Cocoon (A Poem)

The little green caterpillar munches on a leaf, looking around with big brown eyes as the world spins around and around. She keeps trying to catch up but her short legs can’t keep up. She keeps falling and falling, further behind, scrapping up her knees and hands, blood staining her clothes.

She tries to keep her head down, be like all the other girls.

Keep smiling. Be sweet. Shut your mouth.

Don’t say a word even as the greedy grasshopper grabs her ass.

Don’t raise your fists as the angry ants swarm her, her supposed friends, calling her names and acting like she’s all to blame, Crawling inside her and devouring her up until there’s nothing left but green goop.

Don’t try to be unique. Get in line.

Neat little green caterpillars all in a row with their perfect white teeth, every hair in place, letting greedy grasshoppers move their limbs wherever they want them to go, bending and twisting, putting on a show for the whole world to see.

You’re too thin whispers the others. But don’t they know that it’s because she has hungry larvae to feed? So she hides behind baggy clothes and shrinks into herself like she can just disappear into nothing, fading away into the mist.

The whispers get louder and louder, crueler and crueler.

She’ll spread her legs for any grasshopper, they say. Let them stick their greasy claws in and tear out her insides until she’s just a Hollow husk of flesh with empty dead eyes and a broken heart.

The green caterpillar hides away, until she’s finally free of angry ants and greedy grasshoppers.

She builds up her shell, making thick outer layers to protect herself but doesn’t harden her heart. Instead she creates solid bones, a spine to hold up her head and a sharp tongue to defend herself.

Slowly the caterpillar starts to strengthen with the care and nourishment she never had as a child, flourishing and flourishing.

She becomes strong, finding her voice and speaking her truth with no fear of the repercussions, knowing that she’s not the victim. She is the heroine in her story as long as she believes. She builds herself a suit of armor, made of the encouragement of the others before her, telling her. You can do it. You can do it.

Just keep trying.

Keep your head held up high.

She wraps herself in her own strength that she never knew she had, forming a cocoon.

She used to be so afraid but now she’s not, even as she dissolves into green sticky liquid in her cocoon, shaping into something new. Change can be scary but she’s somehow she’s not afraid even as she breaks down until she’s nothing.

But then, then ugly brown shell cracks and the caterpillar slowly breaks out, shaking the wet off her face, more pieces crumble and as she dries, she spreads out beautiful wings of multitude colors. Vibrant blues, reds, yellows, oranges, greens. All in varying shades. Some pieces darker than others, others darker, some have no color at all, instead black as the night or as white as snow.

In some places, the wings have holes, letting the light through, a little scarred, torn in places but they will still get her where she goes.

She takes a slow hesitant step, still afraid. What if they get more torn? she wonders.

No.

She will simply add more colors, more scars and more tears that tell the story of her life.

So she spreads her wings, the kaleidoscope of colors shimmering in the sun and then she takes off to the sky, feeling the wind in her air and the sun on her face, as she finally tastes true freedom at last.

-K

The Snow Family (A Poem)

The house looks so picturesque, like something you’d see in a magazine for Home Garden, the Christmas edition.

The front yard blanketed with a fresh layer of snow, icicles forming on the gutters, so artfully dripping as if it was planned.

A neat snowman with a black top hat, a checkered blue and white scarf around his frozen neck, little black buttons to make him a sharp jacket, a carrot for his nose and blue buttons for his eyes, a smile on his face. He carries a briefcase in his hand.

Next to the snowman is his snow wife, a pink scarf around her frozen neck and a cream-colored faux fur hat, a wide smile plastered onto her face. She holds the hand of the snow girl, a mini copy of her with the same pink scarf and faux fur hat. The snow boy stands next to his snow father, a baseball cap on his head and a mischievous smile on his face.

The house is strung up with lights that start white then flash to green, red, blue, yellow, and every color in between. A Christmas tree behind the little snow family, the decorations perfectly in place. Not a pine needle out of order.

No, no, that must never happen. Everything must be perfect.

Emerald green, shimmering silver, gleaming gold, and radiant red delicate glass ornaments so carefully set in the tree. A string of white lights and a wide velvet ribbon wrap around the tree like a noose. Glittery white snowflakes and shimmering clear glass icicles. Cranberries and popcorn on a thread in between the ornaments, snowflakes, and icicles. The snow father placed an angel on top of the tree, her beautiful face filled with reverence, gold wings stretched out behind her, and a glowing halo above her head.

