Patchwork skies with their shades of blue and gray and white and golden sunlight fill my window today. In one moment, they stretch between the spectrum and so too does my heart. I feel I am waiting as a freight train to roll out of the station into some vast expanse of unknown, and yet I am still just waiting. So many options, so many possibilities. And then, in another moment, the gray expanse fills and there is only the light from my computer screen, only the shadows of raindrops on my window.
My beautiful friend Roxanne says it well here: “The fall is my anchor.” Autumn is my curling, like the leaves whose trunk has slowed the flow of nutrients to the branches, so too do my limbs curl inward. It is a time of much sleeping, of going deep, of digging into my own heart and burrowing there. And yet, I am tempted by the golden light, the shimmer of leaves in the shortening sun. I am drawn to libraries, to coffee shops, to a hunger I cannot satisfy with words or books or food or drink. It is a time of going deep and wide simultaneously, and my limbs resist the stretch as much as the curling.
The abundance of fallen leaves feels crowded in my room. There are so many stories here, too many books, too many clothes, too many moments of half-used and barely-started. I am easily overwhelmed by art supplies and unfinished library toys. The laundry snickers at me, the clean and the dirty mating in such a way that I want to give it all to someone else, someone who is not afraid of the too-much-ness of stuff. I want to be smaller, make my life smaller, shrink my life into a suitcase, a hiking pack, a messenger bag. I want to make the paper into pixels, send the magazines to those who might read them, ship the jewelry to bodies better adorned than mine.
When I was young and suicidal this time of year was always a trouble, this deep ache to shed the things being dressed by others as a cry for help. Perhaps it is a cry, for something simpler, something easier, something with fewer things and more memories. Perhaps it was always a cry for moments that burned my flesh to be released. In the autumn, the painful memories surface, the aches and the bruising and battered synaesthesia of a childhood best forgotten. Autumn was a returning to the pattern, the fraying hope that things might change. It was bruises in the clouds, the metal on my tongue from golden red leaves, the gloves on my hands begging for it to end.
I used to claim a poet’s pen. I used to write in fragments, the stanzas completing an inhale and an exhale in my chest. I used to think in verse, in lines of syncopation and arrhythmia. I used to dream in one page at a time, nothing longer than three pages per poem. I used to bear that badge with pride.
But poetry has escaped me, or I it’s heavy grasp. My thoughts are longer, dragging through snow and mud to create a fullness I have always sought. Poetry was my bridge to freedom. The days of my capture were caught in stanzas; not knowing how long the moment would last meant breathing it quickly, shallow, ready to snap. These autumn days are spent in freedom, a freedom I often do not know how to handle. So many thoughts, too many sentences, a flood of ideas falling on my heart like the quick gust of wind through an oak tree ready to release. A page feels empty, a notebook too full. Blankness stares at me, tiny lines begging for ink, and I freeze. The detritus of waiting tables and riding my bicycle seem far too mundane for such nice paper.
Still I force myself. Still I come to the page, and many times leave it blank. Empty hours spent staring at a dream I do not know how to chase. It is impossible, it seems, to run a marathon on a treadmill, but my feet are too afraid to touch the pavement. I am pulled in a million tiny directions like a tornado of leaves in autumn, each one wanting to find a new place to land.
And so I remember my teacher, one of the many faces I let go because I only wanted to protect them, the loved ones I haven’t written because I never could tell the truth then, and now it seems empty compared to the lie. I wonder how she faring, how they are all faring. I wonder if she knew, if any of them knew, and why they couldn’t seen the drowning all along. I get the idea I should write her, or her, or any of them. But I was just a child, and in so many ways still am, I would not know what to say.
Except, perhaps, thank you for not leaving.
It is a day of long underwear and thick socks. Of chai tea and cracking open a vein onto this screen. Of wondering how long I can run from the past, even though I return to it every night in my dreams. Of waiting for the moment when my heart will breath free.
No matter how far I go, no matter how many years or how many seconds pass, autumn is a bridge to the past and future, rolled into one moment of waking to a golden-black sky, waiting for the rain to pass, for the leaves to fall again.