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Finding & Creating Beauty in Unlikely Places

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Poetry Is

“Poetry is what happens when I can’t say what I want to someone I love.”—Nicole Blackman, NYC 1968.

And if you’re curious
to know
Love
ask me sometime.

Stranger Than Fiction

Sometimes I feel guilty about using poetry as my therapy. It’s a certain kind of exhibition, masquerading all this pain in the catalyst of art. But what else do I do with these words? I don’t know if this poem will move past this blog, or if I’ll just let it rest here. I don’t know if this is me “becoming the enemy instead of making peace with it”. Maybe I’ll hold back the truest pieces for myself, and God, and who they’re really meant for. Regardless, it’s my truth, and here goes:

Dad,

This week you gave me a story you wrote. To edit, you said. And I’m still reeling from the backhanded slap into the past you just dealt me. I gotta hand it to you, the element of surprise was pure artistry, and even as I devolve into the flaw of these rhymes and lines I hide behind, this much needed distance from the truth, like the one you orchestrate while re-writing our history into fiction. See, I’m trying to shield you from facts right now, and together we spiral down the rabbit hole that never seems to end, does it?

So here’s where the poem stops. Let’s have an end to it. In that story, you wrote about your ex, things I never knew and I was fascinated to see this whole new dimension of you, even to see the level of awe and reverence you gave Mom.  So then, you get to me and I’m all built up for some revelation. You say your ex brought you closer to God and Mom taught you devotion. What role did I play in your life?

Well, I was born with blond hair and blue eyes, and one time [lines cut out of respect that I don’t know if the recipients deserve, but it’s not about what they deserve, it’s about the respect I choose to show by cutting these lines] I spent the first fourteen years of my life as a puppet, a living doll, a hairdresser’s dummy, a show child, a talking, movable mannequin, a porcelain plaything, a living, breathing lie. I was a terrific actress, wasn’t I? In that Stepford daughter alter ego that you (and she–not you Mom!) forced me to be.

And even though I’ve long since resigned myself to the sad fact that the prototype is all [she] has ever wanted of the actual ME, at least I thought you and I were more than that. So this week, reading your story, knowing that my value as a daughter, as a human being, in your eyes, lies in the lies…Well, what do I even say to THAT, Dad?

I’m sorry for you? Furious with you? I’m here to declare that I cut those puppet strings long ago, and it’s no use trying to fit me back into that plastic pink Mattel packaging. My heart has grown too old and too brave to fit anymore. You and she have taught me that the ugliness of truth is preferable to your fiction.

But you’re sliding back into the glitter with her. Crawling in the cobwebs cluttered with  the pieces you and she invented. It makes me feel as though I’ve failed you, and any proud words I’ve spoken about how far we’ve come are sticking to me now, like spun silk. I won’t reinvent the truth, or even tell it in its entirety. Maybe because I’m like you, I’ll only remember from here on out the pieces I want to remember:

When I was three or four I played the drums while my dad sang Born to be Wild and played the guitar.

My dad taught me the right way to wash and wax a car.

Dad used to play kickball with us.

I used to watch Rambo and Westerns with my dad.

Dad’s the reason I know Dylan, Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Zeppelin, Deep Blue, and Kansas.

I love hearing Dad’s stories about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

Dad always tells the best stories.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Was it?

Hereditary

We are the sum of
absent parts too fractured
for our fathers to pass
on to us

pride & hugs
admissions of love
they harbor like empty
perfume bottles long
bereft of scent I remember
what it meant to live like
a squatter in my own home

welcoming my brother into
the bedroom I’d amp up the
speakers when screams
punctured the walls in stereo

when burning precious gas
dollars down back roads with
no center line or sunsets in
an abandoned cemetery felt
like the only freedoms I was
loathed enough to know
before my absence was missed
in an otherwise confined
existence my presence a
tolerated mandatory sentence

I daily wondered how someone
so disgusted with me
could care whether or not I was
around

Your generation is not the first
to seek an amputee home
though transience has become
a pathogen passed through the
water each year the mortality rate
grows younger & I wonder
what remission might be missing
if the wounds were only allowed
to fester a bit longer

My feet trod through
land mines of a battle
I was drafted in I
contemplated pastor’s basements
and then-boyfriend’s parents’
spare bedrooms
rather than wait for the misstep
I thought would solidify the sum
of all those fractured parts I knew
the breaking would be inevitable

But I waited.
I stayed.

You know, when the blast came
I was too numb to feel it.
All those flesh wounds hieroglyphed
each what, where, when
But I remember him being
more stunned by my apathy than
I was when the gingerbread house
caved in

By then I felt neither love
nor hate for the man who had
damaged me so much
the blessed coma of indifference
was a victory

And if that was the end of my story
I’d say to you
–run–
run & never look back

Instead I urge you Love
–stay–
go back
Live to fight another day.

