Anxiety

When I accidentally let it in, it sneaks in through a single breath—one seemingly ordinary breath in a normal rhythm—so I never see it coming.

In through the nose & out through the mouth, in through the nose &—oh God!—

Heaviness like the color black drops straight into my chest. The sudden weight shatters my equilibrium, sending my eyes & thoughts spinning into my head. All around the fizzing, dancing, pinprick lights, I see threatening shadows creep in from all sides, like a dark wave swelling over me.

Am I drowning? Am I falling? Is the top of my head floating away? No, no, it is only in your mind.

My body is frozen with a chill that starts at my ears, crawls down my neck, my back, my arms. I realize then that my mouth tastes like blood, but it is a phantom smell; I triggered a reel of “teeth falling out” dreams to play. The fear of losing control circulates in my brain. My heart jolts & then quickens; my eyes widen; my hands shake; my teeth clamp; my stomach twists itself in a knot like a fetal position; & I can no longer breathe.

How again do I breathe? In through the nose—no, I did that. Out through the mouth?

I let it all go. The panicked parts of me immediately start to balance out again. I know I should keep breathing, seek the balance, but I am scared to take another sip of air.

What if it is there waiting for me? I’m sure it was hovering just above me all along…

I clutch my chest & focus my eyes in front of me.

In through the nose

A normal taste, a normal rhythm. My heartbeat slows. A minute of even breaths passes. I sit up straighter in my chair.

Just as quickly as the anxiety came, it left, & the day resumes again.

I never see it coming.

 

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Prevailing Light

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Gray clouds slid down the windshield of the sky like a river of ash, aiming to shut out the sunrise. But how that golden wave pushed back, glowing in its righteous defiance! Its colors flushed richly with the strain of its struggle, orange burning at its cheeks.

Its light was so pure & good that it drew in the help of the gallant east wind. Quite unfortunately, the wind’s charitable gusts proved almost too enthusiastic, & the moment it heard the bitter, shivering mumbles of cold humans tightening their jackets against it, the invisible Titan mercifully settled.

But without the wind the brave little sunrise trembled & began to falter. And so the gentle moon, still watching nearby, just on the other side of the veil, came to aid the cause. It did what it could to pull back the stormy tide, but, as for all creatures of the night, the day is primarily for sleeping, & its assistance quickly yawned into absence.

Noble efforts as they were, the darkness continued to fall, & the golden glow dwindled. With both quivering hands pressed against the descending shroud, the dying morning looked down upon the earth with an apologetic flicker.

I stood in the window, staring into the rapidly fading warmth of yellow light until the heavy clouds pinched out the last line of color on the horizon. But I did not despair; instead I smiled gently at the hazy orb still rising behind its dreary oppressor. A dim but prevailing light illuminated the day.

 

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Rising Day

A subtle, rising glow of light breathes gently upon the foot of darkness; morning waits beneath the horizon, building slow anticipation for the wide & shivering faces already packing themselves into frosted vehicles to start the day.

The foaming orange wave swells & crashes against the receding purple veil, gradually washing away into the signature blue sky that blesses us in the daytime—but not before finishing its grand entrance, anything but routine, a new show every sunrise; it is the purpose & joy of the proud sun to perform for all creation, awing us with its brilliant displays of color & light & warmth, illuminating the stage & allowing the sky to be seen.

A thin break of red flashes just under the curtain, almost open, the final gesture of the prelude, which rolls into the next scene. The painted clouds freeze for a moment on the closing frame. The earth smiles—I capture a picture—& the colors slowly sink into the still blue.

Act Two.
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Her Expression

Every thought she has ever had can be known by the study of her expression. Through the emotional vicissitudes of each day, her story is captured upon her face; she adds each moment to a frame & wears it in her secret way, subtly painted across angular features, pale olive & thin.

Always begin by reading her eyes. They are like porcelain orbs set in shallow caves with blinking mouths, identical drops of ink in each center. Sad India pigments bleed from those stains; they spread beneath the shear skin stretched under the curve of each socket. Along the hooded edges that hug her gaze, fans of eyelashes perch themselves in pairs of long, sultry wings. Her searching stare is always dark, always piercing, yet in a way that is rich, with capacious warmth, like a sip of bold coffee on morning’s tongue.

But, for God’s sake, do not drink & forget the detail on her lips—full & pastel pink, with the signature taste of mint. Their texture is pliable but firm, a bed safe to tangle & whisper in, two soft blankets over the crowded pearls of a dreamer. They laugh. They kiss. They speak—but they will not tell you the story of her expression; they will only playfully direct you back to the deep well of her eyes & smile with pleasure as you guess at how to draw from it.

