BURNT OUT

by Gina Marselle

“We are learning that before the body can become a temple, it first must become our home.” ― Lucy H. Pearce, Medicine Woman: Reclaiming the Soul of Healing

The field is black
The clouds are white
Burnt out
I’m alone
Dreams fade
The tunnel narrows
Like a river
And I move
One way
I’m walking
And there are no sounds
Other than footsteps
Breath
It is as if the world is empty
And death is scary
Maybe life didn’t frighten Maya Angelou—
But here I am at a crossroad again
What do I know?
What advice do I have?
Other than–

Wisdom fades with memory
Or brain fog
My autoimmune disease
Attacks relentlessly
Hashimoto is its name
It has turned my world upside down
It starts with my thyroid–the mother of my house
This disease kills my hormones
Boosters my anxiety until it is a Jedi
Until I am bedridden with a fatigue
Unexplainable to anyone not fighting for their very life
It is death with eyes open and shallow breaths
It has been too long since the green fields of joy
Touched my toes

Until the Sun and Stars Meet in Glory

Note: please listen to the poem here: https://soundcloud.com/gina-marselle/glory/s-RBmKOssZVEB

I.

There was a time before I loved horses.
I was so little then,
I probably had a made up name for horse.
By the time I was 7 or 8, that is all I talked about.
Soon, my soul transformed into a horse.
I had a best friend horse, a soulmate before I turned 10.
Santa brought her, and we were inseparable for 16 years. 
Her hoofbeats summoned my dreams,
we galloped into a love not of this earth.
Ancient like the desert sands.
Horses became a mantra for breath.
Then, I only dreamed for 20 some years.

Now, a daughter raised, a son who is 9,
I have this rescue horse that
isn’t a dream, he breathes fire
into my heart.
He’s desert bound with the clear, blue sky as his kingdom. 

II.

This afternoon, I felt most lost to myself.
When I get like this, when my anxiety is about to break me,
I drive to Edgewood. As soon as I pull into the stable, 
I see the horses.
When I close my car door, I can already hear my horse
nickering his greeting. Shaking his head. Trotting in his paddock.
His tail raised high telling everyone that he is an Arabian horse.

The color of midnight. 
His nicker makes his body quiver. His hello is for me—or for carrots.
Today, he gets a giant Honeycrisp apple
and leftover, bruised pears my son didn’t eat during the week.

III.

I try to remember life is lovely. Days are blessings. 
On days that I forget, 
I take a drive to Edgewood.
to find that little girl I use to be.
She was brave, courageous. She had a loud laugh. 
She rode bareback and galloped over the hillsides. 
I don’t ride my rescue horse. 
I don’t have that courage anymore.  
Instead, I dream we are running wild across the desert landscape. 
We are one as we chase the wind, leaving plumes of dust 
in our wake. The sun sits warm on our backs. 
My mother died last September. I have been a little lost. 
My husband moved out last October. 
I became a little more lost. 
COVID-19 never left. I became a little more lost. 
My horse doesn’t understand his job, 
but his therapy keeps my heart beating. 
In my dreams, we gallop until the suns and stars meet in glory. 

IV. 

This says to the world more than any poem, 
that I am before all else a lover of horses.
In my soul, my bloodstream. My very heart beat. 
Fascinating is that a human heart and a horse’s heart 
can begin to synchronize within 35 feet of each other. 
The only thing closer, I think, 
is when the mother is pregnant with her child. 
God knew before I was born, 
that my spirit belonged to the horse. 
My mother loved horses. 
My mother’s mother loved horses. 
I love horses. 
I'm a protector of them. 

V. 

I believe this love will be the last memory of mine,
as my final breath leaves my body. 
I hope that as I enter into the next light, I am granted 
a steed to ride the stars wildly and happily. 
If a shooting star you see, call me Joy as my hands
merge into one with the fire mane of my horse’s light. 
My laugh will be loud. My smile wide. 
I will send light. 
And my loved ones will know joy. 

