Jun 01
poem challenge: Freedom

Healing In The Wake Of A Woke, Shattered Time

She doesn't think of it when she passes over her threshold, slips off her shoes, shakes out any residue. With almost-closed, watering eyes, she doesn’t think of it; she chops onions on the cutting board she received as a wedding gift some 10 years ago.

She does not think of it when she greets her husband and daughter as they return home from the park. She doesn’t feel the voluptuous darkness when she reads The Lorax to her light-filled daughter on the couch. She doesn’t smell the thick isolation when she turns on the folk strings in the evening and reads the unschooling parenting books her mother gave her. The virus of an achy soul doesn’t spread under her consciousness as she draws the curtains closed against the overturned yard full of crickets. But it lingers on her heels as she follows her barefoot daughter to the mailbox the next day, reminded of the days when her desperate feet beat a drum out of the earth as she rushed to find more letters. Those days when she wouldn’t let herself look, when she would just start running like she was holding onto the wings of a bird that couldn’t lift her, too afraid to unwrap the newspaper and find nothing inside.

It comes around when she washes the dirt of a rich, rich garden from her hands and feels not only her wedding bands but also her bracelets gently clinging to her wet wrist; a slippery sound, better than a bell or a hymn. Bringing back the nights when she could breathe again despite the spin of the evenings. She knows that the thrill will never return to her like a crying child so she makes sure that she cradles its absence instead. She holds the sinking feeling of a home she cannot return to in her low belly, the way the stars from a dropped sky cling to her bangle.

She had sunk back into an old worn place of thought when she moved into her first home from the rental, she remembers how much of her life could be fit into boxes and sealed, but then there were the pod boxes. Big enough to be tiny homes, sitting like cookie cutters filled with junk other people didn’t need and she remembers how they could’ve saved her so many years ago. It wasn’t the same but she struggled to tell herself that things in the present couldn’t rewrite the past. It was too soon to rip off the Band-Aid and look upon the wound.

She remembers as they visit her grandmother in the hospital, the sharp beeping of sickness stinging her skin. Masked against the strength of the bodies around her, her grandmother leans out and wraps the sight of the tiny girl in her memory. As they are walking out of the hospital, carried by her husband, she remembers the first time she wore a mask in public: the spring air brushing sore necks, walking into a store and standing in her far puddle of awkwardness until her mother was ready to leave. She remembers being told to hand-sanitize and saying geez mom and her mother looking her in the eye, it isn’t ‘geez mom’ anymore, this is serious. People aren’t numbers. Her grandmother isn’t a number, she is a home. She remembers walking into stores while people who refused masks were asked to leave. The anger ate away at her stomach, because these people were the reason this wasn’t over yet, the reason she couldn’t see her friends, the reason she spent day after day alone with herself, starting to hate the way she thought and ate and looked and breathed. 

She remembers when her pen breaks and ink stains up her hands and wrists, the memory of retching up line after line on her arm, counting the days that rolled into each other like graying hills. She remembers when she is up at night, behind on work, behind on bills, behind on life... She remembers the cold loneliness of the nights; she was too scared of herself to breathe, too scared to be alone with her fractured body because she wanted to hurt, so scared that she ran like a child afraid of the dark to her mother’s room and woke her at midnight. She thinks of the stones that lodged in her sneakers. She eventually grew into her own shoes, her body, her voice, and found the darkness that crept into the corners she couldn’t reach. 

(There’s nothing she can do now, she cannot reprimand the hurt. The path of resilience over resistance for her generation is in their writing, their photography, speeches, how they teach and move their bodies in protest of stagnation, how they healed and now, how they parent. She does not relay the harm and trauma to her daughter, like feeding a wild animal while your eyes are locked on the teeth; instead she teaches her how healing works. She knows she has grown because 20 years ago she didn’t know herself, she didn’t think she was worthy of her own respect or gift. She remembers waking up, alone in her body and being sickened by the day already. She did not know the healing had already started when she lost everything, the home of the world was shifted into multiple wheelchairs. And when she woke up for good, she looked around at the rubied and crystallized windows and streets, she thought “this is what it means to wake up after the wake has receded.”)

She looks out into the night of snow and remembers the protests. The hate in her very own town, the paint on the road and the signs in her hands. I can’t breathe. The heat of the summer was suffocating and the masks were like layers of time between the air and the lungs, but she was not being choked for being black so she stood up and shamed the hands that would take the beautiful darkness. Her body would tire under the pressure that was supposed to turn her to diamonds; the fires burned holes in a paper-light sky. She remembers hearing that California was burning and folding its edges away from the country. Could she become a hot coal as well and burn away everything else? There was an election, the riots that struck like a flush of cold water down the back, and the desperation of waiting through the hours before dawn, still disappointed when the sun rose clear above her with a victory she couldn’t bring close. Bang bang bang: the whole country on rewind every few months, day after day another elegy popping up like a daisy to report the weather of fire, floods, sickness, death, and instead we all hoped for the best. She remembers the pages she turned and tore as if she could erase her story. She remembers every time she walks into a store and hears the “top tracks of 2020” Spotify playlist, she wants to stand there, cradling her basket until it’s over. Yet she can look over and see a young woman frozen to the aisle. Her generation can’t dance anymore. They all stand in solidarity, listening again to a song heard too many times on days when there was nothing. Something so familiar you can hear the entire damn song in your head before the beat drops, that you can no longer listen to without the entire year, hitting you like a fever dream, like a wave of nausea.