Paper Innards

I relish written words. They are the soapbox for introverts like myself. My parents encouraged my siblings and I to read, starting early on with bedtime stories every night for our eager ears. When I was in grade school I spent an hour or more in the bathtub each evening reading books from the library, often irritating the rest of my family by occupying the shared bathroom for far too long. Summers were spent playing with friends all over my meager hometown, but like clockwork you could count on me spending time alone for long stretches, finishing at least a book or two a week. I never committed to a journal for longer than a few days at a time, but I always made time to write when inspiration or emotion beckoned me to blank pages. When puberty, and subsequently depression, crept into the awkward years of high school I would use dark imagery to write songs, poems, and prose. I longed for the gravity I carried to bleed out onto the pages and leave me be.

Mom, with the intention of protecting and monitoring, would snoop through our rooms. I knew this and would in turn snoop through her room, finding my folded notes and most personal musings tucked in dresser drawers amidst t-shirts and undergarments and her own private talismans. With each re-discovery of my own writings I would steal them away again, hiding them in a better corner of my bedroom. I grew more furious and resentful after every repetition of this absurd treasure hunt.

Then her and I would play a game of “I know that you know that I know”. Occasionally she’d approach me with a telling brow, demanding me to stay out of her room. But she never would explain further, as in, she knew I was in her room because my secrets were missing from her drawers. She didn’t want to admit snooping, so I played dumb and said “Sure, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It was our version of a standoff.

As I’ve gotten older I have learned how to get more comfortable with sharing my voice, but it has taken years of practice and humility and borrowed courage. Mom knows I write this blog but she has never read any of my posts. Once I read to her a piece I am particularly fond of, but she had no idea it was about her. Actually, I don’t think she was actively listening. Her mind had clearly wandered as I narrated. The blank look and lack of verbal response when I was done was all the confirmation I needed.

My heart tells me that if she were of sound mind she would be proud of my pursuit of creativity, the pursuit of my own self.

Toward the end of last year I submitted about twenty poems to a small publishing company’s annual public writing contest. Although I wasn’t selected for publication it dawned on me recently that this blog is an alternative platform to share my work. The poetry need not be shelved just yet.

Mom may no longer be able to appreciate my creative writing efforts, but I can still dedicate them to her. Mom, as much as these are for me, they are for you. My pain and my joy, I owe you gratitude for each as they have brought me closer to who I am and strive to be.

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The following are inspired by or related to my experiences and observations as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s.

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The Disenchantment of Hindight

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There were clues

you had left for me to find

burnt breadcrumbs whose stench

only now I can detect.

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I have picked up each piece

tasting one by one as I go

filling my mouth

with their vulgarity.

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Ignorance wrapped itself

around my eyes

transparent, and also blinding

a human absurdity.

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Now I cannot help

but to step on crumbs

in every direction

with every lift and drop of feet.

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Close eyes, move forward

crunch.

Ignorance cannot be reapplied

even under duress.

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So I sweep

and pile

and push away

each bit that you leave for me

knowing nine hundred more

will appear with the shedding of new blinks.

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Crime and Punishment

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I threw your shoes away.

The ones you shuffled through

the kitchen in.

Each step marked by stowaway dog feces

from the backyard.

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Then there were the leather sandals

four years past their prime. 

They too had feces caked

on the soles, 

packed into crevices of tread.

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You picked them up 

with intention to run them under

the tepid water of our garden hose.

Only, you picked them up

from the bottom side

sandwiching the thick, brown paste

between sole and bare palm, fingers too.

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I tossed out the sandals. 

Hid them under 

browning lemons, lint and wet newspaper

so as not to be discovered

by curious hands.

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Today I am your fool three times over.

Pulling up in the drive way

I arrive in time for your grand entrance

from screen door to porch.

I see it before I smell it.

Your smile a sign that you

don’t notice the dog shit 

smashed into the steps and welcome mat.

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I try very little to hold in

the tears and the wails

before they fill the front yard.

I give no thought to what neighbors

can witness through a slit of blinds.

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I could swear you have plotted your defilement 

but I know better.

I’d say we’ll laugh about this in years to come

but I know better.

I don’t want to forgive you,

but I know better

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Dysmorphia

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Your mouth

emits hushed words

mimics passing sound

spills shrieks of adulation.

It takes the shape

of a trembling heartbeat

when crying is imminent.

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Your eyes

seem brighter somehow

even as you are lost in them.

The pupils, negligible

the look of someone high

reaching outer space with no spacesuit

and without realization that it is so.

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Your spine

a knotty branch

curved to the right,

a conniving walking stick.

Closer to the earth it persuades

all the while

grinning with its vertebrae teeth.

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