Trouble

April 28, 2016 Leave a comment

My body was a lit match
in the wind when you
last called me dangerous.
I was a caged river, longing
for a flood, reckless
within acceptable boundaries.

What I wanted was an invitation,
the word yes waiting
on your tongue
for me to find it, hands
reborn electric, each finger
a lightning strike
of don’t stop
and just let go.

But I dare you
to imagine me now,
free and brazenly unfinished,
lungs ready to shout
toward heaven, my holy
heart a single shade of scarlet,
my hips a reminder
of how good it feels
to want, then give,
then get.

Every possible spark
is ours, if you whisper
my name on your knees,
say please, say like this,
say right there, say
what you want,
and I will show you
the full fire
of dangerous,
go ahead
and try me,
I’m right here—
it’s time for you to come.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

The Magic of Authenticity: On Prince and Mourning

April 21, 2016 Leave a comment

We live in a world that is constantly trying to keep us small. We’re supposed to be and do this. We’re supposed to like this, not that. We’re supposed to stay inside the lines, not rock the boat. Don’t be too weird. Don’t stick out too much.

 

We’re often told that to be a certain thing (woman, man, writer, father, husband, wife, etc.) that we must do x, y, and z. Otherwise, it’s wrong. Otherwise, you won’t fit in (whatever that means).

 

But I never wanted any of that. I never wanted to fit in. Good or bad, weird or not, I always just wanted to be me. I’m not saying that is always an easy thing. It’s not. I remember, in middle school, being criticized for the clothes I wore. I liked a shirt, so I wore it. A girl in class said to me, “Why do you dress like that? You should get some overalls, like [redacted].”

 

Yes, darlings, there was a point in time in which overalls were all the rage. And they were just…not my thing. I remember looking this girl in the eye and saying, “But I don’t like them. I like what I have on.” From that moment on, that girl hated me. Actively and with gusto. Why? Who knows. Kids are weird and often cruel.

 

But maybe it was because I wouldn’t conform. Maybe it was because I didn’t bend to her expectations. Maybe she was insecure. It doesn’t matter. All throughout life, people will insist with a crazed, righteous fervor that you need to be a predetermined way. That you need to present yourself within these lines and walk in these parameters.

 

Those people are wrong. Don’t let them in your head. And if they sneak in, kick them out. Because there’s only one you, and you’ve only got one life. Don’t spend it trying to please the world. Don’t spend it trying to be someone else. Or someone version of yourself. Dress up if you feel like it, but never to hide who you are.

 

Today, Prince died. A mad musical talent. A force a nature. A brilliant everything. Prince, a man who was once a symbol, never uttered a false note in his life—musically and personally. Whenever he went, there he was. Effortlessly cool, infinitely sexy, and remarkably wonderful. His talent is too far-reaching and brilliant to comprehend, sometimes. He pushed boundaries and made stunning art.

 

Like Bowie, he was one of those rare people who made it cool to be weird. There was a magic in his authenticity, in his quiet coolness. He was sexy, and he wrote about sex in a way that was appealing—and dirty as hell—but it was never offensive, never alarming. Each song was a seduction, and we were all very much here for it.

 

It takes courage to be who you are. Today, we lost a musician whose equal we may never see. But with his death, we also lost that symbol of fearlessness. Prince was the epitome of not giving a fuck. He was exactly who he was, and it was beneath him to even consider apologizing for it. He made art his way. He brought spectacle and dancing. He brought glitter. He lived his life on his terms, and the world bent around him in awe. There was no expecting him to tone it down or change.

 

He was simply Prince. Period. End of story. Full stop. And man, there’s something infinitely appealing, magical, and sexy about that. About a person whose Give a Damn is not broken, but absent.

 

It’s important, in this fast food society, to have remembers that it’s okay to be exactly who we are. Not just okay, but wonderful. And when someone like Prince (and Bowie) die, there’s an obvious loss. He won’t have a new song. We won’t get to see him in concert. Hell, we won’t get to make out with him. Or borrow his shoes.

 

And we lose the person we sometimes look to, who reminds us, “Just be yourself. Screw the world. Don’t pay any mind to what other people think.” It’s a hard loss, because of the way society strives to keep us small and reasonable.

 

But today, for me, a curious thing happened when I heard about Prince. Yes, I was shocked. I was sad. (I mean, he and Bowie always seemed so Other in the best way, immortal and untouchable.) But what I also felt was a curious sense of defiance. That rebel streak that crops up just often enough to remind me to be myself, even when people don’t always get it. Even when there’s side eye and whispers.

