Archive for April, 2020

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