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

Morning

Ants were moving over their red sand nest
like satellites rearranging amongst the constellations,
orbiting the opening that led
to a damp dark infinite nest of mazes.
The smell of rot wafted across the yard,
something like the stench of decomposing flesh
or wet soil unearthed into the sunlight for the first time.
It was like the baking of clay
with seaweed and ocean life hardening inside.
The sun was a sedative bearing down on her,
heating the backs of necks and
lulling all into a state of apathetic bliss.
She watched the morning unfold
in the crabgrass: the grasshoppers blinking
in and out of sight; the willow branches drifting
like cheery, lazy pennants; swallows free-falling
to the ground in graceful undulations.

The Climber

He climbs like a dancer,
like sandstone grit under
fingernails doesn’t smart
and quick skidding slips
from a crumbling cliff are
necessary for this art.

Ascending at a steady pace,
thoughtful palms and pads
of fingers placed soft and
self-assured. With grace
and sun on his lashes, the
bronzed back to match stone
slabs, he clambers fast.
He catches light.

The friction of hand jammed
in a crack, the delicate step
where there is no shelf, a
scene of canopy and stinging
sweat; the danger only flavors
his pride. Knowing nothing
lies below but sure demise.

Others warn not to look down,
yet nothing else will sate him.
To stare peril in the face
and dare berate him. He laughs,
swipes chalk into the abyss to
watch it float into the grime.
He dons a smirk and climbs.

Falling

I felt that I needed to record the moment I first fell in love,
the instant I claimed you as my soulmate.
But which moment?

Was it the day we met nervously on a dock in your favorite park,
the one overlooking the marina, to struggle through Spanish verbs?
Jugar, conocer, leer, dormir.

It could have been the night you left for Missoula the second time,
when I entwined myself in your blanket with the stubbornness of a child.

Or was it the evening you drove to my house and we stood under the eaves
in the pounding rain, because I wanted to keep you all to myself?

There were a thousand times I fell in love with you,
each drawing me in deeper. Then a thousand times
we broke apart. A thousand times the rift between us widened.

There was an April evening when I called you from the staircase
with crocodile tears choking my voice.

The bright morning you shimmied up a fir tree in the forest,
too high for me. You crowed out from above, not knowing I was
walking home quickly, footprints filled with anger.

There was the night in my car you whispered, you bitch,
and slammed the dashboard with your open palms.

After a while, it is hard to know which came first and which came last.
Difficult to know what the difference is between falling
in love and out of love. Both are types of stumbling, grasping at air,
and hoping that something will catch you.

You Don’t Call it Love

I had been trying to write his happiness for a long time.
It began like a love story that snaked through a dark woods,
and didn’t have an ending. I wanted to write him some comfort, create
a gentle creature to nestle into his shoulder and bring color to his cheeks.

The words did not come easily. In fact, joyful words are hard to catch.
Most of them slipped through my hands and soared right out the window,
no doubt in search of a more suitable home. The gloomy words, though,
clung to my ankles. I tried to brush them off when I remembered. I worked hard.

I presented him the manuscript. My lungs froze in a tight stitch at his scowl.
He said, “This is not my happiness.” He cast the papers to the ground.
I grabbed for my words as the rain began to turn them gray. He walked away.
Emotions bled into my hands, staining my shirtsleeves. It was my own happiness.

The Trick is to Break it Yourself

I would prefer to break my own heart, thank you very much.
I will happily take it in my own palms and rip heedlessly at the ventricles, rather than relinquish it to you before I can prepare.

I am less a fearless martyr flinging herself in front of a bulldozer than an arrogant ship captain who retreats to the cabin with a gun because he cannot stand to be remembered as one who was captured by the enemy.

Hearts may shatter but they also meld back together in the chest, slowly. Sometimes quickly.
I know I can survive the injuries of my own hands.
Only the day when you stand there and open up my ribcage without my permission will be frightening.

That will be the day I see control slip through my fingers.
Only then will I realize I have been holding myself too tightly all along.

Spaghetti Dinner

The slick strands of angel hair and the taste
of earthy tomato paste on my tongue brings me back
to my grandmother’s house, where I am far too old
to be crying into my napkin for my mother.

I am too big to be coddled and tucked into bed,
too mature to have a scratchy afghan drawn up
around my chin. But when I try to say I’m okay,
the words will not crawl past my teeth.

If Wishes Were Fishes

starry_sky_by_allisonpotter-d5gkvyf

Photo from evelyzenunez.deviantart.com

She wishes the him-shaped hole could be filled with plaster.
She wishes that fleeing to Brazil or Nepal would take away the problems, but she knows they will follow her if she runs.
She wishes she could run faster.
She wishes on the first star she sees.
She wished once for a frightful illness, so she could suffer bravely, and have a reason to cry, and have an end to keep in sight.
She doesn’t wish for that anymore, that was many years ago.
Now she wishes for the medication to work.
She wishes for age to reveal a splash of happiness or wisdom or strength.
She wishes for smiles from strangers.
She wishes on dandelions.
She wishes through her tears as she kneels by her bed.
She wishes she could pray, or even believe.
Tonight she simply wishes for time, more time.