Runaway

Early in the morning, I leave my house
with my mother and stepfather sleeping.
Stashed in my red Greek bag are books,
my glasses, and an extra pair of jeans.
I leave for school as usual, with a piece of toast in my hand.
Walk in the high school’s heavy front doors and out the back.
Powerful—this feeling of freedom.

I wait at Loring Park, near my friend’s apartment,
until her mother goes to work.
Sit on one of the swings, brown hair
whipping my face in the wind, watching birds fly.
Paw the ground with toes of my moccasins,
the kind with fringe, the ones with thin leather for a sole.
It is a gray October morning, the long prelude to winter, just beginning.

A scruffy man comes by, I ask for a cigarette,
he gives me one and we talk,
blowing out plumes of smoke.
I try to tell how I’m changing the whole pattern of my life,
how I am only beginning to be free—
I want to eat freedom, drink it, live it.

I do not tell him I met a girl two days ago
who’s on the run from the detention center,
or that I will go to her apartment soon
and we will dye my hair black,
walk to the other side of town,
find somewhere to live.

I do not tell him that in a few weeks
she will steal the only things I have,
my red Greek bag
with my jeans and books
and glasses,
and go off with some bikers.
I don’t even know that yet.

Walking out of the park,
leaving empty swings behind,
I glance back at the swans
swimming around and around the pond.
Freedom strengthens me,
my innocence carries me,
as I walk into my own life.

He Was Born Sometime in June

I don’t know my father
or his secrets.
Or the reason he drinks
thirteen drinks in one night,
or who hurt him,
or why he is so angry.
He gives me music,
like a transfusion,
from his blood to mine,
the best part of him.
He plays the piano,
does it save him,
until his liver cries out,
too scarred to keep on?
I don’t even know
what day he was born on,
who he’s afraid of,
what he loves,
what he dreams of.

The Swing

We sit on the swing on the back porch.
It is night–always night with my mother.
We have matching sun dresses that summer,
thin, red see-through material with tiny white polka dots.
The red–kind of scratchy against my chest,
the skirt sticking out like a weary tutu when I walk.

Tired, leaning against my mother,
my legs dangling off the front of the swing,
she sings to herself,
her voice, low, smoky, a little off-key.
I love it because she’s giving me attention,
and I’ll take anything she gives.

She leans over to brush a strand of hair
away from my face, and keeps singing.
The screen porch is in shadow,
but light shines softly
from inside the house.
My mother is like that too.

In the twilight world of almost-asleep,
she rocks us, pushing her foot
against the floor every now and then.
Holding her song inside me
reminds me to listen–
for music in the darkness.

 

Underground

When you walk
the dry, hot bed of a sandy arroyo,
imagine water running underground,
unseen, but nourishing,
feeding the ash trees, the little bushes,
the purple wildflowers.

When love doesn’t appear
in the same form it once did,
it has not disappeared–
it has simply gone underground,
lost, not to your heart,
only to your vision.

One day it will spring up–
maybe not in the same place
or in the same way.
When your cat sits beside you,
puts her paw gently on your arm,
slowly a trickle begins to move, above ground.

Look Out to Look In

Love brings us up
from deep water to shore,
not a foot print for miles,
washes us up, gasping for air.

We look out, wanting to get love,
only to find our beloved is mirror, not source.
And all the while, love dwells beneath
the hated carapace of our hearts.

Clues are in the wild places…

The river meanders,
calmly agreeing with everything that happens.
Heavy rain slices its banks, changes its course,
yet it keeps on flowing.

The seed, hidden inside last year’s flower head,
hangs on ’til just the right moment
when the wind whisks by
and drops it into rain-softened soil.

The endless search stops
when there is no need to look out.
We are not afraid to look in–to accept
our own broken, beautiful, beating heart.

My New Book Is Now Available!

I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, Another Door Calls. In this—my first published poetry collection—the reader is invited to step into the stark beauty of the desert as I explore the wilderness of a far corner of southwestern New Mexico. Rivers and mountains become my teachers on this journey as I come to know the terrain more intimately. The land and water become mirrors revealing themselves to me, revealing my own inner landscape in startling silence and the language of poetry. Another Door Calls is published by Mercury HeartLink and illustrated with photographs taken by Glenn Henderson.

Award-winning poet and WNMU emeritus professor Bonnie Buckley Maldonado has praised Another Door Calls this way: “Elise Stuart has immersed herself in the high desert, integrating the harshness of spring flooding and the many months of drought to recreate them in the glorious lines of her poetry. It is because she discovers beauty within destruction, and sees wisdom within chaos, that she is able to invite the reader to seek more than meets the eye.”

You can buy Another Door Calls at the Javalina Coffeeshop and WNMU Bookstore  in Silver City or order it on-line through Amazon for $12.95 by clicking:
http://www.amazon.com/Another-Door-Calls-Elise-Stuart/dp/1940769663/ref=sr_1_1%3Fs=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489765352&sr=1-1&keywords=elise+stuart

One

Watch the sun color the sky orange,
then yellow.
Heat bursts—
over the lip of the mountain to the east.

Tiny bird tracks are the ones you follow,
yellow and purple flowers cover the ground.
Make your body twist and bend
under a barbed wire fence.

Weeding squash next to tall, pink zinnias,
bells of blue-white sesame flowers.
Large black bees hum,
while butterflies dance above the rows.

The silence is so big
you can’t find your place in it.
Then, one day,
it’s part of you.

Head to the ditch in a roundabout way.
Even though the cool is what you want more than anything,
you wait,take your body in slowly,
feel the water ride up your thighs.

In the middle, where the water is deepest,
find a place where the creeks come together,
you—the land—the water
touch.

E. Stuart