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Aug 2022 · 99
triple disasters, 3/11
Sam Aug 2022
maybe the difference is just
that i can bring myself to talk about it, now,
without my whole body trying to relive it.

maybe the difference passed with the 10 year mark.
and the 11th, as it went by and I only had to blink it away,
rather than spend the whole time trying to think of anything else.

the only thing the rest of the world seems to remember
is the power plant explosion. Fukushima. Early 2010s, sometime --
(and it's almost funny, the way just about anyone at all can count through the major nuclear events in Japan: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima. Make it easy on all those people who didn't get stuck living with the consequences of them.)

I remember, 30 kilometers away from the epicenter,
the way our classroom shook on March 11th.
I remember books falling off shelves,
my classmates and I clutching at desk legs, at each other,
the floor shaking up and down, up and down, not just side to side.

I remember watching the broadcasts the next morning,
2011, and cars floating out in the ocean by Tohoku.
Homes, gone; Tsunami flood gates washed away,
High schools turning into evacuation centers,
Building ceilings collapsing as people tried to run away.

That night in Tokyo, the trains stopped.

Phone networks went down as everyone flocked to use them,
The highways swarmed with cars,
the ground. kept. shaking.

In Tohoku, after the initial earthquake,
after the Tsunami that came up too high,
as people tried to run away fast enough, fires erupted.

And then we watched on the morning news, my family and I --
tired, but safe and sound, far enough away,
as the Fukushima Dai-ichi powerplant erupted,
killing its workers with it.

We, the fortunate foreigners outside the destruction area,
we flew out on a plane, came back a month later.

In Tokyo, where the worst of the damage
was the bent tip of Tokyo tower,
there was a water shortage,
a power outage, or two,
and the aftershocks
through the ground
didn't stop til July.

When I went up to an affected area of Tohoku -- two years later,
All of their dwellings were still temporary.
Their main export of fish, still deemed unsafe.
Their main grocery store, a 7/11 conbini.
Their population half a ghost town,
so I helped plant vegetables.
Watched, the next year, as they gained back some of their boats.
As the seas started to be safe again to fish.
As industry started to become permanent, again.

People came up with a lot of names,
for what happened on March 11th, 2011.
The Great Tohoku Earthquake
The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
The Triple Disasters

For all that I was safe, during it,
I still lived beside those events.
Still know that only now, over a decade later,
are people beginning (slowly) to re-inhabit
that ghost-town of radioactivity in Fukushima.

At 10, there is not much you can do, to stop an earthquake.
Or a tsunami.
Or a fire,
or a disastrous power plant explosion.

But I tried my hardest to do what I could, to help in the aftermath.

At 21, I hit the ground, go dizzy, or blackout
whenever something unexpectedly shakes:
a bridge, a bus shelter, a ladder.

The date is tethered onto me like a broken lifeboat,
something I will never be able to drift away from.

And in a way, I am furious at the world for forgetting.
For daring to look away -- but there are other events.
Other disasters, natural and man-made and in between.
And I can not keep them all scarred across my heart.

But I remember this one.
I'll keep remembering for everyone who doesn't.
And next time, I can only hope to be enough
to prevent some of the loss,
to learn and progress from the past,
until maybe
it never happens again, at all.
Jan 2022 · 109
and leave no trace
Sam Jan 2022
sometimes, I look at you in the mirror, and it's all I can do
to remember that you are not a ghost.

most days, though, it feels that way.

like everything repeats itself, over and over.
like we're the ones slowly fading away amidst it all.

I go to work and I go back to somewhere I can not call home --
and I sleep, and wake, and do it all over again.
sometimes, I remember to make food, to eat.
and this tired, endless cycle continues.

You have friends, of course. You have a family.

But I've started counting them away by distance.
By how many months or years it's been since I've last seen them.
By how many weeks since I've last heard them.

I feel haunted by the reminder of it:
By the echoes of memories in everything I see, or touch.
By the aching remnants of absence left behind.

If all you were was a mirage of other people's constructs,
you'd be gone, by now.
you'd have melded away into the background,
like unappealing drapery.

there'd be nothing left to keep you real.

But I still get up in the morning. Go into work.
React to the incidents around me as if I care.
I'm still here, listlessly drifting.

There are things I want to do, someday.
Someone I want to become, someday.
People I want to see again, someday.

so we're still here, you and I.
adrift, until we can find a stable anchor.
something concrete enough to stop you haunting me.
Oct 2021 · 263
love? letter to a country
Sam Oct 2021
I think I will always be a little heartbroken by you.

Yet there is something to be said,
for learning to love something
before anyone can warn you away.

I like to think,
in a world where I found you
a little older, a little less naive,
little less ready to embrace things
with arms wide open and free --
I like to think someone would have cautioned me away.

Do not become so enamored by something
that you become inseparable from it.

Do not give all of yourself away,
because there are pieces you will
want back.

They will tell you:
if you fall seven times, get up eight.
the more you fall, the harder it is
to get back up. To stand tall.
And stand tall, you must.

I was too young, though-
and the old, they let the young
make their own mistakes.
(I like to think I would've dived in
headfirst, still, fallen anyway)

So I got my heart crushed
put back together not a little intact,
and I figured out how best to keep it.

You aren't my first memory,
But you're in my second,
an afterthought.
And now you're a dark, shadowed cloud, hanging
just over my shoulder.

You are not a home that I can forget:
I loved you, I love you,
like a desert craves the rain.

I think I will always be a little heartbroken by you,
and yet it's something to hold close.

For the lessons learned,
For the things I came away with,
gained only because I refused
to fight against them.

The language I learned at your side
is like a siren song,
beckoning me back to the only place
I have ever been able to call home.

But I can learn to release my hold,
Loosen it until the storm forecast
hovers out of sight,
It presence distant
rather than looming.

In time, I think,
I can learn to let you go.
Oct 2021 · 101
Sam Oct 2021
I stumbled over my words, today,
and it hurt.

Like nails, chipped off and dug in.
Like grief, slow and numb until it swallows, drowns you.
Like a culmination of things that has no good end.

It hurt, to feel a mess,
to stutter and restart,
to not quite have the right things come out.
It hurt, to hold my breath in,
to keep my ears open,
to not say: slow down, slow down, please,
you're speaking too fast, please.

To have to force the words through,
any that will come, on a day
where I hadn't wanted
to need to speak at all.

It. hurts.
Physically, under my chest.
A dull, hollow ache, that settles.
My head throbbing over it all.

It hurts, and nothing soothes it.

Not the feeling of inadequacy.
Not the bereft sense of loneliness.
Not the gnawing helplessness.

A cold comfort:
it's better, the next day -- easier.
to hide the uneasiness, to speak.
to keep face, match tone.

Easier, but not better.

I clench my hands into fists,
dig my nails into my skin,
and there is no one to notice that, either.
Jul 2021 · 113
Sam Jul 2021
there's a sort of hope here,
sun shining through glass
warmth spreading throughout.

see, and this... this is the kind of thing i want to be able to grasp.
hold onto.
a quick write from December, 2017
Jul 2021 · 108
Sam Jul 2021
sometimes, you breathe, and you breathe, and nothing changes.

if you can just look outside
of yourself,
you find the suncast sky,
blue turning black, lit only be street lamps.

if you can just look outside,
the tears stop,
they still.

but things like pain --
things like hurt --

they linger.

in the words I try to form,
in the mistakes I try
not to make.

they tell you to breathe in, breathe out.
count your breaths, center yourself in the present.
an anchor, a tether.

I wish it could be enough
to stave off other things:
like sadness, a crescendoing echo in my heart;
like hurt, a tangent constant at the edges;
like love, because you can never hold them close
Sam Jun 2021
there is an art
to secrets

a necessity
to keeping them,
to hiding them away

like the dust under the rug
or the thing just Too Uncomfortable to talk about
that get hidden
under guilt
and shame
and fear
is not
a reason
to keep them)

but there exists a thing
called protection
and something
more terrible:

these are things you will die for.
sometimes, secrets fall into place
so you do not have to.

sometimes, yes, they will bury you whole
still alive, still breathing, but drowning --
there are days when they will save you
Jan 2021 · 119
frost bite
Sam Jan 2021
Winter snaps at your sleeves,
Cold chills making you shiver,
like a thing you are meant to
run away from --

But you have always loved
this part of the season, the wind
whipping through your clothes,
as if to say,
alive, alive, alive.
like a reminder, fresh off the bay:
don't you dare, it nudges at you,
Alive, it says, awake, awake, awake. &
(maybe you need it, sometimes,
that memory, that reminder:
don't you dare, it tells you,
and it's enough to hold onto.)

Until it rains as much as it pours,
until mud soaks your skin through.
And the night tries to eat at you,
**** away what little you have left.

So melancholy settles in,
the reminder that you have never
been weightless; the faintest echo of
I miss you never escapes you but
for helpless sobs in fading twilight;
the winter air is keeping you afloat,
still, is hanging all your readymade
promises like stop signs in your face,
but you feel tiredness like an ache
in your chest, in your bones, like
a thing about to break.

You learned how to lie
the same summer you learned
how not to eat, pieces of yourself
fading away the more you said
i'm not hungry, and meant it.
You learned how to lie
the same way you learned to be quiet,
the right people looking at you wrong,
the wrong people picking out pieces
to an asymmetric picture -- too late,
you learned how to lie like it was easy, the way breathing (maybe) wasn't.

And you stopped because people cared just fast enough to matter,
stopped because you looked at yourself, one day, all hollowed out,
stopped in an instant, like it was easy,
How, how, how, like the guilt pounding through you,
like it was enough:
How could you do this to yourself?
Like the answer wasn't simple,
Like apathy and caring too much couldn't exist side by side,
Like you hadn't stopped pretending that everything didn't hurt years ago,
Like you believed yourself
when you promised it wouldn't happen again.

And yet here you are: be it winter, not spring; all alone again, so **** tired, again, the sadness unburied, spilling out.

And you should stop. yourself, take stock, remember what it is like to love to be alive before you go back to hating it, before you go back to not caring; but you are so tired, here, now, you think you might've skipped it: the part where you catch yourself. The part where you let someone else catch you. The part where it matters.

