The Storm is Home

The lights went dim, slowly over a decade or so, until it all went dark. I tell myself all these years were preparation for the storm that was in me all along, but the practice of the dim was not enough to teach me the difference between a little rain and a complete stop to the universe. It’s not the way the power went out. I’m not afraid of the dark and thunder never scared me. It’s more than that. There’s no way for me to describe it other than to say, the windows fog over during storms sometimes and maybe you don’t have a clear view looking out until the storm passes…. until the storm passes. That’s not the kind of storm that hit me. I wish that was the storm I was standing under, covered over, I would run to the center, kiss the eye of it straight on the mouth with no fear of catching lightning in my veins. I would brave that storm, arms out, begging god to strike me with a light like that; in fact I would scream it as a dare. Some days I would give anything to only know a storm like that. But my storm’s not like that, it’s like this: deep roar from my inside core, calling my name like the cry from a headstone demanding to be filled, and I’m as empty as the hole dug six feet deep, but deeper. Lungs twisting like hands folded with a prayer for wind that goes unanswered and I cannot breathe. Choking on the lump in my throat like butterflies racing for the nearest exit that just closed up to promise a slow suffocation during the mid-flight crash and I am crashing. Tornado spinning behind my eyes to make sure I’m paying attention to the sky dive my heart takes lessons in and the power lines fall into my chest heavy from the thunder in my pulse, striking through my veins like lightning that lost its light in the dark. This is a black out, carving any light from the inside to steal all the shine that ever was and smearing it filthy as it writes my name in red, spits over it with black, plants it in my bones so the dark keeps growing, smears it across my face until I taste all that I’m not. Legs unsteady like an earthquake beneath my feet, ungrounded on a surface that never stops falling as I cave in on myself from a sky that fell on my shoulders, and I carry the weight of the world, bent over, curled fetal, wishing on the stars for one last chance at hope. Rain behind my eyes trying to be a sob that never stops, flooded over with thoughts pouring like hail hitting me in the face and I cannot dodge it. This storm… it doesn’t have a shelter. There is no waiting for the storm to pass because it never does. This storm is on the inside looking out and the sky in my eyes is never clear. There is always a storm brewing just beneath my skin, waiting with a promise to destroy me. I never check the weather. My heartbeat alerts me when the storm rolls through my veins and I brace myself just before the sky splits itself from my bones; the storm is home.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

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Hear Me

You need to know that sometimes when the world falls silent, there is so much to hear; listen. It’s in the quiet spaces where you learn all you need to know and I have been waiting for so long. Please hear me.

I have swirled inside this madness, stepping along the edges with no cracks, but I have fallen. My feet hit hard enough to rip cracks inside the cracks, all the edges are no more, I am unhinged.

Vulnerable without the barrier of the edges that held me when this was still in my hands to reach for, but now I am unguarded. Fingers dipping into a place where madness flows out from the banks of all reason, reaches the other side where the madness is swallowed whole by the hell in my throat without choking. I am laughing.

Hysterical to think of when I thought I knew that madness by name, but it was a joke in comparison, and now I swim through new waters.

Look back at the cracks I once stepped over and I say, “you don’t know shit about the breaking!”

Invite the river in my veins to bust open and color the empty beautiful. It’s breathtaking when the current stops and I rest my bones away from the treading. It’s easy to drown when the world turns deaf. No one hears the cry for help because the noise runs together, and everything sounds the same when you stop listening.

In the silence, my words turned against me, showed my heart its own true colors with a dose of medicine that taught me how to feel gutted when my mouth was raped mute from choking on all that went unheard. I carved the noise out of myself when it all went loud, followed along the signals that worked best unheard; now listen.

I took a dive into the silence, taught myself to play deaf and master the turn of the blind eye rolling over; I can’t hear you. I turned the volume down, broke all the buttons that alert a rescue never coming anyway. The roads fell low where the edges failed, all routes roadblocked now; it’s over.

