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

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

Easier

It is easier to believe
you’re not worthy of being defended
than to believe you were worthy
but no one did.
The rage would be uncontrollable.

It is easier to believe
you’re not deserving of love
than to believe you were lovable
but no one could.
The grief would be unbearable.

It is easier to believe
you’re crazy
than to believe you’re one of the few sane
but no one realizes.
The horror would be unthinkable.

It is easier to believe
you’re wrong, a misfit
than to believe the world is wrong
but no one notices.
The fear would be insufferable.

It is easier to believe
you’re too flawed to belong
than to believe you’re valuable when included
but no one remembers to.
The loneliness would be intolerable.

It is easier to believe
you’re too difficult
than to believe you’re easy to understand
but no one is willing to.
The alienation would be unendurable.

Today I prefer to believe
it’s not them
it’s me
Today I prefer to believe
what’s easier
Otherwise how else
could I possibly
endure?

© S. Rinderle, March 2020

Love Cage

When you can’t keep what you love
you grow up twisted
Your heart sprouts at an angle
partially escaped
from the ribcage

Sometimes it leaves your body
and wanders around the world
in the guise of music
a soulmate
a cherished homeland at last
expanding your puny spirit
into a vast, supportive web
of joyful relevance
blissful belonging
suddenly severed
by parental cruelty
irrational denial
the soulmate’s deception, abandonment
the harsh limitations of miles by the kilo
and feeble dollars

Heart slaps rudely back into your chest
like a mildly rotted
rough cut of meat
tether pulled abruptly short
breathing painful
shallow and labored
ribcage cracked

When you can’t keep what you love
you grow up twisted
Love means loss
and you avoid loss
at all costs
but you violate your word again
falling weak again
cursing malevolence
dishonoring what was always yours
love
until you come to mistrust
its musky scent
muscles taut again
in pre-emptive wincing

When you can’t keep what you love
you grow up starving
a brittle skeleton
eternally thirsty
unsatiated
a steady stream of nourishing liquid
falling straight through
your parched jawbone and dehydrated pelvis
to the cracked earth beneath
your bleached metatarsals

Until one day
wisdom
and green, persistent breath
allow your dry bones
to moisten and stick
grow flesh, give form
to tissues
relaxing
gently guiding the heart back into place
steady rhythm
unmangled and strong
fierce protected
ribs closing like tender petals at night
just in time

‘cause when you can’t keep what you love
you grow up
twisting others.

© S. Rinderle, 2013
Published in Catching Calliope, Spring 2014.