poems from a monday night #2

two miles past the diner we broke down again,

that fall-apart car

and me.

for ashley rose

 

two miles past the diner we broke down again,

that fall-apart car

and me.

 

our smoke hid inside forestfire sky,

so we’d laughed

our way down

unseen swirls,

busted-radiator gray.

 

when we pulled over

and the truth spiraled out

i stared at the smoke,

and you stared

at me.

 

with jokes on your lips

you held me together

more mechanic than gas-station men

with sentences and cigarettes

and yesterdays.

 

in the end we only made it to the roadside casino,

stashed our things

left the car

and hitched home.

 

i had keys in my pocket

to leave the next day

but i slept in your bed that night

and the rest

waiting for my car

and

waiting

to

stay.

 

-h

 

If you think this might be for you, it probably is.

if you’re reading this right now, take caution. the middle man is shaking out the sheets from his bed where he’s shed his dragon scales and laying them back down over our eyes. he eats our affection because nothing else satiates. he’s good at unearthing it too, affection from our dry barren gardens, so much so that we have bare none left for ourselves. he says, “your garden has the freshest herbs. you alone have saved me.”

take caution: the middle man LIES. you are not over reacting. do not apologize like i have. the middle man lies.

Listen, I have to tell you this because my biggest fear is hurting people. i exist with a fear inside me like a bomb thats certain to explode, shrapnel tearing through the cheeks of everyone around me. Theyll wear scars for the rest of their lives and say, “how selfish. how fucking selfish.” im suspicious, maybe, you recognize this pain.

and i apologize in advance, for my skin is sharp as swords and my words seer flesh like poison without trying. this means that my hugs end in wounds. and my “i love you”s end in burns. i hope you believe that im taking diligent notes on how to be kind and i watch Good people like lab rats with the intention of learning how to be better by the textbook. but even when im standing completely still, im bending the grass beneath my feet. im sorry, earth that im so heavy without meaning to be.

if you’re reading this right now, know that im so sorry my presence has hurt you. this isnt the first time and believe me when i say i recognize the pain. and i recognize how irrationally angry it makes you feel. but in my version of events, we’d have our own stockpile of meaningless jokes by now. but thats assuming a lot. thats assuming i wasnt predetermined to be the joke long before i arrived.  it really didnt matter who i was, did it. but my mother once told me, “sometimes you have to be the bad guy to protect someone else.” is that whats happening here? do you need to hate me? do you need to scoff at the things you think ive done? because if im not the bad guy, then someone else is. and god would that hurt so much worse, huh?

a very tired and anxious

A

 

slices, how to make this place our home

We had pie. All of us, I mean. Feeling vaguely reminiscent of a large family gathering, with all the windows and doors open to let in the newly August air, we gathered around the oven and shared large scoops of vanilla ice cream that melted almost immediately. In the background, everything hurt a little less, but in the way a computer updates without you even noticing. You used to have to tell your computer: yes, now is the time to move forward! But now, it all just happens automatically. 

We had pie. All of us, I mean. Feeling vaguely reminiscent of a large family gathering, with all the windows and doors open to let in the newly August air, we gathered around the oven and shared large scoops of vanilla ice cream that melted almost immediately. In the background, everything hurt a little less, but in the way a computer updates without you even noticing. You used to have to tell your computer: yes, now is the time to move forward! But now, it all just happens automatically.

“I’m going to drink my ice cream.” one of us declared, before immediately doing just that. We all validated the decision with heavy enthusiasm.

It was blueberry. The pie, I mean. I think this detail is important for you to know.

Perhaps, you’ve been here before. Swaddled by cigarette smoke and people. Everyone takes carefully constructed bites because the pie has become an event. Something we all want to acknowledge that we appreciate out loud.

‘We took it out too early.’

‘But, you know what, I like it that way! It’s better this way anyway. Our imperfect, perfect pie.’

How easy is suddenly felt to be alive. I recently read an article on nostalgia and how it relates to food (read it here) and I wondered if I’d spend my entire life trying to recreate this slice of pie. Would I be on my deathbed one day thinking, “Life peaked at blueberry pie.”

(Writing this now, I snap the elastic band on my wrist once against my flesh. A trick my therapist recommended. I’m unclear about the details of when you’re actually supposed to snap it, but the right moments seem to present themselves to me like they’re scheduled. Snap to life, snap to reality.

Like children, we hesitated going to bed that night, staying up well past our usual bed times for no reason at all. Long past the end of conversations. Occasionally someone might say, “I should go to bed” without getting up, without even the intention of getting up. There were eight of us, then, suddenly, seven, six, five.. (I like to think of Bowie counting down in Space Oddity)

Then, without our consent, the night became early morning and there was only two of us left. Warriors waging a one sided battle against time.  I concentrated on keeping every muscles in my body steady, thinking I could become stuck in time if I was careful enough. But even still, my heart pulsed, my nails grew, my lungs expanded and then contracted. A busy highway pretending to be still water.

