September 14, 2023

One Cut, 1965: How my First also became my Last.

Gulp. I glanced back at mom, dad, and my little sister and waved goodbye.

Was that walk onto the airplane a long one filled with fear? No. Was it a short skip and hop beaming with excitement? No.

It was numb…neutral.

I was flying alone, a 14-year-old sitting among strangers on a one-way flight from Maryland to Arizona. I had no idea for how long of a stay. My parents had purchased a one-way ticket for me.

I had a long enough journey on this flying piece of metal, filled with strangers, to sink into the dark recesses of my troubled mind to figure out the why. Had it occurred back in the winter? Cold days, blustery nights, with darkness arriving too early to lay a shroud over the late afternoon. Had darkness then descended on me too?

Here I sit, alone;
Listening to the sounds,
The tones.
The rustling of leaves…
The noise of the drills as they
Crack the hard cement.
The shrill of childrens’ laughter.
The rolling of skates.
The gossip of neighbors.
Yet here I sit alone.
Excluded, an outcast. (1964)

Or had it crept into my heart, my head, on a sunny spring day. Birds singing, flowers blooming, the once bare trees proudly budding with green leaves that whispered soft tunes. Darkness. So. Much. Darkness. Numb. Neutral. Raw.

Blank, then chaos…sadness.

How long did I sit there—the razor blade, shiny and new, in my left hand? Did I look from my left hand to my right wrist, back and forth like watching a tennis match? But, this was no game. Was it minutes? Was it hours? I do not recall. So. Much. Darkness. Numb. Neutral. Raw.

Blank, then chaos…sadness.

Love falls into love,
Like time into endless time.
Whispered silences break the agony
Of a joyless past.
Masses of human flesh
Mechanically carry on
Routine promises and necessities,
People become stars
The world is a solar system
Love is lost. (1965)

One slice, timid, slightly off center. On purpose? Probably. Then a shadow, a large shadow; dad had come upstairs. I never heard his footsteps, cushioned against the thick carpeting. No words, no action, just a look: Fear? Worry? I read, disappointment. A word I would associate with letting someone down. However, it was not disappointment he was projecting—it was love and concern.

Hushed voices drifted up the staircase, sometimes words slipped into fractured Finnish. Darkness. So. Much. Darkness. Numb. Neutral. Black. Raw. Chaos. Mom was making a phone call, muffled voices.

My darkness was packed into a Samsonite suitcase, blue, and shipped a couple thousand miles west. A plan to let me live with my strict, but kind, uncle and his strict, but good, wife, and my three cousins. Did it—the experiment to ship me away—work?

My rebel spirit unleashed, my darkness tucked away in deep corners. Did I bring chaos to the orderly family life? I think not; I hope not. My aunt wanted me to stay a year, attend school with my cousin, and go to her church with them. My rebel spirit resisted and won. I was, and will always be, grateful to the five of them. Grateful for the family trips to explore Arizona, and even enjoy a day in Nogales, Mexico. I had a good time with my cousins.

But darkness was still there. Buried deeper, but I knew that tentative cut would be the first—and the last. My rebel spirit unleashed a creative chaos instead. My poetry would reveal softer sides of me, lighter glimpses into my chaos. My artwork would complement the words: darkness and lightness. Shadows and brightness. Black and white, along with color.

The scar remains, many decades later. It is a reminder of my strength, even when the darkness tries to cloud a sunny day.

Fair child, fly high
For the light of the loved
Shines eternally. (circa 1966)


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