Ticks on the Ruler

I am particularly prone to tripping…

I am particularly prone to tripping. Even sidewalks I’ve trekked a thousand times can catch me off-guard – especially those. I almost never fall entirely, but I am well practiced in the wide-eyed gasping stomp of balance recovery and the sheepish relief of realizing that my only my ego received a bruise.

There’s a particular adrenaline rush in tripping over those friendly sidewalks, or missing the last stair of a case you’ve climbed since you were three, or stubbing your toe on the coffee table in your childhood home. You trip on something familiar into the unknown, and in an instant, your veins flood with a biochemical cocktail of betrayal, confusion, and embarrassment. I am a well-developed, coordinated adult; how could this happen?! But with your shock-wide eyes and unsteady footing, you have the opportunity to see your new and growing self at home in its static setting; all these things are just as they were, but YOU are not.

I am so grateful for these moments.

To be surprised by the things that stay the same is to see all at once the change in yourself over the years. To rediscover that you are the dependent variable. Playground slides are shorter, as are fences, bathroom sinks, and years themselves. But these things learn no lessons. They make no choices. They were what we, the living ones, reached for, fell from, jammed our knuckles on, and managed to survive through as we grew (and continue to grow) into those “well-developed, coordinated adults.” Time slides along, silently whisking us with it as we pass the still things by, like ticks on a ruler. The gaps are the real distance traveled; the ticks just make note of the change.

And yet, some things are not shorter no matter how tall or experienced we get. Some things are immune to belittling. The oak on Azalea Street is just as tall to me as it felt when I was five. Every time I see the horizon or sit in the endless dark of a breathtaking or heartbreaking nighttime, I am reminded of the true scale of things. Even these have their beginnings and ends, before and beyond my own.

I am still on a ruler. I am not done traversing the gaps. But someday I will be. So I’m grateful for the ticks that marked my way, even when its an unexpected ridge in the sidewalk or the foot of a familiar coffee table meeting mine, because by these things I know I am not who I was when I started. By God’s grace, I am being made complete.

Collection: Writing Under the Influence of Kay Ryan

I don’t remember which Kay Ryan poem I read first, but each one struck me with their scope. With diamond density, Ryan concentrates universal experiences into everyday moments, many of which we’ve lived but overlooked. That expansion/contraction pattern, coupled with her masterful use of internal rhyme and rhythm (the etymological parallels between which I’m just now noticing), are the cornerstones of her work I attempted to chisel out and use in my own poems here.

Click read Paired Things, one of my personal favorites by Kay Ryan.

My Substance

My Substance, a poem.
"How disintegrating to sculpt a golden vision in the mind and find up on creation (substantiation) it wasn't gold at all, but copper, and when exposed to air, the Zion shine freezes over like a look to Medusa. The instant the Pentecost-hot ingot of myself breathes in, it's oxidized; the death is cast, earthen mortal blue.

There is pain in publishing work for me. So often, whatever grand mental revelation I feel I’ve made doesn’t take form the way I saw it in my mind. It looks lumpy, trite, or tawdry when brought out into the real world. I also bear a worry that the work will be misunderstood as an attempt on my part to appear deep and philosophical. The language I use can be antiquated, my sentences drawn out, and the content unapproachable and riddled with parentheticals and hyphenations. But it’s all true to me. This is how I see the world, and sometimes (often, always), it hurts to communicate. This poem’s probably about that.

Leeched

I’ve never sought the company of a leech. Their tiny sphincteric maw is like the setting of a ring for sliver-sharp ivory teeth, which are primed to puncture and latch onto a host. The creature then injects the host with a potion carefully crafted to keep the wound it made from clotting. This odontic surgical equipment is encased at the front of a flat and fluid black body. The whole form of a leech communicates a queasy vagueness, like an ink splatter that wriggles suddenly on its own, or the concepts of a torso, tail, and wing boiled together and reduced to their simplest geometries. All of these Lovecraftian features are but tools for the leech’s unsettling purpose: to feast, uninhibited, on the lifeblood of a larger creature.

