The diploma’s mine.
Depression fought me throughout.
But I, the victor.
The diploma’s mine.
Depression fought me throughout.
But I, the victor.
The final cut:
Like fresh shaven legs
Or the snip-snip of a “new do”
Or a new dye job
Or trashing an entire wardrobe
Like wanting everything to be different
Wanting nothing to recognize
And no memories to ache
Or photos to caress
No name badge to don
And no ducking behind walls
No working in silence because if I speak
I will scream
Because seeing their face is enough—
Enough to swallow an ocean
Enough to warm the entire globe
To melt the ice caps
To bring hell on earth
Only severing will do
Only axes will do
Only chain saws and hacking away at the future
And the broken promises
And the hope that brought me back
Again and again.
My eyes will not see
So the scabs will flake off
And the pink flesh beneath
will prove me a victor.
And I will make new promises
that I will keep.
The comfort I sought
But no longer need
No longer benefit
And maybe no longer healthy.
The saying goodbye to what was
And welcoming a new me
And promising myself
That it is mine.
This year and
The finality of change
is the change I choose for myself.
I am the decision maker
And no longer the captive to time
No longer captive to being disappointed
By other people
But by deciding that I am worth more.
So much more.
It is the closed door I will not open.
But through the window I will climb.
I was once a little girl
Spinning in circles, eyes cast down
Watching my dress bloom around me
from my waist, detaching at the knees
reaching out, around and
around until the galaxies kept in my brain
Exploded, and I fell to the ground in ecstasy,
while the earth reminded me that She is indeed
round. She makes me her center, and I am
the sun about which the living room rotates.
I cling to the brown carpet digging my short,
dirt marred fingernails into its fibers
I was once a little girl
Who dreamt of the life I would have
And the woman I would be. And for
the little girl who slept with sadness
and knew much more of her own brain
than the interests and personalities
of fellow children, I dreamt of happiness.
The kind I must one day know as a woman.
And the companion who would know my brain
like I did. And I would know his like my own.
I was once a little girl
who–by no means of my family or an
ill-childhood to speak of–knew my soul
was deep as an ocean and the depths
with its unknown darkness was the place
I was most comfortable. I believed in the
universes contained in the brain, partitioned
chaos that made life have meaning–People
were good because there can’t be
so much expanse in one being without
the possibility of goodness.
How I wish to be that little girl
and believe so much in everything.
Love, the word.
Love, the verb.
Love, the lie.
Love, the grave
I lay me down to rest.
Love, the poem
I can’t get out of my head.
Love, the feeling
ripped out my chest.
Love, the loneliness
strangling me at night.
Love, the wolf
burrowed under my bed.
Love, the heaving,
Love, the sunshine
become the clouds.
Love, the unmade bed
where I lay all day.
Love, the rain
whispering at my window sill.
Love, the silence
of my phone.
Love, the texts
that never come.
Love, the mascara
staining my pillows.
Love, the scarlet sunset
from the beach I stand alone.
Love, the frozen memory
of slipping away in the night.
Love, the fight
desperate to keep away.
Love the boy
with the broke heart.
Love the fear
of being alone.
When a song has the power to transport you
to a moment–A moment that brought you
so much joy–even though now it breaks your heart.
But even in the breaking,
there is peace that it once happened.
That simple contentment.
That simple joy.
That simple thankfulness.
That a moment could have existed at all.
And for that small second, you get to go back
and relive it again as if nothing has changed
As if all were right with the world again.
As if he still loved you.
As if you could turn over in bed and hold his hand
Or press your head into his shoulder
and smell his deodorant–degree for men.
Or smell the dust in his hair.
As if you could snooze the alarm
and sleep next to him just “five more minutes”
until those five minutes turn into an hour and suddenly
you’re late for class.
But who cares
When the entire world is right beside you.
But the song ends, and you lie in the middle
of the bed in the dark of your apartment.
So you start it over.
As if the feeling will last just a little longer.
As if the memory will come back as strong and alive.
The plucking guitar seduces your memories,
and back you go to the old apartment,
to the right side of the bed,
and to the sigh of relief
When you turn over
And he’s there.
I couldn’t save you yesterday.
I could not fix your wounded soul.
I was not your willing savior,
Or the answer to your prayers.
My to-do list is daunting
And the laundry’s piled up.
I have a quiz on Tuesday for a class I
haven’t managed to attend.
My cello’s corroding in the corner
And the fridge is getting low.
My painting’s gone unfinished and
And still, the dishes soak.
But “yes” spews from my mouth
Because I want to do it all.
But no amount of yoga can prepare me
To be shot out your cannonball.
Today, I cannot save you.
I cannot make you better.
I won’t add your secrets to the
Weight upon my back.
You cry in your fragility
But forget I have my own.
In your anger, you explode
And assume “im sorry”s make us whole.
Like your broken heart gives you permission
To break apart my own.
My head is reeling
from this year I didn’t plan for.
And my energy’s run thin.
My list of miracles is empty,
And my magic obsolete.
So I cannot save you today,
But perhaps try me next week.
How do you explain something that does not exist anywhere but your head?
How do you form words for feelings impossible?
How do you talk about the cracks in your brain caused by no weapons?
13 new countries, 16 new homes, 60 interviews, 500 new friends, 459 good-byes, and 1 lie: “Yes, I’ll come back”–because the truth would break those quick-beating hearts more than my absence ever could–$15,000 USD, 22 plane rides, 1 lost forever, and a singular trauma drawn out seven months.
Caged like a bird, imprisoned in a church, and
A palpable loneliness as my mind swallowed itself whole.
“Why don’t you talk about your trip?”
Because I lived it alone and there are not enough words to explain the nothingness and everything that it was.
A lifetime of languages could not articulate the forever in those 18,396,020 seconds of my life.
Because if I tried to tell you what it meant to me and what happened you wouldn’t understand.
There was no other body nor witness to my experience–no validation of how wonderful and terrible it was, and no one to help me unearth the words I need to make it matter to you.
Memories come back to me in snippets–like dancing in the rain while my sketchbook was stolen in the hotel of Bangkok, and the shop in Macedonia on a corner in Skopje where I picked out a set of graphite pencils perfect for practicing a new hobby, and sitting on a plane careening toward New Delhi where I drew my seatmate on the first page of that sketchbook.
And the PTSD that kept me awake at night tucked in with my bedfellow nightmares, soaking in my sweet sweat.
How do I explain what I saw in the darkness?
How do I give voice to the demons that pursued me in the night, caressing me with the promise of silence and the release of my grave–a tombstone defined by a dash that declared that I should be happy?
When my mental illness became so much more than a monster–my best friend–intertwining her fingers in the neurons of my mind, creating synapses drenched in hopelessness deep enough to drown the whole earth.
I was alone, and in those months, that was all I knew–haunted for years by the person I once was who believed so much in everything–but now could barely believe in the promise of tomorrow.
How do I tell you these things without falling back into the darkness that I once wore as clothing?
I found her again.
The fearless traveler and the independent woman.
The unafraid to explore the unknown, unafraid of being lost, and unafraid of being alone woman.
The flirt and the extrovert—the confident and ready for anything woman.
The yes woman and the go-getter.
The sitting in a café enjoying every last drop of her Americano woman.
The I’ll-take-a-left-here-because-that’s-how-I-feel woman.
The not recognizing a thing but breathing easy anyway woman.
The dance in the rain and don’t give a damn woman.
The take a deep breath and exhale the panic woman.
The smiling at unrecognized streets and unabashedly disoriented woman.
The sit with strangers just to start conversation woman.
The peering out the window of a train, lost in thought woman.
The headphones creating a soundtrack to new memories woman.
The feeling small, looking at the skyline of a cathedral woman.
The future unplanned and spontaneous trips to Italy woman.
The yes to strangers and no to fear woman.
The unashamed of her broken past woman.
The gleefully in tune with curiosity and abandoned restraint woman.
The stripping layers of an old coat because it’s finally grown too big woman.
The woman I have dearly missed.
And the woman who turned out exactly as I always hoped she would.
It was a hot summer day in a small room in my even smaller town when I first understood that I did not belong to myself, that my body was not my own, and that I was inherently limited. Fifteen of us middle schoolers and our group leader sat in a circle, fidgeting in white fold-up chairs. The air hung heavy with premature body heat and Axe spray so strong a cloud loomed over our heads.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “My body is a temple,” says the Lord. And my youth pastor.
Our group leader plowed through an impassioned speech, beating this idea into the core of my being. And so, I believed.
With each action on this earth and impurity I committed, a stone was removed from my house of the Lord, leaving me more and more unwhole and unholy. And soon enough, everything I did and everyone I spoke to and every placed I went made little bits of me fall like a trail leading to an archeological destination.
Explorers came to my desolate building, seeking evidence that I once existed. They brushed away at the dirt and grime, rejoicing at the miniscule pieces still left to discover.
After twenty-two years on earth, I was hallow. I was finite—a shell and a limited soul. I took too many stones given to too many people and placed in too many homes. Those stones represented a name and when I had no stones left to give, I was forced to steal from the people I loved to give away to another. Love gives while supplies last, and when supplies ran out, I became used and damaged goods to my newcomers.
