A Poem from Those Left Behind

A flame was never meant to extinguish this abruptly.
Starved of oxygen, your origami letters became ash in a mouth that bled (for too many years).

I would say goodbye, but the word is a branding iron razed against a smoldering tongue.

Forgiveness never came easily for the dead.
Graveyards are full of grudges and barely concealed debts.

When I told you that I loved you, I disguised the words (behind shattered glass bottles and origami letters confettied like New Year’s).

I remember your eyes cold like marbles, frozen like winter ponds.

(I made a half-joke and thought myself funny, but your lips never curled up in a smile.)

This is autobiography, but all you ever asked for was a poem or a story (but not this – not an obituary or elegy).

I could never say goodbye. I ran from endings & ripped the last page out of every book I ever read.

Sometimes, I wrote stories that ended in the middle of a

Flourishing

"if they woke at their wake
they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise."

-from “waiting on you to die so I can be myself”, Danez Smith.

For so many years, I’ve figuratively tossed and turned the idea of displaying my authentic self to the public. For too long, I have feared what people would think of me. During my childhood, I was raised to be a people-pleaser. Any time I showed my real self, I was shunned, teased, laughed at, or stifled.

As I grew older, I found partners who I changed myself for, whether it was the metalhead who liked it when I spiked my pixie cut with gel and wore black boots with mini skirts or the stoner who didn’t care what I wore as long as I smoked a joint with him and wore the hemp chokers he made me.

A few years ago, I met someone who encouraged me to be the realest version of myself. He told me what he saw in me and encouraged me to chase that idealized version of myself – the artist with paint on her hands and lyrics on her soul, the girl with eyes bright and sparkling. He encouraged all aspects of me: my screaming emotions, my fiery passions, poet, artist, tarot card reader, whoever I wanted to be.

He taught me to accept myself. To treat myself like I treat my best friends. “To delight the dreamers when they see you,” he had said.

I have learned about surrounding yourself with people who love the authentic you. That’s how you will be successful, regardless of what’s in your bank account or what’s written on your resume.

I mentioned on social media that I have a new outlook. I am no longer waiting on others to die so I can be myself. I’m ready to flourish. I’m ready to be my favorite version of myself.

National No Rhyme Day

If you search hard enough, the United States celebrates some quirky holidays – National Talk like a Pirate Day, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, Let it Go Day, etc. etc. Today, according to a writing group I’m in, is National No Rhyme (No Reason) Day, celebrating all those strange words in the American language that don’t have rhymes.

As an author of free verse poetry, I decided it might be fun to collect a few of these words and see if I could develop a poem out of them.

So, here’s a list of some of the words compiled by the lovely folks at National Day Calendar:

  • Spirit
  • Chimney
  • Woman
  • Ninth
  • Silver
  • Month
  • Purple

In a shield of silver rain bulleting down
(like rain, like the spirit of a woman),
clouds of fog and condensation form on my window.
(My vision obscured – I see only outlines of you,
a phantasmagorical haze.)

It is the ninth month in a row;
time strips your perfectly chiseled memory from me.
As I claw to retrieve that which deceives me,
it becomes slippery (and rips from my grasp).
All this purple prose, yet the words I need to say most
are stripped from my mouth, rendering me dumb.

“Say it plainly,” I hear the ghost of you insist, “or don’t say it at all.”

How do I say these words like raindrops battened down on my chest,
ricocheting off my eyelashes like rainwater?
How do I say these words that have become a part of my essence
as familiar as goodbye, goodbye, goodbye?

“Say it plainly or don’t say it all,” the ghost insists.

Reluctantly, the age-old cliché falls from my tongue
clumsy and reckless,
“I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.”

(I haven’t seen you in so long.
What if you’ve forgotten my name,
the way my breath falters in a crowded room?

I haven’t seen you in so long.
What if you’ve forgotten
the way my voice trembles when I read a poem?

I haven’t seen you in so long.
I love you.
I miss you.
I wish you were here.)