Find the Body Home

I wrote but didn’t publish poems the past few days.


Stop. Breathe.
You have time.
You don’t need
to put everything
down all at once.
You don’t need to
live everything
all at once.

Find quiet pleasure
in the feeling of
your breath swelling
then ebbing out of
your chest, knowing
you have your body
to come home to.



burn it all down now
the anchors tied to your feet,
the harbor you made.

 

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The Body at Peace Time

She breathes, lays her
back against the couch
as she takes sinks into it.

The cool glass rolling
across her lips. She
closes her eyes and
appreciates the quiet
whirring of the fan,
the blinds rustling.
This, she thinks, is
what peacetime feels like.

For so long her body
has been a battlefield.

It is hard to come to rest
when you have trained
your ears to listen
for signs that the calvary
is coming, waiting for
the bomb to drop— not
just for the aftermath
that will rip through her,
but for the way she
will pay for existing
to be bombed
in the first place.

Now that she has
walked away from
the war, it is strange
to try and live normally
again, sometimes.

What does it mean
when her body’s
ability to feel safe
is novelty and
not the norm?
How long will it
take for her to
stop listening for
the whistle of bombs
every time the wind
rustles the blinds?

She rolls the cool
glass against her
lips, breathes, and
tries to see if she
can learn to train
her body for peacetime
too.

At The Cathedral

Hush, look up in awe.
See the redwoods rise,
and feel the breath in
your chest lift to meet them.

Put your palm on the base,
shocked at how soft the bark
feels underneath your hand.
The crevices are so deep
and dark, they looked like
they were carved in stone.

This is no cold stone, though.
This is teeming and alive,
rough and supple under your palm.
Spiders weave delicate and
intricate webs inside the
places where the redwood’s
small, dark slabs layered over
like a thatched roof, dips
dark into itself. Mossy
softness, like streaks of
paint, a child’s hand across
the canvas, runs up and along
the massive body of the tree.

The rustle of leaves
makes you look up,
makes you realize just
how small your hand is,
your whole body and being
are, really, in this place.

Still, the treetops call,
invite you to see the decay–
cracked, brown, broken leaves
slowly turning  dead to
fertile– at the roots, all
the way up to soaring
branches above that weave
shadow-green lace, ‘God’s
kaleidoscope,’ you marvel.

You stand there, wondering,
as the redwoods ask you
to look at your own supple
softness, to see the places
turned brittle, let them fall
and feed your roots. They
ask you what you will let
die so you can meet them
up there.

The Last, Best Thing

I’m on the second day of the OnBeing Gathering, and I am already in awe of the number of connections, spiritual fulfillment, and pure grace I have gained here. Every time someone has joined me at a meal or started a conversation, I have been so grateful to be pushed outside of my introvert zone and made some truly fantastic connections.

One of the benefits of this has been the space to refocus and start clarifying my own purpose and desires. I’m beginning to realize, very quickly, that I really love writing— poetry, prose, short, long– I want to write more. 

So, beyond giving up coffee, I’m going to write a poem a day for the rest of Lent. I have some making up to do, but I’m excited to push myself in this way. It won’t be perfect, I know many of them will be bad, but I know I need to start rehabilitating and rebuilding the muscle.

Anyway, here’s the first.


2/16/18

When the last, best thing
spills forth from
your lips, what will be
the image that you paint?
The story that you tell?

You have lived a life on
the cusp for years now,
so carefully dipping
that funny toe of yours
right the buoy marked, “SAFE.”
You have reached around
that barrier trying to
find some sign saying to “GO.”

Can you see beyond yourself?
Can you find the place
in you that is pure
movement? That bubbling
red blood in your gut
that fuels the body
to movement, to action?

Can you ride that river
to the sea that called
your ancestors, as it
once did to you? Can
you find comfort in
the raging currents,
see the beauty and
not fear the white-foamed
wave that swallowed you?

See your rabbit-heart as
the paddles of your ship,
the curve of your hip the
rudder of riding the current.
Know that the last, best
thing you say or see will
be found on the side of a buoy
or ever be the safest route.

Go, now, knowing the best
thing will be to set out
and find yourself home
again.

Parallel Lives

I wrote this as a follow-up/interlude to this piece, which at the time I said was fiction. And in a way, it is, just like this might be fiction too.

But story-truth is still rooted in the actual truth– we are always telling the stories of our lives. So, as I am learning to become my own storyteller again and finally feeling stability for the first time in a bit, I am also reclaiming the stories that were too hard to face a few months ago.


The shock is visceral. Later, when so much work has gone into cutting this body, this cancer of ill-fated memory and stomach-churning hindsight, out of your life, trying to remember the fork that decided the life you chose feels foreign and jarring.

Now, though, the moment wakes you up at night, catching you in your sleep like a cold draft when you’ve left the window open. Something in that moment, where you knew each small step would determine what came next, still haunts you sometimes. Are you terrified of it? Is remembering it simply a pilgrimage, a gauntlet, a way to ensure you will never, ever find yourself in this place again? Or is it a deeper question than that– one that forces you to look back and ask yourself how, just how, you let things go this far and become this broken?