Everything is perfect. They seem like the ideal snow family. Their house is seen in one of those magazines that talks about how the family, a mom, and a dad, two kids, one boy, and one girl, have lived in this house since before there were children. When it was just snowman and his little snow wife.

It seems like nothing is wrong until it slowly starts to melt, revealing what they don’t want you to see.

Snowman yells at his snow wife and broke her carrot nose, blue buttons flashing with anger. “I am the man in this house!”

Snow wife threw a plate at his head even as she clutched her bleeding nose. “It’s Christmas!” she yelled. “How could you?”

Snow boy hid with his little snow sister in their closet, covering her ears instead of her own. “Everything will be okay,” he whispers even as the shouting gets louder, flinching at the sound of glass shattering and their mothers cries. The front door slams.

The icicles dripped onto the polished wood floor.

The angel turned up her nose as her wings turned black and charred, a broken halo on her head.

Snowman knocked the tree over, scattering pine needles and glass for his snow wife to cut her feet on as he fled. “Don’t come back!” screams the snow wife.

Crows eat the cranberries and the popcorn while the snow wife cried, her tears freezing on her face.

Snowman grabbed his car keys and screeched out of the driveway, running over the snow boy and snowgirl in the yard, leaving a track of mud.

Snow wife pours herself more mulled wine, telling her best friend over the phone, “I can’t do this anymore.” Her face in her hands, the tree still laying on its side, needles bent and broken. The first ornamanet they ever bought, a simple blue ball with a pretty white Christmas tree painted on it, laid in pieces on the floor.

Snow boy creeps out of his room, sneaking a candy cane to give to his sister. He carefully picked up the pieces of the ornament and took it to his room, spending all night trying to glue it back together, cutting his little fingers, his tongue sticking out of his mouth in determination.

Snow girl hides under the covers, crying but not understanding why, sucking on the sweet candy cane but not tasting it, clutching her stuffed bear tight, a red bow on his neck.

Snow man drives to the bar, picking up a blonde with too much red lipstick smeared on her face. “Make me feel something,” He tells her. But as she leaves red stains on his tie, the one his snow wife bought him as a gag gift, the one with little briefcases on it, he feels nothing. He shoves her face further down, closes his eyes, and finishes the bottle of whiskey, melting into the bed that smells like piss.

Later snow man will come home. He will kiss his snow wife’s cheek. “I’m sorry, baby,” he’ll say. She’ll smile and forgive him, like she always does. “It’ll get better,” says the snow man as he kisses her frozen lips.

And maybe it does. For a while. The snow boy proudly shows his parents the blue ornament he spent all night fixing, lines of silver glitter hiding the Elmer’s glue. The snow wife will say, “It looks even prettier now.” Presents will be given, red and green wrapping paper on the flooring.

The snow man gives his snow wife a heart shaped dimond to hand around her neck. It will get heavier and heavier as the years go by as her smile gets wider and wider. Back to crisp suits and steak and potatoes on the table. Back to screaming and crying, slamming of doors and broken bottles.

The snow man will continue to see random, nameless woman with lipstick smeared on their faces and cheap perfume. He’ll end up dying of a heartattack, sitting in his own filth in front of the television and leaving his wife all his gambling debts.

The snow wife will drink, throwing herself into PTA meetings, soccer games and ballet recitals, and trying to make everything perfect, putting so much Botox in her face, it’s like she’s permanently smiling. She’ll have to get a job after her husband dies, then another until she’s working three jobs.

The snow boy will drown his pain in pills and whatever else he can shove down his throat to forget the yelling that happens. He’ll turn to a life of petty crime, begging for someone to see him, to save him, until at 17 he ends up on a slab with a bullet in his head. His own hand pulled the trigger.

The snow girl grows up with earbuds in her ears, locked inside her own mind as she makes red lines on her arms and writes into a batter composition note book, hiding from the world. She won’t even mourn her father. She barely knew him.

She’ll try to help her brother but it’s too late, and she’ll always remember the blood on their family portrait and he said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She’ll remember her mother screaming and hitting the ground, clutching her brother’s body.

She’ll end up going to the school counselor and pouring her heart out. Her father’s drinking. The fights between him and her mother. Her brother’s crime record and suicide. She’ll slowly heal, telling her story to group therapy sessions and then eventually to a crowd of teenagers at her old high school, with her wife by her side and her children in the crowd.

