live simply, love fiercely.

and other words.

April 19, 2013
by mblanton
Comments Off on Closet Ponderings.

Closet Ponderings.

I’m not a kid anymore.

The once hide-and-seek sweet spot

now smothers and restricts me.

With arms and legs crossed,

I might as well be wearing a straight jacket.

Hunched over in a box that smells like shoes,

the crack of the door gives me hope of daylight.

In the dimness I feel my heartbeat increase

as I imagine the door locking and the tight walls closing in.

 

From downstairs,

the TV projects muffled voices of newscasters

proclaiming stories from the outside world.

 

Out there terrorism takes a toddler on the street.

Out there cancer steals loved ones in a blink.

Out there hurricanes threaten to wipe us off the face of the earth.

Out there hate and prejudice transform into a war that never ends.

Out there the hungry are never satisfied.

 

It’s actually not so bad in here.

 

So.

Am I imprisoned

slowly suffocating on the smell of feet,

or

in my place of

silence

and escape

from the world’s unexplainable, overwhelming problems.

April 12, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

Sticks and Stones

There is painful silence

that follows the kind of words

that are spit out fiercely,

harsh,

without filter.

 

They cut deep

and even after rounds of forgiveness,

a little piece of the words

is stuck and won’t wash away.

It remains somewhere inside my core,

immersed

covered up

but simmering, slowly simmering.

 

I wish I could

vacuum up that little piece

before it gathers and comes to a boil.

 

Better yet,

I wish I could suck it out

of its hiding place.

I wish I could remove the memory

of the words all together,

healing the burn it left on my brain.

I wish I could watch,

as those words floated above me,

returning back to their owner.

Then I’d lock them up

in the mouth from which they came,

and they wouldn’t have the chance

to do their awful damage.

 

The evening would not be ruined

A soul would not be crushed

A relationship would not be scarred.

And who knows,

we could maybe even make it through one meal together.

April 11, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

It’s a Camp Counselor Thing.

She thrust it into my hands.

“I made this is for you!”

and ran off to the lake.

Braces look so cute

on that wide smile.

 

Resting unbalanced in my hands,

her colorful wicker basket is

crooked

and sloppily woven together,

so that light, air, and everything else

escapes through the cracks

of the unreliable container.

 

I will never throw it away.

 

Now it rides around in my car.

Splattered with sequins,

it litters tiny bits of magic

all over the backseat.

 

Littering the winter months

with memories of

braiding hair in the sun,

sleeping under the unveiled stars,

clothes reeking of campfire smoke,

skipping rocks and watching the ripples,

eating enough berries to turn our stomachs red,

week after wonderful week.

 

I look in the rear view mirror

at that silly basket,

and wonder

how many more days

until I will see that smile again.

 

April 8, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

Just Plain Hungry.

My weathered hands

hold the sign up.

I take my usual post

at the intersection that never sleeps.

Are there any takers today?

 

Some laugh,

some roll their eyes,

some smile awkwardly,

some tell me to get a job,

some shift in their passenger seat trying not to make eye contact.

 

What do they know

of a belly ache that never rests?

of family rejection?

of liability termination?

of hitting bottom?

They speed by quickly

complaining on their cell phones

about problems they think are problems.

 

Every once in awhile

there is one willing to surrender their leftovers.

The styrofoam container

like a clam releasing its pearl,

provides me with the entrees of kings.

 

They shout “God bless!”

and are on their way.

I indulge myself

in the tender juicy steak,

but later I feel it,

sitting there in my stomach,

reminding me,

I will be back at my post tomorrow.

April 5, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

Ceiling.

My alarm goes off,

and my eyes open.

There you are.

The same clean, white plaster every morning,

a chiseled pattern of strange shapes.

 

Meanwhile, on the other side,

you fight battles on my behalf,

shielding my world

from rain, wind, or snow,

and I’m ungrateful.

 

Still, you remain at your post.

Protecting, watching.

You saw me cry when no one else did,

saw me procrastinating from homework,

saw me dancing like an idiot.

You see the reality of people.

 

Soon another tenant will fill in,

and you will get to know her too,

and put up with her quirks

and her loud music,

all the while guarding her from the elements.

April 1, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

the image blurs.

If you were sitting here now
would we talk?
Would we share
coffee, conversation, confessions?
I try and remember what your face looks like,
but the image blurs.

