Hell and High Water: A Second Glance

One of the things I like about offering previews of poems is getting to provide a bit of context where I wouldn’t otherwise get more than the lines on the page. “Noel” is a poem that is made richer with context.

If you’ve never dated an author, you might be lucky. Authors spend a lot of time in their own heads. And when I am in a relationship, I can see the possible futures branching in all directions, detailed like novel plots. I’m not clairvoyant; they won’t play out exactly like I imagine. (Boy, could I have saved myself some trouble if all of my imaginings were accurate!) But they feel real to me. And many of them are futures I might work toward, fulfilling my own prophecies.

I dreamt after a particularly heart-wrenching breakup that I had a new child who faded from existence in front of me. I dreamt “Noel”. And that dandelion ghost still sticks with me.

Noel

My darling boy with dimples pitting either side of your crescent-chasm grin,

espresso eyes alight with mischief.

My sensitive nerves, the coiled springs under my skin, fill you,

and your hair hints at the overwhelm,

wild in all directions.

You release my hand after your too-short legs clear the Goliath stairs.

You run full tilt at your dad

who wears your grin

and waits with open arms.

You run like he might change his mind

about another round of “Up-Up”.

 

And he has, my poor love.

He unbelieves us.

You scatter before my eyes.

My so-solid boy.

Like you are made of dandelion seeds

and only my stubbornness shields you from an out-of-faith gale.

I fall to my knees.

And you fade.

You were Noel because you were Christmas every day.

 

Hell and High Water: A First Look

I will be sharing a few poems from Hell and High Water as we approach its release on August 25th. Here’s one that almost didn’t make it into the book because I wrote it recently.

 

How Love Is Like the Equator

 

I used to spin the globe,

thinking the boundaries between countries were tangible.

I thought an actual pole pierced the North and the South,

running through the sphere.

Maybe the equator was a magical line of rainbows

bisecting the earth.

 

I used to think the lines you shouldn’t cross

would be well marked, too.

That they’d be in written rules.

And admonitions would be issued before you stepped too close to the edge.

 

But you don’t know when you paddle into Canada.

And you don’t know when you’ve stepped into the unforgivable,

until the gate shuts behind you.

 

 

Hell and High Water

I have been writing poetry for years. I’ve read amazing lines that left me despairing of my ability to match the skill of my favorite poets, awed by the way they bare the truth with only a few words. Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Pablo Neruda, along with so many others, taught me how to gut punch with the truth and a few lines.

I needed distance from my own poems before I was ready to separate and edit them, making cuts and looking for the most precise word. And I still might not have decided to share my poems. But, recently, I have been on a quest for any verses, any songs that capture the way I feel. And so much lacked depth. I began to wonder if maybe no one was in as much pain as I was. Living with PTSD can be isolating. PTSD on top of a pandemic made me feel singularly desolate. I’m especially interested in eradicating the lies we tell ourselves; in this case, it’s “I’m alone and no one can help me. No one else feels like this.”

Hell and High Water Cover 2So, I’ve decided to release the deepest and darkest words I’ve got. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t nice. They are concise. My poetry is a blend of Southern drawls, the fusion of science and art, and a whole lot of pain with a few glimmers of happiness. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I’m sharing it in case anyone else is on my dark path and thinks they are walking alone. If you’re heartbroken, read the whole thing. If you think you’re the poster child for PTSD, try “Fallacies” and “Ripples”. And then notice that “The Inverse” and “Benediction” follow those. I can’t hold everyone’s hand through panic attacks, but I can offer a sense of community and hope.

Hell and High Water will soon be available for pre-order and will be released on August 25, 2020.  (It’s a bit of a pandemic surprise for me, too.)