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.

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.

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.

Beautiful Dreamer

I found an old book project from 2003. Thought I would share it; and as always, rewrite it in the form of a shorter poem:

“Beautiful Dreamer” by ~15-year-old Alexa

I knew a boy who loved to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream.

But sometimes he dreamed he could soar through the air
and go to the places that no one would dare.

He wanted to fly with the birds in a V,
over the ocean and past the great sea.

But the problem with this is he didn’t have wings.
So he couldn’t do any, any such things.

He decided to try and make wings of his own.
So he worked day and night, worked his hands to the bone.

When he was finally finished he smiled with glee.
“It is time for me to fly,” he said happily.

He decided to show his mother the wings he had made,
but all she did was talk about being afraid

and about what she would do if he were to get hurt,
bruised on the knees and ripping his shirt.

But the little boy would never give in
because his dreams meant that he always would win.

So he sneaked to the roof when the house was asleep
and off he would jump in a large, long leap.

He took off in the air where he planned to stay,
but nothing that night went just his way.

He crashed to the ground with a thundering thump
and he slowly got up with a black and blue bump.

He went to his mother and cried many tears.
She had warned him of what had been part of her fears.

Dreams may come true, but this little boy found out
that dreams are what magic and love is about.

Twelve Years Later…Written today, about Twelve Years Later

I knew a boy who used to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream:

and like the moon, he phased;
like the stars, he shone too bright;
and like the ice cream,
he melted,
a puddle of rocky road in the shape of a heart.

But melting was an art:

He came back from the ground one time, then two…hundred—
fall after fall,
year after year,
roof child to grounded adult,
his ice cream heart wrapped up in bits of cone.

And when left on his own, he guided:
Polaris rising in the evening sky,
wings so big he couldn’t fly,
but he could jump
to heights so great the moon would envy,
shadows dancing in delight.

And there he went into the night:
the image of dreams in cosmic shadow puppets:
a boy transformed into a great bird,
a phoenix,
a gryphon,
casting shadows over his childhood.

Of this, he never stopped dreaming.

The Mosquito

You thought of me for a moment,
a sort of passing, like the small mosquito on a less than succulent leg—
a flit, a flitter, then gone
into the clouds and ever-space of the out there,
more afterthought than present.

But on this moment, unlike others,
you chose to bite,
proboscis at the ready, elongated like a straw:

Perhaps an assemblage of moments formed into over a minute.
Perhaps guilt tugged at the skin so softly it started to itch.
Either way, you reached—
out, to, for what? I do not know,
but into ever-space you went a’reaching…

sending birds tweeting to the sky,
bearing news of great recompense,
yet words as empty as the second half
of the metaphorical glass.

And when more time has come to pass, you remember:
this is why I flit, why I flitter,
a world half empty,
wholly bitter—

and then there is forget.
The high of having tried,
the fear of being slapped away,
the reality of plucked wings…

Moments flash, leg after leg
into the great subconscious—
never to touch my skin again.

All it Takes

All it Takes

All it takes for you to be happy
is to admit,
that failing is just as great
as succeeding,
that unhappiness is fleeting,
and all moments
are learning experiences
wrapped in awesome,
wrapped in sad.

And when it gets so bad,
it’ll probably be so good, too.
All it takes is you:
Your outlook, your perception,
your reflection on moments
so minute to the bigger picture,
you find yourself changed in seconds,
the gong of hours past, the equivalent of a lifetime.

But to own the failure, this is key;
it wasn’t him or her,
it wasn’t we— it’s you,
caught between what you thought you knew
and what you’ll never know,
the future undecided,
the anxiousness growing tall like unkempt weeds.

Anxious is as anxious fears,
the culmination revealed in private tears
and moments where escape seems better than confrontation.

But in this situation, to be happy is to take the leap,
no regrets for plans you didn’t keep,
or plans never made.
Just go with the gut,
become the product of enteric intuition,
your final decision the work of you and you alone.

All it takes for you to be happy,
for you to find inner smile,
is to stay awhile,
bask in the glory of a choice well impulsed,
and pause,
take a breath to live a sentence without clause (i.e., simple),
and admit that success is just as great
as failing.

Something Old, Something New: Patience is the Key

Do you?

So I thought I was a pretty deep teenager, with an emotional hole so bottomless, even the tears I cried would be poetic. Or I just thought my writing needed to have some sort of meaning. That writing about zombies or arts and crafts would be seen as too lighthearted and lacking substance.

I can’t remember why I wrote the poem below. But I can definitely take a crack at a rewrite that’s less, I don’t know…trying too hard???

Patience is the Key by 15-year-old Alexa

Patience is the key
You never know
Maybe if patience never existed
The world would have fallen pudding snacks
From careless openings of the gushy, savory delight.
The world would have open wounds,
where impatient doctors pull the bandage
and large chunks of hair come with it.
The world would have less wide-eyed intelligent children
With impatient books to be read, ones that can be skimmed,
Not taken lightly for content.
The world would have less music, where impatient ears crave the busy streets
The sounds of car horns and estranged yelling being as a beautiful symphony,
Opposed to the romantic flavor of jazz or the rich vocal silence of the piano.
The world would have death, where anxious surgeons forget to remove a bacteria,
Or forget to replace a heart.
The world would have pollution, where pedestrians lose all hope of ever crossing paths
With a trash can, heaving its need for the sweet incense of decaying paper and moldy apples.
The world would have war, where people forget that they are not the only ones to speak, their eager minds not wishing to hear words of justice, equality, and peace.
The world would be a closed lock, steely grips upon its empty hole.
But patience is the key.

Losing Patience by 27-year-old Alexa

I thought that patience was the key to everything,
but I was wrong;
it dwarfs our potential,
feeds at the upbringing of our fear…

Just to be clear:
Change happens for the impatient,
the pushy,
the proactive.
Actions taken must be active
not passive—aggressively approaching our lives,
the patience only to pace ourselves still relevant,
to appease the inner drive at least enough to compensate for the waiting.

And if you find yourself hesitating,
react.
Think of possibilities, think of fact,
but don’t let the world pass you by.

Because the idiom they say is true,
life flashes in a blink…

Still: Patience is an ally, not a key.

To know patience is to know the need to lose it,
to keep anxiousness tamed,
as if emotion were a lion, bear, or tiger…

Oh, my! The need to keep your soul at rest,
to let your heart decide if action or patience is best—
then the key is not in patience,
but in decision:

A skeleton key.
The universal unlocker.
Finding balance, your lock-pick;
choice, your tools.