Now you don’t need to press your ear against the world to hear the noise you missed, I stopped it. Took the music with me to leave you soaking in the river where the silence called me by name and I rode the rapids drifting towards the flames calling me home; I made it.

When I got there, hell was laughing in the face of madness and I could hear it. Filled me somehow in the warmth of hearing again because the flames spit noise out and everyone listened. Everyone heard like it was more than just noise and my voice mattered in the welcoming of the burn.

Taught me that home isn’t always a place or a person, but being heard when it matters even in the screams that smolder between words that are hard to say. But hear them anyway. Hear them anyway before the words fall into cracks that stay lost forever just in the center of how it feels to be alone.

There’s a rhythm in the scream. If you try, you can feel it without burning and still hear the music too.

Are you listening to call it noise or can you hear the music enough to dance, even when the radio sets itself to silence? Even when someone you love swallows the cracks, there is a story left untold, in the background, lost somewhere in the eyes. Look closely and hear the silence like it matters. You cannot hear it anymore when it’s too late. Listen now, listen hard. It is so much more than just noise. Hear it.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Demons in My Eyes

There is no blame to take, but you pocket it deep, hide it away for my sake because that is just who you are. Extraordinary in your selfless ways even when you try to deny that part of yourself. And it’s amazing what we learn about ourselves sometimes, but also a wake up call I may have hit the snooze button on. If only there was one. So, the lesson punched me in the face when I wasn’t looking and now I am wide awake. Ordinary in my selfish ways I try to deny, I pocket the fault deep inside and soak in it until I learn it’s not all about me. I will take the blame that was never yours to carry, lift the weight off your shoulders and hold it, if it puts the light back in your eyes. You are amazing in the way you voluntarily took on the load of my baggage and carried it as though you contributed to those demons I can’t stop holding hands with. But I had those demons packed long before I met you, hid them in closets so I didn’t have to invest the time to deny them. Covered them just enough to keep the cold from seeping out like a confession I was never equipped to admit… until now. I am still unpacking slowly. It takes time. An overnight bag can hold decades of monsters that never hid under my bed, but in my eyes, so I never had to see them. I see them now. I see me now. Those monsters… they are me. I know that now and I’m taking steps to get to the day when I stop looking away from myself long enough to unpack completely. Working on finding my own light again instead of embracing the dark that offers too many places to hide. I need to be heavy with it all for a while, carry it until I own it, instead of pretending it’s not mine. It is mine and I am claiming it from you. I want you to be weightless like our flight never crashed with all those feathers and the light from your eyes never escaped to make room for my fall. I have to keep falling on my own until I master the wings you showed me and the landing you tried to shield me from. One day I will have it down as though I always did. In the meantime, you go fly like you do with that heart like a song saving the world and that light in your eyes the sun is jealous of. Go shine amazing like you always do, those stars.. they have been waiting for you to show them how to come alive. -Stephanie Bennett-Henry

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Keep Playing

I never told you the way my eyes turn to different shades for you. Colors mix together to blind the sun, I lose my focus and I am filtered over like a shimmer covering the blue. Cloud my gaze to a color black I can see through. Spins the universe. Drops my heart. Shows me a sky that holds a heaven where all the stars I ever wished on are just inside and everything is perfect. Like a masterpiece that cannot be touched by anyone. Only the music. The orchestra plays. The world falls deaf at my feet and I hear nothing other than the sound of beautiful, if beautiful could talk, it would use your lips. It would Sing a song that wakes the world and drops everything all at once just to make sure everyone gets a chance to hear you. All is right in the world again, even if only for a few blind minutes, there is something worth believing in again… keep playing. It heals me until the blue comes back to focus again and the music stops with everything else.. keep playing, keep playing … until I blind the sun again, until the universe spins again, until my heart drops again…and stays and stays and stays… only as long as the music plays… so play…. when it stops, it never really does because I memorized the notes, hear it in my mind like Braille stole the idea from your eyes so I could feel it when the music stops.. when the music stops, I still hear it. Plays inside like a swirl I borrowed from the sky before it fell, I feel it permanent. I feel it like the sun branded me just before it went blind, but it was worth it. Because the music… the music never stops even if you play for someone else and especially if you play for someone else.. I feel it for all its perfection ripping through my veins with that Braille from your eyes… it always wakes me to remind me not to die.. and I live in spite of myself and despite all else.. so I don’t lose the music.. so I don’t lose the sound, so I don’t lose you.. keep playing.. I need the music to stay. I saved a place where music never leaves. I saved a place to die but stay alive. Keep playing.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Winning Eternally

