The Ache

by Priscilla Barton Must you live the blues to sing the blues? No, but it helps. Experience is often key. Does a poet have to remove a major organ in order to bleed across the ...

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by Priscilla Barton

Must you live the blues to sing the blues? No, but it helps. Experience is often key. Does a poet have to remove a major organ in order to bleed across the page? No, but it sometimes happens. We are more than capable of making a thing our own during its creation. In most cases, we leave the ache behind once the poem has been completed. However, there are those times the poet exposes his or her own truth, and the ache is ongoing. As a civilized people, we try not to hurt each other, but sometimes do. If you're a poet, and the receiver of this ache, it can lead you to some wonderful poetry - especially if you're a bleeder.

So many of us are embarrassed by emotional pain. Even our closest friends won't be told "I have this ache in my heart, and my hands don't look familiar." If I broke my arm, everyone would know what to do. After much activity, I would be tended to, all damage set right; a pinch on the cheek, and down the road to recovery. Next. Books have been written carefully instructing readers how to rid themselves of the ache. Many psychiatrists will advise you to hold on to the ache, examine it, try to understand why you chose that particular pain. Is the ache self-inflicted? Am I responsible for my own pain? Maybe so. Maybe I'm just sad. Maybe I'm just a whiner. As a poet, I hope I'm contagious and able to pass on the ache. Temporarily, of course. Nothing hurts forever. Tomorrow, I dance.

For now, I offer you a product of the ache:

Holding To Air

You are like the word absent - not in the sense
of being gone, but the way one can tell something

is missing. The bees in my blood work honeycomb
bones, hoard a sweetness gone untasted. The night

you touched me with jaded hands, I locked myself
in the bathroom and cried. You are filled with sand,

and no longer fit inside me. I am kept at a distance
created by desert eyes. The first word I ever spoke

was no, and it became my mantra. Yes has always
tried to kill me. I would rather lean into the blade

than fall away in pieces. How is it you never once
heard me scream? I leave you the image of bones

and honey, and a blue bowl filled with dead bees.


This next piece was written by a very good friend of mine. He happens to be the best poet in the world. (he paid me to say that) I hope you like it as much as I do.


because that's what you did. from the moment
you spoke to me of babies, it became
a lie, another empty space to be filled.
words. used only to line shelves with,
used in kitchen drawers so the silverware
doesn't rattle around and keep you awake nights.
my mistake was in believing them,
looking for connotation, denotation, substance,
significance. latinate rhyming words.
you lie in anglo-saxon, short words
shorn of nuance, words that are hard
to lie with. you were hard to lie with.
lacking words in your bed, you rattled
like the silverware, danced like the china
in your cabinets, cupboards, you called them.
past sunset, without light to tie then down,
things made rackets in your kitchen, danced
in your bathroom, small objects floated
in your living room. words like cotton wadding
fell from your mouth and kept things tight,
words of the proper size and weight.
after lovemaking, you would levitate.
leave the bed, until you cupped your hands
and called from the ceiling `I love you'.
carrying those words you would drop like
a stone. you said you loved me
just because those words were ballast
on your eyelids and helped you sleep.

by Jesse Weiner

Because first appeared in Mind The Gap and is reprinted here with their kind permission.