Dancing with the Trigger

The moon is full or maybe that’s my eyes

welling up like they do, when the lump in

my throat can’t hold its place anymore

and it crumbles out from the belly of god.

So loud, all the wolves come to my feet

and call me home. I say,

“Go away. You are lost, follow the moon

until you hear the howl.”

But they sit there, fixed on my eyes.

Focused steady on the song ripping from

my throat, and I scream,

“There’s no goddamn music anyway!”

There never was. It was me singing from

the music in my head. Falling, but calling

it a dance. I do that sometimes to forget

the dance is just me alone, trying to make

sense of this war inside, but there is no

easy answer for the way my fingers love

to touch the shine of the trigger.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

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Boiling Over

and this sadness never is an old friend who comes to hold me for a night or two, it’s an enemy who stops by to slice into me just enough to leave me aching from a wound that will never heal. It brings friends to stay on watch to make sure if that wound starts to scab over, they pick it and pick it until it’s new again. The pain is constantly renewing itself until it falls into the deep of where that emptiness started. There is no end to this story. Just a boiling over from the place inside where demons never let me have a fucking break. They stay there, building caskets, holding the lid open… waiting for me to come inside and just stay forever. So many times I’ve wanted to, just to make their voices stop, just to hush their presence long enough for me to sleep or smile or live. But I keep fighting them, sword beneath my pillow, hoping one day I’ll wake up and they’ll be gone. And I don’t know what all this is for anyway. What I’m holding onto. I haven’t found a purpose. I’m forever searching for the why in a world that never answers. What’s the answer? It can’t be just to survive these demons that I never invited in the first place. It can’t be to battle this madness that runs through my blood because I didn’t ask for it. I never asked for this branding. I didn’t choose it, I never chose to be this, whatever this is. I want to be that person who sees the good in everything, always smiling… but this blood handed down to me always says no and it feels like No is my name sometimes. I want to feel a life that says yes, the kind that doesn’t question everything. The kind of life that I love too much to take for granted, like every breath makes me say thank you. That’s what I want. But why do I have to be on my knees, begging for my own face to fucking smile and mean it? Why is “I don’t care” second nature to me like a curse that can’t be broken? Broken. Why am I broken like this? Most people would be happy to have what I have, this life… I should feel lucky, but I don’t. The blood in my veins is selfish, feeds my heart pity and that’s no different from starvation; I’m busted. Shattered as they come. Pieces of could have, but never did. I’m just tired. This fight has lost its worth, like I have lost my worth, and I’m not even sure I ever had any to begin with. I was born in this madness, force fed it through the umbilical cord before I took my first breath outside the womb. And that’s the dinner I was always served, expected to clean my plate no matter what and I always did. Maybe that’s why I don’t anymore. But it doesn’t cleanse the madness out. Staying empty only makes it fester more. Staying full only makes it boil over more.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Fighter

The way I fall and manage to keep throwing punches at myself is brutal. Maybe brutal is too subtle to describe the massacre between my heart and my mind, I never learned how to do things halfway. I am all the way in or walking away with a big fuck you laced in my shoes and I don’t look back. So when I go down, which is often, you can count on me to kick my own ass while I’m down there before anyone else can. Even on the days when my heart says one thing and my mind takes the stage to debate the opposite, I let it pull me apart until I am ripped in half. Because why not? There’s an easy way, but I prefer the long route of everything. You feel it more when you take the long way. Breathe in every mile until your bones are made from that moment, forgetting will be impossible, it’s like a scar on the inside. Rip it open whenever you please and feel it again and again and again.. however many times you want to or how many times you can take it before your bones crack open with the reminder of that time that hurt, the time that always will. I take the cracking because I walk down memory lane quite often just to feel the pain one more time. I analyze it with different scenarios in my head and I’m triggered with questions that will never have answers. It scorns me. But I remember the pain to study the lesson. There always is one. I’m a quick learner but slow at catching on sometimes to subtly and mixed signals. My heart and mind only have the antenna that picks up the signal of just fucking tell me without fucking around with the bullshit, I always pick up a clear picture in the honesty. Even if it hurts, go ahead. It’s going to hurt anyway so what’s one more? I am not made of porcelain. I won’t shatter from what someone says, but I will turn myself into a tornado that never stops spinning to make sure I destroy myself first. My heart says, go fly, beautiful one, while my mind waits with a chainsaw of no. I have a competition going to make sure the only one who can hurt me is me and I’ve been winning most of my life, so stop training to come for my title, I’m keeping it. My heart looks like it took a beating from another universe, but I take the credit for all the bruises that scarred it shut. I am proud. I can’t put my breaking in someone else’s hands; I’m bloody. Knuckles twisted and ready for more, I am hardened. Tried to soften myself once but the world told me no. So I became a stone and I wear it on my face to be sure anyone who sees it understands I am cold. Don’t try to warm me unless you are burning in the flames of the proof. Otherwise you’re lying. Even if you’re burning in front of me, you are probably still lying so put yourself out, the smoke is killing me and I took the screens down to let the mirrors burn. That’s right. I read the faces of pretenders and I’m not playing along. You think you’re a joker and I’m the fool but I will be your fool just to show you I can’t be beat at my own game. So pick me for your next experiment of another notch in your belt, I will hang you from the strings of my own heart and call you a trophy.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

