refuge

healing is always happening

in forgotten parts of the

body, like pockets of fog in a

forest that goes on forever.

 

in this sanctuary, the voices

persist, like wind: tucking you

into the places you resist. the

 

only things that are real are in-

visible; but you already know this—

 

and you are all in.

 

dust has nothing to fear

i’m on a long journey, and

i don’t know the way.

 

the dust under my feet

has nothing to fear;

 

it’s been here before,

but it has a lot to say—

 

to the fingers, to the

rib-cage, to this feast, to

 

the miles walked across

this beach: once you are

 

thus reduced, you can only

transform into some thing

 

new—a diamond, a sand-

storm, a brilliant planet.

 

take every thing that is

happening, every thing you

 

feel, every thing you keep

silent, every thing you shout—

 

and kneel: turn it,

churn it into art.

 

it is the only way in,

and the only way out.

 

pick just one thing

what do you do when the

world seems to be coming

 

apart? how do you embody

the bravery that you know you

 

will need, that you know your

children and your children’s

 

children will seek for their very

survival? when the system has

 

turned cold and impervious—

the governing body stripped

 

of its head and its heart, and in

its place: angry fistfuls of gold—

 

how do you continue to break

in, break through, without

 

breaking down? pick just

one thing. pick one thing you

 

can learn, one thing you can

research, one person you can

 

help, one word you can say, one

way to hold on to that bravery

 

and hope; pick just one thing.

no one else can pick it for you:

 

find the thing that speaks to

you—above the roar of bullshit,

 

the one thing you can do today,

right now, every day, as small as it

 

seems. each person doing just one

thing with love and intention will build

 

back a breathing, beating body:

whole and full, with head and heart

 

and arms and hands open

and ready to receive again.

 

 

 

permanent record

when she was a child, she

realized she could move

things with her eyes. she

remembers them levitating,

flying about, crash-landing.

 

she’s in the middle of her

life now; she feels what

people call a crisis. she

talks to herself, and is the

nicest person to talk back.

 

she reads novels that are

going no-where; she keeps

seeing under-utilized words that

aren’t there. she thinks one thing

and writes another. she knows

 

you can say things in a poem

you can’t say any-where else.

people are weapons; even the

kids playing on the lawn in the

warm snow are getting away with it.

 

 

 

 

snap shot 4

“I’m in trouble.”

She woke with these words in her mind, almost on her tongue. She wasn’t sure if the words were spawned by her feeling of despair upon facing another day with the chronic aches and pains (some inhabiting her body, and others visiting from an unknown place) and still no answers—or if they had been triggered by the random patchwork of dreams from the night: her wedding to an old love, her pregnancy by an ex-husband, her strange reunion with an old friend.

At least she was human in these dreams. And, lately, sometimes Kevin Arnold. She smirked at this, at the knowledge of the television world seeping into her reality—of her growing dependence on nostalgic shows to help escape from what felt like a dying garden. There was still beauty—all around—and some soil, and some water, and a little cold sun, and a few people wandering about; but there was also the nagging feeling of death, of things being slowly starved and shriveled, of other things sprouting oddities and twisting off in the wrong direction.

Lee often tried to be optimistic. Not quite cheerful (that emotion typically surfaced only when buzzed or caught up in a love balloon), but grounded in a larger picture of herself and this life—stabilized by an ever-present, irritating really, knowledge that things would somehow work out, would somehow be okay. She had felt this stoicism from her father, this cautious confidence. But lately she could feel herself slipping, her knowledge fading, her hope becoming heavy under the weight of loneliness, age, teenage cynicism, doubt, and now—injury.

Leonard Cohen knew. And he knew that everyone else knew, too. This life was unbearable, harsh, cruel even. And yet, startling in its beauty and unpredictable kindness. Navigating between these two extremes was a heroic, gymnastic effort which exhausted the trifecta of mind, body, and soul. No wonder she could barely get out of bed some days.

Some of her friends were tired of hearing about it. She didn’t have as many friends because of it, and usually she was relieved by this. It meant less expectation, less energy, less investment. But the reverse was also true: fewer people were invested in her. Less energy was being tossed her way. She knew her readers would also become impatient eventually—especially if she didn’t throw in a love scene soon. At least some suggestive dialogue. She laughed out loud as she struggled to stand.

“Love waits for no man.”

She thought of all the love that was happening all around her—and of her own small doses being exchanged within this house, and without. Within this world, and without. There were so many different types of love, and she would be damned if she was going to let herself get caught up in one or two tiny definitions. And anyway, was it love that waits for no man? Or time? Were they one in the same? She pictured a wild time-love horse charging away into the tide without its rider.

After all this thinking, Lee became tired. Coffee was up next, with a side of berry yogurt to cushion the belly against the delicious acid. What came after that was a new hope in the form of a phone call. There was a treatment for her broken foot, and she had been approved for it. A new path—beginning next week. She would throw everything she had into this hope.

She thought about her fear of surgery, and wondered if it was related to her other fears. She would not name them just yet. She would not give them credence. Instead, she would spend days, weeks—months even—trying on yet another opinion about how her life could be improved.

snap shot 3

Charlotte was a rescue. She had been found and brought to a shelter at about three months old. They weren’t sure of her exact age, history, how she had come to be wandering the city. So they fed her, fixed her, and named her after a queen. She knows this—as well as her exact age, history, how she had come to be wandering the city. She carries it all with a regal grace and perfunctory aloofness.

