surviving the wreck

for the one who woke this morning, uncertain how it is possible to have come this far and you stand in the space where nothing makes sense but there is still this. here. your own survival. your breath that filled lungs that expanded and your eyes adjusting, taking in the smooth arc of skin that curves from clavicle to the last rung of the rib cage. . .

i keep thinking of you.
though i do not know if it is intellectual thought as much as orientation, the way something in my body and bitten lip keep turning toward you, needing to know your location, needing to keep scanning the crowds and looking through all the languages until eyes lock and we land again, returned to the unnamed space where we silence neither the knowing of brutality nor the love lush as the greenhouse where you turned again to the light which is life.

the truth is, nothing i can ever say could ever make any of it better.
there is not a version of the story where the good measures so great that it ever takes away the horror or the holes left from when that which you loved and could not live without suddenly was taken.
there are no do overs, and this life seems not particularly interested in owing us anything.
the healing that sometimes happens is exquisite, shattering every idea i once had about how much a human heart can hold. against all odds, it is possible that sometimes our grief gives us our humanity, restores us to relationship.
but it does not return us to what once was.
so i refuse to meet you the morning when you wake to your own survival and tell you tales of the phoenix rising, the slick stories that carry the sheen of inspiration so as to quell the terror in the teller.
your life does not exist to make others more comfortable.
so just for now, just for this moment, i can offer this. even if nothing is ever made better, i love you and i will meet you in the room where nothing can be undone but for reasons known and unknown, you woke again this morning, breathing and beating life.

and i keep thinking of you. . .
the body that shows the map of injuries and knows a want like hunger and cannot bear to be touched lightly but only strong and sure, the way you might press down hard to try to stop the bleeding.
the haunting of hunting season and the hallowed spaces where you dug out the decay with bruised fists and the way sometimes still, even after all these years, you still feel the way two o’clock tastes on the mouth, filled with broken conquests and steam rising from the concrete. and somewhere in the space where shoulder blades attempt to touch in the chest opening, you still miss it.
the never being able to quite find the right language to say what really happened.
the wanting the relief of not having to explain.
the nightmares that never leave.
the reckless glory of a waterfall washing over you, the sound of it like a roar, and the way she brought you coffee in bed and the plant that hung there in the shower, spilling down like there was still time enough for everything that came after.
the scars that formed on the inside of skin, intimate and devastating, invisible to the rushing world.

i keep thinking of you.
I keep wondering how it is possible we survived.
i keep wanting to hold your face amid all the unthinkable things, and even in the moment by accident, how pulling on jeans over curve of hip and onto waist, i might happen to look up and see a reflection in the mirror, foreign and familiar, finally found.

what are we to do with all this loss?
what are to do with so much beauty?

this is for you.
for all the times you did not want to make it through.
for all the times you did things you never thought you could or would do, just to make it through.
for who you once were.
for who you became in the war you did not choose and the fight you found that saved you.
for the way the warm returned and the salted air changed your skin and you knew again how to let something hold you.
for you. to you. the one who swam to the other side, tossed to shore, waking in the morning to the sound of the city outside your bedroom window and knowing in the marrowed bone that all those things really did happen, and all of it will always be here in you, and so too is the sun and the moon and the stars. you are here in the living and the mango is sweet in the mouth and the dirt clings to feet and your belly breathes power.

for you.
this is not a victory march.
this is not an inspirational poem.
this is not about a bouquet of stories on the other side of loss that make it seem advantageous to know this name of suffering.
this is not a need for you to remember or retell.

this is simply me, standing here with an open boarder inside me and eyes that will not look away, saying thank you.
thank you for fighting and finding the way here, feet shaken and heart steady.
thank you for doing what it took.
thank you for your art and uprising.
thank you for giving a home to the sharp teeth or survival and holding the hurt in your lap like there is love enough even for this, even for the unthinkable, even for her, even for here.
thank you for choosing life.


