Again today, I reconvene With past iterations of this one meal And past iterations of this one Me. And I, again, in the gentle familiar Wake to voices in the kitchen The folk melodies I grew up knowing And I enter, again, Last One Up And eat cooled breakfast, blushing Because the chuckled surprise of “She’s awake!” Sounds just the same. And grandmother searches my face From across a windowed room In curious skepticism Of a girl with blond hair Caressing her coffee Who are you, then? I am the accumulation Of every page of my diary Layer laid upon layer Word upon word Conversations across pillows Shouting across tables. And in the eyes of those who’ve known me I shade my eyes from growing up And instead tiptoe to the blue That kisses the rugged soles Of shivering sandy feet And washes away, once more That which I’ve picked up That which I’ve carried That which I’ve treasured And I throw back my hair, And charge back up the hill With dimpled nose and wild smile To the ember-lit faces That taught me how To be thankful.
Today, I’m thinking about stress. What an interesting feeling it is— an external impetus swirling and churning into the way my body functions. The lists and the numbers on Calendars seep into my veins and coat my sweaty hands and my subconscious keeps whispering of things I have to do. A body shouldn’t respond to those things— A body should care about sleep, about eating right, about exercise. Yet my heart is pounding because of a few thousand words that need to be on a page. Words that won’t contribute to my survival. Words given to someone else who doesn’t really care what I wrote. Words that spill out from my fingers moments before the deadline— that I might not even believe in. Yet this inconsequential task marches itself to the front of my brain, turns around to the rest of my thoughts and functions, taps its conductor’s baton and stops everything. First, it sets my breath to a louder, faster tempo. My heart beats in syncopated confusion. Pulses of blood and heat run scales over my body. The task orchestrates an addicting dissonance and raises the volume until it’s all I hear. I search and try to deconstruct the straining instruments, but the noise keeps me from progress, and I am lost. My eyes see sun and light and friends. My lips smile and pucker and chat. But my head only carries the chaos of a pain that constructed itself and refuses to dissolve.
Around me, others dance to their orchestras. Their life soundtrack floats in and out of them just the way they want it to. Around me, others write subtitles to the snapchats of their lives: “Perfect.” “Successful.” “Better.” The orchestras in their heads are rehearsing an immaculate Moonlight Sonata. They blow slow, easy breath through harmonizing flutes. Their heart punctuates complete sentences and deeds done. Their hands are warm, dry, and ready for more. Stress becomes only a life soundtrack that pumps them up for a football game, sustains them through a night of studying, or reminds them to never stop saving the world. Oh, that I could hear what that sounds like.
Is joy still joy when it’s anonymous? Jokes that make me smile Have never seen me frown. It’s gently familiar, this. But I can’t tell what I’m reminded of. Not asking me “tea or coffee?” But not asking me “rum or vodka?” Not asking me anything. Not searching. Though the comfort gives me space. But if anyone asked, I'm scared of the answer To “What’s she interested in, then?” She's definitely Humanities. Horses! She likes those. She carried a camera once. And has blonde hair Like a golden retriever With a floppy tongue And a cocked head And so much joy And probably isn’t thinking much anyways. Is joy still joy when it's anonymous? Does joy speak?
It hasn’t always been easy; the way you hold me has made me lose most of my hair though the years. I’m barely keeping my arm on, let alone my nose or my ear. You’ve spun me, squashed me, and loved me too hard to be reasonable. But darling, last night you made it worth it. You’d left me on the shelf for too long, but last night you took me down and you took me into your bed. Maybe you just needed someone to hold. Darling, I was so glad you chose me. I watch you clasping on to other things, people, ideas, like they’re going to give you comfort. You forget— That’s exactly what I’m here for. So come home to me and forget everything you’ve changed. Listen to the silence of my broken music box, and imagine what I might have said to you. Kiss my forehead and know you’ll never be alone. You’re still a child, darling. You’re still the only thing I care about.
I see how others look at you with morning eyes and call you beautiful. I see how others turn around and slide out the door. I see others chalking out your boundaries and placing up warning signs and hoping you won’t cross any lines. I see them ignoring the scars you love. Darling, there is no part of you too dark to see. Darling, they should be looking for the things behind your shining eyes. You forget this. But last night, with me in your arms, you fell asleep thinking to yourself. In the mazes of your mind, you ran into channels and found secrets. You opened up the filing cabinets you’ve been afraid to sort out. There I am, threaded into every note and question– The one you’ll always come home to. There I am– The one who hasn’t ever changed. There I am– The one who listens to you when you have faith and have doubt and have nothing. Those are the hardest times— the nothing times. But yet, I listen, though you feel weightless and gone and don’t realize that your arms still make me warm.
Keep me next to you, darling. Remember who you are— the girl with crooked teeth and dark hair and dirty feet and intelligence. As you fall asleep, I’ll whisper the secrets of the world into your ear and you’ll remember how perfect your face feels when it’s smiling.
Bike, upside down. One finger, wheel Sent spinning Bike, upside down. Hand on rubber and it, too, Spinning One more Sent spinning. And here I stand, watching As my tires spin And the brakes do nothing And the wheels go nowhere But I like the whirr. Then back and forth I pace And as one wheel slows I push it back into motion. One hand one tire Just for a moment I like the whirr, I said it. As the clicking starts And accelerates And sings to me And the orchestra in my chest Is dizzy enough to forget.