The Stage

Tongue tied girl,

your wings twist into the bend

of a spine that could not cut it

the first time around that sky

or even the second and third.

But remember,

you are the master of those knots

you tie yourself into like asking

for payback inside the punishment

you wrote into a story that you weren’t

supposed to be starring in anyway.

Exit the stage, left or right,

the end is never the end

until you say so and I don’t hear

you singing just yet.

You are trying to fall into the finale of you,

expecting a call for an encore,

but the show…

is still casting, the story…

it’s written in pencil.

It’s still waiting for you to unfold,

truth of your story be told

as it is, not as a wish

of all you could have been.

Save those wishes for the end.

Right now, the cameras are still rolling,

the stage is yours,

the lights won’t shine until you say so,

the theatre is empty

the only audience… is you.

Pry the nails from the palms

of those pieces that will never

make the final cut to matter

center stage in your story

when the lights come on.

You will see….

When the tie in your tongue

unwraps itself out of the knot

to lash out and mean it.

When the crooked twist in your wings

straightens out the bend

to show your spine

how to cut in like a knife

carving a finale permanent

across the heart

of that standing ovation,

begging for an encore.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

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You Are Not A Poem

I am sorry with every bone cracked unapologetic, but you will never be a poem penned by me. You will never be a ghost that haunts rooms of me until he moves on to blow a breeze across someone else’s memories, crossing hearts like hallways once called home. You won’t ever be words or lines or remember when thoughts for every now and then. You will never be the one who got away or the one who used to be. You are never going to be a letter, a denial, a promise that broke, or a lie that wishes for truth. I won’t turn you into silence or a scream wishing to be. You’re not a mistake in my story or a therapy session calling for me to have a seat. You’re not a poem. This isn’t about you. You’re not a ghost. I’m not haunted. You’re not in the lines or even in between. You will never be an end or one that tries to be. And I’m sorry that I will never be sorry. You were and always will be more than words in a poem, more than a ghost, more than the reason my heart is ripped open. You can’t ever be a memory. You will never be anything less than the front row seat to here and now and always. The songs still play. Even the ones left unfinished, they sing anyway. The music goes on. I always hear it. It never stops and I refuse to turn the volume down. I will never write a lesser version of us to reduce your worth or choke on silence to forget how much you matter to me. You will always be more than just a poem and bigger than silence tries to be. You will never be goodbye.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Too Much

Been told my whole life in many different ways about how I am too much. I know, I can be a lot. Sometimes the weight of carrying several versions at once is heavy, pokes the tender of my shoulder just enough to crumble me stone cold like a back turn whip lashing its way across the side of my own face with the soft part of the hand that hardened like belt against skin. But there are times when I carry those pieces like a weightless flight of my own heart preparing for take off where wings are not needed. I fly smooth and steady, holding my own with no fear of what lies below and no hesitation of a landing into the mystery of myself, even if it’s means busting through every masked version like a crash that scalps the faces off to turn the view from bullshit to crystal clear. I jump with both feet first, heart leveled with the eye of the sky, soul aimed face down to make it matter when I land like a scrape welcoming a scar that says, job well done. And my well done has two versions with no in betweens, no take backs, no fucking around, because second chances are only words strung together into a work of fiction that doesn’t get to say, sorry for the shit ending. I can be a masterpiece painted with only colors that blend together to swirl in perfection. Or I can be one color bleeding into itself until everything is stained permanent with going all in for the finale of throwing myself to the ground of giving up, while holding this white flag in my hand that says, I gave it all I had… fuck you. I guess you have to be strong sometimes to handle the too much of me that piles upon itself like a mess asking for more. Call me an encore. I am starved. Feed me the applause, it fills me with more empty and I can binge on that shit like a drug that loves me back too much to quit. Stick me straight in the vein, flow through like love waiting on the banks to meet the river where there’s a promise drowning to mean it. I’m not a strong swimmer. Been known to drown a few times before realizing my feet can touch bottom. Well, it’s hard to remember the bottom when your mouth is filled with tasting the top. It’s not easy to keep your feet on the ground when your hands are in the air most of your life, begging the sky to keep you safe and it never does. So you learn the art of empty conversations, school yourself to stop waiting for an answer back and worship the sound of your own voice that breaks the silence like religion. Because you know that’s the only thing that ever proved itself. You. You fucking proved yourself to you when the room broke itself empty to shove dark down your throat so you could taste it. And you tasted it because that’s all there was. We take a bite of anything when we’re hungry, swallow it down like a cure and swear on it. A cure like that only swears like time does to stop for you. I don’t swear on anything anymore. My hand doesn’t fit the cover of the book enough to call it a promise. Crossing my heart always did end up making me bleed in some way and I try to stay away from anything that promises to be something it’s not. I don’t like gardening. I’m not one to plant seeds for anyone and hope they bloom right to match colors I can grow in. But your garden is pretty. Go grow there. I like the garden of my own, even if nothing blooms. The sun doesn’t owe me anything. I mastered the way of making my own light, do what I want in the shine, even if that triggers the dark sometimes like a dare to play with the fire of truth and that’s a flame offering a sure burn. But I accept the challenge of anything that tries to warm my cold better than the proof in the way my own hands lend a blanket to keep my bones from growing into the bitter of where rigid sleeps well. I have learned a lot about myself over the years, made friends with all the different versions of my too much and not enough. It’s a valuable lesson when you finally master the knowledge in knowing you are the perfect dose of enough, and your “too much” is only the light reflecting across the surface of someone else’s “not enough.”

