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.

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Faith

My love

it is so hard to keep

faith

with every day there are changing shades from day to night

sometimes I am comforted by fireflies and evening moth

who dual beyond the porch, betrayed by flicker and swat

I imagine the patterns of her wings, that magic sting of light

so short their lives compared to ours, so rich and meaningful I would infer

sometimes it is the exclusion of pain gives me rest

when I can at last unroll my carpet and forget

carrying the weight all day, a vase of ache absent of flower

to place this nowhere and have it melt away

I lie in the bath and heady steam dissipates reality

in those musings there is only the delight of a girl

seeking her passion in lingered meandered imagining

and you come to me, full of health and unharmed yet

by cruel flint and staunch of your absent conscience

and you lay me down and make of me what you will

a thousand pieces of me broken and rebuilt

which I give with my all, for you were and you remain still

far more than sense can convey

in the hour of day when dreams are gone to sleep

I see the cruelty of your take and take and take

the hunger of your keep and how I was but a thing, in your

cabinet of curiosities to be taken out and squeezed when you

thirsted or when times were hard and you needed the succor of

kindness to tuck you in, nothing of you was sincere or loving

all that I held dear possessed the sound of my own breaking

it was as if I had become pupil to mistreatment

learned many times on illiterate whip of inheritance

children soon become acquiescent to disregard

I didn’t know how to be worthy and you took my pain

pinned it to a velvet card and called me Opodiphthera Eucalypti

my blush and powder, the soft rubbed fur and bleed of color

round and round my pattern and maze, sucking from thistle

the gypsy without, I live in silk and attraction to light

pollinating only the fruit of predators like yourself

as you pinch my wings with your greed and whisper

my lunar, my atlas, spin your silken web across my longing

for I have never learned my worth and you wish to

gobble on my spirit as you may an Autumn apple

the fragrance of your dissection

my love

it is too easy

to stay my life in wait of your call

watching others continue onward and myself find

nothing but the covet and anguish of a prisoner

if I had the strength to

I’d hurl myself against the glass

leaving a smudge of myself in technicolor

for children to press their noses against and wonder

oh what ever life could make such a kaleidoscope

and in these mixings of burning and yearning

parched by want and crushed to nothing

the dancer emerges broken and fragmented

to spirit into night her ether and the longing

she is free of her torment and bound to the wax and wane

of one who has rubbed against and been caught by

a terrible rope, woven with obsidian, the shade of pain

my love

it is too hard to remain

faithful

to your brand of hurt

and live in dying with every pursuit

I have long imagined I am already prepared

for the hour, the moment, pain exceeds its curse

and slipping like oil and water and vinegar bound

we change from solid to infinity and beyond

where only the stain of who we were and what we bore

that burning need to consume, that hunger for

all the poison within your sickening and how

never did you rest until the very perish was wrought

standing still like a girl reaching for

something invisible

my love

it is the fresh unopened rose

and her tightly closed promise

shall see tomorrow and claim

the glory

for I will not be there to witness

this new day and those trespasses for this comforts

me in such a depth as if every kind of anguish

were salved by the knowledge this too shall end

and you will dissolve in time

beyond the fragment of what has been

into the very air like things we cannot yet see

whirling and catching the air in relief

for moths have never lived long enough it seems

to know their beauty and how it is

for us who live sometimes too long

and rise to see another day, alone

Because you are not a stranger

Because you are not a stranger

usually I am too reticent, restrained, packaged away

in some hat box with a faded bow

to reach, to linger, to listen

I am a carefully tended garden without entrance

belies her wild interior and the need she has to be untamed

and still you spoke

tearing through the bower, the shrubbery, all my thorns

as natural if we had just been interrupted. having a long conversation

bounding into my life with that long-legged gait reminding me

of those California girls with skin you want to photograph

and ride on horses with until their cheeks get hot

no you are not a stranger

anymore than my French fatalism

is contrary to the opalescent sway of things

we all hang in some form or fashion

from our necks till light betrays our dreaming

and we must enter the sore lot of reality with something of

a bitterness

still tasting on our lips

that Chapstick kiss, faintly cherry

you have

known me before

we have existed before now

a familiar, in intonation and even

that shared day of birth

as if

the light

of the projector

and the quilt of screen

wrote us a history

far from dead ends that labor over hand outs

people who wear you down without

saying a word

with just the fatigue of their eyes

how they cannot see anything of that invisible world

we exist for.

