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Mid-Ohio Valley Roots

He says he loves me but he knows nothing about me.

I have rolling foothills for my insides
alive at simple things
like neighbors playing bluegrass
and warm sun on my face.
The hair he likes to tuck behind my ear
should blow freely in wind
like my grandmother’s white sheets
as they dried on the line.
My ears seek the somber song of wind chimes
as a breeze passes through
echoing in the valley
on a long afternoon.
A hooting owl to him would mean nothing
like how it reminds me
of the field where I would play
under relatives’ eyes.

I have climbed trees with a journal in tow
scraped my knees on the climb
just to sketch a cicada
as it shed its old skin.
The hands he holds so tightly in his own
have known the slime and slip
of toads pulled straight from the creek
in sport with my brother.
My eyes search for the bright constellations
out my window at night
when we would sneak out and hear
barges in the distance.
A woodpecker in rhythm is nothing
to him like on the hikes
led by my fearless father
before time for supper.

I have passed gardens with my grandfather
watched him pick tomatoes
juicy red straight from the vine
eaten whole like apples.
The feet he calls light and made for dancing
stepped barefoot in wet grass
over mossy arrowheads
and Hopewells long buried.
My limbs beg to find a porch swing to rest
on a lazy morning
mind steadied by the quiet
and constantly rocking.
The smell of green walnuts means nothing
to him like my parents
talking with each other
on the porch at twilight.

How can he love me without understanding my past?

-L

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adoption

memory, 3. i am in the room, the one with the games and toys and
the glass windows
so they can see and document
the interaction

my mother’s blond curls are covered by a pink bucket hat
“i like your hat,” i tell her
so she takes it off her head, and hands it to me
to keep.

memory, 9. i am in my room, the one i shared with my sister
and now it’s mine and i hide a box
underneath my bed

it contains old letters, cds marked
“the jimi hendrix experience” and
“pink floyd dark side of the moon”,
a music box, and an
old pink bucket hat

memory, 18. i am in the room, the one he’s been
living in, battling the cancer, my mother is
here too and she is crying.

i came from my factory job, second shift
i put on his
shoes and jacket for him, then take them off
as he requests

such an odd feeling, to be somewhere
but feel so
far away

memory, 23. i am on the other side of the room, the
one with games and toys and
the glass windows
so i can see and document
the interaction

little boy, blond curls crying on the floor
his mother failed another drug test
this week but
she brought him a new
coloring book

memory, 26. i am in the room, the one i go
to every week to talk

when she asks me to draw
what it looks like, what it feels like
i choose the color pink,
think a moment, and draw
roots

-A

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At Great Falls Park

The two turkey vultures
held our fascination
for a bit

in a morbid,
can’t-look-away
kind of way;

but we all watched the crane
silently glide through the water
for what could have been an hour:

the satisfying crunch
as it bit down into a crayfish
or do you say crawdad?

the satisfying echo
of the ice chunk
hitting the frozen canal

the satisfying kiss
at the pub after
in front of my friends and yours.

-L

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my mother always interprets my dreams

what i like about myself is that,
once i am awake,
i will look you in the eye

last night, i dreamt of a jaguar
laying in my bed —
a mother and her cub
i startled them,
they left, and
i lost them

in this way, i carry my skin
as though i wish it were armor

at work, i hide my underarm hair
as a secret
i smile when i register that
that’s what you need

and when i get home late at night,
after mopping the floors,
i can’t sleep

last week, riding the sierra vista rail
i had to stop so i could listen to the
wind brush through the lovegrass

from where i stood, the wind
carried the sounds of
coyotes howling from the west

and tonight, on my walk back to my car,
i notice a fox crossing my path
ahead of me, looking for a bush
or shrub to
hide behind

now i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “excuse me?”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “i will explain”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me
disrespecting me
disrespecting me

the jaguar, an animal,
and instincts,
my mother tells me –

something about
following them

-A

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A Playlist of the Music that Boys Play in Cars

