I have held in rains longer than I can remember,
unwilling, maybe, to water a field that had
so consistently failed
to bear fruit, you can only till gravel
as if it were soil so long before
you have to accept that a single stem
rosed from concrete can never bloom the same
faith as it would, climbing from a bush to
greet the sun in a garden.
I never knew why, or sometimes what, I was holding back, but whatever it was felt like all I had left, so I protected it like it was my only child.
until you smiled and reminded me that I am allowed to feel something other than lost.
I haven’t known how to get home since they told me
I could no longer sleep under the ashes of my last one,
until your face dimpled
I had no clue where to break ground
building a new one —
until your face dimpled,
I was not sure that I could plant
or grow, but now all I do
is water the ground below you
and pray you always petal.
You will not always know why it is that I feel compelled to tip-jar my tithing into hats and buckets and licked-clean soup cans, the sharp edge of which has clearly kissed a hungry mouth intent on reducing food waste, and why I feel torn open by the mouths that have the scars consummated with that union. There is just something in his outstretched hands, and the gravel that echoes through his praise that reminds me of the nights I have spent turning anything I could find as holy as I could hold it and making it into a makeshift pew and altar.
I will not know how to ignore the ringing in my ears, the sound that the look of a man waiting on commuters to leave his living room makes — the unsure look of someone who can’t quite tell where it is that he feels the least alone, nor a clue as to how to seek it out; a man to whom feelings of being welcomed, and wanted, and anything more than unworthy might as well be the things that come with lottery winnings.
I would buy a lottery ticket, too.
I have bought lottery tickets, too. They always seemed to have odds-to-win as good as anything else I have tried.
There is something about looking into empty eyes, and empty hands held up to random humans as though beatifying them will turn them into saints… something about someone asking for whatever it is that they hope might keep them warm that night that will always buckle my knees.
I do not know how to stand over these people.
I will want to prostrate, or at least kneel so our tears start out the same distance from heaven and the same distance from earth when we free each other, I will cry with them. I will cry for them. I will want to hold them like a brother I thought had died years ago, overjoyed to see him again and broken that I can’t house him, if I can barely house myself.
I will look at you and not know where you are asking me to lead you. These numbers on this house don’t add up to a number I know how to count towards.
I will sleep on the back porch, so the cops do not think I am a tresspasser. I will thank you for the blanket. I will not know why you are angry — why you are crying — why you invited me here.
I love you, but I cannot stay here. I have burned down every house I have ever slept in.
Dear Dr. Heron, can I sail thru the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I’ve been afraid of changes. For a long time, probably. You get comfortable doing a certain thing. You get comfortable surviving. You get comfortable being less than happy, and eventually you stop knowing whether or not you’re allowed to want more, or if this is just life. You remind yourself of how grateful you are for where you are and who you are and the things you feel like you might be capable of. But you spend so much time building your life around you(rself) and then one day there’s someone else standing there — and you just have to jump off a cliff and hope you’re able to finish growing up on the way down.
So if I can handle the seasons of my life — time has made me bolder — I think you’re probably getting older, too…
Ask Niles: I'll come up with a catchy title, one day, but first....
Family, Friends, Followers, Tumblr —
I’m hoping to do an I’m-not-holier-than-thou advice column that actually acknowledges race and sexuality and societal norms… our position as leaders and followers and participants in a world transforming under our fingertips care of this digital revolution… our position as lovers in a world not teaching us healthy or reasonable expectations and standards and outlooks on our relationships with each other and the world… I just want to talk about how we can all do better, and the things that hold us back. And the hurdles we don’t know how to clear. And the things that make us remember happiness is worth fighting for. Myself included.
My goal is to find a outlet to publish these one day, maybe, but I have to prove I can write a compelling advice column first. Which means I need people to ask questions. If you could share - tweet - repost - reblog the above, or the below, I’d appreciate it. I need to cast a wide net and get some people to engage with me…
Life, work, relationships, writing, reading, love, hate, want, need, thirst, hunger, full-filled. Let’s talk.
Ask anonymously, or put your name on it.
Your bio says you are teacher, are you a true educator, like in school?
I am not a teacher, in an academic school. I sort-of teach Kung Fu. I have lead classes on poetry before. In my bio what I mean is to say that I’m a student (from people, circumstances, culture, world around me) and a teacher in the same sense. Someone somewhere is learning from my actions and thoughts and words. I’m trying to make sure I hold myself accountable to that, because bad teachers ruin students perceptions of topics.
