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landscape of a heart

in my heart live ten thousand memories
and ten thousand more, unlived

i can feel them with the rough skin
of my fingertips
smell them in unwashed hair
or hear them on the street as i amble by

sometimes a premonition
often a flashback

i think that my heart’s landscape is green hills
filled with forest ferns and sycamore trees
drinking in the muddy river

there, i run freely
my pace changes
my breath
up and down the hills
around and through

i think your shoulder
is one of the hills
of my landscape

my weary mind’s resting place
if only for a moment

but i’ll beg for ten thousand more

i want to be part of
your heart’s landscape

-A

Featured

On Anxiety

Torn,
always.
          Between my desire for adventure
and my fear of the unknown.
          Between my desire to experience it all
and my fear of what I do not understand.

It is true that I have become bolder as I have aged,
but it is also true that I have become fonder of standing still.
          Is it my destiny
          To be always
          Either
          Sprinting
          Or
Suspended ?

-L

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Orlando Strong

Forty-nine names of forty-nine lives lost.
I am not courageous.

As we stand here burning candles in the dark
I know that courage is refusing to let fear overtake you.

I think that I am not courageous because
I am hyper aware that at any moment
in this little town between the mountains
we could be shot for celebrating love.
I am letting the fear consume me.

I wonder, could I ever have been courageous enough
to come out as my true self, had I been born
slightly further on the spectrum?
And what about now, after the massacre?

The safe spaces are gone
but my friends vow to reclaim them
and all I can do is cry for the loss
and weep in awe of their courage.

-L

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from where i sit

from where I sit
i can see the foothills
rising to rocky, snow-covered peaks

the hills, stretching in every direction,
are covered in
neat rows of houses, mansions

earth moved and
reconstructed
to house refrigerated air and
and clean windows

and if i close my eyes, i can imagine
the hills
naked

or clothed in
pine forest and grass prairie
antelope and deer
turkey and mountain lion
roaming in
equilibrium
*
at night, driving along the hills
a deer comes into view, grazing on the roadside
struck by the headlights, frozen
eyes bright

mentally, i capture this image
finding it so strange and meaningful

i recall the childhood game i played
“find what does not belong”
and i ask myself,

is it the deer that does not belong on the asphalt, under the streetlight, among the rows and rows of houses, unending?

or

is it me, in this car, riding along the carcass of the alpine meadow, among the skeletons of trees resurrected as towering houses
taking up space
taking away space
from where it belongs?
*
from where i sit
behind the glass window
on the second floor of a
house on top of a hill
overlooking the meadow rising to the
rocky, snow-covered peaks

i am struck
not by the beauty of the landscape

but by its scarring

and my own hands

-A

Featured

Another Intruder in Hocking Hills

 

the face of the rock
that houses the caves
is the kind of irresistible green
that makes my hands tingle
and my mouth water
until my body cannot dull its hunger any more
and I reach out greedily to touch it;

it is as cool as I expected
but I am surprised to find it is also
fuzzy
mossy
wet;

I sink my hands in and wonder
who else before me
has ached to return the
silence to the hills

IMG_7523

-L

Featured

Anthem

They like to ask me why I have changed
so I explain that I have returned.

I have always been
Stained glass
throwing odd shapes of colored light onto
wooden floors
to stacks of books, both new and worn;
And I have always been
Wet grass
sparkling under the glow of the moon in
the dark night
crickets chirping, warm breeze blowing;
And I have always been
Water
humming by lazily in the sun so
felt not seen
swinging back and forth, my eyes closed.

They sometimes ask me what I mean
so I put it in simpler terms.

I have always been
Quiet,
choosing to listen more than be heard;
Curious,
reading to learn as much as I can;
Thoughtful,
striving to know the world around me;
Introspective,
wanting to understand myself most.

They have only known
Riotous nights,
not quiet mornings;
Strong opinions,
not changing my mind;
City living,
not wildflower bliss.

And I cannot apologize for coming home to myself again.

-L

Featured

To My Sister

I try so hard to protect you but you need to know the truth.
I am sorry for that day at the beach when I laughed after that stranger put his hand on my leg.
You asked me why he did that and I said he probably didn’t mean anything by it,
but instead I should have told you what I know:
that you were right to think it was uncomfortable because it was uncomfortable
and you should never question how you feel.

I wish I could make the feeling you felt that day disappear.
The truth though is that your stomach will churn like that so many times that it will start to feel routine.
You might wonder if it’s just you or if you are somehow the cause but trust me you are not,
and it will never feel better only worse:
from a boy staring at you in gym class to a man squeezing your butt on the metro home
so you get off at the next stop and walk.