 

This surge of defiance caught me by surprise, because it was exceptionally fierce.

 

I am always myself, but sometimes quietly so. And you know what? No more of that. Quiet is for church and funerals, and since I’m not holy and I’m not dead, enough of that. I’ve always lived my life by my own compass, but what if that goes a step further? Live it out loud just a little more?

 

I don’t belong in a box. And I refuse to live in one. I’m a geek who curses. A lady who loves tequila and rum. A writer who thinks like a poet first, always. A woman who loves without question or concern. A friend who does not waver. A person so full of hope that it’s almost absurd.

 

But you’ll never catch me apologizing for who I am. So, do me a favor? Don’t you apologize for who you are, either. Don’t apologize for what you want in life. Don’t apologize for what you enjoy. (There is no guilty pleasure. Pleasure is pleasure. Enjoy it. This goes for all things.) Don’t apologize for who you love. Don’t apologize for loving, period. Don’t apologize for the way you dress, how loud you laugh, or talking about the things that you are passionate about.

 

Light up, darlings. No one else can stand where you’ve been, where you are, and where you will be. And you owe it to yourself to show yourself to the world, to be freely you.

 

Tomorrow, I will be wearing purple. It’s my favorite color. As a child, I claimed to be from the Planet Purple. While I can neither confirm nor deny that possibility, I choose to honor Prince. I choose to honor a man who could seduce the world without a word, in just a look. A man who played every instrument flawlessly, as if it was like breathing. A man who commanded every room he walked into just by being in it.

 

To quote my dear friend Heather: stay weird, be kind.❤

Are You Kind?

March 31, 2016 2 comments

 

That’s what matters to me. I don’t care what you do for a living. I don’t care if there are dishes in your sink. I don’t care if your car is new. I don’t care if you haven’t been vacation in years. I don’t care what brand of shoes you buy. I don’t care if your favorite jeans have holes in the knees. I don’t care if you own your house or rent. And I don’t care about what’s in your bank account.

Are you kind?

That matters to me.

You’re not your job or your savings. You’re not your past. You’re not your mistakes, old wounds, or those given to you by your parents. You’re not who you were a year ago. You’re also not the status of your relationship—be it single, married, separated, or divorced. You’re no less amazing if you’ve never been in love. You’re no less wonderful if you’ve been in love and screwed it up. You’re not the amount of success you’ve had, financial or personal. You’re not your failed attempts or those you never took.

Are you kind?

That is really the simplest measure of a person. Notice I didn’t ask, “Are you good?” Because what is good? Who is good all the time? I am not interested in goodness, because people can be good for all kinds of reasons—for the sake of the status quo, saving face, not tipping the apple cart. But kindness is a curious thing. It’s also a beautiful thing. It costs nothing, but means everything.

I remember kindnesses, big and small.

A few years ago, I’d made plans with a friend to meet up one morning. I missed the message he’d left, saying he couldn’t hang out. Realizing I didn’t get the message, he then showed up anyway, because he didn’t want me to be upset. It was very inconvenient for him, but there he was, apologizing because he could only stay a few minutes. I remember hugging him tightly and saying, “But you showed up.”

That mattered. It still matters.

Another time, my best friend brought me hot chocolate at work. I’d been having a bad day. Okay, week. Okay, month. Look, it had been a challenging series of unfortunate events. And she texted me to ask if I could come out into the parking lot. There she was, with hot chocolate on a cold day.

Yesterday, a really busy friend of mine dropped everything to listen to me, as I was having a mini-meltdown and plague of self-doubt. This girl is up to her eyeballs in work, trying her best to do her best, and she stopped to check in and listen. It cost nothing, but it meant the world to me. Giving someone time and attention won’t dent your savings. But it will touch someone’s heart. Trust me.

Money might make life easier. That’s true. But you’re not a dollar sign. You’re flesh and blood, dreams and hope, passion and promise. You’re not a career. You’re not how broken you are. You’re not what you’ve made or didn’t make. You’re not what you’ve left behind or what you’re about to leave behind. You’re not who you’ve loved. You’re not who loved you. You’re not even those instances in which you did not love.

You cannot be summed up so neatly. You cannot be defined so easily. You are not a straight line, and you cannot be boxed in.

Tell me: are you kind? Tell me: do you love?

Good. Now, show those things to the world.

The world needs more kindness and more love.

Start with being kind and loving toward yourself. Then extend that to others.

