The moon.

“Look at the moon.”

It cascaded over the lone palm tree on their street, full and pregnant. They both took a breath.

Their argument stopped for a minute. She did this all the time. Her wandering eyes — although never wandering to another man — would catch the simplest piece of beauty even in a tragic moment. It was one of the reasons he loved her so much.

She was trying not to cry and he wasn’t sure if it was because of the moon of the loss. It all began to blend in. This had all seemed to easy a few hours ago, but the more he looked at her, the harder it was to do this.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. He certainly had never enjoyed it. But being her doctor, then her husband had complicated everything. Having her in his life was certainly worth it, but the whispers in the hallway never made it easier.

Who married a dying woman? The man who thought he could save her. Of course, he had for a time. She got better, her hair grew back, though lighter than before. Her face stopped being so pale and her cheeks occasionally flushed. She was beautiful when she was sick and she was stunning when she was well.

She leaned against him, her hair tickling his chin. He breathed in her scent, the lilacs that seemed to permeate her body. He still caught whiffs of her on himself as he walked through the hospital. It was as though she never left him. He would have to plant some lilacs in the backyard, to remind him.

He opened his mouth to start the speech he had gone over in his head so many times. But it stayed caught in his chest, the words that were so easy to say as a doctor. The ones he had grown accustomed to in his years of practice. Probably too accustomed to.

He had started the argument because telling her heartbreaking news when she was angry seemed easier. Anger is so close to fear and sadness. He figured it would be an easier transition. But nothing would make this easier.

“I love you, you know,” he said as he kissed her forehead.

“I know.” She smiled. It was the game the played. He knew very well that she loved him as much, if not more.

He wrapped his arms around her. One more night. One more night until he told her what he saw in the scans. One more night until he had to begin letting her go.

He hoped lilacs grew in California.

fairy tales

The door is shut
and the lock is solid
but you need to push through

All the princess in the tower wants
is to know you want her too

It’s not an easy climb
and she’s never swept the stairwell

And in the morning
when you’re both there together
she’ll know it’s her you came for
and her you’ll come back to

She’ll know that you’ll never leave
in the dark of the night
Your arms will keep her safe
Her mind will keep you sharp

The princess in the tower
she wants you there
she’ll never say so
at least not today.

A flicker.

The fence said she couldn’t go farther, so she stopped for a minute, looked at the birds — geese and ducks? — hanging out in the wetlands. It was pretty here and she could think. She pulled the headphones out of her ears for a minute.

The man standing with his daughter pointed.

“There’s a squirrel there. Look.”

She squinted.

“He’s a little scrawny.”

He suddenly felt…stupid. Here in his audacious hat and backback, forcing his 13-year-old daughter to find nature in the middle of Los Angeles. While she stared at the squirrel, talking about how she never saw them anymore, he looked.

She was beautiful. She was younger than he, pretty in the way that women in their late 20s can be as they find themselves. He felt even more stupid. He had been alone for so long and it pained him to see a pretty woman. It made him miss his wife. It made him feel even more lonely. The only woman he knew anymore was Rita, and she clearly hated him for a reason he couldn’t quite understand. His sister said it was that age. He thought that somehow, she blamed him for the cancer.

“I grew up in Wisconsin, you know.”

“So you miss the squirrels, too?”

She wasn’t sure why she was talking to him. It had been a painful morning. He had given her her things back and tried hard to hold on to her, but it was too late. Her heart had broken and her expectations for love vanished. She came here to find the solace she’d always found in nature. Something pure.

He wasn’t attractive. But he was kind. He listened as they stared out, pointing out animals. The Canada geese. The ducks. The herons. Part of her yearned for kind.

She told him about her favorite hike, hidden in the canyons.

“We went somewhere near there, I thought. Right Rita?”

His daughter shrugged. She didn’t want to be here. She missed her mother. These walks. He thought this would bring them closer together, but the walks were pregnant with her mother’s absence. She was the one who never forgot water, and would make them all laugh. She would have gone past the fence that said the rest of the trail was closed. He tried so hard, but he could never be here.

The three of them stared in silence.

She realized she should keep going.

“I’m going to go that way. Have a nice day.”

The second she walked away a tinge of regret flickered. Maybe she should have introduced herself. As she walked away, she saw a heron on the bluff. It seemed to tell her to stand tall. This was only a moment, today was only a day. She would get past this.

