i never liked the color red

my emotions make themselves known by pumping my blood faster and faster until my breath can’t keep up any longer and my head seems to forget its place during the day is under the sun, not rested on a pillow in my blackened room

my emotions spiral themselves around the bagel i brought myself to eat and i can’t help but wonder how it would be to live without an urge to reintroduce my finger to my throat and let them dance around for awhile

my family says to control my emotions but i keep letting my emotions control me until they burst out of my dirt-colored eyes, creating a muddy monsoon that sweeps up any sliver of hope and rushes it away with all of the people who tell me i’m a liability

maybe the problem is me because my days of the week pill container is full of chemical happiness but my heart remains empty, longing for the days when my nervous system did not rely on prescriptions to stay alive

as i resist the temptation to let my anger swallow me whole, my lilac manicured nails fight the urge to make drawings on my skin that has been broken too many times to remember

my emotions continue to control me
and i don’t want to remember any of it at all.

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worth it.

the heartbreak and pain
were not accidents
for they led me down a narrow trail
accompanied by old monsters
lonely and shattered,
i fought them off

there i was,
winding through the forest and crawling through the gravel
torn up

on an isolated and dangerous path
that led me right to you
and to myself

we live in a jungle.

it is the sly comments
the uninvited stares
the suggestive look
the desire-filled look
the i want you, i will have you, whether you like it or not look

every whistle
every step a little too close
leaves us trembling

do you see me?
your eyes gaze at me
but do you see me?

do your eyes see me as more than parts to be coveted and dreamt of?
do your ears hear me as more than a voice you’d like to silence with your lips?
does your mind comprehend that my shaking hands and racing heart cannot take another minute of your company?

because of you
my eyes see yours looking me up and down like a project to conquer
my ears hear a young girl catcalled in the streets
my mind cannot comprehend why it has to be this way
and my legs run towards the idea
that it doesn’t have to be
             —no more staying quiet

conditional

guilt suffocates me like cellophane
each layer clinging tightly to my body
one for each year of heartbreak

she says her love wraps around my being
what she doesn’t know is
it fights so hard to break through the barrier she has built
it pulses against me
unable to penetrate the 19 layers of pain she has provided

and through tears
she whispers,
“you know i love you, right?”

despite all her cruel words
she expects me to know this
to wholeheartedly embrace it

i can see it,
but i cannot feel it
for guilt and shame overwhelm my senses
and suddenly i am drowning in my memories
admitting to a love i do not feel

wrapped in this godforsaken cellophane,
a gift from my mother
i am bursting with emotion, yet empty

wrapped so tightly
desperate for love
i walk around suffocating
desperate to feel
something she cannot provide

         —i know you did your best, mom

recovery

i use to swing along the line of life and death in my mind
teetering with reasons to stay and reasons to go

how could i ever think such thoughts when there are sunsets that make even the most pessimistic of people stop to gaze,
with hues of orange and pink and lilac
covering the horizon in swirls and gradients so beautiful that only the naked eye can capture its true essence

how could i ever think such thoughts when there are sunday mornings filled with pancakes and my father in a small café
hearing the clinking of coffee mugs and the strange yet familiar laughter of strangers

how could i ever think such thoughts when there are beaches with velvety sand and a symphony made up of gawking birds and the sound of the ocean kissing the shore,
filled with naps in the scorching sun and the reading of new novels that have been left in my bookcase for months

how could i ever think such thoughts when there are soft kisses and passionate kisses laced together with sweet smiles and the whisper of “i love you”, leaving even the most grounded of people up in the clouds

the sad thing is,
i know exactly how i could think such thoughts
because they once took up all of the vacancies in my mind
they are unwelcome visitors that still bang on my door from time to time

to the broken:
i hear you,
i see you
i will hold your hand until you see light again, just as people have done for me
and i will walk with you until the heaviness turns to feathers of hope

clouded

how do i stop fearing the future when i also fear the present?
why is the past so haunting yet so inviting?
on which side of reality will i finally be content?

                  —anxiety

our new reality

we say ignorance is bliss
hatred, intolerance, and greed
the trifecta of our society
do you see it?

news anchors deliver breaking news: a pop star got married yesterday
we listen eagerly, absorbing every detail
news anchors report homelessness is on the rise, and a child was abducted nearby
we flick the tv off
after all, we have our own lives to deal with

a new reality show premiered last week
five million people tuned in to peek into another’s life at 10pm sharp
responsibilities ignored, we’ll make time for them later
11pm news flooded onto screens an hour later
a charity event benefitting a children’s hospital was announced
we flicked the tv off
we don’t have the time

in the morning we share a picture on facebook of a starving child
“one share equals one prayer”
during an afternoon in the grocery store the cashier holds a transparent jar
“one dollar can provide this child clean water”
we stare at the picture of a helpless child
the words, “i already donated” spill from our mouths
as we walk out of the store, a pang of guilt is felt
the guilt quickly disappears as we think back to this morning
thank goodness one share equaled one prayer
that’s close enough, right?

we read the latest addition of our favorite magazine
the first article is about body positivity
life mottos are sprinkled throughout
“love yourself!”
“beauty has no weight requirement!”
we skim the rest of the issue, and another catches our eyes
“best and worst beach bodies!”
“look at the cellulite on this hollywood star!”
“i can’t believe she would leave the house looking like that!”
which article will you show your friends?

tears flow as news of a recent teenage suicide spreads through town
“society is so cruel”
“treat others how you would like to be treated”
for a week we choose our words carefully
for a week we are sensitive
but this cloud of compassion soon drifts away and we are back to our old ways
the usual storm of judgement and negativity returns
gossip rolls in like thunder and dirty looks flash like lightening
how many lives must be lost before the storm clears for good?

we teach our children about the plagues that killed our ancestors
but we don’t realize what is happening in our own society
a problem is spreading; the wrong state of mind
we have discarded compassion and replaced it with indifference
we have forgotten how to help others when it does not benefit ourselves
we have turned a blind eye to the struggles of our neighbors
they fall and ask for a helping hand

are you willing to get your hands dirty for someone who can’t repay you?
will you pretend they’re not standing next to you screaming for help?
because ignorance is bliss, right?