Life is messy

Sometimes, forget closure and emotional resolution. 



How co-sleeping begins

I Have This Way of Being

Jamaal May

I have this, and this isn’t a mouth
full of the names of odd flowers

I’ve grown in secret.
I know none of these by name

but have this garden now,
and pastel somethings bloom

near the others and others.
I have this trowel, these overalls,

this ridiculous hat now.
This isn’t a lung full of air.

Not a fist full of weeds that rise
yellow then white then windswept.

This is little more than a way
to kneel and fill gloves with sweat,

so that the trowel in my hand
will have something to push against,

rather, something to push
against that it knows will bend

and give and return as sprout
and petal and sepal and bloom.

(I wrote about this once, too, though not as eloquently – “Can gardening mend a broken heart?”).

On Gentleness

Tell me I once came close, that your body wasn’t
an obelisk, and mine, so much wire wound
around wire. I will always wonder

if I can take you, know you will always be stronger,
and marvel at how you appear even larger
than before with my niece cupped

in your tattooed arms. I know something simple
provokes you to call: a comic book
we’ve both read, a good time

to visit, but my thumb hovers over ‘decline’
and I hold my breath before I press
against the waiting ‘answer’.


Before I left for Florida—a week after I tore
the collar of my shirt, twisting out
of your grip, a week after

I disappeared with our shared car, the Venture
minivan we nicknamed Vendetta,
and brought it back to you

empty and smashed—you stopped me to tell me
to never come back. You meant it. I said
I wouldn’t. I meant flinching

is something I’d only do in oncoming light, never
the overcoat of a shadow; being the size of
a threat did strange things to my tongue.


Tell me about the night I hurled a phone receiver
at your head and the orb of blood on your lip
that seemed like it’d never fall, how you

bound me by a wrist, bruised my ribs against the floor,
and never threw a single punch. Wasn’t that
a kind of gentleness, Jabari?


Reading Monkey Grip

I read Monkey Grip (1977) by Helen Garner last year and I can’t believe that it is a) Australian and b) I’d not read it until now and c) something this good and interesting was written about single parenthood and wasn’t handed out at the door. It’s set in a very different time to now but captures well the compromises you make with difficult men and also, the possibility of freedom that exists as a single mother.

I thought about the patterns I make in my life: loving, loving the wrong person, loving not enough and too much and too long. What’ll I do? How much of myself will be left hanging in tatters when (if: I don’t want to end it) I wrench myself away this time?

Anger and culture

Years ago there was this silly British comedy film made by the Monty Python team called Erik the Viking. There’s a scene in it where the vikings have set off on a terrifying quest to the edge of their world. One of the vikings has anxiety and has never fit in properly with the others. As the quest becomes more challenging the vikings begin talking about these horrible unfamiliar sensations they are experiencing – queasiness, heart-racing etc. “That’s fear”, says the anxious viking. “You’re feeling fear. That’s what I feel all the time”, he says delightedly.

Just as these vikings were culturally inexperienced with fear, so too my boyfriend seems culturally unaccustomed to anger. It’s been a curious experience for me to observe someone so, apparently, peaceful. Because I come from a family almost proudly angry. Artist parents get quite angry and there is little effort made to contain it. It just erupts and recedes. Not all of it is productive anger but neither is all of it seen as destructive.

Besides, anger happens regardless of how comfortable you are with expressing it. And seems particularly inevitable when you are juggling work, study, co-parenting, step-parenting and new relationships, as Seth is.

Lately I have been teasing him when I see him tense up. “That’s anger. You’re feeling angry. That’s what I feel all the time,” I say.

10 things

One day you’re cleaning up your kids’ rooms while they’re away at their father’s and among their piles of mess you come across a list the two of them made and.. oof.. if you don’t just ache with longing for them then.


Writing lists about one’s family members is hereditary, apparently.


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