the seeds, the trees

"But once in a while there's a great dynamite-burst of flying glass and brick and splinters through the front wall and somebody stalks over the rubble, seizes me by the throat and gently says, 'I will not let you go until you set me, in words, on paper.'" – Richard Bach

Category: poetry

Salt

I’ve begun washing my face with tears. I have never looked better.

The salt must be doing wonders for my skin.

In time, everything will be forgotten, not forgiven,

and we’ll confuse the two

until forgetting will feel like forgiving.

Spread the word

Don’t expect anything from the Universe. It owes you nothing.
You are merely a guest in Universe’s house. A host who cares not if you stay or leave.
Do not think you have some Divine Purpose that stretches past the sky from your crown and the golden tips of your fingers.
The Universe has had it figured out for a very long time.
We are tolerable fleas on the great moving beast; pilot fish feasting on the primordial shark; the salad fork at Life’s table. We appeared one day and were allowed to stay.
But with one shake of it’s wet, rocky back, we will be flung from our perches and expelled through the air at such speed that we will turn to dust, inhaled, finally, by the beast that has peacefully settled down once more.
Tell the kids.

I Still

I still call you. Some think so I can still hold power over you. I don’t think so. I still love you, is all. But this love is different now. I must love you with no pretense of acting on it or the consequences of not. You are an idea I love. You are this story. I text you, “Will you marry her?” And you’re answer is always, “No.” But whenever I call, you’re mashing her potatoes and cooking her steak. I picture you standing in your beige kitchen with the bottle of Jack by the sink and the fan on while you smoke. I see her tiny leopard print sandals with the fake diamonds on the straps, so tiny, on the sad beige carpet. I remember folding her PINK sweatpants while I did your laundry in your apartment the day after I came to have lunch with you and stayed the whole week while she was in rehab. You cried when I left. You begged me to stay. I wanted to, to stay with you in that ugly beige apartment, locked away from everything that could make anything harder.

“If I moved there would you be with me?” “Only one way to find out.” When my own love saw that, he said he thought his head was going to explode. All I could say was I’m sorry because I didn’t want to hurt him. But I couldn’t say I was sorry I had said the words at all. I couldn’t pretend that they were never there. It used to work.

I love you. I still love you. Why doesn’t that mean anything anymore? Why doesn’t that bring me to my feet, to your door, to you, why doesn’t that bring you to me? Why does it just live there? Existing on its own, like a piece of bridge floating in the water. Utterly useless. It could go on forever. We could go on forever. Maybe that is why I let myself keep loving you. To preserve us, untouched and perfect in this story. So that when I die I can tell myself I have known perfect love. I am a fucking selfish fool, but you have always known that and loved me still.

Zoo

I am 25 years old and I have 50 regrets. Thirty of them are about you. I used to wander lost but now I am too found. I used to live in deafening darkness but now I stand frozen in the light. Now I know everything is shit and stone.  And money can’t buy happiness but without money you have no freedom and freedom is joy, pure joy, bliss, pure bliss. I thought I felt that once. Now I’m not sure. I pretend to be sure. So I have something to look forward to while I pace in this wonderful, beautiful cage by the water with the hammock that sways in the breeze – what a playpen I have. No need for hunting, the fridge is always full of everything I like, and there are always avocados. Here smells delicate and sweet and warm. Except when it’s hot, then here it is perfectly cool. You would love it. I’ve watched so many sunsets I do not see. I do everything the same over and over again. I forget there is anything outside of this gate. I forget why I stayed. I forget why I came. I sleep.

And you’re still here after everything you tried

My mom has the best smell on earth.

I don’t know how she makes it. It’s sweet like flowers and clean like air blown straight from the ocean. It smells like mornings waking up with blankets and pillows up to your ears and looking out the window and staying in bed a bit longer. It’s deep, too, like each layer of her skin possesses some special element and they come together just right.

It’s the sort of smell that makes you want to breathe in forever, believe me, it’s that good.

She also has the loudest stomach.

I would lay the side of my head on her lap and close my eyes when we were on a plane or in the car and listen to that stomach gurgle and pop like the strangest lullaby.

My mom told me to be selfish. She said no one would ever care about me as much as I did. And she told me I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. And she loved me twice. Did you know someone could do that?

She always made it OK to cry.

Oh, and my mom has a great smile – one that crinkles shut the soft, paper skin around her eyes and shows all of her front teeth, the fake ones with the blue gums that she hates.

I love my mom. She is the only mom I will ever have in this lonely world.

You called me

 You called me because we were meant to get lunch one day soon. Just Friends. Even though we used to be best friends, even though we used to wake up together always, even though you loved me more than I loved myself, even though I think I made a mistake when I said, “Go,” even after you cut off your hair because I said I was cold.

Through the plastic and wires I could see your face in my head but only your sad face, the one with big, dark, empty eyes and a small, frozen mouth, the one you wore after I told you, years and years ago now, that I had slept with someone else.

And I heard my own sad voice and you kept saying, “What?” and asking me about friends I don’t talk to anymore, and then I said, “I’m getting tired. I’m gonna go,” and you started to say, “It’ll be OK,” but then you said, quickly, “Bye,” and we didn’t make plans to see each other.

That was the first time we’d spoken in a year after speaking every day for five years.

I don’t think I’ll see you again and my heart is an endless hole with wind whistling over it and trash swirling around and there’s nothing at the bottom and nothing on the way down.

Mermaids

I fell off a boat and my body turned to water.

I felt heavy and light and all of the mermaids

I always knew were there put their silver-skinned arms around me,

and I didn’t drown.

