The Gamble of DNA

Thumbing through an album of my childhood,
I am caught by the urge to cradle a child
in my arms, wild-haired and scarlet-cheeked.

I want not my former self, but an output of my DNA;
a genetic product of the traits I wish to express:
the subdued artistic sensibility,
neat gleaming rows of teeth,
a curious athletic vigor, intelligence.

I list the qualities I would do away with:
dark unending moods, panicking on plane rides,
the tendency towards alcoholism,
nocturnal jaw-grinding, and skin cancer.

Did too my parents ponder which features I might
inherit or escape, as embryo me swelled and matured?
No, for I was a surprise, a niggling itch,
and then a heart-stopping realization.

Each bleached photo of my youth reminds me
a child is a lottery ticket, a gamble
revealed over the years
as their silvery surface is slowly scratched away.

Time

Me… a long time ago.

Me… a long time ago.

Funny how time can be wasted, killed, spent, or saved–

Amazing how time can stretch, plump, wrinkle,
distort, wizen, make the most innocent jaded–

Sometimes time softens the blows.

We live by it.
We try to beat it,
but in the end:
time takes us all.

Keep Your Hope

My small spirits:
the animals, the young children
who do not yet know the word oppression.

Sweet innocence, utter curiosity,
brave and trusting hearts.
Those sunny faces and bright eyes
don’t yet know depression.

They don’t need to know.
Please God, don’t show them.

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Believe in all the good things,
the magic that turns leaves red and gold
and morphs clouds into dragons.

Watch the sky for rain; laugh hard
when someone sneezes.
You can find delight in anything.

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Keep your dreams close, little ones.

Hold onto joy and travel through this world
slowly, and with those open eyes
that give me such hope.

My Guinea Pigs

I love having pets. Even though at times I can feel tied down by them, my little piggies give me invaluable joy and company on a day-to-day basis.
I love when they start squealing upon hearing my footsteps coming up the stairs to my room (though, admittedly, they are only thinking of food).

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Baby Poppyseed.

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Matilda and Poppy as young ‘uns.

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Pigs, present day (ish). They adore their comfy fleece bedding.

I spend a lot of time alone, or at least intentionally not interacting with people. This is due both to my introverted nature (normal, for me) and to my tendency to isolate myself (unhealthy). But something about spending time with animals is so unlike spending time with other humans. I don’t feel awkward, insecure, or forced when I’m trying to make a connection with them. It feels easy, comforting, and natural.

And for some reason, I also have similar feelings when I interact with young children. Perhaps it’s because they haven’t quite picked up on social cues, norms, and they don’t have reservations about certain things. I can be silly around them, and there’s no judgement or eye-rolling. They don’t tell me I’m not cool. I listen to them, and they listen to me (usually). Young children are mean only in the sense that they speak honestly, are self-interested, and don’t have the same sense of what’s inappropriate as older people.

 It’s taken me a while to learn these things about myself. Now I know that I feel more complete when I spend time with animals and kids.
Next step: How to incorporate this into my career and/or “adult” life…

spirit

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and now i lay me down to sleep
praying god my soul to keep
for if there’s nothing more to me
than this spirit i can’t see
i’d rather let it go tonight
let it float up towards the light
leave my body’s prison cell
than capture it inside this well
if there’s something better there
i surrender now to nighttime air
i’d rather feel clouds float by
than stay earthbound and wish to fly

Aching for Your Smile

I’m aching for your laugh, your smile.
To see your mouth turn up at the sides,
to see light dancing bright in your eyes.

I’m aching to see you happy.
I’m aching to feel your ease, your warmth,
your quiet appreciation.
To touch the edge of something bigger.

It’s just us two, sitting across a table,
discussing nonsense that makes up the day.
I am constantly making stupid jokes,
just to hear your laugh melt away my anxiety,
just to watch your expression soften,
just to feel this peace in my chest.

What does depression feel like?

What does it feel like when
your partner, your closest friend
sees the fresh cuts across your stomach
and doesn’t say a word? It feels like silence.

What does it feel like when
words don’t form fast enough on your tongue
and your parents watch you oddly, because
your eyes are lolling and drowsy?
It feels like disappointment.

What does it feel like when
you finish an important exam early but
stare at the pages because you know
your answers were incorrect? And you believe
you will fail the class, and never graduate?
It feels like despair.

What does it feel like when
you fall in unrequited love
(if I may use the term so casually,
because what does it really matter),
with your favorite professor, who is married
and has children?
This feels like an ache in my chest.

And how does it feel
to know it is never love, and never will be,
for you are incapable of such a commitment?
It feels like preparing to stop breathing.

What does it feel like to
spread open your arms to the wind and rain
but feel nothing?

It feels like nothing.
It tastes like the blandness of pablum,
sounds like the echo of far-off music.
Maybe something better is out there.
Maybe not.

But at times it feels like the weight of an entire sea
surging over your body, dragging you down, down heavy
to the ocean floor. Hold your breath as long as you can.

At times it will taste like vomit, or sound like
the roar of a helicopter in your skull.
Feel me, feel me. I am here. I’m not leaving.

Depression feels like this.

Ashes to Ashes

Shepherd me, O God, he sings, white ponytail
slung back low on his head. Beyond my wants,
beyond my fears. From death into life.

Echoes fade out near the ceiling high above,
where silence alone is observing us.

The choir rises and falls, swells in unison
with bright button-up shirts so unlike ours.
We stand, we sit, yet we should kneel.
I do not remember if music played
when the Father began to cast incense about.

There was milky smoke billowing forth, like water
rushing swiftly to cover the polished wood.
Tracing a cross over and over and over.
I felt the saltwater fall fresh from my cheeks.

Ashes to ashes, dirt to dirt. Dust swept away
from the grave. Yellow roses and a wreath.
Maybe we squirmed in the padded seats meant to be comforting,
thinking of worms and soil and carbon degrading.

Maybe we thought of sharks’ teeth on the beach in summer.
Maybe we thought of both. Time is up. The crew stands by,
in coveralls, waiting for our parade to depart so they may
complete their work and get paid. Just another day,
digging ditches because no one knows what else to do.

And so we scramble into the cars that form a line.
Shaking off the dirt from our clothes because
we don’t want to be claimed just yet.
We leave, but we take this with us.

Now that you’re gone

There is life before death that no one sees except you.
You alone know every waking minute thinking, wanting, waiting.
Walking by the quiet waters.

I have never needed God much until I saw Death.
You knew God when you met Death, and this was your comfort.

I do not know if God is there.
I believe nature protects me, and will claim me when it is ready.
Suck me under the mossy earth.

I listen to your music now that you’re gone.
We read your journals and trace your words with heavy fingertips.
You wrote about love.