I sat at my computer at twenty-two, staring into the abyss of an endless Internet when a phrase once again passed before me. “My body is a temple.” There it was again, but new words formed after this dead horse, “But I am the god for whom it is devoted.” This unknown author pierced the deepest part of me, and new seeds were sown, watered over the next years by chance meetings and prophetic words. I reaped a new conscience, unblinded by previous misinformation.
Soon, I learned that my body belongs to me and I adorn her however I please. My temple isn’t set in stone. My existence isn’t limited by four walls and a carcass only meant to dissipate and die.
Love does not pick at the parts of who I am. Love becomes.
I become. I am infinite.
Every day with every interaction, I expand like the grass and the trees covering a fertile Earth. I discover new clay and form new stones and create new buildings. Little by little, I grow. I create love and give it as desired. I am reincarnated and multiplied. I transform and evolve.
My body isn’t a temple. It’s a city.
I walk out of my favorite coffee shop and before my eyes walks this beautiful woman–swollen at the belly. I look to the man beside her, and your face rips through the barriers of my mind, emptying out the memories I’d purposefully hid away. And suddenly, the pain and heartbreak of letting you go comes back like cancer.
Toxicity is a powerful drug, and your hits made me higher than the atmosphere afforded. You left me a whirlwind of hopes and expectations, unreasonable. Even now, with your careless and callous care of my heart, I can only pass the blame so far.
It’s foolish and selfish to believe you’d change and to believed you’d leave them for me when time after time again, your actions spoke Truth. But stupid little girls tell themselves it’s acceptable to be misused. Like a paddle board, you came and went, beating my heart with every reappearance. Blissfully unaware of my own delusions, I’d rock myself to sleep with the lullabies of, “This is fine. He loves me. He just shows it differently.”
After all these years, I didn’t think it was possible to still mourn what we had and lost. But I mourn the pieces of me you took away. I mourn the little girl who loved you and the little girl who gave up everything waiting for your love, requited.
Only to receive it when you were gone and out of reach. Only to receive it when I moved on and you had a family of your own to love. I waited a lifetime for something so disappointing. “I love you. I always have.”
You haunted my dreams and every love after yours, waiting for the chaos to fall and the gun to fire. The shape of my heart redefined, full but different–like a size-nine shoe print left from years of you walking all over me.
It repaired after what I’d later refer to as “us.” But there was no such thing as Us. You were a figment of my desperation, and to you I was the fuel to your wounded soul. And somewhere we lost our humanity in the hopes that we might matter. After we parted, I found mine again. Where’s yours?
You held my heart at gun point, but I your willing victim. Loving you mere feet away from certain peril, ready to destroy. I trusted you. I kissed that gun and made love to its sweet metal, until the day it fired and engulfed every part of who I was. Its powder still covers my should-be corpse like a blanket I pretend is Comfort.
I remember where I stood when I learned you finally planned your future, that you finally got brave and decided what you wanted—Under the presence of God in the church I grew up, in the church I believed I’d be married, and the marriage I believed between you and I.
I looked over at you from what felt like a lifetime away, but really only separated by green velvet pews and church-goers. Your hand in hers and a ring on her finger.
Your mother whispered, “he finally proposed.” I nodded and mumble my congratulations—her only son, finally evolving into the man he long foretold but once refused to become–of course she beamed with pride. Of course she’d excitedly tell the family friend–the girl her son grew up with. She didn’t know, but how could she? She had no idea what she had done.
I walked away and up to the front of the church and took my place in the choir. In shame, I whispered praises I didn’t deserve to utter. I inhaled at the right moments and I mouthed the right words.
But my eyes stung and my heart felt like stone, useless and heavy in my chest. I found you in the crowd and saw her sitting next to you. She glowed, but she didn’t know. How could she? She had no idea what you had done.
My mind flashed back to the month before–a warm November night–in my living room with the glow of Avatar on the TV and the soundtrack of my heavy breaths. I kissed your neck and you kissed my mouth. You proclaimed you needed me–couldn’t live without my deepest touch.
And in December, standing on that stage in front of those worshippers, I knew I didn’t belong. Because where a love of God should have been, your soul filled mine instead. I had no idea, how could I? I had no idea what I had done.
Months later, I received the invitation to your wedding with bile in my throat that burned as it spewed from my mouth. My family went to bless your love, but I stayed behind. I couldn’t watch you lie. I couldn’t watch you vow promises I knew you couldn’t keep. Your blissful bride, she had no idea. How could she? She had no idea what we had done.
These are the memories that drown me as I watched you stand beside your wife, expecting another child, walking the downtown streets together. So I avert my eyes and rush to my car. Away from the coffee shop and away from the woman I once thought would be me.
We were the secret you’d take to your grave, but I can’t live with your ghost anymore. It’s been years now since, and here I am writing you another poem.