I feel like I should save you from discovering these dark things.
However I am a strong believer in knowledge as power so although you’ll suffer you should know.
By recognizing these wrongs you can give voice to pain and call for society to change,
but it will definitely not be easy:
mostly women will come to the meetings and the discussions will be mostly male panels
just remember “mostly” used to be “all”.

-L

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Memory No. 1

This is a memory I will continue to recall until I turn it sour.

You made me tea in the morning.
Blizzard outside
Chill inside
Sleepy and hungover
Sore throat
Sad to leave,

You made me tea in the morning
And mixed it with milk like it was a habit.

Tea is cozier than coffee.
Coffee forces you to wake up quickly.
Tea lets you wake up slowly
Or puts you to sleep,
Lets you sit for hours and share secrets
Or just a look –
The look I gave you over the rim of your mug:
Love.

I forget that you left me at the train stop.
I rode all the way home alone for the last time.

The milk in the tea made it sweet,
But my tears tasted salty.
Sour.

-L

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the question

do you remember when
you laid me down, softly
under the open sky
your body pressed against me
holding me down and
keeping me warm

from there, my back pressed against the sandy earth,
your loose hair tickling my cheeks
i could see
the desert night sky unfolding
the stars and planets,
like a blanket laid on top of us
*
ellie says that love is a question
that begs to be answered
day after day

it is a commitment, not certainty
that we choose

the question, the answer
a ritual
*
i’d be lying if i said
i’m not scared

and always, I am looking for
a neatly put-together set of
directions

but there is give and take,
ebb and flow
winds that chisel and change

and we do not remain the same
*
we change, we grow
you there, and I, here

we make plans
together, and apart

and we ask ourselves the question
day after day

I ask the question today
and inside, amidst the uncertainty
my answer is
yes

-A

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Religion

My body is my temple
Because I use it to pray.

I always worship in the morning
When I wake to warm sun on my face
By stretching my arms back high above my head
And groaning with gladness in my bed.

Sometimes I whisper a silent prayer
When I wake in the dark to rainfall
By listening to the tapping on the pane
And counting all I have yet to gain.

Every day I touch the hand of God
When I first hit wood, grass or pavement
By savoring the feel of earth on bare feet
And grounding myself with nature’s beat.

In winter I shake with fear and awe
When I am surrounded by beauty
By purifying my soul with the white snow
And urging negative thoughts to go.

In springtime I sing of nature’s joy
When I see everything in bloom
By breathing deep the scent of flowering life
And filling my lungs with joy not strife.

In summer I listen for the call
When the long night is quiet and still
By closing my eyes to the cicadas’ sound
And finding truth in their constant pound.

In autumn I walk by faith not sight
When the leaves turn to vibrant colors
By crushing them in the long shadow I cast
And knowing nothing is meant to last.

Most nights I end the day with yoga
When the moon rises to greet the stars
By meditating on all that I have seen
And emptying til I am serene.

My body is my temple
Because I use it to pray.

-L

Featured

did you know

woman,

did you know you are much more than
the brittle bones beneath your skin?
than the sun’s illuminated freckles
splashed across the bridge of your nose?

and that each time you cry out,
the stars remain
burning through
the night sky,
if only for you to
stand at peace with
yourself?
*
digging
through the dirt

stuck in my nails
thick on my skin,
my scalp
*
the truth sought after
the colors of
a spring wind storm in the desert
the smell of bread dough rising

dust, flour
dirt
grit between my fingers
inhaling

and i’m digging
and i’m digging
*
the process toward peace is,
they say,
a lengthy one

i’ll sit patiently
listen to her tell me her woes
tell her i love her
speak of her knowledge and
inner beauty

when i look in the mirror,
though
i tell her
to shut up
and get on with it
*
woman,
did you know
you are so much more than

-A

Featured

anxiety

in the same way that
water drips from the faucet
and breath rises and falls

you are not chains, not fences
not a sunrise
nor sunset
bleeding red to black
black to red

this morning when you woke
you felt the familiar ache in your limbs
and gut

and a series of images and
sounds line the walls of your
foggy memory

what have I done?
and why did I do it?
and how will I mend what I
may have broken?

and not tomorrow
but now

and not with your thoughts
but with your
presence

in the same way that
water drips from the faucet
and breath rises and falls

you find peace

-A

Featured

People, Places, and Things

Every first of May I remember
that night we ended up at a bluegrass show
and it felt so natural to stomp and holler
and you twirled me around then we left to make love

