in the small places

Remembering Her Through Streams of Words

I’ve always felt that I, human, am frighteningly small and whatever this is that we exist within is big, bigger than anything I could describe with human words. Not even numbers, math, arithmetic can illustrate what this is in ways we can fathom. Or even believe. Yet, we are in it. We are swallowed up by it. It ingests us and digests us as we move through it, trying to find our way to the other side of it. If there is another side. If there is only one side. 

We are the grain of sand upon the beach of these galaxies, all swimming inside a mass of multiverses. We are floating through space, circling things we cannot see, and being encircled by things we may never see.

I bend inquisitive words to my will, hoping to breathe life into the mouths of their newly fleshed selves, hoping these words will help me to feel big inside this nameless ancient thing. I wonder about this hope I carry and whether it is authentic. Do I truly want to feel big? Do I want to know what this is? Or do I want to feel a greater sense of what I am in all this? Maybe I am terrified of the realization that I am sand. Or the molecule that sits upon the sand. Or the molecules that make up the sand. Maybe this is what frightens me, to realize how seemingly insignificant I am in all this. I am absent the ability to understand it. We all are. So there is no one I can turn to for answers, because we are all the many molecules moving around inside the form that is sand. Trapped by invisible limitations that won’t allow us to be anything other than sand; anything other than human. We cannot escape, we can only be.

I’m lost. I wake each day, sun warming my skin, and find myself yet again trapped inside this mysterious flesh that won’t set me free. Each sunrise renders me small and ever shrinking. I am acutely aware of this aging body I inhabit that will one day stop. I will be motionless, still, ceasing to realize the smallness of everything I’ve ever known. Becoming smaller as the abyss takes hold. Ultimately, ceasing to realize the bigness of all that I will never see or hear or smell or touch. Will there be something else once I leave this prison? Or should I count this as a mysterious gift I cannot decipher? Will there be the chance to explore that which is bigger than me, and smaller than I could ever imagine? Does that which is smaller than me contemplate its existence in the way that I contemplate mine? In similar ways? Maybe we are the only beings that contemplate existence. Will I enter the light or the darkness, or a peculiar amalgam of both? Will I go into permanent unconsciousness or permanent existence and sentience? Will I BE; or not be?

I think. 

Then…

…I bake words in hot ovens so they may rise. I fry them in cast iron pots, black and seasoned over the years to add flavor to everything that touches them. I take words into my hands and toss them in a buttered pan, so they can flavor my existence and find the truths I cannot see. The words seek out the roads less traveled, the paths to uncharted places only the stars have seen. I want to go there, to the uncharted places. I want to become big; then small enough and wise enough to commune with the ones who know what it is like to feel small. They live and love and look up and out, wondering what else there is…who else there is. I sauté words, preparing them for my still growing imagination. I imagine big, trying to offset my feelings of smallness. I have trouble seeing the power of smallness in this moment, even though I know there is power in the small. I know it. I do.

If we let it, realization of our pending death could open portals into other worlds (and words). Maybe only into the worlds in our mind, but maybe into tangible worlds waiting for us to find them. If we fearfully attempt to pretend death isn’t coming, we could deny ourselves a magical journey. 

My stepmother died Friday, April 20, 2018. She was kind. 

Her journey thrust me into deep meditation. I went to the hospital. Saw her lifeless body. Her mouth was agape due to rigor mortis, so it could not be closed. It was surreal. She’d only been dead for two hours when I arrived. Her body was still warm. 

Warm.

Warm.

No movement. No breath. No heart beat. Lifeless.  But warm. Warmth is life. 

It was life.

I kissed her forehead and my lips warmed. I spoke to her, feeling that she was still traveling and would hear my words. I wanted my imagining to be true, for her traveling soul to smile as I spoke. 

I wanted her to have a soul. 

So I spoke to her, not knowing if what I conjured in my mind was true. As I sat staring at her, I no longer knew what was true. In truth, I never did. I’ve always tossed our existence around in my mind, never landing on anything I could say I know for sure. We make claims about faith and hope and utter knowings we cannot prove to anyone but our dream-selves. Our fear of not knowing gives rise to claims of “personal journeys” only we can experience. There it is. No proof required. Convenient methods we use to allay our fears. We are creative beings. We are. 

