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Alyson Lie Jun 2015
You are ambushed
the very second you awaken
by a rabid animal trapped inside your skull.

It drags its claws across your brain stem,
races down your chest, past your heart
to your stomach where it begins
gnawing on the fleshy parts.

Every muscle contracts, holding tightly
to what you know you should let go of.

You turn on your side, trying to hide,
knowing wherever you turn it will follow.

You plead--What have I done?
I didn't ask for this.
I swear, whatever it is, I am innocent.


You take deep breaths:
rising, falling...
rising, falling....

One of you begins to calm down,
you can't tell which. You take this
opportunity to let go just a little
and the animal scurries up to your chest,
holding your heart hostage.

You focus on your breathing again:
rising, falling...
rising, falling....

Once the palpitations stop
you muster the courage to take a peek,
to look the beast in the eyes.

It's OK, you say. *It's OK.
I'm not going to hurt you.
I promise.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
She sits—left leg upon right,
right hand resting in left,

eyes closed, watching joy drift
among sorrows; up one minute,

down the next; a Ferris wheel
of fear and loneliness, then

moments of letting go;
the brows furrowed and then

a smile on her lips—the way a
cellist emotes herself through Bach.

Others have said to her that she is
lucky to be so groundless, to be

free of any misapprehension that
life is perfect or that it will be easy.

She knows better than that.
And because she does, she can take

the crests and the troughs as they come—
a part of the ocean and not the wave.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
It was as if you’d handed me
the most delicate thing in the world—

a lotus blossom made of moth wings;
a newborn's first breath;
the heartbeat of a sleeping humming bird.

And I shall do my clumsy best
to hold it with all the
tenderness that it deserves.
Alyson Lie Oct 2015
The way a devoted fan
refuses to wash the hand
touched by the one they admire,

I recoil at the thought
of thoughts that may interfere
with our most recent talk,

close my eyes so no new images hide
the sight of your smile, your lips
pursed in thought, your thin fingers
brushing the wind-blown hair
from your face, your leopard print
sneakers, your hands in mine....
Or was it mine in yours?

This is the dreaded foretaste
of suffering. We both know
what harm can come
from holding on too tightly.
We have learned by now
that all things are impermanent.
Nothing, not even this,
should be clung to.

We have wisdom
on our side, you and I,
and this is why we
should survive this unsettling
flood of love we feel.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
Once fully liberated, she rides her antique, three-speed bike down the small hill from her campsite to the:  RESTROOMS – SHOWERS – PAYING CAMPERS ONLY. She dismounts and goes into the well-kept, recreational facilities and takes a hot, 50-cent, seven-minute shower, arching her soapy back against the white tiles, rubbing her soapy front in the same spot, up and down and up, and then, rinsed, she stands, dripping wet in front of the first full-length mirror she's seen in weeks, gyrating her hips, mocking pin-up poses to herself and all god's good-looking men with a sense of the absurd, then she wraps her towel around, tying the knot between her *******. She stands outside in the sweet, Santa Vidian air, finger-drying her hair and imagining, unabashedly imagining, guys in the campsite above, eating fresh-cooked meat and ogling her. Then she takes off down the road, pale green nightgown fluttering against the rear spokes, past Bonnie's trailer where from sundown till 11pm you can hear the best country music: Randi Travis, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr. She pulls up to her sweet “Bleu Belle,” shushes the dogs reflexively, hops off the bicycle, and turns, eyes closed, face upraised into a rare shaft of redwood forest sun.
Published in another form in Bagels With the Bards, No. 3
Alyson Lie Nov 2018
For Eric

Still as likely to call
you on your faulty reasoning

To add philosophical asides
to any conversation

To create something from
other things:  words,
succulents, driftwood,
found objects, and
arcane bits of wisdom

To dig up treasures where ever
and when ever possible

To delight in uniqueness of character
and a choice turn of phrase

To both insist and demur,
challenge and encourage,
to penetrate and repent
(on rare occasions)

To surprise with a soft word,
a kind gesture,
a wisp of sentiment,
and a steadfast dedication to
lasting friendship.

