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.

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.

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.

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.

Wordless

I have words in me that multiply,
verbal bacteria in a Petri dish dividing via binary fission,
biological precision meets linguistic overflow.

So where do the words go?
They bubble out on pages,
make conversations uncomfortably emotional,
because my heart is writing faster
than my eyes can re-read.

But it’s honest, and it’s real,
these words I tend to over-feel,
exponentially increasing inside my gut
and roving outward,
escaping because they release
years worth of linguistic anxiety.

In society, we’re taught to keep our words at bay—
the more you say,
the less the recipient will want to reciprocate,
your words standing solitary,
blushing in the dark in their embarrassment.

But I have words,
so let me speak them:

let me overthink and over-love,
let me over-care and overwhelm,
let me me wish that these words were whispered in an ear
rather than through an earpiece.

These words:

they’re multiplying,
dividing,
colliding,
until I’m wordless,
speechless,
left listening to the words multiplying in you,

or to the silence
of words left suspended in air.

On a Scale of 1 to Even, I Just Can’t

It’s been too long, for the millionth time, since my last post. And the thing I hate more than anything, is that my friends, former bosses, etc., etc., keep asking me if I still write. I’m a writer, yo, is that even a valid question? Yes. Because it’s better to finger point at laziness than to call yourself a writer when you don’t write.
It’s not logic or science or exaggeration; it’s the gosh darn truth.

I can admit, I have gotten back into reading pretty frequently. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and now The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I’m a readin’ machine when I’m not at my desk.

And about that little detail. My current job status: still employed. Current happiness level with type of work: Ultra High. Current Creative Level: +1. And what do I do for a living? Create names. Like a boss. For companies. All types of companies. For products. Corporate IDs. Clinical trials. Things. More things.

Yeah, buddy.

So a poem, for my tiny, itsy bitsy audience that reads my web of work:

The Lessening

It hurt a little less each day
once I figured out
that really
no matter what I did,
no matter how hard I pushed
or pleaded,
it would not change
or replace
the heartbang
that went
with lack of love.

Maybe she didn’t know
right from
wrongish,
the pieces of feels and fonds
all jumbled with white pills
and liquorish drinks
she thought more appealing
than dinner dates
with peeps who missed her.

Really though,
more personal than peeps,
more familial in their cut
like unclear diamonds from an old ring,
they wanted someone
to pick at the past,
a little kid
shoveling and separating sand with a giant plastic fork,
piling shell and salt and people dust into castles
that looked much more obelisk
than fortification.

The digging, after too long, sored the muscles,
ached the fingers,
until the digger felt no need for castles
or diamonds
or dinner dates.

They stopped missing her.

They stopped hurting.

And eventually:
they just stopped.

A pause. A memory.

Then hurt again.
Glimmers of hope
as fine as sand.

How to Deal with Everything

6/23/14

Some things haven’t changed. I haven’t posted since March, for starters. So here I go, already weeks then months, but the need to write down something is immense and necessary. I can’t contain syllables, letters, uttered grunts and sighs and inner need to yell and bang some table. It’s all downhill from here, I swear it. The uphill climb of stress and events has brought me to the peak, the apex, the precipice, and I can feel it, deep within the crevices of the joints between my bones, the need to write, write, to keep writing or unenthusiastically implode. The need to express, impress, digress, until I’m -ess’d out and relieved — like a star that’s just about to supernova, all excess and hyperbole and exaggeration that needs to be released in a cloud of light and shiny things.

How to deal with everything? Write about it. The keys listen to you like square-shaped ears, no judgment here but in the little clicks that break the silence. They tell you to go on, urging you like the pop of packing bubbles: the need to pop, then pop again, more instinct than necessity.

When it all feels like too much? Write again. There are poems for this. Lyrics for that. I don’t know how many times you can hear a song that feels custom made for your situation. You’ve been cheated on? There’s a song for that. You’ve left your heart on the doorstep of another lover? There’s a song that specific, I swear it.

And in these last few sentences I can already start to feel better. Dealing becomes a little easier.

6/24/14

ABOVE was written yesterday. And today…well…today I feel light.

How to Deal with Everything

Take risks, take risks,
that’s all it is:

If you love someone, tell them.
If you hate your job, quit.
If you want to be a pirate, raise your sword, your flag, and ARRRGH,

because, Matey,
you get one shot to say how you feel
infinite days to deal
and a heart so strong, it’ll take ten swords
to do it in,

and when you feel down,
there are people there
to lift you,

not like clouds,
but cranes, metallic and loud and…

all you need to know is that they’re there:

morning, after work, the occasional lunchtime call,
and to be fair, you’re there for them, too
despite the days it’s all about you,
because drama, dear,
follows you,
a Facebook stalker, when Pokes were a thing,
not murderous, but creepy as all hell.

But you know what you do well?