and I wish I could control that, get a handle on it, slam the brakes on it, but I am full speed ahead, my foot stuck solid on the gas pedal to the floor heavy. Crashing when the brakes say no and the deep breaths try to take the wheel with slippery hands praying to give up; I’m spinning. Shaking core acting like tires gone flat, exhaled and I am deflated. The burn in my throat wells up like rubber never laid on asphalt long enough to clear the smoke from my view; I am cracking. My eyes try to wipe the focus clear for the sake of my mind before I go blind as the windshield fades to black and I am winding around a corner that runs and hides; find me. This is a public display crying out to be any fucking thing other than what it is, I am nameless. My mind never looks at the speed limit here because it’s a race with my heart until one is left standing; I want to flatline. But my heart never gets the trophy for outsmarting my mind even when my chest caves in to try to take the win; I’m in circles. Roadblocks blocking the end of where I thought I needed to go to find the gears that don’t lose control; it’s endless. Chasing myself in vicious circles like a game to show the meaning of cruel; end me. This is the part where things get ugly and my eyes grow wild just to prove it; notice me. I’m not a deliberate display asking for attention, unsee me. All that I am cannot hide this accidental fire reaching from me with smoke signals pouring out of my throat for my heart like an ambulance that doesn’t want to be empty, so fill me. It doesn’t burn to touch me, I am frozen. A corpse by now still walking alive with sirens running silent from the stares that cannot resuscitate me; this is torture. Carve me into a wooden box of pine and initial it ruined beyond repair; don’t exhume me. I don’t want another go around with the empty eyes that dodge the rescue; call it. Embalm me with promises unbroken and flowers that cannot die like I did in this life; remember me. But don’t visit me after as though six feet under makes me suddenly matter; it’s too late. The flip side is where I go to find the road with those controls I never could find a handle to so I lost it. Don’t offer me a second chance to disgrace like the first; I am at peace. Resting better now than ever before with brakes that work and I finally stopped spinning. Now at last… I am on the finish line winning forever with freedom.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Where the Monsters Hide

Maybe I was born in a room draped in blue that swaddled me into this sadness that follows me with a promise to always be there waiting to suffocate me. The walls close in to show proof of claustrophobia in the shallow spaces of where my breathing meets the screams meets the silence, I am shaken. The rhythm of my heart is broken, never did beat quite right, always exposed just enough to feel everything in such a way, I am paralyzed in the too much. Inhaling each moment that touches me until it becomes part of me and I am pieces. Busted glass that never did sparkle magnificent, but a dull mediocre, always hard to see from the inside looking out. So I stayed confined inside the prison I made within myself and I learned to love the dark, covered all the mirrors to hide the demons staring back. I have never been good with unseeing something once seen. I can’t look away from the monsters people told me to be afraid of, so I believed them, checked under my bed for them, hid myself away from them. That was before I knew monsters only exist inside of us, which planted my fear deeper in the knowledge of what I was running from the whole time was me and now I can’t stop. Full speed sprint, attempting to gain a head start from the pain in my own eyes, but it’s always a tie. I wanted to lose because there’s no prize in the view I have of myself, no glow to be admired from onlookers brave enough to look. And looking never means seeing anyway, it’s usually nothing more than looking through a dirty window and pretending to be blind. Turning your eyes away to run before you catch the fever in my eyes, but only when they are opened. I close them like slamming doors because I once left myself unlocked and my heart was ransacked as though it was valuable. Lessons learned from giving myself away for free, now I’m dead bolted. Even from myself, because I’ve seen enough so fuck it. Don’t look at me to find your own reflection so you can hear the way ego moans your name; look away. I have my own demons to battle without patting yours on the back while smiling and even if I am losing against myself, that is so much better than being lost on the surface of a bandage that was never mine. Rip it off. We all have wounds that bleed. Sometimes the best remedy is letting it bleed out until you taste the lesson of ripping yourself open to gut the demons and start with a clean slate of building yourself new. Now that you know where the monsters are, no time will be wasted on checking under the bed. Look into the mirror of your own eyes and don’t you dare look away.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

