self-portrait with loose hair

supine on cold bathroom tile, memories of⠀⠀
the weight of his hand lingers on my neck⠀⠀
just beyond this door you sleep on your left side in a tall bed in our bright room⠀⠀
I should like to make a pot of coffee or⠀⠀
spill my guts to him and race through pastures⠀⠀
in France or Idaho where dreams come true⠀⠀
languid, melting haunts whistle on the back end ⠀⠀
the space between muse and clay ever blurring in balmy nights⠀⠀
which have skipped our little house of late⠀⠀
these are the illusions of love whose notes dance on dust beams⠀⠀
I adjust the straps of my dress ⠀⠀
a clump of hair is stuck on the edge of the bathtub the neighbor coughs beyond the window⠀⠀
I like a woman borne of color, black and blue and ribboned, adorned by twisted fury ⠀⠀
her eyes look left of camera, unbothered by the presence of observers, knocking bejeweled knuckles against ivory keys ⠀⠀
or hot canvas in azure courtyards⠀⠀
a childish gap in her teeth⠀⠀
I am no such creature, though the muscles in my right arm have a curve now from holding hands so tight⠀⠀
do I move you?⠀

A Study of Trees

once my light brought critters to the door⠀
knocking at my entrances like moths ⠀
desperate to escape the night ⠀
& tuck into the warmth of me⠀
as if my brightness was for sale⠀

split voices in my head⠀
torn seams of a tattered book⠀
the space between girlhood and now⠀
swallowing whole discarded daydreams, making space⠀

in blank spaces⠀
a fractured soul drawing lines between the stars ⠀
bearing forth a picture where once was chaos⠀
new hearts crawling from the muddy thickness ⠀
of the girl before ⠀

now, ensconced ⠀
in curves and memories and the weight of the air, ⠀
skipping mirrors, letting coffee turn cold, ⠀
and always turning out the porch light. ⠀
moth-free, we are, and full. 

Queen Mab

the hidden room at the end of the hall is left for hushed phone calls and secret gift wrapping and grandma's visits and sitting still, silently, when your throat is all screamed out. it rarely needs cleaning, but the bedsheets are routinely ruffled by your burrowing ways. the light is best in mid-morning when even January's grey turns sharp white, teasing of sun beyond the folds of clouds and tempting us outdoors. our favorite loaf is special at the market today, and having searched the purple, paint splattered workroom you haunt, I've come to whisper of whipped butter and jam and a yellow typewriter I spotted in the alley behind the tailor shop. lowering myself onto the downy cover, I run my bare feet along the wood. a rustling beside me says you'll tell me now of the grand hurt or ache or furrowing which has brought you to this creaky corner. your eyes are wet and jaw set, and you will tell me with a coarse voice that they don't understand. no one can, and no one ever will, and I'll agree, and you will breathe slow, and I will remind you this is womanhood.

this cacophonous duality - a tango between tenderness and mania, calm and destruction. I will hold your face in my hands firmly and talk through to your guts, arming your insides with the wily truth of it: no, child, no, of course they will never understand how soft and brave you are, how otherworldly and painfully real, how desperate and wild, how craving of togetherness and how riotously independent. they will see your curves and assume weakness, and hear anger in righteousness, as was done to me. to be a woman is to be guessed at, but never asked, for an eternity. I'll tell you they mistook my pinned curls for respectability, and my burning want of love as naïveté. most saw my days as simple routine and smelled resignation though I was drenched in a radicalism which poured out my fingertips. our work, this work of womanhood, is to keep spinning and breathing and gliding forward as you are. and then come home to this room and bury your tired body in the softness of intention so you spin deeper magic in the morning. and you'll sigh as you do, and we'll fluff the pillows, and turn our faces into the light.

vii. A House of Air

To be sacred allies in this journey is to say I stand aligned with your struggle, though it may not be mine. In this, I have known a great many kindred spirits.

There is a mother in Chicago who makes meals in a dingy basement apartment, culling items from the fridge before they spoil, and braving the winds of adversity. She sips red wine when her daughter falls asleep and examines her pores in the mirror. Together, we have scraped at the dirt, planting happiness for wild bouncing fidgets.

In Philadelphia, beneath the steamy covers of depression lies a soft blue-eyed soul. During the best moments, straps her boy to her back and trudges amongst the people, determined to find sunshine. At her worst, digging pennies from couch cushions in unwashed PJs, she swerves along the line and doubts her own mind. Our vulnerability clasps hands in the darkest nights.

I’ve seen a girl walking in the woods, all smiles and brightness. Her eyes glitter when she speaks of her husband and mushrooms, and she seems to hold a river of joy in her toes. I envy the big windows of her new home, her grand love affair, and the simplicity of days spent entirely with her belly-grown babes. And yet, I know the wonders of baking and the sweetness of wide, exploring eyes. We are united in our splendor and amazement with the natural gifts of earth and time.

