Pool of Flames

[written in 2013]

 

For anyone that’s ever met someone so handsome, you were too scared to touch him.

For the oil on your skin would surely ruin him. Already ink-stained collarbone to collarbone, bent to let your head rest.

And you touch his chest with the barrier of a sweat-soaked t-shirt: safe.

And you feel his heartbeat like it’s made of puppies: Labradors.

And you think this is wild, breathing like a creature hidden under his diaphragm, spreading his ribcage like open-heart surgeons might.

Like veterinarians might.

They baptized me in a pool of flames, igniting every nerve ending into letting me be my own person. And drowning me in the truth that one will never be as good as two.

While I see his body is a temple, he sees a city recovering from a harsh winter, peeling ice off the telephone wires where talons perch on their way south.

So when my coffee’s gone cold because I hesitated at its taste,

When tears reverberate down my jawline and my hair won’t get out of my eyes

When my toes break from dancing on the feelings of people around me and avoiding his contact

When I’ve sinned beyond all recognition of the little girl they once rocked to sleep

Because I know they baptized him in a pool of tea, too hot to swallow, too sweet to claim

But my fire burns hotter underneath his boiling figure with the fear of losing fuel- I need them to recognize my helper, my accelerant

So I will climb up the walls I was built in, char every room where I froze in bitter air during sleepless nights, wondering about the judgement of god

Craving arms to wrap around me like the ribbon on a gift

Tied to every love I faded out of, every guy that made fun of the way I pointed my hair dryer like pistol, every girl that tried to hang herself with her extensions and choked on acrylics, every daughter and every son that might inconveniently wake us up on a Saturday morning for breakfast.

It’s so romantic. But at times romanticism makes me feel like a cat stuffed into a hamster wheel. He’s like an eagle resting on a robin’s nest praying God bless you, undressed with the crest of a beating scarlet chest, pounding through every bound breast compressed to express that eagle confessed ownership of the beating scarlet chest of a robin. And you never woulda guessed by the way he speaks to me. So until I sprout wings, I’m wondering how far my feet can take me before I finally meet my soul mate.

And if he’s not comfortable with snuggling tonight, I’ll understand and then he’ll lend me an arm so I can rest my softened jawline against his bicep and watch him breathe. Staring at his mouth, soaked in his smirks, until I come to the conclusion that those are the curves that matter and he is the reason they call it a cupids bow. And the crease that parts his lips is shaped like wings. And I believe they’re gonna take me to heaven. They’ll save me. And I wonder if he’s thinking the same thing about me and I wonder if I have enough in me to save him and I wonder if he even needs saving.

So for anyone who’s ever questioned whether they start too many sentences with I. Or anyone who’s ever questioned if their pen ran out of ink or if the paper just stopped listening. Or anyone who’s ever questioned if they should go unspoken when they saw feathers poking through ace bandages yearning to stretch a beaten down wing. And every handhold with palm lines pressing until the creases all fit neatly together. For anyone who started believing that if god made anyone in his image- it’s this guy. Then maybe you’ve taken a risk. A chance. A flight… and found out it was worth it.

[I hate poems that rhyme]

He fell from the belly of the softest cloud

And landed gallantly at her arm

The heart in her chest never beat so loud

Never felt her face so warm

The man in the sky let his ridges go blunt

To prove he meant her no harm

But danger was undoubtedly at forefront

Despite his ease and his charm

The greatest conflict ever known to the sun

Her holding the hand she’d been dealt

Is both the riskiest thing she’d ever done

And the safest she’d ever felt.

An Open Letter to My Barista

 

Dear Barista Girl,

I usually get home at 6:30 in the morning, tiptoeing from my SUV to my front door with my duffel bag and a coffee in hand. My neighbors all think I work the night shift. I do work the night shift. I also work the day shift. Sometimes I work 48 hours in a row. After that, I lose count.

You see, I live a double life. I am half emergency room technician, half firefighter. Often times I get off one 12-hour shift to go straight to another. Occasionally, I get to go home and sleep in the bed that I paid for. And sometimes, I stop for coffee in between. This morning, you were my barista.

There are some things nobody should ever have to see. I have seen a lot of them. Especially for someone who is less than a quarter-century old. I don’t talk about it often because there are still people who have seen far more than I have and the ones that haven’t don’t need to carry my burdens. But I’ve seen it. Husbands having heart attacks in the hospital room down the hall from where their wives died a month ago. Babies born fully intact, but too early to live. People so smashed in their cars that you can’t identify what body parts are what. Little kids not breathing with self-inflicted bruises around their necks. Gunshot wounds, chainsaw wounds, rabid animal bites… Between my two jobs, I perform CPR on someone roughly once a week. Some people like to throw out words like “hero” and “brave” and “strong,” but I am just another broken human drifting around the shadows of the world trying to keep other people afloat.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my jobs. I love them the same way you love yours. I just have days that make me feel the same way Frappy Hour makes you feel.

And I am tired. I am so tired. And my coworkers are so tired. And you… you are exorbitantly and wonderfully caffeinated. And this morning, as I sauntered into your workplace in a uniform that included red eyes, smoke-filled hair, saliva dried to the corners of my lips, and a mind filled heavy with replays of last night’s calls, I barely heard you cheerfully thank me for my service.

You looked so confused when I, very seriously, returned the thanks. So let me explain, Barista Girl. You are my hero. In this moment and in every moment in which my performance relies solely on how much coffee I’ve had that day. I believe just about every emergency responder will agree that you make a difference in the world so deep and you don’t even notice.

You fill our cups with the magic stuff that wakes us up, keeps us alert, and helps us work efficiently. You fill our cups after the 3am calls that didn’t turn out so great and help us wash down what we don’t want to remember. You fill our cups in the evening before drills where we practice over and over again so if we haven’t had our coffee before the real thing, our muscle memory will hopefully carry us through.

And I notice you. I know you’re on your feet all day trying to please the unpleasable. I know the smells of work follow you home and your apron has a permanent place in your passenger seat. I know you are probably overworked and, despite the number of espresso shots you sneak between customers, you go home tired just like the rest of us. But gosh, Barista Girl, with your unending smiles and wishful thinking and overall positivity, you just mean so much to me.

You are responsible for keeping the rest of us going. And that is a responsibility I can’t even fathom.

So I thank you for your service, Barista Girl. And my patients thank you for mine.