I’ve eaten blueberry pie before. It’s tasted like familiar stains in old carpet, the heat of Illinois in the summer right before a big storm, pulling folding chairs out of the garage so everyone has a place to sit. It’s been many things. Frequently, it tastes like a beginning and an ending all in one slice. Like, “Why haven’t we done this before? We’re alive every single day, but we only eat blueberry pie on special occasions.” Like, “Let’s start having pie for breakfast!”

I’m going to eat pie again, though I can’t tell you exactly which flavor yet. But when I do, it’s going to taste brand new, and it’s going to taste like a home, and hopefully then I’ll turn to you and say:

‘We had pie. All of us.’

A

 

 

 

 

are you listening

she shook as she stood up and gathered her courage and her voice and she said

i am here!

she shook

she shook like a little giant in big boots and like a leaf in the wind, she shook like an earthquake was rocking her, our, world, she shook as she stood up and gathered her courage and her voice and she said

i am here!

but the quiet words didnt carry through the open everywhere air, they didnt spark notice in those around her, they drifted over water and back into calm nooks were they fell down and slept again, quiet, exhausted, spent.

and so she looked down at her little feet in her big big boots and thought

maybe i am not here, after all

and the conversations around her kept happening, about her, despite her

but she looked at her fingers and thought but i think i am here and she looked into her heart and thought but i feel like i am here and her deep down soul whispered

of course you are here

but she was weary weary weary of the fight to voice her life. couldnt people see it? couldnt they ask the questions? couldnt they stop stepping on her toes so she didnt have to wear such heavy clunky boots? and so she sighed and sat down in a corner, wrapped up in heavy sweater and heavy thoughts and let herself rest in the melancholy of forgotteness

but her heart kept singing to her

and as she let the melody lift her spirits

she knew

they werent truly forgetters of that worst mean kind, they were forgetters in the way she was, in the way we all are when life is onwards-and-upwards

and she knew

she was worth hearing

and so she let herself sit and sit and sit through the nighttime and for four more days and nights, sleeping and laughing and singing to herself, gathering the fire in her heart, building her own remembrance

and when she emerged she put back on her big boots to protect the tender toes and she stood up again and she whispered

do you remember me

and the birds chirped back

and she said can you see me, all of me

and the wind whistled in response

and she cried

i am here i am here i am here

and the world sang

welcome

and though the cars passed by on the road and the boats kept on slowly drifting, the voices still speaking and the people busy busy busy on their ways to their better places, she knew she had spoken her truth

and whether they listened was their choice

but she had spoken and here she was

brave enough to

exist.

An Exercise in Release

A list of things you could shout while alone on a mountain top:

I treat google like a therapist

I collect symptoms like stamps

A list of things you could shout from the top of a mountain:

Hello mountains this is my voice

I feel like I haven’t heard it in a while

I am silly and I find joy in small things

Sometimes I make silly faces in mirrors

I hope no one ever catches me doing that

I am much younger than I feel

I am still trying to understand who I am and that’s okay

I am proud of small victories

Sometimes I worry I am an obnoxious person

I often feel alone when I’m with people

I don’t connect with people easily

I hate someone I’m supposed to love

I feel ashamed of needing to cry

I self isolate when I desperately need attention

I hate needing attention

I treat google like a therapist

I collect symptoms like stamps

I carry trauma in my muscles, it’s why I’m always sore

I desperately want to forgive the people that have hurt me

I desperately want to be angry at the people that have hurt me

I want to scream at the people who have hurt me

I want to tell them, “I am not impenetrable.”

“You have been burning me with your cigarette butts.”

“You have been stabbing me with your scalpel.”

“As if I am built from brick, as if it won’t leave a mark.”

here you can stop abruptly. feel slightly embarrassed by your emotional outburst. feel lighter because of your emotional outburst. it’s not so heavy anyway. stand up a little taller. really notice the ground beneath you. pretend you can feel the earth’s rotation. pretend you’re in a movie. pretend that everyone you’ve ever known are all standing at the base of the mountain and they want to tell you, “We only hurt you because we, too, never learned how to love. We squeezed too tight, we mistook fear for anger. But we did it so that you could learn in our place. Real life gets so much better from here.”

This isn’t an exact script, feel free to improvise. 

exit stage right

 

Look, I’ve been meaning to tell you something. YOU you. The you that lives in an entirely different kingdom than I do, but still shares your warmth with me without condition. Look at you, if you can. How have you never noticed the incandescent cloud that surrounds you, pulsing with your breath? What color is it right now? I don’t know because I can’t see you. But maybe it’s the shade of the ocean, depending on the ocean. Or maybe it’s the color of childhood bed sheets.

Maybe you didn’t realize it, but your kindness is physical. Proper noun. I know this because I’ve felt its touch on my skin when I am cold and I’ve felt it inside my lungs when I am struggling to breath. I’ve felt it sleep inside my pores from across continents. So, I know that it is real even if you don’t.

I guess what I’ve been meaning to tell you is

thank you.

with love,

A