Change, Growing Up, Letting Go, Poetry

Truth Or

But lies were for people who didn’t believe in the future. Who saw only an endless stretch of present without consequences or change.

– Yoojin Grace Wuertz, Everything Belongs to Us

One day the ground begins its thaw.
The blind things just below the surface shift
in their sleep.
4.5 billion years and nothing has jarred the rock
from its grinding rotation.
We know this much: even if we hold it to us,
even if we drive the stakes to pin it in place,
what’s old will slough off.
Continue reading “Truth Or”

Growing Up, Poetry, Things I Can

75. Things I Can Lay Down: A Nest under Sky

From the dining table of a rich absent landlord,
from a rooftop tilting over
screaming streets,
from the hide of a man
whose soft fangs belie
battles he claims
as the source of his scars,
I plucked splinters
and locks of discarded hair.

I was ravenous
even for hollow breath
echoing against a bare wooden
belly. Strings cut flesh to callous
and every song clanged
like paper against my hunger.
I tried to pry frets
from the neck. I tried to harvest
spider legs.

A sign was necessary. A silver
ring or maybe a strip
of fur curling on the tip
of a thorn. I walked
not away. Something else.
Out.

Towards.

Under
a canopy of sumac, bent like a crooked
house, I passed
through to the first division
and pressed petals
back into their seed.
I swaddled my thighs
in creek water. I bled
into moss.

I lay down a bed like a bow
to the half open moon.
The voice I used to call
up the shape of a home in the sky
Goodnight you moonlight ladies
was the same lunatic jabber
of coyotes coursing through folds
in a mist forever closing
between us.

I wake now to the face of a frozen sun,
my bones young and brittle, hung
with crystal globes and gloved
in frost. I glitter like grass
and shatter in the light. Blowing
out from a depression
in the earth shaped like someone
exhumed,
I catch a full spectrum
of morning

in each one
of my birth’s hundred
billion prisms
every time
I refuse
to die.

 

Growing Up

Driven Out

Just like all great stories, our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next? So if we think of our fears as more than just fears but as stories, we should think of ourselves as the authors of those stories. But just as importantly, we need to think of ourselves as the readers of our fears. And how we choose to read our fears can have a profound effect on our lives. – Karen Thompson Walker in her TED talk, “What Fear Can Teach Us”

I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel. . . Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

The reader can’t put down the book. It’s well past midnight and her bloodshot eyes stagger across the lines. She turns another page. This is better than Stephen King, not even in his league, clipping along against a minor chord shuddering in the shadow of the action. Every door opens on a freefall into hell, each descent rank with its own unique boil and famine.

She does not look up. She is ready for anything without being the least bit prepared.

The crack across the ceiling spiderwebs without a sound while her pinhole focus contains only one character marooned on one desert island where melting icecaps have designs on the shore. Fingers, each alone as huge as her thigh, push through. A gaze presses close, taking in the whole of the room. Still she hasn’t noticed. Those fingers wedge wider an entry, those fingers give way to hands.

The pages of her fear are a shield. They fasten her yet again into the cockpit’s choking chemical burn, strap down her arms and freeze the throttle. The churning sea races to greet her. The certain but predictable disaster is comfort of a sort. If any of this came true — which it surely will, because something enough like it already has (how do you think this became her personalized Choose-Your-Own Adventure?) — what would happen if she closed the book? What if, halfway through her final descent, she yanked the cord, severed the word, and cast the whole thing onto the nightstand?

What if she looked up?

Giant eyes, each the size of her own skull, take the measure of the room. Of her shape. Her scars, her tics, her threadbare sheets.

Of her.

What if she looked right at (it) and watched the pulp of those hands jarring loose chunks of drywall, ripping back the illusion of structure? What if the impenetrable box containing her artless version of Dante’s fifth circle — forged, as it was, in infancy, no doubt — is penetrated after all?

She will not be able to unsee.

She’s already had her shot at that.

Those unbreathing, rolling, unmoored eyes are glass buttons made real by some inverted pinocchio magic. (He) is the golem she moulded from the debris of punishment and silence, the same one that slipped eventually down the side of the bed and fed on skin cells and broken sleep for three lifetimes.

Until now.