In the short term was
cease fire coldness
his first “I love you”
felt as foreign & intimate
as a rape
it’s been fifteen years
since that date and I’ve
risen from those ashes to
say:

There’s Healing in
understanding our fathers
and that Mending is
–Necessary–
cause ghosts breed monsters
and we have to see them
for what they are
to keep ourselves from
slipping into that impalpable
grey likeness of hereditary
brokenness

Though their stories are dissimilar
at the core of our fathers is the same
guarded barricaded hunger
wanting to be loved but not knowing
how to give what they haven’t received
those instincts long buried with the dead
& with the rejectors & with the ones who
kicked them out of houses, made them
feel their lack of worth was a brand
under their skin they could never wash
out, these men emanate hurt
like steam rising from
asphalt

Nothing can resonate from a heart
iron-walled in, only if it be that
Pavlovian rejection, they do not realize
the imbalance of criticisms they pay us
with no praise or the silence we take as indifference
Pinter moments are all they have to offer us
but we weren’t taught to read their eyes like Braille
and they never recognized that the work of their hands
fashions a mirror symmetry of brokenness

Love, I’ve looked at your dad and seen the
kindness he wishes he could give you
buried beneath that rough veneer I fear
his asking you to stay was the closest to
an admission of love as he could give you

There’s a heart breaking for you under all
the inner shit he can’t claw through to
be what you so desperately need him to be

Know how I know?
A week before my wedding, my dad
threatened to kick me out for the millionth
time, all because he found a dirty cup in my room
and on the day of my wedding, my brother came home
and found him sobbing. To this day, on the rare occasion
that I get an ” I love you” it’s delivered with the reticence
of a dog waiting to be kicked. it’s been hard for me to
parent love to someone who’s been animal wounded
and tried to pass that heirloom on to me

but my hatred, and numbness, and hurt
are healing over. I wish Dad’s would but
he’s still trodding land mines, shouldering the
burden of hereditary curses on tired shoulders

So is your dad
because deep down our fathers don’t believe
they deserve our love
so they covet theirs greedily

But Love,
I tell you all this
because your tender spirit is
at that same precipice
and I’m filling up the emptiness
with true stories & fretting &
tears & prayers because

At this crossroad
We have one of two ends

Make peace with the enemy
Or become them.

Reborn

You were the first
to interpret me other-worldy
though I have no reason to
claim garments of divinity
For you
my love transcended this plane
of unforgiving ground
and electric sky

For you
I would puncture
my palms to
spare you pain
a winter before you
loved me I understood
why mothers make targets
of bone and back to shield
their sons from shrapnel blasts
I would gladly slip those slivers
that fashion the aftermath
internment camped around
your heart
under my flesh

If I was indeed heavenly
I’d still your demons
with a word
And all your ever afters
would be peaceful slumbers

If you hear nothing else
from me
let this prophecy wash away
your self-loathing
let your doubt be made clean

Your worth is in
–Existing–
I could not love
A blood son or
creation more
Simply because

You ARE

This is not some religious rhetoric
This is a Cypher of holy tongue
You were created Beautiful

Remember
once you told me
“I was never supposed to be here”
but God
defied nature and reason
to fashion you
How much more proof do you
need of how irreplaceable
you are
Your very breath is a love

Believe
that you are meant to be here
Hear
that even though these months
without you have been hell
You
are worth crawling through
all of Dante’s levels and I am
searching you out
offering you my hand
singed hair burned flesh
and flame to light
your way to peace

Know
if it’s still too complicated to
speak to me you can
reach for me across that elastic thread
alchemied between us before I
could even put a name to those eyes
I will hear you
same as I see you in my dreams
Or sense you before I turn a corner

You are always with me

You
have known too many tears
my love
let mine
mingled with prayers
Sail you Home
I am  never giving up on you
I’m  waiting for you there.

Ride

For the girl whose given name means danger, speed, go. I hope you know you’re worth SO much more than that. 

My given name
is a prophesy
I wonder if when
my mother first
held me if she
could feel the
searching
already stirring like
the hum of engines
high speed down
Route 66
desert winds
choking gravity and
blurring the peripherals

I wonder if she knew I’d
forever be running?