Alive, alive, alive, the wind hisses.
Don't you dare, it says, as your eyes water from the cold.
You are awake, it seems to be saying, alive, like you are still worth saving.
Maybe it will be enough.
Sam Sep 2020
This is the kind of loneliness you find yourself
afraid to succumb to,
As though not writing about it
means not Acknowledging it,
As though pretending it doesn’t exist
will translate across a void
Will make it stop,
Stop hurting
Stop feeling empty
being an absence
you can’t control.

(it’s still there: lurking, ever-present.)

This loneliness, or grief, or depression, desperation
– this thing you are not sure how to name –
It is like
a cocoon
of desolateness.

tiredness (–or fatigue, maybe–) seeps into every inch
of you, so you go on walks until
you think you will collapse,
and it doesn’t help,
doesn’t go away;
this irritation,
a listless meander
of helplessness

a desire to do something, anything,
to escape this boredom; prison of your own making
to make your self useful somehow, instead of
this wallowing creature you’ve turned into,
braced in the cold and telling yourself
I am not kind
for all the good it doesn’t do:
you do not know what it is you have turned yourself into.

if you were the sort of person who could take kindness
before it became a necessity, a mercy—
you like to think you’d be able to rearrange your words,
just enough to ask for help.

but you’re bad at it.

there is independence, warring in your bones with responsibility,
another unshakeable part of you
you don’t know how to throw away.

you stumble over different words, over
will your read this and
can I hug you and
I miss you
like it will be an answer

but people are only people,
and you do not know how–
there is a lump in your throat,
and you never know how to cross it:

you just want to be better,
you just want to stop feeling like this—
is all.
Sep 2020 · 55
Sam Sep 2020
You miss people like they are limbs,
as though writing to them will keep you close,
will keep them close to you,
  a thing like friendship
strung out across oceans,
tethered with best-kept promises
with I miss yous
and I love yous
sent out in the night
written back in the dark

they might be your tether,
if only you’d let yourself
have one.

But you are afraid, of tethers,
You are a person ingrained with people leaving,
You know (barely) what it is like to watch them go
You know (far better) what it is to leave familiar shore
for unexplored land, unexplored treasure,
to carry longing in your chest
and unsteadiness in your heart
(you did not grow up knowing what it was:
to plant your roots in the ground
and stay.)

but missing is not the issue,
this half-ingrained part of you—
missing can not be the issue, not after a lifetime of it.

Missing is the thing you hold close to your chest,
That you hide and let yourself feel only
When you must think of home,
of home that means too many places
and not just one person, but many—
home that means something kept together in spite of things,
despite sleepless nights, shattered hearts, this separation called distance.

So you will tuck it inside,
because the aching is a part
of you, is a thing you understand, a thing
you have grown used to, like the way your
body continues to draw breath
no matter how things hurt.
Jul 2020 · 90
Sam Jul 2020
dear little star:
this is to say
that down below,
there exists an infinite
chasm, of the galaxy
waiting in case you slip
watching in case you fall
saying, "We are here to help."
if only you ask.

darling little star, high in the sky, a reminder--
You shine bright, and clear.
We see you and think wishes
across patches of sky, ask you
to make them come true.
But there are other stars, there,
by your side.
please-- don't shine so bright
that you extinguish your light.

dearest star, still glowing in the dark;
there isn't as much light, as there was
before. Sometimes
things flare like supernovas:
Bright and Blinding, but quickly gone.
there are less of you, less of us
than there used to be:
the nights are darker. the days are colder.
fear creeps, with tendrils like smoke
clawing and choking, echoing
its way in. You
are still there,
May 2020 · 75
Life on the Pavement
Sam May 2020
You get used to it: twisting the rod to the blinds,
every morning and every evening, as soon as the dark hits.
You get used to it: laying your laptop across your lap, across milk crates,
flashcards precariously balanced atop, legs folded beneath you.
You get used to it: drinking tea to stall the incoming hunger,
washing everything - doorknobs to dishes - with bleach and hot water.
You get used to it: studying in dim daylight until your eyes fail you,
flickering the wifi off just as quickly as you turn it on,
saving electricity to the last.

You shiver through every bucket shower you take, wish for shorter hair.
You toss and turn; sleep against the wall;
lose the fight against the ever-deflating mattress.
You have burns from hot water on your hands; the smell
of cigarette smoke, woven
throughout every piece of clothing.
These are things that are harder to get used to.

Your cousin takes you out into his city
takes you sightseeing amidst closed buildings, empty streets.
he points out the theater, the library;
the hat shop, record store, night club.
This is where I used to live, he tells you,
gesturing around the sprawling downtown.
It wasn't so nice, then --
and he paints you a picture of gunshots flying, the country's crime capital
and he paints you a picture of affordable buildings and affable people
(the minorities and the poor and the low end of the middle class
every person keeping their head down, body posture careful)
and he paints you a picture of people playing frisbee next to train tracks
of anyone and everyone joining in, just trying to get by.
(you understand, in a way you didn't, before, the way people spit out gentrification like a curse -- like the plague of injustice that it is.)

Your cousin wears a well-worn hoodie,
t-shirt and bleach-splattered cargo pants,
dressed for comfort
And you wear your warmest hoodie,
bleach-covered shirt with jeans,
dressed for practicality
And your aunt wears makeup, a sweater,
carefully selected slacks, blouse,
dressed for appearances.

And your aunt has a shower, a dishwasher and a drier,
And working things: four burners, an oven, a sink.
Your cousin has bookcases of records and CDs,
And functioning things: a microwave, half a sink, a single working burner.

And the train does not
blast past your aunt's house at all hours of the day, the same way
the cobwebs do not
cover unsuspecting areas within your aunt's cupboard, the same way
all manners of bugs do not
jump out of various cartons of food, the same way
the sound of gunshots never
ring out in the dark.

And your aunt and uncle live
in a suburban community,
secluded, a drive up a hill,
trees and mountains surrounding,
where it is safe to wander the neighborhood.

And your cousin lives in a ghetto, and you smile
when the children one house over
run chasing after each other, giggling
to each other in another language, and you smile
at the fresh green in the air,
from the trees all around the property as you
pin the clothes, hang them to dry, and you stay
firmly, safely, within the property lines,
carefully out of any lines of sight.

And there is something odd about this:
Your Aunt's house radiates sunlight and cleanliness,
yet you have never felt so subtly claustrophobic as you do there:
You Cousin's house, for all its faults, feels like a strange brand of freedom.
May 2020 · 75
Sam May 2020
When you are younger, still,
and the school system is trying to teach you
wrong from right,
bad from good,
black from white, no dulled grey edges --
they tell the students to fess up to their crimes.
they tell their students to own up to their actions.
they tell you that blame is pointless:
that what has been done has been done.
                                                           ­                 and you, at 6, and you, at 7,
so very young, still, so very unaware how all your classmates
                                                                ­                                              hate you
you take it all to heart.

and if your 2nd grade teacher derides you for the colour of your skin --
when the chair falls, when the pens are pushed off your desk
you straighten it. you pick them up.
when food gets bumped, accidentally pushed, lands on the floor
you are the first to the paper towel rack, first apologising, first to fix it.
when you are running away, sprinting fast down forbidden corridors
and the other girl is running after you in the halls
you say it was your idea.
take all of Teacher's harsh words so the other girl doesn't.

And if your 2nd grade teacher looks down on you the entire year:
for your hair, for your clunky words, for the colour of your eyes.
maybe, you will think, maybe, looking back--
maybe you didn't help your case.

And maybe those actions were kindness, but none were bravery.
All of them were you, negating the blame.
Saying: actions are actions are actions have happened.
Saying: excuses are worthless, fine -- so let me fix this instead.

There was no point in blame so there was
no blame so
instead you decided
all my fault.

Here, now, in the harsh cold present --
there is a pandemic. there are people dying.
there is the news and there are your relatives,
both of them pointlessly, endlessly, arguing politics.
there was a flood, before, and an earthquake and a death.
there were schools, blurring behind your eyes because there were so many.
and friends. lost, and not.

And sometimes, the helplessness engulfs you whole.
And sometimes, the amount of rage simmering under your skin
is enough for you to tremble and shake with that power,
is enough to almost make you forget why not, why never,
is enough for you to lash out (with your words)
and hurt someone.
So you bite it back and swallow it all
(because not today, because you will NOT lose anyone today)
and you think my fault
until your breathing is calm, steadied.
until the breaking point is buried back, deep beneath your skin.
until the emptiness washes over you, back to resigned, hollow, sadness.

I have done this, you tell yourself, because
even if no one is at fault, and
even if the world is to blame
you never want to become someone who blames the world:
never want to become someone to throw down a gauntlet,
to say, "I have been wronged." to say, "This is what I deserve."
You never want to become someone who thinks they are owed --
because you are not.
because you are owed the same as anyone else and that is  n o t h i n g.

and if this saves you, this thing they did not mean to teach you at school
(and maybe it is self-loathing. and maybe it is self-deprecation.)
if this stops you from that, this twisted version of responsibility
if this helps any other person along the way --
you think it's enough.
May 2020 · 67
Truths (and a lie)
Sam May 2020
They tell you there are always three (at least two) sides to every story.

There are three sides to every story.
The good, the bad, and--(earth, air, fire, water)--

Fire can **** you.
Fire will tell its flames to slither atop your skin, to dance prettily.
Fire will then strike, will seer your flesh from your skin,
suffocate away all your air.
Fire will consume you and leave you a burned crisp, nice and black.

don't touch, they tell you, don't touch
(you leave the glowing orb of orange alone)

Water is cold; cold enough to freeze your insides whole.
Water is also so alluring, pulling you in and
until you can only splutter from lack of air.
Fire burns you, but water drowns you.
Takes you far into a deep, black, nothingness of serenity,
keeps you prisoner.

swim, they beckon to you, swim
(you stay far too close to the shore)

Air is never grounded.
Air swirls and changes into gusts of wind,
Takes you off of one path and blows you onto another.
Circles you in a cyclone,
Smacks you onto the ground,
taking any breath of life left in your lungs along with it.

hold on, they yell, hold on
(you are not the one who lets go)

Earth is treacherous.
So used to its existence underneath your feet, but earth is deadly too.
Because when it moves, decides to breathe, you are nothing.
Roots twist, and plates push up against each other, dirt flies:
You are nothing but a casualty left in its wake,
as your feet give out from the unsteady ground beneath
as the buildings crumble from above
as you are left caught in between.

duck and cover, duck and cover
(desks protect no one forever)

But fire can save you, with warmth.
Water can quench your thirst, can quell a burning inferno.
Air can be gentle, too, give just enough of a directional push.
Earth can give you land to go to, can help sprout food to eat.

