she stands calmly in the shadows,
while the mirror, her vile enemy, scoffs
from the crowd of beautiful people.
they laugh and sing and dance together,
swaying carelessly with the summer breeze.
their sweet smiles bubble within her and
their softly whispered songs are
the aching longings of her soul.
the vivacity of their happiness only
magnifies the melancholy within her.
even those who call her friend seem
to shine more brightly than she ever will,
and the temporary relief their presence
yields only feeds the venomous snake
once their ways have parted.
her wholehearted efforts only seem to amplify
the effervescence with which they shine.
and when finally approached, her confidence
wavers and shrinks like a new cotton shirt,
and once again, she falls into the shadows.
cast no blame, for self-doubt is the
only train of thought she's ever known--
a vicious cycle that repeats and repeats,
chipping away at what little glow is left
i sit in my room, staring at the wall.
photographs of all shapes and sizes
and colors form an intricate and
irresistable road map for my eyes.
they scan and scrutinize the wall;
each picture draws a colorful and
the top of the ferris wheel at six
flags with the ernie to my bert,
sticky and hot, but so happy;
driving through the neighborhoods
while bass-pounding mirror-wriggling
music assaulted our ears and the hot
summer wind whistled through us;
that aching, all-consuming grin i
just could not erase after misha let
me sing a verse with him;
over a decade of confusion and
consternation about a god who
always seemed to be too busy to
answer the sincerest prayers of
a naive and innocent child;
the heart-startling jolt of
awakening to screams and cries
for countless miserable mornings;
the bitter tears spilled so often at the
realization that assuming the best
of others often leads to nasty scars.
the pictures are tacked to the wall,
an exotic map of my adolescence.
the items overlap and intertwine,
they are all connected and dependent.
he dances circles around you.
her body sways with the music
that always plays inside her head,
and she sees only her universe.
her actions are thoughtless, cruel,
and poignantly painful.
the words push their way out of
my mouth clumsily, not uncommon,
and i hope dearly that you cannot
see that they are merely a shell,
completely empty inside; they
offer momentary solace, the
knowledge that you are not the
first, and nor will you ever be the last,
person to feel like this way,
but they could never begin to slow
the hurricane of emotion raging
deep inside of your sad soul.
i feel your ache resonate within me
and i offer a friendly hug.
i cannot fix your pain.
i can only be the ears you need to
talk to, and the shoulder you need
to cry on, and the friend to help
you move on with your life.
the cliff seems higher than infinity,
and i stand on the edge, trembling.
my toes are supported by gravity
alone, and my face is raw with
the whipping of the ice-cold wind.
i cannot see the end of the drop
below me, which sparks my
terror and brings to it a
wild and vicious life.
the uncertainty is suffocating,
i can feel it burn my lungs.
call it foolishness, call it faith.
i step over the edge,
and plunge downward.
the worldwide battle,
drowned in the blood of
all races and stained with
the spittle of darkness,
had reached its last breath;
as the two unlikeliest of
heroes climbed into the liquid
fire, the bravest of them all
stood against the horde of
the last evil one.
after centuries, the king was
crowned, and the people
were freed, at last, from the
fear of the black land.
some of our heroes adventured
on to their green holes and
blooming forests and sparkling
caves, whole but seeing
the world anew.
but the rest were left
transformed, present in body
and flesh but wandering of mind.
those few gathered at the harbor
and left their tale at the docks,
marking the beginning of a new
age for their loyal companions,
another extraordinary story
never to be told.
in those concluding moments,
the last words printed so delicately,
i felt a part of my soul leave
from the harbor also.
the cessation of a story is sometimes
a wonderful and beautiful passage,
but my eyes wept the tears of
a bittersweet end to the first epic
that moved my heart to swelling delight.
as the perfectly sculpted vessel sailed
with poise into the golden sunset,
i felt another sunset within myself,
not gold but blue and purple.
it was the culmination of a fantastic
journey, and dusk fell upon me.
a lifetime has passed
i sat for hours on
that fetid bus
excitement knotted in
until we arrived and
nestled in the mountains
south and west
our cabin was on the fringe
just as i was, back then
i spread my bed and
made myself a home
days passed with
a giant swing
corn dogs in the
sand of the
and ice cream on
at the overlook
we hiked uphill
to find a waterfall
as utopian as
my foolish faith
and there we
basked under the
until i found my
i can still feel the
upon my skin
when i grew bored
i scaled to
the top and
they were a gift,
unwanted, the first
of their kind,
a lonely reminder.
they needed life,
water and a vase,
maybe a jug or jar.
so they sat there,
on the dresser,
wrapped in plastic,
bound in ugly rubber--
condemned, like me.
they did not rot,
not as i had hoped.
instead, the petals
browned under the
wrinkled and shriveled.
i let them fester the
way my heart does,
but, as if in spite,
they did not dry up.
they stole moisture--
though i cannot
and from their death
life in the form of
a fuzzy white fungus.
