Can’t Talk Yet

Sometimes, World Poetry Day is missed because of brutal fucking ignorant mental illness lapses. Anxiety and depression. The pneumonia was easier, gang. By a mile.

Listening to confessions from a mother

And songs respecting the struggle of abortion

I cried

At least the baby didn’t die

She said

I smiled for the first time

In miles

She’s been in

The car with

Me

Us

Half of

Gone

Many times

Can’t talk about it

Not to someone

Being so nice

To me

An indicator

Of true illness

Doing it again

Misplacing comfort and kindness

Where I want spark

Two lengths of jumper cables

Battery leads corroded

Green

A color I knew

Wearing it in the crowd

Staring the stage

Wanting my own light

Coveting conversation

Forsaken for

Hugs that don’t need feet

Those come from both

Sets of Arms

I’m told

Cemented you chipped me

Not enough to be broken

But enough to be surrounded

By ceramic pieces

Mosaic

Disconnected enough

That every edges finds

Your soles

When you get out of bed

In the morning.

Can you sprain your

Diaphragm crying?

Or is that just

Heartache

Setting up housekeeping?

Rattling pans

And nailing down

Carpet

Planning to stay

Until the foundation

Gives

Tucked with wool

Set aside from

The destruction

Handed gently

Handled

Purpled with

Neglect

Color of a fresh

Bruise

Waiting for the

Ease of pain

That comes with

Greens and yellows.

Twitching to a

Touch

Melting to a

Mouth

Stealing comfort

Even though

It’s freely given.

Some things

Can’t talk about.

Not yet.

K

One

Word

Sound

A

Syl

La

Ble

Yep

K

Meh

So

Much

Hurt

In

One

Small

Space

Once

Said

Hurt

Back

Won’t

Hear

More

Ears

Shut

Heart

Closed

Strike

First

Save

Your

Soul

Can’t

Be

Left

Said

First

Felt

Most

Left

Last

Hurt

Far

More

Teeth

Shut

Key

Hit

Send

Push

Down

Don’t

Push

Deep

Press

Hard

Not

Made

For

Such

Force

It

Comes

Out

In

The

End

Up

Yours

How

Can

One

Punch

Break

It

All

So

Much

To

Feel

Say

Scream

Cry

Gut

Wrench

Howl

Reach

Out

Give

Up

Take

In

Fuck

Off

Get

Over

Learn

New

Hope

High

Risk

All

Go

In

Weak

Come

Back

Strong

Here

For

The

Long

Road

Wrong

Turns

Right

And

All

The

Love

But

All

There

Is

To

Give

Is

K

What I Didn’t

What I Didn’t

Learn to spell believer

Change to os to as for feminine

Include Ferdinand with Isabella
but that may have been intentional

That’s what I didn’t do in fifth grade today

Didn’t distinguish capability from intention
work from talent
strength from indulgence

He sees what I didn’t
make dinner
wash my hair
clean the crumbs

What’s the worse didn’t
That I didn’t

He can learn
because he watches
what I didn’t
and see his same
didn’t

And then he does
Lie in bed with a book
That others think
Is meant for another

Didn’t like I didn’t

He senses my shaking
and knows when I’m crying
even though
I like to pretend bathroom walls
are thicker than they are

Didn’t stop like I didn’t

He doesn’t want my reminders
but it’s my fault
when I don’t give them

Didn’t stand up because I didn’t

I watch him parent
what I didn’t
I try to take the blame
that he shouldn’t

I didn’t enough

I hope he knows it was my didn’t

Not his

Are You Okay?

It’s the pricks you aren’t expecting that slide in the deepest and hurt the most. If only we could get a 1-2-3 and a chance to close our eyes before the shock.

What is it about the tangential kindness of a friend, or in tonight’s case, a stranger daring to ask,

“Are you okay?”

that results in an absolute torrent of tears?

It’s a fucked up concept. Left alone to our thoughts we can compose and keep the dangling, rabid parts from flinging off and clinging to the nearest sticking place. But the moment a human wants to interact, sharing the core connection of that humanness, the spackle crumbles off the form and the holes beneath are exposed.

