Linda Neal has published several chapbooks and two full collections, Dodge & Burn (Bambaz Press, 2014) and Not About Dinosaurs (Bambaz Press, 2020). Her poems have been widely published in Calyx, Chiron Review, Gyroscope Review, Prairie Schooner, Tampa Review and elsewhere. She was featured in the online journal Cultural Weekly in May of 2021. Linda lives and teaches poetry in Redondo Beach, CA. She is a psychotherapist, writing teacher, thirty-year kidney transplant patient and Pushcart nominee with an MFA from Pacific University.
HOLLOW A TENDER HOLE
My dog waits on the cool closet floor
for me to open the door
bursts to life like the Starblast Euphoria
I planted today, when she hears Walk.
A late night walk under a half moon
that must miss its other half.
In the missing, things become whole.
In the dreaming that relies on a light in the mind.
There is a logic to the blossom of the Euphorbia
a certainty about the way it shoots its blooms into the air.
This moon and the starlight are ours.
Dark-night motion the salve that thrills us
as much as night-dark secrets chase
our neighbors into well-lit rooms.
We return home, leaving the sky
to wander under the moon.
Darkness hollows a tender hole in infinity
to deliver the day. This must be the way god enters
us, pulling day from night, so we can name
him, and in so doing name ourselves.
DIGGING UP FOSSILS
Every journey between our homes
was new, every journey as old as skin
through hills overrun
with jack pumps nodding
like horses, donkeys,
digging up triceratops.
Steel herd marching in place
on the dry hills
pumping earth’s history—
dinosaur blood, ancient bones
and flesh, fuel for that car trip
from the beach to the foothills.
The long arm of history
will extend questions—
Did they speak
time? Eat daisies?
Have a solid grammar? Was it
liquid or linear?
We rode over La Cienega’s hill
up Stocker Street
between rows of pump jacks
pulling. We sat on the back
of the MG convertible,
wind blowing our hair,
at the beginning of our lives,
Suzie’s father punching the accelerator,
the black road cutting
through the slope.
A daylight of wounds
hemorrhaging crude, the hills—
they must dream a gentler future,
wait for a pure night,
when things will right themselves,
steel donkeys disappearing
into Hollywood's dreamscape
and black gold will be a nothing more
than a flower on a stalk
climbing toward the sun.
I've taken over all the closets
since he died,
made sure there's no room for him
to come back. In the bedroom,
the closet has two doors
— enter from the south or the north —
shelves stacked with my shoes at one end,
boots at the other, blouses and shirts
hanging in the middle.
Everything in me is broken in two
in ways the eloquence of time can't mend.
Could I feel less like a cripple,
less like I have to hate myself
for being so alone?
I oil the louvers on the wardrobe doors,
polish the three brass knobs,
hang up sweaters and jackets by color
making rituals out of cloth, haunted
by the cocoa brown of
his leather jacket, his hands, his cheeks,
that tender stem at his core. No,
I'm not color-blind, just body-blinded
looking for the half I've lost, the half that slept
on the other side of the bed. I say I want
another man to fill up the space.
While I sleep or read and stroke
myself into chasms of light,
the empty side watches,
pushes the pillow.
I could suffocate in the space between.
BLOSSOM IN THE COLD
Portland with your roiling rivers,
glorious storms and dragon boat races,
wet scrawl, a chapter
in my stolen life. Powell's books
the VA just across the bridge,
where my love hangs on
and cherry trees blossom in the cold.
Portland sky tram love city
Chinese Garden walk with koi
Saturday market by the bridge
jackets flying, eyes blurred
by wind and love
I could chew my way to God
before I know
what I know
both men will die here,
lover and friend,
Mike and Michael,
while the rain keeps falling.
Portland wet streets.
Bassist jams and singers chant
Universalist Unitarian hangs its banner—
gun-free zone, a sermon of a sign.
My sudden, impossible home
widow new city wet, foreign
blocks and blocks
of books and forever rain. But
I could give up
even give up Mary See's Bordeaux
for Portland. I'm ready to yield
where death grabs hold,
and cracked crab drips
like my umbrella by the door.