Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trash Don't Breathe

I was reminded by Becky and Diane's recent blog posts to just live in the moment. Yesterday, I decided to push away the noise and just take in my surroundings. As both women point out in their reflections, this was no easy task. It was difficult first to block out all of the visual stimulation around me.

As an artist, I don't just look at images. I constantly analyze the parts, look for relationships between parts, pull insights from what my eyes reveal, and try to find connections between my eyes' experience and whatever's going on in my life at that instant. This process sounds laborious, but this is how my brain works.

My mind raced constantly...jumping from one visual image to another. Bounding and leaping from textures on tree trunks, lights flashing from cell phone headsets, the sun's rays reflecting off of asphalt casting this blanket of glowing mist over the cars on the road making their paint appear to be the same color --a monochromatic grey. At some point, I began to realize the physiological impact that this marathon of thought was having on my body.

Within seconds I could tell that my abdomen muscles were tense, tightened and my overall constitution was unrelaxed. It occurred to me at that point that I wasn't even breathing. I was literally holding my breath. I realized that I sometimes forget to breathe when concentrating on something. Since I am constantly analyzing things, I noticed how often it must be that I forget to breathe. However, breathing shouldn't be so remote from my thinking. Breathing is second nature. Yet sometimes, something as natural as breathing can be so foreign to me.

Instantly I was flooded with a childhood memory of being locked in a trash can. My immediate reaction to being held captive in a trash receptacle was to fight my way out. But the confinement of that small space restricted my movement. I had surrendered to the reality that I was trapped. The realization of my predicament intensified by my limited air supply and coupled with the shear darkness ignited anxiety within me, and I could feel anew the initial tension that riveted my body from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. Every muscle in my body was tense. Clothes drenched within minutes. I competed with the moisture for air. Thick breathe saturated my skin. My heart raced. I grew faint. I withdrew.

I don't often conjure this memory. Perhaps it's because in doing so the thoughts produce the same physiological reaction in my body. I can feel my heart racing as I type. Or maybe it's because the irony of my being locked in a trash can-- thrown away like refuse-- transcends it's literal meaning. It's hard to remember a time in my childhood when I felt of greater value than garbage. That reflection prompted this poem:

Refuse don't make connections.
Like revelations from conversations ladened with heavy accents from remotely located customer service reps named Chad,
I'm not making the connections.
I'm so thrown away
That I'm disconnected.

Of no use to you,
I'm trash.
Deported to the distant dumping ground of dis-ease,
I am devoured in this space.
Treated like a second-class
Citizen, and
You're not making the connection.

Dampened and detached from breathing--
A foreign concept--
What should be common place
Don't come natural for me.
'Cuz trash don't breathe, and
While you go on living American
I heave in Chinese.

Confined by the language barrier
I squeeze my chest.
I'm so busy gasping
for breathe that
I wheeze.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I'm a second class citizen accustom to garbage.
And the assimilation stunted my growth.

Operator please,
I'm inhaling, and exhaling a heavy mist of malaise
In on again, off again
Fits and starts.
I'm in over my head, cuz
Over my head
There's that synthetic ceiling and
I'm not making the connections.


Rory said...

You express things eloquently and powerfully. I could barely get beyond where you talked about being thrown away...that conjured up so many emotions for me! It makes me angry that ANYONE would literally be treated like garbage...makes me think of times I've made people feel that way with my words...You truly bring new light to the portion in Isaiah where it says that He gives beauty for ashes. What a treasure we would've missed out on had you been figuratively or literally left in refuse. You are that beauty, and thank you for sharing your heart. I know it's always risky, but you've just made a bunch of other folks feel like they might be worth something. Now that's Jesus!

Carrie said...

So eloquent and raw. Reading these words made my heart hurt. Thank you for being so vulnerable. You are beautiful through and through!

Diane Davis said...

powerful poem.
brave post.
grateful reader.

Sarah said...

Thank you.

Kristi said...

There is so much about you that I don't know...I'm enjoying reading your posts...and your poetry is strong and beautiful (a lot like it's author)

Deva said...

People should read this.


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