Assurance

“Hold Me” by Kathleen Horner

Arms

I want to feel safe in your arms,
but I don’t want to need you to feel safe:
does that make sense?

I think I want to be my own arms, able to assure myself
that everything is going to be all right
that everything is going to be okay
if you go your way and I go mine,
diverging from each other like Frost-built roads in yellow woods.

I want to feel safe but not too safe,
safe, but not fearful,
to have confidence in my own ability to manage my life,
to handle pain with dignity, to handle strife
and then to keep a chin so high
it touches clouds that look like ships or dragons or faces
from long forgotten places that span the distance from my understanding of love to yours,
a breadth made wider by lack of conversation.

I do not trust you.
I trust me.

I must confess,
I wanted your arms to be my haven within seconds of meeting you:
your words melted into the pages of me like ink,
slick and black and shaped into serifs against the stark white,
volumes of poetry and pretty words and promises
that would be written, but would be proven false,
and I’d be proven right to have never trusted you.

Your arms are straw,
and mine, brick.

My tongue is filled with truth,
your tongue, thick
with molasses words that drip from the corners of your mouth
and when you wipe that mouth
they stick.

You’ll have to try much harder to assure me
you are nothing more
than arms
and tongue
and teeth,

that what lies beneath
is not just another body filled with falsity.

I don’t need you to feel safe,
or assured,
or comforted.

I need you to be this:

to be honest,
to be more heart than arms.

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How to Fall

So due to a request, I am finishing a post I started about 3 years ago. There wasn’t much content to it to start (literally just a phrase or two), but some of the best work often comes from nothing.

So to begin: I haven’t considered falling. Haven’t fallen recently. Haven’t stumbled. But if I must…

A Guide to Falling Head Over Heels

Woman Falling

How to fall:

gracefully, with palms splayed out,
you should hold your hands just so,
ready to clench
and take the maximum impact of the world away from your chest,

breast shaking with the nervousness of seeing him,
the what if’s hanging like a burning halo,
the will he still’s tugging at the heart like it’s wrapped
with ribbon—
ribbon that’s been cut, scraped against the blade of a pair of scissors, and curled so tight
like a lock of unkempt hair.

And this is where you tell your thighs to hold steady,
knees at the ready to take the brunt of the drop,
because you know full well what comes next
after the world stops,
and you feel your heart exit
in a stage dive into an audience of one.

Will he catch me?

The faster the fall, the less time he has to keep you
from launching forward,
your head hitting ground before it has the opportunity to think,
before the heart’s allowed to sink
into feeling
too much too soon.

But this time the fall is semi-slow,
unhurried from one phase of descent into the next,
and when he hesitates, like you expect,
you’ve already hit ground,
your hands cut up,
your balance unbound
to gravity.

You decide you don’t want to be hurt so badly
so you push yourself forward a little harder,
somersault through the hopes for something more,
and pick your head up from the twists of the carpet,
from the comfort of floor.

You rise from the ashes of your fall like a phoenix

you rise
you rise
you rise

from the fear of heartbreak,
a woman privy to the trick of falling
to sustain less damage
because predictability
is never something worth falling for
(at least not enough to actually hurt yourself).

You want something more:
something worth diving for
face first into the waves,
unpredictable in their undulation.

You want the clean chaos
of a home that looks neat to the naked eye,
but when you pry a little deeper
is littered with the artifacts of life.

How to fall:

you don’t.

You rise
you rise
you rise.

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Divided

I’m a person split in half: one half is creative, emotional, artistic, passionate, and all the other adjectives you’d associate with someone who has a penchant for lyric; the other half of me is logical, direct, and in constant need of clarity. The work me, the me who gets it done, who protects and who reasons through everything. Sometimes these two halves meet, shake hands, hug, share a little bit about their lives. Sometimes they keep away from each other, give each other space. Or they crash, head first into one another so that the heart and mind are spinning on a dance floor, music blaring so loudly that neither can distinguish emotion from truth— their ears ringing from the realization that there is no division between how they feel and how they want to be feeling.

So here’s a poem about that divide:

Lay lady lay

Pigeons

Sometimes I think I imagined it,
the whirlwind of feeling so quick
that the whirl portion of that word doesn’t seem fast enough to adequately describe
how I felt,
a hand that was dealt,
and then picked away like pigeons with crumbs:
rapid, but in such small grabs
that it made it last longer,
those little bits of bread memory still falling to the floor
and that pigeon cooing for more,
like I have so much more to give.

