Mental Health Poetry

I Wish for All the World I Could Say, Hey Elizabeth, You Know, I’m Doing All Right These Days*

She’s been gone one whole year. I wrote this poem on the plane home from California on Monday. Last year, I flew home from California a few days after this date, with the knowledge her light was gone.

I still can’t believe it.

Un-Cloud Spirit

I don’t necessarily believe
you float above the clouds,
don’t think you watch me
from between the sun’s
rays, between falling
raindrops on my sons’ heads.

But looking down from this
particular vantage point, I
can’t help but feel your
arms wrapped ’round my
slumped, tired shoulders;
hear your voice in my ear.

Do you know when I struggle
most? When the thoughts
come fast and quick? Do you
recognize the pulse, the fear,
the downward spiral into
full-on self-hate?

You don’t need to answer
with words; I know how close
I dance with the demons—the
same who snatched you from
our hands, but not our hearts,
all too soon.

But you do answer me. I see you
in the way the light falls upon
my boys at sunset. I hear you
in song, in laughter, in a passionate
voice, and in the soft, gentle way
you said, “I understand.”

You act as a guide, flawed and
imperfect, like me. You see me
step to the edge, consider your
final fate, and step back, time
and time again; sometimes
I feel you push me away, back.

I don’t know why you’ve chosen
me, why you visit in dreams, at
lunch, in the sky on a flight home
almost one year after I cry-slept
through the sky, hurtling toward
a world in which you no longer existed.

When I close my eyes, memories flash
so quickly. Most crushing are the ones
I missed, wasn’t there for, that
pass through my mind as if I were.
I see you standing there; I cannot
reach you in time. Never. Still,

An onion on a coffee mug. Your laugh.
The two of us walking home through
the Square the night I knew I wouldn’t
and couldn’t marry my high school
sweetheart; cigarettes in the snow,
a conversation which lives with me now.

We talk even now, though I know
mostly no one would believe me or
even know you’re here, still, with us.
As you’ve walked with me this past
year, I’ve worked hard to be strong
enough for us both.

I do not know if I have succeeded
on behalf of you, but I know one thing:
I am here. I have new scars, some
too fresh, still itchy. But I am here.
You are in every piece I write now,
and I choose each breath.

For you. For me. For those who didn’t
know you, but should have; should have
read your words, held your hand.
For all of us who have wanted to give up,
nearly followed you into the dark, but
live on with and without you. Forever.

-JLH 7.31.17

Un-cloud Spirit

Further reading:

Title from Counting Crows’ song “I Wish I Was a Girl” from their This Desert Life album. Again. She lives on in these songs.

Photography Poetry

We Breathe in Fall

Fall Outtakes

Look, mommy! Look. The leaves!
Do you see? I do. I do. I see
the way your feet crunch over
the yellow, the brown, the not
quite red, your long shadows
racing ahead of you in the
setting sun. Racing ahead of you,
of me, racing; moving too fast.

These seasons come on so quickly,
from the hot, blinding heat of
summer to, blink blink, denim
jackets and boots, hoodies and
long pants, sweaters and hat.
I cannot get far enough ahead of
the movement to capture the change.

So here we stand, fall waving her
colors in front of us as we walk
through fields, trying to see the
beauty, if only for a moment, too
soon forgotten when the next one
rolls over us. But for now, for
today, we sit in the grass, warmed
by the sun, and we breathe in fall.
We breathe it all in.