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(almost) every day a new poem from sarah feeley


22 June 13

JEAN serial - that means more Jean

Brandon from Geometry class was dead.

On the bedroom floor, it was dark in there, but the string of lights gave off a pretty low light. A yellow light. In a pool of yellow light on the floor.

How can someone be dead?

I guess that boy was kind of cute. I never talked to him. He wasn’t someone I was friends with but now that he’s dead, I’d like to have a memory of him.

What is this? Wasn’t even a thought that formed as Charlotte sat there. Holding her grief for someone she didn’t even know. Her family dispersed through the house. The days getting shorter and winter like a powerful smothering forcing everyone indoors for a season of getting on each other’s nerves.

The pain sat like a lump. Brandon was dead. Brandon had nice hair. Brandon had had nice hair. What was it like at his house now?

Charlotte had a pair of scissors with her from the bathroom and she was scraping them in a line on her forearm. Lightly, then with a bit more pressure. Over and over. To cry at this death in school would be weird, right? To cry for someone you really didn’t even know. Did she only care because he was dead. He knew everything now. Didn’t that mean he knew everything there was to know? Every secret. Every piece of mystery. Brandon was there knowing it all.

Charlotte made her face into a crying face and in the dim light and in the reflection in the full-length mirror on the back of the door, she looked like a real ghoul.

It was almost Halloween but now it seemed wrong, all the stuff about dead people.

Paul Rosterman had died when they were in seventh grade. He killed himself. But she didn’t know him. It was different. She didn’t know him at all. Her mom had cried when she found about it. Paul had shot himself in the face.

Charlotte thought of everyone she knew who had died: her Grandpa Ray and John Langley, who worked with her dad.

She felt weird. She lay on the floor and whispered to herself “God bless you Brandon,” even though she didn’t really believe in God. He died in a car accident. No one was drinking, it was just late and dark and who knew what happened, really. How could they know?

These were the times she felt so alone. She couldn’t tell her parents, they’d think she was crazy, to get so upset over someone she didn’t even know.

Charlotte was playing behind the couch. The babysitter had MTV on and La Bamba was her favorite. She’d run inside from the backyard if that one came on.

La Bamba was on the radio a lot, too. And she would dance around and think about going to Casa Lupita. The Mexican restaurant, where they served warm chips in baskets and little black cups of saucers. Ramekins. That word made her laugh (though she wouldn’t learn it for another decade).

Charlotte’s Grandpa was in the hospital. They stopped at Casa Lupita on the way back home. She had a fajita, it was a fancy meal.

When Grandpa Ray died, Charlotte’s parents waited to tell her. They didn’t want to upset her, they said. Her fury was real and alive and bigger than she was, but not as big as how sad it hit her.


Charlotte did not go by Char, but sometimes she thought Lotti would be a good nickname. It sounded very German though, like an international movie star from the 1950’s.

A teenage girl. What is that thing of teenage girls, holding the drama of a lifetime in even a fingernail. In zero gravity. That’s why it was always so satisfying, high stakes when really there were none.

Charlotte liked to cry like it was life and death and yell and get upset and be moody and in a funk if she wanted, but not when it mattered. When it mattered, like this, like now, with a dead boy sitting three rows behind her and to the left in Geometry, it was all wrong.

Teenage girls should be spared thoughts of death. Teenagers don’t know what death means. Does anyone know.

Charlotte wondered and knew it had something to do with the way that, when she was a kid, her mom would fawn over her friend Allison, and once she bought her a winter coat, but pretended it was a hand-me down when she gave it to Allison’s mom.

A hunger strike seemed like a serious and thoughtful expression of her current conundrum, of how to feel for this dead boy in actions. So when Jean called her downstairs for dinner, she skulked to the table and announced her stomach was bothering her, she’d sit but wasn’t hungry.

Jean made her some bouillon, the little foil covered cubes Charlotte and Luisa used to sneak and lick like little deer, plopped into a cup of hot water. She consented to this gesture of care.

