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

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.

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

Go Where The Love Is

Go where the love is.
Do not hate
the funny shape
that is you.

Contorting yourself
into some twisted turmoil
changes nothing
but your own happiness
proves nothing
but how poorly you regard
your true nature.
They have no right
to dictate or mold
your final form.
They have not earned it.

Remove that stifling mask.
You can’t breathe.
You know better.
Experimentation is for the young.
You’re too grown
for lies
and wasted sunrise.

Know this:
It matters not how you throw the pearls.
Not
how many
how far
to where
or when.
It’s got nothing to do
with your timing, technique,
or delivery.
It’s not you.
The problem
is that they are
swine.

You can shout louder and longer –
they cannot hear you.
Your hoarseness is in vain
for they do not
have ears.

Give up your useless laboring
Drop your arms
Stop striving
Change the channel
Inflate your lungs

Go where the love is.
Stop trying to make them
love you
or make yourself
their type.
Stop insisting
on what they cannot give.
You will fail.

Instead,
Embrace your gorgeous needs
Celebrate your worthy longing
Un-pretzel and re-discover
the sublime shape
that is you.

Go
Where
The Love
Is.

© S. Rinderle, November 2021

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