He was the kind of love that pulls you apart from the inside.
Feral and ravaging.
Crashing and teeming.
Skin ripping from the pressure building.
He was my fingers dug into my palms to form crescent, blood moons.
He was my breath too heavy to catch.
My bones splintering from the weight of my blood rushing.
He was my eyes closed tight and my head tipped back and my chest full of melancholy and ache.
He was the kind of love that is breaking.
A war determined to eat me from my body.
Myself, torn in shreds.
He was my tongue wetting my lips and my skin warmed and aching.
The creep of longing that tumbled across my neck and back.
The bruises smarting against whispered touches.
He was the light that breaks through when you come out of the shadows.
He was the darkness that pulled me in deeper.
He was a frenetic up and down, drain circling, tantrum.
He was the angst that I craved.
He was words pouring out of me all at once.
And he was the throbbing in my hysteric heart.
The pulsing torment that’s deconstructed my being.
And the insomnia that continues to keep my eyes tired and my mouth starving.
My lonely, deadly, can’t hold it together.
My never ending.
Lost & Found: A Story About Love
She was born 13 weeks early. Weighed less than two pounds. With pinkish skin. No fat. And a fuzzy head the size of a tennis ball. Wires and tubes spiked her tiny body. (I dubbed her “Spider-Baby.”) Her chances of survival? Flip a coin.
The question for me wasn’t so much, “Would she survive?” but “Could I love her?”
Yup. It was. Let me explain …
Love means letting down your guard. Lowering shields. Opening up. That leaves you vulnerable. Unprotected. Exposed to the possibility of pain. Immense pain. (It hurts to lose a loved one. Losing a stranger? Not at all.)
There wasn’t much time to decide. Spidey might not make it through the night. How do you make a decision like that? I didn’t know. Would you?
But first, a little background.
Rachel, my middle child, was pregnant. It would be the first grandbaby for my wife and I. Things seemed to be going well, though the last time I saw Ray-Ray (one of my pet nicknames for her) she didn’t look well. She’d gone to the beach and was radish-red. Her ankles were swollen; her face, puffy. She looked tired and uncomfortable.
A doctor’s visit was in order, but her obstetrician (a woman) was less than sympathetic. In fact, she accused Rachel of using her pregnancy to try and get out of work. (An absurd idea if you knew my daughter, a notoriously hard worker, even as a kid.)
Unsurprisingly, Ray-Ray soon ended up in an emergency room in St. Petersburg, Florida, only to be sent across the Bay (via ambulance) to a woman’s hospital in Tampa. She’d been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia—a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication.
The doctor-on-call that day was an intense, wiry, no-nonsense Italian from New York who knew how to make tough decisions quick. He walked into her room, carrying a chart, and said, “I’m not liking what I’m seeing here. ... We might just have this baby tonight.”
While nurses prepped Rachel for a C-section, my wife and I went to the hospital chapel where I shared with her a Bible verse, 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” As we left the chapel, I saw a tract with a lamb on the cover. That reminded me that Rachel’s name meant “little lamb” in Hebrew. I picked up the tract. Inside its glossy pages were the words: “The Lord is my shepherd...” And He was.
The wait-game began.
Intensity and fear worked with anxiety to twist time. Elongate it. Distort it.
Had it been an hour since Ray-Ray went to surgery? Or was it a minute? I couldn’t say.
Finally, we got word: Rachel was OK, but the baby was in the neo-natal intensive care unit. (They’d named her Kenedie, which means “noble warrior.”)
As you’ve probably guessed, I’d decided to love the scrawny Spidey-girl encased in the clear, plastic cube. Never has such a tiny heart captured such a big lug.
Kenedie turns 16 today (April 17). I plan to love her as long as my heart continues to beat. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I even considered withholding my love. But sometimes welcoming a person into your life, means losing a bit of yourself. It’s a big price to pay—but it’s worth it.
Stay Close to Me
All I want today
is more strokes of your breath
against my face as you touch
my life and leave indented mark.
I need to unclench my fists
and hold you close – a broken
winged bird but intact heart.
Let me barricade the whispers
of dark night when your race
is ended as I shed damp tears
of yesterday wanting you
to beat the odds and climb
the highest mountain,
borrowing the shades of life,
straightening limp blades of grass.
When the hidden shadows sigh
a soft release, let me murmur
reluctant acceptance of loss
as soul filters into the night
streaming away from me as
you remain forever in my essence
Give me the strength to endure
the somber silence and allow you
to breathe deeply of the sea,
to be free and fill your lungs,
memories diving beneath surface
but floating above and close to me.
All I really want is to share
another day with you.
Losing What is Lost
They say I have amnesia – retrograde amnesia, to be exact. I cannot remember anything that happened to me before waking up to sunlight on my face and a boy screaming. They say he is my brother; I don’t remember.
