"Daydreams from the Ashes"

Chapter 1
A Love Letter to Home

By K. Olsen

If I could trace love like a line on the page,
It would be a silhouette of the Elkhorns—
The radiant crests of the Rockies outlined in gold—
The swirling rapids turned indigo by dusk—
The eastern plains thick with buffalo grass
That extend into amber infinity,
That shift and ripple with the wind
Like schools of gilded fish—
The sky transfiguring from rich azure to glimmering midnight and back again—
The dilapidated buildings that stand as memories
Of people whose dreams and hopes wore them grey and old,
weathered like the sides of their barns—

If I could hum love like a strand of a symphony,
It would be gales that rise in Big Timber,
Morning and evening, like the tides of the sea—
The burble of the creeks that thread the back country—
The roar of Yellowstone's foaming geyers and springs—
The rumble of thunder rolling over beargrass to strike at timber stands—
The crack of rock against rock on a hiking trail,
Nudged into motion by the feet of friends—
The light echoes of our voices in the Caverns—

If I could taste love like Olympian ambrosia,
It would be the honey sold off the bed of a farm truck,
Just down the two lane road that turns into dirt—
Pasties, onion and potato, at St. Patrick's Day in Butte—
Prime Angus steak, roasted with care over open coals—
The hint of pine in the air on Mount Helena's trails—
The salt of tears shed in the arms of a friend—
Cinnamon whiskey splashed into honeycrisp apple cider—

If I could feel love like the touch of your hand,
It would be the crispness of fall, when the leaves turn topaz—
The sweetness of spring rains, when the hills are still green—
The satisfaction of a shady spot beneath the blazing summer sun—
The bitter bite of winter that aches with every breath,
Because love is tumultuous and difficult as well as gentle—
The smoothness of river rocks under bare feet—
The tautness of a playing fishing line—
The rough bark of fir on split firewood against a stacking hand—

If I could let love linger in my senses like perfume,
It would be the smell of pine sap crackling in a woodstove—
The petrichor on dry buttes after a thunderous deluge—
The scent of delicate wildflowers growing blue on a hillside—
The fallen cedar needles forming western loam—
The sacred smoke of sweetgrass and sage—
Horse manure and house paint and roasting fresh-caught trout—
The tang of gasoline poured into a boat's engine
Before it heads down the Blackfoot River—
The smell of trail dirt, lingering like a momento
Of all the atoms of our past selves, 
scattered here, of all places—

The last best place, they call you.

I call you home, because love lives in your mountain lakes, your sleepy towns, your endless beauty that reveals another fraction of my soul in its reflection—

Every single day.

Author Notes On a work drive, this sorta happened. It was a strange and wonderful moment of being connected to the world around me.

Chapter 2
Now That You Are Gone

By K. Olsen

I love you better now that you are gone.
If a wound is a place where light comes in,
My heart is drowning in the shining sun.
The days are brighter with a shattered bond.
I feel you better now that you are gone.

Tangled briars and a throne of thorns wither,
Giving way to lovely, velvet rose and vine.
The clouded cataracts of envy clear and
I see you better now that you are gone.

Lovebird sonnets from trembling lips,
A heart’s desperate letters left unread,
Your voice once fell on shuttered ears;
I hear you better now that you are gone.

The ashes that have settled are my own:
The bitter curses that I once sowed,
The spurned bed that I never called home.
I love you better now that you are gone.

I cannot love you better now that you are gone.
Words come rushing, tumbling, unsaid,
As shadows of what might have been
Play like phantom echoes in hollow spaces.
I cannot hear you now that you are gone.

As elusive dancers cavort about the stage,
As vibrant colors grow from grey to glory,
Your face glows at the corner of my eye, but
I cannot see you now that you have gone.

You loved me once, but miles stretch between
That time, that place, that twisted thing.
I loved you once, as choking thorn loves trees,
As waves love the divers that they drown.

I cannot feel you now that you are gone.

I released you from that wicked spell
And now, I sleep in desolate sheets
As Morpheus spins me longing dreams….
I cannot love you better now that you are gone.

Chapter 3

By K. Olsen

It feels easier, now that you have forgotten me.
I say this not in sorrow, not in pain, but in relief
that all the strains and sighs now leave me be.
I find peace knowing that flown is all your grief
and all the fears that kept you from being free. 

