Editor’s Note: Here is the continuation of Kristiane Week’s poetry collection. This half, “Fire Below” contains my favorite pieces: “I’ve Spent Some Time As A Ghost” and “Flannery O’Connor”. If you need to catch up, here is the link to our posting of “Cycles”, but be sure to come right back. I hope you come away from this collection as haunted, impressed, and inspired as I have.
Go back to the lime tree where it all began,
carved our names (we never want to admit it)
for the flashing black clouds trying to fight. Rain
craving comfort from the ceiling of trees–
electricity longing to reach through some
nylon fabric, thin. Lesson one: welcome hotels.
Sun glow, we spin through the Blue Ridge tunnels,
eyes on limed core, sky gold and grasping hot.
Barriers of atmosphere tip the peaks, they
point to sparkling falls—Lesson two: I am made
of calcite dripping on the floor of the world’s
largest cave… Now that the mountain
and I cleansed our hands in twisting rivers,
we see the veins of this country flowing through.
Eating the Afterbirth
First, the mother takes a long time eating
the afterbirth, then I hear it’s the other way around…
But balance always discovers a way to balance
out, so we don’t look back. We don’t need to.
We sift into freezing bursts with no destination
except a sunlit highway heading north.
We say goodbye to the children we leave behind,
the ones we’ll never meet, aching and phantom.
States above Florida are so much warmer;
peeking tulips permeate the tree lines—escapism
by bumper-cars and coffee houses shaped from
shacks, chipping Robin Blue and mismatch
vinyl chairs–How do you keep your shine? Tilt-a-
whirl mountainsides, geometric faces. You’ve
never seen a tunnel carved into the earth. Eyes drip
away mud, tangles until the peak: at the bottom
of a ridge we’re only in bathing suits, sun hiding
above green palms, skin sliding against cool-
hearted waterfalls–slide… At the top: sweater
weather, cigarette smoke drifts, angles soft enough
to bring quartz from the sky. Return to loam, rich
with our fingers. Here I’ll lay down the salt circle
to keep us out of drought, while you lay down
your reddened palms to keep us from leaving.
Tonight limp hands: there’s that shadow
on the eye, again, it’s looming against
the sun, too. Tundra to the left, and my
self, far behind. The young are so much
more forgiving, finding something
different than my fabricated world…
Orange glimmer against the branches
of some wooded landscape, lying on weeds.
Why don’t they teach us first how the brain
is just a weak muscle? Weakest in the body,
always faltering–forget muscle memory. Stop
pulling the neck and use your stomach
for breathing, that’s all you have to know.
Be like snow, beautiful and cold…
Here, take my hand and don’t play truth or dare
the way I played Houdini, bring me bundle
bouquets of anemone and lavender–soft red
path wards off fading starlight on the leaves.
How Far Back Can You Remember?
In the spirit house, I am alone.
Inescapable, the way out found by looking in
down through the rafters—only shrieking,
no shimmer, sorry, Ashbery. Sorry
Asheville, I can’t stay. Your hidden black
bears, disheveled Black Mountain
are too obvious reminders of all we’ve lost.
Next day I find a single scarlet Carolina leaf
and when I pick it up, it pulls me
from the fabric world. The lesson: all memories
are genericspectres of truth…There are so many
secrets in the spine of Appalachia,
I’ve been trying to tap them out, over-turning
musk-covered peaks to catch a clue, finding
a longing with nothing left to long for except
ennui and burned up roaches. Mixed tea leaves
and heart beat so loud: muddle into a sedative
as soft counterweight. Then I hear your footprints
call my name, but your eyes will turn to orchids
waiting for my signal back—everything is an
imaginary reason to keep holding out for more.
Deep As Oceans
Navy sailor in salted waves away from the greens,
and overwhelming alcoholic perfume of Glory Days
arrives, pours into the receiver of a rotary phone
he finds, gives to me for an engagement ring.
I can never get it to catch his line, the dial-tone’s
always singing Fuck the US military, fuck the US
ten times over before it clicks to zero, zero…
Now the uniform delicately places bouquets
of foxglove and succulent in the barrels of oak
whiskey. Take a sip, or two, get that same look
in your eye, cup-up-heart-strings gaze you had
when I asked if you were excited for your second
son and you answered “not really”…Nothing but
the sting of a beating heart; the time when I’m sixteen
and the kitchen manager at Outback Steakhouse gives
me his best life advice: Don’t marry someone because
you have a kid with them. This lesson is called, “I Regret
It Every Day.” Autonomy knows not to marry the first
limber branch that hands out sparkling grape seeds,
but no one else will learn this until we all slide like hail
storms and curse like the black glittering sea.
The Ninth House
If I could only get you mountainside,
coax you over fire, repressions. I’ll leave
the lamp on, so your phantom fingerprints
shine while you’re gone. Lift blue veils,
screen through all the spheres convincing
themselves of invisible threads spiraling
around you, grasping for something none
of us can see, waiting until salt seas fade…
I’d give him any of the treasure held in murky
sand at the lowest elevation on this heavy planet–
I truly have small hands, tiny inception’s touch.
It’s the after-burn that repels this flesh,
burning that once was. I know there’s nothing
left to fear, only feel: dry bleached shell
hearts along the fort or stuck in the walls
like some Cask of Amontillado tribute–
Soil, seeds, guide me away from the drag,
coquina cement trying to make up for
the ugliness of permanency… Ocean
sand, lake sand, desert sand, none
of these are the same. Why are differences
so important? Aren’t we all trying to connect?
