Rachael P Presley
for a moment, the word stops breathing,
your heart quits pumping and bleeding in the
only healthy way it knows how.
there is silence—and then there isn’t, not anymore,
the sky is shattered by lightning and your
pulse jumps with every rumble, your body flinches with
every roar and the sky is turning far darker than it was a minute before,
the wind is like a turbine, going round and round and round,
tearing, ripping, and seething, you can see the clouds descending,
you’ve been through this time and again and you know the power
this twirling cloud will be rendering, you should be inside,
you can hear Mike Morgan yelling over the static of your TV
“prepare yourselves for the damage this will bring!
hide under mattresses, bathtubs, if you must under the kitchen sink!”
it’s coming your way, it’s picking up speed and you try not to imagine
what has made up the debris, you come to your senses,
realize it’s real, accept the fact that it’s not a drill, you grab who you can,
you shove them down stairs, you start counting heads and start saying prayers,
the cellar is dusty, you choke for clean air but it’s howling outside
and you know you won’t find any out there, metal is screeching,
someone is screaming, sirens are bleating out to anyone who cares,
it takes three men alone to make sure the door doesn’t tear off it’s hinges
in the height of the scare—and suddenly it’s over, you can’t here anything from anywhere.
the world again stands still, but it isn’t holding it’s breath,
it’s watching a thousand electric sparks die a last death.
you push against the doors, you need to breathe better air
and you can hear someone telling you that you need to take care,
but you push and you shove and you break free of your prison,
you climb out to see how your world has faired,
but there isn’t
I feel as though I have an obligation,
A duty, you could say, to address something
We ignore almost everyday.
Washington walks on, head high
Strutting around like it owns civil liberties,
Like hearing its name is something so profound.
So I think I’ll ask what gives you the right
To tell my best friend who fights with herself
In the dark, at night, who cries herself to sleep
Because of the hardest decision of her life,
That she can’t make this choice with her own mind?
That it’s wrong when you’re so right, about things
And what gives you the final say on my brother
And his boyfriend, and their wedding day?
Oh, the bible does? Really? Okay.
Because you know there is such a thing
As separation of church and state, I’m sure.
And if religion, if God is your problem,
Where is your scorn? Why aren’t atheists and agnostics being burned
At the stake because of your proverbial witch hunt?
Ah, right, because discrimination is against the law,
And law is something you can’t shun in light
Of running a political race, or else have your own medicine
Shoved in your face.
If God is the only thing you can think to use
To your political values that are so terribly flawed,
Did you ever stop to think that I don’t believe in Him,
That maybe I like mine better, He accepts us all.
Honestly, tell me please, how in the hell you expect
To get my vote with all your arrogant decrees?
I sincerely hope before you run, you rethink your thesis’s,
Or before you go around telling me who I can and cannot be.
So what if I don’t believe your God,
Your religion or how you live it?
What if I believe in exhibits, or Dr. Seuss?
But that’s not really the point, is it?
Falling apart and falling for you
have, to me, never been more similar or more hated.
God forbid you make this bearable for anyone else but yourself—
--so I warn you now. Be careful. Play with fire and you get burned,
a witch hunt, I think, and I’ll make sure that I’m the one who
lights the match to light the pyre, if you put me through this again
because my resolve is no longer the consistency of water.
I won’t pretend to know you love me, or know you care, because I
most certainly do not. I don’t know anything about you anymore
except the disaster you left when you left and your personal brand of disgust
for cleaning up your own mess. I’m not a girl anymore. I won’t be taken in
by you, by things you do, or by the way you look at me in the light of the moon.
There are no second chances here, just last tries—and this is yours. This is not
a game, I am not a prize, and this situation is far too dangerous for you to think otherwise.
However, you are arrogant, and proud, and cruel, and fool enough to dismiss this warning
for scorn from the very woman you burned. After all, hell hath no fury and the fire there
burns, and burns, and burns. But you refuse to know that. Know that I swear I will rip your beating
black artery out of your chest if you leave this time.
There are no second chances here, just last tries.
