Poem: Drag Night

The mahogany double doors open

and the woman submerges into a cloud of smoke.

The fog machine ushers her into the room

and into a crowd of cheering people.

A large woman, dressed in purple sequence,

clad in fish net tights and eyeshadow

sprawling from ridge to lid, descends the stairs.

The woman at the door ignores the parade.

High on tip-toes, brown sandals pushing up, 

she scans the bar, examines the booths, and

searches the crowd for the face she seeks.  

With a disgruntled breath, into the crowd

she plunges, deeper and deeper through the

veins of bodies standing shoulder to shoulder.

Screams of laughter erupt and the dancer

mimes the words of “Like a Virgin.”   

But the woman in jeans and the yellow blouse

pays no mind and hinders no search.

She escapes the sweating merriment

and to her relief, a familiar face sits.

At the bar, eyes glued to the performer

as she parades around the bar

and serenades her loyal onlookers

sits a man, beer in hand.  

The woman steps toward him,

placing her arm on his shoulder.

He looks up at her and she smiles. 

“Funny bumping into you.”

He pulls out a seat for her.

“You’re late.” His arms rests on her knee. 

“Looks to me like the show just began.”

“So it has.”

Poem: Taxman Jones

The Corolla screams as it slows to a stop, 

Resting at a weeping brick building.

Both the car and the walls are gray and peeling.

A flick of the wrist and the engine shimmies

And clunk, clunk, clunks.

Silence.

My frown deepens to the point

It hurts.

My hand caresses the handle and

SLAM.

My shoulder pops and the door pops,

And out I tumble into the wind.

I dust off my hands,

Tattooed with gravel,

To pull the thin crocheted sweater closer,

Closer,

Closer.

Mom made it white.

Time made it yellow.

My feet push on.

Left, left,

Left, right, left.

I stop at the front door.

At attention.

Jingling keys sing the national anthem,

Before I shove them into a weather-worn hole.

The shops walls are the patches of a quilt,

Stuffed with graffiti.

The “Closed” sign glares at me.

“You’re late,” it yells. I ignore it.

Again. Instead,

I scan the horizons for any sign of life,

But it’s gray up there.

Dark, then light, then dark.

No blue today.

Or yesterday.

Or the day before.

No blue tomorrow either.

My eye catches on the vinyl sign hanging above the shop doors.

It should read my name and profession.

It should trumpet in each day, and herald my exit,

but

instead, it dangles from a roof,

wishing it adorned another.

“Axman Jones,” it says.

An angry client tore out the “T,”

And not even a Sharpie could

Save the sign, much less

The business.

At ease solider.

My shoulders sink,

Deeper and deeper until I am nothing but a shell.

“Would Jesus even hang out with me?”

I scoff and straighten my back.

Jesus picked better sinners.  

The wind of ice and fury sings “Taps” in the distance.

I open the door and lock it tight behind me.

Poem: A Most Fitting Cliche

The final cut:

Like fresh shaven legs

Or the snip-snip of a “new do”

Or a new dye job

Or trashing an entire wardrobe

Like wanting everything to be different

Wanting nothing to recognize

And no memories to ache

Or photos to caress

No name badge to don

And no ducking behind walls

No working in silence because if I speak

I will scream

Because seeing their face is enough—

Enough to swallow an ocean

Enough to warm the entire globe

To melt the ice caps

To bring hell on earth

 

Only severing will do

Only axes will do

Only chain saws and hacking away at the future

And the broken promises

And the hope that brought me back

Again and again.

 

My eyes will not see

So the scabs will flake off

And the pink flesh beneath

will prove me a victor.

And I will make new promises

that I will keep.

 

The comfort I sought

But no longer need

No longer benefit

And maybe no longer healthy.

 

The saying goodbye to what was

And welcoming a new me

And promising myself

 

That it is mine.

This change

This year and

 

The finality of change

is the change I choose for myself.

 

I am the decision maker

And no longer the captive to time

No longer captive to being disappointed

By other people

By myself

But by deciding that I am worth more.

So much more.

