Wildfire

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash

I am not a solitary flame,

a candle shivering demurely in a sedate

but nevertheless captivating darkness.

I am a wildfire that chews up

continents and constellations

without so much as a breath between.

I am the kind of fire

that turns everything

around it black.

My whole life

I have been a warrior,

charnel ground,

a crumbling tower of a person.

The kind of person

that consumes oceans

and hearts and stars

for the sake

of its own continuance.

Numbness is a lack of space,

a crowding together

of emotions and thoughts

which have yet to reach

the stillness of being.

You can’t squeeze an entire universe

into a poem, a suitcase, or even a body.

Emotions have no language,

no barriers, no bones of any kind.

My loneliness is so vast

and so obliterating

that I can’t even find

myself inside of it.

I am struggling a lot right now with abandonment issues and dysregulation so my emotions and thoughts are a bit all over the place.

I am that wilderness

Photo by Michael Olsen on Unsplash

I have too many emotions.

They stick in my teeth,

in my twisted viscera,

in my glowing red heart

in my stiff grey lungs.

They are my hands and my feet

and all the spaces in between.

Feelings can’t be ascribed

to any one organ

they rise up between

the solid bits.

They are a void.

They are eternal

right up until the moment

of exchange.

I am inconsolable

whatever my orientation.

Viscous and viral

there is a wilderness

so wild and so vast

that no map could ever

hope to translate it.

I am that wilderness.

I never have

the same emotion twice.

Each emotion is its own construct.

The only thing which is certain

in me is uncertainty

but that does not

bring me comfort.

I sleep hundreds of hours a day.

I am the dream, not the dreamer.

I do not wake but every now and then

life comes pouring in like salt water

and takes me to another place

and in that foreign place

I take on the arduous task

of drowning.

Story Swap #4 “The Man Who Never Lied” vs The Woman Who Couldn’t Tell the Truth

Photo by Lucas Gouvêa on Unsplash

Gaslighting is defined as “manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.”

Here is the truth. The last time I spoke to my father was on his death bed over Skype. A significant portion of my family was present for the reunion. At some point he asked me why I had never told him about Isadora. Aside from my mom I had never told anyone in my family that my father molested me. How could I answer him without exposing the truth? I didn’t tell my father about my daughter because I feared that he would, given the chance, do the same thing to her as he had done to me. I knew that even if I never left them alone together he could still do a tremendous amount of psychological damage. My father was very clear and very persistent when it came to his views on women. He was, in fact, relentless in his sexism. He steered most, if not all, of our conversations towards sex and the inferiority of women. He was often drunk. Often belligerent. Completely paranoid. And most of all dangerous. So I decided that it was better for me and better for Isadora if I cut him out of my life altogether. This was one of the best decisions I ever made but how could I say that to a room full of our closest relatives? Did I really want to expose the truth of my father on his deathbed? I finally answered “because it wasn’t safe.”. I didn’t elaborate even though he pressed me. Eventually he said “it was all in your imagination.” Referring to the things I didn’t say about our relationship and in that moment everyone in the room understood more or less why I had disappeared for such a long time.

My relatives had questions. My mom answered them honestly on my behalf and they believed her. One of my aunts came forward to say that he had raped her as well. By far the most difficult conversation of my life was the conversation I had with my father on his deathbed. Although he never admitted to the truth, he did, in the end expose himself.

I kept that secret from my family for 30 some years. My childhood was one of secrecy. I was told how to feel. How to believe. I was given a version of reality that didn’t match my own. My beliefs, my boundaries, my emotions, my well-being none of it mattered. As an adult I still question everything I think and feel. I question my motives. I accept other people’s version of events over my own. I question my worth on an almost daily basis. If I feel sick I question whether or not my illness is just a way of avoiding my responsibilities. If I am sad I question whether or not my sorrow is just a way of evoking sympathy or manipulating the situation. If I am angry I question whether or not I am being selfish and unreasonable. I even question my existence at times.

I believe that to make other people happy I have to subdue myself as much as possible because no one would love the truth of me. So for all of my life I have chosen to live in a kind of bizarre compromise. I am half-way myself. The half-way bit goes off like a bomb in mid sentence. You just never know when I am going to surface but when I do I am full of a lifetime’s worth of subdued emotions and forgotten dreams. I have learned how to endure a lot of things. Abuse. Neglect. Cruelty. Failure. Disappointment. Sorrow. Indolence. I have not learned how to endure Happiness. Love. Success. Unity. Reciprocity. Praise. Productivity. I have a sense that emotions aren’t really an act of endurance, that life really isn’t a contest of how much you can take before you break.

