It’s Like This
Jennifer Angelina Petro
I stand here. The monster
Stands there—in front of me
Mirroring my every move.
Separating us is a glass wall
Whisper thick and strong as hope.
Some days I barely think
Of the monster, yet I know it’s there–
I see it, out of the corner of my eye,
Doing everything I do.
There are days it pounds on the glass—
Howling, pacing, and somehow
Growing. Every morning
I reinforce the wall, look at the monster,
And stare it down.
Lately, I notice spiderwebbing cracks blooming
Over the wall. The monster presses
The glass, testing its solidity, smiling.
I assume it will hold. I assume it is
Strong enough. And then I blink and the monster’s hand
Passes through the wall as if it isn’t there.
I blink again and the monster is back
On the other side of the wall, blocked
From reaching me, or, at least, I assume.
Going about my life, dependent
On a wall whisper thick and strong as hope
Makes me feel, at times, like a sham, like
If it wasn’t for the wall the monster would be
All there is, like I am not as truly well
As I think I am.
The wall will not last forever,
The wall may need to be adjusted
In strength, and still I fear it will not last
And all the while the monster
Grows, waiting, watching, studying what I do.
If the wall finally gives way,
The monster will take hold of me, toss me to where
It once stood, build a wall of its own,
Scream-thick and strong as hell,
And it will go into my life, smiling,
Leaving me behind and to do everything
It does, but in slow motion, all the while I am turning
Into a memory of light snuffed out
By the dark.
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I Am Not Supposed to Tell You
I am not supposed to tell you
How steeped I am in self-hatred;
How I feel like a sand mandala slowly
Blowing away grain by grain;
This heart you think you know
Is not mine. My heart is an albatross
Lost at the bottom of the sea.
A dark angel shifts heavy, smothering wings
Inside my chest. A wind-tossed night sky
Searching for morning, blankets
My basic, human sense of self.
I am not supposed to tell you that.
I’m supposed to worry about what you
Think of me; what will happen
Now that you know—
I’m not supposed to tell you that either.
You tell me: this too, shall pass.
I am not supposed to tell you:
Those words enter a man’s ears but are heard
By a child’s—a child who hears you
But cannot help looking passed you
At the storm gathering behind you—the one
Unfurling like a monster made of smoke—
The one heading this way.
I am not supposed to tell you any
Of this. But I know you.
You are already diving into the dark waves
With underwater flashlights and lifelines,
You are exorcists of demons—loving
The dark angel until he flies away
To the mountains of God, and turns
Into a baby goat.
You are ushering in the dawn
On strong, generous shoulders,
You are out there patiently collecting bits
Of sand and handing them back
To the mandala-maker,
You are looking in my eyes, you see the reflection
Of the approaching monster and still
You’re reaching out your hand, still
You are standing steady—braced with faith, still
You’re saying, “Dear Heart, it’s true.”