These goddesses give us
celestial aliases our toes
trace through cyber forests
where wolves craft more
clever disguises they are
the Huntsmen
shapeshifted into Father’s
long-forgotten scent

They
plunge axes into
unblemished trunks
we bleed sweet as maple
swelling in all those
arterial holes meant
to be paternal

I still played with Barbies
the first time I was cuffed
to a bed
You beat me til my bladder
burst like the ecstasy I’ve
yet to own from any man’s
touch

Now
I mix pink barrettes
with spiked collars
and chains but if the
grease marks from all
those soiled thumbs that
grow harder with each
spit-soaked plum
could scrub off maybe
I’d be tender enough
not to need these serrated
tips tracing scars from
nipple clips see I can

Break just as well
from the force of my
own bitter disappointment
Love
has not come in any of the
shades those stories
promised me
no gifts of rubies or jade
afterwards just the tiptoe
to that
other toilet
my belly a soft Voodoo cushion
for the Crone with pad, paper, &
spider plant to fashion pins in

as I fold further back
until seeing beyond myself
is an astral projection
the love of a man
as foreign and as longed for
as those neolithic cave dwellers
who never saw the sun
but coveted jellyfish light

despite the sting I still awaken
to the Red Room
to axes and selfies I tether to
chafed ankle bones
along the floor of this vacant sea

I wonder why the boy with the
ocean gray soul was the only one
who’s ever been delicate with me
the only one who ever saw me
yet could not want me

Bleach & Bristle won’t scrub
out Blemishes of mistakes I’ve made

I wonder if
when my mother first held me
blood-soaked placenta splattered
delicate as if my innards read like
Tarot
were my eyes pooled reflections of
the gravel laden highway she’d
already known?

Or did she fashion
my name
from an intuition
arms & heart too pillow-soft
to be a father’s
An inhale too hypocritical
to be a prayer?

Self-Medicating

Sometimes
I pen these lines
to keep my fingers free
of Smartphone keys

I’m always the one
to reach for you first
it seems
I’m bad at taking hints

though your silence reads
like neon strobe light
signs in rain

this metamorphosis
I’ve made
tear-soiled
castaway
outgrown comfort object
cast into the back of the
closet
Maybe useless
Maybe an embarrassment
Maybe too sentimental to
throw away

Just
tell me
someone
is wiping your tears with
their tongue
someone is soothing
you with maternal hymns
trading nightmares for sage
is there for those 2am texts
I still check for

It’s true
I remain your
guardian angel on
the back burner
hoping your back has bent
to fit the shape of feathers

Tell me
you’ve drifted into a
breeze true enough
to carry you
Tell me something real

Something you’re Afraid to

Anything True

give me –Something– to hold onto

Free me of this Addict’s lie
that pain is the only sure thing
I have left of you

I’m bad at taking hints
and Time’s
falling slack on this whole healing
all wounds instead she’s compounding
how much I fucking miss you

at least
I’m running out of ways to say it
hoping that means I’m closer to
accepting it
though I don’t feel like I am

How can I be?
How do you force your soul
to stop loving someone
or needing to be needed
once you’ve been on the
other side of that altar?

Do you know I still can’t
listen to that Jaymes Young
song?
You’re still the first person I
give to God in the morning
ask Him to watch over you
while you sleep

Tell me that
— Once–
It was Real
For now
that’s all I need.

Resolve

I’ve been trying to
force myself to be
okay

as if I can
rearrange my
spiritual insides
through sheer will

as if filling my
days with endless
tasks tasked to
prove I deserve to
exist can somehow
make me worthy of
what can only be
construed as gifts

meanwhile

my brave smiles
feel like frauds
I cry from exhaustion
on the drive home
feel unworthy of
thank you’s
ask constant forgiveness
when I pray
Most of all I feel
Guilty

How can I be
sheltered
in such a calm
sea of blessings
yet
acknowledge this
broken limb I
keep trying to
kick with

It’s like maybe
if I stopped trying
to force myself to
be happy
I could stop
hating the truth
that I’m not yet
healed

If I
stop tugging on stitches
mending
my heart could
beat free of this
antiseptic sting

Maybe if I
can just accept that
I loved someone
enough to upend my
spiritual insides
and I don’t want to
reinvent again

Because hope dies
last
and I’m still standing
with scalpel in hand ready
to donate heart, arms, voice,
this pen, sleepless nights,
tear-stained streets, yoga mat
cries and heavenward pleas

Maybe if I can
forgive myself for
mistakes
I fear I must have made

Then I’ll make space
for redemption to
enter in

It’s true
God heals us when we’re
broken
It’s equally true
I have to let Him

Rupi Kaur-Inspired Thoughts

I wonder
why it is
that I don’t afford others
the same capacity for love
that I possess

why I constantly
doubt who truly
holds me as
irreplaceable as
I do them

How arrogant of me!

