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soap

Water trickles over toes
Two sets of hands, scour
Elbows bump and ankles slip
Muddled in a frothy clamor

Power lines in finger tips
Puddles under feet
A taste on your tongue like sauvignon
A liquid partition

Echoed moans meet halted silence
We dive in shallows
Inhale fathoms
Our taught breath is lost in steam

In my hair
Stinging eyes
Cleansing deep
I don’t want to rinse you out

—m.h.

pedestal

IMG_0339.jpgAfter the war, you rub your eyes and see constellations. It’s almost like wiping the slate clean. Almost. Not quite. There’s still dust. Scratches. Indentations at the edges of your mind. That place on your windshield the wiper can’t reach. You try and you scuff and you bust and you clean until you adopt the imperfection. It becomes a part of you.

When you finally open your eyes you see what remains. The debris and the glass and that pedestal where he left you. You wonder how; how in this dogmatic, fucked-up, vile world, you could ever replace him. So you sweep up the soot. You tackle the thorns. You forget the fragments and wash all the walls. Piece by piece by fractured jigsaw piece you put the puzzle back together. In your pursuit you discover the pieces that remain are not ones you started with. There are ones that are missing. Many that he took from you. Parts you may never see again. And that pedestal. That righteous, iniquitous, hallowed pedestal looms overhead like a dark reminder of what you gave and who you were and how much you’ve lost.

Until your mind is clean. The slate is reborn. You fill in the holes with new idea and provocative thought. You resurface the scars with belief and trust. You caution tape the pedestal and promise never to cross. You think, frequently, that maybe you’re just waiting. Biding your time. You sit and you ponder and you polish the steps hoping that one day, maybe, someone will come and stand on your pedestal, righteously, once more. The thought never even crosses your mind that maybe, the only person ever meant to stand there was you.

The door knocks. Once, twice, one time more. You unbolt the lock. You turn the handle. You blindly, foolishly, let him in.

—m.h.

change

There are those who say you never walk the same road twice. Some who claim you can’t dip your toes in identical rivers. Others insist that no night sky can ever be viewed by anyone more than once.

Every one of them, would be wrong.

I’ve ambled through these broken streets for days without end. Drowned in your dark waters too many times to count. I’ve looked for you, past these exact stars, again and again, on seemingly endless nights.

It’s all the same. Every second of it. Every breath.
The only thing that ever changed was you.

—m.h.

marketplace mentality

The first thing you notice is the smell. Or rather, the smells. Plural. A hundred at once, flooding your nostrils without permission. it’s fresh bread. No, wait . . . fresh fish. Shellfish and trout. You don’t even like seafood but still, you are drawn in by its aroma. Hot tamales and barbacoa from a Mexican food stand poke at your tear ducts. Gyros and seasoned lamb tickle your taste buds. It’s warm and inviting. you didn’t know that smell could be so colorful, but it is.

Sound is next. Hundreds of voices climb over the stands and around the corner to where you walk, completely unawares. High and low, loud and soft. Some ask questions, some answer. Some harass and some condemn. Many query and poke and prod and laugh, searching for a meaning few can apprehend. It is quizzical and hearty, full of humor. You hear footsteps and clatter. The sound of grills sizzling, gulls chirping, paintbrushes splashing, and rain boots sloshing across the earth. It’s loud and quiet all at once. There is a peace in the chaos.

Then, once you see it, you understand. A wave of contentment washes over the feeling of uneasiness that plagued you before now. The booths stand haphazardly, crookedly against one another, using their neighbor for support. It’s wildly colorful against the dull gray sky above, and the people are just as vibrant. Skin so dark it looks almost blue contrasts cheeks so pale they could contest the moon. Leather and freckles with lines and creases that tell stories.

You take shelter from the misty rain in one booth and are overwhelmed by freshly cut wood, carved into beautiful trowels and walking sticks. Another contains handmade figurines with skeletal faces wearing the frilliest of dresses. Silkscreen sweatshirts, glass blown jewelry, ceramic mugs, and caricature portraits. There is magic in the hand that inks the Portland skyline. There is tenderness in the mind that molds such intricate tapestries.

In this place you find a sliver of hope. There’s a world in this snow globe market remains untouched, forever preserved. A community of people different as they are similar. You can see it in their tongues that speak different words and dialects. In their hearts that search for trinkets as unique as they are. There is a home here. It is safe. For a moment, everything disappears. Shoulders brush and prejudice crumbles. Fingers hunt and anger dithers. Cash is exchanged and so are you.

In the end you buy a blanket. You eat some curry, and you walk away. As your feet trod along the rain-soaked cobblestone you barely notice that you are heavier suddenly. Clouds invade your mind and mucks up reality. You lose the color, the vibrance, the sound. You slip back into a human mentality.

—m.h.