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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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