1. Suedehead by Morrissey

at midnight I am awake on the carpet
watching the ceiling fan spin round and round
while I listen to his mixtape
in the bedroom at my parents’ house

Morrissey is strange and new
but again, so is he
a year older than me
teaching me what couples do

but Morrissey makes me uneasy
like it makes me uneasy to
kiss him in the back of the movie theatre
when I really do just want to watch the film

2. Mr. Brightside by The Killers

nothing about this feels exciting or right
riding shotgun with him to the movies
with my favorite band’s songs playing
since he somehow knows that I like them

I am so much older now
this seems like what to do
towards the end of high school
to prepare for future dates

but just yesterday in Spanish class
after I tried to turn away
he would not stop touching me under the desk
watching my face for my panicked reaction

3. Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac

at noon we are riding through our college town
running errands I hate to do alone
while I put on my favorite song
and we both enjoy singing along

Stevie Nicks is familiar
her voice cozy, like him
a year younger than me
teaching me how to be friends

my favorite song makes me feel light now
like it makes me feel happy to
have someone who shows how much he cares for me
with no hidden motives or expectations

4. She Smiles For Pictures by Big Trouble

there is a sadness I cannot tap into
riding shotgun with him in his old car
with his favorite band’s songs playing
since he wants me to enjoy them, too

I am so much older now
this feels like what to do
when you love in college
and want it to last so long

but the next time we sleep together
after letting more go unsaid
I will realize trust makes a relationship
feeling our friendship break from what we won’t share

5. Tricky to Love by White Lies

this is not a song I would normally like
but I decide to listen just the same
because I want to know his interests
after I have just shared some of mine

I have never felt so sure
that this is how it goes,
it should be this easy,
that when you know, you just know

by the time we reach my apartment
we have decided our next date
and as he gently asks if he can kiss me
I can see that it was always worth the wait

-L

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On Shadows

when the moon goes away
during the daytime
we are still aware of the darkness
on the other side of the planet

and when the fire burns bright
during the winter
we are still aware of the deep chill
just outside the circle of warmth;

so am I aware of the madness
that lies in wait beneath my surface
settling like a dense fog in my mind
visible only by glancing to the side

and so too am I aware of the line
that thinly separates my quaint life
from the spiral of insanity
known to stalk and follow and creep up on me.

-L

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the ever-changing tide

i watch the waves crash at the shore
(the shore which is so relative to
the ever-changing tide)

it is low tide
small blue starfish and
light green, wiggling anemones and
pointy, purple urchins
hide in small pools
where we stumble upon them
and gaze in awe

the hours that pass go unnoticed,
exploring the colors and textures
of the salty ocean
until soon the growing tide chases
us out

tonight
there is a full moon rising
as the sun sets and
the sight of it
is such a testament
to the gravity which i have
witnessed today

the sun pulls
and the moon pulls
and there is darkness,
and of course, the light
that i always come back to

the ocean stretches
and the waves crash

the waters within me are not
immune to
gravity

the waters within me are not
immune to
the ever-changing tide

26173324_1882467128431343_4773258479180415263_o

-A

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New Year’s Eve 20XX

The dog is snoring, curled up tight
On the rug. Heels lay discarded
By the door — “I couldn’t wait to
Get out of there!” The old kettle

Whistles as the two cousins — or
Are they sisters? No one in this
City building knows for sure — sit
Side-by-side with champagne ready.

The ball begins to drop. It could
Be snowing. They prefer to ring
In the New Year with Katharine and
Cary, instead. In a sea of

Open presents they make a list:
Maintain age is still a number.
Keep pushing it hard to Peru.
Finish those poor terrariums?

-L

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solstice reflections

“There is darkness all around us; but if darkness is, and the darkness is of the forest, then the darkness must be good.”

do you carry within you
a darkness? i do.

over the years, i have
carried it
wrestled it
pinned it down
named it weight i didn’t
wish to carry

all that time, i was not
understanding that
light casts a shadow
and so the two must exist
together

i work towards balance
i work towards consciousness
i work towards truth
and my truth has many shades

i sit within myself
i sit within this moment, or that
i see the darkness
and i use the light to navigate it

-A

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Reflecting on 2017

I.
destruction
for the sake of
destruction

is making me feel
helpless
and
weak.

because –
why I should I keep building up
when the top, just
tears
it
down
?

