I conflated success with fulfillment
and I defined both with other people’s words
(despite what else I could hear)
it has taken gargantuan effort
something better, someone brave
but after the tower finished burning
and I evacuated into the woods
I am whole
(which is better than perfect)
being her(e) is worthwhile
And now for a slight change of pace. (And because she likes things that rhyme.)
Thanks for Fucking Up
To all the fumbling hands before me
that didn’t put a ring on hers,
I must speak my gratitude
for every beautiful day that occurs.
Thanks for letting go
of the best you’ll ever know.
She’s the star of my favorite show,
and everyone sees her glow.
You kicked dirt in her face,
then wondered why she didn’t shine.
But these days, oh, she’s radiant,
and these days, yes, she’s mine.
When people meet her now,
they all commend my choice.
When I think of your mistake,
I simply must rejoice.
Thanks for fucking up,
thanks for letting down.
Thanks for sucking, putz,
and not staying around.
Tell yourself it wasn’t meant to be,
tell yourself you’re better off.
I’ll tell myself treasure everything,
while you brood and whine and quaff.
I cannot pity one who ever caused her pain,
So I’ll just say “thank you” once again.
If you’d held on, if you’d held down,
My life’s love may have gone unfound.
I never intended to
somehow it seems
most of the fallout and cleanup
you never knew
but the joy of now outweighs it
it seemed unlikely,
if you knew me. Was it for the best?
I never asked
now I know
At what point
Should I confess
That I only came here
To witness the end of your world?
I never intended
To fall hopelessly in love
With the Earth, as it died
Or, especially, with you.
How could I know
Something fading so quickly
Could still be so beautiful
That I would rather not leave?
If it lends consolation
You had no choice or chance
This conclusion was drawn
Long before you opened your beautiful eyes.
I will hold you afloat
While the waters rise
And rock you to sleep
As nature’s fury awakens.
I came here to watch death
I came here to study terminal hope
But I’m staying to be part of this doomed life;
I’m staying with you until our end.
A statistically unlikely miracle composed of stardust and inexplicable life force,
and just one among billions of sweaty, hairy flesh-lumps of mostly water.
In control of that miraculous, ordinary body, managing it with your very thoughts,
and powerless over countless functions that it carries out within you daily.
Loving, happy, brave, kind, selfless,
and hateful, forlorn, afraid, mean, vain.
The thing about most of what what you watch, do, and achieve___in an addictive box___is that most people don’t really care___and while they may humor you momentarily___they are often impatient___to get back to their own little boxes___to do their own little things___but remember that we made the boxes___and we choose how to fill them___and whether to climb into them___hoping to become important in some corner___or else to unbox ourselves___and use them as just one among many tools___that help us address, rather than avoid___the stresses and burdens___of challenges and ideas___that don’t fit neatly into boxes___or comfortably into short sentences.
When I say self-starter
I mean that I can (and often do) face the desperate emptiness
of working to finish Something Important
in the margins between daily tedium
and stressed slumber
at an hour I refuse to check
on yet another weeknight
churning caffeine, sugar, and bile
stinking of the day’s labor and self-pity
neglecting a dozen joys and a hundred chores
pulling fumes from my insides
to condense until they form
and further distill it until what’s left constitutes
Something Actually Usable, Maybe
without a soul who could rally my resolve
When I need to summon
I prepare a space first,
tidied, cleansed, and welcoming.
Hot soaking water,
icy drinking water,
with tea lights.
Aromas, ambiance, authors.
Sometimes, a visitor,
nocturnal feline eyes like fireflies,
staring uncertainly, whiskers twitching,
a familiar unfamiliar with these rites.
isn’t a scent.
I drop it in anyway,
watch the fizzling.
Applying rough and smooth,
salts and oils,
I shed the day,
wrap the night around me.
I find myself.
Aftercare: moisturize, hydrate, breathe, rest.
Take comfort, dear.
Do you think it’s a coincidence
Our lives are filled with cycles?
Blink, see the external world,
Blink, see the internal world.
Breathe, take air in,
Breathe, put air out.
The moth was solid white
like unwalked snow.
I thought it was dead
on top the stove.
I nudged it with a napkin
(similar in color, opposite in elegance)
and it barely crawled on top.
It did not hesitate to try, though.
Better the indignity of this poor man’s magic carpet ride to anywhere
than my brief lifespan wasted in a sunless box.
I agreed and took it outside, but was afraid
that other bugs in the grass might devour it
in its weakened state.
So I tried to let it walk
free on the patio instead
but it, again, barely crawled
limping diagonally—toward the grassline.
I thought it tragically wounded.
Discouraged, it stopped midway,
still as death again.
So I nudged it back onto the napkin
and set them both half upon the grass
and half toward the patio, in case of emergency escape.
As soon as it reached the ledge toward the lawn,
it flew off, fully reglorified.
Perhaps broken legs are more bearable with perfect wings.
It soared so high, I squinted at sunrays while wishing farewell.