the thick september dusk is wrapped
in clouds of barbie pink, topped with a
royal crest of rich purple and swirls
of orange creamsicle, slowly fading
into a smoky gray slate.
the air is cooled, complemented by a
crisp breeze that loosens the dying leaves
from their precarious perches atop the
firm pennsylvania maples.
together, we walk through the thick of
the forest, guided only by the skeleton of
an old railroad track, bending and twisting.
our sense of adventure has led us away from
the tiny park, past the dilapidated basketball
courts, and onto the former highway of a
belching beast, forgotten and replaced by
its sleek and faster baby brother, SEPTA.
our rusty path is lined with dying weeds,
turned from lusty green to dull brown by
the creeping chill and the burning sun.
conversation passes between us, topics
that have since slipped my mind because
they are as unimportant as the napkins
we threw in the trash an hour beforehand.
at first, i am on autopilot; we discourse, but
my answers are not considered.
my eyes are glued upon the rise and fall
of my black sneakers, white laces turned
boring brown, and the dust they kick up
with each and every footstep.
moments pass as hours, when suddenly i am
compelled to stop.
when i first lift my eyeballs, the world
spins and bends and loses focus--
maybe those were not just mushrooms
on my pizza? but no, just an illusion.
when i regain my eyesight, i can view
a family of deer--the proud father on
guard and adorned with a crown of antlers,
a skittish mother watching with careful
observation, and three children, halfway
grown; when i realize how long i have
been staring and that you must be long
gone, i look up, but there you stand,
closely regarding the family as i was.
and when i follow your gaze, they
are gone, vanished.
without speaking, we both silently agree
that we must research the disappearing
deer, so we begin to climb downward.
the bank is steep, but lined with thick
branches, dying grips and stepping stones.
we make our way down and find
the river sprawling in front of us like
a lazy snake making its way home, to the
bright point slowly sinking into the horizon.
an impossibly big maple sits on the levee,
and giant roots make wonderful benches,
so we sit ourselves among the beautifully
colored ground of late fronds, and i light
a cigarette, my own slow death.
the delaware tributary gurgles around us,
and for those few minutes, we are totally
silent; i can taste the death in my mouth,
but i do not wash it away--i must remember.
after the moment has passed, we ascend the
slope and resume our trek along the pathway.
"what is that!?" you ask suddenly.
i follow your pointing finger and at first,
i only see the never-ending tail of power lines.
but i look further, and i see something odd--
a non-sequitor, a cluster of red in the trees.
"i can't tell," i reply. "it's too far."
"it's unnatural. we must investigate."
again, we let our feet carry us along, but
now we have a destination.
"i wonder what i could be," i say aloud.
"it must be a tic-tac," you answer.
my brow furrows and i question you with
amusement. "a tic-tac?"
"yes! doesn't it look like a tic-tac?"
i examine the clump, and see it is oblong.
"the shape is right," i say slowly. "maybe
it is a cinnamon tic-tac."
"exactly," you reply. "it is a giant red tic-
tac, just sitting here in the trees!"
"i wonder what it is waiting for?"
"another giant, a giant person," you
speculate. "yes," i continue, "it must
be waiting for somebody with a big enough
mouth to come along and slurp it up."
as our feet draw us closer, the clump gets larger
and larger, and its definition begins to wane.
"a giant tic-tac, right here under our noses,"
you say. "what are the odds?"
after what seems like an eternity, we are finally
close enough to examine it fully--surprise!
it is only a thicket turned red by its annual death.
it is a sultry dance we share;
your feet lead, mine follow.
your smile is charming as
always, but i cannot perceive
the words on the tip of
your tongue, nor will you
put them to flight.
you are perpetually at an
arm's length; our fingertips
seem to touch sometimes,
but you never let me close
enough for an embrace.
so i will wait in the wings,
and perhaps some day
i will be more than your
it was not much--
just a photograph
a nearly empty room
a plain white frame
a smattering of studio lights
perhaps she is leaving
packing her life into
carefully categorized boxes
or maybe she is
just beginning to let
her roots expand,
drink freedom, independence
this heart was accidental,
she said with a crooked smirk,
pointing at the wall
most hearts are,
no longer a true human being, not really
a tangled web of hurt and anger and
confusion and physical pain and
depression and fear
lost, useless, paralyzed
doped like a drunken dog
doped with careless disregard
a bundle of nerves held together with
tissue paper, tearing slowly
the pressure increases steadily daily
it squishes my brain and
squashes my heart, already close to broken
slipping hands scrape and beg for a tether
they used to be strong, steady
now they are willowy, cracked
there is no back-up; there is no safety net
just me, tearing at the seams
ready to implode
a dying star inhaling
its last breath
ready to disappear
just a small, glowing ball of matter
the remnants of my soul
i wonder what it is about you
that makes me so damn crazy?
i only wanted my sandals,
but you wouldn't let me be civil.
so i snarked, and you snapped.
i can only wish i'd never asked.
an entire lifetime, irrelevant;
the years i invested,
the patience i threw at you,
the second chances i gave,
the forgiveness i offered,
all squashed because of sandals.
