Riveting

his face transforms as he stares at me,
a burning recklessness filling his eyes as he leads me into a wind tunnel kiss,
my whole self leaning into the sweeping lost

I become the warmth, the wet,
the tickle, the sting

we can’t let go –
it becomes the writing of a song,
a balancing act of unearthing,
the ferociously visceral sensing of the other as we sway,
back and forth in search of a revelatory harmony

and I realize the only time I feel alive is when he looks at me like that,
riveting me to the moment

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

Paper Moon

we wake to an odd familiarity,
more said these days than not,
single cup coffees brewing in succession as the morning begins its foreshadowed burn,
the dew’s moist breath hanging the tall oaks with fog,
and the air standing nearly still except for the slow flap of the robins’ wings lifting from the treetops

Ma sits at the old kitchen table,
sipping her coffee while leaning forward in her everyday chair,
telling stories as the sun rises,
some of them her favorites, echoes I’ve heard so many times before,
while others are surprises, custom cut-outs of time that needed somewhere to go,
so I listen, absorbing them through my skin,
nodding all the while

in the afternoon, I busy myself as she rests,
tidying and organizing and cleaning,
doing the shopping and the cooking,
all the things I hope will help ease the day-to-day business of living

at nightfall, we sit in lawn chairs on the back porch watching the squirrels scurry by,
a paper moon appearing faceless in the still cloudless sky,
stretches of blade grass sliced wide open by chain link and asphalt,
the air adorned with a constant, treaded hum,
as the trees lining the property bend to wear the shape of the welcomed wind

we talk about tomorrows and what-ifs or something funny one of the kids did recently,
but some of the time, we just sit

during the quiet times, I can no longer help but notice she seems so tired of arguing with the elements,
not quite fading into the backdrop, but slowly sinking, leaving in her wake small, concentric circles where the whole used to be

it is then that I realize the loneliness of a lifetime of parenting;
a future unknowable to a parent and a past unknowable to a child,
a reluctant knowing that time ticks by with a quickening urgency and you never want to let go

and in the pinky-red glow of the setting of the sun, I know:
soon, I’ll have to say goodbye

Not Ready

I’m not ready.

Hell, I don’t even know how to feel yet.
I vibrate from feeling to feeling so quickly,
gliding from one to the next, never really touching down.
I smile or laugh, but the remembrance swipes it off my face.
She whispers in my ear that she doesn’t want the smiles to be stolen away, but I love her.

I knew it was coming.
But, I’m not prepared to watch her suffer.
I’m not ready to let her go.

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.

Home

There’s a poem in this place,
in the not-quite-silence of the early morning,
in the constant companionship of the ticking of the clock,
and in the furry paw falls across the laminate floor.
It is here where a woman writes a lyric she no longer whispers to say.

There’s a poem in this place,
in its second-hand, blue collar grace,
in its well-worn wooden things and well kept lawn,
and in the backyard garden boxes engineered by her youngest daughter.
It is here where she has planted roots.

There’s a poem in this city,
in these tree-lined, bicycle-ridden streets,
in the laughter that makes its way through the open windows, lighter than the air,
and in the warmth in the smile from the elderly woman across the street.
It is here where her heart became full.

There’s a poem in his eyes, always,
in the way she says his name,
in the history they hold between their hands,
and in the future for which they know only one certainty: together.
It is here where she knows home.

Glass Bottles

you hug her with flippant arms,
kiss her with lips pursed with words lying in wait,
listen with ears that scramble her station unrecognizable;
it may as well be static

and she looks at you with knowing eyes,
her lungs crackling with the laughter of too many ghosts,
your name a promise beaconed by her light and slipped into the glass bottle that is her heart,
knowing there’s a chance it might break

she knows,
even though she wishes she did not;
you love her with a squeaky, newborn heart,
with words that are too large to fit through the close-knit threading of your ego,
protecting a past that fear keeps you from seeing through a microscopic lens,
so the words bury themselves in infertile soil,
never to bloom

maybe she could sacrifice,
maybe she could stay;
you ask her to,
you say you’ll change

she thinks-
maybe I could give up parts of myself for him,
maybe I could go without,
maybe he will really change

but who would she be if she lived her life fishing empty glass bottles from a perpetually low tide?

Suspended

his voice is low and soft,
a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on special occasions just to feel it between your fingers,
as a stream of I love you’s purls from his lips,
like rain from cloud to roof to eave,
and her face becomes fierce with belief,
drawing a circle around all the hours they’ve spent together,
a feeling of longing crashing against the underside of her ribs as the swollen, humid air begins to swirl with their whispers,
suspended,
like the iridescent membranes of soap bubbles