Thank you for your beautiful words. I'm also from metro Detroit area and I'm so proud to know of a local artist whose words are so profound that they speak to me like they were meant for me. That's what great poetry does. Always, I thank you.
You’re so welcome. I feel like I should thank you, though, not the other way around. I’m still getting used to the intersection between writing only for myself, and letting the fact that I know people might read something I write unduly influence what I’m writing… (people like politically bleached topics like love more than charged and still bleeding ones like race or patriarchy or classism — many would rather read 10 words than 100)…
It is so gratifying when my attempts at staying honest and directed towards my goals is a format and path that works for someone else. I’m humbled. Thank you.
During a very trying moment I came on your blog and read your work. You gave me clarity that I wouldn't have found in any place else. Thank you for pulling me out of the darkness with your words. Love, an admiring poet.
I’m so grateful that you were able to find anything in my attempts at documenting my own searches and losses and losts and founds.
Thank you for bearing with me. I’m glad we get to grow and chase lighter things together.
even with hands built
to carry peace
over troubled waters,
i am only steel and
concrete; only submerged pillars
breaching, desperately reaching
toward heaven so
painfully accustomed to coming up short —
misdirected suspended roads,
i am a bridge to nowhere unless
I have your shores
to land on and name
I love you, but maybe
it’s that I love the way
you love me,
the way you reached up for me like
I was suspended in the sky, held the back
of my neck like I was made of clouds, and
kissed my face like your mouth
was a mut, mixed from mustard seeds and
the kinds of mountains people climb
to separate themselves from mere mortals.
you took a chisel to your chest,
split your sternum,
spread yourself open, and
told me I wouldn’t have to
use cardboard signs and street corners
to mine blessings
anymore, the way you
looked in my eyes
birthed me whole
i didn’t know she
existed outside my dreams.
i’d never been good at keeping
my hands empty, or
my cup watered, or keeping flowers
alive, until my knock-knock jokes
bloomed and ran over the edges; until
I became more
the guillotine sings sounds like
a wife returning to her husband
after a military tour. as she collides
with the hard hug of a chopping block,
she will give you
goosebumps big enough that
they seem they might sprout plume
and down — and you are only given
a choice to spread your wings, or
spread the bed:
accept today will be the first day
you have lived not followed by a tomorrow,
or that you’d rather stop spending
so much of your time looking
1) pull band-aids off quickly, let your skin hunger
for sunshine; stop acting like
you can hide wounds from God,
2) wear your scars proudly like
they are the
only novel you will ever finish writing
3) when you look in the mirror after the war,
you will not recognize your face —
your gums will bleed from having smiled
too hard into oncoming traffic and gunfire; from
chewing on the remnants of the glass house
you couldn’t protect from rolling stones,
trying to remember what peace tasted
4) realize that you wouldn’t have changed a thing
because you loved her
rock and roll,
and her songs were always banquets
and your knotted stomach was a beggar
and even when there wasn’t a door to let you walk through
she split herself at her seamless
and wrapped herself around you
and apologized she couldn’t give more.
sometimes i sit
elbows on my knees,
phone sandwiched between
hand and ear waiting for
the other end to small miracle her
voice into a psalm; i wish
prayers worked more like
microwaves, yet still fed
like your grandma’s hands,
she always seemed to be
at peace watching the
bone boil into proverbs like
deathbed confessions were dripping
from the marrow, said it ain’t right
to rush last words — I just
wanted more gravy.
and then there comes
a moment, that stretches
fantastic into some rubbery
amalgam of infinite,
when all of the doors lock and
the walls and
ceilings turn to glass; when
my entire life, my
entire world becomes
a window and
the only thing outside
the hardest part to loving you is my fear
that one day you might see me in the dark,
after one of those nights-last-longer-than-not
winter days, and realize I don’t
actually glow or dance like the stars
we named future children after;
that we just happened to meet in the summer
and it just happened to be dusk,
and I just happened to be facing west —
just happened to be reflecting the last
bits of tangible faith left in the twilight
when you played in my beard
and kissed me like you were sure that I
could protect you from
I’m sorry that my arms don’t
actually grow feathers naturally;
that was just an outfit that I
wear sometimes when the mornings feel
like shackles, and I can’t hold in my screams, and
I just want to run north to you —
it makes me feel less heavy and
I look at myself in mirrors
and it makes me feel
like less of a liar
when you look at me
like I’m the flyest
As a writer can you give some advice about how to apologize to someone who has been hurt so many times before that the words "I'm sorry" mean nothing. To give some context, my now ex-boyfriend is unwilling to accept my apology for hurting him, it was nothing serious as cheating but his pride was hurt and was willing to end out relationship over it. He refuses to speak with me and I would like to write him but don't know how to convey my sincere apology and undying love for him.
