eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

odd for the child

to fear drowning

when his life now is so long

stretching like taut ribbon in sun

he imagines like plain moths who drown themselves

in light emanating from dark

his own lifeless body buoyant on chlorinated pool

why he thinks of his death is anyone’s guess

perhaps the morbid humor of an intelligent mind

or the broken mosaic of life, beginning its downward cycle

once he asked his father, if the river levies bust

will I know I am dead before I am drowned or

will I wake in heaven first?

His father, a man who only worried about

whether his mistress was going to leave him for a younger man

did not spend time assuaging the boys fears

and he grew into a frightened soul who possessed

no mistress to sooth his night terrors

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

maybe not this year

as she palpitates her breast for the forth time

crossing nervous fingers over heart, half prayer half search

malignancy her code red, flashing with every terrorizing headline

who invented social media? she mumbles beneath her breath

it was so much easier when we didn’t have access to all the maladies, we’ll one day die from!

Her hands cramp in late Winter cold, immediately she thinks

MS, MD, Fibromyalgia, the beginnings of CJD, maybe Parkinson’s

isn’t that a tremor? Or just too much coffee?

Her jittering nerves remind her, we are unable to compute

the exact day, hour, minute of expiry

all we know is our eventual death is an assured event

it’s the torment of those who are self-aware yet still ignorant

spinning in place, every migraine a brain tumor, every

sudden sharp pain a sign of pancreatic cancer, when a friend

discovers he has Multiple Myeloma (and he never touched asbestos his wife decries!)

she flicks through medical journals online searching for similarity

it’s not her wish to die, but a desire to live, control fate

keeping her on false tender hooks like owl without prey.

His life has been one of quiet dread, each day he inspects

the parts of him most likely to give out, checking his irregular heartbeat

the soft pounding of worry causing it to skip, feeling for swollen glands

skin cancers, lumps and bumps different from the day before

he knows his is an obsessive ritual, even as it soothes imagined

terrors, he sees the absurdity of living in fear bound to a wheel

perpetuated by hours spent researching ways of expiring

did you know you can develop throat cancer from invisible HPV

who knew love was such a sentence? He tells his eye-rolling neighbor.

If he counted the hours he took from his life

contemplating how he will die, when, what it will resemble

it’s quite mad

yet when he is lying in his childhood bed alone

impending dread crawling up his flannel spine

all he can hear are the waves calling

and then, a strange longing in him occurs

urging him to be done with bloody charades

join the onslaught and be carried out to sea

along with every child’s nightmare

and the stifled hiss of adults pressing their knuckles

closely to anguished mouths

for the pale mint waiting room seems

entirely too silent

an earie unsettled fog about it

waiting …

Urging to be loosed

Before generic

we toiled

with well made heavy tools

to survive

thinking less, I suspect

of the quality of that living

whether we were ‘happy’

nor having time for slight or scold

to injure us

sheer brevity of our toil

overwhelming higher thought

which at times I believe

may be as fitful and ill-fitting

as apple eaten from forbidden tree

it is that knowledge of ourselves

sends us into quiet turmoil

perpetuated by hours to muse

on the fix and drip of life

we taste despair in our abundant imaginings

for all we learn, we grow further

from that seat of quiet peace found

in hard labor and less thought

for every Sunday where I get to lie in

watching snow fall outside my safe insulated house

I wonder at the wisdom of this progress

whether

like the man I know who

lives in the woods

gathering water by stream

keeping warm at fireplace

his rough shod life is

that much gladder

than mine, able to turn

thoughts around in my head

like blue flies

urging to be loosed

The Lesson

Many friends of mine are highly intelligent.

they talk of having to ‘hide’ their intelligence as children, to avoid scaring others

I did not fit in either, but for much different reasons

a contradiction, most who spoke to me believed me to be very bright

but the lore of the highly verbal is just that. An ability to talk circles around people

sometimes the brain is empty behind the Rocky Horror Picture Show mouth.

Unlike my very smart friends, who excelled and won prizes

and knew uncannily how to do things before being taught, even welding, and that was

hard

unlike my first boyfriend who made all A’s whilst watching The Incredible Hulk

unlike my second boyfriend who made all A’s whilst masturbating to Farrah Fawcett

the only way I was ever on top was if I climbed, brick by brick.

I learned early on, not to compete

why would you compete if you NEVER win? If you’re always the slow poke, the last picked on a team, the one who has to ask again and again, the friend who can’t

get the gist of it and stays home reading comics.

Usually the most competitive are those who are naturally good at something and thus, recognize the taste of success

I learned slowly and badly, I couldn’t; knit, use chopsticks, play Atari well, do wheelies, skateboard or boogieboard, or vault over the box without

often falling

I had more ‘not good at that’ checked boxes than ‘excels’ and that never changed.

Some say, if you fail, keep trying, but eventually, if you fail enough sometimes you turn into

something else

a kid who is angry for other reasons too and has found a home in building that anger into a straw man

a kid who is fed up of coming last, of repeated failures and shame in sometimes still wetting the bed

being told you are an idiot over and over again tends to sink in

so I became a rebel.