She’ll visit her mother every weekend, take care of her and talk about the good days. Only the good days though.

She’ll place flowers and baseball cards on the grave and tell her brother that she’s okay, that she still loves candy canes and making snow angels with her children. She’ll tell him that it wasn’t perfect but at least they had each other. She’ll tell him that now she counsels children who came from homes like theirs so maybe there won’t be another him. Maybe she can save another snow boy when she couldn’t save him. She’ll tell him she loves him and that he was right. It will get better. Maybe not at first but it will.

Then she’ll set a blue ornament on the grave that their mother kept all these years, little lines of white glue visible where the silver and gold glitter had flaked off. She’ll remember how she took a glitter pen to hide the glue and how her brother said “That’s a great idea!

Then she’ll walk away, taking the hand of her snow wife, their daughter in her arms as they walk away. Money is tight. Stress is high. Their daughter is sick. Her snow wife lost her job. But the snow girl will remember.

It will get better.

-K

Bottles in the Closet (A Poem)

You only call me when you’re drunk.

I can hear the slur in your words even as you say, “I haven’t had a drink all day.” We both know it’s a lie. I can almost smell the alcohol on your breath over the phone.

You poured another glass of red wine, instead of putting the cork in the bottle and just walking away. Drink some water and start up again the very next day. As if drinking red wine will numb the pain and erase all the memories you swear you don’t remember.

Or maybe it was a shot of vodka to chase all the bad thoughts away. When you wonder why it is that none of your children want to stay. Throwback the shot glass, the alcohol burning your throat. I bet you don’t need a chaser. You simply grab another.

You keep pouring

and pouring

and pouring,

until everything goes fuzzy. You almost feel like you’re invincible. Like you aren’t risking your life and everyone else’s when you get behind that steering wheel.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

You tell me you don’t want to be here anymore. It’s something I’ve heard before, ever since I was 13 years old. What a thing that a teenager hears from her mother. Can you imagine how that makes me feel?

That time you took a steak knife in the kitchen and cut your wrist in front of me, slurring your words as you screamed and cried. Always playing the victim and making it about you when it should’ve been about us. Your children.

But no.

I had to be the mother. Coax you to hand me the knife even as the smell of vomit on your breath and leftover wine made me gag. I had to lie and tell you that it would be alright. I had to tell you that you were a good mother and that we loved you. That we didn’t blame you for all the hard times.

And when I finally got the knife away, you wouldn’t let me call the police even as the blood dripped on the floor that I’d clean later that night.

You left to go have some fun with drinks. Drank more. It was as if it never happened. As if I was the one who was crazy instead of you. As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the red off the floor and trying my best to erase the memory of you dragging the knife across your wrist oh so slowly, like you had to make sure I was watching.

You tell me that you’re a good mother, and that you tried your best. Yet you do the same thing over

and over

and over again. You hit repeat. You never learn. You never listen.

You are not a good mother. You never were a mother.

You didn’t do your best. You don’t even know what that means.

Your best is not staying out late partying while your oldest daughter takes care of your children.

Your best is not the water or the electricity being turned off because you got more clothes rather than pay the bills.

Your best is not the pantry and fridge being empty and children going hungry because your happiness is more important than your children’s.

But go ahead, pour yourself another glass of wine. Fill up the cup if that makes you feel better. Makes you feel like you’re not a failure of a mother. Like you’ve done nothing wrong. Like you’re the saint that you think you are.

I remember once I opened your closet door and on top of all the shoes were empty alcohol bottles. Dozens of them, sparkling in pretty colors in the yellow light. Like it was some dirty little secret that you failed at hiding.

How many times did I help you out of your shoes and into bed, making sure you were on your side so you didn’t choke on your own vomit? I couldn’t tell you, I lost track. I know it was too many for a teenage girl to have to deal with.

You always said you weren’t an alcoholic but you’ve got bottles in the closet and wine on your breath that tells another story.

You always say that you’re a good mother and that you love your children. I don’t doubt that you love us. But I don’t think you loved us enough. I think you love yourself and the bottle more. You love partying with friends and trying to capture your youth while your children are left behind. Then we are the bad guys when we want to leave. When we want out of that toxic environment and to do better for ourselves. Suddenly we are abandoning you and turning on you.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

You tell me you love me, that you are so proud of me. As if that matters to me. You had nothing to do with the woman I am. There is not a single part of you in me, and for that I am glad. I don’t see you anywhere, and if I did, I’d be terrified.

