Knots

Twisted barren branches reaching up
Looking for starlight
Each sharp bend an overcorrection
An attempt at change.
Branches twist painfully away from the stunted trunk
Each knot a scar on the tree’s arms
A cut in the skin.
Abandoned choices haunt withered sub-branches.
Roots cling to the rocks
A claw of bones
Digging for soil where none exists.  
There is always a cliff
There is always a shore
Edges, limitations, confinements.
An opportunity for isolation
A familiar escape
A place to bury.
 

Medication

I smothered myself
Poured water on the coals
To stabilize the waves
I’m drifting through
 
The sky is clearing
But I miss the storms
The churned up sea bed
And the broken coasts
 
I want to capsize
But I can’t sink
My mind is bloated
With too many thoughts
 
You call from rocks
A lovely siren
But will you harbor
My broken body
If I crash
Against your shore?
 

Friendship

The rain splashed down on my damp forehead and I smiled. I picked up my feet and ran giggling with nature-imposed happiness towards her. She was standing in a patch of dripping ferns with a grin on her face. I barreled into her, knocking her down into the ferns, laughing benevolently as we crashed down.

She and I lay there, rain pouring down on us unnoticed as we smiled and gazed at each other. Her white t-shirt clung to her breast and for a moment I felt like a child with her mother, calm and content in a heaven of love and security. We lay there, side by side, faces turned to the fresh green alder leaves above us, while the rain hit our eyes forcing them shut.

***

Dark. A hand brushed my face roughly. The smell of wet grass mixed with the strong scent of sake and orange juice invaded my nose. Under my detached fingers - wet earth, thick with dirt and moss. My leather jacket creaked as I flexed my shoulder muscles, checking to see if I was alive. We lay huddled together, the six of us, in the front lawn of her house. It was early night, dark enough to shelter us in shadows and accentuate the warm glow of the house's windows. My head fell, unable to keep the awkward position needed to see the house. It fell down into the wet grass, smashing my nose up between my eyes. I heard muttering to my left and slow, drunken laughter to my right. Wondering where the bottle went, I crawled on my hands and knees toward the slow laughter.

She lay there, outlined in electric light shadows that rolled down the lawn from the house to spill around her and her male admirer.

"Where's the bottle?" My voice surprised me, like I didn't expect it to be there, drawn and slurred.

"Hermh..." she mumbled and passed the shiny glass over to my outstretched hands. I collapsed there and sipped. I did not like the taste and gave it back. My flesh was cold. Cold night. Nothing seemed to reach me down inside. Was I empty like the rest of them? I didn't think I was, but here I sat, drunk on my other-half's lawn. Fragments of thoughts stampeded through the barbed wire fences in my poor brain. I could not think. I sighed and closed my eyes. I wrapped my arms around her warm body and burrowed my head into her side. I think I fell asleep, or as close to sleep as I could, under her wings of creativity and insanity that night.

***

The room was cold with morning air. I opened my eyes reluctantly, not wanting it to be over. I looked across all the sleeping bodies left over from the party, laid out like left-overs from a dinner. Light snoring came from parted lips and tightly shut eyes. I gazed across the scene, soaking it up in the privacy only morning can deliver. I cursed my mother under my breath for having to pick me up so early. My heart heavy, I stood up, dressed, and gathered my articles. Musing silently that I looked like an angel, I crept across the bodies and looked down at her face. She was peaceful in the way that all people while sleeping are peaceful. I studied her face desperately; I did not want to forget a single feature.

I wanted to kiss her forehead goodbye, like the way they always do in the movies, so perfect and sad and quiet, but I didn't. I was afraid I'd wake her, and I couldn't quite reach her. So I stood and watched, as time seemed to freeze around me. In my head I was kicking myself for not having the guts to just go ahead and do it. I knew I'd regret it, but I only whispered goodbye and walked out of the room.
It didn't feel fair or right, I thought bitterly. Why'd she have to leave? Why the hell boarding school? I fought hard to be supportive, but why so far away? California was so far away.... I hated being the one to leave first, leaving her house and leaving her. My chest ached with the weight of six years of a friendship. In three months, Thanksgiving, together again. The crazy friends would re-unite. Three months. I stepped out to my mom's waiting car.

***

"Okay, ready? Here we go - ACTION!" I cried out in a half-choking laugh. I was lying on my stomach in a hallway of my house with my video camera propped on the floor before me.