 

You left a crumbling legacy,
and we struggle to catch the pieces as they fall,
and  we work together,
to put them back the right way.
We never agree.

 

Who were you, really?
And where are you now?

Are you
the somber man in the painting, or
the president blessing the troops, or
among the angry mob protesting, or
on stage in the middle of a guitar solo
while lights flash around you?

 

Frustration overwhelms me.
You seem far gone, lost forever.
Each time I think I know your face,
it changes.

 

I wish you were still around,
that I could bump into you downtown,
and we’d sit down for coffee.
I’d ask you all my questions
And you’d listen, patient as ever.

 

For now,
I keep searching in hopes of finding your image, unblurred.
I catch glimpses of it
in small moments.
In the humble interactions
of strangers.
Strangers willing to smile at each other,
reach out to shake hands and say “my brother”.

March 29, 2013
by mblanton
Comments Off on The mind is not paralyzed.

The mind is not paralyzed.

As it carries me along the sidewalk,

my chair mechanically hums and buzzes,

hiccuping every time the wheels roll over a crack.

 

As my neck rotates my head around,

our eyes meet briefly.

She smiles friendly, but awkwardly,

I can sense the usual hesitation.

 

She tries to start a conversation,

but her words are too loud

spoken slow, with forced diction.

 

I wish I could explain

that I’m not deaf or illiterate.

I notice when your gaze rests on me too long

and I’m capable of all human emotion—including annoyance.

 

I don’t need pity stares or smiles.

I just need you to have a little patience

while the words form slowly, and become audible.

 

My chair carries me away

from the frustration and humiliation of it all.

She gave up trying,

but I will not.

March 25, 2013
by mblanton
Comments Off on Suppress no more.

Suppress no more.

There’s hesitation to leave a note.

this time it’s real,

this time there is a set plan of action,

so if he leaves something, if anything, behind,

it’ll be a note.

 

But what can he even write?

The yellow pad on the fridge

is not big enough for what he has to say.

and the whole house

is not big enough to hold all the unresolved problems.

 

He won’t write of where he is going,

just like he wouldn’t speak of the anger boiling inside,

afraid that carefully removing the lid after so many years would only lead

to projectile vomit of the burdened, the crippled, and frustrated soul.

And what good would that do now?

 

Instead of writing he goes to the car,

hoping soon to be out of the traffic, the smoke, the screaming.

Out of the pain, the disappointment, the stifling silence of words unsaid,

to a place where there are no telephone poles,

only trees as far as the eye can see.

 

Maybe there he can get the past year out of his system.

Maybe there, in the crisp mountain air,

where reality is far away, yet thoughts are the clearest,

he will remember that this is just one frame,

in the big picture.

 

The key turns and the engine revs,

the windows roll down and the breeze brushes his face,

puts air into his lungs and confidence into his mind.

He starts to follow the breeze to where he isn’t cramped or congested or choking,

to the place where release will begin.

February 25, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

when the party’s over.

I wish I could ignore the ringing during the night. I used to be able to sleep through anything; thunderstorms, people screaming, lawnmowers, you name it. Now I’m like a mother with a newborn, instantly waking up the second I hear a cry for help. I wonder if new mothers ever have the notion to ignore their baby’s cry, like I wish I could ignore this stupid ringing phone, bursting my dream bubble and ruining my chances at staying awake during class tomorrow. But, my mother instincts are unrelenting and I attempt to pry my eyes open in the darkest hours of night and feel around blindly for my cell.

There have been few moments when I am literally speechless. When the voice on the other line is not made up of drunken slurs demanding a ride home but instead a formal, machine-like tone, I am suddenly more alert. I sit on the side of the bed and try to process it, but no clarity comes, so I pull a hoodie over my head and fumble around looking for my keys.

Condescending stares, fluorescent lights, and the overpowering smell of disinfectant: hospitals are the worst.

How is it that the place of healing is the most uncomfortable place in the world? I sit and wonder if the three other twenty-somethings in the waiting room of the ICU are thinking the same thing. We all have faint purple bags under our eyes with disheveled hair, wearing baggy mismatched clothes. The robot voice that spoke over the phone must have made it clear to all of us that it was necessary we be here tonight and not later. We haven’t talked at all yet, we just sit waiting. Either no one wants to break the silence or no one knows what to say or how to react. One of her work friend’s comes to sit next to me, resting her hand on mine for a moment, a kind gesture I suppose, but it feels awkward and she withdraws. The only real connection we have to each other is that we know her. For now, the four of us; her roommate her two work friends, and her ex; all sit, stare, and drown in our thoughts.

