i’ll be honest with you;
there is a certain authority to being
somebody said once that writers struggle with reality
because we spend all of our time
constructing our own.
the truth is, life may be impermanent
but the details are not.
time has one direction
the past cannot be revisited
and history cannot be redone
with a red pen.
what happens, happens.
we are walking permanent records
that can never be expunged.
no matter how many orphans we pull from fires
no matter how many dying children we sing to
we still made our mother cry once
we still let our little brothers find us passed out
on the front porch when we were nineteen.
imagination is our primary retreat
because there, that boy does fall in love with us
and our first kiss is not spit on our chins
or misses landing on our nose
(maybe there are waves crashing in the background)
and we say everything right.
there, we have crafted a version of ourselves
that lives perfectly.
“if i could,” someone says.
“if i could i would change this.”
if i could do it over again.
if i could.
(and see, i don’t like that phrase.
it’s nice to dream
but prolonging it only makes it harder
to eventually wake up.)
when i was twelve, i had a recurring nightmare
i’d get trapped in an elevator shaft
and that i’d scream for my parents.
years later, there is a part of my brain that is still
in that dream, screaming
and i guess
i don’t have the right to tell you that the door to the past
is firmly shut
because i’m still struggling to accept that
there was a time, once,
i was really calling for them
and there was no answer.
let’s suppose i had a way of changing this.
if i could.
and if i could, i would answer myself.
i would take the tiny hands of a twelve year old
with bright eyes into mine and i would tell her
to be her own hero.
i would say, “keep a sword on your key chain
and when that boy in the eighth grade touches you,
punch him in the fucking face.”
i wouldn’t have the guts to tell her that she'd have to be,
because the people sworn to protect her
i wouldn’t have the strength to admit that, eventually,
the corner in our mind would tire and that part of us,
begging for contact, would die,
door to the past now
quietly clicking shut.
if i could
i would change my illness.
they say there is a definitive link between bipolar disorder
and creativity and
my therapist says that, because of it, on occasion,
i write nice things and
my friends say that at least, something so horrible
has given me a gift and
my brain whispers quietly, in my ear, i’m here to stay
timothy chang, the boy who triggered it back in middle school, said
that i should feel blessed he almost assaulted me because
who in their right mind would ever touch somebody so ugly?
here’s what i say:
if there was a choice between feeling normal and,
on occasion, writing pretty poems,
in the spirit of timothy himself,
i would erase this fucking disease forever
and i would not look back.
if i could
i would remove the lump that sat in my throat
so i could have told my mother what was wrong
each and every time
if i could
i would wrap my body in police tape.
i would cut my wrists beyond recognition.
i would flatten my curves down with tape.
i would let ugliness consume me like a disease
and i would take away every man’s excuse to yell out a car window,
“hey honey, wanna suck my dick?”
a few days ago i asked my dad what he would change
if he could do it over
and he said
he wouldn’t have become an alcoholic.
(believe me, i’d like that the best.)
then he said that he wouldn’t have divorced my mother
because he felt like so much hadn’t been resolved
and i cannot even fucking describe
what hearing that felt like.
my father’s footsteps were clearly plotted out to me then
and i do not intend to follow in them.
it brings me to tears even imagining a life
where the biggest mistake i ever made can stare me in the face,
telling me it’s my weekend with our daughter
while kissing my replacement
on the cheek.
life does not have an edit function
or a backspace button.
life moves forward and sometimes
we can’t keep up.
this is where “it’s not the end of the world”
comes in and that’s what’s so fucking hard –
life will go on, without you
even if there are days you just can’t hold on.
your script will smudge, your story will be imperfect,
mistakes you can’t erase and i’ll tell you,
i can hardly stand to think “if i could” because
there is something much too painful about