once they removed their monstrous
parasols and offered the sun with all its
glory, I was able to see for miles,
see past the stains and all its gory.
walk past my long-limbed friends,
feel their gentle boughs crack upon me
wonder if that west window still
offers the view of diamonds and trees.
then without time to think, to blink,
they decide my time in the warmth
is done. parade their parasols atop
of me – flaunt like they won. close my
eyes quick and capture the burn, bid
the orange blaze to stain my gaze for days
weep over how much I’ll miss the sun.
it wasn’t the look of confusion you saw in her eyes
it was the look of fear
for even the cattle know when death is coming for them
much like those hyenas at my door again
coming to torment me, even though
I left them a feast at the table
patrol about and contort their ravaged mouths
causing me to flee, much like when I run
from him when he turns savage
but this time I remain, to open the door
to his frantic moans and pained eyes
whisper to calm my heart while his brain loses control
seize him into my mending arms until his terror has passed
then kick the hyenas aside
to walk my son back to his dreams
Set the cotton candy mounds ablaze;
transformed their blue haze
Tried not to look back at the bridge that
called so boldly out
Imagined me atop its railing;
set to spring forth up
Mind wandered to that dying bunny
in the yard we found
Heart sunk and wished I’d held it so it
wouldn’t be afraid
Today you checked on it. Still breathing;
its glassed eyes on the
Put it in a bag; tied it tight. To
end its misery;
Peeked on it later; its shut eyes now
at peace. Walked away
it’s nothing, it’s everything
it’s the stuff fraying at the edges
it’s the goo left in-between
try to outwit it, run and escape it
but it’s clever, it’s faster
go blind when that mania warps shit
it’s nothing, it’s everything
the ailment that’s in your brain
leaving us stuck in-between
the panic waits till I’m asleep
lifts me from my unstable trance
to remind me that I need to feel it
that panic echoes in my ears
“Yes, Sheila, you’re going to feel it.”
makes my heart jump and skip
as I peel my shirt from my chest
start chanting prayers
visualize where he’s at
start covering him in prayer
imagine angels by his door
his sleeping body under its wings
tell the panic to leave me alone
let’s go back to that unstable sleep
then tomorrow I’ll feel it, I promise
“Yes, Sheila, you’re gonna feel it.”
She told me in confidence that she thought she gave birth to a beast. She looked around the room to make sure that we were alone. Her eyes darted down and she whispered it, “a monster.“ The odd thing is that his birth had been so peaceful that January evening with the air so quiet you could hear the falling snow. In the peaceful, dim-lit room with hushed voices late at night, he just slipped out. He just slipped out.
She told me that when he was born he looked like a little alien. He hardly slept for 2 years and his hunger was insatiable. When he cried her heart would race, and her eardrums would go numb. She would catch him staring in his crib at things she could not see. Stare so long, his eyes would drip water like a faucet. But he would twirl her hair when she nursed him, and she would feel the softness of his cheek so intently she’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d forgive him for all those sleepless nights and all those staring fits that would leave him unsettled and clingy.
She told me that after he became adorable, he finally learned to walk. He walked a little late. He took to the habit of running from things that weren’t there and he would fall and scream into her bosom. He would look up at the ceiling with a face of horror until Zonegran stopped the infantile spasms. He said his fan blades were covered with blood. He would see pizza on the walls and see shadows move without any light. And when they were trying to be good Catholics, he would tell her that the inside of their church smelled like old people’s burning flesh. But he looked so cute when he played on his wooden airplane. And when he wore his adorable baby blue sweater with the puppy on it, she’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d try to forget all the odd images he put in her head and those strange things he whispered in her ear. She tried to forget her anxiety over all the tests he had and the medications he tried. She’d try to crush the panic that would walk into her room in the middle of night.
She told me that when school started he had a hard time paying attention, hit the teachers, and would play chase without permission. He would cry before school would start, and his dad would have to carry him to the car while he put up a fight. But he would draw her pictures and write, I love you Mommy. He’d ask so sweetly, “do you want a hug?” She’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d forgive all those meetings she had at the school and tried not to grow jaded when explaining his situation. She was always explaining the situation.
She told me about a day in March, a few years past, when she received a call from the teacher to pick up her son early from school. She walked tall into his special classroom and apologized for the massive amounts books and chairs strewn all over the room. “Really, he knows better,” she’d say. She walked out of the building, her son’s hand in hers and made it to her car before she collapsed to cry. She cried for 2 straight hours and couldn’t even make dinner, she was too full of sorrow.