I just want to live.
I want to expand moments with more moments,
to feel chaos mixed into the predictable fold
before I start to act like I’m too old for this or that.
I need to feel life happen.
I need to stop waiting for responses that’ll never come,
for plans that are undone before they’re even made,
for promises that are never kept,
to stop blaming my personality for being so inept,
when really it was never me to begin with.

My heart and mind have started to agree,
to realize that they shouldn’t change to fit the mold
of someone else’s expectations,
to feel happy with their motivations,
to know that emotion and logic can walk hand in hand,
and just because you misunderstand
who you think I am as a person,
you just need to know I’m split.
That what you think you get, that that’s not it.
I’m not predictable, but I’m not complicated.

I am human, though; I’ll make mistakes
I’ll try to keep a calm demeanor, a stoic face,
even when the world feels like it’s closing in,

and I can’t even begin to tell you how little control I have
of how my body reacts.
I try to say, “hey, heart and gut and mind, can you just relax?”
But even logic comes in and tells me, you can’t un-feel,
that you can’t backtrack on what you know is real
just because you want to make it so.

I just think it’s important for you to know,
that who I am,
is not who I will always be:
it’ll be a part of me,
a piece of an expanding deck of cards,
a new constellation of stars,
a me that is ever-changing,
ever re-arranging itself into tessellations
of moments had and moments yet to come.

And if this me is too much for some,
who cares?
As long as I am well aware,
I cannot be divided from myself;
I’ll always know that my mind and heart will
keep each other company,
that the part of me that needs closure and clarity
drags my emotional side by the ear
to say, “we need to be clear how we’re being treated.”
That you don’t need to feel defeated,
only sad for the person who couldn’t get to meet
the person you’re going to be tomorrow,
a personality you could never borrow,
moments non-existent,
so much so we’ve starved the pigeons.

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Drafts

So starting something and having to come back to it later is not an unusual scenario for the average writer. In my efforts to clean house a little bit, I was looking through old website draft titles and then their associated content to see if there were any posts that I could possibly revisit or that it was time to delete—and we’re talking since 2013. What I found interesting is how the post titles of all these drafts represent little moments from the past 4 years; and to see the starts and stops, and to try and figure out why I gave up on writing them, has been an exercise in self-understanding.

The following are the title of drafts I have yet to revisit…and my favorite line from each (if their was content written).

Drafts:

Ill-Fitting, 2017

I have a bag of clothes that used to fit,
a blue duffel, filled from bottom to brim
with size 2 to 6

Shifty, 2016

I want to say it was difficult to tell him the truth, that I was never whom I said I was, but when your body changes as easily as your mind does it’s difficult to discern what’s real or what’s been transmogrified…

Wordless, 2016

The Car Accident, 2016

In October, another car kissed my car
a little harder than it’d like
to be kissed;
a little more tongue, than was appropriate;
a little less affection than was required
to make the relation sound,
and so
over time the injuries were hidden
by cosmetic change

Grouped, 2015

How to Fall, 2014

I haven’t considered falling. Haven’t fallen recently. Haven’t stumbled. And yet here are these words. And I feel the necessity to finish what they start

Power in Words, 2014

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Not Christmas, 2013

Lost Boy, 2013

When she whispers non-sweet nothings
in your ear
do you hear?

Yo, 2013

I’m going to be real with you
right quick
in a jiff
skippy
because it’s iffy
that I may or
may not find you sick
the equivalent, in slang,
of slick,
take your pick
the language
constantly
chang
ing
with every word
the music, the lyrics
absurd
words that used to shame grammarians
now heard
in classrooms
and grocery stores
and at home

html, a poem, 2013

Locks, a poem, 2013

My mom is blond-haired, never corn-flower yellow, but near white. Her mother, my grandma Nicoletta, had brown hair. Dark, dark dark, near black. And when she was older, she’d buy spray that looked like dark paint, to cover the bald spots.

The Twelve Steps, 2013

3 Sheets, 2013

I rock
back and forth,
a human cradle of faith,
falling asleep to lullabies
too many ropes exposed to the wind would make the boat rock.

