by Kaye Cleave
Because I was at the Hot Springs
on the third anniversary of my daughter’s death
and a full moon glowed, an iridescent disc —
because I floated, naked and alone
in the shimmery water of the communal pool
while silent silhouettes steered their mates,
boats slipping around me
a ghost-ship lost in the mist —
because I was left to drift,
eyes shut in this temple of mourning,
when someone asked, may I hold you?
I said yes
as if it was perfectly natural
for a nude man,
a looming shadow in the twilight,
to cradle me like a baby.
I gave myself without thought
to my aging breasts wobbling on my ribcage
like tired jellyfish
and sank into his workmen arms.
I was a survivor,
a relic of the underworld,
gliding in a glittery ocean.
When he came to my room
I welcomed his weight pressing on me,
looked into eyes flecked with gold
as his fingers explored my face
with the tenderness of a bygone lover.
My body cracked open
like a newly born planet
and I cried out to my Dionysos,
protector of misfits,
communicant between living and dead.
Kaye Lesley Cleave began her career as a teacher, first in Australia, and then in England. She earned an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco (2002), and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Adelaide, Australia (2006). From 2008–2010, she was a research scholar at UC Berkeley.
Kaye has travelled extensively and worked in various countries; a grape-picker on a kibbutz in Israel, a sales-woman in Germany, and croupier in London. Her first book, Once More with Feeling, was published in 1996. She is currently completing a book of poems about mothering and loss and seeking a publisher for her memoir, Catherine and the Little Buddha.