how do i explain all the lost time, the mornings
spent sitting motionless when i should have been
exploding like a star, throwing light in all directions,
crippled by inertia and the thought that no one may
ever forgive me, ever, and that i am still that same girl
from fifteen years ago, slinging blood and hate and pills
and we like our memories shaken, not stirred
but the trees have already dropped their acorns of ire
and my skin is studded with seeds that grow too fast.
my lighter is empty but i still have a box of matches.
i used to climb trees trying to be closer to the sun,
but it was just the reflection from the airplanes.
a satellite emerges from my head but the signal is lost
and i used to think freewheeling was fun, but now i’m
nauseous with regret and the downhill doesn’t stop
until you hit a tree limb the ghosts of some teenage
kids left in the street. all those things i never told you
are sealed behind the flesh that has grown over my mouth
and instead flood forth from my eyes, bathtubs flowing over
the porcelain lip of reason. i was supposed to be past all this,
i was supposed to be all growth like the lushest rainforest,
my brain a well-tended garden, my heart a conifer that never
would brown, and i would try to reframe this all,
but i have already dropped the match.
where was i supposed to be
somewhere within that light
deep inside your heart
a forgotten place, but one
of my own making.
these days i can hardly pick
up the phone without feeling
like atlas, my shoulders gone
gray and heavy.
i shudder and sputter
in a twist of lingering fragrance
from the blood orange mist
squeezed out from between
your hands your lips
as you reach for me.
maybe i don’t pursue close
friendships these days
because i just want to
remember you as you were,
as we were,
before i ruin anything.
my heart is full of general love–
isn’t that enough?
i’d hug you but it would first
to put down the world.
my head is a time capsule of memory:
bury me only to dig me up years later,
after the ribbon cutting ceremony
blessing the old graveyard for a new
we’ve got nowhere to build but up now.
inside: letters turned to cinder turned to ash,
a well-loved prescription bottle of pills turned
to powder, provider name and phone number
blacked out, just these four words,
take two at bedtime. then
an asterisk and a fold-out tome of
side effects, but maybe sleep can erase
these led lights and flat screen melodramas.
in the apartments, the tenants find their
kitchen drawers open and all the knives missing,
but the cat stays asleep on the windowsill
so nobody panics.
the walls are too thin. conversations
penetrate the membranes: “what’s it like to be alive?”
somewhere buried in that time capsule
is the answer to that, too.
at least i used to think so.
we put our mouths on mute,
and suck in the air conditioned atmosphere.
in another hundred years, this will again
be a graveyard, just not the kind you thought.
the day is saturated with the colors of changing leaves
the shifting of pigment, shunting sugar and sap to trunk.
these days the miracles are small. a miracle might be not
killing the spider you saw in the corner of your closet, or
not calling out as someone you think you recognize walks
past your car where you are sitting chain-smoking
and hating it. the ivy that climbs the wire spanning
the highway on your way home–how you love to see
it creeping further and further along each day, and now,
that scarlet flush that has ignited along the bottom edge
of the vine as people complain about the chill in the air
the same way they complain about the humidity and heat
the same way they complain about people who talk but
don’t communicate–the woman who spoke to you about
how she ran upstairs weeping, after pulling the eggplant,
still living, from the garden–they are alive, she said through
her tears–these are miracles, the miracles of awareness,
the simultaneous joyous swoop an eagle takes when
the air currents are just right and the unbearable cold
spot on your sheets where you are still sleeping with ghosts,
the miracles of a tree dropping its leaves and letting go,
the way people should learn to let go, to let the miracle
of themselves dapple the world, like light on a windowsill
filtered down through the tree of our hearts.
the fall air, too humid still, sticks to my skin
and my hand opens, palming the quarters off
to the starbucks barista. i am 34 years old and
still pay with change for my coffee, for my ikea
lingonberry drink, for my cigarettes. i hate
the smell of the money on my fingers,
that metallic residue that carries with it
the hands of countless unknown others,
the scent of leather wallets, pocketbooks,
the soft flimsy material that is supposed to
pass for pockets in womens jeans, barely
large enough to fit my hand at all. the bills
are bad enough, that dingy green paper,
but the coins are the worst, and i can’t
wait to get wherever it is that i’m going,
to rid myself of the sticky fingerprints,
to erase the reek of metal from flesh,
to wash the smell of blood off my hands.