 

It is the closed door I will not open.

But through the window I will climb. 

Poem: Last Week Sucked (Poem In Progress)

I tuck my hand between my pillow and face, and the Fitbit on my left wrist lights up the room.

1:53 AM.

It snuffs out and the room goes dark. I shut my eyes again, but the seconds tick by and I am still awake.

Fluorescent light slithers between the threads of the curtain, despite the second sheet strewn over the curtain’s rods, and my eyelids flutter open.

I can’t help but notice the glowing, throbbing electric strobe coming from the neighbor’s backyard porch light.

It’s arms open wide ready to greet me, welcoming me to a restless night, saluting my futile clinging mental fibers.

The humming fan fights a losing battle to the owl hooting outside my window–a new addition to the soundtrack of my insomnia, but

it seems to fall in pace with the cricket hiding in my closet.

I roll onto my left side for the sixteenth time and close my eyes.

Chimes blow up on my phone, and a half-growl/half-groan erupts from my throat. I flick my Fitbit to check the time.

It’s 7:30 AM. Time to get ready for work.

Poem: I hate this poem 

I was once a little girl
Spinning in circles, eyes cast down
Watching my dress bloom around me
from my waist, detaching at the knees
reaching out, around and
around until the galaxies kept in my brain
Exploded, and I fell to the ground in ecstasy,
while the earth reminded me that She is indeed
round. She makes me her center, and I am
the sun about which the living room rotates.
I cling to the brown carpet digging my short,
dirt marred fingernails into its fibers
And smile.

I was once a little girl
Who dreamt of the life I would have
And the woman I would be. And for
the little girl who slept with sadness
and knew much more of her own brain
than the interests and personalities
of fellow children, I dreamt of happiness.
The kind I must one day know as a woman.
And the companion who would know my brain
like I did. And I would know his like my own.

I was once a little girl
who–by no means of my family or an
ill-childhood to speak of–knew my soul
was deep as an ocean and the depths
with its unknown darkness was the place
I was most comfortable. I believed in the
universes contained in the brain, partitioned
chaos that made life have meaning–People
were good because there can’t be
so much expanse in one being without
the possibility of goodness.

How I wish to be that little girl 
and believe so much in everything.

Poem: Peace Before the Heartbreak

When a song has the power to transport you
to a moment–A moment that brought you
so much joy–even though now it breaks your heart.

But even in the breaking,
there is peace that it once happened.
That simple contentment.
That simple joy.
That simple thankfulness.

That a moment could have existed at all.

And for that small second, you get to go back
and relive it again as if nothing has changed

As if all were right with the world again.
As if he still loved you.
As if you could turn over in bed and hold his hand

Or press your head into his shoulder
and smell his deodorant–degree for men.
Or smell the dust in his hair.

As if you could snooze the alarm
and sleep next to him just “five more minutes”
until those five minutes turn into an hour and suddenly
you’re late for class.
But who cares
When the entire world is right beside you.

But the song ends, and you lie in the middle
of the bed in the dark of your apartment.

So you start it over.

As if the feeling will last just a little longer.
As if the memory will come back as strong and alive.

The plucking guitar seduces your memories,

and back you go to the old apartment,
to the right side of the bed,
and to the sigh of relief
When you turn over

And he’s there.

Poem: Untitled

I couldn’t save you yesterday.
I could not fix your wounded soul.
I was not your willing savior,
Or the answer to your prayers.

My to-do list is daunting
And the laundry’s piled up.
I have a quiz on Tuesday for a class I
haven’t managed to attend.
My cello’s corroding in the corner
And the fridge is getting low.
My painting’s gone unfinished and
And still, the dishes soak.

But “yes” spews from my mouth
Because I want to do it all.

But no amount of yoga can prepare me
To be shot out your cannonball.

Today, I cannot save you.
I cannot make you better.
I won’t add your secrets to the
Weight upon my back.

You cry in your fragility
But forget I have my own.

In your anger, you explode
And assume “im sorry”s make us whole.

Like your broken heart gives you permission
To break apart my own.

