She stands with bare feet
On a marble bathroom floor
The temperature outside has
not yet
Reached up to the predicted low for today
These days she keeps mostly to herself
No one else can bear it
These cold solitary dawns
When she thinks of love
She is confronted with the ­clumsiness
Of language in her head saying too much
And not enough
Managing insecurity is possible
in imagination
But awkward out in the cold world
So she lives inside her own ­libidinous
Smells subtracting anxiety ­multiplying
Amorous intelligence quotients
When people ask where she’s going
She tells ’em where she’s been
It’s what she knows
She tells dark stories
Channeling duende
Tales with no direct translation
Into language
She hears deep songs
Of longing without objects
Troubling sounds with Gnostic moans
Deep trouble with cutthroat edges of
Dreams held hostage
The world that surrounds her
Is authentic
Quilted with complexity
Fragmented memories
Stolen dreams
Her gaze has intrinsic power
To fill shadows with broken light
What the world won’t own
Lives on in the skins of drums
The scars of protesters
The bodies of dancers
Accomplishments by people
Formally known as slaves and
Burr-throated threnodists
Who whisper imagine love
Is a glass of water
Your love
My love
Our love
And pour it where it’s needed
She pours it on herself
Then stands
In a puddle
On the cold floor
Drenched in what
She’s never understood
In what she was taught God is
Dripping love’s dysfunction
In the mirror she sees ancestors
Unborn children
And her own old soul
The world outside her reflection
Acts like it doesn’t know
But she has to know
Like a sleeper knows dreams
The world outside is reluctant
To peer through her eyes
At themselves but
The ultimate price
Has been paid
So she pours a river past a rock
The sleeping world is ­dysfunctional
Because of misinformed dreams
They can’t see themselves
In ancient mirrors
They can’t interpret wisdom
In infant eyes
Beyond the murk of politics
And language is responsibility
For translation into something
Less proprietary
She understands the poetry
of love
That’s the least of it
It’s a cloak hiding daggers
Roses disguising thorns
Neither the bathroom nor its mirror
Were esoteric enough to reflect
The hysteria of romance
It did however uncover a ­revelation
To find her way she must acknowledge
She has lost it
Wearing nothing but new courage
And a shiver she embraces herself


J. Otis Powell‽ is a writer, performance artist, mentor, curator, consultant, facilitator of Open Space Technology, and arts administrator. He was a founding producer of Write On Radio while working at The Loft Literary Center. He has received The Loft Creative Nonfiction Award, Jerome Mid-Career Artist grants, and the Intermedia Arts Interdisciplinary McKnight Fellowship.

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