Celia Drill – Five Poems
Don’t get me started. The poet in me will never stop walking uncharted paths, through radish and mustard, and all the tall weeds, their faces haloed, each petal an alm, a stone, a prayer so easily ripped through by fingers, chewed by caterpillars green as summer. You tell me I’m making this up, this field stretching between the freeway and the new buildings, once four dilapidated houses. You say it’s plowed; you say they’re getting ready for cement. I laugh. The flowers have never stood so vivid, have never emanated sweeter spice, nor spoken in such bold voices—trills of loved ones, chiming tones of strangers, purple hearts for faces. There is nothing to do now but to enter, on foot, at dusk, when the moths invite silver over each small pool. Here, I am alone. Here, my hair is a single flame. It is no matter that no one notices, no concern that I am only fire passing through this world.
Singing with the Moon
When night descends on this planet, I am already prone, singing to the moon in my sleep, my voice, the ache of a piccolo—the moon trills back, flute. Every night of my life, we have sung to each other. Our song is always the same. I intone be safe. I light a candle for you. She lilts Starlight encircles me like angels. I will live forever. She croons; it is me she is worried about. How I try, but often fail. That I continue to age. I beg her to forgive me. For my state of being. I long to be closer to she. More like her. I flatter her, distract her, so she won’t pity me. My dreams leap and crash, waves I must swim through or drown, but even churning in brine blackness, I will never stop singing with the moon. Our voices harmonize: piccolo and flute, earth and heaven, servant and master, daughter and mother, lover and beloved.
Finally, I began the book that was never meant to be written. The small letters forged the page, each a camel in the desert bearing water for the poor, each word a line of such animals plodding toward a deserving heart. My fingers busied themselves; it felt like invention, but it was transcription—I was a scribe for the muses appearing before me as fairies or dreamscapes or black holes, informing me as I strained toward the page.
I had lived a haunted existence as happily as possible, feeling much like a single white candle flickering in the ether, striving to gain flesh, and to feel the tusks, the trunk, the hide of my own heart, not simply the mists rising from my vapid blood like coolness breathed from rivers—though my enduring emptiness, weightlessness, allowed me to fly each night in my dreams. There the skies throttled me, dyed me blue-black; I woke bruised by divine love like a boat mauled by its ocean again and again, boasting—once it has reached safe harbor– the gashes and the chafing along its battered hull.
Years passed. I don’t want to say that I was without hope, because hope was all I had. Hope was the tulip on the table, red wine, the bright marmalade. Hope was the mind straining from succumbing to madness, the pathway from sanity to lunacy just the distance from ear to ear, as the world raged on, my strange race stirring pain into every cup, grinding salt into the sweetness.
And then came the knocking, faint at first, like a tiny person at the door, her whole hand the size of my smallest finger, her knock the whisper from a bird’s throat while it sleeps. (I am always listening with the unfurling rose of my inner ear.) The sound grew; it beat and beat. Something was rising: waves, shoots, cries, something was unfolding, smacking its head against the impossible—it smelled like blood, abandonment, rebirth. I was to deliver it.
I washed my face. I wrung my hands. I know what it is like to hold my breath—inhale upon inhale—but to exhale, to surrender, to release deepest breath laced with salt and heat, and to follow where it leads, across lost territories, to begin with words etched across a page, lines of creatures bearing water in their bodies, water bitter with sadness, but purified with promise–that must be the work of another, one braver and stronger than I.
Whatever was said is lost now. Impressions remain, like washes of pastel color, almost touchable, smelling of cinnamon and warm milk. When I am most innocent, most like a girl leaning against a lavender wall—it could be home, it could be an abandoned building—the dark and light faces of the guests appear, amorphous, angelic, themselves innocents.
The silver car rolls into my driveway, woman bent in the back seat, young boy in front, next to his father, poised as swans. They emerge: father is white, a salt hill. Mother’s hair is obsidian paper. The boy twists higher, cajeput-tree, hails from Hawaii. They are foreign to me, like the smell of soft cheeses, shade grown vegetables. Their moon, my moon’s sister. Words are exchanged, and with them, our voices, sounds of rough paper and silk that fly off like long-tailed songbirds. They grey light of noon unites us; we are soft as stone.
They stay for days. I hear them below in the flat, sitting in silence of window light; I think she is mending my curtains; I feel her fingers nurture and fine tune the fabric like it is a violin. They come and go in the silver car, calling out for directions through the rolled down window. I descend from the sky to assist.
We build a bonfire in our woods. Standing beneath redwoods, sharing stories, my only son joins us. Speaking across the flames, smiling, our hands gesturing, I imagine continents colliding. Mountains grow—these ashes are seeds for flowers. This future is climbing fields of bronze and rose.
In the end, black hair gentles the tub and sink, where I scrub, and a faint scent pervades, mist of mint: nothing is lost but the words themselves, the words we spoke.
I can see the rose bush from where I sit, high in the balcony’s alcove, but she cannot see me. She is a many-armed goddess. I am careful of her, dare not look her in the eye. Her flowers are red as anger, and the breeze singing through her tentacles finds me, makes me drunk and enraged—I storm through the house. One moonless midnight I forged the wildergarden, tried to sever her deepest root, but she was hidden by the mists floating around this house, encircling this village.
She has changed me. My heart glows red as her fistfuls. In full moon’s light, you can see it through my chest: complex and many-petaled, the outer layers like the vulva, pink and supine, the inner layers darker, guard a swallowing hole protected by teeth—my heart is a woman’s heart. Bite into a pomegranate, bloody with seeds, you will taste it.
Tonight, she is dancing in the migrant wind spilling from the coast, pulling us out of ourselves. Tribal night, generous with stars—paths upon celestial paths spill out, too many to choose. I take one step in each direction, testing; the sky leans forward like a mother, opening her arms.
Perilous moment. I must trust. That nothing will hurt me, not mother, not goddess, not moon. Drunk again, blindfolded by vines, I can step off this edge. If I fall, rose will catch me, claw my skin, cradle my broken bones. If I fly, sky will take me back, moon will guide me.
Black waves of time rush the dimly lit windows. I am night’s silhouette, its witch, its daughter.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
When I was a girl, I found a box in my brothers’ room. Inside it, dead butterflies. I realized then the twins had put caterpillars in the box, and forgotten them.
Full of horror, for their entrapment, for their lost lives, I cradled them in my hands. The wings may have been any color, but in my mind they are blue, and I am watching my 8 year old self kneeling, her outstretched palms the color of moonlight on rivers.
As I watch, the room darkens until her figure disappears. What is left are glowing forms held up by invisible arms. A small voice whispers take them back, take them home, birth them again, paint them again these colors, let them fly through the trees like enlivened leaves, like wishes, prayers, and promises released from our mouths and minds into the great divine.
*Beauty is the physical manifestation of the soul, the glow that emanates from the flesh, even after death.
Celia Drill has published a book of poetry with Backwater’s Press, Body of Crimson Leaves. Her most recent publication is “Lost Orchard” in Whiskey Town Review.