Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's Love Now Cause Soon Enough We'll Die

I have been unpacking the dead lately.

The rooms of my heart are stacked with boxes holding the dead all swaddled, nicely, and put away. I unwrap each trinket from faded newspaper, blow on it to get the excess dust, and place it kindly on the shelf next to my grandmother's mirror. 

Particularly, I've been searching for my dad's laugh. I thought I bundled it between his last catfish caught and his porch swing. (Sometimes, he'd get that swing going so fast my tiny-blonde anxieties were exposed.) I've sifted through the day my mom moved us out of the house on my 12th birthday and my black and white cat getting smashed on the highway in front of our house.

I need help finding it. I'm desperate.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tell Me, Are you a Christian, Child. I said, Ma'am I am Tonight

Be careful with the word deserve, my papa says. Don't throw it around. 

* - * - *

Yesterday, like every June 11th for the last 16 years, I acknowledged the dead. Sacrificed to the fire gods, gods of grief and chaos, to the quiet, to the natural order of life.
 I swallowed down so many 'what if's' and 'I wish' and 'but, why's' to turn my stomach sour. I kept my body still or slow, hands close to my rib cage, and my mouth closed.

* - * - *

Sixteen years ago on June 11th, I woke up to my dad screaming around 3:30 am. There was too much noise, too much smoke, too much tired to comprehend at that moment that my house was burning down. I stood up out of bed and immediately was forced to the ground -- smoke, as they say, is no joke. Confusion and incessant screaming forced me, on my knees, to the living room: rage, hot, orange, loud. Instincts said back door. I saw his legs at the front door. He did not see me. He had a mole on the back of his right leg. I watched those legs walk out to clean air.

They say he went back into the house. They say they found his body in the kitchen. I envision, even still, half a body.

When I was 14, living in the country with a step-dad and post-divorced mom, one of our pigs got out of his pen in the night. I came upon the body in the morning before school, ripped apart and bloodied. Back legs and haunches in tact -- mangled in the middle, but head, heart, face gone This is always how I think of my dad's burnt body abandoned near the pantry.

What happened in those last few minutes? Do I deserve to know?

* - * - *

What if he could say: go on?
Could I?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Everything I Do I Do in Slow Motion

It's quiet right now.
Shadows are silk on my hands as I type.
The sun is about 6 inches from setting behind the vacant house next to mine. Once a group of people lived in the downstairs apartment there. Their troubles were heavier than mine in many ways; they let their dog shit in my yard. Once they drank beers on my porch with me and told about Diane's baby and jail time and working on mopeds and how hard it is to pay child support and how warm evenings remind them of when they were kids.
I remember feeling lucky. I still feel lucky.
How rude to feel lucky that my life isn't theirs.
What an egocentric circle to spin.
While on the issue of remembering, I want to say something here about summer. Something about milkweed. Something about a black dog named Cocoa; I used to press my ear against her belly, overflowing with puppies, and listen to the sacred movement. She was a good dog: my babysitter's dog with prune sized nipples pulled all the way to the ground. She followed me -- I was kind to her, to the ever flow of sweet puppies from her belly, to the snake my babysitter's boys killed with a slingshot. I ran to the cellar, sobbed; couldn't shake the writhing body, (innards ballooning out into the summer-evening, cool grass) out of my tiny-blonde mind. Something about cruelty. Something about growing up. Something right here about the sanctity of every Black Kingsnake. 
Look at that.
The shadows on my hands are heavier.
That sun found the roof.

Friday, March 4, 2016

You and Me, Babe, How 'bout it?

With fear of sounding over dramatic or forcing emotion from the reader like wringing out a rag, I want to tell you something:

There was a day in late July 2014 when I laid on the ground in the hallway outside my kitchen. We have a little runner rug the length of this hallway, and I just laid there on it sobbing. The consequence was all mine. The loneliness was insult to injury. The rubbed-red raw face was par for the course. This was the summer I thought I'd kill myself.

I didn't.

