Exuviae

I am the word shatter,
spidering cracks creeping to the edges,
a fragile soul covered in brittle bone and tender flesh,
as if one wrong move and I might become something else entirely

my arms twist and stretch toward something,
someone,
and just when I feel the promise of weight upon my upturned palms,
it all slips away like a ghost at daybreak,
and I am left here exposed,
alone

someone once told me the world shines shit and calls it gold, and they were right;
it makes you believe there’s another kind of life,
one that’s not so dangerous, fleshy,
full of absence so painful it takes your breath away and leaves you hollow, an exuviae,
a shadow of your almost self

I am the noise a glass makes when you run a finger along the rim,
the one that causes piercing pain,
the one that some can’t hear,
yet, I’m here

you can live your whole life dancing with the idea of mortality,
knowing that one day will be the last day,
and still never really know what that means

what does it all mean?

what happens if I am no longer this woman,
waiting to be loved in the way I let define me?

~Painting is Molting by Ben M. Arthur

Somewhere Else

as we sit in the quiet,
I wonder,
is enough of me still located here?

I lead a pretty normal life:
I work, I have conversations,
I make grocery lists and cook dinners,
I parent my children,
I am a wife;
I am not always stuck inside my selves

but it feels so often that part of myself is in this place,
while, at the same time,
the most important parts are in a different place,
a place that can’t be accessed in the mundane,
a place so deep I need to be alone to open,
be alone to sift through and allow to be free

you gently break the quiet;
you speak to me in your raspy voice and I can hear you,
I can talk and follow along the well worn paths we’ve created in our many years together,
but my most important parts are somewhere else,
and I can’t seem to locate them

Time

I have been wake-walking in a worn-out tired that’s perpetually nauseous,
ravenous for something, but not hungry, exactly,
raw in a way that takes me by surprise and frustrates me;
the most trivial things are the last straw,
and there seem to be so many lasts

I have learned it’s not possible to wake up on the wrong side of the bed when you never really slept,
when there was no restful sleep,
just the tiny spaces between the cyclical blips of a never-ending SOS

and no matter what face I put on,
I am not greener on the other side,
I cannot find the sweet, restorative spot,
and too many days it feels like life is a zero sum game –
you only win until you lose again

I have been here before,
in a place that was a slow slide into conscious unconsciousness,
and the difference this time is that I know where I am,
I know who I am as I rest my head on the warm side of the pillow,
because I don’t have the energy to flip it,
and the flipping is never fast enough, anyway,
is it?

time isn’t on my side, which is funny,
because time is the only thing that matters,
isn’t it?

and I just keep asking myself:
what would be the point of living,
if we didn’t allow time to change us?
if we didn’t realize that time is the purest form of love on this earth?

Prison

papering over the cracks doesn’t make them disappear,
but life is prettier when you do,
isn’t it?

but pretty is temporary;
paper is thin,
the sun goes down

I often wonder where other people go when they turn off the lights

are they peaceful?
do they drift and dream?

or, are there some, like me,
who often wander into the crevices within themselves,
digging around inside the shadows of their blackness,
clawing away at the dirt of memories they wish they could forget,
running from maybes and what ifs,
grasping at illusions,
hoping like hell no one else can see this fitfully desperate place?

daylight ignorance isn’t bliss,
it’s only fear postponed to a later date,
and control is an illusion that can only really be felt in the letting go

denial is the most destructive form of self harm,
isnt it?

it’s such an exhausting work,
and the truth is always there,
lurking in the shadows,
refusing to be silenced,
demanding to be seen when the lights go out

it’s a self-inflicted,
ruinous prison

I built my prison meticulously,
with solid walls made from bricks of guilt and obligation,
walls that seem to have no doors

but the way out is always there,
I just can’t always see it –
I have learned I just have to be willing to watch myself crumble

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

Rinse and Repeat

every day I paint it over,
calling red rover,
one stroke, death grip,
then another

cover stick, first,
masquerading bags,
the jet lag,
life at light speed,
so many green flags

then, lining the lids,
tallying bids,
gotta be strong for the kids,
keep up appearances in the social grids

now, time for the mascara,
lengthening lashes,
hiding ashes,
gotta hold back tears,
don’t want to trash it

next, brushing blush on high-boned cheeks,
erasing weeks,
turning pain to rosy peaks

can’t forget the smokey shadow,
shrouding eyes,
masking lies,
for, behind these lids,
the well runs dry

last, bold color on pouty lips,
dripping quips,
blood red smile oozing script

mask complete,
a battle to beat,
costume in place,
emotions to eat

rinse and repeat

-image via Pixabay; older poem given a slight revision

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