Because it had to be love, even though we weren’t together
or else I don’t think I’d be writing about it now

And the memories they all blend together
that wasn’t the first of May, but it was spring
do you ever smell a certain perfume and remember?
or feel a certain breeze and find myself transported
back to any night in a city older than I could ever fathom

Where I learned that I am meant to fall in love with
many moments and places

I have been itching to leave, but then yesterday I remembered
that I love this place in the spring
and I have loved on that bluegrass night
and other places in the springtime, too

It is like how the other day at the women’s art museum
there was an exhibit of photographs from the Southwest
and I recognized a black-and-white mountain
that I saw brown and white snow-capped
when I grew fond of a place for a week and forever

Some days I am starving and on others I eat too much
til I am so full I feel empty
I think memories are like that –
I hunger for more but then I also feel
so full and then sad that I do not remember
the specifics but instead let them blend together

But I know that although I cannot place
the exact day of the bluegrass dance
I write it on the day of the Spanish festival in the valley

In the springtime to melt with the other places and people I have loved then.

-L

Featured

unending

Would you believe me if I told you that
there is so much life within you?

E. Tolle writes that we need to pay attention
to the life within our hands, our feet, our lungs.
As a ritual. As a habit. As a reminder.
That the life within us is
the most abundant and important truth we can encounter
each day.

I think, or wager that
As we begin to recognize the life within our own skin,
That we will begin to notice it
everywhere

unending

Perhaps in
the flight pattern of a dozen geese against a gray winter sky
Or in the aphids, bellies swelling with sap from the brassica garden
Or in the granite and volcanic tuft mountain peaks to the east, chiseled and worn
Or in the decay of the forest floor, brown, wet leaves and fungi pouring over rotted fallen logs

but also in
the red roses growing through the metal fence along the sidewalk
the ants hurriedly roaming through the cracks of the asphalt parking lot
the cashier working at the busy grocery store during rush hour

In your hands today, pay attention to the stirring of your own blood

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-A

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the highest peak in the valley

The morning after we climbed Blanca, my whole body felt heavy with tiredness, yet light with inspiration. I lay in bed, returning to the side of the mountain and the boulders that angled up towards the peak.

That morning, we dragged ourselves out of our tents into the dark, cold mountainside. We felt the miles we had hiked from the valley floor the day before in our steps, but our steps were much lighter without the weight of our packs.

Through the dark, we navigated ourselves through endless switchbacks and boulder fields, small alpine lakes and streams – precious water trickling below us as we passed. Each foot we gained in elevation, our lungs gasped a little more for air.

The rising sun finally greeted us as we we made it to the ridge between Blanca and Ellison Peaks. There, my whole body screamed with fatigue, a lack of oxygen, but my heart and mind could not wait. I split off from the others, still slowly climbing each boulder, but with each step, adrenaline pulsed through my veins.

After a while of scrambling, walking on all fours up the boulder ridge, I made it to the peak, and it was quiet – perhaps 8 or so in the morning. The sun warmed my bones that were made cold from the miles in the frigid morning.

I collapsed onto a rock and sat, breathing with relief. I propped my head up with my arm against my leg, alone, until a marmot made her way near me.

I’m not sure if it was the surprising feeling of believing myself to be alone, but suddenly discovering that I was not, but for the next couple minutes, I sat next to the marmot and cried.

I had made it to the highest peak in the valley.
I could see everything.

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Featured

On Climate Change

they say there are trees older than mountains –
I would like to know them
I would like to ask how it felt to be unknown

I used to make fairy houses out of pine cones
and twigs that fell from the dogwood I would climb
with grass-thatched roofs
and dandelion fences;
and in the morning they were sparkling with dew,
called fairy dust,
that covered my wet feet
as I crept close in the silent morning
to catch a glimpse of something…
but they were gone,
sometimes leaving just a trail of new
mushrooms in their wake.

now, I sit in an office barefoot
and remember the time that a moth against the
dirty window in lamplight
looked like a fairy
without a proper pine cone home.
I still want to know the redwoods
the douglas firs and the sequoias
but I imagine the ancient General Sherman,
unfairly named,
would stand tall and stoic
as he recounted the danger he has seen
from men and women
who grow up
to no longer care
for fairies.

-L

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Sketch: I bought an aloe plant today.

I am surrounded by
sounds
accented by
splashes of color
bathed in
warm sunlight.

Dissonance
of two different birds’ songs
mixed with Mexican folk music
and Spanish chatter
carried on the breeze
rising and falling
with the cherry blossoms brushing my feet
and the charcoal dancing across the page
becoming consonance.

