CHILD, IT’S OKAY TO BREAK
Child, it’s okay to break.
Go ask the trees.
They’ve been through a few ice storms themselves.
And, yes, sometimes the lightning
mistakes your unicorn for a lightning rod
and strikes it like a drone out of the blue
when no one’s home but you on a Friday night
because you’re ashamed to go out
for fear of people seeing what your boyfriend did
when he came down on you like the Leonids.
And I’ve seen how you’ve tried
to craft tiaras out of broken chandeliers,
how you’ve sat late into
the darkest hours of the night
alone at the kitchen table
trying to pick up the pieces
and try to put them back together again
like a jigsaw of your battered reflection
in a shattered mirror that cracked
more like a fortune-cookie than a koan.
And, yes, I understand how hard it is
the more he’s false to you
to have to be true for the both of you
to keep the dream alive
of something nurturing, something
the way you imagined it would be
for you and your son and his misunderstood father.
And it feels like a wasted sacrifice to the wrong god
when you realize for all the pain you’ve suffered
you’re just a pyramid
trying to do social work with quicksand
that keeps getting kicked in your face.
You’ve been pouring a mirage
into a bottomless cup of emptiness.
And you’re afraid of your own happiness
as if you were raising the shadow of its assassin
to follow it everywhere like a personal diary.
And isn’t it true you’ve learned
to shred your joys in secret
like an embassy that abandoned you
when you asked for sanctuary
like a candle in a storm
and they suggested there was nothing
that could be done for you or your son
or your misunderstood boyfriend
but blow the light out
if you want to see better in the dark
what you’re running from. Denial,
rejection, self-recrimination, self-disgust
at how much bad meat your wishing well
has had to swallow, and even worse,
how your love potion number nine
smells like wild orchids blooming
in the shadow of an outhouse, and tastes
like someone watered down the wine with mouthwash.
Hey, pussycat, you’re trying to build a bridge
across a river with only one bank.
And it’s brutal, yes, when you take
the blindfold off and realize
sometimes love’s a kidnapper
and all you’ve been doing all along alone here
is walking the plank to get to the other side of nowhere.
And even after he’s gone,
paying a ransom on your emotional afterlife.
Or you were keel-hauled on the moon
when the ice-berg struck
the Great Barrier Reef of an ice age on the move.
You’re the last lifeboat
that’s got any room for your son
and you’ve been grievously wounded
by trying to walk like Cinderella
on the thorns of glass
that are all that’s left of your crystal slipper
splintering across the sky,
the sign of a constellation
on the verge of a nervous breakdown
trying to distinguish the dreamcatchers
from the leg hold traps.
Child, it’s ok to break. Cry.
It’s not healthy to live too far away from tears.
And, hey, kitten, a little advice from the alley
you’re living three doors down the passage to hell.
It’s not wise to wear your heart on your sleeve
when you’re in a knife-fight with a serial killer
who keeps sticking it to you over and over again
just to prove he loves you
like the cheap thrill of the killing.
It’s one thing to be taken in lust
by a god in the guise of a beast,
but it’s another altogether
to upstage yourself in the name of love
and throw the fight out of habit
to keep the peace with impotence
shaking its fist at your sex because it fears
the magic in your medicine bag
is a lot stronger than the two little beans
he’s waiting to sprout beside the bed
as if the story of Jack and the Beanstalk
went to his head gigantically
like an ax with a castration complex.
Child, it’s ok to break. Laugh.
Come on, just once, if you can’t be happy,
try a little evil glee at least.
It doesn’t mean you’re spitting on a deathmask.
You don’t have to aim
like cobras and the Taliban
for a literate girl’s eyes.
But wouldn’t it feel good,
just for a second to wipe the smile
off a cruel clown’s face with industrial disinfectant?
Wouldn’t it be absurdly gratifying
to confront the mirrors
that have been bullying you
with a shepherd moon
on a collision course
plotted out by the flightplan in your hand
and watch them run from you for a change.
