Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Love and Bones by Bonnie Nish

Deer Bones

My father kept old deer bones
under his desk for good luck
I didn’t kill them just found them.
A reminder to himself
that if we don’t act
we can end up collector’s items
on someone’s floor.
As the moon waned
his resolve diminished
he admitted he did not know
about tradition and leaving children something
or what mark he had woven into our day.
He could only hope his whispers
were heard over the yell of traffic,
and that when we crossed the street
we looked both ways.

But I can tell you clearly
how on the brightest of nights
when I look to the North Star
I hear his heart beat,
know he is protected
just as he protected us
from the elements of a brutal wind blowing
through the house each day
when my mother rose in fury.
It was enough to know
he searched
for the smallest bit of grass
in the coldest of winter.
My father’s courage hidden
beneath the deepest snow,
became a relic
carried over city streets
even in the worst of tempests
which allowed us to persist.

As for me I have been wondering
what it is I will leave my children.
There are no deer bones under my desk
only an old photograph
of a man, white hair wild and amused.
A pipe clasped between fingers
he makes his way toward
a camera he does not see
his answer to the moon
the peace my children now hold
without thought.
And the deer bones
we don’t know where they went
but somehow suspect they are buried
under a tree, waiting to be found
from beneath a deep winter storm.


Of Love and Bones

Pulling bones, pounding veins into powder,
my mother’s blue twisted hands
wrap around fish dough,
sizzle of ball after ball
drops into water.
Her triangular body
dances between counter and stove,
blood red hair              
bobs over steaming pot.
She screams to Aunt Betty
for salt, to stir, more salt,
as I lie under the grey metallic table,
listen to life being crushed
into Passover dinner.
Fish guts and sweat fill my nostrils,
blankets me as I doze in the comfort
of the hustle and bustle
of the afternoon.

At night, my mother exhausted,
body clumped into the sofa,
knees pulled up to sagging breasts,
a fish ball crumbling.
The stench of death still wrapped
around her praying hands,
closed eyes rummage
through a turbulent history
bubbling deep inside her.
She moves from one end
of a bad dream to another,
the death camps,
the family carcasses piled against
a wall of stories told over time
pull at her frail bones.
Memories burned into each family ritual
fall below the mind’s surface.
In the dark she reaches into thin air,
twisted blue hands searching
desperately trying to wake up.  

The Inner Workings of an Injured Brain Trying to Find the Way Home 

What I write here- so muted,
this impossible story I have carried for the last year,
a concussed brain weary
of a drumroll of irregular beats
marching down a road carved out by an accident.
My words become dead men, coming now six in a row,
walking timpanists who trip over one another
when the band master isn’t looking,
the meter just a bit imbalanced.

I lie on my bed the slightest movement
causing the room to swirl around in my head.
I visualize a big grey dog lying perfectly still
on the front porch of a blue wood house,
I can feel the porch beams wrap tightly around him
and my narrative changes, even if for a moment.
He watches herons rest,
the white oak across the street
sheltering the simple outcome of nesting
that eludes his gaze.
Then all at once everything begins to run from me
into a world that has it’s own story to tell.
The rocking chair behind him
stooped at an odd angle stopped,
arms clung to an old man’s chest
breath lost mid-flight,
and the sudden explosion of a heart obstructed.
On the other side of the road a baby,
a mother’s full breast and lullabies
drapes a blanket across a chilling day.
The sound of a spirit shattering,  
the herons disturbed search the sky
for unseen predators, and I remove myself
my head spinning with possibilities
of what is to come next.

Out-of-focus I turn to you-tube disaster videos
try to find my own sadness that hides
behind my right lung where a nodule lies
waiting to be torn apart by needles and probes
looking for signs of cancer,
another blow to my body I can barely speak of.
Life passes as I try to connect to my own anguish.

The page still a blur - bits of stories
that leak from a faucet I can’t turn off,
the city where I met you lingers
pours onto the page in an unrecognizable shape
no blissful reminiscence just something misplaced.
Herons wait for the sun to lift them
off a history wood pile now just a tiny blur
on a horizon that won’t open.
A low-lying bridge over an ocean
threatening to collapse
and I can’t cross over to glimpse a fuller picture.

I turn to my memory of you for help
realize too late you are only a hollow man
sitting on a dock fishing,
you could not hold the shade of night in the sky
or whisper in a dying soldier’s ear
that their mother was waiting on the other side.
My stories slip behind a cloud
of metaphors I did not mean to use
to describe how empty I am left without you,
without my words.
Beyond the keys that bring letters into alignment-
engulfing fog.

Distant whimpers intrude
the constant buzzing between my ears,
the herons circle lower,
a dog caught in despair,
a new mother in just a night shirt
running across the street
to find an old man dead.
The moon swallows all of us
a blank book in my hands,
stories mixed together
stunned, hopeless, defiant,
to find the way home.


Bonnie Nish is founder and Executive Director of Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society. She is also Executive Producer of the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival. Bonnie has been widely published worldwide. Bonnie is a certified Expressive Arts Therapist. She has a Masters in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Expressive Arts: Therapy, Coaching, Consulting & Education, Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding at the European Graduate School. Her first book of poetry Love and Bones was published in the fall of 2013 by Karma Press.

Her book can be purchased on-line at Buy Love and Bones Here !


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