Nikki Petrie

Lullabies

And if you have no words left to say

Hum to me.


Like the lullabies born before we learned to walk

Melodies made to say the simple before there were words to dilute

Meaning

‘I am here’

It is a tune we used to sing with each breath

But the older we get

The more we forget how it began.


So if you remember

When a We was born

From You and Me

Loosen your lips

Let our love vibrate through them

Up from your core

Down into mine

Let us break

Apart

Like the buildings too weathered to maintain their foundations

Let us fall

Loose

Without direction

I’ll find the building blocks in our rubble

Order our chaos

I will reconstruct

Me

You

We

Because how we are is no longer allowing us to be anything,


Except history.

Autumn Leaves

My hope is like the autumn leaves.

 

It hangs on past life

Clinging to a piece of what it used to feel like,

And then it falls,

Withered and broken

It loses sight of everything it once knew.

It flutters to the ground in the funeral gloom,

Becoming a memorial to the pain

Until all evidence is swept away.

 

But if you wait,

Through the long nights and barren winter,

Mourners brown will sprout green again

When the first light of spring welcomes it as a friend.

Silence Falls Like Sanity

Sit with me in the silence
See the world over head
More intimate than speaking
Words that imitate at best.

Meet me half way in mind
We can build the life we never knew we sought to find.
In the quiet, we are found.
In the lost, we are loud.

Let definition slip away
Melt physicality and feeling
Alchemy we make.

We twist and turn,
Together.
Through sense and senses
Through sanity
Through insanity
                                                                                                                                
We are,

Just like we will be and we never were.

So sit with me in the silence
See the world in my head
More intimate than speaking
Words that imitate at best.

Finding What I’ve Lost

Lately I’ve taken to gazing at my reflection in the mirror for long periods of time. I look at myself in fragments like a butcher examining pieces of meat. I decide the price to place on my individual qualities and when I finally focus back on my figure, I stand examining a stranger. Like starring too long at a word learned years ago, I take on the shape of a person I no longer know. I’m not sure at what point my features shifted to display this girl in the mirror. I don’t even know what has changed. All I know is now the sum of my parts represent something else entirely. Maybe my lips have grown plumper or the bags under my eyes less pronounced. Or maybe it’s how my features lay on my face, too big for the canvas. If I turn my head quickly I catch an echo of who I used to think I was. But that ghost no longer seems a reflection of me. And yet this girl in the mirror is also a mystery. I seem to know what I am not but not what I am supposed to be. It is hard to move forward when you only know where not to be. So instead I stand still, waiting to remember the missing link between me and her.

I think it’s been weeks since I’ve recognized my face, or maybe months. I know this didn’t happen all at once but I can’t seem to pinpoint when this began. Today I stand in front of the mirror trying to isolate the origin of my change. I noticed my left hand is shaking. I support it with my right in an act of tenderness towards myself but something feels amiss in this action. I think it is the lack of tenderness in the eyes. The eyes are vacant. I am simply a body following impulses no longer believed. I move my unsteady hand over my heart and try to seek solace in the steady pulse, this pulse, the one consistency in my years since first breath. In it there is a past that I have been trying to see as my own but only managing to capture the explicit facts of like a graph of wars fought and lives claimed, I keep missing the point. I bite my lip as I try to retrace the intricacies of what it felt like to actually live my memories. My eyes focus on the mirror. There is a concentration on the figure’s face, a mediation of sorts. I lose myself in my gaze and resurface smaller looking up at a world I was just beginning to truly see. I feel hot with too many emotions to place. Bile rising up my throat and tears pooling in the corner of my eyes as I see taunting shadows becoming more defined. Before they fully take shape, I taste blood on my tongue, metallic and warm. I stand again in front of the mirror. I smile, not particularly  in happiness but not in bitterness either. I see the eyes of a girl before she was told everything she should not be. I see the eyes of a girl I forgot was me.

