a piece

God
you are a poem
metaphor to mountains
and star-studded skies

white     space     and
line
breaks 
and

rhyme 
but most of the 
time
an impossible task
to ask
what it is you mean

your mean is the
average of all of
these words
so I dust off the Bible
and add them all up
and divide by the total
each word with a value
and as I decide 
what is one and what's five
I arrive at the
door of the thought
caught
between opening
-- I supposed -- 
or keeping it closed

I open of course
and the door starts to
crumble
I curse as the knob turns to
sand in my hand
and I crumple
the floor finds my face

the door explodes 
into fragments
and colors
it's shining
it's blinding
and gone
and it's gone 
and each piece
is dissolving to dust
as the dust floats to floor
with watery eyes I
look 

I look
but it's impossible to
see
I want you to
be
on the other side of that door
but before
I said you are
poem
and though I'm
mere mortal
I think I can see
that a poem
means leaving the mean
and not meaning to know
but leaning
and learning
and loving
and so

I look up at mountains
and star-studded skies
white     space      and
line 
breaks
and slowly realize
that the space
and the breaks
and the words
and the marks

all combine to show
a small piece of divine
and I pick up my piece
in my hand say a prayer Please
help me find peace
in my place
in this place
you have made
and this piece
may it be something
special to me so
I feel you and see you in

white     space     and
line
breaks
and star-studded skies.

taking it back

taking it back
to my 6th grade class
and I was still a Steed
a boy named Jeremy
I think
died from cancer
the answer 
the school gave
was to hold a service
a remembrance
for Jeremy
and me I didn't go
I didn't go but I stayed 
in the classroom 
and took a study hall
I couldn't bear to haul 
myself to that service because before
he died
he was a 
total
jerk
a mean
and spiteful
person
and I
I didn't go to the service
people said it was
a mean
thing to do 
and spiteful
but I didn't go to the service
it would be disingenuous
and my name was 
Jen and being genuine was what
I wanted to do

and maybe that's what
you wanted to do
too
when five years later you wrote on the 
bathroom wall
Jen Steed is a fucking bitch
and that situation 
made me start
to think
to think about
who wouldn't go to my service

I
do not go gentle through this good life
and strife seems to find me
always has
but maybe it has always been me
me who has invited it in
to have a cup of hot coffee
me
I do that

When I yelled at Alisa in 5th grade to
Go faster on the monkey bars
you're too slow!
she invited the entire class to her birthday everyone
except me

In 7th grade I made
a couple cool girls 
Jessica
Danielle
so mad
they paid a sad 
boy named 
Danny
to pants me
to pants me in the middle of the quad

And in 11th grade the
writing was on the wall
you wanted to call
me out
and I
I don't think if I died
you'd go to my service 
because what purpose
would it serve is
maybe the question you'd ask
and I'd add
that I didn't go to Jeremy's service
either
and whether 
or not
you've forgiven me
for whatever it was I did
if I died before I said
I'm sorry 
I'm sorry

I take it back

but whoever you are
who marred 
that bathroom wall
that wake-up call
was what I needed
My name was Jen Steed and
I didn't go to the service
and I bet you won't go 
to mine
either.

everyone goes

hey
dad
it's been a 
minute
but I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and I think you're
there right now sitting on your lawn chair drinking hot coffee

I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and tell you that
I'm sorry
for all the times you told me
Everyone goes to heaven
and I 
scoffed
because I knew
I knew
you didn't understand
how
the 
gospel
works
you called me a princess
but it was an attack
and I hated you for it
but now looking back
I now can see
how that's
exactly
what 
I
was

I was a spoiled princess
How Dare you Defy Me Dad
Don't You Know I Know
more
than
you
about
life

you told me everyone goes to
heaven
how could a god allow people to
go
to
hell
how could he do that
and why
and I
scoffed
the royal princess that I was
and why should I listen
to someone who wakes waiting
to drink
every
day

I was so much better than that
but now I think I'd like to
talk about heaven
with you
and say
I'm 39
and not a day
goes by
that I don't think of you
and I don't think of you
in hell
but how you have a lawn-chair seat in heaven

and when we
talk about heaven
I want to tell you
that I wish I would have
been a better daughter
later after you died
I tried
I tried
I tried to understand your 
pain
in life
your pain
I think you numbed
you'd sink into
grayed and fuzzed and cotton-muffled brain

but we're talking about heaven
and I want to say
that even though you couldn't stay
to make your heaven
here
on
earth
you've got it now
and now
I know that
I 
don't 
know
all the things I thought
I knew
and you
and you are sitting on your
lawn chair
drinking coffee
restful and content
so proud of me
(you were always so proud of me)
I wish I could have been proud 
of you

but it came too late you couldn't wait
to leave
you 
could 
not
cancer decided
you
did 
not

so hey 
dad
it's been a
minute
but I wanted to 
talk about heaven 
with you
and tell you
that I am doing what I can
to make my heaven
here
on
earth
and when I drink
hot coffee
I think 
of you
of you
of how proud
I am
of you.

Listen: The Grief Episode

stories

All of this is Yuck
you said
but Yuck to me is
biting into a bad peach
fuzzy orange skin belying
gray stinking flesh
teeth sink in and

something
is
wrong
It had been sitting on the counter for too long

So that's what you think of me
I looked like a Christian
at first
Did the Right Things
Said the Right Things
but that was the surface
that was my skin when
I had questions when
I had doubts
you were Repulsed
Rot
you thought I was Rot that
I had gone Bad

But even though
the peach had gone bad
its stone pit
its stone heart
was cold and hard
And then I think of 
you

something
is 
wrong
you had been sitting on the counter for too long

stored in a Bible-shaped
Tupperware box
orange lid cracked
but still so hard to breathe
you shouted from inside
the Bible-shaped box
that I was
Maddening
that I was
a waste of emotional energy
(and I can understand that when the simple act of breathing is a chore)
but your voice was muffled 
and I didn't understand your words
I didn't understand that

something was wrong
you had been sitting on the counter for too long

the Bible-shaped Tupperware box didn't move
and neither did you
face up in the box
staring at the underside of the
opaque orange lid
it was simply
all you saw of the Bible-shaped box

something  was
wrong you  had
been sitting  on
the counter  for
too long stored.
a  Bible-shaped
box    with     an
orange          lid.

But this is all just a 
story, of course
Gone in 24 hours
your powers like magic
but really just clicks
erase

me

I'm gone

I've gone

bad.

episode 4

The grocery list taunts me
with dish soap and milk
But this white page draws me
Black ink spills into words onto white

Because I think I could use some
black and white
in my life right now

So I take what I can get
and sit
and think
and write

You told me I didn’t have
faith in the God of the Bible
That you stopped listening
No good for your blood pressure

Things would be different
if there was a cup of coffee
between us
but the only thing
between us
is a continent

(And as I write black words
on white paper as outside
skies are gray
I think
gray is nice and would suffice
for this cobwebbed mind that is prone to
wander

And as I wander I can’t help but wonder
why God
chose the gray for the day we lowered my mom
into wet earth

That gray is part of my history
It mingles in my veins
and it’s there
and it’s always been there
)

But you stopped listening

Things would be different
if there was a cup of coffee
between us
but the only thing
between us
is a continent

So I tread on
heavily
clumsily
as I wrestle with sacred topics

Maybe on your continent the skies
aren’t gray as you listen to
The Bible
on
audio
repeat
sipping
Steaming
Lattes

you said you love me
and support me
and pray for me
you tell me that
I can know Who God Really Is
because You Do

But the truth is that your black words
on the white screen
end there.

And anyway you stopped listening
A long time ago you stopped listening

May I never stop listening