Pockets of Solitude, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Pockets of Solitude

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s easy to close your eyes

Surrounded by such stillness,

And the light from bright windows

Beyond which the day busies itself

With so many purposeful things to do.

 

It’s easy to stand in the middle of the living room

And become a winter tree, draped with a shawl

Of silence.

 

It’s easy to slip away into pockets of solitude

Where the keys to doors drifting away

Become little bird bones of a life lost

To a childhood of summer breezes filled

With fear.

 

It’s easy to let the quiet become your body,

To become as a cup in a cupboard,

A microscope in a dark closet, hunched over,

Like a monk studying spirals on vellum leaves.

 

It’s easy to never wish again, to can’t help

But noticing how fragile you are, fragile

And yet primed to become a leviathan

In the sea of your own life.

 

 

 


 


In the Rooms of Our Days, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

In the Rooms of Our Days

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Snow falls, soundless,

Layering on branches, like cells

On the body, creating silence

And drapery, touching everything.

The winter wishes for nothing else

Than to build up smooth mounds

Over the ruins of sleeping seeds

And the bones of animals that passed away alone,

Giving them the kind of protection required

For secret awakenings to warmth and light—

That we all need, that we all long for

As we stay awake all winter, walking back and forth

In the rooms of our days, unable to sleep,

Unable to close our eyes and trust the spring,

Unable to remember that once

We slept in darkness, that once

We emerged from the darkness,

That once, again and again, we blossomed

Into the hands of another, that we rose up

To a welcoming sky, and that we will all, once

Again, and again, return to sleep

Beneath scrolls of silent snow.

 

 


 

 


Trauma Returns V, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns V

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

There is a way of never reaching out to be held again that is like a tree standing in a spring clearing, never to grow leaves. There is a way of living knowing no arms could ever fill the emptiness you carry that is like walking alone down an endless dusty summer road. There is a way of existing that precludes any sense of being comforted that renders one’s spirit silent, like an empty house.  There are times when pillows become the receivers of the kinds of embraces and tears a scared child should be able to share with a parent, or, in the best-case scenario, a dear friend, or even a stranger who completely understands such ambiguous and deep loneliness. There is a way of moving in the world with such grief and loss, that it’s like having undigested food sitting in one’s guts, and yet, still being hungry night and day. Today, the pillows are once again receiving hugs and the tears that come and go in aching waves, because no one can ever be trusted to hold this grounded falcon, this being of living fog, this feral heart that recoils—thrashing from the offered arms, this darkness that is like living in stone and yet somehow being able to breathe and watch, but never to soften again. All the while longing to be scooped up and rocked, like a nest in the arms of a tree in the light of the moon.

 

 


 




Trauma Returns IV, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns IV

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

We are all surrounded by invisible doors.  Every step we take one opens and we drift through a threshold.  Sometimes we pause outside unsure of ourselves, unaware doors are opening all around us.  Once we take a step, whether we pivot the foot and turn around, or we move forward confidently—a door’s there—it opens—we’re through.  Can’t we stay in a room, or a backyard, or place of worship for a spell, or do we just keep stepping through door after door—doors leading to other doors?  That all depends on the needs of the soul.  If the soul’s task is to guide a fairly whole heart, and a nearly unscathed spirit to their next living temple, then there will be stops along the way in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens where banana bread is baking, and coffee is brewing, perhaps a teakettle is whistling, and children are laughing somewhere just outside, perhaps there will be walks through cathedrals and forests, farmlands, mountain passes, and around lakes and ponds.  In cases such as these, the doors wait nearby, open just a smidge, letting the light from beyond its frame slant through over your shoes that you’ve placed by the previous door.  Should the soul’s task be—as it is for mine–to carry a heart and spirit damaged by trauma, then it is more like door after door, searching for that peaceful place, that safe place, that breathing place, and sometimes it’s never found in this life—it’s just one threshold after another.  Despite the soul’s wisdom and depth of wonder, sometimes the hurts she is trying to help heal are too deep, too sharp and festering, that the only doors that appear—appear like blackholes with wooden frames—doors leading into darkness upon darkness—into damp and moldy basements, into jail cells made of bones of ghosts.  Sure, every now and again, a door appears, and it sails by like a strange boat, and light surrounds it, like a mandorla, and singing weaves through the key hole, but it’s soon gone down—down into the sea of inability to trust, handicapped abilities to feel joy, enhanced abilities to feel shame and terror.  Right now, in this moment, I am standing outside an open dark door—and even if I try and stand still or change directions—as shaky as my knees are—the door opens like a maw and comes to me—moves over and around me, and I have no choice but to be in the dark belly of the door—the belly of I-Hate-This-Life-It-is-Too-Hard-to-Breathe-All-Hope-of-Peace-is-Gone-My-Body-is-Not-Mine-My-Innocence-Was-Stolen-From-Me-Damn-Dammit-to-Hell-Door.  And yet still—I am born along as my soul searches, moving, like a winding river of light, towards the house of many mansions, believing the promise is true.