Categories: Uncategorized

You do not have to be good*

March 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Make a mess.

No, I mean it. If you’re not making a mess, if your pulse doesn’t race and your breath doesn’t catch it your throat, you’re only half alive. That’s cliché, I know. It’s something people say. But it’s also true. You get one life. You get one now. You get to live. That’s a privilege.

So, live. So, love. Stop conjuring up all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t. Stop caging yourself by way of other people’s expectations. It is your life. This is your story. Stop letting other people tell it.

Forget the script, forget all the reasons why not, push aside every pretense.

Make a mess. Go out dancing. Have margaritas on the porch and talk until 3 am. Kiss until you can’t feel anything beyond the way your lips have swelled. Make someone laugh until both your sides hurt. You weren’t born to take the easy way, to live or love timidly. You weren’t created, a miracle of bone and passion, just to take one breath after another. Tape up your hands, if you have to. Throw the first punch. Speak your truth. Don’t flinch. Square your shoulders. Wait for the reaction.

Then, ignore it.

Make a mess. Cross a line. Change your life. Do worry about polish or neat. Do not pay any mind to what other people are going to think. You are not a coward. And you are not simply the sum of all your past mistakes. The human heart is a miracle, not a math problem. It wants you to smile, dance in the rain, sing karaoke (possibly badly), make out in a car alongside the highway. Honor the holiness of your passions, the way your heart leans. It heart is a wild thing, all instinct and affections.

Let it out. Let it lead. Let it show you what might be, not what has been and not what is. Imagine it. Entertain the idea that everything can change for the better—but only if you’re brave enough.

Only if you let yourself get messy.

Be you. Not the you who pays the bills and goes to work. Forget that you for a moment. That you gets to take the lead too often. Be the you who says fuck the rules, and goes after what you want. Be the you who cuts class or plays hooky and spend the day with a person you love. Allow yourself the space to make absolute chaos, because without chaos, nothing changes.

This universe was nothing more than dust, once. You were nothing more than dust, too.

You only get one life, darlings.

Dare to make a mess of it.

 

*Title taken from a Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese.”

What If I Never See You Again?

March 17, 2016 Leave a comment

The other week, a friend I haven’t seen in a while wanted to hang out. The friend in question was supposed to get back to me, and then did not. The lack of response, for whatever reason, was deliberate. There was no tragic accident. It wasn’t even an incident of ghosting. It was basically, “Oops, something better came along.”

You know this kind of person. The one who—when you make plans—always gives you a tentative, “Maybe.” He or she waits for something better to come along or decides to take a nap instead. But then just…says nothing.

Remember Lucy with the football in Charlie Brown? Well, instead of pulling the football away at the last minute (Lucy, you suck; Charlie probably needs therapy for his trust issues now), Lucy vanishes—football and all. And there you are wondering what, exactly, happened.

I never make plans unless I can keep them. I think one of the most important things you can give someone is your time. That’s it: you show up. You call. You write a letter. You make room for someone.

This incident with my friend left me wondering if I’d ever see them again. This happens a lot in life, doesn’t it? Too much time passes and it seems like things are weird. Or whatever. There are a million excuses why not. There always are. (Notice I did not say reasons. Reasons are excuses are not the same thing.)

I started thinking about my mom after this. The day she died, I didn’t wake up thinking that it was the last time I was going to see her. I mean, on some level, you know that it’s soon—but not down to the minute. There’s a part that always hopes, always leans toward the only thing it can: delay.

But she’s gone. And sick or not, people are die. I could choke on a pretzel (ice cream, I will point out, would never threaten my life…just my waistline). I could trip on the stairs. This next breath might be my last. So, old or not, sick or not—nothing is certain. I learned that in the hardest way imaginable, once my mom got since. And again, when she died.

Nothing is certain.

Scary, right? Good. It should be. Because we walk through life too brazenly, sometimes, too wrapped up in a tomorrow that might not show up. We operate under the premise that we’ll wake up tomorrow, because it’s easier, safer. It’s more manageable to assume.

But what if I never see you again? What if you never see me again? What if…

You get the point.

Point is, I’ve been thinking about this pretty hard, lately. The incident with the friend made me think about another friend—someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in entirely too long. Someone who I pick up the phone to call or text, but just…don’t. There are reasons. You don’t get to know them. Hell, some days when I am thinking like this, even I don’t know them. Because what if…

I hate the idea of never seeing someone again. I mean, sure there are certain people I hope I never see ever. But we’re not talking about those. (And sweet fancy Moses, I always seem to run into them. Everywhere. Like an awful game of Where’s Waldo?)

