Deep Down

Before the storm there is thick fog and before the fog there is a dreadful humidity that suffocates every molecule of the air around and inside of us. As I settle in with my laptop to write literally anything I can think of to get my fingers moving and give permission to even my most perverse thoughts to come forward, however sheepishly at first, I am wondering what gives anyone of us the energy to keep going. What is it we are after that we believe will prove to us that any of this is worth it? What is it that drives that man in his properly pressed button-down blue shirt and buttercream tie to walk into that office just one more day and try to hold it all together. Why does it feel like I’m walled off from everyone else by some kind of static impenetrable distance. So much of what I am supposed to find fulfilling I find unnervingly not so. What they worship I cannot understand. Is it enough to work the week out in administrative minutiae and microwave leftovers and water the houseplants on weekends in between bouts of writing? Don’t you ever want to just cut loose from everything in your life that feels so maddeningly mundane and do something else – something that actually matters, something that finally scratches that wretched burning itch to wrap your arms around the sky?
The thunder is collapsing loudly now, shaking the very foundation of the house as I reach for my coffee and take a long hot sip. I make a mental note that we need more coffee beans and sugar next time I am at the market because a day without either is no day I can drag myself through.
Fraught over my lack of creative flow and cursing myself for my obsession with trying to remain loyal to my writing practice despite very little interest from the outside world, I pick myself up off the couch, slide off my sandals by the back patio door and step outside into the pouring rain.  I can taste the sweetness of the heat coming off the pavement as it rushes full with fast forming rivers. Closing my eyes I turn my head toward the clouds and feel the cool water streaming onto my face, down my neck, over my bare shoulders and soaking my skin thoroughly all over. Hands in my hair, heart in my throat, wondering if the only worthy motivation for writing is to put myself in deep touch with this melancholy soul of mine who cries out for something so much more than this. And I can’t help but wonder what about our souls makes us terrified to live the lives we are so desperate for? How they ache to tell us so many secrets and how we turn them to face the corner again and again convinced that to listen – to quit being so damn afraid and choose our dreams for ourselves – would be the end of our sanity. When the truth is that those wild dreams are the only worthy motivation for anything.

The Things We Deserve

As we are frolicking about acting like children in the makeshift swimming pool in our back yard, the rest of the country is mourning the most recent mass shooting in America. Actually, this time it’s two shootings within hours of each other. El Paso and Dayton. After sipping coffee and scrolling on your phone, you reluctantly inform me of this as I have taken a break from the news and the rest of the outside world for the weekend. This planet is so full of cruelty and pain I’ve decided to try to write myself out of it as often as I can. What should never happen already has: I stare across the yard almost unfeelingly. You aren’t supposed to feel numb right now you are supposed to be enraged and do something because enough and this has to stop and never again and never forget.  We are a country that disgraces the dignity of people, their bodies and their words. Bodies are for counting. Words are punchlines, words are excuses, words are little trap doors for the monsters to slip out of sight.
Once I can get past the shock, disbelief, and numbness I will feel something and it will be awful. I’m still human just a much more jaded and cynical one than I once was. As the birds are singing and locusts buzzing all around us in the grass and we decide it is in fact early enough to start drinking, I pour us some wine to share while eating turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch. And the next day, another lunch, another dinner, another bottle of wine and a cigarette and the waiting for the other shoe to drop in this vacuum we call life. I’m sitting in my office and people come and go obsessed with their executive performance, ranking, standing, achievements, retirement plans. Not a word passes between any of us about the shootings because it isn’t the time or the place or the thought or the prayer so best to just keep on punching that time clock and smiling fake smiles while ignoring all the blood and death and ignorance and cowardice and self-destruction happening right outside our glossy corporate floor to ceiling windows. I can smell the stale coffee burning in the glass pot in the break room. I can hear the screaming of the terrorized and the wailing of the mothers who cannot find their children. Are they among the dead? I can see the sunlight splashing through the trees on this beaming summer day in August 2019 that shouldn’t belong to anyone.

