Rumors

we walk as we talk,
marveling at the sun’s slow plunge into the darkness of the sea,
the houses growing larger as we get further from the campground,
like an infinite row of monstrous nesting dolls,
larger and larger than life, it seems,
further and further from who we are in day to day life

I squeeze his hand and ask him if he’s ever done it before,
and he tells me no,
a slight pink shade growing in his bronze cheeks,
a raw, irresistible honesty behind eyes that match the bright blue of the sea in the morning

we come to a place where there are no lights or other signs of life,
nothing, except his rapid breath and pure excitement,
a slight shyness and awkwardness,
which I find riveting;
he wants me

and in the gritty sand and damp kelp that line the beach,
I let him have what he thinks he wants,
as the bold waves grow unrelenting,
spreading rumors of my rapaciousness back down the shore

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

Impossibility

“how are you?,”
she asks,
like people always do,
as if she, like most,
does not understand the absolute impossibility of the question

it becomes a frantic puzzle to decode:
does she really want to know the truth?
how can I possibly sum it up in a simple answer?

or is she just asking in the meaningless way people do,
only wanting the answer,
“fine”

because I am not fine

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

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?

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

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 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