Happy birthday dad 

I love the story mom tells about when you refused to take a break. You were doing what you do best: building homes.

She had important news, so she yelled her words up. And my dad -my big, strong father- nearly toppled down.

I love how much I amazed you, just as an announcement. Barely a concept. Not even a name.

It took longer for me to return that sense of amazement. You were many other things to me first: familiar, funny, smart, supportive.

We have always been close. But I had to become myself before I could realize how much I got from you.

Thank you for patience. Thank you for a strong work ethic. Thank you for perseverance, friendliness, and silliness. Thank you for your wisdom and honor. Thank you for my life. It’s a good one, like you.

Happy birthday dad.

I went searching for meaning 

I went searching for meaning. 

I looked under a rock and I found nothing. I looked behind a tree and I found nothing. I looked between flower petals and I found nothing. I looked inside a seashell and I found nothing.

I read books at school and I found nothing. I worked hard at an office and I found nothing. I spent money on things and I found nothing. I loved with all I have and I found nothing. I looked within myself and I found nothing.

I told the wisest man alive everything I’d tried and asked him where I should go to find meaning.

“It was under the rock,” he said and smiled.

So I did it all again – and I found everything.

Missing Things

I am missing things.

I’m missing birthdays and showers and parties and fun.

I’m missing phone calls and messages and politely timed responses.

I’m missing regular exercise and time to properly assemble myself in the morning and an unchaotic routine.

I’m missing car keys, shoes, and that thing I just had 5 minutes ago.

I’m missing spending time outdoors and reading and dancing.

I’m missing quiet, unbusy moments.

I’m missing so many people.

But.

I am working round-the-clock on what I need.

I hope it’s worth what I’m missing.

10 years later

I wish I could say I forgot

But I thought about it all week

I remember you said I couldn’t be gay

But I still am

I don’t remember much of the day

But I, of course, remember exactly what I was wearing

I don’t remember much about you either

But I remember what you did

I don’t know how I got through it or how anyone ever does

But I am still here

I don’t want to know about you

But I am doing quite well these days

I may never manage to forget

But I have healed 

I try to help others now

And I can write about it.

More Storms

I have always dreamed of storms.

For years, I’ve seen them approach. They were unbearably colossal; I feared their size more than their wrath. Sudden and dreadful, they closed off the sun. I was always alone, my insides full of defeat.

I dream of them still.

But they are different now, as am I. I dream of struggle; I dream of escape. There will be survivors and we will be two of them. You are always with me. And within me churns determination.

I hear it now

The perfect calm of early morning silence.

The symphony nature produces when uninterrupted by mundane talk.
The divinity of mundane talk when murmured by a good companion.

The jingle behind authentic laughter.

Capable, wise discussions between intuition and knowledge – and nobody else.
Unending echoes of the triumphant roar after defeating demons.

Confidence; she’s loud.

Perspectives, as overlapping melodies, clashing or harmonizing, but always real.
Right Now, over the clamor of Before and Later.

My own voice.

Don’t bitch, don’t boast, don’t quit.

For the past month

I go back and forth
between
being proud of getting so much done
and
wanting to slack off.

When I manage the myriad of daily goals,
I want to shout about it to the world!
When I tire of plodding through the routine,
I want to whine about it too.

Slowly, I’m learning
to say less
and
just do it again tomorrow.

Don’t bitch, don’t boast, don’t quit.
Is this just adulthood
or
am I self-actualizing?

I’m going to write today.

I’m going to write today!

I’m going to write as soon as I wake up.

I’m going to write once I make the bed.

I’m going to write while coffee is brewing.

I’m going to write when the caffeine kicks in.

I’m going to write after a few chores.

I’m going to write after breakfast.

I’m going to write as soon as I’m caught up on emails.

I’m going to write during my lunch break.

I’m going to write after lunch.

I’m going to write at the end of the workday.

I’m going to write after dinner.

I’m going to write once I get a few errands out of the way.

I’m going to write before bed.

I’m going to write in bed after brushing my teeth.

I’m going to write tomorrow…

Something Else

I begged Imagination to be something else.

  • Be hand-eye Coordination.
  • Be test-taking Proficiency.
  • Be Luck.
  • Be Charm.
  • Be Marketability.

Be not artistic, not vulnerable, not risky.