The bouillon tasted so faint in relation to the unadulterated cube of salt and seasoning. That’s why stock, and soup and general, had always fallen short for her. She wanted them at their peak, not this warm dilution.


Jean was tired and had done something strange that day on the way on home from work. She bought a pack of cigarettes. She’d laughed at herself, like she was the teenager, but the familiarity of transgression was warm against her skin.

She’d smoked one in the car on the way home with all the windows open and the rush of the wind and the nicotine and NPR turned up to full volume just to hear it over the noise of the engine and air made her feel like herself for a minute.

Jean worked for an interior designer with a boutique firm. They did well, she liked her job, she was good at it. She knew where to find almost anything you could want for a house, and she didn’t go in for all that quaint, faux-country stuff. She had an eye for color, it showed in her dress, it showed in the way she cooked. Jean was a secret painter. 

Posted: 8:38 AM

Scary Story from This Winter

When I was a kid I heard this story about a man who met a very lovely, mysterious woman and they fell in love. She always wore a black velvet ribbon around her neck. She never took it off and she told him, and this part was always stressed in the telling of the story, really she ominously warned him never to ask her to take it off or try to make her untie that ribbon.

He didn’t listen.

One night he just couldn’t take it anymore and he untied it and her head rolled right off. It wasn’t bloody, but it was off and I guess it wouldn’t go back on, or maybe it was just that knowing her head was held on by a ribbon was too much for him so that was the end of their relationship.

I’m making up that part of the story. It really ends when the head rolls away yelling, I told you not to take it off!

That story haunted me.

When it went around my elementary school it was tough because I wore a vest everyday. I still do, actually. And suddenly, I was under all this scrutiny.

I explain to people, no, I don’t take this vest off. No, I would not like to hang up my vest. No, I’m fine to go in the water with my vest on, it dries really fast.

I had a boyfriend once, a few months ago, Aspen. He was what people call a drifter. Handsome and rugged and new in town. We saw each other at line in the post office and then later the same day at a coffee shop. Then two days later we bumped into each other at the grocery store, he was buying a six-pack and a rotisserie chicken, and he asked me if I’d like to get a drink at the bar next door.

Aspen was a real “boob man,” and he got sick of over-the-vest second pretty fast. Next thing I knew, he had unzipped me. My liver was dangling down like a ratty sneaker. We broke up the next week. 

Posted: 8:35 AM

An Essay from Early Spring

For years I’ve grappled, held, considered, and mostly tormented myself about the ideas of big and small.

Big and small somehow came to represent two oppositional ways of living. Big is all flash and success and an upward, linear, speedy race to the top. Big propelled me but also made me scared, drained my confidence, put my power in other people’s opinions of me, and closed me off from myself and the people in my life. Big starved me.

But Big was loud. Especially around small.

Small was this fragile, lovely, introspective, genuinely caring, creative (but maybe not in the expected ways, or in the ways that got the right response), listener. But small might only take place inside my own kitchen, or my own body, and that couldn’t possibly be enough, could it?

Neither of them seemed to trust the other, and I couldn’t trust either of them. I’d be in a yoga class – decidedly small territory, and big would make an appearance. Or I’d be in the middle of something critical at work, and small would decide that this was indeed the moment to inventory what exactly it was that we were doing with our one beautiful life.

I’ve fought against my feelings and tried to rationalize my way around the emotional animal. My refrain, to self, to anyone who would listen and let me spin a story about my life, was that I’d been through a lot and so even if I looked happy now, it was hard earned, and didn’t really count. We’ve all been through a lot, some more than others, some so bleak the miracle of their remaining sparkle seems impossible, but more than that, we put ourselves through a lot. I put myself through a lot.

I’m just learning it now, but part of the reason my old ways of grappling felt so suffocated and suffocating (because, in and of itself, grappling can be a good thing, it can get us out of a jam) was because it was missing love.

Big and small are not at odds.

Big and small coexist in a blaze when we move from love.

