Sick Day

Dawn sun streaks through the blinds and I would rather be sleeping
But I am reading, sipping echinacea lemon tea with honey
And remembering when I was ill as a child, terrified of the flu
I prayed Mom would stay home with me because
When I was sick she would be there there. And if she wasn’t
All I had to do was get a little sicker. I could call her
And she would let me watch TV on weekdays in a sleeping bag
While she ran to the store for popsicles and Saltines
Knowing she would return to pore over paperwork at the table
Or chat with her sister on the phone, hushing Kari’s sick
Checking on me when I didn’t get out of bed
One time she was still at work when I threw up and I cleaned
My own vomit off the sink. And cried because I wanted her there
To sit on the edge of my bed and smooth my hair
When she got home she said You didn’t have to do that, but I did
And I sank into her arms because breathing finally came easy again
Today I lie in a sleeping bag alone, writing poems and papers
Today I am an adult, taking care of myself
And missing my mother

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Apology to My Sister

I called you.
A month ago
I left you a voicemail, cordial
with a tinge of plaintive.
Could you tell?
You were drifting on the Hudson,
teaching schoolchildren about tides
or sailing or algae.
Were you cold there, at night?
I think of you when I can’t sleep,
and want to apologize
for pointing that knife at you
when we were kids.
Being a kid
doesn’t excuse that.
I am also sorry
for using my hands and words on you,
or not using them at all.
My silence might have been
the most painful tool.
Tomorrow I fly away
to another home, missing you
by hours.
We’ll share the sky,
gazing at the same fleecy clouds
and patchwork fields,
absorbed in our own respective storylines.

Sixteen

Mom always wanting to know
are those new? And where
did you get those pants, where are you
going tonight, when will you be back,
what did you two do and how is she and
have you dealt with what we discussed?

Mom always watching, me stepping
on eggshells all over the house.
Me creeping on tiptoe midday. Me
disappearing into my room where
I stashed the champagne.
With nothing to celebrate
I toast to blurriness.
I am sixteen.

Mom always nice, but not nice.
Mom comforting, staying up with me.
Mom slapping, brushing me off, Mom
with sharp blades in her voice.
Dad leaving the room, leaving, leaving.
Me asking for love and shrinking.

Me alone in my room.
Me in bed swallowing aspirin after aspirin.
I just turned sixteen, today. Me alone in bed.

What I’m Doing/Where I Am

It’s been a long time since I have written here about how I am and what’s been going on with me. I am reaching out now because I need support, I need affirmation, and reassurance.

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I have been okay. And yet/on the other hand/also/somehow… I am not okay at all.

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Things are good in that I have been getting outside, taking care of my body, and keeping busy. Trying to find solace in nature. But it’s not always enough. What about my mind, and my emotions, and mental health? I try to work on them, to focus on improving my emotional regulation and coping skills. But somehow that always gets pushed aside. School comes first. Work comes first. Physical health comes first. How do I take care of myself emotionally? Some days I’m not sure I even know how to. At all.

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I have slowly been breaking down under all the demands.

I think I will have to quit grad school. Until now I have always found a way to power through my classes and assignments, push through the rough patches, and scrape by in the end. I don’t know if I can do that right now. It’s breaking me.

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Facing the idea of dropping out of school is at once relieving and terrifying. What is my purpose if not for this degree and this career? Who will I become; what will I do?

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I’m scared of what will happen if I keep going. I like this program but it is so emotionally demanding and exhausting. And I’m so tired. I just want to rest.

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Hospital Bed

In the ER, the lights are always on
and despite it all, the nurses laugh
amongst themselves. I am sobbing
without sound, as I have been all day,
to rinse the pain out of my skull.

Taylor drains some blood from my arm.
They say the curtains must stay open,
so they can see in. I know I am selfish
because I will not go back to school.
At home the unfinished books have been
crowding my space.

My friends aren’t here with me,
so they will never know. I wonder
how long I have left.

to process

to process the grief
sometimes i need to let my fingers
my eyes
do the talking, instead of my mouth
which fumbles for vocabulary and spills
out something i’m still not sure about

i need to water myself like a jade plant
and perk up, greener than before

i need to hold myself tightly
and never let go, trusting
that i will always be here

Burning

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It was amazing that I had saved the suicide notes for so long; as if someday I might need them again.
Personalized: to my boyfriend, my mother, my sister, the world.
I couldn’t bear to read them. My script was neat and blocky like a child’s.
The house was quiet and empty, fake adobe, sand-colored.
The trees lining the yard reminded me of other places I’d been. I felt safe.

I sat in the gravel next to the deck and gripped a lighter in the wind. I needed to make the papers disappear. The sun sank behind the cottonwood and piñon behind me, dimming the evening’s light and causing goose bumps to rise along my calves and forearms.

The flame flashed and danced below the first paper. Once the fire caught, it spread quickly, sending off surprisingly tall and scalding flames. I wasn’t thinking about what the letters contained; what lies I had been telling myself back then.

I was thinking that everyone has a future. There would be a friend’s marriage, an illness, a sunset, new sneakers, a birthday – something yet to occur. I was thinking about the cup of coffee I would have the next morning, with half and half in a handmade ceramic mug.

The papers crumbled into black-and-white ashes that writhed in the heat.

Were the neighbors watching, wondering what this girl outside was doing, crouching in the gravel with a lighter? For a second I thought I smelled flesh burning beneath the smoke.

We are all dying, but let it be unplanned. Let our regrets sink into the earth like ashes. Let us carry on as if nothing bad will happen.