Defer shining obstructions to get at
the breaking storm clouds, evaporate…
And what else would condense onto
the ground except red remains of our love?
Clawed bark bitten by wolves, or coyotes,
depending on where your spirit house lies.
Everything is a ritual, sacrament of time:
folklore isn’t fashioned by mouths, only sod.
Listless ramblings under a blood sun
too close to the horizon-line… Your eyes
were made to fool you—refractions,
upside-down lies to make the sun appear
large and close enough to swallow the world,
but doesn’t… Fresh youth hiding, beach fossils
the same as any of us blanketed by sun rays–
it’ll take just as long for the collage of shells
stuck meditatively to your toes to find its place
as it will for you to turn into sun-bleached coquina.
Sea glass: the single thing to show for all
the planning. Wrapped in arms, arms
wandering for years, the right arc soul
searching, “Mystic coincidence,” he says,
but that doesn’t create an outline. What
are we supposed to follow? Level out,
my aim gives my poker hands away,
they build cement boxes on the curbs
so nothing can hide behind the grass
like crafty Ponce De Leon did—
Out the windows, mist is whittled
down, black skies with gray areas
the most beautiful. Life is how it is,
not how it was… pale razor clams, misfit
shells bigger than feet cut deep when
we try to get to far-shore. We hold salted
scars now, rough foliage not meant for
But just because your center card flips
Hanged Man, doesn’t mean you’re hanging.
Do the Twist
In Ohio, we walk along
Serpent Mound to remember
what mysteriousness feels like—
All night we hear superstitious
hills whispering hymns along
the tree-line—But still no
answer to what makes
the wires in roots cross just so…
Not the only thing crumbling
to mud:no tolerance for the way
she talks about fingers in woods,
more than fabrication allows,
filters. When the bark stops
shaking, I’m willing to be the one
to find out: cigarette burns, always
perfect irises without second sight.
Don’t trust me, not yet, I’ve
been bending backward my whole
should it perform differently now?
I’ve Spent Some Time as a Ghost
Stutters in the hallway, moment when moon forgets
night without thread or reason to hang from,
You are the one who tells me the black dot
is more, nota bad omen:a sign of fire, yet I swear
I’m done. Beat be sure to find, give all you’ve
collected for worse. Tonight, vice is knee-deep,
wants to evaporate into rosemary, lemon-scented
rooms… Satellites–can you feel them all around?
It’s real: rarity of not feeling pain, or breath,
isn’t it? But a woman in Mexico builds a home
shaped like a conch, uses coral skeletons for
iridescent roofs, not thinking life is long gone…
Family Tree Shakes
We keep going back to the cemetery, turn graves
upside-down. We can see feet of the underworld
this way, we can still grasp pink toes to wash feet
and roots we lost along the way. Pray they won’t
disintegrate into earth for good…Creaking whispers,
though we aren’t listening, fists thump-thumping
underneath—We aren’t breathing to stay alive:
It’s all in the ears, his timbre voice lines the crown-
molding of the house, but the foundation has
disappeared. It’s all in the rotation…When my knees
and ankles are cracking, I can’t blame the candle
placed in the corner, dancing in its own lush glow.
Once, when she told me there’s no vibration left
to keep, she took out her eyes. It was a symbol
of her strength, her devotion to the light.
Not one to hold the tongue, old spirit with
a seedling gaze, flesh becomes dull to possess.
An exile not dedicated to land, just the sacredness
behind it, so why bother? Needing to medicate,
no longer starry-eyed (buried for a reason). Once
when he asked us “how do you know until you
try it?” another girl tried to swallow swords,
swallowed her spirit instead. There’s a lesson
here, somewhere between the blind
and the throat, it’s tongue is delicate, it lulls
softly against erosion of time, guiding her fingers
to the cool roots of the cedars below, or
the flame, knowing not to dig up old plots unless
there’s a fire below, when some ghosts never die..
Try to stay a neutral shade
of turquoise: paper-cut pain.
Your heart isn’t a fortress
anymore, but I don’t know
what else to believe. Our brains
and hearts are both forcing
us to find patterns, connections
in everything–instincts misleading,
no telling what is upside-down
or just random, who is going
to be willing to dance with you
in public (not a Sagittarius…).
Since we don’t know what to trust,
trust the energies and breath.
Keep your exits open wide,
offer up anyone to the wolves.
Cynical Saint cultivating strands
of browned lace, trampled with boot
prints, needed for an altar.
Delicate Designer, we take your oaths
to anchor us to the loam. Limber limbs bless
Himalayan salt blocks stuck in mouths.
Forget your blessings, they’ve forgotten you…
Slouching towards Babylon to be offered
bird bones, we make much of our own
suffering, it’s our fault. It’s my fault
we make mountains out of our suffering,
it’s the weight of anchor on ribcage.
But don’t give me the choice, baby,
I will always choose the fall.
Kristiane Weeks is a Hoosier with a passion for the arts, something that Indiana is not famous for. She’s dabbled in all writing forms, but poetry and creative non-fiction are her niches. She’s currently a MA student studying Creative Writing at Indiana University in South Bend, set to graduate May 2015, with a BA in English from Flagler College in St. Augustine. Her poetry has been featured in Off the Coast, and her essay about St. Augustine was featured in Indiscernible Leaves, an IUSB Graduate school publication. She’s looking forward to continuing her education in creative writing on the west coast of the United States. You can read more of her work on her blog.