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

The Shoes of Mania

I guess I’m considered the distant friend, the one standing in the quiet background, standoffish in the place where inconsiderate casts a shadow across a light that dims into misunderstood. Seems selfish really, the way these shoes of mine change colors in a certain light, and the funny way they have always been the same shade. I know, they look black to you. Looks like they fit just right from where you stand, and I’m not comfortable when people look in my window like that. Makes me a bit edgy seeing faces sum me up through a view that is skewed and hey, I know the outside looks to be a picture, like an invitation that gave you a gift and it’s wrapped with paper looking like your name. So you stare, want to pull the ribbons to take a look inside, or stay outside, because the cover is enough to know just how fucking beautiful the inside is. Isn’t it? Want to knock on my beautiful door? Ring the doorbell so I can let you in to see my life that you already called amazing. Well, you really shouldn’t look into Windows like that, you really should be careful about those strange boxes you handle like that. Sometimes they blow up in your face, that’s right, sometimes the inside is disappointing, like you just got socks for Christmas, but the package was so… yeah.. it always is. I’m not sure these shoes fit your feet like they fit my feet. I don’t think you see the same color as me… look again. Sometimes these shoes are tight, cut into my feet like a scar I cannot avoid, and it hurts to stand inside the dull of the black that faded gray. And maybe the room grew dark after all these years, took the shine off my shoes like the dark trying to be the same size and there’s no room for the light to fit. But some days, in these same shoes, the scar heals itself, makes space for the light to step in, kicks the dark out, and the goddamn purple is so bright I have to cover my eyes. Feels like bare feet skipping across a sky I covered in glitter that never stops sparkling as long as I keep flying. High as a kite, I can’t hear you up here. I turned off the volume when the fog cleared, sailed smooth into the sound of the way my own silence sings, it says nothing at all which translates to everything and even the illusion too. I grab hold of the up that pulls me, touch it like a flame carrying a wish and it doesn’t burn at all. Let it twist around my fingers, until I taste it in my heart like the universe surrendered its stars and I feel a tingle on my tongue like having it all and keeping it. But the bitter fills my mouth as if to say, the bottom is about to fall just before the top follows suit, and the straps tighten across my feet to fit the dark of the shoes, change colors with the fall. On the way down, I think maybe I am the selfish girl, sullen, and full of the inconsiderate ways pulling at my feet to try harder. You know you could be better than this if you even tried to give a shit, or at least pretend, and maybe it’s not about you all the time. Maybe everyone doesn’t have to ride your roller coaster that never fucking stops. Everyone wants off. Make up your mind, just make up your mind, you know.. change your perspective, your mindset is fucked… that’s your problem. What happened to you? Your life is what you make it and yours is pretty great… why don’t you see that? Why the drama? Why do you stay awake for days? Why do you sleep for days? Why can’t you get your shit together or at least try?

Well, I’m sorry. I know… I’m a mess and everyone has the answer but me, right? Funny… when I had a handle on it all, seeking treatment for it all like a good fucking girl, taking meds for it all… and you couldn’t shut your mouth about it. Like now. You think there’s a magic pill to pop that fixes me, like you think you can fix me? Well, tell me about your experience with antipsychotics. That’s what I thought. The door… it has always been wide open. You can leave any time you please. I never asked you to play doctor and you only pull me down the second I stand… the second you see a rise in me, you run as fast as you can to knock me down and then offer a hand to pull me up. You want to be the one who can say you saved me. You never will. You should save yourself and go. Just go before I ruin you like I ruin everything in these shoes that never fit even when they fit perfectly.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Guard Dropped

I want the version of you still unguarded, before life ripped in with its clenched fists and jaw unhinged, before it bit in trying to lick new wounds from the other side of your innocence, flipped over and planted dirty.

