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16.0k · Oct 2017
What a stethoscope teaches
Allison Oct 2017
Follow the kick-drum of the heart
to the point where it’s heard loudest.
Spend ten thousand hours on the lungs:
Read the textbook on what fills us.
Dedicate a white board
to what makes us collapse.
Hold the bell lightly
to differentiate your own pulse from another’s.
Then drink, and dance, and pray,
to relearn that they’re the same.
9.7k · Apr 2018
A brief history of surgery
Allison Apr 2018
I hold the feather’s weight of your artery in my pick-ups,
and tiptoe the tightrope about which life and death abuts.

You’re a 2 AM trauma and we still don’t know your name,
the social worker’s thin lips had mouthed: “estranged.”

I read your anatomy like a text as you flat-line:
your hands turn blue as your heart falls still in mine.

The monitor hums "out of time," but by Epinephrine,
and Grace, your chest resumes its rise.

I leave trauma bay in prayer: for the surviving, not the knife;
for the closeness of my hands in your chest, our joining in this life.

Tonight I see you at the Kroger, buying TV dinners and beer.
I hide behind cereal, admiring the life I’d held dear.

But you look so tired, and my heart breaks for how when you died,
I would’ve sold the shoes off my feet to buy you more time.

I wish you knew how precious was each of your heartbeats,
I wish you the wisdom of my view:

How fragile the stent is where your veins meet.
8.5k · Dec 2017
Paid fare
Allison Dec 2017
I arrive at this rebirth,
a long-awaited taxi pulling up
in a winter’s downpour.
I called this cab years ago,
at that first tiny self hatred
that started it all:
When I stepped on that caterpillar
outside Ms. Harris' class.

The cab arrives at a party.
Small mouths pry:
What do you do?
Heavy brows furrow at:
I forgave myself today.
Strangers ask me my name but
I don’t know what it is so
I dive into the pool
and suddenly everything
is muffled and at peace,
and I am discovering the joy
of my hands
outstretched in the water.

This must be *******:
colors pulse
touches ******
bird songs are Vivaldi,
or maybe this is just
what it’s like
to clasp my hands
to hear the rain
to think one single mundane thought
without shame.

I hail another cab,
but this time my sins
are huddled in the back seat.
They gaze up at me
with familiar pleading eyes.
They caress my cheek
with skeleton fingers.
It’s time to go home
and watch the Price is Right
like we always do.
They are hurt
that I went anywhere
without them.
I stroke their oily hairs
and hold them
as we fall asleep.
But when I come to
they’ve faded away
and I awake
embracing myself.
4.3k · Mar 2019
Tell me if you see me
Allison Mar 2019
I misplaced my love
in you,
blame it on my
running away
and these too-big shoes.
I gave myself away
to the crowd,
Found comfort
in being diluted,
drowned out
in this generic loud,
in someone who's proud
of my shape-shifting,
chameleon-tongued sound.
I’ve been responding
to the wrong name.
Lately just
a look of loss
and the chest pressure
of shame.
Beloved mistakes hang
butchered,
in the mirror’s frame.
I found myself
in a pawn shop,
without enough
to reclaim.
4.1k · Nov 2017
This is Appalachia
Allison Nov 2017
Unmoved by your arrival from the west coast,
ten thousand little things are different.

It’s October and the trees are on fire:
a forge that you won't notice, 'til you're gold.

Your Kicks don’t leave footprints on these cobbled streets;
even the children have old, leathery hands.

Try to paddle-board the Eno and the bass go belly-up:
that river’s for scattering ashes and making moonshine.

All they sell at Aldi is ethnic shampoo,
so now your hair twists like the roots you’ve lacked

'til now, because all you’ll ever need is two hands:
for prayer, and work.

Life moves on like a cigarette’s drag,
while somewhere Hope’s fiddle strums;

Take off your headphones and
go put your ear to an oak.
1.9k · Oct 2017
This vertigo
Allison Oct 2017
We were drinking coffee when
depression showed up at the door of the home we built, pounding.
Eviction notice in hand,
your soul parceled out into donation bins.
Foreclosure sign,
caution tape around the chest that I slept on for a year.

I sit out in the sun
to bleach the tan line from my ring finger.
I hold cold cups and shake strangers’ hands
to erase the mould of your grasp from mine.
I want to sear off my palms.

I miss even those nights when you looked at my fire and laughed.
So I make you coffee (but I know I make it wrong);
your ghost in this house still criticizes.

I made you coffee every day because it was all I could do;
my only way of getting into you, a vector.
As the hot brew flowed past your heart, I watched,
like a child at Christmas, hoping you’d feel my love.
Hoping the glaze would clear up from your eyes.

I only wish this were a bond that stayed,
that stayed when your mind put plugs in your ears:
when I screamed and screamed that I loved you,
that I’d rock every little thing you regret to sleep.

I went to the doctor about this dizziness.
He checked my ears, he asked why my eyes were red.
This vertigo--a hurricane made by the page turning in my life.
I am a bag in your wind.

The day you left I wrote you a recipe for how you like your coffee,
because you don’t know, but I have it memorized.
My handwriting changes halfway down the page, as I change,
as you drive farther and farther away.

Our love is a child I’ve carried,
now I’m bent over, sick.
Loss took your place in our home,
but it’s unsteady on its feet;
I have to walk it from room to room.

My name has been yours, possessive.
And although these days I correct myself and say ‘I’ during speech,
My thoughts are still ‘we.’
I still think about your lungs when I cough.

So I still make us coffee every day (but I know I make it wrong).
1.4k · Jan 2018
Mind-cage
Allison Jan 2018
I dreamt that gravity
was just a conspiracy
to sell us shoes
but we never questioned it
just stood, penniless on blistered feet
gazing at the stars

Rage, riot-
wage war against the mind-cage

I dreamt I was an infant
who never learned
that my outstretched hands
were mine, were 'I,'
they tried to bathe me but
I swirled down the drain
and became the sea

Wail, weep-
sell your soul to the keeper of the mind-cage

I awoke with this migraine
shook my head and
heard the shackles clink
reached up and felt
this fissure in my skull
pried it open, watched my mind sigh
and expand to fill this space

Grow quiet, shake hands-
have a cup of tea with the mind-cage

Now I am creation
took the roof off my house
I waft into the open sky
opened my heart
clowns from a clown car
the sorrows walked out

Embrace, make peace-
just be with the mind-cage

Weightless, I meet my old desires
fluffy little wishes floating in the breeze
but there is nothing lacking now
I hold the mind-cage in my arms
we float as it screams
and blames, and fades

Slither, creep-
escape through the open bars

Come home to this joy
832 · Mar 2018
Start at the end
Allison Mar 2018
I've taken up writing biographies,
but I'm starting at the end.
See I'll write us back to eighteen,
full of freedom and backseat heartbeats.
I'd write us back to twelve,
and tree house book pages turning.
See I'd write you wild, child.
I'd write you blanket forts,
chances to consent,
and that lion heart
that was yours
when you were barefoot.
771 · Mar 2018
Take This Waltz
Allison Mar 2018
It’s been months, love,
and you’re far, and have someone new,
but I’ve been dancing all this time,
in our living room, with you.

Even this Cohen record tires,
of playing this song you loved most,
but I swear I feel your hands in my hair,
and you make a handsome ghost.

And I know that this glow is your tail lights,
but I love how it bathes your skin.
I’ve missed all these meals waiting,
so I’ll have my white dress taken in.

Give me a few hours, to tape my face on,
to my bones, my heart: our plans;
truth is, while you were saying goodbye,
I was memorizing your hands.

I hope you don’t mind living this double life,
because I need just little more time,
and if all I have is your absence,
that’s fine.
709 · Jan 2018
Paper crane
Allison Jan 2018
I painted my face
all blushed cheeks and doe eyes
we laughed over wine
you touched my knee, my lies,
tonight I’m your ****** pearl
not this wasted wailing girl
I’m reborn in your gasps,
beautiful like I was when
I noticed small things
like birds, and this ache,
when the days didn’t blend
into nights, into beds, into highs.
When I’m well I’m a feminist but
tonight I just need to be
your fragile, pretty paper crane.
STOP—my mind’s getting too loud,
kiss me harder, let me stay,
we’ve all told lies here,
truth is I can’t remember who you are;
you’re the make-me-forget,
just give me some purpose tonight and
call me some other name,
please just
call me some other name.
386 · Nov 2017
Identity
Allison Nov 2017
So long I’ve spent on the question: me,
too little on the answer: we.

We get up in our heads
'bout how our stories will be read.

But I found a kitten who was a stray.
Without thinking, he knows to play.

It begs the question, what would we do?
If we turned off our minds and had a moment or two.

To express our true nature without right and wrong:
I tilted my head back and bellowed a song.

Without judgment, leaves know to fall;
bread knows to rise, and we know love's all.

Minds say that’s wrong, and you can’t forgive,
but silence begs daisies in the concrete to live.
373 · Jul 2018
Off Broadway, on God
Allison Jul 2018
What a cast of characters
we parade through this play-life,

they're dying Juliet deaths 'til we're bereft,
pondering the qualities of the stage light:

how it caresses empty sets with as much grace as our dramas,
unrequited in its love of the playwright.
361 · Nov 2017
Serotonin
Allison Nov 2017
If you want to hear the real truth, then:
Truth is I’ve felt like an actor in this rebirth,
a kidnapped hitchhiker of this change.

Is this even possible, I’ve wondered aloud:
Is this just another mask?
Am I just rehearsing some lines?

I've tried to write a new chapter but
my pen cuts the paper ‘cause
I’m trying so hard.

Truth is I wasn’t sure I’d changed but then,
today I cut a lemon with more joy
than I think I’ve had in my whole life.

That I'd picked out my grave plot but now:
I'm thinking raised beds and tomatoes
so I can make spaghetti for some new love.
349 · Dec 2017
Pieces
Allison Dec 2017
Turn off the music,
stop that constant doing.
Look it in its bloodied teeth:
This broke us.
This was far too much.
We don't know how to be a person after this.
We can't even seem
to comb our hair.

All we have now
are all these pieces.
We kneel in the shards,
and feel the remnants cut,
and wail about our scarred images
and cancelled plans.

We don't know what to do
when we're shattered,
but maybe if we can just
feel this breaking,
without lusting for
the once-****** whole,
we can grow quiet enough
to hear the laughter:

for the neighbor kids
have already begun
stringing our pieces
into bracelets that say Love.

An old man is scattering
our fragments in the park.
People delight
as the pigeons descend.

A salesman peddles our scraps
door to door,  and makes enough
to finally pay the bill
that turns the lights back on.

A tailor makes a sweater
of our mistakes, while a baker
turns our heartbreaks into bread
for a different kind of breaking.

Come to the window,
these new friends call.
See what our brokenness has become.
Our pieces are raining from the sky
and quenching this parched earth.
People are dancing  in the streets.

Close your eyes and listen
to the laughter and the rainfall
of what our pieces teach.
296 · Dec 2017
Nadir
Allison Dec 2017
Pulse:
There’s living and there’s dying, but worst is this half life:
this tap water dripping, slow molding of the

Mind:
It sells me lies about who’s right and wrong,
it validates my dogma but vilifies my

Soul:
That hunger that bubbles up and out my throat,
that sees myself in that wasted *** with that

Sign:
Maybe not a burning bush but a breakdown,
a point so low we used our last energy to let out this

ROAR:
Shake out your heart like a sheet;
take a torch to the hive mind and

Dance:
Spinning in an alley downtown in the rain,
the beat beats beats beats:

Love
is all that matters,
it’s all that matters now.
For a spoken word setting
250 · Dec 2017
Our story: draft two
Allison Dec 2017
Sometimes it's clear to see
depression's grim script
playing in your mind.

So in my dreams
I am a writer
who rewrites those lines.

I'd sip tea and daydream:
What adventure
to take you on next?

Each sentence, some small joy.
I'd write you chapters on,
at long last, rest.

Your mind would be
my greatest work,
my Scarlet Letter.

Not to say you'd heal overnight,
but that with each page turned,
you'd feel better.

I'd allude to our pet cat,
and all the little things
that used to matter.

