Open Hands and Silence

Poetry by someone who cannot write poetry.

Final TweetsThe first thing I did was Google it. If it was a hoax, some kind of sick joke, someone would have spotted it and called it out–probably with a headline beginning with “Don’t Worry, Guys”–and it would be all right. The world would turn on as it should. There was no such headline, though, and no such person. “terry pratchett dead” only turned up more articles like the one I had just read, no one told me not to worry, and the world became a little darker. A cloud moved over the sun, and stayed. We will have to be content with less light now.

I did not gasp, or weep, or shake my fist at the sky. I looked at my partner across the room. “So…Terry Pratchett’s dead.” My mouth was dry. They made a little noise between a gasp and a cry. “Yeah,” I said. We sat in silence. There was nothing else to say. He has always said everything so well.

Later, when they left to run errands and I was alone in the apartment, I read more. I read the announcements coming in, the things people were saying about the man who had meant so much to all of us. And what they said–what I saw–were stories. They told stories. We…told stories. We repeated his words, the ones we had learned by heart, and we wrote our own. We wrote about Death, his own beloved anthropomorphic personification of our fears, and how he had come to Sir Terry Pratchett in his last hours. Speaking as he always had, in ALL CAPS WITH NO QUOTATION MARKS, Death had spoken to him, gently, respectfully. He greeted Death as an old friend, and they went together into the dark.

Then I allowed myself to cry–ugly, unpretentious sobs. No less than he deserved. Sir Pratchett told us–told me–that stories matter, and we believed him so entirely that we knew no other fitting way to say goodbye to him. We want to believe that Death really did come for him, his own Death that we have all secretly hoped will come for us when it’s our turn, and that the end was peaceful and dignified. We tell the story because stories are still our best way of making sense of the senseless. We tell it because we don’t know that it’s not true. We tell it because it is, because we tell it. He had been there for me–for us–when we most needed him, taken us by the hand when we were lost and told us that the story has rules, the story has strength, that the story will go on even when everything conspires to destroy it. That we are part of it, and you are part of it, and I. That we keep it alive in the telling. Even if everything is dark and terrible, even if we can’t see the good, it matters that we believe it exists. “It matters,” he told us, taking our shaking hands in his. “It matters.”

I’m crying now as I write this. It’s not enough. It’s not enough, and I never said thank you. I’ve said nothing about how his characters gave me things to aspire to, and to fear becoming. I’ve said nothing about the dry absurdity that made my mother laugh so hard on the bus through a dodgy part of town that she had to close the book in case someone sitting near her took offense. I cried, then I laughed at my cat, now I write and I cry again. When I know how, I’ll write him a story to say goodbye. I don’t know whether he would have approved, but I hope he would have. I don’t know whether he knew how much brighter our lives are because he lived, but I hope he did.

The Musical Theatre Girls

The musical theatre girls have long, shiny hair and small,
taut waists.
They waltz into choir arm in arm,
singing duets in high, clear voices. They know
all the songs that I know.

The musical theatre girls have heart-shaped faces and heart-shaped lips
and rose-shaped hearts,
each one canny enough to play an ingénue.
The musical theatre girls’ long eyelashes leave shadows
on the musical theatre girls’ high cheekbones, like mine.

The musical theatre girls wear t-shirts from all the shows they’ve been in—
Pippin, The Fantasticks,
Annie Get Your Gun.

I wear t-shirts sometimes. Scars, permanently.
On Sunday, withdrawal symptoms landed me a starring role in Annie Take Your Meds.

The musical theatre girls and I dream of standing alone
before a full house. Our arms spread
like wings on the final note, and you
remember our voices.
I close my eyes.

How beautiful, to be so bare.
To be so desired.


last time it was like this I was twenty minutes late
last time reset the clock
I had to apologize
last time it was like this you forgave me
I don’t remember what I remember
the thud of my knees hitting the kitchen floor
the vice of your hand on my jaw
turning my head
someone sobbing stop, stop
or I was laughing
or the time I didn’t say anything not a damn thing I didn’t say a word
I came back wrong this time
I came back forgetting
just like last time
like the time before that
every time this sound
my blood runs through my veins
my blood breathes ragged
my blood rattles locked doors
my blood wants out

While you dream, I am walking a tightrope through the winter sky.
I look down,
and your breath still holds the night up. I look down,
and I fall.