Someone slipped up one day, a guy around my age named Elijah. He was telling me how we were friends and that I lost my memory because of an ischemic stroke. I had tried to interfere in a fight between my prom date and my ex-boyfriend, Oliver, – “Classic Alice,” Elijah had said then – and my ex had shoved me out of the way a little too hard. That was when I collapsed, though it wasn’t just from the shove. I had started speaking ‘gibberish’ before the fight broke out, but it had all happened so quickly that my friends didn’t have time to be concerned. I stumbled between the guys before the coincidental moment.
Because it wasn’t my lack of balance or inability to speak that had me brought to the hospital, it was the blood streaming down my split lip. I was lucky that Oliver had shoved me, otherwise it would have been longer before I had gotten help.
I’m lucky; I know I am. I have only been in the hospital for six days and I can already remember traces of the confusion I felt during the fight. The feeling of my feet floating in air before being grabbed back to the ground. The people dancing around me in a circle.
The thing is: that’s not all I remember. I have had brief flashes of an angular face yelling at me, grabbing my arms so that red crescent moons were left behind on pallid skin. Dark hair – my hair – flying around my arms only to be pulled behind me, yanking on my scalp.
I may not remember everything right now, but I know that I don’t want to. I think something bad happened before prom, and I’m not certain anyone else knows, except for Oliver. Because, it is his face that I see (according to the pictures brought to me), and, as desperately as my family and Elijah want me to regain my memory, I can’t bring myself to want the same. People bringing in pictures from before makes my situation worse – because it’s helping. This current guilt is nothing compared to the pain from the past.
The more my memory comes back, the more I treasure my amnesia. It doesn’t make any sense except to say that I am beginning to believe that I am too weak to handle the truth of my life. I am terrified, and I can’t remember feeling a similar emotion except for in my lost memories that are beginning to not feel so lost.
A Fleeting of Beauty
Walked across a pretty flower, thought I'd hold it in my hand
So I knelt down as to grab it, but the flower turned to sand
Tried to carve it as a castle, walls and towers, gates and moat
But the tide washed it away, I had to chase it down by boat
So I dove below the tide, to the bottom of the sea
To restore my pretty castle, try to quell its tragedy
But the castle was no more, and in its place a wooden chest
So I swam back to shore, inside I found a golden nest
Filled with golden little eggs, and so I bought a golden cage
With a golden little perch, just like a golden birdy stage
Though the eggs they never hatched, no they burst into a flame
And although there were no ashes, all the smoke I did contain
In a sky light blue balloon, but I think I'll save my string
Can't try to tie the flower down. Balloon. Flower. Same thing
A Grave Reminder
Heaven’s veil drew thin and
On the edge of Light
Death became and drew you
Visions within sight
Premonitions, proven true
Bristled past with shudders
Unknowning depths, as I held
My best friend and my lover
Upon the precipice of harm
A passing moment fled
Goosebumps rose across my
Imaging you dead
Unlocked the mystery
How close you were to taking
Your written destiny
The line; a demarcation
Heart’s keloid scar reminds
That morning’s open vision
Your death, footsteps behind
Even in my sensing
Grief had not yet come
The shock; a storm that stunning
Would strip me bare; undone
Our roots ran strong and deep
Years, we’d grown in favor
I saw yet couldn’t “see”
Or taste death’s bitter flavor
Until the day arrived
Split; before and after
Left behind; alive
Tears replaced our laughter
As days would turn to weeks
And weeks would soon make
Since last I heard you speak
Living out my fears
While our weeping willow;
Seems fitting as I think
Death, it too, would swallow
From the view; our kitchen sink
But only on the one side
Was split right down the middle
Half; with leaves, alive
Half; barren, broken, brittle
I watched over the months
As one tree became two
I cut it at the trunk
But that tree still speaks of you
It was beautiful, remember?
Its branches bringing doves
Oh, how loss made me cower
With fear I’d lose all love
Despising its reminder
As it taunted me each day
I buried life with death
I died and made my grave
But love has found a path;
It, rooted in my being
Sprouting from a tiny crack
Awakening my feelings
Standing on the edge of love
Dare I take the chance?
Plant the tree and call the doves?
Free my heart to dance?
Our willow comes to mind
As I ponder all I’ve lost
What value, though, is true love
If it doesn’t have a cost?
Someone to Lose
If she'll be staying
What's going to happen
Scrambling for more time
What if you never see him again?
Your mind races
With questions and doubts.
Why do you grasp in the air
For answers you know aren't there?
What will happen tomorrow?
Will there be terrible news?