Far away, on a tree-lined coast, where rocks wash ashore, is a woman swaying to a ‘60s sound and preparing bowls of yumminess to carry her through the day. She delights in flowers and has a new, roll-y love to tuck beneath her arm each night. The mornings break and find her snuggled between the children who bookended her growth: one before loss, and one when the hole was filled again. She forges a path for me to track, forcing me to believe a companion might suit this lone wolf. Across a thousand miles, we’ve sung Buffy Sainte-Marie into the wind, and wished for love.

In the land of grey and knits is a tall tree standing firm. She has taken root in the rain, and spreads herself across the mountains. In her shade grow the sweet elves of her creation, and I return over and over to marvel at the width of her sturdy trunk. We have grown up tall in these years.

In truth, I’ve never stood beside most souls I call my equal. The circle which has enveloped me, brought me comfort, and held my hand when I sat most alone are a group of sisters I’ve yet to meet. I carry their hearts in my palms, finding strength in the constant reminder that I do not mother alone. Our foremothers blazed a trail so that our stories had space to breath and air to ride.

I am another footprint in the long path of women who’ve come before. They have nurtured, stoked, and bundled a fiery love for their babies allowing those same little ones to wander and come to rest elsewhere.

Sister souls line the routes of motherhood, but the distance and seeming disparities can dim the light of our bond. Certainly, there are achy moments and days and seasons which seem to grand and deafening to conquer. I am aware then of the great wide open space and silence surrounding me. The atmosphere grows desperate, and I can struggle to find consolation in the same creatures who felt family only days earlier. This is the isolating call of insecurity, doubt, and comparison, which threatens to dismantle and demolish the makeshift and invisible temple of companionship that encases the shared experience of mothering.

Perhaps, like me, you feel a pull to strangers and see bits of your sweet and worthy self in their reflection. Perhaps you groan with exhaustion and deadlines and business tangled in the life you wish to be leading. Perhaps you cannot find the words to solicit the support you need. Please, please know that we are here. Kindred spirits are walking right beside you, filling the world with dazzling light and genuine relief. Look up! See that we are like you and are making our way as delicately. We are united in this motherhood.

Tug on the ties which bind you, and feel me standing strong for you on the other end, guiding you towards goodness.

Jump, and know the landing will be soft.

Scream, and hear our echo.

I am with you.

v. A Talent for Daydreams

Once there was a woman who breathed in the gleam of a girl’s eye. She sailed on fancy, and though her face was never entirely clear, the corridor towards her looked clear. She was a woman who glided from room to room effortlessly, her hair poured knot-free across her shoulders, and settled into one kind of curl. The woman had a voice like honey, which would not break when tested, remaining sound and solid. This woman had a figure which beckoned paramours to her gate, and she was the chatter of other fantasies who envied the ease of her being.

I have a talent for daydreams; the churning within me is silent, a revving motor propelling me forward, often opening doors to new realms of possibility and creation. And yet, this woman I sought was pure figment. I designed her to punish myself for some unknown deed, to silence the voice which said I might be enough. She was smooth and fine, not like my ragged, struggling self. Child, I chased her madly, recklessly, forsaking at times the woman I was naturally becoming. I was fixed on a faint target and absent in the moment. I desired to know her so I might rival her. As I chased her, she broke into a thousand pieces, and the world became littered with versions of who I ought to be. That wicked word, that minimizing beast, and this was my youth.

And so of course I never caught her. I longed for her always, and perhaps still, for there is a certain peace in naïveté which allows for the seeking of something outside yourself to replenish a well perceived as empty, and in need of filling. Oh, how I failed to see how full I was. How long it took to recognize the weight lying upon my heart, it was not emptiness but the heaviness of my worth. The woman of my dreams dripped in bits out my fingertips and toes, down my cheeks, and soaked pillowcases. She blew like dust between the cobblestones and grates, until the memory of her was pure whimsy. I am glad to have known her slightly, and proud to have let her go in the sunset of my youth.

I suppose I left the pieces of her in my wake, and in so doing I found myself, bit by miraculous bit. I cannot touch the moment I fell into myself fully. I have only the memories of who I longed to become, the burning pit of doubt, and flashes of authenticity.

And then there was you.

A jagged, fatal adventure towards a destiny called Mama. Pressed against you, the ghosts of the women I’ve released fall silent. In your eyes I see a reflection of immaculateness, and in the moment we were born I found a raging peace. I imagine we mothers are stars, and between us exists a string, which draws the constellations of our days, and stitches us together within the great fabric of the sky. But there is no shape without the lone star, and you have made the cloudy nights enchanted, for you are the moon that lights the darkness about us all.

It is imperative that you make space for this dispensable woman, for you will have one or five. She may be known to you, in boxes on a screen, or in the boxes of your mind. Let her haunt you, and dare you, and defy you. Feel betrayed by existence, and weep in the night as she dances off into the distance like a mirage. Someday, you will look up and find you are your wildest dream, for you became a most magnificent creation, and the drafts of your soul will shape your spirit into an inevitable magic. It is crucial you create her so you may know the truth: there is no aim so riotously exquisite as your purest self.

I have a flair for reveries, but your reality is beyond my imagination. Do not become the echo of a dream, child.

Burn matchless, you singular soul.