For Yael, when you find me.

You search my name on Google and find it.

Everything I write.

All my heartbeats and songs and moments when I cannot speak.

And you hug me and look at me with awe.

How do you do it? you ask, and I see a fire light behind your eyes.

I do not tell you about this place where my words are too hot to bear my name.

I know you’ll get here one day and find me.

I know that when you do, you will see something you always understood and you will feel a tenderness you are too young to bear.

I want you to be ready for that.

So I shift a bit and let the curtain down to give you room to burn.

I see your words, filling up the space around you.

I see your words flying through your brain as you retreat to a place where thoughts are loud and muted in a kaleidoscope of feeling you are not yet familiar with.

I follow the arc of your heart as it expands too wide and shuts tight and cautiously learns a rhythm set to wonder.

You are finding something of your own.

You are authoring a story and I am a step behind.

Too far behind to catch you when your pages wrap around you and you can not breathe.

Too far behind to wipe the tears you dry yourself.

Too far behind to stop your teeth from pressing deep down into your skin as you scratch the surface, looking for more.

Too far behind to find your beat and fall into the story you are writing on your own.

How does she do it? I whisper as I wade through embers I used to flame.

And the answers whispering through the wisps are old and new and still too far away.

The House Where Memory Roams

The depth of leaving Orthodoxy is hard to explain to you, and even harder for me to process. I hate that you can only know if you know. It feels like I am somehow perpetuating their exclusivity… no, but you wouldn’t understand… you don’t know how it is… and it wrings itself around my identity as a mark of Cain. When I see them in the street, and I hear you excuse them without really understanding them, I feel it tighten around me and force me into a familiar place of screaming into an abyss where no one will ever hear me.

*

It’s the old house feeling, the one where I enter a space I have repainted in my memory, and the souring of nostalgia wells in my throat as the colors assault me with their mismatched hypocrisy.

Where are the walls I remember? Where are the trails of my wandering feet? Where is the smell of familiar? Where is evidence I come from here? Who tampered with this scene, dotting corners with fingerprints that do not belong to me?

I know this house so well… 

I smell the stuffed cabbage simmering on the stove. I am rushing to get ready. I yell a warning through the hole in the floor to the kitchen below, accidentally knocking Q-tips down as I threaten anyone who thinks of flushing for the next ten minutes. I am excited.

I will be dressed and ready as we rush to get there before the curtains come down. The best seats are the closest to the men, within range of the candy man. At some point, I will take a risk and crawl under the table so that I am officially on the men’s side. I will eat too much candy and get hyper. We’ll be dragged home tired and hungry and scarf down a steaming bowl of stuffed cabbage that I will unwrap and splatter on my dress. I will fight with my siblings and probably get sent to my room and then be called down again to pretend to recite the blessing after meals. I have perfected the mumble with just a slight bit of enunciation, and perfectly timed page flips. It would really be less effort to recite it thoroughly, but I’m still only ten.

There is joy in the air, and it washes over me, cleansing the loneliness from my soul. Tonight, I belong. Tonight I am a member of the tribe. It won’t matter where my thoughts wander or that something is churning dissidence through my veins. I am part of something bigger than myself, and it feels wonderful.

And then the cold water jolts me awake as my request is ignored, and the downstairs toilet flush races through the plumbing of an old, familiar house and shocks me out of my dreams.

This house is falling apart, and I will be buried alive.

You know what I mean?

When Death Comes for Me

Dearly Beloved,

One day I will die.

I won’t be here to tell you what that means to me. So I write this in the shadow of Death, lurking over my shoulder as he pauses his busy, busy work long enough to say hello. He and I are friends, you know.

When I die, you will want to know about me and Death. You’ll find evidence strewn across these pages and wherever you see my name. My most intimate relationship is with his loving caress.

I have documented our dance well. He has taught me not to leave empty pages to fill. Start a new page every day with all the words that need to be said carefully etched into eternity. Do not live with any Unspokens. Death swallows them whole.

When he comes for me, I will embrace him. I am safe in his grasp. I do not fear the Reaper.