X is Home

The best advice I can give you is not to take advice from me, because while I have probably been where you are, it’s a sure bet that I’m still there lingering somewhere along the bottom. That’s my biggest downfall. Giving great advice but forgetting to follow it. I have grand ideas for other people but for myself, I’m lost in the spot reserved for last place. I mark my feet there with an X and call it home, I’ve settled. When chasing dreams became too much, I slowed down the race and embraced last place like it was just as good as the blue in the ribbon of first. It blended in with the light in my eyes and sparked a flash of lightning in the sky that would fall like dominoes looking like a house of paper cards that wasn’t built to handle the breath from wishes blown by. I fell. Didn’t stop falling into the free fall of the years that happened since seventeen, here I am. Throw some more at me, world I got it covered. You want to see me fall again? Pay attention. Take note of the slow fall crash that takes everything in the path with it. Here I am. It’s a competition of who or what can knock me down harder next time and next time and the next. I am filled with the empty from what you thought was emptiness. Not even close. I’m heavy with more. My mouth waters for the void, pour more into me, I can take it. Fill my heart with all you have and then rip it out of my chest and break it open. I dare you. You want a prize from the inside? Tough luck; it’s hollow. You thought it would be beautiful there, you were wrong. That’s life. It’s not fair and no one said it would be; are you listening?

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

Under Construction

It was inside the breaking where

I sifted through the pieces of myself

to find the ones worth salvaging.

When I was finished, I was empty-

handed, walking away without myself,

holding only a promise that I would

start over from scratch and rebuild

myself into who I wanted to be.

All the pieces I left behind had the

fingerprints of someone else along

the edges and I only want to be from

my own making, not bits and pieces

of who someone else told me to be.

I am under construction;

to be continued… until I’m whole alone.

Stephanie Bennett-Henry

The Fall Before the Flight

You fall each time before you fly

and there’s nothing pretty about it

It’s not a caterpillar

It’s not a butterfly

This isn’t poetry

No fairy tales here to tell

This is real life

This is my fall

Before the flight

I stopped everything

Disconnected from anything

Lost the ability to care

I was last on my list

Refused treatment

along with medication

Ignored the red flags

Because I can handle anything, right?

Rubbed away whatever was crawling

under my skin

Plugged my ears to the voices

that kept telling me

to run into the traffic

Shrugged away the paranoia

that everyone anywhere

was staring

Made light of the fact

that I stayed locked up tight

in my own dark

behind closed doors

Patted myself on the back

for losing weight

without calling it by its name

Scrubbed my skin raw

from the disgust rolling around

Brushed away the twitches

of nervousness

like I was just that awkward

Blamed the dizziness

on clumsiness

Layered myself

to protect the bones from showing

Perfected moving food around

the plate so it looked eaten

before I threw it all in the trash

Hushed the obsessive compulsive ways

of my mind

Pretended to sleep

when I hadn’t for days

Walking the treadmill

like the sweat would save me

from the padding

Thoughts of razor sharp

making it better

Falling in love with strangers

made me feel normal

until they didn’t want me anymore

Perfecting the hidden cry

Smiling on cue

Still functioning enough

to keep questions away

Grocery shopping was a nightmare

Conversations felt like

being buried alive

Rejection felt like murder

Having it all

still felt like nothing

Hiding all of this

was survival

Hiding all of this

IS Survival

Admitting it feels like failure

but maybe

somewhere in that failure

is my flight

Maybe this is a step

that will lead me to the place

where I can call myself

a caterpillar

and become the butterfly

But not today.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

(22/38)

