Lean in

I’m so fucking happy

You’re not with me?

Here’s a joke to get you there

I’ll laugh the hardest

It makes it easier for you

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch my shifting eyes

I’ll laugh until I cry

I’m always envious

Of those who voice their pain

Who have no trouble bleeding

Each beat of heart

An arterial spray

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch hands limp at sides

This is just where they hide

I think—no…I know that if I start

I won’t stop until totally drained

Ready to be propped up

A formal way to hide

A much needed transfusion

Of formaldehyde

But lean in

Listen hard

Hands balled tight

I don’t even know how deep

The nails will go

I know there are limits

But is it a hardline?

Or does it shift by the moment?

Is it a mirage from heat off skin?

The glistening always moving away

With every step forward

But lean in

Listen hard

Capacity to reinvent identity

Means either all lies or nothing but truth

You can only describe the unknown

With commonplace words and terms

So I plumb this oubliette

With the span of your arms as rule

Because I could only ever trust mine

When I matched another’s tip to tip

But lean in

Listen hard

Because the mirrored fragments I steal

I give back with the only fingerprints

That truly promise identity

Lean in

Listen hard

Park Bench

Where’ve you gone?

The sun’s arc

Has traced my decline

Splintered thoughts

Paint worn reveals grain

Rusting wrought iron

The tears you shed

Long evaporated

Are now replaced

With frost’s steely touch

The part of me

That still holds chin high

Is patinated with jogger sweat

But the words stand testament

People still wondering to this day

What cornerstone of a community

What deeds did you do

To be immortalized on this bench

Looking out over this lake

But you were no luminary

You didn’t found any company

You were so much more than that

You were my father

You were my friend

And someday I’ll pass on

But it’ll still be you they think of

In moments of well needed rest

Grass brushing at ankles

Dragonflies darting to and fro

In loving memory

Institutionalization

Institutionalization is the couch indent

It’s feeling so at home in our thoughts

We miss our depression when in remission

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

It’s why so many of us finally give in

Just as the right medication kicks in

It’s too much too fast

It’s questioning it all from the cocoon

Then finally getting our wings

Only to fly high enough to plummet

Don’t get me wrong there are bars

But the day comes when they change

They no longer hold us in

But keep the world out

It’s that movie where prisoners are freed

Walking out into the sun they are blinded

The light actually causes physical pain

It’s more than just getting used to

It’s more like getting dependent on

We desperately need a sense of control

In this chaotic world

Whether we find it in bed in a dark room

In the bottom bunk in a 6 by 8 cell

At a mindless, unappreciative job

We know exactly what to expect

There are very few variables

We are the water that Bruce Lee speaks of

Desperately looking for a dusty cup

That’s rarely removed from the shelf

Maybe it’s all shades of grey

The varying degrees of sadness

Before we step out

Into the blinding light

We should take the trip slowly

From the depths of the pitch sea bottom

In a kind of decompression chamber

That trickles the light in, in degrees

So by the time we breathe fresh air

We won’t recoil in pain from the sun

This birthing in dimly lit room in a hot tub

Life is harsh…take it easy on yourself

And ease into it

What can I say about Love?

What can I say about love

That hasn’t already been written

On the walls of gas station bathrooms?

Dispense with the regalities

Drop the pomp and window dressing

Love is nothing more than transactional

We trade time for promises of happiness

We give up pieces of ourselves

Hoping reciprocity makes us whole

All of this we do at great peril

There are no fucking guarantees

We diminish with every dance

We are decaying isotopes

You can calculate my age within seconds

Simply by measuring the holes in my heart

Love is just a painkiller

Heart holes grow larger

Euphoric you press ever onward

You’d think the dance would be aerobic

But there you’re farthest from the truth

Asphyxiating cells scream and die

Your lungs burn as if on fire

You claw at your throat

Hoping to taste youth’s freedoms

How far back do we need to go

To be before death stood at horizon?

