Afternoons flow like warm honey,
the sun a soft scar
in such a celebration of sky,
a hush holds you sweetly
like spring and summer
have fallen in love and
cannot stop holding hands.
Even a river could lose its way
but there is no river here,
only dust swirling between tufted grass
and silence swelling wide like a secret
that everybody already knows.
Nothing rushes in these clarion
canyons, not even water.
A mantis prays,
tilting her head heavenward
and I stand captivated.
I want to believe that she stands
in the gap, holds the line.
That she drops to her impossibly
small knees and implores the universe on my behalf,
each explosive morning and again through crisp, black nights.
If there is any justice in the world,
each of her meals is a dedication
to the gods of mother nature.
Each head torn bloodily off a sacrifice and a curse.
A plea to end mankind’s pillage and bring blessed silence
back to these hollow sunlit mornings.
hands pressed together, head surrendered
to the heat of the dirt
and pray for the first time in my life.
The mantis tells me,
you are not lost.
You are inclining toward grace
and it is this place that will redeem you.
Note: this piece was written for the Literary Inventory of the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks, edited by Eric Magrane, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Geography at New Mexico State University. It was published at Spiral Orb.
It’s not normal to cry over an egg salad sandwich.
I know this.
Three days ago, he called to say he was clean
but hadn’t eaten in nine days.
I’d heard from him maybe five times
in the last quarter century, but I knew exactly who he was.
You don’t forget a thing like that.
The day I met him, I was a screaming fucking maniac
throwing all of my douchebag boyfriend’s clothes down
steep stairs into the street.
I was 17 and hadn’t been home in months.
He parked that piece of shit motorcycle, and without a word
helped me pitch a six-drawer dresser to splinter in the green grass.
Guns and Roses raged from the neighbor’s porch
and suddenly it was all rain in my face,
wind in my hair,
strobe lights down there.
Come on, baby. Give it to me good.
Cocaine, fat joints.
Fists and I’m so sorry.
You know I love you, but we should
put some ice on that.
It’s just you and me –
except when it’s me and her, me and whiskey, me out all night.
Bruises, band aids, motorcycles sliding on asphalt.
World by the balls and small, small town.
Eight ball, stripper pole, black lights,
shots of Jaeger before each shift.
All l I wanted was for him to love me.
And love me he did.
Remember that some people love with fists and fat lips.
Then it was crack cocaine, sharp fear in the night,
that glass table in so many knives on the floor.
I remember watching his tattoo as he cracked
five eggs, each shell shattering itself again and again
on the tips of his fingers.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt.
I had red lipstick and cleavage,
both a little too much in the bright light of the kitchen.
We were still drunk
with the power of youth,
didn’t even suspect the devastation to come.
No way to see
the son, the daughter, waiting quietly beneath his skin.
Only his stark beauty and the fact
that I’d never before eaten egg salad, which explains
why we two left the party, boiled water
in a stranger’s pot, and spent the next five years
loving each other almost to pieces.
Now those kids are older than he was then.
Now it’s been 23 years homeless.
I can’t stop, baby please help me.
Snow, ice, batteries
from dumpsters, cardboard signs, dirty,
Old man face, brain a cluster fuck of need and regret.
Four fingers, two toes gone.
Staph infection and no ride to the hospital.
The stench of bridges burning to the ground.
So yeah, I sent him money the other day
because nine days is a long time and your first love
is an addiction worse than any drug.
When the hospital called
to say he’d stroked out, that he sure as fuck
wasn’t clean, never had been.
That those two kids, grown now, are next of kin,
and could I ring them up on the phone?
I happened to be eating an egg salad sandwich
and I couldn’t help but cry over those five dead chickens.
The way words can never adequately convey the miracles one stumbles across and the way they can so easily be taken away. Remember how there was so little to hold onto in the early days but so much concealed inside and underneath that I couldn’t see? The small, halfhearted start then the division, multiplication, and the branching away. Recall that I had good intentions but forgot to water things sometimes. Relationships and tomatoes suffer the same from that. The forgiving nature of the whole thing. That one way or another, it all works out. So many soft surprises coming slowly, slowly then rushing in all at once, the colors of jade, garnet, and coral, spread with sunshine butter and the feathers of birds. Never enough, and I do think tomatoes can be called that, grew deep roots, reached toward the sky, and woke up one October morning heavy with fruit hidden in all the secret and dark places. It takes some work to find them. On certain days, when the light shifts and the harvest is halfway gone, the richness and solitude sweep themselves together and place an offering at my feet. Sunshine warms my hair, which is wild and sprawling like the hedges that these tomatoes have become, and it is beautiful. I harvest with only birdsong and leaf rustle for company and know the meaning of plenty.