My head is reeling
from this year I didn’t plan for.
And my energy’s run thin.

My list of miracles is empty,
And my magic obsolete.

So I cannot save you today,
But perhaps try me next week.

Poem: To have so much nothing with someone

When that nothingness becomes the air
and every molecule of oxygen becomes carbon monoxide.
The air is poison and all you know is that it once gave you life.
And once, every moment with that person filled your lungs and satisfied your hunger.

But now, when you see them, you are aware of your heaving chest
and your empty stomach, a
nd the starved cries of you cells.

And when you begin to wither away, you wonder where you went wrong
And wonder, “where was the sign that was supposed to say,
WRONG WAY, TURN BACK.”

 you have to run away 

in search of fertile land and 
For trees that will engulf the carbon monoxide,
And fill your lungs once again. 

your world becomes the earth and no longer a person.

Poem: The Inadequecy of Words

How do you explain something that does not exist anywhere but your head?
How do you form words for feelings impossible?
How do you talk about the cracks in your brain caused by no weapons?

13 new countries, 16 new homes, 60 interviews, 500 new friends, 459 good-byes, and 1 lie: “Yes, I’ll come back”–because the truth would break those quick-beating hearts more than my absence ever could–$15,000 USD, 22 plane rides, 1 lost forever, and a singular trauma drawn out seven months.

Caged like a bird, imprisoned in a church, and
A palpable loneliness as my mind swallowed itself whole.

“Why don’t you talk about your trip?”

Because I lived it alone and there are not enough words to explain the nothingness and everything that it was.
A lifetime of languages could not articulate the forever in those 18,396,020 seconds of my life.
Because if I tried to tell you what it meant to me and what happened you wouldn’t understand.
There was no other body nor witness to my experience–no validation of how wonderful and terrible it was, and no one to help me unearth the words I need to make it matter to you.

Memories come back to me in snippets–like dancing in the rain while my sketchbook was stolen in the hotel of Bangkok, and the shop in Macedonia on a corner in Skopje where I picked out a set of graphite pencils perfect for practicing a new hobby, and sitting on a plane careening toward New Delhi where I drew my seatmate on the first page of that sketchbook.

And the PTSD that kept me awake at night tucked in with my bedfellow nightmares, soaking in my sweet sweat.

How do I explain what I saw in the darkness?

How do I give voice to the demons that pursued me in the night, caressing me with the promise of silence and the release of my grave–a tombstone defined by a dash that declared that I should be happy?

When my mental illness became so much more than a monster–my best friend–intertwining her fingers in the neurons of my mind, creating synapses drenched in hopelessness deep enough to drown the whole earth.

I was alone, and in those months, that was all I knew–haunted for years by the person I once was who believed so much in everything–but now could barely believe in the promise of tomorrow.

How do I tell you these things without falling back into the darkness that I once wore as clothing?
 

 

 

 

Poem: Brave

I found her again.
The fearless traveler and the independent woman.
The unafraid to explore the unknown, unafraid of being lost, and unafraid of being alone woman.
The flirt and the extrovert—the confident and ready for anything woman.
The yes woman and the go-getter.
The sitting in a café enjoying every last drop of her Americano woman.
The I’ll-take-a-left-here-because-that’s-how-I-feel woman.
The not recognizing a thing but breathing easy anyway woman.
The dance in the rain and don’t give a damn woman.
The take a deep breath and exhale the panic woman.
The smiling at unrecognized streets and unabashedly disoriented woman.
T
he sit with strangers just to start conversation woman.
The peering out the window of a train, lost in thought woman.
The headphones creating a soundtrack to new memories woman.
The feeling small, looking at the skyline of a cathedral woman.
The future unplanned and spontaneous trips to Italy woman.
The yes to strangers and no to fear woman.

The unashamed of her broken past woman. 

The gleefully in tune with curiosity and abandoned restraint woman. 

The stripping layers of an old coat because it’s finally grown too big woman.

The woman I have dearly missed.
And the woman who turned out exactly as I always hoped she would.