Duality

there are moments of astonishment and resignation that hold me forever in debt and bondage to the memories I harbor from living a childhood in a small, factory town,
in a family in constant battle

I belonged to a family with a fatal attraction to intensity,
to instant gratification,
to outrageousness of response

we were instinctive, not thoughtful,
connoisseurs of fight and flight,
never happy unless we waged our own private war against the rest of the world,
priding ourselves in our ability to survive

and the war just repeated and repeated itself,
only revealing itself to be a war against ourselves,
lives in constant, unrelenting tension,
always dancing with blind risk and driven by fear of exposure,
a life composed of ice and falling rock

these frequent moments of surprise and consecration center around a singular fear –
a fear of emptiness in life, nihility, boredom,
the hopelessness of a life devoid of thoughtful action;
it is the death-in-life of the masked perpetuity of middle class,
the fear of the kind of deep dive that brings forth truth which sends a shiver through my soul

I often try to ground myself,
remembering the days so long ago when I buried my tiny bare toes in the clean grass,
the fresh smell of rain seeping through the cheap wooden screen door as I stood, listening, with my innocent forehead pressed against it,
and I try to duplicate it –
if I walk my tired bones before the sun rises,
take the time to breathe in the silence of the air and feel the moonlight on my face,
I am sometimes able to connect myself to the deep hum of the planet,
inject life into the marrow of these papery bones

but if I continuously turn on the television or bury my face in the rabbitole of my phone to avoid an evening alone with myself,
it feels as if I am admitting my membership with the living dead

it is the humble, messy, industrial town part,
the splintered, chaotic part of me that is most quintessentially and fiercely alive

those small town, tumultuous memories are the ones that infiltrate the entirety of whatever authenticity I continually bring to light as an aging woman

it is an intricate duality that exists –
they can both fuel and extinguish my flame if I let them

Paper Moon

we wake to an odd familiarity,
more said these days than not,
single cup coffees brewing in succession as the morning begins its foreshadowed burn,
the dew’s moist breath hanging the tall oaks with fog,
and the air standing nearly still except for the slow flap of the robins’ wings lifting from the treetops

Ma sits at the old kitchen table,
sipping her coffee while leaning forward in her everyday chair,
telling stories as the sun rises,
some of them her favorites, echoes I’ve heard so many times before,
while others are surprises, custom cut-outs of time that needed somewhere to go,
so I listen, absorbing them through my skin,
nodding all the while

in the afternoon, I busy myself as she rests,
tidying and organizing and cleaning,
doing the shopping and the cooking,
all the things I hope will help ease the day-to-day business of living

at nightfall, we sit in lawn chairs on the back porch watching the squirrels scurry by,
a paper moon appearing faceless in the still cloudless sky,
stretches of blade grass sliced wide open by chain link and asphalt,
the air adorned with a constant, treaded hum,
as the trees lining the property bend to wear the shape of the welcomed wind

we talk about tomorrows and what-ifs or something funny one of the kids did recently,
but some of the time, we just sit

during the quiet times, I can no longer help but notice she seems so tired of arguing with the elements,
not quite fading into the backdrop, but slowly sinking, leaving in her wake small, concentric circles where the whole used to be

it is then that I realize the loneliness of a lifetime of parenting;
a future unknowable to a parent and a past unknowable to a child,
a reluctant knowing that time ticks by with a quickening urgency and you never want to let go

and in the pinky-red glow of the setting of the sun, I know:
soon, I’ll have to say goodbye

Autumn

the room was quiet but for the near silent whisper of the curtain sheers dusting against the pane,
as the autumn breeze waltzed through the small opening in the window;
peering out, she relished the cool comfort

beyond the long stretch of yellow-tipped, green grass, was a thick wood,
brown trunks stretching into scarlet, papaya, and maize,
swaying in time with the breeze,
a postage stamp echo of the rural wood she knew as a child

closing her eyes, her heart clung to the tree-topped rhythm,
to the familiar, soothing music that belongs only to the autumn,
the peaceful, vibrant tune of youth

-image via Pixabay