Little board sliver slithers soft forked maple fangs into the palm of my hand.
It bit me. This thing I am ripping. Stripping.
Nibbling no more than an eighth an inch a pass.
Rabid dog mahogany.
Cherry red in the tooth.
Creamy peanut butter pine
with rotten streaks of jelly.
My mom says I love you with her hands.
She spells it out for us. With her smile. With her eyes.
My mom doesn’t say anything unless she believes it is true.
Mom walks out of her room in pajamas at nine thirty on Sunday morning
we all know what it means.
Like a brim that wiggled off the hook but kept the bait.
We sleep in the results of the decisions she makes.
Answered prayers. Skipping church.
My mom has climbed into every trench with me chucked a grenade overhead
and charged the enemy inside me. There is no moment in existence more poignant
than when your parent looks at you honestly afraid and asks ‘what’s next?’
Life. Robin. The early bird who could not wait to get to us. Robin.
Egg cracked many months too early. You knew to hurry and get to her.
You carried her to us like a robin fills the little yellow triangles chirping in her nest.
My mom is her mom.
My mom had to also be my grandma.
Before she was ready. She was handed a burden
I will never in my lifetime be strong enough to bear.
Because my mom is here.
She fights for it.
She outpours it.
She says I love you with her hands. Some fingers bend and others straighten.
She spells it out. My mom shouts I love you across the room.
And no one hears it.
But her children.
Each scuff on the stage is some poor character’s misstep.
Clunky unfamiliar shoes. Heavy heeled.
Scarred the thick black matte some poor soul was paid to paint.
So many scuffs in the same space seem to create a scar.
A gouge. A place gone bare.
Where now the plywood can be seen.
Like a relative.
Like a minister of some kind closing only one eye with a headnod.
A family made up solely of the unfamiliar.
Strangers. Who share blood. When we squeeze the egg.
Globs of it left out glistening on the floor.
So many scars and you start to see real damage.
Splintered fibrous tissue torn up through the paint.
Wide eyed wonder and anchor jawed acknowledgment.
Brakes struck down through the boots now officially digging into the structure.
The lumber-boned and lead-skinned body of our theater. Footsteps.
Stumbles. Outright tumbles. Foot falls. Close calls.
So many misdirected footsteps wearing unfamiliar shoes.
Then new paint.
What is new paint put up against the past.
Scuffed. Broken. Peeled up.
But if we didn’t paint it every year
there’d be no stage left.
Here folks is my confession. I am the memories of lots of things I’ll never have the courage to tell you about. I love you all the same. With an honestness, and an innocence, that I don’t doubt could hold ten thousand pounds. I have hated myself. I have hated you. I love you all the same.
I struggle, on a daily basis, doing simple things, like smiling at sullen faced strangers and forgiving my neighbor’s dog as I would my own. I’ve put peanut butter clean through the bread on innumerable occasions. My fault for liking crunchy. When I’m looking hard at something that needs to be done, thinking hard, moving, working hard, I find I start to talk hard to the people I love, like you were a stubborn piece of wide white oak or dried on oatmeal left in a coffee mug for a day. I use the scratchy metal brush on you.
I scrape the fine China of other people’s porcelain feelings.
But I leave them clean. And the white oak planed and routed.
And I eat just plain ugly peanut butter sandwiches with the doughy battered up bread.
And I still lick the spoon.
Bleach and soapy water.
I am a bad person.
The way a dish is dirty. Like laundry. I am ruined. By my very purpose.
I talk hard. I’m way too sensitive and serious. Unforgiving. Made wretched by the wrenching of only all my own devices. I’m biased. And wrong. About a great many things. Yet eloquent. And convincing. I am a talker. And all talkers are sensitive
about being told they’re all talk.
I confess I’m not immune to that.
So I do more than I thought I ever could to stay a step ahead of my greatest fear about myself.
Yet. That is what it means to confess. Not to do. Not to offer. Just to speak out loud.
Memories. Thoughts. Worries. Daydreams. Candy kisses and spellbound wishes.
