I wrote ten poems today. And here they are.
Please tell me it’s not tomorrow,
Can I have a stopwatch with magic,
So it can be today forever,
Until I want to be tomorrow?
I used to want that in school,
A pause, where the clock would stop,
And I could study more, longer, better.
But it occurred to me, that even with infinite time,
I’d still wait until the last minute.
I’m scared to start something,
With someone who will make me lonelier than I am now.
I’m content, sort of,
To sit here, and know it could be better,
But also not worse.
There’s a safety there, here,
In knowing exactly how miserable I’ll be tomorrow.
I feel everything I do is the midday snow in March.
I’ll snow in the middle of the day,
Be forgotten by the night,
Get complaints about my timing,
And brushed away off coats
With a sigh, and a backwards glance.
I wanted you to be my go-to boy,
The, I can call you to tell you about,
Oh my god this crazy thing I just saw on the side of the highway, guy.
I just needed someone who valued me more than something else.
I though it could be you.
I let myself hope for just a second.
If you like me,
It means you’re like me,
And a flake.
I went to this bar where they brew their own beers.
I watched a skinny thin boy in a black v-neck sing his heart out
To people watching the basketball game.
He sounded like pre-recorded coffee shop guitar music,
With just the right touch of passion.
I can’t even look at him.
He thinks, I’m sure,
Oh look how demure,
No he wouldn’t think that,
He wouldn’t know what that word means.
I see him and remember.
Those would have been perfectly fine to stay hidden, just there.
I won’t think of the memories,
But I know how those memories feel.
I know how I should feel,
If I was remembering those memories
While I look at him.
I’d like to hold my breath for as long as I can,
Just so my body would do what I told it to.
This body I hold,
Has nothing to do with me.
It just holds me for the next one,
The next one of me that will come along,
Once I lose my lease.
He said, he doesn’t want to get out of bed.
Well, his back hurts,
I mean, really, I’m lazy,
Ok it’s like 20% back pain,
And I’m comfortable right now.
I wish I could turn off the light without having to get up,
God I’m so comfortable.
Could I like make a pulley string that would turn off the light from here?
I should have been an engineer.
I miss the way my people sound.
The people I grew up with,
They sound a bit like home,
God I miss that.
I miss that I trained myself to never sound like them again.
I use my nails to stop the thought train derailed.
Nails in the palm of my hand.
Red half circles.
They say, stop,
Stop thinking about that.
It’s sloppy. It’s personal. It’s march madness college basketball, and I love it. Let me tell you about it.
Basketball isn’t my favorite sport to watch, it’s not even top three. But I’ll put aside anything I’m doing to put on my back-of-the-closet, haven’t worn in months, college t-shirt to yell at the tv so loud I’ll scare my dogs. It’s tradition.
I remember on vacation in Boston, my dad asked me and my sister if it was ok if he left the tv on while we went to sleep. He would try to be quiet; he promised. But his alma mater had made it to the finals and who cared that he was on vacation, those guys, his guys, could win. This place he told us stories about growing up, where he went wild and crazy for a couple years, holds strings on his heart. So in the middle of our vacation, I was awakened by my dad’s calls and muddled screams of – yes, and what are you doing, and no no no, and sighs, and nervous pacing in a hotel room. It meant that much to him. So it means that much to me.
There are some things you pick up from your parents. How loud am I when I watch the NCAA tournament comes straight from my dad. I’ll scream for a team I’ve never heard of before today. I’m rooting for them because they’re the underdogs. You always root for underdogs – the dream. I got that from him too. I root, now, for my alma mater, then my dad’s alma mater, then the teams in my state, then whoever is picked not to win. And I cheer with all my heart. Suddenly, these five boys on the court become my hope at salvation. I take their dreams as my own. I yell things toward opposing players I don’t even yell at cars in two hour stopped traffic. I suddenly become a coach, a lifelong fan with that team’s colors in my blood, and I hope and pray to the basketball gods they pull off a win. I’ve scared next door neighbors with my bellowing and throwing of inanimate objects. Because I care. They make me care. The stories make me care, and I get to do something with that emotion, I get to cheer, and root for the win. I get to root for something with a substantial and definable goal. I get to put my pride into action. I have an opportunity, once a year, to be a fan, undiluted, just like everybody else.
It’s not just tradition though, it’s plain fun. These guys are young, my age, and here they are on my television with people around the country screaming their names, names we learned yesterday. They have this chance at greatness you don’t find anywhere else. It’s a momentary greatness, I have to see what happens.
These players make mistakes, the look unkempt, green, eager, skilled, parts lucky, and parts so damn unlucky. They pass the ball in a way you’ve never seen, they shoot like they’ve got nothing left, and they play with their whole hearts. It’s beautiful too, watching players play their best, hitting shots no one else could make, eying wary seniors try their hardest to make it to the end before their dreams die with graduation. You don’t see that in the clinical, statistical, polished NBA. You don’t get to see players fall on their asses, or shoot hail marys from half court, unless you’re watching the college ball tourney. I get to see seven guys awkwardly going for rebound to try and make another play with the twenty-two seconds they have left in the game. I get to see competition. I get to see good games, because they care, and I care, and this is it for them and for us – one game. One shot. It makes my heart beat faster.
I get to watch greatness being made, I get to watch stories that will get recited next year with a revert hush of – can you believe it. It’s beautiful. It’s fast, uncoordinated, risky, uncouth, and exciting. It’s a story, it’s heartbreak, it’s emotion, beautiful, uninhibited, emotion from grown men playing ball. I get to hear the unabashed favoritism from announcers rooting for that last minute upset. I’ll have something to talk about after this. I watch every year. And for about a month I have something to talk to my Dad about. I know exactly what I can say to start a conversation with him without any reservations or restrictions that we usually struggle with.