If someone said; You failed that. I would laugh. Literally take joy in it.

FUCK YOU I would shout and run to the park and drink from whatever bottle was handy or climb whatever tree was nearest

I learned, you could get more positive attention from dancing and putting your hands down boys pants than

making an effort to fail.

Part of me knew it was wrong, I didn’t like boys, so why was I spending any time with them?

They didn’t like me over much either, I was; too short, too flat chested, not enough flippin enthusiasm

damn right.

Then I belonged nowhere

except under the hot lights of the dance floor, shaking out my grief or in a tree house pretending I was anyone but me

I ran so many times away from pain / I began to know the tune and hum it

in a weak moment I would return and feel-up a boy

for 3 minutes of false love

and in that wet, sticky repulsion

hate myself ever more.

sometimes even the child falling off the deep-end can see it coming

but nobody else could; they thought I was just badly behaved / didn’t ask why / didn’t try to intervene

I crashed and burned on the rocks multiple times, like a bad sky diving bird searching for her nest

wanting in one moment to excel, the next to set fire to

everything that rubbed my nose in it.

I absorbed failure like a nicotine patch

I inhaled it like cheap speed on a dirty toilet seat

when I lifted my legs to the ceiling and turned my head away

from the thrashing

the fuck you’s sounded really hollow

drugs weren’t enough to sake

my premature emptiness.

Of course, people are over-fond of

blaming the victim and saying; ‘you have choices’

which is partially true and partially bullshit, as we all know

deep down

it takes a village

or maybe just one person

to lift you to the light and when you’re 14

and saturated in pain without knife sharp enough

to exorcise darkness

it’s hard to grab on and ask someone to intervene.

When you came into my life

my first love, the one I lost everything to

including my shadows and a little cocktail sliver of self-hate

I didn’t know then, what an impact you would make

meteorite girl

I lost my virginity in your hands and

forgot the ammonia of boys and how they’d beg

to go all the way and almost want to pay you if they had

more than a penny and dirty underwear on offer

leaving you feeling worthless and slutty and defiled and violated even if

you kissed while crossing your own legs the entire time.

In your arms I realized my own skin, the honey softness

of your touch, a new language.

You were, the girlfriend of my best friend

you loved him, you loved me (on weekends when he was away)

I was your little secret and you stripped me one by one

of all my petty rebellions

until I stood before you naked and shivering

telling me; Get your shit together, because nobody

is going to do it for you and you don’t want to be

working in High Street Stores at 40 nor do you

want to squander all your talent on

cheap cider and horny empty-eyed souls.

I laughed then, I remember it, day losing light

your face looked older, wiser, molded by shadow

I wanted to press myself to your breasts and find

that special sound you made when I delved deeper.

But you took my chin and forced me to meet your eyes

a deep blue like the bottom of my grandmother’s swimming

pool where I learned to drown

It isn’t fair, you said, it isn’t right, and it isn’t your fault

but it is your responsibility

defy them. Even if you can’t beat them, even if you can’t

ever be as good as them, defy their expectations of you

make something of yourself anyway, and for those who

things come easy, realize you are twice as strong

for matching their ease with your effort.

I admired you more than anyone I’d ever met

not just for the shape of your curls and the way you stood

short and yet louder than anyone in the room

I admired your tenacity and how you had a really dumb side

that you could laugh at and we’d sit in your friends bar

underage (me) barely old enough (you) and I could

never get enough of watching your lips move and wishing

they could be pressed against mine til eternity.

When you left me for the boyfriend you always knew you’d keep

because I was a phase in your life and you were my everything

I didn’t hate you for it. I felt the terrible absence of your

hand in mine and how life without you was colorless and

drab like someone had sucked out all the joy and left only

skeletons of memory.

But I was young, I picked myself up and tried again

the first time in years, putting aside my acting out and anger

the rebellions, resentment at having so many

impediments and not being one of the golden ones for whom

everything came naturally.

I worked so hard I ended up succeeding, but that success

never made me happy the way you hoped it would.

I still felt a fraud

I still knew, if I didn’t work twice as hard as everyone else I would never

be their equal

I knew deep down my short-comings were

who I really was and that being ordinary is never something we aspire to.

It did feel good to fight back

against things people liked to say in cruel moments

about how I would never amount to anything, how I wasn’t half

the intelligent person they’d thought I’d grow up to be

I proved them wrong.

I did not gain confidence in myself because I knew the truth

sometimes you can tap dance so fast, people start to believe

the tune you are humming, but it’s just a magic trick

and you’re as ordinary and bog-standard as

chips in newspaper and clothes on a line.

Did I want to be remarkable? Special? Unique? Gifted?

Hell yeah.

Accepting that you’re ordinary, especially when you were never told

you mattered

is absolutely ego crushing

but I remembered how you laughed at yourself

and didn’t let it stop you

how you might have felt the fear and done it anyway

I took an incomplete leaf out of your book

one that I keep til this day, pressed against my bosom

remembering that people come into your life for a reason

sometimes that’s why they have to leave

for the lesson is rarely learned

without loss.