Open faced…

…like a sandwich,
every emotion writ plain.
Are we the unlucky?
Unable to secret our
disappointments,
our distaste,
deep within?
Or are we the better for it?
Baring our souls to every stranger
and coffee shop barista?
Doomed to never lie
about
our age, your
new brown shoes,
our partner’s performance
in bed?

G.A.D.

it could stand for
“guilt addled driver”
more dangerous than
a teenager on a cell phone
or it could mean
“gifted alcoholic dressmaker”
can sew straight
even while intoxicated
or perhaps
“gulf alimentary disease”
a soon-to-be-discovered illness
contracted by soldiers
in the Middle East
or how about
“Gene Autry dachshund”
a new breed of warbling dog
I mull the possibilities
while in the back of my mind
the words
“generalized anxiety disorder”
echo around
like a nagging roommate
who wants to talk
while you’re trying to watch TV
once upon a time
I was given pills
for the panic attacks
brought on by
my aborted grad school sojourn
I never took them
what would they do to me
how would they change me
I know nothing about drugs
outside of Advil and Aviane
but I have a nagging fear…
what if those three little letters
make me a better writer
and without them
I will lose whatever muse
has graced me with her presence
and then G.A.D.
will stand for
“God awful drivel”

Park bench therapy

the elevator doors open
on a small drama
my therapist stands
in front of his office door
rattling the knob
shaking the entire doorframe
vigorously
while three hinge pins
sit on the windowsill
and his bag sits on the floor

for a few seconds
I am confused
something is amiss
then I realize
he is trying to break in
to his own office
and I get the feeling
he’s been at it
for some time

he turns his back
on the offending door
and says “so,
what I like to do with clients
who are making a lot of progress
is hold a session outside
in the park”
speaking in that
‘really, I’m not making this shit up
as I go along’
kind of way

and I couldn’t help it
I laughed in his face
hysterically
as he kept shaking the door
thinking, perhaps
that the door would give up
declare him victorious
and collapse into dust
or maybe disappear
into the same alternate reality
where his keys are hiding

and into this little scene
walks a woman from another office
entering the elevator
looking askance
at two crazy people
disassembling a door
and she lets the elevator almost close
before calling out
“Is everything all right?”
which starts my laughter
all over again

eventually
he gives up
I stop laughing
and we walk to the park
where we sit on a bench
as children play around us
two boys tossing a beach ball
a girl bouncing past
on a pogo stick
and at first it is strange
to be so exposed to the world
open to the air and traffic
and people walking their dogs

but we talk quietly
and after a few minutes
our words fill the warm June air
and create a private space
around the park bench
and it really doesn’t feel
all that different
from sitting in his office
by the train

My boxes

Over the years
I have accumulated
a shelf of plain brown boxes
carefully taped up
unlabelled
sitting quietly
bothering no one.

A few years ago
a box was opened
and I watched my marriage
slowly dissolve
like soap in the shower.
I do not regret the box opening
but I still bear
a few cuts and bruises
that sting in the hot water.

At the same time
I chose to open a different box
and spent many months
at the physical therapist
in pain and blood
and fire
and emerged on the other side
stronger
but not completely unscathed
new scars
now healing over.

The next box
opened on its own
offered me paper and pen
and words I could not stop
a new purpose
a great happiness
I had forgotten was possible.

And the other boxes sat quietly.
I thought I could ignore them
just for a time
until I could recycle used cardboard
dust the empty spaces
restack and reorder them.

But no
it seems I must open a few more
right now.
Wait, wait, I say
one box at a time.
Can’t I just pull back the flaps
and peek at what’s inside?

But I already know what’s lurking
behind plain brown squares.
Makes me want to push my boxes
deep into corners.

I’m so afraid
one of these days
I will open a box I cannot handle.
I will disappear inside
someone will tape up the box
and I will sit
on a dusty shelf forever.

