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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Convecting Shades of Blue [A Short Story]

EveryTimeWeFight

The rain fell, & the car cocooned us in its gentle chatter. The beads of water slid from above us & meandered down the windshield, trailing like tiny illuminated rivers with the yellow porch light caught in their bellies.

We listened & watched, our skulls hanging off our necks onto our separate headrests, our bodies limp yet fully awake; we just didn’t know what else to do in those moments, & the drum of the rain was hypnotizing.

Without turning his head, barely moving his lips, he spoke his words slowly & deliberately. “Have you noticed that every time we fight it rains?”

I sighed, admittedly annoyed at the perfect poetry of it. It was too tragic & beautiful to let myself consider, too star-crossed, too exclusive to “us.” I was trying to end things; I didn’t want to start thinking about all the ways the universe conspired to keep us together, as if we were actually special somehow, just like he wanted me to believe—enduring.

So I said, “No, I haven’t,” although looking back on all the nights we found ourselves similarly in the midst of breaking, the sky really did seem to supernaturally reflect the sorrow stirring in our chests. Pathetic fallacy written into our story, which was ironic to me remembering how he told me once that he greatly disliked that particular literary device.

Irony is… a sign. I’m doing the right thing, I assured myself, taking a deep breath through my nose.

The longer we let things go on the more counterarguments I found I had for his defenses for “us.” Regardless of whether or not they were logical arguments, it was easier to do than to accept some of his rationalities & deny others; denying them all was the only way to truly let him go, with no strings left to pull, no trail left to follow—or maybe that justification was just another counterargument I created to console myself.

I shook the confusion from my brain to refocus on the moment. He was looking at me now with two spheres convecting shades of stormy blue in the sockets beneath his furrowed brow. I could always count on seeing a separate, stronger, stranger conversation turning in his eyes, begging for me to hear, through his urgent stare, the less reserved, more desperate version of what he was vocalizing.

I don’t like what you’re saying, though, I tried to say back, but it just felt like a staring contest, praying that the other would just give in; he didn’t want to hear what I was trying to communicate either.

If I remember correctly, I was the one to look away first, as one would expect from the guilty party.

I felt terribly guilty, but I just wasn’t in love with him anymore—maybe because I was never truly in love with him at all. Because, when you truly love someone, can you ever really stop? If you truly want to touch & know every part of that person’s soul in order to somehow join it with yours, & if you truly come to the point of wanting to do or give anything for that person to love you the way you love them, can you ever stop feeling that way? Knowing what I know now, I don’t think you can stop anymore than you can stop yourself from the sensation of feeling altogether. That person becomes part of you; every word, every contortion of their face becomes vital to your daily function, your life, & your story.

“I have to go,” I said softly, my hand on the door handle, my eyes lowered to the dashboard.

The panicked vibrations of his quickening heartbeat sent a quiver through the warm air trapped inside the car, & the hairs on my arms rose as a barrier against feeling it. His right hand that clutched the bottom of the steering wheel released & hovered over to me, but just before it touched my bare knee, he forced it closed & rested it on the seat divider. He looked so miserable & helpless, his sad stare burrowing into my flesh, trying to absorb every particle of this memory, our last moments together alone.

“Say something,” I finally pleaded. “I can’t leave until you say something.”

He smiled in an endearingly pathetic way & then proceeded to pinch his full lips so tightly together that their soft, pink color drained white. I returned a small smile & gently bid him to release them with just a light touch of my index finger. Before I had time to react, he grabbed my lifted hand & pressed it to his face, placing a kiss on my fingers—one, gently, & then another, & another, cautiously, then desperately, palm to wrist to arm to shoulder. My body tensed against receiving them at first, but my muscles began to relax under the pleasant warmth of his lips tenderly kissing up my neck & passed my jaw.

He stopped just inches from meeting my mouth. The storm turned madly in his eyes that spoke without speaking, pouring his desire onto me; he wanted my permission.

At that point, I admit to surrendering to this unspoken request almost immediately.

“This is the last time,” I whispered—or did I just think it? My hands revealed having a slight nervous tremor on their way up to his face, which I simply let sit in my hands as he brought together our lips.

I closed my eyes to the lights & the rain & let myself feel him one last time. His love for me was so intense I could literally feel it pulsing into me.

“I’m so selfish with you,” I breathed into his kiss, our lips rolling together in my barely audible words.

He either didn’t hear me or didn’t care; he wanted me. Nothing else seemed to matter to him but me.

A thought, a spark of fear, suddenly infected the intoxicating pulse of his affection & began circulating in my head: What if I never find someone else who loves me this much? What if he is enough, & I’m just selfish & greedy to think a truer love exists? I don’t want to be alone…

This fear continued to spread over me, &, as a response to it, I pressed into him harder, feeling needy & dissatisfied. In turn, he interpreted this increase in my innate desire for human connection as a desire for him specifically, but his hands tracing the contours of my body soothed me, made me present, made me remember I was alive, & so, despite the guilt I felt, I did not tell him otherwise. And he continued to kiss me.

“I love you,” he abruptly mumbled against my skin. He had been fighting the urge to say it all night, but we both knew, eventually, he had to say it.

The increased surge of pain & guilt constricted my insides, & I winced against those three words repeating in my head; those three words were powerful enough to instantly push me back into the reality that I was avoiding.

“I know. I’m sorry.” That’s all I could bring myself to say.

His face crumbled with the weight of my reply.

Pulling from the experience of all our previous goodbyes, I would have guessed that he would have tried to keep me there all night, feeding me line after line of pleas & defenses, but I caught sight of some dark cloud in his wounded eyes that told me I had finally stripped him of the last bit of strength he had to hold on.

“I have to go.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

I watched him straighten himself back up against his seat & place his hands back on the steering wheel. Every movement he made seemed like a great struggle against himself.

In the end, our goodbye felt a lot like slipping on wet floor; the cold, quick pop of the car door opening, the harsh interior lights incinerating the intimate shadows between us, the sound of the car door slamming shut again knocking the wind out of me. It was a stagger, a fall, a painful end—that’s what leaving him felt like.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much about it after that. I do remember the contrast of my hot ears to the cool, uncomfortable wetness of puddle-water seeping into my shoes on the way up to the house, & the delayed moments staring out from the garage covering into the beam of his headlights before he drove off, & the terrible loneliness of afterward, numbly sitting on the couch by the window, listening to the drone of pattering rain.

All that while, my thoughts were consumed by my mourning heart, for somehow I could not stop myself from carrying his hurt inside as I walked away. Even after all this time, I swear I still feel it when his heart trembles out there in the world, like a pluck on a taut string tied from his chest to mine; I couldn’t stop myself from hiding away a piece of him, of that moment, in a corner of my heart, as a part of me, just enough to remember…

Yes, I suppose I did love him—or, I guess, I do love him, as there is always an exception for everything, isn’t there? I love him, but… I didn’t stay—I couldn’t stay. I’m not sure I could ever explain it, but, knowing what I know now, I think there must be an exception.

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From the Night We Were Human (We Drank the Wine)

TheEyeBehind

I hide myself, I pride myself
(My rebellious stray hairs)
Tangle, tangle, soft night
Blind were we and bare!

Drank the wine, thanked the wine
For abandoning our cares.
We emerged drunk, slurred drunk
Logic in the air.

Human! We cried, “Human!”
And, in our humanness, sat there.
Dressed in red, for flowers red
He gave me then to wear.

 

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