down

I’ve let myself come down again

it’s not really quiet down here
whales
the earth shuddering
new mountains being born
the ebb and flow
as the earth makes love to the moon
and small bubbles

I am quiet
when I let myself
go all the way down

the ocean is not quiet, but it is dark
dark as a dungeon
damper than dew
I keep sinking

and my eyes slowly adjust
my lungs adjust too
it hurts like knives at first
but I adjust faster than i used to
like the sea lions
I can go down and get back up
no bends
I have learned from them
I hold the oxygen
and let the nitrogen out slowly
through my gut

my eyes adjust
and then they come
the glowing ones, slow and fast
like ghosts swimming towards me
maybe they are my dead
someday I will join them

I expect to return this time
maybe
or not
I don’t know if I will find pearls
or a leviathan
who will swallow me whole
and barely notice

this time I walked in
myself
I don’t blame you
or family or past or circumstances
it is time for me to go down
I go
down and down and down
deep

___________

only when I’m hungry (1)

sometimes
I still miss you
then I have to check
if I am hungry

I’m doing well, you see
I only miss you when I’m hungry

I’m moving on
but sometimes I still get hungry

hunger is tied up with fear
in childhood
and grief and abandonment

When you fed me
that was huge

You don’t feed me any more

Sometimes I still miss you
but only when I’m hungry

I think you’ve joined the dead
the angry dead
who didn’t feed me
and didn’t love me

or loved me during anger
and wouldn’t feed me

Sometimes I still miss you
but only when I’m hungry

________________

Photo taken by my friend JB.

if I could bottle this

if I could bottle this beauty
if I could bottle this joy
if I could capture the heart
the stone shaped heart of a boy

if I could bottle this sunshine
miraculous stars in the dark
open the sun in the winter
train to capture a heart

I can’t bottle this moment
sorrow rolls in sure as joy
tears run dry in the future
my heart not always a toy

______________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: bottle.

(You always know) post trauma

You always know

You always know
when I am afraid
when I am running
when I am hiding
how afraid I am

when I keep secrets

You always know
so far
when I am triggered and terrified
and hiding and broken
and pretending to be ok

so far
you respond
and are gentle
draw me out
offer food
and company

You always know
so far
and I am still afraid
and I am still planning
and this is what I am hiding
the plan for what I will do

What I will do
when you know
you always know
when you know
but you don’t
respond

when you don’t respond
and aren’t gentle
don’t draw me out
don’t offer food
or company

You always know
so far

But I feel safer
if I don’t
trust

11/28/21

Mourn

Thank you, Queen Elizabeth II, for choosing this time to pass, to die.

The world can use public mourning now, a formal ceremony. I tear up every time I look at the lines of people watching, standing, waiting, filing past your coffin.

Perhaps we should set up a coffin for all the dead, a field of coffins, doll coffins, hundreds, thousands, a million for the United States alone, and millions for the world, for all the dead from Covid-19.

And then we need more coffins, for those who died because care was delayed during the pandemic, screening for cancer, treatment for cancer or heart disease or lung disease. Let us set them up as well.

And then we need doll chairs, hundreds and thousands and millions of doll chairs, for the people with long haul Covid, to acknowledge that we don’t know if they will get well, will rise from their beds and chairs.

And white coats, hundreds and thousands and millions of white coats, some neatly on hangers, other bloody, others thrown on the floor, for the first responders, some dead, some quitting, some ill, some deciding that they can’t do medicine or fire fighting or policing any more, some stubbornly continuing in their jobs.

And job advertisements, on tiny doll computers, doll newspapers, doll signs in windows, saying help wanted, help, help, people are quitting, people are too sick to work, people have died, people are wondering why they should work in public, people are afraid and angry and hurt, help wanted.

I tear up when I watch the public mourning. I remember my mother, my father, my sister, all dead before the pandemic. I remember other dead, family and friends. I think of all the dead that I know, starting to outnumber the living that I know.

Thank you Queen Elizabeth II, for this formal and public mourning in this time of confusion and grief. Your last public service, for which I and many others, tear up and thank you.

___________________________

The photograph is from a friend’s dollhouse.

Practicing Conflict

An essay from my church talks about the writer avoiding conflict, fearing conflict and disliking conflict. This interests me, because I do not avoid conflict, I don’t fear conflict and actually, I like it. Our emeritus minister once did a sermon in which he said that when you are thinking about two conflicting things at once, that is grace. I have thought about his words many times, especially when I am not in agreement about something.

Does this interest in conflict mean I fight all the time? Well, sort of, but not in the way you think. I don’t fight with other people much. I fight myself.

What? No, really. Most topics have multiple sides. Not one, not two, but many. Like a dodecahedron or a cut gem. Hold it up to the light, twelve sides, each different. I argue the different sides with myself.

I learned this from my parents. My parents would disagree about something, they would discuss or argue about it, and then they would bet. Sometimes they bet a penny, sometimes a quarter, sometimes one million dollars. Then one of them would get up and get the Oxford English Dictionary, or the World Atlas, or some other reference and look it up. This was pre-internet, ok? 1970s and 1980s.

Sometimes my parents would even pay each other. The penny or quarter. My father spoke terrible French and my mother had lived in Paris for a year after high school, so he could get her going by insisting that his French was correct. It wasn’t. Ever.

There were other arguments in the middle of the night that were not friendly and involved yelling, but the daytime disagreements were funny and they would both laugh.