Permanence is an illusion--
he would argue--
But some things, like the
arrow of time, remain unchanged.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
When my sister played Clair de Lune
I’d go into her room and sit on the floor
with my ear to the side of the piano
so close that the sound would fill my mind
with the image of the long, coiled strings
vibrating, glowing golden in the darkened box.

I could hear my sister’s feet dampening
and undampening the pedals, muting the
strings, then letting them ring, resonating,
one note overlaying another, could hear
the creak of her piano stool and smell the
smell of wood dust, like old sheet music,
and my ear would pulse, almost hurting
from the sound of the hammers striking steel.

And I would begin to imagine things,
different things each time:
my aunt in a blue flowered house dress
standing in her kitchen holding a jar
of homemade pickles, her thin white hair
always in tight pin curls.

Or I’d be alone, in a long, softly lit hallway,
the walls covered with wainscotting and
lavender striped wall paper yellowing
near the ceiling. At the far end of the hallway,
a solarium, and beyond that a balcony
glimmering in sunlight.

Or I’d be in a field with small, white flowers
bowing with the weeds rhythmically
and sensing that I was
loved by someone.

And it would be that my sister’s
fingers were pounding deep into
my chest, and always, always
by the end of the piece
I’d ask her to play it one more time.
Alyson Lie Feb 2016
After Abie falls asleep I drive home
and leave him in the car long enough

to take the groceries in, then
come back out and carry him

upstairs--noticing, as I lay him
down on his bed, that somewhere

along the way he's lost his pacifier.
This is serious. It could be

anywhere. And he needs it.
I remind myself to look later,

to retrace my steps from his
bedroom door, back down

the stairs and outside to the car.
I go to the kitchen and begin putting

groceries away. The spice rack falls
off the wall. A partially open jar of

cayenne pepper spills into a bowl
of shelled pecans. As I throw

the pecans away, I stop at the
kitchen window and look out

and there, lying on the black
asphalt tongue of the driveway,

I see Abie's pacifier... Small...
Pale... Soft... Like a newborn ear.
Alyson Lie Jul 2015
A middleaged woman walks into a hardware store and begins looking down each of the aisles.

Clerk:  Can I help you find something?
Woman: Rope?
Clerk:  Aisle 6, all the way down, on the left.

A few minutes later the woman returns, lays a coil of rope on the counter:
   52 Ft
   3/4 in
   Max Wt 135lbs
   $19.95.

She seems edgy, despondent. The clerk begins to ring the item up.

Clerk:  What's it for?
Woman:  What?!
Clerk:  What are you going to use the rope for?
Woman:  Oh.... Nothing.... (She looks away.)  Just target practice.
Alyson Lie Oct 2015
Sometimes you can see in the faded
tapestry shapes and scenes that move
from foreground to background and
background to foreground.

Other times you only see the tattered
granularity of the weave and nothing else.

Is it the ocean that sounds
like traffic or the traffic that
sounds like the ocean?

As you ponder this question,
what you are holding slips
from your fingers and your mood
stabilizing regimen scatters
across the dusty floor.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
The day she woke up with the worst panic attack ever,
the kind that threatens complete mental collapse,
an implosion into the uncharted territory of insanity,

she recovered enough to rise from her bed, make tea,
stumble through her usual routine, all the while
feeling the powerful effects of an emotional hangover

identical to the sort one has after a heated, one-sided
argument between lovers or a parent and child.
Part of her felt sheepish, apologetic, wanting

for all the world to undo what had been done;
the other part--wounded, skittish, like a mongrel
in a shelter kennel, an untold history of life’s atrocities.
Alyson Lie Feb 2016
You talked about touch,
how it is different now
between the two of you;
how it meant one thing once,
and now something else.

And so you hug goodbye,
carefully monitoring the quality of it,
attentive to how much you give
and how much you permit
yourself to feel.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
Like the first crocus in late winter,
the bicycle on River Street,

buried under four feet of snow
since January, begins, in March,

to reveal pale pink plastic roses,
vines of ivy and purple violets

dangling from the wire basket
attached to its handlebars.
Alyson Lie Jun 2015
You forgive everyone
for not knowing,

or understanding,
or even caring,

because you know
this is the way humans are.

This is the way, at times,
even the one you should hold most dear,

the one who goes by your name
and lives in your skin, behaves.

— The End —