She's not coming back
He's left and gone
Shaking in my shoes
Is this what it feels like
To have someone
You're so small. You're screaming, creating quite the ruckus for something so tiny and pink, and I'm exhausted and everything hurts but your little lungs are working the hardest they've ever worked in your life—
Your life. You're alive, you're screaming, and by God you're the most beautiful thing these hands have ever held. From the moment they put you in my arms, I was lost to you.
Oh, forgive me, my little lamb, if I laugh through your tears. I love you, you know. You don't understand any of these nonsensical noises I keep murmuring into the downy hair of your precious head, but I hope you know that I love you, I hope that the heartbeat in my chest is enough of a message for your tiny ears.
You’re so upset for such a little thing, and I know it’s because, right now, this is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. You don't know of the awful things happening just outside—hush, now, don't fuss sweetpea. It’s alright, you’re alright. Just rest with me.
Here. Now. Forever.
I can't even picture what your lovely little life has in store for you. I can't imagine you ever leaving my arms, you're so small and so good and it would be the greatest sin imaginable to ever let something so wonderful go.
Right now, there are no years ahead of us. There are no moments other than this one. Here we are, and here we will be. Just you and me. I love you I love you I love you and even if there were days beyond today I wouldn’t stop saying that because it wouldn’t ever stop being true.
Oh, my lamb, your eyes… you don't know what to look at yet, you didn't know what ‘looking’ even was until a few seconds ago. But there they are, those little diamonds peeking up at me from your beautiful little face.
Hi there, little one. I’m so happy to meet you.
Tragedy and Triumph
Will you ever know my victories and defeats?
The people you once defended sleep with no care. They don’t remember you, but mother does. Nights are long, as she tosses and turns in loneliness. She fights to keep the tenderest memories from hurting her the most.
They say you upheld loyalty, where was that loyalty to her?
They say you would never abandon anyone. Why did you abandon us?
They say you lived by duty. Why did you exclude familial duty and us?
So, you won the highest honor, but let me tell you, a piece of metal is a cold, hard bargain for one warm and gentle hug.
If you were the defender, then why are your own defenseless?
Here I am, needing your advice and fabled wisdom. I can only scan through the limited memories I have of you. A pair of unworn combat boots reminds me of the battlefield called life without you.
There is that trace of a lingering scent though. It gets triggered when I see the lofty pines standing so proud. Your encouraging words had to be logged short. They froze midway like my unwiped tears, and I learn to fend for myself. I try hard to recall your voice. I call out to you from the top of my lungs. All I hear is the whispering of leaves in response to the roaring wind.
Some say you were inspirational, and my morale could really use a boost. Where have I not searched for you? I delved deep within the recesses of my mind for you, scoured every nook and cranny. But Dad, you left too early to leave behind a retrievable cache of memories.
Who would have thought? The one who took you away from me instilled the very values you upheld. It says I am that part of you that never quits. I’ll try be that loyal team player, and not just think of our family without you. I’ll toughen up, and one day I will surely realize you had to do what you did to protect freedoms of people who will never know you. I will remain disciplined, while they continue to take freedom for granted. I promise I will honor and guard it like you did. Rest assured, I will learn to respect our sacrifice despite their ignorance.
I am the daughter of the valiant American soldier, and I have looked long and hard for you. Finally, I found you and your voice in the Soldier’s Creed. This time I will not let you go.
The Romantic Conversations of Alice and the Hatter
“I’m quite mad, you know.”
The Hatter stared into the blue eyes of a young woman. He and Alice had met many years prior, when she was just a girl. Now those eyes, still the same large Christmas ornaments they had been all those moons ago, had replaced fright with affection.
“I know,” said Alice. “I’ve known all along.”
“And I’m quite a bit older than you.”
“Why, yes. Of course I’ve thought of that. But you see, you’re stuck in time. One day, I’ll catch up to you.”
“I’ll grow older than you. My hair will turn white, my skin will sag. The youthful girl before you will be no more.”
“But my eyes? My eyes will always belong to you.”
The Hatter pushed Alice’s hair behind her ear, still golden and full of life. He remembered first meeting her, once in a dream. He had loved her in a different light then. But as her mind filled with wisdom, her heart with passion, and her body with womanhood, the fatherly love quietly, subtly morphed into something else.
He kissed her gently. First, on her head, smelling the fragrant tiger lilies she used to wash her hair. Then, harder, on her bow-shaped lips. He lingered a moment, feeling the coolness of her mouth, letting it spread like a cold cloth on a fever.
“Or perhaps Time will pity a hatter. Pity him something fierce and stop for you, too.”
“Perhaps he will. Until then, you can teach me to grow.”
Alice looked at the man before her. She couldn’t remember a time her heart had been so full. All around, colors swarmed with pastel exhilaration. The blue sky was a painting of Easter morning. Butterflies looked like they had been dipped in paints by clumsy children. The trees and the grass and the flowers danced to the music of her jiving soul. She was deeply, madly, in love.
The romantic relationship of Alice and the Hatter was one best enjoyed in secret. The folks of Wonderland had a real knack for outlandish gossip, so distorted from one person to the next that fact became fiction, and fiction became nothing more than a children’s fairy tale. So the two lovers often stowed away in a rolling field for picnics and love-making. They met so frequently that the field became “their” field, a place known to most but meaningful only to those who used it for magic.
In this field, during timeless hours, they shared their deepest wants and desires. The Hatter longed for a pardon from the Queen. He wished for a home on the outskirts of the kingdom, one to grow old with Alice. And he wished for the ability to grow old. After all, eternity seemed like a very long time.
Alice, not wanting to sound naive, listed off hopes and dreams from a life long ago. She told the Hatter she one day wished to be a teacher of children. “Math and Science and all that.” And she’d like a pet of some sort, but “definitely not a hare or a cat.” Although these things were once her truths, in the depths of all that made up the woman she had become, Alice’s only unvarnished desire was a forever with her Hatter.
But on this particular day, at this particular picnic, during this very particular time of year, Alice felt bare. You see, if time were counted, it would have been one year since the Hatter had first confessed he fancied her and Alice had returned the sentiment. It sparked a fire in Alice so robust and searing that she wished to unzip herself right down the middle and expose any secrets that lingered. So she decided to do just that.
“Hatter, my dearest?” Said Alice, absentmindedly plucking blades of fresh grass from the earth.
“Yes, my love?”
“I’d like it if we married one day. I’d like it very much.”
The Hatter had been in the middle of pouring a rather large glass of peach wine. Alice’s words jumbled his brain a great deal. So much so, in fact, that it did not communicate with his hand quickly enough, and the sweet liquid spilled over the goblet.
After coming to know Alice, the Hatter had never imagined a life without her. Never wanted one. He’d become accustomed to her presence and enjoyed it so that he found himself longing, aching, when she was absent. He’d seen himself with her as the man he was in current time, and the man he would be in all other timelines he might happen across. But the problem with being a man stuck in time is that thinking in finites makes infinity drag on forever. And marriage seemed the most finite of all.
His silence worried Alice, making her question his heart.
“Don’t you love me, Hat? Don’t you love me with all that you are, the way I do you?”
The Hatter felt immediate guilt for his quiet reaction, but he had spent so much of his life speaking before thinking and really, truly, having no idea what he was talking about. He didn’t want that reckless dithering in the words he shared with Alice.
When he did finally speak, his words were gentle. He picked up Alice’s hand as one does an antique ceramic figure, delicate and priceless.
“My sweet Alice,” said the Hatter. “You are my greatest joy, my only love. Life before you was riddles with no answers. I’d known nothing of the heart’s senses before feeling the metronome of your name. Al-ice. Al-ice.” The Hatter demonstrated the thrumming on his chest with his fist.
“I know there is a but coming…” said Alice.
“But I am a man without time. We speak of what ifs, but what of the right nows? There is no cure for forever, not unless Time says so. And if Time were to take away the gift he has bestowed, the right nows and the what ifs would be nothings because the Queen would have my head.”
Alice considered this. “Oh darling, for a man of such wisdom, you are often but a fool. Without time, there are no what ifs. Right now is all there will ever be because you will only exist in your present state. People change, but you needn’t have such worries. You will always be who you are, right here, right now, in this field.”
“Yes, but you will change. And what if your heart changes, too?”
“There is no room in my story for an ending without you. Which leads me to something I need to share with you.”
The Hatter sat at attention, a soldier ready for his lieutenant to finish providing crucial instructions. He leaned forward, urging her on.
“About a year ago, I went to see Time. I asked him for a favor.”
“Alice! You didn’t!”
“Is it not something you want?”
“Of course it is. I’ve already said it is so. But it is not a decision I wanted you to make until you were of an age and time when you were ready. You’ve still got so much living to do.”
“I agree. Which is why I’ve asked Time to stop me only when I intersect at your freezing point. I figure that’ll be all the time I need.”
The Hatter chuckled. “Are you calling me old, my dear?”
Alice returned his laughter. “Timeless. The term I was looking for is timeless.”
“Then what was all this business about you growing older than your Hatter?”
“This place has taught me to never show my cards before the hand is dealt.”
The Hatter looked into young Alice’s eyes, and he knew they were the eyes of his wife. Suddenly, the cruelty of eternity seemed softer, exciting even. There was finally something to look forward to. He gazed at their surroundings, nothing out of place, not even them. They were a part of the scenery, something beautiful to be seen and talked about, even painted.
“And what would you do if we were trapped in this field? Just the two of us, forever?”
Alice pondered a moment.
“Well, I reckon I’d eat dandelions. I’d eat dandelions for the rest of my life.”