I am coming to believe that all of our truest contributions, gifts, joys, disasters even, when we make enough room around them to learn from them, are born from, bound by, and balanced with love.

Love of self is the first step.

Unconditional. Mad. Passionate. Resonate, writhing, shimmying love for self that leaks from our skin like a glorious hangover or wonderful fever.

Accomplishment, stress, acquisition – the delineations between self and other. Me and you. Me. This is what we’ve built so much of our fractured culture on. It is our currency.

But when I only know how to be me in relation to you, I’m not really me at all.

How might I be myself if I never broaden to take in the epic scope of my heart rather than the narrow lens of my fixations and obsessions, born out of my individual traumas, tragedies, and triumphs. Important occurrences all, but why do I choose to allow them to define who I am. And who you are to me. And maybe you do the same thing to yourself?

That stuff frames us, but it doesn’t make me, you, or anyone.

Bigness, real bigness, the kind that’s so big it is small, is ours to embody. Our body is ours to embody. When every act becomes an act of self-love, there is a movement towards freer expression, consideration of our place within the whole, connectedness, less fear, more joy.

When rooted in the rightness of heartspace might we move in fresh ways through our world? Might we experience grace and gratefulness as a default state?

This has only very recently hit me. And with each hit, I feel myself coming alive. It’s changing my whole attitude towards the “work” of being a writer.

In all my writing years, I have been driven by a love of language, story, how people are with one another, metaphor, and sound, but I’ve been driven practically primarily by a consuming sense of guilt, obligation, and an angry, adolescent need to be seen and recognized, a fear that what I had would be taken away, I wanted someone else to give me my greatness and creativity.

Subtle shifts, a shifting subtle body, frequent impromptu dance parties – and I now see or saw that, and sometimes how, I was limiting myself and my experience of the world.

I was begging everyone else, or at least someone else, to tell me I was worthwhile when, drumroll, yes, I was the one I needed to hear it from.

And what a shift into simplicity.

Everything is the same. But the sameness is brighter, wider, lovelier.

Now I can write because I love it. It can be as simple as that. Everything can be as simple as that, even things that are really bitterly, cuticle tearingly complicated.

All our little lives are so important. All those days I didn’t talk to plants, or really think about the hands that touched “my” food and “my” fabrics before I ever touched them. All those lost moments with friends when in wanting to communicate my pain I choose not to communicate at all instead. All the drunk nights in Brooklyn that made for pretty good stories and stomachaches and bar make-outs and one-night stands but were really a way of begging myself to change something. To learn to live as someone who wakes up grateful rather than shameful.

Finding reasons to be grateful may still just be another kind of storytelling, but now I’m weaving rather than unraveling.

I started practicing yoga in 1998, but it has only been in the last six months that I have started to understand it. It’s all process. And I’m so happy to be where I am and excited for wherever I am going.

Wabi-sabi wasabi.

The Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, in a nutshell (which is about what would be needed to hold all I know about it and where, actually, it’s perfectly real expression could probably be found), is centered around the truth that we’re always in a time of change and transition.

I like the idea of life as wabi-sabi wasabi.

Life is hot and spicy and sometimes gives us the perfect amount of flavor and sometimes burns our nose hairs off or feels flat and dull. Whatever it tastes like, it is constantly changing. Do we grow into ourselves? Shrink into ourselves? Might even our own wasting be a blessing?

By unabashedly listening to the deepest self, not just the loudest, not just the part that knows whole self-effacing (from the root meaning to erase! To erase our very selves!) monologues by heart, I find myself making choice after choice in celebration. Of wholeness. Towards service.

And I look back on the broken self I was and I am so proud of that person, for finding her way here, even though it took a while and she was, and is, scared and sometimes in disbelief of this new reality. This reality. Reality.

I imagine what might happen if each of us, every single being, were truly nurtured. Our separate distinct selves would have a chance to flourish if we all listened to our tiny giants, our loving hearts, our best selves.

Sometimes I think about this and freak myself out. Like a world full of people like me? Early bird, neat freak, postcard making, booty shaking, poetry writing, vagabond, massage therapists? The world would fall apart and I couldn’t use the internet.

Then I remember that beyond the universe of what my happiness looks like is a whole world of people with their own unique and complementary dreams. We need each other. All of us, in our beautiful bruised messed up glory.

There are people who dream of bridges, better ways to deal with trash, fashion, medicine, what it means to be healthy, technology, chemistry, raising children, teaching children. We know we are different. We forget we are the same.

At the depths of ourselves, we will fit together. Our cells don’t fight because one is bone and another blood and another brain. They form a beautiful unit.

What might help engender a shift towards the desire to do our best work? And not only to do it, but to do it in the only way it is truly possible: out of a place of love? A real knowledge of our essential worth, wholeness, and goodness, no matter the particulars of the moment.

Like the constant changing of every other piece of life, our own changing wouldn’t render this new balance impossible, it would just acknowledge what already is.

Sometimes we are motivated, sometimes not. A population living and moving through love, living with a rooted sense that even in those times when our day to day feels utterly loose, uncomfortable, painful, aching, what if even then we could remember, by each of us remembering and serving as living reminders for those in moments of trauma, our innate value and worth?

So that when doubt whispers, we can whisper back, then laugh at ourselves, or cry, or DTMF, or hold the wounded friend and find a way to be there. To create a life with ourselves truly at the center. A centered life. Self-centered meaning finding our own balance, and leaning on others, and being leaned on, when needed.

How to make this utopia a reality? I think we just let go.

This isn’t about forgetting boundaries, it’s about building our walls and structures from a place of self-knowledge rather than fear.

To be free to love when we know the hurts of even the tiniest rejections is scary and expansive. How do we write this into our lives? Into our institutions? As more individuals encounter the open moment of their own heart will things naturally shift?

Complicated and wild, life is a braid of love and courageous layering. Times, stages, moods make us who we are in a chemical sense and break and define and rebuild and redefine and flow and flower and wither.

Sometimes we do nothing, sometimes contribute more than others, we may be silent, sullen, grooving, sleepy, marathon running, marathon Netflix watching, intellectual, lump over the course of a week. We are all of them and worthy of love always. Above all we are all worthy of our own love.

I am still the same as I always was but now I take deeper breaths of me and laugh more. It is hard to see that when I’m stuck, I’m usually the one in my way. It’s hard to try to give others what they need (explicitly, when asked), rather than what I need or, worse, what I think they need. And to give myself what I need, and take – learning to really receive. Learning to really be my beautiful epic self. We are a process. We are our own lifetime’s work.

I want to live unafraid of my own process, not comparing it to others’, and being supportive to where others are in their lives, not forcing them to meet me where I am.

I feel myself waking up. Waking up isn’t about making everyone else get out of bed at the same time, too. Sometimes it’s about getting the coffee ready. Sometimes it’s about having been up all night and needing the morning off.

A year ago I was deeply depressed and thought of death on a moment to moment to basis. My torment was due a variety of situational causes as well as some physical illness and it gave me a profound sense of humility, once I got over my arrogance about it.

It all adds up to where I am, every messy, sloppy, stupid, occasionally medicated, adorable second of my life.

Wholeness requires nothing more than one true breath. Over and over again.

In the body, the heart feeds itself oxygenated blood first. The practice of self-love is our human animal learning what the body already knows. 

Posted: 8:32 AM


Jean brought the paintings into the office thinking she could put one above her desk, but when Sheila saw it she asked if they could bring it over to the client’s house. They had a meeting in forty-five minutes with an art dealer from Boston who was decorating a summer home.


Jean said yes. Sheila didn’t ask where it came from.

In the car on the way over they talked about their kids and Sheila talked about her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Sheila did most of the talking, because she was nervous. This client would be a big account. She was pretty sure she’d book them, but this was a final meeting, to secure the contract.