When the time we could give was endless

It’s here where marrow no longer hums

Your body a tuning fork looking

For harmonic resonance in others

I know for certain that we die alone

This tragedy pervades everything we do

We hold hands just so there’s a letting go

But at least we don’t walk alone

The cadence of time marching

In lockstep with our decay

I know the gift of time is unrivaled

Except for the moments you are given

It’s not continuous but a string of tableaus

Those times you said you could die

Die in their arms, and you’d be happy

Or, when wishing a moment was infinite

These moments are the last to flicker out

The brain performing a fireworks finale

Fingers intertwined blazing in inky skies

Then denouement

And that is something

Perhaps everything

Somnambulant Explorer

I’m investing in Tesla to test out my toughness

I divested in diaries to skip out on dowries

I spun all the muster and fuss of the spinster

I’m a mister who missed her so I could ration my minutes

Fingers outstretched I fetched the gold band from an old hand that lingers

Searching for answers I’m lurching at dancers

This middle earth dearth was worth all this curse

I’m resigned to decline the divine if it means less time with my kind

I try to master my mind faster, a spell caster lost in time, a bastard

I’m just a sleepwalker, a mumbling talker, who dreams of being spoiled, you see, living off book royalties

“Hey, beautiful!”

It’s all too easy to boil it all down

To take a lifetime of experiences

And throw it away like a grocery list

Not even the items anymore

Not bread, milk and eggs

Just a piece of crumpled paper

It’s easier to throw away like that

Junkie, tweaker, or drunk

All ways of seeing a person

Seeing them as crumpled paper

Ready for the trash can

I thought this way, like many

The path of least resistance

It hurts knowing I’d been that way

That I’d given up on people in need

My moment of awakening was gentle

At first

Then it hit like a hammer to the chest

We had become foster parents

A shirttail relative in need

We’d care for her little girl

While she worked on herself

How could she?

Was the question that burned in my head

I took the human away from her

With every thought

I boiled her down

Then, when I could throw her away

This little two-and-a-half-year-old

Beautiful, cheery, little girl

Upon meeting me for the first time

She reached up

Held my face in her hands

Her tiny little hands

Moving in little circles on my cheeks

She looked me in the eyes

A smile of beautiful acceptance

Beaming from her face

And in her tiny, cooing voice

She said, “Hey, beautiful!”

She said this three times.

After the third time I’d realized

She was telling me what she’d heard

Probably every day of her life

From her mother

That’s when the hammer hit my chest

Her mother wasn’t crumpled paper

She was more than I could imagine

Most important of all things

She was…is a loving mother

With this painful realization

I came to understand

All peoples with substance use disorders

Are worthy of our kindness

Of our acceptance

Of our love

It was a painful realization because

Because I had to look myself in the mirror

I had to weigh myself

To see how I’d come up short

I’m still working on me

Trying to be better than who I was

Day by day

I smiled and walked outside

After she chanted the incantation

The third time

And I cried

Just as I cry now

In the remembering

“Hey, beautiful!”

We’re the very words I needed to hear

Whether you’re fighting battles

That no one knows about

Or you’re following the easy path

Know that you are worthy of change

And that you’re beautiful

“Hey, beautiful!”

Cornhusk Doll

I’ve been thinking about childhood

Those fleeting puffs of foggy exhalation

Rising from a deer’s muzzle just before it darts

The what brought me heres

The what made me whats

The what I bought marred me where ats

Cheese grater logic

My childhood was not unusual

Don’t we always think this?

We could’ve been daddy’s little helper

Grabbing the shovel off the back of the truck

Listening to it scrape against the road

The smell of a bloated raccoon settling in our lungs

And on that lonely, country road

We defined the word normal

And perhaps, no not perhaps, but with certainty

We defined ourselves

It wasn’t until we made friends

Until we had sleepovers

Until they took us to their places of worship

That we learned the raccoons we carried in us were different

That some heard the tinkling of a shop keeper’s bell

Not a scraping shovel

And the tinkling brings the flavor of ice cream to mouth

While others heard the slick sound of leather

Gliding through belt loops

This brings a different, salty, coppery flavor to mouth

In books we learn that despite how different we appear

We are much more alike

We hug those broken characters

And in doing we hug ourselves

Happiness and joy have faces

Sadness and pain do not

One is photographed

The other is smothered beneath down pillows

Living your whole life allergic to feathers made you that unlikely to fly

So it’s in these exchanges

Sleepovers, books, comparing and contrasting

That we give face to our tenderness

Despite what mischievousness may come

Hold the gaze and be ready to embrace

Healing is necessary

Like a clean road, without death’s reminders, is necessary

Even if just in stretches

You can’t sustain the same facial expression forever

Except in death and in memory

And in photos

Don’t disassociate

Give it a face and a name

Anchor it in thought and emotion’s hue

Take ownership of the repercussions

Give it a face

[On one of my many trips to the reservation of my ancestors, my clean air fund, my gentle reminder that you can both be loved and feel just slightly out-of-place, as we half-breeds often become vaguely aware of, I was told not to draw a face on the cornhusk doll I was creating. It was a shared moment between me and my beautiful, Native-complete cousins, that suddenly, taking on a list due to course change or the water getting in, looked askew or askance. Don’t give it a face or it will get into mischief. You’ll find the doll in places you didn’t put it. This undoubtedly bothered me. The spookiness of it. Now, as I’m thinking of childhood, the elements of of it make me uneasy. Children. Faceless dolls. A clear warning against mischievousness. I suspect it’s settled into my middle aged frame. Trace minerals that either lend to stronger or weaker bones. I’d like to think I secreted a face on that cornhusk doll. As much for me as for you, both then and now]

