I Hope You Are Okay

I hope you are okay.

Thanks. That’s all I have to say about that. Interesting how many platitudes have an opposite impact of their intent. Interesting how “hope” can be used to mean expect. Do I have an obligation to meet others’ expectations, even when it is not I who them? Do I have to be “beautiful, smart, talented, and funny” because those are the qualities you expect to find in the legend of a woman who overcomes. What if I spent all of eternity mourning, pacing the banks of the high-water river, pleading with it to accept another day’s tears? Would that be “okay” with you?

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I Like How You Spend Your Time

I like how you spend your time
breathing—
into your pelvic fire,
to help signal a feeling of release,
balancing contentment with desire,
because it is necessary for holiness.

I like how you spend your time
eating—
what makes you pucker:
green tea, Montmorency cherries;
steeling yourself for loose hunger,
and for whomever says: Yes, please.

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How’s it going?

LISTEN HERE.

I have lived alone for one week of the past two hundred and thirty-nine weeks, starting April 15, 2020, which was to be the first day back to “normal” in Oregon — a long, but not too long, awaited release from holding all of the bad feelings that the COVID-19 lockdown brought up for the both of us; from the nightmares that the dreamcatcher above our bed failed to catch, at least on my side (which is a phenomenon that had started some time before) — and then it wasn’t.

Yesterday, I hung a string on the empty nail, and weighted it down with a stained glass pendant shaped like a rain drop. The symbol of my city. My city. I can’t remember having ever said that term aloud, neither in reference to this place where I am living now, nor the three others before it. In fact, I have lacked the sense of belonging to a place, and it reciprocally belonging to me, since leaving my hometown in 2010.

I believe this stems more from abandonment trauma and guilt than the romantic longing for small town life that I often speak and write about. I was passively separated from my place and people of origin at 17, due to my family’s choice to move to the South, and mine to attend a residential college in New England. As now, I was precocious; unlike now, I was not intimidated by “adulting,” because it hadn’t come into the lexicon yet.

I expected and was prepared to attend to my basic needs, pay my bills, and stay in school, but not for the shock of coming into consciousness of how much bigger everything was. There were bigger institutions than Fall Mountain Regional High School, bigger wealth than the family that owned the local pizza place, bigger people than “that one famous guy. . .What’s his name again?”

And so I felt small. Uncool. Uncultured. Unattractive. Unoriginal. If the Enneagram had been mainstream at the time, I might have seen what was coming. The Key Motivations of my Type, The Individualist, are:

to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw to protect their self-image, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else, to attract a “rescuer.”

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-4

I was drawn to people who thought they would be somebody someday, because they had a leg up on exposure to their options, and more options generally because privilege. People who grew up in cities, in homes filled with art, music, books, and two white professional class parents. I fell in love with them and the lifestyle they represented. My lifestyle improved, and so too my quality of life, but I was not happier. The problem was that it didn’t go both ways.

My partners held stereotypes and judgments about rural life that made it impossible for me to integrate my new self with the old, without the threat of abandonment. I felt pressure to keep up with their pace of life, which seemed to be set by an arbitrary array of virtue and status signals. But, I didn’t have the confidence that I could yet survive in an urban environment without a “rescuer.” And, rather, I should say don’t — because I am in the process of developing that confidence even now.

How’s it going? I have been sweating the small stuff all day and the big stuff all night. I have moved every object just enough from its former position to see it differently, flipped the reversible rug from the blue side to the tan, wheeled the kitchen cart from the edge to the center, and finally got a goddamn (free) couch. Unfortunately, there is one exception. The bed is literally too big to move myself, and wouldn’t fit any other way regardless.

So, I must plainly see its bigness relative to before. I wake in a humidity unfit for this region or season, with a natural curl in my hair, lost and returned from girlhood. Maybe I am new again. Maybe I dreamt that I crashed into the sea and was reborn an island. I cannot remember my dreams. It takes the first ten minutes after I awake just to remember that this is real.

Juliet Balcony

The best human solution to the problem of grief

over a lost sense of being outdoors,
combined with fear of being found out
is the Juliet balcony, a slight protrusion towards
Step 1: Admit powerlessness.

Forecasters say heavy rains, pushing east-southeast,
could knock it out on Monday morning,
and what’s worse, lift my seedlings from their pots,
and plant them into the alley.

I want to get back into circulation, free-flowing
words that pop out of nowhere,
like the bright pink head of that purple finch there,
with forward-facing toes gripped around
a wild knot of power.

I admit I lack the same command of iambic feet,
but my deeply sincere tone, and good humor alone
could help others get through the day;
namely, the zinnias, otherwise to be washed
beyond the reach of roots by May.

So, I switch the latch lock off, and rise to join them
at the balustrade, where I recite a mantra:
…to accept the things I cannot change…
and there’s something slightly
Shakespearean about it now.

Aubade for What Stayed in Reno

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Oh, darling one
I wish I may,
I wish I might
have that wish
we made last night,
on that bright star
neither first nor right
but fixed as it was
to the grid of light
seemed a safer bet
to count on to stay
twinkle-twinkling
than a dumb rock
in the sky, though,
not so dumb as we
who got hitched
to a deadline
not certain, as we
who bet love
on some number
of days before
the Chapel of Bells
goes under.

Oh, bright star,
would I were
steadfast as thou are,
could take your
leave-taking
with no hand
in the jar
not reaching
for crumbs
when there’s cake
right in front of me
full of butterlove
the better love,
the solid, yellow,
stick-to-the-ribs
kind of love;
with no head
under the bell
not stewing
on what you are
hanging aloft, alone
in Reno’s sour air
when there’s someone
who cares, standing
right in front of me.

Oh, sweet heart,
so soon we part
— yet, you are
still steadfast
still unchangeable
still as night
at the break of day
with eggs breaking
with sugar shaking
how can you be hungry
for lovemaking
it’s too early, too new
too much, too fast,
and too soon — yet,
I am still happy,
still over the moon
still laughing along
with the little dog,
at seeing such sport
as the dish carried
off by her spoon.

When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are.