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

 

Fall

Dawn in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The soft, warm colors paint the sky

As I clear the sleep stains from my mind
And my eyes gradually adjust
To take in the waking world.
The crisp chill air fills me as wind blows
The orange and pink splattered clouds
From one horizon to another.

Dusk in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The bright colors of late afternoon
Drain from the sky as my work worn eyes
Slowly adjust to the fading light
And my exhausted mind stirs anew.
The smoke scented air hangs heavy and cool
While heavy cold blues appear, descending
Until day has stilled and night reigns above.

The start of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The memory of heat and humidity lingers
Like a sheen of sweat on your forearms
And even the heavy frost of frozen mornings
Is a welcome reprieve from the cloying summer.
The quiet skitter of leaves on breeze
As the world begins to fall asleep
Lets me know that I can finally find peace.

The end of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The advent of snow and blistering cold
Wakes my mind like a dip in a frozen lake
Because there’s something in the failing fall
That tells me it is time to start moving.
The heavy weather gives me something
To push against as my mind roars a challenge
At the quietly dying world,
­­            As if to say “Not me.”

­­­                       “Never me.”

The Ellipses

Once upon a midday dreary, while I browsed, bored and bleary,
Over many a wikipedia page of unverified lore–
While I drowsed, my head swinging, suddenly my phone was ringing,
It was my favorite band singing, singing about a red door.
“Someone is calling,” I muttered, “ringing like some common bore–
           Who calls someone anymore?”

Oh, so clearly I remember it was in the grey September;
As the warm summer’s dying ember was smothered in a downpour.
Impatiently I had waited for plans my friends had slated
To meet the woman I dated–though she’d have called it more–
A woman I had met at school who called herself Eleanor–
           A name she uses no more.

The always surprisingly loud sound of thunder from the rain clouds
Stilled me–chilled me with a thought I could not possibly ignore;
“What if she wants to change our plans?” And fumbled ringing phone from hands,
Clumsy like they were paper fans, dropped noisily to the floor—
“I hope my phone is not broken like the last one was before.
           That would really be a chore.”

I picked it up and in relief fsaw my phone had not come to grief.
“Hello?” I called out, not realizing I had hit ignore.
“Hello? Is someone there?” I said before learning the line dead.
I pulled it away from my head and saw a name I adore.
The person I had hung up on was my girlfriend Eleanor,
           The person I most cared for.

I began to apologize and completely overemphasize
How sorry I was by texting faster than ever before.
My texts continued unbroken as I offered every token
Until the last word I’d spoken hun unanswered: “Eleanor?”
This I repeated after five empty minutes: “Eleanor?”
           One word only and no more.

Through my house I began pacing as fear set my heart to racing,
Soon I heard a buzzing louder than the ringing was before.
“Surely,” I said,”that is her text. She would not leave me so perplexed.”
“Unless,” I thought, “she’s truly vexed and does not set any store
By my attempts to explain my unintentional ‘ignore.’”
           It was Twitter and nothing more.

In a panic, I checked the time since I had committed my crime
And saw twenty minutes passed since I dropped my phone on the floor;
No reply had graced my phone so I let out a wailing groan
“C’mon, sweetie, throw me a bone! Is that too much to ask for?
It was an accident and I sent apologies galore!”
           Silence answered, nothing more.

Then suddenly a change occurred and all my worries felt absurd.
The ellipses appeared! I had not ruined our loving rapport!
“Thank god” I breathed deeply and said as all my texts were marked as “read.”
“I’m glad I have nothing to dread.” I smiled as I waited for
Whatever angry words or gracious answer she held in store.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Much as I wished for a response to reaffirm my nonchalance,
I knew hasty words little use and even less meaning bore.
For we can certainly agree this moment forbade repartee
Or any glib smartassery that would encourage an encore
Of the petrifying silence that ended moments before.
           I’d be patient a while more.

But the ellipses bouncing there, cheerfully mocking my stare
While I waited for a response from my darling Eleanor,
Refused to change to a bubble of text to absolve the trouble
That made me wish to redouble my apologies once more.
I sat silent, watching and drumming my feet upon the floor.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Unsettled, I leapt to my feet and bid a hasty retreat
To the pacing I had taken comfort in minutes before.
“What is taking her so long to say something simple that would allay
The concern I tried to convey when I said that last ‘Eleanor?’
Could she not see the meaning I put in that last ‘Eleanor?’
           Should I say something more?”

The ellipses still beguiling convinced me to resume smiling
While I made my way back and forth across my living room floor.
There was ample time as of yet before I had cause to regret
That I’d accidentally set my finger on my phone’s ‘ignore.’
Surely she would not stay angry with an accidental ‘ignore?’
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Thus I paced, engaged in guessing, but no single word expressing,
What was preventing her from sending what words she held in store.
This and more I mulled, divining some trace of a silver lining
While I paced through the confining apartment rooms I could explore,
The apartment rooms she had not yet had a chance to explore.
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Then, I thought, I felt my phone shake and my heart lurched with hopeful ache,
Push by swelling heart I checked the screen and reached for nearest door.
“Damn it all! Why won’t she text me? Why does she refuse to free me
Of this horrible agony? Why won’t you text me, Eleanor?
Was what I did so bad you no longer love me Eleanor?”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Let me know if all’s still well and if you love me Eleanor.
Sooth my growing anxiety before I flee propriety
And give up my sobriety–message me, please, I implore–
Say there’s nothing to worry about–please, darling Eleanor.”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Just send me anything at all, I can’t take it anymore!
Rip out my heart! Toss it away! Tell me I have led you astray!
Just listen to me when I say I am sorry, Eleanor.
Please just hear what I have to say! I’m so sorry, Eleanor!”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Fine! Let this silence mark the end! There’s nothing left for us to mend
When you hold your words hostage, doing the one thing I abhor
To torture me for some small fault. I will not stand for this assault,
Not when torture is your default–Never more darken my door!
Take your silence with when you go and never darken my door!
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

