Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lessons in love

It's Christmas Eve. I am lying on a single bed in a hotel room, hours from the city I currently call home. My mother is snoring eloquently on the next bed over. She'll probably be surprised by her own tiredness when she wakes up. She'll ask if she snored, knowing that the answer is always a (fond) yes.

This place is overripe with our family history, with memories of the harshness and trauma and scrambling out and recovery that has shaped 3 generations of us already. We hope it won't reach the 4th, the tender ones sprouting now.

We have had some heavy conversations, the kind that rest in the pit of your stomach for hours afterwards, like pebbles. Maybe we are those birds that swallow small stones to help their digestion. We swallow heavy truths, turn stories over in our guts, to help us digest life.

I just finished off the remains of a Christmas Toblerone that melted into one big triangular blob in the heat on the drive here. It was a gift, from only a few days ago. The chocolate was a little too sweet. The air conditioning is a little too cold, contrasting with the country heat that is visible outside the window. The bed is a little too saggy. I have music tucked in my ears. I have been crying, a little. I have stopped, a little.

I've learned a lot about love this year. And grief: it's sister, it's other-coin-face. What it is, what it isn't. How easy it is to feel it, open myself up, show it to people that I think can feel it too, reciprocate. How it can scratch up the lining of my organs when it's mixed up with copious quantities of fear, with expectations, ideas of perfection that I humanly, inevitably fail to meet. How long it takes those tender parts to recover from such short, mismatched unions. Yet I find myself feeling grateful for each one anyway. The moments of joy like sugarcubes dissolving on the tongue; the easing-bruise memories of hurt; the lessons scribed into the skin with invisible ink; the scars that itch at the scent of rain.

I keep finding new people to love, and new ways to love, loving bigger. I used to be afraid that I'd never love again when someone left, when something ended. That I'd used up the bucket of love, and it took such a long time to fill it up again, in drips and trickles. But now it doesn't run out. It seems to grow all the time, spill over. And a new love doesn't change or diminish the ones that came before it. It's possible to love dozens, even hundreds of people simultaneously and not explode or feel stretched thin.

And loving other people means accepting them as they are. Not as they were, or could be, or should be, or how it would suit me. Who they are right now.

This month I wrote over a dozen love letters to my friends and family, acquaintances. I let the recipients choose themselves. Anyone who said "yes please" when I shared the idea. Some were a surprise to me.

One was for a man who I know almost nothing about. We are acquaintances, friends of the Facebook variety, spinners in the same circles. After he read the letter, he looked at me like he wanted more, held me tighter when we said goodbye. I hadn't thought about the ripples my words would create, what would come back to me.

One was for a friend I've never said the L word to before. It's been a few years now since we met and she's proved herself repeatedly to be one of the kindest, steadiest, most understanding people, drawing closer to my side as I've faced experiences that scared others away.

One was for the only sister I have. We seem to adore and misunderstand each other in equal measure. I'm still composing that letter, sorting through the chaff of our shared history in search of the grains of love that will root down our future selves.

One was for a man who won - and broke - my heart as this year began. After our months apart - unspeaking, grieving, avoiding, both stumbling in and out of dances with other people - he still fumbles with my love like it's a dreadful and coveted fire, a thing that will burn him to the ground. Maybe it would have.

I don't know the ending to all this. I don't know how my story continues, except that there's a lot of love in it somewhere. Maybe everywhere. Looking back, I can see glimpses of all the paths I didn't take, the hearts I left behind, these lessons in love, the woman I would have become if I'd stayed. I keep choosing a future I can't see, a path no one else seems to be taking.

It's Christmas Eve. I am lying on a single bed in a hotel room, hours from the city I currently call home. I have cried a lot this year. I have loved more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When a man tells you...

When a man tells you your mouth was made for his
It's okay to get weak all the way down to your knees, even your toes
You should swoon and let him kiss you more, and again
Just remember your mouth is the cave
and he has not yet met your blind words
Flying out of the darkness to meet the twilight outside

When a man says that your bodies were made to fit
You are allowed to believe him, to measure
the intersections of your limbs. To mould
your yielding flesh to his questing hands
First, make sure he has heard you howl
That he sees the strength in your bones
the vastness of your hungry mind
the crone looking out from your eyes

When a man says that he wants to love you
You can want him to. You can yield
surrender to the roar in your chest
But learn first what keeps your precious
fires burning, and steady. The difference between
"I don't want to lose you" and "I want to keep you"

He believes you are moths to each other's  flame
But yours is the fire of the stars

'Moth and flame' by Dynasthai

Saturday, June 18, 2016


He thinks he is
a moon caught
in fixed orbit
about the world
he was born to
the past he was
     cratered by

I loved
the pale light
of his face in the
darkness, believing
a volcano hid
in his chest

nobody taught me
that moons are just
grey mirrors for hot
stars to glimpse
themselves in

I didn't know small
planets whirled around
me because they
had no choice
that they never get
close enough because
I burn. no one told me
the earth does not
bloom without me

they name me for
my blazing heart
but sun is just
another name for
star to those
caught in her gravity

and galaxies are made
of stars with dark spaces
in between

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


There is poetry in my
body but I can't get it out
it fills my thirsty veins
pushes through the chambers
of my livid heart, gives me
headaches when I sleep
the only way
to get it out is to break
the skin

I have spent the
time since you healing these
canyon wounds and the scars
make a landscape of my flesh
like ink bleeding into
paper they tell stories holding in
memory long as mountains

Yet my blood sings to
be freed again to be seen
who will pierce me next to
hear its siren call, the bloody
thump of my tireless heart?
will they leave me stained
with my own carmine poetry
or join their eager blood with mine?