...So this is super old. Like, at least three years.
Twenty-years old and still wishing on shooting stars
Because a part of you is still naïve and dying
A last breathe for who you are
Paper-mache hearts aren’t going to cut it this time
They can’t fix your house of fallen cards
And at the end of the day you’ll tell yourself
You’re worth it
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
Sometimes it’s so hard to breathe
It’s all you can do to pull your hair and put your head
In between your knees
Pray to God it’ll be over soon,
Because the emptiness is sinking you like lead
Dead-weight on the bottom of the ocean
But you’re worth it
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
You ignore their questioning looks with headstrong stubbornness
Though your nails are biting through your skin
You refuse to run from this
Not this time, not ever again, let them look
At a twenty year old virgin who’s never been on a date
Because she’s got more faith in herself
Because she knows she’s worth it
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
They don’t understand why you refuse the boys who ask you
And you won’t tell them it’s because they’re not right,
As a sure as the rising moon
That you just have to keep waiting and wishing
On How, Why, and Who
Keep on throwing those pennys down wells
When it’s all you’ve got
When you know you’re worth it
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
Nights are the hardest, you know from experience
It would be so easy to put on that little black dress and find a willing stranger
To break the rose-tented lens
To feel some affection, even if it’s only for a moment
To feel something different
Than desperate hopeful prayers to a paradise that doesn’t seem to care
But you respect yourself too much for that
And you have to believe it’s worth it
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
Some days are worse than others
And you lose yourself in music, choke on your frustrated screams
Try to convince yourself you don’t feel nearly as smothered
And suffocated, as you want to be
Even though you’re smart and there’s more to life than love
The only thing that can be felt is that someone missing,
And oh God, you pray you’re worth it
It runs like mantra pounding through your head
(I am, I am, I am, I am)
(You are, you are, you are, you are)
You say you've got it all figured out,
got the science down at age nine-teen.
I roll my eyes, because that's just silly.
I'm older than you by a year at least,
but regardless, I watch you hitch your
skirt up and strap your heels on before
leaving the house. You think I'm crazy
to stay around only to meander about
in my fuzzy socks and stained sweatshirt.
I'll have you know that I actually quite
enjoy my one-women tea parties with
Ms. Austin and the Bronte girls on a
Friday night. At least I won't get a head
ache from strobe-lights and my utter
confusion when it comes to pretty-looking
cocktails. I realize I probably won't be
seeing you until midmorning anyway
when you stumble rather impressively
into the kitchens still in your club clothes.
You'll make a disgusted noise at my
pillow fort, my coloring books, my
towering stack of certifiable Disney
DVDS and I will pretend not to notice
that you smell like stale sweat, alcohol,
You will feel compelled to tell me all
about him, all about them, all about all
of last night--down to the last disturbing
detail--and I will burry my face in my cereal
so you can't see the faces I'm making.
Undoubtedly you are bragging
(or so you think), but really, I'd rather
not have had so-and-so pawing at me
all night, because neither you nor I
know where he's been, and I personally
find no appeal in waking up in someone
else's unfamiliar room because my comforter
is super soft and fluffy and I feel like a
princess when I go to bed all clean
and cute in my PJs. This way I can get up
whenever I want and take a shower and
be loud and not have to put the seat up
when I pee or quietly try and find my way
out of someone else's home.
Also, I'm lazy most of the time so
I definitely wouldn't like the walk
home so early in the day. I have to say
that I much prefer my crayons to your
aspirin, my forts to your mysterious
bathrooms, my imaginary sword fights
to your hike home. Most importantly,
I like waking up regretting nothing the
previous the night except that I didn't
get to watch all of Mulan and what her
reflection really shows.
My heart hurts for you.
For the swirling ashes
You call home. The burning
Embers, the paper smoke
You call your soul. Thunder—
It was like thunder. A thick cloud,
Dense enough to smother the sun.
Silence settles deep in my bones. I
Breathe you in, and you constrict
My throat. You looked like snow
On the streets below.
