I did a thing. I finally clicked publish on my latest poetry book, Sunbathing in Cemeteries. It’s been about two years in the making as I have lived through the aftermath of domestic violence and my own PTSD. This book explores those issues and tangential ones–motherhood, the South, and dating after a divorce. (Dating after a divorce with PTSD and a fairly high ghost rate the second I mentioned kids.) I have always woven scientific metaphors into my work, but there were more in this volume than in Hell and High Water. When I chose not to dilute the metaphors, I added footnotes in a few places.
This book is called Sunbathing in Cemeteries because it’s the best way to describe my frame of mind as I published these poems. I woke up and took steps to get me closer to medical school every day, sometimes appalled that the world didn’t stop with me and that the sun kept rising when I felt dead. I kept moving forward, deciding that if I am going to exist in this cemetery of who I used to be, then I can at least sunbathe in it. I adore ironic juxtaposition, and I keep imagining myself with a lounger, a hot pink bikini, floppy sun hat, and cocktail with an umbrella, tanning in an old and deeply Gothic cemetery. Things might get better, they might not, but I am determined to live my best life, wherever I am in the healing process.
On a personal note, I have been mentally meandering this summer as I took time off from my pre-med work to address my own health issues, get some of my art out into the world, and travel with my awesome kids. I don’t know if any of you suffer from PTSD, but I have learned that I definitely cope best with a boring routine. Not having anyone demanding lab reports, papers, or studying for exams has left me aimless for a couple of months. Who would have guessed that the rigors of organic chemistry would provide solace? I never thought I’d long for the drudgery of another chemical mechanism. And if you tell anyone I said such a thing, I’ll deny it vehemently. That said, writing new material and getting it published is occupying the puzzle-sorting part of my mind for now. And I hope you enjoy the latest poetry volume.
This poem is a wish that the universe would take care of justice for me. I’ve been handed a few glorious moments over the years, moments I felt that the Fates were spinning my villains into the corner they deserved and offering me a window to see. For the record, my husband says that the best revenge is a life well lived. And he’s right. But sometimes I still curse my attacker on my bad days.
My attacker’s court date got pushed back, and it’s been years already. So, I wait. And I recently had what I hope is the final surgery to fix the physical damage from the attack. It was a rough one.
Winter Solstice 2021
Does the frost lick your veins like the post-op splints tickle my nose?
Just a little too cold, a little too painful to sleep.
Does the darkness blend into your shot-in-the-dark soul?
I raise another glass, hoping your nights are long and that you forget the wonder of the galaxy. (It’s you who gobbles nanometers.)
I hope you live in the winter solstice and can’t see the fractals in the frost.
I still stand–a tree in the pitch–awaiting morning’s kiss. But I didn’t forget to watch the night undress the light of a thousand stars.
I wrote this one for all of the women I know that no one believed, whose attackers are free. They privately and publicly fall apart, but I know why. Shattered women live in societies with little justice.
I believe you
with your eyeliner cat’s eye,
wine bottle latched to your hand,
I trace your hothead Facebook rants,
launching insults with no guidance systems into screens like confetti.
Insanity isn’t a switch.
It’s a stone hitting a windshield and cracks that creep at every stress until the driver can’t see clearly through the shattering.
I have been prolific over the past few months and working on a cover for the next new poetry volume. I’ve also been remodeling my house and donating so many things that cluttered my space.
I opened the front closet of doom recently so that I could give the door a new coat of paint. (Do you have a closet of doom? I try not to, but it’s not really a priority. 🤷🏻♀️) I had one of those gift wrap/gift bag organizers on the inside of the door. Like an adulty-adult would. And I realized that my gift bag stash is ridiculous. Here’s why:
I learned a secret in my 20s.
You can reuse gift bags.
And I held on to so many.
“I’ll get invited to baby and wedding showers.”
Or so I told myself.
But no one ever tells you there are women who don’t get invited to those events, who are too weird, too awkward, too unaware of what constitutes small talk.
(It’s the weather, isn’t it? I tried that and wound up prattling about lahars.)
I am 33 and trashing all of those bags.
Finally letting go of what isn’t to embrace what is.
Sometimes I think about how all of the circumstances align for us to meet someone at the right time. I’m grateful for my current set of unlikely occurrences. I live with PTSD, so I’ve been deeply skeptical that happy endings are possible and yet stubborn enough to look for them anyway.
Did I have to feel the chasm spreading in my bed?
Did I need to struggle raising three oh-so-close-together nerdlings alone?
Did I have to learn not to flinch when a fist went through the wall inches from my face?
Did I need to watch retreating backs
as I hyperventilated my way through panic attacks?
Did I have to go on so many blah, how-do-I-leave first dates?