Nx downtown at five thirty

(This poem was written during the Coronoavirus pandemic)

 

Driving through downtown

at five thirty

feels like someone has crumpled up

twenty-eight large paper bags

and jammed them into

a cavity

inside my chest.

That is far too many to fit.

They feel

crinkly and over-packed.

 

Three months ago,

if you had told me

you felt this way,

I would have asked,

“anxiety?”

But

today

my brain juggles that word

between its hemispheres

like two hands that toss keys

back

and forth

quickly

with the energy

of mis-placed adrenaline.

anx…i…et…y…

no.

The word doesn’t fit.

“A” is a friendly letter,

and nothing

ending in “Y” could possibly

be the right descriptor.

 

The letter “X” can stay.

The “N” can stay too.

Nx.

That’s what it feels like.

“Nx”

Some of the nicer letters

can come afterwards.

It feels like “nx” followed by “ei”

Which sounds like a tiny breath of air

that escapes without

conscious recognition.

I’m not sure if that classifies

as a gasp or a groan,

but if you told me

that this “nx……ei”

was always preceded by pain,

I wouldn’t argue.

just a knight

just a knight

in beat up armor

there’s nothing that shines

with the sparkle of newness anymore.

If there was a white pony,

it has long since abandoned this soldier

who never had the option

of abandoning the battle to find greener pastures.

He’s a soldier,

because this

is a battlefield.

 

Weathered,

Worn, used and battered,

this warrior’s attire

shows signs of the years,

of a life not hidden,

but lived.

Through seasons unwritten

he has pressed on,

gaining scratches and dents: be they trophies, wounds,

or simply uncontested details stretching into the hundreds.

 

He’s a knight in beat up armor,

too weighted down

to display and show off like a rich son

who spent more on the glittering breastplate

than he did in the training yard.

Not an eager leader,

full of zest, charm and vigour,

but one resigned to make progress

in a context of conflict.

He has learned caution from experience:

he is neither brash,

nor conceited with heroic invincibility.

For the valleys,

the stone casters,

and the cold nights of rust-causing rain,

have taught him humility –

– perhaps too much.

 

Through every threat,

every fight and fear,

every landscape,

and every meeting with friends that were strangers,

his beating heart has been the constant rally and optimist:

You’re still here. You’re still here. You’re still here.

 

He befriended me,

and I was so happy

to be the lady

for this knight in beat up armor.

I wanted him to save me,

and he did.

He saved me

from my need to be the maiden in distress.

He taught me courage,

and the value of a witness

to disarm despair.

 

“Go on, my brave knight,

your armour is not shining,

but I will witness your battle,

and wait in the Oasis.

You are welcome here.

You are welcome here.

You are welcome here.”

Taker

Written in June of 2018

 

Taking

taking

taking.

You always take what you need

for yourself.

You never want

without quickly assuming you deserve it.

Every wish

is for something you believe must already rightfully belong to you.

 

but the world

doesn’t revolve

around your selfish priorities.

 

Doesn’t matter,

because you draw people in

like a soap-box man with smooth confidence

in a crowd of the oppressed and dejected.

Secretly you feed on their adoration,

roping them closer as you coach them to whisper in your ear

how upstanding you are,

how unlike their oppressors.

 

Soap-box man,

you are a taker,

and your crowds will laugh at me

as I accuse you of tricking them.

They will gas-light me

without even a word from you;

deceived so thoroughly,

they see you as generous.

They are grateful for your attentions,

and count themselves lucky.

 

Your confidence is a sham

fragments of delusion tied together by the esteem

you siphoned from their fawning.

The self you present

is as big and as powerful

as you think it ought to be,

and you take the belief of your victims

to puff up your inflatable projected ego.

You don’t contribute a single breath.

 

I count to ten

as I walk each step away from

your selfish taking.

It’s not far enough;

ten again.

Did you notice?

Do you care that your crowd is diminished?

Will it change how you treat them?

 

Count down to nine,

I see you claim

that I was never a part of them.

What business could they have with me,

after your business concluded?

Yours are the only purposes that matter.

 

Taker. Deceiver. Controlling, explosive, leader.

You took my self-esteem and controlled me with your judgement.

You dominate every chapter you appear in

with your ugly behaviour demanding attention.

I tried to write you out of the story,

but you keep showing up again,

a narcissistic villain,

shouting interruptions.

 

You took what you could,

but it wasn’t enough.

Then you took the affections that the crowd had for me;

(I was once among them).

Still unsatisfied,

you continue to haunt them,

taking your fuel, your approval, your pride.

You reach out a beastly, emaciated arm,

(they see it as golden, lovely),

and deposit a package in my life,

(they consider it a gift),

and I try to kick it into oblivion.

It leaves a stench,

and a trail of slime,

that lingers for weeks.

Let me hold your crown babe

I am enormously grateful to Sara Bareilles for making the song “King of Anything”.
For a long time I’ve felt a sense of feisty catharsis when belting out,
“Who cares if you disagree, you are not me / Who made you king of anything? / So you dare tell me who to be? / Who died and made you king of anything?”
The whole song was my starting point on this poem. Every word borrowed was with the utmost admiration.

I’ll hold your crown

O self-important one.

Did they hand them out

at the cult meeting?

 

Do you pool your self-righteousness

into a pile

and congratulate each other

on how much

you love the sinner?

 

Did you pray your way

into a time warp?

Or did you curse the passage of time itself,

so that it’s caress would not touch you;

though it is a salve for all wounds.

 

It bewilders me

that the words you say

all come out the same.

“reconciliation”

“return to us”

“we pray for you”

 

I roll my eyes.

Listening to you

is such a weird flashback.

I guess you never realized

that if I had wanted to stay

I would never have left.

 

Your delusions of me

don’t even portray

who I was at last sighting.

Belligerently, you persist,

in thinking that I’m obsessed

with needing your acceptance.

 

With not even a hint

of self-awareness

you attempt to tell me

who to be:

to suggest that if I don’t want

to be part of you

then I should just go away

and do my own thing.

 

What on earth do you think I’ve been doing

for the last decade?

Did you suppose I was pining after you,

and your fifth-grade relationship rules?

Do you think that I stubbornly rehearse

the lines from our last fight

while shaking my fist at your photograph?

 

How might we interpret the fact

that you were prepared to question me

when I called you unexpectedly?

And comparatively,

I had nothing to say

in reply.

 

I feel

that I have called you from a different universe,

and yes, also from the future.

We still both speak English,

but I don’t think we understood each other.

You are a star in your own eyes

around which all else revolves,

so you struggle to conceive

that I have left the crazy cult trajectory altogether.

So much entanglement

and co-dependence

has made it impossible for you to imagine

a different world,

or a tool sharp enough

to cut the ties that bind.

 

O proudly deceived one,

I know you can’t see

that I am free – free – free,

but I guess I should give you notice

that there’s no one here to save.

 

I didn’t know then what I know now,

so here’s what I should have said,

edited with hindsight:

I’m not coming back!

Goodbye forever!

 

The person that you miss has died,

if she ever existed at all.

 

There is no one who can return

to fill those shoes

or wear that box.

 

And until you bury

those ideas about how I used to be

you can never join me in meeting

as indifferent strangers.

 

But if I learned of a stranger

what I know about you

I would categorize him in

the “not-friend-material” zone,

because you take offense

at comments that aren’t about you.

You’re passionate about being paternalistic,

and wouldn’t hesitate to sit

in the same seat of judgement for 10 years.

 

O stranger,

what a murky bag of loyalty and self-assurance you carry.

I wouldn’t touch it with a 39 and ½ foot pole.

That festering nonsense could be contagious…

it’s better for me to remain invisible.

Here’s your crown back –

I’ll leave you this space,

in your own universe.

 

I’m learning not to argue

with the ghosts of my past.

Unadorned (a song)

Matt Redman wrote a song in 1998 called Heart of Worship. About 5 years ago I was inspired to write more lyrics for an alternate version of this song. It works really well with the melody.
The content comes from biblical prophets who wrote about transformative love.
“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – In Zephaniah 3
“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised…
“I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.  I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.” – From Ezekiel 16.
“Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent… The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” – From Isaiah 62

 

Unadorned

 

When I’m unadorned

all is stripped away

and I simply come.

It’s myself that I bring

for you’ve shown me my worth.

You have offered your heart.

 

I’ll bring you all of myself

and I’ll hold nothing back.

This love that you have bestowed –

transforms me deeply within,

fighting all of my fears.

You’re singing over me now.

 

I drop all else and I run to you now,

for I see in your eyes,

yes, I see in your eyes this love.

I’m sorry now for running and hiding –

when I see in your eyes,

I see in your eyes, this love.

 

You are my betrothed,

you are my delight.

This is beautiful:

through you found me poor,

you chose to make me yours,

in this, we rejoice!

 

I’ll bring you all of myself

and I’ll hold nothing back.

This love that you have bestowed –

transforms me deeply within,

fighting all of my fears.

You’re singing over me now.

 

I drop all else and I’ll run to you now,

for I see in your eyes,

I see in your eyes this love.

I’m sorry now for running and hiding,

when I see in your eyes,

I see in your eyes, this love.

 

 

Mix Tape

Written in November 2016
Alternate Title:
Too scared to let go of a troubled past

 

How do I say goodbye

to my mother?

Where are the words

that this page will find

bearable?

