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Book Announcement

Greetings, World! I am so pleased to announce that I’ve published a poetry collection, The Stories I Know Well, in ebook and paperback form. The collection is a culmination of years of work and personal growth, including many pieces that originated on this blog as well as additional poems. As you’ll notice from my blog, most of my writing centers around relatable aspects of the human condition: love, connectedness, sadness, anxiety, grief, identity development, etc. Inspired by my experiences as both a psychologist and human, the book is organized into thematic sections named after the elements of a story, reminding us that each of our lives contains a unique narrative worth telling. I would love for you to check it out!

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As It Should Be

Everything is as it should be
but there are no shoulds
and there are no buts
but sometimes there are—
because absolutely nothing
is absolute
except for those things which
you never can have,
the people and things.

And in trying to make sense
of this world
I have found myself floating often
to another one,
where coffee cancels the spices
on my twelve o’clock tongue
just enough to taste the flavor
without the burn
and trees lining the streets
grow up and out
and in like ballerina arms,
and mornings unfold
at precisely the pace
they are meant to—
a rare thing—
never dragging, never rushed.
Voices exchange stories both
slowly and sad,
stirring the senses,
imprinted in time
while the embodiment of love rests
visible, tangible,
soft and young
and growing
in the arms of its makers
and not amongst the old books
and foreign figurines
on the storage shelf.

The B-R-I-T Poem

In third grade they told me
to use the limited four letters
of my first name, in acrostic form,
to write a poem about myself.

I didn’t realize that they were asking me
to simplify myself
and they’d later do it for me.
And at age 8, simple indeed it was.
Confidence building, even.
Identity-affirming:

B is for blonde
R is for radiant
I is for intelligent
T is for ticklish! … or talented.

And there I was! All summed up in four adjectives
and a Crayola drawing of a smiley girl with goldenrod hair
and stick arms
hanging on a classroom wall for all to see.
And now that I had documented the rules of being Brit
and publicly posted them,
I could upset myself time and again
as I’d bend and break them.

Now, if I am to write a Brit poem,
it would be sufficiently complex, I think, to take to the stage:

B is for bashful and baby-faced with a bit of bold,
bubbly but often bitter,
biggest fears include being boring and/or blameworthy.

R is for revoltingly responsible (see: fear of being blameworthy)
risk-seeking in romance and risk averse in nearly everything else;
Reticent and reserved but
reasonably risqué in the right relationship.
Rigid about morning routines,
reflective about endings of things, and resilient….
amidst an acrostic poem full of insecurities.
Speaking of insecurities, I….

I am inhibited and introverted, which makes time and space
for introspective and insightful.
Inwardly invalidating mind though outwardly uncommonly kind,
inspired by inclusive and imaginative individuals
with independent ideologies
and idiosyncratic qualities and T….

T is for a tender temperament, tearful at every transition
touchy feely but hands are trembly;
tongue-tied two thirds of the time trying to decide
which thoughts are worth telling and tempted, other times,
to take to the stage and tell it all.

And what about all of the adjectives that don’t lend themselves
to b-r-i-t alliterations?
Am I allowed also to be agitated and antagonistic in some ways?
How about abashedly awkward?
Ambivalent, ambiguous, aimless?
Yes, sometimes, I feel confused and certainty escapes me.
And can I be coy, captivating, classy—an excellent catch—
while catastrophically clumsy and clueless?

Has age granted me the poetic license
to dance across the whole alphabetical spectrum?
Or must I walk the line of linear Brit,
goldenrod crayon hair and stick arms,
tied up by a template
inflexible in structure
and intolerable of expansion?

If we keep ourselves whole
we can always move around our parts
in accordance with context.
But cutting ourselves off at the last letter
diminishes our room for error—
we are held hostage by our happiest adjectives,
and bound to our best days.

*

This was one of the first spoken word poems I ever performed back in 2017. I vividly recall sitting in a bar down the block from the poetry club, making frantic, illegible edits in my little blue notebook. Reading it back today, I am amazed that it holds up as the most powerful autobiography I could ever write in only two pages. The poem also represents a concept from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) called the conceptualized self the rigid way we tend to define ourselves, or our “story” of who we are. Our fusion with the conceptualized self can be problematic, regardless of whether it is negative or positive. The alternative, in ACT, is something called self-as-context— the experience of the “self” as the space in which ever-changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors unfold. Thinking of ourselves in this way, we are not ever just one thing; we have the capacity to observe our internal and external experiences and to adapt our behavior at any given moment.

Muses

My muse seems to think
I’m their muse—
that is to say,
The Muse Effect
is mutual.
The reciprocity
is musical—
I am only a singer
when they sing my song
back to me;
My words start to move
when their rhythm
inhabits me.

