Poem Every Day in July 9: At the Shoreline


“Oh, I’ll just call a taxi; I gotta get up early tomorrow again.”

-Dodie Clark, “6/10”

To think that the ocean came all this way
for a chance to lap at your toes

is foolish, but you can’t help remembering
the puppy from your childhood home––

his drooping brown belly, his tail wagging
along the carpet, never happier

than when you came back from school
and he could ride the surf of your arrival.

Although it shot aches through his aging frame,
your tiny grandpa never failed

to greet you. These days,
the people you love are more apt

to push you away from their warmer pillow,
sending you a little closer to the carpet

than the ever-thinning blanket.
You wish nothing more than to feel

the sweet sea wind of your love’s breathing,
soft as the eyes of a puppy grown old,

and to know that the tide rises for you,
that at least the water is happy you’re home.

Ode to Chef Boyardee: A Poem


I scrape the last ravioli
from his inner tin walls—his cylindrical ribs
contain my princely dinner.
My fork presses onwards
into the man’s metal viscera, pursuing the mush
of his sweet guts, the succulent cardiac red
of his tomato paste innards.

All day I have awaited this
the way a warring king, after a day spent waging
and wielding, wants for mutton;
I am a royal, ready to ravage
the hidden tenderness of rout’s canned spoils.
The chef, that smiling man—
rotund fleshy jubilance on the can—
is my jester, then, and in my castle,
monarchs dig deeply into the meat of their courtiers.

I empty him into the bowl. His very soul
sloshes into the glass, enriched
iron red; in two minutes’ time,
I will slurp him with queen-befitting greed.
I will cherish each mangled droplet as it sluices
towards my stomach, as the last of his drippings
splash past my omnipotent tongue,

the muscles of my body
a churning fiery machine anticipating
the arrival of his liquefied sinews, the steam
his sacrifice will provide.
All day I have awaited this, and now
I may vanquish what is mine.

Awake


In the third grade, I had my first stint with mental illness. My only real friend had just moved away, and no one wanted to play with me at recess. I was depressed, big time, and I was also working through grief at the loss of my friend. The stages were evident (retrospectively) in the narratives that went through my head as I tried to sleep. Some nights I would cry. Some nights I would invent stories in which who had abandoned me continued to wrong me; some nights I would scream my anger at her. At eight years old, I would spend some nights thinking seriously about death. But it wasn’t until the next school year that I started to understand that these thoughts were anything out of the ordinary. lonely-child-1024x678In the fourth grade, after she saw me hitting myself repeatedly during tests, my teacher sent me to weekly group sessions with the school counselor.

It’s gotten worse since then, but it’s also gotten better since then. My depression comes in waves. The stresses of elementary school, junior high, and high school all took their toll on me. So, too, has the unforgiving coldness of winter, as well as the unrelenting loneliness of summer. Depression is not a constant companion, but it is a consistent companion.

My anxiety, on the other hand, does not come in waves. They aren’t as bad as they could be, and I’m always learning to ways to negotiate with them, but they never leave. Ever. In fact, I’m not totally sure where my anxiety stops and my nervous personality begins. Fretting is ingrained into my very aspect.

I was born an anxious person. I was also born a sad person. That’s sort of my point, my raison d’être: to be anxious and sad. It makes me see things that other people ignore, and it allows me to be introspective. In that, mental illness is what makes me a writer. I’m only an artist because I was wired incorrectly at the factory.

Maybe I should be grateful. Continue reading “Awake”

The Only Thing I Can’t Forget: A Poem


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Molly slides a new calendar
onto the old hook. Last year was clouds; this year,
twelve mountains plasticine on pages,
each wearing a glossy white cap
as if it were mink. Molly’s brown hair is in a braid,
swinging like the pendulum
in a grandfather clock, and I watch it
until I lose track of time.

I still don’t know how many days
are in a month: for me, days
seem to swirl, elusive as heavy snow.
Flurries are impossible
to greet. Anything that touches my nose
melts in moments.

The kitchen is warm. Molly clucks her tongue
and makes hot chocolate. Under the dimmed light,
I see her first grey hair, glinting platinum
like a wedding band.
I ask her why she didn’t tell me it was there.
She says it’s just her inner child
poking its nose out to play peekaboo,
its color bright only with shrill laughter.
For a moment, I can hear it
in the hot water she pours over the brown powder.
I laugh along. She drops three marshmallows in my mug.
Her lips on my cheek
bring me back to our first kiss—

it was January, and I’d never been so cold.
I told her, “The only thing I know about snow
is that I’m tired of dragging my boots through it.”
She said, “The only thing I know about snow
is that we are never as alone as we think we are.”
Our gloves met each other,
wool as good as skin.

A fourth marshmallow arrives ceremoniously,
followed by a rise in the small chocolate tide.
“This is today,” Molly says,
sweatering me inside of her. “Tomorrow is the new year.”
Her flyaways tickle my cheek until I feel
like champagne. Another grey hair drifts
before my eyes. Everything is blurry.

Blue: A Poem


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When I looked out
over the plains and saw nothing
but dead grass with barbed pock marks,
the tornado in my stomach clenched
its muscles, torn by wear,
contracting into compressed electric anger
that bleached my fists.

I was a storm then. I screamed. Debris
of myself, like a bird but lonelier,
closer to the ground. A propane tank collapsed
in the trailer park of my mind,
and every gallon fled the scene, finding shelter
at last in my forearms, settling and bursting,
an eruption of lost.

Do you have any idea
how many times I’ve set my veins on fire
only to have you
wish the flames away?
My dear friend, how often have you ignored
the smoldering, and the pain,
and the way it stings at first
then slowly turns to acid? Do you have a clue
how seamlessly your downpour
has rescued me?

I wasn’t born in these twilight shades.
Someday, you said,
I’ll be green again. What a beautiful blue

you are.

The Burial: A Poem


We bury ourselves in the sound.

It is the dirt that rolls

around us, into us,

the dirt that drops behind our eyelids

and pauses lightly at our lips–

the warm soil, the nourishing earth,

here to protect us from formaldehyde

and needles and nooses

and downpour in the heartbreak.

We dig ourselves downwards

to escape the oppressive sky

and the alleged eyes here to protect us,

and the thoughts, so unquiet,

are softened by the song

like wolves domesticated by gentle hands,

like water sleeping in puddles on the sidewalk,

like summer winds at a standstill.

We bury ourselves in a slurry of murmurs

and we swim away, away, far away

from the coffins and tombstones

and we avoid suffocation.

The sound is our home.

Mary Lambert, the queen of my existence

Mary Lambert, the queen of my existence

These Lightning Fingertips: A Poem


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I dreamt once of laying under the strobes of heart

in that dream

the atoms of my body rolled to distant starlights

distant rests

filler!

I felt my toes vanish into the electric sparkling

(peace finally after the struggle) and

that silent firework twinkled its way up

my ankles,

my hips

filler!

When the dissolve (resolve)

hit my lungs

it took my air and broke it up

when it took my heart

it stole my blood

filler!

it hit my eyes and I

gave it my brain

filler!

and when finally, finally

I was scattered

across infinity finally, finally

my useless body knew peace

among the starlight

filler!

A dream indeed