I think it is enough to capture
the essence of the thing
rather than the thing
itself.

IMG_6705

-L

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hidden resistance

in a world of those that notice the shine of my dress shoes
what do they know of the muddy feet underneath?

the feet spent the morning tending to the earth
from garden to garden they guided the body

though the eyes behold the process,
the feet understand how the earth is grateful for that first drink of water
in the same way that they too find comfort in
the soft soil fresh with morning dew

though the hands planted the seeds,
the feet notice, step around, as they sprout above the soil
beckoning the sun to feed them
for the feet also find energy in the light

in this way
i suppose i do not believe that i need to be clean
or fragranced
or styled
in the same way day after day

my prayer each morning is that
i may find delight in the life
that i am surrounded by

outside, in the sun this morning
I wanted to lay down
bury myself in the earth
like a bolita bean seed,
crack out of this shell,
and grow

-A

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Soulmates

I met my soulmate unexpectedly
of course but I think it was fate, not chance.
People say there is someone for us all
but I never really believed in that
until I saw my own reflection in
someone else’s soul. Soulmate does not mean
romantic you know – my soulmate is the
sister I never knew I had. It was
fate that I found someone across the world
who understands why I am who I am.
Trust me it is a relief for someone
to know you well inside and out, so go
seek soulmates not just in lovers but friends.

-L

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reflections on a year of rock climbing

I remember the first time I got on the rock,
sunny, sweaty hands trembling, stomach lurching

On a warm August day in Penitente Canyon, junipers and scrub oak line the trails where the spring snow had melted

My new friends and I make our way to the climb with the deep huecos

There,
with the comfort of a top rope,
I fall, and I struggle, and I pant,
kick and curse
and it’s the most imperfect journey to the top of the rock

As joyful as I feel to have reached the top,
I tell myself I need to get stronger
that I could have done it more flawlessly

I cast my eyes downward, feeling shame in my weakness
——————-
Fast forward a year later
new friends have become old and we drive the dusty road to the canyon every chance we get
Colorado monsoon season means we get stuck in the rain once or twice
but there is one afternoon that
I remember so clearly

We make our way to the climb with the deep huecos
and I decide that I am going to lead the route
because by this time,
it has imprinted itself into my memory

I am sweaty and nervous and fear outlines my vision
because I could fall a dozen feet

but I have done this route so many times and
each bolt I clip into is a reminder of my strength and ability
to navigate through fear
by staring it in the face
and climbing up it

I struggle, and I pant
and I kick and curse all the way to the top
and it’s an imperfect journey

but this time, the joy I feel at the top is not eclipsed by
the desire for the flawless strength I think I should have

but an acceptance
and awareness of
the jagged, rough strength that I do have

and how the balance of
all my parts
both wobbly and sturdy
has led me to where I am

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-A

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Summer in my River Town

how to explain, then
the low bellow of a barge in the distance
heard beyond the creak of the porch swing
with wood still damp from morning dew
and the world beyond covered in a hazy shimmering veil
another slow and quiet start to a hot day
already covered in sticky humidity
but shivering because the sun remains
a dim shadow behind the fog

how to tell you, now
of blinding sunlight and skin hot to the touch
cool lemonade and Led Zeppelin days
little relief indoors from out
until bare feet touch wet grass and neck arches to moon and stars
turning not once stiff but when a bat swoops down low
to lightening bugs illuminating a rhythm
that has lodged itself inside my bloodstream
growing to be a part of me

-L

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lessons in green

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

mostly
I miss the green. Not just how it sparkled in the dewy mornings, but how it smelled after a summer rain – wet and earthy, worms and muck and warm puddles.
How it felt thick and sticky on my skin
Crickets at dusk, bullfrogs lulling me to sleep

Do I forget the summers? The one where we walked through the woods together
Through the black widows and bike trails and the oaks and maples and sycamores
You held my hand tight in your big white jeep

Can I remember the freedom I felt? In the forgetting. In the letting go.
I remember spinning, 2 AM. Spinning in a circle of my friends.
Stoned, I leave out the back window and my red skirt flies up as I jump. I understand nothing, but feel all the parts of my body like puzzle pieces floating.

All alone, I walk the path I know so well, to the white pine forest right near the water. It is dusk, and the longer I sit still, the more invisible I become.
The great blue heron skimming the water’s surface.
The doe and fawn drinking at the water’s edge.
The river otter gliding on his back through the sleepy lake.
At dark, I frantically pack up and run the whole way back home.

My best friend, in argument, in salsa dancing, in bread making.
The washing machine overflowed and I jumped on your back as we giggled uncontrollably.
We walk down the street singing Little Birdie the night before you hit the road, the streetlights guiding us to the bar.
I didn’t know then that when you returned, everything would change.

In green, I found the freedom to wander. Felt the panic of being alone. And understood, in fragmented moments, to be grateful.

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-A

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Sketch: This is a rose bush waiting to bloom.

My hands
remember the weight of charcoal
and what it takes to keep
the image from smearing.
I sketch a rose bush in early spring
when it wants to be blooming
but can’t, yet.

My eyes
capture details like they are new
as if I have just seen
bare limbs for the first time.
With each stroke they become more alive
til I understand they are
just waiting.

I finish sketching
as the day grows cold,
and as I pack up my things
I know:
roses
do not blossom into being overnight
but rather
survive the winter
to triumph in the spring,
and this knowledge that
the beauty
is in the details
calms me.

IMG_6554

-L

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dust

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nevermind the dust
blowing in every direction

if you can take a breath
even if only for one moment,
you are alive
*
i graduated from eighth grade
my first kiss, a dare i chose
in a gazebo
on an early summer night

quickly, i touched my lips to his
in the middle of a circle of
eyes watching
*
the next morning
on the flight to Denver
my walkman in my lap
forehead pressed to the window

all i remember from the night before
is the rhythm of my knees shaking
in anticipation

curious
*
the snow-capped mountains
are grand in their majesty,
i learned to say

always in the distance
and my mother can’t stop sighing
in the face of their majesty

but their jagged, rocky edges
viewed from the highway
bring me no peace of mind
*
we drive south,
my mom, my sister, and i

there, the wind is sandy and strong
it pelts every inch of our skin
stinging
*
that night, the man in the campsite next to ours
has a tiny pup-tent set up,
but he decides to sleep under the stars

a salsa song travels through the
calm night wind
from a lonely bar down the road

i lay awake for hours, eyes open wide
my sister and mother sleeping soundly
on either side of me

i realize
for the first time
how much space I need
*
i awoke in that strange valley
and many years later, I call it home

space, here, is endless
in the cloudless blue sky
in the untouched fields of kochia
in the spring winds that coat my skin
with sand

but nevermind the dust
blowing in every direction

if you can take a breath
even if only for one moment,
you are alive

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-A

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from the side of beartooth highway

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look for me
i am the girl who is driving a white ’96 oldesmobile across the country
with the unwashed hair, tied back in a red bandana
i carry rope, to teach myself knots
a pocket knife, because it makes me feel able

look for me in the woods, humming a John Denver tune
or under a tree somewhere, just pulled off the road
my face buried deep in this journal,
my mind pumping out words that my left hand anxiously tries to keep up with

look for me, somewhere between innocence and adulthood
the worry lines still faint across my forehead

look for me, as i stake out my independence at a furious pace
as i stumble through what it means to be alone
as i am silent, or listening, or rolling my eyes

the dirt under my nails comes from digging

look for me
as i try
to uncover
my truth

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-A

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Movers and Shakers

We move to big cities where we know no one,
Leaving behind people who love us because we want something more.

We feel lonely but try hard not to show it,
Diving head first into all of the important work that we do.

We take pride in feeling like we create change,
Knowing that all of our difficult decisions have been worth it.

But we sit in offices observing them,
Marching in the streets of Baltimore and Caracas and Nairobi.

I like to think there are others besides me,
Wondering if we would be happier walking alongside them.

-L

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Looking Back at the Hills

There is so much of the world I want to see,
And I have only just begun to know
Who I am and where I would like to go
Instead of where “culture” tells me to be.
Moving far away from home was the key
Because it showed me how tall I can grow;
I could not possibly have stayed home, no,
When city life was so clearly for me.
But why did I romanticize these lights?
There are too many books on leaving home.
I sat plotting my escape all those nights,
Missing that no matter how far I roam
I’ll always want the hills and other sights
That molded me as if inside a dome.

-L

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springtime in the desert

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the desert in utah
fills with wildflowers in may

prickly pears
asters
yucca
all blooming in
cadences of color
dancing in the
spring wind
*
i wake to the sound of
birds in green mulberry trees, singing
in delight to
see the sun
again
*
there are layers of life
so apparent in
sandstone mountains
salty, smooth but jagged
crumbling

inside, i stand atop the misty canyon
at peace with
all the questions and scars
all the layers of my self

because valleys fill
and empty
over and over

grow wildflowers from
salty, sandy dust

sing songs in gratitude
to see the seasons
change as they do

it seems that
beauty can thrive in the most
unlikely of places

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-A