Chambers

If you press your ear against my chest you will hear a clock ticking, a slow and heavy pendulum dangling.

An aorta feeding organs blood, the sound of rushing rivers and waterfalls in suspended silence, then crashing on rocks below. Inside four chambers lie four very different worlds. One gray and black with a murmur, a flutter. A beat. A murmuration of birds, flying together as one shape changing trapeze act. Shifting with wind, with movement of an arm or the brush of fingers through hair. My body conducts them, endlessly swirling, colliding like chemical flakes in a snowglobe.

Second chamber is a field of grass where I would run naked as a child and pick daisies that were as tall as my head. Remembering the feeling of grass touching my skin and coloring my legs like a paintbrush. How the world was seen from inside that field and it stretched for as far as my eyes could see. A quiet crawlspace of a chamber where one could crawl beneath the grass and hide with crickets and ladybugs-poke your head out to be touched by butterflies.

Third chamber is for my sorrow. It is deep scarlet red, with chocolate undertones. This chamber is cold and hollow, yet full of voices and words that bounce off walls. Words like sex and love and ache. Words that mean betrayal and feel like sharpened knives. This chamber is for storage, full of drawers and old letters filed next to lessons learned and categorized by relevance. It is cluttered and often gusts of wind come in and scatter everything. Your patterns become clear stretched out before you and you promise you won’t make that mistake again-but you do, you just do it differently this time. You disguise it, but underneath it’s still the same. You cannot truly grow in this chamber. You come here to learn, to remember, to grieve.

The fourth chamber is for my son. A safe space beneath my breast where he still cradles his head and listens to the rhythm of my breath. Of my beat. Of the first sound he knew, before my voice, before a song or a story read. My pulse was his music, his soundtrack to dance to. He knows the sound of it racing or panicked, the sound when it sleeps or is alarmed, the sound it makes when I’m relaxed or contemplating or when I’m giving birth or when I was breastfeeding.

If you pressed your ear to my heart beat you would hear whispers of birch bark and beds of ferns by the edge of a bog, you would hear owls calling in the night, a galaxy being born and another dying.

You would hear the words, “Don’t leave me alone here.” You would hear fear and the voice of a little girl who just wanted to please. You would hear the words, “I just can’t let it go” and they would be a lie, because I can let it go, I choose not to. I choose not to because sometimes it’s easier to hold onto something that has hurt you when that pain has become so familiar that you know it like reading braille with your fingertips. Hurt is intimate. So instead of letting it go, you let it stay. It may be one of the only memories you have left of him. You may have thrown many of the good ones away. And sometimes we need reminders. You would hear the words, “Sometimes we need reminders, that even though love is painful, we accept and choose that pain. Sometimes pain is more familiar than pleasure.”

You might hear the sound of a smile, or my heart swelling, you might hear it burst or set itself aflame with anger if someone it loves is being mistreated. It may tell you to go. It may not say a word. It’s a powerful, yet fickle living machine.

If I stretch my limbs out I can feel it pumping, pushing blood to my fingertips and circulating. If I listen carefully I can hear it flow through my head, the murmur, the beat, the memories.

Murmuration
Beat.
Childhood
Beat.
Sorrow.
Beat.
Son
Beat.
Heart
Beat.
Write
Beat.
Now
Beat.

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Walk with fire

I awoke with languid limbs, heavy from dreams I was still speaking to.
My head a fog of past particles mixed by confusion and the sound of my son calling.
Winds had battered my window all night
A banshee knocking, beckoning me to come play
To be swept away in endless frozen gusts
I breathe deeply and promise myself I will get him to school, despite the arguing, despite the begging to stay warm and safe in dark blankets.
My gentle, yet strong words cut through his attempts
He finally cracks like ice beneath his boots and agrees to get dressed.
Only three hours late for school.
I sit in the car, warming my hands.
Just breath.
Just silence.
For the first time in sixteen days.
Home again, I dress the dog in his ridiculous coat and force myself into the subzero
The cold hard ground bites back
My face numb
Winter has taken me.

I walk slowly, letting the cold absorb me, watching the puddles, now miniature ponds
The smell of pine and smoke blowing past me.

I walk with a fire inside
A fuel
An eternal flame of defiance, devotion, disillusion
I envision the burning words I began this new year with

Goodbye to memories that taint my vision, goodbye to dead love lost and long buried, goodbye to fear of failure and exposure.

I am exposed.
Face and hands raw
Stepping determinedly
Like a predator
Like a wolf inside me
Ready to howl with neighborhood dogs paws up on fences
I stop and meet their eyes.
They know this cold,
This heavy gray

I walk with fire burning inside, my charred words resonating,
Hanging by strings
Held tight by ribs
And lungs
By layers of skin and clothing.

I release my breath, I bare my teeth
I watch this slow release
This air escaping in curls and whispers from my silent, empty throat.

