Sunday, November 12, 2017

Quilted

Driving through East Texas ghost towns
I swerve through traffic
tapping my ring on the steering wheel to Natasha Bedingfield’s luxurious voice.
Responsibilities and roles drip off me like discarded clothes
the farther I get from my well-oiled routine back home.
As I sing and sway and occasionally glance at the glowing map on my phone
calling me out to this remote country get away,
my eyes focus sharp on the twisting road before me
but space simultaneously softens like butter left out on the counter in summer
And the knife-edge of my mind melts heavy, cutting through time
as it swirls into form like a wraith rising from the pavement.
I can see through the layers like overlapping swaths of color on canvas
as I drag my nails through the paint.

Old rickety houses dot the banks of the highway like skeletons jutting out
of a past unknown to me, yet hauntingly familiar.
History has a way of shining through the present and sticking to me like papier-mâché.
My skin shivers and tingles as if I am flashing in and out of solid substance on a Star Trek rerun.
We cling to the belief that we are free spirits inventing ourselves
like Athena leaping from the head of Zeus,
but we are coated by our past, a thick cast we press against
which both protects and smothers us.
We must remember to undress occasionally,
peel away the residue of our ancestors’ dreams.
It requires diligence, a daily cleansing,
moment by moment allowing the breath to wash away even the thinnest film forming.
For as soon as I think I’ve scrubbed away the last clinging fingerprints,
I find the oil still glimmering ever so lightly on my skin.

Arriving at my destination, 
I am equally comforted and terrified
by the quaint intimacy 
of a grandmother’s quirky touch.
As I ease myself cautiously 
into these murky waters
I find myself shivering 
and wrap myself in layers of worn quilts, 
slip into a disconcerting sleep.
For the warmth is tentative.
My bones still feel brittle and exposed.
Although I honor the power of quilts, 
a form of resistance art
in the proud lineage of Guadalupe and capoeira,
my breathing still catches, 
an asthmatic rasp claws at my chest.
My throat contracts.
It's a devil’s bargain,
to trade my voice for safety.

I want to scream FUCK at the top of my lungs
to give myself space to breathe,
but even that word is tainted with violence
a weight that has stifled women for generations.
I find solace nowhere.
I am acutely aware
that I must forge something new
by melting down the scraps of everything that once bound me.

The creaking wood snaps open
memories, long laid to rest
like bubbles popping,
condensation forming on a window,
droplets shaped into tears.
These quilted pieces of myself are unraveling
that were once stitched so stubbornly
with that strange spit made from both
love and resentment
ancient enchantments whispered over me
meant to both bind and preserve.
Words conjured out of an old FEAR
that I must face like the ghost that chases me up the stairwell.
Renounce the ties that hold me to this past,
while still acknowledging its power.

My hands press together in the dark.
I bow.  I bow, and I bow.
Humility soothes me. 
I resolve to take only the sunlight
that shimmers through the sycamore trees.
Open my skin to feel the breeze
that sings to me,
moves my feet and
lets the rhythm carry me.

I rise at daybreak and run,
seeking the alchemy of sweat and open skies.
Flick the tension briskly from my hands
and see the sparks fly from them as if I were striking an anvil.
My feet caress the ground
rolling gently heel to toe, heel to toe
like a prayer whispered over the earth
who lies patiently beneath me, holding me,
silent layers of time seeping like water through sandstone.
I squint in the sunshine
trying to split the haze.
The red sea recedes before me
allows me to pass through the pores of NOW
to a space it shares
with what used to be
and what has yet to come.

I pray to just
slow
down
my choppy breathing
to the mystic's rhythm,
the one in synch with the pulsating waves
emanating from a deep knowing
that sits so resolutely in my chest.
I exhale forcefully through closed teeth
then suck life back in through my feet.
Dizzy, I surrender my ties
to the indentation my body makes on this world,
a mold formed in the reflection
of those around me,
stamp-marked in time.
And with each breath, I fade,
blur the lines of my silhouette
with each carefully placed step
shaking me loose from my skin.
My bones fill with air.
My contact with the earth is as light as a kiss,
giving space for my spirit to rise like smoke from my core.
 I see my pathway revealed in the swish of grass around me
as it opens even before I step.

Feeling restored and eager to rejoin my journey,
I turn to face the TEETH of a snarling German shepherd
growling and lunging at me 
as I retreat, startled and disoriented.
Until suddenly my fear shatters into laughing
as I recognize his true form
a messenger,
reminding me not to go back the way I came!
So with pounding heart and shaking hands,
I thank him and face the unknown,
to begin the search
for a new way home.

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