I watch.

She seemed small on that hospital bed; small, vulnerable and helpless. Not even the doctors could bring her back. In that moment, they were helpless demi-gods who once dreamed of omnipotence. They left the room, dragging their words behind them, littering the floor with their helplessness. She was a prisoner inside a body that was warm, but motionless. And she was leaving this place, never to return. She was inside a cage-less, warden-less, fence-less prison that would hold her for a time we can never number. We often ponder how long we could or might live, but we rarely ponder how long we will be dead. If we care for this body, we could be here for 90 years, maybe more. When that time expires, we will be dead for millions, billions, trillions of years…if this is all there is, this moment, this body and these words I leave for you to read. No soul-spirit, just words that will one day ash and find the wind. If this is all there is. If.

I realize now that the small places are not much different from the big places. Just as a thing can be so small we cannot see it, a thing can be so big we cannot see it. That is the way of galaxies. We are here, in this big thing, but cannot see it or its neighboring galaxies with our naked eyes. Everything is big and small all at once. 

This was my stepmother on the hospital bed, big and small all at once. She reminds me to be humble and live well. Because there is a journey up ahead that nothing in this life can prepare us for. This journey could be magical or tragic. But it will be.

recycled soul

Come, let me recycle your soul. I will rinse it clean, sanitize it, then send it back to Earth. The sanitization process often erases all traces of memories. For some, however, a few latent memories of time spent here are retained, fully realized through spirit-work The un-sanitized memories are like leftover germs, each one carrying pieces of a past you can barely recall. They are a flash of light in a dark tunnel. There is something there, but you cannot make out the whole. You stretch yourself into the past, feeling in the dark, hoping to unearth what you’ve forgotten. It rarely comes, at least not fully. Shards of memory fall. I gather up the pieces for the recycling, rinsing them of a world that doesn’t need to be remembered. If anything remains, let it be the joy, beauty and laughter of a life well lived, infecting the new soul like an incurable virus.

memories in a can

she was dying
not from disease
it was much more
invasive than that
there is no vaccine for pain
no vaccine for the insecurity
he bred inside her
turning her into a genetic modification
of her former self
her soul is now broken ribs
from steel-toe boots
no vaccine for immortal memories
she wished would expire
memories as long as those
remembered by ancient gods
who watch as their creations die
centuries old rubble
fade to dust with each sunset
her memories are canned goods
created for disasters
made to last until the can is opened
unnaturally preserved life oozing
from the cut metal
she was dying by the inch
dying
from the fist that blackened
her eye five years ago
just after he proposed to her
dying
from the lover who told her
her tits were too small
dying
from memories of the child
who slipped from her womb
still
unmoved by life’s promises
dying
from the canned love
preserved in salt and bitterness
there is no vaccine for betrayal
no vaccine to heal the cut wrists
she sees the sun rise tomorrow
but life is only memories in a can
preserved for the dying soul

 

under the baobab tree

she waited for herself at twilight
under the baobab tree

black skirt raised above knees
red and gold painted bare feet on haunted ground

spirit rising through ancient soil
seeking lost self and awaiting life

the agape dance
gyrating for the coming moon

gyrating for her lost self
smelling sea water on moonbeams

night skirt tugged high
copper skin against cloaking darkness

she is her own lover
she made love

to herself
under the baobab tree

yesterday’s words

there is a forgotten life inside this aging skin
fragmented memories of an ancient epoch

ancestral reinventions laced in lost stories
our flesh matters less than the words we leave behind

the lyrics endure; a griot’s invocation
the deluge of stories return to our waiting tongue

words become anthropomorphic things
with breath and soul; with dance and song

inhaling and exhaling for us
onto paper, onto stone, inside clouds that form ideas

and rain; i am re-fleshing the dusty bones of forgotten worlds
with words; forgotten words

remembered sound inside this aging skin
needing words; needing lost yesterdays