This is a dangerous world, things that **** you hidden in plain sight, remedies turning to chaos with no warning.

This is a beautiful world, with kids that dance in thunderstorms, and sleep easy through the night.

An imperfect world, be cautious - things are seldom only what they seem.

The elements are a double edged sword, both within one.


there are three sides to every story:(the good, the bad, and--)
                       and the in between of what's left.

Once upon a time, they say, and there is always a monster in this story, lurking behind walls.

So here, have a story:

Once, there were people I loved.

Once, they were monsters.

And Once, (now) they are one and the same.

the monsters are my friends, and the victims are my blood;
the victims are my blood, and the monsters are my friends;
I call them both family.

and there have  a l w a y s  been multiple sides to every story,
always a monster to uncover and a villain to slay,
always an innocent somehow hidden beneath them,
always multiple interpretations of stories that don't get told.

the monsters are the people I've loved since before i knew the meaning of that word.

the monsters are the people I've chosen to love, chosen to stand beside, of my own choosing, of my own will.

and you will call me wrong, and heartless.
and you will call me weak, and deceptive.
and I will tell you that it was the easiest choice in the world to make,
and that will be a lie.
An edited piece from 2015.
May 2020 · 83
time passes by
Sam May 2020
Of everywhere you have ever lived,
you know your grandparents' kitchen the best.
Know where the silverware is kept, and the plates.
Can find the pots and pans; knives and spatulas; rags and extra aprons.
Can spot where the fancy dining-ware lies hidden away, for guests.
(and you are a stowaway, family passing by and through,
staying and leaving but always returning, never quite a guest.)

Of everywhere I have ever lived,
my grandparents' kitchen, house --
this is the only place I have always moved through seamlessly.

It's odd to think,
standing in that familiar kitchen,
tangentially following a recipe of my father's,
that I am a legacy
of things soon to be long gone.
(of course, so are we all).

For 12 years, I was the only great-grandchild,
of my father's side of the family --
first daughter of the first son of the first daughter of the youngest child
(eldest of the eldest of the eldest -- of the youngest).
I did not grow taller than my great-grandmother until I was 13,
and I thought that it was perfect -- that maybe a new child would pop into existence every time the next eldest of my generation got too tall --
my little cousin never got a chance to outgrow her.

All of your thoughts are a eulogy, not yet written.

This is the house, the house of my grandparents, where I spent almost
all my winters, at least half my summers.
This is the only house I know
with a still valid address,
long-ago etched into my memory.
This is the only house I know,
still-standing, still with its first inhabitants.
This is not a house I can stand to stay in.
Not any longer.

My (great) aunt hauls out a box of her mother's things,
slides a leather binder with school notes across to me:
they are dated in the war years, 1941, 42, 43,
years my great-grandmother stayed with her own aunt,
in order to be able to attend high school.
She slides them over to me,
to have me go over her mother's chemistry notes.
She wants them grouped together, the diagrams that go with the notes,
wants to frame them, one each for her and her three sisters,
and I, among the living, am the only one capable of deciphering them:
algebra tied to chemicals tied to method statements,
all in beautiful cursive hand-writing I can only half-read --
amidst four daughters, six grandsons, I am left the only one
who fell deep into math, deep into science,
deep enough to piece together these old, torn, scraps of paper.

And here I am a legacy of things I wished I could have known sooner.
Here, I am falling in love and falling (silently) through sadness.
Here, I am thinking, I wish. And swallowing that thought.
The dead fall silent, but the living tell stories of the dead --
People die, and you learn things you didn't know, before:
things you want to. things you don't.

My grandparents' house looks almost exactly like it used to:
same paint, same rooms, same back porch, same messy garage.
but the people inside look old, now. (but so does everyone, now.
even my parents' hair has settled into grey, worry lines into wrinkles.)
but the people inside look frail, now.
like any little thing could break them apart.
and they look at me like I am the light behind their eyes
(and I am so far, from being able to be that light).

My grandfather does not die, on that sunny evening in March of 2019.
He ends up in the ICU. He ends up sickly, but making it through.
That same, chilly morning, the one who stops breathing
is my great-grandmother.
And it is her funeral that I miss.

Sometimes, people live, and you still learn things you did not want to.
about their demons, hidden in old chester drawers sealed shut.
about their mercies, at others' expense.
about insults and grievances ricocheting in the dark --
things that would stop me cold, (and maybe they do)
if family wasn't family -- if there weren't secrets held close.

Someday, I will go back to that house that I did not grow up in.
But I spent summers, there, and winters. I spent two springs.
Someday, I will have to go back to the house
that my grandmother taught me to make cookies in.
where my mother made doughnuts, using her mother's recipe,
and my great-grandmother and I were in charge of toppings.
where my grandfather measured my height year by year on the wall,
and my father, every year, cooked up a storm.

Someday, I will return to that house
with its inhabitants
no longer living.

And yet, as time keeps on passing by:
I can not bring myself to stay in that house,
this last thing left of familiarity.
I am someone else's light, still, however reluctant.
And I am afraid, that staying there will be the thing to break me.
Apr 2020 · 66
Other People's Calamities
Sam Apr 2020
The instant before the bombshell hits, that's when you see it.
                                                             ­                                 hear it.

So the moment before it drops on you, you know.
And then it hits, and...
You're gone.
Just. Like. That.

But sometimes, the bomb doesn't explode right at the moment it hits.
sometimes, you're in just the right place, and you live to see another day.

Still, you got some warning -- about half a second's worth.
(or if you blinked or you sneezed, then maybe
    all you got was a snap you didn't hear. maybe
    all you got was a last thought like every other
                                          thought you'd ever had,
the kind of suddenness that is sometimes a mercy.)

But what about the people
who saw the explosion in the distance,
watched it play on loop on TV?
But what about the people
who care, about you,
who find out after the bombshell has hit,
who feel their heart skip a beat in their chest
when their brain puts together the pieces?

And when it misses you --
when you get back up, somehow still relatively whole --
what is that going to do to the
people you care about, on the day that they stop.
being near-misses?

truth is:
you're not thinking about other people's calamities,
not the instant before it hits.

But I'm
                       here. And I'm wondering
if there's a way: to pause them all,
every moment cascading before it fades away
in free  

Because the hits. keep. coming.
and i'm here,
but i can't keep on taking them like i'm used to.
There's a phrase, "when the bombshell drops" or "dropping a bombshell". From this I came up with: "the instant before the bombshell hits," and this poem was written pulling from that metaphor.
Mar 2020 · 174
A Translated Poem
Sam Mar 2020
You know those days --
those sad, miserable, sucker-punched in the heart, sort of days --
when all you want, is for the tears to well out of you?
for your tears to flow, so that at least something comes out?
But it's as though you have no more tears left in you.
Your well is all dried up.

It's a bit like my heart, actually,
The way it's dropping,
                       in my chest.
(I'm almost worried it'll disappear.)

And I have friends.
I have these wonderful, beautiful, friends of mine -- I have people.
But it feels
                     as though
I am glass.

And no matter how I want
                                                   to scream, "HELP!"
the words stay sticky, stuck,
                                                   in my throat.
And in the end, well.
I'm back all alone.

But I am still breathing.
       I am still living.
                still wanting to keep on doing those things.
More than anything, I want to push
that darkness,
that fear,
that lingering sadness, swallowing me whole into its abyss --
I want to push it far, far, away.

But all I can do now, is ask:
"How do I get out of here?"
Like that little lost child, whom I have not been in so long.
And hope
for an answer
that will not come.

-- original, typed in romaji --

Nakitakutemo, nakitakutemo,
Ikiru kotoga zenzen mazushikutte,
Mou, namidawa nai.
tte iu kannji.

Nannka, kokoro ga sukoshi zutsu
"chi-nn" to ochiterumitai.
Soshite, tomodachi ga donnani itemo
Jibunnwa fuyou no gurasu
Mou, toumei mitai ni natte
[Tasukete] to iitakutemo
Kotobawa nodo ni tsuikotte,
Owariniwa mata hitoribochida.

Demo, mada ikiterushi,
             mada ikitai****,
Kono kurosa, kono nayamiwa,
Tookuni oshitai.
Daga, maigo no kodomo no youni,
[Douyatte kokokara deruno?]
toshika kikenai.
The English is a translation of something I wrote a little less than a month ago, other title suggestions welcome. I was having a not fantastic day, so the original was in Japanese. As Hello Poetry doesn't yet allow for kanji characters, I've typed it here using romaji.
Feb 2020 · 64
Sam Feb 2020
You make cookies in the night time, as the sky goes from dark to black.

You take out your ingredients: your flour, butter, sugar, salt;
you measure them less carefully than you should
throw in an extra touch of cinnamon for flavor.

You look at the consistency, at how much (too much) butter there is,
at the way chocolate melts on your fingers,
oven heat wafting in your face.

You mix and match ingredients, crack an egg,
try not to think about how you've been here before.

Your first batch goes in, eight gloops of batter in what should hold four,
and you pace around, make yourself another cup of coffee.
Try to avoid the fact that you're only hurting yourself.

You're on batch seven, cup five, when you switch to water,
when enough batter has been made you can start to wash the dishes.
And still, here you are: late at night and washing dishes, alone.

(And the familiarity is making the hole in your chest sink down,
lower and lower -- like it wasn't low enough already.)

If there was a checklist, it would go:
  1. Have you been eating consistently?
       (No, not proper meals. But I'm trying.)
  2. Have you been sleeping well, or enough, lately?
       (No, not really. But it's inconsistent, so at least there's that.)
  3. Have you recently had a panic attack?
       (Yes. Yesterday. Twice.)
  4. Have you been feeling miserable or unspeakably sad, lately?
       (Yes. I've spent the past three days on the edge of tears, but that's fine.)

You finish the dishes, and you arrange them, neatly,
pull on the oven mitts again and take batch eight out of the oven.
Your podcast has ended so you take out your earphones, one batch left,
and the silence of the air around you is

(You did this for a year, once.
You had an abundance of baking ingredients,
                      an empty house,
                            an inability to sleep.
You asked your friends what baked goods they liked,
and then you'd give them as birthday presents.
Because you had the time.
Because you didn't have to think about buying a gift.
Because it gave you something to do with your hands.
Because seeing your friends' faces light up, even just for a moment--
                            it thawed the misery, just a bit.)