When it refused to be anything else (because it wanted to be everything)

  • I tried to put it away.
  • I tried tried to bury it in a box.
  • I tried to drown it in alcohol.
  • I tried to bore it to death.
  • I tried to ignore it death.

I tried to leave it behind.

Eventually, there was nothing else left.

  • I didn’t need better grades.
  • I didn’t need more money.
  • I didn’t need popularity.
  • I didn’t need a comfort zone.
  • I didn’t need approval.

And Imagination was still here waiting.

The Urban Wilds

Outside near my office in the city, another tree just quit. 

When I arrived years ago, there was one dead tree. I remember thinking it looked odd amongst the healthy, manicured ones that lined the sidewalks within perfect squares of dirt.

The landscaping surprised and delighted me at first. It just makes me sad now.

The trees, whose roots grow in cramped knots under cement ceilings, stare at me while they whither. Their shuddering, struggling leaves almost say, “I could’ve been more. I could’ve been wild. I could’ve stretched my arms to the heavens.”

There are a handful of dead ones now, with many others showing signs of an untimely and ill-favored faceoff with mortality.

First they all grow weird, with thirsty leaves thrusting out all over branch and trunk alike. Shamelessly, their appearance grows as shaggy as neighboring (and, actually, well-pruned) bushes in the futile attempt to sip more sun from behind buildings that scrape the sky.

“I’m so sorry you cannot grow here,” I think.

The dead tree was no outlier. One by one, they fail to conform to their restrictions. And one by one, they martyr themselves trying to do so.

I don’t want to witness the last of these trees putting down its fight. Or be around when property owners’ budgets allow for an aesthetic improvement project to euthanize the final public eyesore.

“I’m so sorry,” I think again.

We, the wilds, cannot survive here.

Silent and Still

I turned my phone off.

Did they think I don’t care?

My mind had to rest.

Very rarely do the needs, though.

Best case, I worry too much; worst, I coddle and stunt.

And without experiencing the consequences,

It cannot follow that they’ll learn from their nightmares.

Failed good intentions may have paved the way there.

But they made their beds, with agonizing deliberateness.

All the while, I begged them not to lay down.

I helped them out again, too.

Can I just rest in mine a minute?

Do I sleep well at night?

Is it wrong if I do?

Try to spend a lifetime awake.

Harder still, spend it fretting.

Now I’m tired.

slack

I wrote this some time ago, but did not publish it. I think a friend may need to read it now though. I promise it gets easier to put your insides back together, Sherri. <3

slack

you never wanted to hold hands
so we walked with a ribbon
tied from my waist to yours
when you ventured outward further
I gave you more slack
and bound myself more tightly
the pressure brought me no closer to you
but I felt tugging sometimes
(and mistook it for affection)
incrementally rending my core

you were so far away
I didn’t even notice
when you dropped your end
or that mine had slid through
until you walked back
to tell the halves of me
that you’d been too tightly tethered
as you left
my unheld hands
scooped guts and began stitching

parts of speech

You say you hate your voice and that makes me sad.

I love your voice.

Its uniqueness is one of the first things I noticed about you.

I said I didn’t want to forget what you sound like but we both hate the phone, so we went on the first date.

You know, you actually speak in several different ways.

You’re typically soft-spoken, especially when you’re thinking about it. You speak warmly, but quietly

-like every word needs considerate care-taking throughout its delivery.

(And you’re right; they all do. Everyone else is doing it wrong.)

Other times though, your voice brings life to the party, boisterous and playful

-like you inhale charm, but exhale friendliness.

(You’d rather be goofy and kind than sultry and alluring; the paradox is that I do find that alluring.)

You have a million forms of laughter

-like you create a whole new way of bringing light into the world every day.

(Which you do, with or without audio; and I want to hear every single one of them.)

“When you sing, it brings sunshine and happiness into my heart.”

-like your need for fun so far outweighs your need to look cool that it morphs your car into a karaoke bar.

(Yes, I stole that line from a movie we just watched. And yes, I treasure each Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey song you’ve shouted at me on road trips.)

Please don’t quiet yourself. Your voice gives you words to speak yourself alive and teach me about you. I want to hear it every day. I prefer your speech to any other sound that has ever shaken the atoms of existence, even ducks quacking.

I’m listening.

Jagged isn’t the same as broken

To the Lost Girl,

You are like kin to me, but I’m not in the habit of intervention these days; it never takes. People must save themselves or they’ll just get lost again. 

