Apologies (or, the heartfelt apology of a first year teacher)

Pardon me and my non existence.

Forgive me my sun-burnt hue,
the way it pierces your eyes with its glaring non-compliance.
Excuse the coils that sweep from my scalp a crown, reaching defiantly past you
into the heavens.

Ignore my absence from your world–-
tease me with my potential presence in the corner and the shadows,
promise me that eventually we will change.

Pleasure me with my own brilliance.

When I show you that I am not there in the world you have created, ridicule me.
Threaten me.
Beat me.
Promise me. Promise me that
If you change the you of you–your voice, your face, your attitude–then…”
leave the rest for never.
Give me a goal that I would rather be rendered soulless than reach.

Skin me until you find
the palatable white beneath.
Scalp me and burn away
the remnants of what grew there.
Rename me and replace me.

But

Forgive me if I despise you.
If I rise up against you and challenge you.
If my existence that you would prefer to not be scares you.
Excuse me if I fight you with fire
and if my cheek never turns to meet your lashes.
Forgive me if I burn the bridge
that swells between us, if I prefer
the wilderness to the solace of your hell.

Forgive me if my loathing you makes me visible
and if my loathing you makes you realize that
the rock,
the pit
the hollow in your stomach
is unveiling, the knowledge that you should be loathed.
That the hell that you have created for me waits

and waits

for you.

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Metanoia: Day One

Day One.

There was a crack in the ceiling, just there, a hairline fracture, really. Thin and faint and unnoticeable I watched as it spilled from beneath the light in the foyer, the one that jutted from the ceiling like a lone milky-white breast, stiff and dead, obscene and grotesque.
The crack seemed to begin beneath the breast, stretching just beyond the boundaries of the foyer and into the library.
The house itself was old, reminiscent of antebellum fortitude and the lie of possibility. Erected in close proximity to the square just before the war–here they call it the war of northern aggression–it is prominent and beautiful, the colonnades crisp white, the expanse of lush green yard flanked by large oaks and richly colored perennials. Even now I hear the lark songs, the distant hum of a content mower, the periodic spray of the sprinklers. The house has aged well, the thin black pole marking its elegance placed gingerly in the yard with the name, “Williamson Bradford House, circa 1850” etched in gold solely for the edification of passerby. They are to marvel at this symbol of The South, the inability of the North to traverse across our collective strength. See how the house stands, unbowed against time?
But the crack.
Remy spent most of her time looking up; at the ceiling, into the heavens and beyond. She had a particular eye for disrepair, and yet it went unnoticed by her, too close for her eyes. I noticed the crack, she saw beyond. I pointed it out to Mark.
“What is that?”
He glanced up, only briefly, after scanning over the mail. Flyers and ads beckoning us to come to church for the everyday sinner. He dropped his keys haphazardly onto the tall boy. I picked them up and placed them on their hook.
He offered me a half smile before responding. “Oh. Maybe the paint is chipped.”
I shook my head at that, and he began to walk away. I grabbed his arm, only to get his attention, but he jerked away from me as if I’d burned him.
I imagined I would see fingerprints under his starched shirt and dress coat, he pulled away so quickly.
In unison we glanced at Remy, but she tugged Martin forward and they disappeared into the darkness of the house.
“Jane–”
“Just look! What if there’s a crack in the foundation?”
“There isn’t.”
“How do you know?”
He sighed and loosened his tie. He ran his fingers through his hair and I wondered how long he would continue to pretend it might come back.
“I just know,” he breathed. He narrowed his eyes at me then sighed again. “Look. If it gets any larger I’ll call someone.”
“Who?”
“I’ll let you decide.”
He made dinner. He must have. I leaned against the stairs staring up at that hideous fracture and when I looked down again the house was dark around me and the children were asleep.
Mark frowned at me when I entered the bedroom, Emerson clutched to me.
“Jane! She was sleeping.”
“I don’t get to see her during the day! I’ll put her back.”
When I awakened in the morning sunlight was draped over me and Emerson was gone.

I only intended to fix the crack. The children were with Mark’s parents and he was working late again. I watched as it expanded and contracted, breathing over the house. My chest began to constrict as I splashed water over my face. I couldn’t call Mark, he wouldn’t answer and he hated when I interrupted meetings. I pulled out the ladder, staring in disgust at the cobwebs covering my fingers.
The cobwebs were sticky and wet even before the bleach. It only stung briefly; the sting faded but the webs stayed. Grabbing the kitchen knife I made my way up the ladder. I pressed the knife gently into the crack first, plaster falling into my eyes. The second jab into the ceiling was deeper than the first, but necessary. Before plastering the crack I needed to know how deep it reached. The knife buried into the ceiling to the hilt; I paused for a moment, admiring my reflection in the library. I looked mad, covered in white powder perched at the top of an eight foot ladder with a butcher knife in my ceiling.
I couldn’t hear the door because of my laughter. The ladder began to tip and I felt more than saw Mark reaching out for it–or me–and briefly, a sting, and then nothing.

