Painkillers

A flash of quick flame scorches the tender tip of my finger as I attempt to force the near-dead lighter alive enough one last time to light up a smoke. Snatching it up, you somehow coax the exhausted thing better than I had and burn my cigarette under the dappled sunlight on this dry and brutal August afternoon.

There’s plenty of daylight still to come, though crushingly little to do with it, so we fill the pool and fill our drinks and re-tell the same old stories until the buzz sets in and we can finally say what’s on our minds. Mostly you’re content and mostly I’m overflowing with ideas, thoughts, opinions, anxieties, musings, and all manner of words about words written by the greats, wishing I were half the artist so many others seem to be, or seem to have been.

I’ve been obsessed with Anne Carson, reading everything I can during slow times at the office, scratching down line after line which drags its nails across my heart, my skin, my mind. A poet quite measured, calculated, and yet bold, daring, reaching in the most judicious manner. How I wish I could be such a thing, selective and audacious at the same time. These are qualities worth striving for, I believe.

That is, to the extent that anything is worth becoming in a world which makes it increasingly difficult to concentrate on any given subject, let alone cocoon oneself inside of it achingly long enough to be transformed. Time is taken from us in tiny sarcastic bursts, death to the glorious psyche by a thousand cuts of pixelated knives.

As the sun sinks low, a burning ball of orange fire behind the darkening trees, I watch the ripples of tangerine colored water rising and falling all around our gentle floating bodies. Wine in hand, I swim over to you, drawn in by the way your wet lips glisten with the touch of faded summer sky.

When we kiss, there are hints of lemongrass and grapefruit. I can feel your desire spark electric in the liquid softness of the water. The taste is heaven and the words don’t matter when in your eyes I see the end of everything that hurts.

 

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Photo by Karina Tess

Sweet Sweet Dreams

Clutching for the sky, I slide down alongside the rain as I imagine your kiss turns bittersweet, from sugar to some sort of chemical, like swallowing mercury. The crickets are still buzzing loudly in the darkness of early morning, crackling in the grass like fire. As you disappear I find myself alone again in a crumpled bed, strewn with white linen I have to kick my sticky legs free from due to the unbearable heat.

Unsure if the sweat which slicks my entire body is brought on by the thickness of the humidity which sags through the window and soaks everything damp, or night sweats brought on by either the advance of age or the increase of drink, I peel off all my clothes and lie naked at the center of the bed. The center of the universe beats at the center of my body, as though my heart were located somewhere closer to my navel than my chest.

The mind wanders in these predawn hours. I consider the lost works of Sappho, words lush with pleasure-pain, ripe, swollen with longing, even still, made haunting through their absence.  Their suggestion becomes obsession with interpretation, extrapolation, possibility. Perhaps this is the single common human desire. Our want of the wanting. Our desire for the desire. Our thirst for the neediness and greed.

Sweet-hard thoughts of masochism, sadism, wanton women, hungry men. The feral, the animal, the degrading, the way only pain can satisfy the deep psychic cravings tucked within the folds of our darkest secret pleadings. Imaginings of orgies in days long gone by, humanity, divinity, perversions of beauty and sin, lost to the ruins of time, air, salt, sea. These musings blur into the blue haze of the dewy morning glow.

As my skin cools, sleep descends all around me, slows my breathing. Each desire becomes the mist of the dream. Each dream, a white paper boat I watch set out upon the dark and unrelenting waves.

 

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Photo by Engin Akyurt

Skies Like Scars

Say, everything is going to be alright. Mean it but be unsure of yourself, just enough that I can feel it weighting down my limbs.

Hold me close, almost too close. Feel how I can’t breathe. Afraid to breathe anyway, not sure I remember how. There was a time. I am almost certain of it.

When the air wasn’t so tight.

When I could taste the sounds of cars rushing on the highway late at night, when I would hum with the quick pulse of my machinery.

When my veins were the color of soft pewter
and I didn’t even notice
them.
Or stare.