The lens focused on a simple page that read Nature Trekking with Barbie. The paper title fell backwards by accident and exposed the scene for our summer boredom movie of the week. Taped up against the wall was a desert scene from National Geographic. In front of that sat little plastic cats (for wolves) and ceramic nativity sheep and cows to represent the animal population. Across the screen came a Conestoga wagon lamp complete with electric cord trailing. My friend's hands came into view, dragging behind them the napkin-clad Barbies. Our B-Movie ended like all the others, without resolution and abruptly. 

A Counselor, A Coffee Stain, and Silly Putty

I listened. There was a faint tick from the clock on the table beside me. Schizophrenic candle light bounced around the room. Herbal tea wafted through the air and flirted with the scent from the vanilla candles. A car sped past the small office and a bird cawed outside the window.  

I looked around. Next to me, sharing the womb-like couch, was another girl about my same age. Her eyes were filled with pride and assertion. Whenever I looked at her I saw a lioness in her place, laying with head high and a regal stare.

To the left of the couch sat another girl, a little older. She was snacking on chips and sipping a Coke. Whenever I looked at her, she seemed to always be smiling. Directly across from the couch sat the leader of our group, a woman about forty years of age. She held a mug of tea with both her hands over a clipboard dotted with notes recently scribbled down. Her mouth carried a warm supportive smile.  

I looked down at my lap. I was holding, very tightly, a box of Dots. My shoe lace was nearly undone. I looked back up.

“So, Katie,” the woman with the clipboard was saying, “how did you react?”  

I smoothed down my hair and paused. The candle next to me flickered in time with the clock.

“Well,” I began, “I went outside and I sat down at my favorite spot in the woods, right, and I....”

I listened to my words. I heard their sounds and the way they tumbled clumsily out of my mouth. I focused my eyes on a stain on the carpet. It must have been created by a coffee spill, I thought. The rug was actually quite nice, I decided, despite the stain and its bad need for a vacuum. I followed the weave of the blue triangle; across, up, down, across, up, down.... All this seemed to go in perfect harmony and rhythm with the voice I was hearing. It sounded distant and fuzzy, but entirely clear and precise in meaning. I marveled at the reasoning and thought process of the speaker. What a wonderful argument they were presenting! I tried to make the words clearer to hear, and in so doing, they stopped.

It was then that my head snapped up and my mouth went dry. I realized that I was the one speaking. And I had no idea what it was that I had been saying. My body felt as though it was being twisted like silly putty and thrown against a brick wall. I felt hurtled through a hundred head rushes and then smack! - back into my head.

I looked out of my eyes at the woman with the clipboard. She, along with the two other group members, were staring in anticipation. I looked back blankly. The immortal clock ticked next to me.

“Umm.... What was I saying?” was all I could manage to produce.

Homesick

Homesick for a place I’ve never known
Missing something that I never had
How is that possible?
Do ghosts have footsteps?
Would I have heard your approach?

I saw you
In my dreams I saw you
You were there, on the sidelines
As I sorted and sorted and sorted
In a storage unit

An apt setting, my long-buried ghost
You required excavation
A reopening of wounds
In hopes of finally understanding
And desires for new memories

Walking that thin line between support and
Over-caring.
Always my weakness
Always my appeal
But the risk was worth everything

My alphabet, my line, my reflection
Building a stronger self
A broader arc of knowing
A trove of new smiles and overlaps
A ghostly hug
A calmness and an upset

Best keep the shovel ready.

My Little Shadow

Falling victim again
To my escapist tendencies
On the darkest day of the year
As the rain spills loose from faulty gutters

She sleeps
Hammers echo around her oasis
She dreams
Of someone strong and happy

The pressure to be her demigod
Increases my doubt
The task is unending
The price is myself

Eventually she will see me as human
As I came to understand
After years of thrashing and anger
Now only to start the cycle again.

Postscript

Again, my dear alphabet.
From roots to saplings to branches.
Falling like leaves
Masking what waited below the surface
My buried pet,
My forgotten anger,
My abandoned other half.

I heard your call
Or was it my hollowness finally catching up with me?
You've been my favorite ghost
All these years.
A passing shadow,
A winter storm,
The curl of someone's lips.

Guilt and regret: the most useless of feelings.

On the edge of an ancient fire,
Under the stars,
Worn down by insomnia,
I remembered.
Allowed myself to unlock the box in my head.
A tumbled mess of apologies and gratitude came spilling out,
Falling from the brittle branches. 

Their fall is uncharted.
Down the rabbit hole, I go.
Passing letters, notes, lines, quips.
Listening to the echo of the ellipses.
Awakening numb synapses,
Fusing old cracks,
Piecing inspiration slowly back together.
Again, my dear alphabet, again.