I turn the corner toward home
I turn my back to the bitter cold.
I step inside
My stomach a space of grounding, of intuition and trust.
A new breath of fiery coals.

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Where the Heart Lives

My heart lives in many different places, in many different times. The place of my heart is often outside myself, tucked in the forest…really it could be any forest, but I love the quiet beauty of places most people don’t see as beautiful. I love swamps and bogs and old rotting trees where  pileated woodpeckers hide and my son calls out to mourning doves in such a perfect tone that they answer him, they converse for what seems like days.

My heart lives in the peat comprised of so much dead matter building on itself, creating a space no person can enter, it will swallow you. There is something eerie and beautiful about swamps and bogs, the myriad of life, the morning dew resting in the cup of a pitcher plant.

Several times a year I find myself sitting on a bridge in East Callais, Vermont, feet on the edge of a fen (a particular type of bog.) It is silent aside from birds singing and crackling of twigs as animals roam through the forest. I wonder how deep the bog is. I think of how my body would be preserved if I were to throw myself in and surrender to the thick layer of peat and moss where cattails would become my arms and my hair would be a ragged mess slime molds and fungus. I find my feet dangling off the edge, the sun beating down on my face and I read the landscape like I read a book. The familiar words like the worn path. There is no sign leading to this bog, it is secret to most and when I first visited it felt like home, like I had known the landscape for a long time. I can sense the animals watching me, I want them to watch me. I don’t need to see them, but they know I am there.

I watch the birch trees on the other side of the bog, standing strong like soldiers protecting this ancient tomb. My heart longs to be part of this, part of the decomposition and the death that brings life to the surface, part of the mystery beneath the peat. I step quietly on my way there, passing old stone walls that were used as pasture, I see evidence of strong storms from hundreds of years ago where trees were knocked down, the ground pillows and cradles beneath their roots, I count the whorls on the pine trees and remember how long this land has been untouched, unaltered.

I climb over fallen trees and dark shadows to emerge in a bed of ferns, the oldest living vascular plant that lies in front of me like a bed. Just like the bed of ferns I used to nap in when I was a child, where I played with faeries and used moss as a pillow for my weary head. I notice the spores and what a brilliant strategy it is to disperse yourself like that, the let the wind carry you as it carries my hair, as it carries the red tailed hawk above me. I sit in the ferns and remember that feeling of innocence I had as a child. The ferns are the gateway to the bog, a darker and more mysterious side of myself dwells there.

My heart beats with the sound of spring peepers and crickets and again I am brought back to a silent place where I think, this is where I shall return, when I become ash, when I become peat, when I become truly silent and I can disappear here, where no one can see me buried beneath, where I become part of the hundred year process. There is something magic to me about the idea of letting yourself go, to decompose, to rot and become a bigger part of a living organism containing hundreds of other organisms. This is my peace and like the waves of the ocean, it beckons me in. I stick a toe in, just to see and the peat feels warm on my feet, like thick mud. It sucks my toe in.

This is as far as I will dive for now, but someday I will return and feed this ecosystem, or one like it. This will be the resting place for my heart, my bones. Untouched, no box, no skin. I am free in this bog. I lay down on the bridge that truly leads to nowhere and I let the sun touch my face, soaking it all in until I force myself to leave, wandering back into the shadows of the forest, back to the ferns with patches of light that shine though. Back down the beaten path where my feet pad along the pine needles. I keep that bog with me.

I am also ugly and deep like the bog, in my shadows, in my heart. There is beauty in accepting the ugly, in walking among the shadows. I can taste the air, damp, moist and soil like. I leave this place knowing I will come back, to wonder again, to bask in the sun, to watch the predatory plants, to walk in the footprints of deer. I leave a piece of my heart here each time so I know where to find it when I need it. The bog knows when to call me. My heart lies in many places, but the forest is the blood within me. My heart is a fragile ecosystem in a state of metamorphosis.

Pieces

I see myself in cracked paint, slipping off the sides of Victorian buildings, revealing layers of time.

The tired petals of poppies and peonies bow to me
Technicolor fallen queens

I live with the solitary crow high in the branches
Feathers sleek
Black silk shrouded in mystery.

Sun erupting through clouds like an eye on fire
Watching me

I float with impressionist clouds
painted lightly
soft blue, scalloped cotton tips

Reverse sunsets
Melted ice cream
The cool taste of iced coffee on my lips

I walk within the smiles of rowdy neighborhood boys on bikes
Stick swords
Warrior calls bellowing

I rest in my son’s eyes,
full of wonder
Brushed by long thick lashes,
the space where the light bends through bamboo blinds

I touch the door, old and worn,
tattered screen
Slamming shut at the corner store.
The sound of
high heels clicking on the sidewalk below.

Damp grass, bare feet
I hear the crickets talk to me

Open
Closed
The electric hum from neon signs
From street lights

All senses come alive
An orchestra of chaos
Fragments of observations
Mirrored mosaic pieces of me