The prologue would shake out the dust,
turns the lights on;
we'd watch the moths scatter.

Under my pen name,
you'd smile again. You'd comb your hair,
without me asking.

I'd sob from joy as I type because
chapter six is two hundred pages
of just you laughing.

And of course, at the end,
I'd rewrite the part when
you stopped holding my hand.

With my ink in your veins,
we'd start a new story
with our unfinished plans.
247 · Feb 2018
Taps
Allison Feb 2018
We are laid to rest here,
river-weathered into perfect spheres,
our egos lowered into earth,
we are infant, wet with birth.
We leave our shame, our names, our bones,
at the depths of these erected stones.
In this soil our fears are buried,
the worms find feast in what we've carried.
We learn to walk as Taps plays,
unsteady on newborn legs, we walk away.
In spite of different thoughts on God and verse,
we arrive in the same struggled hearse.
Our lives, the procession to this funeral,
we are one, reborn from clay and mineral.
237 · Nov 2018
Be here now
Allison Nov 2018
Coffee, *****, sitting:
Drugs abet this ringing in my ears.
All around the universe hums:
Be here, be here, be here.

We seem to think that the past
has a picture of us on its dresser,
and future’s a woman in a red dress;
her womb, our plans: impress her.

Here’s the secret that the birds chirp:
This is the only day.
You made the sky and all the love under it;
you sigh, and the clouds blow away.

Be here with me now, I beg.
Open the door with your whole body.
See me without the past,
and we’ll make love for the first time, always.
198 · Nov 2017
Anniversary
Allison Nov 2017
I wish this were the kind of sad that cries,
that falls down on the concrete, and wails.
I’d take bloodied knees to see color again.
But this—this sad drips from the faucet,
it yellows the walls.
I wish this were a truth that I could accept:
No matter how much you pour
into a cup with no bottom,
it won’t fill.
196 · Apr 2019
Old love
Allison Apr 2019
Constant as the fiddle’s hum,
we’ve done it all together, except run.
Fifty years in Appalachia,
we’re cracked leather, aged wine.
My home: the deepening
of our old love and Langer’s lines.
194 · Nov 2017
800 number
Allison Nov 2017
Relationships so different
all have a commonality now:
There's nothing left to say
in every conversation.

It's just you and the shame.
Wrongdoings of the past
***** this lonely tower
where you crouch.

Too tired to cry,
too nothing to act.
Too ashamed to look up
at the grocery checkout girl.

So just stop eating.
Bar up your windows and doors.
Cancel the mail.
Phone rings:

You use your last hope
to unlock the screen.
It's an 800 number
but you answer anyway.

Walgreens' automated message
is a feminine voice:
Get your flu shot today
to protect friends and family.

You listen to the three-minute message,
four times.
It's nice not to hear the refrigerator hum,
for a little while.

The voice sounds nice
but you know how that'd end.
You'd be on the no-call list if they knew.
So you go on un-immunized.

Belly-up to the world,
sick at every exposure,
this shame whittles you down to bones:
Bones on the other end of the line.

Cold, skinned fingertips
cant slide green to answer.
800 numbers go to a voicemail
that will never be checked.
194 · Nov 2017
An awkward dinner party
Allison Nov 2017
Blank—
That’s my mind when they talk and laugh,
sharing stories of shallow privilege.
What should I say:
That I don’t feel like a person,
That I don’t know how to brush my teeth and be okay.
They got tattoos of dolphins, with friends over spring break, on their wrists;
I got the words second chance, by myself in a ***** strip mall, over my heart.
138 · Mar 2019
Masked
Allison Mar 2019
There’s a certain clarity in the breakdown:
to really know presence in one moment, is to drown.

These mistakes and this loss are a slipping and a falling,
but panicked stomachs in chests tune our ears to the calling:

Pieces of ourselves that we mourned to have lost, were a giving away:
now we’re shelters from the rain in Soho, and food for seagulls in the bay.

How we protest when we lose our things and our pride,
but lost too was every reason to not forgive (lies!)

Together now, my identity remerges in this task:
I will love you, through the fading of your mask.

— The End —