Trembling heart / by Christina Rosalie

Sometimes my heart feels like a starfish belly: outside me, devouring the things I love. Sometimes it feels like an urchin’s purple back: a hundred quills around its pliant center. Sometimes it’s like the soft belly of a cat: turning to the sunlight, thrumming with internal delight. Sometimes it’s hard to have a heart this tender, this wide open to other people’s grief.

At work we’re just finally now sorting through the relics of trauma that we’ve carried like splinters through the school year. I’m more okay than many others, in part, because I was new there, and also because I am young and resilient. The middle kid in my family. The peace maker. The relativist who can see both sides, while still seeing the cup half full. I wasn’t rooted, familiar with the way 'things always were.' The lives lost weren’t ones I knew.

And yet, oh and yet, it is so very hard for me to sit in a room with everyone’s emotions running high like floodwaters, just below the surface of their pale blue veins. So hard to see their faces hurt, to see the different sides, to see the grief and feel it all. I try to envision a protective shield to stop some of it from saturating, but the sorrow and loss and anger that fills the building, and eddies as two people pass in the halls, is so present, so tangible, I can’t shake it off. I am devastated, still. And then I read in the paper about the little girl in Portugal, abducted from her hotel room, or about sweet|salty’s beautiful tiny premie boys and my heart feels pulpy and fragile and broken open all over again, as if sorrow were a new ingredient in air.

I came home exhausted today. I think I’ve come home exhausted all year. I thought I was the only one, but in the past two days of meetings, everyone says they’ve been ungodly tired, sleepwalking through the days. Someone said it was like we were trying to fix four flats on a car with the car still moving. And it has really been like that, post trauma, moving full throttle forward because of the wide eyed kids who want to learn about the arctic and the desert and addition and how to spell the word miss-iss-ipp-i.

Then I stumbled on this: I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes on to the next as blossom, and so that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova