Swallow It Down

The pavement is as dry as my mouth inside the long hallway of my bleak emotions. I think back to a time before time meant to me what it means to me now.

Before I realized my life was in my own hands. Before I knew no one was coming to save me and there was no way out of this alive.

I’m tracing a heart into the fogged back window of our old blue Chevy. I can’t be more than twelve years old, my torn up jeans hanging from my lanky frame. My fingernails are long and painted cotton candy pink. J + A in the center of the heart shape, with an arrow piercing right through it.

You want nothing more than a kiss then. Dancing in the darkness of the musty gymnasium. Stairway to Heaven, grape soda and Skittles. Your heart throbbing in your chest, smoke, sweat, and the anticipation of something you don’t even understand yet. But you want it. You just know you want it and you want it so bad.

We learn to crave dark things. We learn there are some desires we should not speak about to anyone but our diaries. We learn to drown for years and years without making a sound.

As the rain begins to really come down, I forget my day dreaming and remember my own skin. I hear the crunch of my boots on the ground as I make my way through the long winding streets toward the life I have built on a hill in the distance.

The dark heavy storm clouds gather in close circles and I look up at the thickness of the falling globes of water. I sense the pleasure of the feeling of swirling chaos, an atmosphere alive and electric with the change of season.

All we ask is redemption from who we became before we knew it could have all been different.

I open my mouth and swallow the weather. I have been thirsty for so long.

 

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Photo by Jasmin Schreiber

Might Delete This Later

I used to have this professor back in college the other kids would call ‘tough but fair.’ You know the type. Stoic. Snide. Red slashes all over your precious prose jabbed with some kind of confusing comment in the margins like, “Allison, DESCRIPTION!”

I thought he was just an asshole but no one asked my thoughts nor did any of it matter when it came time for him to grade our papers so I guess it’s better left in the past. Suffice it to say that in general, a male teacher was ‘tough but fair’ and a female teacher was an ‘arrogant bitch’ but truth be told there was no difference between the two except probably in salary but don’t get me started.

Have you ever wanted to erase your past and simply start over fresh? Like an Instagram grid just delete, delete, delete. Maybe that’s why the young kids, whatever they call themselves or don’t, their posts only last a few seconds, a few days at most. It all just disappears. The ridiculous smiles, the bad, the sad, the wasted, along with the beautiful. Fading, fading, all into nothingness as though none of it is real. Or if it is, it’s only real in the moment and then it’s anybody’s guess, anybody’s game.

Fumbling in my cluttered bag for a cigarette, I accidentally set off my car alarm which startles only me because the parking lot is nearly empty and fully deserted. No one smokes anymore, not like they used to back in the day. As I watch a large dark cloud move in over the factory buildings, the cold wind picks up and shoves my long strawberry hair into my mouth.

There is always something pushing back against us even as we try our best to make our way in a world which would soon enough take us or leave us just the same.

But in the pit of my stomach, I know I still believe in something I cannot name. And even after all these years I can’t decide if that makes me silly or if that makes me strong.

 

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Photo by Mathilde Langevin

 

 

Train Wreck Fantasy

She equates randomness with fate and fate with her lack of inhibitions when she hits the bottle and breaks free of her mind.

In the back of her heart are the lucid dreams of the little girl she once was before the world took away every fantasy and held it hostage behind smoked glass ever since.

There are some skies you can’t touch, not because you can’t fly but because your wings have been clipped together and the singular beat just isn’t enough to get you off the ground.

She can’t understand what living is for if your heart’s not racing or your soul isn’t pulsing its infinite cosmic currents like lightning across the darkened night. What is enough for other people never feels like enough for her but she can’t explain why.

Maybe she’s a glutton for punishment. Maybe she’s a freak.

When he ties her hands behind her back she feels like an angel come to rescue him from his demons, and demons there are many. They want love just like anybody else but somehow it all got twisted. Pain morphed into pleasure and pleasure blossomed into an exquisite kind of euphoric suffering.

There is a plane on which they are not opposites and not the same. A space where the two become one orgasmic experience.

She feeds on his distortions. He strokes her where the aching won’t stop until her tears fall like a fire which baptizes them both.

Did you think there was such a thing as a sinner, or a saint? Did you think you could decide which was which? Did you think you weren’t the sinner and the sin?

Her mouth is not for kissing but for absolution. When he covers her eyes her body screams and comes alive. He toys with her senses. Makes her wait.

Did you want to talk about love? Did you want to find out how much more there could be to this life beyond your wildest imagination?

When he emerges from inside the darkness she is blind to everything but the feelings which hang suspended in the air around her like puppet strings, like the taut silent strings of a most elegant instrument. An intricate web of static sensation. Everything is a high so long as it is uncertain. Unattained.

He will circle until the heat nearly buckles her knees. He will manipulate until she gasps when she tries to breathe.

There are some skies only he can help her touch.

Sometimes only imprisonment can finally set you free.

 

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Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk

Dead Center

Flip a coin. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Or something like that.

At the center of each of my questions are even more questions which makes you crazy but secretly I hope it keeps you close. If I have more questions, how can you leave me unanswered?

Besides, I like your answers and the way you put so much thought into crafting them. You are arrogant, selfish, maddening. But there’s something about the way your voice simmers like an electric current vibrating across my chest that I crave with everything I’m made of.

It crackles and snaps me awake to a part of myself which for too long has lay lifeless at the bottom of a deep dark abyss. When I look into your beautiful eyes I can’t tell if I need you inside me or need you to walk away and never come back.

You like to start shit you don’t bother to finish. You talk a good game but when it’s time to put out you disappear like a mist that dissipates across the cool surface of a lake at dawn in the last rays of summer.

At the center of you there are no questions, only a myth. 

The illusion of permanence. The illusion of desire fulfilled. 

These things are not real. These things are not safe.

In your mind, you imagine me giving myself to you completely. You spit out the bones and drown in what delights you which is mostly the flesh. 

Only the flesh. 

People are savage inside, and dirty. Like animals. Affectionate, primal, hungry. But not as loyal. That’s the tricky part.

As you brush your hand against my hand but do not take it in yours, I catch your eye and my breath catches tight in my throat.

The dead cold dampness of the middle of the day hangs around me like a wet tee shirt, and makes me shiver from head to toe.

 

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Photo by Soroush Karimi

 
 
 

Sometimes the Darkness Helps

We build our temples up to the sky hoping it will save us but we don’t know why or what from until it’s too late to do anything about in any case.

As I wind my way along Main Street, my boots crunch against the snowy sidewalk and my eyes follow the structures of the mansions on either side of the narrowing road. A lot of money buys a lot of pretty real estate. What’s that saying? He who dies with the most toys? Still dies.

One of the biggest places has a bunch of flags flying from their many ornate balconies. Some shit about patriotism and conspiracy theory somehow making so such sense to them they have to fly banners and announce to the world that they mean to come fuck it all up.

So much privilege. So much angst.

Wealth is a kind of blindness. A way to see and not see. A selection, a distraction. I have met people like this. Eyes and smiles all glazed over with the palpable fear and panic which courses through their jittery veins.

I take the last drag of my cigarette and toss it into a snow bank where it glows, then burns out in a flash of frozen winter air.

Somewhere across this town and on the border of the next, a guy with a lot of problems stands on the edge of a bridge which over looks a wide rushing river, churning its icy currents down toward a massive waterfall. He stares into the whirling darkness of its bottomless depths and wonders if he will ever be free.

If freedom is a thing you have to take for yourself in the best way you know how even if it isn’t in this life. Maybe there is a next. Maybe to leap is to fly and to fly is to escape. Second chances. Second looks. Second guesses.

As a plow truck shoves dirty snow into a pile against the corner where the coffee shop hums with fragrant activity, I watch the blinking traffic lights and stare off into the distance in the direction of the white church steeple high up in the hills, covered in bare black trees and worn out gray winter snow.

So many heroes, so many saviors, so many false gods.

The atmosphere, for the rich and the poor, the young and old and somewhere lost in between, is heavy.

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Photo by Mitchell Hollander

Before You Lose It All

Gun metal gray shadows slope along the snow covered roofs of the houses standing stark against the cold blue of the winter sky.  The entirety of the years gone by curls into a clear crystal ball and slides itself down into a frozen spike of sheer thick ice, slowly dripping from the slant of an old wooden doorway hidden away off the street.

Time melting into place before suddenly breaking off and shattering into a million pieces against the pavement. A million tiny globular tears glistening like jewels in the frigid white February sun.

He hates this time of year because the bitter cold keeps him from plunging into the ocean, but we still walk this beach anyway, all bundled like two Eskimos, sipping on this or that to keep warm.

I read somewhere that the warmth you feel from alcohol is deceiving and can get you killed in extreme cold. The alcohol draws the blood into your extremities and heats them up instead of protecting the vital organs which need the heat to keep you alive. Neither here nor there at the moment I guess, but if you ever find yourself facing down a case of hypothermia, ditch the bottle is what I’m telling you they would tell you.

Life can be cruel. It can scream and chase and gnaw at you despite all your best efforts to keep the hurt at bay. Life can push you to your limits and then stomp on your neck all the same with little care for even the slightest choke of your mortal struggle.

But for now at least, there is he and I and the endless ocean tides crashing against this thunderous, deserted beach. The sand, the water, our hearts and our shadows stretching out endlessly before us.

As I look up at the too bright sky, I can see the sun and the moon suspended there together which seems eerie and strange like they shouldn’t occupy the same sky even though they always do.  It occurs to me it’s kind of sweet and kind of stupid how we spend our whole lives trying to compartmentalize the universe – past, present, future, good, bad, beginning, end, middle – when the truth is it’s all there all the time, staring back at you all at once.

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Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra

Untouchable

You’re afraid you’re losing it all to them.

To the young. To the rich. To the beautiful.

It happens so fast you are shocked by the jerk of the rug being yanked out from under you. When did the crumbling begin? When did the circles ring your eyes like saucers.

Like a punch in the face of the pale precious moon who orbits your shy little life. Lets her dark eye seep all over you. Lights up against the fears you try to escape in the dark. Lights them up like a mute scream in a dream in which the ground races beneath your feet but you can’t move.

You could be nicer and quit ruining things for everybody else, you know. You could sit quietly and do as they ask of you and do as you are told to do, so they wouldn’t have to waste so much time keeping you in line. Inside the lines.

But you know something they don’t know and never can and never will. You know the fire in your bones burns from a place they don’t believe in even when you show them the scars.

You know the possibilities because you have been mapping your own desires your entire life. It scares you, the things you know about yourself. The things you hide that you wish you didn’t.

It was never about youth and it was never about beauty. It was always about pain and your endurance of it. Your craving for it. Your running from it. Your conversations with it. Inviting it in. Kicking it out. Chasing after it again.

It was always about the way you were stronger than they ever had to be.

It was always about the freedom to say the thing you need to say. To write the perverse, the meaningful, the crushing gasp of the truth they would not see.

You are losing it all at the hands of a time gone by that you can never get back. You are losing your grip on the things they told you to hold most dear. And the letting go feels just fine. And you laugh at the gods in the face of the sky as you drift higher and higher out of the body they stitched you into when you were small.

It was never about them; always about you. You as ageless, you as timeless, you as endless. You as some kind of impenetrable thing which can never be touched and never be held on to.

It was always about the way you can only be you and nobody else, and how that devastates and gratifies you all at once.

In the deep wells of your ancient soul, you know this.

Since the beginning of time, you always knew.

 

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Photo by Hugo Tasca

 

Twitch

What she saw before is gone now, replaced by gray dishes in a gray sink beneath a gray window beneath the clouded winter sky. The kind of sight which is a presence all its own, with its own weight and skin and intention.

Steady. Slow. Melancholy.

Life is for the ignorant and death is for the curious.

She has become the circumstance and the story. Her mind floating in the middle of no beginning and an uncertain ever-ebbing end.

All day she smiles and tries to blend in. Whittle away at the space she takes up.

