Acupuncture

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In the past six months, I’ve tried probably just as many strategies to relieve the pain in my head and neck. One of them is acupuncture, recommended by many people who haven’t actually tried it themselves. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with it: I do feel like it helps uncoil some of my muscles, but I’m extremely uncomfortable having needles poking into the base of my skull and back of my neck. Whoever says it’s painless or relaxing must be pretty free of tension to begin with, because my muscles are tight, and I definitely feel it. I wrote this poem after one of my sessions to try to capture my feelings about it.

SESSION THREE
The lights are dim. The filmy white curtains
blow in the breeze from the open window.
I wouldn’t mind some soft music,
but there’s only
the honk of cars on the street below and
the whine of construction tools—the sound
calls to mind an ancient torture device, all
sharp spikes and grinding metal plates.
I’m laying still on my stomach,
arms splayed, a pillow under my shins,
holding myself
r
i
g
i
d
like a domino waiting to topple.
His hands go first to my neck, kneading the skin,
finding all the tender spaces where I stash
both my hope and my fear—at the base
of my skull, in the bony ridge of my shoulder blade.
I trust him, but it’s hard
to let myself go limp in his arms.
At the point of entry, my body
v i b r a t e s.
My muscles tense and spasm beneath my skin. I cry out
involuntarily.
But then it’s over, and he leaves.
I focus on breathing
through my belly to bring my nervous system back
into some semblance of operating order.
I lose track
of time. I slip
into not-thinking,
where pain is just a construct
and the universe gleams in color
and good intentions can save us.
After minutes (hours? eons?) he finally returns.
I pull myself back to myself.
He extracts the needles,
one by one; for a moment
I still feel a phantom pressure, a whisper
of a thought half-formed then lost
as I stand, stretch out, put on my clothes, and
walk outside to skyscrapers and traffic
and real life.

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The Empty Spaces

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I string together lists
of things I’m grateful for—
a kind deed and sunshine and support
a moment of stillness or peace or love.
Each is a pinprick of light;
I am a city slowly regaining power
after a blackout.

I stack letters into words
into stories into prayers—
give me strength, help me accept,
show me how to heal and grow.
Each is a voice in a choir;
I am a hymn erupting with melody
after silence.

I breathe into the empty spaces
and I fill them with hope.







Poem: On Writing a Novel

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I’m a summer girl. I wear humidity like
a second skin. Sunshine means freedom,
hope, peace. I even love the stench of
this city. And during rainstorms, I walk
barefoot and joyous in its streets.

I learn to feel all things completely.

But this year the chill doesn’t bother me
so much. It reminds me I am flesh,
tissue and muscle and bone—and inside
an untouchable core: a tabernacle
for all the words I have yet to say.

I learn to let them go.

Embarking on a Journey to Rediscover What Poetry Means to Me

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As some of you know, I self-published a poetry book, “An Unfamiliar Ache,” in late 2010. It collects together material spanning the three or four years prior, and I have to admit that it includes much more teenage angst than I remember. As I flip back through its pages, I realize that most of the poems need work. Some of them need to be trashed altogether. They only represent a small sliver of the work I created during that time, and it reminds me of how much and how often I used to write.

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Poem: The Space between Words

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I used to know how to write
a poem about anything
rain patter on the window, lanterns
strung up in the garden, breathing
and listening and
aching
inside there is a space
that longs to be filled
o words!
miles logged on hot asphalt
will take you far away
from that stark void
that glimpse into the Real
but eventually you have to come
back home and I will be here
waiting