You see the white flash and the photos you found– wait, no, scratch that. It’s not the photos themselves– those have faded from memory. What is painfully vivid– even now– is the feeling of finding them. The quiet thump when you fell to your knees on the cold, wood floor. The search for something, anything to cover your nakedness, as if a cotton dress could protect your body from betrayal. It coursed through your system then– icy and choking– and you sat back on your bed, back against the wood wall, trying to catch your breath.

The thought of it all as you sat there– broken as everything has was– made you angry, yes. It also made you vaguely sad, oddly appreciative, pre-nostalgic in a weird way as you were already seeing how this story will wrap up. You were already writing, re-writing, and finalizing the obituary of this thing you had helped create.

You played the film through to the end and tried to take the best course of action. You looked at your lives in parallel, what they could look like– if you wanted :

You knew you could try and capture this moment, this body, because it will never be the place you call home again. That safety, that sense of knowing how the world worked and the rules that governed the way the universe functioned, are gone now.

You could lay down beside him, quietly pressing your forehead into the space between his shoulder blades, knowing that this is it. This is the end. This is the last time.

You know and he does not know you know but you do, and in knowing you also know everything is over. The dramatic irony of it all catches in your throat– you know heartbreak has arrived, and all you can do now is try and ride the wave of what is to come– but not just yet. He still hasn’t woken up yet, and so for the next minutes, you can still pretend like everything is okay.

You could take a second, shut your eyes, and breathe. You ache to both try and remember everything about this– the final farewell, the last breath before the death knell– but also try and forget all the things that brought you here.

You could feel the warm skin of belonging and smell the familiarity of partnership but also know that all those things are lies now. They are broken. The body next to you fills you with disgust and rage and sadness and longing and you didn’t know you could love something so deeply  and then 20 minutes later hate that same thing just as much– not a cancellation of love, but the yang to its yin, the dark to its light, both churning in your chest and stewing deep within you. You didn’t know the two could live together inside your heart, ripping you down the middle as you say goodbye.

So, for a moment, you could lie there. You could try and recapture everything– all the love and safety and happiness that once lived inside that body for you– before having to let it go.

But you knew that to do so would only make the killing of it that much more painful, that much more tragic. It would be like kissing the criminal before dropping the axe– it might bring you a second of joy, but would the high only make the pain that much worse in the end? You knew that you have to do this, kill this, end this now before you are too weak to stare it in the face for what it is. Now. It’s the only time you would be able to.

So, even after weighing all the options and watching all the scenarios, you knew what you must do. You watched yourself reach over to his leg instead. You hovered your hand above it, taking a moment longer before jumping off the cliff, then you grabbed his ankle and gave it a shake.

“I need you to wake up now.”

Charting Courses

It’s funny how life works. I wrote this years ago, but phrases still come back and hit me square in the gut again. Learning is cyclical, I suppose.

Anyway, I know I’m due for a life update or something. Soon.


After years of being out at sea— the twitch-muscles in my calves
are so used to the constant swaying of shaky hands and fluid commitments
that the stability of feeling safe is so foreign it is almost dizzying.

My internal buoy has been measuring the up-downs of surrounding ebbs and flows
for so long that simply sitting quietly while he holds
my hand is a level of sea-glass calm that
skews all of my previous internal measurements.

It’s ridiculous how quickly the body adapts to a stormy climate,
and I have been living solely with sea-legs for so long
that I’m still waiting for the ground to move with every step I take.
I am unsure how to stop trying to calculate the moment when the sea will sweep
my foundation out from under me and I will have to readjust my footing once more.

He mentioned that he was surprised at how much I tossed and turned at night,
and I realized that it’s because I’m so used to sleeping on turbulent currents that
my body is unable to rest with the term “smooth sailing” anymore.
It’s as if the only way I have measured how much I am cared for is
by calculating the force with which my heart has been
plunged into the barrel of the waves.

I’m terrified that, in my attempt to get back to my idea of equilibrium
I will throw him into my hurricane heart instead.
I fear he will get sucked into the current of
my tossing and turning and get swept out to sea.

I don’t know how to broadcast
that I am used to raging weather storms,
that I spent so many years as the storm-tossed maiden
at the bow of the ship my ability to show my feelings
has been eroded away with each pounding of a crashing wave.

Seeing this many storms has taught
me it easier to show nothing, even
untrusting of the steady stream of warm-aired affection
he uses to try and move this boat forward.

I don’t know how to stop thinking the gusts of
warm air are just signs that the storm is coming.
I don’t know how to stop looking for the
black whirlpools hidden along this new course I am supposed to chart.

I don’t know how to untie the knots in my tongue
that were trying to keep this ship together, but I am scared
that if I do not I will just get blown back into old storms
I have already navigated.

I do know that I am tired of looking at
the backside of a lightning bolt and saying
“Ah, yes, I have been struck this way before.”
As I continue to keep moving straight into it.

So I am relearning to navigate by the stars
instead of by misguided internal compass.
I am trying to give up my fear of sinking
in hopes that I can learn to jump in with both feet.

Besides, after this many storms, I’ve noticed that the sky’s blue
is only more vivid after you’ve shut your eyes to hold out salt-water.
Yes, you will have to blink away the drops of past-waves
that were pounding into you, but the darkness in that moment
may make the light of the next one that much sweeter.