Brink

Brink

I feel like I’m on the brink of something

Like I’m right on the edge

Like I’m right about to get to it

Like I’m right there on its tail

And I only have to reach my hand out

And take it…

If I could, I would

If I could, I would

If I could, I would…

Would I?

If I could?

Would I?

Because I’ve felt like I’ve been on the brink of something for a very long time now

Because I’ve felt like I’ve been on the tip of something since… damn near forever

Because I’ve felt like I was going to be somebody since…

I don’t know how long

But I’ve felt it

And I’ve known it

And yet I’m not

But I swear…

I swear that I’m on the brink of something…

I would tell you even now that I’m on the brink of something

Even now

After spending all my energy

And confidence

And cash

Just reaching

Even now after all this time

I would still tell you

With great certainty

And great feeling

That I swear that its there

That I’m on the brink of something

I know it

Because Goddamn it

I feel like I’m on the brink of something

I have to be on the brink of something

I have to be close to the edge by now

So I can finally leap the fuck off of it

I know that I’m on the brink of something

If only

I knew what it was…

Haven’t I been on the brink of something?

Does everyone feel like they’re on the brink of something?

Have I been continually and perpetually deluding myself?

Because

I’d tell you

I’d bet you

I’d’d swear,

I’d bet

It’s right there

Isn’t it?

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Reluctant Advice

The best advice I’ve ever been given was told to me reluctantly.

At the time, I was about fifteen and my mama and I weren’t very good at having good days or good conversations. There was no one we loved more than each other, but that was why it hurt so much to be around one another. Occasionally, our personal wishes for one another’s lives obscured the love we felt. We both wanted each other to be different. Better. Stronger. Kinder. It hurt when the other didn’t want the same. It felt like rejection. As a result, our words meant too much to be said without extreme consequence. Even things said with love in mind felt like attacks. So the very best days I had with my mother were spent talking about frivolous, detached things or otherwise spent in silence.

On our special days out, away from the rest of the family — my absolute favorite days, mama and I would go to the movies, or out to eat, or, other times, shopping. We realized we couldn’t stare at each other the entire outing so we structured our interactions. For conversation, we’d give our opinions on the most obviously annoying things: how hopeless the acting was in the movie, how terrible the waiter’s service had been at this restaurant, or how hideous the dresses were at Macy’s. We were expert critics with years of experience gained from trying to improve each other. So, when we went out, we’d laugh and laugh and laugh at the hilarity of our joint negativity because, conjunctively, it was directed elsewhere.

One early Saturday morning, while my daddy and little brothers were asleep, my mama woke me up excitedly and asked if I wanted to go shopping. I didn’t really like shopping. I still don’t (I never really know what I want and the clerk’s constant inquiries make me question how put together my life is). But, my mama and I had argued the day before and by then I’d learned how difficult it was for parents to say “I’m sorry”. Instead of using words, Mama sat at the edge of my bed, hopeful and apologetic, still learning her way in the world, and trying to make it up to me. So I said, “Okay, Mama,” with a smile that mimed “I accept.” I needed some new shirts anyway.

My mama, beautiful, mocha-tinted, and battered from years of childbearing paired with under appreciation, let out an excited shriek, grin reaching her hazel, tired eyed, and kissed me emphatically all over my face.

“Hurry up and get dressed then!” She smiled, jumping up and down on my bed with her knees, the force of which almost rocked me out of it. I laughed and she hurried away exuberant.

We sang songs on our way there like we usually did during car rides (singing didn’t require conversation). It took an hour to drive to any mall worth perusing, so we drove through various playlists I’d burned onto CDs. While my mama sang, I organized her wallet, annoyed at the way she never could keep it orderly, but secretly looking forward to the mild, scattered times in which she’d comment, “Oh… you really do do that beautifully…”

When we finally arrived at the teenaged section in Macy’s, we poured our attention into searching for pretty things. My mama would bring me shirts or dresses she liked and I vetoed the things I didn’t (usually frills and flowers), but if she begged me long enough I’d roll my eyes and try on the pieces from the vetoed pile anyway. If I wasn’t looking for items myself or running back and forth from the dressing room, I was scanning the room for sales clerks to avoid, ready to flee to another section if any one got too close. Mama knew how much I didn’t like it, but still had a tendency to call those poor souls over. They’d ask me questions I had no answer to, like “what are you looking for?” or “what do you generally like?” and I’d stare at them in genuine confusion, hoping to God they’d make both our lives easier by giving up and turning around. Occasionally, they got the hint quickly and left with a “just call me over again when you decide!” Other times we’d be roaming around awkwardly for a good twenty minutes. It never felt kind or helpful when Mama asked for their assistance. She did it against my pleas, so, by insisting, she was telling me to “get over it,” like I wasn’t a person yet and my distastes were just phases to “grow out” of. Whenever she did, parts of the day’s positive intentions were canceled out, despite the silence attempting to keep it intact, but that day, luckily, I was able to evade it.