Carry Me Home

Tangled within a new argument about the same old thing, we walk side by side along a worn path in the local park. It’s a winter evening and the alabaster sun has slid down into the brush behind us. All day the gray sky hung heavy and low and now the light snow is dusted on the shaggy pines, glistening in the pale fading glow of another day gone by.  How many has it been since we last made love? How many since the taste of your kiss contained the truth? Time is a deceitful thing. You think you’ve come so far when suddenly a word is said or a smile is broken or a promise is fractured and you realize nothing has changed at all. That some parts of the human heart move forward while others stay lodged exactly where they’ve always been: stuck somewhere between the throat and the tip of the tongue. In an earlier time perhaps we would have let the little hurtful things slide but not now. Not when so much has been aching for so long. The air between our mouths is cold and the ice around the heart of whatever the matter is is thick.
As we make tracks toward a darkening horizon you fumble for the car keys in your coat pocket. With your other hand you reach sideways without looking up and take mine, and I let you. I try to let you, let you take what you need, let you in, let it be tender. Because as hard as it may be to believe, tenderness does not always come easily to me. Poets are rose petals and knives all mixed up together.
I’m tired of trying to explain and you are tired of trying to figure out where it went wrong so there are no more words, just silence swirling like smoke around our breathing, the scent of damp frozen earth and a campfire in the distance. Beneath the blood in our veins there is the heat of love mixed with a strange kind of trepidation. Pieces of us leaving and not leaving, forgiving and not forgiving. For all the ways we hope to crack open the darkness and bathe ourselves in light, instead we bury what we are afraid to see. The healing we are afraid will destroy us. In the quiet night I hold on to you and do not speak. Our footsteps fall in unison, but the claws of past mistakes are sharp inside us even now.

Getting Ready

Allison has hairy legs, he whispers loud enough for the kids around us in the next row to hear.  I remember his voice and how I always thought he was especially creepy in a predatory way, the kind of kid who would grow up to be the kind of sleazebag who would do disgusting things and smile and breathe a little too heavy while doing them. He sat behind me in the sixth grade and for some reason on this particular day he decided to brush his hand up over my entire lower calf and announce to everyone within ear shot that I had hair on my legs. In an instant I went flush with… embarrassment? Shock? Confusion? Up until that very moment I hadn’t given a damn about shaving my legs, it wasn’t even a thought in my young mind. Mostly it was disorienting in the way most girls’ initiation into a culture of normalized violation is disorienting- the world you used to live in evaporates and disappears to be replaced by a world where you are constantly on guard against being touched, seen, objectified.  In the space of a few sudden seconds I was conditioned to expect and accept “facts” which in hindsight I can clearly see were false about myself, my body, and my place in the world as a female human. I was to be touched whenever a man wanted to touch me just because I was there, and close enough to reach.
I was expected, when being touched randomly against my will, to be clean shaven, that is to feel good to him. Never mind how it made me feel: violated, gross, angry, disturbed, ashamed, embarrassed, uneasy.  Be ready, your body is not for you anymore. It’s not for enjoying freely and you are not protected, anywhere you show up you are vulnerable. Your legs, you suddenly learn, aren’t for riding bikes or playing hopscotch anymore, they are for boys to look at and fondle, any day at any time. Be ready. Always be ready for it. And if you are caught not ready, not shaven, not smooth, not pleasing, you will be shamed because you have broken the rules. You didn’t keep up your end of the bargain-you know, the one where you exist to add to a man’s enjoyment of his surroundings. After all it’s not the man’s fault that when he touched you he was disappointed. It’s yours. You had been warned, remember. The creepy kid warned you back in grade school to always be ready for it. But you weren’t.  

Only Way Out

Leaning over the counter top painting my toenails a deep raisin, I am wishing I were a better writer. You know like the ones who can conjure up an entire world made electric with the sweetness of wicked delicious fantasy. Most people think writing is just about writing but it isn’t. It’s so much more than that. Writing is about coming undone and dying inside over and over. It’s about becoming the person you always knew you could be without the hindrance that is most of the rest of this ridiculous life. It’s about giving a middle finger to the rest of the world because you know they are ignorant to all of your most sacred fears and why they matter so much to you. It’s about fingering your darkest secrets until they flower for you into everything that makes your gums bleed with naked desire; the way you obsess over the guy with the shifty eyes like blades and the scent on the summer breeze as the evening sifts inside your open bedroom window. It’s about hungry mouths and the aching memory of bathing nude with a lover under the cascade of a secluded waterfall. It’s about the glistening tangerine light glinting down the side of a pink wine bottle as it sweats from coming right out of the fridge onto the back patio in the balmy air.
If you can really do it – if you can really write, like write with the very best of them, the rest of the world doesn’t even have to exist at all. Because you have enough dirty love in your sad little heart and enough big impossible visions swirling like stars in your weary head that you don’t need anybody else. Or anything else. Not time or space or permission. You don’t need healing you just need a way to let it all out and sex won’t come close and drinking won’t fix the scars on your bruised insecurities. Only writing. Only the brutality and beauty of the chasing of the words and the spinning of the scenes and the giving of your entire soul to something that will kick you in the teeth just as readily as it will cradle you in your darkest hour. That’s what writing is and so few have any idea. At least, it should be.