She told me that he could dream of the future and have night terrors that haunted him for weeks. He’d get up at bizarre hours of the night to gather and cut up his clothes. He’d sprinkle cinnamon all over the house 2 days before Christmas because he liked the smell. And dump baby powder all over his room because he said, “I miss the snow.” She looked surprisingly good for being awake all this time.
She told me that although he is growing up into a beautiful young man, he is taller than her now and in some ways smarter than her. But he’s moody and sad, happy and mad. Up and down he goes, round and round he goes. He’s always able to lure her into his trap. He can even catch her eyebrow twitch and it seems that he can read her mind before she speaks. He’s always inches from her and circling around her. Pecking at her, laughing at her, chasing her, and clawing at her. Unfathomable that this was the same human being that had just slipped out so effortlessly into the world.
She told me with a pensive tone that her entire being was filled with fright and even her soul, her aching soul, mourned for it to be over. And she felt betrayed because she asked me, “isn’t your soul supposed to be stronger?” Traitor, she’d call it. She said she felt empty and blank. She’d ask, “how much can one vessel hold?” And with every night that she went to bed thinking she was spent, she’d wake up and have to start it all over again. Each and every night, each and every day. She then told me that when the best place in the nation said, “your son is a candidate for our inpatient program,” she was surprised to be struck with grief instead of relief.
A few moments passed, and then she just stopped. She wiped her cheek and told me in confidence that she wanted to tempt fate in a sea of aqua glass. Feel the wind rush past her face. Witness the brown clouds get taken over by the foam. Tease the pull toward the moon and float. Revel in that and not talk about home.
You know it’s been difficult. I don’t need to remind you when you already feel the pulse of the beast that ails us. Hear the unmentionables of the many voices that seem to spew out of his mouth to poison our ears. Oh God, why is that voice in my own ears? See the shadow lurking around the corner taking the breath from our lungs one molecule at a time. Running away swiftly from his sighs when it’s dark. I wake up blind in the middle of the night thinking about these times.
Cry out for help but not one person hears. People witness the crimes but turn around as if I were a ghost. As if we were all ghosts. I want to scream, “Can’t you see us? Do you see this?”
But I yell only at clouds – vapor that takes my consonants and vowels and swirls them around till they grow into an angry twister that finds its way back to me. It always finds its way back to me. To rip me into shreds, fill my heart with dread, and slam my head to the floor whispering, “Are you ready for more?”
I don’t know how much more I can take, when at any given moment, while sitting at the kitchen table, my eyeballs explode with sadness. The drooping orchid that has not yet bloomed reminds me of this. Our crumbling house reminds me of this. The blue hue and scars on my arms reminds me of this. Being stuck is this. What life is this.
I don’t know how much more you can take, when at the same table, during a different meal I watch your tired eyes swell up with tears so large I’d need a bucket to collect them all, and my heart silently breaks watching each one fall.
My son drew this last year. Last year was a hard year. Challenging behaviors that got worse worsened and I wonder how that’s even possible. But here I am staring at this beautiful picture that he drew, that didn’t win the Rare Artist contest, but who cares? It is still flipping awesome. Layer upon layer of oil pastel. I could, in fact, make an oil pastel chip cookie from the extra wax bulging from this picture. But that is what he does. More and more and more of whatever he is fascinated with, or not so nicely put, whatever he is OCD’ing about. But this I can handle – because at the end of the binge is something positive to show for it. I walk into his room and collect his art, as if on a treasure hunt, and I keep the ones that evoke a response from me. A smile, perhaps a wince, because they aren’t always neat and pretty. Sometimes the pictures involve teeth, lots of pointy teeth. Why does he draw the pointy teeth? Why does he so easily drift to the dark side?
I remember when he was little he was stuck on painting a red smiley face on crisp white paper. It always made me happy. One such painting on canvas was bought for $100 through a tuberous sclerosis charity auction. It was a proud moment. But after a couple of years – the layers of stacked red smiles became a little too much. I begged for him to draw/paint something different. After a few houses and sunsets – he graduated to complete faces. Some are like the above face but most are not as nice. He titled the drawing above, Mummis, layer after layer of colors that represent both an explosion of emotions and an entrapment of emotions. Again, how is that possible? For my son it’s possible because he lives with “Mummis” everyday. For him to feel sadness, frustration, boredom, hopelessness, confusion, embarrassment, anger, frankly any emotion without the capability to express it often leads to the explosions. Explosions of sadness manifest as anger which leaps out in acts of aggression. Layer upon layer of emotions that for him can be catastrophic.
I like Mummis. In this still form on paper it appears to be pensive, even peaceful. Peaceful—the opposite of my life right now. I could layer and layer that forever.