II.
Life lately
looks like me wrapped in his arms falling asleep
but then
asking if he’s awake
and also thinking of Jerusalem;

hopelessness and despair
for me
breeds inattention and apathy
in me
which I think is what t(he)y want(s);

III.
but almost a year after the march I am tired.

-L

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proper documentation

7 september 2017
i walk around, looking for empty glassware to wash
a group of men, young and old, stop me and say
“you have nice legs, sweetie”

i wore shorts today because
it is 99 degrees and i’m
hustling around this restaurant
for 8 hours and the ac is broken and so
i just smile and walk away,
my legs and face burning

29 september 2017
i am behind the bar putting clean pints away
and the man behind the bar, the one who comes
every week with his fancy camera
says “let me take your picture”
“no, thank you,” i say
“come on,” he prods
“no,” i repeat
and as i walk around the restaurant
i can’t help but feel
he is taking my photo

13 october 2017
“did you just give me the stink eye?”
an old white man behind the bar asks
as i hustle to put away all the
glassware

15 october 2017
“why don’t you smile more? you look so pretty when you smile!”

20 october 2017
“there’s that smile! i saw it!”

14 november 2017
it’s a friday night and my
hands are full and i’m
clearing tables and a man says
“yo we’re ready to order”

with hands full i explain,
“sorry, i’m not a server”
and walk away

later, as i bring food out
he says under his breath
as i walk past
something i can’t hear and so

i back up, look him in the eye and say
“excuse me?”

“i thought you weren’t a server”
he mocks me
and it isn’t until my
manager, who is a male
enters the space that this man
backs off me
(later, he tries to leave without paying)
(a real stand-up guy)

16 november 2017
behind the bar, an older man has had
plenty to drink
and each time i’m at the dishwasher, i’m
directly across from him

“boy, she’s pretty ain’t she?”
he says multiple times to his friends

24 november 2017
“why do you always look so mad?”

8 december 2017
behind the bar, i load the dishwasher
“can i get an amber ale?” he asks impatiently.
“i’m sorry, i’m not a server. someone will be right with you.”
“well can SOMEONE get me an amber ale?” he asks even more impatiently.
i stop what i’m doing, and look at him, take a breath and repeat,
“someone will be right with you.”
********
afterthoughts:

where do we learn to take up space?
and how?

(when i first started this job, i smiled on cue
but now i hesitate, and if you ask me to smile
i know you don’t deserve it)

each day, i remind myself that
i deserve every bit of the space i need

Featured

Saturdays in November

no fanfare
but small things

like you singing your favorite song to me
and us lying with the cat in between
and me insisting we should have turned there
and you laughing as we walk the wrong way

one hand is clutching warm tea
and the other is holding yours
and the world around us is shining golden and brown
and the birds overhead are surrounded by a perfect blue

I think I know this feeling
though I’ve never used the word

-L

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truth

the hard cliff
is the truth jutting out
to meet me

i climb it
rocks fall, erode
beneath my feet

(standing on solid ground
has always been
overrated, anyway)

but what do i hope to see at the top?
each climb, the view is
different

sometimes hazy, clouded ridgelines
sometimes stormy, distant clouds
sometimes, pink and purple sunsets

the truth is not a word, or phrase
not etched into stone or paper

the truth is in the lines on my palms
the cracks in the rocks
the expressions in the sky

ever-changing, ever-shifting

begging for me to
witness

-A

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only mountains and valleys

she asks me about him
and if i’m going to marry him
and i laugh it off easily but

i want to know why
everything
literally everything
has to have
a tidy box to
reside in

lately i have to ask,
is something not important
or valuable unless you
marry it?

can we find value in things
as they are, as they develop
as they unfold
and change?

i can’t see in black and white
and there are so many dimensions to
being alive

i used to run along the cow pasture
my lungs burning in the cold winter air

i used to huddle under my blankets
my lungs breathing in my own stale air

i am both of these,
at once

i mean, there is no box
for me

only mountains and valleys

-A

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At Great Sand Dunes National Park

The smell of campfire
Still lingers in my hair
As the wind swirls it across our faces.