You whisper; “with your eyes closed

you know the sound of my voice and its certainty

its pedantic, bordering on monotonous glee

because it is already familiar”

as something

grown before thought

had elected her bloom to

cover with fragrant reminder

every space of green with flower.

Sometimes even fear meets her match

in destined spots blessed by more than our

mortal hands

I think you have

some power of mind reading

when you turn the page

and set the needle to play

my tune of the winding road

I feel a circle

moving across my body

like a finger tip tracing

without permission and yet

necessary

the outline of my

shadowed self

brought into light.

You usher joy

spreading a scotch blanket

among simple earth and its undulation

though I would turn lobster red

obeying, the sun bleeds behind horizon as if

with the power of your intention

you had dimmed the switch.

Our hands wind together

yet

even if you hadn’t told me

even if I hadn’t known

your hands would have

given it away

as your mouth

a perpetual patient smile

looks to find

a way to speak

without words.

I would ask

what is your intention with my heart

like a concerned father

watching shifting eyes

only you stare back at me

unblinking and open

like a pearl within the care of its shell

it is always, you said, in the eyes

and I reply

how then did you know

before you found me?

when we had not yet

beheld the other?

To which you reply;

I wrote it first

I prayed for you

I dreamed it before

then you were there

holding me in your lonely eyes

like a lighthouse shall

dim only long enough

to light another wick

and surely

guide

sailors

to

shore

for the one who I know in my heart

knows me in hers

because you are not a stranger

and you never were.

Its shining watch

Then make me a tree

that I may reach through earth

lengthening root

climb up, take form

gather again, that moment shook

from memory never

where moon was twice its natural size

reflected in your angry eyes

sitting in idling car

my sticky throated youth

your still punching vigor

movement then, as taught immemorial

of lovers who are not yet.

watchful of your thin wrist

flickering just before touch

warm air, window down

languid stroke of time

painting all these years hence

something you have

absented from, like unpicked fruit

in turning, strange and unfamiliar

I dial that feeling

quite often

not fantasy, no

something real

painted over

turned to shellac, too hard to prize

open again

I watch her in time

the girl I was

wondering at her thoughts

as I know them almost

unformed and loose

like her hair, thicker and tumbling than now

the auburn xylophone of her back

I could fall in love with

each of us again

the blush of your pomegranate lips

how your dark eyes soak up light

extinguish it black

no wonder, I say … no wonder

yet, would I be here now?

if I had not

beseeched night in stolen lament;

if it is meant …  let her call

fate or you obey, though months had passed

a moment, as electric as fire burns oxygen

like fingers on your neck portend soft doom

female silhouettes of trees sway in night breeze

would they have whispered?

