Mother Earth

She awoke with a brush in her hand and a thought on her fingertips
She’d start with the base, a maroon rich like the soil around her
Next came the wind, playful in its mesmerizing tangle of curls
Naturally the ocean followed, and settled in two endless pools
What are two oceans without valleys and summits?
Thus came the nose and two shifty rivers joined at two points
Soon after, the sun settled comfortably on both sides of the nose
As the stars found their way to the heart, just south of the river
And the moon graced each ocean with shades of expression
She paused for some time, perusing her creation this and that way
Until she finally smiled, secure in the truth of her knowledge:
In time its true beauty will spring from each crevice
Bearing the fruits of the mystery that sprang from her fingertips

———
“Mother Earth” by Azul Serena

Pedigree

“Someone with your pedigree…”
Your words hung heavy in the air days after they traveled across the table
I fear you meant it as a compliment, how else could they be so sincere?
They weighed me down like chains tethered to my past
In ways that only lineage roots you to a name and material wealth
They dragged behind my steps like endless lines on a receipt:
The girth of my hips, the cinch of my waist,
The width of my shoulders, the sinews of my legs,
The depth of my eyes, the fullness of my lips,
The strands of my hair, the arch of my brows,
The thoughts in my mind, the degrees on my walls.
Am I thoroughbred enough for you?
Are my markings exactly those for which you search?
Or will I become another ledger neatly folded in your pocket
Perused when hope is thin and need is high?

———
“Pedigree” by Azul Serena

Heartbreaker

“You’re a heartbreaker, aren’t you.”
It wasn’t a question; it was a statement.
How like you to believe the truth of your assumptions.
But I played along.
I let you tangle me in your feathery string of words
Round and round until I lost my breath
And blended into the blurred surroundings of your starry night VanGogh
Desperately searching for the edges and angles
Anchoring you to me and us
Knowing I’d shatter against the impenetrable wisp of your love
Leaving behind painfully beautiful fragments of life.
But I played along.
So yes, I’m a heartbreaker.
I’m a terrible breaker of hearts.

———
“Heartbreaker” by Azul Serena

Invisible Women

Invisible women
Wives of men, Mothers of sons.
You ceased to exist the day your body was sold through the holy sanctity of matrimony
Stripped of your father’s name and prettily cloaked by your husband’s name.
Do not be fooled.
Your new identity comes at a price too horrific to name: Erasure.
You are no longer Eve, daughter of Man, autonomous person;
You are now His Wife and Their Mother, invisible woman.
Nameless, faceless
Worthy of mention after you’ve birthed a son to carry the family name.
Worthy of shame after you birth daughters, poor souls condemned to expunction.
Who are you? Where have you been, seen, heard, felt?
Tragically no one but you will ever know.


This piece was written as a response to my many observations of the gender politics that riddle family gatherings. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, the men in my family have the habit of introducing first their sons by name, followed by their unwed daughters by name, briefly mentioning their married daughters as “My daughter, so-and-so’s wife,” and introducing their wife last as “My Wife.” They don’t mention her name and rarely ever turn to look her in the eyes when they make the introduction. If she’s lucky her husband will make a half-hearted wave in her direction; but that’s a veritable rarity. With this behavior he enforces a hierarchy that clearly renders women invisible, worse than a second-class citizen.

———
“Invisible Women” by Azul Serena

Marlene

Marlene lived a life of longing and loneliness. She was enamored with love and spent her days studying the fine art of courtship as intently as she studied history scholarship. Every day she awoke before the sun with a stoic determination that was rivaled only by the previous day’s display. She coiffed her hair carefully, parting it at the side to add just the right amount of coyness to the finger wave that rested just above her jawline. Her eyebrows were penciled in meticulously, forever resting in a graceful arch awaiting the right time to morph into the appropriate reaction. Her lips were a chameleon draped in hues of red and orange; languorous coquettes that strove to ensnarl their victim in a trap of soft curves and sharp edges. Her hips were also a cherished apprentice. They eagerly mimicked every sway and rhythm known to hypnotize the male gaze and loins.

Marlene was by no means beautiful; but there was no denying that she was sweet and caring with just the right amount of eccentricity to be interesting. Unfortunately, this was not enough to entrap an errant lover. As a debutante she ignored her disquietude for she knew that even the modest blooms of every season were plucked and showcased after the pompous blooms had withered away.

Seasons came and went as she waited her turn. Patiently. Devoutly. She witnessed the wedding of her first love, and experienced the disappointment of learning that her second love was a veritable dandy. By the time her sixth love made his appearance she was sure that her time had come. She returned to the schoolroom to master his favorite pastimes: photography, travel, sports, and beautiful women. She adopted his preferred patina and feigned enjoyment of his favorite whiskey. She was ready for undying love. He was not. Marlene watched as he paraded on his arm woman after woman, some for longer periods of time than others, but all with the same undoubted finality of temporariness.

Three years she waited in limbo until the day he announced that he was ready to settle. The fortunate woman, unquestionable owner of his rogue heart, was a mystery to all but Marlene. She shimmied and charmed, batted her eyelashes and fan, and effortlessly inserted compliments and verses into every conversation. His ego swelled and her heart held its breath. Her dreams took flight, levitating her spirit with an ease that had lain dormant for years. Soon she’d wear the lace veil that had graced her grandmother’s crown, and rule with equanimity the confines of his domain.

Marlene waited another year with more patience than before, comfortable in the knowledge that she’d have a lifetime to savor her prize. By the time the fifth year made its appearance without the accompaniment of his professed love, her unfaltering confidence began to waver. His eyes still roamed incessantly and although they frequently fell on her, they never lingered long enough to notice her.

She continued her wait until the seventh year when he awoke one morning and decided that the sensual brunette tangled in his sheets would bear his name and children. They married two months later. Marlene attended their wedding. She showered them with rice and well wishes, and even gave a speech.

At the end of the ceremony she mourned her loss with a soulful sigh that carried nearly a decade of misplaced hope. She wondered what sign she had missed and resolved to be more attentive the next time her true love came to claim her. She pulled a weathered tome from the shelf and nestled herself in her couch. There is always a tomorrow made possible by a today, she hummed.

———
“Marlene” by Azul Serena

My Violin, Our Love

I’ll know that I am ready to commit to you and our relationship the day I learn to love you the way I love my violin. Within seconds of laying eyes on my violin I knew that it would change my life forever; however, it was years before I understood my transformation.

The violin challenged me to persevere when I was on the verge of hopelessness, and to rejoice at the minor victories that come with mastering its complexity. It was a humbling experience that taught me that its beauty was a reflection of my commitment to learn, refine, and perfect the foundational techniques.

There were days when the music flowed effortlessly from my fingertips, giving me a false sense of grandiosity. I, the violin virtuosa, was unstoppable, brava, a prodigy! But inevitably, time and again I fell from that precarious precipice; the pain was a direct correlation to my arrogance. In those moments, I, the apprentice, was too eager and inept to be granted the honor of touching the delicate instrument.

Thankfully, soon enough – or maybe not too soon – I learned that the joy of being a violinist doesn’t stem from the ability to play beautifully, rather it stems from our ability to transform the screeching sounds of our rigid fingers into the driving force that wills us to practice for hours on end simply to hit that note and play that rhythm.

Thus, the day I learn to embrace the fact that love requires more than fluttering lashes, rosy cheeks, and puckered lips, will be the day I learn to treat our relationship the way I treat my violin: gently, reverently, passionately, patiently.

———
“My Violin, Our Love” by Azul Serena