The Forest

I’m lost in a forest of the tallest trees,
inundated with wickedly bent, sinister trunks,
thicket so dense my feet can barely move,
the air damp and heavy,
sitting like rocks in my lungs.

Swiping and slashing,
I claw at the overgrowth’s sharpness, aching to lift my legs and run, grasping for vines that might save me.

Yet, I don’t want to be saved.
I crave absolution.

On tattered, tired, and bended knees,
I offer you a ridged branch,
begging for penance,
desperate for something rigid to hold onto,
yearning for you to envelope me in the shelter of your palm.

Help me be my vine.

And then I wonder,
how heavy is that staff?
Is the weight just too much?

But you answer,
you deliver.

You take and give,
give and take.

With each give and take,
a little of you infiltrates me,
suffocating the darkness,
penetrating every fiber of muscle,
saturating each porous bone,
filling and filling,
until you seep up through every
follicle and pore,
spilling out and bending to my every contour,
forming a shield upon my flesh that no thorn can puncture.

With you, I can weave my own vine,
with threads of you in the center,
your strength attached to mine in its impenetrable core.

Together we can conquer –
we can see the forest for the trees.

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Enough

we were skin to skin,
our heat a ravenous, tangible entity between us,
and I could feel myself thawing beneath it,
softening around the edges,
like the petals of a freshly-emerged flower ready for bloom

we spent hours exploring one another,
all night,
night after endless night

all I remember is white everywhere:
the white glow of moonlight creeping around the edges of the curtains,
the white-hot need bursting behind my eyelids,
the whites of his eyes staring so deeply into me,
his teeth beaming from between his lips in a grin, a growl, a pleasure-pain grimace,
his pale white skin against the soft gray sheets

I’d never known skin could be so luminous and translucent,
a network of purply-blue veins visible just beneath the surface,
like threads of color in white marble,
threads that connected us so completely,
I couldnt tell where he ended and I began

through flesh and unmetered time,
I absorbed his calm,
his vulnerability,
his joy

I said yes to things I previously would not have;
I reveled in this new person I became,
this less afraid person,
this free person he inspired me to be

we fucked all the time;
I was consumed with lust,
perpetually, urgently hungry for him,
for this coupled metamorphosis

l needed to touch him,
meld with him,
know him,
to shed all the layers of contrived bullshit –
for him to know me

I couldn’t get enough

Metaphors

over nearly half a century,
time had worn her threadbare,
a tapestry of thinning, loosened threads,
mindlessly and obsessively pulled

as was necessary, sometimes her suffering was sad enough to silence the songbirds,
and other times, her joy was a melody others couldn’t help but to join

by now, she is a well-worn weather map of shared existence,
a lightening scorched scattering of scars,
a thunderous rattle of broken bones,
some not quite set right

but the seasons continue to change,
and she still manages to make leaves from nothing,
stretching her tired limbs toward the sky and offering herself bare to the thickening light

how is it, she wonders,
that I’ve become a minstrel of metaphor?
she hates metaphors

does shade have a shadow?
what else do we allow time to hide in plain sight?
why can’t something just be what it is?

if time has shown her anything,
it’s that she doesn’t need to ‘find her voice’,
she’s been forever truth-talking to herself,
and maybe, once upon a time,
she needed you to listen

now, she’s content in the simplicity of the knowing

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

Inside

there are inside jokes and references
words or gestures alluding
to some past shared experience
only the ones who were there
are meant to understand

they are a special kind of comradery
of understanding
a belonging to a unique, intimate collective

I think maybe I’m living an inside reality
one that is constant shadowed references
to a lonely past experience
only I seem to understand

it’s crazy –
I look around the room
and see familiar faces I almost know

they must remember
they were there, too

but, just like back then
they don’t want to acknowledge the shared experience
the inside of it all

they speak as if they know me
they make outside jokes
and talk about the past in a rose-colored highlight reel
leaving me on the inside, alone

they begin to come into uncomfortable focus

I realize –
I don’t envy that

Lies

you tell yourself what you think you need to,
rationalizations, one after the next,
constructing and threading and weaving
in order to go on

you meticulously dig and bore and bury,
you force it down, down, down,
into the sinister pit, caging it away,
resigned to doing whatever it takes to keep it there,
fear and shame fueling the defiance

and you mercilessly protect it,
clutching the lies like a shield,
believing the pain will be lesser and the humiliation slighter,
if only no one can see it

except it only grows and metastasizes,
the loathe a burning itch,
the fear always there,
just beneath the surface of your skin,
the shame a purpling, omniscient bruise,
an ache invading,
taking up more and more space,
taking over

there it is –
in your eyes that say what your mouth does not,
in the slight recoil at a simple touch,
in the humiliating burn behind your eyes that threatens to spill in revealing droplets,
in the distance you keep,
no matter how close you get

there it is,
in the silence,
a clamoring so loud,
it won’t ever allow you rest

it never stays down –
I know,
I’ve told myself the same lies

-older poem revised

Believe

“Do you believe?,” you ask,
when you find out I no longer go to church

there’s no short answer to that –
I only know I didn’t find what I was looking for inside those earthen walls

but out here in the wilderness,
I found

I found paradise in a little taupe house on a corner,
felt the radiating warmth of its promise snuggled beneath homemade quilts made of old khaki pants,
saw it in the orange speckles of hope in eyes that made real things for which I’d only ever hoped

I found holy land in an a wacky sense of humor and two mismatched legs,
in arms which never let go,
no matter how hard I pushed

we built our own sanctuary,
worshipping our own way,
turning needless guilt and regret into fire between gray cottony sheets and sacrificing ourselves to one another

I found belonging in two sets of tiny eyes looking up at us,
looking to us,
in bouncy blond curls and baby teeth and skinned knees that needed kisses

I found community in silent waves and borrowed eggs and butter,
in anonymously snow blown driveways and last minute cook outs,
carrying Tupperware from house to house

I found connectedness in making eye contact and in genuine smiles,
in doors being held and bags being carried,
in the gifting of time,
but receiving much more in return

out here,
I found something so pure and true,
it can’t possibly be measured by the counting of beads or the contents of envelopes

so you don’t need to ask me if I believe in something bigger than myself,
of course I do

heaven is everywhere I look

-revision of an older poem

Resonant

I hate catching sight of myself without warning; I don’t recognize myself sometimes.
I think I know what I look like, a wishful, postage stamp echo of myself rooted in my mind’s eye, but am taken by surprise by the stranger looking back at me.
Reluctantly, I study the surprised stranger’s face, her curly, salt and pepper hair twisted onto the top of her head into a lazy bun, her naked, splotchy skin, the lines creeping toward her eyes like cracks in pavement.
“You look like shit,” I tell her.
The movement of her mouth mesmerizes me, it’s autocratic timbre resonant as it travels the gap between what is and what is not.
I make her speak some more.
“Fuck off,” she says, in my voice.
I smile at her and she smiles back.

-image via Pexels