Gone in the Morning

“Never, ever, get yourself into a situation where you have nothing to do but write & read. You’ll go into a depression. You have to be doing something good for the world, something undeniably useful; you need exercise, too, and people.”

This passage by Annie Dillard wakes me to my surroundings: my lazy, disheveled state, sitting on the couch in my night shirt & messy bun, nothing to do today except write & read.

It is the third time I reach for my coffee & realize I let it go cold again. Instead of pouring the contents into the pot on the stove, standing & stirring it to life, I dump it into the sink & resolve to take a shower.

The shower head hisses in streams then drums down on my head. I start the water cold & gradually bring the temperature up until steam fills my lungs & the air feels heavy. Shampoo then conditioner. I run my fingers through my long hair & pull out what looks like a hundred thin strands.

How am I not bald? Am I balding? I let the hairs cling to the shower wall & look at my collection miserably. I’m definitely balding.

I can’t find my razor, but I see my husband’s & reach for it.

No, I don’t want to use my husband’s razor; I want to leave him. I want to scream at such a sickeningly loud & desperate volume that the unwanted prickles will just fall off my body & leave me smooth & pure as a baby.

I am a baby. A naive, proud, impatient, impulsive, 25-year-old baby. I made a mistake. People will understand that, won’t they? After all, it’s only been eight months to compare to the rest of my life.

The cello that floods the bathroom mourns with me. For a moment I am emotional & soaring, looking at my slender silhouette in the foggy mirror & picturing I am the tragic protagonist in a glamorous movie. I swipe a clearing into the glass, narrow my eyes to my blurry image, & pretend to contemplate my soul in a deep & sultry way. But suddenly something about my sad stare becomes too real, & I defensively kill the brief amusement with another scene; the beautiful, pitiable character I assumed morphs into nothing more than a melodramatic mime, sobbing ridiculously while holding out her cup for a tip.

I let the music play, but my heart goes numb to it.

Still the mime, I paint my face. Creamy, organic paste the “crunchy” bloggers say is better for my health, but it’s just another thing I use to hide who I am & what I feel. The marks of acne I spend a shameful amount of time disguising. Less time now, though, now that they are mostly scars & not the active sores I almost bargained with God to take away in exchange for my first born child.

The child I will probably never have if I leave—I am panicked with a sudden thought. Did I somehow trade my hypothetical daughter for acne relief? Is that why I have clear skin & this unshakeable urge to disappear?

I say a quick prayer, as if to take it back, but I can’t take anything back, even if I don’t fully trust what I’m feeling, even if it terrifies me to make up my mind—because look where making up my mind got me. I just had to get married. Now I just have to run away. Or do I? Will this feeling pass? I know nothing for certain. How should I know what I really want?

I am not scheduled to work today, but I can do nothing productive around the apartment or elsewhere until my appearance is changed & my soul is cleansed by routine. So, fully made over & ready for any opportunity the day brings, I sit back on the couch & stare at the wall.

Because I’m stuck! Because I want to leave, but I can’t—not without abandoning every comfort of my “normal” life. My sunny apartment, most of my furniture, my gorgeous wedding photos, the security of a steady income, someone to take care of me when I’m too lazy to eat, someone to run to when something falls apart.

My marriage is comfort. It’s comfortable, & I may take it for granted sometimes, but my insides are vibrating with the deep, unspoken knowing that a comfortable life is not enough for me to feel alive.

I find my phone & slowly begin a text: “Hey. I think we need to…”

No. I start over.

“Good morning. We need to talk.”

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Deep

Constant waves of words
Surge from your laughing lips
And crash against your chest,
Washing away the rescue—
Not a soul can touch you!

But I plunge into your mouth,
Hold tight my small breath.
Let the dark water take me.
Sink me in the lonely blue
Moon ripples like a starry sky
But even less ventured.

I listen to the distant song
And feel the crush of longing.
I know you are here,
Somewhere in the sound,
Floating in the deep.