It feels easier, to see that the scars have faded.
I can stand open-hearted beneath a gloaming sky
and watch twilight raindrops miss earth shaded
by dark branches, without regretful sigh—
all this because the hands of Time have aided.

It feels easier, to see how you move on.
Knowing that the wounds I did bleed no more,
Hearing that all the harm I worked is gone,
brings me a lighter heart, if one still sore;
your happiness shares a brighter dawn. 

It feels easier to see a wish fulfilled at every plea.
On winter nights, summer days, from here to end,
may lost or absent your memories of us ever be.
It is enough to know where I cut, she may mend.
May ardent love and joy be all you ever see.

It is easier, now that you have forgotten me.

Author Notes So this is the epilogue to relationship that was not good for either party. Instead of something bitter or just regret, I thought it might be better to put it to rest with the actual good wishes I feel now, looking at how things have gone.

Chapter 4

By K. Olsen

I am from this day forward a hollow thing:

A forgotten promise, an unfeathered wing.

My words weave themselves shrouds of ink,

The chains of my thoughts rust link by link,

The dreams I chase are ephemeral breaths:

All dearest things must have their deaths.

Not now because one has gone too far away,

But because my ravens fly home to stay.


I had thought them gone to distances greyed

By all the uncertainty that Fate conveyed,

But they dust all my hours with dark feathers

And drag my heart into inclement weathers.

The bones of their wings are made of words,

Their caws echo dismissals sharp as swords.

All the things I would rather not say now sing

I am from this day forward a hollow thing.

Author Notes A short thing written in the throes of a really terrible depression.

Chapter 5
The Gift of Gravity

By K. Olsen

I do not love you as sun does sweet buds of May.
Instead, I hold for you the same unknown force
Which draws tides and planets on their course,
Which pierces the dark of night with every day.
It secrets itself in my heart, though far away,
Though distance wrenches me from its source.
This I will speak, though fears strike me hoarse:
You are dearer than heaven-sent words can say

I did not ever think to softly, certainly feel
When all comforts I knew were empty things,
When pains circled in an ever-tighter wheel,
And Death bound me tight like wedding rings
Now all these are mirage, knowing you are real.
Know that I love, that your gravity gives wings.

Author Notes I am not good at sonnets, but I wanted to try and had (have!) a lot of feelings that I could not for the life of me articulate out loud.

Chapter 6
Agree to Disagree

By K. Olsen

"Agree to disagree," I say to myself
To a portal of polished glass,
With a twirl of skeleton bone,
With a flash of hollow eyes,
With a smile of ragged lips.
"You say you try and try, but...
I know you are no perfect thing.
You look too much, not enough.
You take up too much space."

"Agree to disagree," I say to myself,
To a window of polished glass,
With a mouthful after mouthful,
With a touch of fragile fingers,
With a glance of hopeful gleam.
"You say you try and try, but...
I become by approximations,
You look hopeful, not desolate,
You take up not what you deserve."

"Agree to disagree," I say to myself,
To a mirror of polished glass,
With a flex of muscle regrown,
With a brush of hair that bends,
With a heart that beats safely.
"You say you try and try, but...
I know you for what you are.
You look beautiful, not destroyed.
You take up just enough."

I know you will not go away,
Twisted thing inside of me,
But in the matter of thought and heart...
We can agree to disagree.

Author Notes I have been doing this for far too long, but it is nice to reflect where I have been and where I am at openly.

Chapter 7
Like Silver Threads

By K. Olsen

I do not know if I love you.
I do not have gemstone words,
Nor love’s carnation flowers. 

I feel soft things in softer spaces,
I feel stirrings of regret—
Like silver threads in a spider’s web.

I do not know if I love you,
I do not have a fond farewell
Nor adoration’s rosy color.

I feel sharp edges in jagged splinters,
I feel absence in every touch—
Like smoke curled around fingers.

I do not know if I love you.
I do not hold the thorns of roses
Nor the quiet of falling petals. 

Author Notes Rhyming it is not, but it is absolutely heartfelt.