Those infinite days are smalling (new word, just deal with it),
your vents becoming summaries,
your feelings on your sleeve and not your Wall.

And you, my dear, you’re writing again. Feeling love between your fingers, like a violinist plucking strings. Because I love you. I love my job. I want to be a pirate:

my pencil, a sword
my feelings, the flag.

End.

New Year Nomenclature

I am very much aware
that there
there in between year 1 and year 2
there was a time when I
was sad or crying,
lying
about my intentions or how I was really feeling
when you said that,
did that,
or just didn’t.

There was a time,
I laughed so hard the car shook
with joke-heavy drops
of happiness slowly soaking into the seats
like cigarette smoke
into even the most resistant hair.

There,
between year 1 and 2
was you,
waiting, floating,
flying without reason,
through similar seasons,
where every day is spring or summer

Bummer

to have missed the first flecks of snow,
but you cannot miss what you didn’t know,

that I could be so different,
better,
like machinists installed me with
robotic contentedness,

so automatic I forgot
to be sad or to cry
my heart pumped so high
I ignored the fact that I should pop.

And when the moments stopped—

When I breathed again.
I could feel you,
there between year 1 and year 2,
nestled down in runner’s gait,
ready for year 3 through 98,
for the auto-happy,
of which I am very much aware.

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Internet, it’s been too long…I think more than two months. But oh, it’s been good.

So I won’t make promises. I won’t say I’ll write tomorrow or a month from now. My only promise: I will write. An occasional postcard in the form of a poem. Like today, sent from the 90s.

8 7 95

I picked up a photograph—
the already ancient kind—
processed when sharing
meant showing you an album
in the form of a book.

Time stamp: 8 7 95.
One look: amazingly content.

And I stood,
hand up to ear, elbows bent
like teapot handles.

No fear of the future,

only upside down roller coasters
at Disney World.

I was 7.

My arm cocked, model-style
like the older girls in my mom’s magazines
yet to be a teen
or even 8 (there were still 3 months til then).

But I knew more then
than I know now.

I knew I’d be older
I knew I was happy
I knew how to erase words
on a typewriter.

(“What the hell’s a typewriter?”)

And now I’m decked with unsure:

family,
job,
car,
bills,
future.

Forced mature,
and several years
past seven.

But when I turned eleven,
then fifteen
then twenty…

I did learn plenty.

A picture worth more than a thousand words.
More like a zillion minutes
since August 7, 1995.

8795

Relationship Legos

I was asked in a recent interview how I build a relationship, and I think my on-the-spot answer (though not as beautifully rhymed as my ots poetry) was not lackluster, but could be improved upon if I had more time to think.

What I imagine I said, because my memory sometimes goes goldfish on me, was that you need to base any relationship with an introduction. Whether business or personal, send an email, make a phone call, do a little intro jig to grab the person’s attention. It’s not a mating dance, but it is important to make yourself memorable. Your colors must be bright. You must put forth your hand to be shaken. You must put your limbs out on a limb.

Enough of my predictably awful attempts at using literary devices.

Part of making this introduction, especially in a business environment, is doing your research. It is more than essential to look up a company if you are about to speak to its representative. If you’re about to meet a manager and can find his work experience on a site like LinkedIn, you might be surprised what he’s done in his pre-managerial existence, and how it may benefit what you bring up in terms of your own experience during the founding words of your relationship.

Once initial communication is made, you must establish a common ground. What do you both enjoy? What type of business are you trying to conduct? What is the actual necessity of the relationship? Whether for a business meeting or installing yourself as a teammate on a softball team, you should find what you share to be a strength. And remember: don’t forget.

If a person doesn’t take to you at first, sometimes you need to let that person go, or give them time to mull over your personality. Letting go isn’t always ideal, but when establishing a business relationship, I think it’s often key to look for alternate personalities within a company with which you may form a better bond (if this is an option).

If you are successful in creating the foundations of a relationship, maintaining contact is then key. Keep in touch, but don’t overdo it. And when you speak to them, don’t make it always about need. There must exist a mutuality in a relationship. Either your symbiosis is obvious in complementary need, or you need to ease up on the asking. A relationship based solely on personal need is never successful. Mutuality breeds trust. And trust (you can ask any heartbroken relationshipee) is the true building block of any relationship, a nucleus of sorts.

Keep in mind that your memory must not go goldfish. If a person talks about his children, remember their names. If she mentions her birthday, remember it. And if a person said something worth repeating in conversation later, write it down. Quotes become famous for a reason: repetition. Remembering the little details shows you care about what they have to say. People do appreciate appreciation. And the old adage is true: treat others the way you wish to be treated.

If a relationship ends, however badly, time can often revive it. Don’t be afraid to be honest. And don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong.

And if a relationship is good, it’ll stay good if you give it attention. Just, well, don’t be an idiot about it. I think that’s it; business as usual.