Author Archives: Nia

Wrinkles

A tangled mess of lines,

creases of joy

and sorrow impressed

into the palm –

they are not

beautiful.

dun and chapped,

as tools

for mending,

they have no

delicacy

or soft

edges.

They brusquely sit, forms

isolated

by their harshness, broken

by the years. Yet,

as our fingers entwine –

this austere act of

completion –

they are

perfect.

 

(Many thanks to my high school English teacher, Scott Gilbert, who helped edit this piece. I hope you are still well wherever you are.)

Flood

After a trauma, a disaster, however big or small, there is a tremor that does not just jar the psyche in the present moment, but is connected to all past experiences. The larger the tremor, the deeper the fissure and the self begins to turn inwards.

This disconnect from the senses feels engulfing. And, if the mind is at all clear, it begins to cry out for some buoy or raft to float upon. What should I do? How will I make it out alive? These questions echo across the all encompassing ocean of despair seemingly without answer.

When the waters are there though for weeks on end, we begin to wonder what the self is at all. In these moments, one forgets the most simple of things, such as the taste of a favorite food or how a certain song creates a great urge to dance.

In time, we may hear a response amidst the chaos. Something that reminds us of who we are, if we begin to ask the question. Perhaps, it is the friend who comments how much they’ve noticed that you like baths. Or, maybe it is the acquaintance that texts you the quote you remember reading years ago with tears in your eyes.

And, at first, sometimes it can feel as though your body is foreign. But, as the waters subside, you find yourself again, clinging wet and gangly to whatever small item you’ve found to hold onto, may it be faith or a practice. And, whatever that thing now found in your hands becomes a seed.

Holding onto a seed can be an experience of clutching or caring. A seed is a small thing. It is not large and it is not heavy. It is both delicate and fiercely strong. Rest it in your hands of dirt. Let the sun warm it. Let the rain water it. Abandon attempts to control its progress or contemplate its usefulness. Allow its growth.

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This prose began from personal experiences with loss and working with clients who have acute stress and symptoms. I want to keep exploring ways the poetic imagination can discuss these experiences in metaphor and with hope. Thank you to those who have walked, and continue to walk, this journey.

Skin

What would this peach say
if it had breath
to share its bumps
and soft spots
as I bite it’s
skin,
ripened by the days
it’s taken to get
here to my
hand from the
hand that plucked
it from a tree;
the hand
that holds another
hand, smooths
a forehead and tucks
a chin beneath
flaxen sheets and
a thin, worn coverlet;
the hands
that pray each night
for enough
hours to work,
enough
sun to warm
the earth, enough
rain to fill
the dryness, to grow
this small offering
which I now
hold.

Honey

We said things like

forever and always

under star studded darkness.

That was before

winter. It was before

the black bear began to lope

towards hibernation, slipping

into a deep slumber

out of necessity for warmth, knowing

the days would once

again lengthen. I

am watching them shorten

like she did. I

am taking inspiration from the bees,

keeping my mind on my work,

hoping that if I

notice this honey, you’ll

return when she does. You’ll

wake up and come looking

for what we began before

the frost occurred, before

the crimson leaves fell, before

the heavy rains, when our love

was something to be savored. But

the seasons have already

passed and even the shoots that push

through the dark

soil are not the ones from before.

So I ask –

will you let go

and let yourself too be reborn?  

Have you ever noticed the way a bird falls?

I saw a boy pick up one
of the rocks
by the edge of the creek,
(You know the ones)
smooth and sharp,
good for skipping,
dark and heavier
than you’d think for
such a small,
packed piece of dirt.
He looked up and
saw the red and
wanted it
for his own,
wanted to hold it
in his hands,
cradling it the way
he held the stone.
Squinting, he aimed
and missed.
He hit the brown thrush
resting on her nest,
protecting her own
white stones,
the possibility of
flight inside fragile porcelain.
He did not know
how much an apple
cost.

I lose things.

I am continuing to learn how to identify grief as it comes, both in the small and simple and in the large and untethered. Growing up, there were not words used to describe the cold chill and aching that comes with loss. I only knew that losing became numbness.

When I was in middle school I would wake up crying because somehow in the night I had cut off the circulation in my arms. I would startle to a lack of feeling in my hands and terror would set in. I had no idea what was going on and my lack of understanding scared me to the point that I became panicked. But, once I began to poke and prod, the tingling would begin, a painful process of blood moving back life back into numbness. At times, the tingling felt excrutiating. Still it was the only way to regain the movement.

Our bodies know the way to heal themselves, but our minds fight it. 

Grief does not play favorites. She visits each of us, and if we ignore her, her cold presence begins to chill us without us noticing, slowing our connection till we can’t feel at all. Her visits vary in length and if we are present with her and ourselves, we begin to notice that her story is valuable. She is telling us what matters to us. She tells us of our deep caring and deep strength. 

I feel her most in the aching of my arms even now. I fight her in the heaviness of thoughts that are attempting to repeat the past with a different ending. I sit with her in salty tears as I wait for her friend Acceptance to arrive with the comfort of ginger tea, the last sip of honey a balm for my hoarse and tired throat.

I am learning my place in the world is not to prevent loss, but to attend to love.

When I try to keep the pain from coming, I only keep myself from noticing the love that is present with me now. Even amidst the pain. When you’re used to the cold, the warmth feels strange, and may even create discomfort. Notice the tingling and anxiety; take another step. Keep going; it’s the way home to yourself.

Lesvos

In July, I went to work with refugees who were currently staying in a camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece. We spent a week training volunteers around compassion fatigue as well as counseling those in the camp, both teaching coping skills as well as processing seemingly only a little of the trauma they had experienced. After returning, this image has remained in my memory.

“Bebe, those sleepy seeds are still in your eyes.”

He has been

Dreaming

It is all he can do

after waking up in this

place on the dusty

hill, barbed wire fenced in safe

and yet still stuck

in this holding cell, this

waiting

room, for a future he knows so little of.

They huddled in, chilled, as they crossed

with nothing but a few clothes stuffed

between legs, their raft slowly rocking

through that birthing canal,

hoping to make it alive across

the icy waves below. Yes,

he wakes here now,

Dreaming,

day after day, to leave this

place. Dreaming

is all he can do;

these tiny seeds of hope

keep him alive.