Crumbs

I will no longer
eat your crumbs,
no longer nibble in vain
trying to fill my hollow belly
with the sad scraps you toss
from your barren table.

You made me a beggar
then scorned my hunger.
You starved me in your house
then accused me of malnourishment
and denied me alms.

Your lying morsels
tempt me into hoping
a meal is coming
while your kitchen is bare.
They trick me into believing
crumbs are the only food
despite the orchards outside.
They train me into accepting
only crumbs
as my lot.

But crumbs are mean appetizers
masquerading as a feast
that starve more cruelly
than a fast.
Crumbs are rotting remnants
of someone else’s banquet.

Wandering ravenous
in the village dark,
the haze finally revealed
other houses
with open doors.
I met skilled cooks
with stocked pantries
flaming hearths
and generous hands.

Now that I’m fed
I’m safe enough
to stop begging for trash,
free enough
to reject your miserly dregs.

Now that my cells know nourishment
I’ve no need
to haunt your impoverished table
ever
again.

© S. Rinderle, November 2022

abdominal liberation

Touch your belly.
Yes, feel your belly.
Your lumpy, poufy
rounded, expanding,
tender belly.

Notice
how you tense your belly.
There’s gotta be a six pack under there
from such relentless
squeezing.

We liberated from corsets
imposed by condescending men
and oppressed women
only to imprison our own bellies
in an ever-vigilant cage
of self-conscious muscle.
We’re incarcerated
in a torso-sized cell
of taut sphincters
and exhausting clenching:
sucking it in
holding it all in
humiliating and suffocating
our persecuted
and unjustly convicted belly.

Allow your beautiful
bulgy, triumphant
saggy, wise,
inflated, loyal,
flabby, patient belly
to breathe.
Notice your ample belly
pregnant with possibility
anticipating abundance
now that the babies
are finished.

Feel your center relax.
Notice that it was always there
how she does know
what she wants,
how she does not
deserve the shame.
She changes like water, naturally
but she is neither impish nor fickle.

She is not the problem.

The problem is the judges and jurists
telling her she doesn’t really know
and shouldn’t want
and shouldn’t be
and can’t have
and what if
and you’ll never.

She tires of the jailers
speaking through you.

Time to let go
and let
Be.

© S. Rinderle, September 2022

For Stephen

If I’d known
I would have halted all minutia
and rushed to your side.
I would have climbed that oak tree
begged you to come down
and eased the noose
you’d tightened.

We’ve never met,
but if I’d known
I would have braved the gauntlet of L.A. traffic
endured the untimely chill
and pierced the early dark
to get to you
in time.

I would have opened my ears
to your floodgates,
loosened the reins of my heart
to ride beside yours,
and stretched my comforting arms
around your volcanic ribs.

I would have said:
Me too, gentle warrior.
I, too, know the reasons
and they are plenty.
I will not shame or dissuade you.
I know the hell that hides
behind the brightest eyes
and whitest smiles.

I would have said:
Sweet firefly
you are a star
that shines brighter
than neon.
If not you, who?

I would have told you:
I cannot promise you hope
for the world is bleak and pale
because we made it so.
I cannot offer you respite
for the toil never ends
for a tender soul.

But I would have promised love
because seedlings sprout
in the wake of a bulldozer’s wrath
even when the tree’s destruction
is certain.
I would have promised love
because your lovers
are already legion.

Brother,
(May I call you Brother?
No reference to your magnificent Blackness
but to our kinship bond
as artists who find god
in cyclones of muscle and bone
waterfalls of arms and knees
and the eternal heartbeat
of sound.)

Brother,
if I’d known
I would have brought you
a thousand candles
to light the dark cavern
of your creeping night
like your spark lit mine.
I would have brought you
all the white roses ever planted
one for every gift you granted
before your wick
extinguished.

Anything
to illuminate this tarnished shadow
that’s lengthened
since you disappeared
down the empty end
of a gun.

If you’d known
that shot fired
into your inconsolable wilderness
would trigger an avalanche of devotion,
would you have stayed?

