KL Lyons

I thought I was going to drown

One day I fell into a coffee cup
and I thought I was going to drown
and my first thought was
“They’ll think that I jumped.
They’ll think I gave up and gave in and gave out
and jumped into the first ocean I could find.”

Speaking of oceans, did you know
that sometimes, when a whale dies,
it creates something called a whale fall?
That’s when the whale’s body settles
deep enough on the ocean floor
that it feeds organisms there for decades.
It becomes an ecosystem all its own.
That’s what I hope happens to me when I die.

But this is not the ocean
and I am not a whale
I am the woman hanging
off the edge of a coffee cup
trying to summon not only
the upper-body strength
I need but also the will to live

Because they say if there’s a will there’s a way
They say you’ve got to know your why
They say “What do you want to do with your life?”
and you say “I wanna rock”
or at least you used to.
Now you say “I don’t know,
and every day I feel
like I have fewer and fewer options.”

sometimes I think we lay the worst traps for ourselves
sometimes I think my brain is broken
sometimes regular life seems so impossible
that I don’t know how anybody does it

And the only reason I ever
work my way out of the coffee cup,
out of the ocean, all of which, of course,
is just a stand-in for depression,
is because six years ago a human being
burst through the earth of my body
and no matter how broken my brain gets
it never convinces me that
he’s better off without a mother.

And when he’s old enough, I’ll tell him so,
how he was an ecosystem all his own,
my will and my way and my why.
But for now I will just keep showing up
even if I’m covered in coffee stains.



My grandmother is a bowl of unshelled pecans on the table.
My grandfather is a glass of milk with ice cubes in it.
My mother is a cloud of hairspray that stings if you breathe it in,
and my father is a hug goodbye.

My grandmother is young-Clint-Eastwood-Rawhide-reruns on TV.
My grandfather is overalls and the smell of insulation.
My mother is a cashier at Dollar General,
and my father is a visitor I barely know.

My grandmother is a pantry that always has bread.
My grandfather is reading the Bible at 4AM.
My mother is blues music on Sunday nights
and my father is a birthday card, it says “I’m sorry.”

My grandmother is the engine that keeps the family running.
My grandfather is the steering wheel.
My mother is driving without a seatbelt,
and my father is a story I tell myself.


KL Lyons is a poet from Tulsa, Oklahoma and enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Her poems have also appeared in Wards Lit Mag Issue 05: Native. You can find her online on Twitter at @dystopialloon.