After a few hours of avoiding sales people and modeling for my mother, we found a good stack of clothes that we both agreed on. We checked out, bought some of that chocolate that stores always tempt you with after you’ve already pulled out your wallet, and that was that. We were done.

Now, there was nothing left to do but leave (no frivolous things left to fill the empty silences with), so we headed back to the car quietly, chocolate in hand. My mama led the way and I trailed behind her with all of my bags swinging side to side across my hips because buyers never carry merchandise.

Unfortunately, the store was very busy by that time and it was difficult to maneuver through the crowd. I tried my best not to hit things and people, but I was the clumsiest person I knew and always had been. At the time, all my parts didn’t really feel mine yet, so much so, I could hardly keep track of them. The days I’d managed not to trip over my own feet were deemed very successful.

Attempting to take responsibility for myself and young enough to be overly used to being wrong, I whispered apologies to the people I lightly smacked and occasionally even to the rolling make-up carts that created mazes across the bottom-most floor.

One. Two. Three — rolling carts were apologized to and reset in their places.

One. Two. Three. Four — people smiled politely and apologized back to me (they’d been in the way too). As I was turning away from my fourth “sorry,” another one slammed into me.

My left arm swung behind me, taken aback quite literally, and I nearly dropped half of my load.

“I’m so sorry!” I announced preemptively, before I’d set eyes on my assailed or even recovered my footing.

Looking up, repentance still hanging off my lips, I saw a tight-nosed, blonde woman briefly look up from her phone, clearly annoyed to have run into someone despite her own distractions. An old looking 35-ish, skin baked from over tanning, the woman gave a brief stoic nod of acceptance before stalking off again on noisy, gold high heels.

I re-aligned myself to continue walking behind Mama, mildly affronted, but an ever faithful duckling. However, my mama had also stopped when she’d heard the altercation and was now staring at me discernibly.

My mama had twenty-something years on me and therefore had probably dealt with that many years more of high-heeled entitlement. I’m sure the extra time accounted for the extra amount of annoyance on her face. Maybe even for the glares she gave the woman’s bare back when she’d barely acknowledged my presence. Now eyeing me, Mama’s face was a mixture of annoyance, disbelief, and confusion. It looked like I had personally offended her and she was momentarily trying to decide if it was worth breaking our tacit agreement to confront me about it. She squinted her eyes just enough to show she’d made a decision and, for the first time all day, spoke directly to me about something other than music and clothes.

“Don’t apologize for taking up space,” she said, almost wearily and moderately toned, with a tinge of disbelief still stuck in the corner of her eye. “You have the same right to exist in your space as everyone else does. You’re not here to be other people’s doormats. Everyone is allowed space to breathe in.”

As she shook her head, almost pityingly, I felt oddly defensive. I squirmed in my skin as she looked at me, unsure of where to place my own gaze. Somehow being told I was being a doormat felt even worse than getting my bags dismissively knocked out of my hand. It wasn’t hurtful. It was just highly uncomfortable.

“But I’d knocked into her,” I insisted lamely. Needing to say something. “It was polite to apologize.”

She replied simply, “My children are not doormats,” but now felt awkward herself. She never knew what to do when I responded and didn’t want our day to turn sour, so, eyeing the ground, she quickly turned her back to me again and continued our walk.

In the car, once more we submitted to the agreement of the day. Acting as if we’d never spoken a word, we made our way home, eating the rest of our chocolate, blasting our ears away with tunes we both knew well enough to sing to, and laughing at whatever lyrics were confidently sung wrong.

We pretended otherwise, but Mama had indeed broken our tacit agreement. She’d told me something directly that had the potential to amass great consequence. But there was something about the intention. Something about the delivery: hesitant, yet deliberate, said with concern rather than in critique. Something there that remained with me, even though so many other moments have melted away in forgiveness. Something there… that made it a lasting memory of love.

The Girl & The Bird

The girl:

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly.

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, why?

Do you stay here?

You have lived your whole life in a cage

You have left when I have allowed

You have eaten from my hand when I have decided to feed you

But now you are a free bird, pretty bird

Free to fly and use those wings, once broken and now mended, and lean them against the soft caresses of the wind

And yet here you stay perched on my window sill

Still

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, FLY!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, WHY?

