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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

Shattered Glass

Sometimes shattered glass still cuts my brain

and you see me wince like the child I was

when I went running through the tall grass

with snakes and ticks and spiders

who made better company

than the venomous tongues in the kitchen

 

Resolution was a closed door

and three young girls

talking about tomorrow behind it

 

Peaceful were the days when I foraged for

shredded cheese and ketchup sandwiches

and raced the dogs to the creek

 

Heavenly were the days when I visited

my friend in the trailer park

and we sang Shania on the trampoline

while her mom made us macaroni

(she always asked if I wanted seconds)

 

Now I nod along to J.D. Vance

but you can’t understand where we’ve been

and how hard it is to throw away the white trash

that we’ve collected in heart-heavy landfills,

our memories like landmines exploding

with a mere whiff of mildew

or the sound of shattered glass on linoleum floors

 

8-16-19

 

 

 

Speak Up

how do I talk to a river

when I am an ocean,

pushing and pulling,

swelling but never

reaching the mouth

 

you are constant and strong

most days I am quiet and calm,

but some days I rip through

my own flesh to break free of the tide

 

how could you ever understand

the storm that bites my heels

or why I never left it at the riverbanks

where I sought any semblance

of love or strength or presence

to stifle my little voice

 

I thought I was preserving it

but I think I may have lost it

somewhere in a prayer

 

so how do I talk to a river

now that I am faithless

 

7-25-19

Sober

The sauvignon blanc fills his mouth and
his eyes burn blue and gray and bright
as the kitchen’s light

He crafts his incite like a carpenter,
filling my ears with the sawdust of a previous life,
but all I can hear is “A Case of You”
And I finally understand what Joni meant

I have always collected rain water
but I have never stood out in a storm
with my mouth and eyes wide open,
watching my future light up the sky
in shades of blue and gray

I have never been this sober

and I have never been so in love with the rain

7-9-19

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