eleven love letters: a list

love letters: a list in eleven parts


i knew you as a child. or do i say i once knew you? can we know one another, all these years later, when everything in all the worlds has changed, and yet yes. i would say yes. we can know what only we can know. the strange shapes, distorted. the picture of the girl in the blue sweater, smiling. the questions that were burned in the fire that night, and so too the image staring back.

but what do we name it?
the memory. steinbeck. the finding. the wondering if everything that exists is its own language.

will we call this a first love, or a haunting, or the only one who could ever absolve me?


when i heard you speak, something in me fell out. or entered in.
and how was i supposed to perform the ritual of piecing myself together again when all i wanted now was to be pierced, construction happening only in the act of disruption?


to the blank page and the blinking cursor. to the words that want to come and sometimes get stuck somewhere between imagined and mouth. to the first time i heard my own language. to the rage that was released. to the slow and unspectacular, the messy and earth bound, the hours of knowing i am lost and not caring. to the night. to the typewriter. to the titles. to the cadence and the sound and the way some words come stark like branches exposed. to writing.

i love you.


you wanted something broken. i wanted to be whole. it was a match made in need, and we made marred marks and beauty of it.


when i walked into the room for coffee, the room with those vaulted industrial loft ceilings and the exposed brick that broke off in your hands, i could not stop turning toward you. because my back felt arched a new direction and my tongue now tasted like sun, and i could not bear how hungry and beautiful it was, the things that would follow. the blond of your hair, mostly matted, and the sundresses and sneakers you wore without shoe laces, and the shape of your hands pouring water over your legs. the cookies you made with too much butter. the recklessness of want. the terrible grief of finding what we need when we cannot yet say yes.  and i wanted, so much, to say thank you. and i needed, so much to say i’m sorry.


in my dreams, there is the smell of roses. rose water. and it fills my hair like a nest of moss and medicine. there is the iris. and there are these large rocks. and there is quartz that i claim as diamonds. and there are mountains. there is chocolate and pie crust and blackberries. there is dish soap, and an torn apron, and hands that hold needle and thread and in the dream, i slip through the eye.


you said i was the sweetest girl you’d ever seen. and i said, you’re full of shit. i don’t like sweet. and then we kissed by the truck, and there was no music but the air was so loud, the force of it, the restless way it came over the road and how i thought to myself that in two days or three weeks or maybe a month, i’d leave you in the night and you’d never know what happened, and it did not even matter because in that moment, everything hurt but you helped. 


the first hands that touched me after the cancer came and then left. except no. it didn’t leave. it was brutally attacked and destroyed, and this was the goal and so we celebrated as victory, except no. it destroyed something of me and in me too. and so after the cancer came and occupied me and then there was no more cancer and only the empty spaces in in me it left behind. after this, yours were the first hands that touched me. and the first mouth that made sense to me. and i couldn’t look at you. do you remember this? how i couldn’t look at you because it was too intimate. and you didn’t leave.


to the one who told me no. thank you.
to the one who tended to the wounds. thank you.
to the one who stood there while i cooked dinner and pressed thin filo dough onto parchment paper and baked baklava, and then spoke into the silence, thank you.
to the one who ran into the woods with me. thank you.
to the one who let me get away. thank you.


we were sitting in the student union, on those wood benches, heads bent over paper napkins with pictures drawn in dark pencil. your hair was longer than mine, and my learned defiance was large as continents. and there were symbols sketched, that would become ink branded forever on skin, that would remind me in some unalterable way that meaning is not found, it is made.


there is not a single morning in which we have woken, where i don’t look over at you and swallow soft the unrelenting wave of luck to see you there, next to me. and after all the times. and the years. and the loves. and the losings. all the makeshift slings to set the broken parts inside, and the questions as to how any of us are ever to understand the way this works and goes and gives way to cracked wings flying home. and yet. still. somehow. the love that is light walks with you to the lake and you open a door, familiar as if already known and yet always unknowable. and somehow the answer is yes, and the orientation is inarguable (how i could not navigate a world now without your imprint everywhere), and the struggle is worth something, real and warm as the gold worn around your neck. and i want to say, i know you. i want to say, please, come here to me. and i am always finding my way back to you. i want to say, it is you, it is you, it is you. my love. 

dear thirty-nine

Dear thirty-nine,

Today is the day we begin, and your number becomes attached to my name. Today, I am thirty-nine. I do not know how to write you this letter without also somehow writing to eight and ten and twenty-seven and thirteen, because to write to the future is to return to the past, our own navigation devices forever pointing all directions, moving through time as if carried by the weightlessness of water. So hello. I am here, thrust backward and pulled forward, into matters of meaning and the unknown.

