Shortness of breath

four walls

one breath

circulating endlessly

 

I can’t catch it,

even in good health

 

maybe it’s knowing

that you will die

that I will die

that someone I know will die

 

maybe it’s the rent

or utilities

or hard rain falling

on the bedroom window

when I’m nearly asleep

 

maybe it’s knowing

that we have no way out

 

you pace in cirlces

until the vinyl is worn

 

you wallow in nostalgia

until your cheeks are wet

and you tell me you texted her

because you worry

 

but you don’t worry about PPE

or the local nursing home

or the diabetic who raised me

 

you worry about her,

and ask “how is business?”

while she’s on a date,

vacationing in another state

 

as if there was never a virus

and we were never a factor

 

then you ask me why I’m quiet

and I say the oxygen is thin

(I want to share it, not fight for it)

 

3-29-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once was

Cells pumping in veins

like Texas oil,

thick and black as night,

red as waning sunlight

 

then the peace of disappearing hope

and the stagnant warmth of stillness

 

It hangs on me like dead skin–

an extra layer of once was,

the dichotomy of rain and rust,

and everything that should be

but isn’t

 

and everything that will be

but shouldn’t

 

01-30-20

Optical Illusion

The sun glints in the rear view

and spotlights a trash bag in the back seat

 

My eyes are pierced by a flash of white

and I mistake the bag for an intricate cobweb,

a creature’s hard-fought work of art

 

When my pupils adjust, it’s only plastic

and I wonder if I could ever see beauty

where there is garbage,

if I could ever look back and see boxes

filled with treasure and laughter

instead of mismatched socks and uncertainty

 

I’ve learned how to pack properly

how to fold clothes neatly

how to separate the pots from the pans

how to throw out tired utensils

but I can’t throw out the tired memories

no matter how much they exhaust me

 

I heard once that men are compartmentalizers.

They can tuck information into filing cabinets

and store them in the recesses of their brains

and control when anything is retrieved

 

But I am a [insert derogatory reference to psyche] woman

so when I see a cardboard box, my neurons scream

“abort, abort!” and suddenly I am 8 years old

and everyone is screaming

and we have two weeks to leave

 

and I don’t know where we’re going

 

and I don’t know if we’ll be together again.

 

People tell me not to look back

as if it’s a matter of fact,

as if it’s a decision you can make

even when the sun is behind you

and you can’t see what’s ahead.

 

Then and now and later are a blur

of here and there and fact and fiction,

but I finally realize it’s an optical illusion,

so I’m not running away.

 

01-06-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard Work

Robin Hood, the wayfaring thief that fed the hungry,

has disappeared like the humanity

that prompted him in the first place

Friar Tuck tried to save the poor,

but the rich have always claimed

their full pockets are God’s blessings

Hard Work pays off, they say,

and pays no taxes

Hard Work pays no mind

to the misty eyes of the beggar

or the sex worker or the addict

Because Jesus made his choice

If only they could see,

Jesus was more of a Robin Hood

than a billionaire

 

11-19-19

 

 

 

Astral Projection

Dancing, black silhouette behind a snow-soaked pane

A tree or a sprite, maybe,

It’s hard to make out through her wings–

like mossy green growths from her chair–

brushing the walls in narrow halls,

trailing her scent of clove and citrus

with traces of glitter

 

when she sings, the trees bend in half

and my heart swells against my ribs

until we’re all pleasantly uncomfortable,

inside and out

 

For a moment I remember the first time

I heard Tori Amos while reading up on time travel

and I feel myself astral projecting

beyond the dark strings and siren notes

 

No one notices me flying before I catch myself

staring at the shadow outside, still dancing

 

11-11-19

 

 

Clean

Shhhhh

I can hear him now

 

He knows what he’s spinning,

but fragility is a master crafter

and he is her apprentice

 

He tiptoes on eight legs

and argues that he is complex,

but I don’t think so

 

We all keep secrets in the bathtub

next to the soap

so when we cast silken nets

and late night texts,

we can clean what we catch

 

Anyway, stoking the fire

is better than burning bridges

and social media is just a pleasantry

 

So he reaches with each limb

to keep his web from crumbling,

but what’s left of our nest

has already fallen

 

You see, some secrets grow up

to be big black holes

and I won’t be sucked

into someone else’s mess

 

10/22/19

 

Watching

the dry leaves dance,
but the earth stands still

 

a hesitation

 

like one last squeeze of Mother’s hand
before taking the teacher’s

while the fog is crisp
and the sun is soft,
the mornings drag
like stale cigarettes
in a prison guard’s mouth,

 

watching

 

as the world falls,
she soaks in hot springs,
shedding summer’s robe
and painting in brilliant
gold and then white

only for you to stain her canvas
with fumes and false promises

10-03-19

Weightless

Barelegged and braless,

stargazing at the wall,

waiting for

a burning ball of gas

to sweep me into a vacuum

where the air is so thin

that my brain can’t

find it

 

“How does that make you feel”

they would ask

and I’d say “weightless”

 

for now, though, it’s all heavy

and my eyes are falling in

so I can’t see the starlight

 

only a wall

 

9-04-19

 

 

 

 

Another Bird Poem

If I was a bird

I’d fly as effortlessly

as she pulls on his heart

and watch him watch her

through the clouds

 

There are other wings

he’s fixed

but he’s never had to bandage hers

so I wonder sometimes

if he sees me as wounded

or if someday he could look up

and see me

in the same sky

 

8-22-19

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