ROOTS

they are delicate and tenacious

not just pushing deeper

in this relentless pusuit of home

more than that, clinging

once they have found the familiar-before-unknown

what is it about a hollow location

devoid of people, of memories

just furniture

just trees

just a few rooms and a bed and the rattle of an air-conditioner

just carpet and the creak of a door

but i know

those roots in my soul

feel that familiar newness

beckoning in a language i know already

or else cold

somehow jagged, rough

rubbing up against all the sore places of my heart

walk through the door

and feel the CLICK in my roots

“this is home”

~

the place i grew up

rich-tasting with memories

sweet, bittersweet on my tongue

a little girl, still held by parents warmly

still safe in love

she hasn’t learned to stop trusting yet

she hasn’t learned to

anticipate every car, every phone-ring

waiting for someone

she hasn’t learned to tie her hair back yet

so it tumbles

long, tangled down her back

chestnut brown

gold, maybe, in the sunlight

(although the older brother called it bronze once… the least of those precious medals (pun intended, for once))

sweaty smiling

chasing bugs

little sparks of the night

bright beauties of the day

the yard is extravagant – it contains worlds

Narnia, Middle Earth, what’s the one from Star Wars?

dim garbage smells

a toolbench

hammers, nails, sticks galore

imaginary, not-so-imaginary weapon factory

stick swords, arrows, daggers

potions and brews of chalkdust, rainwater, the wild fruit from a neighbor’s tree, and plenty of curiosity

the pink bike

with streamers

a girly toy

a girly girl

in a not-many-girls world

that bike was my

stallion, my mail-delivery truck

front steps a police station

the covered porch a suburban home

worn-smooth roughness

i scraped my knee there

fleeing the comin-on darkness of night

i’m still afraid

so maybe that’s a piece of home

i’ll always carry with me

this place is

safety

walking back through the doorway

feels like a soul sigh

weary maybe

but angry and painful in a way i know like the complex tracings and whorls of the prints embedded on each of my fingertips

not perfect surely

but broken in a way that fits

which makes sense

if this is the first place that broke me

taught me to cry

~

remember with me

this glowing moment

why

did this one place stick in my mind:

pinned up like a ticket stub

on corkboard of my brain

little 3-room apartment

in South Carolina

there for a funeral probably

Grandma, then Grandpa, died in South Carolina

spread-eagle flopped on a queen size bed

all mine

a room… windows and a nightstand

distinctly, i recall falling in love

with blueberry bagels

the blissful freedom of traveling

nothing alike, both these places ring true in memory

HOME

when we visited that college campus on a spare Sunday

i had no idea

the trees would breathe comfort

i would cry on a sidewalk

build relationships on couches

walk a thousand lonely nights

and never love a place so deeply

to cry as i drove away

to smile, almost unbearably, upon every return

you are the home of my mind

home of my heart

home of the newly-sprouting identity

a woman who knows herself first

and then reaches outward

~

summer comes

and maybe summer will always be about 64% agony

[precisely]

the drive was warm

i wore a hoodie

first time pretending to fall asleep just so i didn’t have to make stupid-feeling smalltalk

why do we blather

about meaninglessness

why pursue these rituals

both parties feel pressured into

but don’t really want

i hated her questions

she didn’t care about my answers

a drive is rarely pleasant when you feel like a burden

some goodbye

hugs from a girl not my sister

not my friend

and yet some combination of those

friend’s sister, feeling obligated

lend strength to this stranger

who trembles as she is dropped

the embodiment of inexperience

on the doorstep

plus baggage

just a suitcase

a pillow, sleeping bag, some change

they always remark

“what a light traveler you are!”

did it ever occur to you

there’s a reason and maybe

i don’t want to be this way

don’t have much and there’s not much to lose

basic math, sister

besides it’s hard to carry

more than this

when all i’ve got

is 2 hands

it’s just me

no one comes along to help

and i’ve learned

to fit well in small spaces

to fade into corners

please don’t

step on me

hate me

resent my presence

i will be small

i will be silent

[at times and until… until i learn to expand slowly, i am a flower, i lean into sunlight, into safety]

summer camp

could never be home

what does that 4-letter word mean anyway

i like this one better:

SAFE

i know what that means

there are safe places

not-safe places

you know that tension

you hold it in your shoulders

i don’t think it ever really left

3 months of held breath

of sinking feelings

of bleeding

of the fear of being found out for a fraud

not qualified

the room is cold

and they publicly forced me to celebrate

being made roommates with 2 strangers

thank you

for that

nothing like a little old-fashioned peer pressure

let’s just add that

to the mountain of stress crushing me

stiff from days of pretending

painful groggy mornings

assemble half-asleep

shiver and pray and squeeze in five more minutes

on a damp-from-last-night’s-downpour picnic-table-bench

early, early evenings

nowhere to hide – at college i could eat and cry in the bathroom at 2am

here, though

it’s not like they care

but they, surely, would report me

i realize an uncaring roommate

is actually better than a spiteful fake-righteous one

who knew

there was one weekend

sickness crept up on me

i forced myself to stay

though it was quiet

i knew i needed to put down

roots

soul-thirsty, perhaps

for friendship

[which came, eventually, in the shape of a grocery store trip]

a sore throat lurked on the fringes

of my consciousness

watching TV from a dark couch

eating Tim Tams

trying to soothe

the nagging pain

the growing sadness

pretending it was okay

watching Stranger Things Season 3

feeling lost

near-crying finally

i gave up

called home

a cage is better than freedom where there is no friendship

the whole summer

felt like that slow-building sore throat

painful, ignorable, just barely

a cry for help i hadn’t uttered yet

medicating with something that couldn’t be enjoyed fully

chocolate doesn’t taste good

when every swallow

burns

~

skip forward

summer in Philly

summer in the city

jittery…

slow unfolding

but not holding my breath this time

just learning how to breathe, slow

talk yourself through it if you have to

[i’m getting stronger at this]

in, out

it is quiet

too quiet

i have learned i don’t love quiet

but i am not afraid

and when we

sister, me

together, somehow, after all these years

curl up on the couch together

over Chinese takeout or

ice cream and movie

like girls do

i feel so incredibly

NORMAL

early mornings, slip into routine

i work in trees, under trees

i work with people who ask questions

and wait for answers

listen to answers

respond to answers

could it be maybe

they want to know me?

crazy how…

these articulate lovely

every-other-word-cursing

coworkers? friends?

are so much better at welcome

better at safe

at making home

than the people who claimed to do

welcoming strangers

love-like-Jesus

for a living

twisted isn’t it

~

there have been

glimpses, along the way

of this thing: home

in conclusion

the answer might be

don’t put down roots at all

nowhere is forever, baby

or maybe learn

to be okay

with constantly pulling up what you put down

possibly, though

i am not a plant after all

and the metaphor

can end here

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