Written in response to Monday’s prompt from dVerse to write a quadrille containing the word “Muse.” Late to the game, but thought I would share here anyway.

Destination

The first time I strayed
from myself,
I was just a little
carried away. It required only
a brief re-routing:
make a u-turn,
your destination is on the left.

The second time
there was a panic—
I did not know
what Home was,
couldn’t even enter
an origin point.

I get the sense I am not
returning to anything
per se,
no quick reverse,
no heading back
the way I came.

There’s how I think
this’ll end up,
how it should,
and how I want it to:
a driveway,
a reunion of arms,
a sobbing relief,
a Don’t You Ever
Do That Again.

Stream of Consciousness

Normally I don’t like
to write before I think.
Does normally mean ‘usually,’
or is it an adverb for the average?
Because normally I eat breakfast
with a mouth barely big enough
for conversations
and I know that is atypical
but I handle French toast
better than a forced connection
and normally I narrate my every move
in my head like a plotline
perhaps that’s pathological –
regardless, it helps me keep up with myself.
Normally I wouldn’t disclose this
but everyone seems fine with sharing
pieces of themselves;
they sprinkle fun facts like a commercial jingle,
memorable yet free of substance
and normally I wouldn’t care
but I’m starving
for lox and cream cheese
and a strange conversation.

Contextualism

I have walked in elaborate gardens
in April, in dresses flowing,
sun-scorched and unfazed,
in sandals eviscerating my feet.
I’ve sat across tables from people
I don’t remember the names of
and gone home to eat cereal
and think of work.
I’ve had pleasant conversations
and left not bitter
in the least
but empty from not having
gained much at all.

I have known people
good at remembering,
good at forgetting,
good at thinking,
good at Scrabble;
people dressed as artists
and artists pretending
to be regular people;
people who watch me
crying at movies,
people who ignore me
crying at movies,
and people who ask me
why I’m crying at movies.
I have known self-described pacifists
beaten by their own minds
and angry, loud lovers
threatened by the quiet.
I’ve known people who think
I have nothing to say,
people who write down
the things I say,
and people who say
the same things as I do.

I have been sad enough
to scream myself inside-out,
scared enough to lose
my vision,
happy enough to see it’s worth it.
I have loved when it made sense
and when loving was preposterous;
I have loved when it only
got returned to sender
and when it got lost
somewhere along the way.
I have loved to soothe,
to numb,
to feel,
and because there wasn’t a choice.

I have written so that no one
would hear me,
I have written to make
everyone hear me,
I have written so I
could hear myself.
My poems have been a rescue,
a record,
a gift,
a game,
a soap box,
a plea,
a question,
a last resort.

And whatever this one is,
I’m just thinking how
on the best day of my life
I will walk in a chilled garden
in the dark of November,
in boots blanketing my feet
and go home to laugh over cereal
with someone who knows me.

What I Knew Then

I wish I knew now
what I knew then:

Stories—they are meant
to be read aloud,
we are meant to tell about
our teeth and lonely fishes
and angels’ shadow-wings
on bedroom ceilings;
whatever it is, we are meant
to mean it.

Songs—the way to sing them
line by line,
without anticipation
of the next verse, assured
that music itself is re-created
each time someone gives their voice to it.

God—his steadiness,
the way I knew how to read
His thoughts
by shutting my little almond eyes
at night before bed,
the way to whisper under floral covers,
Baruch shem kevod,
the way one confides
about a serious matter.

If I knew now
what I knew then
I would know knowing
is through loving,
that nothing is known unless
it is first tended to,

and that nurturing Truth
reveals more
than debating it.

Monologue 2020

Followed everywhere by my own voice. Well, I never really listen to that. Drown it out with cake and a cabinet that I’ll never clean out. The windows people lean out

are snapshots in time. Have to catch them when the lighting’s right. Out of your mind, run out of sight, try to see beyond the news tonight. I try to read between the lines to see if my hope is fiction; a leap of faith is a walking contradiction

to someone paralyzed with doubt. You’ll call them when you figure things out, not yet, not now. When there’s something to talk about. Approach only with calm and with poise, and in the meantime sleep with sound to mute the noise

of all the lonely months gone by,

and debate with your steady, oxygenated breath

what you should do

with being alive.

Peaches

Berries blush and pose
like sweet young things;
figs rest knowingly,
wrinkled and wise.
But is there anything
so withered and juvenile
as the aging baby peaches?
Infantile exterior,
fuzzy and playful,
mimicking young August in its
red-orange bonnet.
Sweet in its succulence,
dismal in its
dry disappointment,
mealy depletion,
like a grown-up gliding
through the motions of the day
stripped of its juices,
roughness concealing her core,
unable to deliver delight.

______

Written in response to the dverse prompt to explore a fruit and to share the connection or memory that the fruit evokes for you.