Do you stay here?

Don’t you know what you are missing? Have you not seen it yet?

Far from here are vast summer landscapes, stretching their arms across the horizon…

Far from here are great blue oceans who plant sweet kisses on the sky at sunset as she blushes amorously…

Wouldn’t you like to see them?

My pretty bird, my pretty bird, my pretty bird…

Have you grown used to captivity?

Have you become accustomed to wishes less grand than you are capable?

Because you should have greater dreams than this Pretty Bird!

Do I sit here and dream for you?

Does your small bird brain not allow you to dream grand dreams?

The bird:

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Hi.

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Hi!

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, why?

Do you sit there?

You have lived countless lifetimes in that chair

You have left only to watch me glide

You have eaten only when I remind you of meal time

And now you point through the window and say, “Free yourself, Pretty bird!”

But I have always been free

Why aren’t you?

When we met you were broken, but now you are better

Not mended but less torn apart

I have loved you and fed you and kept you alive, so that you could be free to leave me

To make your way toward cities and culture and people and to explore

And yet you still sit in that chair

There

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, leave.

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, LEAVE!

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Please.

Do not stay here!

Don’t you know what you are missing?

Have you not felt it yet?

Near here, is the love that flows through every flower, every tree, and every animal The same love that will happily find you if you reach your hand out to it

Near here, are crowds of fumbling people, lovers, and dreamers, all just as lost as you, and waiting anxiously to offer comfort if you dare ask

I have seen them. Wouldn’t you like to?

To reach beyond to your full potential? To outstretch what you view as your meager capabilities?

My pretty girl, my pretty girl, my pretty pretty girl…

Have you grown used to captivity?

Must I perch here and dream things for you?

Has your useless human brain stopped you from seeing clearly?

Acting Cool

You’ll never know how nervous I was to hold your hand the first time. I was trying to act cool. Like I wasn’t on fire or about to faint. It wasn’t even a special circumstance. It wasn’t even about us. We were in a large group and they asked us all to take each other’s hands. I was holding someone else’s hand with my left. But I didn’t notice them. I don’t remember them at all. Not even slightly. I just remember you to my right. I didn’t look at you. I was so nervous. I thought my body was going to explode. And your hand was right there. I was surprised when I could move mine towards yours. I couldn’t actually feel it at the time. So it was weird that it responded to my wants so easily. I slipped my fingers into your palm slowly and it just fit there. Like you welcomed it as normal. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. Except that I could feel every millimeter of my hand now. Even the pores that were profusely sweating. That wasn’t normal or natural. But it was amazing. I was burning from the inside out. My hand was going to fall off. My arm was going to leave with it. And I was trying to not let it show on my face. I was trying to act cool. And we finished whatever activity we were doing and I swear I wanted to keep you so badly. But I let you go. My fingers fell. A bit slowly because… Well. I didn’t really want them to fall at all. But I was acting cool. Like it didn’t matter. Like I wasn’t sure. Right then. That I loved you. And it must’ve worked, since you never noticed how much I felt for you. Because you wondered if I wanted you then. And you dismissed your feelings like they weren’t reciprocated. So I guess, now I wish I hadn’t been so cool.

Songs That Soothe the Soul

I didn’t realize
How sad my mother was
Truly
Until we sang along in the car together
on our way
to my freshman orientation

It was my mama,
her friend, Nanette
and me.
2 women
1 girl
Sharing a rite of passage
In an SUV too large to drive
but that
made her feel safe
In a world that
constantly tried
to run her over

I remember my mama was so jealous
That I
liked her friend so much
But that
lady had a fresh take on our lives
She
thought I was funny
And
didn’t make me feel bad
When
my first thought
About buying snacks
For myself
Didn’t include her opinions

But I love my mama
Even when I don’t like her
And her
happiness
Crosses
my mind every day
And has
for as long as I can remember
So when
it was time to change
The CD
Into something my Mama and me
could sing to as she drove

I picked
the mix tape
My mama used to play
In the
car every day
For months
With my
daddy in the passenger seat
And man,
Did we sing to it.