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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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Tethered

Do you see me?
In the holy space above you
Tethered by the gravity of your pride
Dipping down to sip your exhales
Frantically pushing away
When greedily I brush your lips

Do you feel me?
Groping the tapers of your shadow
Naked to bid it cling to my skin
Awkwardly mimicking the dance
Laughing with exhilaration
Then retreating back with shame

How many float here?
In the orbit of our delusions
Imprinted with the dark side of memory
Slipping further from reality
Centrifugal desire
Force, pull, placate these longings

 

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100 Days of Haiku [61-70]

Day 61:

He can’t say the words
I banished them from his lips
Until he means it

Day 62:

I miss my kindred
Years now I have been unknown
Years more I shall be

Day 63:

Curls, teeth, fairy laughs–
Does she know of the Siren?
How well she wrecked you

Day 64:

It is amazing
How beautiful she becomes
When sure she is loved

Day 65:

Is it truly so?
“Better to have loved & lost”
When loss would kill me

Day 66:

West Wind, sustain me
Bring me back to the breath-source
Cover me in pine

Day 67:

Words in the Beginning
Spoken birthed the Universe
And flowed ever since

Day 68:

You are in ev’ry
Memory that I possess
That I care to keep

Day 69:

My fear prevents me
From laying even one brick
On life’s foundation

Day 70:

Late to my party
Sorry – But I have been dead
Asleep in my soul

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100 Days of Haiku [11-20]

Day 11:

“My Love, we have time!”
But I see Mortality
Sliding down our throats.

Day 12:

I used not to care
What anyone thought of me.
I call that freedom.

Day 13:

On my ass all day,
No plan for a single thing –
Except this haiku.

Day 14:

How silly I am
To shoot my lens at the moon!
That glow – too subtle.

Day 15:

Too tired some nights
To write, to think, to try.
And yet, here is this.

Day 16:

Asleep in your bed,
To wide awake in your bed,
To sleeping again.

Day 17:

Put our past away.
No polishing off the dust.
Burn it, if you must.

Day 18:

Couches, cats, paintings,
Kids, music, sex, money, God.
 Je sais, je divague.

Day 19:

It is receding
Under my scarred, aging skin.
Slowly – my beauty.

Day 20:

I was weeping… drunk
On the impossible past –
For other reasons.

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100 Days of Haiku [1-10]

Day 1:

Lighghts above our heads.
More than I have ever been,
So much so in love.

Day 2:

Though my mind made up,
Our fate is fixed in the stars.
Are we blessed to shine?

Day 3:

My mother held him:
“Please do not take her away.”
How I want him to.

Day 4:

Excess of sugar
In our food & in our eyes–
Candy-coated lies.

Day 5:

Short rays, short patience.
Heads, hearts, air – heat disturbs.
Excuse my few words.

Day 6:

Preemptive mourning –
Leaving you & this life.
Heaven is our love.

Day 7:

Two-hundred tea lights.
Soft glows the tabernacle.
He asks; she accepts.

Day 8:

Everything for her;
She rises, the lucky one.
“Praise! She is engaged!”

 Day 9:

I still think of you
When I am about to write.
Nonsensical. Quite.

Day 10:

Her. She. It could be
Me you speak of so vaguely?
No. Not I. Hush, Mind.

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Standing There

There is a voice I hear, I swear,
So much like yours—a trick unfair!

For it is like you are stopping by
To see me, like in another time.

Deny not the old you, so keenly aware
Of my presence, me standing there,

Avoiding eyes. I would be bright in face,
Vivacious, staged well, just in case

You turned your short or shaggy head of hair
(I do not know now which mask you wear),

Allowing the attempts of your stormy glance
To convince my daft heart of a hopeless chance—

Oh! Again I hear it and must turn my stare;
A new factor of sound entered in the affair:

Your voice, yes, coupled with your name,
Too much for me to keep up with the game

Of pretending that I do not know or care
About your presence, you standing there.

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Sacrificial Leaves

leavesandshoesEDIT
 

 

 

Often I forget
That leaves are alive,

And all those that fall
Are all ones that die.

I am dismayed by the sight
of the fleshy green

Slowly enveloped
In a dry, sickly sheen.

They fade in the shade
of the Good Father tree,

The mighty immortal
Who let die each leaf;

The mighty immortal
Who sacrifices to sleep.

 

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The Thunder—It Mocks Me [A Short Story]

I sat out waiting until the storm rolled in. My tired, half-moon gaze never strayed from the night sky—it flickered almost constantly from electrified whites back into the cloudy indigo—until I felt the first drop of water fall onto my hand. I looked down and tenderly wiped the tiny bead of moisture off my thin, trembling fingers. You poor things. They hung off my hands, barely sensible, only twitching back to life in order to stroke a slightly dissonant-sounding variation of an A minor chord after each deep rumble of thunder I heard in the distance.