Today, dearly beloved, as the world dies in a coughing fit and we find it hard to breathe, I write Unspokens I did not know I had.

My lungs are strong, my skin is white but I do not play roulette with air I am still privileged to inhale.

Dearly Beloved,

One day I will die.

I would like you to be holding me when I do, to grasp my hand and whisper whatever you’d like.

I know it will make it easier for you.

Stroke my face, close my eyes and take the time you need to say goodbye.

One day, when I die, give my voice to my sisters to shout what they want across the empty space where I used to be. Their voices need to be loudest of all.

When I die, do not tell my children who they are because of me. Let them know I am me because of them and they can be anything.

And when I die, bury me with a sturdy seedling so that the memory of me will last longer than a whisper.

Grieve the way you choose but do not choose in my name. Your mourning rituals are meant for you alone.

When I die, let all of me be exposed; shame will not follow me to the ground.

When I die, live your life free, knowing that my heart does not need to be fed.

When I die, remember that whatever life I lived was every bit deserved to live.

Remember to sing.

Remember to laugh.

Remember not to be afraid to cry.

Remember to fill your page with words Unspoken until Death shines his light on you.

Starved.

My battle for self rages on.

I am parts of me and all of me, separate and whole all at once.

My mind, always racing, pulls ahead of the heaviness in my heart.

But my heart comes in a million broken pieces, able to extend beyond possibility. It does not know it has to follow any rules. It can be lagging behind while leading.

My body… my body has crashed and burned in a spectacular show exposing the fragility of skin and bones.

And I am left starved.

Hunger is a passion.
It sears and claws and begs…
Feed me… touch me… consume me…
Take this part of me that wants.
It is dying to be free.
Feel it, smooth and soft, and jagged.
Breathe in the scent of discontent.
Embrace the folds of tenderized skin.
There is beauty somewhere here;
it is dying to be seen.
Stoke the flame, stroke the shame
bring me to my knees.

Please.

My heart and mind race past my body, flapping in the breeze.

They do not stop.

They do not see.

They do not want it to be me.

15

When I was 15, I had lived forever.

“You have an old soul,” they said. “You are wise beyond your years.”

And I would nod knowingly because I had lived forever and seen a lifetime.

A lifetime of hurt and fear. A lifetime of loss and neglect. A lifetime of wondering what the point of a lifetime was.

When I was 15, I had seen a lifetime of living badly.

It didn’t get better. It got worse, but I expected that.

So at 20, worn out and weary from living, I created a file.

Compress a life, zip it tight and send it to the cloud. Be wary of exporting it; it may be too much for you to handle. Save it, though. Save it so that you can unpack it when you have cleared up the space you need to view it properly.

Don’t forget to label it. Categorize it under the past and add a description so that when you die, the world will know this is the life you lived before, the life you didn’t have a say in, the one where you were born and left to figure it out for yourself while poked and prodded and exposed for all to see. That life lasted forever.

When I was 15, I had lived forever.

You can see the file seared into my skin. I have clicked on it to view what it contains and spilled the parts I could not hold over these pages. But decompressing hurts, and I don’t have a lifetime to relive.

There is space between the life I lived and the door I closed. A small lifetime. Five years of something deeply wounding and healing. A lifetime most people never get. It birthed me.

I emerged with him.

We have been living another lifetime. We have gathered another 15 years. I am struck by the passing of time, how much can fit into the space of who we are together, how much is still left.

Love is not a story to tell. It is a journey to take, a moment to hold, a lifetime to live.

We are 15, and we have lived a lifetime.

A Painful Softening

My vulnerability is vicious.

Covered in thorns, it whips around me like a crusted bandage stroking open wounds.

Once, when I was someone else, it was buried deep where I could not go. It hid under cold black blood, waiting for me to remember. But memories are cheaply made, and mine always arrived broken.

How can you remember what never was?

And so the softness I never had remained lost to me.

You met me when I was bold, fearless, and empty.

And I was enough.

You held me when I weakened – when my voice cracked, and my words stumbled and felled by the realization that I needed substance, I found myself crawling at my own feet.

