“Ten”
Everything is consumed by fire, and explosions, then the darkness of space. You pull me onto your lap. We rock back and forth. “Maybe this is enough,” I imagine it could be. I know that it’s not.

“Nine”
I turn my head as you snap a photo, I pull the camera from your hands and fire back. “It’s just nice to know you exist. I’d given up on such things.”

“Eight”
I wrap my arms around you as you sit on a rock in the sun. “You need to eat,” I say. But you aren’t sure what to do. I remind you that there’s nothing to be done.

“Seven”
I move a finger over your cheekbone. You have the kindest face.

“Six”
You spent the night on the floor, but now we are here. Cars on the highway cast light and shadow between our bodies.

“Five”
I’ve never seen an unlucky moon, but tonight it turns me in circles. You walk through the shadows toward me.

“Four”
The fate that has brought us together begins to unfold.

“Three”
Locked deep in the subconscious,
We fight for the same air.

“Two”
Shell shocked, you abandon ship.
I raise my head from your lap and you’re gone.

“One”
God asked me who I wanted to take into the darkness of space, and when I answered, he reached toward my heart and removed a rib.

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Dear Mother, from Exile

“Where’s the first fold?”

“I think it’s here.”

“Here?”

“Yes.”

The map is folded skillfully before my unskillful words leave an awkward residue on the table where your long, thin fingers place the map.

My small, but muscular hands shake, propelled by their own courage to break something large in half, to represent the grief I can’t allow myself to experience.

I come-to as you’ve just finished a story about losing your mind to a spiritual experience, and I imagine you there in that small cold room where I’ve been too, waiting for the doctor. 

I recognize your hurt, but in this moment we’ve become two stars now separated by darkness where our light is not shared, and our darkness is vaguely recognizable to the other.

“So you understand then, why I can’t go?”

“Yes.”

“I hope it’s not misconstrued.”

“You could send a card.”

You must be folding papers, or shutting down the computer when I disappear to the basement to find a card, and visualize what it might say. I return empty handed. I’m trying to find a different way to say, “I didn’t come because I was terrified to come, but terrified not to come, and that was a good sign that I wasn’t invited.”

Things move fast in the moment, but in slow motion, remembered. I want to hit the reset so we can try this again, and I can slip away, slightly alienated, but not completely unsure of myself.

You say goodbye, and I’m right behind you. Suddenly as I feel the heavy door hitting the rubber trash-can, I ask, “do you want me to turn off the light?”

“Yes. And we will find the Rio de Flag yet,” you say laughing, nearly returning things to a state of normalcy, but grief is nearing escape, everything is happening out of order.

I end up in front of you, a conversation I may have had, pushing past the soda machine, rounding the corner right, now aware that perhaps things have turned awkward, I reach to fill the water bottle to slow things down, then stumble back into confusion, into the hallway, and out into cool air, and even lonely can’t touch me wherever it is that I’ve gone, and regret won’t find me for hours.

Left in exile the whole of the next day, I finally reach to touch the pain late in the evening. It has been crying, hungry, all day.

“I miss you,” it says.

I can’t imagine, what she must be feeling. My body may act as a shrine for my pain, but it was out of necessity. Not with intention did I bring it to life. Not with joy, did I keep it alive. It was a war, between us – mother and child.

It is then, if I had a pen –

“Dear mother, I’m sorry I couldn’t come. I was afraid to see you, afraid you’d deny me, as you’ve done before. I’m waiting in exile. You’ll know me. No matter how long it has been. Forget about the compassion you thought I had. Look at my eye lashes.”

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Your red shoes, my tin heart

As if the sky is made of glass
almost beautiful it falls,
the way tragedy is sometimes
beautiful in pictures.

Your face in the frame is still,
beyond the opalescent
dome of my heart chakra.

Each shimmering shard of glass
in my ornamental body represents
a memory for later extraction.

It is now that we must agree
to surrender,
to unclasp fingers.

Your chest bears a mark
and where my skin touches your skin, we are fearless.
But then what is behind the curtain?

I carry my heart in a bucket, and
you are lost where we join arms
as we make our way toward the mystical.

Return to the house tonight and tighten the buckles on your red shoes,
Wish to be where you are, not here on the road where the love you carry in your basket could be lost
in the cold corners of a tin heart.

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There on Death’s Summit

The sky turned grey, and if I had early childhood memories, I might tell you when it began. The darkness came to stay at twelve, and as oppressive as a blanket over my face, it kept me hostage through hibernation; I stopped breathing for twenty years.

