1/10/18 – “Unknown”
I left my self-worth
in an unknown location
I can’t remember when I lost it
I left my self-worth
in an unknown location
I can’t remember when I lost it
I wrote several poems to You
back in 2007
Seems fitting that 10 years later
I’d pop in to say hello
How have you been?
Still lying to all of your friends?
Still tricking girls into loving You
and then disappearing on them?
You really gave Houdini
a run for his money
Your disappearing acts at least
always had me buying another ticket
The older I got the more I realized
every bit of it was fiction
You’re a story-teller, Aaron
I should be able to forgive that
You just couldn’t help spinning stories
I understand the appeal–
spinning stories is how I got through my teenage years
Stories that you really loved me
or our song wasn’t one you played
for every naïve 14-year-old who’d listen
You had me
and I promised that last poem
was the final one for me
I guess breaking promises
is another thing we have in common
Author’s Note: I really did write several poems titled “You” for this person in my teenage years, so it seemed appropriate to go back to that theme. I know it makes it less relatable for readers, but hopefully you all enjoyed it nonetheless.
There used to be nothing but silence
An expanded canyon filled with
all the times you lied and
all the times I let you
I couldn’t speak over the echo of that silence,
the weight of it on my chest
Now you tell me to say how I feel
don’t hold anything back,
you can take it
You practice honesty and I
do my best to believe you
in the back of my mind
it still echoes, “Shh, shh,
you’re safer in silence”
The wind kisses my fingertips like we’re old friends meeting again. A dog’s collar tinkles like Christmas bells behind John Mayer whispering “now I’m free…free fallin’…” through my headphones. Green leaves reflect in the window pane in front of me, and through it sits a gray-haired gentleman. His fishermen’s hat lays on the table in front of him, covered in pins from a lifetime of experience I long to have. I wonder how to get myself out of this town, how to collect a scrapbook of memories on a cap like he has. Is free falling losing track of life in the mundane mess of things until you’re neck deep in a picket fence and tax deductions, or is it running away for a weekend into the mountains without looking at your bank account just to say hello to the leaves again? Fall in Florida is funny. It’s a friendly flirt that runs away into the summertime every few weeks, and you’re left with too many scarves and a sweat-beaded forehead. I’m too nostalgic to study science. DNA exists even in fickle Florida and right now I want to leave that world behind. The hum of traffic behind me taps at my shoulder, reminds me of my itch to disappear into small towns no one knows the name of, where walking is the primary mode of transportation. I feel most alive in the namelessness of a new town, where every face you meet is one you imagine you’ll never see again. There’s nothing to be afraid of there, no standard that’s been preset, no expectations to reach for. I’m breathless with exhilaration, staring in the face of someone who knows nothing about me, has no preconceived notions. However I behave is how I behave; is me. There’s nothing to compare it to, no Carla that I’m not living up to. Sometimes the old Carlas really make a mess of things. They rise up from the dead and haunt me, remind me what I was meant to be, what I could have been, what people wanted from me, every disappointing aspect of what I’ve become. It’s nice to go somewhere and just be Present Day Carla, the Carla that woke up this morning. There’s nothing to apologize for because this is the only Carla you’re ever going to meet. How refreshing.
But right now I’m here, the same old coffee shop, a familiar table, being teased by a wind that is only a whisper of the one I’m wishing for. The leaves here are only brown—there are no archways of glittering gold trees to drive through, no King Midas kingdom to get lost in. I get lost in my normal life. My normal apartment. My normal schoolwork. My normal TV shows. My normal coffee shops. My normal routine. And the ghosts keep coming in this haunted town.
I’m weak today. Really weak. Been standing on a slippery rock attempting to hold strong against the powerful waves for twelve hours straight weak. On days like these I wonder how I’m taking this breath. Or this breath. Or this breath. How is the pain not catching my foot, tripping me off the rock and into the stormy sea, pummeling me until any hope of finding air again is lost? Sometimes I close my eyes and for a moment that sick feeling of falling slips over my mind and I lose my balance. The fear of falling into the water is as dangerous to me as the waves themselves.
If I get lost in this imagery for long enough, eventually Jesus comes. He doesn’t leave me alone there for long. I notice him coming towards me like a phantom across the fog of the sea. My eyes, which have been so mightily trained on monitoring my footing, become locked on his silhouette. After a few moments the beating drum of the waves fades out of my mind—I can see and think of nothing but the man approaching me, walking gently through the storm. I think he might be glowing, a faint shining hue encircling his body, like peace flowing out from his very soul. I blink, and somehow this doesn’t affect my balance.
Suddenly he’s beside me. His presence encapsulates me, eliminating any fear of the waves or the storm or my footing or my pain. I’m shaking; I don’t notice it, but he does. He takes me tenderly into an embrace and my body is flooded with the warmth of a sunny June afternoon laying in the grass when you’re six and the biggest question in your mind is, ‘What shape is that cloud?’ I close my eyes and collapse into his strength.
When I open my eyes again we have risen high above the waves. The storm is a memory below us—I can see the creation of lightning as it hurls towards the sea, hear the resonance of the thunder in the distance. I am suddenly untouchable. My paltry, fragile rock has been transformed into a towering pillar, its foundation balanced and strong. Hundreds of feet stretch between me and the angry surf; no matter how hard it tries, it can no longer reach me. Jesus’ presence spans like a shield around me—I don’t understand it, but somewhere inside me is the knowledge that I can no longer fall. With him near the rain and wind and fog are unable to affect me. Instead I feel a welling fire within my belly, growing, growing, until it’s a roaring bonfire overtaking all the cold within me. My icy interior is melting. I am a little girl at Christmas, familiar blanket wrapped around me, sipping hot cocoa before the welcoming fireplace. Safe. Safe. Safe. Untouchable.
Jesus, my calm deliverer, quietly turns my attention to an image down below. Through the whistling rain and harrowing fog I see it: a frail girl, anxiously trapped on a slick rock. Even from my lofty position I can see her trembling; she is lost in the storm, weighed down by the reality that she will likely not survive this. She can’t take her eyes off the wet rock at her feet, so petrified that she might lose her footing and go crashing into the menacing current. Her fear has her so imprisoned that she doesn’t even notice the splendid, radiant man behind her. He is wrapped in white and his light vanquishes the surrounding mist, creating a glowing barrier around them. His hand is on her shoulder, ensuring that she cannot fall. Still quivering, she is unaware that she has nothing to be afraid of. He’s already there. She was never alone to begin with; all she had to do was look up.
The realization hits me suddenly, and if I weren’t so sure-footed on our pillar I might stumble off the rock. My chest aches with the knowledge—he was there, he was there, he was there—as the reality of what that means sinks over me. He heard the powerful sobs when no one else was watching; he saw the panicked fear trapped within my chest; he felt the uncertainty, the confusion, covering my mind in a thick fog that was impossible to get out of. He was there all along, waiting.
When I can muster the courage within myself, I look up at him again. I am sure he will look disappointed, wishing I had noticed him sooner. I want so desperately to hide my face, ashamed of my faithlessness and fear. But when I meet his eye, he is smiling. The world around us has transformed: the clouds have collapsed; the rain has dried up. Bright, powerful rays of sunshine pour down on us like honey, and for the first time I see it. When I’m staring into his face, really seeing him, there cannot be a storm. He destroys it.