Set to Ink

what do you do when you wake up one day and everything is different?

when you know you know,
and there’s no not knowing,
so you must dive deeper and deeper,
examining your feelings,
your choices,
all the small steps that lead you to where you are in this less than desirable existence?

what do you do when you know that process will lead to a monumental upheaval?

when, having witnessed this once camouflaged knowledge,
you know you either have to make massive changes,
or slay your spirit with some hardcore cognitive dissonance?

what will be the knife in your back,
pushing you forward with all of your might?

I don’t know what the knife is exactly,
but I hear it;
I’ve always heard it,
first a whisper,
then a roar that’s impossible to ignore,
a knowing from a sacred depth that is both fiercely mine and part of something much greater than myself

something that aches for its processes to be set to ink

Inside Out

Who is she?
With her confident poise, her expensive shoes, her perfectly lined eyes.
With her favored life I might like know.

My feet deceive me, bringing me closer.
My hands are damp accessories with nowhere to reside.
I fumble with inferior sounding words, smile for no reason at all.
The sentences I piece together spill from an unknown void somewhere between my heart and my mouth.
It’s both automatic and painfully forced.

Time suspends itself.
Spiral thoughts creep and invade like black ants seething over the body of a dead songbird.
I’m an odd specimen floating in formaldehyde.

I can’t do this.
The ache to fit here feels like constantly bumping into the hard shell of myself, like slowly dissolving my softest parts.

But being myself feels inside out.

Exuviae

I am the word shatter,
spidering cracks creeping to the edges,
a fragile soul covered in brittle bone and tender flesh,
as if one wrong move and I might become something else entirely

my arms twist and stretch toward something,
someone,
and just when I feel the promise of weight upon my upturned palms,
it all slips away like a ghost at daybreak,
and I am left here exposed,
alone

someone once told me the world shines shit and calls it gold, and they were right;
it makes you believe there’s another kind of life,
one that’s not so dangerous, fleshy,
full of absence so painful it takes your breath away and leaves you hollow, an exuviae,
a shadow of your almost self

I am the noise a glass makes when you run a finger along the rim,
the one that causes piercing pain,
the one that some can’t hear,
yet, I’m here

you can live your whole life dancing with the idea of mortality,
knowing that one day will be the last day,
and still never really know what that means

what does it all mean?

what happens if I am no longer this woman,
waiting to be loved in the way I let define me?

~Painting is Molting by Ben M. Arthur

Triage

I hear the constant prattling of the voice, but I cannot hear my own thoughts.
When you speak, I watch your lips move, grasp their graceful forming of the words.
I watch your eyes speak louder than your voice, notice your face animate with conviction.
I read as I listen.
The voice incessantly clacks its triage like keys on an old typewriter, always placing feeling before logic.
Your feelings before mine.
I have done that for so long, I can hear your thoughts, even when your lips do not move.
In the mirror, I try like hell to read my own lips, but the keys are eerily silent.

Dry Land

I leak from a private, hidden faucet inside,
emotions continuously stroking the fiery thoughts I wish I didn’t have,
the ones I fight like hell to change

head barely above water, I tread,
arms flailing and feet pressing against, against,
against

in the vastness,
I sink down into my body as into a swamp,
where only I know the footing

it’s treacherous ground,
my own territory

as I search for dry land, I know –
I must become the sturdy earth I press my own ear against,
listening for rumors of the future

Temporary

she sat there
expecting everything to be perfectly clear
she’d done the work before, right?

but all she could think about
was how she never thought
this was going to happen

she had promised herself
she’d never be in this moment again
(nothing tastes as good as skinny feels)
yet, here she was

not at home in her body
overwhelmed by the caustic voices in her own head
not even really occupying her own skin –
she housed herself somewhere else
and she wasn’t even sure where that was

others reached out
reached in
but how can anyone really hug you or reach you
if you have a darkness that stands beside you
like an acquaintance that won’t leave

the ones she loved most reached
and even when she sliced and silenced the voices
there was less and less of her available
no matter how far she dug
and that crushed her

that’s when she finally realized –
she can never really feel at home
in a body she views as temporary

What I’m Made Of

all my life I’ve wondered what’s inside of me,
what I’m really made of

is it all hope-driven gears, creak-cranking,
squeaky with cynical grease?

or is it luminous rays of wonder and awe,
eyes, blinking and seeking love, pure and true?

is it all smoke, a fevered kiln of passing time,
age-dried straw, a mess of flaking atrophy?

or is it a not-so-flash flood, raging, rising,
the result of an aching, beating heart?

is it all waves of water and crackling fire,
opposing forces, one constantly quenching the other?

or do I simply burn for all that I am not,
for all I do not have?

-artwork by my daughter

Smile

they had all gathered to celebrate,
a room full of family from near and far,
her longing to see them equal in measure to the anxiety she felt in a crowded room,
one full of prickly expectation

she tried so hard to be the mirror others expected her to be,
but her smile was like a wound that had thickened as it healed,
nothing but rough, numb skin where nerve endings once existed

Focus

the earth rotates at a speed
of one thousand miles per hour,
while simultaneously orbiting the sun
at a speed of sixty-seven thousand miles per hour

sometimes I feel those two speeds,
acutely, in my body at once

when, beneath my feet,
the world feels spongy,
no longer solid and dependable,
but porous and deceptive

at the same time,
everything is slowly clicking into focus,
becoming crystal clear,
real, maybe for the first time