And I was enough.

No one could love me the way you do. No one could accept every sliver of broken glass trailing behind me the way you do. No one.

Not even me.

Especially not me.

And then my vulnerability rose from the dead. Birthed from loss and grief, raised on weeping pain, I filled with the fragile blood of the stranger I’m meant to be.

I walk around in my old body, pretending I am still enough.

But I am not enough for me.

And so if I am enough for you, how can you see me?

 

Isolation

It feels selfish to say how I feel, to let the world know that I am melting when the world is barely holding on.

But…do you need to have a sense of self to be selfish? Is it selfish if I am losing track of me and all the parts I thought I was made of?

Isolation is not new to me. I’ve embraced her wholeheartedly, craved her even! She protected me for so long, let me wallow and scream. She caressed my broken soul and told me it was ok to be away – good to be away…

Alone is where I find how I fit.

Alone is where I hear the silence.

Alone is where I cherish peace.

Alone is where I can finally be.

Isolation has betrayed me.

She is choking me, pressing into me, making me want to escape her comfort and explore who I am when I am not alone.

She is making me forget how safe she is.

She is showing me how vulnerable I am.

She is forcing me to see how RELIANT I am, how small and insignificant I am…

And I am so fucking scared.

Inhale…hold…2…3…

There is bubbling inside me

rising panic

calm pushing down

rising fear

serenity pushing down

and I am reminded of the breaths I forgot to take

as I rode the waves of birth

pushing

holding

pressing

rolling

squeezing

ripping

no air

no space

no end

until there was a scream.

But the first time

there was no scream

and I saved my breath

for round two

and only let it go

when I heard the second cry

the third time around.

When it hurts to live: leaving Orthodoxy

When you leave Orthodoxy, you leave everything behind. If you are lucky, you can find a way to anchor yourself to love.  But mostly, you are tethered in place by the family that wants to accept you but believes that you cannot be accepted. I cannot imagine the anguish of a parent who can not separate from belief enough to love their child unconditionally. It is a brutal thing to be faced with. Still, when you abandon your child and refuse to see them fully, you are guilty of taking away the stability necessary to walk this earth.

**********

I do not want to write this.

I do not like to hurt people. I do not like that my words are sticks and stones that break people I love.

But I am bound by the dead, bound by the silenced, to give these words life.

I will never be able to take it back.

I owe that to the memories of those who drank their pain and swallowed comfort. I must write for those who wrapped their necks and flew off buildings and let their blood flow to release themselves from the devastating hurt of abandonment.

I owe them something that will live forever.

To those who raised children who are not the same as you to only be the same as you

To those who took part in shaping children who did not want to be shaped

To those who conditioned their love to meet their faith

To those who held belief above all

To those who will not listen

To those who will not accept

To those who will not ADJUST

To those who refuse to apologize

You are guilty.

You have brought your son to be sacrificed. You placed him on an altar, bound his hands and feet, and did not have the courtesy to slit his throat. You have let him lay exposed before your judgment, and you have rained disappointment down like a sea of arrows. You have scraped his skin, pierced his heart, and did not bury who you wanted him to be.

You are guilty.

You threw your daughter to be eaten by the wolves you fiercely protect. You let her cut her flesh and offer it to others again and again while you sat on anger and expectation and allowed the wolves to feed.  Her skin turned inside out, and you refused to see her. You left her with nothing to hold on to.

You are guilty.

You did not mean to do it.

And so we forgive you.

But we will not live another day this way.

So we will try to be free.

Some of us will learn how to be alone.

Some of us will find each other and live in perpetual grief.

Many of us will not have the strength.

As we fall, please know;

You are guilty

You are guilty

You are guilty.

Settled

Do you know where

You are?

Have you found the place

you fit?

Do you like it there, between the what and the who and the when?

Do you feel settled where you are?

Or are you like me

Floating through it all

knowing that the strings

that tie me in place

also weigh around my neck.

If my feet

stop twisting between beats

the noose will raise me up

and I will be found

but not free.