 

 

 


 





Trauma Returns III, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns III

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s hard to find a beginning when the end keeps moving away. Memories live—scatter-frozen—in each and every cell, like snow on each and every branch. Sometimes warmth comes—a little thaw—and healing rearranges the hurt into tears. Sometimes the roots of the heart are severed from the body, and the soul lets the roots and the heart live in her waters over years and decades, as she tries to graft them back together again. Until then the body exists with a mind that pretends to be a heart in that it knows what it should be feeling and doing and it attempts to be the way it thinks others think it should be. Except real hearts know the truth always, unlike well-intentioned minds. And the soul watches it all. And the monsters watch it all—snow shadows stealing towards bedroom windows. And the body searches for the beginning, while the heart longs for the end, and the mind wishes it could fix it all while spiraling into the dark. And the monsters slip through the cracks. And the soul moves the great folds of her waters around that heart and those roots, like a cloak of time and animal ferocity—making sure nothing hurts them again.

 

 

 


 

 


Trauma Returning II, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returning II

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Is it a longing for the divine that burns just behind every moment and interaction with someone? No, it can’t be. The divine is everywhere I turn and in everyone I see. This soul-loneliness then must just be there, like an underground abandoned and crumbling church lit by a single, ever-burning candle. No matter how it flickers in the winds of sighs and the passing of ghosts, it remains lit—an ever-present reminder of solitary confinement. There are friends aplenty in my life. There are people who love me and whom I love. There are times our voices lift together in praise. There are times laughter fills the room. And yet, the soul-loneliness lives just behind every moment and interaction. Trauma does that. It is a severing of lifelines, a smashing of lifeboats, a drifting away on the sea. This is not to say I am ungrateful for your company. It is to say: that lost look in my eyes is a shadow on the wall of that little candle in that underground church, and nothing, it seems, can ever fill that space with light and singing, community, and warmth. Please, I beg you, don’t ever stop trying. It is your persistence and compassion, and my limited abilities to be present in your presence, that keep me going. And sometimes I can stand in that church and feel triumphant, and maybe even sing in my weeping. Mostly, the soul-loneliness fills me with dust, as the church slowly crumbles. Trauma does that. It defines a perimeter where wounds cannot be reached. And the divine is everywhere. Even in that church. I know that in my mind. Trouble is—all sense of comfort and safety from that holy, living light were stolen, and so the divine feels more like a wind from somewhere far away, trying to make a wish and blow out that little candle. Trauma does that. May the birthday one day come.

 

 

 


 




Trauma Returning, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returning

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s there, outside my window. I’m standing still looking out into the dark yard. It’s there, by the early-frost-eaten-fallow garden. It moves, like a loosened piece of the night. It might be human. It might be a walking tree. It is most likely another monster. It leans towards the shed, lurching forward, it’s face sideways watching me as it goes. It’s also inside the house—coming down the hall to my bedroom door. I could crawl under the bed. I could hide behind the clothes in my closet. Outside, it turns fully towards my house and is at my bedroom window in one great, terrible stride. It crosses the threshold into my bedroom. My heart strains to not burst into pieces. I can’t breathe. There is nowhere to hide. They’ve found me again. They always were going to find me again—from within and without. I shut my eyes, clamp my mouth closed as tightly as I can. And then it happens. My body is no longer my own, and years of my life disappear into the ceiling and up, out into the late summer night never to be seen again.

 

 

 

 



 




Dissociation and Presence-The Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018 By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Dissociation and Presence

The Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2018

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

I realized after the Transgender Day of Remembrance Service that I helped organize and lead at Love in Action UCC, I began to dissociate. It was a beautiful and yet heavy morning. Try as I might my brain just couldn’t stay present with the pain. PTSD triggered, I tried to feel the tragedy of so many innocent lives lost, yet my soul said: “It’s too much. Feel what you can now, then feel more later, and remember Dear One, you do not need to sit with the pain alone.” I did my best to not shame myself for needing a space between the pain and consciousness. I went home, collapsed into bed, and within minutes I was weeping, and then, like a baby being held in her mother’s arms, I slipped away into a holy nothingness. Later in the evening I had the honor of holding a baby in arms as she slowly drifted into sleep. I sang to her as softly as the wind, I matched the rhythm of her breathing, I swayed gently, like a tree holding the moon, and I knew at that moment—allowing myself to experience pain and grief in however I need to—even if that requires a sleep of nothingness, I will not judge myself as weak. I will acknowledge my soul’s wisdom for taking my wounded heart into her arms and singing to me as softly as the wind, for matching the rhythm of my breathing, and for swaying gently, holding me, as a tree holds the moon. ❤️

 

 

 

 

 


 




The Root of Us All, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

The Root of Us All

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Flowers flower from the branch,

Branches flower from the tree,

Trees flower from the ground,

The ground flowers from the earth,

The earth flowers from love’s universe,

Love’s universe flowers from many minds

And many hearts and many wishes and many prayers.