We sit low between the dunes to hide from the wind.

“Will we ever recover fully from heartbreak?”
I don’t know.

But I hope that we remember bonding like sisters covered in sand
For longer than we remember the many ways in which our hearts were broken.
And I hope that if those memories must stay longer
Than the smell of smoke in my hair after two washes
Then so does this moment.

-LIMG_2841 (1)

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the space between

there are things about me
that are more interesting
than whether or not he thinks
i’m pretty

or if he thinks about me
at all

i am made up of more than
pretty, more than
delicate, more than
these ideas that
fence me in

my muscles, my bones are
my own
belong to no other
than me

everywhere they have
brought me and
will bring me

standing alone on hazy mountain peaks
tending to the soil in lonely valleys
driving on my own towards something
unknown

and though i get caught up in
walls and fences
even build them on
my own

i know that
my worth is in
my hands, arms,
feet, spine

or not in these,
but rather, in
the space between

-A

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Natural

she told me:
it ebbs and flows

today I observed two monarchs
in someone else’s garden
and I thought about calling you
but I decided to keep it to myself

(you laugh when I tell you the moon is my favorite celestial body
but I think you understand
because your favorite part of our weekend
was driving home in the twilight
when the sky was deep blue and silver
and the countryside dark and still)

so today I choose to observe alone
but I know that maybe tomorrow
when the cold wind brings me nostalgia
I will tell and you will listen
even if you do not fully understand

-L

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cycles

i recognize the feeling
and know that
it comes
and goes

something with the moon
or perhaps, like it
my own cycle of
growing,
bearing,
and shedding

the rhythm
the blood-stained panties
the familiar ache in my abdomen

i asked myself last night,
where does suffering begin?
where does it end?

my neighbors yell and scream
in front of their children
so loud, the wall we share
quivers

and a few miles south,
the border, we call it
separates two imaginary,
yet very real
worlds –
violently

and this feeling i recognize
though it is sad,
though it is angry
it is unapologetic
it is non-negotiable

i do not bleed,
shed layers of my own
skin
to sustain the suffering
of this fragmented planet

i will only bear this,
continue to shed this
so that perhaps I can carry
the weight
that another cannot bear

-A

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Cool Air

You drive
and I’ll look for wildflowers
to stop and identify along the way.
Maybe I’ll sketch the Blue Ridge
and you’ll ask me to navigate
but I’ve decided to abandon control with the city.
Keep heading South
and let me call you darling.
I promise to write poems about you
if you promise not to turn around.
You feel like home
and I know you like the life you’ve built here
but I love it when you take me far away.IMG_9098

 

-L

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and so now, we enter something new

one year ago

over oatmeal in the morning,
we sat close so our knees touched

and in your truck, i held your arm
as the mountains flew past

or, as we flew past the mountains

today

you kiss me goodbye as i head out the door
and though it is quick, it remains
tender

i make dinner in the skillet,
burning my thumb

you bring me ice
and clean up the dishes

and so now, we enter something new

-A

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september 29, 2017

here, today
 
and yesterday, as well
 
i have decided that
i know
 
and then i step through the doors
and see her,
wrinkled skin
eyes sunken, gaze solemn
head held up by the palm of her
gnarled hand
 
what do i know about anything, really?

it is not enough to
eat and
walk and
repeat the same
motions
 
there is meaning
in the way we
move through
spaces
 
tired and lonely
alert, unafraid

if i could
lift
the weight of
her suffering for
one moment
 
if i could
ease
the burden of
her pain for
one instant
 
if i could
ask
a question
and listen
without
speaking
 
i think i would
know better
than i did
before
 
-A

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A Different Morning After

Morning in an unfamiliar place.
I recognize my bed and I know
Who he is but we’ve never been here
Before. Of course I am awake first.

