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

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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

It’s so human

I like it when people laugh
At a question I’ve asked
As if the consideration is ridiculous
And the question was rhetorical
It makes me smile
Because it shows so clearly
What they value
Above all other things
If they laugh
They think the answer concrete

I asked an engineer in her late twenties
If marriage and kids
and the whole family thing
Was important to her
She was getting married soon
She laughed
For a whole 2 minutes
Her friends realized I was serious
And she stopped
When she noticed
She was the only one laughing

She thought the question obvious
I loved that
It meant she thought it important
It meant she thought everyone did
Or at least should

A laugh always shows an innocent naivety
A beautiful rift
Between one person’s reality
And someone else’s

Most times beautiful
Other times frightening
Sometimes a large rift
Is a harmful delusion

I love the idea that multiple realities
Can coexist
To create a collective
And yet
People tend to not notice

It shows that collectively
People value peace of mind
And avoid confrontation
So much that they can only see
One possibility
Their own self created

I love that
Because it’s so flawed
And yet not necessarily harmful

It’s just so…
human

Clean-ish Dreams: Alex Bates

I don’t know why I dreamt about this kid. I haven’t seen him since the 4th grade, maybe? But there he was, an asshole as always, haircut the same; short and choppy, red haired and face freckled just as I knew him. He was just the same and yet… he was in love with me.

I could tell that he liked me, but wouldn’t say it, so I strategically leaned on him and occasionally put my arms around his neck. Everyone saw us and whispered in audible giggles. We ignored them. He never pushed me off, but never reciprocated either. I was determined to rid him of his shyness so I kept on. He seemed to like it, despite.

I remember him pulling out a map to show me. It was a map of the US covered in half naked pictures of women who slightly resembled me. They were pictures taken from magazines, placed in all the places he’d heard I’d been throughout the years. He pointed to one near Florida.

“That one bothered me. Was that you, actually?” I took a closer look at the picture. It was one of my sister’s magazine ads. It was a profile shot of her and another. She posed with a shirtless Arab man. She was behind him, her arms around his neck and shoulder. He looked into the camera as she seemed to seductively murmur something into his ear. I did remember when she took that shot. We were in roughly the same area at the time.

“No,” I said. “That one’s my sister. I rarely have men in my photo shoots actually.”

“Oh, she looks like you.” He seemed to cheer up slightly, rolling his map back up.

I went everywhere he did that day, but we weren’t a couple. We went to sit by the soccer field. There was a game going on.

“Watch out!” Someone yelled, I turned to see a ball hurling toward my face. I caught it.

“Nice!” The girl saw me catch it and held out her hands, signifying I should throw it back. I recognized her as one of the girls who were teasing me and Alex earlier. I smirked, raised my eyebrow, and kicked the ball as far as I could. I had forgotten I was bad at kicking, though. I remember being slightly annoyed when it didn’t go very high and Marielle Cortez caught it with a particularly lovely exhibition of athleticism. The girl who came over to me, looked at me with a what-was-that-about? face and went back to her game. I sat back down beside Alex. Annoyed with my inabilities as well as Alex’s stubbornness, I laid down in the grass, face down, straightened legs toward Alex. He sat upright staring at the field, blank faced, legs crossed.

We had been like that for a while, when Jake Titherley showed up, his side leaning against the fence closest to the field. He was older than when I knew him. I remember his weird cal-licked hair and those glasses my mother always said made him look like Harry Potter. He turned to Alex, arms crossed.

“You like her don’t you?”

Alex looked at the back of my legs, smiled slightly, then looked back at him, remaining silent.

Jake smirked. “You should do something about it then. Isn’t she the greatest thing in the world? Isn’t she what you want to be next to? Isn’t…”

Alex interrupted. He gently wrapped the fingers of his right hand around my left ankle, lightly caressing the area with his thumb.

“It’s not just that she’s mine…” he paused a moment to kiss my jeans at the spot above where his hand laid wrapped.

“Well, she’s not…” Jake rebutted. Alex disregarded him and moved his hand up my leg. I stayed still, silent, smiling in the grass.

“Or that she’s beautiful…” he kissed me in the new spot, but lingered for a moment to finish.

“It’s everything about her… She talks incessantly, but it’s the only sound I’d want to hear. She’s intelligent and interesting and smells like…”

“Like the greatest perfume in the world? ” Jake suggested.

Alex laughed, “Ha! If it smelled terribly! She’s so small and yet she can make such strong, pungent smells…” He crinkled his nose in reminiscence. They both laughed and I giggled embarrassingly into my grass patch.

“But I love them…” he finished, moving back to my legs, he kissed me right at the beginning of my thigh.

“Then say something, man!”

“Shhhhhh…” Alex answers moving his body closer to mine, leaning in so I could feel the warmth of him. “I am…” he says, kissing the small of my back, the first section he found that was left bare, open to his lips. I gasped. I hadn’t expected him to touch my skin directly.

He continued to move upward, my shirt moving with him. I stopped him by lifting my head from the grass. He pulled his head closer to mine so he could hear me.

“Alex…” he kisses my shoulder while he’s there.

“You can’t do that…” he kisses my neck in response.

“We’re in public…” I laugh and playfully pull away.

“Oooooooooooo!” We hear a chorus from the background. I look up. I had forgotten they were there. Everyone on the field had stopped and was watching our side show on the sidelines. I turned red.

“Finally!” They screamed. We all laughed together, despite our embarrassment, and Alex… was finally mine.

‘Twas a nice dream…

That Look

That Look

I remember the times I was happiest
I remember the times I’ve been free
Foolish and shy
I sat on a bench beside
Someone who loved me…
I never saw it coming
Had I known I might’ve fleed
I’d have run through the night
And would’ve never caught sight
Of the boy who loved me
He never had to say it
I knew it when we’d meet
I’d put my hand on his face
A sacred safe place
And I knew he loved me
But I broke the cardinal rule
A young unapologetic fool
Who needs to speak every word on her mind
Broke through the silence
Pathetic and mindless
And ignored all the obvious signs
I professed my love blindly
Selfish & Unkindly
And I remember the look on his face
I had broken our space
That sacred safe place
And that look won’t erase from my mind

To You: A Prayer

To You: A Prayer

When I was little
My daddy taught me how to pray
One way
And I never forgot
I always started and ended
With the same hopeful arch
I began
Father God, thank you for:
And I’d list all the people I needed to love
And in a whisper
Because daddy was listening
I added the names of the people I wanted to
And after all these years
Not much has changed
Ever since I met you
I’ve whispered your name
And I still visualize angels camped above me
In fancy tents as
I hope your heart is happy
I pray your smiles are real
And that your life is filled with the love and laughter
Photographs often lie about
Please bless them with all that they need
And help them find themselves where they are meant to be
It sounds like a prayer still
Because it is.
In Jesus’s name
Amen