Instead they gave me time to think, an hour or so or a thousand words.

So I thought about my mother and the plants she cared for like children when I left

and the soup ladles hanging above the stove and I thought about

bricks and sugar and cold,

and I thought maybe I could stay here and never say good-bye

like my father who said good-bye to his first daughter too late.

The mermaids listened with their eyes like my mother’s rainbow lullaby.

I wanted them to ask me to stay.

I wanted to tell them I wasn’t afraid, but I knew they would know I was lying.

And I decided then in between the stillness and hug of the water,

hard and gentle like the pulling of a weed,

that I wouldn’t be afraid, and I truly believed I was good.

How life feels to the humans

What does life feel like to the humans?

Like hundreds of hearts beating and a tree growing really fast.

Like no trees.

Life feels like…it will never begin and it’s already at the end.

What does life feel like?

Running clouds and golden moons.

Life feels like our mothers,

who love us so much they strip us bare.

We see them in our heads

in so many pictures and sounds and tiny pieces,

in the only way we can see someone who has known us longer than we’ve known ourselves.

What does life feel like? They ask.

Some humans are confused and wary, hurry away,

white-knuckled, holding grocery bags.

Some smile and smile again, or cry, say nothing.

Some are angry because there’s no money or water

or hands holding their hands.

Some say, Life is like nothing anyone has ever had,

nod their heads, good day. 

Survival mode

I come home from the gym around 8 at night and my parents are glued to the TV, like usual, like the bugs that crackle all night long outside by the fluorescent blue death light. They’re watching a TV documentary on D-Day. It’s near the end and there’s a commanding officer, or someone like that, saying, “Freedom is not free. We pay for freedom with lives. Freedom is not free.” My dad says, to me or my mom or both, I cannot tell, “I mean, can you believe what they sacrificed?”

His voice sounds tight and scratchy and it’s obvious, to me, that he’s about to cry. He’s done this once before. Some time in my early college years he was reading some book about some war involving his idol Winston Churchill and, for some reason, as I can never imagine how on earth this happened, we were sitting on the couch together and he read something out loud and he started crying. I called him out on it and he said, choking up, “I mean, can you imagine what they sacrificed for us?”

And it really bothered me. I’ve only ever seen my dad cry twice – once after his younger brother died of lung cancer and once after mom tried to kill herself. Actually, make that three times, since she tried to do it twice. So now, today after coming home from the gym, that makes it five times in 25 years that I have witnessed and almost half of those were brought on by the deaths of strangers more than 70 years ago. And I know it sounds selfish and pathetic even but come on! That’s all you got? That’s all you can muster for us? How much do you think I’ve sacrificed living here with you, being raised by you? How can you show so much compassion for these ancient soldiers when you’ve been nothing but a brick – physically and emotionally – my entire life? When you know more about what’s going on in Chechnya than in my tiny, bubble life? Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’m so tired of that excuse. What a cop out. Meet me half way, old man.

Anyway, so I come home after the gym, dad’s choking up about D-Day and mom’s staring blankly, crushing red wine, per usual these days. She gets up from her chair, a bit wobbly, which I can’t tell is from the wine since it’s how she seems to walk now – always on the verge of toppling over – and says, “Give me a hug,” and smiles her weird, stretched, fish-eyed smile, the one that’s taken over her formerly big-mouthed, squinty-eyed face since the overdosing and wrist-slashing. I’m extremely sweaty – literally dripping sweat – and I don’t want to hug her, although I wouldn’t want to hug her, sweat or no sweat. It’s awkward, like most our hugs these days. But it seems to satisfy her. If I had the power and turned into a couch cushion at the moment of impact, I doubt she would notice. She doesn’t notice anything anymore, like popcorn burning in the microwave or her friends’ dejected looks when she doesn’t say hi to them in the street. Things like this used to make me cry. It only happened four months ago. It’s incredible the horrors we get used to so quickly.

Whenever they find some girl who was kidnapped eight years ago, living with her captors unrestrained and almost happily raising four kids, people always say, “How did she do it? How she could possibly have survived?” I know how. It’s not a choice. Survival mode. Incredible thing. You cry A LOT and you get mad and then you don’t. Then you start making jokes, still crying on and off, of course. Then you start adapting, changing little things that you do each day – not cooking as much to spend less time in the kitchen where you know she’ll be listlessly lurking. Then you get comfortable. Then you forget. Then a piece of you dies. Then you feel the hole and you can’t remember what everything was like before it fell away. Then you feel really fucking hopeless and watch Netflix instead of thinking about your feelings. Repeat. Life goes on.

The beginning

You didn’t look at me or say anything or move, except your chest rising and falling.

I also lay still and quiet, repeating in my head, promising,

promising to be strong,

that if you didn’t reach out and touch me in

10…9…8…7…

I would move, leave without a word. Never see you again.

6…5…4…

everything dark and still.

I wait, hating myself and hating you.

You reach over and wipe off my back with your boxers.

I inch closer but my pride won’t let me touch you. So many lonely places I’ve been.

You mumble something about sweat. I put my clothes on and leave.

Five in the morning.

3…2…1…

never see you again.

Now you say you love me. That I snuck up on you, real good.

You never want to let me go. You beg me to stay longer, to let you make me come.

I let you do these things. I tell you I love you.

But when it’s quiet between us, and nothing holds our bodies together

except a prideless hope that everything will be OK if we are loved,

I almost cry, conjuring the tears,

never letting them go,

and I get scared when you’re holding me, you clever stranger,

that you’re this close to the blood in my heart, because I have no idea who you are.