She never reached down to tend him but neither did she root him out. Such concentrated matter does not fade or decay, certainly not without its turn in the light.

He comes trailing the stink of hunger. And something else.

He crawls in beside her, filling the not-forgotten space between her and her dogeared book, spilling into corners. This is where he began. She watches him peel back a crusted mouth that is a funhouse image of her own. She has no choice but to let him show her what she stuffed down his throat when she was not ready to bear what she couldn’t name.
 

Children, Mindfulness

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

He shoots hoops while I sit on a bench bent over my journal. Evening sun streaks across the blacktop. “Hey Mom, catch!” He fake pumps the ball at me and laughs before really tossing it up in a high arc. I pluck it from the sky and dribble it down the path towards the car.

“Can I write in your journal?” he asks.

“Sure.” I hand it over. He flips past page after page, not a stitch of notice snagging on the thickets and knots penned during a cramped daily metro commute. He finds a blank space, plops into his seat and starts writing. His grip on the pen is both loose and sure. We are only blocks from the house which is just far enough for my boy to fall into flight.

Riding some current that’s his alone, Bug ignores my bustle and opts to stay in the car long after we’ve parked.  Continue reading “Signs of Spring”

Poetry, Relationships

Join

My husband pulled the bobby pins from my hair one by one and placed them on a table in the dark. He ran the brush through with more care than I had taken even as a little girl, even with my china dolls.

Proximity becomes porosity. We were limestone in rain. The monuments to ourselves etched with begets and allegiances weathered to shadow before we could rub the shape into permanence. It was tomorrow and then the next century.

It will be ten years ago we met. Then two griefs and three oceans ago.

Now I lay in wonder in arms I don’t deserve and he traces beauty down into my skin. Into follicle, he hushes a whisper of first light. Even my pores are seen now. Seen and seeing, as if freed from blindfold and handed a mirror in the same staggering moment. “Oh, so this is what I have become.”

He asks questions no one ever should of a girl whose voice was just hatched. Then he marvels at the tears when all we’ve talked of is sweet things. He can’t know how ill prepared I am for this act of dedication.

How lazy these hands.

How hesitant this contained force.

Of course, he does know, and he fixes himself to the spot and draws closer. We quiet ourselves for a moment words cannot reach and listen to the song on shuffle.

“I am going to come up with an adjective,” he says. Then he tucks it away and we let Regina Spektor fill the room and also us with what we can’t yet tap in ourselves. Halfway between hard and soft, her lyric is a silver glint in the dark. An unsheathing ssss of steel pulling free. She holds the blade against our wrists and turns it this way, that, to feel where it curves and where the slanted script at the hilt edge sips in just enough of the offered light to wet channels between lines

and flings away the rest to flash against a corner of the room
the corner we only just noticed
had been wearing a cloak of shadow
over an old table, a handful of hairpins
a corner we never realized reached so far back
beyond walls
that were almost never there
 

Letting Go

Hibernation

Chirrup here to there, blanketing night. Song with a single cadence. No melody, yet definite rhythm. Too complex to string on bars, but oh, how we try. Drill the lids. Cap the jars. Light is music captured, or as close as we can get. This summer will last longer than we ever imagined and then we will wake to pelt and boot, forgetting for a moment the ache when sun shined on and refused to wane even as something brighter receded to a background score of tymbal trilling out le fin.

Soon it will be geese, a whole different note repeating against shrinking dusk. Do you know already what I know? Frost has already settled. One sweet harvest, the deep green lift and then, sleep. Inward curl and fallen leaf.

I learned how to rest long before this equinox. Pack off that rangy, furred beast, fat and claw and stink from the prowl. Show her the way. Lay her low under moth and bat, folded wing, damp. She can fall into her uneasy descent, grunting as she settles into a comma marked up on the cave floor. Breath slowing until almost none at all. Dimensional petroglyph, an ancient story. Her hide and the skin of rock marked into one. She’ll appear dead. She may not even respond if you hiss in her ear. Poke her with a stick. Call and call all the names you think might belong to her.

Down inside stone, she won’t remember her own, if she ever had such a thing at all.

Maybe you will be there when ice thins on the morning blade, one drip then another feeding the softening soil. Light will crack the fissure one sliver at a time, heating the blackened place just enough to warm her. Make her itch. Remind her of her hunger.

