The Happiness Ritual


Every morning begins that weary ritual
of creating an acceptable face
for carefree joy and laughter.
There is no acceptable face
for crying, there is no paint
on the drugstore shelves
to complement salty tears.

So this morning is like any other
as the task is to create a mask
that will deceive the greatest
reader-of-faces. Thankfully
there is nothing left to decipher
but layers of paint upon paint.

Emotions were brushed over long ago
and now thrash beneath the heavy veneer
only to be drawn out and spread across
my notebooks when I grow too tired
to hold up the disguise.

Almost Permanent


Long ago I captured the porcelain visage
reflected in a store mirror, sealed the sharp
contrast of eyelashes against cheek in a stop bath,
fixed her fast in smooth paper. Almost permanent.

Now she gazes at me defiant and innocent, pouting
as if to ask why? why do you keep me here?
And I have no answer, can only offer up the aging
backs of hands, the tarnished veins in my wrist.

I suppose I wanted to keep a piece of my youth.

Little Things


People always say It’s the little things. It really is.
The little things give us the will to survive.
It’s the pink marmalade glow above the bay against the dark forest I walk through
on the way home. The frozen dirt beneath my boots is hard as concrete,
tap tap tap. Dripping icicles that dangle like fangs in the mouth of a cave.
The things like a child’s cherub face split wide in a grin or
a lilting melody that catches me off guard. The fire dancer swirling his flames in circles
and loops, igniting the air. People will stop to stare and applaud.
It’s the crunch of leaves beneath my sneakers, announcing autumn.
The birdsongs of dawn as I walk to school, alone on crisp mornings.
It’s the emptiness of the beach in winter, snow meeting sand.
The wind howling its favorite tune, bending around the boards of my house.
It is me clasping a mug of hot tea, a cat nestling into the lap of someone
talking soft into the phone. The flash of a stranger’s smile.
Sometimes I forget these things, but it seems that they always return.
They return when I need them most.

Not for me

You are not for me
You will belong with someone else
as I belong in another pair of arms
in another bed
on any given night

You are not for me
And I know this but
I appreciate the wisps
of your hair falling in
a smooth curtain
I admire the tidy irises
lining your inky pupils
I have noticed the
freckle spill across
the bridge of your nose

We lay in different pairs of arms
and sleep in different beds
yet I wanted to say
I appreciate these things

Eyeliner & Ashes

She puts on make-up because it is a disguise, yes, but also because it allows her to be free. The flirtatious eyelashes lengthened with mascara give her confidence. And the eyeliner. God, yes, the eyeliner really does it. She coats it on thick along her eyelids, needing a cigarette to tap in a bored manner as she maybe leans over herself on a bench in the rain, collar turned up against the wind.

The college professors could hardly keep their eyes off her. She was just a girl then, but she felt their hard stares when she wore a black dress to class, or stopped by office hours with fresh lipstick on and mint gum in her mouth to disguise the smell of gin. They had greedy eyes, but pretended to be very interested in her last essay or quiz. She was a good student and they knew it. Always been smart. But now, with the tousled hair damp from the rain and cigarette-stained fingertips, they didn’t know what to do with her.

It is late and she shrugs on a leather coat, not because she’s into leather, but because her last girlfriend told her to keep it. The girlfriend had not cried when they separated. Instead she glared. People were always glaring. She fumbles for a cigarette as she steps outside and lights it under the eaves. Rain pours off the roof. The neighbors are already gone to work.