For All the Things That Own Your Heart

July 17, 2020 Leave a comment

When the dark hits, where do you go?
Inside, where you remember
how nothing mattered, until
everything did, and that history
unravels in the silence,
but it is not silent—
and memory offers
an unhindered laugh, a gruff
softness, a steady hand,
and a mirror
for all the things
that own your heart.

When the dark hits, what do you say?
Everything, but not always in words,
instead giving the gift
of presence, a new sacred space,
a bit of humor
amidst the chaos,
the not-so-small grace
of loving every way you can—
thoroughly and without question.

When the dark hits, what do you feel?
Each howling ache, the way it builds
like heat, burning in the space
between here and there,
and yet, the light lingers,
a glint of remembrance,
of what was, what is,
and what will be.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

let honey spill

July 14, 2020 Leave a comment

The secret is there is no secret,
no matchstick mouth, no fire,
no fingers looking for water,
no skin slick as an ocean,
no sharp gasp
into the quiet—
this is your imagination,
nothing more.

But what if it isn’t?
What if the story
is a spine arching,
the way hips move
in the dark,
how a kiss
can feel like coming home,
how wanting
is a new freedom—
an impossible reckoning
that appeared, unexpected.

Let the old ruin
draw a single breath,
then cease. Let honey
spill where there has been
heartbreak, an offering
of sweetness instead of knives,
let aged grief cool
into something
you can put down—
release it, a kindness
where there was once teeth.

The truth is, there is no evidence
of any of this, only longing,
this slow-blink want
as unforgiving
as a shock of lightning,
and all desire is like this, really,
named or not,
spoken or otherwise—
hearts sparking against ribs
until everything is aflame,
and no one is asking
for forgiveness
or permission.

Categories: Uncategorized

On Love*

May 18, 2020 1 comment

Love is terrifying, isn’t it? Objectively, when you think about, there’s nothing rational about it. It’s being chased by wolves, almost stepping in a landmine, then hurling yourself off a cliff and hoping for the best.

When we go after love, we are either very brave or very foolish. Sometimes, both. Sometimes, you can’t really tell the difference. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. Maybe what matters is the ability to take a breath and walk into the darkness, a light in your heart, unsure of what you’ll find.

But to open yourself up to love—even the possibility of it—is to risk hurt. If you’ve been hurt before, you can feel it echoing in your soul, howling even. If you have known love and lost it, the agony is not unfamiliar. It is visceral and all-consuming. It is not timid or without teeth.

Neil Gaiman, in The Kindly Ones, struck a chord with this: “Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They don’t ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like “maybe we should just be friends” or “how very perceptive” turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.”

I’ve scribbled it everywhere for ages now. Love leaves you gasping that way, sometimes, because it isn’t always enough. You can, as it turns out, love someone who is incapable of loving you the way you need. You can also be loved by someone who can only glimpse, not hold, your heart. Love, as you probably know, is complicated—but it is also unmistakable, the kind of true thing that shakes you down to your core, if you are brave enough to let it. But I digress.

So, if you’ve loved and been shattered by it for whatever reason, you know. You know that it makes you unspeakably vulnerable. You have to show someone exactly who you are, not neatly, not guardedly. No, there’s nothing neat about you here. It’s showing your ugly face, your fears, your insecurities, your bad habits, your unspeakable stubbornness. It’s dropping the façade and the act, because you feel comfortable enough to. It’s finding joy in the ordinary things, like laughing over silly things on YouTube or swapping favorite songs or trying to decide whose brownie recipe is better (spoiler alert: I will always win that last one).

To open yourself up to love is to sharpen the knives and hope for the best. It’s not an action that makes sense, but truthfully? The best things in life aren’t about sense. They’re not what happens when you play it safe. They’re not an endeavor where you play by the rules. Maybe the rules are a lie, a fairytale, something to keep us in line. But to entertain the idea of love is to take a step forward knowing there might be pain, that people change, that wants change, that every can shift in a moment and change…forever.

