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

Three Love Lessons

My mother ridiculed me
for cleaving to one pair
of boyish arms
instead of embracing many lightly
and clinging less tightly.
Always more, always less
never enough
she always said.

It took five decades
to learn that my yearning
was as natural and good as heartbeats
‘cause burrowed between
that kind boy’s arms
was the first and only place
I ever felt safe
ever was truly held
ever could fully melt
into gravity.

Her critique
was but a statement
of her own self-hatred;
my elsewhere clinging
an indictment
of her maternal failure.

This is a lie:
“You cannot love someone else
until you love yourself”,
for we are taught to love ourselves
by being loved.

It took me four decades
plus five years
to first know self love,
after clasping dozens of boys
both kind and cruel.
On a high desert ridge
over an ancient valley
during waning summer
I imagined turning
the same adoration and tenderness
that gushed for my dear ones
back upon myself
like a rebellious river.

It was a Revelation
like lightning crackling down
upon Moses’ mythic mountain
I received Divine wisdom
suddenly grasping self love
like a woman having a real orgasm
after 1,000 nights
of hoaxes.

So this time
it only took two months
to realize
there’s a difference
between missing him
and feeling lonely.
I now recognize
I don’t miss what we had
as much as I miss
what we never had
I miss what’s been missing
my entire life.
I’m a lonely child
never truly seen
who studied to be Big
and Impressive,
who practiced having Presence
in Intellect and Form
so she would not evaporate
into the impotent,
dusty air.

I felt cradled
in the arms of a hungry ghost
who wasn’t really there
but it was enough.

I mistook his fickle affection
for love
his calculated walls
for good boundaries
his ambivalent loyalty
for kindness
his lack of stewardship
for whimsy.
I carried his baggage willingly
until their weight slowed my steps
and their rotting contents oozed
onto my shoes.

Our inconsistent joy
and his partial presence
made my long solitude
more bearable
A parched woman stumbling in the desert
needs a sip of water
from time to time.
His oasis quenched me enough
to solider on
alone again
across the dunes again
unable to give up
this yearning
for true gravity —
this searching
for home.

© S. Rinderle, November 2021

Photo: Three Hearts Center, West Allis, WI

Sunday morning stroll

Grief is a Sunday morning alley
eerily quiet
in the early light
unclaimed baggies of dog shit
tossed about
overfilled dumpsters
of rejects
empty boxes
piled carelessly
cars parked partially
rocks strewn
from abandoned construction

in the soothing cool.

On Sunday morning
things look so different
from the dark drunken jubilation
of Saturday night.
More can be noticed –
visible dangers
that were missed
sweetness
that was hidden
surprising finds
among the refuse.
The still, quiet aftermath
allows a more balanced assessment
of the chaos.

The mess left by guests
after the party
makes the party no less festive
the guests no less welcome.
Yet we’re better equipped
to notice the toll
on Sunday morning.

Grieving
is like a Sunday morning stroll.
It awakens us
from our previous stupor
sheds a new angle of unfiltered light
on the familiar
introduces us
to new faces
reveals
what is emergent
or was always there
ignored
or once insignificant.

Grief is not a loss of love
but an exchange
of one love for another
the change
still disorienting,
vulnerable and tender.

Like a Sunday morning stroll
for night birds,
grieving shows us
that despite our fatigue
we can rise anyway
we might even find
our favorite fresh delights
more easily.

In fact, we may wonder
despite the difficulty of waking
why
don’t I do this
more often?

© S. Rinderle, September 2021

Most Best Lessons

Tonight
amidst the smoke and flowers
the primal beat and
boozy showers
I ached to tell you
to never doubt
I loved you, and
I love you still
just the way you are:
perfect.

I yearn to connect across the miles
and distance of our goodbye –
I think
maybe
my words might matter,
might make you reconsider.
But if my daily devotion
over hundreds of days
weren’t enough
to make you stay
forsake
those unfinished tatters
that get in our way
surely one call
won’t change
your stubborn mind
or wobbling heart.
I just hate
this you-shaped hollow
between my ribs
that makes all other men
thin paper –
a pale mockery
of our many best moments.

Oh
how do I survive
these whispers and shadows
of what could have been?
This time
I did not imagine
your possibilities –
they teetered on the cusp
of incarnation
but you could find
neither breath nor courage
to lean into the wind
instead
you fell backwards.

I am powerless
against your story.
I cannot
make you see,
cannot make you see
me
and so I cannot see
you.
I see myself
instead.

I cannot face time.
Most best lessons must be learned
the hard way.

© S. Rinderle, October 2021

Terminal

This is the end.
No more arriving
No more striving
It’s irrelevant and futile.
This life now
was the destination.
It’s not a layover.
I will never be a rock star
Never birth a child
The man I truly crave
is not produced
by this culture.
I cannot make a living
doing what I truly love.
How sweet
these lowered expectations.
How precious
this humbled bar.
What welcome relief.
Once I accept
we all have a terminal illness
and today
is tomorrow’s memory
of better times
so much is forgiven
so little wasted
and good enough
becomes perfection.

© S. Rinderle, December 2020

Precious

I held a jewel in my hand
but I let it go
I didn’t know
It was so precious, so rare
I was 19
I thought jewels
were easy to come by
I thought I should be
the sole sovereign
of my destiny.

On a California beach
on a January night
I watched him
as his trousers flapped in the wind
his impossibly gorgeous hair
rippling like the rolling waves
his impossibly blue eyes
welling.

I knew it was the worst pain I’d felt
I knew it was the most logical decision
I didn’t know
It was the first biggest mistake
I’d ever make.

When god hands you a jewel for safekeeping
ask not why
nor for how long.
Guard it in your bosom
Marvel at a new night sky
Revel at the palm trees gently swaying
under the moon.
Revere the smoke issuing
from his impossibly luscious mouth
Cherish the tender delight beaming
from his impossibly gorgeous eyes.

Abdicate your dictatorship
over an unknown future.
Relinquish your tyranny
over what is possible.

Let god figure out
the how
and when.

© S. Rinderle, May 2020