An Ache for Something More

You asked me if I could see the art in the city streets. I told you all I saw was buildings. You turned away from me, squinted your eyes and sighed. Then you took my hand and told me to squint mine. You said, “See how all the buildings blur together, no longer defined by structure, the colors paint life. It’s sad but beautiful.” You called a lot of things sad but beautiful, as if there was no way to separate the two.

Despite my effort, life didn’t become something else when I looked at it from a different perspective. The city was just the city out of focus. But I didn’t want to leave you stranded in your feelings so I told you I could see something of the sort. I’m not sure you believed me but I think you appreciated the effort.

I remember how much it scared me to hear you talk about the world when we first met. Everything you described sounded so immense. My world had always felt carefully contained. My world was a life plan, where my eyes stayed glued to the pavement two feet in front of me and even when I looked up I only saw the next place I needed to be. But you saw it all. You felt it all, each path every individual took colliding against each other as they worked through the chaos. And I saw the toll it took on you, the weariness in your eyes and the tears. But the more time I spent with you the more I realized, you never wished to feel less. Because you knew these feelings mattered and feeling them made you matter. Your life was like art, meaningful because of the struggle.

The longer I spent with you the more I longed to see the world through your eyes. Sometimes we would walk down a street and you’d smile at the way the sun hit the windows of an apartment complex, and then your eyes would water from something unspoken. You were never good at keeping your emotions separate from each other. I, on the other hand, had each moment categorized by an easily defined feeling. The beach is happy. Goodbyes are sad. Errands are tiring. But with you everything blurred together like the city. The beach is calming because of the lull of the waves but sad because of its power and lack of empathy but scary because of its immensity. Goodbyes are sad because of their finality but happy because of hope for new opportunities but sweet because of resurfacing memories. Errands are stressful because there are always more to be done but joy-filled because of the smiles from strangers all struggling through a day together.

Your feelings were contradictory at best. But they contained a depth I yearned for. My life felt dull in comparison, just a movie playing out in front of my eyes. I saw the scenes and felt the emotions in time but I didn’t feel like a participant in its design. I wanted to be immersed in your world. I would beg you to describe the sky to me whenever we sat in the grass together. In my bed, one night, I asked you to relive the sunlight. You described the details of the sun’s light ghosting over your skin so vividly I could almost feel it in the darkness of my apartment.

My eagerness to hear more grew with each passing day. It turned into an obsession of sort. But the more I reached for it the more I lost clarity. Anxiety began to wrap around my throat as questions screamed through my mind. What exactly was my life defined by? I was losing a sense of sanity in my search for reality. And my anxiety just seemed to tighten its hold, pressing down on my wind pipes as my thoughts spiraled. Everything was spinning through my mind but I didn’t have the strength to reach out and grasp something solid. I just continued to sink into myself.

The next time we spoke you could see that the anxiety had seeped through my skin into my blood stream. Stuck somewhere between fight or flight, I was an animal beating against its cage but you took my hand, gently cupping it in your two soft ones. You looked at it carefully as you tenderly stroked it with your thumb in a calming repetition. You were trying to ground me. We stood there for a while, listening to your steady breath. You didn’t speak until my breath matched yours. Then you looked up and said, “You’re never going to see the world like I do. We are all trapped in our own way of being but take comfort in the fact that I can also never understand the intricacies of colors through your eyes. The reason pain and beauty go together is because they are experienced alone. And no words will ever be able to sum up the feelings they impart in you. So take comfort in the pain just like you take comfort in the beauty. Look at how much pain you have been experiencing. See, you are just as alive as I.”

 

When There Is Nothing Left to Hide Behind

You wanted this.

You wanted to solve the enigma that is me.

But honestly,

More than anything,

You wanted a mystery to distract from the tides of your mundane life

Threatening to pull you deeper into all the traits you hide behind,

 

And I was your mystery.

Your vehicle of escape.

You saw a raised head, strong stare, and a walk that made you know I was there

And you wouldn’t relinquish your stare until you were able to see right through me.

