Thursday, August 4, 2016

To the Counselor's Man on One of Those Days

My own dragon awoke early.
Smelling the smoke I think, the rest gathered
As they do daily, chasing perfectly good townspeople up trees as I stand,
Pom-poms in hand,
helpfully shouting instructions from the ground.
That's the thing about dragon-fighting that people don't always understand...
I can throw you the sword, but ultimately, you must fight your own dragon.
Today, as I shouted, the loudspeaker shrieked.
It hurt.
A lot.
Please fix it.

Yes, I have taken my armor off.
Yes, all of it.
You want me to drop the pom-poms, too?

It rained today, inside and out, and I have wilted.
My hair is a mess.
My face is dripping down my chin.
I am, by all accounts, smudged.

Dear, try not to mention the smoke from around the corner.
I see it.
I will mop up my dragon's footprints later,
Vacuum the rug where his tail left dirt.
Yes, yes, we will have to replace that spot.
I know that we have to replace that spot.

The smoke?
Around the corner...
Oh, I forgot.
This tower has no corners.
The smoke has a nose.
Maybe if I just ignore it...

And I am now wrapped in dragon.
Armor already removed for the day, there is nothing left between us.
Only my face pressed against your cold, smooth scales, poking me as I try to get comfortable in my skin,
Your talons wrapped in my hair,
Blowing smoke into my face as I try to...
This bed is full of dragon, all around is rain.
Best to shut my eyes tight.

And then I hear you,
From somewhere far below the tower, I hear you shouting helpfully from the ground...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You Should Bring the Flowers

Because somewhere hidden behind the sound of the keys clicking this out is the desire to write it long hand, pen against paper, shorter lines caressing the longer ones, rubbing the feelings in
Because if they drip down my face, my tears should smudge something 
Because tapping my screen to end the call will never be as satisfying as hanging up was

Because, while I have exchanged awkward phone conversations and barbed text messages aplenty, I have never slapped the faces of any of the men who have mangled my heart 
and some days I really think that both of us would be better off
Because Etsy jewelry never looks that good in person
Because I am knitting a blanket for my nephew and it is not as pretty as the store-bought ones and I have spent too much money on it and it has taken a long time already and I will know that it will stand up to the winters in Alaska because it is too warm for my lap and I have to knit sitting sideways so that I won't be under it
and he will be my mother's grandson and he must be warm
Because I cried when I realized that her purse didn't smell like her anymore
that nothing smells like Mama anymore
and some mornings that still wakes me up sobbing

Because there is no video of my neice running to me through a crowd, arms stretched out ready to catch my neck that will tell you anything about the feel of her tangled braid against my cheek 
Because one day my nephews will all be taller than me and (hopefully) stop asking to be picked up and swung around
Because it is my father's old work shirt that I always reach for first when I'm sick
and I will never be able to use words to explain why I must always keep that portrait of him that really looks nothing like him

Because this poem has been interrupted repeatedly by a malfunctioning device lagging so far behind that I had to stop typing
just to give it time 

to catch up
and this was what we were doing
just typing

that's it. 

Because that's not really a problem with pens
even less so with pencils
Because the "Not Responding" message is always met with my resounding NO SHIT uttered with such fervor that it disturbs my tea

that's just sitting there
doing nothing

like this device.

Because even if you talk to me on the phone every single night and text me all day long and say it over and over again, nothing will reassure me like the memory of that time 
you grabbed my hand, interlaced your fingers with mine, and didn't let go
Because every time after that
Because I still remember my first slow dance
Because I don't remember my first email or text message
Because even middle school phone calls were nothing compared to the notes he passed me in the hall
and I'll never forgive myself for so cavalierly getting rid of them before I got old enough to really appreciate them 

Because I can tell you about every detail of my day and still miss the way that my face looked when I threw my head back laughing at the friends I'm just barely cool enough to have at work
Because what I want tonight is my brother sitting next to me on the couch watching superheroes save the world on TV and he asks me to go make him a pie
or sandwich
and I tell him where he can put his pie
or sandwich
and we laugh way too loud because we are way too loud
Because reading this won't help you understand why that's so funny
or the correct inflection with which to read that last line

or how good the pasta was tonight at dinner
or the way the rain sounds on the roof
or the way the moonlight through my window when I was a kid woke me up being so bright
Because I have heard those three little words so many times before
Because they turned out to be fleeting and maybe I should have noticed

Because they never came with flowers. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

when you have to move on

I felt him look me up and down
Tracing my lines with his hope
I thought, 

"Can I go home now?"

Little girl, arms full of a stack almost taller than her
Arms full, hands full, balanced precariously
One thing slips, it all falls
All falls if one thing slips, 
And all I could think was,

"Can I go home now?"


