Category Archives: family

maybe love and fear are just streams of consciousness.

some people can’t love at all because of fear. i’ve met most of them and foolishly loved them all. this piece isn’t about that but that would make for an interesting line to some other story i may write some day.

Photobucket

photo by garry.

***

i am scared.

it keeps me awake some nights. my heart beats so fast i have to let it loose. i breathe tiny baby breaths that don’t go anywhere and stare at the ceiling wondering if this will be the night that i lose my mind. some times i’m flooded with fear.  other times i magically disconnect; i am all alone in a tiny box and i can see fear on the other side waiting for me. if each fear is attached to a thought, if i don’t feed them, if i could just stop thinking, would they go away and let me live a lovingly zombielike existence? i would love to be a zombie for a few years.

is fear something inherently part of being a human that keeps things from being too easy? maybe some people don’t get scared at all. they label fear as stress and thrive from it.

maybe i should love fear. i should make it chocolate chip pancakes and sing it lullabies. we should do things i always wanted to do like sleep in a dirt field with nothing but stars and crickets everywhere, think about the future and not drown in the vastness of it, be myself, confront my childhood, move across country, and read my poems aloud to strangers.

the poetry reading — it wouldn’t have to be a performance. i could read despite my shaking limbs and sweaty armpits. it won’t matter if my voice quivers or if i look at the floor for half of the reading. there will be that moment when i leave my body and enter the spirit of the piece when they see the essence of me in poem form. i will touch them. i will breathe the gentle fire that burns inside of me and dare them not to feel me. then, i will walk back to my seat, take a deep breath, and feel the self-love spread through me and chase away the fear.

–lissa

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my dreams

***

my dreams want to fly across rooftops like superheroes. they’re tired of hiding underneath my bed, entangled in crumpled beginnings of new worlds scribbled on recycled paper. they want to conquer bad guys like sadness and fear rather than envision eating your lips off with extra strength bleach. i know it’s bad, momma, but i want to scrape you out of my life like wallpaper. i want to kill your words before they hit my insides like a hammer tap tapping hate.

momma, i made your favorite: chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting.
i got another masters degree for you.
i brought the ocean home with me so you could remember the way daddy used to smell.
i fit into my size two jeans from middle school you know the ones you saved for all those years to remind me of when i used to be good enough for you.

will you love me now?

my dreams want to find other dreams to join forces with and create world joy. they’ve given up on pleasing you, momma. you’re never happy. you’re sharp like a scissor and hungry like a tornado when you tear my dreams apart by their seams and swallow them whole.

don’t dream so big, i told my dreams. i don’t mean that. that’s something momma would say. i scratched under their chins and rested my cheek in their fur. i love you. i don’t want us to go out there and see that everyone is momma. they nodded. and we don’t want you to stay here and think that you are momma, they said.

we sank into my full size mattress and listened to the usual bed sores that caused the frame to groan in pain. we took ten breaths in, then ten breaths out until our senses became still and the mattress felt like a hammock floating back and forth in a breeze. we didn’t break the cycle. we didn’t ask to fly or soar or leave but when we woke up we were covered in sand and daddy was hugging us. maybe we never really woke. maybe we dreamed our dreams into reality. or maybe a father scooped his sleepy daughter into his arms and finally made good on his promise to come back for her.

momma, i’ve left you. will you love me now?

-lissa


make believe treehouse

***

animal’s strokefists cannot permeate the small treehouse in my mind where poppa’s smell of crushed sage and honey decorate the walls with warmth. i climb the heavy branches and press my feet against the grooves in the bark until i enter the soft cushion of his smell. it whispers love and i release my broken self and gently place it on the floor. i shrink into gingerbread size and enclose myself here.

soon i hear the sound of daddy coming home from work. i tip toe rush into his arms and he swings me around like a paper doll. he ruffles my hair and calls me sunshine. animal, daddy, and i sit at a tiny table stump. we eat banana nut bread together as daddy teaches animal the boundaries of touch. animal’s docile here and wags his head back and forth in awe of daddy. he helps me clear the table and then i put him in his pink cage. i give him a treat and pat his head and he smiles up at me.

we are only a family here — in the confines of these branches, the only place i can make sure daddy takes his lithium pills. daddy doesn’t beatbeatbeat animal (and animal, in turn, doesn’t beattouch me) because he can control the jazz in his mind before it becomes too frenzied, too intense, like it is about to ooze his brain cells out of his ear. he doesn’t slip so far below the bottom that he cannot get out of bed, loses his sixth job in the past three months, and leaves animal and i to find a way to keep the bill hunters away. he is our lion daddy here and finally he protects us.

–lissa

an extension of the characters in jasmine.


dark chocolate candy land

photo by jessi.

