May 12th, 2017

My hands are dirty
And my face is raw
And this is where I belong.
I may never see
The countries I have heard of
And thought about
For so long.
The world is like a dream
Unreal;
Mystical,
Promising and foreboding,
And I could hide away forever,
Telling myself
I didn’t miss out on anything
Or
I could forge ahead,
be every part
Of everything
And make peace with my smallness,
For it is all I have
And the world is indifferent.

… Like a motherless child

The only thing worse

than the death of someone you love

is the complete and utter failure of that person

to fulfill their role in your life

while there’s breath in their lungs.

They’re walking about,

talking to others,

sharing glances and smiles with people

who are not you.

My mother won teacher of the year,

I was told,

and I wonder why it is the children of others

she came through for.

I guess it’s easier to speak up on behalf

of children whose demons are not of your making,

and whom you are paid to tolerate.

I wonder if she thought of me at all,

the child who desperately needs someone to talk to

and is left to call an 800 number and say,

through tears,

“This is the kind of day you call your mother, but mine is dead. ”

It’s easier than explaining that she just doen’t care,

the person who was supposed to love me forever,

like me for always,

as long as she’s living…

I guess dead inside counts too.

Timothy

The gaps your mean spirit

and lack of nurture left in me

burned a deep desire across my heart;

I would create the family you couldn’t.

I would build the love you never gave me

What I couldn’t see,

in my flawed child’s logic;

What I couldn’t know,

without creating examples,

was that some holes are not mine to fill.

It was your job

to give me the basic building materials

and you let me down-

all the way down,

raised at rock bottom.

(Aren’t homonyms fun? I could say that you razed me,

rather than bringing me up.)

So there I was,

eighteen,

sweet,

determined,

a partial human, convinced I could do your job for myself,

as sort of an afterthought,

like a brick house

with white aluminum sided additions;

I can tack on all the rooms I want,

but the ones you built will forever be empty.

And then there was this infant,

this glowing orb of soul

coated in the finest layer of flesh

and golden hair.

This ill gotten treasure

I thought I could stuff into the cracks, and it was then that I knew.

The rooms were not empty.

They were full of dark water,

murky with your filth

and floating debris

and this

would make me forever insufficient

at achieving my deepest goal-

I am the masthead of this new family ship

and what a gnarled and awkward interpretation of beauty

am I.

My ability to love

and be loved

is shrouded in your shadows

and though I can work,

fight,

burn my heart

to cast light in all the dim spaces,

that darkness will always linger

requiring compensation.

You succeeded.

You win.

Your mission of dominance is complete.

I can never have what I wanted.

There is a tribe,

Beautiful

and beyond my wildest dreams

but what I didn’t know

was how hard I would have to hold the wheel

to correct for your imbalance

and that I can’t,

for one moment,

stop pulling;

likewise I mustn’t over correct,

which is my most frequent mistake, and then

we find ourselves careening towards the shoulder

as I seek again, to find the middle.

I thought there was a time when I would moveĀ  past you

as though you never existed.

Now I see the truth

which is:

You will always be here.

I am formed of the same clay as you

and the best I can do

is stoke the smouldering hatred I have for your horrible spirit

that the flames may burn bright

over the lives I seek to protect.

I am better than you

can ever take credit for.

I am not yours.

I live with your failure,

as do you,

but I will not live with your shade.

The Beauty of a Battlefield

It was sprinkling, not enough to be considered a drizzle but more than a mist. It was quiet and humid in the car. Despite the precipitation we rolled the windows down a bit and breathed the tangible air. My life was absolutely shattered at the moment, I was a husk of a human being and reeling, experiencing at once the sensations of freedom and fear, loss and joy, hope in a hollow heart. It was incredibly hard to be in the moment, and as we drove through the Appalachian Mountains, on towering road bridges like a castle keep over the forests which were just past the stage of looking as though they’d been splattered by a paint brush with warm hues, one place blurred into the next. Tiny mountain towns where we weren’t sure we would find a gas station, restaurants with “Mama” in the name, tourist shops built of logs displaying furs in the windows. I couldn’t tell you if we fought in the cemetery in Ohio or Indiana, or if the town where people only helped us to get us to leave their town was in Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

I was steeped in sadness, and not the kind that had become an almost comforting familiar face throughout my shadowy upbringing. No, this was heavy and sharp and unnatural, like a chunk of asphalt broken off in my chest and all I could do was replay everything I had done to bring this on myself. I was with the man who would become my husband, patient, compassionate, trying to lead me through sun drenched forests, over stretches of highway far from any of theĀ  horrors at my back, but I couldn’t talk to him. I was disgusting. Pathetic. Fragmented. I had nothing good to say.