What keeps us from reaching out to someone most often? It’s fear. Fear that they’ll be cold. Fear that they won’t answer. Fear that they will. It’s always an act of courage, reaching out after a long time. Or reaching out after an argument. Or whatever.

But think about it. Think about who that person is for you, and ask yourself: what if I never see you again?

What do you feel? How do you feel? Be honest. Really honest, too—nothing superficial. Life’s too short for that.

Now, take those feelings and put them into action. Because you really never know, darlings. And I’ll tell you a secret, okay? Calling, text, Facebook-ing? It might be scary. But it’s alright to be scared. That’s how you know you’re being brave.

This Is Not an Apology

March 12, 2016 Leave a comment

I want to hear your voice,
but I don’t call. I want to say
I miss you, but I don’t.
I want to be close to you,
so I wear your shirt
to bed. It doesn’t smell
like you anymore,
and I don’t know
if that’s better or worse.

The cruelest thing, lately,
is my memory: the way your laugh
deepens, the feel of your pulse,
the shape of the word safe
etched into your hands, the electric
of your kiss, a shock
of a miracle, warm
as a thousand Springs.

Where did it all go? The everything
that renamed itself
nothing, as if changing love
to mistake erases the truth.
I was there.
I know.
I still can’t say your name
out loud without
the syllables leaving footprints
on the word want.
I still can’t say your name
out loud
because it’s complicated,
because I shouldn’t be here,
because I don’t love you—I can’t,
because I know
how good it felt, then
how bad, and how
in the end, there was nothing
worth forgiving—
nothing worth your fight.

Here, take it. This
mouthful of sawdust,
this cauterized bad history,
this slow bleed, this loss,
this burn, this plastic heart
walking a mile and a half
with one shoe on gravel—
I’m right here.
I haven’t changed directions.
I haven’t snuffed out
the light.

What I wouldn’t give
to hear your voice, to remind
you that there’s magic in it,
and even
when you don’t deserve it,
there’s miracle too.

Sometimes, it still feels
like we’re racing
down the road at night,
no headlights,
just a dangerous curve
I can’t write an ending for.

Here’s the truth:
I fell in love
with everything difficult
about you, all blown
glass and scarred bone,
but what was
underneath the raging quiet,
gathered and howling,
all hot breath
and restless—
I love that too.

This is the poem
I’m writing, because
I can’t call. This is the poem
I’m writing, because
I wish you would. This
is not an apology
for love; this is a pomegranate
heart, an offer,
an argument. This is
my best defense against winter:
my open hands
full of Spring.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized

The Expectation of Grief

March 3, 2016 8 comments

You point to a box,
call it a house for grief,
say it’s standard issue
and there are no exceptions,
this ration
of walls is all you get.

You gesture toward a moment,
red as a stoplight, and call it
a cutoff, as if the heart
is nothing more
than a too-far-gone
drunk at a bar—
at some point, you must
refuse it service.

You say the word over
as if it is a scarecrow,
as if loss is an easily fooled
bird, as if feelings
can be fed to the wind,
as if a lie
might fly high enough
to become the truth.

You think this is
something I get to walk away
from, that it’s not a car wreck,
a suicide, a bad diagnosis.
You think bandage,
you think hid the pills,
you think medicine
is a miracle.
You think fix.

You think I should
abandon the scaffolding
on a house I only ever
half-built. You think locking
the doors means safe.
You think the number
of days matter, that
the experiment is over
and it was a failure—
but I don’t remember
a hypothesis,
a control group,
a safety meeting.

And I am still here.
I have broken everything.
I have made mistakes.
I have found
my mother’s face
in the mirror—I tried
to let her out, but she won’t
budge, refuses to emerge,
stays silent, stays gone.

I wonder what she would’ve made
of everything, of this, my heart
unhinged, sprung wide open,
a song falling out of a radio,
out of a window,
notes hitting the pavement
like steam, impossible
to prove, impossible to collect.

You say enough now.
You say gone.
You say done.
You hand me a secret
snapped like a wishbone,
uselessly jagged.

This is the expectation of grief—
that things will be okay
eventually—
but what, I wonder, if they aren’t?

Is that better or worse?
Is that brave or more foolish?
Tell me how to let go
and I’ll try. Tell me
how to unlove
and I will remove
all the rusted parts. Tell me
you understand
that the worst advice
you can ever give someone
is judgment.

Categories: Uncategorized
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