Rot

I can’t stop thinking – I will never be as young as I am right now, at this very moment.

My mind sometimes wanders, but it snaps back like a too-tight rubber band, reminding me.

It’s not lost on me, the irony of every youngest moment spent perseverating upon itself, like a gluttonous snake, eating its own tail.

In those wandering moments, I often worry rot will sneak up on me like my neighbor’s silently stalking cat, taking a monster-sized bite out of the little I have worked so hard to have.

Then, I snap back, as usual.

In a moment of clarity amid the perpetual vacillating, I realize – there is no rubber band, no snake, no cat, no monster.

There’s only me, whose thoughts are not young, not in any moment in time.

They are the rot.

Liquid

for many, the sun’s rising is a new start,
a spark of freshness and hope,
of some new unknown,
of possibility

but the sharp rays peeking through the black curtains were anything but;
they were sinister tentacles gripping and pulling her into the known,
which she fiercely wished was not

her blurry eyes were smeared with yesterday’s camo,
her mouth filled with sticky secrets she had tried so hard to swallow but never digest,
and this morning was just another in an endless slice of time that never seemed to pass

so she reached to the bedside table,
desperate, not for the glass of water,
but for the two small pills that would begin her swift transformation from a solid,
something rigid, too tight,
to liquid, not flowing and fluid,
but a stagnant pool of nothingness,
however fleeting it may be

Broken

everything he could know about her
could be found in the things she didn’t talk about,
and she hadn’t been talking about much of anything for quite a while

but it was time;
it had become a sludge so thick it filled her lungs,
a slow hardening that made it difficult to breathe

so she gritted her eyes and tucked the shame into her cheek so she could talk around it,
and she told him –
she was failing

the dignified satisfaction at what had, at first,
felt like a victory,
had slowly and methodically curdled,
and now it was rotten,
all of it

what was once her most admired characteristic –
her callous resolve,
her stern determination to succeed despite the turmoil,
her pulling herself up at the bootstraps, again,
was not enough

and no matter how she tried to feel proud of her decision to give in,
to let allow herself to fail if it was meant to happen,
she felt no victory in it

even in the beautiful slaying of her ego,
she felt no triumph in being reminded she was broken

Rumors

we walk as we talk,
marveling at the sun’s slow plunge into the darkness of the sea,
the houses growing larger as we get further from the campground,
like an infinite row of monstrous nesting dolls,
larger and larger than life, it seems,
further and further from who we are in day to day life

I squeeze his hand and ask him if he’s ever done it before,
and he tells me no,
a slight pink shade growing in his bronze cheeks,
a raw, irresistible honesty behind eyes that match the bright blue of the sea in the morning

we come to a place where there are no lights or other signs of life,
nothing, except his rapid breath and pure excitement,
a slight shyness and awkwardness,
which I find riveting;
he wants me

and in the gritty sand and damp kelp that line the beach,
I let him have what he thinks he wants,
as the bold waves grow unrelenting,
spreading rumors of my rapaciousness back down the shore

Duality

there are moments of astonishment and resignation that hold me forever in debt and bondage to the memories I harbor from living a childhood in a small, factory town,
in a family in constant battle

I belonged to a family with a fatal attraction to intensity,
to instant gratification,
to outrageousness of response

we were instinctive, not thoughtful,
connoisseurs of fight and flight,
never happy unless we waged our own private war against the rest of the world,
priding ourselves in our ability to survive

and the war just repeated and repeated itself,
only revealing itself to be a war against ourselves,
lives in constant, unrelenting tension,
always dancing with blind risk and driven by fear of exposure,
a life composed of ice and falling rock

these frequent moments of surprise and consecration center around a singular fear –
a fear of emptiness in life, nihility, boredom,
the hopelessness of a life devoid of thoughtful action;
it is the death-in-life of the masked perpetuity of middle class,
the fear of the kind of deep dive that brings forth truth which sends a shiver through my soul

I often try to ground myself,
remembering the days so long ago when I buried my tiny bare toes in the clean grass,
the fresh smell of rain seeping through the cheap wooden screen door as I stood, listening, with my innocent forehead pressed against it,
and I try to duplicate it –
if I walk my tired bones before the sun rises,
take the time to breathe in the silence of the air and feel the moonlight on my face,
I am sometimes able to connect myself to the deep hum of the planet,
inject life into the marrow of these papery bones

but if I continuously turn on the television or bury my face in the rabbitole of my phone to avoid an evening alone with myself,
it feels as if I am admitting my membership with the living dead

it is the humble, messy, industrial town part,
the splintered, chaotic part of me that is most quintessentially and fiercely alive

those small town, tumultuous memories are the ones that infiltrate the entirety of whatever authenticity I continually bring to light as an aging woman

it is an intricate duality that exists –
they can both fuel and extinguish my flame if I let them

Miracle

it was one of life‘s miracles,
the way my body was home to us both as we grew,
this body becoming larger as it rearranged itself to make room for you,
my self transforming into someone I’d never been,
someone I wasn’t even sure I knew how to be

but that grew, too,
exponentially larger than my belly,
stretching to fill all the open spaces of possibility;
it fed us both

and you,
from a tiny spark into a beating heart,
one that beat because mine had beaten,
one that gave mine new life

I still fed you when you finally made it into my arms,
your soft palms stroking the bareness of my chest,
fingers grasping at my own,
a lifeline only we could share,
a bond I didn’t know I needed until just that moment,
and I never wanted to let you go

now, all these years later,
you’ll be leaving soon,
out into the world to find your place,
stretching to fill all the open spaces of possibility,
another of life’s miracles

Delicate

what do we allow to lie, hiding,
in the margins of our silence?
in the sinking absence of all impetus?

autumn leaves change not by choice,
but by necessity,
a silent, inevitable reaction to all time passed,
to all interaction that came before,
an inherent response to the wholeness of their surroundings,
to their experience of living

first, it is a slow loss,
almost imperceivable,
then a maelstrom of many stimuli at once,
eventually becoming the catalyst to something so beautiful and transforming,
it feels extraordinary,
because it is

then, there is a necessary letting go,
a freeing and frightening fall whose landing transforms into something fertile,
something that slowly,
not painlessly,
decomposes to feed their own roots,
to prepare them for days to come

what do autumn leaves know that we do not?
what lies in the margins of our silence,
in the delicacy of our awe?

Ode to Dad’s Favorite Shirt

you were a gift from one of us siblings,
I’m not sure which one,
because we all bought him some variation of you over the years –
that’s what happens when a parent says to their kids that they like something once at Christmas

for a long while after,
he wore you all the time,
perhaps it was because you became more comfortable with wear,
but more likely because we couldn’t afford to have too many in the closet,
and he always made himself last in line when there was enough money for buying

many years after he unwrapped you,
he still wore you,
thinning and faded and frayed a little at the collar,
and sometimes I wished and prayed he would please not wear you in front of my friends again,
hoping he would wear one just a little bit newer

maybe I was embarrassed,
but maybe you also reminded me,
when I did not want to be reminded,
that he was growing old

I grew to dislike you then,
but, now, when I close my eyes and think of Dad,
there you are

because of you,
he was easy to find in a crowd if our hands accidentally let loose of one another,
easy to pick out in the bleachers after I hit a double and frantically searched for him,
just to see the smile of pride on his face,
easy to see a few isles down in the grocery store when I’d lingered a little too long in the candy isle,
stopping to count the newspaper delivery quarters I’d stuffed in my pocket

because of you,
I remember his consistency,
his sentimentality,
his humility,
his soft, steady comfort beneath my cheek when I snuggled in