Origins.

The paths from where we came
Are not straight but winding
Around cliffs and abandoned buildings
Ghosts of former glory, decaying love
Contrasted against the beauty of Mother Nature’s nurture.

At night the owls call asking me “Who?”
As if I ever knew. As if I could ever hope to know.
Who, who?
In the dark I have no mirror to hold it up against.
In the dark I have no reference but the blood in my veins,
The same veins that contain venom from 21 years of life.
My blood cannot be trusted. It has been contaminated
By strands of DNA, codes telling cells how to act
The same bond determining the relationship on the outside–
Original telling the new how to live.

The owls never stop chanting at night.
Their questions keep me awake as I find branches to make into beds
To make into homes somehow.
I wish they would ask another question;
Though the hows and wheres are equally vague,
At least they are not phantoms sent to hunt.

Two wholes forms halves to make another whole,
But the equation always leaves something out.
The sum is not equal to its respective parts.
Ratios and fractions puzzle even the most versed.
The glue holds it together, barely,
Until something shakes the foundations and the cracks start to show.
Who, who?
If I could travel backward, find where the path started,
Find out how my halves made a whole,
But one whole is missing, leaving holes in the whole plan.
Too many bridges out, destroyed by fires, earthquakes, and other
Semi-natural disasters.

Forward, never knowing what came before,
What will come after.
A traveler with no navigation tools,
Completely unprepared for life on the road.
Yet the owls, with their nighttime eyes
And superior senses
Can see for miles in any direction their heads turn.
I ask them “where?”
But all they ever say is “who.”
Broken records that find their place among other broken things.

I lie down among the graveyard of broken,
With my twig-homes and dripping glue and tainted blood,
And I let the whos rock me to sleep.

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Homecoming.

There’s no more light in the forest. I’ve been looking skyward for days, but the rainwater keeps getting in my eyes, blurring what used to be so crystal clear. I know, I know it should cleanse my soul, awaken me, but it’s drowning me out, carrying me away in a stream of debris. The deluge is reaching up to my neck, and I’m not so sure I can swim. The water is so cold it’s left me numb. I can’t tell if my feet are touching the bottom anymore, and even if I could, I would just feel the shards of broken bottles and empty memories. Each cut reminds me of what I had to give up to get here.

But what did the sacrifice mean? I am alone in a forest that never ends, where the light never reaches the floor of plants so starved for light that they stretch themselves thin and frail just reaching out for it, their cells shrinking until they are but whispers of their former selves.

I’ve been looking for a tree to rest against, just to catch my breath from all the traveling, but each one I lean on crumbles into dust the moment I let go. I know there’s a tree strong enough to hold me–to allow me to live my life out in its limbs, safe from the unending storm–but it takes destroying so many others that I’ve given up. Instead I seek my refuge in hollowed out logs, sharing my hideaway with the occasional rabbit or squirrel. I haven’t felt another human in weeks. One learns to look for warmth in other places after a while, but a water-logged forest does not lend itself to being temperate.

There are no paths anymore–no trails to follow. If anyone else has been here before, they certainly haven’t blazed anything, so I stumble blindly from place to place, everything blending into one unbroken canvas. It’s all the same anymore. I’m trying to find home, but no one ever taught me where that was. It has to be more than siding and walls, chimneys and roofs, but anywhere I’ve tried to hang my hat has gone up in flames so fast I didn’t even have time to cry.

I miss the sun on my skin. I miss anything warm, like a shoulder to rest on or a mug of tea or a good book. I miss the sound of my name being wrapped in the softness of compassion, miss the feeling of having flat ground under my tired feet, miss the smile of someone who has seen my heart but holds it anyway, even though it’s rough and bumpy sometimes… even though there are pieces missing. I miss feeling like being enough, even though I am one person who is very small and very tired. I miss the magic of 7:00 PM on a country road, weaving through green pastures and showing birds how to fly away.

No, I’m doomed to walk the forest, knowing that if I ever resurface, I will break through the tree line to see all those who promised to be there, smiling and saying, “We were worried, but we knew you could cross it.” And I will look at them, with their genuine eyes and their noble intentions, and I will walk away because when you tell someone you will walk with them, it means day or night, rain or sun, warm or cold. It means you will help them to their feet when another tree crumbles. It means you will reach out a hand when the current is holding them captive.

I stopped crying long ago; the sky sheds my tears now, providing life for others who are lost. Mother Nature… look how she mourns for me. She’s the only mother I’ve ever known to listen to the songs I sing while I gather sustenance for another night alone. The minor keys play on her heartstrings as she erases the clouds long enough to let me count the stars before I fall asleep. She is everywhere, but I cannot touch her–cannot feel her embrace because her life is separate from mine. Maybe she is home for me, but what a lonely home it is.