 

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Second Breath

That evening, in the blue light of a shrouded winter twilight, I saw falling leaves suddenly begin spiraling upwards through the trees.

I rubbed my eyes, reassessed my mostly empty—second or third—glass of dry red wine, &, with the slight squint of my dreamy eyelids, made the walls of the glass disappear. I stared at it curiously, slowly licking my tingling bottom lip. The opaque liquid left behind seemed to sit like a pool of blood in my tender & innocent palm.

A strong gust of wind shook the warm cabin logs, which turned my amused state of attention back to the gravity-defying phenomenon bustling outside in the woodland air. As the leaves continued to mysteriously climb & dance, I could hear their brown, crinkled flesh whispering prayers of returning again to the impossible place of their youth. Together, like a fabled lament of the forest, they told the longing story of May, June, & July, swaying high up in the branches, wearing the color of vitality, drinking light & life so abundantly.

I watched them. Up & up they soared, desperately reaching, twirling & chattering like lost fairies of spring & summer.

But suddenly there was silence; the breathing sky inhaled & all that floated in the treetops began to fall once again. I scooted my body closer to the window, captivated by how magical the switch appeared. It seemed to me then that it was not gravity that had previously been bent, but time; it was as though time reversed & resumed with the push & pull of the mighty, reigning wind.

It is common for an individual to experience multiple moments in life when time seems to slow or stand still, but I am quite sure it takes a much rarer trick of perception to be convinced of time moving backward. It was indeed a first & thrilling sight for me in this instance—but I am also sure that wine is & was a significant factor in creating the proper conditions for such a time-reversing illusion to occur.

I took another hearty sip of my drink—this finished the glass—as my gaze followed the leaves rocking silently back down to the winter ground. Somehow I knew the wind had not really gone; it was only just recharging. As I waited for its return, my empty cup was, without request, refilled by the familiar hand of my beloved. I found him standing in front of me, in the soft orange light of the cabin, his face feeling flushed as he met mine for a gentle kiss.

I cannot recall the precise amount of time that passed after that moment, but, regardless, & as surely as I predicted, the tunnel of cold air did come again, roaring back through the shivering valley, scooping the paper leaves off the forest floor for another—perhaps the last—ritual attempt at regaining the lives they lost.

“Abandon your mourning to this second breath of life,” I whispered to them, &, like a toast to good health, clinked my full—third or fifth—glass against the window, “for we can never go back.”

 

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What Strange & Resilient Things

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Oh, all the strange & resilient things that don the old trees in the wet winter forest.

On the weathered faces of those sleeping giants, clever mushrooms appear like five o’clock shadow. Their roots, stretching out across the plush carpet of decay like callused & twisted toes, are graced with fuzzy green socks of thick moss, rich in color. And around every naked trunk, wrinkled & leathery like roughly aged necks, are fashioned snug scarves of ivy vines.

High up, the wizened branches may crack & creak, like ancient bones in cold discomfort, but down below, damp leaves, like blankets of freshly shed skin, silently compress into fresh fabrics for spring clothing.

 

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You Filled a Space

Here
Small & safe
You are warmth
You filled a space
Wherein echoed the lonely tune
Of a wanting harmony
And you taught it joy & fear

Tears
I will kiss
Them, reserve
Them on my lips
For suckling at each moistened bloom
Roots of an eager seed
Whose dreams are thirsty, my dear

Cheer
Heart ablaze
Only you
Only your face
Could stir such stasis into wonder
In pools of pride-sick eyes
For you taught them joy & fear

Years
Coming breaths
The blessed heights
The plunging depths
Enlightened nightmares threaten thunder
That tears ‘cross aching skies
In a world without you here

 

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Bent Spines

I have noticed as of late
How drinking tea and reading
Does not simple leisure make

If using one hand for sipping,
The other, a sort of weight
To keep the pages from flipping—

It is a TASK to do both!
With a cup hot and brimming
And a book thicker than most

For ev’ry distracted gaze,
When paused or too engrossed,
Chances a spill or stained page

So I admit to the crime—
Condemned by all a book sage—
Of putting bends in the spines

“The RISK! Lost chapters!” you gasp,
“Unbound by severed glued lines!”
To your awe, I answer that:

Yes, it gives me liberty
To leave my book lying flat
As to have two hands for tea!

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