growing old together (jenn)

i.
(we never picture growing old together.
there are no rocking chairs, no porches,
no grandchildren with our tired eyes,
no closets cluttered full of inside jokes,
shared gestures, and knowing looks
fading in boxes labeled years past.
there’s no nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake.)

how did i get here

needing someone to tell me how little i matter,
here with my heart, not a specimen of a heart,
but a heart, a breaking heart i want to throw up
through my speechless mouth–
my throat becomes lava,
molting
organ after organ
mistake after mistake

let my insides match the empty i feel.

i know

i’m a 12 year old girl playing this old paradigm house.
toying with her insecurity collection,
her shadow box of sadnesses.

i want the whole world’s sympathy in my hands.

(i hate this girl.)

(i check the light switch.)

how did i get here

taking my own placebo on an empty stomach
in doses of cardio, calories, worries.
wishing i had a control of myself
just to see how far i’ve deviated.

how did i get here

walking past memorials
knowing i am not moment-to-moment
play-by-play
do-or-die
philosophy.
but minutiae,
lists of consciousness,
the compilation of all my fears and failures.

i have loved
more this year
than i have ever loved,
and cried
more than i have ever cried.

my cry is i cannot change this.
my cry is i am surviving.
my cry is thank god
i can finally feel again.

ii.
it’s winter early on my skin
this is not what i want to write
i hate my head songs
quarter, half, whole words,
measures and measures of melancholy.

honey,

we are not victims
we are just tired
both of us
from fighting this war on existence,
a war we were drafted into circa birth
with our footprints.

you and i will never be names carved into stone
towering above a better off generation
but bones sewn into the earth
a place for weeds and time to take over.

honey,

my favorite moments are when you break
and i break
and we are reassembled
parts of me in parts of you
your sorry lodged somewhere deep in my abdomen
and my panic, tendons tangled through your fingers:

when we touch
i feel myself reaching for me through you.

honey,

every day is november 17th
and i’m running off that first plane
the burnt smell of bulgaria
seeped into my hair
in your new arms
i love myself again.
our first drive home
your single finger pressed morse code
secrets into my thigh
we were right to be afraid

honey,

we connected harder on paper
than anyone, you said
and that was something.
i am your favorite writer,
the worst exister,
locked in a self-destructible box
welded together from scraps of hot iron hurt
over 28 years of oversensitivity
sleeplessness and want want want–
my own impenetrable, flawless patchwork

(my mom, she gave me the patterns.)

i crawled in; i still have to live.

remember last year,
we promised to go dysfunctioneering together.
we pulled each other out of twin depressions
yours, a box, mine, a country.
we bought flashlights and held hands,
if hands were stanzas,
lyrics, and prose pacing across our pages.

(alliteration, it happens.)

honey,

when you said russian dolls i swooned
you told me stop trusting lovelessness,
printed my words onto your aorta
moved into my poetry,
painted the walls, even.

we once said: look how much we have been through
before we have even been through anything.

honey,

you could not
give me more
treat me better
love me more
than i love you
but sadness–
i breathe it through
these lungs, these porous wings for living.

if i could just take off
the anchor of my body.

i know you understand.

but i want it out.
i do.

put me down

with anesthetic songs
freestyled from your guitar
the ones that neverend
and sing them louder
than the most love-deaf voice
in my head.

put me down.

give me a life change operation.
i want to wake up with new
breasts and a new paradigm
my grey matter transplanted,
hope transfused through
your organs, mine.

put me down,
put me down.

iii.
all this is not what i want to write.
but you’re right, it’s easy
making pain pretty, alliterated and
packaged without the preservatives–
we pass an empty box back and forth
stuffing ourselves with
the smallest morsels of our panic
and inedible crumbs of our problems.

i’ve learned that today’s devastations
are tomorrow’s last laughs.

i’ve learned that my mind is not my mind.

i’ve learned that i am not the sum of what i am not.

i’ve learned that i forget days like today
beautiful days where we laughed
believed
we can do this:

drive, love, be.

i know my brain well enough to know
it empties the wrong cache, always
we are lovers,
best friends
and family.

i just forget; i’m lucky.

we are so much more than this poem,
than the letters that brought us here
into this motel room in cleveland,
another friend’s bedroom in milwaukee,
a flooded basement apartment in seattle.
let’s wake up tomorrow
be on the same team
cheer for each other
and i’ll sip from your coffee
because all i ever wanted to do
before i met you
when i was there and not here,
before i knew how to not be right for you
and the wrong things to never say,
before you knew how afraid i was
of asking for direction,
was sip from your coffee.

iv.
we never picture growing old together
because we don’t want a life
where we live to be 80,
and each year adds new failures of the heart and mind,
where each year gained is a decade lost
where you become right all along:

who are we without our memories

sacks of cells
bodies without dreams
shells left behind by the tides
and always, always still a roar
from the best time of our lives—which was a day—which was five years—
which was enough, enough life for a lifetime.

v.
how did we get here

into these decaying bodies,
panicked lives,
and folding corners.

i know: stop asking how. look forward. trust you.

there is so much in me i cannot begin to give you;
it’s already yours, owned, lived–
we are
we are already old together.

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2 responses to “growing old together (jenn)

  1. wow…..that was amazing……

  2. best poem on life, relationship, and living…..just amazing

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