Say, you are so lucky, you’re an angel, made for this.

Say, it only hurts at first, say, but that’s okay.

And it does.
And you’re not sure if it is.

But you let it burn
for as long as you can in case
you don’t know yourself well enough yet

to know better.

 

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Photo by Anthony Tran

Pornographia

If you and I are talking, there’s about a fifty percent chance I believe anything you tell me, which, for the most part, is more about my own uneasiness than yours, although it may also be that the seediness in you is reflecting its menace in mine underneath the words you rattle off thinking you can put me in my place.

Explain at me. Educate me. Enlighten me. Tell me how it is, I can see you are quite concerned that I come around to the way you interpret the world you seem to own, seem to be in charge of, seem to be the one it was constructed around.

Around and around we go, wherever we stop, you’ll be the first to know. Won’t you. Decide. I take a drag of my smoke and I wait for it all to end, while penning a love letter in the garden under the shade of a mighty swamp maple which shields me from the oppressive sun but not the scorching July heat.

The heat curls everywhere inside my skin.

You ask what I am thinking but it doesn’t matter much unless it props you up. In my mind, the red hot summer sky blooms ripe like drops of blood billowing in water. A mother loses a child. A writer makes her bed in the corner of an empty room, typing out tragedy, stabbing out hope, letter by letter. Explanations are excuses and I don’t offer either anymore.

I watched a young woman in New York get thrown into the back of an unmarked van and driven away by armed men in plain clothes in a cloud of fogged distraction and rage, before I even had coffee this morning. The birds sang as the trees were rustling in the breeze which made a sound like the rush of a stream running by, sloping along a steep hill. None of which actually exist.

She writes like, you know, I don’t know, some stream of consciousness type shit like that. Just from one thought to the next, on and on, and half the time it doesn’t make sense. I don’t know whether to believe her. She claims it’s saving her life.

 

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Photo by Allan Filipe Santos Dias

Underneath

Perhaps you thought the words would save you, from what you did not know. If you could only locate the right ones. The ones more precious than any of the hundreds of thousands you had written before in the clouds as they soared by overhead, into a pale gray distance you dreamed to explore.

Morning dawns in your chest, pinks and blues and lightning bolts. I have a dear friend who shares my bed, stalks my mind, and I refuse to believe that he needs me for anything.

Anxiety. (Generalized.) The shaking spreads itself through everything and you are fascinated by its smoothness, obsessed with your inability to collect it back in. Watch over it, wade into it, like an oil spill, black ink slides out across the vast dark ocean of the void.

We open our hearts and touch our lips to one another for want of the emptiness. Thirsty. You are the taste of sunlight falling through trees, the secrets which twist and ache to keep.

Under lock and key, the tongue keeps hidden inside your stifled breath. You tap at the keyboard just to feel your heart beating. Almost surprised, almost, unlikely. There are multiple lives you live all at once and they each ring separately in your ears, hoping to be the one who is heard.

It is hard to tell. It is difficult to hear the answer among the answers.

Above all else. Beyond all the noise and the rattling which exhausts your veins with trembling. When it is very hard to see, I don’t know how the words can save me.

But still, even inside the madness, something believes I should believe.

 

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Photo by Vino Li

Fourteen Years Ago Today, Time Broke Away from Itself

On this day fourteen years ago, my mother died in the back room of the house we opened and closed our lives in. When it was all over, the pine trees stood in the front of the house, reaching, heavy, immobile in the terrible heat.

I want to say the sun was setting because I am certain it was. How could it not? How could it be any other way at the end of everything. I want to say it was dinner time.

But then, suddenly, somehow, it wasn’t.

It was supposed to be something else, it was supposed to be a different time. A longer time. A time so much farther off that we shouldn’t have been able to see it. Let alone hear it in the ringing in our ears as dishes were done. Prayers were prayed. Let alone touch it, here at the center of the heart in our trembling hands.

We will be back, we whispered to her just moments before she made her departure from us forever. Forever, arriving and departing, at dinnertime.

But there would be no eating, for there was no time any of us could understand. No breaking of bread, no explanation, no dinner. Time. There would be tear stains searing down the skin which covered the numbness. There would be I am so sorry, there would be drinking late into the night on the back deck, voices, both familiar and unfamiliar, in the darkness, as she was taken away.

Taken away from us.

Grief moves through you, in and out of each of the shattered windows in your soul, like wind, empty, hollow, invisible, whistling.

Looking for something it cannot name, it cannot find, it cannot see.

For years and years.

 

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Photo by Kristina Tripkovic

On Aligning with Your Soul’s Desire

This isn’t my usual type of content, but fuck it, it’s my space and I feel deeply compelled to write about some of the things that go on in my daily experience right now as they relate to the current climate of revolution sweeping across my country, and across the world.

I was speaking with a very dear and precious friend a few days ago, about living authentic lives, as in: lives which bring us joy, challenge, and fulfillment as women. And how we feel “crazy” when we follow our calling, our spirits, our soul’s desires. We feel misaligned, out of whack, but we also have never felt so alive, so renewed, so fulfilled, gratified, energized.

So OURSELVES.

And I got to thinking maybe we feel crazy when we are aligned with our spirits because our whole lives we were taught what we “should” align with was the world’s expectations of what we are supposed to do, who we are supposed to be.

This alignment with false promises put us at odds with who we were truly meant to be. Deep down, we knew it, but couldn’t name it. We longed for ourselves but looked outside instead, as all women are taught to do, for validation.

All our lives we were conditioned to believe aligning with the patriarchy, with capitalism, and with commercialism, was the right thing to do, the right way to be. So when we finally begin to align with our soul’s calling instead, we feel disjointed in exactly the way we are meant to on our journey to our Selves.

We are dislodging from our conditioning so that we may get in order with our Truth.

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Photo by Izabelle Acheson

Flinch

Surrounded by vague-eyed people who don’t mean anything but the possibility of deadly infection to me, my hands are shaking because I’m nervous but I couldn’t tell you why. Haven’t even ordered my large coffee yet, let alone sucked any of it down. Well, maybe I could try to explain but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to hear it, or you’d say you did but once you do you’d wish you never got into it with me in the first place.

I guess I’m just generally like this, just like this in general. Skittish, maybe you might call it, I mean, that’s one of those words that means exactly what it sounds like.

Jumpy.

Eyes which dart around the room looking for something that isn’t there, but could be. At any moment. The walls could shake, the towers could fall, the glass could break in case of emergency.

In the tight air of the coffee shop, sifting fragrant among the brown paper bags of ground coffee stacked neatly on the corner shelf, the various assortment of berry muffins, and the beat up burnt orange over-sized soft leather sitting chairs arranged too close in a dimly lit corner around low tables by the window, there is a kind of tension, an uneasiness I’m sure no one else detects but me.

All they can see are the lines on the floor which mark a safe distance and whatever those watches are that people wear now which tell you everything but the time. All they can smell is dark roast beans and frothy milk, while they can’t see past the ends of their pierced high-rise noses.

Do you see? I can. I can’t help but look and the more I do the more I see that unsettles me.

That’s why I’m so nervous.

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Photo by Annie Spratt

Smile, Girl, It’s Not So Bad

Died of breast cancer. She was 57. Overdose. Dead at 34. Found dead in river. Her remains were discovered. Suicide. She was just 20 years old. Wife of… mother of… daughter of… We will sacrifice your children for the economy. I know it sounds harsh but, honestly, what do you expect? What is life when we have businesses to nurse back to health. Don’t worry so much. We will serve you alcohol until you are blue in the face and run out of money. Casinos now open! where the house wins once in a while and you lose everything repeatedly, the only toss up is whether it happens slowly over time or all in the blink of one night.