Show me your eyes before the burial that choked your throat with seeds you never knew could grow on the soft part of your voice like a whisper blooming into a scream you hoped would die in the casket with you.

Stand up and step out of the skin that grew filthy from the war brought to your face by an enemy you had no choice but to welcome because the blood runs thick to thin sometimes until it empties clear when the battle is over.

Resurrect your own name as though you are digging up your truth before you became a story told by someone with blood on their hands, dripping like a photograph of your handwriting just before your words were cut out of that voice box that didn’t know how to cry for help and be heard.

I want to hear the sound of your song before you learned how to grab on to the dark to cover the shine, before you learned to reach for the flame only to put it out and stay unnoticed.

I want to touch the center of where your soul took its first breath like a smile you meant with your whole fucking heart before you learned to wipe it off with a rag smelling like shame that exhaled sorrys so empty, it broke you open and held you down until you became one with numb.

I want to see you center stage, displayed with your name in spotlights refusing to shine with anything less than unabashedly, unapologetic, and as unashamed as the first time your eyes knew they could blink in the wake of bright saying your name.

Show me your sky before anyone told you reaching it was impossible. I will wait here forever just to see the width of your wingspan when you take flight to claim the whole sky waiting with dreams carved in your name.

It has always been yours for the taking, stars and all and anything you want; just reach for it… reach for it with your whole heart like it never knew breaking before you showed it how to crack the sky open, collect you dreams, and leave it with a shine that teaches the sun how to be a fire.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Swear to God

I have seen the deepest part of the empty, been swimming across the surface of waves offering to carry me light as a feather before it makes good on the promise that heaviness weighs the same as hollow wishes it did. I have trusted the word of the top holding me tight like a swear that I will never feel the drop of a bottom dying to catch me in its teeth that bite like a crash lying about forever. I taught myself not to run from arms that prove not to run first before reaching back, learned a hard lesson that some arms are as empty as the sky, reaching back only to grab me by the heart and shake me hard enough to bleed colors that paint breaking across the cry from my throat. Woke up speechless, arms broken from trying to hold lies with a hope they would turn true like wishes never do, but I close my eyes anyway, face aimed at the sky with a please god burning my tongue and swallow birthday candles that tastes like reality crumbled into a sick joke laughing as I choke on pieces from the cake I never got to eat too. Isn’t it funny when we close our eyes like holding hands to blow out the flame with a wish inside? I remember doing it with all of my heart like a promise could not break if you believed in it hard enough. Life breaks us open sometimes with a whip that lashes across the skin of all we thought we knew to be true, cuts in with a reminder like a scar calling our names out in a language only understood by fools. Well I’m a fool. You’re a fool. The scar says so. But the lesson stays unlearned when the wound is opened wide like that sky that fell to drop everything so you could feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and it’s heavy enough to stop you in your tracks. You want to wait for the next train to roll through, take some of that load from you, but the train station closed when time stood still like a question we didn’t get schooled in. Stand there and wait with that look on your face like a surprise hit you in the mouth without saying sorry. Well, I’m sorry. This is how it is. Such is life, love. You have to let go of that clock you’re holding for dear life, pry your fingers off the hands of time that froze over mid-sentence before it counted the wishes your eyes looked at like a certainty. Nothing is certain, I promise you that. I swear to god on that, and the stars too. I swear on the flame and the candle and the cake, and even on the sky still split open, hanging empty. Cross my heart, all of it, pinky promise, eyes closed, sealed with blood, sister, smeared into a deal, brother. That train is not coming. The scars said so. The ocean took me under once, told me secrets in the deep, just before the sky broke itself to spill proof like a scream carved from my own throat and now listen to the silence of the songs that stopped. That’s the sound of the world ending. Hear it? The sadness crashes loud when it lands in the deep of the quiet. My heart echoes the noise unheard, just between the beats of when everything flatlined to nothing.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

The Unapologetic Rise

Ball of fire explosion, engulfing the sky to swallow it whole, wipe it clean to take flight like I own it, writing my name across to prove it.

