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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Where do I go?

We all have those places we run to, the places we retreat to, in the recesses of our minds, in the dark corner, under the covers or out in a sunlit field. I asked myself, as I ask you, where is your space? What do you claim as your calm, your quiet, your escape? Where is that safe space in time that holds you tight like the womb, where you can unfold and be…you -in all your glory, wrapped in lessons and memories held by skin and days or months or years. Where do you go?

I asked myself several years ago where I would rest if I died. I know not in a box, not in that sense, but a place. If we were supposed to choose our ideal spot, the one special piece that had become the landscape of our heart. My answer was a series of questions.
Nowhere and everywhere.12687769_10153812315116166_1028088449205451360_n

Did it really matter?

There was no place.

There were places; in time, in memory or emotion, in imagination or longing of traveling to places I’ve never been.

Sometimes I close my eyes and I find myself in corners of empty rooms, brightly lit. I see myself curled tightly, chin resting upon my knees, like steady, solid guards protecting me. There are times I need complete solitude and space, where the walls are pale, pale yellow or cream or orange and the paint is chipped or peeling, little fragments scattered on the floor which is warped wood full of scratches and dusted footprints. The space is abandoned, overgrown with broken panes of windows where nature creeps in, tracks from small animals and stray feathers from birds, dead leaves create sparse blankets or nests and in this forgotten space, there is still constant and deliberate growth. A familiar oddity. Sometimes I go here. I take and leave nothing. I never even speak.

Other times, with my eyes open wide, I leave sidewalk and traffic lights, sirens and stop signs, neon lights, barking dogs, the sound of skateboards hitting the pavement and engines humming. I trade them for carpets created by conifers, for the way that the underside of birch bark slides like silk across your skin. Traffic lights become crickets and neon a form of firefly. The modern disappears and it is the forest and I.

This is home. This is the place my feet know. This is why my soles are calloused and rough and shaped by earth-because walking barefoot through the wild is important to me. Because my feet need to feel earth. They need to touch stick and stone and be comforted by moss, challenged by thorns and ice cold rivers. This is why I leave shoes behind in the summer, why I tell my son to do the same. So he can know the feel of soil and sap and acorn caps and various textures of lichen and mud between his toes and speak its language. My home is the forest, but home is not always where we need to be.

When I need escape, when I need to lose my skin and become light to shed layers and feel golden and ancient and connected with time, I arrive in places I have only seen in dreams, where maps and globes and pages in books pull me. Here my sternum is lapis and my crown is moonstone, my eyes are boulder opal and lips of garnet. I walk through walls and time. I walk among stars and gravity has lost its hold on me. I belong in parts of the planet I’ve never been. Here I am a different self, a version that cannot exist anywhere else.

When I need wisdom, raw truth where there is no filter and I can hear myself clearly I travel back to Tucson, Arizona (in my memory) to the Saguaro desert. I remember seeing it for the first time in daylight, how there was no canopy between me and the sky-nowhere to hide and the arms of the cacti twisted and stretched through the swirling waves of the heat.

Where Earth was raw earth. Bare rock and bone.

The heat held me tightly while I stared at the long forgotten, dried and deadened sea that lay cracked before me, too hot, for even my calloused feet to conquer. Forcing salted drops of sweat on my skin. Raw like placing yourself in the middle of the sun’s territory and surrendering.

This desert tore me apart, it stripped me bare and then filled me with life when I least expected it. The desert birthed me as a mother, as I birthed in it, my son. It holds truths I’d rather forget, but can’t, and memories so beautiful I want them running like an endless filmstrip in my mind.

I often revisit that beauty of raw pain and joy.
The beauty of the naked truth.
The vulnerability.

Three Words

Three words

A silent scream
Feminist messages unfold
My origami womb
Keeps changing shapes
Folded, manipulated, locked.

My womb is
full of wonder
Heavy with ghosts
Full of emptiness
Phantom feet kicking

My womb is
a safe haven
A soft pillow
Lay your head
down and dream
Golden, swollen chrysalis
My womb a

home long abandoned

Keeper of secrets
Shielded by loss
It leads me
Speaks to me
It bleeds me

My womb is
a temporary graveyard
For lost souls
For those who
misunderstood the meaning
the word, NO!
For the burden
I cling to
For the seconds
For the minutes
For the hours
taken from me

You start to
Believe the lies
truths you were told
All parts rearrange
into faded images
worn out edges
Into stories without
a happy ending

A place that
once held life
once held hope
foolish little dreams
You wanted touch
that ripped through
ribs of iron
Eyes of steel
watching over me

My womb forgives
the improper entries
a naive girl
lost and longing
defiant and angry
I learned to
listen, patient love

I owe my
womb an apology
For ever doubting
For never trusting
My own instincts
For censoring expression
For leading it
the wrong way
For shed tears
For silencing you
For treating you
Like a sidekick
Like a kick
Like a thorn
in my side

I apologize for
too many years
for not fighting
back, when all
I saw was
Black, bleak, blurry
For my feet
that couldn’t move
For abandoning myself
For running away
For letting you
hold this space

For accepting this

For the escape

(inspired by prompts from http://www.isabelabbott.com/writing-the-womb/ )

Grey Matter

My mind was full of thoughts, some stabbing, some burrowing, some digging deeper, past the bedrock of my limbic system where they found the grey. The grey matter of emotion where memory lay still in a cold room, wandering. Then the words came slipping out effortlessly, silently; while inside that cold room was screaming.

The words were quiet, falling out while blood vessels and the space between synapses held on tight.

Tight like my jaw, grinding, forcing bone upon bone, a bright pain. Tight like an animal in a trap, rusty teeth, sharpened.

Tight, closed jaw with eyes wide open, while my pupils grow full, dark resting upon black holes where nothing escapes. Eyes that defy gravity, nothing tethers them or forces them shut. They float freely, always seeing. Always watching. They always see. Playing over and over- an old filmstrip spinning.

I smile and the there is sadness.

I hope and the feeling of helplessness gets deeper like sinking in a bog, lungs full of peat, a stomach of decay.

I try and yet I am back at the beginning.

A rat trapped in a labyrinth, waiting to ring some bell, win some prize, be rewarded for all my hard work, my due diligence, some recognition for this perseverance. This constant state of survival.

Not some Darwinian survival of the fittest, because fit does not mean strong. It is survival of the weakest, the weakest moments, the weakest hours, the weakest lies…these are the things fighting to survive. The human parts that define.

The weak laughter drowned by sorrow.

The weak thoughts.

The “I’m not good enoughs” and the “why do these things happen to me’s”, the “I’m unworthy’s” and “the unlovables.”

I am more than this.

More than these weak, these willful insecurities.

I try to push them aside, tuck them away in corners of my mind. I try to overcome and affirm. The hardest memories. Not the ones where you were loved momentarily, brilliantly, blue sky, sun shining, passionate kisses and sunkissed skin, bodies in and around one another.

It’s not these memories.
The memories that hurt the most.

The ones you can’t sleep with, the ones that turn you inside out. Those feelings of happiness that feel like poison, like drinking sweet shiny pieces of broken glass. The traveling pieces you hunger for, moving from lips to eyes, to tongue, to arms wrapped around you and the feeling of losing something that has barely begun.

The fear, the constant sedimentary fear, the build up, the erosion. Climbing up and over only to be pulled back. You don’t hold, you pull yourself back like a rubberband stretching, like breathing, the constant state of a heart beating.

Those plastic memories.
The hardest ones to let go of are somehow the easiest to keep.

When lips part

When my lips part
ghosts slip out
A procession that pulls thoughts
A string of paper hearts
Swaying in the night
Dark and inviting
Like the of a hollow tree

From the cauldron of my stomach
Rising like steam
A lion’s roar
Where sharp teeth and tongue collide
Release.

Whispers of love pass through
and land quietly like leaves
Dispersing like seeds in wind.

I like my words to stick
Like pollen to a bee
Sweet like nectar

I take risks
Searching for the perfect sounds
The way to make you understand
To make the words pierce like a thorn
To make space in your skin
They settle there
Waiting for you to digest.

When I part my lips it is unfiltered
Muddied up
Messy and raw
Words echo inside chambers
Outside they are uttered
Then gone.

Traveling only as fast as sound carries them
Only far enough to reach
To reverberate and dance around another’s inner ear
Heard once
Then fades
Then disappears.