outside

you don’t belong here

you’re here to take it in

you’re not here to let it in

observe

the I-ness of 10,000 things

the way each has limited capacity

for the others

becomes accustomed,

disinterested

bored

so quickly

as though time was some precious commodity

as though years were significant

and spending them was a challenge

wonder what boredom feels like

then turn back to wonder

and give up assimilation

outsider

the dummy

Morning checks:

-Three bluebird eggs in box 1.

-A dummy nest in box 2.

House wrens build them.

Do they get along, Google?

-House wrens may attack bluebird eggs and hatchlings.

-House wrens block all available nesting cavities from other birds.

-House wrens are territorial up to an acre surrounding their real nest.

-House wrens sound bubbly but spell disaster.

I removed the dummy nest (it had been empty for weeks),

careful to check first that there were still no eggs.

They had filled box 2 with so many twigs that part of the entry hole was blocked.


Morning checks:

-Four bluebird eggs in box 1.

-Box 2 still empty, no rebuilding yet.

We burnt the dummy nest in a bonfire last night, along with most yard sticks (to discourage repetition).

Eleven o’clock at night, but a single mockingbird was jarringly awake and screaming somewhere nearby.

“It sounds like he’s going off in seven languages,” I mused. Then, I tried to count — I couldn’t, but it was a lot more than seven.

Early in the morning I heard the bubbling wren again, relentless.

I stuffed a pillow over my head and hoped it wouldn’t harm the bluebird eggs.


Morning checks:

-Still four bluebird eggs in box 1, no holes.

-A dead adult house wren in box 2.

Immediate self-blame.

Did you die of shock from your nest disappearing?

Immediate shame.

You were feared a nuisance, now you’re dead.

I dug deep, covered the bottom of the hole with clover flowers.

Purple rubber-gloved hands slid the bottom out of box 2.

The side of your head facing down had something odd near it.

Your eye.

Something plucked it.


Maybe I didn’t kill you; maybe I gave you a quieter place to die.

Did you somehow fly into that space with half your visual capacity dangling by an optic nerve?

Maybe I did kill you; maybe the somewhat blocked entry hole would have kept out a foe.

Did some other bird’s visual acuity spy your entry and corner you?

Maybe you started it; did you go after the eggs after all?

Maybe they started it; are my beautiful bluebirds territorial too?

(They never harmed the former tenants, Carolina chickadees, despite poking their heads in many times to check for vacancy.)

Maybe something else happened; a predator bird, the screaming mockingbird, a stray branch in harsh winds.


I don’t know anything about birds.

They amaze and confound me.

All I can offer is water

native plants

a couple of boxes

and my powerless hopes for them all.


The house wren’s mate sang loudly from the nearest tree while the burial took place,

the saddest bubbling I’ve ever heard.

Into the hole went a tiny, fragile, fierce, limp body,

more clover flowers as a blanket, and the returning earth,

along with some ashes from the bonfire

a dummy burned.

Fare Well

I am over sleeping

it takes too much of my morning

I want my time back

the birds and the alarm beckon me to awaken

I feel the urge to rise

but I snooze the call again

and again

for years I had insufficient time for sleep

at that point

my life value was centered on productivity

I was over working

maybe I’ve been trying to gain it all back

but sleep debts cannot be repaid in this way

the interest is too steep

I dream a lot

but the dreams turn sour after the night brightens

during those lost hours

sometimes I dream I can’t move at all

or that sleeping too much has crippled me

sometimes I dream I’m already awake

that I’ve started my day again

and again

it is exhausting then to have to do it all over

I have a theory

anxiety is mental self-flagellation

and everyone needs extra rest

after taking a beating

so if I release it

perhaps the sleep tyrant will abdicate

I am over stressing, too

it never really improves anything

especially not my dreams

so I painstakingly peel back layers of anxiety

like cozy blankets

under which I have been sweating

and suffocating

but the baseline—the safety blanket—fights back

“I guard your life, I guard your happiness; without me you will surely fall prey to trickery and lose all you’ve worked for. You will freeze.”

maybe so

but I think I will

fare well

comfort

the thing about missing you

is that

for the first time

thoughts of mortality

while still daunting

confusing

and unsolicited

are now

also

somewhat

comforting

not because

I want to go soon

nor because of

some confidence

about thereafter

but

simply because

I am glad to know

I will not exist

in perpetuity

all the while

indefinitely accruing loss

since I realize

the weight of pain

carried by those who survive

when pieces of their world dissolve

and I am learning

to choose

more carefully

my people

who may someday suffer

when I, too, dissolve

and then

I will wish

for them, too

these

—admittedly transient—

glimpses of peace

found them; now what

honor has no patience

for teaching anymore


devotion does not want friends

they never put in equal effort


someone nearly broke compassion

she cares but does not trust


curiosity circles a cage

assembled of his anxieties


the manhunt was called off but they did try to find hope

for a while – there were fliers


adventure wears a shackle of resignation

on her left ring finger


resilience, sick of clean-up, almost divorced courage

now they only traverse easy success


imagination lost her voice in a house fire

she’s too overworked and underpaid for speech therapy


ego convinced willpower that he is better than all the others

and, therefore, does not need them


no one ever visits wisdom

it takes too long to find their place

somniloquy

we speak so much excess
before we learn to hear

we are born screaming
but the fortunate die quietly

taking longer each day to say much at all
listening to the chorus, not soloists

an unexpected peace settling in
unspoken, unstriving

waking each morning
to splendid birdsong

you again

“You’re not leaving me alone down here,” it speaks, calling up from a trench between me and sleep.

I try to bypass and ignore, to no avail; I curse and implore, but rest is derailed.

I cannot fall asleep so down instead, my soul to keep but not my head.

I dig around the edges, pry with fingertips, try to get leverage, wonder what it even is.

I resign myself to crawling underneath, coated in mud, finding it hard to breathe.

I lift with arms and legs, my back on the ground; “Now you know my weight,” it says, starting to settle down.

I push it over and out, roll my sore body on its side to see. Then I jot down the name of the one disturbing me.

one of my favorite poems

Mr. Ehrmann, we desire the same conditions.

But

I cannot seem to avoid myself, vexing as I can be.

I work to be calm and kind.

Yet sometimes a cyclone ravages my cranium.

I was quiet and meek once.

It nearly killed me.

No, not figuratively.

These descriptors you used,

The things I hate most about myself at times,

The cardinal crimes women are told never to commit,

Sometimes they are survival.

Sometimes they’re the skills needed

to escape suffocation

by a drunk person

lethally wielding

a soft, silent pillow.

Leaving the City (and Subset)

It’s not even a bad ride.
The bus doesn’t smell of bodily fluids; no traffic impedes the way.
Ahead, a shower of sparks illuminates the silhouettes of overpass workers.

Urban rains splash on greasy sidewalks,
churning bubbles that slip down puddles.
Other drivers crawl along slick streets,
peering out as grainy, low-resolution snapshots of themselves
through speckled screens.

Chattering and silent passengers depart the metropolis together.
Falling asleep while a stranger drives is a strong show of trust,
or resignation,
performed by many aboard.

But not me.

A passing liquor billboard ad says,
“POUR YOUR SOUL OUT”

Droplets strung in the windows cast tiny, translucent shadows
that slide around the caravan space like ghosts of bugs.
The haunted long for sunshine,
but she is still miles away.

— subset —

after the shower, shadows slide
speckled streets smell strong
sunshine says, “show soul, stranger”
but slick silhouettes slip past, splash the sidewalks
silent
strung out on snapshots and screens
still, she sparks

*I realized there were quite a few “s” words in the original piece, so I decided to quickly write something random using each of them while minimizing additional words.

zephyr

a chasm blown into my chest
in the shape and size of a feline silhouette
not at the end, when she was small, but at her glorious prime

an empty stretch from sternum to gut
drafts swish through, sending occasional howls up the esophagus
whooshes that whisper I miss you

I watched your silvers turn to gold
not how most see their colors progress
but most are not majesty embodied

sands, filtering through an hourglass
time, running out of color
us, of air

hurricane remnants arrived just after your last good day
a breeze to lift the heart right out of me and away
the same gusts that kept it beating so long, circling back for their empress

goodbye dearest familiar friend, Windy
I tried so hard to deserve you, to know and love you
your joy was pure light in my life; thank you

mall birds

I tried to free mall birds once. Stock team started our workday before the sun. At that hour, feathered blurs streaked the ceiling with abandon.

During breaks, I pondered the unspoken logistics behind keeping droppings from shoppers’ eyes and bags, while plotting to rescue the droppers.

My appointment to the post had nothing to do with physical strength (which would’ve been nice for all those boxes). Rather, I had an uncommon capacity for self-resurrection during deep sleep hours.

Being on time before time ought to be allowed to be on.

It took a few weeks for my crew to tell me, with a laugh, they’d taken bets on my first absence. “We just thought, you know, another college girl. She won’t be here too long.” I wasn’t offended; I’d met the day crew (who called the mall birds “pests”).

Painstakingly, I got a gray one as far as the first set of double doors. In that glassy limbo it flailed around, confused and alarmed, until finally, it scrambled its way back to its enclosure.