Yet, never mistake-I believe in you. All I can offer is distant support.

You may be jagged, but you’re not irreparable. And who says we have to be all smooth?

Nobody can destroy your best self, not even you. She’s one decision (and, admittedly, a fair bit of effort) away. Don’t be daunted by faltering; just learn. Once you’re trying, you are her already.

I hope you put in the work for reclamation. Seek help, cry mercy, find God, reconcile, make art, do whatever it takes for you to work through your inner wilderness. (It took quite a few things for me, not all of which I’d suggest.) 

Becoming yourself is the most critical task of your life and, fortunately, the one over which you have the most control.

Too many wonderful women waste away their sunrises in a lightless box trying to shred themselves or one another.

But we are never truly broken.

Best wishes, always from afar,

-A

Unconditional Love is Not Romantic.

I learned something: if you want a lover (and you’re under no obligation there), don’t settle for less than someone who understands and can provide your version of love. Here are some thoughts on mine.

Unconditional Love is Not Romantic.

Because compulsory devotion is not attractive.
Nobody should idealize the notion of automatic dedication.
If I could not control my love, how could I choose you?

Be in love with my free will instead, my consciously and continuously placing you apart from all others.
Understand that we each hold in our hands the power to destroy the other’s affection through certain words or actions.
But we never do.

Love, like life, thrives through nurturing.
I do not accept abuse of my heart any more than that of my body.
If someone breaks it, I pull the components back together, recreate them, or replace them.

Perhaps humbled and devastated, maybe slowly and with great agony,
But somehow, I redeem every ounce of my capacity to love.
And eventually, I give it to someone deserving.

Someone who could, and would want to, say daily:

I know who you are.
I am not in love with the teamwork or the familiarity or the passion or the myriad of additional, wonderful benefits that accompany partnership.
I am not in love with being in love.
I am in love with you.
And it would be my honor to spend today making you happy.

Someone for whom you, without hesitation, could reciprocate those words.

Love is earned, again and again.
It’s a privilege to earn it, not work.
Respect yourself, your partnerrespect love itself.
Terms and conditions apply.
And they should.

Before I go

They have to go first, please.

Sometimes I get angry with myself for having held onto them for too long. 

They kept me afloat when storms raged and aglow when skies darkened.

For considerable time I couldn’t have released them because they were effective life support.

I sustain myself now.

Fairness and pain no longer concern me.

Only inaction frightens me; I’m not so attached to breathing as fulfillment.

Sending them out to stand or die on their own may seem a strange gratitude.

But I am no reservoir.

I’m losing time and they’ve simply grown too many and too large to contain.

I have to give them their own lives.

I hope I get these stories out of me before I go.

Words

–You like your poetry with a bit of rhyme.
So I threw some into here (kind of, sometimes).–

Some prefer pictures. Others scoff, “They’re not deeds.”
But words still mean so much to someone like me.

Authors weave their text while extroverts talk lots.
I’ll always be both if I like it or not.

We’ve already built a new language ourselves.
We have effortless fun and well-stocked bookshelves.

So surely it befuddles one so astute
that sometimes I still swiftly go rather mute.

Once, a while ago, I almost lost my voice.
Writing, like love, is a deliberate choice.

My view about labels was really just this:
“If you don’t define things, they’re harder to miss.”

But I’m done with dread and I forego hiding.
I don’t want to stop our worlds from colliding.

So you can write them down or just take them in.
You can swallow them whole. I’ll type them again.

You can choose them carefully or blurt them out.
You can whisper or murmur or sing or shout.

We can dance and date and enjoy and entwine.
You can say I’m yours; I’d love to call you mine.

Or, do you not know?

Lady,

I still have no idea what we’re doing.

Sometimes, I hate myself for fearing

if you could, would you rather

recover former pain than risk it anew?

Because I, too, have loved and bled.

But I do not miss my past

more than I want a better future.

I’ve been content;

it’s an insidious state, 

luring one onto a complicit plateau.

Your company makes me happy.

I wake up hoping and plotting ways

to make you smile.

Don’t you know who I am yet?

I don’t care how

Normally I am a huge proponent of the means over the end.

But I need you to come back.

I don’t know -cannot bear to imagine- what you’re going through,

Or what you will have to do to make it out again.

Just come home.

I will smooth whatever jagged pieces of you need repair.

You already know my hands are tough enough.

This is not a request.

You will return.

I don’t care how.