For this return you can stay or not. Her cardiac thud, once a molten surge, softened to a thrum. Faint. Silent? If you didn’t feel it, you may have forgotten to try. No one ever falls away completely. Parting is illusion. Not she from flesh, not she from the constellation where she has pressed her forever form upon sky. Not she from you.

The stirring will come. It is not Lazarus. Neither miracle nor magic. Maybe not even worth the wait. The pause and rise are mere season and the arrival of an inevitable next.

Dumb beast. Just as the next generation of cicadas hatch below and make their way up to song and longing, she’ll trundle off. Not even a hash mark at the mouth when she passes. Time may not have. Maybe she was never there at all.

Except for a hush. A smell. Except for an impression in the gathered dust.
 

Divorce, Growing Up

Mr. Sandman

O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

–  W. H. Auden

I do the worst harm to the one I love the most. The dreams crafted with crayon and glitter begin to crack. His flavor sours. His voice slips off key. I fidget under my sheets and try to sink back to the breathless place. I lift my eyes to the receding ceiling, carve a hole, and slip out without looking back.
 
Flight and stars. I careen over rooftops. This works until it doesn’t. Gravity always wins.
 
Nearing the middle of life, only now I am waking up?
 
In the half-place where I still squeeze my eyes shut and cling, I feel the grit against my shoulder, against my scuffed shin. I finally achieved flight, and yet I lay there with my wings limp on the earth and think, That’s it? That’s all it is?
 
He will never be better than the man he is right now. I am what I have become. It is this, not the next thing. Not the up there, out there, over there. Not door number two, three, or four.
 
This. Right here.
 
The moon does not bend to us. The night is not a swelling sea. He does not tuck jewels under my ribs. I do not hear the choir sing.
 
Does anyone else here hate the lover for this betrayal?
 
The abuse of disabuse. We are all battered. Notions no one ever named out loud (silver sprites and dappled light) reveal themselves as a worn felt hat. A trick deck. All face cards, an overabundance of Queens of Hearts.
 
Enchantment lingers, the coin tossed 100 times until the bets are off. Until the game is over. Forfeit? No, just bored with it. The aged ones are ready to move on. Their loves are pedestrian arrangements. We believed ourselves so much better. I will never speak so cruelly to my beloved. We will never sit in opposite corners of the house chasing down our solitary pleasures.
 
We believed ourselves truer.
 
At least I did.
 
Do I admit it now?
 
I hid the third dimension. He was satisfied with the point and line and didn’t lift the corner to feel around underneath. I tilted. He failed.
 
The angles were off. The roof gave way.
 
I re-wrote history. I razed the love I must (surely) have once occupied. I used a wrecking ball. Then an x-acto knife.
 
I claimed it was the wind and poor calculation.
 
How could I have possibly believed it would be easier without the lean-to we had erected? What did I think would be here outside our feeble shelter?
 
The fantasy fulfilled? Dreams in flesh at last?
 
Foolish girl. It is just exactly what was there before only without the micrometer of certainty to keep the storms at bay. Only with a lot more toil. Only truth (for what it’s worth).
 

And surely in time we will start to confront the failures of understanding and the disenchantment familiarity brings. In time we will face the knowledge of what we can never, never expect from one another.

– Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses

Waking up is not without pain. Nevertheless, raw skin and all, it beats the alternative.
 

Children, Happy Days, Parenting

Happy 100 Days: 38

When I picked Tee and Bug up from the airport on Friday night, the kiddo was on the brink of tears. In the car, I finally pried it out of him. “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow,” he sobbed.
 
“Oh, buddy,” I smiled. “It’s Friday today. Do you know what that means?”
 
“No.” He was rubbing his eyes. The flight was five hours from Seattle.
 
“It means the whole weekend is still ahead of us. You were just away for a week of Thanksgiving vacation, and we have two more days before school.”
 
“Two WHOLE DAYS?”
 
And so it was that this morning, Bug crawled into my bed at 5:54 and told me he had been awake “for hours.” I told him my bed was only available to sleepy people. Funny how quickly he gave in.
 
