photo by Wilson Alvarez
They prey on our fear.
On the throat tightening, chest constricting, cold sweat, chills
We are made to feel alone,
cut off from one another in a strange and terrible
kind of loneliness.
We are social creatures
made to roam in packs
hand and hand,
with babies on backs and at bare breasts,
quiet feet leaving soft prints
in the sandy
Away from the earth and each other we are frightened,
lost in a sea of sadness,
easy to control.
And they use our fear to keep us that way.
Afraid of loss, of losing what little we have left,
our land, our homes,
and beautiful families,
we keep going,
day in and day out
in a race we were never meant to win.
Fear is the handcuffs that bind our wrists,
the lock on the door behind which we are kept,
half crazy and mad
But if it is the fear that keeps us caged,
their best weapon against us,
then it is not them we must fight,
Because our fear comes from within,
from all the broken places with shadowy wings,
It is born from our own ugliness,
the parts of ourselves we can’t bear
the fragile things
we carry down deep
for fear of breaking.
But when we lift them,carefully, to the light,
with the same tenderness one would use
to carry a bird with a broken wing,
they are not so ugly after all.
We are not so ugly after all.
When we carry our fears into the light
they are sparkly things, shy,
every color of the rainbow
like a thousand prisms of light.
Bright, like a million stars.
Our fears are what we make them.
Step into the light.
Thank you for listening,
photo by Michelle Johnsen
photo/cover by Yank and Kevin Tucker
I wrote Liminal because I wanted to face some of my biggest fears. Being separated from my child, from my husband and those I love. Raising a child in a collapsing ecosystem. Loving the earth in a time of so much loss. Death. Violence. Endings. Beginnings.
This project, and the writing I’m doing through The Year, are showing me that we have tools to face our fears before they consume us, or paralyze us, or turn us into zombies or monsters.
Writing is one of those tools for me, and it has allowed me to bring so much of my own darkness out into the light.
Thank you for listening to me all of these days.
In a world without direction
I am no longer lost.
I’m still afraid of many things,
but in some ways writing liminal has helped.
Here is an excerpt.
I hope you like it.
If you’d like to help us publish it, follow the link below.
I love you. I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
by Natasha Alvarez
The winter before everything changed I was lost.
I’d descend the 25 wooden steps to the basement only to stand vaguely, hands empty, gazing, eyes blurred, at the boxes of forgotten belongings. Outdated sweaters, old magazines, baby toys too precious and memory soaked to part with. Pieces of my life, folded and stacked, put away, smelling vaguely of sage and lavender. Scents to keep the moths away, with their soft and papery wings.
Or I’d walk to the mailbox and open the small door, just to look inside, needing to see something empty. Cobwebs in the back, silvery threads, tiny eyes. A look at the lives of those accustomed to living in darkness.
I think my heart already knew what my brain refused to accept
And maybe it was better that way, really.
We celebrated Magda’s 1st birthday today. It’s impossible for me to believe that she is the same creature I felt stirring under my heart just a year ago.
She blew out her candles. It was cold, and the smoke from the small extinguished flame mixed with our breath at her small outdoor party. She wiped frosting in her hair, pink and blue mixing with her own baby yellow, the color of straw. Soft, like feathers.
The leaves are turning red and yellow. We scoop up great bunches of them and throw them into the air, watch them rain down, twirling. Magda is just beginning to walk. She holds both of my hands tight, arms up, like she’s balanced on a tightrope. Sometimes she lets go. She is brave.
She likes to ride on Ronin’s shoulders, tiny hands wrapped in his hair. She laughs and points, notices the birds in the trees and the geese overhead. Sings to the Owls at dusk. Hoo-hoo. Hoo-hoo. Her first words are bird calls. It seems fitting somehow. Small winged things able to brush the sky.
We take her walking by the creek near our house, under the big Sycamores with their camoflage bark, limbs stretched high into blue, blue sky. We take off our shoes and socks and dip our feet in, making the most of these last sunny days while it’s still a little bit warm.
The water is cold and Magda squeals. She bends down and wants to drink it, and we have to tell her again and again, it’s yuck, poison, will surely make her sick. We stick out our tongues and she laughs, thinking it’s a game. She is obviously expecting to drink the water here in this beautiful world, our spinning blue-green planet. I don’t know what to tell her. I also, cannot understand.
How people could have broken something,
that was never theirs to break.
Magda is 12 months old.
Magda was born in the fall.
On the autumnal equinox. On the day when dark is equal to light. During the in between, when the dazzle of summer is just giving way to decay.
I dreamed of horses while pregnant. And the great redwood forests along the Pacific coast. Stallions and mares, Wild and free, running in herds through the open plains, clouds of dust filling the sky. And the giant limbs of the Sequioas, soft, mossy ground, the huge trees towering high above me.
That morning the sky rose pink over the blazing blooms of Jerusalem Artichokes that filled the yard, making a golden forest that you could not see around, or walk through. We were safe there, hidden from view, tucked away with the Goldfinches and the Warblers, singing their sweet songs.
She was born like a prayer, with me on my knees at the foot of our small bed, clutching Ronin like a wild thing caged as our baby struggled to break free.
Our cries came together, my last and her first, an ancient howling that shook the walls and spoke of shifting bones and watery worlds. My last labor wail a final gift of life.
Pink lipped and rosy cheeked,
They laid her on my belly and wrapped us together in blankets, a warm reception for weary travelers. We rested, heads on Ronin’s chest, and she ate, the first sucks soft, like the tickle of small and colorful wings.
Before I knew you, I already loved you.
And when I heard your name, I recognized it,
Like an ancient memory written in my bones.
The bees are dead.
We opened the hive to check on them one last time before the killing frost and they were already gone, curled and still on the bottom of the hive, and the ground around our feet, their small home eerie without the constant crawling movement of many. Complete collapse.
Ronin gently helped me gather up handfulls of them while Magda played by her swingset, making noise with some toys on a blue blanket on the ground. We buried the bodies in the garden, next to the small pear tree, already bare and waiting for spring.
The squirrels are building their nests. They’re quick, and they work hard, carrying mouth full after mouth full of red and yellow leaves up the trunk to the highest branches of the Old Spruce tree at the edge of the yard. The day we buried the bees, we forgot Magda’s fuzzy, blue blanket in the yard. Yesterday I picked it up to bring it back inside and noticed little holes where they must have chewed with sharp teeth, stealing downy strands for the center of their cozy nests. I smiled, thinking of the small, furry body nestled in soft cotton and dreamy sky blue, scented sweet, like Magda. I left the blanket where it was.
Magda and I watch them, through the big picture windows, in the morning over breakfast, eating bacon and eggs, or oatmeal and bananas. Last year, they devoured most of the corn out of the garden and drove Ronin crazy. This year, the stray neighborhood cat kept them at bay, a large orange Tom with long whiskers and green eyes. Sometimes we leave him treats, tuna fish and sardines, chicken and beef, our leftovers from dinner and lunch. Gourmet table scraps for a visitor acquainted with the streets. A small offering of thanks. For protection.
Magda is cutting teeth. For many months now she’s had just the two little chiclet ones on the bottom. Chompers we call them. But now the others are coming in all at once and it bothers her some days. We give her chamomile, and oatstraw, lemon balm tea sweetened with golden honey, precious drops we collected from the bees last year, when they still buzzed with life. She nurses more.
I bought cow’s milk, raw, from the farm down the road. She was with me, and we marveled at the large animals, watched them eating, one slow mouthful after the other. I showed her where the milk came from and she laughed. Smooth, pink udders, nearly brushing the floor. But she won’t drink it, not from a bottle, and not even warm with cinnamon.
We still have time. We still have time together. And, I tell myself, she’ll be much older by then, won’t really need milk to survive. And it will be hard to get I’d think, afterwards. But still I worry. So hard and so often that I think my heart will break.
Magda is 13 months old
Ronin’s dark curls and crinkly eyes were still years off when I agreed to The Plan. He didn’t exist for me yet, that cold night I pressed my warm hands palm to palm with the others in a show of truth, honesty and commitment. A small and simple gesture to seal our fate.
The night I wiped my salty tears from my cheeks and felt my heart pounding it’s support.
That was the only time I’ve cried.
Things felt very clear to me then, before my edges were softened by love.
I should have been more careful.
Should not have let your rough hands kneed the kinks out of my neck, or caress my face with the gentlest touch. Should not have let you point to the stars and talk about space, the endless size of the universe, the intricate process of birthing planets.
I should not have let you kiss me with soft lips, or hold me close and whisper in my ear, or unbutton my pants with careful hands.
I should not have let you say I love you.
I could have stopped you. Could have run the other way, acted cool, aloof.
And that’s why you’ll hate me. When it’s all said and done. Because this could have been avoided, all the pain, all the heartache, the broken promises, the lies.
So many secrets, parts of my life you’ve never known. Letters, written in code, slipped into the hands of black-clad couriers, in the shadows near the edge of the street lamps.
Phone calls. From seedy payphones and throw away cells.
Brief cases, duffel bags. The workshop in the basement of the empty house. I saw the questions in your eyes, the confusion. I tried to kiss it away, to joke, and shower you with love. But still you must have wondered. The guilt so heavy I covered all our mirrors in our house to avoid the look in my own eyes.
But that all stopped years ago, when the plan moved from planning stage to waiting. Long before Magda was born. Even before I peed on the stick, 2 little lines the only sign of new life within.
Did I make a mistake? In the heat of the moment, wrapped in your embrace, did I miss my own body’s small signals, signs of fertility? Or did I choose not to notice, chose to ignore the possibility of conception that night and instead buried my face in your neck?
Because I wanted a baby. The thing we never talked about. my longing. Oh we discussed it many times, how an earth in collapse was no place to raise a child. How the air, and , water, and soil were poisoned, in no shape to support new life. But I ached to be a mom, To watch my flat belly swell, to feel my breasts grow heavy with milk. To make a family with you.
Was that a mistake? Magda is a gift, to both of us. She lights up the world. Was it wrong to want that? To bring her here?
Knowing what I’ve known all along?
I’ve been careful, your safety has always been my number one concern. I never led them here, and you will have help in the days that follow. I have made sure of all that.
I shouldn’t have let you in.
But I did.
Thank you for reading!
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