© Gina Marselle, January 8, 2022

Note: This poem was inspired by a writing prompt shared by Liza Wolf Frances (https://saturdays-sirens.com/liza-wolff-francis/). We read a poem by Lisa Fay Coutley called: Letter to the Aftermath. We created a word bank to use in a poem we wrote. My word bank from Coutley’s poem was as follows: heart shape, fall, leaves, 73 °, sunny, plumes of white clouds, desert, mountain, chickens, dirt, son, leaves, tomatoes, horse snort, sun and stars, warm air, peaches, bruised pears, apples and dust. To learn more about the poet, visit here: https://lisafaycoutley.com/poems/.  
Self Portrait (Inside Horse’s Eye) with My Rescue Horse, Rafiq | Gina Marselle | Taken 12/30/2020

Welcome 2022

at precisely 11:54 p.m. last night my dog woke me up–

his cold nose in my face.

then I heard the knowing boom.

fireworks.

he hates fireworks.

he just wanted on the bed.

i moved over, he curled is 110 pound body in the curve of my legs,

he breathed a sigh of relief.

usually he soothes my anxious moments, now it’s my turn to soothe his.

as midnight grew closer, so did the fireworks, gunshots,

hoopla.

everyone in my house is asleep, except me.

listening, watching, waiting.

i almost missed the new year.

10, 9…

i am desperate for a new year like a whelped pup is for milk.

the wind is cold outside,

but the fireworks pop. pop. pop.

8, 7…

the soft rain isn’t keeping the merriness at bay.

i counted down earlier in the night with husband and son,

we did sparklers, sprayed silly string and threw pop-its.

we were merry–

ate moist donuts and juicy pomegranates.

6, 5…

watched Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, played chess, sipped Shirley Temples.

discussed resolutions: stay positive. move forward.

cherish the day.

count your blessings. one. day. at. a. time.

seek joy, love, and hope. always hope.

say your goodbyes (to my mom, Betty White)

4, 3…

may we finally see this pandemic turn into an endemic.

the world is worn out.

our Christmas tree lights seem to sparkle with more heart.

the rain falls with emphasis now, as the world eagerly celebrates.

2, 1…

Happy New Year.

—gina marselle, (C) 01.01.2022

Happy New Year | Midnight 2022 | Gina Marselle

Listen to the poem here: https://m.soundcloud.com/gina-marselle/welcome-2022

Release What Doesn’t Belong

by Gina Marselle, November 2020

“Alive and well–

release what doesn’t belong,”

a mantra imagines.

I release this worry, heavy like a crow

sitting empty on a branch

near a river’s edge–

without flight.

This pandemic is like a broken wing

filling my head with fear,

allowing anxiety to bear her weight.

Weighing my heart down until breath is shallow

weak, panicky:

breathe in to the count of 4

hold for the count of 4

exhale for the count of 8

4-4-8

again.

My breath feels weak, without belief.

Prayers are empty. The sky has little light.

Inhale.

A corner of the blue sky smells like lilacs in autumn–

jealous my lungs gulp deep.

I try to center.

Palpating the naked earth between my toes,

as the wind arouses my hair.

I seed my toes into the earth’s belly

experiencing the enormity of time.

Earth has survived all the pandemics.

What can I learn from her?

I am silent. Listening.

I hear her enormous gulps of air,

she sighs a tremendous breath.

She utters in a voice as endless as time,

“You are alive and well–

release what doesn’t belong to you.”

I gulp her breath as my own,

kiss it deep into my center–

whisper out this mantra

until the crow heals and takes flight.

The branch snaps back with strength, the weight lifted

and without fear, worry

dances carefree in the quiet breeze

as the early morning light lifts higher into a dim sky.

Like Me

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you. (44)

~from The Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu translation by S. Mitchell

Sometimes, sleep sits empty
on a brick wall.
It doesn’t waver or fall,
it’s thin smoke,
anxiety on a string
swaying in a spring breeze,
more gently than a tire swing—

like me.

I count how many likes on my poem,
posted on social media:
only one today;
six the other day;
zero the day before that–
and the poems sit empty
unread,
unliked,

like me.

Anxiety takes hold of my breath,
holds it hostage,
sucking life,
zipping it up in too tight of jeans
until stomach aches,
and vomit sneaks up the windpipe
never to escape.
But sits there, uncomfortable—

like me.

Even if my life is uneventful,
I still try
to make the day worth something.
I love the sunrise as much as breath,
I love the warmth radiating on my skin,
hands in dirt planting carrot seeds, beets
radishes for their vibrant colors
for their sweet or bitter taste,
hoping they take root—

like me.

My roots are not tied down to place,
but to memory,
to my children,
to poems,
even if unread—
my name ties them to earth
and root.
Showing the universe
I’m here.
Life has meaning
and, maybe, in that moment
that I posted that poem,
bravery stood up—

like me.

Sometimes, anxiety punches me in the gut,
knocks the wind right out of me
and maybe I’ll fall,
and then again, maybe I won’t.

Each morning that I wake up,
grateful for another chance…

© Gina Marselle, April 26, 2020

Take Root | April 2020| Image by Gina Marselle

Day 9

It’s been rainy for days

(or cloudy, or rainy then cloudy, then rainy and so forth).

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

R.E.M.’s song plays in my mind

over

and over

until my head literally aches,

until the news explodes

and anxiety turns to panic.

I can’t breathe!

Stop.

Inhale.

Exhale.

I can’t control this virus, which is infesting

our world like termites in drywall.

It is crumbling, the death toll is massive.

This pandemic is for the ages. History will learn

what to do, what not to do.

We can’t go outside. No parks, no stores, no school. No holding love ones.

My little boy sleeps in my California king size bed,

he is so tiny; his lips are fat. All I see is his newborn self.

In reality, he’s seven and big for his age.

Yesterday, he asked me, “How do I know if I have the virus?”

He says, matter-of-factly, “I asked Google, but she doesn’t know.”

I share, “You will have the worse cough of your life. Fever.”

“Don’t worry,” I say. “We are safe in our home.” (I hope, I say quiet in my mind).   

I remember when I nursed him, protected him in the cradle of my arms and breast.

I have an urge to do that now. Protect him.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

This pandemic is an apocalypse. It is like a Ray Bradbury sci-fi short story.

Except, it is true. This pandemic. This virus.

Hunting us like night owls chasing mice.

Call it what you will: SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19. Coronavirus.

#corona

#Istayhomefor

#alltogether

#flattenthecurve

#invisibleenemy

In Italy, 4,825 deaths. The world over 10,000, and we are still counting.

From Wuhan, China, to New York City.

Every continent except Antarctic.

Run.

But where?

I pray for so many. Where to begin?

My family, friends, doctors, nurses, the sick, world leaders, the Pope…

I write/pray well into the night. The candle is burning low.

I have to wonder, is it the end of the world?

God, is it?

I wear my blue glass rosary around my neck.

It touches my skin all day. 24 hours a day.

I am in prayer. It gives me strength, comfort.

I pray in between sips of coffee, in the silence

of morning.

In the blackness of 6:45 a.m.

This is no spring.

It has been rainy for days.

When will the sun shine again?

I see the glimpse of rays peeking through the cottonwoods.

I see a rainbow,

in the sky.

In my son’s drawings.

I take solace that my family is home safe.

I see little moments of hope. I watch on the news for

little glimmers of hope of people singing on balconies,

people emerging from lockdowns in China to finally photograph nature again.

When the Sun truly rises, when the virus is defeated

(hopefully), life will still

be here. It will be different. But it will still be here.

Maybe, the world will hold hands again

in peace

and joy

and thanksgiving.

I can only imagine.

But I have to have hope.

We are all in this together.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it

and I feel fine…

because I have hope. 

© Gina Marselle, March 22, 2020

9 days and counting…

Image taken by Gina Marselle from her car window using an iPhone 7 Plus, March 19, 2020