While I’ve never sought the company of a leech, this description is directly analogous to that of my kitten.

I named him Rorschach, and he latched onto me both physically and emotionally as soon as his fuzzy head peeked out from under a parked car made contact with my hand. I decided I’d keep him if he would cost me less than $250 over the next two months. That was immediately not the case, but thanks to the dark arts achievable through credit cards, I’ve been able to retcon my broken self-agreement. Now, my skin is covered in warm red lines – ghosts of rendings past – that heal but never quite disappear because they’re immediately replaced with fresh crimson punctures and fissures. I’ve had to tighten my budget to staunch the extra seepage from my bank accounts. I often sit on my couch and catch in my peripherals a ill-defined blob slinking from one shadowy corner of my house to another.

And so, I have willingly – intentionally – taken up company with a black, flailing, bankletting creature. I have but one assurance that Rorschach is not a pitiless parasite: leeches don’t purr.

Oh sure, he looks plenty innocent. But this cat hugs with his TEETH.

Cut from the full post as I didn’t want to double-down on metaphors, the following is another, completely accurate description of kitten.

He walks a fine line between cuddly creature, bloodsucking parasite, and cunningly coded kitten cyborg: black, sleek, and perfectly engineered to generate maximally resonant purrs at an efficiency unprecedented for his slight make and body size. His biscuit-kneeding technique is unrivaled. Soon after taking him in, many other features were somehow patched into his software, including Bites™, Bites+Scratches™, JeansThreading 2.0.1, and Erratic Mode. All of this, yet his recharge time is almost negligible.

Threads and Bareness

There is a cozy ambiguity in words like love, pain, and vulnerable. We wear them out like an oversized sweater…

(From Dec. 13, 2018)

There is a cozy ambiguity in words like love, pain, and vulnerable. We wear them out like an oversized sweater, content to be frumpy and featureless in order to stay swaddled in the familiar. People can see just enough of us – our faces and fingertips the only flesh exposed to air and eyes – for us to feel understood and to think they understand. And they do, in a way. They wear sweaters too.

But I can hardly see myself underneath all of that fabric. And I am ill-defined when I wear words like “love” and curl up in the assumption that others know precisely what I mean by it. I don’t always know precisely what I mean by it.

So, I tug at the sleeves of “love” and “pain” and “vulnerable” and try to write poetry. I pull the words up over my stomach and past my chest to get to what’s underneath. I get my head stuck in the neck hole, stumbling and struggling with the ocean of language around my head. I finally strip those ragged, rippling yards of cliche away, and I am naked. Perhaps not understood, but definitely seen – my outer boundaries, what is flesh and what is put upon. I am a canvas uncovered, and the stories of my life are on display in every curve, divot, spot, and scar painted on and sculpted in my skin. There’s a lot to study there: birthmarks I didn’t know I had, bruises of unknown origin, Funderburgian and Watsonian leitmotifs found in the shapes of my hands and nose….

But I can’t be naked all the time. More often than not, it’s inappropriate, unapproachable, and it’s simply too cold outside. Exposure is exhausting. So I put a sweater back on, covering up my unadulterated details. But I choose my outfit more carefully this time, wearing phrases more fitting to my form and present company. Sometimes an old, oversized sweater like the word “love” is just the right attire.

Cooking Adventures: Frozen Nanners

(From Aug.

Always peel your bananas before you freeze them. 

I learned my first notable food-making lesson this morning when I looked at the solid, brown nanners in the freezer and thought, “I can’t blend them like that…”

Thankfully, this lesson had a part two.

If your frozen bananas are still fully dressed, no problem. Cut two lines down either side of the fruit, then cut rings around it, taking off the peel in chunks as you go. 

Voila! Frozen, skinless, smoothie-ready nanners. And now I know: it really isn’t more convenient to just throw the whole banana in the freezer. Because your hands will get really sticky later.