When I Was Wild

 This piece was aired at 14 East’s virtual live storytelling event on the theme of wilderness in May.

I wore such bad poems

as loincloths

at parties.

Strangers would hand me

gin bottles to binge

and break

and make beautiful. 

“Such shiny shards,” I’d gesture.

”Shaman says dance!”

and we’d stomp across

the bloody sweetness,

me too numb to feel Mother

crying in my pocket.

Sure, I went to family dinners —

my eyes glazed out of small talk

into step-dad’s mantle

of horse heads,

stuffed.

I’d imagine myself

back at camp,

in the woods, the real kind,

the green kind,

the mystic wild nights

along horse trails —

I felt a part of it,

I was apart from it,

I took shots to fix

that feeling but step-dad

took the bottle from me,

said I was drinking

too fast,

had ruined

first household reunion,

months since I’d left,

since I’d stopped calling, 

since my breath

had become

bitter musk.

I’d rush scowling

up apartment steps,

notebook my ingratitude,

penning: “I’m the Great Artist.

I felt Cosmos

vibrate at my feet,

stillness by the lake.

Watch me recreate it,

hear me gargle fire,

deem me wild again.”

And I had people convinced.

The shattered glass danced

like constellations,

strangers did too, they

salivated for drunken wisdom.

A real dog and pony show.

Night after night,

same poem, passing out

in circus mud.

But the woods relate to everyone.

I only buzzed

for my own pleasure,

I was no pasture — I was a poor artist.

Wine with no communion.

Shine, only confusion.

Called my mother crying:

“I’m overgrown.” She said:

“but you have no roots.”

So she drove me back.

I went back to the woods

and wished I hadn’t,

soil cold

on my scars, mist

searing in my nose.

I swam in the lake

and wore nothing —

speechless,

golden,

nearly drowned trying

to touch the bottom’s

glittering stones —

I came up gasping

for mercy feet-first.

I walked the horse trails,

thirsting for nothing

besides clean air

and was blessed.

I held my mother

without conscience.

I told my step-dad

he was a part of me.

We were still by the lake.

We are still by the lake.

Pebbles on its shore,

selfish poems torn

in campfire ashes,

reborn into thank yous

to the angels at our ankles.