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?

Where the Forest Meets the Stars

this fiery fever is fierce,
a shivering cold whose frosty fingers won’t let go,
the light so bright its too-sharp blades pierce everything,
no matter whether my eyes are open or closed

it’s slowly killing me;
I am liquid mercury,
trapped inside a glass maze where the unkept, curly vines overgrow through metal grates,
smothering, hovering,
like overread expressions on eyebrows I can’t escape

everywhere is too alive,
a contradictory evergreen that only seems to point to dead ends,
and I just have to keep turning back and forth,
a forced emotional mobility requiring a switching of gears too quickly,
so I end up nowhere far too often,
forcing me to ask myself:
is nowhere somewhere important?

and I can’t help but notice,
even after all this time,
I’m not able to triangulate the distance between carefree and unconscious,
there’s no formula for that,
and I’m afraid my fingers won’t find the right keys

I’m afraid,
but I also don’t want to continuously roam the same overgrown paths to the same dead ends,
so I shave the gooseflesh off my back and grit my eyes and put one foot in front of the other toward something else

I don’t know where I’m going –
I don’t know,
and maybe that’s the most honest answer anyone can ever give

I don’t know,
and even though it’s a lonely thing to have answers whose questions seem to have all died of natural causes,
I’m still searching through the maelstrom,
because my eyes are always drawn to the space between the bars,
to the place where the forest meets the stars

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

Stories

I have stories I only tell my friends.
Well, stories I’d only tell my friends, if I had any.
I often compose entire conversations in my mind: dramatic pauses, emphatic inflections, animated exclamations, even slow, sheepish whispers during the most difficult parts.
I feel my face move in tandem with the words, my heart race with every tumbling emotion.
I feel your compassionate hand reach for mine.
I feel your face light up with glee, your chest ignite with laughter.
I imagine how you’d feel being trusted with my stories.
I imagine how I’d feel trusting you with them.
Sometimes I tell them out loud to the empty room, wishing you were here to listen, whoever you are.
I have stories I only tell my friends.
Well, stories I’d only tell my friends, if I had any.

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

Earth and Alchemy

I think these walls are killing me

in the half-light of the drapery-filtered morning,
breathing is nearly unbearable;
the fan whirs with its white-noised voice,
failing in its attempt at swallowing the stagnancy,
managing only to distribute it in an oscillating,
luke-warm stream that, every few seconds,
blows directly into my face,
making my breath catch in a baby breath gasp,
the unsure gasp of not knowing from where the next will come

I think these walls are killing me

I sit, immobile, acutely aware of my mass,
of the blood begrudgingly pumping its percussive rhythm in my temples,
of the defective dampness emerging on my forehead,
of the ever-growing patches of petechiae-speckled skin,
evidence of an incurable itch that has risen up from the fate that is history-stitched to the soles of my flattened feet

I think these walls are killing me

I long for a singular, bottomless breath,
for the autonomous, unfiltered sunlight and its searing warmth upon my face,
for the forced closure of my eyes,
for the rays’ piercing, pinky-red glow on the backs of my tired eyelids,
and its tender, ruby kiss lingering on the pasty surface of my gossamer cheeks

I long for earth and alchemy

-image via Pixabay

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

Loose

I wake with a start to the monotonous alarm gone off in the not-quite-morning, setting in motion all the things in a day that can’t be stopped.

After dressing, out of the large bedroom window I observe the sun beginning what could be its optimistic rise over the serrated tree line.

The trees bordering our property clench at the last of autumn’s harlequin leaves in their mournful fists, but for one Herculean tree that has fallen, the wide nieve of its root mass ripped up and resting bare above a loamy gouge in the grassy bed.

Downstairs, all around me, they busy themselves eating the breakfast I’ve prepared and readying for the day, oblivious to the storms inside me, which also can’t be stopped.

This time of year, the ground outside takes on water until it is nothing but soft sponge, just before it begins its slow, deep freezing.

Inside, the ground beneath my feet is also beginning an unsettling softening, the imminent chill of winter threatening to make home in the fading marrow of my papery bones.

Like the lamented tree, I seem to have come loose from my station in life.

-image via Pinterest, original source unknown

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