17 of 3,2018

Flatline Years

I was empty long before you offered to fill me with the emptiness served even from the good plates, and still I pushed it away and excused myself from the table, but you continued to prepare meal after meal and I’m stuffed. Engorged with decades of emptiness I binged on trying to fill myself with everything just to know what happiness tasted like, but I was only feeding the self deprecation. I was only chasing the thought of a dream, I am tired. Ideas spin inside like fiction trying to be true and my mouth is raw from the fairy tales that swirl around and I’ve never tasted the proof. You used to say, “As long as you’re happy, that’s what matters.” But I didn’t get the toolbox to fix what’s broken. I just smile on cue, flip the switch to make my eyes light up when my lips curve to the sky, and my heart hits bottom. My spine comes loose, wraps around the edges found along the bottom where the dark took all the light and the stars don’t show me the way there. It’s the whisper of my inner voice I follow and I’m lost. Once there was a lasso that hung from the moon in my eyes when I was young, I just grabbed it like a lifeline that never stopped beating and it saved me. Until the day it decided to flatline like a dream that always raises its hands to reach for you gives up and never reaches again. Like a storm came through and took the universe away and the blackout continues when the storm is over. The lights never came back on. The vices that grew me didn’t reach my bones. I didn’t memorize the parts of the lesson without an exit, but I took notes on the ones that taught me how to get the hell out of anywhere that didn’t have windows to climb through. I learned how to make the light come in through the smallest crack, even if I had to use my empty toolbox to smash the wall into a window. When the storm stayed, the mountains I saw in my dreams crumbled, and there was nothing left to climb, so I carried it. I’ve always been carrying this. Even the silence of the flatline is heavy and all these years that came with it are loud from not living at all. I always wondered about the vices people reach for to quiet down the noise when their minds don’t let thoughts rest. I never understood it before. Chalked it up to a choice of becoming one bad decision after another and another and the cycle never stops. I always looked at it like a train that could stop if it wanted to but it just didn’t want to. So it kept derailing when it wanted to. Kept reaching for whatever could make it crash and everyone else would be in the path of the wreckage. The flatlining years have taught me there’s more to the crash than a split second decision that jumped the tracks because it couldn’t control all that raged inside. I think I get it now. I replay the lessons from the years and look through different eyes now. Or maybe it was time that gave me a better understanding of the dark and why it stays sometimes. My toolbox isn’t always empty. Sometimes my heart is a jackhammer of multitasking and god, it can rip into the ugly of the universe and piece it back together like the most breathtaking mosaic you’ve ever seen. And sometimes it can take that same view and turn it into a sky that never stops falling into the dark and taking me with it. I understand the lessons now and what they were meant to teach me. I’m still learning some because I always did take the long way home. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I know how your mind worked. Same as mine works now but I didn’t know it back then. I know the meaning of the silences now and how loud it was in your head, even when your eyes were fixed on nothing, I know… it was everything and nothing and too much and never enough. I understand the vices we sometimes reach for to tune it all out is not so much a mirror of our self control but a reflection in our own eyes crying out for help. There’s desperation hidden inside sometimes and we reach for things to fill it and we destroy things to fight it. I understand your demons now and sometimes I’m still up all night trying to make sense of my own, chasing invisible ghosts in the dark, but this is all part of it right? The meaning of life. Maybe the part where we finally hush the noise of our own thoughts and hear what they’re saying is when we know we made it. I’m sorry you didn’t make it this far, but just know, there are so many dark nights when I’m chasing who I am, I see a tiny light popping through the cracks of me.. and it’s you. It’s you. Trying to light the way for me like you always did. All the things I’ve carried and all I refuse to put down, I have carried part of you with me so you can finally see through the dark and walk this journey with me to make sense of it all. I didn’t want you to miss it. I bet it’s a beautiful journey when it doesn’t hurt anymore. The light in my eyes is yours; you paved my way with it. I share it with others sometimes so they can feel a piece of my heart and where it came from.

Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

In the Purging

So I cut the skin away because your eyes told me I was dirty just before your silence said I have never been worth more than worthless. Or maybe it was my own inner voice filling in the blanks of where your words used to sit so perfectly in my heart, I rinsed my mouth of all the words that ever came before that. Either way, this is the way life rips me open and throws me to the side like a discarded universe that never existed anyway. I sit here now with all these forced words, string them together and call them all a conversation, because the lies feel better than truth ever did; I soak myself. Blanket myself in so much bullshit, it starts to feel safe. Mark myself up with a permanent black marker, circling all the parts that need to change. Put a big X across my heart because that’s gone to shit too, and I can change out of this ugliness, so my heart will look pretty again. I don’t need the pity, but maybe I can use it to come out of this hell; it’s dark in here. My fire… oh, fuck how it used to burn. It burned out. Burned me alive from the inside out and stuck in my throat where your name choked me up, I gagged up the truth of all I ever knew and I’m dry heaving my own heart and pieces of yours are coming up too. I’m finished. Marking my calendar with dates before you and ones that came after. Writing numbers down like a difference will be made the quicker I shed this skin into change, empty myself enough to feel good, I’m almost there. It’s a countdown.. my heart still beats; it’s fucking ugly and beautiful swirled together, take your pick. Pick me apart and divide the pieces in boxes of your liking. Keep the pretty ones for yourself, leave the ugly pieces in my lap, it’s well deserved and I’m hungry for more ways I can fill myself with self loathing. I’m the same mess I was when ‘I love you’ was said a thousand times from your mouth until I kissed your lips and broke you. I broke me too. More than I already was. You’re a bad liar. I’m going under the knife to have the lies cut out, reshaping everything I ever knew to fit your heart. I don’t know another way to hate myself other than loving myself like this, like you do and did and will. I will too. I never changed my heart and the way it races with the passion painted in the light of your eyes, but the lights went out. I’m feeling my way through the dark of it all to find myself and maybe when I get there, I’ll see you again and the light in your eyes will come back on to show me I made it home or it will show me how to stay lost forever.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Let Go