no don’t do it, don’t go, turn back

heavy keys in light fabric, jingle like steps

wide open un-rehearsed land rushing past

silence and folded roosting birds, holding their breath

it wasn’t lust

it wasn’t yet love

something other

we were always

in between, time and sense

every song written about

when you leaned, close enough

fusion then, a kind of glory

unspoken of to this day

sealing our fate

like flightless coin

run over many times

shall silver

in tarmac, make

an echo of the very stars

blessing

its

shining

watch

Again

In despair we lie respectively

in darkness surrounding

the space between us could be

one room

a continent

it feels as if, it were to yawn

the entirety would dissolve

and nothing beneath us, or above us

would exist but the sensation of falling

without end

in a starless void

it is the bind of you and I

who give color and sight to this blind time

where foes are found in family and

lovers amongst strangers, when

boats remain docked a day too long

on blighted shore

you take your injury and you wash it clean of memory

like a flag that has seen the gore of war

holding it over our heads we run

between rain storms for dry land

only to slip in quick sand

mindful

nothing you escape from, is truly gone

till it is faced head on

I turn and remember

days past where things were simpler

hate a long way off

love offered easy

children are often tricked into thinking

the pretend life, is the real thing

they grow naive and wanting

like early vines without vintage

shocked when those nurturing trees

turn hollow with disgust

disappointed in themselves, the

calcification of time as it

clogs up dreams with infernal regularity

it is said, youth is wasted on the young

I did not find that so

when falling back to earth

I found your heart beneath a river

beating for me

as I soon followed

keening for you

two parts of one stone

turned to blood

coloring water with intention

if I walked a 100 miles

the mirage forming, on tired road

would have your voice, your silhouette

the certainty of that

gives me weight enough to tread

one foot in front of the other

until somehow you find me

again

The deepest cut

an-apple-rotten-on-the-inside

It doesn’t take much to knock a bruised fruit to the floor

watch it split apart like rotted glass, shards of damp skin in slow motion

try as I might, I AM that bruised fruit

try as I might, I cannot seem to recover myself back to where

once took for granted, the feeling of wellness

it doesn’t help when someone you loved abandons you

in the middle of your darkest hour

things like that aren’t supposed to happen

people who swear allegiance and loyalty aren’t meant to

be the ones leaving your side

such is the hour and fickle fan of illnesses devour

at least I know I’d never treat someone, that poorly

despite this and because of it, healing is slower

though I suspect anything less than fire would be

I didn’t know these things beforehand

the un-annointed do not possess future perspective

to see how illness strips your childish faith, cleaves you

bare and gasping

where family didn’t need to see me, even as I spent weeks in hospitals

it cut me to the quick, but it wasn’t the first or the last

maybe preparing the groundwork for your deepest cut

they say you get used to it in time

I never have

just as I never have truly understood the cruelty within some, who profess so hard to love

now, I am a changed person

I cannot make plans like I used to, thwarted by my body, haunted by ghosts

my illness is like a cobra, she stays quietly in the leaves

rearing up when I least expect or when I want most to escape

her possession of me, the way she knows how to tickle fear

with just enough venom until I am on my knees

I am sure some would say, this is therefore; psychosomatic

that it what they tell all women of hysterical turn

I saw in your eyes when I told the horror; your own disbelief

until doctors produced the proof, you still wondered

it became apparent to me, just like with sexual assault

being believed is paramount to recovery

alongside having faith in ourselves

I did not do a good job of the latter

finding myself more alone than when I started

and I thought I started pretty alone

I know I am a survivor and I was not destroyed

yet it feels like I was

when I look inside myself and find

so little left, a house without windows

it was only because of you, I kept trying

I told you that, I said, you were holding me up

when you let go

I fell to a place I did not know existed

I wanted to ask; Couldn’t you have just waited

long enough to see me through the worst?

but you wait for nothing except your own need

I had to find a way to stand even as everything crumbled around me

which is the biggest test I ever had and I failed it

I failed it again and again

walking through the lullaby of desiring to die for so many reasons

not least, the never-ending dance with sickness and pain

but somehow I did not die, I turned instead to stone

when people say I am strong now and ask; How did you get through it?

I don’t tell them; I am not through it

I still lurch and shake in the throes of unnamed demons and at night

I feel like an arythmic god has taken me and is spinning me

on high-speed like all my parts are made of jello

I want to ask that god; what is it you are trying to shake loose?

surely you know by now there is no more fruit left

not even the rotten kind

that fell and split and sunk into earth, a long, long time ago

it is only me remaining now; leafless, without sturdy branches

I cannot rely upon myself, I cannot rely upon promises

no longer a young, untouched tree with green shoots

I am damaged, broken and hobbled, by this specter and the unknown

as much as by those I knew and trusted

asking why to the imploring void; why are we stricken down?

to what do I owe my continuing? Even as it is, insubstantial

can they see in my eyes, when I pretend, I am trying not to gag?

my appetite spirited away by the scourge and never returned

I would die of hunger and not know it

were it not for some strange determination

I don’t know where that comes from

but as I stand, it must be a place within me

does not give up, as she did not, all those years ago when

the flames licked the top of my house and burned, everything I knew to cinder

I am not like the rest of the world; stronger for my poison

nor am I able to disguise my scars

if I were asked what recommended me; I could not answer

I would probably open my mouth and howl

because you can reinvent yourself, a million times it seems

I am just one incarnation, coming apart at badly mended edges

you, who are able to vault life in gentle sprint, must mock

I am after all, just a fallen fruit, lasting as long as she can

in imperfect, bruised skin

Equal

At every juncture

The challenges are

Equal

For a five year old

First learning to fit in

Can be as painful as

A ninety year olds last breath

When we inhabit that moment

In the skin of then

We are incomparable

For one shall survive a flood

And another the passing of their favorite dog

A child may cry at a bad grade

Whilst her mother learns she must lose her breast

There are few compasses

In the search for meaning

We are not

Linear beings