We all knew that she was sick. But it wasn’t just that she was hung over all the time, it was that she was LOST. She had fallen into a pit and didn’t want help out, not because she was too proud or embarrassed to ask, but because she wanted to embrace it down there, embrace culture, embrace rebellion, embrace sin. She welcomed it, welcomed the never-ending feeling of falling down the pit so she wouldn’t have to worry about climbing back up.

I had not admitted it to anyone in the room yet, but there had been a few times I had heard her come in late, sobbing downstairs. Whiny sounds that turn into howling, followed by calming deep breaths, until another wave crashed down and the cycle repeated. I could practically see her through the floor, sprawled out on the couch, her heels still on, pale face, black eye liner smudged at the corners of her red eyes. I heard the weeping; vulnerable, uncontrolled, pathetic. I didn’t move. I knew that it was cold, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tired of babysitting a grown woman.

A man in dark blue scrubs holding a clipboard interrupts our thoughts to tell us we can go in. It takes a few seconds, but we all manage to gather the courage to face the ugly truth lying motionless in the hospital bed, attached to the beeping machines you always see in the movies. But this is real. And we all gather around the bed staring and trying to blink it away.

Her dark wavy hair is still gorgeous resting on the pillowcase, but her face looks so unnatural and waned. She must’ve had to get her stomach pumped. The doctor crosses his arms against the dark blue scrubs and mentions something about it, but also goes on to say that too much time had passed after the initial drug ingestion. I struggle to concentrate on what he has to say, the words fade in and out. Before he walks out to give us time alone with her, he clears his throat and encourages us to say our goodbyes.

And now the guilt creeps up and consumes all of our minds: Why didn’t we do more? We could have tried confronting her again…Part of me knows she was done listening to my concerns long ago, but part of me also wishes I could beat myself up for being so uncaring, so unsympathetic. The motionless image of her becomes blurry and the tears on my cheek make me realize my face is hot. I don’t bother to wipe them and they fall and make droplet marks on the hospital blanket. I feel like I could throw up, punch the wall, and hug her all at the same time.

I briefly turn around to look at the three others, they look the same as me, exhausted with emotion and wanting to fall to the ground. One work friend sits in the corner with fingers on her temples, the other looks out the window biting her nails and weeping softly. Her ex moves over to the bed slowly, looking tormented. He leans over and whispers something in her ear, then holds her hand for a moment, before retreating back to the white-washed wall. In the hour or two that has passed since the doctor left, I managed to say a prayer over her, but I am helpless for any other words.

We are all startled and frozen by the sudden even humming noise of the monitor and a nurse appears to turn off the horrible sound that makes us all ache. I take slow steps up to the bed and remove the oxygen mask from her delicate face. My head spins as I fix my eyes on that face. It doesn’t even look like the girl that first befriended me three years ago. I say one more prayer and try to believe that this lost girl is now at peace.

February 18, 2013
by mblanton
1 Comment

The Prodigal Granddaughter.

Option: A woman sits on the floor of her flat, surrounded by dusty unopened, moving cartoons packed seventeen months ago. Moonbeams, the only light, spill in the window.

Who knew moving to the big city would be such a flop. Once again, Rosalie curses herself for filling her head with so many unrealistic movie scenes of a small town girl who gives up everything to make it in NYC. In those movies she watched and imagined herself in, they did not mention how claustrophobic she would feel once she moved to the “big” apple. Or how the streets smell like piss and cigarettes. Or how there were people everywhere, but very few human souls left.

The whole city made her feel like she was gasping for air and longing for human connection.

As the faint moonbeams coming in her only window cause the smallest of shadows to form around the towers of boxes, Rosalie slid into her usual nightly routine: rips off the waitress uniform, grabs a beer, lounges on the rickety bed, and tries to make sense of where she is and what to heck to do next.

Most of the stacked boxes in front of her have remained sealed. Only a few were reopened to pull out needed items, a warm sweater, a book, silverware set for one. Only eight feet away, her open laptop sits at the opposite wall, playing some faint melodies from her iTunes. John Denver begins serenading her through the tiny speakers: Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah River…life is old there, older than the trees…younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. A smile started forming at the corners of her mouth, widening until she let out a giggle and sang along with the rest of the chorus: Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belonngggg!