Saying them changes them. Changes everything. Just saying it.
A good confession. No.
It is not your next hot meal.
But it might be the plate it gets served on.
Must put the small talk out of your head.
Lay it in bed. Like a baby.
Even before it is ready.
Sometimes. Ignore it a minute.
Honking the exact opposite of a wake up alarm.
Don’t get too much out of this.
Be afraid to be made happy by this conversation hallway.
Word fires circled by people warming their cold fingers.
Every word ever written is another word for need.
Writing is not an easy trade. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written that had any kind of impact, interesting, moving, even annoying or dissonant, it’s because I have practiced at this every day since I was young. I’m continuing my education pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing. And I’m not afraid to say it, I’m good. Frayed around the edges. Diamond self-banished to the rough. But diamond all the same.
Reach out to me, let’s have a conversation,
I might be able to help, whatever the issue.
For all my faults, I have formed at least a thousand thoughts.
I have more than enough to share.
It would be safe for all of us to never again commit to the fallacy of thinking someone doesn’t matter. Or that their mistakes wouldn’t look different if you knew their context. Not read it once. Not looked it up online. To know their context. A professor of philosophy once asked a room of students if they could become any animal whatsoever, which animal would they choose. The professor called on a young man who had given up an easy answer. A dog. What would that be like, the teacher asked. It’d be all smells, and windblown ears, and sniffing other dog’s asses. The class laughs. So where are you in that description? The laughter stops. I’m the dog. Well that’s different than being a dog, isn’t it, if it is you, a human, early twenties, all your experience, then being dressed up as, or imitating, or some sort of virtual reality is the experience you’re describing. I asked if you could become a dog, what would that be like? Well, the student began nervously, I’d have to completely give up being me first. Therefore, the question is a fallacy. The idea of becoming another thing casually, without the sacrifices required of that thing. Context. Backstory. Are beyond important. They’re imperative.
“Hey. Park. What are you staring at?”
I want love the way a single breeze makes all of summer bearable. Dryly washes warm from minds. Heat off shoulders. Tickled sunlight into nibbling instead of gnawing. I want love. Outward. Give. The way I want to live. Kind of already caught up in it and maintaining a status quo before I even know what it really is I really have to live for. Three. Two. One way I love is by biting my tongue. Quetitude. Silace. I brood. Like I just bit a lemon. Clearly thinking all about how I feel about it. But it isn’t citrus, is it? Love. Four letters. Three forms. Two directions. And one great big excuse to crowd out all other excuses. You’re never let off over-easy again. Hard time. Still not hard. Like boiled eggs. Soft as hell. Still stiffer than calcium cradled saliva clear and sunlight yellow centered. Hard time. Beneath a salt shaker. For bites. Three’s the leftovers. Too left over. One rotten stomach. I want to love the way Pepto-Bismol coats the throat and pink lines the gut like in those commercials. I want to be sick. Just so I can take medicine for it.
If you kind of clench the back of your throat and blow air out slow, almost growling, you can imitate this sound. If you can snip your tongue to the edge of your gums and lips, you can crackle just as the fire did. Rumble, down in your stomach. Without much effort, you can imagine what we were doing here. Smiling. Pat on the backing. Happily projecting.
Like everybody does.
We have a language full of dirty words like a tool box. Screwdriver. Phillip’s head. Good for you Phillip. Nails. Screws. Socket. Stud-finder. Okay. Daddy doesn’t want help with his tools anymore.
Let me do this for you. I’m not a plumber, or an electrician, or a roofer, or a carpenter.
I’m a writer.
Let me set you straight. If you’re reading this, you’re currently caught up in a process we call life. No matter what you have been told, there is no assurance you will ever have another one. You’re not alive on accident, and you’re not alive without stipulation. You, or someone close to you, has been doing a lot of work to maintain you in this state. Alive. For just the one time.
You’re saying things you heard on TV. We know. We heard it too. You’re saying them to people who are speaking about things they did not see on TV, things they lived through, decisions they have made.
Television has been lying to you.