A Clear Midnight

I’m off for a weekend completely by myself. Let me type that again: I’m off. For a weekend. Completely by myself. Alone. No one else. Just me and some books and some knitting and some coffee and some wine and my favorite writing utensils. And, of course, my fleece-lined leggings and coziest, fuzzy socks.

When I first planned this little trip, I made a list of goals to complete with all this time to myself. I haven’t been alone for more than a few hours at a time since my five year old was born. I’ve daydreamed about what it would be like to have hours and hours to do so many things. But yesterday, I was starting to make lists of what to pack and I realized I don’t have the mental or physical energy for a to-do list right now. I’m behind on literally everything and everyone I care about, including myself, in a way that a weekend is not going to be able to fix.

I felt pretty disheartened when these thoughts crept in. I have a lot of guilt piled up from all the things I haven’t been able to do, things I haven’t had time or headspace to write, and all the lovely people in my life that I haven’t been able to connect with the way that I want. My cup runneth over with blessings and is somehow empty at the same time–a feeling I’ve become well-acquainted with since becoming a mother.

Then, just as I was setting myself up for a nice, long guilt trip, a favorite poem came softly and gently and quietly to mind. It’s by Walt Whitman and it goes like this:

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing,
pondering the themes thou lovest best
Night, sleep, death, and the stars.

Now, all I hope for the next few days is to step away from lists, away from goals, and to give my soul a free flight into, well, probably not the wordless, my soul really likes words, but you get the idea. : )

this wine (written in 2007)

this wine
tastes like forgetfulness
with a hint of plum
and i can’t imagine anything
more perfect
i love plums and horses
and forgetting
and carl
and my dog.
EE cummings wrote poems with
the punctuation all silly
which was brilliant
the first time he did it
but after that wasn’t he just repeating himself?
i repeat myself all the time
tell the same stories over and over
just like a dog
barking at passing cars.
this wine
tastes like i’m drunk
and i can’t imagine anything
more perfect than
that other than
tiramisu although
it creeps me out to eat something called
lady fingers.
lets not talk about eating

i miss you and i wish you were here
wine tastes better
on your lips
and you’re right about
goldfish not being the same

i hate the sound of your phone
and by your phone i mean my phone
on your plan that you gave me
because you were tired of my mom
answering the phone at 2am
is the phone you gave me like the ring of
our cell phone bill marriage?
everytime i hear it its supposed to be you
but its not
and every time i hear it i think of you coming
home from work, but youre not
i don’t want to wait for summer
to sleep by you every night
i’m going to sleep by you every night I ever can
you’ll never spend a night on the couch
because i’ll never take the feel of you
breathing against my back
for granted
with so much time together slipping
through our fingers
while we wait for our five year plans to line up
i could never waste a second of

the rest of our lives
sleeping cold

i love you

g night

Again

Sometimes it’s been too long–

the reasons I love you turn back into secrets

and the words I would have said, I can’t remember.

Time turns us back to outside out,

inside safely in.

You will come home

to too much quiet

I’ll look up

and your eyes won’t say a thing.

But after so many years

even this

is familiar.

It will take a little time

but you will be you

and I never could resist you

and I will be me

but that never scared you anyway

and just like always

we’ll roll up our sleeves,

uncross our stars,

rewrite the end of The Queen and The Soldier

and fall in love

again.

First Love

He was the the first boy to touch his lips to mine.
I was the the first girl to write him a love letter.
He was the first boy to ask if he could read my poetry.
I was the first girl to give him my heart.
And he was the first boy to return it in pieces.

And it’s not that we were so great at it.
We weren’t.
It’s not that our love was all flowers and birds singing
It wasn’t.
Our love was clumsy and awkward and
we didn’t understand it
or each other.
Our love was impatient and selfish and proud but
it was first for us both.
And it was honest in a way it can only be
before you’ve learned how it can hurt.

When I saw him again after three years,
just the two of us
sitting on a picnic table
talking toward our flip flops
I remembered it–
that genuine, one-time
innocence of heart we lost together.