Breathe Again

I tore my chest open with my own bare hands, to let out all the deep breaths I’ve been holding. Hoping I could breathe again but my lips love the color blue.

I cracked my ribs to get to my heart. I wanted to see the commotion of all the broken winged birds in there, but all their beaks are silent. They stopped singing or maybe they are ready to sing a song for someone else.

It’s the same old tune here about how they want to fly away, but the tips of their wings are dried concrete from the time I built a wall around my heart. These knots in my stomach are never going to untie themselves. That’s what the birds are for. But they cannot save me anymore.

It’s all me now, trying to breathe with this lump in my throat, trying to live through this feeling inside of constantly falling.

One day I’m not going to wake before I hit the bottom. You think it’s ugly now? Not even close. You can’t come back from everything, right?

Well, I only sleep to get away from it all and even there, I am haunted. These ghosts will follow me to my grave, I know it. I hope the birds make it out before that day comes. I would go with them if I could, but they won’t have me. I ruined them enough.

My fingers bleed now because I thought there was a cure in my fingernails, turns out I was wrong, and the skin on my lips is paying for it. Nothing distracts me anymore. The middle of the night drives, the music, none of it soothes me like it once did. It triggers me. I see all the holiday lights and think of all the people who can’t see those anymore. Maybe that’s why they shine. For the ones who no longer can. So, maybe some of those are shining for me?

I’ve always been good with wishful thinking, but I lost it. The lights piss me off. Slow, deep breaths… and the birds take my air. Or maybe it’s all this bullshit swirling around inside, begging to come out.

I’ll open that door if it means I can breathe again. I’ll open that door if it means I can live again. I will kick that door down if it means there’s even a small chance I can be me again.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

The Light Stays On

If you ask me how if feels to go completely mad, I will tell you it’s a midnight sky at noon begging for stars to show it some light. It’s the sun showing its face at midnight, trying to take secrets from the moon. The madness is being able to run, but losing the desire to even stand, and running when anything or anyone comes close to knowing you. It’s being stuck inside a wall that only holds the colorless things, hung perfectly with rust covered nails refusing to shine. It’s swimming in the ocean, not caring if the waves take you as their own, daring it to drown you and hoping you lose that dare.

Sitting in the company of your own thoughts like each one is a person you answer to.

The madness swirls inside like a dance you have perfected the steps to, while the wrong song plays in the background. But you dance anyway because you don’t hear the music anymore, only the voices that talk all at once until it becomes a scream only you can hear.

The madness is a million hands coming out of nowhere to pull you down until you fall and pushing you when you stand again.

Closing your eyes at night brings out the monsters who hold your eyes wide open to say, No… not tonight.

Waking up to start all over again, be alone again, a new day to lose it all again, keep being the strong one again. Pretend to have your shit together again, act as though it’s all fine again, perfect the fake smile again.

I guess it’s the madness that makes the slow death of your life seem perfectly normal. So, I am fine. Perfectly well in the emptiness of being my own best friend, holding that with the highest regard. Like conversations with friends that don’t exist, but we all laugh together and I can tell them anything.