 

Minds flower from seed,

Hearts flower from fire,

Wishes flower from all children,

Prayers flower from pain.

 

You flower from me,

I flower from you,

We flower from need,

And need flowers from desire,

Desire flowers from all space,

And all time, and everything right

With the world.

 

Waves flower from the sea,

The sea flowers from longing,

Longing flowers from love once known

Calling us home,

Home flowers from hearth and bed.

 

Love flowers from our hands,

Our hands flower from our limbs,

Our limbs flower from our bodies,

Our bodies flower from union,

Union flowers from creation everlasting

Everlasting flowers from joy,

Joy flowers from need,

Need flowers from want,

Want flowers from gardens of many fragrances and colors,

Many colors flower from infinity’s imagination,

Imagination flowers from the hands of a child,

And a child is the root of us all,

All of us flower from variety’s branches,

Branches flower from the tree,

The tree flowers from the ground,

The ground flowers from where you stand,

Your standing flowers from community,

Community flowers hands opening,

Hands opening flower from pain lived,

Pain lived flowers from the bravery of a child,

And a child is the root of us all.

 

 

 


 

 





Remembering the Storm, And Putting the Box Cutter Down, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Remembering the Storm

And Putting the Box Cutter Down

By Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Two years ago today, I stood at the threshold of the doorway to my basement apartment with a box cutter held to my wrist.  I paced.  I shook.  I wept.  I was filled with fear.  It was cold.  A light snow was falling.  I felt utterly alone.  It was the first fall I wasn’t teaching after twenty years.  Other loses as a result of coming out as trans weighed heavily on my chest.  The last school year I taught was devastating—aside from the most amazing and accepting students ever.  The rest of it was traumatic.  Now, I couldn’t find a job, and I missed teaching with all my heart and knew I would likely never teach elementary school again.

I stepped out into the snow.  It drifted down gently on my shoulders.  I was in my pajamas.  No coat.  No shoes.  My socks were wet.  My feet freezing.  I pressed the blade against my wrist daring myself to end my life.  Visions of collapsing right there in front of my door seeped into my mind—a mind broken—cracked—frantic.  I stood there wondering who would find me.  I feared for their hearts.  I hoped the Divine would have mercy on my soul.  Ending my life wasn’t a conscious choice.  I was compelled by searing pain, depression, and the terror of a dark, uncertain future.

And then it happened.  I closed the blade back into the box cutter.  I went in and got my keys.  I was drenched with snow, shivering.  I put the box cutter down on my unmade bed.  I looked around at the piles of dishes in the sink, the clothes strewn upon the floor, the plants unwatered, and, weeping even harder, reaching down for the box cutter again, only to drop it back on the bed.  I forced my wet feet into my slippers, and went back outside.

The wind was wishing me onward.  The snow slanting at an angle gesturing to my car.  And I followed.  Angry and frightened, disappointed in myself for ruining my life, for allowing myself to get this sick, wiping the snow from the windshield with my bare hands, unable to see what a courageous step I was taking.  Unable to see the unseen forces of strength that were being obeyed by some part of my spirit that wasn’t sick—that deeply wanted to live—caught in a blizzard of mental illness.  And I drove myself to the hospital.

When I got there, I gave my keys to a valet parking attendant—they stared at me.  I must have looked wild—a scared animal—unshaven, sopping wet, snow-soaked.  I walked into the emergency room and up to the counter.

“How can I help you Hun?” the nurse asked.

And I found myself, still weeping, snot falling, saying: “I’m going to kill myself.”

“Step around here,” she said, and they immediately brought me into a private room.  Nurses gathered around me.  They called a doctor.  They gave me a gown and a warm blanket.  They stationed someone outside my room to watch over me.  The nurses were like angels—quiet, soothing, present, efficient.

I would spend the next ten days in the psych ward, missing Thanksgiving with my family.  But I was alive.  Somehow, I had survived a wave of mental illness.

The storm wouldn’t end there.  I had more hospital stays and worse bouts of suicidality a month after leaving.  For that moment though, I was safe from the sickness.  I was surrounded by care.

The last thing I remember thinking as they injected tranquilizers into my IV, was: “Help me.”

Today, two years later—much more stable, and yet still struggling daily with passive suicidal thoughts and other forms of mental illness, those memories are falling like the snow, blanketing my heart.  I watch the snow covering the trees with meticulous attention.  I remember standing out in the snow holding the box cutter.  I remember the depth of pain, fear, and depression—the echoing hopelessness.  I remember feeling completely alone.  I remember turning back, putting the box cutter down, picking up my keys, and walking, unsure, terrified at how sick I had become, out to my car.

 

 


 

 

All donations from this post go to Trans Lifeline.