As if some god laughed at my pain, I felt vibration, clear and plain
While I saw the cursed ellipses vanish forevermore.
Disbelieving, I shook my head and pushed away the rising dread
As I, shocked, read and re-read the reply from my Eleanor.
The reply from darling Eleanor said “Kay” and nothing more.
           That one word and nothing more.

For Now

I’m not all I want to be.

I do my best to listen and to look
As I follow each hook and crook
And read every single book
While I do my best to cook
Up some kind of understanding.

I don’t think that’s too demanding
A task for me to stick the landing,
But here I am, stuck standing
With nothing more commanding
Than a sense of appreciation.

It fills me with frustration
That I can’t form the foundation
Of a simple proclamation
Because I’m stuck with the realization
That I can only speak for me.

I can’t just let that idea be
So I try my best to truly see
But I think we can all agree
There is no guarantee
I will ever get the words out.

Constant fear and niggling doubt
Cause both a flood and a drought
Of words as I try to write about
A path without knowing the route
It takes from beginning to end.

No matter what I intend,
There is no way for me to bend
My experience so I can pretend
That I have anything to append
To what someone else has said.

At night, while I lie awake in bed,
I dream of a time when my head
Is no longer filled with things unsaid
But, right now, I see instead
That I’m not yet all I want to be.

So, for now, I can only speak for me.

My Mind is a Battlefield

My mind is a battlefield:
a land ravaged by war
where the once green fields
and luscious forests
are now gone,
replaced by blasted earth
and barren, burnt wastelands
full of sad, lost refugees
who shy from everyone they meet.

My mind is a world at war:
full of brutal savagery
and the most wondrous beauty
locked in some twisted dance
that never ends
while someone wanders
searching through the misery
to find the scrap of truth
that makes 
this travesty
worth it.

Maybe you can understand why
I do not like to dwell on things,
why I often seem vacant
and perhaps unmindful of
the people and things around me
or why I might not be listening
when you’re talking to me.
There’s a war going on and
I don’t have much energy 
to spare
because I’m the general
of both armies.

While you’re talking to me,
I’m trying to navigate through my mind,
watching out for landmine memories
and avoiding guerilla anxieties,
not to mention all the other soldiers
I have sent to sabotage me.
I usually never make it out.
I know all my own tricks
and there are too many landmines
to avoid them all,
especially when the guerrillas
are chasing you.

Yet I go in, the external me
who watches this all unfolding,
and hope to find
the 
sepia photograph
or inspiring tale 
of truth
that makes enduring
this constant, ceaseless war
a viable option.
The armies leave me be
but the guerrillas will not stop
planting landmines and
chasing me towards them,
despite the call of peace
and my humanitarian efforts
to stave off the nuclear winter
the generals consider simply for the sake
of concluding.

 

Watching, Waiting

Last night, I watched the moon.

I stood outside and waited for it,
From the first glimmers of starlight
That beat down on me,
            Cold and isolating
            As they spoke of size
            And depth and space
            That were beyond me
            And my little life,
To the bright corona of light
That told me the moon was sitting
Behind trees that stood tall,
            Proud of the ground
            They held against
            The rising tide of Humans
            Clearing ground for fields
            And planning subdivisions.

As the moon rose above the trees,
Full and gargantuation in context,
It threw its light into the sky,
            Reminding the stars
            That they would fade
            Before its brilliance
            And that it shone
            Only for we Humans
            And our little lives,
And smiled down on the world,
Bright on a cloudless night
To lift the veil of nightfall,
            Showing the sparse trees
            For the sentinels they are
            Of a world long lost
            That humans chose to respect
            In all that remained
            Of its wilderness.

I sat and watched as hours passed
And the moon brushed away
The canopy of pinprick stars
That tried to drown it.
            There is nothing up there
            And nothing down here
            That can stop its journey.
            All we can do
            Is sit and watch and wait
            And let it push or pull us
            Like a nightly tide
            Of human emotion.

When it finally came time
For the sun to share the sky,
The moon slowly gave way,
            Fading to a pale disc
            With no light to share
            Until it almost vanished
            In the pale blue
            Of the morning.

I took comfort in knowing
The moon was still there
As I went through my day,
            Sleepless muddled thoughts
            Fueled by extra coffee
            And the knowledge
            Of the moon waiting,
            Hanging on the horizon
            Despite the heavy glare
            Of the unfeeling sun.

Maybe I too can stay my course
Despite the inexorable feeling
That I sometimes fade away
To the point of being overlooked
By anyone who doesn’t care to search,
            That little feeling
            Of having gone away
            Without having left
            And being somehow less
            Than I know myself to be.

            I claim no special kinship,
            At least not one beyond
            What anyone could claim,
            But I do know it holds a place
            As high in my esteem
            As it holds in the sky
            And I am tidally locked
            To its influence.