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

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

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

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