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If I could tell you anything

If I could tell you anything, right now, it would be how far I've come. How I never anticipated the road might bring me here, where I am today - waking in the early morning to the sound of the train shuffling commuters into and out of the tunnel. Still, it is where I find myself.

If I could tell you anything, it is that I still miss you like a back tooth - there is a hole inside of me that others can't see, but I've never stopped tonguing it. I think of you every day. I wonder if I will ever find the ease of understanding with another that I once felt with you. I wonder if it happens, if I will stop feeling your presence when I wake in the morning, eyes still closed, listening to the soundtrack of a city you have never seen.

You would hate this place. It lacks wide vision, and the backdrop of mountains you grew up against... You would have struggled to find the music in this breakbeat, this tabla symphony, the slap slap of constant footfalls in the darkness would have plagued you with distraction. No one here sleeps with the windows closed, though - and you'd have liked this. It lets the heat out, and the dreams in - even if no one here ever realizes them - and I find poetry in this.

I am wasting the morning dreaming in bed - refusing to open my eyes and admit that reality is something different. Once the twilight is broken, the fog burns off, and I can no longer pretend that you have been anything but gone - for years, now - and, no matter how often I explain away the lack, it remains… this tender, aching space I can't stop probing the depths of.

I wonder if I will ever stop noticing your absence - if this hole you left behind you will ever scar over.


If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you that sometimes I have a hard time sleeping. I lie awake in my bed in my little tree house, and I imagine worlds in which everything is different.

If I could tell you anything, I would tell you there is a mouse in my house. I have heard him a few times now, late at night, when I cannot sleep, running his late-night errands behind the kitchen cabinets. I imagine his scurry, his hustle. How his nose twitches when he stops to wonder if I am awake (of course I'm awake, mouse. I am always awake...). I imagine him stuffing his chubby cheeks with the cashews I missed when the bag tore open too suddenly, with the grains of rice which tumbled into the crack between the stove and cupboard, with the leftover crumbs of community bread (that bread is lovely, isn't it, mouse? You can taste the love which was baked into it.) I wonder how long this mouse has lived here - whether he thinks of this room as his home - myself, just a lumbering intruder. A noisy neighbor, constantly clanging the pots and pans while he tosses and turns in his warm little nest beneath the oven. Maybe he paces the time by his outbreaths, counts the quickly ticking beats of his metronome heart, tallies the moments left til the workday begins in tiny clawmarks against his baseboard walls. I wonder if he sighs to himself when thinking about the day ahead, or if he still smiles a mousy smile, whiskers twitching in anticipation, eager to meet adventure.

If I could tell you anything, I would tell you that, despite what you imagine, this is where the darkness finds me - lying in bed, eyes wide open, listening hard for the toll of the church bells - wondering what mice do, when they have trouble sleeping.


If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you how I heard a song the other day, which I had forgotten about. It's one I used to enjoy very much, but haven't heard in a very long time... I tried for a while to learn to sing it, but could never get it out right. Today, it was stuck in my head.

If I could tell you anything, I'd tell you I'm feeling a little under the weather. It's raining outside again, and my energy is low. I moved through the day in slow motion - always trailing just a bit behind. It's my hardest kind of day, so I was glad when class let out early. I came home to rest. I wanted to feel warm, so I turned the shower to the hottest gush and let the little bathroom fill with steam. It wasn't quite as thick as the banya, but it was the closest I could make it. I used the low lights, which are more relaxing. As I stood under the faucet, I realized I was still humming this song...

If I could tell you anything, I would tell you how I had a deaf teacher, who told me that he used to stand in the shower and scream, so he could feel the vibrational fountain of his voice splashing back at him. I'd tell you how I remember doing similar things, before my hearing happened - but never in quite that way. I would tell you how, remembering these things all at once, I stood with my nose pressed to the tile, still slightly cold, and kept humming this song. Then I started singing. My voice was full and strong because there was no one around to hear it. I imagined you in the other room - maybe you would be lost in a book or in a huge set of headphones or in your own thoughts, your eyes distant - or, maybe you would be listening. I think that you would like this song, but I'm not entirely sure... Maybe you do, though. Maybe you do like this song, and I could sing it for you, one night, when we are being just a little bit silly. Maybe you could stand behind me, here, in this shower, with your forehead leaned into the chilly intersection of these two tile walls, just above my head - your eyes closed, and listening deeply. Maybe this is too weird - that these are the things I think of, when I am alone, and left to my own devices. That this is what I imagine in the intersection of a long day, and a strangely personal story, and an old song, which I have just begun to hear in a new way...