Coaster to Coast.

Roller coasters at their best. We expect some kind of relief, but the hills keep coming.
And the waves—oh, the waves!—splash over my head before I can take a proper breath.
But I love the ocean, and who doesn’t love the thrill of a coaster?
Coaster to coast I flit, whiplashed and tired.
Bob and sway, bob and sway.
Mayday, mayday!
Operator, stop the ride! I’m out of energy and tickets to spend.
I never remember walking onto the beach, stepping onto the pier with the ride that never stops.
Excuse me, miss, where are we? Sir, can you tell me time or place?
Faces blurring past, I think I catch yours but it’s gone.
This place has a vague quality to it, as if I’ve dreamt about it before,
but the edges are blurry, and even when I touch things they don’t feel real.
It’s all sensation.
The woman who sits next to me in the front seat whispers, “How do you feel?”
How do I feel?
“Tired,” I answer.
“That’s not a feeling,” she winks, and I know that I’ve been false.
But the motions tells her all I cannot say.
Motions conveying emotions—
A far more efficient conveyance.
Conveyor belts bring us higher and higher again
And I smile for a moment as the sea air hits me
Because though I still fear the waves I relish not being in them.
The smell is satisfying. It speaks of survival.

But I know what’s coming.

We climb until we think we’ll touch the clouds,
But the lurch comes and I’m facing the sea and I’m not ready.
We’re tipping and flying and falling and why aren’t we stopping?
Why aren’t we pointing upward again?
And then we cascade into the sea.
Waves return the favor by cascading over us.
Over me. Only me.
Were the others ever there?
I want to find them but the undertow requires my attention.
It tugs at my ankles, soft fingers locking around my legs and

I’m under and the water floods my eyes as memories pool behind them.
The taste of fear on my lips.
And the sea, I let her take me somewhere new.

—————

I recently lost my grandfather, and this came at a time in my life when I was finally setting out on the road of accepting and grieving my father’s death. I think this poem is my commitment to the journey–to not running away from it this time. Even though I am pained and afraid, I will make this trip to recovery. I know it’s what they would both want for me.

The Weary Traveler and the Girl Who Fell.

Opening the door I found the monster I had drawn pictures of in my mind, but he had quite a bigger jaw than I had imagined.

They call this a process–a journey–and say that there will be missteps and stumbles along the way, but I feel I might have to claw my way across the ground before I can even hope to have missteps. They don’t tell you that there’s a good chance you’ll fall right out of the starting gate, and the soil in your mouth tastes gritty and bitter. Bruised knees. Bloodied elbows. Breathe the scent of earth and lie there, hoping to God that someone comes back and realizes you’re not moving along. It rains. It’s cold. Trying, trying to get some strength to pick myself up off the ground, but everything hurts and it’s so cold and I want to go home. Home is with you, but you’re not here.

And as I lie there, eyes closed and mind tired, I hear cautious footsteps. A gentle hand on my back and the soft whisper of, “It’s okay.” An understanding. Someone sits on the ground next to me, knowing it hurts. Knowing it’s cold and oppressive and that getting up is not as simple as moving muscles. Someone becomes something, becomes hope, becomes light, becomes a piece of the key needed to unlock the shackles that cut and bind. The road is the same for us weary travelers, you and me, and though we may travel at different paces, at the end of the day we try to make a camp in the same place so that we may share the same fire. Dark isn’t as dark when “me” becomes “us,” and something that’s bigger than me cannot be bigger than us. “Us” is big. “Us” is strong. “Us” is the fortification against a terrifying travel through a land no one can face without holding the hands of another.

Your voice, unwavering and low, cuts through the haze of pain. Your voice, kind and patient, stirs movement in my joints and I can sit. I can lean against your shoulder and feel something other than hurt. A blanket against the cold. You’re cold, too–I know you are–so we stay close together and wait for the rain to stop. I’m still so near the beginning, so near the door with the monster, that I cannot see even the first bend in the road, but you’ve been there and tell me that it’s not too far from here. I believe you because I want to. I believe you because I trust you.

For now I will sit next to you, soaking up your presence, basking in the feeling of not being alone. You can leave anytime you want to, but for now you choose to stay next to the girl who tripped coming out of the gate. You can leave anytime you want to, and I’ll make it to the next bend. Just know that the clouds are fewer and the days are warmer when you’re whispering, “It’s okay” with the confidence of someone who’s seen the dark but chooses light. And despite myself I find a voice in the back of my mind that says, “Don’t leave,” even though I should know how to walk this alone. I should. I do.

But I don’t have to, and that’s what makes all the difference.