Hidden Envy

What’s the danger?
You asked me
In a voice so pure
And guileless
It ribboned through my chest
And knotted tight
‘Round my arteries
‘Til it bruised with envy
For your eyes
That had never seen
The collapse of stars
Burning at our feet;
For your heart
That had not been
Pierced through
By what so many of us
Know too intimately:
The pain that cloaks itself
Within the sweet and delicate
Brush of the sun
Rending our souls
With its razor-sharp edge
And for a moment
Bleeding through
With shameful spite
I wished you would feel
This agony too—
Corrupted like the rest of us
Only trying to survive

In These Words

Fingers crossed
With childlike fervor
A gossamer-soft hope
Tightly clenched
That these words –
Floating into the ether
Intertwined
With ethereal promises
On the wind –
Will grasp the palm
Of searching fingertips
Or sit upon the lips
Of some unassuming stranger
Or find their way
Into the open chambers
Of the heart
Where they may resonate
Like a comforting frisson
Suffusing warmth
Through weary bones
And reach further still
To soothe the soul
Embosomed deep within

Finding Myself

There’s a pendulum swinging somewhere beyond the hedges of my periphery. A tick-tocking that reverberates distantly through the still air. But it doesn’t shake my chest with panic or fear. No. It’s more the sound of time being on my side. A sound of reassurance through this slow process of rediscovering myself.

It’s a little maddening, how easy it was for me to lose sight of the thing I loved. And for the most part, I never truly felt myself slipping deeper within that ravine beyond the hollow of my soul – though I was well aware something wasn’t quite right. If that part of me had ever screamed out for me to notice her, I’d been deaf to every desperate cry. And I carried on, as if nothing was ever really out of place, even when I could feel this painful scratching at the back of my head.

There were several times I tried to write. Endless pages filled with this single line. Just this one, unanswered question: “What would it feel like to reemerge from obscurity?” 
Those words on spindly, fawn-like legs, aimlessly stumbled round and round the spiraling pathways in my head.

But now I know that it feels like coming up for air. Gulping oxygen within weary lungs. Like remembering how to breathe and being conscious of every deep and filling breath, wanting more of it until the air balloons, threatening to burst inside me because I don’t want to lose that feeling. The feeling of being alive again. And I want to write all the things overflowing my head so that my brain doesn’t choke on this rising flood of ideas.

I wondered when I’d know that I’d found myself again. But now I realize I’d been holding on to her all this time. That I’d never really lost myself or what was important to me.

The truth is, those things are never truly lost. Because they’re always right there, waiting for you to see them.

Euphoria

The rain came, euphoria warm on its breath. It called to her from the kitchen, glistening rivulets winking at her like crystals against the thick glass. And, without a second thought, she dashed outside, bare feet sliding over wet grass, mud squelching between her yellow-painted toes. The rain clapped at her shoulders as the wind spun her about. She caught the dizzying rush of nostalgia bubbling up inside her — the thrill of childlike abandon.

She splashed from puddle to puddle until her lavender skirt bore the stains of giddy mischief. And when she turned around, she found him watching her in the open backdoor, a peculiar expression on his face. As if she were the biggest idiot he’d ever known. But there was something tender between his scrunched brows. She squinted through the rain at him as his lips slowly eased into a smile.

She ran up to him then, clasping his bearded jaw between her wet palms, mashing their mouths together. And she didn’t let go, hopeful he could taste the euphoric bliss still rich on her lips.

Spring Longing

I yearn for…
Spring’s elusive caress –
Balsam of her tender palms –
To soothe the
Frosted scabs and scars
Scourging fissures deep
Through exposed flesh
Unable to endure
Winter’s crude affection

I long for…
The sun’s elixir
Honeysuckle kissing
At my lips
Melting on
My tongue
As abundant rays
Like cloaks of golden silk
Wrap around me
Fragrant with the dew
Plum and cherry blossom
Infused

For these barren nights
Callous and ungiving
Remind me too much
Of your absent warmth
That once enfolded me
With a bones-deep comfort
So let the Spring come
With her fanciful gait
Ushering winter
Through Autumn’s backdoor

My Cousin Sunmar

Sunmar was supposed to be a kept secret. Tucked away like a miser’s treasure, safe from prying and greedy eyes. Sunmar was my cousin.

My brother, Jeff, and I would always go to Auntie Jackie’s and Uncle Vern’s house for winter break. We knew they had a son, but we’d never been introduced to him. He existed like a ghost pressed upon our memories and an awareness of him always prickled at my spine whenever I saw his baby pictures. It was odd that there were no photographs after his toddler years, only a mysterious gap that kept widening as we got older. But my brother and I knew better than to ask questions. We rolled curiosity beneath our tongues, grinded it between our teeth and swallowed back every bitter chunk.

My brother sometimes joked that Sunmar was a freak of nature with a grotesque abnormality that made him terrifying to look at. I thought that was stupid. Auntie Jackie and Uncle Vern were both perfectly normal people. In a lot of ways, the resemblance between her and my mother was eerily similar even though they weren’t twins. But Auntie Jackie’s age showed in the half-moon shadows beneath her eyes.

I didn’t like the way my brother always used such harsh words to describe Sunmar, because I was certain his voice dashed the halls and bounded up the steps to Sunmar’s room. And there were times, when the house fell still, that I could hear the quiet pitter-patter of footsteps. The timid rustle of quiet breaths. I was sure it was Sunmar. But for some reason, my heart would flail and heave against my ribcage and I’d hide beneath the covers as if to save myself from a monster lurking the thick shadows of the room – or prowling the corridors outside.