Chapter 8
Moths and Eggshells

By K. Olsen

The long dark night of the soul;
Is it long? No longer
Than the imprisonment of a moth
Within a delicate eggshell.
Unbearably long to the moth, perhaps,
But the prison cracks so easily
By accident or by intent.
And then, for the moth?
The glory of flight, delighted in, freedom!
Whether to devouring flame or radiant moon,
This is hardly the moth’s concern.
And why would it be, 
After surviving the intolerable?
In its wake, only cracked porcelain:
The mask, the bones, the body—
The little pieces of eggshell.

I do not love the eggshell for its strength,
Nor the moth for its patience.
When one is fragility scattered,
And the other flown in relief—
Perhaps I am content with the ending.

Author Notes Another attempt at poetry during treatment, trying to describe part of depression.

Chapter 9
Swallowing Stones

By K. Olsen

A lump of stone in black and blue:
The aches that settle in my chest,
The strains of being what you wished,
The torn chrysalis of future passed—
Swallowed whole is all of you.

It happens over, over, over again—
I wonder not why I cannot eat,
For I have made a meal of pain
And let self-hateful gluttony sink in—
A choking place where sorrows reign.

I would cut it out to spite my heart,
Drag shame's razor across my face,
And banish all thoughts of touch,
As its price is more than I can bear—
But that would soothe only part.

I wish I could undo my evil acts:
My selfish fears, my thoughtless snaps,
Crackling in my mind like broken glass,
But I cannot even undo yours
And all the unspoken, ugly facts.

I wish you had never laid eyes here,
For look what we have done to me!
When I open up my mouth to speak:
Nothing—Nothing—more Nothing!
Even boundless pain is unclear.

Nothing, nothing, more nothing—
That is what I wish for this.
Not salve, not soothe, not you
Above all things, I want an end:
Nothing, nothing, more nothing.

Author Notes The mixture of frustration and pain that comes when an ended relationship isn't allowed to heal is almost indescribable, but I tried.

Chapter 10

By K. Olsen

To all the things I have lost:
I scrape my breastbone for dregs of heart,
The tatters of love I give to feed you,
Until I feel the wind within my ribs,
For I held you precious above all.

To the invulnerability destroyed by illness;
To the innocence broken by breaking a heart;
To the future shattered by grim present;
To the pasts ruined by indecisive tremors;
To the strengths sacrificed by sorrows that drown;
To the skills unpolished by rusting doubt;
To the people poisoned by shuttered silence;
To the selves discarded by careless choice;
To soft things inside butchered by selfish hand…

To all the things I have lost:
I blend the blood of grief with tears of ink,
The tatters of love I give to feed you,
Until the well of dreams runs dry
From simply writing your names.

Author Notes Another thought from treatment, like a badly healed broken bone being split again for resetting.

Chapter 11

By K. Olsen

If this is what it is to be calm,
To feel the buffeting of waves
And keep the flexibility of palm,
Then let this be what saves
This endless peace of mind.
A medicine that flows, drifts...
A sheet of paper signed
And folded into white rifts,
Valleys and slopes of ink,
That memory might link.


Happiness is...
...a sunset edged in royal purple and golden gleam.
...a familiar song on a sun-weathered red radio.
...a roughness of old paper under fingertips.
...a perfume of clean sheets from a warm dryer.
...a lingering sweetness of mint on the tongue.


Quiver like a drifting feather:
Take refuge in the wind.
A bird on wing
lets go and

Author Notes This is pretty much stream of consciousness from a very reflective day of treatment. The medication does a good job of altering how I think during it, so I apologize if they are messy.

Chapter 12
The Bitter Truth

By K. Olsen

“You are going to die.”
A numbness so deep it doesn’t seem real.
A delirium induced by absence, not presence.
Those words crawl into battered shoulders.
They echo through all the hollow places.
They run down a spine knotted and showing.
They trace along skin stretched tight over ribs.
They braid themselves with breaking hair.


“You are going to die.”
Not a threat, but a promise if there is no change.
Not a joke, but grim certainty without pretense.
Those words slam into my anxious thoughts.
They spin a world that is already upside down.
They reflect in my funhouse mirror eyes.
They slide into my empty stomach.
They put roots into my jutting bones.


