Honest; a poem by Jeanette LeBlanc


There was wine in a small round mason jar,
dark burgundy like old blood and older memories and the lipstick I save
for the deepest nights and fullest moons.

The name on the bottom of that tube of lipstick tube says Shame.
I just call it Honest.

There were hours of tears that marked my face.
I call those honest too.
I’ve lied before, no doubt.
But never with tears.
if I told you that was true, would you believe me?

And there was the dancing with ghosts,
calling them in on purpose and asking them to stay.
There was the telling of the story that is a reality that is a memory that is a mythology that is eternal inside of me.
The getting lost in the letters on torn pages and napkins from coffee shops, almost illegible words scrawled in black ink.
They are known just the same,
known the way only bones can know

There was the yearning – deep and sudden – for the specific pain of ink against those bones,
the bones that know all the stories.
The bones of my spine, this time, marking skin with poetry the way I envisioned so many years ago.
He told me once, while he settled my own handwriting along my lower left rib and I breathed deep into the pain of that moment –
that moment that was all loss and all grace and the knowing that everything had been changed –
he told me then that the pain was weakness leaving my body.

I wonder now, is there is a word for strength leaving your body? Or love?
What of its arrival?
Or is it only pain that the body names, and then only in it’s leaving?
it is true, I know, that there are some things for which there are no words.
Only the spaces between the words we know to say all that must be said
And I think about how some calls come deep, for years and years before I finally answer.
I wonder why this is so. And I wonder what this tells you about me.

There was the way the heat cloaked my body outside,
even at almost midnight.
And smoke curled upward on the patio and filled my lungs and settled something down deep inside.
I exhaled then.
Sometimes I forget to do that.
Some nights the darkness rolls on forever.
Sometimes what we need is only found inside of something burning.

Like the way I collected the candles from every room to fill the darkness.
And the way the letters all smell like a cigar box that says I love you in a language I’ve never learned to speak.
The way they smell like wood and smoke and foreign shores and the traveling forward and backward all at once.
There was the black silk ribbon that was once tied around those letters
and the way it burned after I tossed it to the side
and it landed, unnoticed, on the flame of a dark red candle that sits atop a rusted gear that sits atop a rock that still holds the salt of my Atlantic home.
The curls of smoke, the way they rose from that silk,
the way the pieces of the ribbon fell away where it had burned, silken ashes against white skin.
I caught the fire and put it out before it became danger.
Instead it was just another honest kind of beautiful.

There was the way I got up suddenly, because suddenly it mattered.
it mattered that I walked to my room and got undressed and raised my arms high and watched my own body in the full length mirror.
Watched the black dress that feels like a second skin
as it flowed downwards, falling soft against the top of my thighs.
And the way I piled my hair on my head and tied it in a knot and stretched my neck long and sprayed on a scent that melds jasmine and rose and amber and the slightest hint of peach.
I always want something sweet to counter the deep earth of me.
i always need something deep to counter the sweet of me.
And it mattered that I cleaned and repainted my tear-stained face.
Strong black liner and high arched brows and that honest lipstick I told you about earlier –
dark burgundy like the wine and the blood and the nights that feel especially true.

And so then I poured another glass of wine.
And painted my nails.
To match my honest lips
To match the candle
To match the fire
that burned the silk
that held the letters
that spoke of the story
that called on the ghosts.
Because it’s what is honest, right now.
The wine and this night.
And all the rest.
Because honest is sometimes the color of old blood and dried tears.
And ashes against skin.

Because sometimes honest isn’t soft and pretty.
Because sometimes I’m not soft and pretty.
I get tired of being soft and pretty.

And because just then the music rose.
And Van Morrison, he rocked me into the mystic
And then, then it moved deeper
I moved deeper
Music like hands
on skin
on purpose.
And I remembered.
Something I had read
That Rumi had said,
“where I am folded, there I am a lie”

So tonight I unfold.
Feet tracing patterns
on hardwood floor
Body long against the boards
Limbs reaching
Skin finding home in the dance
Hungry for something unnamed and holy.
Hips moving the only way my hips know how to move.



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I swear like a sailor, I've been called a word-witch (more than once), I believe whole-heartedly in the power of your voice,  and think words are as necessary as air. I work with humans who are seeking permission to stop seeking permission and offer programs that will get living and writing on your own terms (for reals). 

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