But if I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you this -

Sometimes, it's just the wondrous way it all connects which keeps me going.

And, also - I can't help wondering if you would hear what I hear.


If I could tell you anything tonight, I would first have to tell you that it is (technically) no longer night. I slipped through the front door just as the sun peeked over the horizon. This night was lovely, and I am sorry to admit the ending, though I am glad I am awake to see it through.

Tonight was the last night of NPS 2013. I spent the day alone, and made my way to the final bout of poetry on my own, but found companions in the long queue by the door. I always appreciate it when awkward social moments (like standing in line) create the opportunity for conversation and connection. This was one of those.

I didn't sit with my teammates - at first, I was upset, but I think I actually preferred it that way. The seat I chose at random ended up being in direct view of the man I had noticed earlier in the week, and hoped to connect with. I couldn't see his eyes from that distance, but I already know their color. He has the same twitch and shift as I do - it makes me feel comfortable, though I don't really know him.

If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you I like his hands. I spent almost as much time watching them as I did the hands of the woman onstage, interpreting. I wish that you could have seen her - she's an artist. Her hands tell the story, not just the words. She is as much a poet as anyone else who steps onto that stage - it was amazing. Her movements are so graceful.

If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you that halfway through the show, the men seated on either side of me left. These were the only empty seats in the crowded theatre, and I was alone. I imagined you, for just one moment, sitting to this side of me - then the other. I wondered whether or not you might share my love of words, or if you are more the type who would good-naturedly pretend to share that adoration, because you love me.

If I could tell you anything, I would tell you that, as I sat alone, I realized it has been almost a year, now, since the last time I held hands with anyone in a dark theatre. I don't know if that's healthy.

Still, in a setting like this, where so many people are shy or awkward or even just a little terrified of people, I try to remind myself how lucky I am. Sometimes I still feel the empty, but for the most part, I am finding comfort in my own company. When my thoughts turn in melancholy directions, I remember that old whisper in my ear - reminding me to get moving; to burn all the extra extra pulsing in my body - so tonight, I went to the place where people were dancing, and did that. I had two strong drinks - danced myself, hard - then ducked out the door when the bartender flashed the lights for last call. Everything in Cambridge closes early - even on a Saturday night. (I guess some things never change!)

I walked back to the host hotel alone, but didn't stay that way. The last night of a gathering, everyone gets bolder. Conversation is easy when everyone is a little drunker than they should be, and giddy from lack of sleep. I picked a bench seat, which became a musical-chairs marathon of excellent conversations. Just like I like it.

If I could tell you anything, I would tell you that I let a nice boy walk me home. We shared stories and an apple I picked from an overhanging tree. We had a long and leisurely conversation about the importance of asking for the things you really want - how a let down is better than the endless wondering. I steeled myself for the inevitable question... but instead, he asked if I would let him touch my hair. I said yes. We stood toe to toe on the street, quietly, and he buried his hands in my hair for one slow-motion moment. It was pleasantly unexpected. At the corner, he kissed my cheek - twice, like we used to do for good luck - and I skipped off.

I could also tell you how out on the main street, all alone, my fast boots overlapped a trio of drunken frat boys, on their long stumble home. One of them called out to me, and I felt shiny, so I asked him how his night had been. His face crumbled - he said it had been a terrible night. If I could tell you anything, I would tell you how easily his bravado slipped. For just one moment, he was a child with a quivering lip, on the verge of tears. His sincerity moved me... I have had that night before - that same slip of the truth, that same quivering lip. I dived toward him, saying I had just the thing to make his night lighter - leaned in, and wound his neck with the balloon snake Joy made for me earlier this evening. It looked just like the cartoon snake from the Jungle Book. It made him laugh, and while he laughed, I dancewalked away.