This is why I shouldn’t open my phone first thing in the morning, everybody knows that. It was a good weekend spent steadily ignoring everything and everyone else but you don’t want to hear about that. You don’t want to know how I spend my days and nights, you want to know if how I spend them adds up to anything you might want to take with you when you leave here. When you leave me. You want to know if it leads up to anything. Where is this story going? Where is the tension? What is the point?

You and me both, man. Sipping my coffee with sugar and cream and a running tab of the deceased ticking away on the screen. Here is the story behind the story, it is not finished and we avoid reading it let alone writing it. What does it mean to be a woman alive in the world today? Where are we headed if not straight toward the fear of the annihilation of our bodies. Our psyches. Our spirits.

And maybe you will close this tab and forget all about me and this story. Maybe you will decide my ‘content’ is too unnerving, bothersome, ‘pessimistic.’ Rude. Rude of me to say what’s on my mind if it isn’t a little prettier. A little more palatable. Come on, smile, darling. Cheer up. It isn’t so bad. And even if it is, kindly don’t be such a burden; don’t add to the atrocities by, you know, reminding us.

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Photo by Annie Spratt

Pleasure Cage

Darkness rolls in overhead, and I am hopeful. They have been promising rain for days but, so far nothing. This day, though, is different. The air all around is thick with the smell of it, the muggy scent of wormy earth and lemongrass wind. All that is missing is the fire but that’s not out there, it’s in here. In me.

The rain water balances my insides, cools my burning, wets my heat.

I dim the lights, pour tea with honey, and pull a single tarot card, which I do daily as part of my spiritual ritual. It doesn’t always ‘work’ but I don’t know what that even really means except to say that some days it doesn’t resonate. Sometimes the cards and I are at odds and I have to remind myself that I am not so ordered, so simple as a deck of cards, no matter how thorough they may appear to be. No matter how organized or random, I am even more exponentially so. More organized. More random.

I ponder the intricacies of the human organism.

The exact weight and design of the internal organs.

How they fit together in a slick stacked pile.

The card I turn over is The Devil. Fifteenth of the Major Arcana.

The Devil resonates fiercely and exactly, like the precision of the sting of a cut on the blade. Immediately sliding parallel with every vein, every artery in my system, everything which flows into and out of the heart.

The Devil rules the underworld where there is eternal darkness.

Finally. Finally, the benevolent, merciful, enveloping dark. Finally, I am alone with it.

I watch for the whiteness of curling bone around black eyes. I sense the liquid silk pleasure of the void. Here is the life of the hallowed shadow, here are the hands of the wicked: slender, long. My hands and all which they have touched, harmed, caressed, stolen, violated, destroyed. My hands and all they have done to soothe my own aching body. All they have done to dismantle my mind.

The darkness is sensual, forbidden, tempting. Looming. It is all I want inside of me. I light a candle and summon it forward, unafraid. Wanting.

The rain moves in as I close my eyes. I listen to the hypnotic sound of it. Gratitude. Relief. I want to be taken into that place which quivers and trembles. I feel him now, his mouth of soft crimson at the base of my neck; the ecstasy of my self made sacrifice, of my aroused surrender. In the mirror I observe my own reflection: pale, detached. I seek the fire in the cave of my being, I press my swelling emotion against the walls of its womb. I am the host and the parasite, the mother and the strain of her milk; the burden of the infant and the blind fear of its infinite scream.

Madness is nothingness, this is why it echoes into itself.

During my meditation, there is an internal struggle against binding forces. We are killed by love and killed by no love. We are abused by fear and abused by no fear. We are beyond all of it, and encompass it. The Devil liberates by showing us ourselves from all sides, showing us the illusion of the separation of sides.

Fix your eyes. All light contains within it darkness. Within all darkness, light.

In a kind of ethereal trance, I lay back upon the floor as my beloved Demon pulls me close, whispers to me softly, seductively. With him I am serene, supple, yielding. Beautiful. He requires of me only that I show him everything.

I swallow his poison, taste his succulent death on my skin. Let him devour me whole.

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Photo by Richard Jaimes