• MJ Fievre

I Will NOT Expect Others to Understand

1.

In my family albums, some of the pictures of my papa

are blurred, in soft light, otherwise indistinct. Others

are sharp, the eyebrows, dark, thin, & arching.

His lips are full, like pomegranates, his chin firm.

In one photo, his eyes are dangerous. He is hard angles,

his body could cut you, if you didn’t know

the way to move around him.


Sometimes, a man, a father, will look at you in

ways that make you want to die.

Sometimes, in ways that make your heart

open like a moonflower. You’ll see how afraid he is

that you might fracture into the dots

of a pointillist painting. You’ll see how he is certain

he is to blame. You’ll see desperation

you missed in his eyes before.


My papa once bought me a bouquet

of red & pink azaleas from a farmers’ market

in the mountains of Port-au-Prince, & the flowers

filled the air with their musky smell; the chapel’s bells

rang four o’clock, & the cowbells on

mini-ice cream trucks clanged down the dusty road.

The azaleas curled before I remembered to vase them,

& I cried for so long that my papa replaced them

with begonias & snapdragons,

small but already blooming,

their fuzzy pink tongues

sticking out like a taunt.

They didn’t thrive either,

but before they died,

I brought them to my face

to inhale their sweetness.


People don’t always understand

when I tell them:

where there’s roughness,

there’s often tenderness too.

My muscles ache with pangs

of longing for a father I know

existed alongside the one

who moved through stark murkiness,

overwhelming sadness,

the one who lost God & clan

because they couldn’t share his secret grief.

The one whose fists became bludgeons

when he didn’t know what else to do.


It’s physical, a deep longing,

as much for that other father

as for the second me,

who also resides alongside the first me in photos,

a second girl trying to push out from my torso,

to struggle free from my bones.


My papa sits in his rocking

chair, & I’m in the background of the photo,

holding the azaleas that must have been nodding

in the first evening breezes.

I’m oddly positioned within the space,

my arm cut off by the frame of the camera.

& all I want right now is for my papa

to gather me up in the circle of his arms

& carry me to comfort.

I remember that my throat hurt that night,

dry in a place my tongue couldn’t reach, an ache

outside myself, on the soft of my palate.

If you stare at a photograph long enough,

it flutters,

& the eyes inside nearly wink.


2.

I let booze warm my cheeks

as I listen to the quiet in the room

& imagine myself as someone else.

Someone I could admire.

I have friends I know as intimately as

the moles on my skin, & they don’t see

the me behind the forced smiles.

I spend hours with them, laughing woodenly

at their silly jokes,

the crushes of boys they’ll forget,

the same way I want to forget those hours filled with

the secret

of what I am inside this skin.

The few times I let myself slip out,

like a python, crawling out of the brush,

they look at me & laugh & say,

“Girl, you got everything going for you:

Handsome novio, top of our class,

scholarship to University of Miami,

parents who love you. Damn, we adore you.

We all want to be you.”

&, “Get a grip.”

As if I can grip the tsunami

stealing my breath.

Then I sleep

away the gushes of pain in my lungs.

I dream that I strangle another curly-haired

woman, who turns out to be myself.


3.

Look at all these people around us.

Each with a set destination, a place

where people are waiting for their arrival:

families, jobs, brunch dates, appointments.

Where am I going?

To college classrooms, to sit for hours,

& listen to a professor drone on

& on & on, on subjects

that should delight me.

For a degree that will bring me a career,

more money.

Enough money to buy a house,

a life, filled with things

that should make me happy.

But then, it’s just a lifetime

of coming & going,

coming & going,

to work, to home,

to one obligation after another.

All futile motions,

all a march towards the end.

I don’t have to match

their stride

or follow the direction

they are headed.

My feet forge their own trail,

I’m happy, okay?


***


(Cover art for this poem by Frank Morrison)

An excerpt from Happy, Okay?: Poems about Anxiety, Depression, Hope, and Survival



Confront Depression, Anxiety, Grief, and Loss through Poetry


Are the usual depression books helping you find a path to healing? No? Try this poetry collection especially for those dealing with mental illness and for people closest to them.


Create hope for the future. Paloma is faking it. On the outside, she’s A-Okay. She’s electrified at work, there is a cadence in her step as she walks her dog, she posts memes on Facebook, and she keeps up with most relationships. Looks can be deceiving, however. Inside, Paloma is just going through the motions, and she feels like things are spiraling out of control. But when things are at their darkest, dawn arrives with clarity and focus, and with it, healing. Paloma learns to value small glimmering moments of joy rather than searching for constant happiness, thus building hope for her future.

A manifesto for life. Happy, Okay?: Poems about Anxiety, Depression, Hope, and Survival is not simply a narrative spun in verse by a masterful poet. It is an invitation to readers to shake off the stigma and silence of mental illness and find strength in the only voice that matters: your own. It can be an electric roadmap to healing and a manifesto for wholeness.

In this inspiring and heartwarming book, you will:

  • Understand how to make happiness a decision, even when you don’t feel it in your bones

  • Find out how to exercise patience and self-acceptance

  • Attract hope and purpose back into your life

Fans of Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One by Amanda Lovelace, Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim, Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn, or Nothing is Okay by Rachel Wiley will love Happy, Okay? by M.J. Fievre.

© 2019 by MJ Fievre