My boots are so fast, I was easily half a block gone before he recovered. He catcalled Beautiful pixie! Magic boots! Where did you come from? Where are you going? You are like a fairy angel, and I am too drunk to Chase you! Come back!

It echoed empty on the streets, along with the laughter of his friends. When I reached the corner, I turned and blew him a kiss, then whistled my way home.

Nights like these, I remember all the music...
I wonder if you do?


If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you this -

Tonight, I chased the sunset home.

Flying west in an airplane, at the perfect time of day, through a clear sky - I had a private view of the sun's descent, which lasted for hours. I watched the colors bleed shifting rainbows across a horizon which constantly eluded (but did not escape) me. This dance matched the dance of thoughts in my skull - of feelings in my heart. This week left me pensive - my insides a soft, roiling simmer, though my words are a sieve.

What I mean to say is still a thin liquid - it has not yet caramelized.

I know that, somewhere, there is a dripping geometric honeycomb of perfect sweetness waiting to gush golden from my pen, but I have not yet found the angle of approach which circumvents the sting. Til then, the closest that I can come to how I feel about this experience, is this excerpt I just read from Mindy Netifee's "Glitter in the Blood" (which may be the best airplane book, ever.) These words jumped off of the page, and into my brain, as if they already knew they had friends there, waiting to take them out on the town, for a night of enthusiastic toasting.

If I could tell you anything, I'd tell you that these words made me think of you.

This whole world is intricately connected. We walk around in private bubbles of isolated, individual experience and thought and emotion, believing we are disconnected from it all. Believing, perhaps, that we are alone in this world and totally insignificant. But we are connected to everyone and everything - through the air we breathe, through the tools we use daily that, whether we comprehend it or not, were built by hand, by someone else's hands, in a factory far far away.

We face profound challenges in this world, and in our lives. We often feel overwhelmed by them, paralyzed by ignorance or learned helplessness or by a very real inefficacy created by the systems of power that invisibly surround us and tame us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to think I can make adifference? That I can improve in any way this huge clusterfuck mess in any real, lasting way?"

I want to suggest to you, right now, that you are dead wrong. If you wanted it, if you applied yourself every day, no checking out, no giving up, to solving a problem, to change something you see NOT working in this world- improving a glitch in its design, a horrifying injustice, an ugliness in people that should never have been nurtured to its full potential as hatred and violence in this first place - you CAN. I want to suggest that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved by a comprehensive, conscientious, crowd-sourced-and-edited, gut-checked and 're-gut-checked and re-edited application of creativity and innovation; there is nothing that cannot be fixed with better design.

Innovation itself causes brand new problems to be solved. The only constant in this world is change. But we can embrace that paradox like the starving, sharp clawed, attacking cuddly panda bear that it is. We can face this constant change and imbalance and conflict with total fearlessness, and get to Work. We can reshape all the negative patterns. We can put a full stop to our self-fulfilling prophecies of shame and despair. We can repattern. We can reprophecize.

Everything counts! Everyone counts! Poets count. As professional engines of inspiration, remythologizers and cultural weavers, emotional spectrum decoders and healers; as inventors and designers of language, and masters of those tools that deftly tackle the problem of communicating about what words alone fail to adequately address - symbol and metaphor- we will not just be an integral part of this radical revolution in the design of the world. We might just be its leaders.

Let's speed it up. With our vast powers of understanding, translation, articulation and compassion. With our stories of survival and thriving against all odds. With our love. Our LOVE. LOVE. Let's go love ourselves, and love each other, and love this crazy world. Brave, fearless, radiant love.

If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you about the splinter in my hand.

If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you about the splinter in my hand. It's buried in the uncomfortable delta between two fingers - the exact same place as yours was, once, when we were having coffee. We were sitting at a diner, chatting, waiting for breakfast. You held your hand over the table, palm up, showing me the sliver embedded in translucent skin. I asked if you wanted help removing it, but you said it would only scar - that it was too deep. I attempted to offer reassurance, saying

I find that the ones I leave in eventually work themselves to the surface, and fall out.