I am tired of this filthy I cannot scrub off my skin. Forced to sit in it like a punishment for existing and isn’t that what I get? Pick my brain as much as you want. I have no answers for you other than I am so fucking sick of making this bed every day, the way I half ass make it, and for what? To lie down in the mess of it all. Well, I made my bed… but I don’t want the strings that are attached to it anymore. I don’t want any of it. All of this shit… take it with you. It never made me happy like I thought it would. All the money I spent chasing for that feeling, it never came. The money spent me like these days spend me and I have never been so empty handed. If I know anything at all, it’s that happiness can’t be bought. The picket fence said so. All this shit said so. The best of everything says so. Those shoes overflowing, the closet busting open, the perfect curtains, furniture, square footage, cars, land… it only told me I am still starving. The plates I cleaned, shoved in my mouth and down my throat didn’t fill me with anything other than self deprecation offering more emptiness than I know what to do with. I threw the plates in the trash when I grew tired of cleaning them. The good plates. The ones I never let anyone use because after all, they are the good plates and they stay in the pantry or they’re displayed in the China cabinet. Those plates. I don’t want them anymore. You can’t buy what I’ve been chasing and we always realize that way too late. I don’t know why. But it’s too late. I made such a mess of things. Mostly myself and now I don’t see anything but the elephant in the room and it’s me. I don’t know how I lost myself like this. It’s all a scatter, a big blur. One night it was foggy and the next morning, the fog didn’t lift. It just stayed. Like the heavy things I carry in my heart, they never go. And I’m weighed down with all of this, but I still don’t have the answers. Maybe I never will. You’ve been great. I know you broke your back giving me the world, turned your head the other way at all of my fuck ups, and refusing to leave all this time. It’s not fair, I know. You won’t get all the time back. Neither will I. But I have nothing left to give. My offering plate… it’s gone. I broke it. I’m broken. Stop settling for the pieces when you could have something whole. I am never going to be that. Even if you keep throwing more pieces into me, it’s never going to add up. You know why. It’s just too late. You should know by now there’s no saving me. I know it feels like you are sometimes, but you only make it worse. You’re only throwing your hands up in the air trying to catch a lost cause. It’s useless. You can’t be my hero. I had one of those once. I was never searching for a replacement. There isn’t one. Just go. I can’t begin to stand until you stop being a crutch that carries me. I am the broken you can’t fill. So stop trying. I cannot save myself until you let go. Let me go.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

Purple Confessions

and sometimes I think I crave the madness, covering myself in the dirt of it all as I roll through it proudly without any grace. Feet first into the filth, I’m still smiling, stretched ear to ear, maybe this is the secret to life, and I hold it like it’s a remedy that only works for me. I say, keep your grace, love, I don’t need it. The grace never saved me like the fall did. It was somewhere between the jump and the landing; the spiral had colors only seen in the madness. God… it was gorgeous. Took my breath away for a minute or two. Made the landing worth it, it hurt less because I had those colors tucked under my skin where the grace once lived. I think it was the purple, a softness that swirled loud but gently just beneath my ribs. But maybe it was the green, looking like a soft place where calm meets courage and promises that don’t break like the ocean. Made ripples across my skin that made me feel whole, but in pieces all at once, if that makes sense. Without the madness, I wouldn’t have this heart, and the way it feels everything and anything that can be. I wouldn’t have the strings in there that still remember the way the clouds danced in purple. I wouldn’t remember the words and the music and that light in your eyes that never burns out. The sunset told me secrets when I was holding your hand and my lips are sealed tight with wishes only the dandelions know about. But it was in the madness where I tasted your name on my tongue and it was beautiful the way it slid down my throat without choking me, like your name was meant to find its way into my bloodstream and swim softly across the ripples of purple and green, like the art you made of me. The words of before and after became a song spilling graffiti into my sacred places and can’t you still hear me singing it, so off key just like the fall without the grace. It was the plunge I took and the strings you pulled me back in with that saved me. No matter the landing or how brutal it was or wasn’t, it doesn’t matter. Sing me another song, baby, I have the music in my bones and I’m as filthy as I’ve ever been with the sins I can’t stop confessing to you.

Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry