Tag Archives: love

Relational Definition

The idea of relational definitions has comforted me for years, ever since I came across it in my literary structures class in college.

There’s something beautiful in being able to define something by everything it isn’t – dark would be less meaningful without light. Comparison as a tool for understanding, for communicating, for building! That is when language is most open to me. It allows me to restructure the world, organizing it in my head by the comparable textures of each moment.

I’ve never appreciated that as much as I do now.

I can only explain how happy I am by comparing myself to the girl I used to be. Then and only then do I see my development, the remarkable little miracles that led me exactly where I am and who I love. It’s so odd to me, the thought that I used to be insurmountably lonely – that I thought there was an incurable darkness inside me that made me unworthy of care and affection.

After I met my boyfriend, I wrote a few pieces about him (and about me, about the type of woman I saw myself becoming with him). I gave him two of those poems for his birthday yesterday. The third poem is a little more selfish. When we started talking, I was terrified of the idea that he could make me happy. I was scared I couldn’t sustain happiness, that my hands would break every beautiful thing that passed between them. Here’s that piece.

Disordered

What if my heart is like
my stomach?

don’t laugh

what if both shrink when I
starve for affection? What if the walls
have caved in, what if acid has swallowed the floor
and settled in every chamber, what if
the valves roar in protest when I pass
couples on the street,
what if I can’t remember the last time
I was full?

It took three months
to train my body to receive anything stronger
than eye contact – to relearn how it feels
to taste something so vulnerable and soft
without vomiting.

 

So I wrote the above about being afraid and ill-equipped and only now, with comparison and reflection, can I understand just how lucky I am to have Joey.

Happy birthday, bee. ❤

joey and mee

 

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The Woods

the hands are mine – small and pale,
hungry. it is as if a seed has dropped into my
palms, stretching inward

seeking nutrients from a body I have never
understood. it is as if someone
has planted the last tree here,
inside me
and it’s urgent and important and
sometimes my anxiety peels back the
bark protecting my chest until
I can’t breathe
teetering against roots without
an anchor, always a jump away
from felling the forest —

then
he smiles at me

and I can feel the leaves press against my skin
from the inside, I open my mouth
and taste fresh air;
hand over hand, I climb out of myself.
I find the sun.

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They Could’ve Been Dancing

I truly believe you’re either born a poet or forged into one – but I can’t decide where that leaves me.

I’ve been a poet longer than almost anything else – my love for poetry just barely predates my trauma and the subsequent illnesses it wrought. Poetry was my coping mechanism long before I understood what I had survived. Words just make sense in a way that numbers and figures never quite managed.

April is National Poetry Month, intended to expose the nation to the beauty and calamity of words. Poetry is where I began. My first poem was published in Highlights magazine before I was old enough to type. It was about the wind. There was an owl. That’s all I remember. But I dictated the poem to my mother and I was so proud when she printed it out. Proud, but nervous. Once it was sent to the magazine, it wasn’t my poem anymore. But we have the print in my closet, locked away under other little memories deemed soft enough to treasure.

And so I was a poet.

I won an award at Tattered Covers. It was expected that the winners would read their work aloud but I couldn’t, not in the slightest, so I trembled behind my mother instead. She read about the wind and I shook, face red, my words so separate from myself that I could barely stand to hear them. Then the crowd applauded! And suddenly the fear and dread melted into something different, something I have struggled to define in the years since.

It was like being heard for the first time.

I hope I smiled then, but it’d be true to form if I had cried instead.

 

 

They Could’ve Been Dancing

we’re packed into a storage house
past its prime, plastered with graffiti and
band stickers and my friend’s glitter
bombs from five shows ago that never
washed away

I don’t know any of the songs but
that boy has my heart in one hand
and my hand in the other and
I’m shouting beneath my skin, eyes open,
watching the men grab each other
and sway

it’s beautiful
tangentially speaking
as if music, like weeds, grew
around a structure and said

“yes, here,
this will be enough.”

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Adoration

I’m trying to put into words this magnificent, strange chunk of time in which I’ve found myself.

Did your parents ever ask for a list of what you wanted for a holiday? And you thought of everything, every toy and ad and commercial, slowly eliminating anything that was too much (rude to ask, sours the holiday) or illogical (impossible to find, can’t be wrapped)? But there are a few items lingering beneath your tongue even after you turn in your list.

