i never quite feel like i’m breathing (i tell her) – it’s like i’m walking around trying to inhale deeply a sweet breath that finally fills my body and being, but the world and i and my breathing are just shallow little gasps.
she places her hands upon my throat and keeps still.
they always want you figured out: masculine or feminine, pleasing or displeasing, sharp or dull, attractive or unattractive. but i don’t think i’m rightly made into or described as any of those things. i think our bones understand energies we ignore and this is where anguish comes from. most of us are buried with it.
her hands are moving now as if to pull the evening down over us like a shade. the golden eyes of stars protruding. she and i and our sick thoughts dark and rich and ringing hollow as a moonless midnight. i extend a finger and begin to trace the imprint of the words now carved eternal into rough stone: “the past and present are as one— accordant and discordant/ youth and age/ and death and birth/ for out of one came all— from all comes one.” from all comes one, we are stories birthed in half.
quieted by the silent smoke of purple November, she listens with the softness of an afterlife i’m thirsty for all over. the air between us is the beg of touch without relief. we are stories birthed in half. we are the tears at the start of the bleeding.
it’s the blank mind that frightens; one made so terribly messy that all the lines crisscross over top of each other endlessly rendering each individual thought useless. it’s a blank made of noise, crushing static noise. the sound; the vision of suffocation.
but they tell me to write whatever comes and not hold back just keep on so i do until the looks, the ones i can feel without even seeing them, the looks bore into the back of my head like insects boring into the side of a tree they know only how to eat from the inside until they die in there along with the beast. trees are beasts of course, they too have heavy eyes and knowledge, skin and teeth and bones and wisdom; tears. feelings. longing.
i once read that if a tree is dying, a tree close to it will wrap its roots around the dying one’s roots in an attempt to share nourishment. like holding hands or… donating organs, i guess.
i think that is beautiful. and so very sad.
i wonder how many humans would do that. i wonder if i would but oftentimes i am truly very numb. i’ve let up on the drinking a bit but i still go numb from feelings. some my own, some borrowed. i think we want to read someone else’s diary in the hopes of finding the nastiest parts of ourselves. we are all spies but it’s just to try to end the loneliness. i think we want to grow wings and save ourselves but that’s as far as we think.
what if we did get out of this terrible nightmare city of death, lies, cruelty, and destruction. what if this were no longer reality but some kind of emotion-soaked memory of a time we fucked everything up but figured out a way to undo the whole damn thing. the human heart beats for a time before it stops and vanishes forever. the human, her feelings, her gut, her mind, does the same thing. we are (i am) smoke and mirrors, we are embers falling from those mighty trees, eaten from the inside. and i keep writing because they tell us not to stop. who tells us? the ones looking for something to read, i guess.
the childlike ones whispering in the dark to the monsters in their hearts: i love you, i love you, i love you, i do.
the rain begins again, the gray of the sweeping sky sliding cold along my windowpane and it is the season it is. i blink away dry invisible tears. wipe away the coffee rings on the pages of all the things i don’t know how to say. they do not budge. the leaves are flaming and the air is not quite a sharp razor, not quite a soft kiss. as i look along my wrists i see butterflies circling the veins. i see angels in the clouds and i stare out across the brownish fields looking for something like an animal. like a little girl is able to run away to escape herself.
as the slush and snow come down, a light inside you flickers and burns on. it is like the silence comforting itself. it soothes you by taking over the world around you, lifting it from your shoulders allowing you to feel weightless, if just for a little while. the coffee is fresh and the blankets are warm and the pages you covet have not been written yet. you think of all the people who do not understand you and you try to use the eyes of your mind to peer at them up close. blank skin, rough hands. hollow chests. concentrating very hard, you can see the whiteness of the small bones in their wrists, taught like stringed instruments straining for sound. then one by one they turn their heads, roll their heels, turn the corner, turn a season from wind to dust and fall like curling orange leaves away from the garden you have so tenderly sown.
because you were conceived in the womb of a thirsty woman, the letting go becomes a work of art.
