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

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Pawns

her innocent bare shoulders
shorts shorter than her fingertips on her thighs
or her exposed midriff
are a distraction
offering too much satisfaction
to teenage boys who should be learning
and not gawking at girls
who ‘must be flirting’

why are you pointing out her bra straps sticking out
or her wearing simple spaghetti straps –
what’s that all about?

why is her faultless flesh
a distraction
to all the pimply boys
who can’t pay attention?

and god forbid if she chooses to not wear a bra
so her nipples (they shouldn’t be looking at) aren’t flattened
‘cuz then they can’t possibly be responsible for what happens

she’s made responsible
for their sexual thoughts and their gazes
for their school performances and grades and
their ignorance

and those horny boys can wear skinny pants
outlining their dicks
they can pick any muscle shirt
or shorts any length

they can sag so far you can see their boxers and Hanes
butt cracks and sticky stains

they can take off their shirts on any sport fields
exposing their nips
licking their pink lips
while young girls in short skirts
are cheering them on
on manicured lawns –
and no one catches on

that young girls are the pawns

they’re taught that their bodies
do not belong to them
that someone else governs it
and gets to say when

schools and officials
parents and politicians
all support girls being sexualized
picking and choosing what they want
and at what time

who’s really committing the crime?

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

Imposter

this shaky pencil scratches and claws at the persuasive paper,
a brittle, broken bird wing lifting and slapping itself against the emptiness,
line after desperately vacant line staring back, mockingly,
and I am stranded,
stuck at the end of the poor man’s queue

this lizard brain is powerless as it goes through the habitual motion of attempting to regurgitate something,
to manufacture anything,
for god’s sake

something like words make it to the page in jagged slices of shale,
crumbling at the weight of every second glance,
until finally peeling back their imposter costumes,
only to reveal soot covered vacant lines

what can I expect when,
instead of lead,
it’s only dust?

-image via Pixabay

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

Versions

Sometimes I cannot sleep; my mind is busy noticing things, things that were hidden (buried) in the peripheral throughout the purposeful rigor of the day.
The backs of my eyelids are vivid nightlights, magnifying glasses for the razor-edged Rolodex of things I have meticulously filed away.
I notice all the things I did do and wish I had not, the things I did not do and wish I had.
In the unwanted illumination, my heart reveals a measuring stick that is rigged in someone else’s favor. I notice how I often fall short.
I notice time’s mnemonic remnants: the faint ridges of forgotten fingerprints, the oily glow of haphazard handprints, the glossy shine of a forehead once rested in daydream.
I notice the scattering of chalk outlines, evidence of the versions I had worked so diligently to scour away.

-imagie via Pinterest

Unapologetic

as a woman,
society tells me I’m supposed to fear getting older,
that I should fight my body’s natural processes,
feel shame for what I am,
and pretend to be someone or something I’m not in order to be in line with some norm or make others feel more comfortable

I am aging – that’s a fact,
and instead of letting a number, a wrinkle, or gray hair be the beginning of some endless battle I won’t win,
or letting it be beginning of my expiry,
I am loving this shit so much

every year,
it becomes clearer that I should never be anything but who I am;
I sink deeper into this place of unapologetic realness,
and it is fucking amazing

I am fatter, saggier, wrinklier,
and salt and peppery

I am stronger, wiser, more patient,
and freer

most importantly, I have lived long enough to have walked the side of sorrow and see the dawn

I have learned that no matter how far I have run,
or how long I have been lost,
it is never too late to be found

-image via Pinterest

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

Unbridled

from an early age,
I’ve had this crazy feeling,
as if I somehow came into this deep, unexplained power,
an unbridled magic it’s taking me a lifetime to embrace and hone

it compels me,
even when I don’t want it to –
it wants to bulldoze,
excavate,
to crack me wide open,
exposing all the hidden, vulnerable places,
to break me down to my simplest form

I’ve always felt the need to stay ahead of this thing,
or it might destroy me,
and everything in its path

sometimes it feels like I’m gaining ground,
sometimes it feels like I’m losing,
but the whole point has been to just keep moving

-image via Pinterest