So, given that love and loss can bring us shattered to our knees—why do we do it? Why do we jump off that cliff and hope for the best? It’s not machoism, most of the time. It’s hope—that it will be different, that it will work out, that we will see and be seen, not as some glammed-up version of ourselves, but the true one. It’s the desire that someone will calm our souls, laugh at the same jokes, buy you plants they don’t understand just to make you smile.

The truth is that love is worth risking everything for. It’s worth cracking yourself open. Because that connection, when it’s right and true? It’s everything—even when it’s ridiculous and messy and full of nonsense and surprises. It’s literally just the whole fucking point of this mad existence, and you won’t ever convince me otherwise.

I’ve closed down a few times in my life. I’ve broken down and shut doors. I’ve slept with that agony of loss, convinced it was a comfort—maybe feeling like it was earned. There was a moment in my life, years ago, where I just couldn’t fathom that “soul-hurt” again. I was done. More recently, too, I’ve wondered about this in others—if we all are afraid of the same thing. Perhaps we are, perhaps that is human nature.

And eventually, I remembered a very specific truth. When we lose someone we love, it makes us afraid of love to a degree. It makes us wary; it makes us ache. When that absence fills with silence and darkness, it’s so easy to become afraid. It’s so easy to list all the reasons why even entertaining the idea is a bad proposition.

But what if it isn’t?

Because the other side of that coin is that losing someone can also make you love harder, more fiercely—when the opportunity presents itself. It can make you throw out the rulebook and not take a moment for granted. When you’ve lost something—someone—that seems un-survivable, you can find such a surprising, quiet strength.

I have always been someone who runs toward something, someone, not away. I rarely engage with anyone who doesn’t, in one way or another, set my soul on fire. Because, truly, who has time for tepid or tame? It’s my belief that the opportunity for love is something to be embraced, even when it scares you, perhaps especially then. It’s hard to risk it, because there’s always a lot to lose. And we’re all vessels for heartache, beyond our control in so many unpredictable ways.

But love—deep, messy, ridiculous love—even when it’s gone, it leaves such beauty behind. The really surprisingly thing from all the best stories is true: finding someone you can be 100% yourself with, no matter how petty or insecure or vulnerable—that’s everything. There are people in this world who will always leave you better than they found you, simply by the gift of who they are. People who have known darkness, but still lean toward the light. People who have fractured their own hearts or had them stolen by careless hands. People who love without expectation or reason.

Because there’s nothing reasonable about it. There’s nothing small or easily managed about it. Love, pure and simple, is extraordinary. And that’s why it’s always worth it, no matter the wolves, no matter the landmines, no matter the heights of that cliff.

*This was, most definitely, a nod to Chekhov

Categories: Uncategorized

Just to Let the Light In

This is what it’s like:
a heartbeat full of knife-sharp
memories, a counting of ribs
to compensate
for when it all goes wrong,
the ravenous promise
that devours
reason in the wake of silence—
we were all ghosts once,
and will be again,
it’s just a matter of time.

I spent years with open hands
and a hungry heart, mouth kissed
until my soul was starving,
and now there is wine
and a steady offering of want,
but what if it’s all feathers
and no bird? What if the song
is just in my head?

Eventually, all the sharp things
start to dull, but only if you speak
softly, only if you understand
that a broken past
can be beautiful too,
that a girl made of miracles
has been too often
taken for granted,
found wanting, measured
by a hundred scars
someone else
disavowed making.

I lit the candles,
but all the darkness
is still playing in the background,
things buried like bones,
no sleep and too much grief,
the wrong mythology
for love, hollowed out,
wearing the wrong names.

Come here,
I want to break everything
just to let the light in—
no matter what happens,
no matter the howling
of a heart,
this is still true.

Categories: Uncategorized

Some words, when none of them are right

May 11, 2020 1 comment


My mother was the kind of person everyone talked to, spilled their secrets to, without her really trying. She’d be in the checkout line at the grocery store and the woman behind her would start spilling her guts. She’d talk to a stranger 20 minutes on the phone and come away with half their life story. It was always kind of spooky and definitely kind of hilarious.