But then, I wonder about the humanity of someone who asks those questions. I’m afraid people are not that compassionate and selfless. I look inside and I know I’m not. And then I wonder about the tarnish on my own soul because I ask, am I that jaded that I assume most people are usually not okay, so asking that seems redundant and sardonic?

That’s probably not true either.

I probably do think people are okay most of the time. I see them calm in public. Or laughing at a funny, unexpected turn instead of breaking down. I covet that like there’s a tip waiting for me at the end of the night if I do it well. I wonder, how do they do it? How are they okay? What’s the fucking secret?

There is no secret.

It’s not as entry-level as sharp end/blunt end. The people I stand beside on the sidewalk when I step away in a panic, are not complete messes or totally together.

Many of us are not okay and hanging on by a thread and hearing, “Are you okay?”, is the bolt undone that unleashes the mudslide of messy, dirty feelings.

No one like to be caught covered in messy, dirty feelings. They make you cold and wet and then the car is a wreck after the drive home.

What the fix? The plastic poncho and umbrella that keep us from getting splattered? Is it honesty? As simple as, “No, I’m not okay?”, and then sharing and sitting with that icky closeness. Or should we pretend it all way?

I don’t know.

Yes, lovely girl with the fantastic hair. I was not okay last night. Yes, you are compassionate beyond what my brain can wrap around for asking. I diverted and reverted and maneuvered away from me. In a surprising turn, having to convince you I was okay, when I wasn’t, actually nudged me into the direction of okay.

No one could have been more surprised.

I’m not great with surprises.

Now, I still had to keep my routine. Practicing gratefulness. Remembering non-comparison. Trying to self-affirm. All about as useful as they ever are.

But it gave me something else to think about for a while.

And that was okay.

Drops

Traveling with family is soggy business.

It can refresh like spring shower. Urge forth blossoms and such.

More likely, it saturates.

The days drench you, and by nightfall, you’re ready to be wrung our because the weight of their water is so pervasive.

That’s horrible.

Yes.

I know.

I’m lucky.

I’m…

It’s ungrateful and selfish.

But it’s as real as the rain that keeps all of you in the room.

Because the stress of urban navigation and a morning of nostalgia and stairs wasn’t bonding enough.

Backwards, down into it,

With the teen who isn’t

And the grandmother who won’t.

In front but not in charge

SO GET OFF MY BACK!

Sorry.

I’m sorry.

Just…

I’ll figure it out.

Okay.

Wrong.

Let me try again.

Why won’t it stop raining?

It’s Always Something

Like many women of my rapidly advancing age, I loved Gilda Radner. I watched old SNL skits on VHS, while eating popcorn with my dad. He and Gilda helped me learn what funny was. 

When I later became a reader, I devoured her memoir “It’s Always Something”, probably still while eating popcorn. The book was funny and heartbreaking. A passage always stuck with me. 

When Gilda was advancing down the floor, dancing with cancer, she told of lying in bed at night with Gene Wilder. She relayed her memory of once again crying, being scared and needing someone to hold her and make it all okay. 

She revealed, to my teenage disgust, that on one dark and lonely night, Gene could no longer do those things. He too was tired. He was scared. He needed someone to rub his own cheek with words of solace, and make it all okay. 

How dare he! I spat and eye rolled and huffed as only a disappointed privileged teen can. How could he ever consider not being there to the very last curl of his hair for Gilda Radner!

I didn’t get it. 

Now I do. 

I watched my own dad die of cancer. I watched my mother care for him as he slowly did. My father needed the physical care. The mental care. 

But so did my mother. 

It’s not easy to be the caregiver or the partner. I know that. Sometimes, it really is easier to be the patient. As hard and callous as that sounds. 

I watched her do it before for him. Before cancer. She laid with him through anxiety and mental illness. I know there were nights that she didn’t have any more to give. When she was bone-tired from her feet to the end of pin-straight hair. When she needed someone to tell her it would be okay. 

There was no one. 

Last night, I lay there like my dad. 

I was the one hurting. 

Again. 

And I was the one who asked to be held and comforted and coddled. 

Again. 

And I never thought for a moment to consider if the one I was asking might not need some care, too. 

They did. 

I forget. I avoid. I neglect. Not on purpose. Not at all. But because while anxiety and depression hurts. And hurts. And then hurts even more. To have your own brain and body rebel and scream lies. It hurts. I was too busy hurting to see. And remember. 

It hurts to be the one watching. 

It hurts to give and give and never get any return. To reaffirm and encourage and try to lift up someone who seems to only want to drag themselves as far down in the pits as their claws will carry them. 

And that’s what I do. What many of us with unquiet minds do. And sometimes we bring the ones holding us down with us. 

Because it is always something. It’s work. It’s a kid. It’s a bill. It’s a failure. It’s a successs that’s not success enough. It’s a wonderful weekend of love and magic that your brain tells you to fight against for no good reason, only that you can’t believe it actually happened. 

Today, I want to remember. To be thankful for the love I take that is so freely given. Again and again. Even when I don’t see or believe it. To see, really see when someone is watching me and maybe hurting too. I want to go into the pit alone if I need, but alone. And I want to have strong, free arms to grab hold, to keep them from going into the same dark. 

That’s what love is. 

Being there. 

Seeing. 

Believing. 

Remembering every little something.

Sitting Out

 

Sitting Out

Hello, Friend

I see you’ve come around again.

Was beginning to wonder if you

hadn’t forgotten your way here.

 

But I knew you’d remember.

I remember.

That time in fifth grade, when we first met,

when I wrapped you around my waist,

tight and knotted.

Because I was afraid I’d forget.

To hold in, to hide,

to stay the way I was,

when I was small and good.

And I remember when that boy,

the nice one,

wanted to steal his dad’s car

just to try and help.

He didn’t.

He couldn’t.

I remember.

Trying to jump off the chair.

Trying to hide them beneath my socks.

Trying to hide, and then hurry.

Trying to hide within a story,

because you can’t tell that tale

the first time,

if you ever want there to be a second.

All it took was a second.

Trying to fit into a box that wouldn’t have me.

Letting people fit inside that didn’t really want me.

 

I remember trying.

I remember fighting.

I remember giving up.

 

It’s easy when you’re here, friend.

We know each other.

Our cells know the steps of the dance

and we move together,

without needing music.

Because we’ve rounded this room together

for a long time.

And I don’t know how to move

without you.

 

But I wish I could.

 

Because you’re not good, friend.

You’re not a good partner in this

collapse of two.

Because only one of us ever falls.

 

You’re possessive and clawing,

You take over my soul and I can’t breathe.

When you fill my head with your thoughts

of not good enough,

of she’s better,

of he doesn’t love you,

of you should just give up,

 

I can’t hear the music

and despite rehearsal

I can’t remember the steps.

 

I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know where I’m supposed to be.

The spotlight is blinding.

 

I’ve lost so many days with you.

Lost people.

Lost myself.

 

And every time you leave,

the sun comes back,

I say, no, not again.

Because the gloaming

might be dark and cold

but it’s honest; and at least

it puts the shadows where you can see them.

But when you knock, you bring a

a flare of bright and heat.

So hot it chills.

So cold,

I answer,

swept into your arms again.

Sweating in an icy room,

being asked if I have a fever.

 

Because I know these false-caring arms,

I know they are not arms that hold,

to return life.

But ones that suffocate, to bring

Stopped breath.

And then

nothing.

 

So yes, hello Friend.

I see you’ve come around again.

I hear the music coming from behind you,

and I see you holding out your hand,

asking for another turn,

around our wooden floor.

nicked with heel marks,

worn smooth from years

of spins and shuffles and falls.

 

I’m turning off the sound,

even though it’s still rattling in my brain.

Probably always will.

And my feet will tap

to the ghost tunes of

the waltzes I can’t forget,

that left me gasping,

tired,

and bleeding.

 

But I can’t let you in.

I’m not dancing tonight.

 

I’m standing,

arm across the threshold,

giving myself a chance

to stand.

For me.

With me.

Willing to say goodbye.

For a chance at

an awkward, unsteady,

but real

hello.

 

To a life without you,

Friend,

For a life with me.

 

(Taking a break from the novel to consider my next work of a poetry collection. Stay tuned. And of course, the book Drowning Above Water still lives at Amazon.)