I don’t want to be like you. A woman who drowns her self-loathing and insecurities in booze. A woman is so blinded by her own perceived greatness of motherhood that she can’t see the mental scars she’s left on her children. That she still leaves on them. A woman who puts the blame on everyone else instead of looking in the damn mirror and realizing that it’s been her all along. That she is the problem. Not us.

Go ahead. Pour yourself another drink, all the up to the brim until it pours over the edges and drips like the blood did on the linoleum all those years ago. I bet you’ll lick that wine up too. Make sure you don’t waste a single drop to numb the pain and ease the guilt.

Go ahead and call me, tell me you’re a good mother and that you did your best.

I know the truth.

The truth is in the bottles in the closet.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

-K

I Don’t Think About You (A Poem)

I thought I would miss you.

Instead, I don’t. And I think that’s what hurts the most. The fact that I don’t miss you. The fact that our friendship is over and it doesn’t hurt like it should.

Shouldn’t it hurt more? Shouldn’t I feel your loss like a phantom limb? But I don’t. I barely feel it at all.

Maybe the reason it doesn’t hurt, why I barely feel your absence, is because you weren’t there. You stopped being present a long time ago. It’s like you were there when you wanted to be. When it was convenient to you. You were like a ghost, fading in and out and only showing up when you wanted to haunt me.

I don’t know when we grew apart. Could it be when I moved here? No. I’ve had friends who kept in touch more than you did.

It can’t be that.

Maybe it began before that. Before we graduated high school. When I needed you in tenth grade, when there were rumors running around about me and I was alone with no one on my side. With no one to turn to. No friendly ear to listen to me.

You would pass by and let me suffer alone, when what I needed back then was a friend. Someone to have my back. Like I had always had yours no matter what.

You would call me and I answered like a best friend does. Immediately. I dropped everything. And it wasn’t until you had cut me off. Told me that I was selfish that I realized. . .

It wasn’t me.

It was you.

I thought it would hurt more. But I don’t feel a thing. Maybe that makes me cold. I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t think about you. Not really. Maybe for a fleeting moment but then that’s it.

After all, you can’t really miss someone who wasn’t there in the first place.

I don’t wish you any ill will. I hope that you are happy and safe. I hope you find everything that you are looking for and even more.

I don’t regret our good times.

Going to the park and spending hours swinging and enjoying the sun.

Late-night talks as we discussed the stories in our heads.

Your passion equaled mine and a part of me, might miss having that. But I don’t need you to have that passion. I don’t need you to be who I am. To be a writer. To be an artist.

I don’t think about you. Maybe I should. Maybe it’s cruel. Or maybe it’s the cold stone truth. That I don’t miss you.

You are not a thought. You are barely a memory. You are nothing to me.

You were long gone before we ever said goodbye.

-K

In the End (A Poem)

I wish I didn’t love you.

I wish that I didn’t think about you every second of every single day. 

I wish that when I heard your name called in a crowded room, even if you weren’t there, I wouldn’t automatically turn and look for you. 

You’re never there. 

I wish that I could ignore your late night calls, hit decline instead of answer. But I don’t. I answer and we spend hours talking on the phone, and with every word that comes out of your mouth, I fall even more in love with you. 

And I hate it.

I wish that I didn’t smile when my phone lights up with your good morning text that you used to send me every day. It was only a good morning when I got that text. But then, that text stopped coming. 

I wish that I could walk away, that I could finally let you go, because all you ever do is hurt me. All you do is leave me standing there, looking a fool. You’re never there when I need you, yet I drop everything for you. Everything.

I ruin myself for you. 

Sometimes I try to walk away but then you smile at me, and it’s like the world stops. Like one of those cheesy Hallmark movies we would make fun of, snuggled up on the couch and feeding each other popcorn. The world stops turning. My heart stops beating. Then you’re gone, like the snow in the south.

I wish I could burn you out of my head. That I had never met you. That I had never walked over to your table at the cafe where you sat, looking lost and alone.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger, stupider self that all you’d bring me was heartache and pain. That I’d bend over backwards, give you every part of me. My heart, my body, my soul. And all you’d give me was fake smiles and cold shoulders. That you’d break me down then build me back up then break me down all over again. Over and over again. It’s the same cycle. I repeat it. 

