Always be Airplanes

Time doesn’t matter, it never does, but I’ll act like it anyway, because I always do.

It was a little under three years ago that he and I lay under the redwoods. They were large, tall trees, half enough to call a forest, and they clustered together around the dry creek that ran through his backyard. We lay there because I liked trees and he liked trees and we both liked laying under them. Sunlight was filtering down through the leaves and the temperature was perfect and I was so comfortable I didn’t even care that I was getting dried leaves and branches and dirt in my hair.

He’d gotten me a poem book for Christmas, a compilation of short stubby lines full of crude words depicting vulgar images, written by his favorite author, the wondrous Bukowski. I was a poetry skeptic and thoroughly unimpressed with the work itself, but the sound of his voice reading it was something I could have listened to all day and night and week, without food or water or bathroom breaks.

But we didn’t have all week or night or even day; it was 4pm already, which meant we had less than an hour.

Little bees were buzzing around a few feet above our heads and birds were singing cute little fairytale love songs and I was so happy I started to cry. Just a few tears, trailing down the sides of my face and into my ears. Warm at first, then cold then dry.

Don’t think about it, I told myself, don’t think about leaving yet. Everything was perfect, every single thing, and I’d always had an unfortunate habit of missing things before I lost them. I made myself focus, trying to appreciate every single perfect thing about every single painfully short moment. I lay there trying to trap the words in a net beyond time, catch the feelings and hold them there, hold them still.

A plane roared by, drowning out our words, infiltrating the magic web we’d strung around ourselves. I was pulled back to reality, reminded that this was indeed happening and so were millions of other things in the rest of the world. I smiled.

“We could have done without that,” he said into the silence the plane had left. There was a sort of nervousness in his voice, as if by interrupting our magic, the roar of the engine had stolen something from us that he was afraid we might not be able to get back. I wasn’t concerned.

“There will always be airplanes,” I said.

He sighed in agreement, mistaking my words for resignation that there would always be something there to ruin a perfect moment. I didn’t tell him that wasn’t what I meant. It was beyond me to explain that, for me, it hadn’t ruined anything. That sound that was so far from peaceful, so wrong and real, had pulled us out of our fragile, perfect world, making it into something true, something that might actually exist. It made me appreciate the silence.

He continued to read and I continued to smile, and when it was time to get up and leave, I didn’t feel nearly as sad about it.

It’s been a little under three years now, since that day, and a little over two that all of our magic faded away. It isn’t possible to count the time that I spent grieving, longing for the perfect moments we had that, while momentary, seemed to span a lifetime. The ache never went away, but once I stopped expecting it to, stopped making it a priority, it seemed content to burrow in, out of my way. It’s there always, a memory, a friend, and it doesn’t interrupt my life anymore, unless I invite it to.

But I don’t mind remembering us that like that, he and I under the redwoods, the day that I first fell in love. The trees and the light and the birds and his voice, the roar of the rest of the world saying we’re still here, we will always be here. It was true; the rest of the world was there before our time together and there after, and here with me today as I try to focus in a bubble of another type of magic. While the two year old next door isn’t screaming and the neighbor across the way isn’t pounding off-key chords into his amplifier, I sit here at my desk and marvel at the silence, every single second of it. I know it’s fragile and temporary, this magic, along with every other, and that’s alright. There will always be airplanes.



What A Secret Feels Like

Alone the early morning birds
are laughing in the trees
The heavy clouds and blue, blue sky
like tie dye through the leaves

I hear a car pass down below,
crescendo and then fade
I take my eyes down from the trees and
turn them to the page

The words that appear beneath my pen are
too real to be true
I feel it running through my veins,
blood on the page is blue

In the day, the night sky looks
too far away to touch
I’d reach for it anyway, but
one arm isn’t long enough

Too bright the stars,
too high the climb
to come away with nothing
But even anticipation knows when nothing more is coming

At these inconsequential words
the birds laugh from the trees
While I sit below and
write the story
nobody will see.


It’s warmth and it’s comfort and you
can’t get too close but you
do because it makes you feel better,
it makes you feel whole and you
want it, want all you can get, which isn’t a lot but it’s enough so you
take it and you
hold on, tight.

It’s easy, it’s normal, it feels right (you’d forgotten what that meant,
how it felt) and you fall back quickly into it because
it’s there and it’s steady
you lean against it and it
holds you, holds you up, its warm arms around you,
the fire that doesn’t burn, that doesn’t hurt

No one seems to understand it but
you do, you think you do and you
take for granted your ignorance
the simplicity that wasn’t ever simple and you hold it like it’s
yours because to you it is
because you don’t know that no matter how close you get you can
never hold a flame.

Sometimes it burns bright and sometimes it burns
down, nothing but embers and used up coal and you
stare at it until you can’t see what you’re looking at
until you’re not sure if it was ever there at all and you
want it back, the warmth and the comfort and the easynormalright
but you don’t know where it went or where to look or even if it’ll be there, anywhere, or if you could hold it if you found it (you know you’d try)
and you don’t know whether to hope because it was there or
give up because it’s gone and you don’t want to but you
know that sometimes all it ever is is

I know where it started, I remember the need
The root of the hunger was buried so deep
I got what I wanted
I held it so tight
It drained the life out of me.

It began at the bottom and worked its way up
All of my glue, coming unstuck
The essence of me dissolving and dripping, collapsing piece by piece.

He stood there and watched me slowly lose shape
He didn’t move, not toward me or away
And he never looked down and saw me there,
A puddle at his feet.

Hotels Never Sleep

All the guests are in their rooms. Some are sleeping, some are dreaming, some are not. I feel their consciousness pressing in on me, a blanket of restless energy adding its weight to my own restless body. Too many minds in one place, too many waking dreams.

Out in the hallway it’s bright and silent. The guests are in their rooms, but the ghosts of their presence walk the halls, invisible feet treading on the patterned carpet, going nowhere, seeking nothing. Under the bright yellow lights they pace.

It’s dark in our room, the heavy curtains pulled shut across the window. Light comes in through the crack of the heavy door, in and under, carrying the voices of the ghosts. I lay under the covers and watch my grandmother pack. She’s quiet, rummaging around in the dark, trying not to wake me. But I’ve been up all night, in some way or another, waiting for this moment. Waiting for the first piece of my family, so recently put back in place, to fall away again. She hugs me and then opens the door as quietly as she can, light spilling into the sleepless room. It closes behind her with a deafening click, and my body lays there listening to the silence of goodbye.

My ghost follows her down the hall. My high-heeled feet match my grandmother’s slow steps, the dress I wore the night before swishing around my knees. I watch her turquoise suitcase trail behind her like a puppy nipping at her heels. Driving her on toward her next adventure, packed with all the things that get to go along. Too small for me to fit.

The other ghosts of the other guests watch us with interest. They back away into the paneled walls, they watch from the lights in the ceiling, they lay themselves flat on the patterned floor. They remain motionless, in deference to the one presence that’s solid and the one that isn’t but wishes it was.

The bright bulbs light my grandmother’s way, taking her to the elevator, ushering her inside. All the other ghosts go back to their pacing, their restless wandering, and I stand there staring after the closed elevator doors, after my grandma. These hallways with their bright lights and paneled walls and patterned carpet, I hate them for leading her away from me.

My ghost returns to the room through the crack in the door, in and under, I hear its voice, feel its weight sink into me, pulling me finally to sleep. Beneath my heavy eyelids I can still see the bright bulbs in the hallway, relentless and proud, lighting the halls for no one but the ghosts.