Once my sister is visiting after my mother has died. My father is present. My father, sister and I get in a three way disagreement about physics. I’m a physician, my sister was a Landscape Architect and my father was a mathematician/engineer, so we are all three talking through our hats. However, we happily argue our positions. Afterwards, my gentleman friend says, “That was weird.” “What?” I ask. “That was competitive and you were all arguing.” “It was a discussion and we disagreed.” “I won’t compete.” “We let my dad win, because it makes him happy.” “That was weird.” “Ok, whatever.”

My gentleman friend is also shocked when my teen son challenges me at dinner. My son says, “I am researching marijuana and driving for school and there isn’t much evidence that it impairs driving.”  I reply, “Well, there is not as easy a test as an alcohol test and it was illegal, so it has not been studied.” We were off and having a discussion.

Afterwards my gentleman friend says, “I am amazed by your son bringing that up. We weren’t allowed to discuss anything like that at dinner.” I say, “We pretty much discuss anything at dinner and both my kids are allowed to try to change my mind. About going to a party or whatever.” He shakes his head. “That is really different.” “Ok,” I say.

This habit of challenging authority, including adults, did not go over well when my son was an exchange student to Thailand. It did not occur to me to talk to him about it. He figured it out pretty quickly.

Back to my internal arguments. If I take a position, I almost immediately challenge it. I think of it as the old cartoons, with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. The devil will make fun of things and suggest revenges and generally behave really badly. The angel will rouse and say, “Hey, you aren’t being nice.” Then they fight. The internal battle very quickly becomes comic with the two of them trading insults and bringing up past fights and fighting unfairly. When it makes me laugh inside, I can also be over the driver who cut me off, or someone who spoke nastily, or whatever. My devil is very very creative about suggested revenges. When the angel says, “You are meaner than the person who cut you off!” I am over it.

When I was little and disagreeing with my family, my sister could tell. “You have your stone face on!” That meant I was attempting to hide a feeling, especially fear or anger or grief. Siblings and family are the most difficult because they can read us and see through us like glass. My physician training also teaches control of feelings. I have sometimes wanted to grab a patient and scream “Why are you doing this to yourself?” but that really is not part of the doctor persona. I am doing it inside, but I can put it aside until later. Then the devil goes to town! And the angel tries to calm the devil down.

Maybe we all need more of this skill. Pick a mildly controversial topic. Argue one side of it. Then switch positions and argue the other side. Go back and forth until it gets ridiculous. Let each side get unreasonable and inflammatory and annoying. This can play in your head and not on your face. Once you can do a mild topic, move on to something a bit more difficult. If you only know the arguments on your side, read. You can find the other side, the internet is huge. Start gently.

A friend says, “You always argue about things.” I say, “I prefer to think of it as a discussion.” “You always take the other side.” “Well, it interests me. And if there is no one to discuss something with, I discuss it with myself!” “Weirdo,” says the friend. I think he’s jealous, really I do. Don’t you?

hope molting and growing new feathers

A friend away a friend some day
a friend can’t stay all the day
a friend won’t pray a friend can’t play
not today is what they say
a friend they say a friend always
a friend who may return some day

in a way you might say
hope molts and regrows feathers today

I think my inner four year old wrote today’s poem. I am thinking about the song my mother taught me, very young, for when I was frustrated.

My sister and I loved this song and others, Samuel Hall and “I don’t want to play in your back yard, I don’t like you any more. You’ll be sorry when you see me, sliding down my cellar door.”

I gave a young friend a book of rhymes. He looked at me with some horror. “These are nursery rhymes.” I grin at him. “Look again. It’s a book of insulting playground rhymes, suitable for all occasions.” He looked at the book again and held on to it.

The photograph is from the National Museum of Women in the Arts again. Another fabulous painting that seems to fit my theme.

welcome home

home home welcome home
home is where you are, Beloved
and you are everywhere

not in churches, not for me
I run outdoors, long to be free
you are everywhere I see

the beauty in the world
love and grief and pearls
small child dance and twirl

I have crossed the boundary
over and over again
Beloved, let me stay, friend

I’ve searched for you so long
Beloved, you make us so strong
look everywhere that’s wrong

home home welcome home
home is where you are, Beloved
and you are everywhere

________________________________

August 31, 2022

Sing from the sea

This is another poem where I did not know where it was going when I started it. I was thinking about the sea and sirens and singing. My poems go where my heart thinks I should go, but I don’t know where that is until the poem is done. And it’s clearly a song and next I need a tune. And chords. And more practice.

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful sea
tied to the mast, you won’t come to me

unplug your ears, unblock your heart
before it breaks and truly stops
listen to my lonely heart
we’ll make music and never part

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful sea
hear my voice, listen to me

our hearts melt together like stone
in the depths of my volcano home
you shut your heart down, run away
lava strings like glass, all the way

I sing from the deep, from the deep, from the beautiful deep
small child calling, she still weeps

volcano boiling from ocean floor
new island built as lava roars
small child with faith as adult caves to fear
small child holds your heart dear

I sing from the land, from the land, from the new born land
don’t be afraid, take my hand

hope has feathers, a poet said
in the darkest time, hope is not dead
I morph to dragon, to kite, to bird
your resistance is so absurd

I sing from the air, from the air, from the smoke filled air
vision dark, can’t see where

circle in flight, hope you too
listen to the small child hidden deep in you
a promise is a promise, you know it’s true
I do not give up on you

I sing in the wood, in the wood, in the beautiful wood
five elements sing as all things should

In the wood in the trees
on an island in the sea
in the heart of the volcano
my heart is free

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful see
no matter what happens, my heart is free

_____________________________________________

I took the photograph at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a painting by Shinique Smith.