Tell You How

two grade schoolers kissing
in a thin soft rain
at a bus stop. public transportation
public displays of private affection.
wet sweetness, hard concrete
street, observers.
it is early and the sky is pale gray
and i can taste the strawberry chapstick
of my childhood, slung on a braided string
around my neck.
the fade of shy gymnasium
romance smoldering in my skin.
i remember a time when i thought
i had to be everyone’s favorite girl.
all the while knowing
i never would be.
the weight of the world
on the wait of my girlhood.
the sharp claws of that. made to think like that
was the only way to think.
like that. because he
likes that, they like that you
don’t say what you really
like. what you are really like
is
whatever it took, whatever I had to do,
to become, to degrade, downsize,
legitimize
to hide.
it takes years.
decades. fire storms. drownings.
to exorcise that sickness.

Freeze Frame

Watching the moon late in the evening and listening for the precise moment when the seasons click from summer to fall, I light a cigarette and let the long deep drag burn my tender lungs. A terrible habit. It could be any day of any year that passes by in the blink of an eye, but as it happens I am in the middle of my 41st year on this planet. I’ve got almost everything and hardly anything to show for it, depending on who you ask. That’s the thing about creating your own life, it cuts across the membrane of the lives other people seem to think you ought to be birthing or killing off according to rules you may or may not agree apply to you, yourself, as an individual collection of fears and hopes, desires and obsessions.
For all the words left unsaid on this side of the veil, it’s only once you cross over to the other side that they will suddenly try to reflect upon the story of you, the one they’ll cobble together – the story of a life they only ever glimpsed a small well-manicured fraction of. To the outside world you are mostly a collection of titles affixed to you to have you figured and therefore quieted…palatable. Daughter. Woman. Assistant. Wife. Writer. Addict. Mother. Mother means you are a nurturing, selfless, giving woman but what about the time when you thought motherhood was the thing that was going to kill you and you cursed it alone in the dark as your baby screamed and so did you and you both went hours without touching each other? What about the time your own mother slapped you across the mouth in the bathroom for saying something flip? What about that motherhood is sometimes trauma of a twisted and secret kind that makes you feel ashamed and afraid and tired and like you don’t deserve it?

As the flashes of my former life flicker across my mind and the darkness falls into a vacant backdrop to the sound of crickets singing in the heat, I turn my body to curl into a patio chair on my back lawn. The moon is high and piercing, swung up there all alone, a rock in orbit around the same old bits for all eternity. How beautiful we think she is, observing her majesty from down below while sunk to the bottom of a bottle of white wine grown warm. Underneath that static glow, where the shadows deepen to pock her ancient lunar body, what does she actually feel?    

a death more charming

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.

blank stare (monster, i love you)

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.

the dark side of growth

I come before you this first Monday of October to say simply that I adore you and I am taking a break for a while from schedules of many kinds, including the Monday schedule for these love letters. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, as I’ll be back of course, it’s just that I take commitments and dates and plans to heart; I try my best to honor them. They are important to me, especially in this day and age where people ghost you without even a second’s thought. That’s not the kind of person I am.

The truth is I am going through some major and very personal transformations right now and while I am eager to share them with you some day in the future, I don’t quite have a handle on them just yet.

When we think of growth, we tend to think of something emerging — the tiny beak of a little baby bird peeking through the eggshell, the soft green stem of a rose bush busting up through the earth. But we forget about the part of growth that is happening deep below the surface. We cannot see the warm, silent, dark, wet world inside that egg, or the cool rich pressing soil cradling the seed deep inside the ground. But it is there, and it has a very specific and important job to do: it is the quiet, pulsing environment in which to cradle new life, to nourish new life, to bestow strength on new life.

There is a sacred part of change, of growth, of transformation, that happens in the dark. Out of sight. In the shadows. This is where I am right now. I don’t know what is to come. But I know I will never know the full breadth and depth and miracle of it unless I surrender fully to it. There is something about me and my work I need to learn in private before I can share it in public.

During this time, I thank you as always for your kindness and understanding. I will see you soon.

Until next time (because there is always a next time) I send you so much love & gratitude,

Allison Marie

P.S. Here is something I wrote recently about this change I’m going through. Perhaps a glimmer of what may be to come. Whatever comes next, I can promise you this: it will come from an even deeper love than I can yet imagine possible. I am afraid, but I trust love with all my heart.

“Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”
— Galway Kinnel