Self-Preservation

The black fly on the window sill

I walk the dark hallways

barefoot in white.

Sleep. I cannot sleep.

My body shakes and rattles like the windows,

waves trembling.

I am silence.

Every law I have been governed by

dissolving in a strike of lightning.

Heart, heat, heart, what is this?

The panic that had risen like a monsoon

is calm and still, but rolling and boiling beneath–

me soft across the wood floors.

I can’t do this.

Do not come here.

The broken window sill, the sheer curtains billow from a gale

and the storm enters this house. But I don’t hear it.

The black fly drowns. Scurries. Tries. Out by the sea,

the purple dark blooming in the sky as the rains are coming;

I go out to stand at the edge of my island at midnight

letting it pour down my body.

Comfort comes against my will

and the edge of the cliff is near

but no man is an island, this I know.

Can’t he see maybe he is the ocean

and I am just a stone.

He is paddling hard in the distance pushing.

The sheets of rain hit me and he keeps on,

the boat growing near on the crest.

The heat, I cannot cool this down, I rake my skin.

Please, please don’t make it, I breathe out,

the tears are words I refuse to say.

I know he sees my pale frame on this edge, with

his warm eyes cast, these sure and strong hands,

courage in his chest, he is coming for me.

My god, he is coming for me.

I cast it—the spell webbed through my marrow is all I know–towards

his motion, you are the ocean can’t you see

and I am just a stone.

I call out the waves, I call out the lightning

and the wind, pelting stinging burning rain,

my anger growing

I arch my back and gather the elements in my arms

in an unyielding sphere

and I let go

the wave turns him over

the water swallows, the foam comes and leaves

the black fly on the window sill

is buzzing when I return in the lightning’s shadow

this house empty and cold

my return alone

it’s supposed to feel different…I’m supposed to sleep.

Shadows on the empty walls play like puppets.

I walk across the floor and puddles form

in the cracked dining room,

watching the white light inside that was too hot

shrink beneath my gown, then breasts, then skin and bone

ribs and blood and then I grow cold.

no man is an island, this I know.

Can’t he see maybe he is the ocean

and I am just a stone.

I crawl like a ghost onto the mattress

beneath the window overlooking the drop

to the sea

not seeing his boat break on shore

I watch the cracked ceiling in the howling wind

I lay down to it, the rain is seeping in

dripping and dropping on my cheeks like tears

I could never make myself yet now I am weeping.

My limbs numbing and hardening, toes to hips now

not seeing the figure on the rocks moving

toward the house below.

The last spell is for pain-

to stop the pain, to eat up the loneliness

that beats through my thickening veins.

I watch my girlhood in flashes:

years of fighting in flickering images. And then

the years of my womanhood–

trying to feel the sand on the shore when I had no skin,

years of building

this house out here.

The man ascends the white stairs, his shadow

passing up the stair well, passing the dead flies

at his feet.

I await the completion.

Absolution.

Washing all away out there.

My breathing slows and is now the only sound in the room.

Chest barely rising in its weight.

I cannot forgive myself even now.

He enters. I’m too frozen to hide as he nears.

Loneliness turns to fear that beats at my chest with wings.

I close so hard I shake.

I shake harder because he leans and touches my skin.

My god he wants to take it–the shaking–

and he does

and he makes love to it–

to me, I feel it on my body

touched skin

and suddenly the ocean of myself

is gone

and here he is with his

real hands and innocent eyes,

flesh and blood and bone

Can’t you see, he says, maybe you are the ocean…

and he takes the wings and quiets them

with his palm.

I feel a painful thawing.

It pushes me beyond fear and into something

like forgiveness

as he cups me up and tells me to bloom.

Love comes in doorways.

Love comes in from the long dark journey across your currents.

Love breaks and sinks and swims

touching you as hard as you are

and words fall

like tears down your lover’s face

as oceans of your own

tenderness tear through you and reach out.

The Point: Difficult Degrees

~the Point, & in a Poem

DIFFICULT DEGREES 2017

(an introduction to a poem/work-in-progress):

My childhood memories consist of either feelings OR images–feelings in my chest of space and a sort of vacuum…like a nameless, empty thing that can be filled by other things, other people, other parts of myself I could easily call upon and discard, but it constantly emptied, and  I forever got hungrier–and then transparent in how lean I was growing and not developing but filling, emptying, filling, emptying, knowing the walls of this kind of stomach were wearing thin. I am still learning to or trying to learn my autonomy, and I am not sure I want to find out if that sort of loss can be taken back. As for the visions, well that’s the funny thing–the images are steeped in color and sound and smell and more than ever–the feelings in my stomach. I cannot remember much about three years of being a six year old to an almost nine-year-old in a bigger city except that my sisters were starting to slip, or just did, for a while, there, and I felt cornered and afraid a lot, and the nasty green/yellow stain-like flu in my stomach was all the guilt I carried that I didn’t understand unless I released the temperatures and pressure and acted out through play, which I certainly did. But I kept a tight lid on it. I remember my sister in red corduroy’s rollerskating on tin wheels at my command in our basement after schools, the drain wet in the floor. The more I laughed, the more pleased she was. Somehow my sisters and I went our separate ways after moving there, but managed to remain somewhat fragmented together in the house. But fear wasn’t shared, sadness together over our real father I do not recall, though I remember crying alone for him every night for a very long time between my bed and the wall on the radiator.