I want to say that I am glad that I am here, walking into your arms. That there are so many changes happening and still yet to come and it can feel like kaleidoscope chaos, shape after shape after color sprawled and illuminated shape.  And so there is something that feels good about having the day that is both a closing and opening. I will never be thirty-eight again. How terrible. How wonderful. And then there is you.
I want to say that I am here and will stay. I am staying this time, because it’s all I have and it is what matters most. Whatever happens or does not happen, I am not leaving myself. So we are in this together, remembering old stories and re-envisioning old myths, carving out a different possibility entirely from the wood which will always be wood, scarred and sanded smooth.
I want to say I will show up and stand strong and put up a fight.  If the mystery begs me to come slip inside the space of silence and drink what is unnamable, then it is also true that the lover in me is sometimes found in the fighter and when the lines are drawn, I know what side I will be standing on.  Because as they cry out in the streets, if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor. So let’s just say, I’m not neutral.
I want to say that there are these moments when I can see the outlines of things, like flashes of images that come and say here, this way.  How I see the desk where I sit and write and Susan Speaks and maybe, just maybe, the story I’ve waited to tell my whole life finally finds its form. How I see a lamp lit street and a request and the first snow. How I see learning and a voice emerging and I do not know how far away she will feel, but I do know she is there waiting up ahead for me to come back, home. How I see the imprint left after the dancing, and the late night when the work roared, and the questions and the craving and the pelican swooping across sky and coming to stand in the still water.
I want to say I am sorry. I love you. Thank you, even now before their happening, for all the moments when you will come and surprise me with your recklessness and wonder, your unapologetic humanity and inarguable truth, your need and your lungs and your graceful reckoning.
I want to say we will make something spectacular with these days, and that the math of time will reveal a broken open belonging, and we will remember to be kind.

I want to say all these things, and I do not know. I hope so. I seek. I build. I devour. I stand on the ground and stare at a star filled sky, gaping in wonder and aching for witness. But I do not know. So all I can say is that we can also go back in time and find all the torn and still tethered places, all the ways of staring in the face of the unknowable, every time I fought and lost and won, all the pounds of my flesh I carved off to appease a forsaken god called sanity, all the hallways that lead to nowhere and all the sublime and inexplicable survival which tossed me to a shore, foreigner and found, filled with savage knowing of the terror grief and yet nothing but reasons to live. They are all there. They are the maps and the places where the map will always and forever fail and we are left to forage and flail. They are the secrets and the scars in the hands and the blister on the lip from biting down to hard.  They are the wound that does not heal and the way forward into what comes next. They are the gift, and the great cost, and the leaves that felt like mana one afternoon after everyone else had left and I thought, “this is the entrance to everything.”

I suppose you and I don’t get to our introduction, merge into number and name at this point in life, without loss and mad love. And maybe that is why I feel some kind of revelation in having arrived here, into you.  We are human. We touch and are touched. We affect and are affected. We are marked and marred. We learn or don’t learn, and we bleed when cut and we are remarkable in the brilliance of our beauty and the messiness of our soft want and unmasked offering. Though I have no explanation, only the maps and the places where all the maps will fail, the past which was once me, I woke up to you this morning. For the love of all things known and unknown, I did arrive, and I am here.  Here, where we are a mystery even to ourselves, as you are a mystery to me on this day, on the cusp and on the closure. And I love you, and all the names I’ve known and numbers I’ve traveled that brought me to you.

There is a vast blue in front of me, cloud covered as if the whole world might be lit from within, streaming secret messages and hieroglyphics through sky. Thank you, for this. Thank you for welcoming me. Thank you for having me. May we grow wise and wild together.