I am a box of nerves,
a bead curtain of tangled arteries: messengers,
blue and livid in the sunlight. They are
wire sapphires running silent underneath this skin
of clothes. Point to point heartbeats traveling up and down
my limpid tubes, my wonderlands in lapis lazuli.
They used to be rubies. They would light up
when the world would climb on top of me and demand
my pennies to let me cross the river each morning. And
when I didn’t have pennies, I paid the boatman with
my blood made out of TNT: hold my breath,
stand next to buildings, and detonate. Take all in range
down with me; engulf the brittle with the mad,
the genius with the fool, with a mouth of fire that is
made out of me with teeth like electric ghosts. But there were
no orthodox promises of Paradise in my explosions – just my own gospel
written in little armies of broken red glass. This is why
I used to look for the shrapnel inside my arms. But
it’s different now: the tubes have been remade
from supercooled lava.
I want you to open the box. See how
red light sneaks in behind the tubes and
turns them purple when you pull up the lid. And
I like it this way. When the lava first cooled, I thought
they were obsidian, dead, made out of burnt out passion
like the head of an extinguished match. But when I
watched, I saw them light up from within,
bellies expanding and growing like Christmas: then,
the black faded away and became blue. I should tell you
that I borrowed the red light from the boatman: sometimes,
I still need tears to feel alive.
Make no mistake: I can still explode
when I want to. There are still times when
sandwich boards and street-worn gospels are not enough
and I need to take down all the buildings in a six-mile radius
with the contents of my own chest. But
I can burn candle gentle when I need to – not everything
needs an explosion. Sometimes, the littlest fire
speaks the loudest.
© 2010 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #1: Boxes.
I had to meditate on this a while for a couple of reasons. First of all, nothing bubbled up to the surface until today, and I have a strong commitment that I try to adhere to that I will not force a poem if it isn’t happening.
Secondly, I began some medication over the weekend to help with my anxiety (I should note that people with Asperger Syndrome often have a harder time dealing with stress and anxiety than the neurotypical population). I was on antidepressants about ten years ago, and they made me feel numb: it was like experiencing reality through a wall of cotton, and I was afraid this was going to happen again. This was especially more so when I tried to write poems several times over the last few days and nothing would come out. But I inhaled, exhaled, and thought about it some more, realizing that maybe that my internal state — which is decidedly calmer — is what is supposed to happen when your nerves aren’t overly sensitive and right up near the surface. I dug deeper, and this is where this poem came from.
I’ve made a commitment that whatever happens with my writing, I will keep letting myself dig inside and draw from the ink well like I did before. I will still admit that there is a part of me worried that the new meds will affect my writing. I think I’ll have to get used to my nerves not inflaming my emotions, and I’ll have to retrain myself a bit.
Let me know what you think. And I hope you enjoyed this poem.