if we talked about anxiety then,
the way we do now,
in our separate lives,
in different cities;
with our separate pals,
in different threads,
would our worlds have continued
instead of disrupting over
not for the letters at the end of your name,
but for the self-reflection and questions:
“why does this experience cause me _____?”
blame. shame. pain. gain.
a long drive
way into the trees,
so high the sky
is barely visible
until the break in between.
the stream trickling
under the paved bridge
to an open body of aqua,
fresh, rocky water.
a quick glimpse of the scene
before you speed by
and the forest looks like a blurry photo,
not enough time to check if the
river was running dry,
but enough to recognize
it was flowing fine.
at first glance.
at first probe.
at first inquisition.
the passenger’s seat.
is it still “giving up”
if the choice is made
with good intention?
crying doesn’t make me a sissy,
it just makes you uncomfortable.
when you should be addressing my upset,
you shame my actions, instead.
“on which nights are you restless,
tuned into every toc of the clock
and every scratch of the cat?”
well, on the nights my eyes are closed,
but i can see through the lids
and listen to every crack and creek.
well, on the nights when i can feel
the draft from the vent
like waves from the sea.
well, on the nights when i am laying,
but my brain is moving
on its own two feet.
i thought i wouldn’t get through you.
i was stuck at the start, in a pool of hot
tub water, stuck to one of those water jets.
you were attacking me —
or was i letting other people do that?
my friends said, “your eyes are dark,”
and, “i’ve never seen you this low.”
i was drowning in that pool of hot water,
i was stuck there,
dreading the air free from my bed.
i learned: i have to be strategic
about what i give myself to.
i love so hard and so deep that
when i’m forced to give something up,
i crack more than a broken joint.
i learned: i define, “career,”
and my job doesn’t define me.
i learned: i can still do good and do well,
without being hollowed in hell,
surrounded by people who won’t lift me up,
who will tell me i’m failing, only because
it will guarantee them the raise
and me: the same job with bad pay.
i learned: you’re just a year and you aren’t forever,
but with lessons
and journeys uncovered.
once, a boy told our classmates we had done things we hadn’t
because i broke up with him.
he said i was good with my tongue;
though my tongue had never touched him
or his greasy braces.
we “dated” for a few weeks; i don’t count it.
when his lies didn’t catch on as fast as they could’ve,
he started telling people things that were really true:
“she has hairy arms. really hairy arms.”
someone pushed up the left arm of my green fleece uniform sweater
and said, “woah, he’s right.”
i waxed my arms for a long time,
naired them and scarred them,
got grounded for making the house smell like chemicals;
never wore t-shirts, either.
do you see what happens when we automatically
give boys more power?
there are the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
there are the lights at night, twinkling brightly.
there are the snowflakes, sticking to rooftops,
’tis the season for coconut-chocolate and fried dough.
there too are the to-do lists and gift lists and naughty lists.
there too are the credit card bills and dinners you’d rather avoid.
there too are the busier streets and louder sounds.
’tis the season for questioning how and why we sprout,
energy levels low, no patience (no doubt).
a slow drip from a mug on its side,
resting slightly over the edge of a table,
warm tea soaked up into a scratchy carpet;
nothing left to consume,
like a store after a sale,
tussled t-shirts and mismatched socks;
a headache pounding above my right eye,
my teeth aching from grinding their bones,
my whole body is exhausted;
repeating the words that burned,
my eyes retracing invisible scars,
a heavy tongue, a heavy breath: