An Interpretation of Pain, Joy, Want and Love.

I’m not fond of the word; I don’t enjoy saying it
I don’t enjoy living with it
It haunts me.
It disrupts me.

Pain:
It lives in the hollows
The temporary recesses between breaths
Traveling by way of map
Of neural pathways
Of circuitry following systems sending messages to each other
One speaks.
The other can’t hear.
Doesn’t respond.
Can’t.
Quite.
Communicate.
The way they should.

It stores itself in my spinal column
Cervical vertebrae (C4-C7)
Stenosis.
Bone spurs.
Degenerative discs.

Dystonia.
It lives in my cerebellum
Screaming to muscles in my neck and shoulders
“Tighten! Hold Her! Don’t let her go! She is our prisoner of war!”
And I am.
Handful of medicine each morning
Shots of botox every three months to keep zombie muscles
from involuntary movement
Like a marionette on a string
One string to pull my neck to the left,
To violently grab it
To shake it, contort it
Like a car accident
Like whiplash
A spasm here and there
A twitch

The pain lives in my muscles so deeply it tricks me into thinking it’s embedded in bone.
The accompanying depression,
the insomnia,
the ever present knowledge that there are far worse things
Far worse things…
Still I ache every day
There is no cure
This is not cancer
This will not kill me
And still there is no cure

It lives in a room of skin next to me,
Some may say within me
Some may say my body.
We are roommates here
Imprisoned
Life without parole.

Joy:
She lives quietly.
She lives quietly and neatly and she is guarded cautiously
Kept in a carved wooden box lined with silk,
tucked behind my rib cage
Squeezed between blood and breath.
She sees through my eyes and drinks in words like water
She longs to fix and create
To birth and rebuild.
Sometimes I watch her drowning…
She tires so quickly.

Want:
Wanted.
Wanting.
All these things
Gypsies.
They come and go as they please
Some sort of an open door policy where my body is used
as more of a vessel than a conduit
I want.
They want.
We want things together.

Material things like red lipstick and black leather boots, a garden full of flowers, a new couch, money for rent in my bank account.

Then I want the things that I can’t buy or ask for or even truly receive as mine.

I want the forest, and the sunsets I miss so much from Tucson, I want my son the age he is now and the age he was as an infant and a toddler simultaneously. I want the songbirds to still sing to me in the middle of winter. I want grass between my toes all year round, except I live in, and love this little state that refuses to conform to my wishes. I want a partner who wants me, but then knows exactly when to give me space and the right things to say when I’m anxious, and who can leave before I say, “Go…” I want a partner who sees the ugly and doesn’t run but dives right in and digs deep, past the bedrock to find the beauty and truth…and the love.
The love lies deep.

Love:
Molten core, primordial soup, deep. Once you have it, it’s yours. A fierce, unwavering loyalty. It is boundless and foolish and whimsical. It makes a thousand mistakes and has been bruised and battered and keeps getting-no jumping back up for more. Love knows it walks with all of us. Love is elusive, but ever present.

Unfair and unjust?
Yes.
Cruel and blind?
Yes.

Loves flows in my blood and its opposite is not hate, it’s indifference, ignorance and apathy. Love lives in my son’s smile and his laughter and the sound of him breathing while he sleeps. It lives in my arms and has given life through my breasts and shed tears of joy and sorrow, like silent tributaries down my face.
Love is a necessity.
Love is a verb.
Love is an element.

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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.

Open

I study the way water caresses the shore, the gentle pulse and pull. No thought, just free movement.

The crash of chaos turned soft, like wrapping yourself in a white cotton sheet fresh from the line, cooled by strong summer winds. Fueled by dragonfly wings.

I watch the maps the water creates, a cartographer leaving tales of currents and fresh rain. An old sea.

Open to the sheer beauty, the truth of time and the look in my ancestors’ eyes, how they visit me in dreams. How easily I overlook such meaning. Lost.

It’s become easier to close myself, to bury in earth and walls than to wind toward the sun, trusting growth.

Open like tears that flow down my face each time I hear Moonlight Sonata. The way Beethoven or a forest floor, a waterfall, holding my son’s hand, a bed of ferns just feels like home to me.That kind of beauty, inherent and vulnerable, young yet a lifetime, a library of memories.

A trail of fear lies behind, boxes and parts of me strewn across the country. I return each time, to this shore looking across state borders, always looking west, mountains lining the horizon. Lost in sunsets.

I want to feel the stillness, the calm within the storm. Forget about before or after. Stop trying to determine my own future. Just flow. Water washing over my toes. This simple silent beauty. A quiet connection to it all.

Slow Dive

The lost map that lies buried in my belly like a sunken ship. Parchment paper of scribbled dreams, slightly worn at the edges. Written in blood pricked from my index finger, written in a language I no longer speak. I long to stretch my limbs and hands and eyes, open them to sky and earth. An empty vessel pouring over and over again. I am wrapped up tight like a message in a bottle waiting to be read, to wash ashore scraped by pebbles, soft like sea glass. I ebb and flow with tide, wax and wane with moon. I used to own dreams, conjured out of creativity, wrapped in hope. Now they own me and I am lost among strangers faces, dark alleys, ghosts and animals trying to feed me memory. To wake me, pull my thoughts like string. Go deeper, they tell me. Fall into the abyss, the blackened estuary where the broken parts of me mix. Into the sand and reeds. Dig down. Hands like shovels, feet settle like stone. Wait. Slow dive. Dream soft now behind a thick tattooed skin of stories and armored bones.