Overlay

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Would you believe me

If I told you

The song playing in the other room

Just faint enough to be imperceptible

Will color your entire day

That it’s set your head askew

It’s an overlay

The weather in the novel you’re reading

Is an outward projection

Of the main character’s inner turmoil

The howling wind

The driving rain

The rainbow that sometimes follows

Your subconscious will hum that song

As your own weather system moves in

An unwitting participant

An actor following stage directions

Every night the play is slightly different

Every day a different song plays

In the other room

Just out of earshot

Each day, unaware you hum these tunes

An ear worm

It burrows into the minds around you

They begin to weather parallel storms

Manifestation

Virus

Synaptic transference

Daisy chain

Bucket brigade

The buckets are filled with tears

Of joy

Of sorrow

Of acceptance

They taste like the song

If you want to be the change

Get up and go to that other room

Change the station

To a song that stokes your flame

Of hope

Of empathy

Of love

No amount of buckets could douse

Then go about your day

Humming

Until the whole world resonates with you

Until the ripples reach the darkest corners

Change the station and change the world

I miss

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I miss the younger me

The weightless unencumbered me

The carefree and aimless me

I want to hide beneath the weeping willow

A nature-made fortress…of solitude 

Where, like Superman, I flew

Thin branches wound around my bone-thin forearms 

Leaping against the pull of gravity

A mind that didn’t carry sorrow 

Or guilt 

Or servitude to the almighty dollar 

A helium balloon in the clouds

Tethered to unslumped shoulders

How I soared 

I bent spoons with my mind

Slayed dragons with vorpal sticks

I worshipped the mother in this church 

Light shining through stained glass leaves 

Many moons later

Barely able to lift head from pillow

I’ve sidestepped into a different reality 

Where I no longer felt like I fit and I made sense

This alternate timeline

After 12 hours of contractions

I find myself sentenced

Now I’m a contraction at the end of a sentence 

It is what it’s 

Pendulum

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The pendulum swings

From pearl to gastrolith

I feel it’s weight with each shifting

In this damned uncomfortable chair

When it’s a pearl

It’s a story

A captivating tale that sets me apart

Sets me on the path of being

Actualization

When it’s a gastrolith

It’s still a story

A forgettable pablum not worth noting 

Securing my place of anonymity 

Forgotten 

The weight, either way, is there

It’s gravity a nagging reminder 

Often paralyzing 

There are times, though

When the bits of wire and rusted nails

Break free from the ingested magnet

Where all the world’s pain collects

These bits of detritus regurgitated 

Coming out through a torn throat

In bloody, mucosal, pyroclastic eruptions

There are times, though

The body feels warmth from the insoluble 

It gently encases it in layers of nacre

Making its expulsion more tolerable 

The vomitus a pictada fucata 

Throat stretching to accommodate 

The goose that lays a mother of pearl egg

In either case, the process is necessary 

Whether avoiding a stomach so full

I beach myself on distant, unknown shores

Having broken the elemental barrier 

Born again, but into desiccation 

Or the calcium that makes up the nacre

Is cancerous in high concentrations 

The body evicting a deadly tenant

A baby gestating too long

In either case, the process is creation

In minima

Like a young child staring in awe

The first time they make

Crying when the toilet’s flushed 

Or the first piece of art 

That makes the side of the fridge

There is value in the letting go

Not the reckless abandon of encopresis 

But the satiation of a need

The building of an edifice of confidence 

But just like the microdosing of dopamine 

It’s a bandaid for a puncture wound

True healing

A resurrection, not just a seance

A real fucking dose, not just a bump

I have to stop hiding

I have to  take the leap

But I daydream about skydiving 

And am afraid to fall

In the end, the true fear is failure

That if I cut myself open

If I dig this weight I carry out of my guts

If it’s DOA

Then I am empty, a shell, a testa

And where do I go from there?

I only have one recurring dream

And one ever-present nightmare