2020 Hour 2: Recipe for my psyche

#1: Fear

#2: Self-awareness

#3: Protective Gear

#4: Plan

#5: Survival

Fear starts the clock

Fear of the unknown

The persistent drag

Of self-awareness, always on the outside

Looking in but from a distance

Seeing myself from way too high up.

Fear of being seen-

How do I cover myself

To ward off whatever

Or whoever is coming?

Add protective gear at all times,

The contingency wardrobe conceived to conceal.

And plan, always plan

Fear being caught unprepared

Never without an umbrella,

For whatever the weather

Even the hint of rain

Or the downpour of sudden human interaction

Will not be unanticipated.

Go through the day, get through the day

Survive the self-directed stress of all the planning

That went into that one foray

Outside the calm.

 

2020 Hour 1: Late Breaking Misogyny

#1:  Late Breaking Misogyny

As a woman, for the most part

I have been a failure.

This judgement, by itself

Evidence of years of self-inflicted terrorism

Against my own sex.

So when you ask me now

To praise on this page a woman of influence

I draw a blank.

Instead, I could provide an internal examination

X-rays of cuts and bruises to my sense of self

Probing for some latent feminism

Free-floating and occasionally attaching to cells

But stopping short of penetrating that last layer of skin.

If I asked these women, would they say the same?

How much damage had been done to them

And how much more by their own acquiescence

To a norm they did not invent

Until their DNA, programmed to remain silent

Took up arms, forced to the surface by rage.

But they were more courageous than me.

My praise is jealousy

I wish I were them.

2019 #12 Writer’s Block

There is a curve

Through which I know I must pass

There is no straight line ahead of me

And I am lost without an absolute.

I am so inauthentic

Claiming to embrace chaos and the unknown

That’s just one more lie

On top of all the others.

Fingers tap on my keyboard like electric shocks

Because if I am untrue then my words are untrue

And for that there are consequences.

Write what you know

Yet when that is fragile

Truth atop a razor blade

Impaled before finally toppling off its edge

Whose life ends up on this page?

Not mine.

I can erase the past and create the future

With these strokes

But the present turns too sharply

And remains unwritten.

2019 #11 Dear Maria (at 17 just as you are graduating high school)

Dear Maria-

I know you hate that long white graduation dress

And the white shoes to match

But you’ll never have to wear skirts again if you don’t want to

No more long socks under your uniform

Because you never shaved your legs.

 

You are a great writer

Even though they censored you

For a short story about a whorehouse

You called it a bordello for goodness sakes!

A grim reminder that this school teaches liberal arts

But is not liberal.

 

Don’t worry about going to NYU

The only college that accepted you

You love New York and it will love you back

It may fight you along the way

But it will become your home

And you will never want to leave.

 

Don’t be scared of the big city

It’s why you dragged mom and dad

To Mac’s Smoke Shop in Palo Alto

To buy the Sunday New York Times

Because it showed you the world

You want to be a part of.

 

If I had it to do again-

Go to the dining hall at dinner time

Not at 4:30 pm to avoid the crowds

Just because you’re alone.

Don’t be so quick to go see your sister at Yale

When that nice guy David was probably going to ask you out

Because that never happened again.

And don’t leave your room in the bitter cold

Without drying your hair

Because it will freeze.

2019 #10 Letter to my friend

Back in the day

You and I stood in the rain one night

Across from a building on University Place

Stalking your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend

You just wanted a glimpse

Of that bitch.

 

You offered me my first joint

In some random bar in the village

I played it cool but declined

Making Nancy Reagan proud.

 

You asked me to be a bridesmaid

At your wedding in Vegas

I agreed, but then begged out

Awkward and scared I wouldn’t know how to act

Like the other girls.

 

We get together often now

You have two daughters

You used to say you’d never have children

And I laugh at that thought.

 

I haven’t changed one bit since that night in the rain

Timid and a straight up Dudley do-right

You have moved remarkably with time

And I have stood still.

2019 #9 The Remains of the Day (title of novel by Kazuo Ishiguro)

I see it, and long for its extension

The drawing of darkness over light

It gives me cover over my present failures

Inaction and forward motion intersect

And fight over my soul.

In those waning moments of daylight’s decline

I just watch, an outsider to my own struggles

Marking and recording

So that when the sun sets I can simply call it a day

And claim to start fresh in the morning.

But in those minutes when the sky blushes deep red

With pride or perhaps with some shame

I take my desire

For love, for connection

And put it slowly to sleep

It fidgets-it aches with energies unused

But I prevail, before the brightness finally falls.

2019 #8 Sevenling (attempt)

She dreamed again

That she was brave and confident

And alive through her tears.

 

Then, she quivered

A quake leaving only anxiety and remorse

And anger at her fears.

 

She cannot speak her own name.

2019 #7-What I can’t say out loud

We were stuck, all of us

In a repeating loop of the unsaid

And I can’t wrap my mind around it

Now, even after you’re gone

We should be free-

But tapes run their course then start all over again

If no one thinks to press stop

I don’t blame you-

Even if you are to blame

For at least the most recent long-term symptom

We were all cowards; we all fell in line

With your insanity-because that’s what it was

Can you make a joke out of that?

Is it funnier if your new audience really is dead?

Truth was never our strong suit

Not in this family, so you married well

And we all played along with the collective silence

About whatever ailed you

Is it a mystery?

Or do we really not want to know?

We laughed at your jokes

Hugged you when your body felt breakable,

Saw your hands when they shook,

But weren’t allowed to ask about it

Nor say a damn word.

You took your life and all it did was deepen the hole

We were already in.

(not prompted by the song)

2019 #6 Escape Plan (Small Part 2)

If I had my way

I would expand the box around me

Right now it keeps me in

So small I lie in perpetual fetal bliss

A state of constant contraction.

To flee-

I might blow gently at the corners

Letting the womb’s edges rise against their weakened seams

Worn by time and inaction

Until I sailed high enough, so like a delicate bubble

It pops, oh so softly, leaving me to drift in midair-

But if it were so easy

I would have surely done that by now.

Instead, I would be better to fight

Unwrap my legs and smash the sides out

As if my life depended on it

Because it does

Because there is no life inside this tiny box

That contains my tiny life.

2019 #5-Act of defiance

I wish I could wield

These fiery synapses

Like a pen

Drawing lines at my discretion

Coloring and shading at my will

But they resist

I cannot control their narrative

I am but a player

Free-falling and directionless

Under the blindness of my nocturnal occasions.