Suicide *Trigger Warning*

so many thoughts racing through my head…remembering how they stripped me of my belt, my shoe laces…and my dignity. bipolar I is not fun and somehow I always feel like I have offended and/or hurt every one I have ever encountered…i wish I could go one by one and say “I’m sorry…” if you happen to read this and are one of those people, please take this as my apology.

The Dopamine Queen

Start at the beginning.

The summer before sophomore year of high school, when I was a few months shy of 16, I broke up with my first boyfriend. I was devastated; no one ever taught me how to deal with heartbreak and the emotions attached. I had a really hard time and lashed out in a million ways. I hit on my ex-boyfriend’s best friends. I tried drugs and drinking heavily. I skipped curfew and stayed out all night driving my parents insane and worrying them half to death. I chain smoked cigarettes out of my bedroom window and cut classes. I took a secret trip to the village in New York to get a tattoo without parental consent. I shoplifted clothes and jewelry. I was spiraling out of control. On my oh so sweet sixteenth birthday I tried to kill myself. Razor to the wrist. Two deep long cuts…

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an old woman’s smile

an old woman’s smile
“you can tell how old i am by my hands.”
she said, as she stretched her fingers to me
and indeed i could trace her journey through life
as clearly as reading the rings on a tree
she rotated each hand and showed me her palms
as though i would like to read the many lines
but she shook and trembled and i saw only a blur
so i gathered her hands in mine
“it isn’t important how old you are.”
i told her as i looked into her tired eyes
your face tells the story of where you have been
loving the land, the sea, and the skies
she slowly pulled back her hands from mine
and smiled as if angels had appeared
and said, “thanks, you’ve made an old homeless woman smile.”
and all it took was to show that somebody cared
. tolbert

ode to a tuesday morning in november

sometimes these things are written before i can know it…
and they are almost pre-memories…60-second writes if you
will. but i post anyway because the melody i hear still plays
after my words are gone and i love the song.


ode to a tuesday morning in november
(written on the final day of may, a friday)

some memories are not memories at all

they exist like sand on the beach
sounds of waves crashing or lapping

the taste of coffee
or smell of freshly ground coffee beans

memories that emerge as new experiences
yet are there before today

you are a memory and yet as you sleep
i watch and my mind goes to places
normally reserved for my fingertips

with closed eyes i can visit the contour of your lips
feel the rise and fall of your breasts as you sleep

your sounds are familiar
but are they memories?

music is a memory,
songs that cause me to visit yesterday

i see you there, in my song
and i love the melody

i love you

street signs

street signs

if you and i were street signs
what would our intersection be?

would we stand in some pacific ocean town?

there would surely be one-way streets
and cobblestone walkways
descending hills
and room for lovers to stroll
hand in hand

we would face diagonally

our streets would take lovers
to multi-directional places
where flowers arch towards the sun

does santa barbara
roll enough for your smile?

is mendicino dotted enough
with pastels?

lets stand together
and for one morning we can be street signs
and watch others walk by

lets mark it on the map

a southeast corner
where white roses and daisies grow

street corners



street corners

street corners never bothered me
railroad tracks were my friend
my worst times were always on tuesday
and november was the years end

i never cared much for windy days
but i always loved the rain
sunday remained as a day of praise
but on monday i was a sinner again

i am nobody’s child with no real start
i have oftentimes walked alone
and i know now it has broken my heart
i realize those yesterdays are gone

still, street corners don’t bother me
railroad tracks will always be my friend
sometimes i stand still to see what i see
and what i see in the distance; only the end


sometimes things are not as they seem. i met william in a nondescript park setting many years ago while handing out bologna and cheese sandwiches to those who had no bologna and cheese sandwiches. he was grateful. i was inspired. thank you william.




his notepad was wet and stained
from tear drops and blowing rain
still void of words he wished to someday say
the lead in his pencil was dull and round
no longer making that scratching sound
because life and loss had gotten in his way
he had circled around life one day at a time
with poetry and music blending in his head
but now, for weeks on end nothing would rhyme
and the sound of the music was dead
one day he crawled beneath the park bench
a place he had for so long called his home
with his blunt pencil he scribbled lines of feeling so alone

his final lines became his epitaph
to be spoken in the little non-denominational church
by the lakeside park and winding path

“i asked for little
and i got the same
but more little than i knew you had

please remember when i tell you
that the gap between little and nothing
left me with nothing from the little you had

i was left with fewer words than you could ever know
so please never let another poet die
before it’s his time to go”

the pastor closed his book and looked to the gathered few
most of whom knew only the man’s name
and of the tedious tasks he could do

to each was given a folded paper
as the pastor continued to speak

“this folded paper you have been given
is from william, his last work when he was living

you see, william felt he had a terrible stain
and now asks whether you or i can do more
to help lonely poets who die in the rain

with dull pencils and wet pads
he made these lines from his heart
and each was signed with sincerity on his part

those who had gathered were surprised
and when they unfolded the pieces of paper
tears welled in their eyes

“william spoke his epitaph to me”, the pastor explained
“for you see, this poet whose thoughts you have all heard
yearned to write not just lines but even real words
but all he could manage were scribbles and tears
an illiterate man, he told no one all through the years
so, when you think of this man and the words you desired
remember his lines and how your hearts were inspired


to william:
a man of few words
yet none

his story


a man sleeping on bench done
his story
two tattered brown suitcases at his feet
rested more comfortably than he could
shifting, he stretched out on the wooden bench
rain-soaked and cold
he pulled newspaper pages over his body
headlines of city news and local disappointments
obituaries no longer mattered
only names and vanity photos with short verses
and lies of how their lives might have been
no one page was warmer than another
there was no heart in wedding announcements
no spiritual awakening in church listings
it was cold, tuesday in late november
pages of the yadkin ripple lay draped over his face
yet he had not read any, words were but a blur
he wondered about life, listening to words he spoke
curious about choices he made, turns he had taken
there were no photographs of his life, no events
only two tattered brown suitcases knew his story
the places he had seen, the lies he had told
the bedrooms he had passed through to bring him here
he pulled another page to his eyes, covering his face
looking closely at wedding announcements and obituaries
wondering if he had yet made the news in either

**i sent a note to the yadkin ripple letting them know i was using
their name here. i now say ‘thank you’ in advance.



maybe it was her smile
maybe the way she rested
holding the tree steady
as if the world could breathe
when she relaxed

i suppose i will never know if she saw me
camera in hand, panning
as though following some imaginary deer
fleeing the shaded cool
as easily as i followed her
in her stillness

her lightness was measured in
some way i could never explain
lifted by her smile
as if my own burden escaped me
for a moment

laughter has never come easily for me
yet for a moment the effervesce
bubbling from within
seemed familiar
and i wanted it as my own

the conversant sound of my camera’s click
as i quickly gathered her
into my own piece of forever
told me she was as real
as the tree against which she rested

her smile became my own
and as i walked away
a young doe pounced from the bushes
but i had no need for a photo

i looked back at the tree



(photo of rita    carlsbad, CA   november 2018)



one-way street

you stood right there
sat on that chair
walked beside me
then without words
without goodbye
you were gone

i stood right there
sat on that chair
walked beside you
wishing for words
even to say good bye
but instead
you were gone

i once broke life into years
then months
and finally, hours and minutes
until i stood alone

we had no guarantees
and all measured time
was broken into fragments
memories and word pictures
of empty chairs
wreckage where goodbye

while i stood alone, waiting
you were gone
without goodbye
you were gone
and life was as i thought

a one-way street