It was silly to be afraid. Sunmar was perhaps the same age as Jeff and twelve-year-old’s weren’t really that scary. But I hardly knew Sunmar and the unknown silhouette of him planted in my mind took on every terrifying projection of my imagination. I blamed Jeff for that; it was his fault such ugly ideas had rooted so deep in my thoughts. And then one night, I found out Jeff had been wrong all along.

Sunmar wasn’t anything horrific like the fabled Minotaur trapped in Daedalus’ labyrinth. He was a normal kid, like Jeff and I, with a slighter frame and an even more diminutive air. I saw him in the corridor as I darted from dark corners to get to the bathroom down the hall. We crashed into each other and before I could apologize, he tugged me into the bathroom and put his finger up to his lips.

Footsteps rippled through the silence toward the bathroom and Sunmar didn’t look away from me, only flinching at the sound of Auntie Jackie calling at the door.

“I’m sorry Auntie Jackie, I slipped on the way to the bathroom, but I’m okay.”

Auntie Jackie yawned around a sleepy rebuke that I shouldn’t have been running in the hallway. I apologized again and listened as she walked away. When I was sure she was gone, I offered Sunmar a smile. He did not smile back.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Sunmar.”

He ignored my greeting, “You cannot tell your brother you saw me.”

The quiet urgency steeling his voice made me nervous. I crossed my hands at my midriff, frowning down at him. Did I look like a blabbermouth?

“Why not?”

He shook his head, eyes glistening with many things. His fear was the most palpable and I immediately felt my stomach sink like an anchor, clattering to the floor of my soul. Were Auntie Jackie and Uncle Vern hurting him? But that couldn’t be possible. They were such nice people.

“I promise I won’t tell.”

“You never saw me, okay?”

I had so many questions, but his frantic tone shook something inside me that became afraid for him. I swore to him that I would never tell anyone and then he was gone. I couldn’t hear his footsteps, but I knew he was running back to his room.

I went back to bed after washing my hands and buried myself beneath the sheets. Was it strange to feel victorious yet defeated at the same time? I knew what he looked like, but I couldn’t tell Jeff.

Sunmar had been like a doll. Porcelain face and eyes the color of a deep forest rich with morning dew. He had the reddest lips I’d ever seen. His hair, dark mahogany and curled, framed his cheeks perfectly. He was so beautiful. I wished we could have talked more, because I wanted him to be my friend. But my brother and I were going to leave in the morning, which meant I would have to wait until next winter.

And when the months finally settled into the chilling flurries of winter, we were packed into Dad’s truck and driven to Auntie Jackie’s and Uncle Vern’s for the winter break. Auntie Jackie and Uncle Verne were happy to see us as usual. They played with us and I could feel Sunmar’s eyes watching me from the photographs on the walls. It was when the final light of dusk had melted away into the horizon that I realized Sunmar was gone.

****

Starting Somewhere

It only takes one word 
Like a slow, hesitant breath 
Streaming into more fluid exhales –  
An even cadence 
Unfurling the tense coils 
Of anxiety 
From deep within the chest 
Until it becomes less painful 
To draw these words out 
Even when they 
Snag and bruise 
With their jagged edges 
At the exposed places 
And delicate fringes 
Of my mind 
A balsamic comfort 
Trails over these wounds 
Soothing the unease 
With the knowledge  
That I’m trying 
And that is enough 
To keep me going.  

Morning Accident

Scalded tongue
Burns with curses —
Hot coffee
Poured down the drain
Bittersweet swirls
Of wasted pleasure
Washed down
In vacant streams

An angry jerk
Of the refrigerator door
Bears a cold breath
Over flushed cheeks
Ice cubes crudely culled
From their deep beds
For the surly monster
Rolling out from its wet cave —
Pink and scorched

Saliva drips into the sink
The burn cools

She pours another
Cup of hot coffee
A bit more sugar spooned in
To soothe the sting
Less distracted sips this time
As she settles into her chair

When the Night Comes

There is an intimacy that comes with the night. When the moon hoists herself high with unabashed flourish amid the glimmer of a star-studded sky. In the hours when the earth sighs soft and nocturnal melodies drift on the whistling wind.

Here, in this room, where the walls are so thin they may not have been there at all. Where everything is so still, the things you would normally overlook are more apparent. Like the breath winding in and out, through your body. Like the snores in the apartment next door, so close, it’s as if you were sharing your neighbor’s bed. Like the whisper of your thoughts, finding clarity within the shadows bobbing and weaving at the edges of your sight — tricking you into seeing things that aren’t there. Or like the sultry sounds of ecstasy from the woman on the second floor. (Or is it the third floor?).

It’s this varied cadence that arouses a sense of familiarity; as if it would be perfectly normal to call out to these strangers and converse about the most trivial things. But the sun washes away such idle ideas, intrusive light pouring in, as the engines of the day sputter and crudely rumble to life. So the mad rush begins and every thought entangles with more important and exhaustive worries. Until the night comes again, soothing the world’s chaotic frenzy.

1:03AM

I am afraid. That sole thought paces my skull like an echo of frantic footsteps over wooden floors. I am afraid that I no longer recognize who I am…or was when I first began writing here.

I am afraid I no longer have that mind from which creative thought had bloomed — in an almost peculiar way.

I am afraid I’m now standing in the barren remains. Dried earth with large fissures I could fall through if I’m not careful.

I am afraid that what still may exist within me to say or write may not matter anymore.