How To Heal

It’s been nine months since
I cut my finger nearly to the bone,
September 2022, the knife laying
Indifferently on the counter as the blood

Gushed across the kitchen tiles, across
Everywhere, six stitches three hours
Later in the Jefferson County West
Virginia emergency room. I was alone

And I have remained mostly alone since,
Grown alone, in October severing
The black sutures one by one,
The scar a bas-relief moon waxing

Pink upon my right index finger.
Understandably, no one especially cares
About a forty-eight year old man
With six stitches in his finger.

We all know he’s going to be fine, eventually,
Applying Neosporin to the weeping
Wound each night after he brushes his teeth.
Still, nine months seems like something,

Perhaps sacred. Delivering. My skin healed
First then slowly the nerves, my fingertip
No longer a numb wooden nuisance
But one morning wholly sensitive

Once more. The body is programmed to
Heal! All of it! Someone once told me
It’s misguided to say that healing takes time;
Instead, it requires process. Intentional process.

Of course I’m no longer talking about my finger
Here—I’m sure you’ve already guessed at that.
Nine months means a birthday. Well, happy
Birthday scar! I was still finding blood far

Into November, behind the toaster where
It somehow splashed, and smeared across
The back of the oven towel rack. But enough
Of all that. I trace the crescent, recalling

Pain that was once real but now no longer
Exists. How can this be? Perhaps I worked hard,
Worked really, really hard!—dutifully, as though
Healing was the only thing that mattered,

Surrendering each endless winter night
Until I awoke one June morning to find
The pain spontaneously dissolved, and
Burgeoning summer just beyond my door.

Another Poem About Roses, etc.

The roses have enjoyed the
Rain so much this year that
I’ve been slamming them all
May in the door, their drowsy

Petal-heavy necks bowing
To my screen door’s guillotine—
Deflowered once weekly and guilty
Of nothing more than growing.

Oh, it’s hard to grow isn’t it? Not
Tall, I mean. Or lost. Or old. No, these
Things aren’t hard, but they’re painful.
And we’ve all had the opportunity to

Suffer: hands bitten by the family
Dog, words exchanged during a fender-
Bender in the Arby’s parking lot, or
Perhaps something so small as giving

Away your heart, then sometime, at a later
Date, having it returned. This is of course
The moment (this last one, I mean) when
It becomes clear that every Fleetwood

Mac song was specifically written for you—
Yes, entire albums, and other things. What
Other things do I mean? Well, things like
Care. And self-care. And caring. And

When we actively care we begin to notice
Synchronicities, like how our friend Karen
Has the word “care” in her name, and though
We’ve been speaking her name aloud for

Decades we’ve somehow never heard it
From our own mouths. With our own ears.
The kind of growth where we start to see
Things we haven’t before, capable of

Feeling things we couldn’t—the type where,
In the lonely depths of mid-February
Our eyes open at 3:15 AM and, exhausted
From pain, for a moment—just a moment!—

We glimpse at the process of forgiveness.
Oh dog-bitten fingers! Oh tender, broken-
Hearted adults! Oh plastic fender-bendered
Bumpers, the estimate is $2,200. All

Painful! But back to the roses slamming
Their heads in the door. They make it seem
Almost too easy. Sweetly-scented hydras
Surrendering their surfeit of skulls—

Twenty-eight more, no thirty—safely
Knowing the heart is buried deep within
The watered, black soil, the sun glowing
Reliably, forever, far above any frost line,

While we, with sincerest intentions,
Attend to our indescribably human work—
Putting on shoes each morning, eating our
Breakfast, and closing the door behind us.

On The Appalachian Trail, May 15, 2023

I’ve been eating bread and
Honey mostly lately,
Cat hair on the counter
Where my shedding twins

Know not to hop—
But more specifically
Know not to hop
When I’m watching.

I clean and I tidy,
Do yoga daily,
Tend to the farm.
Days of growing revelation:

On the Appalachian Trail,
Raven Rocks, near Bluemont
Virginia, peeing into a
Thicket of witch hazel

I find the man with eyes
That show the skies straight
Through him. He stops, a
Through-hiker seeing

Connection, his square-shaped
Pack blackly looming like
The backdrop of a theatre:
“I’ll tell you a joke,”

He begins, “It’s one I tell
Every day-hiker I encounter.”
Yes, he actually said encounter.
The man then tells a joke

I shall not repeat here.
It wasn’t very funny.
Don’t think, I thought, proceeding,
Recalling his red beard

Swaying thick as a fox’s tail,
The way he grasped my eyes,
Seizing them without hesitation.
Truth! Truth! Maya Angelou

Wrote, When someone shows
You who they are, believe
Them the first time.
Strikes me to believe him

Like I believe the slaty rocks, the
Long-winged caddis, the loblolly
Pine with windswept branches, spelling
Words I can read without knowing

Their definitions. Look for yourself.
From behind, far away now,
You see the through-hiker kneeling
At the stony trailhead, stooping

For packets of salmon, crackers,
Dehydrated potatoes left by angels,
Or perhaps simply people who will laugh at
His jokes, even when they’re not funny.

The Girl Who Went Adventuring

The girl who went adventuring
Picked up her heart one day
Where she had stored it in the pantry
And placed it in her pocket.

Out by the river she floats
Through the bluebells marveling,
Spicebush, sassafras, vaguely
Thinking, “Have I ever seen a paw paw?”

No matter. So many thorns to catch
On her clothing, so many sticks
To dig at the fabric of her dress—
Hands, pulling her back. Oh no,

She will not be held! She moves on,
Beneath sycamores sweeping,
An infinity of blue sky beyond.
How is it empty pockets now bulge,

Filled with interesting stones? When
Did her feet became muddy,
Her ankles scratched and weeping
With cuts? But she notices none of

These things, notices nothing, save
The sparkling sunlight on the
Shenandoah, the osprey’s great wings
Spanning bank to bank, the

Delicate shadows beneath the ivy,
And the miraculous sound of traffic
Far in the distance, where she knows life
Proceeds, whenever she someday returns.