The first touch of its hand would result in attention seeking behavior. I’d arrive to therapy, leaving prematurely with no solution as to how I might surface to join the others aboard life.

It was followed by the consequences of a failed relationship as a young adult; I felt like a coward who wasn’t quite ready and by year’s end, I’d sliced myself to bits -the point no longer being to die, only to exceed the pain of the emotional bludgeoning.

I even got creative with a belt around my neck at the top of the stairs but I couldn’t get it right; a piece of broken glass into the abdomen was the punishment for my failure.

And so the years would drag me like a dead animal into the new millennium, partially animated through the final jerking and twitching that accompanies the soul’s departure.

And without a grand entrance, my moment finally arrived.

I meditated on the need for sleep on the short walk home. My nightly meditation involved the visualization of a gun – the expulsion of the bullet would create the easiness necessary to finally rest, but it was afternoon and perhaps I wouldn’t need extreme measures to fall asleep.

There were five footsteps necessary to reach the refrigerator, and an ice cold Coke would be cracked open with a calm hand. I’d make my way to the bedroom and without the drama I had always expected, each bottle would be emptied into my throat.

I’d think to write my mother something uninspired and lacking in creativity – “It’s not your fault,” as the cool sheets wrapped around me; the pillow felt bittersweet. My mind would begin to quiet.

My roommate and ex-lover arrived home; I awoke briefly and assured her – all is well. But intuition would have her return to find me, too late to pull the sedatives from my blood stream, but alive enough to lurch and yell incoherently.

The straps were placed around my wrists and ankles, and I’d thrash violently until, in the early morning hours of January 6th, 2001, I’d slowly open my eyes to a dimly lit room, a stranger reading a book beside me. The lights on the machine blinked and a small tube fed me saline.

I returned to sleep and when I awoke again, my ex-lover greeted me with sadness, with a smile, with a lack of disbelief.

And so I made a deal with God. I surrendered my “option” and a slow death took its place. Pills in excess would be replaced instead by alcohol. Each day, it would promise to provide me with safe passage to a place where life was unnecessary, where it didn’t matter that I was a ghost. It promised to hide my reality so no one would notice, but it failed me.

A three-year turbulent flight would result in a fire so illuminating that I’d see myself in the mirror at last. I’d pull myself from the wreckage, and unaware of what power had now turned my face to the sun, I’d gather the strength to push death into a corner and close the door.

I took refuge in a small room, and there I’d fight to keep the door closed for another five years, the darkness pounding its fists, threatening re-entry. I’d ask for help and help would arrive. We’d move whatever we could against the door, the cold hands reaching into the vulnerable, vacant spaces inside of me.

I waited for my miracle to arrive.

On the day I awoke to something different which was only the absence of the fear and shaking, I wouldn’t immediately recognize the source of sunlight, but I’d walk the distance and I’d find it; I would immerse myself in the warmth of release.

And now, I have made a deal with death.

When my old companion comes knocking, we speak through the glass, we make arrangements for our continued co-habitation; visitations are limited.

I am writing which is no indication of being alive. But today I read my story aloud.

There are no happy endings or a cure for pain. There is only life. It is hanging high in the tree of your fate, and if you are hungry, you will have the strength to climb to its sweetness.

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December 18

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Just for a moment I’m happy to greet blue skies, the sun, the melting snow as if the Universe is saying, “this isn’t the hard journey you’ve requested, and if her hand reached for your heart now, you’d have made room for softness.”

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November 9

I take your face in my hands and the thunderheads drift along the horizon;
the rumbling is distant but threatening still.
There’s no need to describe the rain –
the way cold at first you cover yourself but soon surrender
as the night exploding with electric –
your body emerging from darkness, bathed in blue light –
has passed as quickly and violently as a monsoon storm.

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A Thousand Suns

I see you in the picture,
where before the shutter opened, I kissed you – your long self stretches
and grins like a cat with a secret.
The heat of August had wrapped itself around us, made you forget your dreams of January – first of shivering alone, and then curled together beside the fire.
I might find myself, waking to your ghost, unable to push the memories of your slow freeze to rest, or to reconcile the darkness by which you were so quickly consumed.
It has left only ashes,
and now, as I sift, a white feather appears, falling, flaming,
from the wings of Icarus –
It smolders, warm to the touch,
carrying your message to the place of the spirits.

I pray that Cupid’s arrow at last will grace you with the fire of a thousand suns.

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