Empty Echoes

I cannot tell if I am haunted
Or trapped in an endless reverberation.
Words from the past beat upon my mind
Again and again and again and again
Until I cannot tell if they are newly repeated
Or just bouncing around my head
Like an echo that draws strength and volume
From the walls I’ve put in place
To keep words like these out.

You spoke to me of comfort
And camaraderie in a too-late attempt
To stave off something you sense
Is growing ever closer,
A shadow you see in every mirror
But whose shape you seem unwilling to acknowledge
No matter how many times I describe it. 
These friendly words ring hollow,
Changing from your voice to mine
As I remember every time
someone said them to me,
All the louder for these echoes of the past
That refuse to be stifled,
Amplified by the utter emptiness
Of everything you said just now. 

You told me, hollow words
That I longed to fill with the rage
Welling up inside me,
That I should not suffer in silence.
But this silence was never mine to end.
The silence that has forced this empty exchange
Was a monster of your creation
And I have merely been its victim.

Hung out to dry so long ago, both I
And your vacant platitudes,
Have long since withered.
The hollowed ground I once claimed
Matches the concavity of your starved expressions
And I am left alone
Except for the indiscernible echoes
Of your words to me
As we are both reduced to rubble
By the impervious wall
Of your past silence.

Love is…

Love is…
…Affirmation
The small words
Lost in a paragraph
As you’re told your feelings
Are as valid and real
As your experiences.
A theme repeated
From one mouth to the next
While all you can manage
Is a simple “thank you”
When you are lost in a sea
Of inescapable emotion
You can do nothing about
But endure
Until the waves pass.

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The Middle Distance

I nod, clumsy hands sweating
As they hold a phone to my ear,
But I cannot find words to answer
Beyond “mhmm” or “yeah” as my thoughts,
Tangled like my hand in my hair,
Lie in knots on the ground around me.
Knots I tied myself because this
Is harder for you than me.
You need to relay information
And I need to hold it together
So you can make another call after this one.

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I’m No Hypocrite

“I turned off that part of my brain”
            I say, trying to not sound proud
“I just write words and put them up.
            I say, planning my next post.
“Good job. Mission accomplished.”
            I say, checking the stats page again.
“I haven’t missed a day in over a year.”
            I say, searching for affirmation.
“I’m no hypocrite.”
            I say, facing the mirror
            As I look for reassurance
            In a face that doesn’t believe
            The words on my lips.

The Middle Distance

I nod, clumsy hands sweating
As they hold a phone to my ear,
But I cannot find words to answer
Beyond “mhmm” or “yeah” as my thoughts,
Tangled like my hand in my hair,
Lie in knots on the ground around me.
Knots I tied myself because this
Is harder for you than me.
You need to relay information
And I need to hold it together
So you can make another call after this one.

I press my forehead against the cold brick
Of the bathroom I’ve locked myself away in
So you don’t have to compete with the noise around me.
So you don’t have to repeat this more than you need to.

There is a window that ends just below
The brick I’ve put my head against
And I stare out it, eyes unfocused
As I gaze into the space between
The window and the world outside it.
I lose myself there, in the middle distance,
Until decisions are made and I have details
To focus my unspooled thoughts on.

When I emerge, I stay in that middle distance.
The people I was with know something is wrong
And they move from far to near to help,
But I’m stuck in the middle distance.

I am still stuck there,
Trapped between the news I received
And the future I can’t bear to see
As I focus on lists and plans,
Losing myself in the things I need to do
Even though I know there is only so much time
Until the middle distance has been eaten
By feet that, even now, still carry me forward.

Waking Up

The world comes back like musicians
Tuning instruments as the crowd quiets
And the conductor takes a stand
So the concert can begin with a noise,
A cacophony of sound that solidifies
Into a single note as a part of you protests
That everything is out of order.
Eyes blink and the room swims,
A discordant melody played in tune
To a song from the house next door,
As attention builds long enough to
Note that the alarm is going off
Before the hand slapping snooze
Breaks it all to pieces and you fall
Back into the abyss for one minute more.
Enough alarms later, the discord falls away
To be replaced by soft darkness
Welcoming you back to the world
With the admonishment that you must rise
And begin the day laid out for you.
Slowly, like a symphony builds
From the percussion in the back
To the brass and strings in crescendo,
You build yourself into a person
Who can stand for the day
And decide your alarm has done its duty.
Moments later, the world drifts back together
Like music from headphones
Left sitting on your desk
And you discover an hour has passed.
With the passion and harmony
Of a garage band playing borrowed instruments,
You throw yourself together and bolt
For an uncertain future you can only roll with,
A day of discord and low fidelity
That still manages to carry you away
By force of spirit alone.
Some days will be symphonies
But most are improvised songs played
With fumbling fingers that know only
The importance of this moment.

She Waits

She waits,
Like a mountain reaching for the sky,
Pushed up by unseen plates in an embrace
It will never know or feel,
She waits for a call
To hear a voice she knows
She may have already heard
For the last time.
She waits for comfort,
A desert cactus counting days
Since the last rain,
Pinning hope on each passing cloud
As the little water it has slowly drains.
She waits,
Breathing deeply, fighting anxiety
As each buzz of her phone,
Each ping on her computer
Resurrects hope she abandoned
When it pulled out her hair
And chewed her nails to the quick.
All I can do is stand by and watch
While she waits,
Useless words weigh down my tongue,
Empty gestures tie my arms,
And the knowledge I cannot fill
The hole she feels bows my head.
She waits,
Knowing what might be lost
Cannot be replaced,
Like a dried up river
Leaves a furrow in the earth
That will linger on until
The entire world has changed.
So she waits,
Living the best she can
With one ear cocked for a sound
And one eye watching for a face,
And a smile to hide them both.

Identity

I often ask
            myself who
                        I really am
but maybe that
            is the wrong
                        question
I am a thousand
                        different people
            all wearing
                        the same face
though the face
            changes
to reflect which one
                        I am trying to be
maybe I should
            be more concerned
            with who
                        I am
            going to be
I have a thousand
                        masks
            in my collection
                        each with
their own purpose
            and power
                        bound up
            inside the frozen
expression I wore
            when I took
                        it off
            the first time
capturing who I was
            and what I felt
            so I could become
that again later.
                        so I could be
                        someone else
            right then
and move on
            with my life
I have a few
                        I wear
            more than the rest,
but they are no different
            from the others
a decision
                        to act
a certain way
            or to play
a certain role
­            so that other people
­                        can see me
in a way
                        I can understand
they are masks
            all the same
even if they
            feel so real
                        I am transformed
            maybe the question
I should be asking
            is if there’s
                        a me
            who doesn’t wear
                        a mask
is there a person
            beneath it all
swapping masks
            from one moment
                        to the next
or am I
            my entire collection
and I just
            wear masks
to make it easier
                        for me
            to be
a person people understand