Your eyes sting, but you don't cry, as you turn the oven off,
start to stack the cooled cookies into tupperware containers.
You scrub and scrub at your cutting board turned cooling rack,
until only a hint of chocolate imprint remains,
look at the creations you've made,
and try to feel proud.
Jan 2020 · 125
things unsaid
Sam Jan 2020
The first time anyone without your blood flowing through their veins kisses you, you’re seventeen.

It’s a hug, a quick peck on the forehead – there is nothing romantic about it.

The only time you kiss anyone back, it’s exactly a year later, same person, the same action reversed.

It means goodbye, means I’ve missed you; I’ll miss you – there is nothing romantic about it.

(These actions, both of them, happen under dimly lit streetlights early in the night, promises best kept.)

Growing up, your grandfather, on holiday visits, peppers your face with kisses. His whiskers scratch your skin, and you laugh, pull away because you’re ticklish. Your parents infrequently bestow side kisses to your cheek; your grandmother does the same. Your other relatives hug you when they see you, and you take it with the good grace you’ve been taught.

You grow up in a country where you have two parents, and a chasm of cultural differences.

There is an unspoken rule: you do not touch people in public, do not kiss or hold hands – it is shameful.

There is an unspoken rule: hugs are for children, the youngest and most fragile – the strong stand alone.

There is an unspoken rule: friends are acquaintances, and family is blood.

(the word, I love you, here, is sacred. It’s for married couples, to say to each other out of view of public society. It’s for mothers to whisper down to their babies as they clutch them, still young enough to cradle. It’s reserved for pages in books of sappy romantic novels; it is not for every day use.)

Visiting your extended family a continent away during breaks, you accept hugs out of instinct, common practice. Your parents, at home, give you good night rhymes and packed lunches; walks to the train station and lessons on how to ride a bike. They do not say we love you, we are proud of you; do not smother you with hugs or prevent you your independence – they do none of these things until you are older, until you live in a different country with less rigid societal expectations. (Dad helps you make swords out of paper and cardboard and mock fights with you during the day; Mom’ll come up to tuck you into bed, scold you for reading past lights out – it does not mean they love you any less.)

The first time anyone you aren’t related to hugs you, you must be 12. Maybe 13.  

It’s sudden and unexpected, but you go to an international school, now, and so it keeps on happening.

By 16, you can be reasonably expected not to flinch away, but it’s a close thing, a learned thing.

Your friends keep on at it though, and you don’t hate the contact, just don’t much understand it --

It’s comfort, you learn, holding someone close. It’s comfort, this contact, something meant to steady you.

People around you let the words “I love you” fall from their lips, like they are not precious things, these casually tossed away pieces of emerald. ‘Love ya,’ they say, teasing and joking, so you bump shoulders and smile and never say the words back. (Here is the thing: you are 13 and smiling falsely, you have moved through three schools and eight living spaces, you lose friends as you move and know better than to ever think they will stay with you.)

But here you are, just shy of 17, your friend for the past three and a half years moving away:

You stutter over the words until you manage to say it, the phrase rolling out unevenly -- your friend rolls her eyes at you, but you follow with, I’ll miss you, say, keep in touch, mean all the words that come out.

Here you are, 17, realizing what good friends you have left, these friends you’ll be leaving behind.

So you say I love you and mean it, cling to them until you have to go – in another year, you will do the same, as they let you slot back into your place like the puzzle was never deconstructed at all. In another year, you will throw your arms around each of them, smile wide, that touch of desperation gone.

But there is a year, before that:

A desolate summer where you practice your German on unsuspecting grocery store cashiers, cry yourself to sleep at night when the gut-wrenching longing of homesickness feels too much, because you miss that country you used to call home, you miss your friends (and you’ve never had anyone to miss so terribly before.)

You have a pack of postcards, because your dad writes them, because you’ve collected them from art museums here and there, blank, waiting to be used. It is still summer, your friends are busy doing interesting things, too busy to check social media accounts, so you go old-fashioned and you write.

Hi, or Hello, you start every single one: how are you?  

You use up all the space on the back til your handwriting is almost microscopic, talking about castles, skirting around your grocery store visits, mentioning grades and what classes do you think you’ll get next year?, talking up the Capri-Suns you won’t drink, but found in novelty at the supermarkets anyway.

Love you and miss you, you end them all, heartfelt.

These are your friends: they respond in kind, through letters and pop-up cards, water-colored self-fashioned postcards and long-winded texts. These are your friends, still: you do not lose them.

You hug people more easily now, more casually, if still rarely.

You have old friends, a dent in your post-card stash alongside new ones.

You say I love you, sometimes, to people when you mean it, when your heart feels so close to bursting –

You stay quiet, others, because that has meaning too.
Oct 2019 · 132
Sam Oct 2019
It's raining outside like buckets
                                  - - - like hard and fast and almost even
                                   - - - like rain you'd best not be caught in
                                    - - - like the beginnings of a terrible storm
except there's no thunder, no lightning.

It's just rain, and you are inside, safe with a soft blanket
(you are not scared and shuddering
  you are not crying and wishing not to be alone
  you are not holding in choked breaths, hugging yourself tight.

it is raining, and it rains most days, here.
the trees around you are so green, like nothing you're used to.
you have a room to yourself, and no one who loves you who lives close.
(and you think you might love it here.)

this, where you reside, this is not a place you can call home.
(not when your heart still yearns for the place you grew up, so long ago.
  not when most of the people that make up your family live oceans away.
  not when you have just barely lived here a month, not quite yet.)
but -- but -- this place, it feels safe.

you can't remember living anywhere where all you felt was safe, before.
you - really - don't want to let that go.
Oct 2019 · 99
recovery road
Sam Oct 2019
I am learning how to smile and mean it.
I am learning how to say I miss you and not let the desperation choke me.
I am learning how to cry less in dark rooms, and laugh more in sunlit rain.

  I am learning to catch myself before I fall --
I am learning not to fall.

And most of all, I am trying, overall, to be  b e t t e r.
(please, please - let it be enough.)
May 2019 · 131
Sam May 2019
There's a word that means worn.
That means tired and unraveling, just barely holding on --

and you curl your arms around yourself
hide your face in your hands
your trembling body in corners of locked bathrooms
so you face the world intact

Your roommate said -
she was talking about surviving,
about last year,
before the two of you even knew each other existed,
about hard thing that wrecked your lives,
that made last year ****, and she said -
"But even at the worst parts,
I think some part of me knew
that I would make it through this."
And you hesitated a second or two longer
than you should have, before replying,
"It wasn't like that for me."

You think, in a way, that you were beyond threadbare, last year.
You were falling to pieces and assisting in your own self-destruction
- and so maybe you had people, but -
you didn't know how to recover from that,
didn't even know if you could,
if you would ever be able to.
And it was hard, and work,
but you dragged yourself up to a state
where you could
stand on your own two feet.
Where you built up a coat, again,
against shattering,
against haphazardly breaking.

But what's to stop the wind from pushing?
What's to stop your threads unraveling,
one by one, til all that's left is dust?

It's different, this year.

This year isn't just a matter of your reactions -
it's all the things outside of your control
stacking up and falling over.
It's a jenga tower whose blocks call to you in connection,
whose placements you had no part in whatsoever.
It's watching, and waiting, and hoping.

But all hope runs out eventually.

Your fall is more graceful, this year.
It's slower, gentler, and almost silent.

You are so tired of people you know dying:
one after another, after another, after another.

You were sadness in rage and emptiness, this time last year.
This year, you are just sad,
in a permeating fashion.
It's not -- it isn't -- you are used to it,
You just are tired of that,
Miss people, alive people and barely hanging on people,
don't let yourself think about the others
- you're scared where that will take you -
(you can pretend to be heartless pretty well, at this point)
You miss not having the sadness with you, constantly,
(and hey, at least this year you remember what that's like)
but --
It's an I can live with it kind of habit, this year -
you are being pulled apart, but
you are keeping yourself together.

you are keeping yourself together, still.
May 2019 · 107
patched back together
Sam May 2019
Sometimes, you feel so young, so fragile --
         you're going to break apart, and shatter
          into a million, billion, pieces, enough
          so you can't ever be put back together --

but somehow, you always are, and so here you are still,
far too old.

Crying while sleeping,
Dying while breathing,
Hiding while living.

But it's starting to get better now, somehow.

And -- it's strange. Not being miserable.
Foreign, to sleep through the night;
Odd, to be able to laugh so easily,
New, to not always be terrified.

Strange, but good. Right?
Except you don't know how to live like this,
when your hands wouldn't stop shaking
for five hours last Wednesday,
and two last Sunday and just Yesterday,
and you couldn'tbreathe and couldn'tsee,
but in this world, you returned still intact.
Still able, to see the view on the horizon,
which, you couldn't, before.
(it's Beautiful.)

So you can't be shattered glass,
Because your jagged pieces
Don't cut you, anymore,
Don't steal blood, out from your veins --
Just poke, and ****, and pierce,
make you fall down to your knees,
but allow you to get back up,
however slowly.

And so maybe, you're an archetype of clay.
The glass that was half-empty
ran wrong in the kiln,
melded with that ***, over there,
sitting collecting dust
until it got fired by accident,
got transformed, into something stronger.
Better, maybe. Less breakable, definitely.

And this item of misshapen pottery,
You are not suddenly invincible.
You do not even want to be,
Can barely move in this new skin,
Can barely understand yourself,
when you can feel your jagged pieces,
sometimes, just beneath the surface --
except now, often encased, entrapped.
The clay is starting to save you, and
Maybe, you're starting to believe that, let it.

Because you texted your friends,
on Wednesday and Sunday and Friday,
with a seven hour time difference,
hands trembling and unsteady,
and you said, please.
please, convince me that I'm okay.
And they told you they couldn't
but they did, and you're pretty sure that otherwise,
you would have been swept away to an incinerator.
And be gone, right about now,
instead of glued together, and kept,
become partially ceramic.

And this is a thing you will not forget.

Maybe, someday, you'll be an alloy of steel,
or an un-cracked cup, or blackened metal,
or even wood, splintered but growing.