Panic attack behind a shut door.
Now this is a place I’ve been before.
My face in the mirror won’t say why
I can’t just move one day at a time.

Joan Didion on my bedside shelf.
Painting of my soul above my bed.
Last night he saw only my body,
But this room speaks volumes about me.

Back in bed as he begins to stir.
I move away as I wonder if
He solely remembers how I taste.
But he grins and says, “The White Album.”

-L

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Color Palette

I see you in earth tones:
green when you round the corner on the trail in front of me,
brown when you pick me up again clean and fresh from a day in the sun,
gray when you move in close and shine your hungry eyes into mine.

and I know that I am the deep purple of twilight
shining with stars yet murky with shadows.

but I think the day and the night,
like the sun and the moon,
are better when they blend together
as dusk and dawn.

-L

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friendship

once, i remember, and will not soon forget
the filthy car he had to start with a spoon

driving me home to the cabin one night,
i am throwing up all over the car floor,
all over my feet

and when she said,
“to love someone is to feed their spirit”
i think i understood
that i have been loving wrong
all these years

in my bones lately,
i ache for green, wet earth
that stains the bottoms of my feet
that lives under my fingernails
that offers light in the form of
decay

once, singing on the concrete steps,
people pass by
and we gather our stray dollars and nickels
for a 6-pack of pbr

years later, you tell me one morning
that you have a problem to name
in the bottle of wine and
eight beers you drank last night

and once, singing in a quiet pizza place
she steadies my hands before we sing, together
“i’m so lonesome i could cry”

scattered, i find myself in the desert
but pieces of me float around
stretching from the potomac river
to the rolling green hills
and all the way to the high valley
surrounded by rocky peaks

and all the places in between

so as i walk back and forth to and from
the mailbox each day
in my loneliness i remind myself what
she once told me

“to love someone is to feed their spirit”

-A

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Waxing Crescent

The weekend after the eclipse
there is a crescent moon above your head
that sinks behind the roof of the bar
as you talk with wild eyes about
how a full moon on the ocean
lights up the sea like day
even erasing the stars.

Like that flood of light you describe,
you are new to me
and you are shining into places
that have been in shadow for a while.

-L

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Falling

a thing at once
shiny and new
and familiar
like a favorite passage
in a new edition of a favorite book

floating through the bookstore
two glasses of wine deep
visiting my favorite authors
and you watching me, learning

the heat of my lips
on your lips
the ropes of my fingers
knotted in yours
summer’s slow burn
quickly becoming explosive color

-L

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flowing

sometimes, gratitude is a blanket
wrapped around my body
in the form of letters, these treasures
from my roadmap of life

but if i don’t consider from where i’ve come,
how can I move forward?
direction is only relative to a starting point

i think of the snowmelt
the freeze and thaw;
the process that leads to
flowing

and i can hear the wailing, always
as much in my own gut as the
graveyard nearby

but the strength of water suggests that
freezing and thawing are
a necessary part of life

that resilience is not weight,
but water,
flowing

-A

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Terror

written a while ago, but (sadly) still relevant

I want to refuse to let the terror take me over,
but that is so hard to do
when every day on my morning commute I feel a tightness in my chest as the train starts moving,
and every weekend when I pass the White House I step a little faster to shorten the exposure.
I know I have to go on living like everything is normal,
but have you read the description of a nail bomb?
Have you thought about how intentional that is?
How those are meticulously created to inflict pain?
And maybe even kill?
I will never forget what it felt like when I woke up
with the dual knowledge that there was an attack in Brussels in the morning
and that my friend was flying out of Brussels that morning.
I eventually heard that she was okay,
but in those few hours I think I had a glimpse into the lives of
New Yorkers after 9/11,
the lives of my friends in Europe,
the lives of my fellow humans in some Middle Eastern
and Latin American
and African
and Asian
countries every damn day.
I still want to believe that it is love, not fear, that unites us,
but when I see presidential candidates portray their rivals’ wives as ugly,
and I hear world leaders say refugees need to go back to where they came from,
back to the violence
and the madness
and the fear,
I think:
maybe it is actually terror that unites us all now.