So after all this time, I’ve still got you on my mind.
You who didn’t know the first thing about balance
which is what I loved about you and I guess is also
why you flung yourself headlong into the abyss.
Me either. Can’t balance a checkbook
or all these cogs spinning around in my brain
and it’s always tripping me up.
I’m always on the verge of falling.
Despite the fact that fall is my favorite season,
I don’t navigate falls well.
Falling off of my big wheel, out of trees, out of bed
blood pooling and nose cracking.
Falling into love and out of love
more times than the stars in the sky.
Falling into myself, that black as tar mystery,
falling away from you and from that snowstorm city.
Joy has been sharpboned and shadowed ever since.
because nobody falls into it like you did.
Autumn always makes me fall
Speaking of falling,
I love waterfalls.
The crash and break of it all,
the smashing and reveling in the destruction,
the fact that we don’t have time to sob over spilled milk
and that things get lost in the churn
and wake of water,
the weight of it all. Is that what happened to you?
You got pulled under?
This shit is heavy and
I guess I always thought we’d do this together,
falling in and out of things.
Falling because see here’s the thing -
had I known you were falling I would have begged you to hold on.
I would have tied you to this earth with ropes and all the bungee cords
I could buy at the dollar store.
We could have done shots of lemon drops until we were falling off of
our bar stools and then stumbled home in the snow.
I would have told you that they’re not worth it
but we are.
now I can never stop falling.
I am still here and the leaves are falling. They call your name every night at 3am.
Remember that day when I was a spinning top
and you held me in your hands until I slowed down?
You didn’t let me fall.
I wish I had held you like that.
Like something beautiful and precious.
Like the purest water falling from the highest cliff
sparkling like diamonds all the way down, the sun
sifting its way through like so many crooked and beautiful teeth.
I would have brought you a parachute,
made you promise to sleep in it every night
and reminded you that falling is
The trees without leaves look just like spears and daggers.
So it’s fall and you might see me smile on some days,
but just know this -
nothing is the same anymore and I keep falling
over and over again into a space shaped exactly like you.
( <3 August 23, 2003 <3 )
after Archibald MacLeish's poem of the same name
A poem should be smooth,
worn slick as supper plates
waiting in warm water
as the night wears itself out.
Damp as a basement
with graffiti-rough walls,
no college degree in sight.
A poem should shoulder
A poem can't do the dishes
because it’s too busy
A poem is the time between
when I realize I don't love you
and the day I say it out loud
in an empty room.
A poem takes its time.
Running, as the mountain pulls
boulder by boulder, my legs
gasp poetry under their breath.
Leaving, as the elk bounded
from the meadow
the night of blazing vodka stars.
A poem should be equal to:
The way the curtains catch
the sunlight, paint a perfect slant
across the linen.
the crooked house and two hands
in the dishwater -
A poem should not mean
elegy: a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead
Remember how she smoked too many cigarettes,
flicking them one after another into the cold street?
Standing there for hours under the streetlights,
breath and smoke locked together like the blue and silver
holiday wreath she found at the Thrift-a-Lot and carried through
two husbands, one apartment, and a house.
She was desperate for rescue but interpreted it as everything else
She once got top marks in typing but almost failed out
of business school because she took up with
a beautifully broken man who kept her up too late then drove
her to class each morning, swerving through patches of black ice,
motorcycle tires spitting snow onto her stolen white jacket.
I've always wondered why she never had warmer jackets.
I've always wondered why she stayed so long.
She couldn't leave because Wednesday was ladies night.
She knew all the jukebox numbers by heart
and made a habit of going home with the wrong man.
Remember how she never cried
but could take a punch and give it right back,
how she spoke in circles and shouted
until the sun came up?
She once said her life was an afterschool special
with tired country music blaring in the background and she
Remember how we put her to rest
in that record breaking blizzard? How nothing seemed real anymore
and the snow was soft feathers against the windshield?
