Mutually Assured Destruction

You spend half your life with your hands covering your mouth, muffling your screams, regretting the things you’d said

You spend the the other half kneading your knuckles into doughy temples wishing you had said the things you didn’t

We define ourselves in these moments of action or inaction and let those moments of blissful silence pass by unnoticed

We are hurricanes turned inside out, where the storm rages most on the inside and the calm is all around us within reach

Still pushed by high pressure and drawn to low, hoping the decisions we make steer the ship, but they’re ripples in slack sails

What you think is instinct is just the past echoing into the now, the eyes of a bully from school making distrust of a stranger

She spoke an uncommon and long forgotten phrase that the girl who broke your heart once used and flight wins over fight

Your favorite movie is a mystery that you can’t solve, as to why it haunts you, and it’s simply because it makes you feel at home

Your need to make sense of it all, the storm within, instead of just letting the peace inside, is your undoing

Your actions define you less in how you faced the storm and more in how you made every attempt to be the calm

This tug of war has no happy ending, as the very idea of reconciling the out with the in is a fallacy

The mighty ship you think you’re at the helm of is just a leaf set afloat by a summer rainstorm

The best you can hope for from your decisions, those ripples, that they are guided by love

That the inquisitive eyes of a newborn will see beauty in the way your leaf danced just before being sucked into a drain

Hopefully, this creates an indiscernible echo, a future instinct, where they choose love, as well

This dance isn’t self-sacrifice, it’s mutually assured destruction…between the world as you see it and the one you wish to make, but the dance is still beautiful

Of course the world continues on after the leaf enters the storm drain, but it’s changed, and the world as uniquely seen from your perspective, that world…dies with you

I mourn those losses by bringing in the calm and by dancing in the rain

Sun Bleached

Driftwood dreams washed up on foreign shores.

Sun bleached white.

Dismembered ghost limbs bobbing at oblivious heavens.

Would a corked bottle have been kinder?

Tossed is tossed though hope remains.

Acknowledge that part of me.

Jetsam.

That piece I thought you cared for, and in the caring kept it alive.

Atrophied petals drifting away in the slightest breeze.

Not dandelion seeds that dream of fertile purchase, but something destined to decay.

A mere reminder of what was once beautiful.

The red bled away and left a translucent skin…a thumbprint.

But beachcombers sift for shells and I am here in the land you left behind—hollowed.

The pieces that remain, that were always only mine, bring me no joy.

I look at the voids my decay has left and I long to be whole, or to be wholly gone.

I am left with nothing but phantom itching and sun bleached, driftwood dreams, that dance at the periphery.

If you do happen across these pieces of me, these driftwood castaways, fashion them with sinew into an effigy and burn me into ash.

Then I can ascend and serve as a beacon…a cautionary tale.