We were locked out of the gate
but we didn’t mind, and settled
for our mediocre jobs and childless
houses. Our wombs were not empty
so much as inaccessible, a sign hung
on the outside that read NO ENTRANCE
like a section of the museum they had
been renovating. People come and peek
past the red velvet rope, wondering
when the new exhibit would open,
not knowing the museum director
had already fled, saddled up her horse
and rode herself off into the sunset,
grinning as she flew past the crows.
i wait for the ear plug to expand in my canal
after the first time, it’s hard to get a good seal.
my shoulders ache despite morning yoga
like rubbing your belly and patting your head
i can either breathe, or i can move,
but not both, not at the same time.
the ear plugs are for when i can’t bear
the whoosh of the air conditioner
the phone with its digital ringtone
the tin-can radios, talk-show droning,
cowboy twanging, disney theme songs.
i take a step towards the doorway,
pause and breathe, then take another step
lock myself in the bathroom for an hour,
staring at my face in the tiny round mirror
that is hung too high. a disembodied head
with shadows under half-lidded eyes,
compressed purple foam in my ears
–it fills an empty space for now.
i am tired of lessons
tired of the stillborn
tired of incurable young kids
tired of the smell of death
on the highway
where they haven’t moved
the corpse of an animal
for six days
i am told they are teaching souls,
the ones who die young.
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a dead baby deer
on the side of the road
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a baby blue with
an umbilical cord
wrapped around its neck
things that get the life taken from them
before they can even open their eyes
maybe it’s just my birthday
coming up in my throat
the palpable feeling of decay
that everyone walks around with
and tries to ignore
maybe it doesn’t mean anything.
maybe it’s trying to tell me
that i’m better off.
i’m not sure which is worse.
my mind is a denizen of the sky–
when i try to inhabit my body i am
disgusted. my head is a reference
for my mind. when i inhabit my head
it splits open with thought, not being.
i am ungrounded yet still tethered,
my heart beats but does not make
a sound. i bury it in salt each night
to keep it intact. when the light comes,
i am under the sheets and shivering
a dead butterfly caught in my throat.
a spider tries to follow, and i swallow.
i would say to the stars, give me wisdom
or give me death, but they are already
dead, and their ghosts laugh as they
shine down on my emptiness.
some days i can’t keep my head atop
my shoulders, and let it roll off, into
the weed-choked ditch. it simmers
beneath the summer sun, and my
mouth is full of mud from which no
lotus will grow. i want the world to
take me from myself, and i want
my self to be taken back to the sky.
the clouded landscape will take my
pain, and i will be released as vapor,
to rain down on the earth again.
the healer herself is damaged
which brings into question
if it lessens her ability to heal
if her own lack of self-acceptance
hinders the gift of healing
when she does not breathe
she cannot heal others
when she does not channel
she cannot heal others
when she doubts Divinity
she cannot heal herself.
if your heart is a votive, mine is a structure fire
how i yearn for that sweet incineration that burns
away all memory, blackening out all the dark hours
of loneliness until they turn to ash and blow away.
when we lose everything we are free, i am told,
but i am unable to cut these tendrils of feelings
attached to the cigarette embers that were there
for me when no one else was, or could be.
help me forget. i have experienced madness, love,
rage, and sorrow, and it is only late afternoon.
i go wandering into that wet dusk gathering air
like a stamen gathers pollen, high with the fever
of being alive, stringing the stars that make
themselves apparent around my neck, a string
of colored beads. the moon wanes but my love
never does, and everything is a circle to me in
front of my eyes and inside me, my molten heart
is beating fierce, you can see the pulsing beneath
my skin. the trees that have gone to sleep as
shadows are draping their limbs over my head
and i let myself go into the undertow of night,
pulling my yolk around me so that i might be
birthed again in the morning, fresh as grace.
we pass darkness between our mouths–words of shade
that instead illuminate the deepest truths found only in
this undulation of sound, that resonating heart beat.
pluck ingots of tears from my eyes
and polish them in the lake until they shine
in this green land i am shorn of my grief
and my heart is a moon-blooming flower.
here the notes of song from voice and chord
echo beyond the line of sea and sky
here they listen not only with their ears,
here the curve of a shoulder is grace.
