ii.

the view from in here:

the curves, colors, corners—

 

forming the anchorage of

you. the angled wood running

 

down hallways, dreaming of

being trees in a time before

 

scarcity. she didn’t want to grow,

to move, to change; she knew:

 

something is wrong. she crept into

the wall and fashioned herself in-

 

to a knot: good for the slaying.

from beyond she is still saying:

 

throw me a line. it continues

to feed our gibbous infamy.

tiny home

Josie looked around at the giant house one last time: the vast emptiness, the sloping walls meeting the sprawling floors, the cathedral tiled tub scrubbed as shiny as ever, the multiple pockets of closets where things had crouched hidden for years—now flung open, naked and wanting. She was ready: to say goodbye, to close the multiple doors, to run as fast as she could from this wide domestic spread and its wider clutches.

She had a ticket. She felt it in her pocket. Its bulky presence reminded her that she had somewhere to be, something important to do. She couldn’t miss her train. She couldn’t let the people on the train down. They were counting on her. The whole world was counting on her.

In one hand she carried an argyle suitcase, and in the other a worn leather briefcase. On her back was the remainder of her belongings, stuffed into the Jansport backpack she had carried all through high school. Everything else she had ever owned was gone—sold, thrown away, given away, left behind, scattered to the wind.

She felt lighter as she walked away from the cab toward the platform. She felt so light she imagined dropping her remaining possessions to the ground, lifting up off the concrete slab—toes pointed, arms outstretched, face tilted toward the sun as she rose above the crowds watching her ascent.

The train whistle cut through her thoughts as people scurried around her. She felt her feet touch down, and she told them to move forward toward the open door. It was a narrow door, and she turned sideways as she struggled to squeeze her bags through. Where was the conductor to take her ticket? To help her with her bags? To give her a gaze of quiet assurance? Was this even the right train?

She followed the line of travelers down the aisle. They seemed to move with confidence. They seemed to believe. Really, they were just competing for an empty window seat. She finally found one near the rear of the car. She laid her luggage on the aisle seat for a moment, catching her breath before lifting the heavy suitcase up onto the shelf above.

She had not been able to part with her favorite books. They were more important than clothes. She had kept only three changes of clothes, two pairs of shoes (one of which she was wearing—her trusty hiking boots), a blanket, a small pillow, her father’s checkered necktie, a few worn undergarments, and her grandmother’s pink silk scarf. It was the only pink thing she owned. The rest of the trunk was filled with Jane Austen, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Atwood, Paulo Coelho. There were many more, but it had been difficult to choose. She would have rather gone with just the clothes on her back and carried only books. But she noticed that the fewer belongings she had, the more attention she was able to give each one—like dear children important in their own eternal way. While packing she had talked to each one, tucking it in tightly to its tiny assigned space: Don’t worry, you are safe, you are not alone. It was important to say these things out loud.

At the next platform she would board a larger train with a small compartment all her own. Here she would live for the next few months, transverse the states while writing, watching out the wide windows, waiting for a sign. Inside, within the four small stationary walls, she would find and welcome home all the selves that had wandered away over time and become lost within a fractured body, a fragmented memory, a starving marriage, an immoveable mansion. Josie closed her eyes and let the lull of the train put her into a deep sleep.

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.

 

 

 

multi

every time you visit me

i’m a different person:

 

the levels shift, and i am

three floors up, or two down.

 

sometimes there’s a hidden trap-

door, a cave-like passage-way.

 

you are confused, because it is

the same square footage, but

 

such a foreign place. i am confused

because you keep visiting me.

 

 

 

currency

take it—

this tiny purse:

 

hold it in your hand, feel

its woven edges, its

 

rounded corners, its

tight, shiny clasp.

 

weigh the change as it

shifts and stretches the

 

fabric. this is

the treasure:

 

this moment

 

this gold mouth

clicked open,

 

these carved coins

spent, one at a time,

 

at your own

delicious discretion.

 

but first, the ridges

rolled between fingers,

 

each cool face held up to

the lips and kissed

 

before being tossed

—heads over tails—

 

into the fountain.

equinox girl

the dogwood never bloomed last year.

the weather was perfect—the kind you

can barely feel against your skin without

 

a wind; the type of temperate that makes you

lose a sense of where you end and it begins.

but the tree went straight to leaf; it chose to not

 

proudly flower its little cotton crowns that soften

and peel off and land soundlessly in your lap.

it was what she first saw; it was what drew her

 

to this house. and now, almost two years later,

she is waiting again to see if it will bloom;

she is waiting again to see what will be.

18/81

tj bday

the thought of you coming into this world
makes me smile. imagining the look on your
mother’s face as she gazed on you for the
first time is almost too much to take.

something amazing passed into the world that day:
it made people stop and turn and go out of their way
to hold, to touch, to be in that blanket of time
and openly yearn for a bigger blanket, more say.

all these years later, you are still making people
stop and listen and reach and want and love.
i feel honored to be a tiny part of that play; if all
the world’s a stage, you make it one hell of a show.

it’s not an easy space to fill; it’s difficult to face most days.
but you, just by being uniquely you, inspire us deep from the roots:
to show up, to fuck up, to get up, to laugh, to rock, to create,
to live, to love, to mock, to tell our story, to be real, to celebrate.

Thank you, Tommy, for being in the world.

Happy birthday with much love.

TJ pencil

Sketches of Tommy Joe Ratliff by Olivia Santiago