It just needed an angled platform
I know better
than to call a bad person
as if they would do such work
with discarded scraps
care so little
for how they appear
and make such a difference
in this messy world
I know better
than to harm a good person with
as if masking unkindness
and a smiling face
could hide true intent
and seem like levity
in these contentious times
I know better
than to ascribe to any person
as if “good” and “bad” were permanent states
with foolproof identifiers
and could not change at any moment
from a single sneeze of fate
or be layered like sediment all the way down
into a molten, ever-churning center
It was fortunate that my heart broke in the coldest winter.
I became an exposed nerve and did not want to face
the full force of grief. There was nowhere to go
with layers of snow turning the world into a constricted icebox.
And I wasn’t brave enough to go nowhere alone
So I stayed in and mourned alone instead.
It was fortunate that my heart regrew in the most vibrant spring.
Everything still hurt, seemed wickedly designed to hurt:
even butterflies, even smiling, even people inquiring about my welfare
or whether I’d forgotten the laundry basket outside of my apartment door
for three days.
But slowly, so slowly, the world grew colorful again, as did I.
Weeping rains pattered away and the sun promised warmer tomorrows.
It was fortunate that my heart swelled in a temperate summer.
Under bold yet unscathing rays, I dared myself to do anything
and everything. I did it without accompaniment.
I relished my own choices and audacity.
The heat egged me on, encouraging my escapades and thrills.
The thought of living out my days without a companion inspired fear no more.
I decided, and made peace with, exactly who I am.
Naturally, thereafter, during a windy and conspiratorial autumn,
my new, swollen heart sang loudly
enough to find a songmate. We grew together
as leaves danced down,
flowers closed up shop,
and daylight found progressively earlier resting hours.
We are fortunate.
No matter your beauty, making the
of your self-esteem
your physical form
over the course of a lifetime
is like buying a brand new car
and treating it
like your savings plan.
It depreciates. Bank on other things.
That’s not to say that you should
treat your body
like it does not matter at all.
There is a difference between people
who take care of themselves
and people who do not,
just as there is a difference between people
who practice proper car maintenance
and people who do not.
(And sometimes accidents happen,
even if you’re taking good care of it.)
All the same, bank on other things. Diversify your portfolio of self-investment.
Your body will thank you
for the reduction of pressure to be
And you cannot imagine yet what
the rest of you will accomplish,
once properly valued.
Just to offer an alternative perspective
to this endless need
that we all accomplished everything
on our own
despite insurmountable odds:
I had help.
I had a lot of help
at various times
from my family, friends, neighbors, teachers, colleagues, managers,
and total strangers
Once I had help
from a random Uber driver
when I was totally out
and needed kindness
True, some people decidedly did NOT help.
And sometimes the same people
with one thing
or at one time
made something else harder
or made everything harder, later;
but their help still mattered.
People don’t do much of import alone.
Help doesn’t undermine our effort
or devalue our achievements
because we can do amazing things,
and we are better together.
Hand me your bootstraps, friend.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
Most people say it automatically.
Some people mean it, with caveats.
A few just don’t know what else to say in order to stave off an uncomfortable sense of helplessness.
But we aren’t them.
When I tell you “anything”, you know.
I will remote order you dinner when you can’t get off the floor.
I will filter and respond to communications to keep your days quiet enough for healing.
I am here.
I know I am far, but I am here—for you.
And if what you need most is somebody to be there instead, I will make my way.
Just say the word, any word—I will listen, always.
They’re giving out free balloons,
the boy told us eagerly as he left.
Red like MURDER,
as his nonplussed mother tugged him away.
We went inside anyway.
At the table behind us,
another boy squirmed
screaming at his mobile device
DIE DIE DIE
while his parents had cocktails and fries.
Then they contort.
Social compression goes unnoticed.
Later, they’ll feel the stiffness.
But unknotting is harder than stretching.
Imagine if they had heard “could” instead.
Now adults must unwind balls of stress—themselves.
Wondering, “Is any of me left under these wraps?”
Seeking the answer bravely, or lacing back up in fear.
After years constricted, years may be needed to breathe again.
Years of change, challenge, and—most painfully—the unknown.
Surely the self is in this mess somewhere,
Just wrapped too tightly to call out.
The lines are quite tangled sometimes.
Can it even be done?
Breathe in, breathe out.
Count to ten.
I wish I was as still as you
steady, peaceful, effortless
maybe I spend too much time running
or my cradle was rocked too hard
maybe nightmares keep me waking
or the dread of tomorrow’s alarm
yet I’m grateful for your simple slumber
soothing, calm, dependable
undeterred and undisturbed
by my fidgeting and sighing
letting me work through my aftershocks
more tranquil each night
waiting to breathe together again
patient, restful, warm
It’s hard being a cynic.
Optimists are just naïve.
I need to change.
I cannot change.
People are good.
People are bad.
I cannot be happy alone.
I’m better off alone.
I can do it all.
I don’t have to choose.
Financial stability buys freedom.
The real world has no place for art and compassion.
Everyone can communicate.
Empathy is not a real skill.
Vulnerability is weakness.
Creativity is risk. Risk should be avoided.
What I say and do don’t matter.