I only had a half-assed plan that probably would have failed -- but, each day that I was groping around in the dark, the plan was solidifying. The only clarity I had was accompanied by guilt -- and it just didn't seem like living was an appropriate response. I was in pain, my husband was in pain, most of my friends wouldn't talk to me, my family felt pity, my hair was falling out, I was losing weight, and I had stopped sitting in chairs, I only sat on the floor and cried about the affair.

That particular day in late July I was visiting my home: husband gone to work, my cats rubbing against my legs, the air smelling strongly of the familiarity I missed since staying in a friend's spare room. I lost my footing. Laid on the rug, cried, and called Sarah Miller Freehauf. Or she called me. I don't remember. I don't remember what she said, exactly. It was something along the lines of "you are still a good person" "still worthy of love" "still my friend" "still able to receive warmth and goodness" "still capable of giving warmth and goodness."

Somehow she convinced me to stand up that day and the many days after.
She and her (new) husband would hug me when others wouldn't look my way.
She called me everyday.
She would quell the panic by reminding me I was human.
She told me funny stories about her mom.
She told me things her mother said in response to my affair.
She picked me up some evenings and forced me to eat bar food.
She cried with me a lot of the time.
She wrote poems for me and about me and about the affair.
She was, by all means, at the ready when I needed her and I always needed her. And she knew it.
She helped save my life.
She was part of the very small troop who helped me off the rug.

I don't necessarily know how to write her a love letter that correctly and comprehensively covers everything I want and need to say, but this is the start of my love letter to her.

Thank you, Berry. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

You're My First Love

Monday I sat incredibly still for the first time in two years.

Added the last line breaks, capitalized the D in dad I forgot to, took out a few commas, and saved my 54 page manuscript-thesis as a complete and finished document.

Yesterday I packaged up two of these little babies and sent one to Mark Wunderlich and another to Ed Ochester. And as soon as I stepped outside the post office, I felt differently than what I anticipated. Empty. I felt empty. And maybe 'empty' isn't necessarily the *right* word; but I didn't feel great or light or unburdened.

I found a baby bird, almost dead. I brought the tiny thing back to life with care, intention, and food, lots and lots of love, mornings of conversation and even my own breath, sometimes. And, as time went on, that thing got gorgeous. She preened and perched everywhere; she fluttered throughout the house and slept quietly on my pillow. I loved her, you know? And when I sent her into the sky (when it was time); she didn't even turn around to watch me wave.

That's how I felt. Is that the same as empty?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I've Walked with You Once Upon a Dream

A woman I barely know told me, as I sat topless in a warm, quiet warm, that I am destroying my body; I am allowing stress to devour the structure of my physical being. I have allowed trauma to anchor itself along the fibers of my muscles -- I can't shake it and because of it, I'm breaking down.

I don't know how to exercise the chaos from my body. Where do I start? I suppose the better question is: when do I start, what time frame?

Life is, mostly, a hungry pandemonium. I want to starve it. There has to be a way -- so, I'm reaching around in the dark.

I'll let this healer heal me; knead my muscles and help me put my emotional injury in a box. I'll never be rid of that box, but I'll just pack it away in my attic and not in my tender back.

One day. One day.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This Gun's for Hire

Putting my manuscript thesis in a specific order and setting up an outline for my graduating lecture are the two things I have to do this month. Right now I have 37 poems finished. Waiting. They are waiting to be put in order so I have a manuscript. This is happening, people. I'm graduating from the Bennington Writing Seminars on January 16, 2016 with a Masters of Literature and Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry. This is happening.

I am overwhelmed.

But, surviving is not in the forefront of my headspace these days. In the way that all survival is instinctual, I am aware of it. But wondering if I'm going to die because of heart break or cellular decomposition due to grief, that's not there. Life is level. No vomiting over the starboard due to rough waves. And, I'll take it. I want my brain to concentrate on being overwhelmed with poetry. What an enormous thing: POETRY. But it's my thing. And I'm feeling ok.