“You are going to die.”
Tears bubble up like a wellspring of pain.
Tears pour down like a rainstorm of sorrow.
Those words ache in a shattered heart.
Somehow sharper than their cutting judgments.
Somehow deeper than their love expressed.
Somehow weightier than my Sisyphean stone.
Somehow harder than even a swallow.

Sixteen. Twenty-two. Twenty-seven.
Always the same, always terrifying.
Yet the course barely changes.
"You are going to die."

I know.

Author Notes I have seen people write about being the support for someone with anorexia. I just wanted to express how painful it can be from the inside, particularly when you are at that point where you know it is killing you. It was so incredibly frightening to me and still is. I hope anyone else struggling who reads it feels less alone.

Chapter 13
The Lilies

By K. Olsen

Give me lilies with full hands,
As if there is something left of me,
As if I did not wither on the vine.

Give me lilies with both hands,
So I may press my lips to petals,
So I may recollect myself.

Give me lilies with full hands,
With vision clearer than my own,
With voice softer than my thoughts.

Give me lilies with both hands,
And I will recall their subtle scents,
And I will hold them as my hope.

Lilies that fade in a moment...
Lilies that return every year...
To remind me of who I can be.
To remind me of letting go.

Author Notes A fragment of Virgil's Aeneid that lodged in my brain in the hospital was the phrase: "Give lilies with full hands." As a response to grief that I felt like I needed, it stuck around pretty much the whole five days and has persisted since.

Chapter 14

By K. Olsen

The end of a poem:
silence stills the mind
as all the vibrant colors
the songbird notes of music
playing behind open eyes
drift untethered to their end.
The pause of expectation,
the hesitation of thought,
or perhaps the absence of beauty
is as potent as its presence:
a reminder that all things end
within the comfort of contemplation.

The end of a poem
Stops not with the last drop
of inked hopes and dreams,
but with a soundless echoing.
It is the hollow lull
that allows all else to speak.
What is a poem without an end?
A collection of cacophonous music,
A strand of convoluted images,
Confused, speaking ad nauseum.
Find joy in a silent reprieve
adding depth to your meaning.

Chapter 15
In Whispered Ways

By K. Olsen

My love is a gardenia between silk sheets:

A single bloom behind cloistered walls,

A whisper that echoes in endless halls.

My love is a gossamer spider’s web,

A wave of tumultuous sea never to ebb.


My love is a secret grotto, a silent garden:

A place where the world is still and empty,

A hollow center of fired clay left to sit in

My love is a single ring of unpolished stone,

A ruby with red never given to the sun

A pearl of great price shown to none.


I love you in little ways, in crooked touch,

In unsaid words and longing looks.

I love you without end, feeling too much,

In ways that no verse ever unhooks.

I love you as a clinging vine loves light,

In subtle touch and fragile gifts.

I love you as daytime falls to night,

In gravity with a center that never shifts.

I love you when madness spins closer yet,

In doubtful circles and questioning lines.

I love you though I am on all sides beset,

In spite of ancient pain and bleeding signs.


I love you as never you could love me.

I love you as an empty soul set free.

Author Notes It is a mess, but it was a fun experiment with rhyming that I do not usually do in writing poetry.

Chapter 16

By K. Olsen

The brush of a fingertip across violet petals,
the rich smell of your lingering cologne... 
This is how you left me:
with echoes of feathers in my hands,
fading and fragile.

The subtle sorrows that come as cobwebs fade
from glistening silver to a dull gray
are no different than the shades of clouds
I watch pass across the dome of eternal sky,
knowing you are gone.

The world is no longer what it was,
our dreams cast out as the stardust of past lives;
but scraped skin is sensitive and
a broken heart ten thousand times as clear.

So let me tell you how I see you:
how the silhouette of your back edged in silver
flashes in my dreams like sun spots from gazing
too long at Radiance itself.

You are tall, tall enough that I stand on my toes 
to link my arms around your neck.
Your eyes are brown, silently sad as
I press lips to your stubbled cheek.
My fingers correct the knot of your crimson tie.
You left it wrong, so I would touch you to fix it.
When you stroke my hair, I can hear the ticking
of that favorite mechanical watch.

And when I tell you I love you, not now, but then,
It only makes the sorrow flower.
So let me tell you I love you now, not then:
Not as lovers do, but as an impressionistic 
painter presses his lips to his dried canvas.
I love you for all the things you were,
all the visions we painted together,
though each has slipped from my fingers
into eternity.


