Kettle of Fish

Observing from a corner

In our local coffee shop

I overheard white-haired women

Discussing a recent tragedy.

He was a teacher in Carrolton.

They were separated.

He thought she had a lover.

He went to her home at 3am.

He stabbed her to death

Then shot himself.

“Pretty kettle of fish,” they said,

As though this violent theft

Was something frivolous –

A misstep, a nuisance,

Not the bloody end of an entire universe

Viciously ripped from its house of flesh.

 

My mother just left

The abusive alcoholic

Who once choked her

In front of her children.

Her naked baby stood up wailing,

Arms spread in awful terror

Shaking and shining slickly,

dripping soapy suds and tears

into the half-filled kitchen sink.

Should my father get drunk and

Suspect an affair,

Or realize my mother will never come back,

Or expecting divorce, fear for his fortune –

I do not doubt for a moment

He would steal her life,

Splatter her insides onto a wall,

Or shred her body with steel and rage.

My mind is slick with her future carnage.

All I can do is hope she is careful.

Pretty kettle of fish.

 

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HS 11-5-2016

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Internal Mechanics

 

I’m not particularly afflicted with altruism.

I’m mostly self-absorbed;

A picky sponge greedily saturated

with my own feelings and existence.

When others leak their emotions near me

I harden and shrink from the contamination.

 

You see, as a child,

I was drenched in the perceptions and pain of others.

So full was I of you or he or them

there wasn’t a pore I could reserve for me.

I didn’t realize I had the choice

to reject participating in

another being’s emotional experience.

 

When I grew up

I learned things.

I dried out.

Then each drippity drop of

of my own conscious thought became precious.

I erected unrepentant boundaries,

Stringently guarded, violently enforced.

 

Raised in a world of black and white,

at first I vacillate between extremes.

A curious pendulum of consciousness am I;

Wide arcs decreased by degrees of wisdom,

Pendant pulled still by the gravity of time.

I mostly inhabit the middle now until

Fear or discomfort gives me a push.

 

It’s difficult to be something

between impermeable and an open border.

I still err towards self-preservation.

Though the door between us rests shut,

if you dare to knock

I will always answer.

 

HS 10.17.2016

H

S 10.17.2016

S.A.D. in October

Before I found this platform, Facebook was where I put a lot of my poetry and some of my journals. Today when I opened my FB page I found a FB memory at the top of my feed that was a journal entry from one year ago today. It was startling familiar. My posts, exactly one year apart, are nearly identical. A pattern is apparent. Here is the memory that FB shared with me today:

“It happened again this week. Lots of things contributed to its arrival. It had already started  by the time I recognized the signs. When I realized what was happening it was too late to prevent it. Once the sequence has been initiated this far there is no reversing it. When depression arrives all I can do is take care of myself while I ride it out.

Depression isn’t a feeling you can decide to get over. It is an unannounced and unanticipated life sucking brain betrayal. I am a smart woman. I am a strong woman. I am vibrant, creative, and beautiful and I have people in my life who value me and love me.

It doesn’t matter.

When this shit hits, it is powerful and at its worst it takes everything I have not to give up.  Most people have never experienced what it is like to be pressed to the floor in despair, unable to out think your own misery. People say things like “Buck up!” or “You don’t have anything to be sad about.” What they don’t realize is that when I am depressed I can not make my brain feel better no matter what I do. In a very real way I am suffering from a physical illness. My brain is literally sick.

Normally I can alter my emotions by altering my thoughts. When I am depressed,  I feel hopelessly unhappy. No matter what thoughts I generate, this heavy heartedness won’t go away. The emotional mood stays regardless of the thoughts I think. Sadness sits on my chest and refuses to move. Positive thoughts or outlooks have little to no effect on how I feel.  It is  crippling to experience the loss of internal control over my own emotions. I start to fear I will be stuck in this emotional state.

I try to tell myself that what I am experiencing is a just a part of my brain that has run amuck. The problem becomes, which part of myself do I trust? Would I be in this much pain if things were really okay? Not being able to trust my own thoughts and feelings is terribly defeating. It feeds the machinery of hopelessness.I begin to feel that I might never be able to feel happy again.