Job Hunting, a Poem, 2013

I’m that girl.
Yes, her.
Head buried in her laptop
like an ostrich

The Ghost of Relationships Past, 2013

When we met,
I could see right through you,
or thought I could,
your skin a translucent shade
of tan

*, a Poem, 2013

When we kiss
I don’t want to see fireworks
or sparks
flying willy nilly
in the cliche breeze of romance,
I want light bulbs, flickering with
realization that
yes,
when we kiss it is because you like me…

Useful Thinking, 2013

My head is barely above the water
swamp water
murky and smells like ass
penny copper and tuba brass,
a situation that lacks shine.

(no title), 2013

This poem is not about you
nor ever was,
but may sound like it
because like songs,
it’s easy to associate
a lyric
with the truth,
as it is a line
with your guilt.

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Shoe Drops

So, my last post was in JANUARY! Talk about inconsistency! But never fear: I have an excuse (of course). I’ve been writing: lyrics, more lyrics, and even more lyrics. I thought about joining the circus, but in its stead, I joined a band. And it’s been an absolute wonder. The people I’ve gotten to meet, to become friends with, are creative, diverse, full of energy and a sense of determination specific to artists trying to share their souls with the universe.

Waiting for Shoes to Drop

Pessimism was not in my nature
when I was eight,
or nine,
or ten;

but then again,
there were hints of it
simmering beneath a surface full of smile and a sheer love
of cookies.

To be young,
is not to be optimistic:
it is to be inexperienced
in the matters of disappointment.

I was disappointed when I was young,
a time or two (it’s true),
but we don’t know the impact it has
on outlook
until it’s too late to un-speak sarcasm
that bites at the heart of others,
to keep our depression words, our anger words at bay,
to not say what’s really on our mind
no matter the extent of the negativity,
a proclivity for pretending to see
the glass half full,
when really, your focus is on the air
in the space beyond the liquid.
(Though in reality, the glass can never be empty (since air and liquid are things), so, cheers to that.)

But I’m not eight,
or nine,
or ten,

then again,
I remember being so happy
it felt like the stomach pains of ever-laughter,
the deep type of guffaw where it tugs at your
tum like a rope.

The potential for optimism isn’t gone,
but fear disguised as pessimism is there:
it creates uncertainty, frustration, doubt—
things we’ve tried to live without…
but then experience tends to train you
like a dog with a bell,
classically conditioned into
waiting for shoes to drop,
a personal hell of self-created unhappiness.

But shoes can be tied tighter,
this is a possibility we tend to forget,
that we don’t have to give up on love or hope, just yet.
Or that there are so many types of shoes,
or the reality that I’ve never really seen a shoe drop, per say,
not in the way, at least, that pessimism intends.

Or you can choose,
to wear no shoes at all,
like you did when you were eight,
playing on a beach,
toes digging in the sand like you imagined
the head of an ostrich might do,
knowing full well where your shoes were.

I’d much prefer to stay barefoot.

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Chemistry

So in an attempt to find inspiration, I asked my Facebook friends to provide me with a prompt from which to be inspired. I promised I would create a post around each idea I received some time between January and February. So here is the single post based on the only prompt I received—from my mother. The prompt: chemistry.

This isn’t Chemistry

If you’re under the impression
that there were sparks,
fireworks,
a chemical reaction

then you, sir, are mistaken,
your sense briefly taken
to places unknown.

What this was:
a momentary lapse in judgment
your judgment,
my normalcy…
smiles, kindness, the occasional,
“that’s awesome”
sans subtext
that awesome could be the enzyme
to speed up the reaction
of our love.

This isn’t chemistry.

And no, there exists no desire
to study anatomy,
biology,
to experiment
dermis to dermis,

to hypothesize how our kids might look,
your chin,
my everything else.

Oh, boy, this is above
and beyond
what was intended,
the reach of your imagination extended
from solid to liquid to gas

getting into the atomic mass
of every word I say,
to reach a nucleus
of something not quite there.

I know deep down you have to be aware
of the lack of a single bond,
of substance,
of chemical composition;

that chemistry
was never your best subject.

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This is all too much

I try to imagine how you feel—
if it’s real
or if it’s fleeting…
your heart beating so fast
it might fly from
the caverns of your chest.

It’s exhilaration meets sadness:
you can’t stop going going going.

Freedom meets madness:
you can’t stop knowing knowing knowing
that what’s good for you
doesn’t seem so good for you.

To rest for a while,
to pause,
to break
both literally and figuratively,
simultaneous destruction and reprieve,
without a chance to grieve
a world
without semicolons.