My visions and feelings tell me we went from four, five, and six year olds who didn’t have a care in the world with our mother married to our biological father, staying out at the farmhouse with all the aunties, uncles, and cousins–I have a menagerie of body memories of the times in around four or five years, I remember very little, but I remember in a sort of tunnel of clips and sounds and smells–music from the seventies, and Pine-sol in particular
. And my stepfather’s shoe-polish and aftershave.

But after second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t always have each others backs out in the open anyway, where it wasn’t safe. But in the recesses of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, we were each others’ home, we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“

We entered into a world we were being taught to fear somewhat

and we were completely unequipped in the ways of maturity and functioning growth, etc.

Three degrees in a similar environment

young summer nights found us in imagined sanctuaries

together, not impenetrable–but strong enough

to maybe remind us that we had each other, but the world

would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight

that we weren’t going to be entirely okay, ever, but if

were okay together, than that small sanctuary would have to suffice.

We share histories, though of varying mass and degree,

we tried to grow somewhere between always losing the ones

we loved most, believing we deserved loss, believing only we could help ourselves

out of violence and harm, no one else would probably–and our safety

would come later when we grew up, or under the witness of others around.

Losing,  abandoned, forgotten, abused, teased and abused on and off as a whole,

…well,

once you get beaten down and played so many times and your humiliation comes at the hands

of thee power position and guardian–at the ages we were ate–

it was

…acceptable.

What other choice did we have?

 THE POEM

Each stage of equations  had spun me out

of my paper-doll dress recital curtain and naked into

the polar sun, white and stale metal hospital warmth,

the decay of my closet no longer able to hold or keep me,

my body repelling from and away from the only other option–a sort of

existential annihilating space, empty

with no reference point or gravity, by body

turning and revolving in the infinitesimal system of disorder.

With theory and law as dense as their own basis–

as a small girl with a highly developed survival skill

of withdrawing and disappearing,

I made a map,

charted by the constellations people left

at my door, or in my prescription bottles,

or in the tone of a voice on the phone

that uncomfortably told me they understand,

to hang in there–my awkwardness

a swallowing of tears and humiliation–because then I had to see

myself through their eyes–at what I had become.

Yes.

A constellation. A brilliant map-

away from the embarrassed acceptance in the eyes of

someone who once loved you but does not

recognize you without your borders

without your smile

without a personality, an identity

you once came equipped with,

–away from him meeting you on the street,

the ache of pretending to not notice their eyes

scan for an exit, scan your face, and

away from their belief that some people

who have gone where you have

never really come back.

Madness, they do not tell you, is as lonely as it is scary.

But a map of that night, that space,

and I started seeing without knowing how

that the answers were not static, they were not concrete,

they were not written.  They were not

even thought of–they cannot be touched,

they were sketched stars in reverse,

they were the universes in my irises unraveling,

the answers became something changed-something new-

through the radioactive pulse of my unstable heart,

shedding another degree and sparking a new one.

And after that burning

-like a coal mine…like an oil rig…piping and gloved hands and sweat and noise…

-like becoming skinless, an existential skeleton out in the ether
-after that burning-the last of the burnings-(there are no words for the others)–

a period of mechanical, metallic, empty, screeching and unaided disruption, destruction, separation, breakage, dismantling, the numbering of the pieces and counting what piles were left, broken useless ends and corners discarded into space-out into those starless, stale days;

I do not remember my eyes working;

I do not remember recognition even, or fear;

I do not remember my throat or my hands reaching for some kind of comfort;

what I remember is feeling–feeling a feeling for the first real moment in my life

and it swept across days, weeks, months, years

–tears and pain and anger and grief and sadness I had never thought possible

See I was learning that submission to the dark mysteries

my heart and mind and hands possessed

were wounds in the womb of where I had to first

learn to breathe

again

and again.

My body began to build some kind of structure

that could handle oxygen again, in small doses,

but on the inside there was an entire operating system

new and changed

-scribbling words and reading the medical books in my attempts

to gain control were now almost forgotten,

my sutures

my stitches up my skin

healing each part of myself into the other stitched up piece.

With each dominant emotion shaking me, another

department in my mind–the worlds of words

had strewn together an open-ended narrative, stitching up

my skin in sentences I had not yet rehearsed–

but the words were coming nevertheless, accelerating

and then pacing in difficult degrees I was

developing a clarity for.

To not be a girl anymore

lost

in a pale nightgown

in the shutting of doors

To be a woman emerging from

dirt

with dirt under my nails and the armor that comes

with losing it all and having nothing left to lose but you fight anyway,

scarred face, scarred bod–

unblinking and beautiful into the morning.

