They sneer at me
and their spiteful liquor
sends a flash of liquid lightning
scorching down my throat. It heats
the roots of my ribs
as it courses through my essential organs;
it stews within the cavern of my
stomach, sending its steam back
to bubble in my esophagus; it
dilutes through my digestion
until every part of me holds
a molecule of malice
and every nerve sparks.

Next morning I still throb
with thirst, and can still smell
the smoke of their smirks.
Back bent, shoulders shrunk, eyes
inverted to avoid
the shards of glances from those who know.
Trapped in a cocoon of muffled mutters
I stagger away from the remnants
of their reward. Back bent,
eyes down, hat pulled over
the drums that pound with shame.

Looking from the Outside

When I look at myself from the outside, I see someone who’s successful. I see someone who’s composed, eager, passionate and grounded. I see someone with a good sense of humor who’s willing to laugh at themself. I see someone who’s face many battles and come out strong. I see someone with boundless energy, who never wants to stop trying. I see someone beautiful. Someone whose expressions change with the mood and whose watchful eyes follow the quiet people, the ones who can’t speak out. Someone whose outsides change with the season, whose thick and vibrant hair pokes out from under cozy hats, whose bright face is punctuated by studs and rings. I see a tiny body vibrating with energy and pain. I see hands rough from a lack of self-care. I see skinny limbs wrapping around a broken heart. I see a spirit worn from what it has seen, a world of people full of pain and love and joy and heartbreak and betrayal and learning and power and gains and fear. I see an open heart willing to take in the greatest burdens in hopes that it will grow enough to help everyone it encounters. I see ears tender from listening to the voices all around it and a mouth well-used defending the rights of those they care about. I see a world of words pouring forth from their brain and an intensity of emotion boiling inside the small figure. I see marks on the pale skin, ridges built from pain too massive to contain. I see ready hands and a comforting smile. I see elegance; I see flaws. I see fear in the watchful eyes. I sense anxiety behind the comforting words. Nervous ticks punctuate their movement. I see sadness hidden behind the colorful attire. I see someone who acts like they know who they are but in reality is struggling and fearful of never knowing. I see someone who’s been trying and is afraid of the day when trying is no longer enough.



I’m in a bubble. No one can touch me. I can’t get out. I’m suffocating. All I can see are blurry images of what’s outside and pieces of myself and my mistakes reflected in the rounded surface around me, stretched and distorted to look bigger and uglier and repeated in the curves. Everyone’s image is bloated. Everyone’s voice is diluted. I could pop the bubble but it would end in a huge explosion; the residue would remain, splattered on my surface and those around me. And the people outside might not like what they see when the bubble no longer hides the worst of me in sparkling, smooth rainbows.


​The biggest mistakes I’ve made are the ones that anyone can see. White lines, brown lines. My skin a checkered canvas. A tally of each regret. Mostly hidden. All remembered. Every story. I can count them with my fingertips. Fifteen, sixteen in a row. Feel the ridges, taste the skin. My sad story written in the place that all can see.

“Candles for Orlando” By Tonie Bear — Burnt Pine

Candles for Orlando, June 15, 2016 Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. What happens in the span of a year is a blur of motion: feelings smeared across a moving train, purple sorrow, red hurt, green anger, and yellow fear. It’s a whirlwind of emotion, pain twisting around regret and spiraling into depression. But […]

via “Candles for Orlando” By Tonie Bear — Burnt Pine


Light a candle in the wind to watch it disappear.

We hug. We cry. We read the names. I’m really glad I’m here.

The friends and family that I love just fighting to survive,

I’ve never felt so dead inside yet never so alive.

A Perfect Silence


In my knee socks
and mini Mary-Janes, I used to consider
absolute silence.
A perfect and still expanse,
I imagined, invisible yet palpable
thick as fog and clear as spring ice.
I’d clasp my ears,
body tucked into the dark corner
of a closet, buried
in a forest of clothes,
eyes shut for emphasis.
No breath or movement interfered.
Nothing tickled the air.
I puffed my cheeks
to hold in squeaky breath,

But my body thrummed with life,
spoiling any chance at perfection—
hands like seashells at my ears
echoing the demands of the sea;
blood washed through me
and a piercing ring
screamed into all the corners and folds
as if terrified
of something so incomprehensible
as perfect silence.

No matter where you go, must there always be noise?

I could never feel
what must be so peaceful.
A softened stillness free from roars
and rumbles, scrapes and screams.
I was always hearing
wiggles from across the house
voices through the vent
aching strains of music stretching up the stairs.

What is it like to be deaf?
To not even comprehend
what sound is, just as I
will never fully understand
the perfect silence?

In the Wake of Rain


I lie to the part in the back of me
about people and places in my life
blaming them for the screams
disguising subtle, sneaky thoughts
that curl in the corners of my mind,
dark wisps of snide hope
tingling with unholy answers.

If my other part
knew the truth
heard the screams
or saw the snips of wisping hope,
the silence
would never be allowed to come in.



There will be complete silence at the end,
maybe in the coffin.
Sealed and consumed in the Earth
packed tight so no errant sounds
can squeeze their way
down through the airtight particles
and thick, musty wood.
I imagined the rich darkness
and thick cool silence
like welcome water
gushing over every inch of me.
I am destined for a box
and my silence waits for me there.

There must be a way
to find the coffin
must have
a way.

But now
an ongoing narrative
fills the gaps.
I pick the right words
like tender berries
careful not to squish
the truth I craft
and the bright, blank paper in my mind
as the two of us wait
for that secure coffin
and its inviting silence.

Last Taken 1-25-14 192

Her Hat

I wore her hat today.
She tossed it at my bare head
citing resistance to the cold.
I should have smiled,
allowed myself to catch and cuddle
this rare show of affection—
but I turned away instead
and shoved my hair into the wooly packet
tugging it down over my face
to hide my frown.

It enclosed my head, holding tight,
the ear flaps dangling in my periphery.
Was this the way she saw the world?
Framed by the warmth of the black and white stripes?
Did the hat harbor her secrets?
Did it catch her thoughts,
tuck them into the folds and creases
along with the stray strands of bright orange hair?
I closed my eyes and listened.

The air was sharp and cold
and I was glad for the thick protection of the hat
as we trekked up the Butte.
I could only see her back
as she joined the faster members of the group
and even when I caught up
she seemed closed off
lost in the vastness of the mountain
eyes only for the blackness of the hills on the horizon—
her new love.

The hat settled on my head
and whispered that my novelty had worn off.
I picked at the wool in retaliation
but the broody mumbling notions didn’t leave.
I watched her hike up and past the looming folds of hill
journeying to the top with the bravest of the group.
I stayed behind. Her back vanished
and I was alone on the path with the hat
whispering its tiny revelations
mediocre thoughts of disenchantment
that may have belonged to her.

I perched on a rock and took off the hat
pressing my nose into the residual warmth
and smelling the earth and pine she left in her wake.
The orange hairs, curly stowaways, wiggled in the wind
but the whispers persisted.
Maybe she was tired after all.

A few of her hairs
tucked themselves to my scalp
and joined me on my pillow that night,
her hat tucked back in her suitcase.

They say you never know a person till you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
I walked two miles in her hat—
I think I have an idea.3-22-15 102