I come back to you no matter what you do to me. Even though you’ve never chosen me first. Not once. It is always someone else. I am always the last one you chose. And you know that I always come running back.

I wish I didn’t love you. I wish that I could yank you out of my heart, out of my life. Like a broken, rotten wisdom tooth. Tear you out and slap a bandage on it. I’ll be okay. 

But I can’t. 

The truth is, that I love you. I’ll always love you. Even though you’re going to ruin me in the end, I still love you.

-K

Snow (A Poem)

You disappeared like the snow in the south — the snow that falls, barely sticking but we all cheer as it does, like a child, and the snow is perfect, pristine, and pure, so, so white that when you see it, it blinds you. The trees are coated in cotton balls, the branches almost crystalized like a mosquito in amber. A magical frozen picture.

But then people march all over it, soiling the snow with their secrets and lies and pain, and then the snow is gone, melting into nothing. It was only there for an hour, but oh, what a beautiful hour it was. One shining, blinding moment where everything stood still.

That’s how you made me feel.

You stopped the noise, the world with your very presence. The calamity, the fear, the cruel words that dug into my head with sharp claws, was soothed like honey on a sore throat. Like the first crisp taste of tea in the cold mornings. Everything went away and all that was left was us.

And I assumed you’d be there, next to me, like you always were, your warm hand in mind as you pulled me into the world I’d long hidden from — ashamed, afraid but you always made me feel brave. But you let go of my hand and I was left, cold, oh so cold. I reached for you and you were no longer there. And I’ve never given thought to what I would say when that happened.

The girl who scrawls words in a battered notebook so rapidly that ink stains the paper, always struggled to speak. The words getting caught in my throat like glass, silencing me with all the edges. You always had the words, perfectly delivered while for me, getting out a Hello was a struggle. When you left, you took my voice with you.

Now I can only write this and hope you see these words:

Thank you. Thank you for making me brave. Thank you for giving the strength and courage to step out of my shell and to taste the cool air on my breath and explore the beauty around me. Thank you.

-K

Bruise (A Poem)

The eye is left to bruise,  while the sky bleeds into blues.  I take a breathe but I feel nothing,  the air a cold and brittle thing. The eye closes and cries, oozing tears of black sticky smears. 

To kiss is but lies,  all pretty words and ties,  bounding each other hand to hand.  The bruise is like a brand,  red and shiny, gleaming with fear. 

There’s only one more bottle of beer. 

Cool and sharp, the tongue is a whistling whip that makes a sharp crack into the room, and even butterflies flit and flutter in the stomach, turning a blind eye into the skye. 

The song sings I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, like the croon of an old country song, while tattered curtains cover the windows and hide the lies.

-K

I Should’ve Loved You (A Poem)

I should’ve loved you.

You looked at me like I was the moon, full and orange and bright against the inky sky as the stars winked. You’d smile at me as I named the constellations, talking about Neverland and how I wished that there really was a second star to the right that could take me where pirates roamed, mermaids swam, and children flew. Where faith, trust, and pixie dust was all you needed.

I should’ve loved you.

You held me tenderly, as if I was something precious, like the fragile vase that your great-grandmother brought over from Europe. She’d tell you stories about the vase and how it survived the voyage from the Mayflower just so it could set on a small plywood table, gathering dust as the fake tulips wilted. Your grandmother would’ve liked how I listened to tell her stories, writing them into a beat-up composition notebook that one day would turn into a book.

I should’ve loved you.

You touched me like I was a spider’s web, strong and sturdy as it stretched from corner to corner, dew drops sparkling in the sun, until harsh hands tore it down, the spider falling to the ground, and meeting it’s end under a steel-toed boot. You understood why I was guarded and you approached me cautiously, but not fearfully. You never pushed, instead, you waited until I was ready. Never afraid of my cobwebs and the skeletons that hid in my closet.

I should’ve loved you.

But I didn’t love you. I couldn’t love you.

There was no last kiss, there wasn’t even a first. Instead, I dropped your hand after you took it and begged me to stay. I turned and I walked away. My name on your lips. I couldn’t be who you wanted even though all you said you wanted was me.

-K