We went a bit too fast, not stopping as much as we should have and learning that, in the East, “My Cows” is nearly impossible to play, cattle farms as infrequent as they are in the oldest settled part of the nation, but thousands of corpses to lodge in fields that grow only stones and polyester floral arrangements. You would wait an hour, scanning the horizon intently for the chance to shout, “My cows!”, only to lose them as you passed yet another graveyard five minutes later.

Although much of this trip is lodged in my memory as a blur of blacktop and trees, I remember a handful of things distinctly. The covered bridge in Confluence, Pennsylvania was my first experience standing in the middle of a calendar page (outside my time spent in wheat fields in early summer, which are photographed for their pastoral quaintness, appreciated only by people who never leave the city.) The river tumbling over stones, its temperature measurable just to look at it. The red bridge, bright like a barn, but with a more exciting job, doing an eternal plank in honor of the people who lived in the woods on the far side. It may have been that same day, I’m not sure, my future husband warmed slightly by the rare glimpse of a smile on my face at the bridge, wanting to see it again. We stopped somewhere I can’t recall the details of now, it may have been a state park.

It was in Pennsylvania too, a historical site in the woods. The trees were tall and thin, grass carpeting much of the wood, giving it the feeling of a meadow full of trees as opposed to the closed off hide out feeling of the western forests. (Although I hadn’t seen those yet.) This day was grey, my favorite. Somehow bright, sunny days had more of a melancholic effect on me, as though baring the opposite nature of all the experiences and memories that have filled my existence. On cloudy days there’s a sense of excitement, secrecy and the promise of life. I bounded from the car, ready to jump over stumps and brave rain slick, moss covered logs. We read the sign at the trail head. A Civil War battlefield. I remember the log hut in the first clearing, stopping to snap pictures of its roof becoming host to creeping organisms, the small flowers gracing the ground, their leaves edged in my favorite autumn hue- that explosive shade of orangey-pink that glows around the sides of still-green undergrowth. Every inch within my site was teeming with a feeling bordering on mysticism. Every plant; every tree both fallen and alive; every standing crystal droplet, holding onto its individuality before melding with the landscape; they sang of secrets I didn’t think I had it in me to access.

My love and I discovered the mirth of shaking thin trunks so that the rain drops resting far above our heads would come toppling down on our shoulders. I could feel the spirits in the clattering leaves. All the young trees here had fed on the blood of soldiers. The ferns had sprung from soil made of men. Men who believed fiercely in the creed of their homeland, or men who had to take a side to protect all they held dear. I admit, I wasn’t mentally present through most of high school and in middle school I just didn’t give a shit, which results in very spotty historical memory. I don’t know on which platform the men of Pennsylvania largely died. And that day, in my bones, it didn’t matter the most minuscule bit. What did matter was the wisdom their ghosts imparted, the simplest of messages, that I so desperately needed to hear. The message that had spurned my golden hearted love towards the road with me in tow, this time around. He just has this way of pushing me into living the answers I need and discovering them myself, without being told. The fallen soldiers whispered what he wanted me to see- “You are alive,” they intoned. “You are alive, you are alive, you are alive.”

In that moment, racing between the trees, scrambling over disintegrating logs and rocks whose lovelier colors the rain had released, I felt what I had always longed to feel: Endless possibility. I did not explore under my father’s crooked eye. I had no rotting hole to return to when we called it a day. My adventure was not piloted by judgement, control or fear. Anything, from that day on, was achievable. The stench of my past still clung to my clothes and hair, haunted my gaze and stooped my frame, but that was not my final state. This was not the end of me. I did not die defending my freedom. I broke out, of both the shadow I was born into and the darkness I stumbled into afterwards, unable as I was to see in the light when I was released from the cage of my youth. My naivete could have been my ruin but, though I live now with the scars of blind trust and the desire to see good in anything, they did not manage to own me. I did not pen the introduction, only scribbled unsanctioned bits in the backstory when I could rend the writing implements from my captors. I did write the first chapter, poorly at that, and full of unnecessary ills, but here I was, standing firmly in the next installment. I had lived as though it would never come, nearly resigned myself to defeat, but blood coursed still through my veins, not in the roots of trees over a century tall. I belonged, at last, to myself.

Everybody Needs a Rock

An absolute favorite, perfect book to read before bed, or before searching for rocks. This is not my original work. This belongs to Byrd Baylor. And she’s a genius.

p. 1

Everybody
needs
a rock.

I’m sorry for kids
who don’t have
a rock for a friend.

I’m sorry for kids
who only have
TRICYCLES
BICYCLES
HORSES
ELEPHANTS
GOLDFISH
THREE-ROOM PLAYHOUSES
FIRE ENGINES
WIND-UP DRAGONS
AND THINGS LIKE THAT-
if
they don’t have
a
rock
for a friend.