i only wanted my shoes back;
you wanted to abuse me again,
you wicked little bully.
i only asked for a little understanding;
you slammed the door in my face,
you ungrateful little cunt.
six years ago,
i could not have imagined
my life without you in it.
i cannot imagine my life
without the pain you
cause me daily.
i must let it go.
now i am
spread too thin,
tearing the seam,
pulled to breaking;
i am tired.
our friendship was
just a game to you,
it is your move.
feet glued to concrete
limbs shaking wildly
pulse has tripled
i cannot move
anguish cries out
i am surrounded
the perfect storm
anger swirls menacingly
doubt trembles in fear
loathe strikes electric
i cannot focus
my eyes have blurred
was that a smile
or a bullet?
i am lost
followed only by
with evil thoughts
i am the afflicted
my emblem exposed
naked, they see me
for the child i am
their tears have dried up
just empty words remain
i am alone now
stranded with shaky hands
and too many orange bottles
the words will not come
they, too, have left me
so i sit
and i cry
but nobody hears
my salty tears slip
down my cheeks
and sizzle away
as a child
the best toys
the coolest clothing
more play time
less school time
my own room
the stars at my fingertips
more more more
and i want
but the things
are like grains
of sand slipping
i always knew
there was more beneath,
but you hid behind
your mask, indifferent,
but in the car that night,
your facade slipped.
you were quite drunk,
but so honest i almost
did not know how to react;
you revealed to me a
part of yourself,
that dark, terrified part of
you, and you held it in
shivering hands, extended
over the emergency brake
like an olive branch.
it was this night i first
realized you are much
smarter than you let on,
and that this man you
pretend to be is a disguise.
if you never open yourself
again, you will never be hurt
again; but you will never know
true friendship, true love,
so i took this part of you
and i locked it away in
my soul, and there it will
memories are only fragments,
flashes of color, a vagrant scent,
even a song or a story;
but i cling to these fragments,
the shadows of a good man.
soft and hoarse, but so powerful,
like a breeze, gentle as a
feather at first, but of fickle
and increasing ferocity,
until my hairs are splayed like
flailing limbs and the trees bend
like dark green pipe cleaners.
your voice always calmed
me, the way you told stories.
i felt the characters alive within
my soul, burning and existing
like fiery candles,
and i saw their adventures
in my minds' eye, so vivid.
older than you were,
which was ancient to my tiny
you cared for them like you
cared for us, tender, firm,
and just perfect.
you gave that love to my
mother, and through her, me.
your claw of a hand,
always curled in disbelief,
always squeezing and trying.
you used your good hand,
the untouched hand,
to write in that block print.
i still have a card, buried
somewhere deep in the
underground of my cave,
my prized possession.
always finding ways to
entertain our wandering minds.
so simple, but so enthralling.
you always let me win.
ever-smiling, even at
her musty, ruined funeral.
you always found a way
to say the perfect thing,
a way to make me laugh
through tears, crack a
grin through my blind,
so cold; my salty tears
left icicles on my heaving cheeks;
the wind stung and made
me want to yell "GO AWAY!"
just your favorite people there,
crowded around a grave impossibly
tiny, and i wondered how
you survived without her for so long.
i remember that feeling,
that burning in my throat--
sometimes i still feel it--
and i remember the poem
he read for us, so simple but so
i cried for days and weeks,
i choose to remember your beauty.
once, there was a little girl
who was so many things.
she loved books, because
they helped her imagine,
and she loved music,
because it resonated.
she took pictures with
her mother's old cameras,
and she laughed constantly.
her hair was bright and blonde,
her eyes green and hopeful.
she had a beautiful family,
she believed in god with
all of her soul,
and she cared for so many
people, so many things.
this little girl was healthy,
but more importantly,
she was happy.
utterly, totally, completely happy.
but when adolescence came
and her changes began,
something terrible happened.
everything that made that little
girl happy was robbed from her,
and she found herself naked,
stripped of all naivete,
wondering what had happened.
this little girl grew up.
she saw the ugliness all around
her, and she could not help
but reflect and absorb it.
the ugliness made her cry,
nearly every day, and
it broke her heart.
now, this little girl is dead.
in her place stands an android.
this imposter looks nearly the same;
the features seem right,
though the hair is much darker,
and the eyes are the same color.
but it is just a shell.
the smiles are false and the
laughter is merely a habit.
she gets high,
she even cries.
but of all those things,
only one is sincere.
this girl is a fraud,
she is not real,
she is not.
like a fire,
the noise is
front of us,
blades on a
into the pit
and we laugh,
and we have
the hell out
with so much
to catch a
it will be
far too soon;
but her life
is a daily
the air bites at my nose
like an icy mosquito,
and raindrops plop onto
the roof and the giant
green, car-shaped tarp.
beads adorn the pointed
branches of the conifer
like tiny, fleeting noses;
they leap from their
makeshift perches into
the frosty darkness
of the garden below,
joining their brethren,
already pooling together.