Am I the only one who
lives like this?
constantly calculating
heart rhythms
like profit percentages

I
who with my
hypocrite tongue
profess that true love
comes with no strings
attached yet I

can’t stop trying
to earn it
can’t stop wondering
which flaw will
unravel devotional threads
leave me
open wound
abandonable

I
suffocate in
red tissue suspicions
that my expendability
renders heart temple
homes for me
as wind changeable
as forest fire
or dandelion seeds
I am the reed
who bends to mask
the fact that she is
broken

blinded to what she’s
spirit known for lifetimes
her brothers and sisters
bending with her
all along a breeze-
battered sea

the Irony
is bittersweet
in reality this
not so temporary
insanity
has
nothing to do
with any of them
and everything
to do with
what’s wrong
in me.

so why is it
that even when I
gaze through unclouded
lenses
fresh scrubbed
redemption cleansed
identity
I can be loved loudly
by God himself
and still be destroyed
quietly
by my doubt
by inner frailty
by your earthly
silence.

Atheist

This poem was part of a writing assignment that I gave as an exercise in empathy, the idea being to choose someone who is the opposite of yourself and to write from their point of view, without belittling or arguing. Since God is at the very nucleus of my being, naturally I chose to write from an atheistic point of view. So I dedicate this to my atheist friends who–ironically–care just as much about these issues as I do and who–I hope–I’ve presented with understanding.

Everything depends
on me
When I fail
you say
don’t take it personally
wanna label me
Type A
Meanwhile
forests are burning
icecaps are melting
children are running
blind down machete-laden
paths
monks are being beheaded
the hydrogen bomb still exists
Holocausts aren’t a myth
AND they’re plural
I have to lock my door at night
carry pepper spray when I walk
around my neighborhood
I’ve seen rhinos crying out on
the news footage cause some
savage sawed their horns off
for chump change
fathers are still raping daughters
and wars are still stealing sons
I could stay up twenty-four hours
a day
go without eating
march in every pride parade
still could not
pry artillery weapons
from steel perceptions
from blinded eyes with
fingers dripping blood diamonds
scepters sifting
red seas of skulls
Kant
where are your comforts
Descartes
why aren’t you answering
Nostradamus
your stars are darkening over
in this Olympus of Madness
who will show us the way
if we keep stumbling back
paths of our own misguided
footsteps
Darwin
I fear we are devolving
drunk on our divinity
drowning
in the flood waters
of this hell we’ve created
and no one is listening
to our cries for help
So help!
cause I can’t do this
on my own.

Monsters

Really there’s just
this one
She lurks in my bones
like poison in the marrow
I can’t fully extract
this journey of
spiritual transplant I’m on
makes her
more phantom
than
poltergeist
but she’s the
scar of Morgoth blade
wound that keeps on
wounding
resurrects like those
mythic demons who take on
childlike form
she is the small girl with
terror tears who
sits
abandoned
in that
space
you said you needed
Frozen
waiting for you to
come and claim her
She whispers that it’s
all my fault
all my fault
all my fault
I’m too much
or not enough to
ever win first place
in this
war for hearts
but now I’ve circled
back to sawing souls
in two and whether I’m
hacking limbs or
letting go of you
still she whispers
the issue
is not what I do
to show
I love you
Failure
is that I’ve already
lost you
or found my value’s
ringing up expendable
on your price tag
And It’s not just you
If it was she’d relinquish
this power over me
instead she
laundry lists the
loved ones who’ve
chosen someone else
over me
I carry every
forfeit
like it’s become my DNA
this catastrophe of complex
I cannot reconcile except to
accept her accusations that the
summation
of these incidents
the
Common Denominator
is
–Me–
so I went to my husband a
month ago
sobbing
asking
why is it always me
who gets chosen over
even if the other person is
clearly
blindingly
wrong!
He’d know
Even he
chose someone else
over me
Maybe that’s what makes
this monster
so complicated
that it’s not some
distorted vision some
illusion in my head
He paused
and said
“I can’t speak for —-
but
with me
it’s because I knew
You were the one who
wouldn’t leave”
Maybe
if I thought enough
of myself
to believe that this could be
I wouldn’t be spinning this
neverending mindfuck of a
web over you
I wish I thought enough
of myself
to believe such things are true
But she pokes inside my bones
reminds me I’ve come up lacking
Again
and
to see her for what she is
maybe I just need to
Accept it
maybe that’s
Just okay
to be the
one person
no one has to worry
about losing
because I love you all
too much
to raise a fuss
Learned to keep it inside
not let her out much
–You–
turned me inside out
and woke her up
and I’m sorry if I’ve
expected too much
from you
deafened by her whispers
I’ve been busy banking
on grace
to make me less
of a headcase
and part of that
is acknowledging her
so I can let her go
Love
the way she’s supposed to be
and make less of a
Monster
out of me.

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