Man-Made

I don’t know
How this is where I came to be.
They said, “Stay away,” and now this is where I’ll linger.

I came, searching, because you would not show me plainly.
I came, hardly aware, of how bright the sky could be,
Of how solid death could be,
Of how dim and weak my life has been.

They said, “Don’t! Because…what if?” And now the what-if’s are all I see;
They’re shroud in gold, and freedom, and peace.
All the what-ifs I was made to fear
Now walk besides me hand-in-hand
Afraid of me.

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Portrait

Francis Bacon - Self-portrait_ 1972 i
“Self-Portrait,” Francis Bacon, 1972

There was nothing else she could do, here among the ashes. The fire had come suddenly, out of nowhere in the middle of a quiet night, and now everything had been charred through, disintegrated down into gray dust.

The gray dust lay everywhere, in heaps here and there among the property, in a thick layer over the car parked on the street, blanketing her skin as though it were makeup powder she had applied carefully in the morning to cover her blemishes.

She sat on the curb, her back facing the remains of what had been her home for almost all her life. She had come to this house as a young child — before she could even remember — and had grown and stayed in it throughout the years, even when the rest of her family had chosen to go elsewhere, to more comfortable and modern places.

But she had always stayed. This was where she had come to know herself as herself. This was where she had lived her happiest memories and had mourned her greatest sorrows. This was where she had met her God, and had left him, and had found him again. Now with the fire, it seemed he had been the one to leave.

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Nutshell

You clear your throat
On the outer side of the universe,
And I jump up in my bed,
Suddenly afraid of the dark.

When we walked together,
In my perceived “hand-in-hand,”
Me as a child,
You as a god…

…What would a god have to do with a child?

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In the State We’re In, We’ll Not Go Far

In the state we’re in, we’ll not go far.
In the state we’re in, we may not make it till tomorrow.

The streets narrow the closer we get to their end.
The rivers lose their rushing the nearer we come to their edge.
The wolves come out to play (for them) and to devour (for us).
In the state we’re in, we’ll not make it past this night.

But we’ll try, simply because we will not go back.
We’ll try; we’ll fight. We’ll chase the moon around the earth as long as it will lead us.

The answers we once knew fly off us as we run forward, like leaves being stripped off branches in violent wind. Once defining arrows now curve into never-ending circles. Once clear-cut lines now smudge and dissolve into eraser dust. This is the state we’re in.

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To the Streets: In which I make my way back

(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)

I walk out the glass doors and briskly head down the street in my worn, dirty clothes. There’s a thought of running, of flying, of going away, but I’m bound by these chains that will let me go only so far, so I settle for a careless walk, for as long as the energy beneath my dirty feet will take me.

People stream by dressed in pressed suits and done nails and neat haircuts. I’m not the lowest of the low on the street, so I get by, but not without the clean people’s sidelong glances of judgment and false concern. What is she doing here? Why is she this way? I feel them ask silently, none of them caring to wait for the answers that will only defile their air and waste my time.

But it’s all the same to me, so I walk farther on. For all the weight and short length of these chains, they’re not strong enough to keep me from the wind, from the lights, from the sounds continually in my head. The shackles bite my ankles and I leave a trickle of blood on block after block of these city streets, like permanent breadcrumbs for judges to follow if they try to come get me. But I don’t really mind and I’ll walk as far as I can go, right to the edge: Here I am, on the verge of the water again, with only me and ununderstood powers to keep me from slipping to a final end.

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Staring at the Sun: In which we wait for a reality

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We sit and stand and live and wait, as though Godot really would appear at any moment.

Who says he won’t?

That girl says he will. That guy says he won’t. Those people over there swear he’s already come.

All we know is that we’re  here.

Summer stretching on the grass
Summer dresses pass
In the shade of a willow tree
Creeps a-crawling over me
Over me and over you
Stuck together with God’s glue
It’s gonna get stickier too.
It’s been a long hot summer
Let’s get under cover
Don’t try too hard to think
Don’t think at all.

We sit baking on the curb along the road they said he would pass by. “No one knows when,” they told us. “But he’ll come. Just you wait and see.”

So we nod our heads, settle in, and wait around to see.

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Demons: In which they take on new forms

I walk into the room and turn on The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me”. I reach for a bottle of wine. I put on Bordeaux-red lipstick and re-apply eyeliner. I change my clothes so my skin can catch any breeze that floats in through the open window.

But I stay down with my demons, Matt Berninger sings.
I stay down with my demons.

What are my demons these days?

Uncertainty about what my next steps should be, and whether I should take them driving through the streets of Guatemala City or walking down the streets of Chicago.

Unsure, often forced, and sometimes deliberately-veiled talks to God (Has he sent a response? I don’t always listen for one.)

Actively smoothing out the pebbles and boulders from my closest friendship.

Climbing every day the mountain of mental and emotional health. Some days I only stumble; other days I fall all the way to the dark ravine below.

And yet, what kind of “demons” are these? If these are all that haunt my steps, can I not easily turn to face them? If these are the troubles that knock at my door, can I not safely let them in?

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