:
I passed your tests. 
I was your wandering girl with the sand in her hair.
You were the benevolent teacher infected with a Nazi air.
Your German vowels bothered me
"Retained inherited memory, my dear, you see,"
Was all you had to say about that.
You tested my hand, my eye, my ear.
You said I had a beautiful soul
Despite my short stature and my mother's nose
My hooded eyes, my dark hair and my faintly
Gothic sullen masculine baggy clothes. 

Ah! The hazy vaselined blur of the lens of the past
Melds spring's surprise into December cold.
Not all that is young will ever grow old
But all that is old sees youth waste away -
Beauty, energy and time eaten up 
As starved as a monk on a two-week fast!
I am no longer sorry. 
I am no longer weak.
I do not pine for your friendship.
My aesthetic weaknesses no longer 
Make me despondently weep. 
I have become the Lady after all this time.
I eat the dew of the heavens
And I have drowned in honey and wine. 

I was forever sorry for something I did - 
The fact I loved you, and failed to keep it hid.
I was the acolyte to your golden dawn dreams
I was the scarlet lady that sewed the seams
I ascended the mountain on my hands and knees
I reached the temple and I spoke to the bees. 
The buzz about us was quite insane
Some thought we would be together 
But my friend, we both know, we were on 
Another more solitary plane. 

So we drank our champagne and smoked my hash
We put to rights Marx and Nietzsche and Hess!
We drank the well dry and we put the brush in the ink
We lashed our friendship until its corpse began to stink. 


I used to be the girl who grew hyacinths in her room
Forced out of water, a relic revived from winter's tomb. 
Their heady scent was nectar to my youthful folly
Now I twist the stalks of irises and peony blossoms
Wringing their necks out of jealousy of their greenness,
Something my body has all but forgotten.
I now sip my tea alone, bitter and old and solitary. 

How I ran the sun down in my penitent days!
I fled to Asia's jungles and 
I bathed in the prairie's summer haze!
I left you behind, stolid and unchanging,
As I found new forms and new places -
Both boring and entertaining. 
For a while I would call you occasionally
But that soon stopped when you realized
I could not pay you for your time
And I had become a creature that was
Essentially more lost and solitary. 

We untangled our lives and in time the 'us' that was
Transformed into the friends that used to be,
But once below a time, we shook the apples of Eve
Off of that cosmic, wormwood tree!

"You will write." You once said to me,
"Not just letters, emails, 
Notes left pinned on 
Gnarled, diseased old park trees
Or chalk messages graffitied upon City streets.
You will write. It is what you born to do. 
You have a gift, its yours. I would not tell
You anything that was not true!"
That was quite the lie, your protestations 
Of innocence almost ridiculous
Almost making me out to be a fool. 
You, twelve years older,
Hair of copper, soul of iron, hands of steel,
Heart of gold, though you had coated it in carbon
And bitten all the sheep you had herded into your fold
While I was off travelling and you stayed put
In the dull and aged cold!
Still, I wrote, and you were right
Though I feel I have failed to 
Truly capture the essence of the light. 

And so, seas apart, incommunicado, 
You with your money, me with my art
I have a final letter for you;
One more relic for you to put into your
Hidden ancient arc.
I changed my face, my hair, my name
I borrowed Daphne's hairbrush
And combed my hair into the drain. 
I grew into a less movable thing:
You couldn’t predict I would clip
My own tired wings!

I was well and then I was sick,
And now, here, almost at my journey's end
I wish I could serve you a final cup of tea
And that we could drink it as old friends.
The circus animals have been put to bed.
I covered them up with leaves,
And I shot that old grey mother wolf in the head.
I am not that predator that you once saw before you.
I am a gentler creature in these cold days of winter:
A lioness that has learned to love the lamb.
I chew on my own arm and I am what I now am!

That miner bird chatter coalesed into a steady stream
Of concentration on more serious, deadly matters. 
The old barbarian in me has gone to sleep,
Put there by the sheer seas of tears I have had to weep. 
That old trance has got me in its gaze
These are the true open-handed days. 

What came before was an adventure, its true
But as difficult as I were too.

And so, here I am, wondering which of these days
I am going to die
And if when I do, will I be observed by that
Huge vast all-seeing eye?

And the smoke that winds around these rattling 
Old windowpanes, will it take me in?
Will I join its wispy crew? 
Or will I fade out, a memory that exists to be both
Condemned and praised? 
Will you even know?
Will you understand?
If I visit you in the mirror
Would you turn away?
Or would you reach out your hand?

Who has the upper hand, after all? 
Should we talk about grace notes
And how it is better to fly than it is to fall? 
And all the doctors that tell me that the end is near
At least closer than it should be
As I cower in fear -
Would you tell them that I am a wild card? 
Would you feel anything more for me
Than small boy feels kicking a ball around a yard? 

I am a small bright thing.
I walk with aliens, and queens and kings
But none of them know me as I really am
And most of them are but failed ghosts
That seek to guide a living hand.

So, old friend, if I may call you that
Don't ask if you can smile at my journey's end
But do as you will, and do as you please
But remember me kindly
And do it on your feet, not your knees.

I was the penitent and now I am the lady.
I have moved through many lands.
Some of them are forever dead to me.
Some burn eternal in my broken hands.

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