 

Now is a time

when my thoughts are so sacred

that speaking them aloud

turns them to a poison

that causes my voice to break

and tears to spill

from my eyes.

 

Like soldiers before battle

I turn my mind to encouragements

and solemn songs

of brave endings.

 

Say something, I’m giving up on you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you.

And I will swallow my pride

You’re the one that I love

And I’m saying goodbye.

 

I try to bolster my courage

with the energy that comes

from recollecting your behavior

You treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

No you didn’t have to stoop so low

 

And I step into stories

that echo my feelings

with the meanings hidden

between the lines

 

Don’t nod don’t laugh all nicely

Don’t sigh, don’t sip your iced tea.

So cordial, so rotten…

Kiss, kiss, let’s meet for breakfast.

Don’t be so damn benign

Don’t waste my fucking time

Don’t ask me how I’ve been

 

Although my own words

are insufficient

I find meaning

in the words of others

 

I don’t want to drag it out

Don’t wanna bring you down

I never wanted it to end this way

Maybe I was holding on too tight

I guess that this is over now

I guess it’s called the falling out

Just turn your back away and leave

There’s nothing I can say to you to make you feel alive again.

 

Shall I march into the unknown?

I know not what to say.

Perhaps I can send her a mix-tape.

 

The ghosts of yesterday,

Refuse to fade away.

And they’ll haunt this place,

Till we accept our fate,

that it’s time to walk away.

Cause we’re holding on to what we had.

Too scared to let go of a troubled past.

Though the memories will always last,

It’s not enough to stay,

So I’ll walk away.

 

I’m saying Goodbye.

Don’t ask me how I’ve been.

This is over now.

There is nothing I can say to you.

Accept our fate.

It’s time.

 

This is goodbye

I’m saying it’s time.

Our fate is over now.

Don’t ask me.

There is nothing I can say.

 

This is a burial

and I want the words to be noble

a worthy epitaph

for a bond that once was holy.

 

Where are the words for that?

Instead I see inadequate sentences

scrawled on this page

like a break-up

from pre-teens

in a text message.

 


 

links to songs used above:

 

No Contact

 

You’re calling me.

I’m not ready.

 

You’re at the party

and I don’t want to see you –

– I avoid you politely.

 

I can tell without trying

that the unfulfilled longing

is hurting you

but I can’t empathize

or

I’ll break my resolve.

 

I can’t heal you

because that’s not my job,

and I promised to myself

that I would speak my story

without regard for your portrayal in it.

I know that’s unkind…

but I worship the truth,

despite its sharpness.

 

Didn’t you once say,

that it felt so difficult

to read about my trauma,

but I retorted,

that it wasn’t a cakewalk

to live it.

 

I was angry

and I know

that’s hard to receive.

I know

that my healing journey

doesn’t dictate the pace of yours.

 

I wish I was sorry.

 

I’m not ready to receive you either.

 

You don’t understand this,

but I’m trying to get over

my need for you to acknowledge me.

You don’t understand,

but I need to be okay,

with, or without you.

 

And I can’t accept you

until my peace is complete

despite knowing that you don’t accept all of me.

 

I was a child.

But I am growing up.

I believe I will get there –

to a place where I am ready.

Your rawness feels like pressure

but I know I won’t ever

fit inside that box

anymore.

Safe enough

 

No Bumps? No Bruises?

Are there any contusions?

Did you get a black eye?

Maybe you’re feeling just fine.

 

What makes you sad?

Can you label this stick man?

Is your home a safe place?

Please, tell the truth now, don’t lie.

 

Where is your lunch?

The teacher reported it.

You ate it at recess?

Your Mom said, there was breakfast.

 

Good enough.

Safe enough.

Unharmed enough.

Fed enough.

 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

 

Sober adults,

and three cute little children.

So very compliant!

Yes, they know how to listen,

 

She reads a lot,

And she fights with her brother.

It’s an old fashioned home,

but her parents both love her.

 

The home is clean,

kids do great in the classroom!

This family is perfect.

Being timid doesn’t count.

 

Good enough.

Safe enough.

Unharmed enough.

Loved enough.

 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

 

Congratulations!

You made it to adulthood.

You might hate your parents,

But they did the best they could.

 

What rage is this?

You truthfully weren’t happy?

Your parents surpassed theirs…

What else could you want to see?

 

~~~~~

 

It was bad.

I felt hurt,

I was scared,

You never cared.

 

It wasn’t enough.

You didn’t see the real me,

(the girl never wanted),

just who I pretended to be.

 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

 

I hate good enough.

I might not get over it.

I’ll ask the questions now.

I’m not glossing over shit.

 

Don’t say it’s too much.

Don’t tell me I’m too involved.

I can see what’s concealed,

And I won’t close my eyes now.

 

I’ll try again.

So you can be safe.

So your hurts can heal and mend.

Till you can say,

“I know I’m enough”.

Living with someone who has depression

 

I come in,

I go out.

I come in again.

Unnoticed.

My movements are without remark,

they are neither urgent nor important.

 

I check in.

things are the same.

I ask the same questions again,

although I know the answer has not changed.

My repetition is meant to convey concern;

a caring voice,

a whisper of meaning from someone who cares:

someone who is invested in the answer-

-and is committed to hearing it, whether good or bad.

 

I care.

I am concerned, so deeply concerned.

But the answer is flat.

My caring does not breathe life into the answer.

My love does not fix it.

 

The next day I try again,

and nothing has changed.

 

I take deep breaths,

as if breathing deeper will allow more oxygen, more life

into him too.

I try to remember

that there are some things

my love cannot fix.

Could it be that my anger might prove more powerful

than my love?

Could I burn him with the force of fury

that arises from his being unaffected

by my presence, my concern, my position?

Might my wrath awaken his defences,

and break through this apathy?

 

I don’t try it.

I am too weak, my resolve too thin.

Instead, I turn to a hopeless acceptance,

that this is how things are,

and this is how they are.

 

This is a bleak landscape.

It is snow on a white day.

The trees are bare

and the sun is too distant

to be real.

It might exist still,

but night and day aren’t much different anymore.

The night is desolate,

and the day is too.

In the unsheltered, cold emptiness

day makes bleakness visible,

but in the blind night the bleakness is felt with equal strength.

It doesn’t change.

There is no relief in this landscape.

There is no reprieve from this setting.

Bleakness when he wakes.

Bleakness when he rests.

 

I say ‘rest’ because I know he does not sleep.

He exists, but he doesn’t really participate

in life as I know it.

Sleeping is for the living,

and he’s somewhere in between

trapped in an empty landscape.

Yes, he wishes that sleep would come to him,

but when it is denied,

his response is apathetic.

That desire which is so important to him,

remains disconnected from the body which expresses it.

He is not satisfied,

yet in this he remains passive.

 

This is depression,

this is flat-line,

this is emptiness.

 

He lives with depression.

And I

live with him.

 

Control me with eggshells

 

I’ve been abused.

Abused,

abused,

abused.

And now I’ve said it aloud,

and now it can’t be undone.

 

Hah!

It couldn’t have been undone even when I was silent.

It couldn’t have been undone because it happened.

Now that I’ve said it aloud,

what is undone is you.

 

I’ve undone the secret.

I’ve undone the shame.

 

I’m not going to be ashamed, because shame doesn’t help me.

Shame is not a force that carries me forward.

I am catching better currents now.

There is self-acceptance in these waves,

and I am going to ride them.

I’ll ride out this current of peace,

and honor that the person that I was needs me to believe her.

 

I won’t deny that you were an abuser.

In fury and fear you collected your power

and you held it over me,

a small child.

You taught me to fear you.

You taught me the pathways of compliance.

You taught me eggshells.

 

Your path was control.

 

abuser

abused

abuser

abused

eggshells.

 

I didn’t like that pattern.

I wanted to live without eggshells.

 

Found someone new.

Someone not like you.

but he’s trying to introduce me to eggshells.

 

abuser,

abused.

abuser,

abused.

This is a crazy-go-round, adulthood merry-go-round.

I’d like to know you, but I’m allergic to dizziness.

I’m allergic to abusive control.

I’m allergic to walking on eggshells.

 

‘But these eggshells are from different hens!’

Hah!

I’d like to bypass them all the same.

 

Honestly, I see what you’re saying, I know

that there’s a person behind the control…

that you learned to do

from another abuser too.

And my someone new

is just flailing

in a lengthy freefall

through a world of dis-order.

 

This is why, this is why, this is why… … .

 

This is why there are eggshells.

 

Hmm.

Yep.

That explains that, doesn’t it?

 

Does it also explain

why you expect me to walk on eggshells

when it’s misery for me?

 

Does it also justify

why I must live the eggshell life,

when it doesn’t even heal you?

 

I can walk in these well-worn pathways on my tip-toes,

but you will still be a controlling abuser.

If I hushed and was silent,

it would be no act of love.

 

YOU must be the one to deal with: the fear, the fury, the power, the control, and the eggshells.

 

I’ll deal with my allergy.

 

Recognizing control is how I walk towards maturity.

I’ve sharpened my vision

to quickly detect red flags of abuse

And I’m not sorry to have spotted you,

although you

deny

deny

deny.

 

I don’t care why.

 

Getting off the crazy-go-round has cost me personally.

You’ve got to find your own path to maturity.

It won’t be through controlling me.