Anxiety has been a constant algebra I’ve had to practice
solving while out in the variable of public life
since I realized I was an introvert’s poet.
Just this morning while standing in line at the local Co-op
I imagined a work colleague by the melons,
and her looking at me as though I’d walked in on her
changing her opposites.
In the diorama in aisle two in my head, I asked her
how she was doing,
but the way I saw her looking at me
without saying anything seemed to say
I was more interested in acknowledging I was in fact
thinking about the self, which of course I was, being me.
I’m reminded of my troubled mother who
used to look at me silently,
each time I looked at her without saying anything,
a kind of mirroring which usually ended with me
getting chased and beaten across the butt with a belt
until I could prove I was able to refrain from trying
to solve the irrational formula for toxicity she reflected.
Navigating neglect and abuse in one’s inner life
is quite a dilemma, as it turns out,
because even after you’ve forgiven everybody and stopped
punishing yourself for their disease and hurting you,
the family war continues, just within.
Right now, the son in me is telling himself that
the overly punishing mother I’m paralleling
with my consciousness
is the root cause of both my fear and my vital energy source
from which my desire to write poetry swells,
and that this complex emotion is actually a wish
to distribute myself back into my mother’s life
after thirty-five years of complete separation
from that equation.
But the poet in me knows that regardless of the math
my imagining takes,
it’s all curried chicken from the hot deli of uncertainty,
that it’s all a kind of unknown quantity of leaning back
with a popcorn with extra butter and endless refills of soda,
and watching the me show, eyes glued to the screen,
for fear if I blink or look away, I might miss a part of myself
I’ll need to be there for me after I’m done
giving myself all the credit. That’s the formula anyway.