My eyes were wide, my beliefs were
Stolen. I watched you crash, dust
To dust, and so many hearts
Were broken. The taste of
Horrifying defeat sinks in, like
You do, bitter and reeking of
Concrete and steal. And I saw
You fall, I saw you fall. I saw you
Bend and break, I saw the end of it
All. It looked like a hot knife
Cutting through butter, but the knife
Was on fire you and you were
Determined not to be deterred
From the stairwell where you heard
Every shattered window screeching
Like titanium steal, beseeching you—
Listen to the warning, 93 flights away.
But you’re on fire, on my tongue.
A reminder of the two-thousand
seven-hundred and forty-eight things I
Yes, my heart hurts for you, my son.
There are things you can’t fix
broken broken broken
like hearts on a string.
It’s a terrible thing not to believe in love—
“In love,” What does that even mean
except being in lust hung upon a ring?
I don’t know what I know anymore,
because dreams fall like castles and kings.
The weight of the world rests on the shoulders
of a fragile butterfly flying with fairy wings
who still tries to believe there’s a prince in
blue jeans waiting just around the corner
ready to show her what happily-ever-after
means, because reality is a cold and dark place
to be, where its easy to get lost when lost is
all you can be. Just like that, a light can go out,
a candle burning in your heart snuffed like the
end of a shooting star. The rest of us are so far
gone, so far lost there isn’t anything left but a
long walk home in the dark. So I won’t wish on
and-made-me-cry. I’ll only wish on stars who shine
bright where they are on this path of mine. It’s
a long way back to where I started from, and there
are monsters out there awaiting my way a ways from
here. So best be on your guard and take care, because
its the most terrible thing, not believe in love if its there.
i understand now why some people do it—
shred their wrists so something can escape,
can breathe, can force its way out of your skin—
drip drip drip like the sink faucet that doesn’t
quite work, because at least drip drip drip isn’t
choking on the nothing you can’t say or gasping
for things you wish you could feel and it only
leaves you clawing for heartbreak with bloodied hands
and ripped fingernails like
and drip drip drip and screams that echo in your
mind like a mantra instead of tearing from your
throat and if a tree falls but nobody is around to hear it
does it still make a sound? does it? does it?
drip drip drip like steady clockwork, but maybe not
the sane kind, just the kind that’s losing something--like
your mind or possibly blood, and you know it isn’t healthy,
it’s a sickness, a disease, a different kind of drug addiction
and the syringe needle is leaking drip drip drip until its
too late and you just drift drift drift away and your
heart explodes without oxygen but at least you feel it,
and even when you’re too far away to hear it, you know
you’re drip drip dripping.
Lights out, it’s a quiet one tonight.
Watch the firelights in the windows blow out,
dim the world so it’s okay,
because tonight is for yourself and a little pain.
when silence cuts the cords
holding up the tension you conveniently forgot
to mention to anyone else
and it falls on your shoulders,
where it breaks like glass,
even though you’re older
and this isn’t supposed to happen anymore.
Tonight at midnight you’ll let go,
and fight against yourself,
stuck in this special kind of hell
that only exists when the clock strikes twelve.
And you hide from the shadows on the wall,
the ones that watch your graceless fall from dignity's esteem,
though later I’m sure you’ll take back
every “God save me,”
that you whispered on a broken lisp from your split lip
bleeding from biting so hard, no one can hear,
there can’t be anything too loud from the part of you
that screams about how smiling is an art you’ve perfected,
even as it’s laughing at how disgusting you are in your head.
You know you’re a disaster at best.
There’s something to be said for lonely nights at midnight:
You’re a lot stronger by the first sight of dawn
(though by that time it usual feels like you’re too far gone).
I imagine that if she could,
the scissor-tailed fly-catcher would
cut, small and thin, but stinging so sharp,
so deep it would nick your soul.
I imagine that the vulture would sneer at his peers in
the throws of death as they gasp for breath,
fighting for their lives, and he would laugh.
Silly bird, he would think, you can’t
And he would swoop down upon them so
they could see that he was coming,
the avian grim reaper watching their fear.
And after they died he would peck at their souls,
their dreams, their goals.
I imagine that the canary so small, bright, and pure flits her
way through life on the trade-wind’s whim.
She would not know of weaponized
words or the cold regard for another’s life.
And I imagine that if I were a bird, I would
be a robin, redredred with rage barley contained,
but silent still till I let it bubble and build
and I, I would know why the caged bird sings.
You once asked me how I made sense of anything.
Most people think in terms of files and boxes,
where they store the contents of their head.
I have arrows that point up-ways and down-ways,
left-ward and right-ward. The things that I can deal
with disappear into vapor and the things I can’t stay
chasing each-other around—names, faces, and words
that are stuck—impassible, unmovable,
and what I am against such a force like that?
I don’t even know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing—
you keep telling me that if I applied myself I’d be great,
but I don’t want to be great because great people
always die terrible tragic deaths because that’s just
how the story’s supposed to end and all I want is to be
un-confused and not uncertain and straight and narrow
on the straight and narrow, but I can’t because paths
don’t work like that, not real ones, they’re twisty
and uncontrollable and I just keep going until I don’t know
where I am anymore, but it isn’t Kansas, except I don’t
know that because I’ve never been to Kansas,
although I don’t think Kansas has the monsters that crawl
around in my head or the skeletons buried in my eyes,
but it doesn’t matter because I’ve got a road to walk and
I won’t even try and make sense of any of it, ever,
because like a dead great person who died a terrible tragic
death once said, that way lies madness.
I’m tired and I don’t want to be alone anymore
so take me away from home,
away from broken bottle dreams
and a despair I can call my own.
Exhaustion creeps in,
deeper than my bones, something so cold
it settles in my soul like an old house
that’s been around since ashes to ashes
we all fall down.
I’m tired and I don’t want to be home anymore,
so take me away from here because clearly,
this isn’t very healthy; this isn’t helping me find a cure
to my incurable disease
called Psychiatry for Free,
in which various persons will call me
at four o’clock in the AM
begging me talk
them out of a hanging
by a lynch mob of ones self.
I guess it really can’t be helped,
I’ll just have to get out myself.
I’m so tired, and I don’t want to go anymore,
So don’t bothering taking me away,
because I’ll have deleted this messages
and you’ll again be blind forevermore.
God blesses your hands, takes them both
and lifts you so you can stand.
This is your homecoming,
a long time in coming,
72 years, eleven months, and one week
you’ve been running this race, so I think
we can afford a little grace when you sprint
the last mile, so strong and sweet
into your Father’s open arms.
And you know those angles leading you away
ain’t got nothing on you, not even reasons for you
to stay. And they’ll be trying hard, cause they know
they haven’t got a thing compared to your heart.
This is your homecoming,
a final graduation, a certification you’ve done
right by life. And we’ll still be here singing
sacred Somns from the earth you once called
your own, waiting to see you smile in the wind
even though your gone. And we are so happy
for you, but we’re still human, and selfish,
so we’re a little sad and regretful too.
But we won’t ever stop missing you,
cause this is your homecoming,
and the Lord says it’s time to
go along. And when you see us again
you’ll be so proud, cause we’re going to
keep on, and we’re going be strong,
and we’re going give this life every last bit of fight
we’ve got just like you did. So we’ll let you go,
for a little while, for your homecoming.
Cause someday we’ll be coming home too.
Another Saturday night
spent breaking up bar fights,
and fixing things
that have nothing to do with me.
I wonder at how we got here.
These sleepless nights are killing me,
dreaming of your broken bottle sins.
I know there was a beginning,
but I can’t see the end.
I feel your dependence like a weight
stacked high with all of your tonics,
sour beer, your wine, your gin.
God, I am just so tired,
I feel broken, bent, used
and used again.
I can’t stand it when you call me “friend”
like I was something more to you
than a person to vent to.
I’ve always been the person you went to
because I know you better than the floor
you see more and more of everyday
passed out over like a dead man.
You wish you were a dead man.
I almost do, too.
At least that way I wouldn’t have to listen,
listen to you, your life,
everything I hate about you.
But I won’t say a word.
I’ll just pick up your world, your bottle
and all the pieces of pretentious bravado
you dropped when you walked
through that front door.
I hate my job, but I hate you more.
You are told to steel yourself.
You are told not to hesitate,
Not to waste precious, valuable time.
If they look dead or dying, do not think.
Leave them and move on.
Do not look into their eyes.
You are told to steel yourself.
Nothing could have prepared you
For what lie behind those white doors.
They told you,
This is War.
You find time is relevant, here in the ward.
It is hard to distinguish between used-to-be white walls
And never-again white floors.
Your world is white and red.
Time is measured by lost arms/legs/death.
Time looks upon you and knows,
This is War.
You know you’ve been here too long
When there are more ghosts in the room than people.
More soldiers are wheeled in,
Your breath catches.
These are not soldiers, these are boys.
These are children.
The blue eyes looking up at you fade,
In his hand there is a red ribbon.
You cannot tell if it started out that way.
The ghost reminds you,
This is war.
The ground is quaking again.
Your heart hammers in your chest
Because it is too close, so close,
But not close enough.
Quiet suddenly you can no longer hear,
Not the screams or the shattering,
The sounds of the world falling apart and landing at your feet,
They are drowned out by an eerie white noise
You will forever associate with the word
No one has moved.
They are either dead or in shock.
Everything is breaking and you cannot quiet shake that this,
This is war.
You open the only door, the only escape.
Beyond those four walls
Is the nothingness left behind by the absolute
Obliteration of your universe.
This is not Death, you think.
You stare Death in the face everyday/hour/minute
And beat it back with brute force and titanium will.
No, you think. No.
This is war.
This is war.
I don’t want near your pre-k rhyming stanzas,
your backstabbing friends, your sky-scraper tall tales,
your hopelessirrevocableunrequited “love”, or your non-beating heart.
I don’t want to know why it breaks when your significant other of one week
ends your relationship with a three worded grammatically incorrect sentence
You aren’t a magazine and I do not want a subscription to your issues.
You want to cry? Fine, but don’t do it here.
I wouldn’t touch your “Feelings” with a ten foot poll,
not your heart, not your head and most certainly not your soul.
So don’t ask. I might actually punch you in the face.
Find somebody who can stand reading the words
“u r mi luv an now I h8 u” more than once.
You want expression? Go find an art room.
This is the English language. There are rules.
You don’t like rules? They don’t like you either,
but they’re the reason you’ll still be alive when you’re thirty
and not in the bottom of some ditch.
Don’t come at me with your this and that,
your purtty, purrty words or your excessive, use, of, commas,
because I will tear you apart. And it will hurt.
You want to whine? Do it somewhere else. I couldn’t care less for your 2-d crisis.
I am not your mother. Don’t make the mistake of thinking otherwise.
Tell me “but-but-but he said please” or “my heart is a dark pit of shriveled mushrooms”
and I will jam a pencil in your forehead.
You will probably cry (and bleed. A lot).
I will laugh.
You want to brag you cut yourself?
I want to cut you too.
Sit down, shut up, and stop.
You’ll find yourself loudest in the quiet.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Think, listen, hear, see.
Are you still alive?
Can you still hear me?
Is it still the end of the world?
I don’t want your problems.
I want your quiet.
and we’re all just a little more than lost.
But all I can think about
are imaginary summers that would never end,
and pretending to be something we’re not.
And I’m sorry you’re something I’m not
because I’m still dreaming
of climbing trees and skinned knees,
and this has left us all a tiny bit broken,
a tiny bit confused,
and maybe a tiny bit special, too.
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry
if it felt like I was leaving you
but you were taking secret pathways
I could never view.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry
if this is going to mean nothing to you,
because I hate every second
and every minute that we lose,
and God, I miss him too,
but it’s not like this is something
we ever saw coming,
and I’m sorry
for being less to you than stunning,
and hey, could all the memories say actions you didn’t mean?
This will always be a mess of you and me
(and Him too, but he’s here no longer,
He left us behind to wonder
“If the past is who we are,
why aren’t we with Him six feet under?”
Like three to two to one, and then there were none).
And I don’t know how many times I’m going to say this,
(scream it, repeat it, break it down and beat it)
I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I love you, and God, I’m sorry.
I hear wedding bells in the distance
and don’t think for an instant I’m not panicking,
because it’s too early, it’s too soon,
we’re growing up and sometimes I feel like I’m losing you.
But she’s beautiful, she’s perfect,
she’s everything, and she’s worth it.
I would’ve killed you for letting that go
because no one,
and I mean no one, deserves this more than you do.
Still, I feel as though childhood has blown through the window.
Soon I’ll be in college and you’ll be on the edge of thirty,
and while I’ll be laughing, I’ll be crying too,
because more than anything I’ll miss growing up with you.
And I realize you won’t be gone, and I won’t be away long,
but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to call you when I’m scared,
or broken, or in need of some emotional repair
because I know, no matter what, you’ll always be there.
You’ll still feel the need to chase off boys,
and I’ll still feel the need to annoy you,
because after all, you’re my brother and I’m you sister
and that’s just what we do.
It’s a masquerade,
a sick sort of parade the day
for fools and their gold,
aged and old
like ashes to ashes
it all falls down.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who’s the most desperate
of them all?
It won’t tell,
and you can’t see yourself
cause it’s a two way,
a paved road to hell
with good intentions,
the rather sad inclination
for the better things in life
like a lost paradise.
But you don’t have the golden
ticket, only a heart breaking
smile, one that won’t even buy
a nursery rhyme
or the comfort that comes with it.
Come on girl, wake up, live it.
The lie you painted of yourself
with enchanted die
and a heart that won’t lie still,
not even for a night.
Your finger pricked the spindle,
you’ve got to swindle all your
closest friends for a quick mend
in a dreamless sleep
you call your own
you’re just lying there
counting sheep in
a never ending
cycle of secrets you’re bound to,
a promise you’ve sworn to keep
before the deathly dance
Hide behind the mask
you’re destined to die in,
because you’ve got a made bed
to lie in.
So count back from ten
and with each decreasing number
because it’s come time for your
fairy tale story to end.
There is a line
between young and old,
it separates children from adults,
and it is infinite in its definition.
I am 16, 17, 18,
and I am old enough to have
that go on for days, months, years
(and I am also old enough to know
that they never end, only pause
for seconds and minutes).
I am five and I am being scolded
with sharp words and a slap on
but the next second I am
23 and closing my eyes,
whispering regret for hasty
I am old enough to know
it isn’t you against the world,
but me against life,
that vindictive bitch,
but young enough to still
point my finger at her
invisible, irrevocable force
and blame her for my problems.
I am 34 and shaking my head
at the whimsical sighs of my peers,
and I am 21 dreaming big dreams,
big enough to fill a real-life snow globe.
And hell, sometimes I feel older than
the Tree of Life,
and sometimes I feel youth running
through my veins like fire.
I am old enough to know
that I don’t know anything,
and young enough to act like
I know everything.
But I am so knowledgeable,
because I know the worth in books
and learning and truth
and won’t take opinions as facts,
and I am so wise because I see these
mistakes that children and adults alike
make and repeat, and never learn,
but I am so goddamned stupid,
ignorant, foolish for taking gold
that isn’t real.
I am 50 years ahead of my generation
and ten years younger in virtue alone.
Where do I fall?
Where do I fall?
Into the giant chasm between
where knowledge isn’t worth a penny
and stupidity can kill you.
I am stuck here
eight, eight-teen, eighty
moving between past and present
like a wraith.
I stand, fight, fall,
inhale, breathe, breathe,
don’t stop, not ever,
but God, breathing is the hardest part.
But I have to, keep breathing,
in and out, one at a time,
and even when I can’t anymore
I’ll be breathing in memory, conviction, faith
because I am not a number,
but all of them at once,
and I am here in this Great Divide
I call my lonely own
and I am ageless and breathing.