You often find yourself
at the edges of you,
all fringe
no fixture,
always alone, but never lonely.

But you need to stop,
you need to feel the absence
of everything
so you know how to better
fill the void,
to fill the empty that burrows
within em dashes
or ellipses
or blank spaces.

I try to imagine how you feel,
but for everyone it differs…
the diversity of suffering,
but the commonality of tears,
the nightmares, the fears,
the intense feeling
of no feeling at all.

And then there’s numb,
then there’s nothing,
your heart beating so slowly,
it sounds more whisper
than thump

thump thump
thump thump

until you just sort of know,
because the numb passes,
the heart beats louder

thump thump
thump thump

as I imagine it would when you realize
how good it feels to be alive.

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Matters

Sorry for the repeat hiatus, loyal readers (of which I think there may be two or three of you?). I’ve been in a constant state of transition since August: I moved, I traveled (California, New York, Dominican Republic, Orlando), I’ve been working on other forms of writing (mostly lyrics), and I’ve been re-focusing on work and thinking about ways to be better at that, since that’s where I spend most of my time during a given week besides sleeping. So for old time’s sake, here’s an on-the-spot poem about what it means to matter.

Matters

I don’t know who lives above me, but at 11:45PM I hear footsteps, consistent and strong,
or banging on a wall,
or dancing…

no

it is the distinct clatter of a hammer, of multiple paintings being hung in rapid succession—
because this is what people choose to do close to midnight in South Florida
in lieu of sleeping
(I envision a painting of hot air balloons above a Paris street from IKEA)

Tonight I bang back, a hard and quick tap tap just to let them know that I am there,
that I exist,
that it’s not just them and their hammer or their hands against hurried-on paint…
that I matter

They cannot see me,
but I am unequivocally present
in the apartment beneath them

and for the first time
I’ve made them aware
that yes, the world can hear them,
that yes, despite potential thoughts that it is not entirely about me
that I am entirely affected,

and the banging fades into lighter, more thoughtful taps
(or so I imagine),
a length of silence
lighter still, and then a steady harmony of cabinets
opening and shutting,
the running of water,
the softer padding of feet across carpet

My air conditioning unit clangs to life,
drowning whatever sound is left
in the passage of cool air and ceiling dust

and I hope that for even a second that it was my taps that made the difference
and not the completion of the activity upstairs that drove them to stop,
that in a world that doesn’t revolve around me,
that I may receive, if for but a moment, an occasional revolution

The air conditioning ceases its motion

I cling anxiously to every creak or moan of flooring,
the sound of a microwave timer and a rush of footsteps across a living room much like mine

because this is what people in South Florida do in lieu of sleeping.

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The Dinosaur

The dinosaur at the end of her bed was green; her socks, magenta.
She leaned over and clutched it,
her hands gripping onto its skin, fuzz rather than scales,
and making it dance—
all big legs and tiny arms aflutter,
jaws open in a contented gape.

She clutches Rufusaurus Rex when
she needs to feel closer to the center of the earth,
from the crust, to the mantle, to its inner core
feeling for
some semblance of depth,
the way her socks dig into rivers of carpet,
the way her toes curl into rivulets of synthetic fibers,
the way her crescent moons atop her nails dig into dinosauric fluff
all claws and roar and stuffed
from tail to teeth.

Prehistoric comforts
that hide beneath mountains of pillows and clothes
she meant to put away,
but Closet Mountain still stands,
a pile of t-shirts at its peak.

Instead, she builds blanket forts extending from bed to floor,
crawls flashlight in hand through an entrance of fitted sheet
and drags Rufusaurus Rex behind her,
past hills of homework,
deserts of girly and grown-up expectations:
a girl and her dinosaur
little arm in little arm,
her socks, magenta.

And together, they roar into the dark.

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Wait

The wait is all-consuming, hours pass and people: chargers in, chargers out. They’re pulling wires from the wall, bobbing heads to alternative rock, whispering to each other about how long they have until they board. They wait, transfixed on the passage of time. The flight delays. They look angry. Their faces soften. They go grab a pretzel or a glass of wine from the appropriate food vendor. A man peeks up from a laptop. A woman glances up from a book every five minutes or so, checking on her purse and backpack. But she just watches them, unable to help the analysis of humanity. To her, the differences in people are so spectacular; each person who waits the makings of a book.

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