Theory 11

Let’s get ugly. Let’s rip our skin off and press out hearts together to restart them. Then we can trade them, eat them, to fill our empty chests and feel togetherness again. Let me love you, in realness, in completeness with screaming passion. Let me feel alive again. Let me touch you.

When you reach my heart, like live wires touching, I am shocked into honesty. I fly outside my body, zooming over head and I see how small I have made myself, how small I am now, that I may fit into every day life. My sadness is so much larger than I have given it room. He and I conceived it together, and now I hold it inside of me, it grows and I feel its pressure on my every organ. My sadness aches and groans as it grows, as I keep it distant.

I am memory. I am the distance between the plug and the wall as soon as it is disconnected. I am diminishingly small, disappearing between the centimeters. My body tastes of dark blue ash, my mind glowing red hot. I am aspen in flames. Burning deep and alone.

And even now I am afraid of this fact- small, true, resonant. No, not small, as I will it to be. Huge. Come hold me as I cry, my sadness is too large to contain alone. Too heavy. Too deep and pervasive. I need you to get ugly with me. Anyone, let’s rip our masks off, step outside our bodies, abandon them as sacrifices. Let’s run naked and exposed directly into Lake Michigan and let the ice cool our burning centers. Then let’s weep, unyielding. I would weep endlessly. Or let’s touch, let’s fuck, our bodies violent as the crashing waves, slamming together over and over, ripping each other apart, that I may know you, expose myself to you, release myself with free abandon; that I may weep, as long as it takes.

If I prayed, I would say: let my sorrow be simple.

Theory 10

I want to be alone. I want silence and stillness. I want the silence that comes with contented-ness, the secrecy and solitude of peace. I want to live in the vastness of comfort. 

I am never alone. I wear you like an overcoat around my heart. I breathe you, I eat you, my body burns your calories to survive, I cry your tears and swallow your screams. My mind is so full of you, I have been suffocated out. I fight for every thought, my energy consumed with beating back your voice. I dissolve; I think “at this too, I have failed.” What is this list I have suddenly created? It is full of your failures. Your failures have eaten mine, they have subsumed them. I live them, apologize for them, seek to correct them. And suddenly see my own failures multiply. My mind is a clown car. Over full, preposterously stuffed, uncomfortably arranged, and shrunken, minuscule. I want you alive so that you can take back your words, your actions, your intentions, your everything.

At night, when I wake up from the thousandth bloody, ship wreck nightmare, I re-imagine our last moment. I walk in, I see you and I don’t scream. I come to you, I kneel in front of you and I lift you. You’d be so light. And then I hold you to me so hard that you absorb into me, I take you, I take all of you that you may not be alone. My body opens to you and I soak up every ounce of your pain and anger, your confusion, your lost opportunities. In my imaginings, I don’t bring you back to life, I eat your life so that you may not die alone in pain. 

Because what story should I reach for when I wake up furious or in terror? Your image is present no matter what I do. The reel, the real, that plays- it is so catastrophic that my mind automatically shifts the story. 

I am heavy, I am full. I keep my nose above the water, I tread, I tread, I tread. 

Theory 9

I have found a moment I cannot explain. When it hits, it feels very similar to being in love; not just being in love, but that specific moment, that gasp when it dawns on you and you suddenly triple in size. You expand, you explode, you become bigger than what your body can hold. And you must let it out. Yes, it feels like that, like your heart going supernova. But I collapse, the steam released as a scream. The reality of the violence you committed does not come crashing in, it comes thrashing out, demanding to be seen. What else can I say? It goes beyond “realize”, the color of my world changes, and dramatically, all at once. I am changed, I am terrified and defined by the terror. There is no more violent an act than what you did, and the egg crates of years of theatrical violence are ripped off and I am left dumbfounded by the act. And so scared I am out of breath, like I’ve been running. And maybe I have been. In my dreams I have been.

This, then, is the flashback. A dawning, the dawn rising over a decimated battled field, your body on repeat a million times over. The violence so huge it re-organizes my genes. I am the fall out. I am the bleeding, corrupted evidence of your brutality. I see your shadow in everything. Every wire, every rope becomes your rope. Every unopened door now holds a dead, decaying body behind it. And that makes me afraid. I push on, I push out. But not through the fear, just into it, wearing it like scuba mask. I breathe in it now, it is my currency.

In this new landscape my footing is uncertain. I must re-learn how to walk, how to carry this in me. What made me anxious in the past now seems quaint, what made me happy before now induces shaking fits of anxiety. At times I cannot even anticipate my reaction. But also, I feel shielded by your death. It is my standard, I bear it before me into any battle. What could surprise me with fear when I am fighting more ferociously than ever before?