inside a ring of trees i am held until my pulse
steadies and the moss grows over my feet.
atop a mountain of creased limestone,
i swear the horizon is closer than ever before.
i swim deeply immersed in an ancient tone
and you are with me and i am never alone.
cherish what you have
you could wake up one morning
and find shattered shadow pieces,
the dynamic destroyed, words wrung
from your darkness until all is irreparable
and there is no forgiveness, pulling up
from the well a bucket of ash,
some bits of fabric gone so threadbare
that there is no mending.
some people will never forgive you–
and for that, you’ll never forgive yourself.
with light fingers i pluck strands from my hair, a medusa of memory.
these days i find i can no longer be a vessel of carnage, that i cannot
co-create with those who wish for the quake and the quell. i used to
think that if i could squeeze myself into the space between the words
“i” and “am” then i would go unnoticed, but what did i know. without
this perceptual shifting i might never escape these foisted-upon fears
of inadequacy where i can’t parallel park, balance a tray of glasses, or
love myself. when the wind shifts, i will feel it at my back, carrying me
ever-forward, that seed of grace that drops down over the landscape
and waits for the rain.
a man who used to know me said that
i am not worldly, as i once claimed.
even if i add up all the empty moments,
it still leaves a taste, a richness in my mouth
like the cake i will not eat because i am
terrified of gaining weight, so i stuff down
cigarettes to stave off my hunger, but
the hunger goes deeper and deeper still.
i didn’t fall from heaven. i grew from the
earth beneath the pavement, in cracks
and voids, pushing through, just to see
a bit of sunlight. my hands often have
scrapes and cuts on them and i don’t
remember where they came from–
it is with this same kind of carelessness
that i leave the front door unlocked, but
am not nervous about anyone entering.
and should i be. what will come, will
come, through windows and broken
screens that flap in the breeze in the
hall of my heart. i would devote myself
to the sky but i’m not sure if it would
matter. i am not your angel, and i proved
it to you by leaving, as i have left every-
one before, before they could leave me.
i do these things out of a fear i can’t
pinpoint, out of a vulnerability that i
must cover with earth before anyone
sees what may fruit. these pills are
supposed to balance my brain, but i
am already upside-down and gone
before you even knew i was there.
the forecast is partly cloudy and chance of kisses 50%
but these lips have flown from my mouth, and the dry
season is coming upon us. some days i just don’t feel
like reading any self-help books, when i am very far away
from myself, a shadow with a cigarette. my edges start
to mingle with the atmosphere and i long for the sea
to help me remember infinity, because the myth of the
horizon has been already been revealed. these vaporous
tendencies don’t mean i contradict myself, and though
the words vanish in the air i can feel them still hanging
like earrings from my earlobes. there is truth to be
found even in the dissipation of half-hearted promises
and i don’t lie to you, the birds overhead, or myself,
i just change my mind often and life isn’t to be filled in
with one neat little bubble per question. the blood
inside me ebbs and flows, that inner tide that carries
with it the questions that nobody can answer but
myself, and as my shadow lengthens i feel myself blur,
and go softly into the stillness there.
why does the rush and torrent of the soul
so seldom break out from beneath our skin
we’ve got trigger hair tempers and mistaken ire
carrying the carcass of truth in our hands
obscuring the light, that although never fading,
can dim until we can no longer see in the dark.
blindly we reach with our hands and will grasp
anything near, even the necks of our beloved,
desperate to keep the old adages true,
that we are flawed and broken-winged
that the lines in our paper hands can never be
unfolded or uncreased, that the ink that dries
beneath our fingernails will never fade.
go soak your hands in the salty ocean,
knowing to move when the tide comes in,
betraying not a single grain of sand with
your footprints because we are carried
forward by the wind, and we leave no trace–
not even the sun will recognize us at dawn,
unmade and spotless in the light.
the seed has been planted
the willow will wave
the redwood will tower
and the oak will be strong
against your back
this is how you learn
how to lose anger
how to keep sadness spacious
that space within the heart
that knows its own death
pour yourself like water into clear glasses
let them drink from you
and see their own reflections
and know who they are
the glass is most beautiful
right as it slips from your hand
right before it hits the floor
right when it shatters
not everything broken
begs to be fixed.