Or you could stay like this.
Could learn how to live, again,
without the helpless sense,
of your own desperation choking you constantly.
Til everything good
isn't quite so foreign to you.

You'll learn how to be better, and maybe it'll stick.
(because afterall, you hated it,
      always being on the edge of tears,
      and constantly fake smiles,
      not being able, to see the light in day,

but you're used to it, your own fragility.)

You're scared it's not going to last.
A write from September.
May 2019 · 162
Sam May 2019
What you're wearing is not--
You bought the shirt yourself, to remind you of a trip.
The black jeans are from your mother,
                            are from a branch of a store that started back home
Your bracelet is a reminder of your host mother, who made it,
                           (and because you like purple)
Your glasses you need to see, are years old, with constant smudges,
Your hair is plaited because
         your mom used to give you french braids, daily,
         and it's since become a nervous habit
Your hair tye is just old, and used, from
                                           you don't even remember what year.

So, what you're wearing, it's not meaningless.
                                                    ­                              -- it's who you are.
It's the people you miss and the things you keep -
Because you've moved, so many times now, that you know
that everything you own fits into about 12 boxes, and
that's alright.

But it means that what you own -
what you own, is who you are.

And if that's the case,
then you're a mix of anyone who's ever been kind to you -
and that's a lot. A whole lot.
Mar 2019 · 91
Sam Mar 2019
The bravest are the ones who stand up for themselves.
They are my friends, known and unknown, who are made to feel small.
And they feel every blow as it hits them,
as it tears through their spirit,
through everything they thought they were -
And then they let their roots be planted and regrown in tainted ground,
re-learn corner by corner of this once home,
until the walls are no longer monsters, waiting to jump out and attack --
take it back for themselves.

And shielding others is one thing, but standing up for your self -
Standing up for yourself, there are paper thin walls.
Standing up for yourself, you have everything left to lose.

And yet they stand, on their own two feet,
perhaps trembling, perhaps crying, perhaps desperately wanting to hide,
but still they stand and say, "You have done me wrong."
Say, "This was not something I deserved."
And the strength grows back into their bones like armor,
this new, beautiful, unwavering, shield of courage,
that never should have been taken away.
Jan 2019 · 524
Let's Call it Home
Sam Jan 2019
The trains running past,
the buses too slow to catch,
ever-shining street lights
and people's eyes no longer bright --
let's throw it all away,
if it'll all be taken from us anyway.

Let's call it home -
my breath, steady over your shoulder,
you shirt, damp from my tears,
a million hugs and compliments,
the ringing of laughter.

It's all going to fade away:
A house to an apartment to a dorm room,
desperately, hesitantly, found safe havens.
But this --

Let's call it people. Let's call it connection.
How about we keep it?
Hold it tight, keep it close - hold on, and don't let go.

Someday, when Google finally blackmails us,
there's going to be a dozen chats,
on half a dozen forms of social media.

And someday, when this is all history,
and the internet's long since collapsed -
they're going to trace postcard after postcard,
letter after letter.

When I go bankrupt, I'll blame post-stamps.
I'll blame living a few too many countries,
a few too many oceans, few too many continents far away,
to see you all in person.
I'll blame needing to write Love you, miss you,
because this is the girl who thought everyone was going to leave,
and now she doesn't want to give you any excuse to forget her, see.
And I'll still smile at every text message,
Still grin unabashedly at every piece of mail I get back.
Still be so, so freakin' happy, when I get to see you in person.

So let's call it friends, let's call it family.
Let's call this home.
Oct 2018 · 1.7k
Sam Oct 2018
            you’re still visible.

When you smile, just wide enough, bright, and --
your eyes glaze over, just a little. ever-present, the red-rimmed edges.
Your posture is good form. Back straight, shoulders pulled, and -- rigid.
too rigid. so when was the last time you let down your guard?

You seem perfect, darling - you seem fine.
except the moments that you freeze, stuck still, can’t move,
when no one’s looking.

Because the people who would have noticed you --
who would have seen you,
                                                  Did see you,
falling apart at the seems,
hands shaking and gulping unsteady breaths,
head spinning when the world wasn’t
desperately alone and wanting not to be --

                                                         ­    Are gone. Again.
                                                         ­                               There’s no one there.

Months ago, almost a year now, they found you.
{Your soon to be, family, of 9 friends.}
Not impressive in the least,
                          almost completely faded into the wallpaper,
                                             utterly breakable, utterly close to broken,
                                                         ­                                         utterly alone.
And they gave you
                                                                ­   lifelines,
                                                                ­                     and hugs.
Resumed you back, to a more bearable way of living.
                                                    ­ And you were so, so,
desperate -- so you
stayed, against your better judgement --
you watched, and you learned.
                         How to hide things, your secrets.
                         How to lie, and do it brilliantly -- always only to protect.
                         How to fake being fine:
                           trying to hide tear tracks? -
                                 rub your eyes with cold water, just say you’re tired
                                 (it’s always true)
                           make other people believe you? -
                                 lie by omission, and avoid the word fine
                                 (use synonyms)
                           panic attacks? -
                                learn your signs, nearest places no one will go, and when
                                 (and walk, then
                            who to trust? -
                               the ones who stick close. the ones too much like you.
                               (the ones who see
you, always, visible or not.)
but also:
How to let other people orbit around you, and not just orbit them.
How to throw caution to the wind and say,
I love you, permanent or not.
nothing lasts (but you knew that), but
sometimes, somethings, are still worth it.
And how to breathe again, a little bit more easily,
bit more like you used to be able to.

It falls apart spectacularly (the kindest way imaginable), with
        i love yous,
              i’ll miss yous,
                        stay in touch,
                                 a plethora
of hugs (you used to flinch away from).

And being alone is so
hard -- however did you stand it?
there’s a gaping ache, of loneliness,

                                      of missing, in your chest, you can’t quite identify --

you just want a hug,
                                       someone’s arms around your shoulders just to
ground you,
Just a laugh, or a smile; a friendly face,
just someone, just anyone --
                                                         ­       your closest lifeline lives sixthousandsevenhundredandeighty
                            ­                                    kilometers away.

it’s one of your further away friends, who tells you,
If you feel homesick, you know, that makes sense
Like it’s the most natural thing in the world

                                                              It makes the air around you go still,
                                                                ­               makes your breath pause.
you thought home was a place.
and if home was a place, well,
you’d never have one.
                                                  so however did you end up
                                                 with nine, whole, pieces of it?

                                                with something like a family,
                                              even if you can’t say it aloud?

So that’s why
           There’s a constant, thin, circle of red, around your eyes,
           Why you’ve once again forgotten how to trust,
           Why you’ll stare off into the distance, just for a beat,
     your stream of conscious
                 I miss you I miss you I love you I miss you
                     brought back up to the surface.
But it’s also:
Staying inside when it rains, and pours,
not going out and getting drenched
because you want a tangible reason to feel miserable;
Actively trying to sleep, at halfway decent hours,
because maybe, you can.
because you might be an insomniac, but
you never tried to stop it;
And eating, whole, actual, proper, meals,
no longer skipping, because it may taste like nothing
but there’s no longer the nausea.
A few steps in the right direction, perhaps.

You have so many self-destructive tendencies; habits, now,
  and no one but you to stop them.
and it would be so much easier, to not.
to let them all devour you, because
                                                                ­ you’re not all that terrified of them
and you should be.

So instead, you’re trying. Your damndest.
                                                      ­            Because your friends taught you,
how to piece yourself back together,
and to try to keep living.
and you owe them enough, to do your utmost,
to keep yourself as intact as you possibly can.

You aren’t great, and
You aren’t fine,
despite a passable impression.
                         You’re alright,
                                                Because, you’re trying,
I miss you, I love you, I miss you, I miss you
                                                And, slowly, you’re getting there,
Maybe, someday, you can make yourself visible again.
                                                         ­                                        Homesick, or not.
         you’re alright.

         You’re alright.
I never knew you could miss someone so much, that you'd do just about anything to see them again.
Jul 2018 · 323
love on a broken heart
Sam Jul 2018
there are two ways of love, this is how you learn the second:
you. are not. alone.

the first way of love is all you:                                                             ­         
you, when you learned how to make others laugh.
you, the girl who brings tissues and doesn't say a word.
you, the girl who promises you will never see me cry, and keeps it.
you, because you take 4 trains over 2, to get your friend home safe.
you, developing a mask to hide your damage, so you hurt no one else.

that's how you break - exhausted, at your limit, and alone                    
except - you're not.

the second way of love is more, them:
the way they catch you, somehow, when you fall.
how you stop flinching away from physical contact,
because you're used to it,  now, because now it's - safe.
all the many, many, I'm here(s), that take you by surprise.
how you infringe upon their space, and they welcome you in.
the first time anyone tells you to let me know when you get home and
the second. and the third. because people don't - didn't - care about you.

learning to love on a broken heart
means you expect everything to shatter in front of you.
means you're always paranoid, and always terrified.
means you always know to expect the worse.

but the second way of love,                                                            ­                
is the sort of way that gives back.            
makes you remember that thing called hope.
teaches you how to say I love you, in the first place.
teaches you, it goes both ways, teaches you, you. are not. alone.
(makes you believe it.)
Sam Jun 2018
You love like it’s effortless.
Like it grew in with your bones,
like you have always known how to, like the idea of not openly expressing love is foreign.
(Love is a choice, you say,
like it’s obvious and certain,
Love does not intend harm)

You love like you are waiting for someone to stab you in the back.
Careless, and freely given, until the line is drawn on the grass and you expected this in the first place - you live as though you expect to need to cut your losses at any second. (Until that point, however, you love wholeheartedly— hell hath fury on those who harm the ones you love.)

You love as though it will break you if you don’t. Your emotions are bursting on the surface, and it will hurt you more to turn a blind eye than it will to take a trip down another’s misery. You love earnestly and obviously, and your own bleeding heart will come second always, but you understand what can happen, heartbreak - will risk it again and again despite that the odds may now be ever against you.

You love like it’s a forgone conclusion that everyone knows love exists. Like it’s just there, and of course it’s supposed to be good, and of course it’s supposed to be freely given and returned. (And you seem so confused when others do not follow your simple ideology.)

You love cautiously. Because you thought they weren’t out to get you, once, but they were. (And not all parts of you survived it.) So now everything terrifies you, and you create holes to jump through, tests to run - your use of the word trust is seldom, of love rarer still.

