You think I am a fragile thing.
My gauzy skin,
The words I speak are kind and raw—
Audible apple slices,
The plum bite of my feedback,
Berry compliments staining all my interactions.
And all you see is my garish smile—
Engulfing my whole face.
It’s hard to hear past the grin.
But sun shines over tragedies often.
Hello past my Versailles looks,
My Elizabethan curls,
My Shirley Temple mannerisms,
If your greeting travels far enough,
It will find where I am titanium.
That my anatomy is more ferocious than flesh.
When I beam, I’m also bearing my fangs— how I’ve torn through every tragedy intent on making me it’s victim.
I’m as gauzy as barbed wire,
As soft as sandpaper.
Some princesses are savages in disguise,
Their crowns are just another weapon,
The thrown is not a place to be adored but a moment to perch before all that has ever tried to break me and gloat, “Despite your most ruthless armies and soulless tactics, I am here. You came to break me only to bow before me.”
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.
Because we are all each other will ever have.
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.
I replaced the words in my prayers from something someone else wrote
to the names of all the women who built me.
It felt holier that way.
I don’t have fingers and toes enough to count people who know me as an idea–
Fashion me in fiction
because reality is a heavier matter.
To them, I am a caricature.
I met you and the alphabet has been backwards ever since.
You get me.
I met you and before the outrage and opulence,
You understood the color of my soul.
There is a subtle addiction to those who recognize our spirits,
Even when I worry it’s run away from me.
You catch it.
Your sound is unencumbered violins,
Hurried melody, harmony, velvet smooth.
Your smell is something sweet from the kitchen as I sit in the living room–
tantalized even from afar.
Your heart proceeds everything else about you,
magnanimous enough that it makes me softer.
I know what it’s like to be regarded as a work of fiction–
To hear yourself as an idea rather than a person.
You understood me.
Thank you for being my friend and loving me as I am.
- Keep Breathing
- Stay Connected, not through screens , but through empathy
- Be better than what broke you
We measure each other’s hurt against our own
Because we cannot fathom healing.
We don’t know how.
I want to tell you all my secrets without the blood rushing to my face,
Without lockjaw wiring my words shut.
I want to be brazen about my truths,
no more hangovers from wreck less vulnerable nights before.
My revelations are children petrified of the high drive–
An entanglement of terrified tightrope walkers along my taste buds,
Cliffhanging confessions begging to let go.
But here I am,
begging the Gods that you’ll open up first,
Be a little braver than me.
The thing is,
love isn’t a staring contest.
The only thing stone faced and unflinching gives you is regrets.