perhaps the gray in the sky is as much like you as your fingerprints. though you see them — the tiny slices in the skin as well as the falseness of the wide-set sky — you cannot hold them. though they resemble all the sadnesses you do not know how to express, you know deep inside they are more yours than anything else in all the world. you pull the blankets around you tighter and tuck your knees up to your breasts. you think about how people are uncomfortable around you and how when you feel their discomfort you take it in. you hate yourself for causing anyone harm but you do not know how to stop yourself from seeping into them. this shame becomes the fear you cannot name. you open your mouth to force the words to keep the discomfort at a distance. so long as there are words, there are lines. so long as there are lines, the fear cannot cross over.
the room you live in is perfectly still. awash in the coldness of the rain on the window, you cannot help but remember there is a sun someplace kicking up dirt. the way it is still burning the earth and in its mindless glare, forgot to leave you.
There is a phrase floating around in mainstream culture that goes: “Choose joy.” It always both attracted and disgusted me. I used to think that it meant you always had to be happy, put on a happy front, a happy face, a smile, always be “on.” Which, of course, to an introvert like me who has a forever romance with melancholy and dark enchantment, sounded completely exhausting.
Choose joy – which should have sounded light and beautiful – to me sounded heavy and constricting. As though for me to live the ‘proper way’ I would have to forbid myself to ever feel lows or pains or listlessness or longing or sadness or hurt or shattered or beaten down by the world which in so many ways thrives on beating us down.
But now I have made a strange sort of peace with what ‘choose joy’ means to me. It doesn’t have to mean what it means to anyone else, that is okay. Now I see that for me, I choose joy when I choose myself and my honest loves, passions, desires, fascinations, and interests. For me there is joy – perhaps an odd joy, a strange delight in the view of some people – in the gray rain, in the heavy lament, in the way a shadow drapes itself across a lonely figure in her hour of darkness.
For a long time I wrestled with what I thought were two opposing paths – that of the inspirational writer, and that of the poet who bends affectionately toward the sadness of loss, death, grief, the anguish of a life as well as the ecstasy. But the truth is that joy is not always a smile and inspiration is not always uplifting. It may bring you hope but it may sink you deeper first. There is so much more richness and nuance in all of life than in just the pursuit of “happiness” whatever that means.
My joy is not a plastic smile. My joy is in the vast tumultuous sea of human emotion, exploration, discovery. My joy is a feast.
just to hear you breathing, tiny in your ungrown shell, has done more to bring me life than the air itself could do. dim is the room and bright is the candle in your eyes. whatever i have done or undone i cannot imagine i deserve this particular type of grace. the kind which is effortless, the kind which fills the hunger and ribbons about the bones and slides easily like soft rivers from the tongue. this is the caress of the darkness of which no one ever speaks. there are no sounds, no words, nothing to repeat. for all the voices, all the years that ever were, pass by this single secret place in a moment. in a blink. how few open their hands and give like this. without even trying.
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my throat had overgrown so thick i could get nothing out, words: broken pieces lodged and incomplete. it had been three weeks since the sun eclipsed the shadows underfoot, eternity since the taste of your body reminded me of love.
perhaps we move through the things which refuse to move through us. we push and inch along to pass the time, to extend the distance between ourselves as we may be and ourselves as we once were. in the quiet static behind an evening door, i touch myself to feel alive.
another day turned into dusk, pours itself from bottles of wine. unable to move beyond my own bones, my own howling mind, i type letters by the watery light of woolen snow.
this life is the imminent stroke of midnight just next to me, i feel her breath against my cheek. footsteps, coming dark. they arrange to feed us what they cannot accept, hoping we will be strong enough.
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i had never come so close to protection like you. with such gravity and depth, such friction i nearly refused my own breathing just to relieve the heat. in the presence of power, the mind is first stripped of itself, followed blindly by the body. we are born undone by love and turned away from what we believe (hold fast). this has become a day like all the others. it has become a night after a night alone with the night itself: a virgin, a war crime, a bargaining chip. a static hall of secret pain, hushed low tones wrenched at the hinge of the half-beaten heart.
