When we are supposed to laugh

She runs her hands along the grain, movement a stain

hearing rust loosen and turn to red and green exquisitely

grief lies her head slower in time

perhaps given enough, doors opening to learn

why she holds her hand over her mouth so long

as her sisters, once younger and afraid, nesting behind her skirts

flew from their hinged cages, they had less fear than she

though in truth it is not fear that stays her hand

but a lament she was born with, hearing in her crib, the press of tragedy

Like some will carry lanterns, light darkest paths, for others to step towards

as her sisters learn to speak new language and grow like hungry ivy

she feels the pit of her stomach open and a seedling sprout from within

it hurts so much to grow internally, like a miscarriage refusing to leave

she holds on to every moment as thick rope will choke, if you let it

she must drive it out of her

but how to divorce the parts necessary for survival? Retain a whole?

from those who seek to devour

as light will find a way into a closed off room

distinction slowly lost, leaving shadows to dance on clean tile

the smell of another day, unsure, it is about all time before, come to now

see her lying still, as untouched water in glassy gloom

how she wished to follow their burning quilled footsteps

higher into turquoise forest where even now, laughter can be heard

below surface where nothing stirs, but slow tread of one who is neither alive nor perished

but fragment awaiting its missing part

she thought so often it was you, and then her empty hands

demonstrate

the futility of wishing

for we are free only when, we claim nothing but the words growing in our gut

urging us to cry when we are supposed to laugh

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The road

At first the road seemed seemed impassable

Such a long distance with no sighted end

90 pounds was

A hollow eyed effigy, struggling not to drown

100 pounds was

A sickened mouth, forcing itself to swallow and chew

110 pounds was

A hunger to gain lost appetite, swill of food laying heavy with each urged step

120 pounds growing muscle

Punching the fuck out of weakness and despair

125 the goal, she fought, her joints bloody and plastered together

When she arrived, her body, her mind, her vibrating soul, she stood and cried

At the distance she’d travelled, cracked knuckles captured in dried clay

Stretching like bad memories, bleached by unrelenting sun

In spite of this, still, a flower is able to bloom

Endure

Along with recovery

I had wished

For one neighbor’s heart to heal, as he tried to mend a leak

Another, to survive the scouge of sudden cancer

For the little bird to find her red box

Fill it with branches and lay her eggs

Nestled blue against the hope of frail humans

For rebirth and warmer days

When the winds were the only thing to die

And maybe the scold in a voice, twisting the knife

Yes, wish it away, along with traces of fear

You have survived the winter, you are still here

The same curled toes and cold fingers, clinging on

If you don’t die, you live, and that’s what you find

As false friends fall and new are born

As spring gathers her skirts and grass turns from brown to hopeful green

As your neighbor touches your hand and his eyes speak

Of the simple gratitude of caring

You didn’t receive it where you thought it would be

There are branches higher up than you can see

Maybe the little bird right now is looking for her nesting

And just like you, she seeks the comfort of knowing

If you make your home warm and secure

They can huff and puff

But you will

Endure

Expansion

Gaining weight used to feel

dangerous

body parts blowing up, smothering familiarity

she wanted to be in control of everything and nothing could be controlled

so she took what she could instead …

her own flimsy pounds of flesh

the shrinking and expanding of time

denial and suppression, weezing like old men

enraptured by ballet dancer who starves herself to death

if she ignored her bodies longing to transform, she stayed small

and boys could circle her waist and say; you haven’t changed a bit! She could believe the lie and retrace time

could still be a slip of a girl, wearing her old clothes from when she was free of the demands of adulthood and blood, blood that did not rinse clear even when scrubbed

and this she did, for far too long, for fear of else

for what more was she? Not a mother, not since hurtling down the stairs, pushed by love, she saw her baby break into knots of placenta and gore

now not sure of whom she had become, in absenting herself it was easier, to dwell in the old shell and not

expand

comfort in knowing one’s exact circumfrance

and how it would feel to place a hand upon her flesh

a control without anything behind it, empty strawman, left without match to kindle, burn and diminish

she stayed the same whilst the rest of the world changed

grew wider, grew taller, grew inside and out

she was a fascimile of her damp past

it wasn’t until a sickening reduced her to almost empty

where she rattled and she clacked and she was hollow cheeked and pigeon chested

then her heart flickered on and off and she knew

the danger of staying still, was too great

she ate, though the taste was gone and appetite nil

outgrowing her own well known shape, she became something new

it was a frightening feeling to find what she would be

now that she had turned the corner and let the adult in

would she be like her mother with tiny little legs and arms?

or more of her father’s broad shoulders and freckled stomach

she was nobodies lover and nobodies mother

it hurt to cut herself out of the place she’d been so long, though long stale

and try to break out on her own, one unfamiliar piece at a time

in the bath she would gaze at her new body

bearing the marks of where she had visited

the underworld and the center of the sun

burning and drowning simultaneously

Her chest resembled the teets of a tiger, her thighs wide and strong

Readied to climb mountains, burst dams, forge expectancy

nothing else seemed important least of all

if she fitted into or fitted out of

the places she used to belong

this was a new version

she was going to gain more

than mere pounds and stone

she was going to quit starving to remain familiar

and learn the value of expansion

Fixed on open door

If you said today

Run away

I’d reply

I’m too old of heart for taking chances

And yet

If I could leave behind

These footprints of hell

I’d turn my bag inside out

Leave the clothes that made me and now don’t fit

They can hang on tree limbs for another girl

Who hankers after fushia and magnolia

If you can live without

A stomach

I’d set mine free

And empty as a cloud, run

In your direction toward the sea

Where salt spray would take the last

Residue of this awful time, turning back horror

Remind me of joy I once took as permanent

Clamboring through live oak, like fairy folk,

Rays of light like stars shine down from sky

Happy dogs, wet with run, tongues lolling, espie March rabbit

The thin stream between content and crestfallen

Just one turn of fate and all you cherished is gone

Reclaiming yourself somehow, among the fallen

How can you expect to thrive when pain halts every nuance?

