#68

<>they gave me a little pill
so they could rip from my mouth
a word hoarder –
a shell of stories –
my having tossed caution to the wind tooth –
my ouch.

that taking made me think of giving
and how much there is to give still –
today, this very minute –
even as each of us hold our wounds,
ice our breaks, disguise our weaknesses.

i like that the lady who drove me home
gave me a one armed hug and said
no you are not fine
because she recognized there were bombs falling
and lights flashing and sirens blaring
behind my swollen crooked smile. Behind my face.

PTSD lingers around like an easy lover you cant quite forget.
You know how to handle her. You’re friends now. You can almost love her for having left. Then BAM! your sweating tears and lips are trembling. the heart – like an upside down fishing lure that has lodged itself in your throat. you’re fucking eyes all crying like a baby you don’t even know. Bitch.
Im trying to pacify her with a heating pad, sad coffee, slippers. no looking at mirrors. no noises. check. no sudden noises.

I tell you what; if I could get high without giving up 22 years of sobriety, I’d be all over it. As if something outside of me could make what’s inside of me right. Nah. But i can still see my brothers and sisters downtown, holding on to their treasure chest of traumas. and its cold out. PTSD is cold. maybe i can find a way to share these blankets under which i am finally starting to sweat.</>

#57

i wanted to bring you flowers - 
lift the scent of jasmine out of the air
or carry the wind with me -
to where you were hiding,
under the sleep-strained sheets
and the empty bottles - 
to before pills and drink and men
could destroy you.
but you won't answer the phone
or the door
or the possibility of things being different -
because, you say,
there is no hope -
inside these dark hours - 
these endless moments of grief - 
this constant feeling of loss. 
i say i have been there - 
have run full bore into the darkness myself -
trying to get there 
before it could come get me. 
how i have buried myself also - 
under the impenetrable longing and the shame -
and the elusive promise of forgetting.
you still think i couldn't possibly understand,
that no one can possibly understand. 
but we do. So many of us truly do.
i once held the hand of a beautiful woman
while she pushed a baby out of her body
into the world.
Two years later, I held that baby 
while we buried her beautiful mother
into the earth.
She'd been found dead - 
   kicked to death 
in a crack house 
just outside of town.
She was one of us -
someone with dreams and fears and love and concern -
a lifetime of new beginnings and loss.
And it started with just one little pill.
When i call you - 
which i will do - 
again and again and again
until you answer,
because i recognize that you are ill
and not just a pain in the ass - 
i will say
come outside and smell the wind,
watch the morning unfurl with me -
she how it just opens up quietly
into the darkness instead of against it - 
until all signs of night are simply gone.
and look how we are standing here alone - 
just you and me -
and also a million other people
inside their houses and their cars
under their bridges and in alleys and parks.
All of us watching the light open up -
wondering how we will do it.
what we will choose -
while there is still a choice to be made.

#30

i used to think 
there was so much beauty in the tragic - 
or such tragedy to be found in beauty -
and now i realize 
everything, really,
is just a stepping stone
                 either towards 
          or away from 
divine compassion.
Off highway 5 at Livermore today,
a lady held a sign on the overpass
"I bet you can't hit me with a quarter."
I gave her twenty dollars and pleaded
please don't let anyone hit you with a quarter.
she spilled a broken tooth smile 
and crossed herself
and i could see in her eyes
exactly who she was when she was eight.
my husband asked don't i ever worry
people will just use my alms for drugs?
no, i told him,
i only care that for a second
they have hope -
that they feel worthy of something.
i have heard a lot of addicts speak 
about a "moment of clarity" -
and never did the story take place 
while meditating in some cave somewhere. 
That twenty dollars may not have changed her life
but she changed mine.