You love in secret. Like a facade will protect you from life, but all it does drive people away who don’t come back for the second look. You love as though you’re unlovable, but you know what it’s like to be loved, and you willingly go with the ones who come back through.

You love people like they will save you. A hope that they will rally to your side. You need them, but you need them to need you, and you know how to be calculating, but you didn’t want to be. You love freely, though, until they burn the bridges you once crossed together.

You love people who don’t expect it, and you love like you’re on a mission, non-malicious, because you’re really just trying to give others a little piece of the world they don’t yet have, and the love and affection that comes afterwards is an unintended, albeit not unwelcome consequence.

I love like it’s forbidden.
As though the minute it is admitted, the love will disappear, by nature of simply acknowledging the fact.
(And so they fade away without ever knowing.)

You love like it’s an afterthought,
like you didn’t know you were allowed to.
It drips from your shoulders,
in an array of colors
I have never seen before.
And yet, it’s kept tight against your body
As if you’d rather it be hurt then you.

(You’re allowed to be loved, and love in return. You already are.)
10 interpretations of how different people love, the first 9, of 9 different people from my perspective, the 10th an interpretation by my friend in response to reading the poem, on person 9 (me).
May 2018 · 439
waltz; three-time
Sam May 2018
I have a waltz, playing behind my eyes - open or closed -
three time.
one-two-three, one-two-three,
a silhouette of two girls dancing.

I learned it when I was 7,
playing dress-up as Cinderella -
my grandmother taught me, dancing around her dining room table.

There isn’t any music, just a rhythm -
one-two-three, one-two-three,
three time.

But there wasn’t any music in real-life, either -
just a fast song we ignored, tired of jumping up and down like crazy people
(or high schoolers who couldn’t dance)

I can’t dance” - I had said, at least four times already, an attempt at an apology,
watching our two friends take the dance floor by storm.
Yeah, neither can I” - I got back, although you knew Swing, I was fairly sure,
Well, except the Waltz,” I think I said, my attempt to make up my own inadequacy -
So do I,” you said, and then, most hesitantly, gesturing to nothing at all, “do you want to?

I didn’t remember most everything, just that it was three-time,
I let you direct my hands where they were supposed to go, covering shoulder and waist - and then we were, for all purposes, ready to dance.

and No - I don’t know what it meant, if it meant anything, -
just that it was awkward, a bit, because the fast music messed with the three-time rhythm so my steps were a bit off beat, and that the song ended just in time to stop it from becoming truly awkward,
just that we were friends, and I had never danced with anyone before,
grandparents aside -
just that it was lovely, and it made me smile
just that I can’t stop remembering it, but I don’t really mind.

Because we did dance;
the left back corner, a section of the dance floor all our own.
May 2018 · 219
found families
Sam May 2018
Family, they say, who do you have;
and you go: mother, father;
stop cold.

The Japanese version of the word, kazoku, means siblings over all blood relations, isn’t necessarily inclusive of parents, is one of the few words where the Japanese version of it makes you pause over the English one.

The you, the old one, in 1st grade of the distant past,
she comes up with more names eventually,
and without much pause;
she goes grandmother, grandfather, (great) aunts 1 through 4, 2nd cousins here, 3rd cousins there, and oh, the 9 first cousins on her mother’s side, 1 aunt, 3 uncles, mother’s mom’s sister, other great aunt, her children — she loses count. (besides, her teacher makes her stop after grandparents.)

Family, they say, who do you have;
and you go: father (genuinely), mother (out of habit);
stop cold.

And the people you love who don’t love you back;
you are starting to gradually tear their influence
away from your heart.

Your grandparents; the alive ones (their names will come back if they stop identifying different with bad; will be torn the rest of the way off, like an infected limb from the rest of the body, if (when) they realize the tie of different to you.)

Aunt 4, of the open minded branch (if it ever comes to the schism, there’s a chance she might choose you - but you would send her back away, refuse to take away her grandchildren for her great niece.)

Your friends
(And this is just waiting until the day you believe it, because you’ll always be terrified to say it. Family is made, family is more than blood, but your breath catches because everybody leaves, and you don’t quite have enough courage to say it yet - will never quite muster up the courage until it is no longer true.)

Your mother
(because she’ll always choose you but never enough; always a rejection in secret because she must not know and you must not hurt where she can see you.)

Family, they say, who do you have;
and you take a breath
and smile like it’s not fake
like that word hasn’t been fractured beyond repair for a while now,
and dearest, you lie.
because family is found. but you have to find it first.
May 2018 · 153
palter adept
Sam May 2018
And this, it is all your failings, all the ways you cannot hide:

Biting your lip to stop tears until that stops working, then using it to block frowns in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the former;

Blinking too fast to stop tears, and realizing, then, that you can allow your eyes to fill up with water, and so long as they don’t fall -
no one will notice.

Breathing desperately through your nose or not at all, to pretend the panic doesn’t exist, so it can consume you later, alone and vulnerable and afraid, rocking back and forth on various surfaces of floor. (Because you have convinced yourself it is your curse to bear alone, because bringing people pain for when they help you is not your idea of giving back to the world - (and the world owes you nothing, and if it did, it would not be this.)

Basking - or at least, accepting, compliments of others, in order to detach yourself from them more completely - (because the best way to hide is to make them believe you’ve gotten better, to make their worry dissipate and turn to some other better-deserving cause, for them not to realize this precarious state, because you are still only half way on the wagon, because without them you are far more likely to fall off - but these are not the things you want them to understand, you who are burden enough already, arguments aside, and know it.)

And because you keep secrets.
Theirs, and everyone else’s, and your own.
(Once, it was the weight of being all of their confidants that crushed you - now it is being your own.)

You can lie.
Not callously, not yet -
but you have gone beyond necessity,
have gone past only lies which could be considered kind.

And you have gone beyond feeling,
beyond the always soul-crushing guilt;
beyond the point where you have an intact fear of death;
beyond the point of being selfless,
of accepting help from others only when they genuinely want to,
and only when you desperately need it.

And what might terrify you,
  (other than the discovery of this)
  (other than them leaving)
is that they think you are still good.
still kind, still nice, still theirs
(and you are utterly petrified, of hurting them to save yourself.)

Because the nice ones flow under the radar, and the kind ones have the most power. And the difference, between you, and them, is that they do not know it, like you didn’t know it, and now you do - and here you are, using it to your own advantage. And by the time their belief no longer blinds them to your failings -
by then, it will be far too late.
May 2018 · 277
Sam May 2018
falling in love is easy.
effortless, even.
(unaware until you’ve already fallen)

staying in love is conscious
(because at some point or another, you notice it, and it either takes your breath away in awe, or it sends ice down your spine-
and you run, run fast.)

once you let yourself fall,
then your heart is no longer yours.

(it can be a wonderful thing, two pieces of two hearts,
given away freely and replacing the other,
healing rather than harming, uniting.)

the thing about the ones
who don’t love you back, is that
you give your whole heart away,
and they slowly crush it
in return;
you do not see it until only pieces remain-
(after all, you were in love.)

the thing about the ones who
don’t love you back,
is that then, it becomes your fault -
(because who would have ever chosen to love you in the first place?)

but it’s going to take you years
to realize that it isn’t on you,
as you assemble back the broken pieces,
try to breathe with just half a soul,
start to learn that you deserve just as much love as you give.

it’s going to take time,
because now you’re afraid
that this is the story with everyone -
(you’re not sure you could survive this again)

the thing about the ones who
don’t love you back,
is that they break you.

you trust them, and their charade is flawless.
(Of course they love you,
of course this is mutual) of course
this is all your fault.
Sam Apr 2018
When someone compliments you:
If you can help it, do not flinch back,
stare in paralyzed awe and shock,
run hurriedly away from the room,
or try to decline and deny it;
however politely.
Meet the compliment-giver’s eyes,
stand tall and unashamed,
smile, if it is manageable,
and say simply, “Thank you.”
And if it still feels unbearable,
compliment them genuinely back.
(And if you find you truly believe it, this compliment, believe it rather than simply accepting it for politeness’ sake - then remember that you have done no wrong, that pride in work well-done is not egotistical, can still be humility.)

The words ‘I Love You’:
Are not words that apply
only for one specific context,
Do not automatically designate
relative, partner, child -
“friend” can also be encompassed.
These words, also, need not be used sparingly
if the feelings behind them are honestly meant.
Relationships do not always last, and neither do people.
(However short, however long, however imperfect or wondrous, you are allowed to (and need to) have attachments to other people. And you are always allowed to tell people that you love them. Even if (especially if) you will not know them for very long.)

Not being fine:
is okay.
You can bury yourself in some else’s arms until you remember how to breathe on your own again.
You can cry until your tears count up to be enough to fill a desert.
You can sit and sit an stare into space, paralyzed.
And you are not weak.
Just human, apparently.
With too few gadgets to replace a beating heart.

Affection is like building blocks:
step by step and always with permission.
Because to you, touch is foreign.
Is the hugs you exchange with your parents when one exits the country.
Is the occasional good night kiss on the cheek.
Is sparse.
So the first time you realize hugs can be beneficial is when it’s been an awful week and your friend gives you one, and for once it feels like you’re not alone.
But you still find yourself flinching away afterwards, even once you realize the word hug can be synonymous with the word safe.
So you hugging people is sporadic.
Until the second day you forget how to breathe, how to smile, and hugs might just be what saves your life.
Giving back is gradual, but it happens. You learn how to tone down your urge to flinch back, learn how to offer affection instead of only taking it, learn that it has a place. Learn to shelter, rather than stare.

Anger, Rage, and Fury:
burn fast and burn bright,
are better used as rocket fuel
than wild forest fires,
are better cut short than long,
are better in measured doses,
but still have their place.
Because you must be feeling
at least some of the time,
and outward rage hurts less
than turning it inward.
And to feel anger, yes,
you have to accept,
just for a while,
that you are worth something,
and, as such, have a right to feel,
have a right to ignore
the empathetic part of you
and say that your own feelings
deserve equal measure of chaos.
And then you raise your voice
until you are shouting, and tears are streaming down your face.
And you blame the world because it’s easier
than degrading a specific person, and apologize to it after.
And you take someone with you who will still stay by your side in the aftermath, and you let them guide you home.
Because sometimes,
Fury is easier to channel
than sadness, or hurt,
is safer in ways that are often missed, is a guide back to the vividity of the world, to the shining street lamps and old, used, train tracks, to the screaming array of colors that appear in parks and crowds, and the rage is a way of being able to see it all again, new,
think, “Beautiful,” and mean it.