If you’d known
your heartquake
would cause a tsunami of salty grief,
would you have waited?

Please wait! Please stay.

© S. Rinderle, December 15, 2022
In Memory of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, 1982 – 2022. Rest in Power, dear one.

Epilogue

If we survive
our descendants may look back
on the decline
of our “civilized” empire
and wonder:
Did they know?
When they realized,
were they kind?
Or did they
scratch each other bloody
with dull, infected claws?

After the EMPs and EFTs
and AIs and IEDs
they’ll wonder about us:
Did they try to stop it?
Were there no prophets?
How were their wise ones ignorant
of what our little ones understand:

That no human survives alone
nor thrives when the few
have too much.
That all the children reap the harvest
of all the ancestors’ seeds.
That we need the rivers and trees,
the rain and rotting soil,
the butterflies and sunrise
far more than they need us.
And all life
is finite.

They will stand where they imagine
our graves might lie,
asking,
yet hear only silence.

Still, my ghost will call out
from beneath roots and shoots
and centuries of sediment:
Yes, we did.
But we were too few and too late.

You still have time.
The Earth awaits,
indifferent.

© S. Rinderle, October 2022

100

I don’t ever want
to get old,
to end up grinning toothless
with hollow eyes,
vacant mind,
and bent fingers
waving at strangers.

I don’t want
to end up a wispy husk
a mockery of my former vitality
being spoonfed cake
by youthful greyhairs
in a cold, white room
where metal creaks,
decaying flesh hangs,
and death’s scent hovers.

“Don’t ever let me
get like that”
my mother instructed.
“Slip something into
my chicken soup.
Or better yet, my martini!”

No need.
She dropped dead at 55
in her prime,
head cushioned
en route to the floor
by the quick hands
of her fellow yogis.

She left behind
lists on the kitchen counter
unwrapped gifts in the cupboard
stunned loved ones in the great house
and complete clarity
that she was utterly finished.

She was wise.
She did not linger
with trembling limbs
and the stink of death on her lips,
or the bewildered stare
of an animal that has outlived
its joy and purpose.

Why do we celebrate number of years
as triumph?
Years lived
years wedded
years labored
when all this requires
is stubbornness, luck,
or the ability to bear habitual burdens.
This is nothing to praise
unless such endurance
was also fruitful,
sufficiently joyous
and freely chosen.

To grow old
is to travel backwards,
to experience second childhood
then infancy.
I expect mine
to be no less cruel
than the first
and no less lonely.

They say we die
as we lived.
Let it be so
for me.
Let me flame out!
Let me be
a plunging meteor carrying nothing
but dignity and a few regrets,
instead of long-expired relief
obeying gravity.

I will bear my solitude
as long as my end
can be swift
and unambiguous.

© S. Rinderle, July 2022

(Published on the 23rd anniversary of my mother’s death)

Photo: Pablo Carlos Budassi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Origin Story

Not all suffering
makes us kinder.
Not all pain
makes us grow.

There are tears
that never mend,
losses that leave us hard and jagged,
injuries that cripple our limbs
or leave permanent holes.

There are some wounds so deep
they break us.
Some evils so great
they overwhelm our good.

There is rage so old and hot
it becomes venom.
There are strings of bad luck so long
they must be personal.
And fears so broad and justified
we never leave home again.

There are some storms
we simply cannot weather.
That makes us neither weak
nor holy.
That which maims
is never pretty.

Do not romanticize my suffering,
or try to convert it to virtue.
Do not glorify my pain, or
encourage me to build shrines
in its honor.
I did not need this experience
to sanctify me,
to make me a better person.

Some tragedies steal
as much as they give.
Trauma makes as many villains
as superheroes.

© S. Rinderle, July 2022

Friend Zone

Why
don’t you
like me?

Do my hazel eyes
and salty mane
irritate?
Do my perky buns
and ample melons
offend?
Do my generous laugh
and crackling wit
upset?
Do my income,
independence,
degrees,
and sanity
displease?

Or do our many similarities
annoy?