If you asked me what I wanted in life more than anything. I don’t know would probably be the most honest thing I could say because I have spent my life on the fence. I can’t tell which feelings and thoughts are mine, much less which thoughts and feelings are coming from fear and a desperate desire to run away from myself and anyone/anything that could touch upon the truth of me and which thoughts and feelings are coming from love and a need for expansion. Right now I am faced with the choice to move forward even at the expense of making a mistake, or acting with bad intentions, or misguided emotions, or from a place of fear/avoidance, or risking my comfort because what else can I do? I have spent my whole life hoping that the truth would be louder and more insistent than my doubts but if doubt is what I am conditioned to perceive than truth, whatever it might be, probably wouldn’t even stand out very much to me in the beginning. So mine is a quest for truth and in the process I might lie quite lot because I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t or maybe I do know but I just never learned to believe in myself.

Legacy of the Dead

It is only because

you are not here

that I continue

to put one knee

in front of the other.

It is only because 

of your rage towards women

that I no longer have a womb.

Everyone knows 

the best mothers are barren

because their blood stains no one.

You taught me how and what to believe

and now I cannot even think of myself

without finding something of you mixed in.

When I am happy

it is only because I have found

something deeply unfamiliar,

something that you

can not claim from beyond the grave.

In my mouth

there is a fist

pushing back the feelings.

These feelings which belong

to no one in particular.

These feelings like stars

which bloom only in darkness.

I do not move across the sky

in an arch of fire

when the night has passed.

For me the night does not pass

it only remembers

and whoever I might have been

prior to birth is daily extinguished

by the voice of my past.

Dear Self

Me

I know I am stating the obvious here but you are impatient and in your impatience clumsy. You live life in two modes like the shadows at your heels will overtake you if you stop to catch your breath/as if you were already suffocating inside those shadows. There is a middle ground. Make friends with your shadows. As far as shadows go, they are alright. Now that you are no longer locked in survival mode you want to make up for lost time, to live your life according to your own principles, to pursue your dreams organically and with abandon. I get that. I respect that. A few things to keep in mind on your quest for a more fulfilling/well-rounded life. There is one relationship which is by its very nature is eternal and that’s the relationship you have with yourself. You have to nurture that relationship because all other relationships are built upon that foundation. Getting to know yourself is a lifelong process. So at the risk of sounding insane listen to the voices inside your head. Change is inevitable. The pauses count. The pauses we take give us time to recover, build, and grow. They are critical to the journey. A pause can bring with it much needed perspective and inspiration. Pace yourself. At the end of the day success is a fleeting thing. Our life isn’t composed of millions of big moments crammed together but of millions of seemingly inconsequential moments with intermittent flashes of genius. Enjoy those seemingly inconsequential moments. Do something with your life that makes the drudgery of day to day existence mean something because much of life is just putting one foot in front of another over and over again whatever the weather. By weather I don’t just mean what is going on outside either. Our emotions too are like weather. They come and go. Every state of our being is vital to the miracle that is our lives. Be happy. Be sad. Be angry. Be ecstatic. Be anything at all. Feel even if it hurts sometimes and it’s going to hurt sometimes.

Dear Self

Opened Cage

I first want to start out by congratulating you for surviving childhood. There were many years when survival comprised the totality of your existence. It might not be much conciliation when you reflect back on your life, as it was, and realize that huge chunks of your childhood are missing but somehow despite everything you came out on the other side stronger. It can be difficult sometimes to recognize the strength within yourself when at the most vulnerable points in your life you were preyed upon by the people you trusted most but you’re clever/industrious/wicked creative. You found ways to protect yourself. You created force fields. You turned inward. You built an entire world out of nothing. A world that allowed you some semblance of safety and joy.

What I am about to say to you now won’t make much sense given all the effort it took you to create that world but here goes. I need you to tear down those walls. I need you to deconstruct that world and join “the world”. I am not going to lie to you. There are monsters out here. Monsters in the guise of men. Monsters are in the minority though and you already have plenty of practice slaying monsters. You are ready. The world needs you because it is people like you who are capable of doing the impossible. The thing is you were always stronger than your father emotionally/mentally. You broke the cycle. You stood up to him. If you stay locked inside your fortress you will become weaker and predators prey on weakness. The fortress makes you more visible to the wrong sort of people, to the monsters. Monsters love dark hiding places. You are in hiding. It’s time to switch from survival mode to living mode. That world you created for yourself was made for a child. It doesn’t suit you anymore. It’s cramped. It’s dank. It’s boring as fuck. It’s full of bad memories. Every morning you wake in that cocoon that you call sanctuary and you relive a little bit of that horror. A horror that has seeped into the walls. When you built your fortress you didn’t add any windows because, at the time, the sight of your own life was itself, trauma. If you had built windows then you would be able to see just how much your life has changed. While you’ve been growing up I have been out here building a new life, from scratch. Thing is, if you’re not here with me, how can I possibly know what you want? I think I have done a decent job, in any case, it’s a start.

