Roots

I still think about the way he listens to my secrets,
cradling the words and folding them into himself,
even as I continue to unearth the worst of me,
digging so deep,
I chip away the cracked to find the patinae,
so aged,
I taste rust in the back of throat

many days,
my bones feel as if they’re already drawing me
into the earth,
but he reminds me it’s just a returning
to the safety of our roots

Contrition


my body is not an act of contrition

it’s not a performance I put on to pay penance to those who must look at me;
this is not a transaction,
my effort at some standard of beauty
for your regard

I will not apologize for your attention,
or arrange myself to make your looking at me a pleasant experience

I will not suffocate,
agree to the expense,
or bow to the impracticality of it all;
I will not mold myself to earn your recognition

my body is not an act of contrition

Rain

it’s not a midlife crisis,
it’s a cracking,
like thin ice on a puddle of water,
first just some hairline wrinkles around the eyes,
then the rest, all at once

it’s a 40-odd year journey of finally feeling free enough to crack,
of figuring out how to pick apart the shell and stand in the presence of myself,
of giving myself permission to unearth and to write,
but also to stalk my own soul,
and sometimes having too much of my own self

sometimes the stalking hurts,
if for no other reason than my skin doesn’t feel like it’s mine;
sometimes I panic,
because I’ve been staring at the answers for so long,
but can’t locate the questions

finding and asking the right questions,
speaking them out loud and in the open,
oh, God –
it turns the air around my words into weather

they say a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences,
but that isn’t entirely true;
if my past was all that defined me,
I’d never be able to put up with myself –
I need the freedom to convince myself that I’m more than the mistakes I made yesterday,
that I am all of my next choices, too,
all of my tomorrows

I am words into rain,
face upturned as the dirt around my bare feet becomes freckled with brown question marks,
my body a thing to be spoken with

and I reach out with open arms for those I love,
pulling them so close there will never be room for blame

Grace

I open the door,
but she’s not there;
her everyday chair
is empty

in her room,
the quilt is ruffled and twisted on the bed,
the fan has been knocked backward and the footstool pushed to the side of her easy chair,
traumatic evidence,
an eerie, almost-quiet filling the room,
except for the lonely snore-breathing of the dog,
snuggled into her favorite fleece blanket at the bottom of the bed,
waiting for whom she wants most

it’s so strange to be here when she’s not,
when she won’t ever be again,
won’t ever be resting back on the fluff of all her pillows,
reading on her Kindle,
sucking on Good & Plenty’s or chewing on Chick-O-Sticks,
no more belly-laughing at silly meme’s to be heard from the other room

those last few days while she held on,
I spent as many hours as I could sitting next to her;
I told myself even if she wasn’t conscious,
she knew I was there

what I really meant, though,
was that when I looked back on those days,
I would know that I had been there,
that I’d held her hand,
that I’d kissed her forehead and said my goodbye

because it still happens suddenly, even when you’ve been told it’s terminal,
even when your hope and your reason and your reality have collided,
especially when it doesn’t happen in any of the countless scenarios you’ve played out in your mind,
even when she’s begun to fade away more and more,
until you swear you can only see her outline against the sheets,
even when you’ve had the chance to say goodbye

when life leaves,
it’s always sudden

and just as sudden,
sadness moves in and sits with me,
another passenger,
distorting every view,
just like the way the world looks from the bottom of a swimming pool,
when you try like hell to right yourself and find the sun

something in you changes when your mother dies;
you go about the rest of your days just like you have before,
pretending you are fine,
knowing it is all a lie –
for a while,
you become an actor in the play of your own life

because grief is an entity unto itself;
for a time, it makes a tunnel of our lives,
and it is all too easy to lose sight of other people in the darkness with us,
to wish they weren’t there,
so their loss might stop rubbing up against our own

but if I’ve learned anything from watching my mother become fragile,
witnessing her fight like hell to come to terms with the finality of life,
it’s that it’s ok to be sad with someone who is dying,
and it’s ok to sit in the sadness with others;
it is a gift to be invited in close during tender times,
moments of grace we can share with one another

because, in between the question and the answer,
the beginning and the end,
there is always grace

Communion

life has drastically evolved in our 26 years together,
and we, too, are not the same,
but, still, your smile softens the sharp edges of this hard world,
flapping its wings so high in the air it falls upon me like a meteorite,
its iridescent fabric trailing red thunder and liquid gold,
planting in my heart the kind of hopeful purple only communion can produce

I love you

Gardening

the sweet glow of summer rests,
ripened to golden on cheeks,
as fastidious fingers tug and pull that which is not meant to take root

a curious breeze blows welcomed secrets,
as deliciously sore muscles and hard-earned sweat unearth truths once hidden beneath the now upturned soil and rocks

anxious leaves rustle a whispered concerto in the tree tops,
as she gathers herself in handfuls,
piece by organically grown piece,
leaving behind for fertilizer that which is no longer useful above ground

and when the work for today is done,
she rests,
under the blue light of the August moon,
ready for the change a’comin’

-an older favorite

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

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