Christmas morning breaks. There is snow outside and no one’s fighting, it’s warm inside, Dad fixed the fireplace before Santa got there last night and! There are reindeer prints outside that you barely notice because Mom’s guiding you to the tree. Red flannel pajamas brush against your skin and you can’t articulate the magic that’s happening here, in your sweet little living room, hardwood floors gleaming.

You watch your siblings open their gifts. The joy is almost palpable. Your child tongue is afraid to explain how good this is, so you try to take everything in: your father’s morning stubble scratches your cheek, wrapping paper covers the ground like a patchwork rug, your brother sneaks another cookie and icing coats his fingers. This is the closest you’ve ever come to having God in your house but you don’t even mind.

Finally! There’s one more present under the tree. Pastel lights wink between branches, against your parents’ teeth, in your brother’s eyes. You don’t even want to breathe too fast, you might suck it all in. So you bend, slowly, fingers pressed to cool cardboard as everyone watches. Your nickname is on the tag and you can’t help but grin. It’s really for you.

Hungry hands tear the wrapping paper into careful strips, gentle, a quiet anticipation building in the pit of your stomach. When the box is bare, you almost stop – unveiling this last present marks the end, doesn’t it, and it’s so beautiful to be here that you almost don’t care what’s inside, it doesn’t matter, your heart is so full that it’s heavy against your ribs. But your mother rests a tan hand on your shoulder and you know it’s time.

Fingernails dig into the lid, prying the box apart, and you don’t even realize you’re holding your breath until it’s open, whoosh, the air escapes you. Your eyes are squeezed shut but you see with your hands. You’re not sure when you started crying, but you open your eyes to relieve the pressure and! Inside the box! You cannot believe it, you practically refuse, you look up at your overjoyed parents and they laugh and laugh and laugh like a song, like a hymn.

You didn’t tell anyone you wanted this. You were too ashamed, too afraid to even hope. It didn’t make your list. But here it was, pristine and beautiful in a box with your name! You’re afraid to hold it, almost, because your hands are clumsy and chubby fingers could break it all apart. So instead you press the box against your chest, heart thumping against the cardboard, and you cry grateful tears.

It’s not even the present (yes, it is wonderful, how did you know?), it’s not the day, but it’s the moment. The magic of it will never happen the same way and you know that, somehow, it never could but you’re so grateful that it unfolded around you like this – fragile but whole, enough to remember it for the rest of your days, enough to replay it when you’re older and lost and in pieces.

that’s how I feel about him.

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Gatsby Seeks Daisy

It is too cold to sleep. My toes shrivel inward beneath my comforter. I have been awake for hours. Every movement stings , as if the fibers of my muscles have frozen over. They catch on to one another, splintering in the lining of my skin.

I’ve often written about desperation and honesty, the lines of which blur in my brain. Is it honest to confess my confusion and hurt or does my need for concrete information render that act desperate?  I stuff my fists in my mouth to choke the words I’ve stored behind my tongue for you. Syllables slip through my fingers, landing softly on my keyboard like the first snowfall of the season: it is cold, and I miss you.

So instead of being desperate or honest, I’m going to give you some old lines of mine. My heart is too heavy to create something new.


the devil is hard of hearing – his lips
curl inward around our names,
like fruit flies encircling old apples

he writes letters to my father but misspells the street name. a few blocks over
he lingers, signing rapidly, his hands
too loud for the intersection

anyway
I don’t know how to tell him
it’s not the leaving that I love – it’s the victory
march, absolution in the form of ticker
tape coating the streets like a comforter

but the devil just bares his palms
with a shake
fingers wide as he trails behind me
the whole way home.


 

We are a gradual dissolution into blue – deep blue, like the depths of the universe, unfolding in a matter of syllables: everything ends.

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Infrastructure

I’ve spent the past week scooping broken expectations from my bedroom floor. They stick to the palms of my hand like jelly, almost immovable in their viscosity, until I am reminded how dangerous it is to see people as anything other than they are.

So it goes.

This week, I’ve leaned so heavily on my friends that if they were lesser people, they might have broken. I am consistently amazed that they hear me every time, through every pain, and still manage to love me at the end of the day. I often say I’ve stumbled ass-backward into the most beautiful friendships – and it’s more true than I could ever explain.

