The Defective Domino

The knots which had been steadily looping and tightening within me suddenly pulled mercilessly.  The knives stabbed my chest, my heart, I knew.  My innards wished to be decorative feathered boas draped across my clammy torso.  The bugs crawled across my skin, but I could not catch them.  I could not squash them.  I looked across the room.  The windows of the fifteenth floor apartment were open.  Jump, I heard whispered.  In fear, I sought refuge on the street.  The train was approaching.  Jump, I heard whispered.  The scissors snipped, and I floated away.

My mind and mood cycle rapidly.  Up to down, down to up, up and down together, defying the laws of gravity and any semblance of common sense.  I was slowly stacking dominoes.  A bachelors degree from college.  Enrollment in a certificate program for paralegal studies.  A wonderful, fulfilling, healthy relationship.  Then, the first domino tipped.  I am unsure what force with requisite pressure caused the first fall in a chain reaction.  Paranoia, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, and anxiety began to take nest.  As the dominoes fell harder and faster, I feared this was the end, that I would finally come to know intimately the last domino in my chain.  Interventions were utilized.  The Klonopin we abruptly stopped, we started again.  We added Cymbalta, and added some more.  Medications were failing to drain the tub in which I was slowly drowning.

This morning, I awoke.  To awaken was not inherently unusual, but rather the circumstances under which I awoke were of peculiarity.  There was a strange dissipation anxiety and depression.  The air in the room hung uneasily, as if a being of large mass had just exited and there existed a void where he had stood.  I recognized with certainty the miracle of the defective domino.  Something in my life, in my mind, triggered a domino to default, to miss.  The train of dominoes ceased to fall, stopped in their tracks as if frozen.

I have never reached the last domino.  Perhaps there is a protective device operating within me, or externally of me, that renders a domino defective.  God, the love of my partner and my family, the wonders of therapy and pharmaceutical intervention.  I continue to fight because I know, without a doubt, that there is always a faulty domino in the pack.

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Going Home

This poem is a product of an assignment for a class.  I took the Miranda rights and replaced each noun with the seventh or ninth word below it in the dictionary.  The jumbled result read to me like what an individual experiencing psychosis may hear when recited.  This was my inspiration for the poem.

Going Home

It’s hot, my sweaty skin sticking
sweat pooling between folds.
The sun keeps talking
so I keep listening,
direct radio uninterrupted,
commercial free.
Be free.
I strip to my skivvies in
the city park and dance where
the ground spits upon
my dirt caked body.

Lights flash and I wonder
if I am going home.
Home is where they light
my brain with matchbooks and
encapsulate me
in numbers.
Numbers spin like dots
on dice,
and I wonder if I am
going home.

Lights flash and the men come.
I am going home.
I hear
You have the right hand to remain silicate
     when questioned
and all I can think about
are apples dancing in swimming
holes and bananas fighting
the corsets holding back
the fruits of their
wisdom.

Lights flash and I approach
the light,
my hands constricted by
the steel jaws of the
shark I met last week.
I hear
If you cannot afford an attribute, oneness
     will be appointed to you before
     any quibble, if you wish
and all I can think about
is whether Mary will know I am
gone.

Lights flash and I am on
the subway express to home.
I hear
Knowing and understanding your right hand as I have
     explained themself to you, are you willing
     to answer my queue-jumping without an
     attribute present?
My lips are sealed.
I am going home.

Baklava

A flaky, sticky sweet desert with delicate layers of filo dough that threaten to exfoliate, interspersed nuts, and the honey and syrup that hold it all together with the strength of spackling paste to drywall.  My mind flakes and crumbles.  Follow me on a city street, and filo crumbs fall behind my stride in the fashion of Hansel and Gretel.  My mind betrays me.  Obsessions and anxieties ensue.  The person across the room is spying on me to make reports to his authority.  Another wishes to commit slander and libel to destroy my name.  Paranoia, yes, I know.  The world decides to cut the connection between us.  I float, detached and without ground on which to plant my feet.  Betrayed, I am, by the very entity that is supposed to maintain bodily and emotional homeostasis.

Anxiety upon anxiety, obsession upon obsession, stack in layers of filo dough in a baklava.  I am accosted, I am overwhelmed. My teetering tower threatens to topple and crumble.  But for honey and syrup, I would disintegrate with the evening wind blowing through the evergreens.  Honey is temperamental.  An obstinate and unforgiving harvest is grainy, gritty and unpleasant to the tongue.  A pure harvest is smooth and thick, reminiscent of pouring caramel to cool.  The honey binding my filo, completing my self as a whole, flows from my partner.  Entangled arms in embrace, a brush of the lips, the honey flows freely.  It is with this honey that I build my fortress and my abode.  I stack weaknesses and bind them with strength, for I can create a perfect structure built upon imperfection.  For in this way, I am able to enjoy the product of the marriage of my mind with the love of others.

A Woman I Never Knew

I look upon your face,
this photograph is old.
I am unsure if I ever knew you,
I know with a conviction
I did,
the crevices that formed as
extensions of the
curvature of your lips, and the
train tracks leading to
tear ducts,
a two-way route.

If I look closely,
I see the reflection of the
camera bulb upon your
pupils.
A bright light inevitably fading.
I presume you might find
this fitting, comical even,
for were you not fading?
Are we all not fading?
you counter

Your life slips away
on the grease of unwashed
hair.
Cleanliness is irrelevant
in the dance with life’s
impermanence.
Clothes disheveled,
your sweatshirt sleeves
fray where the musings
of madness collide with
reality.
The threads bewail their plight.
You snap back,
     That shit cannot be sewn back
     together.
You know. I know.

I try to wipe from my fingers
the smudges of your ashes.
I did not know you,
but I cannot be rid of you.
May the fires of crematory peace
consume your final
memory.

The Dirge of Drugged Flight

I cannot explain to you how it feels,
to surf the extraterrestrial terrain of mental fabric
sewn with light and sweet hallucinogenic nectar,
to sever oneself from the plane of earthly existence.
Elevate me, cast me to sea, and oh,
I will float atop the salty water,
the master swimmer, an unabashed partaker of drugged flight.
My lips seek to kiss innards, for within
beauty is irrelevant and can only be assumed.
But then I think, and my mind has learned that thinking is bad,
for drugged flight can only last so long.
I walk along the muddy riverbank,
collecting stones, pocketing stones, immersing stones,
birds chirping the dirge of drugged flight.

On Mortality

Recognition of mortality may appear in several ways.  One may openly acknowledge and contemplate it.  Another may deny, dismiss, or ignore its presence.  An overarching phenomenon occurrent in the previous two scenarios is the presence of either peace or fear.  We all die; this is a irrefutable fact known to all humans.  Unique to each individual is how we die and how each of us wishes to view death and the surrounding issues of mortality.  Peace may be found in spirituality or the simple reconciliation of knowing life ends and the potential belief in the presence or absence of an existence after death.  Fear results both in the presence of certitude and unknowingness.  Though a spiritual teaching may promise life eternal after death, how do we know in sureness what form or presence in which we will exist?  Or rather, if we are entirely unknowing or unsure if there is anything following death, is fear not a rational emotional response?

We pass through our everyday lives in the throes of the myriad of challenges and rewards life affords those privileged to partake.  Many times we drive our proverbial cars on a smooth road, though it be afflicted with numerous turns, diversions, and switchbacks.  Death and mortality are not in the forefronts of our minds until we hit that depression in the pavement, that pothole, or that speed bump that manifests as the telling of a suicide or murder in a local newspaper; the child who died from a several-years-long battle with leukemia; your grandmother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease; a personal diagnosis or condition that calls you to face your own mortality.  Then mortality appears in the mind as if projected on a movie screen and one is a passive audience member, unable to control the mechanisms of the theater projecting the film.  It is accosting, loud, all-encompassing, impossible to ignore or deny in existence.  The movie plays for some time, but like all movies, it ends, and you exit the theater.  Exiting does not occur in identical ways for each individual.  Some exit in fear.  Some exit in understanding and growth.  Some exit in peace, and some exit in a state of reconciliation.

How we exit is of importance and a determiner of how we approach both future dances with reminders of mortality and our own inevitable death.  Should we continually exit in fear, how poor the quality of life must become.  Life becomes synonymous with fear, and implemented is a continual clock counting down the hours, minutes, seconds, to the ultimate demise.  Should we approach mortality with some form of acceptance and peace, the very fabric of life changes.  Burlap becomes satin and silk.  We are not tripping on cords of hemp, but rather allowing threads to combine and weave in a way pleasant and effortless.  Let us drop the rope, relinquish our battle with mortality, for how much greater purpose can be added to life if we live outside the lines of combat and fear, and instead contemplate the gifts inherent in our given existence.