Sofia walked over shaking her head. “No, mami. She cannot come and go like you. She is here for good, like me.” She chuckled cheerfully. So I laughed too, but without ease.

A shiny gray tuft was swirling its way down to the grimy floor, heavily weighing my insides.

send myself forth

sometimes I almost remember
what it’s like to be

bigger than a room
and smaller than a sigh

scream it into a mirror
this is who I am

close a mouth
swallow stardust

someone left, someone’s here
the observer took the wheel

introduce an avatar
being steered through chaos

questions pour in
if I wasn’t here, would you be?

where is everyone—or was that one who?
do people still listen to shells?

I pour them back out
focus on the day-to-day today

be in the now, not in the know
throw an anchor in the present

and stay
with you

fines

This is fine. This is good. Everything goes just as it should. This is fine. This is fair. Not one cloud in the air. This is good. This is right. Nothing to see, no one to fight. This is fair. This is free. Any questions, don’t ask me. This is right. All is well. Not one secret I could tell. This is free. There’s no fine. Now stay calm, stay in line. All is well. It’s all, right? Fine; goodnight.

sun day

deep in the valley
staring up at the mountains
smiling, warm, giddy
enjoying the local flora, honeysuckle
tiny droplets with a hint of sugar
the peach juice is imported
but it suits the atmosphere and hydrates faster
counting breaths
getting lost in thee double digits
drop a penny in a well
causing ripples and making wishes for ever
the sun smiles
she loves me;
she loves me hot
blanket of stars in my eyes

stand in flow

round and round all tends to go
pendulum and tides
high – low
drought followed by hurricane
poor stand-ins
for sun and rain
stumble, learn to moderate
feast – famine
too soon, too late
reject perfection (and its flaws)
elect connection
and more pause
sitting still and letting all flow
being boulder
no need to row
with time, I will know
and in time, I’ll go

X

when I fell in love

with the mask

it had been worn so long

the wearer didn’t know it was there

either

I made many mistakes and overlooked the peeling

at the edges

her only mistake was underestimation

she grew to understand a self beneath

the mask but wouldn’t tell me outright

hoping I would see through it or puzzle out

what had taken her lifetime

over time, the one she died to become

grew resentful towards my affection

for the facade

believing I couldn’t love the person wearing it

perhaps even that nobody could

I could have

if I had ever met them

that mask was painstakingly chiseled off

whereas mine, less secure, fell suddenly

in an empty playhouse

crashing on the stage

shattering on impact

X marks the spot

wane

as you learn, you will see plainly

a songbird scarfs down a butterfly

whose fragile wings emerged chrysalis branded with a starvation timer anyway

the uneating, eaten by dinosaurs’ heir, with a cheerful chirp

you may be tempted in those eat or be eaten days

to crawl under your bed and supplant the monster there

lurking and snarling to dissuade further injury, perhaps even inflicting

but eventually the mattress gets flipped and you’ll find yourself on top again

fear and discontent maximizing the acoustics of an emptied room

the way is through, the way is acceptance

instead of shying from understanding to prevent jadedness, develop mastery of your experience

observe the back-end workings of former mysteries when they present themselves

and mourn the loss of novelty and ignorance if you must, since society exaggerated their value

then move back into the exquisite space of right now in your own body

once you know that life is, at a minimum, the suffering

of gradual decay compounded by perpetual loss

breathe again and feel warmth on your skin

move your feet through your world with a little more compassion

move your hands through your world with a little more kindness

Like the Wind

I guess I’m glad
I didn’t realize
when we met so long ago
that I would listen some day
to your loud struggle for

every
single
shallow
breath

while I fumble to treat and sooth you
without sure answers or enough guidance

when you huff, puff, wheeze, sneeze, and pant
I barely sleep
but when your breath quiets at night
I cannot sleep at all

you have always been a thorough, albeit impatient, teacher
touch the face, never the feet; pat the sides, never the spine

sometimes I miss my favorite sound: your happy rumble
muted now by the constant, strenuous effort of inhaling and exhaling
I have old recordings, but I can’t bear them

but you, ever clever, find new ways to be a gift
you stay by my side
with your impossible dignity
comforting my heavy heart
thank goodness it was open
long enough
to meet you and
be filled
by you and for you
your whole life
you sweet creature
my Windy darling

My dear contrarian

Never work harder to

convince people

(especially yourself)

you’re right

than you work to

be right.

Integrity is better

than spectators’ support.

Successful negotiation

is harder than,

and superior to,

“winning”.

Collaboration champions

and strengthens

truth,

which changes minds.

Is progress not the end goal?

Perhaps it never was for you,

if you require opponents foremost.

How disappointing.