***

i sat beside his chair every night for as long as he would let me
his eyes stayed so still it didn’t seem like he ever blinked
the air slowly squeezed in and out of his chest like his body
was in a constant struggle with life his cheek leaned against his hand
so loosely that it seemed like his head might droop onto the mahogany table
the grooves so thick in the wood that the table could split into two
splintering slowly like the mind of a person longing for love

he would stare at the ceiling for hours his arms clenched around his body
so tightly that i think he forgot i was there watching him
he whispered her name softly his eyes racing back and forth
across the ceiling as though they were chasing after something

i stroked my hand against his cheek and he stared at me
the wild haunted glaze in his eyes disappearing behind dark chocolate walls
his lips slowly curved into a mechanical grin
like we were strangers meeting for the first time in a fantasy world
where people and pain stayed behind their assigned walls
as he ran his fingers through my hair and told me to go to bed

–lissa


our only sunshine


photo by threelittlebirds (Mindy J).

***

i reach for him
my body already numb
from too much pinot noir
and anticipate his rejection.

i know he doesn’t mean it but god does
it hurt that he’s left me with only
the shell of his body, his inner core
on retreat in the world of sorrow.

i deal with life for the both of us.
i repaint the pink walls white.
i donate the little dresses to charity.
i put the picture books into boxes
unable to keep from reading each one.
my fingers caress the brightness
on the pages. i hold the hard covers
against my face, nudging the word
love that always seems to be in
the title with my cheek.
leap into me love
never let me go .

tonight the boundary
between our worlds finally collide.
when i reach for him
he lets me hold him.
he lets his body relax into mine
and i feel a piece of darkness
slip out from under us.

you are my sunshine
my only sunshine i say
rubbing his back
kissing the tears away.

we were supposed to sing it to her
i say as our bodies rock back and forth
finally wading through the pain together.

–lissa

inspired by a readwritepoem prompt about light


imagine freedom

this poem is inspired by this painting by rick mobbs.

hold your breath and kiss me until joy travels through every orifice of your body.
. ……… . …… ………………………………. .

imagine us together forever. tuck yourself under the shade of the chocolate tree in our imagination, carve our initials s and e into the trunk with strawberry juice, and lay with me against the blue soil until dawn.

i stroke you over and over until the whip lashes tattooed into your brown skin shimmer like golden stars. you become so warm that you relearn how to feel and tears of happiness stream down your face as my laugh, slow crescendo of love tickles your cheek. i see the anatomy of a rainbow in your eyes.

just before nightfall, you point into the distance. tremors overcome our bodies as we see us in a future dreamland — young, happy, and free with our daughter by our side. we wake during the night surrounded by the remnants of her singsongy voice; she soothes us back to sleep.
. ……… . …… ………………………………. .

when morning comes and master finds us, we repeat “we dwell in the house of the lord” again and again. we are not afraid because we know that i am the sun and you are the earth. our story is without end.

–lissa


the hardest meal

***

Dinner was the hardest meal.

My dad would wait for me until late, seemingly incapable of eating alone. The two of us would sit at the kitchen table with the same white tablecloth that Momma had bought years ago although now it was faded rainbow because of all of the fruit punch, orange juice, and coffee spills.

I opened the door hoping he was in bed since it was already after ten o’clock. I peeked into the kitchen and saw him asleep in his chair.

The room smelled like tomato sauce. I lifted the pot and saw that he had made my favorite, spaghetti and vegan meatballs. The spaghetti had wrinkled and the sauce had dried. I quickly put some of the food onto a plate and sat down at the table. I twirled the spaghetti onto my fork and chewed as softly as possible.

He must have sensed I was there. He smiled faintly at me as he opened his eyes. His shirt engulfed his body, and his cheeks were thin as though he wasn’t eating enough. We went through our ritual conversation: How was your day, Mirabel? Good, Dad. What about yours? Good.

I never felt like he wanted to know more. His smile deepened when we had this conversation but his eyes looked down at the tablecloth, the wall, the darkness emanating from the window. This was all we usually said to each other.

Our conversations had been like this since Momma had left five years ago. I had been twelve then. The day she left he had stared out the window for hours, his breathing rushed as he held onto the edges of the table. Maybe when she left he had gone inside of himself and never come out.

There had been other women like the neighbor, his co-worker, but they hadn’t stayed for long. They could never make it through dinner. If you’re not used to it, the silence ate away at you.

It hadn’t always been like this. When Momma had been there, the conversations had been spirited and neverending. She would have to force us out of the kitchen so that she could clean up and we could go to sleep.

I loved to watch the two of them together. His eyes glowed soft charcoal colors for her. Her head slightly leaned towards him as she would smile at something he had said. Everything seemed perfect until the night before she left.

That night I slept on the sofa in the family room to escape them, crying softly into my teddy bear so they wouldn’t hear me. My chest shook like it would break. Did other kids have to go through this, I had wondered, staring at the television on mute. I watched Bill Cosby dancing with his TV children until sleep finally overtook me.

–lissa