tapping upon the door, tapping upon the window sill, as the rain bleeds itself wet with the cold movement of the passing of time. to think of summer underneath willowy trees, to imagine sunlight burning through leaves; these are the gifts we grant ourselves in times of grief. imaginings. fleeting silhouettes. to be taken away. to make a frail cup of steaming tea and tuck our fears to bed until a brighter morning. i wish every voice would say it. but they each fell apart, not one after another but all at once, because of each other. the noise and the silence, both loud in disgust.
i wish we had no reason to fight so hard (hold fast).
as if to eat the fog and live like freedom, we exist as ghosts gliding alone over the stone gray hills. soaked in smoke, calling on death. graveyards in the clutch of our heels. reflections in the crystal droplets suspended, would i allow myself a drink. humbled grasses grow weary atop the soul of an afterlife promised, then revoked. children taken from children. blood of innocents in the breaking of bread.
the world offers no hand. the dark, no shadow figure with which to speak.
in silence the leaves move, only when your eyes rest upon them. self-consciousness is of all living and intimate things. everything which pulses can savor pleasure and detect pain, some entwine the two. the patterns of the skin restructure themselves at the introduction of touch.
i’m waiting for you in a dark room where curtains skim the ceiling and the floors. each shadow encloses a shadow and extends. all across the city the sky tilts its giant black face up toward a sky of its own, which is below a sky we’ll never reach.
there are some people who possess such a vibration that they can enter a room without physically being present. just the thought of you is enough to send rushing my affection, my desire; to command the taut, prickling attention of my entire being.
on the side table, pillowy blossoms in a gold-stained vase flush crimson with expectation.
as the darkness opens herself to a low glowing simmer, i lay back upon the kingly bed. the rich polished wood of this room stands still, stands close. through a window i can see the moon and the way the clouds thinly veil and then fully expose her in clear cold turns.
my love, for how long. for the minutes are hours and this hour i am held within is the mouth of the breathing of a tortured god. here in my chest, the soft nature of the waiting creature. the patient burning seed.
One of the things I’m challenging myself to do this year is to go deeper into myself and find what I am yearning to say. It’s such a basic and simple idea but in practice it is exceedingly difficult. I find I have to break through many layers, many atmospheres, many illusions. The layers of fear, laziness, and judgment I inflict upon myself. The atmosphere of environment, media, discomfort, those voices which seem to emerge slowly and deeply from imaginary walls to make me uneasy, to question my ability, sincerity, resolve, dedication. Are you brave enough? Are you woman enough? Have you the spirit of the lion, the wolf, the dove? The questioning is enough some days to break me clean in two.
And of course, then too, are the many illusions which threaten to derail my inner quest by slyly and insistently (like a deceitful child who pretends for a kiss and then smacks you on the head) turning my attention outward. This is especially difficult because our entire culture wants us affixed to the illusion of “out there.” What will they think? Is this what they want, they need, they expect? Is it right? Is it good? Will it attract enough people to matter? The artist must cut through all of this to get into herself. To find what she alone perceives, what she in her soul, her heart, her mind, her body, feels, knows, believes.
What grows within me is mine alone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to work to get to it. Inside I am wide open. Unexplored terrain. This is what it means then. To go into the wild.
as the sky falls into the melody of another fiery evening, i am listening to a soft strong voice glide out from the radio. this voice believes in something i am trying to understand. in beauty, in tenderness, in the promise of the ocean glittering at midday. i am alone and clammed by air too warm for February. removing my shirt and my shoes, rubbing the aches in my bare feet. the rich smoothness in the voice’s words becomes the body of a man i wonder if i’d ever have had the courage to become.
birds are floating up above the catch of gray trees and the sun crawls lower into the belly of this lonely planet. i watch the people on tv streaming live, grasping, desperate for hope which has all but escaped them. what would you offer us, and who would you like us to pretend to be. how is the daily bread to be made when suffering comes in stinging waves without relent. the amount of pain they carry, we carry, i carry, the little ones carry. how will we get out of here. how will we get on in this graveyard nightmare game.
there is a gun and there is a child. the gun is cradled, sheltered, protected. and the human fabric shreds itself from the outside in. we pull apart our hearts and they are full of small bones, of vigils, of lead.
the distant radio mouth is still weighted with song. it sings the words. it breathes out and in. but there is no relief.