You told me that you experience the opposite - that your splinters work themselves inwards, absorbing into your tissue, becoming a part of you.

I am remembering this now, as I stare at my palm. What I did not say, at the time, was that this is the way I feel about people. The ones I love, they stick under my skin, even long after they have gone. They burrow their way into my bloodstream, embed themselves in my bones, melt into my marrow, until I can no longer separate them from myself.

If I could tell you anything, I would say what I should have said, then.

It doesn't need to be this way - we needn't resign ourselves to scars, or splinters. It could all be different.

But the time for that has passed.

This time, I do not wait for the shard of wood to work its way to my surface. I work it out with my own fingernails - digging, determined. It only bleeds a little, and tomorrow, it will be gone entirely. Nothing but memory.


If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you how lovely this morning is. The sky is a damp sheet, waiting to wring itself out, but the clouds are still holding on, for some reason. I slept with the windows open, because it is already starting to grow chilly at night, and I want to hold the last mouthful of heat under my tongue, let it dissolve slowly. I can feel the weather shifting in my bones, but I don't want to admit it's over yet. I want to invite the summer into my bed, tangle it in the folds of my lonely sheets, and hold it close.

I am dreading the winter. I have been too long in the desert - a lizard sunning myself on sandstone, lulled to sleep by the warm scents of sage and mesquite. Here, even the aspen trees tremble when autumn approaches - they throw their arms up and release their leaves - they let go of everything. They retreat. I am still trying to gather my moments of golden, hold them cupped between two hands, hoping their glow will ignite the light in my eyes... I am so weary these days, and the winters are hard.

If I could tell you anything right now, it's that I woke this morning to the sound of a silent street, broken only by the song of one very insistent bird. This bird was born in a nest outside of my window just this spring - he has been taking longer and longer flights, and I'm sure that soon he will be headed somewhere warmer - his songs grow resolute as the weather cools. This reminds me that everything in life is fleeting, and this morning I can't help feeling that I am squandering precious days with things that do not make my heart sing... Still, I am reminding myself to be grateful. I am reminding myself that even loneliness might be embraced. I am reminding myself that this season is just one of many seasons; all seasons are fleeting, and all serve their own purpose. I am reminding myself that this is also true for me - though I am still wondering how best to serve my purpose.

The sky is finally breaking its silence. I am cocooned in down blankets and the soft remnants of dreams, trying to fold the sleep back into my eyes. The chattering of raindrops is comforting. This day feels like a day which should be pulled close, wrapped quiet and soothing about one's shoulders. If I could tell you anything right now, it would be that these last few years, I have come to understand the solace of solitude. This morning, in my little treetop house which cozies up to the clouds, I am listening closely to a roof full of raindrops. I am deciphering their reticence. I am learning to be content.


If I could tell you anything right now, it would be how I learned, recently, that rainbows are not bows or arches that spring from the ground. They do not have an end. They are actually circles- discs or rings of refracted light, floating in outer space. We lose half of their view to the curve of the horizon - our perspective is so limited. If I could tell you anything, I would tell you that when I heard this, the picture that appeared in my mind's eye was of the earth from space, covered in little facets of rainbow, each like a mirror on the surface of some giant glittering cosmic disco ball. I then remembered the double rainbow we saw (that one time, at Birmingham)... I'm not sure what a double rainbow might look like from space. Maybe they are iridescent fish scales, slabs of mist and light laid in overlapping layers. Maybe they are concentric circles of condensation and hue, splashing out from the impact of some atmospheric raindrop, spreading in ever widening ripples, outward...

I think it's both beautiful and tragic, to be a sight infused with such magic - recognizable to all, yet never seen in entirety. Understood by so few.