Jean’s paintings where mostly portraits, with abstract backgrounds. She sometimes painted at the beach. Early on a Sunday morning she’d drive down to the water and just watch. She’d watch until she had this feeling, almost like a ringing in the ear, or a word on the tip of her tongue, and then she’d do a quick sketch. Usually she’d try for three sketches before she committed to any of them. And then she’d look at the three before her and pick the one she wanted to sit with for a bit. That would be the start of the painting, but the painting would only come after a few days more sketching. She worked at her own pace, no rushing, no hesitating.

The one she’d brought into the office was strange to Jean, but she loved it. It was a chair by a window and outside the window was a woman in the garden, her face obscured by a low bush. She was on her hands and knees, her head right in the bush.


Jean was 42. 42, 42, 42. How did it happen? She still looked the way she thought she’d always looked. But then she’d see pictures and see the ways she changed.

Charlotte and Luisa. She’d thought she was old when she had them, she was 25 when she’d had Charlotte. Regret was far from the right word. What they gave her, what she took from herself in becoming their mother, it was a complicated math.


Maybe I should just worry about nothing. Just be happy. 

Why can I see how younger people don’t know anything, not a thing, but when it’s me I think I should know something? What am I saying? I don’t know how to work hard, do I?


On the days she painted or sketched well, Jean felt her body like when she was a kid. She felt her body like there was nothing in between the her that lived inside it and the body itself. Sometimes life dropped a wall there. Or sometimes she built a wall with worry and thinking.

In the woods behind the house, the morning she’d sketched the woman on her hands and knees, she’d gone back to the house craving touch. When Daniel wasn’t there, she lay down on the couch in the living room and touched herself. Had she been that wet in her whole lifetime?

21 June 13

Ryan Came Second

after Dana needled me and I drove home in love with the moonlight


I had a dream about Ryan Gosling

the internal pop culture was complicated

it interrupted my sense of myself as someone who relishes a solstice


13 June 13

maybe just this

what sweeter way to be in world

I wonder

than in this unpredictable

11 June 13

Exploding Head Syndrome

heard a loud high sound (bee boop) in my ear
technological blip sound hiccup
two nights ago too but I thought it was my old iphone dying in the night
bee boop
bee bup beeeee boupe
quietly attribute these vibrations to the spin of 17 chakras
you read that right (you you you wonderful you)
I texted my boyfriend to tell him
he lives so far away I can’t just spin myself to whisper right from my sleep warmed mouth
or I live so far away
either way we
are outside of names
but anyway
I dare you to -be me for a minute and- google
and voila
side effect ahem effect amen
what sweeter way to be in world, I wonder, than in this

8 June 13

On Annoying Social Media and Ovulation

GIRLS birthing a world still find things to complain about
in perfection we complain at what we find
losing bees, swab secretions if born by cesarean
section myself into colonies
feeling mittleschmerz I googled mesenchymal
knowing only I was looking for a long word with an m
knowing in womb what starts where
repeating myself again 

28 May 13

Ithaca is as green in spring as white in winter

A tree doesn’t need me to write a book but I need a tree to begin with blank paper.



so everything is dharma

Then I am too!

And if a big rock looked at my life

Daughter sister mother wife

What would my being teach?

Not teach, really, more of a, what am I, in the world?

Oh dear me, I’m trying to give lessons to rocks.

No matter how I rub a stone

Rub myself into stone

Disconnect the phone

Think of an old fling who loved that movie (phone home).

            I dreamed last night he still loved me

            I think of him as a son or a brother  - our intimacy born of un-otherness

I can’t help being a poet! What brain does.

I really am what I eat!

So I switched to all organic because I have to get back to the earth good and early.

Posted: 10:50 AM

bringing us around

TOUPEE sits outside, outside of sound

I sit at the table that’s like a desk and crave fat – something to sustain me

crave sleep, a nap

he paws at the door in cool gray rain

everyone loves cats, right, because of the internet? which they invented??

when toxoplasmosis             stopped working


Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh