Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Tag: Fear

More Than Just Statistics


If pairs of ravaged lungs were silver coins

mankind became a millionaire today,

and with another zero on the end

we learned how many pairs of idle hands

were left behind when March let out its roar.

And then a pair of feet in Italy

ran on a porch, a marathon alone

I didn’t hear how many laps it took

but they were just enough for me to hope

that we may end this vicious plague some day.

April 1st: Notes from the Pandemic

copper pot


Rent is due today
the mortgage on our home is too
but the place that’s bustled
to feed its guests and pay the bills
for more than twenty years
—always filled with scents
of smoked paprika
sautéed garlic
and Juan Carlos’s cologne
as he reaches past a shoulder
with a second glass of wine—
is closed.
For twenty days it has been dark
the gas shut off to minimize the debt
not a single pilot burns.
In front of them the copper counter lies
cold and empty unaware
of the reason for its solitude
and the pots and pans hang silently above
no clang against the heavy iron stove
no sizzle of raw meat against their steel.
These things know nothing of my worries
of how I will divide
the unsold loaves and fishes
to pay the landlord and the bank
and turn the lights back on.
Unaffected by the unseen foe
that sends us all apart,
(each into a separate residence)
they wait for our return.

Empathy for the Unborn

IMG_6573 copy

“I hope so”,
was the response of the woman
at the adjacent table
after they’d ordered their platters
of pancakes and eggs.

She and her husband
had just announced her pregnancy
to their gay friends—
nine weeks on Monday.
The announcement was followed only by
her listing the technical details
of the timing
and the pills she’d taken
and allusions to adjustments he’d made
that had finally led to conception.

“We’ll be uncles!”
the friends exclaimed.

“The arrival of the baby
will change your whole universe,”
they smiled.

“I hope so,”
she didn’t.

Beached from Love


I have hit the limit
of what I thought was limitless.

Once emerged
from a chrysalis, transformed*
free and joyous
through trials and challenges
a tiny, sturdy skiff, I was
ever open-hearted.

Even at my deepest loss,
sunken into grief
I did not contract or pull up oars
but split open
eviscerated, spilling my sorrow
my brokenness, and humanity,
split open
which let in the light
of unexpected kindness and compassion,
split open
to receive the miracle
of pools of unprecedented love
vulnerable, shared, mutual-
imperfectly perfect human love.

But now I’ve hit the limit
of what I thought was limitless.

I believed I had a heart
that was infinitely expansive,
forever buoyant,
a boat at home on placid ponds
built to bear the gales
and lithe enough to navigate
the hidden channel of the heart.
With each crag or dam encountered
its sturdiness was tested
and found ready to face the waves
and the vastness of the sea,
each new love a voyage
and I a ready voyager.

But now I’ve hit the limit
of what I thought was limitless.

For the first time in my life
I’ve headed now for shore
not to rest at moorage
at a cozy dock or cove
but have pitched my oars and rudder
turned my hull against the sky
its scars and scales
out of reach of future tides.
These last beautiful cascades
hid rocks that pierced the strake
has broken its integrity
and compromised its waterline.

I have hit the limit
of what I thought was limitless.

And for the first time
I have retreated
from the quest for love,
unequal to the task.
This quiet, solitary beach
chills and frightens me
more than any exploration
through fog or winding currents
out of sight from shore.
For it is on the waters,
even of a simple pond
that a vessel truly lives.

Because I’ve hit the limit
of what I thought was limitless
and with that I’ve turned my back
against the endless seas.

Photo credit: Jamie Burgoyne, used by permission.

*Referenced from Feline Butterfly

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