The road led west and it turned out
that she could have rescued herself all along.
May she rest in peace.
Tenacity is important to me. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve achieved so many things simply by being stubborn as fuck. By flat out refusing to give up. Perhaps it's tied up with my midwestern upbringing, which seemed to be based on two primary tenets: 1.) don't be lazy 2.) don't be a wimp..
There was a third which had something to do with drinking as many shots of Jim Beam as possible while the jukebox blasted Kid Rock in the background, but that one doesn't seem applicable here.
And so I've spent many (so many) years working my ass off while pretending to be perfectly fine.
What I'm trying to discuss today is failure. About the ability to be imperfect and be okay with that. This is a difficult topic for me to discuss honestly (even with myself) because it’s so hard to tell the difference between giving up and using common sense. Where is the line to help me know the difference between weak willed rationalization v. good self-care and healthy prioritization? And what to do with the realization that this or that thing was never your goal to begin with (or worse, that it WAS but that it never should have been).
The world is full of mixed messages and I have one foot firmly planted in corporate America while the other one tries to stay on solid ground while going about the business of creative self-discovery. I know this is also true of many of you, because let's face it - someone's got to pay the electric bill but our true joy resides elsewhere. It's a precarious position in which to be. For all the well-meaning corporate slogans ostensibly directing us toward healthy lives, acceptance, balance, etc., the underlying message is still constant evaluation, competition, and "continuous improvement". Taking off my rose colored glasses, I realize that this last one can be interpreted as "You're not good enough now and you never will be." And so.
So despite numerous academic and professional accomplishments, I strive everyday to keep up and get ahead. I am constantly competing - with others, with myself. Most of the time, I do just fine. As one of my slam poems says, my shoes make a satisfying clack when I walk.
But every once in a while, something happens to shake your confidence and knock you off of your game and this is when big, important questions come up for me.
Am I selling myself short? Could I do better? And I don't mean professionally because truth be told, I'm pretty sure I don't care all that much about that.
I mean personally. By setting goals and allowing myself to accomplish them. By not undermining myself with critical self talk. By allowing others to help me when I need it. By giving up goals that don't make any sense any more.
By being truly brave, not blindly, stubbornly brave. Brave enough to love myself through failure. Brave enough to pick myself up and really believe that my worth is not based on the accumulation of meaningless accolades, qualifications, and trophies.
I think the answer is yes.
I'm sure going to work on it because when I think of the things that make my heart sing, they are the people I love, the process of creating things, and the experiences that I have. xoxoxoxo
Full circle. Loop back. Finish what you started.
Lately, I’ve been getting a whole lot of what I asked for. You know how I’m always running my mouth about change and transformation? Newsflash: it’s a whole lot more comfortable to talk about it than it is to actually walk through it.
The past year has been brought so many incredible new things into my life. I’m not the same person now; that I can assure you. The year has been one of incredible growth and glorious solitude and it’s rapidly drawing to a close. The first week of April marks a year since I moved into this lovely and quirky house. It has been a fine companion and I’m already mourning the loss. I sit this morning surrounded by boxes of books and piles of art. Is it significant that these are the first objects I pack? That when I think of losing all of my possessions in a fire, these are some of the first things I think of? Probably. They are my heart. They have kept me company, pushed me in new directions, and given me solace.
I moved here with goals that sound simple on the surface, but which are in actuality exceedingly difficult:
Find my center. Seek myself. Learn silence. Create beautiful things. Stitch my life back together again. Just be. Let the silt settle around my toes. Hear the quiet voices.
In many ways, I’ve accomplished these things but I understand now that I’ll never be completely finished with this crusade. It turns out that these things are the real work of my life. That the career is just fluff. That every time I think I’ve grown strong enough or open enough, something new will drift into my life and teach me another important lesson.
Right now I’m learning the lesson that sometimes one must go backwards in order to move ahead. That if you just slam the door on certain phases of your life, you may be required to go back, take a seat, and hold some space for that person that you were. Loop back and say goodbye properly. It’s hard because I’m not one to turn back or slow down, but I think this is as it must be. And it is beautiful.
Today, I welcome the new adventures coming my way and I embrace the old Robin as gently as possible so that when it’s time to let go, I’m ready.