Planting a tree is an act of rebellion.
The dirt nestling under your nails
is the color of well worn boots.
It whispers into the ear
of an eleven year old girl
fifty years from now,
promises her something worth
climbing at dusk. It implies that
she will be here, the tree will be here,
and that this superstar of a moon will still
dance in the smear of a night sky.
My shoes make a satisfying clack when I walk.
Still under warranty.
I have a 401K
and I’m not hungry right now.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t actually remember
the last time I was really hungry.
I’m just a middle aged white woman and from the outside,
it looks like I have my shit together which makes me
fade into the background sometimes.
But that’s not the whole story.
I remember searching the floor board of a Chevy Nova that hadn’t run in months.
I was looking for loose change so I could buy cheap beer
and fuck an unemployed waiter that I didn’t even like.
I remember when one of my husbands got so angry
that he put his fist right through the kitchen window,
blood dripping down and freezing into the crunching snow.
I remember the day my sister took the trouble
to carry an old chair down twenty-seven stairs into her damp basement.
She tied twelve knots in the cord and then she hung herself from the rafters.
When I found her, her feet were pointing like a ballerina.
I remember thinking I was right hundreds
- no thousands -
of times, but in reality being so, so wrong.
I remember getting an abortion and doing shots of Jack afterwards.
I remember ripping one marriage to shreds.
My point is
this life is much more complicated than you think.
It’s painted over thickly with gray.
There is so much shattering in every life.
Vessels meant to hold come crashing to the ground.
Windows, used not so much to see out,
but useful for keeping the predators at bay,
they break, too,
the tinkling of glass waking you in the dark of the night.
So when you encounter a chain link fence, climb.
Immediately check for metal barbs and seek a soft spot for landing.
Understand that dogs are lying in wait.
Hungry dogs, stupid dogs,
dogs that have been beaten and kicked,
jowls swinging and dripping like ham hocks in a meat locker.
These dogs are ticking off the seconds,
watching as you work the tips of your boots into each silvered diamond.
Sweat, salty and thick, beading a line on your forehead
as you navigate the loops and whirls of wire which are
poised to slice your palms.
the dogs wait to lap your blood.
This is what it is like to live in this world.
You will struggle to your feet weary and panting
more times that you ever thought possible.
And do not think you know what love is.
I swear to you on my word, it will change a thousand times.
And so, if middle aged white women wrote slam poetry,
I think they would say
it’s rough out there. Be careful, sweet cheeks.
Begin by stroking the head of a cat. Find yourself unexpectedly on the threshold of a farmhouse. Run your fingers slowly along rough, twisted wood and liken it to the path your feet have found for not quite 48 years. Drive with the windows down and remind yourself that you are not running from anything, you are paying homage to standing firm and rooting deep, which explains why you are singing so loudly.
Park your truck on the side of the road in a lost town. Dance in dust while the afternoon sun turns your hair to flames. Look into the eyes of a broken stranger and learn grace when he fills your arms with lavender and sage. That hug feels like homecoming but you will never know his name, which is exactly as it should be.
You have come to this place on the right day. the light is thick liquid seeping across the sky and the trees are birthday candles on fire. Touch the feather in the door frame of your ancient room and be blessed by those who have come before. Find heaven in the form of a bookstore. Eat dinner with a stranger then dance in a room full of friends. Nobody says it aloud, but we are all seeking safe haven tonight and we have found it here in the sound of saxophone and drum. Be reminded that everything is perfect just the way it is.