slow-building, mundane pressures
push me into a mold I don’t like.
voices, high and low,
talk me into a corner I didn’t choose.
God’s tireless chisel
crumbles me into a shape I don’t understand.
my desires fracture
and fly out from me in all directions.
the path winds, and wanders,
and fades into the blank horizon.
my strength continues to burn.
it burns right through me–
and leaves a charred, crackling hole.
my feet continue on, purposeless,
with a blind, stubborn perseverance.
yet I move along,
tired eyes on top of clumsy feet.
I’ll get where I’m going.
I’ll get somewhere, anyway.
sometimes I think
if I drop a rope
into the deepest well
of my mind
in my little rowboat
on the surface
will crawl back out
and I wonder
would I sit and talk
with it awhile?
would I hurl it back
into the shadow it came from,
or would it toss me back instead?
has this already happened?
am I in the boat,
or am I in the hole?
and I think,
I don’t like this metaphor at all
in dreams I often walk
some wretched maze–
all sharp corners, endless corridors feeding into themselves,
vaulted chambers alive with darkness, shadows with voices,
faces grinning in the black.
it goes nowhere, and I pace it alone, haunted by the echoes
of my own footsteps.
in other dreams, I watch
of a massive equation–
the vastness of the universe distilled into numbers with names
but no meaning,
shoveled from one side to the other
for no reason
but to fill in the blanks.
it is the soothing boredom
of a defragging computer–meaningless,
but with a comforting sort of equity.
in still other dreams,
I sit at the bottom of a well,
tapping my fingers
and scratching off tally marks.
but in some dreams,
I walk with You
in a sunset field of tall yellow grass, three years old,
with hands big enough
to hold on to just two of Your fingers.
and in a very few dreams,
I walk the very fringes of the earth barefoot–laughing, strong–
free of limb and loose of tongue, fearless…
“Dream big! Dream big!”
My big dreams have made me into an ant,
Hauling a burden a thousand times my weight–
I’m just building somebody else’s sand-hill empire.
Give it one, good stiff rain
And we’ll see exactly what that sweat has built.
“You do so much! You must be proud! Surely you must go far!”
Proud, sure, and fucking exhausted.
Pride is a stone tied to my feet
I confidently drag on a long walk off a short pier
And yes I’m sure my pride will take me far,
All the way to the sludge at the bottom of the river.
“Such initiative! Such ambition! We could use more people like you!”
Oh yes, I’m sure
You could use more people to use.
“You work so hard! You’re such a help!”
I’m tired. Tired!
Tired of being a slave to my desires,
Imprisoned in the future by expectations!
My dreams are my own, and by God
They won’t be hooked up to the economic milking machine,
Sucked dry and discarded.
Pride and ambition will not be the harness
Binding me to the yoke of “accomplishment”
And frankly my initiative right now is telling me
To take a nap and call it a day,
And if opportunity calls it can leave a message
That will promptly be deleted.
“You have so much to offer!”
Not to you.
if only to spend myself in the name
of some grand dream
if only to lose myself in the mirage
of a million tongues crying out with one voice
if only to stretch out and catch with my hands
that tenuous, shimmering thing above me
if only to sweat and chill and shatter
inside the clenched fist of conviction
if only to hold on white-knuckled
and never let go
if only to breathe in the darkness
and exhale the light
if only to feel the aching heartbeat
of a soul alive
alive in this moment
in only this moment
I stumbled through the dark places
and asked You why I was there
I tip-toed through a twisted maze of rain-slicked back alleys and one-way streets
and asked You where I was going
dragged across the rocky bottom of a river, I fought the current to stay alive
and asked why every moment had to be a battle
like a marionette with too many hands on the strings, I was torn apart by conflicting desires
and begged to know the answer to my heart
I wandered in circles like a child lost in the woods
and looked for You to lead me out
I starved at the banquet You laid for me
rather than let go of my shame
I tore at my flesh and would’ve slipped my own skin to make You proud
yet all along You begged me to love the self I’d been born into
I strode through the open with a target on my chest, and took every bullet they shot
because You wanted me to know the hardness of my design
every morning I woke to a stone on my chest
so that someday I would be strong enough to pull myself out from under it
I held myself against a barrage of condemnation and shouldered through all manner of agonies
hoping against all past experience that one day I would awake to find myself Here
I see now that even as I lay sweating through the thick of the nightmare
morning light was gently sifting in, brushing across my eyelids, caressing my hair,
as You sat with me, Your hand on my cheek and whispering
“wake up, little girl. wake up”
it’s a damn long drive back to ohio
with every mile marker a reminder
of what I’m leaving behind.
everybody wants to talk about the big things,
the declarations and the rose-petaled bedspreads.
but I’ve got those sunrise cups of coffee on my mind,
the subtle touch our words put to things,
eyes glimmering with some small joke
no one else sees.
they all talk about the heartbreak of love lost
but I’m shouldering the weight
of love found and deferred,
dragging it all the long way home with me tonight.
there’s a little kid inside me perched
under a Christmas tree with saucer-shaped eyes
and all the voices around me cooing “patience! patience!”
but this red-eyed adult on the outside is the one
making this long drive home in the dark,
counting all the miles,
sighing all the sighs.