Spared

Every bit of love and joy leaves the check
on our table, to be paid for in large bills
and change,
a currency of grief.

A lifetime of revolving debt.

Every moment of helplessness is
balanced by a scene in which
we reluctantly play god, all the while
wishing we could go back
to being the understudy.

The entire play is off book.

Pity this sensitive human heart,
so easily moved,
feeling first love and last goodbye
with equal intensity.
How could something this fragile be made
for everyday use?

I don’t recall agreeing to this.

Are we to be spared nothing, then?
Is it absolutely imperative we feel it all,
in all its exquisite sharpness;
in all its aching stillness;
in all its baffling contradiction;
in all its unanswered and unanswerable questions;
and feel grateful?

Can anyone tell me how?

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This Is How It Is

This is how it is, he said,
with a smile that held no joy,
and only the conviction
of one sentenced to life.

I was certain once, too,
said the woman with the hundred-year-old eyes
Certainty the folly
the fallacy
of those who don’t know
that they don’t know.
I was one such.

Is there no room for uncertainty in this world?
No place for wonder?
No patience for mystery?
No home for possibility?
Isn’t it possible that
for just a moment,
you could see the stars between the star
where there was only darkness before,
and be heartened in the night?

Is a life lived with no margin for error
a death lived
in a room where sunshine and fresh air
are the least of what is not admitted?
It is dust we speak of most often as settled.

And if you can open to the chaos
the same way you thrill to the summer storm
that violently shakes you awake in your sleepy warm
middle-of-the-night bed,
what then?
How vast, then, is the universe existing
in the space between your hand and mine
as we walk down this road?
And how pitiable the one
who has never felt the hair on the back of his neck
stand up?

Illusion

Seems to me
‘tis a fine line between
strength
and habit;
they may be easily confused
by the outside observer
is the ocean mighty,
making boulders into sand?
or merely persistent,
unable to do other than what it does
what it has always done?

If you asked it
“How do you manage it?”
would it disavow any knowledge
and continue its rise and fall
and continue through fall and winter
and continue breathing with the moon;
can there be strength without choice?

In spite
my heart continues to beat
my lungs continue to breathe
my eyes continue to open each morning
my world continues to turn
in spite of what happened,
or
perhaps
in spite of me

Untitled

Every time I move
I hear the tinkle of broken glass
shards slide and grate past each other
my heart a more fragile gift than I knew I’d offered
shaken and
dropped

Every time I breathe
I hear the exhale of broken dreams

nooooooooooooooooooooo

I create myths
instinctively
for the same reason all myths are created:
to calm a desperate human mind
that cannot understand
how
why
and the cold curtness of
“why not?” in reply, or worse:

silence
so much silence

The stories I tell myself:

there is a certain and unknown number of tears I must shed,
and when I’ve cried them all,
a scabby, scarred heart
and maybe peace
will be mine

if I could just…if I could just…if I could just…
then I’d be able to close the door I know has warped
in this seemingly endless rain,
to remain forever ajar, letting the weather in

if I touched the things you touched,
I would feel closer to you
I would feel less lost
I would feel less loss
and yet your fingerprints are all over my skin
and the memory of their placement
only makes me ache

Finding North

If there was a point
a sharp and needling point
where I should have said
no

it was in a past I no longer recall
in a place none of my ships will sail
the star that guided them
faded now and pale 

the compass point
a warped and wheedling point
urging me in another direction
go

your cut in my jib
devastatingly glib
the broadside that
left me listing to starboard
yet grateful
to be right for a change

and remembering the art
of reading my own chart
no longer drifting at your chosen
longitude and attitude
below the equator
where the sky reads strange

Vigil

I wander the shores of your distant sea,
a latter-day Demosthenes
a has-been oracle
the pebbles in my mouth
the words themselves, dry and tasteless,
as I shout against unyielding storm,
its voice mightier than my own
now hoarse;
you will not hear my whisper in the gale,
lost in the noise of men,
no antidote to the poison, then,
the quiet murmur of the tide, steadfast and patient as time
waiting
waiting;
Time is not a father; it is a mother,
a womb, bleeding only when empty.
I am Penelope,
always undoing
always
undone
I weave an epic without fail,
with threads destined to unravel in your absence,
waiting to see your sail,
even in tattered ribbons,
humming my work song,
wishing I’d been born
with the Siren’s lungs.

This language is mine
Silky lover
willing slave
The only one that has ever done
exactly
what I ask it to
command it to
the crucible of creation
exists between my lips and fingertips
If I say I lack the words
to tell you
to tell
you
I’m a liar.
It’s just if I let them out
they might overwhelm
not sate
they might devastate
you may not ever be the same
or I may not
and I cannot know
whether that’s to the good,
evil being so relative
when hearts speak,
and understanding so tardy.

Redwood

Neil and I,
we’ve both been looking for
a heart of gold,
a heart that’s bold
enough
to pump red-hot and
fearless,
as a child’s
to live and love with
unalloyed abandon;
a heart that loves the one that
carries it
enough
that it can love another
untarnished;
a heart that shines brightly,
even at midnight,
and flickers only in its own
fire,
not in doubt’s passing shade.

Not Lost: Unfound

There was the road
edged in winter-thin shadows
from a moon
gibbous
like my expectations
destined to wane

a dark mood and heavy feet
guided well enough
by reflected light
for the moment

I felt the metaphor

hurt and anger leave
glowing footprints
cooled too quickly for
those who needed to see them
to follow

but there’s no tracker among them
and in time, they will starve

chaos finds rhythm
in each step
in ragged breaths
invisible crickets
in city silence

Athena’s owl echoes
my footfalls,
a symbol of wisdom

perhaps

Wisdom is the driest wine,
but we dare not let the cup
pass from us:
by the time we feel our thirst,
we are well past need.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.22.59 AM
Photo by  Robert Hayden, and the inspiration for the poem.

It is easy to forget,
when you are human,

that it is the oldest bricks
that last
that hold you up
for better and worse
the perfect perpendicular
and those chipped, tripping you
unexpected
ly
and those worn
from pacing the same path
too many times
the heat of anger
of shame
of passion
of passing close to the sun
time and again
hardening what was muddy
what was a mess
into our edifice
of soul.

It is easy to forget
that we are divine

and our foundation is
light
no matter the ramadas we build
to shelter ourselves from it
no matter the armadas we marshal
to protect it
from the world and ourselves
no matter the doors closed on it
with a jarring slam meant to
force forgetfulness;
the fact remains that beneath
darkness imposed,
we shine,
and it is in the darkest night
that stars are brightest.