I’m having the time of my life. Never been better. It’s a beautiful day. Surrounded by the ones who never left my side when I checked out. That’s what I tell myself in this empty room. That’s what I tell myself to keep the lights on. I’m only trying to keep the lights on a little longer. Conversations with myself makes it hurt less, but not really. I am keeping the lights on though and it feels a little like being held by someone who cares. So, I keep my eyes locked with that light and tell myself it will never leave. Until it burns out and leaves… like everything leaves without a goodbye or reason. And I say, goodbye and apologize for not being good enough. Then the room goes dark and I’m my own again, the friend who never left.

I should treat her better than I do. When the dark is all we have and the music has stopped, she sings songs to me, reminds me of a time when I didn’t rely on the lights to feed my soul that once was. She stays the same, doesn’t change or pretend she never knew me. She sings until I fall asleep and she knows my favorite songs. I will always love her for that.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry

The View is Distorted

It’s when the walls close in a little, when the room is full but you are the only one there in the center but on the side. The spotlights come on as eyes pointed at you like fingers not able to ignore, as though each one traces your silhouette, head to toe, and the light, the light never lies. But my hands tell the truth in the tremble of the lie detector built in my chest and the way honesty makes it pound with the warming. I am flushed over, catching my breath tells me so, and I become trapped in that moment, where my heart is telling me to run, but my mind says there is no exit. My mind is right. There never is an exit, but it tells me to create one. Whatever it takes, no matter what, get out… just go. Because the lights are only there to watch like the eyes are only seeing you and I don’t think there’s a way to run from that. But I have to before I rip myself open to get out of this skin. I have to before my heart busts out to run away without me. And it’s one look, wrong or right or neutral, it cuts into me, as if the eyes are telling me secret thoughts of a stranger, and it’s too loud not to hear, too strong not to see. Looking but rating, seeing but judging and it’s too much. It’s just too much. My feet stop working you know? I have to steady my breathing but it never hushes the screaming from within. My mind isn’t right but I’m not sure that’s wrong. I only know for sure the spotlights burn my eyes even when they’re closed. #stephaniebennetthenry

The Power Stays Out

It was all beautiful until the reality of my heart split open and spilled out the ugly. The dirty kind of ugly that cannot be washed off. Left me coated in a filth that follows me everywhere I go, like tasting truth for the first time and choking to death slowly but surely and repeat it daily. Wake up for the dosage of yourself from someone else’s view, smother it thick with second guessing, add a side of uncertainty to my order, please, just to make sure it’s a painful way to go. I roll over in the torture of all that may or may not be said or unsaid behind someone’s eyes. It’s the loudest sound I have heard. Or maybe that’s the noise my own mind makes in the darkness of the doubting or in the silence of never being perfectly sure anyway. My heart is quiet, but loud with being certain of all it ever beats for. Reminds me with every beat, how it’s out of sync with my mind and sometimes my thoughts spill everywhere. I can’t focus when I’m falling, the thoughts trip me up, make me lose my balance enough, even my heart loses its way. I am lost as usual and that’s how the scenario plays out. Lost my compass of life when the lights went out one time for the final time like an encore playing music that summed up the end. The songs of my life- they’re not on the radio.. the station, it won’t come in clearly. The static takes over, no antenna to save the way the words linger under the noise before it all goes silent. But it’s never really silent, even with the radio off- those lyrics snuck in- they’re in my head now, looking for a room. There’s no room in here. It’s full. They don’t believe me. Stay like there’s music playing an invitation for a vacancy that isn’t there. All the words, they cram together so crowded, I feel a bit claustrophobic. Paranoid as if this mess is speaking aloud, if anyone else can hear the party turned massacre inside. I’m almost sure things are getting broken, can you hear it? I can’t stop hearing it. Makes my hands tremble without notice, no warning for the way this rips my spine clean, wraps it around the dirty until it drowns in all I made up in my head. But no… I can’t stop breathing life back into it. Keeping the monsters alive so my demons won’t be lonely, like me. Fall asleep to stop it, to wake up and repeat again tomorrow. My mind is an endless echo keeping itself company when the power goes out. Sometimes the power stays out if all the lines fall in the storm. They join with the static and stay for the music.

-Stephanie Bennett-Henry

#stephaniebennetthenry