Poetry

No Last Time

There’s never going to be a last time.

There is no cure.

There is only the finite space

Of not-so-bad

Of kind of okay

The discrete moments of joy.

And they’re so hard to remember

Especially when the sadness

Is so overwhelming,

When the melancholy floats to the surface

Like poisonous cream,

When I’m already so tired

And the reality is that the best

I can hope for is respite

Rather than true relief.

It’s like having a terminal illness

That never terminates,

And there’s no palliative care,

No hospice,

And so often, no real understanding,

Just empty platitudes.

 

Remember to Bend

“Breathe deeply,” she says, “and pay attention to the breath.”

In through my nose, and then one long exhale,

At first I struggle to clear my mind,

To be entirely present to my breath,

Not focused on anything but the present moment.

I feel the simple rhythm,

In and out, in and out.

My body moves in response to her words,

Stretching, reaching, seeking

Spine straight, arms up and over

And as I move, everything else slips away.

Knees toward chest, hips rotating,

Long neglected muscles are finally honored

Like veterans of a distant war.

I feel the tension letting go,

Drifting away in this quiet space,

Where there is only soft music,

Gentle instruction,

And the steady rhythm of my own breath.

We move in quiet harmony,

Me and this stranger,

And I rediscover how to let go,

How to be here now,

How to be mindful.

I feel myself relax,

The relief like the exhale after a breath

Held tight for far too long.

When the music and the lesson stop

I feel reborn, alive again,

Awake after a long, fitful sleep.

I realize that the most important thing

Is remembering how to bend in the now

And to focus on the simple things,

Like breath, and sound, and stretch.

 

Pre-Dawn Reflection

Even in the darkness outside there is some light-

Tiny snowflakes sparkle like glitter in the air,

And the cold fogs my breath like a visible secret.

The moon hangs low, caressing the face of the earth

Like a lover returned home from a long voyage.

The smell of coffee stirs my senses and chases

Away the tired remnants of a dream.

It’s 6 am and the dark still holds sway,

But before long it will yield to the encroaching dawn,

One last bow before daylight takes the stage

And calls me out into the world to play.

 

These Days

These days, I dream in color,

My nights are full of stories

Instead of the nightmares

That for years, dogged my slumber.

These days, I sing along with the radio,

Even though my voice is not the best.

I don’t worry what others think of me,

I just lose myself in the music.

These days, I dress for comfort,

Instead of obsessing over how I look.

Favorite clothes wrap me in

Their familiar embrace and make me smile.

These days, I do what makes me happy

Without concern for external validation.

I find freedom in my own weirdness

And let others take or leave me as I am.

These days, I don’t bother with shame,

I choose instead to embrace joy,

I give myself permission to be ridiculous,

And I laugh at myself all the time.

These days I still fight my battles

Against anxiety and depression

Not because I don’t want to be a burden to others,

But because I know I deserve to be happy.

 

Arrested Development

The truth is simply this:

I suck at being an adult.

I like the new music that’s

Popular with the kids,

And I periodically want to dye my hair

In ridiculous, hard-candy colors.

I don’t watch the news

Or read the paper.

I love to play video games

And animated movies still enchant me.

I pay my bills mostly on time

But only because they’re on autodraft,

And some days, the desire for adventure

Is so overwhelming that I beg

The boys to take me driving,

Anywhere but here.

Sometimes I eat dessert first,

And I like my coffee sweet and light.

When I drink, I like sweet wines

Or the bright colored drinks

Of the child alcoholic, something

Fruity, maybe frozen,

With a ridiculous umbrella and

Fresh fruit garnish, that taste like soda pop.

I vote, but I probably don’t really

Know enough about the candidates

Or the important issues.

Sometimes the laundry doesn’t get done

Until there are no clean clothes left,

Or it stays, folded in piles

On the couch for days and days

Instead of being stowed neatly in drawers

Or hung in its place in the closet.

I trust too quickly,

Naively believing in people’s

Good intentions,

And it breaks me a little

Each time I’m betrayed,

But even broken, I go on

Giving endless second chances

Wanting to bring out the best in people.

I’d still rather go to

The Children’s Museum than

A fancy gallery opening,

And I can’t wear pantyhose without

Snagging them in the first hour.

And yet, I look at myself,

An overgrown child,

And I wouldn’t trade any of it

For sophistication or maturity,

Because I’m still so in love with this world

And I’d rather be a victim

Of arrested development

Than be jaded or cynical,

Itchy in my ill-fitting adult suit.

 

Learning Curve

At first, I knelt

And permitted a man

To do the unspeakable,

Hurt me, scar me

Use and defile me

Because I hoped

That enough pain

And enough service

Would show him I was

Worthy of love.

I believed, back then,

That if he marked me,

He would keep me,

That if I proudly bore

The scars he gave me

All my days, and

If I wore pain

Like a tattoo on my skin,

They I would be his

Always, no matter what.

Then I learned that

Passion fades, even if

My scars didn’t.

I found that being

Marked for life

Didn’t mean he

Wouldn’t leave me,

And those very marks

Made me damaged goods,

A scratch-and-dent girl.

And then, one day, I would

Stand over a man

And do unspeakable things,

Hurt him, scare him,

Use him and tease him

Because I hoped

That enough pain

And enough torment

Would show him I was

Unworthy of love.

I believed, back then,

That if I hurt him,

He would hate me,

That if I showed him

What I really was,

And didn’t lie,

Or hide the ugliness,

If I exposed all of me,

He’d walk away

And never look back.

Then I learned,

That love endures, even if

Suffering doesn’t.

I found that revealing

The parts of me

That terrified me,

Made me less afraid

And less alone,

More ready to face

The long walk ahead.

And now I know

That no matter what

Mask I wear or

Role I take up,

There will be those

Who see the things

That I can’t see, and

Love me even when

I hate myself,

And I’m not lonely anymore.

 

Morning Mourning

I sing a song of morning-

Muscles waking, aching, stretching,

Mouth open wide to let sleep out and draw wakefulness in.

The world sings with me,

Those first notes of birdsong

And the soft bubbling hiss of the coffeepot,

The clamor-scurry of the pets all around,

Reminding me that we all need fuel,

Food, sustenance,

If we’re going to face this new day.

The gray of early dawn cracks open,

An Easter egg in reverse, dull sky shell peeling away

Flashing hints and whispers and suggestions of color

Brightness,

Light.

I sing a song of mourning-

Muscles clenched tight, bunched like fists

Mouth pressed to a thin line, as if not saying it can unmake the truth.

The world sings with me,

The thin whistle of stinging wind

And the soft slimy hiss of whispered condolences,

The bustling efficiency of funeral directors and priests,

Reminding me that there’s always business

Busy-ness, toil,

Even when there aren’t any days left to face.

The gray of unfeeling closes over,

A spectral hand blocking out the sun,

Draining color and flavor and feeling,

Brightness,

Light.

I sing a song of morning mourning-

Funeral long past, grief packed away,

Lips pursed to whistle my scattered self home from my nighttime wanderings.

The world sings with me,

A thousand different songs of hope and despair

Murmurings of grief, and grievances,

The chaos that resolves itself slowly into rhythm,

Reminding me that everything always gives rise to something,

Better, worse, only different

In this daily resurrection of self.

Color and colorlessness start their dance,

Tugging across my world,

Asking each other, and me,

What of today?

Bright, or dark?