Under the sun of some other faraway,
you smile in your sleep.
Forget me not, Spring-weaver.
Forget me not,
forever the best of me.

The Man Upstairs is Always Singing

I hear him outside our bedroom window.
At four below zero, he doesn’t slip
on the ice on the stairs,
wears a scarf to protect his vocal cords,
and sings down the snow.
At ten AM on a Sunday morning,
he plays choral music in the room above my own.
He sings along to gospel,
At night, he dreams he stands on a balcony,
and watches a city burning.
He dreams the smoke rises and carries,
the voices of children. They sing,
“You will never learn.
You will never learn.”
The voices of children singing.
He still hears them.
He doesn’t sing along.

Ace of Spades

Forgive me.
Oh, forgive me.
Hold me underwater. Let me sleep.
Forget the thousand tired metaphors for what my autopsy reveals–
ashes, paper, melting ice,
nothing, nothing, nothing.
Forget my face is painted on,
the way it peels off, layer after layer.
Hold me underwater.
Forgive me for not struggling.
It is not enough
to force my way through three feet of snow just to escape
the place to which I must return;
it is not enough
to save myself from falling.

Someone says he’s afraid for me,
and I

I eat nothing all day,
polish every piece of furniture until it glows.
I used to rehearse my times tables in my head.
Over again.
Over again.

I’d like to join everyone in talking about new beginnings, but right now, I can’t forgive this year for what it has done.

Yes, it’s only time. No, time is not to blame. But I am human, and I am irrational, and I can’t forgive.

To be honest, I spent a lot of today weeping. For some things, tears are a reasonable and justified response.

I don’t forgive, but I will. I don’t see a way to separate the valuable parts from the rest of the toxicity, but I will. This is the last post like this you’re going to see from me for a while. This is a poetry blog. I’m going to write some fucking poetry.

I probably will never see you or listen to your stories or hug you or learn what your favorite band is, but I love you. Wherever you are, whatever you’ve done, I love you. I hope that anything that hurt you during 2014 stays in 2014 and that this next year brings you things that are unexpected and welcome and needed. There’s a lot of good coming, no matter how much bad also is. I hope you’re ready for it.

Be kind this year. Be kinder than you’ve been.

Happy new year.

I want to close my eyes and take a deep breath and be better.
Better. Do you understand? Not sick and dysfunctional and hurting everyone around me because I can’t hold myself together. Oh god.

Oh god, I want to sleep.

I hate that my life is so easy. I hate that it’s the education that I should be grateful for–that I am grateful for–that does this to me.

But no. My god, it’s the summer, too; it’s the quiet days, too; it’s every day; it’s every day and I can’t write anymore. I can’t write anymore.

I can’t feel anything as strongly as I feel fear anymore.

Please don’t worry; I’m not going to hurt myself. I am done with that. I am done with that. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without it and you’d better believe I’m proud of myself. But maybe please do worry. Maybe ask me, “what the fuck is wrong with you?” I don’t know. “Are you okay?” No. No.

I’m forcing myself to get out of bed, I’m forcing myself to keep the apartment clean and anyway it’s not clean, All I want is to sleep. Just sleep. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

This is stupid and self-indulgent and not what you came here for. I’m so sorry.

Some kind of an explanation

It’s not that I miss anguish, but maybe I miss something coming of it. I know something came of it. Something to fight means something to defeat, maybe, and if not, at least a story to tell. I was notorious for writing the opposite of happy endings once. I was notorious for writing. It’s not that I miss the blood on my hands or the dance along the edge of the rooftop, but I miss having something to say about it. I miss having something to say. My father and the blank page have the same complaint: “You make me do all the talking.” It’s not that I miss fighting. It’s just that so little seems worth fighting for anymore. So little seems worth mentioning. I stopped writing love songs to the war and now I don’t write anything, anything.


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