Theory 13

It smells of summer. It smells of death and chaos and an infinity of unknowns. Of loss and burden and shame. The warm sun and budding trees foreshadow devastation and darkness. I cannot escape a scent. The summery perfume of his death is pervasive. It seeps in my windows and hides around every unopened door.

And the cascade of anniversaries. I sit, celebrating his birthday, looking at pictures of his warm body and dark head of hair. What has he become? Into what ashes has his beating heart dissolved? I remember. I remember your birthday and how you felt under my hand. I am the record keeper, the scribe with no authority. He was born, 29 years ago, yesterday. He died last year, and yesterday. And every night in the crush of my desperate dreams he dies, only after he chases and suffocates me. This bed is still not my own, and in every detail I cannot escape what my life has become. “I used to” is my response. How common a thing, how ignorable. I used to have a laptop case, I used to have a place to store my bike, I used to have a beach towel and a couch and a kitchen counter and space and light and the ability to cope without the exhaustive energy I put out to just get through the goddamn day.

I am not myself, or I am myself on hold, I am stagnant. I fear what was easy, I hold too much to myself. I used to think of the infinity of possibilities, of the chance for change and now I see death and despair around every corner. We are not safe. We are not immune. We ought to count the seconds til the inevitable, til the moment hits you that you are not the select few who make it, unscathed, to the end, to the ashes. Tragedy will strike, and you too will suffocate under loss. Will it be this train car that crashes, this plane that burns, tonight will my ceiling finally cave in on me? I am not who I am, I cannot be one single entity, but that I am all things loosely bound together and collapse is imminent. I am, we are, without control. We hold on to smoke.



Theory 12

I am out of poetry. It’s days like this when I wonder, honestly now, when can I go home? I’ve been on this trip for so long, and I need the comfort of my deep couch cushions and the table covered in yesterdays plates. I try so hard not to remember the way the sun lit up the wooden floors, recently covered in cat hair, or how warm a spring day like this would feel sitting in my bed with no reason to move. The trees were so full and a deep, fleshy  green. How do you mourn a home? On the train last night, I stared out the windows and tried to spot to her, my home, now so full of someone else. I want it all back, that I may feel rooted and singular again. What candied path did I follow as a child that lead me here, now, in unfamiliar sheets and the constant lie of “comfort”. The food I bake and make doesn’t smell right here. Bread is lackluster in its promise and my body too soft.

I am knee deep in the sucking sand of my past; so knowable and a deep rose color. If I wasn’t happy, then at least I had a kitchen and glorious full windows in every room. Here, everything is unfamiliar to me. The sun can barely penetrate. It is all gifted, every thread a straw on the mounting pile of un-payable debt I owe. None of it earned, none of it proud. The walls are even unwelcoming- what of my “own” can I hang up, without the help of someone else. I know now the pictures from my past won’t work. They are all unrecognizable. I don’t have room for people any more, not here. I let them in, but like an over-full corset, something else cracks and bursts out of place. Surely we all know that at the bottom of hatred is the dissatisfaction of incorrect math. This room does not add up for me, and the longer I sit here, the further into an erroneous equation I fall.

Oh, if I had a full table right now. With six or eight or ten of you sitting, ripping into bread I made. I would welcome you, I would feed you, we could be joyous in our companionship and youth. Instead, I sit here, carpet-floored and barren white-walled. Everyone is moving forward, so quickly. I fell so far back, and so hard, I don’t recognize any of you any more. And what I have to offer you now is a person not fully present. Surely you, like me, are exhausted by this grief, and don’t care to be in its presence any more.

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.