In the Dark

the chronic crackling catches
on the lumps in my throat
with each inhale

every forced expiration
is a labored, hollow whistling
keeping me awake

tiny punctures in the fragile lining
widen with every blink,
becoming jagged fissures

until I gasp and grasp
and try desperately to grab onto anything
that will help me patch the holes

so I close my eyes
and line these bankrupt lungs
with your whispered I love you’s
in the dark

-image via Pinterest, art by Codex Anotomicus

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Obsession

once upon a time,
I’d have told you my obsession is with impression,
but the truth is –
I’m obsessed with conquering,
with engineered attention,
with admiration

with myself

and you –
you are my latest project,
my conduit,
my fiddle

I’ll play you religiously,
fine tuning until I’m playing you against yourself,
plucking and plucking until I find the perfect note,
and I won’t let up until you’re a refrain without a chorus

I know –
it’s dangerous to think you know too much about a person,
because who really knows someone else?

it seems like you only scratch the surface,
never getting to the meat of someone else,
into their bones

but I don’t think that’s true,
because you can tirelessly nibble and bite and burrow,
until you’re living just beneath the surface of their skin,
a nagging itch they can’t help but scratch,
their internal compass bending and twisting,
until it is pointing directly toward you

all you need to know is what they fear most

Headlights

all around me, the world seems to move on,
people whirling in a constant spiral toward something else, and something else,
objects in motion drawing lines around my standing body

here I am, chronically nestled into the shadows,
a racing heart chasing the gleaming trail of lurid headlights that periodically cross the ceiling,
all the time wondering,
do you see what I see?

-sculpture by Kumi Yamashita

Versions

Sometimes I cannot sleep; my mind is busy noticing things, things that were hidden (buried) in the peripheral throughout the purposeful rigor of the day.
The backs of my eyelids are vivid nightlights, magnifying glasses for the razor-edged Rolodex of things I have meticulously filed away.
I notice all the things I did do and wish I had not, the things I did not do and wish I had.
In the unwanted illumination, my heart reveals a measuring stick that is rigged in someone else’s favor. I notice how I often fall short.
I notice time’s mnemonic remnants: the faint ridges of forgotten fingerprints, the oily glow of haphazard handprints, the glossy shine of a forehead once rested in daydream.
I notice the scattering of chalk outlines, evidence of the versions I had worked so diligently to scour away.

-imagie via Pinterest

Absence

they say the pines a’whisper,
a rustling lullaby song,
as the breeze plucks at treetops,
and cool nights grow dark and long

but their sound does not lull, no,
it sings harshly of a ‘bye,
disappearing in shadow,
and cruel whispering of lies

there’s no bogeyman hiding,
in the darkest nooks of night;
it’s absence that’s a’haunting,
hollow howls in the moonlight

-image via Pexels; revision of older poem as part of Imaginary Garden with Real Toads’ prompt, hollow

Elements

I have been beyond tired, beyond lonely –
simultaneously lonely and never alone,
with an emptiness settling in so deeply,
it was a stone inside of me,
hard and sharp

my past and my fears are the leaden shackles I have always felt a duty to escape;
my rest is formed by my waking life,
and my waking life has too often been formed by feelings of defeat,
sorrows I allow to permeate as I set forth in my duty

but, in the center of my core,
I have always known it is possible to break the old, rusted, fear-forged chains of the past,
to encourage elements to transition from one state into another,
transforming and casting an entirely new life

sadly, chains made of blood and memory are a million times more difficult to sever than those made of steel,
and the past has a tendency to overtake me when I am not paying enough attention,
or, when I pay too much,
and I’ll find myself making the same mistakes as those who’ve come before me,
with the same resentments set to boil

but, I have also been tired, yet content,
simultaneously fulfilled and alone, but never lonely,
hard-won self knowledge settling in so deeply,
silence and gratitude are all I need to feed the gentle stillness in my soul

because those old, rusty chains do eventually break,
even though the breaking is an endlessly tiresome business,
and when I look the fearful past in the face and call it by its name,
it loses its rigidity and strength,
becoming just another corroding element,
flaking away with time

-image via Pexels; shared as part of the dVerse Poet Pub’s prompt, The Art of Confessional in Poetry

Reality

the funeral goes by in a slow waltz of shiny cars,
perfectly pressed black suits,
and choreographed tears,
and I think to myself –
is it all bitter, in the end?

because, in my experience,
that’s the way smoke always speaks as it rises,
the way others’ eyes painfully prophesize,
the way the mirror constantly fogs

history has planted seeds of pain so deep,
so bitter it taints everything I savor,
but the painful truth is –
my story is stale;
I can’t let go of it,
because if I did,
I wouldn’t be a victim anymore

who would I be, then,
without the luxury of living in the past,
without the invisibility of living in my head,
without the decaying wall that so carefully keeps it all in?

I have always wanted to do something that matters,
something important,
something that leaves a precious piece of myself behind,
but I constantly deceive myself –
in order to do that,
I have to do the dirty work

but I sometimes pretend to do the work,
when, in reality,
I’m making shiny the excuses I’ve disguised as dirty work;
I’m a foggy mirror,
a faulty cog,
an enabler

tired is just an excuse;
I’m afraid,
I have always been afraid

I’m afraid I’ll never be able to stand on stage alone,
baring my fucking soul,
taking the risk of not knowing if I’ll be applauded or booed,
and the crazy thing is –
I think I’m most afraid of being applauded

the funeral goes by in a slow waltz of shiny cars,
perfectly pressed black suits,
and choreographed tears

mine among them

-image via Pexels

Priorities

not long ago,
if someone had asked me,
I’d have said my husband was the most important thing in the world to me,
but he wasn’t,
not then

what was most important to me wasn’t love or passion or trust,
but my ability to lie convincingly to myself,
to believe I was strong

and I’m not sure who I couldn’t forgive for finding out I wasn’t,
for knowing all along I wasn’t –
him or me

-image via Pexels

Rind

I am the space beneath the mushroom caps,
tightly tucked into the cool folds of the fanning sponge,
into the spaces where the sun can’t find

like perfectly polished dew drops,
truths lay scattered and exposed all around me,
but somehow, they lie in secret,
ungraspable,
like pollen bouncing on the breeze,
and I desperately stretch for them,
but my fickle fingers keep coming up empty

I wither,
in the absence

I am nothing but a husk,
a shell,
a rind,
something the sun can’t find

-image via Pexels

Patchwork

they don’t even notice I’m a mess

the truth is,
I’m not even sure how I’m able to function,
because it feels like I’ve been splintered into a million little pieces

and today, like most days,
I’m just clumsy patchwork,
exhaustedly strung together with recycled red string,
fate stitched to the soles of my tired feet,
and they’re all scavengers,
viscously peck-pecking away at my seams,
wanting more, more,
more

-image via Pinterest, original via google images