A burden you do not know how to lift, for it

Wakes you every dawn with insisted sickening

And if you could, you’d disguard the parts that betray you

Run into the heartlands with nothing more than release

And the long legged stride of a creature unwilling

To be shared

For you are a child of this world and no harm is meant

To slow your step, as you cleave toward pilgrimage

One flat foot in front of the other

Setting prints in ochre mud for generations

Where they will ask, how did she keep trying?

Despite the steapness of the trail

And the lapse into despair, how did she

Keep her compass set?

If you said today

Run away

I’d reply

I’m too old of heart for taking chances

And yet …

One foot follows freedom even as the other

Chaffs against chain

It is in my nature, to seek the wild

Among nature, reclaim, loss of liberty

Trying to pin me to insect board

Dry up my dreams, pack away the urge

You haven’t claimed all of me

As long as a part stays

Fixed on open door

I will in time defeat this shackle

Turning into a bird

Threading my flight far

From your waning power.

If you said today

Run away

I’d reply

I’m too old of heart for taking chances

And yet

I want the girl who was just there a moment ago

Who stood on tip-toes and wore clothes twenty years too young

Who didn’t brush the back of her hair and ate with her mouth lolling

If it were a matter of wishing myself better, I’d sell it all and start over empty handed

Reclaim the lost self, in the strange soup of sickness that makes enemies of us

I want to wake up and be, a girl of air and sea and breath

I want to feel whole and no longer racked by hurt

Go forward in time and reclaim what is lost

make me well again, said the child, in the girl, in the woman.

Advocating

She used to tell other girls

Sista! Stand up for yourself!

And when others needed her voice

She lent her ROAR

Don’t be quiet and let them walk over you, she cautioned

But when it came to her own

She sat demure, a photo in old box

Doe eyed and blinking

Knees together, ironed hair

Palms touching in supplicate

Head keenly nodding on hot wire

Stomach lurching like unmoored ship, drunk on the dream of voyage

All the while

A scream building inside

NO! NO! NO!

I am not a number to be parceled and coded

Spat out and told, we have no answers, for we have no understanding of the soul

I FEEL and in the night, if you listen closely at my door you’ll hear me pray

To every spirit and four leaf clover, even, the lopsided rabbit in my arms

As time flickered away with each new day of sickness

She needed an advocate

To be her unguarded voice

Which had become lost

In all the twists and turns.

And the tall doctor

He was no mind-reader

He had his well rehearsed routine and could if needed, click his ankles in mid-jump

She wasn’t easy to label and dismiss

Nor did she want to be, a compliant good girl

She wanted to question until they dragged her out into the street

Writhing to the sound of her own outrage

That we are abandoned by medicine in our most desperate hour

Leaving unhealed like scabs, without voices, our ill tended shadows

She wanted to understand

And find ways that didn’t involve dependency upon pills

He was a blonde marionette, testing his overbite

Talking in her head, Yak yak yak

The sound of chomping wood and splinters for lunch

She heard no future

Unless she spoke up

But where was her tongue?

Where had it gone?

Fortune cookie

A girl who used to look forward to dinner and a movie

The simple pleasure of walking hand in hand with stillness and a harvest moon

was handed a poisoned fortune cookie

caught a virus, and that virus crawled into her stomach, like a ray gun

it changed the waves until, her stomach like arrythmia of the heart

was fitful and lurched

she was instantly sickened, from a person of health she turned

green

her body shut down and said

no, I don’t want to eat

dimly she remembered the days

she would lust and long for food

her appetite completely gone, the acidic growl of her stomach

held all dominion

she was slave to nausea 24/7

like a merciless dictator it left her no peace

even in the lingering hours of night

she woke bathed in sweat

her stomach somersaulting in wicked mirth

such a terrible feeling of imbalance and sickness

her hands gripped the sides of the toilet

she prayed until her head ached

for nothing could have prepared her

nothing assuaged the constant torture

every day of every day

she began to imagine

her death

fondly like a fantasy

and then when she realized what she was doing

she would cry until the crying

made her sicker and she had to stop

bottle all the anquish up

but there was nowhere to throw it, or store it or let it free

it built higher like a fortress

locking her out of life

days, weeks, months went by

she was captured between glass

unable to eat or drink without throwing up

or wishing she never had to try to chew, force food in green bilious mouth

perhaps it was punishment for a former life

where she was greedy and ate too much

or tormented the Fates with the heal of her shoe

it seemed definitely karmic punishment

just as her will to live, ran thin and irregular

sometimes imperceptable

like arrythmia pulses below the surface

that would not quiet or return to normal

disturbing former calm we take for granted

a girl who used to look forward to dinner

sits at a quayside cafe, drinking empty glasses

eating plates without food

staring at turbulent water rise and fall

waves crashing without sequence, into wet wood

holding back or pushing forward, who knows?

one day either the sea will admit defeat, or erode everything

and that is how I will be free, she says

to carefree birds overhead, yet to be struck down

they know not their good fortune