I like to scare myself

So I go to zoo reptile houses and put my face close to the glass tanks

I can hardly breathe as I gaze inside

Not knowing where the snakes are hiding,

Although I suspect they are coiled around branches or pooled into spirals.

Then I spy them, one by one: a tail dangles from the foliage,

A head pokes out of a hollow log

And it is a relief to know where the snakes are and that they cannot touch me.

I like to scare myself

So I swim out into the ocean as far as I can

Until I can barely see the shoreline and I cannot feel my wrinkled toes.

Sometimes the water is cold and murky,

Sometimes it reflects the sky

As I return to the beach slowly, tired by my exertions.

Feeling weak and heavy, before I reach halfway back

I begin to fear I will sink and drown

And it is a great relief when I stagger onto solid ground, pressing smooth pebbles down with my feet.

I like to scare myself

So I lie on the floor at night next to my bed and think of my small regrets:

The times I have not told my friends how I really felt,

When I refused to continue my piano lessons any longer,

Scowling in every photo from the ages of eight to eleven,

And staying indoors too often.

It is harder to find relief, but I tell myself until I drift into sleep

That I will not repeat those mistakes;

For there are new ones to be made.


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