 

So you dug,

Seeking me out in soft gazes and adamant questions

You tore down my fables till I was but truth to tangle through,

But webs are only inviting from afar.

 

So here I am.

 

I am vast,

With a tsunami of undiscovered elements swimming through me

And a thunderstorm of feelings growing off of them

Electrocuting past grievances with the confidence I hold within myself.

 

Here I am.

 

The chase is over.

Now you’re left to sort through all of me

And decide if this is the reality you were so desperately seeking.

 

Here I am.

 

Where are you?

Dear You

Dear you,

It was the day after you left us. Jules turned to me after finishing the latest episode of Blues Clues and asked, “Dadda?” I said you had to go away for a bit. I don’t think she understood but as soon as the next episode of Blues Clues sprung up on the screen she forgot all about it. I felt something wet drop on to my jeans. I felt my cheeks and realized they were damp with tears. I quickly erased the evidence that you left on me.

~

Dear you,

There was one night where Jules ran into my bedroom after waking up from a nightmare and saw me crying. “Are you hurt momma?” she asked, pointing to my face. I told her that I got a boo-boo. She asked me where. I wanted to say my heart but instead I pointed to my elbow and she gave it a kiss.

~

Dear you,

We moved to Seattle. We needed a fresh start. I needed a fresh start, a place where memories of you didn’t stain the streets, a place where no reminders remained of all that you took from me. I like Seattle. We never dreamed of visiting here allowing it to be just mine. I like Seattle. You can disappear in your tears and claim it on the rain here.

~

Dear you,

Today was Jules’ third birthday. She woke me up at 6am running into my room screaming, “It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! Mommy wake up it’s my birthday!” She took an hour to choose an outfit, it was an intense debate between her green sparkly tutu or her pink tutu: green sparkles won out in the end. Too quote her ‘I want to look like a magical fairy princess’. And that she did after I placed a new tiara on top of her curls and she got her hands on the glitter. Her favorite part of her party was getting to boss all of her little friends around claiming ‘the birthday girl gets whatever she wants’. As you can tell, her love of her birthday came from your half of her genes.

~

Dear you,

I don’t know why I write these. You’ll never see them, you’ll never see us. You’ll never see all that you created and broke in the same breath. I guess this is just the closest thing to closure I’ll get.

~

Dear you,

She started preschool today. She was doing so well until we got to the front of the school. That’s when the smile slipped from her face. Her eyes grew wide with the realization that this is where she left me. She then turned around and pulled my hand towards the car with conviction saying, “Mommy school is for little kids. And you always told me I’m your big girl. I think I should go to work with you since you’re a big girl too”. I chuckled but when she looked up at me again, her nose stained red and rivers eroding her cheeks. I tried not cry at the sight of her. You always said I cried at the sight of any dog, cat, or child but I’ll have you know I held myself together this time. I crouched down gently drying her eyes. Then it the most confident voice I had I said, “Baby you’re going go in there and wow all the children with how smart you are and how funny you are. You can use that turtle pun on them. You remember how much that made me laugh. And then you’re going to make so many friends you’ll never have time for your dear old mommy and I’ll be forced to pick you up in my arms and never let you go so I never have to share you again.” I picked her up as I said this and twirled her around. Giggles exploded from her chest, shaking her tiny belly like the worlds cutest earthquake. “Okay mommy okay! Let me go! We can’t be together forever I need to go make friends”. Then she sauntered off to the first child she saw.

~

Dear you,

Today while I was making dinner, Jules asked me why she doesn’t have a father. She went on about how all the other first graders have fathers and yet she doesn’t. There was no animosity in her voice nor pain just confusion as if she couldn’t understand what was missing from the equation that equaled her life. I explained how she does have a father that loves her with all his heart, he just can’t be here right now. That quelled the questions and left a smile on her face. That was the second time I lied to her about you.

~

Dear you,

One of my coworkers asked me if my husband and I would like to join her and her husband on a double date next week. I felt the blood drain from my face. I hadn’t thought about you and me in while. I stammered out an explanation of how I’m a single mother. My coworker blushed apologetically before getting back to work. I could feel the burn where you drew a ring around my finger years ago saying ‘someday I’m gonna make you mine forever’. I remember responding with ‘I’m already yours forever’. I still am yours forever. The problem is you’re no longer mine.

~

Dear you,

Sometimes Jules asks me something and all I see are your eyes. It normally takes her repeating her question two or three more times before I can snap out of the past. Sometimes I love that I can see so much of you in her, allowing me to feel the echo of the love you once were capable of giving me. Sometimes I hate that your genes played any part in making her, forever anchoring me to the memory of you. But all of the time my love for Jules over shadows it all and me and you are just ingredients needed to make the creation that is her, no longer relevant since our job was completed.

~

Dear you,

I took Jules home for the holidays this year to visit my parents. She begged me to take her to the park and I did. I took her to our park. The one where we ate ice cream in the winter and drank hot chocolate in the summer. The one where we would go star-gazing when the nights were too vast for sleep to take us. The one where you first told me you loved me. You said it like it was a fact that had never not been true, like life had always been leading me to you and you’d known it all along. I took her to our park. It didn’t quite hurt as much.

~

Dear you,

Today, at age 10, Jules asked me the question I’ve dreaded the most, “Mom, will you tell me about you and dad?” She wasn’t a little girl anymore. She had known for while that she had a dad. Ever since then she had always wanted to know you, the you that created her, the you that no longer exists. I tried to mix in stories of you with the fairytales I told her as she drifted into dreams, to try and fill the void you left in her. But she had never asked the story of you and me. “Okay, Jules.” I took a breath, preparing for the past. “You see it all began one day at the ice cream shop I worked at in my youth. I was serving your father and his friends. I wasn’t paying them much attention because my shift was almost over and I was more than ready to scrub the dirt and grime off of my skin in a nice, warm shower. That shower was truly amazing, life-changing. I still remember it. Honestly might have been one of the best showers of my life—” Jules rolled her eyes at my rambling. “Okay, okay. The group eventually walked out the door and I turned around humming to myself before hearing the door ring again. I turned around to see your father. He had a crooked smile on his face and a glint of hesitation in his eyes before asking me, ‘So hypothetically how much ice cream does one have to buy in order to get your number?’ Yeah your father was a little bit pathetic but what can I say I’m a sucker for someone who can make me laugh even when the joke is him and he was always happy to deliver. So I gave him my number and we went on dates for the next couple of months but never became anything serious. Both of us were too afraid to be the one to define us. After four months of dating, we were walking around town one night after seeing some movie and we over heard a young girl say, ‘I want to be in a relationship like theirs when I’m older mom’. We both looked at each other, then our intertwined hands, then we smiled and shrugged and that was that. Neither of us knew how to address the future at that age so we lived in the moment. We went on road trips some weekends or we spent others in with takeout and movies. Instead of spending our nights dreaming, we dove into each other trying to unearth our secrets. We became archeologist dusting off thoughts long forgotten and archiving them as proof they were here. As we grew older, we got so lost in each other we forgot our fears of dreaming. We were able to find hope in each other, in the relics of our past. We began making plans and promises. He promised he’d love me and I promised I’d never leave him. This was around the time we found out about you growing in my belly. I remember the look on his face when I told him. His eyes flashed between joy and terror like a fire alarm before finally settling on love. He always denied it but I saw a couple tears leave his eyes. You see he was in love with you before he even saw you, Jules. You were it for him. And when you finally did come, man was he a wreck. You’d expect me to be the over-emotional panic-y one but no that was all him. Though when the nurse gave you to him to hold he settled, completely at peace. He helped the nurse give you your first bath. He simply couldn’t let you go.” Jules’ smile beamed up at me begging me to continue. “Well, after that we began life as a family. I must admit you were a bit of handful: screaming, crying, spiting up on yourself.” “Mommmm” Jules whined. “Hey I’m just saying being a parent is not the most glamorous job. The amount of times I was assaulted with poop is truly scary. Did you know newborns poop six to ten times a day?” “Mommm” “Fine, fine back to the story I get it. So the next couple of months were a little bit of blur to be honest. We were pretty sleep deprived and loopy so most of it blends into a continuous loop of rocking you back and forth. You were the cutest little thing when you feel asleep though. You often liked to hold our hands when you slept which was a bit of a problem at times but damn it was adorable.” My eyes glazed over as I lost myself in my favorite memories. “As you got older things settled a bit. Your father went back to work when you were about 5 months old and I decided to stay home with you. We both got a little more sleep, started having date nights, took you on small outings to the park or play dates.” I paused not really wanting to continue but seeing the look on Jules’ face I knew I needed to. “You had just turned 18 months old. He wanted to celebrate your half birthday. I’ve told you how into birthdays he was. He called me saying he was coming home from work early with a human sized stuffed monkey for you. I tried to hint at the fact that that might be a bit too extravagant of a gift for a one and a half year old but he pretended not to hear me claiming ‘he was going into a tunnel and we kept breaking up’. He did that whenever he didn’t want to hear my mommy lectures. I rolled my eyes and laughed waiting for him to come home. But, he never did. I was feeding you lunch when I got the call from his mom saying there had been an accident. I started rambling asking if his father was okay, if she needed me at the hospital, if there was anything I could do to help before she cut me off saying, ‘Laura its Daniel’. She repeated everything the police had told her but I couldn’t hear anything after killed on impact. Everything was jumbled around into meaningless noise, until I heard you cry. You broke me out of my trance. I looked at you and saw you staring at me with parted lips and tears leaking out the corners of your eyes. You looked so helpless as if you knew, as if you felt him leave this earth. I knew then I had to be strong for you and so I was.”