-L

 

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between sleeping and waking

from your silent shadow, you wept
and weeping sustains
the cracked earth

not blood from death
only sacrifice
can carry the weight of
question or
purpose

in sleeping, we dream and
in dreaming, we collect
moments, fragments
undiscovered and unattainable

in waking, we smell and taste
and touch
but in dreaming,
we survive

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August 13, 2017

my hair still smells like a campfire
falling over my face
as I sit here trying to identify
the same wildflowers you used yesterday
to show me how bees carry pollen on their feet

and I think we are just killing time
thumbing through the pages
as I read the description of touch-me-not
the proven antidote for Poison Ivy
learned in a book instead of an internet search

but we can’t camp out here forever
waiting for meteors
as heat lightning catches the clouds on fire –

the world is burning in Charlottesville today
and I don’t know how to answer for my skin

-L

Featured

healing

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault

i find it in music
and self-expression

singing
crimson lipstick
mint nail polish, always chipping

still, i won’t wash my hair
*******
you are one thing, they say
you are a body
you must obey
and brush, shave, primp
tweeze, curl, straighten
cut, paint, dye, wax
apply, wash
scrub, blend

woman, you must
bleed
quietly
and
remain hidden
*******
i am a body,
for now
*******
in the background
at my desk
i fell asleep to the drone of
obsolete ideas

the old testament teaches
an eye for an eye
and Jesus said
thou shall not
steal

my catholic school uniform
white prep school collar, yellow pit stains
weekly mass,
asleep

amen, the body of Christ rose from the dead
I believe,
for now
*******
i am seventeen

please,
teach me how to say
No, I’m not ready
Respect Me
Leave Me The Fuck Alone
when he is pulling at my jeans
belittling my body with words as sharp as knives

and all I have left in me is breathing,
in and out
in and out
*******
i am twenty

please,
teach me how to sleep after
my friend tells me
she repeated no, no
over and over
*******
i am twenty-three

please,
teach me how to console
my roommate
who is still living in the past
as she came to and saw his shadow above her
through the darkness
******
i am twenty-five

please,
teach me how to explain
to my boyfriend’s friend
that it is not up to him to decide
how a person feels about their body, their pronouns,
their own self-expression
******
i’ve seen my sisters’ bodies
torn apart by expectations
and cruel, irreverent hands

i’ve seen tears
enough to
drink in our sorrow for
the rest of my days

hearts strewn, but our hands together
i’ve watched us
rise from the dead

not quiet, not hidden
open, bleeding, wounded

healing

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march 18, 2017

Dear Self,

You cannot take back the last few months. They have happened, and you are in this place. Please allow yourself forgiveness. These last few months do not mean anything about your character, or your worthiness of love. They have been a muddled time, a time of hibernation, of confusion.

You do not have the answers but you have made a decision – to move to New Mexico. Now, you must wait til then, patiently and impatiently. With kindness in your heart – not only for others, but for yourself.

Do not despair. You are vibrant. You are loved. You are smart and kind.

You are deserving of happiness, if you allow it to enter your bloodstream.

-A

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Looking West from the Blue Ridge

I.
I call them my mountains because I was born in their shadow –
hiking in the Blue Ridge feels like going home.
To visit my mountains is to awaken the part of me
that will always belong to the rolling Appalachian foothills.
Give me a cup of coffee in a sleepy Virginia town,
the sound of running water mixed with wind high up in the trees,
and wildflowers dotting the landscape with yellow, purple and orange,
and I will remember the joy that comes from sun-dried sweat on a tan back,
slippery rocks and furry moss on bare feet,
and nothing to do but talk and sing with each other to pass the time.