Chapter 17
A Loving Lens

By K. Olsen

To catch a kingfisher on perfect wing,

the spreading of each delicate feather,

frozen in a moment of blissful flight—

all with a simple click, a shudder of a shutter;

this would be merely the beginning,

of a love affair with light and shadow,

capturing the essence of people

as silhouette or portrait detail:

their weathering doubts and hopeful dreams

as brilliant light rediscovered in a dark room,

like Persephone descending and arising again

as a spring of life in vibrant color.


It is a delicate thing, shaken out until visible:

jubilant moments taken at the very peak of rapture

or the depths of sorrows preserved in amber,

glimpses into a past that fade far slower

than our fragile memories do,

even well-thumbed and yellow.


To tell a story in a thousand words,

never lifting a pen;

instead, to show and let my subjects speak

in silence, yet their own faces, own words.

For the very best capture things

not only as they are,

but in landscape and background and framing

more honest than a half-remembered fable.

So powerful, the very presence of them

changes our eyes’ perception of the world.


Arms spread before an army—

A fist upraised in solidarity and pride—

First steps on a world so pondered at in poetry—

Starvation and a vulture—

Dust clinging to a careworn woman—

Guns and fire that mark our cruelty—

A man of purpose and a spinning wheel—

Roses and mountains tendered with love—

The powerful and the ordinary,

the expression of the human soul,

all mingled as impressions on paper,

each as unique and precious

as a grain of sand in the hourglass of Time.

Author Notes I did not take this picture, but it is of my parents together well before I was born. I figured I should replace the abstraction of ink art, now that it is in the book of poems.

Chapter 18
The Favorite Angel

By K. Olsen

It is not the green-eyed monster,
Nor venal greed or carnal lust,
I fear most,
But that ultimate of sins
Coming camouflaged within
All the colors you hold sacred.

It is the part that clings to beauty
And valor of others alike,
That weeps the tears of a patriot,
And says the rosary of a saint,
While its feet dance in the fire.
It says all the things most pleasing:
Of who you are, what you deserve—
In tones sweetest, because it comes
From only those you adore.

It promises you prosperity,
Peace and love and life,
And a certain shade of greatness—
unfading and unfailing—
So long as you do it right.

No other has brought so much pain
Or crowned its perpetrators as victims
With such a savage joy,
Knowing all the while,
They will do their worst
Wearing their cloaks of purity,
And godliness and patriotism,
Whatever their body,
Whatever their faith,
Whatever their ideal,
Whatever their nation.

I fear its venom in others,
But I fear it more in myself
So much harder to uproot.
For it is human
To neglect the whisper at one's ear,
That faithful, humbling line,
"Memento mori."
When one enjoys the spoils
Brought by vainglory.

I hear your lips curve,
"Ah, but I am immune,
For I am clever or faithful,
Strong or true."
There my friend, I tell you
It is already much too late
For already Pride has you
In its cruel clawed grip,
And in such a hold
The only way is down.

Author Notes This may get me into a lot of trouble, but I have been so frustrated with this. A lifetime ban on watching the news would probably help.

Chapter 19
She Loves Me Not

By K. Olsen

She loves me, she loves me not—

plucking my kindnesses

like daisy petals,

just to fling them over her shoulder.


She loves me, she loves me not—

twisting my heart

like a pinched stem,

just to drop it into the pond.


She loves me, she loves me not—

leaving me bereft in the dust

like half-upturned roots,

just to link hands with him.


Never wishing to see.

Never seeing.

Never me.

Chapter 20
Work of a Daughter

By K. Olsen

I say I love you,
when I wipe spit,
even thick with half-chewed flecks
and bitter-stinging medication,
from the chin
of the woman who changed my diapers.

I say I love you,
when I change the dressing on a sore,
oozing and angry red,
that refuses to close
on a foot
of the man who taught me to tie my shoe.

I say I love you,
when I fly across the country
just to sit and wait for 48 hours
in a hospital room,
holding a liver-spotted hand
that once helped me totter
across a toy-strewn carpet.