These little dawn cuddles usually don’t last more than 20 minutes. This morning’s lasted for nearly three hours. We snored there together, right on past sunrise, right on past the honking geese and the snoofling dog. We had the yummiest, snooziest lie-in we have had in all of the six years Bug has been on this planet. When we finally roused ourselves, we stayed put, smooshing and talking about dreams and such for the other half of the morning.
 
It was a day of firsts, apparently. The sleep-in kicked off one of the most therapeutic home-bound Sundays on record. I didn’t even have weekends like this before Bug was born. We did watercolors and coloring books, made soft pretzels from scratch, built a railroad station out of legos complete with a border guard and a city park. We both enjoyed completely unplanned sleep-where-you-fall naps sometime around mid-day. We stayed in our pajamas until nearly 3:00pm, and we only dressed then so we would be warm enough to romp around the playground in the afternoon sun.
 
We never got in the car. We didn’t spend a penny. We only argued once, and it was finished in minutes with a hug and dinner.
 
Somewhere in there, I finally got around to creating a homework nook where Bug can plop down when we arrive home from school. This has been one of those lingering tasks I have deftly avoided for two months. I knew it would be helpful for his focus but I could not summon the energy to take it on. It is not easy to find a place on the first floor that isn’t crowded with stuff. Today, high on rest and vacation ease, tackling this project was a breeze. Bug now has a corner of the dining room complete with a bin of school supplies, two chairs, and a clear spot at our underused table. As soon as it was unveiled, Bug sat right down and went to work, covering four loose-leaf pages in pencil drawings.
 
Just before bath time, we took out a big piece of construction paper and some markers. We wrote “Bug’s Homework Station.” Bug decided it should be decorated with “all bright colors,” so we covered it with polka dots and lollipops. He took great care in taping the sign to the side of the plastic drawers on the table where his crayons and glue sticks now live.
 
While Bug was simmering in bubbles up to his chin, I sat on a stool at the side of the tub and watched. A little playmobile girl was fighting through the “gloop,” trapped and choking under the surface. His right hand was a giant sea-creature that would rise up through the froth and swoop down on her, “Chomp! Oh, bonk, argh my head!” Trying and trying again to catch her, the hand-monster was foiled every time.
 
It has been years since a day this good. It has also been years since I have seen my son so clearly. For this extended moment, I was quiet enough in my own head that I could look at Bug and imagine the world as it is to him. What a tilt of the glass! It is like stopping on the busy sidewalk where you walk every day, lying down, and looking up through the buildings and trees. The purpose of every angle, even the ticking of the clock and the throbbing of the human traffic, all shift into new alignment. Sometimes it takes an intentional pause to see things as they really are. In fact, such a pause may be the only thing that clears the gaze.
 
As he soaked, I felt myself peel open and marvel at the singular experience of the boy inside Bug’s skin and mind.
 
He looked up from his bath battle and stared back at me a beat longer than usual.
 
“What?” he asked. “Why do you look like that?”
 
I smiled. “Because I lo-o-o-ve you.”
 
He shrugged. “So?”
 
“And you’re my beautiful boy.”
 
Arhh!” Another splash. The hand monster was about to break the surface again. The playmobile girl tried to swim away. “The gloop is around my throat and I can’t breathe!”
 
Neither could I.
 
For one fleeting moment, I understood the magnitude of my luck. It feels like waking up.
 

Co-Parenting, Growing Up, Happy Days

Happy 100 Days: 44

Rest comes easily now. Finally, after all these years, the dreams are sweet.

This weekend, I met a new someone deep down in the valley sleep. He was a young man with red-blonde hair and a curious, distracted gaze. He clutched a hardcover book. Maybe he is Bug in 20 years, maybe the whisper of a companion I will someday greet. Maybe he is just that friend of mine I am learning to be.

We sat near each other on a deck built over a creek and the water burbled just beneath our feet. He opened the and the corner of it touched my knee but he was too absorbed to remember to turn it towards me. We spoke our breathless dance about a text neither of us quite understood. I let my fingertips fall on the back of his hand where it grazed the page. He did not reach back for me. I was happy regardless. He turned the page. We talked on.

Proximity can sate hunger. So, it seems, can distance.

I woke up smiling even though he was gone.

Continue reading “Happy 100 Days: 44”