Set to Ink

what do you do when you wake up one day and everything is different?

when you know you know,
and there’s no not knowing,
so you must dive deeper and deeper,
examining your feelings,
your choices,
all the small steps that lead you to where you are in this less than desirable existence?

what do you do when you know that process will lead to a monumental upheaval?

when, having witnessed this once camouflaged knowledge,
you know you either have to make massive changes,
or slay your spirit with some hardcore cognitive dissonance?

what will be the knife in your back,
pushing you forward with all of your might?

I don’t know what the knife is exactly,
but I hear it;
I’ve always heard it,
first a whisper,
then a roar that’s impossible to ignore,
a knowing from a sacred depth that is both fiercely mine and part of something much greater than myself

something that aches for its processes to be set to ink

Triage

I hear the constant prattling of the voice, but I cannot hear my own thoughts.
When you speak, I watch your lips move, grasp their graceful forming of the words.
I watch your eyes speak louder than your voice, notice your face animate with conviction.
I read as I listen.
The voice incessantly clacks its triage like keys on an old typewriter, always placing feeling before logic.
Your feelings before mine.
I have done that for so long, I can hear your thoughts, even when your lips do not move.
In the mirror, I try like hell to read my own lips, but the keys are eerily silent.

Glass Bottles

you hug her with flippant arms,
kiss her with lips pursed with words lying in wait,
listen with ears that scramble her station unrecognizable;
it may as well be static

and she looks at you with knowing eyes,
her lungs crackling with the laughter of too many ghosts,
your name a promise beaconed by her light and slipped into the glass bottle that is her heart,
knowing there’s a chance it might break

she knows,
even though she wishes she did not;
you love her with a squeaky, newborn heart,
with words that are too large to fit through the close-knit threading of your ego,
protecting a past that fear keeps you from seeing through a microscopic lens,
so the words bury themselves in infertile soil,
never to bloom

maybe she could sacrifice,
maybe she could stay;
you ask her to,
you say you’ll change

she thinks-
maybe I could give up parts of myself for him,
maybe I could go without,
maybe he will really change

but who would she be if she lived her life fishing empty glass bottles from a perpetually low tide?

Before

life was Dorothy Hamill haircuts and bright white roller skates with colorful wheels,
dimples and batted eyelashes and 25c ginger ale in returnable bottles

before it became grocery store boxes of hair color and the embarrassment of paper food stamps,
30 pounds of extra weight and fingernails bit to the quick and too many crushed cans of Milwaukee’s Best Lite littering the shitty apartment

life was bruises no one could see and tear-soaked pillow cases,
reduced priced school lunches and ketchup sandwiches at home and too many unasked questions by too many people who were supposed to be doing the asking

before it became her own hands swinging and her mouth repeating and too many more tears on another generation of pillow cases,
expired milk and bare cupboards and needle tracks up arms that have hugged all the wrong people

Inertia

the rains come again,
tap-tapping at the window panes,
a symphony out-of-sync,
not unlike the fearful beating of her own heart

a familiar, creeping terror rises from a place beyond thoughts,
some innermost trap door flying open,
her instinct to leap upon and lean against it with all her might,
to padlock it shut,
but that energy has long ago evaporated

so she murmurs in a rhythm,
uttering age-old phrases that spin-cycle in her mind,
an attempt at talking herself off an unrevealed ledge,
fear pumping off her in virulent, toxic fumes

she isn’t herself,
hasn’t been for a long while;
her very smell like that of imminent winter,
brittle and airless with the heavy inertia of time

why has no one noticed?

Dry Land

I leak from a private, hidden faucet inside,
emotions continuously stroking the fiery thoughts I wish I didn’t have,
the ones I fight like hell to change

head barely above water, I tread,
arms flailing and feet pressing against, against,
against

in the vastness,
I sink down into my body as into a swamp,
where only I know the footing

it’s treacherous ground,
my own territory

as I search for dry land, I know –
I must become the sturdy earth I press my own ear against,
listening for rumors of the future

The Walk

she walked,
the cool morning air overtaking,
waking her lungs,
her feet slapping a predictable rhythm on the uneven concrete,
its percussive resonance a an engulfing metronome clearing all the clutter away,
and she began noticing things

she noticed the numerous lawns and landscapes in various conditions,
the lamenting of the brown patches declaring their unwanted stagnancy,
the vibrant shouting of greens and purples,
the yellows opening their faces to the sun in triumphant hello,
the bright whites in such sharp contrast to it all,
as if unable to conceal their joy

she noticed all the houses she passed,
the worn spots on the front doors from years of seeking entry into something familiar,
all the lives that lived within the many colored walls,
the stories she’d never know

she noticed the moments that passed,
the hands on her watch ticking them by as the world moved past in tiny fragments like a viewfinder,
realizing that so many moments aren’t just moments,
they’re gifts,
and life is a thing to celebrate

Temporary

she sat there
expecting everything to be perfectly clear
she’d done the work before, right?

but all she could think about
was how she never thought
this was going to happen

she had promised herself
she’d never be in this moment again
(nothing tastes as good as skinny feels)
yet, here she was

not at home in her body
overwhelmed by the caustic voices in her own head
not even really occupying her own skin –
she housed herself somewhere else
and she wasn’t even sure where that was

others reached out
reached in
but how can anyone really hug you or reach you
if you have a darkness that stands beside you
like an acquaintance that won’t leave

the ones she loved most reached
and even when she sliced and silenced the voices
there was less and less of her available
no matter how far she dug
and that crushed her

that’s when she finally realized –
she can never really feel at home
in a body she views as temporary

Guilty

I watch her move through the motions,
real emotion wearing a half-mask,
her eyes telling a story that’s never been spoken,
and probably never will,
seventy plus years of doing the next easiest thing,
not necessarily the next right one

it’s such a long road,
pebbles from our shared path littering my own,
and sometimes I feel guilty as hell for just being able to live my life;
there should be a word for this,
the way it feels to steal something that’s already yours

What I’m Made Of

all my life I’ve wondered what’s inside of me,
what I’m really made of

is it all hope-driven gears, creak-cranking,
squeaky with cynical grease?

or is it luminous rays of wonder and awe,
eyes, blinking and seeking love, pure and true?

is it all smoke, a fevered kiln of passing time,
age-dried straw, a mess of flaking atrophy?

or is it a not-so-flash flood, raging, rising,
the result of an aching, beating heart?

is it all waves of water and crackling fire,
opposing forces, one constantly quenching the other?

or do I simply burn for all that I am not,
for all I do not have?

-artwork by my daughter