Cactus Mouth

I’m not usually this quiet,
but I have to be,
because what I say:
won’t help
won’t sway
won’t make you stay—
won’t change the way you feel.

Can we be real?

It hurts to kiss you,
to miss you,
pricking myself
on the spines that stick from your tongue,
protruding like a badge of honor for the young
needing a method to protect themselves
from the truth
that they’re made of 90 percent water,
10 percent hot air,
without a care
that anything they once felt
won’t start growing again
until summer.

What a bummer,
to always be the one who breaks first
who makes the worst habit
of filling the little voids
with words that you might consider
a desperate attempt
at building an oasis
that’s easy for the both of us to find.

I am your pincushion,
your words, the pins,
your flowers show brightly in the sun
blossoming despite the lack
of hydration
because you were prepared for this.

My mouth.
My mouth was once a cactus
that grew before it could store enough water
to survive the heat.

Now my mouth is a syllabic desert;
your mouth,
the cactus filled with the linguistic equivalence
of water,
the likes of which
would save us both.

The [Face]Book of Inspiration, Part IV


The title of each poem will be shown as it was written on Facebook. And beneath it the first name and last initial of whoever presented it.

The significance of colors
Nikki B.

I feel red,
then orange,
then the lightest shade
of pink

sometimes I think
I am rainbow
prism or prisoner
of clearly defined hues
masking themselves
as expectations:

you are blue,
and green,
and purple.

No.

I am sunset,
hope, passion, fire.
I am Prometheus
human-bound
then bound for all eternity.
I am
summer’s day
the way you look in the morning
when light hits your face
just so
I want you to know
you are opal,
sapphire,
gem,
not quite one of them,
but you reflect
one color, then many—
your eyes,
emerald then golden
depending on the way you tilt your head
dreams of terra-cotta skin
if you stay outside
just a little bit longer

I want to be every color imaginable

When we speak, it is in CMYK
we exchange words in tinted syllables,
my skin is opaque peach,
my eyes, undecided

my face turns a darker shade of red under the following conditions:
embarrassment,
love,
anger,
glances across a room,

and when you break my heart,
I know the shade I’ll be:

colorless

and you,
you will become transparent.

The Cassini space probe!
Bryan L.

I seek you out in cold dark
god of plenty, of agriculture,
magnetic field
of Cassini dreams
I dive between the spaces of your rings,
to understand
your moons and limbs
and universe.

A description of the sound that Mouse feet make when they run.
Rio C.

Rice dropped onto a wooden floor
Light tapping of long fingernails
What I imagine the word “scatter” sounds like
Tiny representations of anxiousness
A miniature Morse code machine calling for help

Why you asking people to do the hard part for you?
Benjamin S.

Difficult
is stepping from the pillow of your comfort zone
and diving
into a hole
that could be filled
with knives,
rocks,
or more pillows.

The [Face]Book of Inspiration, Part II


The title of each poem will be shown as it was written on Facebook. And beneath it the first name and last initial of whoever presented it.

New Beginnings
Jamie R. (aka my Mom)

I want to start over with you:
un-overthink, un-overfeel
and just kind of wave my hand
let my lips extend sideways into a half smile
and turn my head away
as if to say
this is never going to happen,
to raise my glass,
and cheers to new beginnings,
to walk out that door,
to not forget something,
oh, that’s it! my dignity,
to un-ask you for your number,
to un-kiss you,
to un, well, you know…
to simply undo

I want to start over with you.
That is to say, I want to start over without you.

Moshing
Sergio A.

I contribute to a wall
of skin,
elbow bones jutting
slicing air

swing
jump
fall

a pit in chaos.

Clingy poets.
Benjamin S.

I am linguistic plastic wrap,
I trap you in transparency,
tug tight and call it poetry
as pretty words do spoil

better yet, wrap words in foil!
images packed in obscurity
aluminum-bound unsurity
in the state of rotting verbs.

Sorry for Being Myself

Sorry for Being Myself: Iteration 1

relation
ships
passing
in the night
moon out
crescent-shaped
mouth
smile
for the camera
lens focused
on something more
than myself
selfish
sorry for
being
me

Sorry for Being Myself: Iteration 2

My signature move:
coming on too strong

yet even when I don’t,
and you do,
somehow I still take blame
for the way you felt
for T-minus two minutes.

Sorry for Being Myself: Iteration 3

You tell me over and over,
again and again…

I hear you
but my heart
doesn’t hear you

please repeat, repeat, repeat

maybe I’ll change
or maybe you will.

The [Face]Book of Inspiration, Part I

I’ve asked for ideas for poems before, but this last ask inspired a hell of a lot more responses than usual. I decided, no matter how silly they seem, that I would try to tackle every idea that was given to me over the course of this week (maybe two). So here is Part 1. The title of each poem will be shown as it was written on Facebook. And beneath it the first name and last initial of whoever presented it.

Rhode Island is neither a rhode nor an island
David B.

Rhode Island is not an island at all,
but a place I traveled once,
stopped at a beach
you happened to know
and jumped in the air, with one hand holding
a cowboy hat,
ponytail swinging,
mouth agape at the wonder of jumping.

I had red hair then,
the color of unripened cherries,
a time when I thought
the color of my hair could distract one girl
from the thought of another
hundreds of miles away
who had kissed lips I had kissed
one floor up
from the bed I crawled into
waiting for him to join me.

It started then.
It followed me to Boston,
to Rhode Island,
to anywhere.

And when I finally found out the whole truth:

I dyed my hair back to blonde,
the female equivalent,
of closure.

Why do we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway?
Dave G.

In
Los
Angeles
I’ve
heard
sometimes
you
park
on
the
parkway.

Priorities

Current status: hunkering down in Orlando awaiting the storm
Apartment status, Miami: unknown
Creative status: writing

Hurricane Preparation: A Poem

Acquire Supplies

  • Bottled water
  • Toilet paper
  • Flashlight (multiple)
  • Batteries
  • More bottled water
  • Canned food, but do not forget
    by any means
    a can opener
  • Board/Bored Games
  • Selfishness
  • Bravado
  • A little feeling of fear
  • A desire to face the wind with a cape made out of a bedsheet
  • First Aid Kit

Get to higher ground
the ground
you were supposed to take
that one time you fought with your father
about your life goals
that didn’t quite fit
within the confines
of his expectations.
Constantly in doubt
of your motivations
for more money,
a bigger apartment,
and loftier general aspirations.

Can you blame him?

What have you done with your life?
What have you prioritized?
Emotional happiness over financial gain?
Feeling less stressed, more sane
Finding self over finding something resembling settled
the same thing you did yesterday?
What have you prioritized?

If asked to evacuate, evacuate

You’re stubborn, that’s a given—
a life you currently live in
is all, search for bigger and better

and while the ground gets exponentially wetter
you debate the worth of your home, your jewelry, your pride
decide you’ll be fine if you stay inside,
then only when you see the sheep leave their pens in search of safe farmland,
do you follow

your insides are hollow, making space for things that might be emotions
or instead, oceans of rain
that will fill up like downtown streets, drowning any chance you had
of feeling anything.

Don’t tape up your windows

Shattered glass bullets
that ping through the air
or sharp daggers, different shapes
like snowflakes,
slicing through your brown pull-out couch
like a birthday cake.

Remove large items from outside
like your faults,
your ego,
the loveseat outside,
the fake potted plant
the pile of cigarettes on the ashtray,
the chair with the arm rest
where you held my hand
and the world stopped for minutes.

I can hear you laughing through the wind,
jocund at 100 miles per hour
ha
ha
ha
around and around,
and I can almost see you laughing
from here
your smile a bright beacon through the cloud dark,
the rain dark,
the power-went-out dark,
the inner-heart dark,
the lonely dark,
the dark beneath flood waters.

When it all goes dark, we disappear
except for you.

Close all interior doors
to disperse the pressure
throughout your heart.

Be wary of tornadoes

You can judge a child based on her parents,
but this doesn’t mean
she will be like them,

the warning message,
the alerts,
all lead to eventual silence.

Have you met my Mother [Nature]?

The Twelve Steps

I believe in second chances. I believe in third chances. This poem is about belief that things can always change, that they can always get better once you confront the things that scare you.

-Alexa

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

When you lose the ability
to breathe, is it better to gasp for air
or learn how to live without
breathing. Do you feel like air
may kill you, that words may kill you,
that the world may leave you behind.
Sometimes I feel like you do, but instead
of liquor or wine or pills or powder
I am powerless to an immense feeling of loneliness,
drunk with an anxiety that leaves me scared
to leave the house, to face you or the world.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

You told me once that I saved you,
but I needed you more than you
needed me. I was so afraid of what it would feel like
to live in this world without family,
that it wasn’t so much saving you,
as saving me from being alone.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I do not believe in God.
But I find comfort in the fact
that you do:
to believe in something so much that you’ve come to find personal peace—

I respect your decision to believe
in something greater than yourself as I have chosen to turn
life over to music and family and truth.
You believe in the good and the kind,
though sometimes you say things
that are unsettling and I tell you
this is so.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

What did you find when you sorted through
the files of who you were and
whom you wanted to be? Did you remember nights
where you left me alone on a couch,
my knees wrapped in a large T-shirt that you got
at a charity event where you probably drank
and I probably noticed, but didn’t say anything
because I was too young to know
I should speak up?

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There are still things you haven’t told me
and I’m okay with this
because the past for you is a place
you do not want to go,
and I do not want to take you there
like I don’t want to go
to the place where I’m in an airport
hunched on the floor
finding out my grandmother died.
Let’s avoid these places
together.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

You cannot remove
the birthmark that has nestled itself
into the beauty of your skin
without leaving
even a faint scar.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

It will hurt,
and someday they may come back.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Was I first or second or third?
I grew up strong and strong-willed
so you cannot say I was harmed, but tested
by the lack of you.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

You wrote me a short letter, almost the same length
as the letter I found in a yellow box
meant for my eyes first—
an antonym to everything I understood
about my place in the world to you.

If I had known
depression rested on your heart
like a paperweight
maybe I would have come sooner.
Maybe there would have been no yellow box.
No letter.
Maybe.

I’ve felt that weight,
hard to remove when you live alone
and your arms feel as flimsy
as paper—
weight made heavier by overthinking,
a fear of sinking,
and yellow boxes.

I did not mean it when I said I hated you.
I did not mean it.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

I lied.
I was selfish.
I didn’t know better.
I lied.
I did know better.
I was selfish.
I loved myself
more than I loved you.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Sometimes I talk to my grandmother,
conversations to my ceiling fan or to my wall.
And I try to believe she can hear me.

Sometimes I think that is the same thing
as believing in God.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Fear grips my hand
like a child,
little fingers attempting to interweave
with mine.
And though my hands are small,
he cannot get a full grasp—
because Hope makes Fear’s hands smaller than mine,
Hope wraps her arm around my shoulder
pulls me close
and tells me it will all be okay for longer
than a little while.

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.