Silly boy.
Questing half a century
pursuing tired fantasy.
Don’t you yet know
sparks can fly
then easily die?

You say you had a great time.
You testify
to comfort, connection,
easy flow,
and big laughs.
You were surprised
how quickly time flew by.

Foolish boy.
Your compass is awry.
Haven’t you yet learned
that without such things
any love is just
a lie?

© S. Rinderle, July 2022

Stories

If I told you
all my stories
you might understand.

But instead
you might wince,
bracing against
your own pain,
or give advice
that echoes useless
against the solid rocks
of my lived experience,
and slides limp
down the canyon walls
of my hopeful heart.

Or worse,
you might stare,
deaf and muffled,
numb in your triggers,
or instinctively discharge your weapon
in my direction.

When you ask me to tell you
all my stories
you’re asking me to reread
tragedies of betrayal
gothic tales of horror and haunting
love poems too short and abruptly concluded
reams of murdered obstacles
and dead connections
long shrouded and buried.

You’re asking me
to revive and remourn those pages
unearthed from the loving soil –
to stare at their wretched corpses,
then labor to place them back
in the disturbed earth.

My stories are precious
like gems
forged from detritus and dirt
under eons of pressure and flame.
I risk too much in the retelling,
in the prying of my ribcage
to expose my lungs
and breathing heart.

Instead
I will keep these jewels close
and let you meet ghosts
let you help tend the garden
growing over the graves and
climb the majestic trees sprouted
from the mangled bones
of the past.

Then perhaps
one day
when I’ve seen enough kindness
in your gaze
enough strength
in your shoulders and jaw
I’ll peek open the crypt door.

Until then
let the dead
lie.

© S. Rinderle, May 2022

Unchained

Go Big!
Do More!
Crush Goals!
Be All!

Stop.

Feel the impact
on your hardening flesh.
Notice the effect
on your only body
as embattled cells multiply
or attack each other
and callouses form.

You are trying to win
at a game not made
for you.
It was created
to trick you
into doing the Masters’ bidding,
into trying harder
and blaming
only yourself
or your fellow players
for always falling
short.

You are like a bruised lover
who keeps going back
to her punishing Man.
A man who gives
with one hand
and takes more
with the other,
who feigns victimhood
and lies that he loves you
each time you try
to leave.

You whip your own flesh
like the masters whipped
your ancestors.
You carry the rapist’s child to term
when you know you neither love it
not are suited for motherhood.

You convince yourself
this is the way
that you are righteous, faithful,
“a team player”.

That’s because you were taught
to believe lies.

The truth is you are good.
Not because of how you’ve played The Game
but despite it.
Not because of how you’ve survived
but because Goodness
is your natural state.

You don’t need it.
You don’t need them.

Stop.
Start to Listen.
Start to Notice
Start
to
Feel.

© S. Rinderle, June 2022

Closure

To love someone
beyond hope
is to sit at a banquet table
turning grey
while the feast goes cold
growing cobwebs
on decaying flesh.

To love someone
beyond redemption
is to keep vigil
waiting at the cave door
turning to stone
covered with barnacles
and seaweed for hair.

I still see the divine light
gleaming behind your eyes
a spark all the violence and neglect
could never douse.
I am in awe of you.

I have invited you in to feast
offered you supper on the doorstep
even lifted the spoon
to your starving mouth.
But I cannot make you eat.

I have sung songs into the dank cave
told you stories of the sunlight
and warm, salty breeze
tossed you fishes and bid you come forth
to live between my doting arms.
But I cannot make you leave.

I will love you
until the fire becomes embers
turns to black coal
and then diamonds.

I will love you until the sun
expands, falters, implodes
and folds in on its dying core.

But I am here to say goodbye
draw a cross on your forehead
kiss your gentle eyelids
say I wish I’d been there
when your voice was high
and full of wonder
to rescue you
before the scars.

I will never stop believing
never relinquish my faith.
But it’s time I abandon this beach
and clear this banquet table.

It’s time to set my yearning heart
on an undamaged
star.

© S. Rinderle, 2/21/22