II.
I left home by following the mountains rise –
climbing in elevation through the Appalachians toward the sea.
To see me in the city is to realize the part of me
that will always long to do good.
But although I have found the beauty in this energetic cityscape,
among the many different sounds and sights and smells mixing into one,
I still sigh in relief when I can hear the cicadas through my window at night,
and miss the people I know are sitting on a porch swing under my mountains,
letting the steady rhythm give the night extra life,
as they are content to simply stare up at the stars instead of pass judgements.

III.
I wonder now if it’s time again to uproot.

IV.
I got a taste for starting over on my first trip out West –
winding through the Rockies that were higher than I could have imagined.
To drive me through those mountain passes is to excite the part of me
that will always equate this terrain with home.
Give me a cold beer in the backseat of a car on a cloudless night,
the smell of a campfire leaving ashes on my face and in my hair,
and even a group of friendly strangers who I have only just met,
and I will feel the peace that comes from the crackle of burning twigs,
wet grass under a flanneled back,
and nothing to worry over because there is nothing but uncounted time.

V.
I got a taste for moving forward on my journey to the Pacific –
flying over the mountains of Los Angeles County felt like finding home again.
To visit those ranges is to awaken the part of me
that will always mark comfort with valleys and hills.
Because although it is just another energetic cityscape,
with new but not unfamiliar sounds and sights and smells mixing into one,
I still sighed in relief when I spotted those giants in the distance,
and wondered at the people I could know sitting in the shadows of those mountains,
letting the natural backdrop give the city extra life,
and I want to know if I would be more content there if I chose a new home now.

-L

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awake

on a sunny thursday morning, walking along the sandy bank of the river
i stopped to watch a small wasp, no larger than the dime in my pocket
dig a hole in the sand
grain by grain

and on a chilly tuesday evening, walking along the spine of the sangre de cristos at sunset
i stopped to watch the hundreds of thousands of bats, each as big as the palm of my hand
fly into the night
one by one

i feel tears sting my eyes and roll slowly down my cheekbones
gathering at my chin

there is no name for what i am feeling
but as if the sun and moon were rising all at once
i can hear each of my fragile perceptions
shatter

and i am in awe
not of beauty
not of the color or texture
or rushing river water or sunset

but of purpose
of movement
of rhythm

of witnessing the earth do
as it needs to

on a misty friday morning, laying in my sleeping bag in the dewy, grassy meadow
i hear an elk bugle in the distance
as if to greet the morning sun

here, or there
with eyes open, or closed,
i am awake

-A

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Womankind

I can tell you what it means to be a woman today –

bell hooks taught me
the personal is political
maybe I rebel
by staying single
I cut my hair shorter
wear my glasses bigger
and I will get that tattoo
because they tell me not to
I met a man once
just once
with a tattoo
read bell hooks
they tell me a crescent moon
would look trashy
like they actually know the things
that have shaped and changed me:

They started calling her Cocaine Girl.
Hot mess. So sad.
How were you ever friends with her?
How do I explain that she has saved me so many times?
Maybe they have never had to
Quietly admit that what he did was assault
And have “Cocaine Girl” be one of the
Only ones to believe them.

And then there’s my cousin
Who when driving sometimes
Considered crashing into the guardrail
So sincerely that it scared her
And she called me in a panic
Because she was sure it was the medicine
But she needed the medicine
To live with what he did.

Like Walt Whitman
I think I could turn and live with the animals
Because then maybe I would not have to
Be asked to justify
Why I wore a hat
Why I said no to the date
Why I chose that dress
Why I (we)
Women are constantly evolving!

(I used to wear flowery bandanas
Every day to class
Like a hippie would
And my best friend loved it
So I posted our photo
As a testament to female friendship
But then I was asked to justify
Why I was comfortable looking like a lesbian
As if that were a bad thing.)

I just think that
Maybe
If they listened
More bluegrass
Less rap
They would see
There is more to life
Than relationships and sex,

Ask me about my
Travels
Writing
Language learning
Cooking
What book I am reading
Instead!

It is like I am an
Alien Girl
But I will continue being an
Alien Girl
For womankind.

-L

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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