We had hours yet
before the sun would rise.
I was nine, maybe ten years old,
too young to fully appreciate a silent lake bank
and not having anywhere to be.
I shivered bone-deep in the early air.
My father said he was glad we could make it out–
Before all the tourists took the good spots.
A tiny electric lantern
shined a soft halo of blue light around us.
Dad smoked in stony silence
while I fumbled with my Disney-branded fishing rod.
I told him that I felt bad for the nightcrawlers
that we skewered onto the end of our hooks.
He said that sometimes he did too.
I reeled in a bluegill—
Nothing huge, but still—
My first ever catch with no assistance.
Dad asked if I’d like to keep it.
I told him my fishbowl wasn’t big enough.
He helped me get the hook out
despite the frantic thrashing.
I tossed it back into cold, blue-green water.
For a moment, I appreciated the silence.
We packed up just as the sun began to rise.
I could hear birds chirping in the background.
Dad handed me a Styrofoam cup—
Still half-full of fat grey earthworms.
“You can let them go, if you want.”
I dumped the cup out into a nearby patch of upturned earth
and watched the worms writhe their way out of sight—
Pretending that the birds wouldn’t get them.
When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)
I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.
Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.
One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”
A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.
My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.
Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.
A beautiful thought of wisdom born,
A crack in the Great King’s head,
A beauty born with brilliance and strategy.
Even with great powers, jealousy still appears.
The creator of the deadly spider, an animal made out of spite,
An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort,
A sword at her hip for war is always possible.
Intellect over rage, for with blind rage
No one truly learns.
Little white snowflake falling from the sky,
Little white sparkles falling on the curls.
White flakes hanging from the lashes,
Light blue eyes watching the gray clouds go by.
Watching the little white snowflakes falling all around,
One, Two, Three, time to fall down.
All the little white snowflakes acting as a bed,
Nice, soft, and very cold.
Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.
The smudged and abstract set of jaws
Hangs half open with the weight of teeth.
The crude body curls into a cruder spiral
Perhaps a tail, perhaps a shape undefined,
Tightening in on itself until it smears
Into shady gray. Already the decay starts.
You will not last. Your time is short,
A distraction made in minutes and set
To die a careless death in days.
Permanence is a flight of fancy to you,
Immortality a concept impossible to grasp.
A sweep of a hand could wipe you away,
Without even a memory left to hold you.
Were you worth something? Did you
Provide to the hand that so callously,
Thoughtlessly carved you into the world
Some small fraction of amusement?
Some minuscule joy? Or were you
Made and abandoned in the same
Tiny shard of time, a work orphaned
Before it could even hope to be art?
A hand hovers over you
But you do not have eyes
To see it with. Hold your breath
And wait as I consider you.
But I do not wipe you away.
You exist, for some time more
Is that a kindness
Or a curse?
Fiddling with a small lighter in his hand,
Sliding his fingers through his ghastly white hair.
His cigarette rests on a shiny red ring which graces
His harsh, red lips.
He is lost, struggling to find himself –
Brown eyes gazing upon the dark road,
He finds himself lighting his fifth cigarette.
Hand resting on the leather gear shift,
So begins the long drive down the highway.
Accompanied by her best friend Captain Morgan
And his favorite chemical –
Electric pumpkin hair blows in the breeze.
Down the 20 she drives,
In no search for a destination,
Chance encounters happen every day,
Opposites attract, as do similarities.
Clashing and meshing,
Like a puzzle piece.
That girl, that boy,
An opener on a bottle cap,
Cold ones drunk,
Injections into the veins,
Munchies and a craving for shitty Mexican food.
Telling stories of adventures
Thought to have happened,
But now never will.
Eyes redder than the blood
Flowing through their veins.
Bags under their eyes –
A lighter color than their lungs after the first pack.
They tried finding themselves,
But only found each other.
Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love,
Addiction setting in.
Destruction of themselves,
Their love for the substances
Tearing them apart from the inside and out.
Maybe if they had met,
They wouldn’t have turned to the poison for love.
Could this have been me–
This girl seated here
Before a blue backdrop,
Hair parted to the side
And a headband like a tiara,
Shiny, youth-blue eyes,
Skin smooth, cheeks rosy?
She has a smile
With brace-straightened teeth;
And starting life.
Months after graduation
I sat in the studio.
A straight-haired woman
Placed my arms
Across ebony folds of fabric.
I can hear the flash of light
And feel the stiffness of my arms.
I look at the girl in the photo,
Innocent and young.
I don’t remember her
Do I know her?
Is she still me?
Can I recollect that girl
Should I let her stay behind?