Roadside Memorial

You’ve seen them after the accident

Flowers, stuffed animals, solar lights

A memorial for someone taken too soon

The glitter of glass on black asphalt

As above, so below

At first these tragic displays overflow

Friends, family, coworkers

Leave crosses, notes, stuffed animals

As time passes it diminishes

Until only a dutiful loved one

Stands roadside with fresh flowers

And a new set of solar lights

The hum of the passing traffic

Raising the hairs on their necks

The precarious nature of life

The uncertainty of a vigil

So close to the very hurtling weapons

That caused the death

Creating the emptiness

Now filled with trips to Home Depot

And Hobby Lobby

Do we leave a bit of ourselves in passing

Like haunted houses

Grandma is gone

But the smell of her cooking

The lilt of her songs

The rocking of her chair

Move in and out

Like exclamation points

On moments of longing

Does this happen roadside

To those left behind

When grass sticks to shoes

When tears mix with rain

When the lights flicker on

At dusk

Headlights illuminating this tableau

Do they wonder who will carry on

When they pass

Or if someone will do the same for them

We all grieve in our own ways

I know this

I want to buy a bench and placard

At the nature trails my dad walked

Celebrate his love of wildlife

I even spread his ashes there

Maybe making the flora greener

Which is the best we can hope for

A positive change from our leaving

Every time I pass a roadside memorial

I feel myself standing there

The longing

Cursing, perhaps, the carelessness

Of the driver of the WMD

I feel the loneliness in my bones

Someday I’ll stop at a florist

Leave a bouquet

How happy that would make them

Those passed and those carrying on

When I go I hope it’s at home

Surrounded by friends and family

If it’s my weary and clogged heart

That gives out

Go ahead and lay flowers and lights

In front of the local fast food restaurants

Leave a stuffed animal

In my dent in the couch

Control

We fool ourselves

You’re either building sandcastles

Or your shoveling snow into a snow bank

Whether for fun or drudgery

The waves, the sun—time—takes all

The most indelible mark we make

Is our non-biodegradable flotsam

The little green, plastic shovel

Buried in the sand

The cigarette pack wrapper

Tossed while taking a shoveling break

This is the void that peers back at you

That nothing endures

That the space between

Between nucleus and electron cloud

Between the you, you are

And the you, you think should be

Between the moment we are born

And the lonely moment we pass

Their value is all the same

It is everything and nothing at once

We stand at the precipice of a black hole

Our thoughts trailing into a stretched line

Thinner and thinner

Mesmerized by our own gravity

Not unlike how chickens are hypnotized

Just before their heads are lopped off

That line drawn in dirt

Giving the chicken a sense of extension

That it never feels in the day to day

What comes first?

The numbing or the day to day

Do we anesthetize to handle

The doldrums of lather, rinse and repeat?

Or do we become number

With every shampooing we perform?

Does it even matter

If the end result is the same?

That long walk into the night

That sense of loneliness buffered

With bandaid purchases

A new phone for unmet career aspirations

A big screen TV for feelings of isolation

Consumerism is self-medication

The moments that matter

Are forgotten in the haze

Of the dopamine afterglow

Like pictures never printed

Digitally stored on devices

Password protected into oblivion

More flotsam

Our only sense of immortality

But…we fool ourselves

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

She thinks

She thinks she’s the emotional one

Crying during sad movies

I adore her in those moments

Seeing beneath the bark for an instant

When the movie’s over she’s ironwood

She thinks I’m stoic—evergreen

She sees my smile at the death scene

I’m not making fun in those moments

I’m envious

I’m touched and I’m envious

I see her tender humanity then

But I’m jealous of those moments

As they are seldom

For me there is a tissue thin veneer

I am always on the verge

Always wounded and mourning

She is a mighty oak

Dripping seasonal rains

I am a weeping willow

Whose roots run six feet deep

Having weathered countless storms

Many branches haven’t budded in years

They are stiff and creak in the wind

I’ve a hollowed trove of nuts

For a squirrel that’s never returned

Rotten leaves serve as mulch

Feeding on my own decay

Giving me the energy to wax poetically

The parts of me that are green

They are green because of her

I try to shade her in a mad world

But I lean into her and she doesn’t know

I’m always afraid of the next big storm

That it will take me down

Uproot me

She’s a mighty oak

But, she thinks I’m the strong one

Learning to fly

A3216F1E-E169-4F86-AB5F-A96F7543CCE7

They hid it at first

He was so young

Only four

They’d call him a freak

Two little nubbins 

One on each shoulder blade

Loose shirts

Windbreaker jacket

Then the first event happened 

Fucking tuna fish can

Sliced his mom’s hand right open

Oh how the red scared him

Nerve damage

Limp fingers

She was struggling to dial

Goddamn rotary phone

She felt woozy 

Then two little hands reached out 

Gently taking hold of hers

As he placed his head against her 

The nubbins stretched out

Featherless little wings

His mother was dumbfounded 

She didn’t notice the bleeding 

Had stopped

He buried his face 

Into her stomach

I love you, mama

The next day they grew

Twice in size

More difficult to hide 

Homeschooling was the answer 

A couple years slipped by

His questions became more pointed 

His need to see the world deepened 

She began taking him on outings 

Planetarium, museum, theater, petting zoo

She worried so

Then the second event happened

During a long elevator ride down

To the underground caverns 

A middle aged man collapsed

An RN performed CPR until exhaustion 

She couldn’t save him

The little boy looked up at his mother

His eyes pleading

Her face twisting

She nodded once and turned away 

She could hear the gasps

Knowing life would never be the same 

The canopy of the tent fluttered 

With the wind blowing outside 

He missed the feeling of wind and sun

The revival would be starting soon 

His wings were the size of a condor’s

The tips dragging on the ground 

His mother gripping her rosary 

Muttered about the crowd gathering 

The 2:00 show

He looked so gaunt to her

The preacher’s sermon 

Was all fire

And brimstone 

Then the lines formed

With each passing touch

Each person given a new lease

He felt himself slipping further away 

The doctors and scientists tore him apart 

In the end they determined his wings

Were a cancer

And when he couldn’t give anymore 

Of himself 

He stretched his wings

For the final time

Slipping into oblivion 

Mandala

DB18173F-3F81-42DF-8A58-B296F5C6DE46

I took my poems and pinned them to a giant cork board. Butterflies of every hue. Like a conspiracy theorist or a detective hunting a serial killer, I connected the poems with string. My crazy wall. I connected them by how old I was in the memory that spawned the poem, by themes of love and loss, by which of the two poles I steered towards, or away from, if the poem was looking in the past, thoughts of the future or grounding myself in the present. It started out looking like a spiderweb, and I plucked the strings of love and watched the poems thrum and give off chords of joy. Then I strummed the strings of loss and a mournful sound issued forth, making the room waver and dance. The strings of depression hung limply and could not be played, but the beauty of their draping form stood out amongst all the straight lines and angles, and the strings of anxiety were so tight they were shrill in the plucking…almost pulling the poems from the board. As my eyes moved about the board I found myself, simultaneously, smiling and teary-eyed.  As the web flowed about in waves from the welling tears, I had to wipe my eyes clear. To my astonishment, within what was to become my life’s dream catcher, was an outline of myself, arms outstretched to what could only be stars. Dumbfounded at how I didn’t see it sooner, I traced my fingertips about the edge of it. My hand eventually settling on a bare spot, a hole, at the center of this wondrous mandala, right where my outline’s heart should reside. I pondered whether this void represented the parts of me I’ve kept hidden or parts I’ve yet to discover. I vowed to fill this hole. To keep writing. To keep catching butterflies. 

Adrift

38644EE3-B9CC-4FD6-BDC9-4FAE091AF850

I’m in a small boat

Adrift

In fog so thick

Only the sound of the water

Lapping at the side of the boat

Hints at its existence

My hands burn

Tired from gripping the boat’s edge

Filled with slivers from the boats decay

I can’t remember how old I was…

When I got my first bike

When I first kissed a girl

When I went on my first date

When I…

I’m suddenly in a cobwebbed corridor

I’d sublimated in my memory palace

Which leads to a oaken door

The color of lost childhood

The door is locked

It keeps in the poisoned air

Pseudomonas, staphylococcus, ammonia

Decay’s exhalation of hydrogen sulfide

Inside is the fragmented mirror

Broken by transgression

An artful trick from—

I’m back in the boat

Eyes blurred by tears

No matter

The world is amorphous

Life: ephemeral

I exhale a sigh of relief

A close call

That corridor…

Will need to be…

Walled in

My grip tightens

The boat gets a new coat

Wait…where was I?

I’m in a small boat

Adrift

In fog so thick…

Deepest Fear

FEC762FF-CB80-4197-AC70-C99F2BA0ADB4

My deepest fear is not being me. I don’t mean that in any conceited way, that I don’t want to be you, but…we’ll I don’t. I want to be me, or me but better. But, if I was better, would I still be me? Am I a different me than I was yesterday? If this idea of me, really is some ever evolving thing or state, like an asteroid that passes through the atmospheres of people and books and experiences…having chunks of myself torn away, honing myself into a new me—different from having gone through the experience, then maybe there really is no me, but the present me. The right now me. A different me than the me that wrote the first sentence of this post. A few minutes older. A few neuronal connections exist now that didn’t before. So, maybe my deepest fear is misplaced. Of course, I could go down the route of, “all I ever really have is the present me.” I definitely see the truth in that, but it doesn’t assuage this boiling fear beneath the surface. So let’s forget the present me thing. Maybe it’s not this construct of me that I fear to lose, but the cognitive foundation that gives me the ability to sustain and evolve the construct in the first place. I think I’m getting closer here. What I fear is: traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, strokes, aneurysms, tumors, etc.—basically anything that takes away my ability [my ability] to be me. I think I could handle the loss of limbs, hearing, sight, and possibly all of those at once…if I could still communicate. If I could still express myself in some way. This would, of course, change the present me, and limit the types of experiences that could change this construct of self, but through communication/expression I could not only sustain, but evolve the present me. I know I’ve muddied the waters a bit, by jumping around with words that seem to contradict one another, like change and sustain, but I think you get the picture.

Now this is what I fear for myself, but I also fear any harm coming to loved ones (family/friends, etc.), but I’m curious: what is your deepest fear?