By the time the song ended she was standing on the rickety bed belting out the words she knew so well. It was an album Gigi played for her while she clicked tinker toys together. Whenever Rosalie visited during the fall, they put all the classic records on and cooked. Gigi pulled over a chair in front of the stove and let Rosalie stir the ginormous pot of soup while she cut up vegetables and let them splash in one at a time. Carrots, peas, beans, squash, zucchini, mushrooms. All the strange shapes and colors that usually Rosalie would refuse to eat, but at Gigi’s they all melded together in the pot to make a bowl of warm heaven.

If only she could feel that warmth in her lonely apartment, taste that comfort in her mouth as the vegetables land on her tongue. Instead, reality hits and she lets her lifted arms drop and hops down from the bed and goes to open laptop, about to run out of battery. In her inbox there are many older emails from Gigi, and Rosalie gladly reads them all, but never replies. It took her forever to figure out how to get on the computer, but now she sends her the longest messages, with stories of black bears coming on her property again or just a simple: hello hun, the mountains miss ya!

Gigi had never been forceful. She made sure Rosalie grew up saying “please” and “thank you”. Rosalie was taught to wait her turn and put the needs of others before her own. But as she got older, Gigi did not coerce her into a job or tell her who to be. When Rosalie talked about plans to move away and find herself and find love, Gigi listened. When Rosalie bought the bus ticket and packed her things, Gigi made her packed her some leftovers to take. She kissed her goodbye that day with some tears, asking Rosalie to write her often, just to let her know how her granddaughter was holding up in the big city.

“You will always be welcome here,” Gigi said softly and seriously, but then added, “So you come back, ya hear!” with a smile.

Rosalie knew she meant those words with her whole heart. During her nightly routine she would think about the possibility of returning to the colored mountains, the fields scattered with cows, the place where no one hears the traffic beeping and yelling, the place where everyone knows her name at the piggly wiggly.

But how could she walk into that familiar house that always smells like heaven and look into the eyes of that sweet, wrinkled face? How could she return and not be overwhelmed with shame? Shame for leaving the only one who loved her, took care of her, practically raised her, and the devastating shame for never keeping in touch with her. Rosalie leaned back on the bed and thought about what in the world she could possibly say to make up for the fact that she deserted Gigi, deserted love.

Rosalie finished the last sip of her beer and looked back at the tower of boxes. Seventeen months of collecting dust, just waiting for a decision to be made. Waiting, waiting, waiting for her to swallow her pride.

I can’t do this anymore, she thought to herself and a lump formed in her throat. I can’t sit in a room of packed boxes anymore…what time is it in her timezone…is she already asleep?

Rosalie hesitantly picked up her cell phone and dialed the number she could never forget, unsure of what was about to happen. Will she be furious? Will she demand an explanation? Will she scream at me, call me ungrateful? A screwup? Pathetic? She paced rapidly in the tiny room, turning around every four seconds, biting the nails of her left hand. The phone was about to finish its fourth ring when she heard a click and was breathless.

“H-hello?” came a course, muffled voice, “and who is calling so late?” Rosalie was literally speechless, but she felt tears of both excitement and shame forming in the eyes as she heard that sweet voice. Oh how could you leave this woman, you selfish oblivious child! she angrily thought to herself.

“Anybody there?” the voice called out suspiciously.

Too afraid that she would hang up and be lost forever, Rosalie gathered the courage to find her own voice, “Um, sorry to call, I um, I-I, um Gigi?” her heartbeat was banging her chest, but it was the first time she felt it rocking her body in months. There was a pause and she was afraid that they had been disconnected, when suddenly the voice sounded more awake:

“Well hello hun, I hope you are calling to tell me you are coming to visit! The mountains miss ya more than ever, and I just bought all the vegetables we need to last us the WHOLE autumn. When’s the soonest you can get here, sweetie? I need help dicing!”

“Um, I can be there by Friday? Is that okay?” Rosalie managed to get out between sobs.

“Of course, sweetie. I’ll pick you up at the bus station.” Rosalie could hear the joy in Gigi’s voice, she could envision the crows feet as she smiled, she could feel at home already.

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