If I could tell you anything right now, I would tell you that when I ordered an almond chai this morning at the coffee shop, it came beautifully etched with a cinnamon branch, decked out with delicate brown leaves. I pointed it out to my companion. We agreed that a series of images showing all the beautiful coffee top paintings in the world would be the perfect decoration for a cafe's walls. As we chatted, I drank slowly, trying to preserve the shape as long as possible. Drinking the silhouettes slowly. As I did the image morphed into a heart. That heart refused to dissolve - it was the last mouthful I drank from my glass... A mouthful of love.

When you find out

that the pain is real, you will not tell anyone. You will be more happy that you are not crazy than you are scared that you are going to die - at least at first. Later, you will think it little consolation. You will move through the waiting room as if it were a bowl of clear jello - your head thick and empty of all thoughts. In the parking lot, the sun will still be shining. Everything is shining. Part of you will consider crying on a park bench, but instead you will climb into the borrowed car, drive home, walk to the grocery store, and continue living, as if nothing is different. You will wait, until hours later, when you are alone. 

You will not want to be rude - you will clear your schedule carefully, send others messages wishing them a lovely day, subvert their minor disappointment by making other arrangements.You will lie in bed, feverish, while pretending not to think about your tumor. You will give up trying not to think about it - and instead, you will face it directly. You will name your tumor Herman, because it sounds nice combined with the last name of your diagnosis -you, curled in the fetal position, Herman, curled in peaceful repose against your spinal column - little spoon of your vertebrae.

You will tiptoe carefully around his sleeping presence, wondering if he has family - wondering whether he wakes angrily. You'll wonder if Herman understands the word parent - if he has any concept of duty. You'll try not to think of the irony of paying your life insurance dutifully for years, only to let the policy lapse - just before diagnosis.

You will run through an endless list of names, seeking the one who might raise your child well in your memory, not resenting it, finally settling on a man you haven't spoken to in years.

A perfect stranger sends a message, asking if you are okay. You consider telling him, because you need to tell someone, but the thought of this will ruin your composure. Your mind will race gazelle-like, through scenarios. You will feel guilty for your own weakness. You will picture your spine as a zipper, dividing you bodily between not wanting to burden others, and not wanting to be burdened by their concern, their pity. You will have a desperate desire to call a man who loved you, once upon a time. You will want to undo every moment you dug your heels into the ground of things which do not really matter. You will pick up the phone - dial half of the number you still remember. You will imagine yourself saying the words "I have cancer. I am scared." But what if he resents it?  And why shouldn't he? Everyone dies. Why should anyone share your pain? It's an invitation to a room with too little oxygen.

Instead, you will take to bed for 24 hours. You will make a cup of echinacea tea, while wishing you still liked liquor. You will try not to think of the time you've devoted to yoga, to going to bed early, to elliptical machines, flossing, or standing in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, debating which was better - the organic eggs in the plastic container, or the local eggs in the recyclable carton - as wasted. You will remember that the doctor was less brisk today - that he went out of his way to remind you how healthy you are while he listened to your breath, instead of asking if you'd been using your inhaler. How he went out of his way to remind you that you were born in the year he graduated high school - that you are so young. You will try not to remember how he asked you if there is a man in your life, someone who might be there to set an example for your son, or how he averted his eyes and let the quiet fill the room when you answered him. You'll lay in bed, wondering if his kindness should be a direct barometer for the severity of your concern.  You will be as conscious as an unsheathed blade. You will recognize the immediate. You will go out into the yard, to touch the daffodils blooming at the edge of the lawn, but you will not clip them and place them in the kitchen vase - not yet. You will want to lay in the grass in the front yard, because it's the softest, but you will remember how the neighbors talk - you will be intimidated, still, by the thought of their gossip. You will start reading the book Jitterbug Perfume, because everyone you've ever met who reads has told you that you should, and you can no longer remember how long it's sat on your shelf, unacknowledged. You will pore over its pages as if it holds all the gems of the universe - every page precious, every word solid gold. You will wonder what Herman reads, but then decide he's more the physical type. You will laugh at your own wit. You will wonder at the compassion of the cosmic editor who wrote "stay out of martyrdom" in your horoscope - on today, of all days.