Poetry from Judith Borenin

From the Ashes


For over a week curious swellings converge

and disperse just beyond the scope of my


sight. My cat has seen them too – halting in

mid play – her golden eyes dissolving –


drowning in black pools.


Yesterday I stood beside the wharf assimilating

as much of the sea as I could without drowning.


Beside me – the scarlet remains of a small bird –

intestines strewn around it like some forgotten


sacrifice – hollow head wells of two black holes.

I refused to look away – steeling my veins to be


stoic in the face of such inevitable decay. On

the other side of the wharf a squalling gull


rode the rigid back of an unwilling mate with

a ruckus of white capped flapping wings.


This morning the fog enfolded the wharf with

a distant echo of wings. The little bird was gone.


Canoers – orange jacketed – in synchronized

strokes floated by – shoulders – fingers – oars –


oiled engines dipping in and out to stoke the sea.


Veins a honeycomb of absence – I sit beside

this window watching wildfire smoke and fog


descend like a hungry mouth. I wait here at

the bottom of this well – the cat curled – purring


on my chest. As I bury my cheek in soft black fur

a familiar fragrance lifts – almost solidifies – as if


she had just come from someone else’s arms –

absorbed their heat – its rekindled embers rising –


infused with the aroma of your hands.


Little Lives    

The eyes in the dark – the hands

that cling to steering wheels

like scarves wound around

throats caught in the spokes

of speeding tires.


Each little life passing –

cumulous – snug as a tourniquet.

Multitudes of voices – a choir

of laments sung in secret.


The groaning globe strains

to stay afloat on its axis.


It’s for the wounded I weep –

the cuts – the bruises running deep –

the pain that won’t relent – the cruel

voices that won’t

still or repent –

the lies that were invented to keep us

all afloat while we watch the honeycombed

procession of holes buzzing

in the bottom of the boat.


Every expectation slices

knife like within – the blood let

rejoices singing hymns with such

sweet acceptance as it blooms –

luminous and resigned

across our howling skins.


We were spewed into this world –

clawed out way out of pits a spade

could never comprehend. Paced

empty rooms – reclined and rose

up again – turned in twisted sheets

waiting for long and ravenous nights

to end.


With grifter hands the wind rakes by –

its stiff fingers slapping tree trunks –

an old jazz man strumming on fence posts.

What it shakes falls – what it takes crawls

the tattered skies – shuffles down like blue

notes on all the little lives.


Mirror Image


In the bus shelter beneath the thumb of sun –

weighted – pressed down – we wait – seated

reflections in the glass – for the bus to come.

Beside me sits a small bearded hill – soiled


clothes mud caked around him. With each

breath he takes a fetid aroma flumes. We

share hellos. I wrestle with the urge to wait

outside but I straighten my back and remain.


When the bus cuddles up to the curb I take

a seat and a deep breath inside next to a

dirty window and close my eyes. The next

stop a man who spends long nights inside


his clothes steps on and sits beside me as

his fragrance travels on taking a seat at

the back of the bus. Conversations nose

up and down the aisle as if thrust from a


vintage machine. A stray gnat settles in for

a nap on the lap of my white capris. I sweep

it away wedging gnat limbs deep beneath my

nail and on my pants a last breath of crushed


green. On worn blue seats we follow a seam –

stopping at well marked stops – propelled

by a familiar but distant driver who calls out

their names – treadles to start us all up again.


I could ride here forever – the world falling

away in folds like printed fabric – growing

fond of even this aroma of decay. Alone yet

not alone – a face fading in an eternal loop –


a vanishing reflection upon a glass pane.


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