Today’s post is for the people who didn’t have to choose me, but decided to anyway. They have made it possible to breathe every single time. They root for me, support me, challenge me, inspire me, teach me. My friends verify the validity of my feelings and they ask me how I will move forward. There is no greater group of people on Earth.

Here’s to my Babes, to the beautiful people who swept my heart off their doorstops and let me inside.

To the Power Couple who have known me since I was 13 and edgeless, who have never once stopped loving me even though I constantly fall asleep on their sofa, who check in again and again to make sure I’m okay. Thank you for offering me a place to sleep, for laughing at my crudest jokes, for letting me cry endlessly and without judgment. Thank you for being some of the funniest, most loving people I know. And thank you for reminding me to be gentle with myself, especially when I’m struggling. I can’t believe I got so lucky.

To the Butter Cats who took my life by storm and haven’t stopped yet – thank you for showing me new parts of town, thank you for every adventure (even the ones where we forget our shoes), thank you for listening and signing and reminding me that there is more than one way out of any problem. Thank you for letting me tell you cringey stories a little too loudly. Thank you for mashed potatoes and waffles and showing you care every single time I reach out to you.

To my California Dreamer whose place in my life started with an incredible fashion choice – thank you for picking up the phone every time I call. Thank you for believing me, for hearing the good and the bad and somehow deciding I was still worth the hassle. Thank you for your relentless love, for the manifestation of your very being, for elephants and snails and cartoon hearts. Thank you for calling out every shitty behavior, for always teaching me something new, for your incredible taste in both media and other human beings alike. Thank you for choosing me to be a part of your world.

To my boo who calls at 6AM and doesn’t mind the sleep dripping from my voice – who held me on one of the worst nights of my life and made a joke so terrible that I forgot I was sad for a moment, for my singalong partner,  for the man who has never hit on me but still thinks my ass looks great in leather pants – thank you. Your advice is honest, yet kind and I always feel better after we speak. Your love is like coffee: strong, warm, and energizing. I am so grateful that the world can spin around us and yet we always find our way back to center. Thank you for  knowing when to coddle me and when to tell me to kick ass.

To my Moon and Sun, who are always a text away – thank you. Holy shit, thank you so much. When I first met you, I was shattered. Neither of you gave up on me. Instead we kept talking, kept laughing, kept fighting. Never in my life have I been so thankful for the internet as I am with you two. The odds of us finding each other were near impossible… and yet! And yet here we are, years later, your voices dormant in my throat so every time I speak like you, my heart jumps a little. Thank you for bearing every hurt long before I could share it with the world. Thank you for hearing the stories, for picking the glass from my skin, for offering me your homes and your grandparents and your cities.

To my other half, the one who has known me since I was 5, who has watched me break out of my skin more times than I can count. I don’t know if you’ll find a way to read this, but thank you for loving me at my most unlovable. I will never forget how you jumped in your car and drove two hours to see me after I called you. I wept into the phone as you sped to my apartment, our hearts beating to the same rhythm, and I realized that you were my sister just as much as any blood relative. There is always, always going to be a part of you in me. It makes me stronger than I ever imagined.

To the man I miss – I’m here.

and to Mani, to the star of my heart: I would give up every written word to have you back.

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Some say fire, some say ice.

I do not know how to love any differently, but I almost wish I could.

First, light linguistics. Then, the way it all falls apart and comes together.

When my friends share their troubles, I am always the first person to offer my fists. “I’ll fight them,” I say, and most laugh but some pause. It doesn’t bother me – I don’t know if I’m joking either. I offer to fight at least three people a day. There’s a clear connection between love and violence, as if the damage I’m willing to dole out is somehow demonstrative of the depths to my love.

I’ve never understood that in myself. I try to wrap my brain around it, try to reframe it, but at the end of the day, I offer my fists as love more often than not.

Recently, life has forced my perception of love to the forefront. I have an urge to tidy my thoughts, tailor them to one of the following statements:
a) I love you so much I would burn this world to the ground for you.
b) I love you so much I would rebuild this entire world for you.

I can’t decide which is a healthier love to give or receive. I just can’t. Every time I lean into one, life pulls me toward the other. And maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it’s just another jumble stuck in my head, but I can’t escape these thoughts. How do I want to love? How do I want someone to love me?

In quiet moments, I recognize that I don’t respond as well to love that threatens, that punishes, that growls from between clenched teeth. I can’t feel whole that way – and yet that’s the type of love that leaps from my stomach, all fists and knives and wide-eyed panic.

Some days I am soft – I am all slow touches, calming statements, validating conversations. But that course brings vulnerability, closely pursued by anxiety. True vulnerability feels akin to manipulation, as if the expression of my feelings could unfairly sway someone else. I fear the resulting resentment. And so I try to pack away the sweetness, the breadth, the depth of love. I pack it between clenched fists. I push it into combat boots and walk around town with a scowl when I’m alone.

This weekend marks the end of a beautiful journey in terms of love and I’m still afraid that I’ve ruined it somehow. I’m afraid that my emotions are too wild and heavy to hold and that, when I express them, I will drive away the very person I desperately want to keep close. I am petrified by the complexity of my heart, the way it starts and stops. It hurts, to feel everything so deep. It eats away at a person – even when it’s lovely, even when it’s beautiful. It hurts, but it matters and so I try not to wince.

It gnaws on my ribs, hungry, and I can’t beat it away. It echoes in my chest. I don’t know how to love any differently, I don’t know if it’s better to destroy the world for someone or to rebuild it for them, I don’t know, I don’t know. All I know is the dull ache beyond my lungs never stops, not fully, and I don’t know if it ever will.

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To Mani, with Love.

I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to be the person Mani thought I could be.

Her memory pushes me toward goodness, toward boldness, toward love and light alike. When I read her words, I can almost feel her arms around me – quiet, soft, the slightest shift in the universe that allows us to be together for a breath. Since her passing, a day has not moved forward without a moment for her and her alone. Usually I find those times when I’m outside. I trace her name in cloud formations. I hear her laugh in the rain.

Mani told me once that I would’ve liked the storms in Durango, the way the thunder ricocheted against the mountains. She invited me down and I intended to visit in the spring.

Her absence grants a new weight to the presence of my friends. I marvel more often at their existence – I am louder in my love than ever before. Her memory guides my self-love, too. The night before I left my abusive ex, I dreamt about her for the first time and her memory gave me the courage to go. My walk to work on the day I quit was filled with her voice, her words, her heart. I imagined what she would say about my manager’s cruelty. I knew she would never want me to suffer and, for that reason, I was strong enough to resign my position.

As I write this post, I am rereading the letter she gave me when I left high school and I am in awe. It almost feels like bragging to share her words, but I feel the intense desire to show how her love made me see myself differently – as if we could do anything, as if I could be anyone because of how she loved me.

“Dear Krista,

Hello! I just wanted to write you a little letter, mostly because I think you deserve it and I don’t know if you hear these things enough. I think you are one of the most beautiful people I know, not only on the outside (which you are) but inside. You are so good to everyone. You make me so envious – no that’s not the right word. You make me want to strive to be a better person. You just show me that there can be such beauty and kindness in the world, and every time I’m feeling like all there is badness and ugliness, I see you and I just know that there’s got to be something better out there. I know life isn’t perfect for you, and if I could take all the bad in your life and live it for you, I would. If I could carry all your burdens for you, I would. Because of every person I’ve met in my whole life deserves it it’s you. You deserve everything good life has to offer. And I wanted to tell you these things because your going to go to college soon, and I wanted you to sincerely know that you’ve changed my life. You’ve given me a goal to strive for, a person to want to be, and shown me that there is such beauty in the world. I didn’t want you to go without hearing these things because they are true, and I’m too much of a weenie to say them in person. I’m only sorry that I can’t give you more than this lousy note. I’ll always remember you, Krista Lee, and the profound significance you’ve had on my life.

Mani Nitara E.

PS – I know you’re not graduating for like two more months but my hope is that knowing these things will help you through those two months. It might not. And maybe you’ll read this and go “Gee that Mani is weird” but I thought you ought to know that someone thinks highly of you. I love you deeply, Krista. You’ll change the whole world someday just like you changed me.

PPS – That wasn’t supposed to sound so cheesy, but whatever.”

Mani, this wasn’t a lousy note. I am still becoming, but I promise I will carry you with me wherever I go. I’ll continue to seek you out in constellations, in clouds, in dreams. Soon enough, I’ll have your words etched into my skin with ink and we will never be apart again.

I love you, kiddo.

maniandme

I always will.

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