Prepare for landing, bottle rocket simmer, cold to the touch, flying without wings, floating from a free fall into a freeze frame daze like a picture show stuck permanent on a pause button broke, no remote. Space shuttle heart, taking off to the moon, suited up to catch stars with my teeth, I let the Milky Way borrow my eyes so it can see me the way I see me like this when I’m on the high end of this up. All these stars in my hands, I toss them like prizes to the wishers, the dreamers, all the make believers who still believe in something. The stars left over are stepping stones, mini trampolines, bounce house treasures that shine until they turn to lily pads and land in the lake below, let’s go.

Bare feet sinking into the mushy bottom of the lake trying to take me or save me from myself, I grab the stars that went out when gravity didn’t matter and hold them like they’re holding me first. Deep breaths in, head above surface, but nothing left to see. The sun set itself off when it saw me coming, went into hiding until I go under and it sounds like a dare sometimes, but the truth hurts too much to care if it is or not. I stay in the water because my feet will get dirty if I step out, hold the lily pad until I sleep, because it’s holding me too.

Fucking adrenaline rush, horseback girl, you forgot your saddle again in the confusion of the gallop. But it never did hurt when I got bucked off, hooves like hammers trampling bare legs trying to find the bone beneath the skin and I just got up and said “good boy, Flicka!” and climbed right back up there. Rode like the wind was chasing us and we won… we always won. The gravel isn’t as hard as it looks, you know? The asphalt took the skin from my knees once, wouldn’t give it back, took some blood and left a scar. I still trace it sometimes, makes me remember bike rides, riding bareback, all the times I got bucked and trampled and didn’t care at all. Maybe it was the innocence. I was still soft then but strong and sure and everything. I think of her a lot. Wish she had stayed.

Or she could’ve taken me with her, showed me her hiding place. But she didn’t. She left, took the innocence with her, while I stayed here to battle alone, fought demons, met some monsters with eyes like mine, buried secrets in the yard where my horse once roamed.. but they always dug themselves out and hid in my closet for too many years to recall at the time. Until I turned the light on, woke them up with a sledge hammer crying like a wake up call on demolition day and those mother fuckers were scared. I’m glad they were. Hope they shit their fucking bones with every swing of the hammer while they smiled with those creepy teeth until I hit those too. Turned the light out, burned the place down and walked away smiling with my innocence back and her hand in mine.

Well, I would’ve ridden away if my horse was still here. But there’s nothing left here except an old bedpost piece I found in the attic once. That was before the flames. And maybe it smells like smoke in here, but I breathe it in like a first breath being born into a second chance. Tastes like I imagined happy always would, I hold it in until I’m blue, scared to let it slip out, because it may leave and never come back like everything. Chance in my hands now for the first time and don’t even think I would ever let that drop. Don’t ever think you can take it from me even when I’m dead. You won’t.

High rise like a sky dive, dipping toes across the edge of the world where the sun cuts into edges of mountains, I scream to hear the way the echo mocks me there and I can’t stop because it’s beautiful. There’s love in the air up there. Not the kind that lives in someone else’s eyes, even up here I don’t believe in that. I mean self love. It doesn’t bother me to say that at all because I fought scary shit to get here. To this place.. where I don’t give a shit, even if it flew, what anyone thinks of me. Up or down.. I hold my own, I don’t put it in hands of another. I’m not here for validation, nothing to prove, I broke the scoreboard of all I was force fed to believe I was supposed to be. Turned off the beauty pageants, threw out the magazines that feed eating disorders to children and then put them on the cover if their ribs poke out just right. Said a big Fuck You to America’s Next Top Model I once watched like a drug in my veins on repeat and fuck you, Tyra, for ever acting like a fat girl was ever gonna win anyway. I can’t ever get that time back. Wasted on things I was trained to believe in, like skinny equals pretty and women are these little sex dolls lined up for a mans approval like they know what the fuck lies on the scale between one and ten. As though you wouldn’t put your dick in a one or three or anything offered. Please. Take your shirt off and go mow the lawn with your fucking man tits and sit the fuck down.

No one really cares about intelligence anymore or conversations. No one wants to strip your mind down or see your soul. I’m not sure if that’s sad or disgusting or just the shallow world we live in where you choose the girl who looks good on your arm so your ego doesn’t get hungry, while she’s starving herself to keep fucking you. And if a deep conversation hit you in the face, you wouldn’t know it unless you could motorboat it.