Charlotte was lying directly on Lee’s chest, her muted gray form rising and falling with the in-and-out of their shared breathing. It was evening, and the lamps were dimly lit. Lee didn’t like bright lights and turned them on only when deep cleaning. So, maybe twice a year. Everything was more forgiving that way. After all, you had to be really angry at something to achieve a truly thorough clean. And if you allowed yourself to become really angry too many times a year, you may find yourself without a home to clean.

It was too warm for a fire—unseasonably warm for January. The fireplace looked sad and dusty when empty—like an old, gray eye staring ahead squarely, blankly. There were tiny paw prints of ash leading to and fro as evidence of Charlotte’s investigation. Someone had to ensure that the embers were out.

Lee worried that every time she wrote about herself she was lying down or lazing on the couch. She didn’t want her readers to think she was too sedentary—though, in fact, she was. Well, she was in good company with Charlotte. And anyway, she had an excuse. She had broken her foot six weeks ago and was laid up with an air boot. Turns out she may need surgery after all. Turns out different doctors will give you widely different opinions. Lee wasn’t sure how she felt about the fact that the only opinion that mattered at the end of the day was her own.

Sophie sat behind her at the table, painting her nails. She was supposed to be reading The Great Gatsby but had somehow managed to segue into grooming within minutes of sitting down. The mood music drifted from the television. Lee thought about how people never say television when speaking, but how it is more proper than TV when writing. She thought about the many ways speaking and writing were different, and how this had perplexed her all her life. She was sure she couldn’t write realistic dialogue because of it.

She was glad she didn’t have to write dialogue for Charlotte. The occasional meow was sufficient, sometimes with a side of purring or a variety of guttural sounds only a pet owner could love and understand. The hissing was reserved for when Sophie tried to torture her like a territorial big sister.

The window was cracked again, and the sound of cars whooshing by reminded Lee of her confinement. She would not drive for weeks. She would not walk for weeks. She would continue to use a knee cart to navigate the narrow lanes of her house—measuring out her every move so she wouldn’t further injure herself. Or anyone else. It may be too late.

The familiar sound of Charlotte crunching on her food could be heard from the kitchen. She liked to eat when everyone was home, when things were quiet and predictable. Lee wondered what she was thinking when hovered over her ceramic bowl, lapping at water that probably needed refreshed. She wondered what she was thinking when staring at a plant for several minutes on end. Maybe if she could tap into a cat’s thoughts she could land a bestseller.

When they first brought Charlotte home, she had disappeared overnight. They couldn’t figure it out—how a cat could just be gone. They looked everywhere. Could she have gotten out? Could they have been so careless? They searched the house, the yard, the neighborhood.

Hours later, after everyone had stopped calling and shaking cat toys and rattling bags of treats, Charlotte had calmly emerged from the tiniest crack in the kitchen between the stove and the cabinet. She was so small then—and full of secrets. She never disappeared again—at least not inside the house.

snap shot 2

We remember and forget things on a daily basis. If we could retain everything we have ever remembered—or perhaps never forget it in the first place—we would be different beings. Forgetting may be a blessing—the mind’s way of coping with this insidious loop of existence. How else could we get up and do the same things over and over again? Maybe the forgetting was a curse. Or was it the remembering?

These thoughts came to Lee as she dragged herself once again out of her dreams, out of the deep remembering that came to her each night. She was usually in a forest, in a fog of stories without words, surrounded by things you just know in your bones, things that make you run and jump and fly and hunt. Things that let you escape humanity and become the elements that make up the dreams of others, that make up the universe. Things that don’t require bones but that know them to their core.

Upon waking, she could feel the familiar forgetting wrapping around her like a bathrobe. Sometimes it came in the form of a coffee cup or phone notification. She could have stayed in that wordless world forever—and maybe one of these times she would. But the crash of the recycling bins outside had jarred her out of sleep. At first it melded with her dream, and she was rushing to try to gather all of the bottles, boxes, and cans from the week to get them to the curb in time. There used to be many more bottles. She was trying to cut back.

She had fallen asleep in the living room again, beside the simmering fireplace, with the window cracked. It was like sleeping by a campfire, the contrast of the soft heat and cool air bringing her back to a place of childhood and longing. There was something addictive about a fire, the measured build of the elements as heat met paper met wood met air—the initial catch, the crackling increase, the leap of flames, the slow burn of embers. It was like a birth and a death—right at her fingertips—and it warmed the room beautifully.

Lee was avoiding her bedroom. She had been for weeks—ever since the holidays. The pillowy couch by the fireplace was only comfortable to a point, and then her back would start to ache. But something was keeping her from that room, from that big, firm bed. She thought she knew what, she thought she had it figured out, but then she would forget. In the meantime, she continued to make fires, sandwiches, phone calls.

She checked her phone, first for the time (and to see how many times she had hit snooze), and then for the regular dose of notifications. There were only a few this morning, nothing to really stimulate her to fully wake. She got distracted by a cat video and then a news parody, and found herself laughing before her coffee—which was rare. Not really laughing, but slightly snickering as she stretched and pulled herself up out of the couch cushions.

It was cold and overcast, and she sucked in the air as she gazed out the window. She could smell the eventual passing of winter, the tiny hint of spring, the desire to run through a field or chop some wood or take off in a canoe. Instead, she followed the well-worn path to the coffee maker.

The house would be as quiet as she wanted it. Sophie would sleep until noon. There was no school today. It was Martin Luther King Day.

I have a dream.