I met a homeless boy whose bedroom
filled to bursting with remnants of a past
absent and a childhood lost in autumn wind
blowing leaves (brown, orange, yellow),
and my hair (red) as he kissed me.
We stood in a paved parking lot facing
East as the sun rose (golden) along silhouetted
pines (green) standing like monuments to age and
the ever-concrete present until all singular
moments passed unnoticed as changing seasons.
Come dawn, we wake quiet in his bedroom,
and frost (white) slows the world to stopping.
“Half sick of shadows,” cried the Lady of Shalott,
half sick of darkness growing, doorways
twisting, with faces grotesque on yellow wallpaper
and speaking woe in whispers passed
dream-thin through limbs and veins and minds
because a window is a stop sign until
opened, and locks are stitches sewing chapped lips
tense as the web woven, intricate designs
layered vibrant color on a lonely loom in a tower
otherwise lightless, heavy with pressure,
bearing down on the Lady of Shalott and her art--
made up in the image of Camelot.
Here is what I am:
a survivor whose sun-soaked back tans
darker than her porcelain face;
trauma traps like wet concrete ‘round ankles,
dried shackles facing only shadows.
And a jackhammer would break the mold,
but not before shaking me up hard--
all crises stirred together, and my ribs
shrinking beneath sandbag weight,
breath heavy as blood’s penny-coin
odor; and I am suspended, head back
to face the rising light burning slurred
memories, blackened silhouettes, gone--
my face washed warm and
golden in the inevitable morning.
I will tear holes like stars in the clouds,
swallow the moon until I burn inside-out,
and become a midnight lamp guiding all
the eyes that cannot see the way home.
I remember the velvet Dark like a funeral
dress baggy around my waning waist,
the veil of which blinded me completely,
my windows turning one-by-one into walls--
trapped--yet I’d rather have been locked
because then I would have a door to kick
instead of walls simultaneously too small
and ever-expanding with fine print reading:
Do not mistake pity for love.
Paranoid assumptions connected dots,
nonexistent constellations like vines
around my ribs. The Dark permeated fear,
filled my Self to bursting before I pulled
the veil from my face, stared into violent
light that burned the lids from my eyes,
left me blindless to all the terrible truths
bearing down until my shoulders bruised.
I’ve since begun sleeping with all the lights
turned off and my curtains fully drawn.
Midnight falls in sandbags on my chest,
piano covers of old favorites reverberating
past the old grandfather clock as it chimes:
Open your eyes.
I am sleepless on the living room carpet,
knees held against ribs once broken, healed
wrong--bones bent too close around a heart
prevented from growing the way dandelions
spring again and again from beneath mower
blades spinning, cutting the lawn once a week,
sunshine blooms stubborn as my stifling ribs.
And my persisting heart. Emily Dickinson once
claimed: “hope is the thing with feathers,” yet
my chest aches with the weight of it’s elephant
existence bearing down as the moon travels
slow across an expanse of flickering stars
too endless for small minds to comprehend--
and it’s all so much and so present that I can’t
help biting my nails at the importance of hopes,
wondering how they’d fare on a scale,
countered against infinity itself.
I have two bruises on my shoulders
blue as the oceans and marbled white,
storm-foam spilling from my head
That’s not your responsibility--
but what else could it have been
when I knelt silent, scrubbing, palms
red as my sister’s sticky wrists, clorox
wipes balled and piled in the corner?
I am not
steel-skinned, some mechanical being
mistaken for a human with her eyelids
torn from her face, blindless to trauma
and the callouses it leaves behind.
the oceans on my shoulders blow salt
healing the wounds to smooth, pink scars,
reminders in every mirrored surface:
I am still standing.
Home is a red-shuttered house with over-
grown hosta plants, sold to a Chinese couple
whose translator loved our hummingbird
feeders and the way the house faced East.
We had a swimming pool, frog pond, two
pink bikes and matching helmets--mismatched
childhood memories nine years behind me--
we moved to a ranch, where I painted my room
the color soft, baby grass fighting through
wintergreen fertilizer, the kind my father
scattered over our front lawn, hoping to grow
something above the underground spring
flooding muddy, brown, saturated as we
became when my mother remembered her
locked-away childhood, my father broke
his back, my sister succumbed to self-blame,
and I cleaned up after it all. Our ranch holds
these events in its powder-blue walls, creaks
at night and wakes me from a dream repeating
nine times over--where I stand inside that red-
shuttered house, beside an eleven-year-old
me with honey hair bleached from too much
sunlight, speaking softly: you’re almost home.