Today was the first day I felt any better in awhile. I had to self-medicate to get started. The chemicals kicked open a mental door which allowed me to see the world differently – it let the light in. Sometimes, to break negative thought cycles I have to chemically disrupt them.

This evening I stood in the kitchen. I mean I really stood there – grounding my feet on the ratty, permanently dirty linoleum we will someday replace. I felt my lungs fill and my ribs expand kindly to accommodate them. I felt both relax in concert. They did their jobs perfectly. With my nimble, sensitive fingers I felt the tough, smooth skin of the tomatoes from my garden, testing each for the give in the flesh that betrays its over ripeness. I focused on the intimate details of that ordinary moment and

I. Was. Still.

Such a soft, delicious peace stole into my soul.

It was like the warmth I experience when I think of my most happy childhood memories.

It was like an unexpected 70 degree day in February when your skin hasn’t felt sunlight in so long it has forgotten the sensation.

I stood in that place and felt the neural pathways linked to pleasure engage. The fist of depression that held my mind hostage fell open, like a blossom, and peace was upon me.

I allowed myself to surrender to that space. I gave all of my attention only to the things happening exactly now. I palpated the red fruits, sliced them, felt the skin resist and then split beneath my dull knife. The light from the window fell weakly into the run down room mixing with the happy sound of a sitcom playing on Netflix.  I felt warm, comfortable, peaceful, and content alongside my depression. Although the low was there, I felt at home with myself.

These moments in the midst of melancholy are really important and significant to me. Having them reminds me that this weight can and will dissolve.

Once I surface again, for awhile, I live in fear and try to prevent depression from coming back. I know it will probably return. All I can do is structure my eating, exercise, work, and thought patterns to set up scenarios that give me the best chance for prolonged happiness. No matter what I do, I have to accept that in all likelihood, depression will come around again and I need to know how to take care of myself when I am in that space.

What matters is what the woman at the helm does when the hurricane descends, when the wind and waves punch her ship and force her to the floor.

Does she struggle to grab the wheel and fight the elements with all of her strength?

No.

She knows she cannot steer the ship in this weather. Exhaustion will overtake her and make her useless. She could die in the attempt.

It appears her vessel will capsize. Does she tie an anchor to her ankle and dive into the abyss to control her own destiny? To force, if not salvation, then peace?

No, that journey is later. This is not the last day.

Instead, she acknowledges the storm. And she does what she can to protect the ship. Then she ties herself to the mast and focuses on the sun she knows is above the thunderhead. Because even though she can’t feel it, she knows it is there. It is worth surviving this even if her mind can’t believe it right now. No tempest is eternal.  One breath at a time through each pitch and yaw. In. Out. In. Out. Through thunder and salt. This too shall pass.”

0526-rain-midatlantic-sailing

HS 10.16.2016

Crow

Today I am a crow.

onyx quills and hollow bones

beady eyes glistening in feral sockets

flashing from fetid heap to heap

a garbage grabber

reveling in rubbish

wrestling with the necrotic

Perhaps this is the reason for the schism within.

an instinctual confusion

trapped between species

limited by log-like limbs

stuck in the wrong bag of skin

quick wits bound and bogged

in brains too big and broken by

Trying to comprehend all this.

bewildered I flutter,  fighting

the desire to land on things long dead

to digest the rotten as though

it might power a flight

into the heart of a shining flock

above these dark thoughts

Imprisoned in my monkey mind.

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HS 10.14.2016

BENEATH THE STONE

Depression is physical.

I can’t out-think it.

In a way 

I have to surrender to its presence

without submitting to it.

I must forgive my mind

for its detour from peace

while encouraging it

to be present in its unease.

I must exist without despair

beneath the stone.

 

 

I am tender with myself

while I am here

without succumbing to pity.

This is temporary weight.

It is not my fault.

I will love life again and 

sooner if I don’t struggle so 

I am placid. I am patient.

I am unhurried and unworried.

I am gentle and accepting that

I am beneath the stone

 

HS   10.10.2016