She was, among other things, an excellent listener. Nothing you told her would ever reach anyone else’s ears, and she would always offer a mixture of compassion and straight talk. She might tell you that you’re an idiot, but she’d make sure you knew she loved you. Some of us more than others. (It’s me. I’m Some of Us.) We often butted heads, but even when she was high holy mad at me, I knew she’d drop everything even just to listen. And for those of you privy to my chatty weirdness, I can talk. A lot. The certainty there was something I always knew to be true and hopefully appreciated enough. Looking back, it’s hard to know for sure.

I can’t say that she taught me how to listen. I’ve always been a good listener, a safe space. But she did show me how to be completely present in a moment. She has this way of knowing when you had something to talk about, even when you weren’t quite sure you wanted to talk about it–especially when you were trying to keep something important in. Then, she’d nudge it out of you, sometimes prying it out of you with whatever Mom crowbar she had at her disposal. (It’s me. I’m You.) But even if you weren’t her daughter, she always listened in an unhurried manner, as if the only important thing in the world were the words coming out of your mouth and what you were feeling. Truly listening and hearing someone is a gift that not everyone gets. So many people have a conversation simply waiting to respond or get their point across.

That’s always something I’ve aspired to be to and for the people I care about: unhurried, available, and present. Because I know it’s easy to get wrapped in a day or feel like you’ve gotten left behind–or, perhaps worst of all, worry that what’s on your mind is unimportant.

Nothing that matters to you is unimportant to me. This is how I was raised, and this is how I am. You can thank my mother for that.

She was also a human jukebox, who would dance and sing to any song, no matter where you were. I used to roll my eyes at her, perpetually a teenager at heart, but now I do it too. So, I guess the joke’s on me. Sometimes, we are more like our parents than we’d like to admit, certainly never within their hearing. Because the HORROR.

Mom loved Halloween, which is absolutely the shit. If it were possible for adults to trick or treat, I literally would. (I am occasionally a small child at heart, and I regret NOTHING.) Instead, any chance to dress up in some ridiculous costume is one that I seize wholeheartedly, no hesitation. When I was born, I spent months in the hospital. My nurse dressed me up as Tinker Bell, while she was Peter Pan. The first three years of my life, after that, my mom dressed me as Tinker Bell for Halloween, and I remember that sparkly green dress and the particular disappointment of growing out of it. But I was certainly one of the fey folk from the very beginning.

I could sit here and tell you a million stories, although some are better served in person. Possibly over coffee and definitely with homemade crumbcake or box of Entenmann’s. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: she was a woman who once bought three volumes of a relatively difficult-to-find lit journal, so I could finish my research paper properly. She loathed a lot of my decisions in life and often marveled at my ridiculous nature, but she was also an excellent partner in crime (figurative crimes! We were not, sadly, Ocean’s 8). When faced with something far left of the middle, she once told me: “I know you. You will always find a way.” And I believed her. And so, I believed in me. When she was around, you had no choice but to believe in yourself the way she did, which was completely.

If you think I’m strong, I am probably faking it—but also I learned how to be stronger than I think I am, from her. I wonder what she’d think of my life, right now, but then I know what she’d say: “I know you. You will always find a way.”

Thanks for the reminder, momma.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wordless When Stripped Down

April 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Sometimes, the body is a match,
a small flame easily burned out,
a finite fire, then ash—
but what if I told you
that skin is tinder, that tongue
is flint, that friction
can eventually call god
down from the heavens,
banish devils back to Hell?

I don’t want polite, safe, timid—
I want too many fingers,
a mouth determined to ransack,
a kiss that makes me forgot my name,
until I’m calling yours—
too direct? Too bad.
This is what you get
when you turn a key
in a lock: everything

Want is its own language,
wordless when stripped down,
the sharpness of a hip
turning into scaffolding,
spine arching
into something beautiful,
until something holy is built,
and torn down,
then built again—
give me that,
and I’ll bring you
to your knees,
and you’ll thank me
for the privilege.

Things burn, even at a distance,
and all fire is consuming
and without mercy,
but sometimes, the way
it devours leaves you gasping
for all the right things,
and here is my throat,
desire unclothed
and given permission,
the soft curve
of my silhouette,
an invitation,
an unruly benediction—
show me
how good you are
at praying.


