Category: adulthood

Beginning with Pity

I felt it nearly a week later.

Hunkered down in my bedroom, I laid there with my legs strewn over one side of the air mattress. The whir of the plastic fan – which no longer turns in many directions – gave me my favorite white noise.

It doesn’t really matter.

In the other room, my father’s droopy eyelids fight with themselves on how long they can stay open. Usually, they fall back down within five minutes. Sleeping off the drunk haze, I sometimes wonder if he even dreams then.

The sunlight creates long, thin rectangular lines on the opposite side of my room. Hung over the blinds, I have a tapestry with two binder clips attached to either side. Laying there, I grovel in how much the past year flew by. The amount of heartache I self-inflicted with myself encourages me that I shouldn’t open up to people anymore. I won’t tell as many people that I love them. Each time, I trekked through the woods with spray painted tree trunks, hobbled in my converse sneakers through a small stream, and felt the warmth of a fire in the middle of an abandoned building – I missed a part of myself.

It doesn’t really begin how you think it does.

This daunting act of finding myself starts whether haphazardly. Whenever, I spend time alone – it can happen one or two ways. By definition, I am an introvert who succumbs to a hermit lifestyle. I have a phone, a notebook, food (mostly bread and snack things), and music. I’m set, right? Yet, other times I lay curled onto my bed with the frustration that the soreness in my back will not leave. Enacting the U-curl pattern of a caterpillar, I can’t seem to sit with myself.

I don’t want anyone to get me anything.

Six days and a few hours, I felt the tremendous weight of how alone I felt. It’s an invisible pain I suppress that resurfaces when I’ve buried my true self so far into the ground.

In the other room, my mother would lay outstretched on the living room couch. Half listening (and mostly sleeping), she enveloped herself in the biblical history YouTube videos. Our house would make the only sounds of two different TVs on either side of the apartment, the whir of my fan, and the tremendous amount of sorrow I felt on my birthday.

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Smoky Lounges + Adulthood Depression

There’s this hookah bar downtown.

A neon painting with a half-painted face becomes the backdrop to any angst rock start-up group. You know, a few guys early to late twenties sing covers of Aerosmith and Nirvana. If you visit the lounge enough, you’ll expect to see them. Torn jeans with knees jutting out, and a flannel over a band t-shirt.

At times, the hookah bar swallows the poet sitting on top of the bar stool. In front, a young woman with a slim build scrolled through her poem on her i-phone. Behind the sheet music stand, she gave us the pain of who she lost and the glimpse of the fantastical forest creature in front. Other times, a boisterous comedian might quip a few good one-liners but might bargain a shitty basement-level joke.

Nonetheless, I weld myself there. I pour myself into the smoky haze floating as Dr. Seuss clouds above everyone’s heads. Once, I saw a drunk man befriend anyone he hadn’t seen before. Another time, there was a beautiful woman with two Afro buns on either side of her head, a man who sang about bath salts, and a bar host who gave my friends and I red roses.

I’m not quite sure how an atmosphere can assure you. For me, I wasn’t supposed to be in a place like that – the way I was raised. Yet, at the end of the hookah hose – I puffed a thought or two. Besides I didn’t have to get life “right” every minute.

Ode to writing

I wrote a thousand different poems.

Each one, pressed like flowers and leaves

in dictionaries, my parents told me to read.

Some days, I think there aren’t enough words

in me. I used to chew on the margins of my

grade school notebooks, so when I talked- a sound

came out in the classroom. I wrote a song for a

girl whose hands are as warm as the steam

against my face, when I’ve opened the pot’s lid.

For this sensation, I remember the places and

people who’ve made me feel warm. My hands

are cold, with my self-deprivation forming

rings around my fingers. I wrote a letter to

people I’ve never met because I would have

liked to know them. Their words seep into the

graveyard’s grass, and shower a mist in a

mausoleum of urns. Somewhere, I learned

that if I think my words are important, I can

never say them directly face to face. I wrote

a paragraph or two for my parents on how

my childhood left me with an unrealistic

perspective that my younger self was the

only self I could be proud of. I wrote a

lullaby for my aches and groans, when I

held my arms tightly across my chest in the

night. Silent decays of belief and hope are

mine to keep. I wrote a song for a man I

knew who would never love me, and now

I think of how I don’t want him to. I wrote a

song for sex, afraid that when it happens, I

won’t like it at all. I wrote a song for rain, add-

ing an extra refrain for the days it never stops.

I wrote a limerick for myself, because the day

laughing gives way to sickness of a tearful mind –

I’ll read it again.

 

Birthing fragile flowers

My unborn children are wilted flowers.

I fear their feet will touch the frigid floors,

where I trail my sadness behind me.

My unborn children are potted plants,

because I am afraid I will fail them –

if I let them see the world –

where I have become a failure.

Incarnate god,

God, whose face rests like a lotus,

brow  not furrowed by calamity,

I weep for them.

My children, whose ribs ache of hearty tears,

I promise I have thought of you-

since I knew I had twigs in my uterus

capable of building nests.

My children, whose chromosomes are half,

my love is afraid to make you a whole being,

so I shall wait.

My children,

I was born in the flower bed,

where my parents used spoons

instead of a small spade to till soil.