Eulogy

It has been some time since I have written in this blog, many months to be exact.  I could provide a plethora of probable reasons for not posting, and many may be true, but I do not believe these reasons could stand to be the crux of the issue.  The crux is deceptively simple and cliche – simply, life.  We exist in this world to climb mountains only to fall to cavernous depths and to run marathons, walk marathons, crawl marathons, and to simply never cross the finish line.  Life is about transitions.  We may cocoon like caterpillars in times of self-preservation, or we may awaken to spring with the buzz of a honeybee pollinating flowers.

As I sit here sipping a soy latte and enjoying some fruit, I cannot help but contemplate my dance with life over the last seven or eight months.  I returned to school in January to complete my degree following over a year and a half off taken for medical treatment and care.  I was aware that my life was incomplete, but I was not cognizant of the extent to which much joy was absent in my life.  I still harbored resentment for and contempt of my illness and often focused on the unfairness of it.  Though I knew I was making progress in my education, I still doubted my ability to complete in absolute finality my bachelors degree.  My apathy and stagnancy were interrupted by several monumental forces bringing forth a sea change in how I viewed myself, and also how I perceived my life to be.

In total blindness, I enrolled in a course at Portland State University entitled Women, Writing, and Memoir.  This seemingly inconsequential decision introduced me to one of the most amazing instructors I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  Not only did she reignite my interest in reading and writing, she began me upon a path of self-reflection and discovery.  As a part of the course, I began writing a memoir, which I still am working on to this day.  It has helped me to drop the rope, to let go of the hindrances of my past, the unfairness, the bitterness, and to use my experience and knowledge to enrich my life now.  My mind has begun to retrain itself to live in the present and to allow the present to flow forth with the lack of inhibition found in a waterfall, the rising and falling crescendos of a child’s laughter.  The late Lucy Grealy wrote, “I now knew that joy was a kind of fearlessness, a letting go of expectations that the world should be anything other than what it was” (Autobiography of a Face).

Writing has instilled a certain joy within me and continues to do so, with each drop of ink emitted from the tip of my pen or the chatting clicks of the keys on my keyboard.  But life.  Life continued to pass, and though I had jumped aboard the freight cars, still found myself towards the caboose.  I immersed myself in schoolwork, ardently attempting to finish undergraduate despite my qualms and fears regarding my potential.  And I did.  I finished, with honors.  I had anticipated deriving such satisfaction and pleasure from the moment I finished my last paper, presented my last project, walked out of the classroom door that last time.  The feeling of that moment was elation, disbelief.  And then the world began to spin again.  What was broken open was pieced together again.  My anticipated indelible mark was fading with each passing moment.

I have come to realize that a part of my life has ended, the specifics, the mechanics no longer any clearer than the foam at the dregs of lattes and cappuccinos. I write this as a eulogy to myself and my life, dropping a single rose, petals separating as the blossom falls to the earth where I lay to rest everything I have known myself, my existence to be.  As I sing the words of my eulogy, I commemorate the regrowth of my life.  I have cooked to optimum temperature and am emerging from the incubator far changed.

I no longer often contemplate the unfairness of my illness, nor the ways in which my life and relationships coursed as a result of sickness.  I have both walked and crawled my marathon, and either was effective in its own way, but I have now crossed the finish line only to find myself running another.  And this time, I shall run, and I lace my Nike’s with the knowledge that I am not running alone.  Towards the end of my burgeoning sprint in the last marathon, a man entered my life at a time unexpected.  He satisfied my appetite with curries and pasta primavera and shared my lust for knowledge and the written word.  Without him I would not be alive and well and able to gorge on coffee, though I certainly pale in light of his coffee-drinking abilities.  Yesterday, as we were watching Despicable Me, I fell asleep upon his shoulder for about half of the movie.  When I awoke, hair ruffled and mussed, I felt an overwhelming sense of the gift I have been given and the blessings I have received in him.  So yes, I write this eulogy for a time passed, but with the expectant thirst for what is to come.  Run, walk, crawl.  Whatever it may be, I will not be in solitary company.