But I really did enjoy the concert

you’re at a concert
with your therapist
his pregnant wife
and their close family friend
which sounds like the set up
to a pretty good joke
doesn’t it
only it is not a joke
it’s your Saturday night

you took the train
to a strange suburb
and a strange church
where everyone seems
to be a white-haired couple
or a soccer mom
or so your imagination
perceives

you don’t know anyone
you don’t even know
how you will get home
what you do know
is that you have to ask
for a ride

always
you seem to be dependent
on the kindness of strangers
and friends
always
you seem to be begging rides
and you wonder
if someday
the kindness will run out

but for now
your heart is pounding too fast
as you take a seat
take up the least amount
of possible space
on the planet
and read your book
not understanding a word
as the room fills up
with chattering strangers
who all seem to know each other

and you think
if the concert doesn’t start soon
my heart will explode
and they will find pieces of me
on their leafy Unitarian altar

at intermission
you see your therapist
his wife and friend
awkward introductions
conversation
their friend is chatty
bless her
you can be chatty too
but you worry you are snubbing his wife
who is quiet
and very pregnant
and suddenly all normal questions
are lost in the maze of your mind
when are you due?
do you know if it’s a boy or girl?

all you can think is
I am intruding on their personal time
people with kids
have no personal time ever
and rarely get an evening out
and here I am
like some sort of weekend conference call
to Tokyo
at 4:00 a.m.
chattering
in their personal space

after the concert
you circle slowly
to the back of the room
wondering
will the singer make an appearance
at the merchandise table
but to your surprise
she is already there

you thought you’d have more time
wait until the crowd thinned
get up your courage
hand her the envelope
you’ve been carrying in your purse
with four pages of poetry
carefully printed at Kinko’s
that afternoon
but now you are scared
what do I say
I forgot to rehearse
and I can’t make my ride wait
they want to go home
the perfect excuse
to act like chicken shit

up to now
time has moved slowly
every second an hour
45 rpm’s played at 33
but now the world speeds up
and you are in the car
chatting with their friend
trying to be funny
hoping we do not all die
on the expressway
because it will be your fault
somehow

blue line el stop
and you are shaking their friend’s hand
but she has called you Kelly
by mistake
and it distracts you just enough
that you are halfway out the door
when you see his wife’s hand
extended over her shoulder
but it’s too late
you are already out

great
you think
I am now rude and intrusive
and you keep saying
“thank you”
as if the phrase
like Dorothy’s red slippers
will send you home

instead
you run for the turnstile
and the little metal bar
clicks behind you
in a familiar
comforting
way

and you realize
you wish you had said
something nice
about your therapist
in front of his wife and friend
he is good at a job
that no one gets to see
and how rare
that our families
ever see us at work
they only see us lose our keys
or forget the milk
or accidentally eat the brownies
baked for the school party

but it’s too late now
and you can only hope
that your therapist
his pregnant wife
and their close family friend
do not think
you are a babbling idiot

My therapy poem

My therapist has a blue guitar
And an office by the train
He quotes the prophets and the saints
Of Galilee and Austin
Outside the trains keep rolling by
As I pour out my pain

He prays with his blue guitar
And I pray with my pen
He says I’ll find hope someday
If I tell my story again

Hour by hour upon this couch
How do my doubts compare?
I try to listen, try to learn
From music and from tears
I think of all the other souls
Who daily climb these stairs

He prays with his blue guitar
And I pray with my pen
He says I’ll find peace someday
If I tell my story again

I offer up my tale of suffering
To fellow sinner, scruffy seer
He strokes his chin and pauses for
The half past five express
So what would it be like, he asks,
To turn and face your fear?

He prays with his blue guitar
And I pray with my pen
He says I’ll find love someday
If I tell my story again

How has he found the extra space?
To keep our stories in his heart
Comic, tragic twisted plots
Endings still unwritten
I just want to breathe each day
Without falling apart

He prays with his blue guitar
And I pray with my pen
He says I’ll find myself someday
If I tell my story again

I feel as if a hand has led me
To this room above the rails
With moldy air and broken lights
And those eternal trains…
But miracles can happen if
You find a way to tell your tale

He prays with his blue guitar
And I pray with my pen
He says I’ll find God someday
If I tell my story again

I know I’ll find God someday
If I tell my story again