I can be a bull in a china shop. That can lead to power struggles.
For characters who would’ve been vilified in an older generation, but are celebrated in this one.
My thunder thighs don’t say temple.
My stretchmarks are not stones where monks kneel.
My bruises and scars are not made of stained glass.
My body isn’t a temple.
is capable of recovery and growth.
It meditates in the miracle of healing.
It’s not stagnant, not easily broken.
I don’t think they know what my body isn’t– only what it is.
And to them, it is a site of worship.
The focus and reverence on my skin,
wordless prayers on my lips–
I can tell I am church to this person.
That this is a pilgrimage they’ve made.
I don’t know all the lovers and deserts they’ve fasted through,
What seas of strangers they’ve parted to be here,
Testifying at the center of me.
I don’t know what sermons they’re saying,
but I feel what they mean,
what they mean in this monotheistic moment.
This person makes me feel like this is the only god they could ever fathom praising.
I am not my own temple.
Any temple that’s suffered the wreckage I have would never survive.
But this can be a temple for someone else,
their sanctuary for visiting touch.
We become shelters for those who honor us enough to let them stay.
I wish there were a sign I could hang outside myself, “soul out sick”. My ideas, my writing, have gotten tired, worn, gray. They used to have teeth– the things I said. I think on a loop now– somehow convinced that if I write about these themes, if I talk them out, if I purge and discharge them, they will cease to be in my head. It doesn’t work. Perhaps I’m prematurely birthing thoughts that needed more womb time, even nurtured in draft bassinets before publishing. No. I push my poems into the world like myself — way before I was ready. That’s the thing with abandonment issues– there are exits and footprints away from all the things I fathom.
I read my previous feed like I’m cleaning my closet. Looking for the clutter in cloned pieces. All the while, I know that I am writing more than thoughts. These are my fears that I don’t dare dive into, but merely landscape in flowery prose. If I barreled a lawnmower through the literary devices, what would remain? I feel complacent. I worry I’m going anywhere. I once had wings and sliced them myself so no one would be threatened by my ability to fly, ashamed that I could ever touch the clouds to begin with. I’ve tried defining my infinite-ness by subtraction, and continue wracking my brain over impossible equations. My atrophied phrases mirror the fear paralyzing me. That I might not be good enough. Am I a collection of second hand thoughts I write with my non-dominant hand? Would I still be pretty if all you had to go off of was the color of my soul?
What I post here is everything I’m too ashamed to say aloud, to know the ears of the universe heard my voice crack when I asked to be loved. When I wish hands besides my own knew how to worship my body–or wanted to learn. I worry I am un-wantable and disposable. One day, I will find my vulnerability beside the recycling, and, express with gratitude, that it will make a nice cup or newspaper in another life, never mourning that no one valued my exposure enough to keep it. It’s a hard lesson to absorb that self-love does not encompass all other loves. It’s the earth, not the trees. It’s a harder lesson to accept that I will still want and need other loves, even with a profound sense of my own. The hardest is to celebrate that I deserve to be loved profoundly and deeply and in many ways by other people. That I cannot continue convincing myself that it’s ok to be a pit stop in everyone’s story. Telling myself this as I collect the litter they leave in their wake. Moreover, I can’t define myself by another’s road map. If someone referred to the Pyramids as a pit stop, it’s not a comment on the Pyramids.
I am in a footrace with my thoughts. They always win. I touch my hair so my head feels lighter. To think differently, I need to do differently. I don’t entirely know what that is. I’m so annoyed with the items in my head. They’re only asking to breathe and be heard. I don’t know how to do that. I only know how to smother all the things I feel are weak in me. Maybe that’s why my fingers find themselves pounding at this keyboard, the same ideas with different words– because you can’t choke ache. You can’t suffocate needs. They find ways to exists, perhaps more furiously than originally intended. Sometimes, processing feels pathetic. If feels sad and lonely– and maybe I am those things while also bring the bright-burning, strong, independent woman I’ve always been. My head feels like a Rustbelt Town I can’t afford to leave. So, how do I build? Reinvent? Revolutionize?
The answer isn’t out there, but in here. It’s tuning into myself. What feels good and what doesn’t? Screw the magazine tips and wives tales, your gut is your compass, allow it to guide you. Be radically vulnerable and sincere. Profoundly uncool as it is, this is what I have to do. I’m going to get my ass kicked. There is a 100% chance I will embarrass myself and fall on my face. Guess I’ll be seeing the world from a lot of different angles. I need to surrender my coolness, my upper hand, all the ways I lull myself into security, if I want to be fulfilled. The Pacific Ocean is dwarfed by the depths of my emotions. My thoughts make Hamlet appear succinct. I got more baggage than a Southwest Flight the on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I am the headache you would never dare to wish away with Advil. And I deserve the things I want (as a person, not bs stuff like shoes. I don’t deserve fancy shoes). I have to believe that first, open in all the places I’ve broken, and allow myself to receive it. Of course, timing could totally screw me over on this one.
Rather than checking out, like the beginning of this essay, I want to check into myself again. To turn the dial to a place where my head is clear, even if I don’t always love what’s playing. Maybe the point isn’t to catch my thoughts, but let them tire themselves out by running and screaming until their presence is graffiti in my skull. After all, I can always paint over that stuff.
She didn’t wear her tragedies.
They weren’t dresses she could discard when inconvenient.
Heartbreak doesn’t care about your calendar.
Traumas were moles on her body-
Sometimes visible, despite her best efforts to hide them.
She didn’t regard agony with affect,
Refused to romanticize the gory truths tangled between her ears.
Though they tried,
Men could not evaporate her into fantasy–
Into an idea untethered to skin and memories.
She was person,
If they wanted art,
Purchase a palette of paint.
Her skin was not a canvas for their musings of what women would be.
Men wanted her for the words she illuminated in them.
They wanted to glorify her complications,
Having never lived them.
In the end,
She refused to trade whole for surface,
Knowing there were those out there who will adore her without motive.