Categories: Uncategorized

the harsh magic of someone else’s carelessness

April 26, 2020 1 comment

The thing people probably notice about me first is my hair. It’s vaguely Medusa-like. It has a mind of its own. I let it do what it wants. But it’s a feature I like and am pretty proud of, despite it simply being genetics.

Hair people get. But the kindness is another matter.

I had a friend in college later confess that she initially thought it was an act. I’ve had people mistake my kindness for weakness. There are other still who often just…don’t know what to do with it. But it is, absolutely and without question, part of who I am.

I’ve done a lot of thinking these past few months. Long discussions with friends about things I don’t talk about very often. It’s easier to carry certain scars in secret, rather than show them off like tattoos. From a certain angle, you could argue that they’re pretty. But the truth is, I am not who I am because I have not been hurt. I am who I am because I’ve been brought to my knees by grief. I’ve cried on the bathroom floor until I couldn’t breathe. I’ve had my heart cracked in half and set on fire—and there was a handful of months where I didn’t know if I would recover from one particular instance, years ago. I felt hollow. It was like you could hear the ocean through my soul.

“She has known sorrow, and it has made her kind.” (Nathan Filer, I think.) If you ask me, that is who I am. I would genuinely rather light myself on fire and hurl myself off a cliff before I hurt someone I care about it. It’s dramatic, sure, but true. Eventually, I got out of that soul-dark place. But I wasn’t sure I could. And I sure as hell wasn’t certain if I could ever put myself in that position again.

Being vulnerable is hard. Because hurts get compounded over time, and it’s easy to panic. I’ve panicked more than a time or twelve. Hell, I’ve been afraid of my own stupid heart, because it’s stubborn, even when it’s frightened. And I’ve been scared a whole of a lot that doesn’t always make outward sense. Human-ing is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is probably a robot. But it’s okay to be scared. It’s human to be afraid.

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent arguing with my own feelings, and this is even in friendships. But I also know that I am who I am—a million emotions when five would probably do—and I have mostly made peace with that. Some people wonder if they’re enough. I worry that I am too much, because wheeeeeeew, I have been that for people before. And it’s…eviscerating.

But like I said recently on Twitter, no one in the whole history of my life has succeeded in changing me—in making me less of who I am. Some people fold in on themselves after a heartbreak. And that’s valid. I understand it, even if it’s not necessary how I function in the long term.

When it comes down to deciding something, I don’t run. I don’t give less because giving can be hard. I don’t care less simply because something is complicated. And I don’t balk because something might be challenging. I have walked through fire and lived. I have moved mountains for those privy to my affections. I am kind, and I am fierce. And you won’t find my equal anywhere.

It’s funny how I can know that and still be wildly insecure. Not because I truly have a low opinion of myself, but because of the harsh magic of someone else’s carelessness. I am not without bad moments. I will almost always interrogate myself for blame or error, wondering if I’ve spoken words I shouldn’t.

“You always do that. You always bring feelings into it.”

Yes, I do. Because feelings are important, and I set my life by that clock more than any other. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s honest. And I’m not afraid of the specter that something might not work out. Everything in life is a gamble, but it’s absolutely worth taking. And I say that as a person who lives her life with softness (unless you hurt someone I care about, then definitely run).

In retrospect, I survived a lot of things I shouldn’t have. But I will never turn my back on someone I care about, not even when it’s hard. (Especially not then, because working through the hard bits counts for a lot.) I do not believe in perfection. But show me a messy heart and a raw truth, and I will honor that. Because of all the things damaged and made frail, through all the years of chaos, my kindness and fathomless capacity for caring are not among the wreckage.

Categories: Uncategorized

Some Hearts

April 10, 2020 Leave a comment


Everything was something else, once,
but you burned it down, one match
in that too-dry house,
that kindling-no man’s land
where you had become a ghost,
and with that impossible heat,
everything changed,
crumbled like gingerbread,
until everything was smoke
and memory,
and you left your shoes
right where the door used to be,
because you were never going back,
and you are always leaving things behind,
but you needed to make new memories.