Home to you where I can slowly, carefully, drop the pieces to the floor, one by one
Not too much banging and clanging just
Let my arms swing by my sides
Arms tight from the weight of everything I've been carrying since you (seeing me eyeing the lay of the land, judging how many steps I could make, what else I could balance, maybe on my head? around the corner? up the stairs?) made the decision to stop helping me
Let them fall
Reaching up to the corner of my frame, peeling back
So that what I keep behind the surface is exposed
Can feel warmed by the soft light from that one lamp
And I can peel it all the way off, roll it all up neatly, and let it fall silently onto the rug
And I can finally let my taut insides condense, let them relax into a pile that fits under the crook of your arm
My edges softening until I am only part person and part fluff of blanket
Wrapping us both up in your arms holding onto my core
And tracing of the lines of your face with the tip of my finger
And the edges of your mouth turn upwards
Smile upwards
Because this is what home feels like
Your face buried in me while the final drapes fall off the windows in drips that run down my cheeks as I allow the rest of the spurs to leak out
And you just let them
Because it just became safe here at home where 
Whose arms and legs are whose
No longer matters.

"Can I go home now?"

Because while one of the cards dealt in that hand was uncertainty
The rest of them were this hand...
That fit perfectly into that hand...
That hand with the cards just laid out
And if I could just figure out which to play when
If I could just be better at cards, get better at cards, practice my shuffling a little longer,
Maybe you would just stay 
Maybe we could just stay in our tangled, fleeting home
And when I found myself somewhere holding a stack
I could always go, 
As I had always dreamed, 
Back home.

You tried to be kind.
Perhaps this was most painful because you tried, really tried, to be kind.

Limbs untangled, the spurs remain tightly packed in all available wrinkles
And sometimes, when shaken (especially at night),
They still march down my face.
Drapes hung.

There is no going and no to.
Only stand still, look at the staircase, and try very, very hard (tip of finger trembling) not to drop the stack.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

deeper instinct

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
-- Anaïs Nin


I have come to drag you out of your self
and take you into my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty
you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.
--- Rumi

to Latte

Through a haze reeking of alcohol, I could see your insides. I could see your hands grasping desperately to hold the very end of a rope. Tears poured down your face as you told me of the hands that have always pulled you down when you tried to do something—anything—other than survive while the world wrote poems about you and stood up in coffee shops, shouting into the faces of people who might be you but also might have never, ever held the hand of a person whose insides looked like yours.

Whose outsides look like yours.

Whose latte-colored skin reminded me of swirling hips and bright colors, which in another time and place might have sounded like the marimba or steel drums or a djembe pounding out over the space while you danced (I’m sure you were dancing) and raised your arms (I can feel you raising your arms) to the sky in praise of rain.

The same rain that fell on the women of whom I am made, rain that soaked half of them through their chadors as they protected their hair and faces and honor
And the other half dripping through straw hats as they fed goats and grew tomatoes, necks burning ever redder in the Georgia sunshine.

I want you to know that I cannot feel the difference between us.

I want you to know that when I close my eyes as I hold your hand as you squeeze the raindrops from your eyes as the expert hands of a woman who sounds like my grandmother gently examine the scene of the crime
Probing, looking, gathering every detail
Taking pictures
Pictures that I’m sure look like mine. Because I am only a shade lighter than the latte that is your skin. Mine has only a drop more milk.

I saw your shoulders square.
And then I saw them curve inward when you put your hand out to help and winced as you were pushed apart, and put your hand out to stop or to not stop, as your mind fought with that hand and it just stayed there, frozen just above the sheet, holding onto the only thing that had ever been steady.

I cannot feel the difference between us.

In that moment, I wanted to reach my hand into the center of your chest and grab your hand before you let go of the rope. I could see your fingers starting to tremble, your hand slipping off the end of the rope, eyes darting back and forth, trying to hold on, trying to make it look as if nothing was happening, covering your eyes, trying to push the tears back in, hide the raindrops, run.

I reached my hand out.

Insides screaming for you, I grabbed your hand.


I cannot feel the difference between us. I can lift you. Come up to solid ground.

The Thistle & Shamrock

Scanning stations on the way home. Spring is exploding into bright fireworks at the ends of each branch. This is The Thistle & Shamrock. I’m your host, Fiona Ritchie.

Riding home in the car. Much younger. Before boobs. Before heels. Before outfits that made sense and boyfriends and husbands and career and cancer that eats vacation days and hope and vomits out emptiness.

Hair tied back tightly, but bits still escape. If I don’t hold my head just right, they whip back and forth across my face.

Sun has gone down. Cool air. Moist and clean and full of bits of green and growth. Smells like forest. Sounds like wind and airy, floating voices that seem to come from the dark itself.

We are taking the long way. The head of a sleeping sister bobs on each shoulder. The baby draped across me. The baby who is always hot. The baby who sweats. Little face plastered to my chest, blond curls blown back and forth to bumps in the road. One more asleep behind me.

I can lay hands on each of your limp, trusting selves.


Heart full. Mind wanders.