Indifference

it wasn’t silence exactly,
his “I don’t know’s”,
nor were they words of optimism,
promises of intent, of partnership

they pressed against me like lead,
those words of indifference,
a mirror reflecting myself back to me,
the voice in my head louder than the silence in the room

Fifth of July

Bang, pop, whoosh. Sizzle, snap, crack. Fizz, hiss, BOOM. BOOM.

BOOM.

The phone rang, and as the foreign voice explained on the other end, there was no air, only the sinking, limb-tingling fear disguised as anger. Questions ejected themselves from between my lips in a stream, but I don’t remember any of them.

I rushed to be by his side, tunnel vision guiding me there. I couldn’t think, see, feel anything else. Nothing else registered, none of my surroundings, nothing at all. All I thought was – I need to hurry. I need to hurry. I need to hurry.

After the doctor delivered the news in person, I stood there, stunned. In my peripheral, I could see the glow of colors exploding in the sky just outside the large window next to his bed, and it registered that it was the 4th. The rumbling vibration of each detonation seemed to be coming from inside me.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

Once I arrived home, though I desperately needed the sleep, there was very little. I tossed and turned, and tossed and turned. Finally giving in to it, I got up early, dressed and returned to him.

As I walked down the stark, institutional green hall, each step brought me closer to seeing with my own eyes what had been conveyed in words the day before, the weight of those words sinking like quicksand to the pit of my stomach.

I was acutely aware of the clinical smell surrounding me, the smell of sickness, the stench of sadness filling first my lungs, then permeating outward, finding an unwelcome home in my veins, thick like sludge, coursing and thumping.

I could hear the cries of sorrow in the bated breath wafting from some of the doors I passed. I could taste its metallic tang on the tip of my tongue. And as I arrived at the doorway of the room to which I needed to enter, I felt it in my bones, in my marrow. When I opened the door, I became its embodiment.

The few steps to the bed took me years:

I passed myself snuggled on his lap as he read to me for the millionth time, Put Me in the Zoo.

I watched as I sat between he and my mother on the yellow paisley couch, as they tried to explain why we would no longer be a family.

I saw the desperation on his face as he finally allowed me to call my mother, but would not yet let me go home to her, still.

I remembered tearing open the Christmas wrap to see the purple down coat I’d wanted so badly, the yolk-only egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings, and stove-popped popcorn with a rented movie on our every-other Saturday nights.

I saw his suntanned, orange-tinted left arm that was darker than the rest of him from hanging out his truck window, his splashing in the pool and volleyball in the summer, and helping my step-brother with homework at the kitchen table while he looked on drinking Pepsi from a two liter bottle.

I remembered the wishing I belonged, that I fit with them differently, more.

The coughing, I remembered the coughing that just kept getting worse, the constant handkerchiefs in his pockets and on the end table with his Winstons next to his chair, the red-faced breathlessness and the wheezing. And the fear in his eyes.

I remembered the devastating, life-altering heartbreak and the disappearing and the wondering, the worry and the doubt. The reconnecting and the doctors and the testing.

And finally, the hope. The hope which had fizzled away the night before with every sizzle and crack, hiss and bang and pop.

Standing next to the impersonal-feeling bed, I gripped the cold, stark metal of the railing with both hands, trying to take in all that I saw. The blinking and the beeping in the semi-darkness, the machine whose trepidus noise filled the room.

Suck, push, suck, push. SUCK. PUSH.

Eerily loud and unwelcome, it was reminiscent of the sounds heard outside the window the night before.

My eyes ran the length of the shiny metal pole on which the machine was mounted, down to the swiveling wheels which allowed it to be maneuvered to where it was needed. I noticed the simple black cord which extended to the wall.

How could such an ordinary-looking plug hold life in the balance?

Letting loose my grip a bit, I became deftly aware of my own breath, in and out, of my own heart beating, ga-gong, ga-gong, so loudly in my chest that it rang in my ears. Reaching out, I rested my hand on his chest, feeling the unfamiliar, robotic rise and fall. I felt the cool absence, the force of what would not be. And then I looked up, nodded my head, and closing my water-filled eyes, I felt with the lengths of my fingers, with the lifeline in the palm of my hand. With my very soul.

The robotic gave way to an arhythmic slowing:

Rise..fall….rise…..fall…….rise……..fall.

Fall.

Beneath my palm there was only stillness. In the tips of my fingers, there was only the thump of my own heartbeat, the trembling cry of my core.

BOOM.

And he was gone.

Ashes


my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
your fake Rolex has some tarnish
it’s charred hands no longer move
my lungs are full of tar
and white smoke fills the room

my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
your silver zippo lost its polish
as your fingers searched for truth
the photos all wear fake smiles
and the eyes are empty rooms

my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
my letter sits in folds
words unspoken split in two
my lungs are full of tar
and white smoke fills the room 

you slipped through my fingers
like the smoke that filled the room
my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
these memories are ashes 
and this cigar box is a tomb

-image via Pinterest

Stories

I have stories I only tell my friends.
Well, stories I’d only tell my friends, if I had any.
I often compose entire conversations in my mind: dramatic pauses, emphatic inflections, animated exclamations, even slow, sheepish whispers during the most difficult parts.
I feel my face move in tandem with the words, my heart race with every tumbling emotion.
I feel your compassionate hand reach for mine.
I feel your face light up with glee, your chest ignite with laughter.
I imagine how you’d feel being trusted with my stories.
I imagine how I’d feel trusting you with them.
Sometimes I tell them out loud to the empty room, wishing you were here to listen, whoever you are.
I have stories I only tell my friends.
Well, stories I’d only tell my friends, if I had any.

Earth and Alchemy

I think these walls are killing me

in the half-light of the drapery-filtered morning,
breathing is nearly unbearable;
the fan whirs with its white-noised voice,
failing in its attempt at swallowing the stagnancy,
managing only to distribute it in an oscillating,
luke-warm stream that, every few seconds,
blows directly into my face,
making my breath catch in a baby breath gasp,
the unsure gasp of not knowing from where the next will come

I think these walls are killing me

I sit, immobile, acutely aware of my mass,
of the blood begrudgingly pumping its percussive rhythm in my temples,
of the defective dampness emerging on my forehead,
of the ever-growing patches of petechiae-speckled skin,
evidence of an incurable itch that has risen up from the fate that is history-stitched to the soles of my flattened feet

I think these walls are killing me

I long for a singular, bottomless breath,
for the autonomous, unfiltered sunlight and its searing warmth upon my face,
for the forced closure of my eyes,
for the rays’ piercing, pinky-red glow on the backs of my tired eyelids,
and its tender, ruby kiss lingering on the pasty surface of my gossamer cheeks

I long for earth and alchemy

-image via Pixabay

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

Alone

In this town, the sun-bleached sidewalks are littered with clandestine cracks that, I swear, swallow people whole.
For as long as I can remember, the sky here has always been a dense gray, the industrial gray of stack pipes and metal on metal, of burning.
The sky isn’t scraped with tall windows framed in the angles and edges of concrete and steel.
Instead, deflated dreams hover like once-full helium balloons, forming a foggy stratus that folds itself into you like time.
Yesterdays are the gravity keeping my heavy feet planted on the ground, and I cannot stop.
These solitary feet never stop moving, not even for sleep; sleep is death’s dress rehearsal.
I move in a sleepwalker’s partial awareness, avoiding cracks in a never-ending search for something precise, something secure.
But, a sleepwalker’s course is anything but precise and secure; I have surrendered to Alone.
Alone is a lot like death.

-image via Pixabay by Leroy Skalstad

Far From Home

We are so far from home.

Your smiles are a blast of arctic air that rattles my bones, and I can’t seem to get warm. I shiver when you speak in those strange smiles filled with politeness, the ones that shout aloud that something is missing. I ache when our eyes meet, all depth, layers locked behind a frigid wall of fear.

We have become roommates. We talk about logistics and practical things, small talk that makes my skin itch and my heart yearn for yesterdays. Screams stick in the dry spots of my throat. My heart is a muscle whose memory is beginning to atrophy.

My body misses you. It misses us. I had become so accustomed to your touch, even the most trivial of grazes, and now my body is a plant, drooping without water. My skin is drying and cracking, as if your touch had been the thing that was keeping it alive.

Every day is torture. I forget and remember, forget and remember. I expect your hand to reach for mine while I read my book and you watch the news. I close my eyes, expecting to feel the familiarity of your body moving in behind mine as I scramble the eggs. But then I remember this tired place of treading near the surface, this folded page of resentment and fear we keep returning to.

And lately, I’ve caught myself stroking my neck while I drink my tea, running my finger down my forearm while we watch our favorite show. I tuck myself in, wrapping my arms around myself when I go to sleep. It’s better than crying so hard I feel like I can’t breathe.

We are so from home.

-image via Pexels; not indicative of current life happenings

Absence

they say the pines a’whisper,
a rustling lullaby song,
as the breeze plucks at treetops,
and cool nights grow dark and long

but their sound does not lull, no,
it sings harshly of a ‘bye,
disappearing in shadow,
and cruel whispering of lies

there’s no bogeyman hiding,
in the darkest nooks of night;
it’s absence that’s a’haunting,
hollow howls in the moonlight

-image via Pexels; revision of older poem as part of Imaginary Garden with Real Toads’ prompt, hollow