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Neurological Sudoku, by Sariah Starr

I left her office after being shaken

like an etch-a-sketch.

The emotion coming just to the

surface in my chest, my gut, my breath.


When her fingers finish shaking me

from the inside I return to find the

emotion so I can feel it the way

I like to feel it in cycles.

Like a drum beat. Like a song.


I return, and the screen is

blank with only an outline of

what I felt was growing

too big to hold just minutes before.

Just like that--one corner of my

puzzle solved.

Neurological Sudoku, but only the

simplest section complete.


I try not to think of the rest of me

that is left to be sorted and shaken.

I try not to stare at the paper

worn thin from scratching

through and erasing.

As though one more wrong

attempt with dissolve

a part of me.


I rise and feel the gaze of the

concrete slightly gripping each

step of my sea legs while I smile

because I'm not so heavy,

and I trust each step that feels

more solid beneath me.

I will trust this more when

I reach the outside and

I'm not crying that the sun

is too bright in my eyes.

No one ever said I had to look

directly in its light to get to

where I'm going.


There is serenity in knowing that

although I am lighter I

carry more of my responsibility.

It weighs me down just enough

to not get caught in the tailwinds.


As I'm leaving she guides me to

self care, and I try to think of

salt baths and soft music

I try to think of dark chocolate

and Netflix, but my dopamine

rushes when I think

the "P" in poetry.


They say you cannot heal in

isolation, but what if poetry

is my long lost friend?

the one who taught me to speak

in the language of my soul's native tongue?


My self care is practicing my language.

Laying out the words for the feelings that have become knotted up

and twisted until

they have choked me.


"No one thinks clearly when there

isn't enough oxygen" I say gently

to the girl who ran with her hair

unruly in her underwear.

She was crying, but no one could hear

her because she had forgotten

the language of emotion.


Poetry connects me to the

past versions of myself.

Each voice trying to teach me the

way I should get the love out.

Each voice with a strategy

that is certain.

"Certain to fail," I am forced to tell them.


Still I give them the pen and the paper.

They scribble love's postulate

while the beat of my heart

encourages them.

Then my hope rises until

I realize the oxygen is missing

again. I am tied in knots and

bleeding again.


I'm finally caught up to the

woman who knows there is no

postulate for me.

She isn't sad about it.

Not like she used to be.


I honored each version of me that

wrote down her story.

I embraced them and sent them

on their way never saying

that they still had it wrong.

One by one I loved them,

and excused them for not knowing

how to make love stay.


It takes loving in the light

It takes accepting there is

a fire that will not grow

dim in avoidance


I cannot put out the fire

when it is burning in darkness,

but I can choose when to sleep.


I can choose to honor the flame

when the world calls me

coward because I've already

been burned in the darkness

and I love the flame too much

to see it weep.




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