The thought of rejection scares her to bits but the thought of solitude is her only comfort. Wanting to be alone and not alone is an exhausting mind-stretched space to inhabit so she opens a bottle to drown out the ricocheting pressure of the need to make any kind of decision one way or another.

In or out. Yes or no. Forward or back.

Truth or dare.

They tell her a hobby would help or maybe a man but she isn’t sure what help is supposed to actually mean so she picks up some arty shit at the craft place up the street and stares at it until finally shoving it all under the bed, lighting a cigarette and staring off into the gray distance.

Never minding the gray dishes in the gray sink.

She doesn’t want to draw this feeling. She doesn’t want to paint the terrible.

Writing is the only thing worth anything to her but that’s the problem right there: writing isn’t like anything else and it isn’t a hobby.

It’s everything real and sacred and true and it is the only thing that can save her because it has to.

It has to.

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Photo by Victoria Volkova

Far Away From Here

Closing my eyes and sucking a drag of my cigarette, I take in the cold feel of the frigid night air against my skin. It’s been a day and I’m happy enough to swallow the end of it down with the wine and the smoke and the tiny pricks of sadness and loss which never seem to quite leave me no matter how good the good things get.

The thick wet trunks of a half dozen large maple trees encircle me at the back of the yard and if I look up and peer into the pitch darkness, I begin to see beyond the stretch of their bare branches, the stars pierce through the void, little twinkling rushes of dead light, each its own jagged race to burst and burn out in a flash, light years away from the blink of an eye.

Encircled by the blackness, I imagine the owl who used to spend nights and dawns in these trees swooping down and taking his place on a high perch. I used to love his cooing sounds, and would lie in bed holding my breath waiting for each little moan and hoot. There was something so warm and soothing in the hollowness of his presence, his majestic solitude, his solemn song sung monotonous into the empty night for reasons I did not need to understand.

Some people are like that, though they are few and so far between. Most are noise and excuses. But there are some who are creatures of quiet wisdom, with a fierce kind of late night elegance which haunts you as smoothly as it tears into your veins with its sharp curved claws.

Though I am alone in this moment, I imagine eyes all around. The eyes of the trees and the night and the shadows and the animals, all turned upward toward the midnight sky.

If only we could get away from here. If only our roots weren’t so mangled and tight the way they wrap around the frozen barren ground.

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Photo by engin akyurt

Cold White Eye

I see his face in the white wide sky as the snow falls heavy and thick all around me, big fluffy chunks of it land soft and cold on my skin, stick against my eyelashes before sliding off down my pink cheek.

Ivory snow flakes nestle in my strawberry hair as my boots crunch into the drifting layers of crystal powder on the street. Blanketing the dirt, covering the holes in the asphalt.

It is hard to write when you don’t know who you are but try to pretend.

The snowy landscape is so gorgeous it hurts all over inside. It tears into the softest parts of you that have given up trying to understand, trying to make any sense, trying to try. I want the silent solitude of each little falling flake to pile up inside me because I lost myself somewhere I can’t seem to pinpoint and I would like to be buried against that feeling.

It is a struggle to understand what anything means to me as I take in the frigid scene. I can feel the whiteness of the sky like an open eye into my own mind. There is a brightness behind my trepidation which shines like a distant orbiting sun.

A rising of the temperature. A warming which threatens to melt the beauty and force it down into the gutter where it belongs.

I have become too many people all at once. I am consumed with jitters and apprehension, and the apprehension becomes a persona I can manipulate like a child builds a man made out of snow. Charcoal eyes. Standing alone in a field.

Geese cry over head, their darkened bodies soaring through a pristine sky, and I imagine the wetness of freedom. The feathered breast of the wild we were promised but destroy.

I imagine his face inside the clouded winter, the dark circles around his heavenly eyes. The mouth is moving against the air and my blood rushes faster and faster toward it. I want to be swallowed.

It’s hard to write when you don’t know what you want from life. Your own life hanging in a closet somewhere among other things – lost, forgotten, discarded things which no longer fit. You keep what you have because it’s all you’ve gotten or ever will. What a joke. What a waste.

All around me this beauty, this terrible beauty which twists in my heart like a knife.

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Photo by Micah Hallahan