Theory 8

What color was it before? Every day is like a memory test. Before it happened, what did I feel like? Was I carrying this weight in my chest? Like trying to remember a friends hair style before she got it cut- the everyday is lost to me. I cannot hold it in my mind. I grasp at moments thinking, “is this how I felt before? Was it lighter than this?”

I cannot now remember what “normal” is. Was grief sitting in me, occupying me? I’m tempted to say “distorting me”, but I cannot remember what un-distorted felt like. Was I? Were things easy, at least sometimes? Now I must wring my heart out- like a desperate woman in a desert, I thirst for joy, I push for a few drops to drip out again. What re-fills me?

In order to return to normal, I must remember what normal was. What defined it? Did I actually feel lighter than I do now? It is excruciating to think of this as my highest expectation of normalcy. The heaviness that sits on me, I only know it to be there when I feel genuine happiness make a surprising, flooding return- and I can tell you when, the exact moment: when someone inquires about my cat. Laughable! This fluffy, fat, silly ball of fur who cuddles with me and seems to like me without any opinion on my current state. Unfailingly, when someone brings her up, they immediately comment that I look happier, lighter, more present. It’s a rope thrown to me in this tossing sea- maybe I did once feel that way about normal, little things. Perhaps I didn’t have to try that hard to laugh or be in a room with people, and maybe I can get back there. 

I just don’t know what to expect. But I don’t want to feel this pain any more. 

Theory 7

I have been so outside of myself

I have been guiding this ship through deep, through dense, through bewildering fog

pushed by the blistering winds onward

so tempted to drop anchor and stand, consumed – and I suppose at times I do-

But then tonight my lungs opened up, my cheeks darkly flushed and my body felt breath, real, deep breath cascading down my chest to my very toes and I knew how shallowly I have been living, what a masquerade this has been

It wasn’t a fog, I was flipped, walking on the deck of a boat submerged and I had suddenly come up for air.

I still exist, I haven’t been lost after all. He didn’t drown me.

I cannot go an hour without his body, his dead body clouding my vision, but I can see that I can incorporate this story into my life without losing myself. I don’t have to redefine. A voice on the radio said, “some people can love with their whole heart, even when they get hurt”. Let that be me. Let me lead myself to loving again, a clear, uncomplicated love of myself. I want my heart to grow, so that he does not fill every cavity, that I can still exist as I was, and as I will be.

I want to be light again. I want to give lightness and joy to others, to everyone around me.

Theory 6

There are some things I cannot soften. Some things are harder than stone, than diamonds, but more vicious, uglier, more cruel. There are some places in my heart that have changed, darkened and hardened. Guilt and shame twist me. They are the dark matter that moves through me. They are forces inherent in me, defining my altered state. I exist in the violent silence after the explosion. Not in the act itself, but in the seething stillness before the wailing.  I am both guilty and faultless. Ripped in two, split like atoms, but I form no new elements. Instead, I split again and again and again, caught.

I feel the heat trickle from my shoulders down my back. A door to our past opens up and I feel it, the summer sun beating on my back. I start to sweat. The heat hugs me, then reaches over my shoulders, licking at my heart. It is winter and so I must unzip my big Chicago-proof coat. I’m burning. My memories burn me. My body is sitting in a chair in a stale board room talking about death and circumstances, while my mind clings to the crispy green grass outside my old apartment building, your body only a flight away. I am on fire and you are ashes. I am caught here.

And I feel crippling shame. I wake up and cling to my sheets that they might keep me suspended between the violence of my dreams and the remoteness of my day. But as soon as my eyes are open, my brain screams- how could this have happened? And my mind is racing, cataloguing the billion ways I could have stopped this, prevented, avoided, delayed, helped, fixed, seen. How can you not be guilty when someone dies in your home? I imagined my home so different from what it was. I thought it was safe and warm, welcoming and filling. Nothing feels safe now.

I am caught. I divide. I burn.

From One Form To Another

How do you tell the story of the body?

We are conceived, our cells rip apart

they multiply, they divide, they die

They die in fingernail clippings and hair cuts and sometimes all at once on the old hardwood floor, rarely swept.

Does dying feel like being born?

Maybe I cut your umbilical cord

Maybe right at that moment, when my scream scared the cat, a baby was born

all wild, all gasping and cries

warm little fingers and toes

Yours were mid-winter cold, the back of your hand and your fingers ice

But your hair was just right. You lay on your stomach, sleeping in, late for work.

And perhaps just as I gave up on that tight little knot,

a man unmoored his sailboat- the lake must have been perfect.

A bright, hot summer day, my screams bounding out the open windows

How unlike the living you are, how dead.

Your last breath caught in your throat, mine rushing out and in all at once

Later I lay by an ant hill

buzzing, busy and beating with life.