Poetry: The Specter Of The Tarantula Wasp.

Keanu Reeves once as a character said
his biggest fear was quicksand: At first everything
is going fine then you make one mistake.
And another. And another.
You try to fight back
but the harder you fight the deeper you sink until you can’t
move, can’t
breath.
Like quicksand.

Such it is with love.
A beauty of metaphor that allows me no peace.

The specter of solitude haunts you.
Follows you. Lurks
in the shadows behind you.
As you take the solitary walks of shame
you’ve always taken,
whether at the base of Fort Bliss or the side streets of the Little Apple.
The ones you still take with alarming regularity.

You feel it: Solitude’s breath.
but you can’t do anything about it.

Love’s optimism beats through your veins
like a tarantula’s blood.
Love is the heartbeat.
Faith in Solitude’s eventual banishment is the organs.

Solitude itself is the tarantula-wasp.

You fight it when it first attacks
in your youth. You try not to let it get a hold.
You feel your first kiss like the tarantula feels when its jaws
grab hold of the deadly insect. You feel your heart flutter
with joy, with excitement, with the youthful optimism you might
live. And not just live, but life carelessly.

Love: the noble but flawed aspiration to simply take care and cherish another
is all that’s ever mattered. That solitary desire
has clung to your DNA like the spider now clings to the hope of life.

But just as quickly as you feel your first kiss
you feel yourself let go. You feel the wasp
wriggly free with haunting power. Your jaws slip
though you know you’ll die if they do. You try to will them
into holding. Into not make the single mistake
of insecurity.

But the wasp is already free.
And just like that it’s over.
Solitude stings you, and begins to drag you
paralyzed but still with a long life ahead
To its dark layer.

You already know what’s coming next. You also know you’re powerless
for all your strength, to prevent it.
So you try not to resent yourself for your failure
and brace yourself for the pain you’ve caused yourself.

The tarantula was drags you to its hole.
It stings you a second time, this time, leaving in your abdomen an egg.

You count your mistakes during the initial fight
like the lonely count their failed relationships. You feel
its larva: the idea of never being all you’ve ever wanted
start to consume:
Your optimism.
Your idealism.
All from the inside out
even while you’re still alive.

You chase away friendships as the larva starts to grow,
you lose confidence when you get a divorce,
knowing that for a split-second you had all you ever wanted,
and all you had to do was stop yourself from chasing it away
and you failed to do so.

You feel your heart, nerve, and sinew start to betray you
the way Kipling warned you never to do if you wished
to be have all the world, and everything in it and what was most
to be a man.
You lose all of it.

Until one day, one minute, one instant,
as you feel solitude’s larva about to consume the heart of your belief,
you realize God is watching, and you must be stubborn.
You decide to savor each breath and simply enjoy that you can breathe
however painful and tiring that may now be.

You take long walks
alone. Enjoy the architecture and the clouds.
You look longingly
at the wedding processional at Saint Isidore’s,
at the old couple, hands embraced, taking their own walk.

You look longingly at them, remind yourself
of the lyric you once learned, even though you didn’t have to, from Aida:
“I shall not envy lovers, but long for what they share.”

Then slowly, like the tarantula as it takes its final breath
you close your eyes. But where the spider now accepts its death
you set your heart to accepting your life
and somehow decide to keep eagerly waiting.

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Unpacking Baggage, and Celebrating Swiftmas

In my senior year of high school, we performed a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice. It was called “Aida,” and its score entranced me so much that I ordered the bloody thing.

I have it to this day.

Song number one of the musical is called “Every Story Is A Love Story,” and this morning, I can’t stop thinking about that line.

I hear the recording of the original Broadway cast singing it. I haven’t actually heard the song in what must be at least six years. Still, it won’t be silenced within my head.

A couple of nights ago, I lay in bed in the dark. I had been doing something occasionally common of late: dwelling on my frustrations at romances lost.

I was deep in thought. About all the times I had messed things up. About all the times I had lost friendships by suggesting they become romantic. About all the times I let romantic relationships go too far only to eventually fail for other reasons entirely, and about all the times someone had simply chosen someone else.

The hobby of trying to figure out where I went wrong or what it was about me that made people shy away had become a favorite hobby, on par with dancing, and far surpassing poetry.

Yet as I lay there that night, in an empty room on a queen-sized bed in a basement apartment, a softer, gentler voice from somewhere deep within spoke up for the first time in a while.

“When are you going to finally let me unpack?”

It was the better part of me speaking, the hopeless romantic and optimist who I’d long ago exiled somewhere accidentally, and it was finally back, returning from exile like Napoleon.

As I lay there, I remembered something: carrying around baggage doesn’t help anyone, least of all us.

And that’s why I have to write this today.

To some degree, every story really is a love story. Every interaction we have, regardless of sexual preference or affiliation with the other person, is a page in the way we treat others. When the Bible tells us “Love your neighbor as yourself” it does not mean “as long as you can be with that person romantically.” It means period. It means “take care of one another.” It means “trust one another, build one another up.” “If I don’t love, I am nothing” does not mean that the person who dies single at age 120 lived in vain, unless they never took care of those around them.

Every story is a love story, with or without romance.

Still, on a more personal level, I realized the other night it was time to unpack. I was sick of carrying around regret and sorrow at things that had failed.

I will no longer remember the wrongs or the failures. I choose to remember only the lessons and, above all, the hope of finding her, my “one,” who these lessons have prepared me to love every bit as gracefully as she deserves.

Muddled together in the suitcase of my past life had been clothes I ruined on the chaotic seas of my previous adventures into romantic love. Clothes of personality traits that I wore until they no longer served to assist or protect me from the hard winds and cold rains I had battled and, at times, danced in.

But mixed among the ruined clothes of my memories were the mementos of the lessons I took from each. Not sorrow-filled or sadness-affiliated ones; just… happy ones. Sure, my heart had been sore at those I lost, chased away, or had to be left behind by, but hidden among all of those memories, once I decided to unpack them all and stop dragging them everywhere with me, were little gems of hope.

My first girlfriend in college introduced me to the soundtrack of the musical “Spring Awakening.” I’ve never seen it, but one lyric from one of the songs comes to mind:

“Those you’ve paid, they carry that still with them. All the same, they whisper ‘All forgiven.'”

This week, as we look ahead to the holiday season, I encourage you to take a second and unpack. We all have it, and though I’m certain I’ve unpacked all of mine, I know someone reading this likely has baggage they aren’t ready to unpack yet.

That’s OK. All I’m saying is remember to go easy on yourself if you haven’t found your “one” yet, especially in a season during which everyone around you might appear to have everything you’re still looking for.

In a season full of holidays that include probably getting new clothes, let us wash the clothes of our memories clean and hold on only to the helpful lessons, the mementos, of that which we’ve left behind.

It’s “Swiftmas” everyone. On this day 27 years ago, a girl was born who, as a child, would write some of the truest literature about love to ever be written in any language.

Don’t forget to love a little childishly today.

Let me know if you need anything.