To know oneself

Ahh, to know oneself
said every Shakespeare play ever.
I remember reading lines
with my mouth agape,
maybe drooling like in cartoons,
nodding astutely along with my classmates.
Yes, we know, we know what it’s all about.
We have lived. We know.
We know everything.
We knew before you began.
We know ourselves, honest.
Lecture’s over now, and I have to face
that the classroom was my storm cellar,
and my teachers were my brave best friends
who told me I was going to be one of the okay ones.
It’s my job to plant little poppies, clear weeds and such.
But I have these horror film vines sharpening their claws.
They dare me to laugh, and graze my throat, ever so subtle.
This is work that wears on the brain’s lower back.
The soul chatters its teeth in the world’s cold.
I have these scattergories of big thoughts
shoving their way to be next in line.
In my young adult life, I hop around on hind legs,
always late to understanding.
No, wait! I’m here. I’m present.
I will pay attention this time.
The mother I’ve created in my mind sighs.
She asks me, what are we going to do with you?
She pats me on the rear and tells me to set down
the fishing pole for a while and go for a nice swim.
But I know a thing or two.
Or at least I believe in a few.
I believe dancing your ass off in living rooms will set you free;
in scribbling lines, in making creations with our bodies.
That the watercolor jargon of kindergarten should never leave you.
A baby can mean anything. We each have our own versions of flesh.
I believe in care for strangers.
The woman behind the Dunkin Donuts counter
frowns when you tell her you’re not Assyrian,
that you’re not her family, that you never will be,
but you can understand her in ways her family can’t.
You pick and choose the sound of your good intentions.
You smile your biggest and thank her from the bottom of your heart for the donut.
The snarling man standing outside his car, staring,
isn’t judging you,
he needs help carrying his groceries to his front door,
and he’s ashamed of his walking cane.
And, hey, everyone’s ashamed of something. I believe in that too.
And it’s a good thing our smart phones don’t know our deepest secrets,
that smooth, pink rawness of our insides.
I believe that’s it brave to turn on the coffee maker in the morning,
to see that little morning light of your life.
I believe it’s brave to keep asking yourself questions no one knows the answers to.

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