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Lost Light

I’ve come to understand.
There is nothing shiny about me.
I’m not the glint
the crow sees from high up,
circles over,  returns
to dip & retrieve.
There is not enough light in me,
not enough reflection to warrant
lifting to a high
nest,  adored,    protected
as though I were precious,
fresh as   bread.
I have lived long enough
to accept my shadows, 
as much a part of nature as   
any darkness, dancing,   pressed
beneath leaves, underbellies     
of awnings yawning
over lemonade & leisure,
any  darkness stretching 
low,  long as a slow sigh from a broken heart
under the Chinese lantern of a full moon.
I do not shimmer.
I am not a moonlit ripple across a still
lake.  I am the skimmed stone
sinking, sinking to a bottom.
Still, I have
learned   hymns   in low places.

Live Long Enough

Live long as a river &
the  body divides,
like grace, like glacier,
groans into good and absence.
You will be an old
barn, dreaming,  under a quilt of sunlight.
Common house wrens will sing to you,
come to rest in you.  It is
good to hold something that cares
enough to come back to you,
comfortable,  even on the splintered rafters 
of your soul.

It winnows, this body,  favoring
this side to that, divines,
like a rod drawing to water in
a  spell of drought,  that one way may
just be better to follow than another.
Something unseen but sensed in bones thirsts,
leads you through the gravel & grit of old age.
You will have a good hand,
a good shoulder.  One
leg will love you more than the other.

Live long enough. Then open
the bird cage in your chest.  Set the singing thing
inside you free.  Listen.

Always Other

scrape hate off your soles
before   you  enter.
Home is no place
for society’s mud.
In your head, you are more
than skin, more than clipped wings.
Home is where you take off 
Job’s  heavy patience
you wear all
day.  Every day, a coat of mail, hammered into your skin,
rings of  mother talks,
grandfather  warnings, linked 
shadows & whispers,
sighs & sirens,
generational mettle clinging to your tired.
You are always night
in always night. 
But once you cross 
that threshold,
you are no longer
incense,   small,    burning.
Eyes closed, head back,
you flow into  some eddy of yourself.
Despair,   nothing but silt now,
sinks from your surface.  This
gauzy space graces you & 
you slip  into deeper 
currents of self, as though you were
river,  over flowing,
over coming, rushing out to sea.
Nothing stops you,
tumbling over & over,
cresting, surging, your life
lively as otters,
focused as beavers.
Now just
human, a beautiful pebble in your own

you heal from the always
other,  now being
neither tar, nor feathers,
nor tarred & feathered,
nor thief, maid,
beast, dumb, mute,
fear, feared, last, least.  
Your spirit crests.
You rest, breathe, inhale that
you are good enough.  
You are not impaled in society’s amber,
wings outstretched,   futile,
a dull thing for another’s entertainment.
For now, clouds over your world part,
depart.    You  rise
into dreams
neither stone nor moaning,
each minute splendid as tendrils.
You soak in this healing,  
even knowing the always
other waits at the edge of 
the all-too-brief night.  

So I’m Watching Sesame Street &

So I’m watching Sesame Street &
Grover goes to Mongolia to
watch the Mongolian Bowl Dance &
I am captivated by this dance that defies
the giant,  Gravity.  Fee-fi-fo-fum my foot.
There’s no centrifugal  grinding of bones here.
Only body & bowls balancing  in arcs & turns &
the fall is a great myth,
like the flat earth &
I like to think that
I could cram my flatfooted self into the horizon
just like that & 
dance in the direction of the sun,
dance like a sunflower,
dance with a sunflower,
sail into grace like pimento sails into small
green olives for your dining pleasure,
& be
sacred as an albino buffalo,
surefooted,  rooted  on some plain, withstanding
acid rain & early frost, 
& be
glued in grace, even
with  paying bills, dirty laundry & boss-from-hell
on top of me, even
with all this stuff 
I like to think
that I could stuff myself into a season
of holding my own, secure as
an egg in an egg cup,
spinning like a star.

13th & Homan

What is.
what is not,
like Chinese linking rings. I pull
memory on against 
shivering,    boomeranging
between dusk & dawn,
gleaning crumbs left by ghosts
both mercurial, merciful, through a bittersweet
forest.  Stained  by some setting, settling
sun, my empty elementary
school still rocks, rose-gold,
all Dickensian-lonely
with  old halls
bare as skulls &
chalk dust ghosts shimmering in 
sunlight shafts.  What is
abandoned is never 
abandoned.  I 
pause     this
evening, this side of the rust 
fence raveling around the playground 
too quiet, too quiet, without
brown children tumbling through
dodge ball,
tag, hide &
seek.  I
didn’t know then how special
single-file sanity  is,
that this would be the last
place  we would be,
equal,   cursive, silly,
a community, soaring
on paper planes, spitballs & 
balloons    like kids should.
I’m glad to see the old
school  still
here, refusing to rubble down.  I
turn up my collar & press on,  
aching in the loss of  a place 
I could walk blindfolded.

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Rose Maria Woodson holds an MA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MA in Community Development from North Park University. She is the author of two chapbooks, Skin Gin (2017 winner in the QuillsEdge Press chapbook contest) and The Ombre Of Absence (Dancing Girl Press) as well as the mini-chapbook, Dear Alfredo (Pen and Anvil Press).

Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Kettle Blue ReviewClarion, Gravel, Wicked Alice, OVS MagazineMagnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature Volume IIJet Fuel ReviewStirring, Scape Goat Review and the Mojave River Review.  Her short story, “Cupcake Payne”, is forthcoming in Issue 46 of Oyez Review.

Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Rose Maria on the Orson’s Publishing blog.