I reach for the cycles and circles of degrees like encapsulated bubbles-

bubbles tight with my words that arrive on tongue and lip

with tear and bone,

not measure and foresight,

expectation and pride.

The temperature in my beating body,

a body submissive to where I carefully select new order

with a lightness of touch, combined with the old habit

of dread and preparation.

The temperature is new–a falling down of degrees–

but the changes,  the chemistry of this new script, are

becoming new elements entirely–

so I feel with my pen

to chart another way to discover–to discover what I

am not sure at first…

but somehow

each word connects to new connections

in my body, and my body is binding itself

into something real and whole,

self-possessed and by my design alone.

I have sabotaged and rebuilt

and rewired and started

with a fuel I’d never, ever tasted before–Self-Love.

Self-Love and will.

An Afterthought:

My body is my memory. My memory is my narrative, which is my story, which has gaps and blocks and stitchings and bridges,  best forgotten dark alleys and abandoned farmhouses, but also a shared swing beneath apple blossoms with the two girls that grew into women while I was gone, my sisters, but they waited in the wings until I found mine.

–As I write this, right now, they still gently wait in my peripheral-

the only proof for them of my healing and strength being time and consistency–

they wait, nudging me on always and never, not once, crossing my boundaries they

allowed me to build with them over childhood. As if they knew, somehow, they had faith

in ME, that I’d figure it out my own way, alone, as I knew it had to be done and as all

of us who’ve gone mad know there is no taking anyone with you–they waited, all these

years, letting me set the pace and distance and even how far I was going to push them.

(the first poem Difficult Degrees can be found here, from 2010…my, my, my how things have changed…)

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What Do You Believe In

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I believe in. Faith is not a decision. I think it’s whatever guides you in your secret corners and what you feel when you are either terrified or enamored or content. I was raised Catholic-Catholic School until 8th grade. I studied Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in college and studied Taoism and Buddhism on my own when a while after the break down. My sister and I were talking about our dad’s death and how we find comfort in it. She said she will see him in heaven. I was kind of surprised at that thinking. I guess because a large part of me felt the scary roots of existentialism when I went mad.

I know two things about myself.

I’ve dreamt (is it dreamed or dreamt?) about a hand with an eye on it since I was a teen-never knew what it was or why. Dreamt about it again before my first break down in my twenties, and then again as I healed. So I looked it up.

divinehennaHamsa. The Hand of Fatima. The protection from the evil eye. The hand with the eye in it is a symbol throughout many religions (including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism and Jainism). This just fascinates me. It is very much a feminine symbol.

The other thing I know is that when I was in a bad state, maybe several  months after getting out of the bin, I hadn’t written in years. And I woke up one night and wrote a poem to Jesus Christ. And I cried and felt something–like gratitude. I knew I was going to make it, and that I wasn’t alone. In the hospital I saw something vast and empty–a godless world. It was horrifying. HORRIFYING. I realized my idea of faith had been utterly shattered. For awhile…

My mother has been asking me to go to Adorations at church Monday mornings. I won’t go for one reason–the few times I have gone to mass I do everything I can in there to keep it together and not cry. And it’s tears of love and home and survival. Surviving–how do we do it?

My daughter told me she didn’t think she had courage. I added to a letter I am saving for her for her 21st birthday what I feel about courage:

“You told me you didn’t think you were courageous. But Emma, you won’t know your own strength until it is called on. You will surprise yourself. Strength doesn’t require a good past or a bad past. It requires how much you love yourself, how much you want to survive the obstacle. A passion to endure.”

I do believe every religion and faith centers around the same concept. You have to look past all the crap that has been muddying it. The point of them is the same. It’s also like science. Religion and science are brother and sister in my opinion. But what is it you settle down with at night?

I see my faith in the way early spring morning walks smell, and lilacs that take me back to when I was five, before damage occurred. I see it in my daughter and how I love her and in turn, love myself. I see it the prophets I recognize. I see it in the long winding up and down crazy psychotic loving path between my mother and I. I hear it in my grandmother’s voice I can still hear even though she is gone. I see it in the depth of the hell I was in–the dark is the light, the light is the dark. Everywhere there are openings and answers without words. The point is to face every fear, every passion, every question, every desire, everything within us, because we are human and to deny all of ourselves is a good way to stay trapped.

 

Daddy’s Game

published in FRiGG Magazine

and Haggard & Halloo

 

DADDY’S GAME

 

I imagine you must’ve shut

yourself off somehow–the way

you’d eventually teach me to do–

before you entered my room

like a king’s shadow.

 

I hear the scrape of your jeans

your hands hot and big like swings;
I’m young so I love you.  I do as you say.

You blow smoke in my face.

 

Now, here, I slip

because you taught me how to shut off–

how to die inside,

and I have only memories

of my body:

 

fear, arousal, panic and pain,

death around every corner

 

shh

girl

shh

 

I hid so well I lost me

in this confusion of a woman

trying to bud from

what’s already been picked.

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