When I came to I noticed bandages on both arms. How strange. The knife glanced off of my arm, assuredly, but both?
Murmuring distantly but then the words became clear, a newly tuned radio.
“Mrs. Wilkes. Mrs. Wilkes. Can you hear me?” I nodded.
“Do you know where you are?” I nodded again.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
Pause. “I had an accident.”
“Can you tell me what happened.” I glanced at the man. Small and gentle, his eyes were hidden behind gold rimmed spectacles. His pants were too short.
“I fell. I was fixing the ceiling.”
“What was wrong with the ceiling?” What an odd question.
“There was a crack. I wanted to plaster over it, but I had to know how deep it was.”
Pause. “I see.”
“Am I okay to go home?” Where are the kids and Mark, I wondered.
“We want to keep you a whole longer for observation. I’d like to talk to you a bit.”
“Why?”
“Mrs. Wilkes. We want to make certain when you return home you’re feeling your best.”
“But I am–”
“Mrs. Wilkes there was no crack. In the ceiling. Your husband claims to have found you on the top of the ladder…you had slit your wrists. When you saw him you jumped.”
“What? No. No no no. I swear. He has it wrong. Just let me see him. Let me talk to him. He just misunderstood. Is he here–”
“Mrs. Wilkes. Please remain calm.”
“Mark. Where is Mark?” My voice began rising as ice gripped my chest. “Just let me talk to him. He’ll understand when I talk to him!”
A chill ran through my arm and my body was forced back, string hands pressing into me. His voice was distant again, but even if he were clear I would hear none of it.
I can only focus on this ceiling, so unlike my own and yet the same. I marvel at the crack.

Workers Hands

Workers hands. Calloused and yellowing, hardening at the bend of bone and palm they cannot be made soft by anything beyond the knowing eyes of a lover.
When I took her hand–crooked and bony, blue tendrils crawling up like long forgotten roots–I remarked how frail she seemed. How birdlike.
I dared not say it aloud. She smiled at me in the way that only she can, showing the bridge in partial so fast that you wonder, morbidly, how many of those terrifyingly perfect things are hers, grimaced really before remarking–“you’ve got workers hands.”
A true southern debutante over ripened and far too sweet her voice swept over me gracefully, the poison of her tone lingering after. The bitter whistling of a lone lark sounded in the distance, an afterthought. Frozen in time I stood solid, eyes drawn to my own hands. Workers hands.
Raw cacao fading into unripened peach with deep brown furrows across the palms. The nails unfiled and unpainted, the cuticles overgrown. The knuckles of the long fingers large and prominent, the thumbs angular and proud. A scar has settled there, the only evidence of a childhood skirmish beneath the shade of willows and youth. My critical eye creates and fills the silence.
George’s tea was prepared as she likes, without sugar and lukewarm, the biscuits crumbling onto the service and forgotten in the carpet. Her hands shake as she stirs in cold cream to soothe the bitterness, and my eyes travel from the floating leaves back to my own hands.
Almost as large as George’s they engulf the cup. An intricate floral pattern of violets and roses with a whisper of gold on the lips the china is as diaphanous as the skin of its owner. This cup in its frailty is not made for me and my hands and I place it, too gently, back into its saucer.
She speaks again and her voice creaks from disuse, her eyes narrowing over the rail thin bridge of her nose.
“And your parents? What do they do?” Her question is a statement, formed in the midst of a one-sided conversation that she must have been holding with herself.
George stills beside me, his spoon scraping the side of the cup of nothing over and again. I touch his hand lightly and it stills beneath my own.
“My mother is a teacher. My father is in sanitation.” Her lips disappear against each other and she does not speak again.
George leaves for the restroom down a dank hall, the scent of mothballs wafting back to us from the unknown room that swallows him.
Her hands shake against the counter, and I stare down at the web of her hands, immensely horrified.
Grotesque and gnarled they are hands that have never seen work. Frail and skeletal they are themselves the in-between, more dead than alive. Dusted above the translucent skin and lost into the wrinkles she is mottled; the earth brown beautiful on me is sprinkled haphazardly upon her in decaying gruesome disarray. Her emaciated, aged hands shake profusely as she grapples for a bottle, orange and bulky, with small ocular pills filling its contents. Her bluish lips make a reappearance briefly, the teeth flashing before hiding away. Her hands shake ever more and she drops the bottle, and we both watch in silence as it hits the counter.
A weak breath escapes her, scrapes against her shallow bones as it exits with haunting finality. Hesitating briefly I save her from her shame, scooping the bottle with ease.
The callouses of my hands sound loudly against the bottle as I press it gently against them, the top pushing deep into the time-toughened skin. I pass the bottle back to her, top first, demonstrating a smile.
When George returns he laces his hands in mine.
His thumb soothes the new ache that has settled in my palm, and I turn to her again, marveling at how very pale and thin her neck appears. She opens her mouth and casts thanks at me and I hold up my hand, callouses facing her.
“Workers hands.”

lost

Tattered and torn and more empty sack than stuffed bear he fell behind the bed, snagged in the space between the coldness of the bed and the sterile emptiness of the wall, stuffed deep into the shadow place where monsters dwelled.
Lost. We didn’t find him until I had forgotten that the emptiness was for him. 