The way I see it through my spaced-out telescope
you’re boyfriend is a tiny mutant asteroid
all ore, no gold inside, that shines
by your reflected light, iron pyrite,
a mere nugget of a man you keep
trying to hang on to like an atmosphere.
Of course you’re going to get kicked around
in this asteroid belt of broken hearts
were everybody’s ready to throw the first stone
at any sign of life that could threaten
the lack of one of their own.
Just once, forgive yourself
for something you didn’t do.
Just once, let go, whether you
fall like Icarus toward the sun,
jump from that paradise you’ve
been trying to make on earth,
that’s been jumping all over you,
or just kick it like a bad drug
that’s been getting high on you
like a voodoo doll on coke.
You’ve been holding on to a lot of things
your son, your dreams, a few ideals,
the odd, outcast trinket
you befriended in your solitude
because you both shared the same fate,
a gerrymandered liferaft
of what was left of your enchanted island
after the tsunami hit you first like a spell to the heart
and then raised its fist against you
for the first time in your life.
Child, it’s ok to break. To weep.
To liberate that snakepit inside
that’s tied you up in knots.
You keep trying to enlighten your chains
as if you could change iron into gold,
and even though I know you think
you sometimes manage it,
and who knows, maybe you do,
but you’re still held as fast to the wall
to face the music, to proofread the warning,
as you ever were
when a hand reaches out for your throat.
You’re handcuffed to your own haloes.
Too much Madonna, not enough Mary Magdalene.
After the blossom, the bitter green apple.
The kiss. The smile. The wince. The grimace.
The unending last farewell whether it’s
the sound of a sad friendship
or an ego breaking up along stress fractures
like the great continent Pangaea
to diversify the species of its hatred.
And then who knows how or why or when
if you’re lucky, moonrise and ripening
as a less percussive music flows into your veins
like an autumn night listening to a nightbird
wondering why it sings in hiding
from all who can hear it, but one.
You haven’t underwhelmed your beauty.
Your vanity is proof enough of that.
Hey, Tabatha, you’re still a witchy cat.
You haven’t sold your innocence cheap.
You didn’t rat it out in your sleep.
If there’s nothing to go back to
maybe that’s because it’s waiting for you up ahead.
But you’re never going to know if you don’t go.
Child, it’s ok to break. It’s how we grow.
All these closed doors and gates of passage
we leave open behind us as if time
might double back somehow to find us again
seeking enlightenment in a cult of black sheep.
If there’s no return address
on the arrowhead in your wound
it’s not a loveletter. It’s not a keepsake.
And, yes, it hurts like hell, you’ve got to
bite down hard on the moon, swallow
the bitter antidote of your afterlife
to push it all the way through
the eye of the needle in an attempt
to mend paradise like an old rag that used to fit.
For awhile you’ll feel like a dying planet
on an artificial respirator in an abyss
so vastly indifferent and impersonal
it makes death look like a rank amateur.
And then your mind vitrifies
and space turns to glass
and time blows bubbles you’re trapped inside
like insight in a multiverse of crystal skulls
and for two or three weeks
you shriek like a mystic to reach
the highest celestial note in your repertoire
that might be able to shatter it
but it’s not until you lose your voice
that it usually does like a koan
that gives up on trying to understand you.
Child, it’s ok to break.
Throw that rock through the window.
Add that flame to the pyre or the stake
depending on whether you’d prefer to be cremated
standing up or lying down.
Get off that planet. Stop wasting
good oxygen on a lost cause
that doesn’t know how to breathe for itself.
Get out of the egg, the net, the noose
and see how big the sky and the sea are,
how good it feels to spread your wings
and feel the delirium of the wind gusting under them
as if it were high on stars,
how pretty your neck is
when it’s not wearing
the usual, brutal jewellery of a punching bag
like a tear-shaped locket
trying to hide your shame
like a bruised pearl from prying eyes.
Child, it’s ok to break.
Like seeds and hearts and cosmic eggs,
you break, and then you rise.