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

Delicate

what do we allow to lie, hiding,
in the margins of our silence?
in the sinking absence of all impetus?

autumn leaves change not by choice,
but by necessity,
a silent, inevitable reaction to all time passed,
to all interaction that came before,
an inherent response to the wholeness of their surroundings,
to their experience of living

first, it is a slow loss,
almost imperceivable,
then a maelstrom of many stimuli at once,
eventually becoming the catalyst to something so beautiful and transforming,
it feels extraordinary,
because it is

then, there is a necessary letting go,
a freeing and frightening fall whose landing transforms into something fertile,
something that slowly,
not painlessly,
decomposes to feed their own roots,
to prepare them for days to come

what do autumn leaves know that we do not?
what lies in the margins of our silence,
in the delicacy of our awe?

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

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