We Monsters

 

We Monsters

 

No one kisses the witch.

For the witch cares nothing

about the innocent, the sacred.

She’ll steal a baby like it

was a loaf of bread. She takes

a plate of warm, beating heart

with her afternoon tea.

 

No one loves a villain. No.

A villain tosses poisoned apples

and hairpins like playthings. Curses spill

from her lips like songs,

and, anyway, she’ll be gone

by the end.

 

No one holds us monsters,

we who kill with a glance, or a swipe

of the claw. We travel by night,

cloaked in solitude.

We hide our unnatural faces,

even from ourselves.

 

We witches, we villains, we dragons,

we thieves. We monsters.

We wait for you to arrive,

armed with righteousness and pickaxes.

We know, we deserve this,

to meet our end as you

dispense correct justice.

We burn. We drown.

Our heads roll, like overripe fruit, at your

feet.

 

Yet some of us will live.

We’ll slink back into our cold caves,

sharpen our knives by the dying light of embers.

We’ll get what we need.

If it means someone has to bleed,

so be it.

 

I’ll Take You

 

I’ll Take You

I know your particularities. Coffee, light
and sweet. Flowers, ranunculus please. (Never roses.)
Cold beer and hot shower will cheer you up
most days. And you could live forever
on spicy chips, Twizzlers, and avocado
with salt and spooned
right from its black leathery skin.

To say you have quirks is too generous.
The fact is, you’re often infuriating.
You drive too fast. You say you love,
then completely neglect,
your houseplants. You leave crusty dishes in
the sink. Stay up too late, don’t say
what you mean, but then talk too much.
You’re stubborn and contrary and
you’re always changing your mind and
I often want to shake you.

I used to strive (without success) to love you
exactly as you are. But now,
I think, there’s not a thing
about you that’s exact at all.
The trick is in the turning.
The seeing you again, and new.

Because when I say you,
I mean me.
And you’re the only me I’ve got,
so I’ll take you.

Old Enough

 

 

Old Enough

I’m old.

Michael Keaton as Batman old.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” old.

Crush on Susanna Hoffs old.

 

I’m grey hair old.

Insomnia old.

I’m laugh lines old.

I’m cool with these laugh lines (most days) old.

 

I’m know what I like old.

I’m going after what I want old.

I’m trust my old heart old.

 

I’m old enough to be impatient.

Old enough to be new.

Old enough to know there’s no time

to waste.

 

I’m short skirt old.

I’m I don’t care if you like it old.

I’m old enough to have my own back.

Old enough to have yours, too.

 

I’m old enough to be reckless,

in all the right ways.

I’m old enough to worry whether this is all enough.

Old enough to know, most days,

that I am.

Fuzzy At Best

 

Fuzzy At Best

When the ball strikes the line

does that mean in?

Or out? How many cards

can I trade with the dealer?

And how many lives? I can’t

remember. We both know,

my grasp on the rules is fuzzy at best.

But if you open that

rulebook –

weighty as a bible, stuffed

with onion skin pages –

one more time, I swear

I’ll flee to the bar,

and gleefully forget everything else.

If we’re going to play a game,

I’d rather make it up

as we go.

Love Letter to Humans, Even Me

This semester I’ve made it a goal to contribute to a weekly poetry forum at my school, Vermont College of Fine Arts. It’s good for me to produce something each week that I send out into the world, even if it is a very safe and supportive version of the world. Here’s a poem I’m pleased with that I wrote earlier this semester.

Love Letter to Humans, Even Me

One never knows.

One hears of accidents on bridges.

Earthquakes toppling buildings.

Which is to say nothing

of the tremors that topple us from within.

Some of us stooped

and some of us broken

and yet we go outside.

To work to visit to breathe fresh air.

It is so beautiful

and so brave.

I love us all for this.

Another Poem for a Flower

 

Another Poem for a Flower

Anemone, adorned

in purple ruffles like

a Queen.

Just yesterday, your spine was bent.

Stooped and sad.

 

I feared the worst.

You’d been neglected, left

to dry. So though

I thought it futile, slipped

your stem into a glass of water.

 

This morning, you

reach delicately muscled arms,

you show the world your splendor.

A drink, and time, have brought you back

to life.

Things to Do with a Feeling

 

Things to Do with a Feeling

squint at it

hide from it

cry over it

share it with your best friends

share it with your therapist

share it with the one person who needs to hear it most

write a story about it

tie it to a stone and drop it in the ocean

wrap it around your shoulders like a blanket

spread it around like fairy dust

develop a crush on it

send it away

stay up until it comes home

hold it under your tongue until it melts

press it between prayerful hands

whisper to it in the dark

rock it in your arms

wait

watch

see how it grows

How Fast the Way Home

We departed in the dark. The kids spread blankets over their laps in the backseat. I clutched my coffee mug. An audiobook helped us pass the driving time, over roads that became increasingly crowded, until finally we rolled into an almost full museum parking lot. The museum sat on a large, flat field where families had already begun to lay out their picnic blankets and folding chairs.

The field was covered in dry yellow grass, and populated by shiny aircraft and lazy bees. We wandered around – on the playground, through the museum exhibits – to fill the hours before the big event, the total solar eclipse.

When we noticed a change in the quality of the light, we hurried back to our chairs. We passed people looking at the sky through glasses, cameras, even colanders. We walked as quickly as we could, kicking up clouds behind us, as we resisted the urge to look at the sky.

I gave out the glasses – three pairs, one each for the kids and me. We looked up, then, and saw a dull orange circle, like a copper penny, with the slightest interruption in its circumference. The moon had begun its intrusion.

The air was festive and chatty. Music played over loudspeakers, songs chosen for their kitsch factor – “Bad Moon Rising,” “Dancing in the Dark”- but a quiet rippled over all of us as we felt something shift. The color of the sky darkened to a twilight blue at the dome. The wind picked up, blowing my sweater around me. I shivered, and a thrill went through my belly.

The sun had but a crescent left. My daughter said the sun reminded her of the moon when it’s waning. A boy behind us called out, “The diamond ring!” Above us, a faint band of light circled the moon’s shadow, and a last, bright gasp of sunlight blazed for the blink of an eye.

A cheer went up as the moon covered the sun. The light was twilight dim. We pulled off our glasses and stared at the wildly hairy corona. Tears sprang into my eyes. I grabbed my kids’ hands. I know the eclipse is a truly scientific phenomenon, but the word “miracle” kept coming to mind.

It is miraculous and scientific, both. All of us people, brought by our curiosity to sit in the bee’s field on a summer morning, are miraculous. We orbit each other, sometimes touching, sometimes moving apart. Isn’t it miraculous when any two of us, among the millions that co-exist on Earth, share a moment?

The celestial bodies parted almost at the same moment they met. The unveiling of the sun was quick. Gone was the anticipation, the mystery. We knew where we would end up. The way home is always faster than the trip to the destination. Almost immediately, the sky brightened and we were warm again. There was no sign of the rare alignment that had just occurred. We turned ourselves toward home, and I still held two hands in mine.

Delight

 

Delight

Does the tree

feel dismay

about her scars?

Or the places where

a bug burrowed,

a bird made its nest?

Does the tree

wish to hide her bark

where it is weathered,

stained, and rough?

Does the tree

feel ashamed

of her asymmetry?

No. The tree

delights

in her strength,

in the way she grows hard

as she ages.

She holds spaces

to share

to feed

to shelter.

 

 

Just as the sapling,

uncertain as a fawn,

delights

in her trembling beginning.

And the seed,

full to bursting of promise,

delights

in her prelude

of cool, cool earth.

 

The tree

delights

in herself

until

she

falls.

Mile Markers and Check Points

If you haven’t heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast “Magic Lessons” (based on her book of the same name), it’s an inspiring listen. Ms Gilbert speaks to creative folks who are struggling to start or re-start their work. As these fledgling artists speak to Ms Gilbert about their fears, she generously bolsters them with her experience and encouragement. She gives them assignments and deadlines. Then, she utters the six most powerful words any artist can hear: “I’ll check in with you later.”

Bringing an idea from the realm of the formless and vague into the physical world is the type of work that’s best done with some sense of urgency. A sweater stitched one meager row at at time, for example, would be deemed a useless enterprise, and discarded before it even had a second sleeve. Urgency creates momentum, powering the maker through the inevitable tedium and the challenges.

Sometimes the urgency comes from the idea itself, the sheer excitement of it, the friction as it rubs against the inside of the mind. But, other times, urgency and motivation come from those kind people who make the artist feel accountable, the ones who’ll ask questions, or say, “I’ll check in with you later. I want to see how this is going for you.”

For years, I was a Secret Writer. Only my husband and a couple of my closest friends knew that I was working on a book. And so, I worked on it in fits and starts, often losing the thread of meaning and struggling to find it again. The work never quite felt as though it mattered. In fact, it didn’t, because no one knew about it. It was like a ghost, or an imaginary friend that others were always accidentally sitting on.

The more I began to go public with my work – to share it with friends, read it to writing groups, and discuss my goals – the more it became a real part of my life. I had to get comfortable with the supremely uncomfortable act of talking about my writing. The secret was out. People were going to ask, “How’s the writing going these days?” And so, I had to have something to tell them.

Thank goodness for these people, without whom my efforts might have fizzled out completely. Now I use these folks strategically and on purpose, announcing my goals to my writing group and my friends, and asking them to please keep me honest. My goals are humble, sometimes embarrassingly so, but these mile markers along the way keep me trudging forward when I’d often like to stop. And, by the way, these folks use me, too, and our mutual encouragement makes us all feel a little less alone at our desks.

I’m grateful to Elizabeth Gilbert and the other professional artists who keep sharing their own experiences to inspire and motivate others. Most of all, I’m ever so grateful to my own personal cheerleaders, all the people who care enough to ask, “How’s your writing going these days?” Thank you for making room at the table for my imaginary friend.

This isn’t the first time Elizabeth Gilbert has inspired me. Also see my post about her wonderful Ted talk about creativity, and my thoughts on Eat, Pray, Love. And, if you are interested in creativity, her book Big Magic is… well, magical.