The Ritual Cleansing of Steel Men

The Ritual Cleansing of Steel Men

Once a day, no more, dip the coarse grey cloth into the water,
Into the wooden bucket full of cold, rose-hipped water,
So cold the roses stay fresh, so cold the hand-bones ache,
Pull it out dripping, droplets falling across the red stone floor,
And begin the ritual cleansing of the steel men.

Wipe away gently the blood, both old and new,
Wept from wounds hidden, or spattered from the field,
Wash off the mud, caked brown, dried and flaking,
Scrub at the rust, spreading in patches across his chest
Across his arms, his hands, his feet, his legs, his face
And when he is clean, send him back out to fight again.

By this time, the water should be black and gritty,
The roses crushed and crumbled, no longer sweet,
The red floor stained darker with water and blood,
The once grey cloth a ruined rag of rust and mud,
And you, down on your knees in the dirty damp
Will pour out the bucket as the day’s ritual ends.

Do this, every day, once a day, sore with the ache of it,
Hands shaking with chill, fingernails black and torn,
Until the steel is mostly rust and it shakes at each touch,
Flaking away to make red-brown stains on the floor,
Revealing bruised and bloody flesh to your fingers,
And a man no longer trapped in anything but your arms.

A Small Collection of Poems

This in week, in honor of it being the first week I do this, I’m posting a series of poems I wrote for a creative writing class a few years ago.  The series was called Light Up the Darkness.


Saltwater Sweat

Let’s drive off the edge of the island,
Right out into the bay!
Cover my body with sunlight,
Let the salt eat my flesh all away.

I’ll let the salt eat my flesh all away
As long as you’re by my side.
Right out into the bay
Is better than being alive.

It’s better than being alive
That’s what they all say.
As long as you’re by my side
I don’t have to see a new day.

I don’t have to see a new day.
The saltwater’s calling my love!
You know what they all say
We can find a way out I’m sure.

We can find a way out for sure.
And together forever we’ll stay.
The saltwater’s calling my love.
I’ll show you a different way.

I’ll show you this different way.
Just cover my body with sunlight,
And together forever we’ll stay.
Let’s drive off the edge of the island!

We’ll let the salt eat our flesh all away.

Snow Day

The best part wasn’t
Sliding down snowbanks
Laughing as you slipped
Snowball fights that left us
Wet and shivering, cold,
So we went inside and
Curled up by the fire
Damp and shiny-eyed,
Until the white expanse
Drew us inexorably
Back into its glorious chill,
Joyous on nothing but
The heady feeling of
Being young and alive.

No, the best part wasn’t
The sandwiches we made
Or the blanket we shared
On the comfortable couch,
Or even staying in bed
That white morning,
Cozy under the covers,
Bodies entwined in
A way only our bodies
Will ever be capable of,
Gloriously content, and
Never wanting to move.

The best part was simply
The moment when you,
Trying to hide your laughter,
Gave me your hand, to
Help me up from the
Deep, snowy drift, and
Led me inside to get warm.

A Question Asked in Darkness

You asked me a question, soft-voiced.
Arms around me as we lay in bed
In that strange precious moment before dawn.

Instead of answering, I pressed closer,
Trying with actions to give you an answer
Since words too often fail or cannot be found.

Yes, my fingertips said as they traced
The length of your back, the curve of your cheek,
So I might know you even in darkness.

Yes, my eyes told you as they stared
Into the depths of your worried hazel gleam,
Noting each fleck of green as it sparked.

Yes, my legs declared as they twined
Around yours, heel brushing calf,
Trying to tangle myself with you.

Yes, my lips whispered as they brushed
Your collarbone, your jaw, and finally your mouth,
Lingering tenderly so you could taste my answer.

Yes, I love you.

Small Differences

He wants the road; I want a home
I want to stay; he wants to roam
I know I could love him; he says he loves me
Isn’t that enough for us? Asks he.

I want a husband; he wants a wife
But I want forever; and he wants tonight.

You Asked Me Why

I left – it seemed the best thing.
You didn’t need me anymore,
Despite your pleas, and besides,
I wanted to find something lost – maybe myself.

Not that it was easy, leaving.
Not when your eyes pooled and my hands shook,
Knowing they’d never hold yours again.
But it was what we both needed.

Or at least, I thought it was.
And so, I left, packed my things and drove,
Hands clenched hard on the wheel,
Miles of blacktop beneath my tires.

I was searching for something.
Or maybe I was just running from you.
You see, I’d forgotten the way the stars
Light up the darkness every night.


A New Direction

So, as you’ve probably noticed, this blog has pretty much fallen by the wayside.  Life happened, per usual, and since I’ve last posted, I’ve come back from England, gone to South Africa, graduated undergrad, and started my first year as a Stage Management MFA at the Yale School of Drama.  The last event is the most pertinent to this post.  Unsurprisingly, attending YSD means I am very, very busy.  But, in one of my classes, we discussed the importance of hobbies, and making art even if that type of art isn’t part of your particular discipline.  This idea, combined with a desire to keep honing my creative writing skills, has led to my decision to take this blog in a new direction.  Starting today, I’ll post a poem or other short piece of creative writing on this blog once a week.  (At least, that’s the goal.)  Sometimes, I may include a bit of explanation along with the work.  Others, I won’t.  Hope you enjoy!