We talk about the teams we like. Which teams have a chance, the same chance as everyone else. And it feels like I have a chance again. They’re stuck in the tournament and the best they can hope for is to get through. We get a chance to pick our favorites. We get to stare at names and numbers of printed off ESPN brackets with the bottom half of the last team name cut off from our stupid printers. We get a chance to pick who we think will win, just like those guys in suits on tv who played on these teams before their knees went out. We all have the same chances. That little school, that’s only a thirty minute drive from the house has just as much chance at winning as the big school with the twenty-year, stuff-of-legend, dynasty. We get to live the stories.
I remember my senior year of high school I had my friends over because I said we’d have the game on after school. We waited up till almost midnight screaming at the tv over the little school just down the road that became the nation’s cinderella team. My friend’s boyfriend was on the team. We saw him on national television adjust his shorts after a big play. His team made a deep run, they played in the national championship and suddenly everyone knew their glory. They couldn’t find the net, but they held on close. Here we were seven teenage girls in my parent’s living room, not yet adults, not yet graduated, our hometown ties still strung strong. Here we were, cheering for just one more shot, two more points. We had the same hopes, the same dreams, and for just a minute, we were united with the same feelings as half of the country. Living out our pride through them. We watched as the last second shot from half court bounced off the rim twice, only to fall by the side at the buzzer. We agonized, we cried out abut justice and fate, together.
You don’t have to know all the exact and picky rules. All the analysis in the world can’t predict this. Dreams spread and engulf. Emotions, buzzer-beaters, iffy calls, break out stars, long-shot hopes, grown men crying, history, rivalries, pride, year-long anger, upsets, runs, frustrations, disappointments, legend. This is where legend lives and grows, breathes and adapts. And I get to watch it all. We get to watch it all. Together. A bit like a community, for just a little while.
I prided myself today.
On the fact that, as of now,
I haven’t killed myself yet.
I survived me.
I’ve survived me for years,
I’ll be ok, I’ll keep being ok,
Ok here in my head,
With just me,
If I’ve lasted this long.
We’re going to have to crate her.
The red fawn beautiful runner,
Beautiful dog, who they rescued
With pride-filled rescuing hearts.
She can’t keep doing this much damage.
Or at least we’re going to have to lock her in the room.
We can’t give her back, you know, it’s not like you can give a child back,
They’re not a bad cup of soup.
So we’re going to trade her old box for a new, shiny new, cage.
That way she’ll fit in here.
She’ll fit in with her beautiful hair.
She speaks now with a lisp
From her fake tooth
To stop the infection that was under the gum,
That she was convinced was killing her.
She has to talk on the phone with that voice.
I have a laughing pity.
My favorite kind of emotion,
For the woman I’m not sure I grudgingly hate.
Woman of wisdom, believer in spirits.
She tells me she thinks the human auras parted the red sea,
After she briefs me on her latest case brought to trial.
She’s the mother who always had to do it the hard way.
Wouldn’t let her kids define her, control her, or let herself resent them.
So she put her first, for better and worse,
She lives with the guilt, of missing what she missed of me.
I’ve planned what I’ll say when he dies.
Not because I can’t wait for him to die, but because sometimes I use him,
To find a way to cry.
And he always loved a good speech.
Tell me I’m pretty.
That’s all I need to hear today.
Don’t say: you’re gorgeous,
My girl, my honey, mine.
Don’t tell me what you love me more than;
Tell me how your feelings look today.
You’re in such a beautiful box.
I know what you’re going to say next,
I know for sure how this story I’ve heard before will end.
You’ve told me before.
I’ve heard already,
And I have safe love for what will happen later.
I met her for coffee.
Just outside this great little place she found.
I took her as she was,
As I saw her,
As she showed herself to me.
I remembered I’m good with people,
If I try, I’m so very good,
It’s a switch I flip,
To be charming, and lovely, and not quite me, in the light.
But that one has good friends, and people who love her,
And she cares to try.
Good as in solid, strong, and right.
They have solid bones, and solid minds,
And like good people, they keep their twists to themselves.
I don’t want to let this grudge go.
I want to keep it,
And feed it spitfires, so it keeps burning, to keep me angry.
Because when I’m angry I can’t be mad at myself.
It’s lovely there, with righteous anger. It’s so great.
And I can think of all these reasons to hate, all these reasons they’re wrong,
These reasons I won’t share. That make me feel better.
And what am I going to do without my martyred, middle child self?
What will be left of me?
Happiness for fools. Give me my sinners cynicism and dark giggles.
I’ll know where I stand, and I’ll know where my lines are,
And I’ll understand where they come from unsympathetic, unloving, happy.
I will pass it onto another generation. My daughter will have an eating disorder in her teens, because of something I said. Then she contemplate suicide, and have to see a counselor, and I’ll be helpless. I was so close. She’ll be closer. Her avalanche is worse. Her building is taller. Her car won’t hesitate to swerve. Her knives a bit less scary. Her bathtub waters a bit safer. Her pill bottles on a lower shelf. I can’t do that to another human being. I can’t create something knowing the pain I’ll pass down. I can’t.
I can try. But it won’t do any good. I’ll have to watch all my mistakes go down a line, in order, knowing it’s my fault. I could have prevented it. I can’t. “Oh you could try.” He’ll say. “I’m sure it won’t be that bad.” What are the odds I’ll have a daughter stronger than me? I can’t create something to die. I don’t love me enough to duplicate what I’ve been through. I’ve seen it pass already, grandma, to mom, to me. I can stop it with me. That’s my choice. Not yours.