~

Dear you,

We created a girl filled to the brim with love. I’d like to think she got it from us.

Forever,

the girl who never left

 

 

 

 

The Battlegrounds of Perspective

We live our lives trapped in our own perspective,

Falling victim to the wounds

Of never being able to cross the boundaries of understanding.

At most we get close enough to graze hands,

But lose contact the minute our intentions turn to seeking redemption.

It’s a battle never won,

A battle where casualties add up to the sum of people we’ve met

And defeat is how we cope with the bloodshed.

In the end we walk the graves of lives we’ve lost,

Piling up our sins to make sense of what life is ever left to live.

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You were the matches to my candle wax,

Clinging to our sides of string

We asked to be set free.

 

And in a way we both got what we wanted,

You found reprieve in burning

And I found release in melting.

 

Just ash and oil

We were tragedies of escape,

But our lives will always be consumed by flame.

this moment is fragile

speak softly

this moment is fragile

i am fragile

 

i can hear the waves crashing

pieces of the sea each traveled hundreds of thousands of miles just to meet sand

and create shore before being hurdled back into the abyss of ocean

important for only a second

they call me

i can hear the cars speeding by

rushing from place to place

counting seconds

losing moments between the minutes of their last breath when time no longer dictates end

they miss me

i can hear the chatter of strangers nearby

their words bouncing off of each other with intensity

high on the intimacy of fluid conversation

a connection to momentarily suppress the solitude of the human experience

they want me

 

i can feel the sand beneath my skin

each granule working together to wear down my edges till I’m putty between them

wrapping ribbons around my finger tips

pulling me into their unity

they need me

i can feel the sun slide over my face

each particle of light down my neck and chest

brushing past my legs and finally curling under my toes

caressing my skin like a blind lover

they see me

 

i can taste the salt in the air

tickling my taste buds with unease

and the anticipation of the undiscovered

before familiarity washes their distaste away

they know me

 

settle in with me

this moment is fragile

i am fragile

one

little

mistake

and it fades  a w a y . . .