I knew every word
I had
since I was little
But I
never noticed before
What
we sang
And how
we sang
of heartbreak
And
untrustworthy men
Of
broken vows
Of
worthless promises
And
poignant pains
We sang
And I
started to remember
Being in my carseat
And my
mother playing
One song
On repeat
As my daddy brooded
In his chair

I remember
Because I liked that song best
And
didn’t mind it
being played again
3 times
4
8
20
Until my
daddy’s face was so sour
We didn’t
dare ask what was wrong anymore
And my
mama
Seemed
oddly satisfied
When he didn’t stop her
I guess
she really liked that song

I remembered that day
somewhere
in the middle of singing
When I
told Nannette
That we
used to hear that mix tape
over
and over
and over again
And my
daddy didn’t like it that much
By the look he used to wear on his face

I
remembered that day
When
neither of them answered me
Like
they knew something that I didn’t

I remembered in-between pauses
When
Nanette stared into the distance
Because
she didn’t know the words
and
couldn’t sing along
And my
mama wore a grin
the size
of Jupiter
Because
that tape had soothed her soul
So many times
And
So damn well

Huh…

Huh…

There’s silence around me
But there’s still noise
In my head
That my mind makes up
It’s own soundtrack
A playlist consisting
Of background music
That matches feelings I won’t let go of
Swirls of images
A vortex of sound
All crowd my mind
In silence
A loud silence
The whooshing of the
Air conditioner
Somehow evades me
The gentle splashing of the pool
Doesn’t catch my interest
The planes flying overhead
Are reduced to background noise
But I hear my own voice
Not coming from my throat
Some inner me that can’t be real
Because it’s never present where I am
I hear that
As clear as the day I hadn’t noticed
As present as the sun baking my skin
The voice rings back and forth
It resonates from soul to mind
I hear it
Reading
A voice I wish I had
Because it’s oddly more articulate
That voice could probably sing
And I suppose it does
In the same voice as Lauryn Hill
And it reads like Emma Thompson
And it raps like Kanye
And occasionally it throws clever quips
At disappointing memories
And I imagine I could have shut that voice up
At any time
Had I ever noticed it speaking
Without me
As it is
Currently
Huh…
What a beautiful day

You are beautiful

You are beautiful

I thought you weren’t once
I saw something else completely
But I think I might have just been hurt
Because you stand there
Without me
Absolutely beautiful
Or maybe you too never saw it before
And I could never convince you
So when I saw you
I only saw tears, pain, and heartache
When really you’ve never been
Anything but
Beautiful
And I’m glad we can both
Now see it that way

These Days

Occasionally, I lose myself in my mind. On empty days, days left to neglecting necessity, I sometimes get caught in a somewhat meditative space that seems more real than reality. On these days I can’t decide if I see myself more clearly, or if I momentarily lost focus. I wonder if I’m caught in a dream, hoping for things I don’t truly believe in, and waiting for things I know I should move on without. My mind knows what I should be getting on with; the long list of “to-dos” on these days I ignore. On these days, I prefer my quiet fantasies; the list of things I want but decide I don’t need. It’s funny, because these days are the only days where I question their rank of importance. Those days I much rather stay asleep.

Inbetween

I’d kiss you if you asked me
But I won’t mind it if you don’t
I’m more interested
In the inbetween anyway
Where I can sit right beside you
And I get to hold you close
And it’s so natural
You think nothing of it
It’s where we tell each other
Honest truths
That sort of feel like secrets
The way our bodies relax
Like we let something go
And we swim in that
Deep connectedness
Both heavy and light
And you witness a realm
You’ve never noticed before
You’ll say it feels like
“Something bigger”
When you’re with me
I’ll smile because you notice too
The only real feeling
I love
Love
Without all the extra bullshit
Without all the simple urges
Without the resistance
We often hold
At our cores
I’m interested in the inbetween
Where I can love you
And you love me
And it’s not a dramatic mess
Of emotion and pain
And all of those simple urges
That come up
When we worry about having nothing
When life
And what we think life is
Gets in the way of real love
So I’ll kiss you if you ask me
If you still mix up the feelings
But I would prefer it
If you don’t
Because if you linger
On knowing me that way
You’ll confuse it with something real
And it might be hard for you
To ever really know
How I love you
Inbetween

Something

I think I might want something sweet
To counteract the blandness of my life
I say before I take a bite
And realize the sugar cookie
That cost too much
But was decorated with a pretty blue owl
Is too sweet
And that the owl
Wished me dead
I tasted his distaste of me
Somewhere in the icing

I also might want something kind
Or someone
I say almost always
Before I tell my brother
The guy I met this morning
Was too nice
So kind
It bordered on simple
Like he had no thoughts
To discuss
So he complimented mine

I can’t stop it from hurting me
When I realize I really want nothing
But to satisfy an aching wish
Of having something
That gave me something
I think is worth having
But that I can’t possibly have
Since I don’t know what that is yet