She stopped, murmured to herself and partly to the heron.

“You’re beautiful. Thank you.”

He watched her walk away.

“She was pretty, wasn’t she?”

“I guess so.”

He was relieved that she was gone. The pain of loneliness left him. It was better this way, anyway.

“What do you want for lunch?”

The walked away and as they curved around the final bend of the trail, he hoped to see a flash of her. Maybe they could nod to each other.

She saw them walking a little in front of her and she slowed down. She let them get into their car and drive off. She looked at the water.

She climbed over the fence to the restricted area. It was beautiful here.

70 mph

You were going at 70 mph when I met you
he said
and now I’m going at 20
I replied

Speed is such a variable
and so much slows you down
the weight of life
heartbreak
loss
and love

But there is so much ahead
so much better than what we just left
and the speedometer can move
the air can lift us up
and keep us going

The road under your feet
and the racing in your chest

Let go
and run straight ahead
the curves will disappear
and the signs will blow over

The quiet of the rush in my ears
at 70 mph.

I hate what I just wrote, but it’s what’s been on my mind all night.

we forget them

I.

I’m beginning to forget

what it felt like to be near you

the voice you used when we were alone

the touch you gave when no one was looking

I only remember

the time I laughed for half an hour straight

and you had no idea why

but I forget

your face in that moment.

II.

and his reassurances that everything would be OK

the laugh we both share

and the way we rub our eyes

I’m beginning to forget

because he’s not the same anymore

I know nothing will be the same

and it will be OK

but he is not the man I remember

and he’s always the same man.

III.

When you walk away

I will push away the memories

of murmurs in the middle of the night

and the thrill of the rollercoaster

I want to forget

when you pulled me close to you in your sleep

I want to forget

brushing my hair from my face.

IV.

We forget that which we want

We remember what pains

Memory glides between tangible and intangible

and slips between the sheets

in the middle of the night

farther away than we ever wanted it to go

what is left

The words we’re left with
are quiet and false
they stab quickly
and they can never be taken back

It’s too late for I’m sorry
and there’s not much left to save us
except a change of heart

The songs we’re left singing
are dark and a little painful
the kind written in dark rooms

but what else is there
but what is
and what is left
is all we have

cold beds and square holes

I’m not sure I can do this again
but there may not be a choice

A space
left open
by what was once there
and the curl of your arm
cold as the air outside

It’s not a tragedy
we can pick up and move on
but here was so perfect
the air stands still
and we don’t want to move

But the space stands open
and there is no way to patch it up
square holes and round pegs

You leave with what was once there
I can hear the door close
and there’s nothing to do but go back to numb

I’m not sure I can do this again.

the cookie crumbles

There can only be so many pieces
to be broken into more
before there’s nothing left inside

The cookie crumbles into dust
to float in the cold breeze
carrying the last bits of hope
to someone who has a little bit more faith

The dust settles
into that grimy film
that will never quite clean off right

Phoenixes are myth and legend
and the ashes are only that
ashes.

untitled

In the quiet of the night
close your eyes
and fall somewhere between sleep and wake

The buzz upstairs means nothing
if you’re deaf to the sound of your own heartbeat
close your eyes
breathe deep
and find the space where you hide

Tomorrow will never come
if we stay here
and the world will never change
if we don’t leave the safety of bed

So close your eyes
and forget about the weight
If we push it all away
it may never come back.

writing with headache

This thing on top of my neck hurts, from the lack of caffeine, but I’m going to try and write anyway. Let’s just do this freethought until my battery runs out.

You went away one person and never quite came back. I’m not sure who I am to begin with so who can fault you for that? But do you even know who you are now? You were by my side and then you were not. You who judges me for the choices I made. The words form but I can never say them out loud. I’m worried you who judges are toxic. I’m worried you who went away won’t come back to me. Changes happen here and here and the sun shines almost every day in Los Angeles. But never quite the same way. Nothing is constant, they say, so you better get used to whatever as not being what you thought it was. Sitting consciously in that weariness wearies me. We are never who we once were and when he whispers in her ear he changes both of them forever. What she says next – or doesn’t say – could be the beginning or the end.

I always write in circles. Beginnings and ends. It’s always about the path we take from one day to the next and what maybe, could have happened if you turned right instead of left. Re-evaluating the choices we make but never regretting them.

God knows what that all just meant. But it’s there. I did it.