How Does Empathy Feel?

Do you ever suddenly realize that
beneath the shields our brains project over us,
there is skin,
and beneath that skin is blood,
and muscle, and then, deeper still is
bone, and then beneath that is
a heart?
A wet heart, a red heart,
beating and mute?

Do you ever feel suddenly human,
that impermanence and flaw,
when you read the words of another person and find
yourself in them
and it makes your knees ache a little
and your elbows,
(maybe that’s really where we’re connected after all,
in the bony fragile places,
in the hot wet tissues,
in the tendons and nerve endings –
maybe that’s where a human lives,

and dies)
?

©K Paige Medina | 06 March 2018

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Glass

Could once it have been perfect,
a moment yet to spend,
astride a sleeping, peaceful hill,
unfamiliar still with ends?
Is ignorance so peaceful,
that storms must stay so far away
that even unperturbed tranquility
should these flimsy hearts assay?

I have not long been walking here,
though fond yet have I found
the world of pain and calumny,
and hearts too often flayed and ground.
Is it blissful then to sit alone,
untouched by loss or love,
and still to breathe, though fearfully,
lest one from this gentle perch be shoved,

And tumble down to rougher scapes, where fire and fury find
as plentiful a purchase as in calmer, simpler minds.

 

©K Paige Medina 26 August 2017

Tío

for Uncle Jorden 

I never thought I feared death.
But I feel its presence in the way I can feel the soles of my feet
rise up into my stomach
when I look at the scaffolding outside my window;
the pain I can feel churning my insides into typhoon seas
when I see bloodied fingertips,
cuticles cracking,
skinned knees.

I always thought death would be
like a large room full of empty rooms,
the hollowness of wooden floors,
large and cavernous doorways beckoning slow movements,
a wandering, bare foot —
a place where billowing things were kept,
a place that, the closer it came to night, the more oppressive the emptiness became —
all the rooms suffocating in the staunchness of their silence,
unwhispered secrets stealing the whimsy out of curtains,
dipping white sheets into starch,

eternity kept like a madwoman in the attic.

I pictured it quiet that way,
but I forgot about the fire that kind of silence threatens.
Perhaps death cannot be so silent.

Perhaps it must be let out,

consuming air like water, like earth, like
the oblivion of city nights in the summertime.

Perhaps death is like August,
when empty rooms still trap heat in their ceilings,
when memories become cacophonous,
rattling their unwelcome spirits through the narrowing corridors,
never to be let out.

Will you tell me
when I see you again
if I was right?

 

Perhaps it is not right to ask,
when the silence of many years stretches still between us,
but I have only ever asked things from you
when it was too late to ask,
and you have only ever given me
the sunbleached memories of
tumbleweeds
and turtles,

the tenuous and safe way a child remembers
stories she heard from happy relatives who,
drunk and falling asleep beneath the warmth of Christmas lights,
could only laugh,
only clutch with their sleepy lungs
at air that would eventually calcify into
the fondness of imperfect memory.

I wish I knew you since.

I wish I could hear your voice now,
telling me perhaps not to be so sentimental.
Telling me perhaps that I was right —
that death is not so frightening as living.

Don’t say to me that

the reason I didn’t fear death was because
I didn’t expect it to come for someone else.

 

©K Paige Medina 04 August 2017