It draws us close,
despite everything,
Binding us together through the years
more than the shoe box of photos and letters,
more than the necklace, the hair clips, or the books
ever could have.

Love Stuff

It’s a quiet, snowy Sunday before Valentine’s Day and I’m diving into some of my older poetry about Carl and I. We’ve been together for seventeen years now and somewhere in there, I came to understand what people mean when they say it takes more than love to make a relationship work. I write a lot of “Marry the One Who . . .” posts, but those are all little things. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely little things; they’re important little things that add up to a beautiful day to day life that I do not take for granted.

But they’re still little.

The big things are how you handle it when one of you royally screws up, what you do when you can’t do life fifty/fifty or even sixty/forty because both of you are running on ten percent, when life changes and you change and your needs change. Whoever you are when you choose each other, you’re both going to change again and again and again and it can be so hard to keep up. Love won’t make your relationship last, but it can sometimes hold you together long enough for you to figure out the rest.

So today, I’m combing through roughly seventeen years worth of love poems and sharing a few on my Black Ink Birds Facebook page, in my blackinkbirds Instagram stories and here on the blog. Some of them are awkward and clumsy, some of them painful and sad, and some of them are beautiful and sweet; that’s how it is when you’re looking at love as a whole.

Letter from the Bottom

This morning I was looking through old drafts; I have nearly 100 starts I’ve never finished and I’ve been going through each one to either publish or delete. I was surprised when I ran into this poem I wrote in 2018.  It was completely finished but never shared and I’d so completely forgotten it that I really felt like I was opening a letter from an old friend, which, in a way, I guess I was.

I may have cried a little. I spent a good, long while at the bottom, but I’m not there anymore, and reading this poem was a lovely reminder of just how far I’ve come. 

Here I sit.

I’ve asked why,

why me, and

why them.

I’ve tried to climb out

only to slide back down even as I claw at sides too steep

for tired fingers.

I’ve been angry to be here

and sad.

I’ve been desperate to leave

and keenly felt the expectation

that it’s past time to get up and dust off and move on.

I’ve scratched tally marks into my soul–

noting each day as it passes,

the way the moon and stars change position

but I can’t.

And then, just yesterday,

laying on my back and looking up

from my lowest point,

I realized why I’m here

and all my efforts to leave have failed.

It’s not even a secret.

But it was still a revelation–

Rock bottom is where you rest.

where you catalogue injuries and sore spots

where you identify and cast off the heavy things

weighing you down.

where you gather energy and resources for the difficult climb ahead–

Rock bottom is not comfortable

because you aren’t meant to stay

but it is quiet,

and empty

but for your self,

the broken dreams that dropped you there,

and everything you need to leave . . .

when you’re ready.

The Lipstick Letters

it has something to do with how my thoughts go from
pouring to spilling
when I’ve had too much wine–
spreading across the page
and leaving a stain
no matter how I try to clean them up later.

It’s about the tangle of worries in my head
thorns that grab at my arms and legs
painfully holding me back
slowing me down . . .

It’s about realizing the tangles are all just me
the thorns are my own thoughts
so why can’t I just free myself?

It’s about how nothing helpful ever follows the phrase
“why can’t you just?”

It has something to do with wearing these words on my lips
and glossing over their lack in my life

My life is lacking something
I’m going to go get
as soon as I figure out what it is . . .

It’s about having to start here
among the thorns
when I thought I’d already have made it
to the mountaintop.



It all crashed in
too heavy to handle
so I stepped outside to
walk my dog and
the dead leaves at my feet said
“Shush, shush, shush, shush”
And my mind quieted down.
The fallen log over the trail said
“Slow down.”
and I did.
The mossy boulder I shushed past said
“Give it time.”
and I felt better about all I hadn’t done yet.
The rock wall said
“Great things have been accomplished using only what’s at hand.”
and I remembered I didn’t need to wait for this or that or anything.
The hawk above me was quiet
but extraordinary–wings stretched wide, swooping and gliding overhead.
My dog said “Isn’t all of this incredible?”
And it was.
So I went home
empty coffee mug in hand
poem in my heart
time forgotten
and ready to do life again.