I say I love you,
when we walk in the house
and I catch her without knowing how,
the moment she starts to slip,
because what I feel
is so elemental to my being
that to see a bruise on her is like a stone
grinding into my own heel.

I say I love you,
when the nurse comes to take him
into the bathroom,
and I wave them away
because sometimes he cries
feeling so vulnerable
even though to him,
I am just "that nice girl"
who takes him to the bathroom.

I say I love you,
because your loves live on in me,
indelibly imprinted on my soul,
and so I will love you
without pride,
without condition,
without impatience,
without anger,
even when you have forgotten me.

And one day, I will stand
where earth is your bed
and grass is your blanket,
holding every precious moment
for as long as I can.
On that day, and every time
I think of you,
I will say,
"I love you."

Chapter 21
For Rex

By K. Olsen

I cannot think how to thank you,
except to describe the image indelibly imprinted,
by friendship that even years cannot erase,
a rare emerald in a sea of bottle-glass beads.
You do not know the full measure
of the mercies you bring into my life,
as if effortless, swept along by your coat’s hem.
You are open, open as the sea is wide,
and clear in honesty as polished quartz.
Your heart you hold in your hand,
showing it with trepidation, but trust.
You take my pains and miseries
and transfigure them into molehills
instead of mountains.
I could speak to you a thousand days,
and each time feel better than the last,
for the clever working of your mind
has a way of challenging and inspiring
thoughts that might have never leapt to life.

You give your compassion so carefully,
and though you speak of fighting dragons,
I see in you the dedicated gardener,
who takes such joy in tending
people around to watch them bloom.
I do not know the measure of your doubts,
but if you could see as I have seen:
the beauty of your determined faith;
the patience with my struggling ways;
the tenderness and tough love,
applied each in their place;
the thoughtfulness, the intent
to bring shadows into light and banish them;
The confidences of shattered hearts
You let pour into your own—

I wish I could grant you my eyes, 
To see yourself as I can see you:
Gardener, dragonslayer, beacon of light
even when the world is dark.

I treasure your friendship like a pearl,
taken from the deepest ocean depths
opalescent and pure
and priceless in its quality.
Thank you for the philos you have 
brought flourishing into my life.
I will be here in gratitude and companionship
for however long you wish.

Chapter 22
A Thank You

By K. Olsen

Since there is no mirror that reflects into the soul,
I will hold up words and show what I have found,
knowing that you might not see the flower
inside its bramble cage. 

When you walk through the door frame, 
your shoulders bow under the weight of the world.
The boulders of obsidian on your back,
sharp and hurtful as shards of arrowheads,
slice deeply into your peace of mind. 
Your head always dips with the heaviest thoughts.

The first thing you do is ask how I have been,
and never with anything but the most genuine care:
not setting down your burden,
but shoving it to one side in concern. 

Sometimes the pain and anger you carry boils forth, 
in bitter words and sharpened tones, the knives of self defense,
but the moments that stay with me when you leave
are your simple acts of care.

Because of you, I have a crystal that sits beside my writing,
reflecting the light of divine inspiration,
and reminding me of unselfish compassion.
Because of you, I have a brown owl named Ozymandias,
sitting beside my keyboard and reminding me to be still and wise. 

It was once said that any
who create on earth a heaven
find the strength to within their own hell.
I believe that now,
because I have heard you speak of baby crows,
and beloved dogs held so close
their paws are imprinted on your arms in ink.

You remind me with every visit
that the most wonderful roses are found,
and shed a scent that perfumes the air around
with colors that brighten the world,
only where the thorns grow.

Thank you, P—.

Chapter 23
Memory as Echoes

By K. Olsen

Is there anything stranger than memory?
Constantly mutable, yet fixed.
Fallible, yet indelible.
The elderly woman with dementia
who hears Tchaikovsky
and again moves her arms,
a graceful swan maiden.

Some keep images tucked away
for rainy days or lonely nights.
Others, snatches of melody,
or the comfort of a familiar voice.
But as I age, I find more is memory
a part, indivisible, of you:
visible in little ways.

A tea cup stirred back and forth,
because a brother absent years
said it was more efficient.
A splash of milk
into powdered hot chocolate
because a first crush made it that way.
A crossed number seven,
because in learning numbers
a father marked his that way.
Never dogearing a page,
even on cheap paperbacks
because a librarian mother
would have pursed her lips. 