Svelte and slinky and more strip of cloth than dress it landed behind the machine, in the place where socks hide and favorite sweaters shrink, where the nonessential elements of what wears us dwells.
Lost. I didn’t find it until I had grown out of the desire to be the girl whose name I cannot remember. 

Gorgeous and grotesque and more kaleidoscope than man he crawled into the me of yesterday, the one with the kohl darkened eyes and blood red lips with space in my tortured heart for him onlyandalways, the hole scabbing over without either of us being aware until the gorgeous fell away and then he was just grotesque and the place for him was gone.
Lost. I didn’t find it again until the photo resurfaced and we traced over the faces together. 

You were by the window in the parlor, soaking up the sun. You didn’t go outside. You didn’t want to darken. 
You looked at me when you said that, in the tone that you used. It sounded like sandpaper scratching a rusted can, horrible and grating and who could love a sound like that?
Your fingers were bony and cold and you pointed at the photo of all of us and you told me that I looked like your mother and that she was beautiful. I told you you were. I kissed you. 
I left. 

They call you lost. They say I lost you. 
I did not.
I left you there. In the sun. Alive. You were there when I left you. 
You left on your own. 
You left. 
I will not find you again.
But you are not lost.

Apple

I miss her, as a lover, too early stole away into the mist of a newly risen sun.

Pressing deep into my essence I feel her, sense the sapid shiver seep down my spine as she breathes her self through me, the sweetness of her breath stirring my core.
I hear her voice, strong and warm and melodic in my ears, a symphony of sound animat by her.

And at the apex of my existence I cry out for her, in the blinding, rhythmically pleasurably painful here, wishing I was there, in her.
She makes room, keeps a space for me; soft and tight and never gentle. The ferocity of her, the callouses of her that scrape against me, that leave me bruised and wanting–that is the part of her I need. With her I am satisfied; I sink into her warmth until I am lost–there, lost in her, I find myself.

The heavy hollow of my heart beats wildly for her, the bittersweet intensity that only she can soothe. My want for her moves me, the need to breathe her in exhilarates me, an ache that courses through my veins, surging from my core to my fingertips.

I am here and not there, with her, and
though I can see the incomprehensible beauty that is the stars at night and
though the dew settles and does not away before I awaken to know it and
though the sunrise is as much as it ever was and
though there in her I have none of these–she is enough.
Her beauty and being there, in her, is enough.

I miss her, like a lover.

Time stills and I move closer and I anticipate breathing her in and I move slowly into her and I inhale, finally inhale, and she holds me tightly and I gasp the sweet ache of release that only she can summon, the ecstasy that I can only know by missing her and I am jostled into her by one who has forgotten her bitter sweetness and I am home.

perfect

Love felt small and left me feeling weak.
The word laid me bare and defenseless and
I clutched it near me.
You didn’t ask for it.
Did you miss it?
The time for Love is now.
In the moment where our
Fingers graze and I pull away
And you move with me
Love would be perfect there.
Or the moment where the light
–A typical burning, blistering sun made less so
By you only–
Catches the gold in your eyes
And I know that you are made
For other worlds and
Love would be perfect here.
Acidic tears drag down my cheeks
And you sweep them away
And the cause, too.
You offer the words “I love you,”
And greedily I hold them.
I can not offer my own.
I cast the notion about, but I
Dared not speak it aloud–
What if it is given to you
And then lost?
The love I give freely is different
And it won’t ache when it’s gone.
I love that.
I love thos
e.
Love for you, words said to you
Leaves me bare.
Tomorrow.
I will tell you tomorrow.

You won’t hear where you are.
Heaven and earth between us, now,
And I cast the words and all of myself into the wind.
I love you.
Hollow, cold, empty now
Echoing into forever
With no one, no you
To feel them
To know them
To bear them back again.
Yesterday.
Love was perfect there.

sin eating

Black as shadow
And as deep.
Festering, you are in the marrow.
Rivulets of red ribbons made lashes
Are carved in the dark.
Still you will not out.

Hewn from the rock beneath
Your countenance remains;
We cannot escape you.
Without peace
You rest.

Breaking bread
I bear your burden.
The stinging whip of rebuke
Meant for you
I accept.

Eternal sleep found you
And gathered the
Forgotten pieces
To equal the scale
And grant you passage.

The splinter of your cross
Borne with lukewarm intent by your savior–
Your sins devoured in whole–
The magnitude of your hell–
The ash of your wake–
I swallow
And endure.

View the lash upon
My unfamiliar skin;
The remnants of your
Transgressions
Are me.

Coin exchanged,
Bread swallowed,
Soul returned.
You escape to heaven,
I am cursed to earth.

Rest peacefully, Father.