First: Understand that just as you’re asking him to forgive you for the hurt he’s feeling, you might have to one day forgive him for not being able to love you commensurate with your needs. He just might not have that in him (anymore). And you might need to make peace with that situation.
You will still love him. You will wake up every morning for a while learning how to reconcile that internally, even when he can’t love you, and that part of loving him truly is finding a way to embrace all of that. It will be like trying to jar lightning, or hugging fog. It will feel like your village is in the clutches of a drought, and you are trying to transport water back to them in picnic cups and praise hands. It will only be wet, until you always come up dry. It will be God whenever you find dawns to just be dawns again.
Second: Know that whenever you’re trying to say something someone probably won’t admit they want to hear (even if they do), you’re probably never going to do it “the right way” (by them; at least when they read it). Your apology will be another line item on the learn-how-to-want-to-forgive-you-for-and-then-learn-how-to-do-it list.
As you think about what to say, start by analyzing the hurt. You probably have a pretty good basis for assessment given that you love and know this man, and so you have to ask yourself what is really hurt in him — and then what HE THINKS is hurt. You have to address the core of the pain, while navigating the walls that will be up to protect the wounded thing at the center of the labyrinth.
And then figure out how to write that wounded thing a love letter. Never say “you’re going to be okay” — never downplay or oversell the gravity of the wound… Remember that “you are not in pain like he is,” even if you are in pain. His feet and calves and entire body is unique and feels like nothing you can know, no matter how much you want to. That is what he will feel like.
Lastly: Write something that you will not regret. Which is to say, don’t lie in hopes of swaying him one way, or the other. Tell him the truth and do so with language as concise as possible. The best way to do this, for me, is to write two letters. Write one where you say everything you want to. Write him one where you say exactly as much as you need him to read. Then write another (and maybe a third, or a fourth, or a ‘however-many-times-it-takes-that-it-doesn’t-feel-like-you’re-trying-to-write-away-pain-with-rhetoric). Trim the fat. Don’t go on a paragraph tangent about that one trip you took, and how the sun light cut through the space between the top of the windshield and the top of the sun-visor and his nose and upper lip looked like it was on fire and all you wanted to do was to kiss him. Even though that’s all you wanted to do. Even though you want to tell him. Even though you want to talk in concentric and slowly expanding circles starting at your left ventricle and paving your way to him, because that’s the path you walk every morning.
Cut across the lawn. Get to his place. Ring the door bell. Kiss him on the cheek. Tell him you hope you get a chance to love him to his face again, and if not you’re going to love the back of his head until your eyes fall out. And walk away.
You have to let him find his way back to you. On his own. By his choice. By his need. Wearing him down will only make him tired. He might say yes, but it will only be until he builds enough strength back up that he will remember to say “no” again.
Good luck. Undying is a long time. But that also means you don’t have to be in a rush about this.
she called me Mr. Johnson, but said
this wasn’t no crossroads;
her Momma raised her by a lonely river:
one she could always hear babbling, coughing, dying, or maybe
living loudly just around the corner,
but she never made it to the banks to see herself —
she whispered in my ear that
she usually doesn’t buy,
but I could sell my soul to her
and she promised to
deliver me to heaven or to
bring me a slice of cake from
just inside the gates, I
just wanted to hear what smiles sounded
like when they echoed inside of a place
that wasn’t empty like this.
Writer’s block is when
the pictures hanging in my lungs
are like dangerously-enlarged-heart ornaments
are like kettle bells suspended from
lonely and ill-prepared branches
unsure of what to do with this pressure,
unsure of whether
unsure of why
unsure of when
unsure of how the break will feel when it inevitables —
thousand-word sets that I’m afraid I won’t
ever catch my breath after exhaling —
and none of the poems
trapped beneath me are strong
enough yet to push through to
"…But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face….”