My memory is not images or words,
but the echoes of people
stretching back into places,
even beyond conscious recall:
some shadowy impressions of dark emotion,
others vibrant and bold,
but every one of them lingering
like the hints of a swan’s beloved song
animating a self long obscured.

Chapter 24
A Less than Gentle Healing

By K. Olsen

With this heart sickness I have borne,
I do not need soothing vapor or gentle word.
Its roots run so deep into my chest,
only a scalpel, sharp and painful, can reach.
I do not find relief in affirmations,
but in those piercing questions that drench the soul
in sunlight:
the only true antiseptic for secrets.
I do not find gentle footsteps healing,
for they tread gingerly around my wounds,
that same misguided timidness
allowing infection already to abscess in my bones.
I need Truth, the surgeon's knife to cut
and expose it down to its root,
before excising the cancer of the mind
that metastasizes each passing day.
I am beyond tentative measures.
No, it is purposeful and heartwrenching
difficult things that my disease would have me
shy from, as those who treat me do,
that serve as the panacea
for the ravenous infestation in my soul.
And if it is a thing I must do alone,
and all these helpers nothing more than smoke,
let it be so
and I will draw the knife myself.

Author Notes Frustration after group therapy.

Chapter 25

By K. Olsen

When I was younger, I only heard
of growing pains and growing up,
of the careful construction of the self,
and the relentless press of becoming.
But now, as I sit at the loom of Soul
and look at the work of my inexpert hands,
I think:
perhaps I wish I had been taught
the fine art of unbecoming.
Not ending, no, but the delicate unraveling
of missed wefts and tangled fibers
woven haphazardly by unceasing hands
ever focused on the next pass.
And how to be all right
with the thought of undoing
instead of doing:
the artistry of letting go despite fear!
But how does the hermit crab
know he has outgrown his homely shell,
except by the painful pressing of the old?
So how was I to know of unbecoming
until I felt my heart restricted
by a constructed carapace,
those unkind thoughts and ambitions
cutting into a heart as it swells.
Perhaps it is not that we grow around our grief,
but that it grows around us—
not as a thing we shatter and shed,
(though one takes a cue from hermit crabs),
but as a garment needs adjustment:
one undoes the seam to let it out.

I wish I had learned sooner of unbecoming,
of the gentle easing of mistakes
by unraveling with forgiving fingers—
not to restore it to a pristine thread,
for it has stretched and worn,
but because by unbecoming,
we can practice to be a better stitch,
closer and closer approximations
to our intended pattern.

Chapter 26
Without Space

By K. Olsen

Imagine yourself as an object without space,
no longer determined by a physical shape,
setting aside the notion of what is deserved,
and the idea of body as a cage without escape.

Think of what the self is like when unused
lie all the measuring tapes and scales,
the mirror that torments with imperfections,
and the magazine collage of desired details.

Instead, think of the breath that animates,
slowly drawn in to expand an ivory cage,
the softest touch of breeze out across lips,
and the steady heart beating, calm as a sage.

Think of how broad and deep your loves lie,
to release tempestuous Future and all its fears.
Think of how high and wide your hopes stretch,
and purge the sorrows past with free-falling tears.

Feel the anchoring ground beneath your feet
for it is true, even when ever-present is despair,
it requires solid footing on the blessed earth
to construct dreamscape castles in the air.

Perhaps, in such a practice, it becomes clear:
shape is better defined by what we hold dear.

Author Notes Had to write something for mindfulness exercise. This was the result.

Chapter 27
A Solitary Daydream

By K. Olsen

I find it helps to remember in times like these
that all things are simply what they are:
whether burning fire or rain staining ground wet,
all these things are unchanged, untouched,
by even the worst chaos inside of me.

I cannot control the feelings any more
than I could halt the moon-pulled tide
or the storms of hurt that rock me,
but I can weather them with patience
and wrap myself in their ashes.

I am not a phoenix blazing upward,
but I am the uncurling root and needle
of a pine seed after a forest fire:
one part of regrowth and restoration 
that sweeps across these lands. 

In a world where many people
make deserts and call them “peace”,
I remind myself over and over:
just my love can be a droplet of water. 

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