I’m in a new place now. Let go of analyzing my flaws for how they look for someone else. Dropped the resentment. I have no regrets now. We have to go through that shit to get to a better place sometimes and I won’t say I’m glad I went through things, but I’m glad I made it to where I am now. Done with trying to solve the mystery of anyone else. I am full of myself. I fucking love myself. I think I’m amazing. Does that bother you? I don’t give a fuck. I earned this shit.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Searching the Blue

You were beautiful blue turning to cold-stone gray, standing back so far in a brush of shade, I did not even recognize you for the colors that guarded your heart dark and new, but so predictable like the night turns black no matter what. There’s not always Stars. The view is not always clear and the eyes… they don’t always show your heart the right path, but isn’t it the heart that saves face in the aftermath? The heart is the map taking you by the hand to say, “no.. this way, dumb ass.” You listen or you don’t. Take the way of the gray and suit up for the chill that comes with the shade. Arm yourself solid, so those stones don’t penetrate the skin, break into your bones, hit your heart with a rip straight up the center, and use your own spine as a weapon to gut what’s left of the blue. That’s not you. Your sky is not the shade that stays clouded over, love. You are not that kind of storm. But I wait here, without asking for shelter, my eyes stuck on the sky like a search that never stops, hoping if there’s a god up there, he will tear part of the sky open just enough to reveal a tiny speck of the blue that is you. I miss you.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Dark is Home

All my life

has been a search

for the one road

leading me to the place

that says,

You belong here

and I have been searching

for you too. Welcome home.

Make yourself comfortable

in that skin, put your feet up,

relax in your own quiet where

you feel safe, where it’s not

awkward just to breathe,

where being you is enough.

But it’s dark here

in this search

that remains unfounded,

the road crosses over

between almost there

and sorry, this road is closed.

Hitting roadblocks to see

what could be waiting

on the other side.

It’s always nothing

disguised as everything.

It’s giving all of myself

to the hands that give up

quicker than me

and I’m usually pretty quick.

It’s too much

running into closed roads

looking like arms

that want to hold me,

dropping me before

the first rest stop.

And I just keep driving,

making up songs along the way,

windows down, radio off,

conversations with myself

because I always answer.

I don’t know why I keep taking

this route, this road, this dream

that winds into a storm

with no way out.

A life term of wish I would learn,

wish I wouldn’t have done that,

wish it could’ve been different,

wish the stars would stop

fucking lying to my face

while falling, while laughing.

It’s never been funny.

Never been a joke

I can walk away from

like the weight of the world

suddenly turning light

and my feathers ruffle

in that trail that treads lightly

on things that matter.

I refuse them now,

tell them they never could fly

right anyway,

taking the direction of the wind

that feels too much

and never lets go.

So go… I don’t want feathers

unguarded down to the bone.

I have a heart for that.

I have a heart for that.

I had a heart for that.

I don’t anymore.

The storm stole it to turn the sky black,

lost my way when the view became

invisible and I lost track long enough

to see there was no road back.

I just stayed in the dark,

welcomed my blind spot,

continued the conversations

with myself and called it home.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Letting Go

Who says you have to let go gracefully? Someone who never had more than half their heart in to begin with, one foot in while the other foot is on the mark, ready to run?

And who gets to define letting go anyway?Everyone is different and we don’t all let go the same way. I can only speak for myself when I say, I let go with blood on my hands, bruises across my soul, hands filled with pieces of my heart I’ll use to destroy myself with.

Then I’ll let go. Only after the tantrum thrown like a kick and scream in my heart from the throat of ugly before it knew it ever was ugly, before it knew that grace isn’t digging a grave to jump into.

Well, who knew? Not me, the one who never could love lightly with a heart beating half ass barely for the fuck of it. No. My heart pounds through my chest like a drummer inside breaking my ribs just to hear a little music, or it comes to a full stop, playing dead in the silence of not being worth the trouble of beating.

There’s no in between. There is no testing the heartstrings to hear if the sound is good enough first like try before you buy, toss aside if it’s not tuned to your liking.

I don’t have a heart like that. Never did. My heart is full speed or fuck you, not a maybe, let me think about it for a while, love you, love you not, guessing itself into a sorry, changed my mind into a no.

I don’t know how to turn feelings from on to off and walk away like I never felt anything at all, erase it, forget it, move on with silence and never speak of it again.

But some people do and for the life of me, I will never be able to understand how.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry