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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

Now

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The water builds at the faucet’s mouth

Building until gravity claims the drop

You’re birthday just passed

You’re deathday about a week away

Two years gone in the blink of an eye

An eye blinking away the welling tears

Random stomach pains

Thoughts of a friend’s cancer battle

My son’s food allergy diagnosis

His life constrained

I’m gonna watch the sequel

To the first movie you took me to

I think you’ll be there

Not some ghost on the loveseat

But genetic memory and eternalism

When I was a kid my mom said I sit like you

Before I even had memories of you

A ray with a single point labeled ABC

A = past, B = present, C = future

The ray is the illusion of moving forward

Through time

So you’ll watch the movie too

At the same time you cry at birth

Clutch at your chest in the bathroom

I feel a weird pain in my stomach

My son scratches his food allergy eczema

I pour your ashes at your favorite park

My son looks like you/me

He does something that reminds me of you

From memories in his marrow

The water droplet hits the sink’s drain

Walk away

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Maybe he was conditioned to walk away

Perhaps he sensed its coming

Lowering himself into the blocks

When she said it was over

That was the starter pistol’s report

Off he went

 

Maybe he witnessed the maternal bond

Who was he to try and fuck with that?

As much as he could give

He felt he’d be a little short

It was something he couldn’t deny us

Arms limp at his sides, he walked away

 

I like to imagine that he argued

That he cried in attempts to stay whole

That he held us in his arms

Tears streaking down his face

The look of a broken man

His face a setting sun melting into the ocean

 

I like to imagine that he called constantly

Trying to make amends to bridge the distance

That we were at the forefront of his mind

That he showed up uninvited

Diapers under one arm

A teddy bear under the other

 

I have a half-sister I’ve never met

That he walked away from first

Maybe she was the hardest

When my mom pointed at the door

It was like Pavlov ringing a bell

Without thought he found himself alone

 

I was left with a gaping hole in my chest

A severed, invisible umbilical

Trailing out behind me

The weight of a logging chain

Leaving a trail of black bile

For most of my life

 

My father reentered my life a few years later

Reaffirming a bond I always knew I needed

A puzzle piece fitting my chest hole perfectly

I no longer dragged that logging chain

Though I no longer envied other children

I had gained a friend in him more than a father

 

I think he felt that he gave up that right

That it would be a waste of time anyway

When so much joy was had just being friends

And when life was a storm he was a safe port

Two years ago a storm washed away that port

I’m often come undone at the thought of this

 

Looking at my two-year-old son

I imagine the hole in his chest

That I can only fill with stories

Of his quirky, loving grandfather

That he’ll have no memory of

And have to trust my recollection of him

 

At the same time I long for that lost period

The early years I didn’t have my father

I look at my son

And I couldn’t imagine walking away

I would level a city, sell my soul to the devil

To be by his side

 

As a child, brought up catholic

I believed in a heaven and hell

I’ve since stepped away from faith

And I put my belief in Socratic method

Which relies on student-teacher dialogue

I’ve lost my teacher but gained a student

 

Thinking of the loss of my father

My fading youth

My son’s long journey ahead

I hope I’m wrong about heaven

I hope I’m wrong

When I have no choice but to…walk away

“V”

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I don’t know where to start. She was the first girl to really make out with me and she was really good at it. Us, just a couple freshmen in the inner city. She took me from zero to 90 in four-point-three-seconds. Just when we were rounding the final turn she pumped the brakes. I was breathless. Confused. So unbelievably grateful that she chose me, but devastated that she’d brought me to heaven’s door, and said she just wanted to be held. I figured she was making sure I was the right guy, so I held her until she said she had to go home. I walked her home, holding hands, and I finally felt like I had worth. She had seen something in me, something even I couldn’t see. The next time we hung out my childhood friend was over and she was different. She looked at me like a flavor of ice cream she had enough of…too much butter pecan and in desperate need of a palate cleanse. And just like that…she moved on. Lying in bed I could hear the familiar wet smacking sounds of her, working her magic. This was the beginning of my Pink Floyd, The Wall, stage…everyday, all day on auto-reverse. To this day, The Wall can transport me back to the frailty of my teenage years and I feel an unnameable loss, a hole, that remains. I quickly learned that she pumped the brakes with my friend, as well. Somehow that made me feel better. It became a theme, though. Her showing up at gatherings of me my friends. Choosing her next victim. It got so, those of us she used, would put up two fingers, almost a peace sign, but with the back of the hand. It was a sign of camaraderie, like soldiers who’d fought in the same war and came out the other side, but far from unscathed. It was, also, the first letter of her name…V. Somehow Mikey, the best looking of our group, got to walk her home more than once. He had that all American look, with feathered hair and a shit-eating-grin. He had somehow found the magic key, but as long as they were together he never made it across the finish line. I moved away, while they were still an item. Years later, after they had long gone their separate ways, he told me during a phone conversation, that she had been such a great make-out-artist, because she had been taught, for years…by her father. Her older sister had got engaged and was making her escape, but V had worried that their father might turn to her younger sister to fill the void, and none of them wanted that. Like THAT was where they wanted to draw the line. The girls’ aunt cornered Mikey, at one point, and made him swear to never say a word. He carries…we all carry, that shit with us. The thought of this monster and his three daughters. I tried finding them. Facebook. Classmates. It’s like they simply disappeared. I no longer feel bad about how our time went, but can only hope that she felt safe and maybe normal, if such a thing exists, for that little while, when I was just holding her.

The lease of my worries

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You’re rent has come due

A yearly reminder

It’s not much money but

The weight is immeasurable

I’m crushed beneath it

(Un)luckily the cost of your rent

Is shared by her and I

Now I know that we don’t visit

Even if we did you’d never know

Your cold, dark prison

You’re lucky

The cold keeps you young

The dark keeps you ignorant

What came first?

Me…the chicken?

You…the egg?

I’m a gunslinger with hoplophobia

Chambers filled with blanks

I shove splinters under my nails

For every missed opportunity

For unrealized potentials

You are potentiality incarnate

We tried to give you a Home

We thought of taking you in

But your brother broke her

She…the strongest woman I know

Broken and torn

I can’t even bring myself to ask

As I witnessed her succumbing

They said we could donate you

For research (the fuck does that even mean?)

I’m too afraid to ask

If only there were a half dozen of you

Then we could allow anonymous adoption

One isn’t enough

One is everything

The day is coming

When I will sign my name

On your release

I fear that as you thaw

Having finally escaped your cryogenic tomb

That I’ll turn forever cold

Fortunately I have your brother

Now three

To keep me warm

But a frostbite fingerprint will remain

On my heart

Although I’m pro choice

I feel like an amateur

$100 dollars to add another semicolon

Delaying the inevitable

Dryad

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I’m thinking of trees

The rough on the fingertips

The cool darkness beneath

The others that look like winter

Looking at me

Pointing at their flat rock

Scratching, scratching, scratching

Pointing their driftwood fingers

To their snow white scratches

Their mouths open

The sounds that come out

The crunch and snap of the forest floor

The growl and yip yip of wild dogs

It affronts the ears until the cooing begins

Then it’s all sad eyes and cooing

I miss the smell of decay

The feel of wet moss underfoot

I try to tell them, the winter people

Let me go home

Let me go home

I rustle, I chirp, I warble, I ribbit, I buzz

The stupid winter people do not understand

I begin squealing, shrieking and screeching

Until my voice cuts out

I cough a small drip drop

Of inside water, the color of dying trees

Into the palm of my hand

I curl up on the floor

Running my fingers across dead wood

Imagining the softness of grass and moss

A parallel me

On another earth

Critical period hypothesis

Missed window for language acquisition

I am a dryad

An anomaly

I am closer to the truth

Than the winter people will ever be