Loyalty is bravery:
speaking up for something,
for someone,
and standing beside them in silence
may be a show of solidarity,
but at some point it is your duty
to stand in front of
and directly take
the fire meant for them,
for when they can’t,
when they shouldn’t have to,
and even when they feel invincible enough that they do not need you.
Because they chose you.
Silent, shy, well-meaning, playing both sides of every story, self-deprecating, lonely, abandoning, forgiveness-inducing, and occasionally flippantly heartless. You.
And you let them.
And you stayed.
And you chose them back.
So sometimes, there are no right sides, but when you think it should matter, when it does matter, you choose. And keep choosing.
And make your stand, because it’s right. And because you know that betrayal hurts even in subtlety.

You are not worthless:
and this is still a point of debate.
But of everyone who leaves, who you leave too - forced departure does not (necessarily) equate they are glad to get rid of you. And making that assumption, perhaps, has been an incorrect one. So leaving, does not actually equal losing - not always.
And you should let others figure out the good in you, because you did not coerce them into choosing it. Because you are allowed
to let someone guide you
to the more shallow end of the river,
believe you are worth
something enough,
to have someone pull you up
from the alluring blue of drowning.
And sometimes, every so often,
you do something good and well,
and beyond useful.
And in those moments, you are not worthless,
and something other else later - it does not negate that worth.
Apr 2018 · 151
Sam Apr 2018
Here's a lie:

You're fine.

a truth:

(You're scared. More scared than you'll ever admit, and sad. Sad enough that miserable is probably a more accurate description, and
ly, too.

enough that even your friends' are barely enough to make you smile, now, now you are apathetic, because feeling is tootoo much-

                 checking your pulse every hour, just to prove you're still alive --

a pity, turns out you're still breathing.)

and No, really. You are.

You're just fine.

You're just  f  i  n  e.

(you can't afford to be anything else)
Apr 2018 · 166
Sam Apr 2018
If there's any kind of normal anymore,
then it's you -- just you,
standing with a dish rag long after everyone else (your father)
has gone to bed, some point between 7:30 and 9:00 at night.

Things are better now,
(things are worse now)
your mother has been out of country for a week
(or 6 months and 5 days, excluding the handful of week long visits)
and you and your father are ready to leave, now,
crossed the last few items off your bucket list
(everything is the same as it was 6 months ago:
your mother is not sleeping,
your father is not sleeping,
you are both your parent's favorite confidant
for complaints against the other,
sole companion when drunk,
your mother hates her job (still),
your father is drowning in the wake
of your mother's misery (still),
and you are still (trying) failing
to hold the pieces together -
yours and theirs.)

It's March/April, so there are cherry blossoms (Sakura),
and your father says, they're beautiful
and your mother (from the video screen of your father's phone) says,
that's a lot of white (they're pink)
and you think, I guess this is the last time I will ever see this.

Your mother's been miserable for the past two and a half years, so you and your father were only half right when you figured giving her your blessing to get out of this
(god forsaken -- to your father)
(sexist, and karoshi-inducing -- to your mother)
(home, yet unaccepting and soul-crushing -- to you) country would help.
(And it did, but not enough and not for long.)

Your mother's world is work, new country, new culture, new language, new apartment, and talking to the two of you. (It's also sans furniture for the first three months, newly insulated heating, and living off takeout and on a futon.)

Your father's world is work, the English side of packing up and moving, you, figuring out his replacement, meeting friends for bike rides or dinner and drinks to say goodbye, and talking to your mother. (It's also figuring out how you'll all survive if this doesn't work out, making arrangements for everything his wife forgot in her hurry to leave, ensuring he and you make it until June.)

Your world is school, your father, the Japanese side of packing up and moving, your friends, stepping down and teaching others to replace you, and doing your part to keep your mother sane. (It's also hiding your own decent into misery, making friends just in time to lose them, and looking up the extra Japanese jargon that your father forgets he'll need.)

Your father has been wary of this country since the day he moved here - 14 years, 2 months, and 17 days ago; has hated it since the day after the final date of your expected stay, 12 years, 11 months, and 2 days past. The summer you are twelve it comes to a culmination, and your parents inhibit separate apartments for the next half-decade.

The conversation you overhear four years after the fact (a summer night when your bedroom window has been left open, near midnight, your parents talking on the balcony  it connects to) goes like this:
  You said you hated me. (Your mother.) You told me it was my fault we were stuck here.
  I have never hated you. (Your father.)
  You said I ruined your life. (Your mother, again. Voice raw, broken.)
  You didn't ruin my life, (Your father. Voice tired, like this is a recurring discussion.) you... (You can imagine your mother crying, your father wrapping his arms around her shoulders. The candle on the patio table flickering with surrounding city light, reflecting your mother's tears, the hint of silver in your father's ring.) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I never should have said it, but you already know that. You didn't ruin my life.
  (Silence. Then your mother, again.) You said you hated me.
The conversation lasts well past 2:00 in the morning,
your parents none the wiser to your reluctant presence.
(It's not a conversation you ever wanted to hear.)

After the go-ahead for the move comes in very late August, everything ignites, speeds up to a ridiculous pace. You and your father box up the majority of your mother's apartment, and then it falls to the two of you to get rid of everything left when she leaves after another month. (It's that same month that she traverses three countries in two weeks, gets stuck in the midst of a hurricane warning- drives 10 hours across state borders to escape it, and spends her first week living in Germany forgetting most everything.)

Deciding to move and finding a school comes in October and November. You and your father miss a day of school to fly to Amsterdam and back, realize certain things are unfeasible, look at more schools, and begin to send letters. You miss a whole week by yourself in Germany, causing your mother to sleep, for once, and then catching only 2 hours yourself for a week straight (added onto panic attacks and dizzy spells) once you get back to Japan. (It’s mid-October when a school in Frankfurt indirectly says they’ll accept you, your father hands in his resignation the following week, then turns to you and asks are you sure you want to move your senior year? - and you think bit late to be asking now.)

Your mother calls everyday, and you make yourself present for it once or twice every week. (It’s mid-November before you realize that your father may miss her desperately, but you don’t. At all.) Sunday becomes packing day, and you and your father slowly pile up boxes while avoiding paperwork, accumulating trash runs to the apartment complex across the street. By March, there is a plan for getting rid of furniture in place, and most save bare essentials are packed.

I counted. Your mother starts, first to speak once the connection goes through. 80 days. So you have 80 days to go around the world and come see me.
Well, nowadays, it only takes 2 days to travel across,
you quip, as your father pulls out his calendar.
Looks like you won’t have to wait that long he says, pointing at your mother’s proposed date of contact - 6/13 - in contrast to his last day of work, a week behind your final day of school, your daughter might even make it at 70, he adds (and you silently say goodbye to spending any of the summer with your friends.)
Well, your deadline is 80. (She’s not sure she’ll make it if it’s any longer.) I miss you.
Miss you too.
Love you.
Love you.
Love you too.

Come evening, you will still be the last one standing, alone except for the cold water running across your fingers and the plates that will be labeled ******* within 2 months, the wind if it decides to howl, the motor of a car if one chooses to pass your deserted street, your father if (when) he begins to shift and turn and give up on sleep. And this you can still say, is normalcy.
Apr 2018 · 398
risk quarantine
Sam Apr 2018
If you try to breathe, normal,
in through the nose
out through the mouth,
you know your breath will stutter,
come out in a gulping, unsteady way

Because your heart is too fast
(as always)
Your mind is too unclear,
stuck in a haze of fog.

So you will breathe
through only your nose,
keep the panic curled and tight
until you are all alone,
and it can lash out fast and furious,
and harm no one but you.
Feb 2018 · 210
fragmented consciousness
Sam Feb 2018
The thing is, see, it's mostly
all just in your head.
and you know that, see, but

when you have two scraps of metal,
old and rusted and not pretty at all
and something forces them
to scrap against each other,
this old guttural, dying sound
and all you can do
is cover your ears
and fail (try) to block it out,
until someone has mercy
on the now misshapen metal,
grinds it to a slow, screeching halt.

Except, when it is your own heart
feeling like fractured pieces
that aren't meant to go together;

Your own heart,
that beats too fast,
leaves not enough air in your lungs;

Your own ****** heart,
that forces you to the floor,
leaves you screaming a mantra of
in stolen gasps of air;

There is no one there
who can grind it to halt;

Because this is all you -
Your damaged, broken down
excuse for a heart
that won't let you inhale oxygen -

And it hurts.

Too much, and not enough,
And you will be the only one there
Who can pick yourself
back up
off the floor
Who can force yourself
to breath steady
But you are also the one
making yourself into this, somehow;
This broken mess
huddled in a corner,
waiting for the world to come back.

But it won't.
Feb 2018 · 563
Which is worse?
Sam Feb 2018
To feel numb, and nothing at all -


To feel everything, all at once -
and be pulled under
by your complete inability
to laugh. or even smile?
Feb 2018 · 157
Sam Feb 2018
It is so strange (beautiful)
to rediscover
all the reasons
you fell in love with her
in the first place

(and realize they're all still true.)
Feb 2018 · 116
Sam Feb 2018
If you were feeling -

If you were breathing normal and proper and thick with emotion -

The guilt would tear you apart.

*(and this is apathy's saving grace.)
Feb 2018 · 158
Sam Feb 2018
I don't do anger (this is not a lie.)
Don't do rage, or fury.
Just sad. Just broken. Just hurt.

Because how can you feel anger,
when you are too empathetic
for your own **** good?
When understanding comes
before fury ever has a chance to?

Apparently, you let yourself shout
at the stars,
surrounded by a crowd
who muffles your volume
with their own,
and doesn't care about you
in the slightest,
encouraged along
by the hand
holding tight
to your own.

Apparently, you let yourself feel
everything you can:
the hurt
the terror
the loneliness
the overwhelming sense
and hollowing out of it all

And you let your tears run free
And have your voice follow.

There is nothing beautiful about it;
suppressed emotions forcing their way out in stutters and run-on sentences alike, the cadence of it all jumping through octaves, shrill and not enough air to low and soft and quiet, heartbeat too fast and too slow all at once, scared to death of confessing too much yet relieved, all at the same time.

