for a moment I understood everything
but the most important thing I understood
or at least the one I remember
is that I don’t need to understand everything
everything can be anything
and anything is fine
Schrödinger’s cat wasn’t the only cat
(or even a cat)
some cats prefer boxes
and some cats don’t
have you met cats?
let me in, let me out
they want all options, equally, at the same time
that’s why they seem to know a secret
a secret no simple binary device could kill
some of us like being fine
and some don’t
and we can only do what we most want to do
we have to do what we want
but we can want to want something else
and then we can choose to do what we want instead
some of us exist
and some of us don’t
and round it goes
we all get to play
we all get to stop playing
everything is in the box
and everything isn’t
and it’s all fine
because I want it to be
you might not
you might still want to understand everything
that’s fine too
and you won’t
you don’t belong here
you’re here to take it in
you’re not here to let it in
the I-ness of 10,000 things
the way each has limited capacity
for the others
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
-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.
-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.
-Still four bluebird eggs in box 1, no holes.
-A dead adult house wren in box 2.
Did you die of shock from your nest disappearing?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.”
but I think I will
the thing about missing you
for the first time
thoughts of mortality
while still daunting
I want to go soon
nor because of
I am glad to know
I will not exist
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
who may someday suffer
when I, too, dissolve
I will wish
for them, too
glimpses of peace
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
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
waking each morning
to splendid birdsong
“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.
Mr. Ehrmann, we desire the same conditions.
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
a soft, silent pillow.
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
round and round all tends to go
pendulum and tides
high – low
drought followed by hurricane
for sun and rain
stumble, learn to moderate
feast – famine
too soon, too late
reject perfection (and its flaws)
and more pause
sitting still and letting all flow
no need to row
with time, I will know
and in time, I’ll go
when I fell in love
with the mask
it had been worn so long
the wearer didn’t know it was there
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
faded black cotton
bold red lace
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