Pulling the Words

Pulling the words off of my lips

Bleeding onto the white of the page

Sometimes the mind strains

Other times it flows freely

The colors they bring don’t matter

As others will read it differently

Through their shaded lenses

My life congeals into pieces of phrases

My soul is constrained into things I say

What does it matter, what they mean

When words fail to capture my imagination

But they work, in a fragmented way

As limited colors in pencils and crayons

Maybe if I melt the wax

I can come up with words of my own.


© 2018 Valerie Hathaway


Green boughs dip in the humid daylight

Animals scuttle in the dew-drenched grass

Sunlit flowers turn their faces to the warmth

Steady and taller, bees turn to their nectar


The air is heavy, it is hard to breathe

But the sky is trembling with deep blues

Clouds bring the breezes, journeying

To dissipate and renew at the ocean’s arms


I turn towards the trees, entering the shade

Mushrooms grow sturdy in the rotting trunks

Birds twitter in the canopy’s caresses

High into the sunshine, warning, calling


The water drifts ahead, a cascade of life

Plinking on rocks, rolling by branches

Its own meandering to the sea’s edge

Is a lifetime of streams, creeks, and rivers


I sit with the trees, the flowers, the birds

Snails and squirrels carry on the works of survival

My survival is in the air, the water, the earth

I turn to return, refreshed and humbled


© 2018 Valerie Hathaway


What Do You Want To Live For?

What do you want to live for?


You want to live for the light through the blinds.

You want to live for soft pillows and blankets,

Fuzzy pajamas or bare, supple skin.


You want to live for that first breath of air,

The opening of the eyes, the yawn, the stretch.


You want to live for that first cup of coffee,

That first bite of a good bagel

(Or whatever you eat or drink).


You want to live for sunny mornings,

The tempered beat of rain,

The feathered blanket of snow.


You want to live for unexpected smiles,

Greetings and laughter,

Tears and silence.


You want to live for parks and trees,

Benches and paths through the grass.

You want to live for lovers and children,

People who meditate and those who skateboard.


You want to live for evenings and noodles,

Sauces and spices scenting the market.

You want to live for the texture of an orange,

Or the pop of flavor of a grape.


You want to live for the dirt beneath your feet,

The diamonds in the pavement,

The grains of sand on the beach.


You want to live for your loved ones,

Their flesh, their sweat, their scent.

You want to live for yourself,

The lotion you put on your face and skin,

The soap, the toothpaste.


You want to live to feel alive,

The littlest things become the big things,

The tiniest joys bloom better than the most expensive flowers.


So, take a breath and say yes, I want to live.


©2018 Valerie Hathaway

The Suicide Monologue

My social media feed, like many of yours, has been filled with posts about recent suicides. Everyone has their conjectures on why these happened and the reasons they couldn’t have been helped.

Those who have been in the abyss of depression and despair could see better reasons, perhaps. Honestly, though, the only ones who could give the keys to why are no longer on this plane of existence.

I’ve been suicidal. I’ve known those who took their lives, not by the obvious means, but the slow ones—the overeating, the drinking, the smoking, the drugging, the anorexia, the overworking. I’m among the chemically imbalanced—where the voices inside our heads tell us to do it, whether out of delusion or old tapes of abuse and neglect. I have known the emotional pain; others also know the physical pain, or both and more. The wearing toll of carrying this pain every day, through lovers and therapists, through the sad eyes of children and friends, knowing that we hurt them and feel we would be better off not existing here anymore. That anguish of loss, making many paintings, writing many stories, singing many songs. And the golden thread of hope, becoming thinner in the black fabric, whispering, “Do you want to live?”

More people are taking the masks off, showing tear-stained and puffed-up faces. The consumer-driven life has left people empty and lonely, now throwing their money to belong somewhere, anywhere, beyond the happy plastic piles of stuff. We are now upset, angry even. What we are the most, though, is vulnerable. We have been starved so we devour more, then be told we’re not enough. If spiritual leaders say we’re enough, why do they take our money? Even the enlightened ones are business people.

We all have to own our shadows, be our own oracles, follow our own wisdom. We’re now being told to follow our intuition, use our imagination. Meditate, do yoga, draw stick figures if you have to. Just express that yawning hole you now have. Find what you really want to do with your remaining existence.

Or just hug somebody. Share some good body chemistry with your loved ones or even strangers. It doesn’t have to lead to anything else.

We’re told, lean in. Maybe we need to reach out for a while instead, but not for the platitudes of sponsored personalities. We need to find our blistered brothers and sisters, with sweat and flesh and stained teeth. Our tribe isn’t so much money a month. It’s the price of a cup of coffee, a pastry and some tissues. Some gas or a bus ticket. A park bench and some old trees, and a hand around the shoulder. Go to a meetup or a support group. Or just announce it on your social media feed—going out, want to join?

Are you game?

Sure, go the hospital, get a therapist, take meds if it helps. But cradle yourself, call a lifeline, and talk, talk, talk out your pain. Bring it out into the sunshine, into the rain. Then go out for a drink of water and realize that we all have our dark places—we are not alone.