INCENSE

Is love only ever made of lavender, 
or does it manifest in the brine that drips 
from your forehead, congeal in the pinprick – 
is it the smell of cedar or the ashes 
drawn in a cross on my hand 
(I’m only as religious as my vanity demands)
is it gold, frankincense, and myrrh 
or is it fragments of alabaster
that I will bring home, having stolen
the trash from someone else’s garden? 

By Heidi Turner

FUTURE NEW YEAR'S

I look beneath my skin and see
the outline I will leave when I leave 
the world behind – I see the carbon
footprint that comes of being made 
of what forms at the heart of stars
and electrified by the mystery. 
Is it that cosmic scarring 
and gunpowder wonder 
that you are silenced by
when your breath hitches 
and you swiftly kiss me?

By Heidi Turner

PLAN B

I looked for Hope and found Him sleeping,
I looked for Joy and saw Him laughing, 
“Beloved,” I heard, and knew 
that Someone was looking for me,

and on the mountain-side I found Mercy,
raised up like a banner, “Forgive, forgive,” 
“Justice!” I cried, but I watched Him die, 
forgetting Love would win in the end. 

By Heidi Turner

CUSTODY

The seconds split between us, 
into recollection and memory, 
into what was (what can’t be again),
the ants sorting the draining sand grains;

they tick themselves into boxes 
that I carry to my car and you carry to yours,
and we never think to check that the hearts
we carry out was initially ours. 

By Heidi Turner

AUTUMN

My favorite forest is full of ghosts,
but none of them are yours. 

 I sit among the bluebells,
unwrap my blue plaid scarf, 
“stay a while…” 

 the leaves and I consort with the past: 
rain falls and sparkles and dries, 
and we raise lightning rods to toast

 our restless walking under the trees, 
the living and dead discussing 
our fathers. 

By Heidi Turner

PLAGIARISM

If you think the fingers that tip-type out 
rhymes and readable rhythm 
can’t speed up your heart while they chase
you down an alley and re-capture their words
that you tried to take,
if you think that only pacifists find their way 
to the war of words we engage,
if you think that bards are afraid to defenestrate
the thief on the wrong side of Jesus 
from the silent top of the Empire State Building, 
you clearly don’t read enough poetry. 

By Heidi Turner

THE TROUBLE WITH POETS

“It’s just like Star Wars,” he said, 
a white guy I’d watched move 
from dreadlocks to buzzcut to man-bun,
“the way we argue with the darkness
inside us, when we can make it leave
by holding open the door of ourselves;” 
I failed to remind him how potent the fear
that finds us is, and that our bones themselves
bleed until we are out of blood,
that only death is pure white,
that we all fall in love with the thought of surrender,
and instead heard for the fourth time 
that the heroes of the story have no lines 
and that the Princess is superfluous at best,
a moment I use as an example 
whenever someone makes me sound exemplary. 

By Heidi Turner

WISHES

If I could, I would swim down
every wishing well I’ve ever trusted
and in the dark, retrieve my pennies,
not because I wasted wishes,  

but because I’m glad the copper seeds
I sowed all those years ago didn’t grow
and now I wish I could have them back
and drop them one by one  

into the ocean of my heart, or spend them
one more time and buy a single flower. 

By Heidi Turner

BREATHLESS

Your back on mine,
breathing in rhythm,
you and I, my world and yours. 

That was the memory I looked for
when I gave the past to the wind;
my mind betrayed me to itself, 

and all I saw was the skylight sunrise
the way it looked on another morning,  
the hours after your goodbye.

By Heidi Turner

SAFETY

When you look at me, 
I see the impossibilities, 
the miracles etched in the past, 
the laughter that echoes 
through the loneliest memories
and turns the songs to reprises, 
changing their meaning by degrees
until I am singing,
“I was wrong, I was wrong,
thank God, I was wrong.” 

By Heidi Turner

FAITH

When we were young 
we let the waves tumble us  

and leave us stranded in the sand, 
panting in the whitewash 

and we never wondered if we could win
when we dove back into the sea 

because every wave we survived 
proved that neither we nor the waves

 were trying to start a fight. 

By Heidi Turner

ART

The words hold on tight, 
little matches I tear off and light 
by friction against myself,
rubbing my convictions on the concrete
until they catch flame
and leave smoke-scars on my arms:
the smell of sacrificial lambs 
and accidental sacrament. 

By Heidi Turner

REDEMPTION

There was something like trust in your eyes
when you looked up, 
the light shifting across your face
and rippling through your irises
as though recognition was a stone
skipping across your heart, 
a wish granted and recognized 
as it skimmed the still waters
before you fell asleep.

By Heidi Turner

THE RUSSIAN DOLL THAT IS EXISTENCE

I’m too small for the universe I’m in:
a drop in the sea,
a falling leaf in the forest, 
the dust you brush from a diamond, 

but I’m also a universe myself, 
full of blood drops and water
electric storms that rage and abate,
remembered by the tiny teeming masses, 

who probably write poems 
like I do, pondering their significance 
and position in relation
to my beating heart. 

By Heidi Turner

RAT RACE

You keep your quiet,
the drawn blinds at 2pm, 
the free matchbooks you acquired
in rooms with Gideon Bibles, 
and I will let you have them,
give back the highways and the roads, 
travel only on pathways with names
and not numbers, 
and we will see in the end 
who can stand the sound of the sea,
whether you are the shore or the waves
as the rocks are slowly turned to sand. 

By Heidi Turner

SINCERITY

 

I could blind myself to the sunset,  
or save the words, “I love you,” 
like it would mean more if I first said it  
on a day that had no stars, 
instead of giving you echoes
when you feel lost in the woods;
I could deny the sky itself and pretend
to live on an ordinary planet
instead of learning the feel of your arms
and the sound of acceptance
that will guide me back home, 
my tactile constellation. 

 

By Heidi Turner