You pulled your heart
from its harbor—that bloody mess
of howling—and you gave it
to a girl you thought was the moon,
and the whole world spun wide
and wild, and you could taste
freedom in her name
every time you whispered
in her ear—
but you forgot that the moon is fickle,
and she changes
without mercy,
and everything goes dark

Sometimes, love snaps your heart
like a bone, and those fingers
that used to shiver across your skin
suddenly leave you wanting,
aching, and your heart is howling again
but out of absence,
burning with mourning
until you don’t what day it is,
and you don’t even care,
but it gets better—

And then here is a fey girl
of chaos, ripe as sunlight
and messy as a pomegranate,
sweet but not without difficulty,
her soul a song
made of the impossible,
with scars no one can trace
with a hand, but that burn
like sigils in the dark
when no one is looking,
and yet, she gives you laughter,
and meets you at the crossroad
full of old memories,
waiting without hesitation,
and there’s a fire in her mouth,
while yours holds the ocean,
and she’s drowned before
so she knows what might happen—
but some hearts
always know where they’re going.

Everything was something else, once,
but you cannot measure the past
by the smell of its ashes,
and you cannot train your heart
not to howl, wolf-wild
it once lived for its solitude,
but that’s a mouth keen on starving,
and every instinct
dwells in passion,
a sharp spark of stars
that trip their way across the sky,
an offering
of pure light,
when the dark
would overtake you.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

What If?

April 8, 2020 2 comments

Once, I loved a man
who built walls, brick by brick,
only to pretend they weren’t there,
that the illusion was sky,
and I buried my heart in the dirt,
at his feet, because maybe it would grow,
maybe hearts become trees,
and a branch would be wide enough
for some kind of miracle—
I wanted it to make sense,
I wanted him to understand
that love will sometimes break you,
but what if it didn’t?
What if love is a tree
you tend until it dares
to give you fruit?

But some people only know
how to live with clay feet,
and after a rainstorm,
a mess I summoned
with both hands
and a spine full of possibility,
I dug up my heart
despite its howling,
and I took it home
that is to say, here,
in the middle of my chest,
and I let it mourn
the living, I let it count out
all the chances scattered
like stars, all the ways
he almost, but never.

Once, I loved a man
who did not love himself,
who could not see the sky
for all its bright insistence,
who held his hopes
behind his back,
two fingers crossed
out of shame, scared
to face the consequences
of being brave enough
for wanting,
and this is a lesson
that stands out the most:
love is a wild thing
you give freely,
or not at all, and it
will grow, even under
the poorest conditions,
always beautiful
even when its full breadth
is unseen.

If you listen, you can hear
the heart-quiet now,
content, an unexpected lullaby
singing in the distance,
not love, but wind-wild,
something like roots
and a forest fire,
the sharp pitch
of a rough softness,
and it makes me question
but not what might

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

Some Words in the Madness

April 4, 2020 4 comments

One of the hardest things I ever did was watch my mom die.

Now, almost eight years later, I can still recall everything in excruciating detail. It’s strange—the things your mind holds on to in the aftermath of trauma, heightened by hypervigilance and grief. Does pain sharpen memory recall? Sometimes, I suppose, but not always. But profound moments, good or bad, are often indelible. For me, my mother’s death was life-changing, as predictable and almost hollow that phrasing is.

Her death was not unexpected—she was terminal. It wasn’t an if it was a when—only the when was a perpetual question mark. Doctor after doctor, treatment after treatment, buying time one moment after another, bargaining with Death who hovered around the edges of everything for a little over two years.

But you adjust as best you can, sorting out a routine, digging a foundation for a new normal—however temporary it may be. You live with the reality that everything is going to come crashing down, but you can’t really brace for it or plan for it. You can’t mark a date on the calendar and prepare. There’s no way to fortify your heart to lose someone you love, even when you have warning that it will happen.