There is nothing beautiful about it,
but it looks like and sounds like and feels like anger.

Like fury.
Like rage.

It feels directed at everything more so than anything specific, but more than that - it feels like something.

*Like being alive again.
Feb 2018 · 170
third culture kid (ii)
Sam Feb 2018
You switched countries the first time when you were 3.
Stayed in one place 14 and a half years,
then switched from living on one continent and visiting another,
to just staying on one (other) continent,
and flip-flopping between two countries.

The Gross Total: 3 continents;
4 countries (lived), 14 countries (visited);
3 languages, 5 schools;
10 places of living (house, home, apartment - pick a word you like.)

*And you're one of the lucky ones.
Sam Jan 2018
You'd been absent from where you usually sat, that picnic table that used to be so full to bursting there'd be about five people just eating standing, but today you came back, and I swear I was going to talk to you.

But then we made small talk for all of a minute, and something in me chose caution over kindness.

What I almost said:

If you go all the way down the hallway, to the very back of the building, the area where only the theater and music kids have any real reason to go, turned right of the proper theater, and enter the room at the first corner, you'd find all of us. And I'm not sure if you know of that room's existence in relation to us, so I just wanted to let you know that you are welcome, if you ever get too lonely out here.

And if I'd told you all of that, maybe you'd have followed me back to the room in question, maybe you'd have sat on the floor with the rest of every one else and watched today's pick of Star Trek or Doctor Who or something other episode.

But I think I'd have lost the courage to speak my entire my mind, and that's why I never said anything at all.

Before you do, though, I want you to understand something.

And I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just being honest. As well as trying to protect mine own.

Because that room, hidden away, with mint green carpet and chairs, and too few posters on walls; with dozens of pianos stood side by side against each other with only space for a computer beside them; with dirt brown curtains that don't match the rest of the room, and mugs hidden sporadically throughout; with the nicest, most caring, trustworthy, and brilliant music teacher you will ever meet - that room is our

That room is where we watch movies, burst into song, tell jokes, and occasionally do homework, yes, but it is also to
that room that we flee when we're so consumed by life that we have trouble doing anything but reminding ourselves how to keep breathing.  
When we're sick.
When we're miserable.
When we're exhausted.
When everything is wrong, and nothing will ever be the same again.

What I'm saying is that
that room, is our safe haven. And, granted, it could be yours too, someday. But at the moment, it's just ours.

I needed you to understand how important that was, but I wasn't sure I could really get through to you, not without offending you in the process.

No matter how strongly I felt about it, it wasn't as though I was going to threaten you, say,

Don't you dare *do anything to sabotage it.
Jan 2018 · 783
third culture kid (i)
Sam Jan 2018
and here are the reasons why no one tells you to go be a third cultured person:

its not easy.

When you are one of us,
different and foreign are not even a blip on your radar,
(because my life has always been detachment - meeting and smiling and beginning to say "hi", only to have to wave goodbye.)
you will always be different and foreign, belonging to a place is a wish and not a reality, home has always meant people as opposed to a place (not that people are at all constant).
leaving is normal too, just pack your bags and go go go, doesn't matter if you never come back, onto a new place now, and goodbyes are hard -- but seldom unexpected.

when you are one of us, you are shifting and turning and never never staying, always changing and moving forward, frighteningly frighteningly fast, all impermanence and hopeful, but broken promises-- you will perhaps stay in one place for some period of time.
(you will never belong)
Jan 2018 · 177
girl in the background
Sam Jan 2018
your identity of claim wasn't intentional -
it just was.
you were the wind behind the open door and
the fastened clip of the safety belt and
the doormat to wipe shoes on and
just hidden in the shadows.
the girl in the background.

the shadows were lonely.
frigidly cold.
(and safe.)

alone = isolation = solitude =
(no one to break your heart)
(no one's heart to break)


the girl in the background

started to fade away

between blackened flashes
(headaches and near-faint dizziness)
failing sanity
and helplessness
(the sudden complete inability to smile)

to a more visible color

hovering at the stage left edge.


your friends found you.

walked with you the week you couldn't smile.

let you hide in shelters of too-long hugs
(until your heartbeat slowed
to match the steadier beat
and you started believing
in the idea of not being alone.)

held your newly-trembling hands steady.

gave you commiserating smiles and stories.

talked you down from the overwhelming terror.

dragged you bit by bit further away from the shadows.


the girl in the background disappears

around the time you start
saying back words like
"I love you"

to people who will undeniably leave you.

to people without the tie of blood-relation
because they have earned your trust
and someday is always too late.


the girl in the background
never had anyone
to rely on


you wake up to everything

three weeks starved of your lifelines of beating hearts

half a step away from the spotlight

the girl who doesn't quite stay silent (not anymore).


people expect you to say things, now.

expect you to be calm and speak.

(words tangle amidst languages,
get lost between
one synonym
and another
and another.)

you stay quiet, and you know the hurt you see
flash across
is not a product of your imagination.

(you miss it, a little. being the girl in the background.)


deadlines loom above your head,
T minus 5 months

After that: gone.


you'll miss them.

as things are progressing at the moment,
they'll miss you.

if you could do it, though,
fade back to black
(lonely distant shadows)
they might forget.

(forget you.)

it would hurt them less, in the long run.


(the girl in the background starts to make her comeback.)
Jan 2018 · 335
Sam Jan 2018
blossoming across the sky like flowers blooming in a day.
Japanese: hanabi ; Translation: flower fire, fire flower

reflected across the river in beams of colored light.
Spanish: fuegos artificiales ; Translation: fires fake, fake fires

set off in the street, with only the warning of the crowd backing away-
English: fireworks ; Interpretation: fire erupting all throughout, pyrokinetic

a light show, bouncing off roof tops and singeing shop windows.
*German: Feuerwerk ; Translation: firework, pyrokinetics, and New Years
New Years, amidst my languages and cultures, and the Düsseldorf celebrations.
Dec 2017 · 240
Sam Dec 2017
I used to call it Christmas.

All of it, when I was younger. The lights stemming out from around the (real) tree, the neighbors' decorations, the candles at Christmas mass. The cookies that would be sat upon a plate the night before, and the feast we would cook up the morning of the day of. The garbage bag full of torn wrapping paper, and the sinking in exhaustion from failing to truly conquer the second or third day jet lag. The smiles and the laughter and the pictures and the hugs and kisses (family).

One year, suddenly, it was just the three of us.

The year after, I learned that my extended family could hate me, one day.

And now there's a country none of us have been to in years.
(It used to be an annual thing.)

It stopped being Christmas when it lost its magic.

And for a while, I thought that was it. Done. Gone.

But it isn't about "Christmas",
the tradition of it or the religion or just the name
(or it can be and it is but it doesn't need to be)
because it's about warmth.

About the couple I gave up on half-a-decade ago looking in love again.
About making the ones who look on the verge of tears just smile instead.
About the people you love, who love you back, with absolute certainty.
About the street lights (pollution-causing or not) chasing away the dark.

It's about healing, about the fact that things can be fixed.
It's about hope, about how broken things aren't always broken.
It's about the cold, how someone's there to heat up your soul after it.

It's about warmth.
Dec 2017 · 890
plausible deniability
Sam Dec 2017
You built a house out of dominoes and Jenga blocks, and it still took you by surprise when it all came shattering down around you.

In all fairness, it’s been a long time coming.

In all fairness, you caught pieces, from time to time.

But you wanted to hold onto something, because everything you ever knew only told you that the only way to make a good thing was to burn the bad thing down, rebuild it from the ground up. And you just wanted to be able to be fixed.

People are not houses. They do not survive the fire or the burn or the smell of acrid smoke. They can not be reborn like phoenixes from the ashes.

You flirted with denial longer than you should have. You let the streams of I’m fine It’s okay That’s great Everything’s good. I’m okay. I’m fine. I’m alright. I’m fine, really. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. bleed into and over each other until your lies clashed a little too close, and people started to peer in with suspicion.

Rule 1 of denial: deny.
Rule 2: lie until you believe it.
Rule 3: don’t let anyone suspect.
Rule 4: minimize the damage.

Your house fell into rubble with a phone call at the end of a good day.

Because it wasn’t really a good day, just a good enough day, because you ate lunch and dinner, because your hands shook a little bit, because you had only a small headache. Because things weren’t worse, and they could have been.

You aren’t fine.

You’re breathing, and you’re going through the motions. And you don’t intend to die any time soon.

You’re existing, but you aren’t fine.

A stack of dominoes, and a pile of haphazardly stacked Jenga blocks. So build back a complete house, without the collapse. Add in glue, or safety pins, rope. Take a step back, sometimes, observe. When you see a fissure, hold steady and fix the crack. Do not avert your eyes.

You are not fine.
Nov 2017 · 376
Sweater Weather
Sam Nov 2017
So it’s fall, now.
It’s fall, all sweater weather and Halloween and chilly but not quite cold —

the weeks are upon us and not long later it will be winter.

It’s still as-of-yet-changing color of trees fall, though, for now, yet I’ve never fallen so fast as I have during this one.

Flowers, grass, began to fade, began changing their colors away and so did I, ending summer with misery, uncertaintness, and almost passing out (no, not drunk, never touched a drug in my life) in a place where no one knew my name - but I clutched at walls and forced breath through air ducts until the colors rearranged themselves in my vision.

Rain started falling, then, fast and furious of a thunderstorm turned typhoon and hurricane, while I caught insomnia full blast, caught utter misery too, the kind where it takes all of your energy to look apathetic, and you can’t smile - it took all my energy not to cry.

There are warm days too, when ****** it all to hell because sometimes things are beautiful. It taught me I had friends, but more than that how to hide well; how nothing ever goes away, how things get worse - but if they aren’t hidden people will just worry more, and fading to the background is a blessing in disguise - constant scrutiny is exhausting. And lack of pain (fake or no) is beautiful.

At the ****** of fall, the trees are bare, and daylight is scarce. And I’m here all hung out dry, not even waiting, now, just watching it all pass by.

And sometimes, the most inevitable things contain the most dread, too.

Winter ends. Spring follows it. Cherry Blossoms bloom and everything else just grows, until summer sneaks up on them. And by then, I’ll be long gone, uprooted by the last dredges of cold air.


                            ­  Thank you.

See you again, maybe, if I’m lucky?
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