My unborn children,

I hold my hand against my cheek,

and think how my love breathes only a few feet in front of me,

as a frost cloud when my lips are parted in winter.

Inherited sorrow

Grandmother died,

With her daughter

Tucked into the folds of her skin

Creating pouches of fat by her middle.

Head, propped up by a pillow,

Her jaws relaxed and slacked down. 

I imagine her dark brown eyes,

Searching my mother’s face

In a sea of stories

Still hanging in the air. 

Laid, a blanket hugging her frame,

She was the size of thumbelina.

Two thin braided plaits,

Laced with silver tinsel- gleaning.

I imagine her soul,

Roaming the forest of Mississippi,

Visiting the trees 

Outside the plantation. 

She’ll trace her hands on

The old mobile home of my mother’s house.

Windows with splintered paint,

My grandmother crawls in their sealant.

She died,

And came into my mother’s home

Still illuminating in her

Like the safety light on top of the stove.

She died,

And came in between my mother’s teeth

When the years had worn her season to season. 

A fully-clothed woman asks a question

“My body does not cause a man to sin.”

Scrolling through various photo sets, each a reference to a film or the interview of an average woman, I read this. I thought of why I angled my feminism around fully-clothed women. This didn’t mean that I didn’t admire the other women. My friends: miniskirt lovers, closeted nudists, and whatever-I-feel-like hippies. No, I wanted to know why I carefully covered my legs, my arms, (and most of the time my neck, and hair.

I interrogate myself for a few days, a few months, and the span of a whole year. Why do you do this? I recognize the power of a head wrap, an ankle length dress (skirt), a knee length dress (skirt), a hijab, an abaya, and other options. I see women tearing down walls of oppression with their own hands, but all the while I hang on my own power. I have some, right?

Surely, I am my own. I dabbled in whether I was born with sin in my cradle, or I was suspectible in befriending its likeness. I took the garden of Eden, and planted a wonderful lush green place with a giant sized tree in the middle. I saw the paintings done by famous artists of a pale-skinned Eve looking away from the snake. There she was nude. Either leaves or the coils from the snake’s body covered her genitalia. 

Every time, I thought back to myself in space. I saw the following: I had once worn short dresses and skirts. I had laughed, loved, and experienced. I wore ‘modest-styled’ clothing often. I had laughed, loved, and experienced. Had my body betrayed me? I had worn either of these looks, and felt a tinge that I was impressing someone. I took each of these moments, and added details of my own personal flare. Yet, I had eaten words of criticism and doubt. I had silenced myself admidst the fear of not doing what I ought to. I had heard the words of women tell their stories, and each time I measured whether or not these were their words.

“A woman should do…” 

a couple of things where God can protect her. I remember certain times I had called out, cried to, and silently prayed to a God I swore was genderless (still do). When I was a girl, we God, he. He was a father, and we were his children. When I was a teenager, we called him respectfully by chosen names. When I was an adult, we called God by name and at times each translation I read said ‘he’. I started to revel in fears that I had placed men so high into the sky, I would forget the women of such times before. Am I from the side of man, being birthed from the rib? Am I not from my mother’s womb, which my father’s sperm had to work to enter?

I laid on my back, and weighed words. I laid on my back and placed the messages from two holy books across my breasts. My heart has decided to isolate itself, and my brain knocks repeatedly on the door of how I must choose. I have to choose. I know there are things that I know. But there are things I cannot unread from both holy books. 

When I was born, I came into the world naked. As children, we were cradled into the hands of our doctors, our parents, our midwives, our surrogates, our guardians, our nurses, and their friends. When I was a girl, I kicked my uncovered legs back and forth. I watched them burn, when I swung on the swing set under the beaming sun. When I was a teenager, I dressed for myself but then quickly for the expectations of others. I liked my hair until I hated it. When I was an adult, I freed myself for awhile from a certain criticism. I let no one see my arms, legs, and hair. When I was an adult, I longed to remove my layers and face myself again. I took my fears from each moment of my life, and dressed myself with them daily. As if under a heavy coat, my shoulders started to ache.

My body tells men the things that they are conditioned to see and say. My body tells men their judgments of me, whether I am easy or accustomed to modesty. My body tells men that my choices are set in stone, even when I believe that I am a fluid stylist. My body tells men that if it is sin I am hiding, then I am merely a thousand different women. 

A letter with no return address

It’s the things that I remember at midnight that will kill me.

I hope I forget the curve of your under eye,

When you’ve barely slept.

I hope I don’t turn over in the night;

Dreaming, how I heard your voice

Pulling wire between my ears,

Tuning over and over.

I hope I crawl inside that cardboard box

At the back of your mind so well,

And collect the lacework of spiders,

Mixed in with the dust.

I hope I carry my heart to the grave,

And never try letting her attach herself to people like stickers which peel off-

Eventually, turning into faded stamps

Which never grace letters.

I hope I remember not to pack a part of me

In your suitcase,

Pushed under the bed,

With shiny new locks.

I hope I pick myself up like a wooden doll,

Arms held up by string,

Succumbing to God’s puppetry,

How I step step step across the floor,

With nothing but a wandering eye,

Which falls on the grass,

Where the shade never casts the silhouette of a dandelion.

I hope you forget me.