There are ghosts in my family –
I realize this as my mother tells tales
of a biological grandfather I never knew
who blew smoke in my face
when I was two
of years my father spent in jail
of anxiety that permeates
the family tree, which is
diseased & hollowed
about to crumple & topple
into grayish dirt
(Photo by Dikaseva on Unsplash)
I didn’t realize I was sinking
‘til I ended up in the psych ward –
red stitches on a woman’s neck
she looks like a scarecrow
she sliced her own throat
to make the torment end
I was sinking
(Photo by Mishal Ibrahim on Unsplash)
I attended an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for my mental health in early 2019. It was a few months after my dad had died, and I was in bad shape. IOP helped a great deal, and there was something one person said during group therapy I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Cindy parked her work truck in the shade by a McDonald’s and took a big bite out of her Quarter Pounder. Her lunch breaks were always interrupted by phone calls — the endless calls from dispatchers. Today was no different.
When her phone rang, she turned down the Brad Paisely song on her radio.
“Hey, sunshine,” said Marcus, the dispatcher. “Feel like catching any more dogs today?”
It wasn’t the call Cindy wanted to get. But at least it wasn’t the call, the one she constantly feared getting.
We’re living in dangerous times. Some people (like my girlfriend) seem to be able to cope with it better than me. For me, though, a lot of the things going on in the world have me feeling very on edge.
I recently got some bad news that a friend of mine from recovery suddenly passed away. He was only 32 years old. As these dark pandemic days drag on, I felt I needed to write this post to process my emotions.
The woman asks me for ten dollars – she demands it
I’m reluctant, standing in a pock-marked city,
but feeling pity for her, as she frantically talks
her eyes yellow like harvest moons
her voice shrieks like an urban banshee –
the realities of poverty and addiction,
the rich getting fatter off broken backs.
I reach into my wallet, hand her a ten-dollar bill
she hugs me + hurries away, vanishing into the night,
and as I walk home, I wonder if I’ll ever need to
ask for my ten dollars back
(Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash)
We are damnifacados: homeless, junkies,
people deem us less than human.
When you pass us on a hectic street, we’re resting with
backs to the wall asking for mercy, spare change –
you look away from our weathered faces,
we feel disgrace, in our soiled clothes, our tired eyes.
I want to trace my family’s history,
go back + find out how we got here –
there was a suicide in the ‘70s, a wound
we carry but do not discuss –
secrets hide in the shadows
+ who knows how they affect us.
Here’s another one of my art therapy drawings. I did this one about a month ago – I like the green color scheme. I also used my favorite self-affirmation at the bottom, which I’ve written about here before.