Again I lifted my head to the sky now frothing up with sheets of incoming rain, and, with my trail of thoughts disrupted, I came back to reality—the reality in which I was outside, sitting shivering in the storm, doing nothing but waiting. It always seemed to be that way, that I was always waiting for you in some form or another.

Vision blurry from the mix of tears and rain drops caught on my eyelashes, I bumped my guitar on the doorframe coming in from the strengthening mists of wind. This sent a twang of sound rippling into the belly of the sleeping house.

It was late—too late for people to be at the front door, and the dog knew that. Upstairs I heard her stir by the dainty jingle of her collar tags. I prayed she would not find this disturbance a threat to the family, which would undoubtedly necessitate her unleashing a siren of whimper-like barks to ward off “the intruder.” On most occasions, such noble precautions would earn her nothing but my love and praise, but at this hour they would come at the cost of waking the rest of the household, and the last thing I wanted at the moment was a bombardment of questions from an irritable mother.

What were you doing outside so late?
Why do you look like that?
Have you been crying?
Is someone out there with you?

No, Mom. I’m alone.

I heard another tinkling of the dog’s collar but nothing more, so I turned the lock, released a heavy sigh at this symbolic abandonment of all my romantic “making up in the rain” fantasies, and continued as discretely as possible into the dark, intensely air-conditioned living room.

The items I carried in from the storm weighed on me even after I set them down on the lumpy, muddy-green couch: my guitar that always seemed to favor your touch to mine, as you always made it sing so much sweeter than I ever did or could; the soft, simple plaid blanket your parents and sister gave me for Christmas; the mustard-colored wool hat your aunt knitted me, also a Christmas gift, already stretched from so much use during the long winter; my well-worn-in journal that must have held a hundred bled and dried copies of your name in between line after line of all my desperate scribbles of thought, an obsessive habit of mine.

I was just about to sink down hopelessly beside these things when suddenly the backdoor swung open with a slow but forceful push. In came the voice of the grumbling thunder, a strong gust of wet May air, and then, its silhouette revealed by a long burst of lightning just overhead, a tall figure hunched over as it passed through the doorway.

“Ah, good.” In the darkness, I couldn’t quite see his face, but I knew it was my brother. He twisted and shook his lanky extremities of the rain until he succeeded in making himself laugh at his own ridiculous movements. “I thought it was Mom I saw through the window, but then I thought it might be you, so I decided to chance it and come in. And it is you, so that’s cool.”

Though my chest still clenched in an uncomfortably unnatural way to hold my aching heart, and the indigestible weight of loneliness still sat swollen in my stomach, my spirit was instantly lifted by his effortless humor.

“Yep, it’s me,”I said lightly—or attempted to say lightly; I felt each word flop out of my mouth and die on the floor as they came out. “I was just out on the porch playing guitar, but, you know, the rain…” I was about to make a guess at what he was doing outside, but just then I caught a pungent scent wafting up from his damp clothes and I knew it had something to do with destroying some plant matter in a series of small, contained fires.

“Glad I came in when I did. I have my nice headphones on me.” He slipped off his shoes and returned the headphones he had shielded under his sweatshirt back to their usual place around his neck. He stood for a moment, then, with his hands on his protruding hips, and as if to a room full of awkward party guests, announced,“Well, who else is starving?”

My body, from throat to stomach, tensed with nausea at the thought of eating anything in my current state of heartbreak. My appetite was destroyed. In fact, for weeks it seemed like all I had been living on was worry, writing, and prayer—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—in that order.

But for some reason I followed him into the kitchen anyway, holding myself around the waist, like you might have done if you would have stayed a little longer that night; you might have noticed how great a need I had for being held.

I spread my fingers out wider, pressed them into my flesh tighter, both adjustments to mimic your bigger, stronger hands.

This trick-of-the-mind worked well enough, I suppose. My nausea settled and I was able to forget about you long enough to be entertained watching my brother concoct a very unconventional breakfast sandwich he dubbed with the name “The Spicy Spicy Thunder Hump.” Whether he were under the influence of certain psychoactive substances or not, anyone would agree he had one strange and fascinating mind.

But when his sandwich was gone and we parted ways, him retreating to his basement cave and me ascending the stairs to my lonely tower, my distracted thoughts were quick to recede back into the darkness of myself, back to you.

Do you have any idea the kind of hell you put me through?
Does your wild selfishness conjure even a pebble of guilt inside your head?
Do you see me?
Don’t you love me?
Do you see me?
I bet you are already sleeping soundly.

The thunder rattled my window, a mocking snore in the night.

 

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