Lately, the whole world has felt like that, knowing that everything is about to split wide open, because it’s already happening. Maybe not to people you know—yet. Maybe not to people whose first names you know, but who you see at the coffeeshop, who drive the bus you normally take, who sort your mail. Or maybe it is already happening to someone you went to college with, grew up spending endless summers with, or know from work.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a whole world full of grief out there, for things that have already happened and for the things we know will happen. And it’s hard to grapple with that kind of worry, that overwhelming feeling of loss, that impossible minefield of what if and when. Grief is mean, even when you know it’s around the corner. But when you aren’t sure which direction it’s coming from? When it’s something, but it has no name yet? That can be utterly exhausting, heartbreaking, and at times overwhelming.

I have read countless stories of people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I’ve scrolled online trying to absorb it all, to maybe bear witness to lives cut short, because the people who are gone deserve that. They deserve to be known. Their families surely deserve more than having to wait by the phone for the call that will take them out at the knees, instead of holding the hand of their loved ones, instead of having the terrible privilege that I had: to watch my mother take her last breath.

And I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to do with all this. And maybe you don’t either. Because this is kind of uncharted, chaotic waters. This isn’t anything close to normal. It’s not a normal situation. It’s not a normal setting for grief, either. We are—everyone I know—doing our best to stay home, stay safe, flatten the curve. Even if it isn’t for your own sake, it’s for your elderly neighbor, your parent, your friend with a compromised immune system. Everyone person you love right now, near or far, is someone you are trying to keep safe. Yes, even you reading this right now.

I find myself angry that measures weren’t taken sooner. I find myself frustrated at people in positions of power who don’t just do nothing, but enact further harm by their actions. People much smarter than I can explain the science behind things. We should be listening to the science and those who speak with unwavering clarity, honesty, and compassion. Every single person fighting this on the frontlines—be it doctor, nurse, mailperson, grocery store clerk—is a hero. Period. There is no room for argument there.

But I don’t want to sit here and list all the ways I’m angry, frustrating, howling with something that I don’t really have a name for. I have both too many words and yet not enough. The same goes for feelings.

These are unusual times, and things are probably going to be screwed up for a while. A month ago, I had plans I was very much looking forward to, and it seems like a lifetime ago. But plans can be delayed, and if that’s the worst of it, then I’ll light a candle for a deity of any creed. Right now, life is settling into a waiting period of abnormal normalcy, while we sit and hold our breath and try to survive.

And it’s okay if all you do is get out of bed, some days. It’s okay if you wear your PJs or eat ice cream for breakfast. You don’t have to learn how to paint like Rembrandt or cook like Julia Child. Anyone who tries to tell you differently, that you’ll write the next great novel, because oh my god free time? That person is an idiot and jerk and should be told so. Quarantine isn’t a vacation. It’s not a writer’s retreat.

Here is what I do know. I know what I am grateful for, right now in this moment. I know that to amuse myself, I’ll do Leia buns and record bites of songs and put goofy things on the internet because it might make others smile. It’s cheesy to say that we’re all in this together, even if we’re socially distancing. But yeah, we are. And you can call me Pollyanna, but you won’t be the first to do that—and I’ve been called worse.

Right now, I know the people who matter to me, even if it doesn’t make any logical sense. Feelings don’t ever make sense, and they’re not supposed to. It’s important to check on your people, whomever they may be, and I have made a point to do that. Maybe not perfectly, because goodness, I am far from perfect. But the effort matters, even if it’s just, “Hey, I’m thinking of you,” without any strings attached to it. Sometimes, people just need to know that you care and that you’re there. The sixth love language, after all, is distance:

I have been lucky, too, that those I love have checked in on me. Sent photos, silly or otherwise. I’ve gotten to do video chats with a whole heap of you awesome weirdos, some still on the books, and I’m loving that. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air in the middle of a forest fire, kittens.

So, hopefully, we will all get through this. Hopefully, we will muddle through this current madness and find our way to the other side.

And when we goddamn do, I have a list of things I’m holding close to my heart. People I want to see. Trips I want to take. Folks I want to hug the ever-loving crap out of. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad you’re here. And if you’re reading this, I adore you.

Stay safe, nerds. XO

Categories: Uncategorized