If you are still feeling trapped. It’s not for a lack of options/free will. It’s because you are still crammed into that smelly shell of yours. A shell which is so tight it is cutting off your circulation and making it harder to breathe. Those feelings you are feeling which you take to be proof of an ongoing war are actually just claustrophobia and atrophy. There is a solution for those painful/uncomfortable feelings. Get naked. Go outside. You’ll feel better. The abusers in your life created a script for you, an identity. Have you read that script? It’s shit. Write a new one. Create a life worth living in.

Wordle #169

Word Art (4)

I find myself pitted
against the darkness.
A darkness that holds
within as without.
Every face I meet is cracked
when reflected in my eyes.
Every whisper is a scream
that fails to reach the surface
and there is nothing cathartic
about a fearful silence.

I have glued feathers to my dress.
Feathers that do not hoist.
Feathers smelly with improvisation.
I blink but the tears still come,
a parade, a phronesis
of well-meaning advice
that bites but does not
serve to amend me.

There is a skein in my heart
that snags whatever it can from the ether
as if one could subsist entirely on potential.
Deep down I want to suck you dry.
Deep down I want to feel
the source of all creation
spilling down the back of my throat
hot and instinctual.
When you think about it
we make perfect sense
the truth being itself an abstraction.

I shrink beneath the curve
of your baffling Mona-Lisa smile.
I know that you can feel me,
even when I’ve lost the thread
of our conversation
in favor of your perfect mouth.
Every night I follow you
to the other side of the moon.
The sky spread out above us
volatile as water
and infinite in its manifestations.
Sometimes I forget how
various we all are.
I could be anyone or everyone
and yet it is you alone that I want.

Legend

Hangman's Tree

The night sky

is already a graveyard,

a graveyard on fire,

a graveyard like me.

My nightmares do not dispel 

on waking, they take root.

My body is an iron maiden.

My blood is a wax emblem

tugging closed the pale lips

of a mouth that will never open.

My hands are two doves shattered

by their own reflections.

The more I struggle

the faster it all slips away.

That’s the thing about feelings 

they have to be felt

in order for the heart to open.

Most of the time I feel

too unreal to believe in anything.

Sometimes I crush my feelings

against my spiraling fingertips

and rub out my own

metaphorical constellations

in an attempt to be closer to God

and by God I mean you.

Sometimes I sob breathlessly

into your outstretched heart

as if I were a man riddled with war.

However, protracted the death

I always rise up

with the next intake of breath. 

I am my own legend.

Some weapons are made of blood

and some of the most violent wars

I know take place between

a man and himself 

when no one else is watching.

Thousands of tiny crucifixes,

my fears, burn through my boundaries 

It’s as if my body were made

entirely out of sin.

I write from the inside out.

I write until my fingers burn

and my naked heart chaffs.

I write on the burnt husks

of my exorcised demons

and sometimes I feel

so much that the threads

holding my organs in place

give way altogether.

Walk Away

In the soles of your boots

I followed you, piecemeal, down the stairs.

Down and down you went

unaware that your cruelty held me hostage.

It’s not an exaggeration

to say that you were a psychopath

and I am certain that there are others who suspected.

Only a shell could protect against your trespass

and I have one that would

make a mollusk weep with envy.

For years I was as empty as a widow’s uterus

but in your absence I find myself filling with blood and air.

All that is vital, all that you withheld

is mine, at last, to feel.

I could never return to your side

knowing now what it is to live.

There’s a crawl space inside of me

just big enough for a clenched fist.

Within its clammy walls I keep

all my feelings, good and bad.

I wear this space as if it were a badge.

It is a point of pride that I survived you

and whatever comes next

I know that I shall be the better for it.

I have yet to unravel the scars

that you laid with each betrayal.

Sometimes it feels as if they are all that I am.

Then I remember that you are dead

and I take another faltering step forward.

I hope that in quietus you remember

the pain that you alone have inflicted

and I hope that it haunts you,

at least as long as you have haunted me.

This is another old poem reworked. Below is a reading of yesterdays poem I hope the link works fingers-crossed.