As is now the fashion, I have been keeping up with caring for an ever growing number of houseplants. This is not terribly interesting I understand but what is of considerable note is the fact that I have been able to nurture so many into lush abundant things without killing them, many pots full of beautiful ivy spilling about, tall tumbling ones, wide cascading ones, (kindly do not ask me to name them, I’m no botanist, mind you) all their elegant leaves bending gently toward the sun. Scarcely a sun to speak of these days which is to my delight. Give me darkness and throw in gray rain for good measure. Feed me dark poetry, dark words, dark moods. Turn down all the lights and make red shadows dance like ghosts underneath a winter moon. We do not touch, only the words we exchange between us vibrate with an energy, a current which attracts us to one another like a moth to a flame. You and I are a blinding heat and though I’ve tried to stay away something about you makes my heart come alive. We meet on a beach where it is cold and the midnight sky glitters with countless stars, the rich black velvet pierced over and over one million times. I want to like you but in all of your stories the women are just a pair of legs in black tights, portals through which you pass into a place where they no longer exist for anything but pleasure. I want to know what’s inside that mind of yours but I’m also afraid it’s nothing but the same old thing. A man’s desire for fame and power and accolades. Everybody wants to be a god but all the while they can’t get out of their own way. Something you say, or maybe it’s just the way you say it, makes me sigh and imagine us naked swimming out into the ocean waves like two carefree fools with nothing left to lose. But the world we live in has been ripping itself apart bit by bit for decades now and most of us are barely hanging on to decency by a thread so we snap selfies and drink rose wine and raise houseplants and declare ourselves original works of art in this maddening paper doll parade of one more just like the last. No one is interesting all the time, we are shiny at first and then we fade. But every once in a while you pull me close as we shiver and tremble in the wind, drinking whiskey to warm our frigid bones and kissing like the world will end, and that is the very last thing on our devious minds.
The electricity having gone out, the entire neighborhood is awash in darkness as the snow comes down turning everything to a thick blanket of white. Off in the distance, firetruck sirens are screaming which at the very least suggests that some part of the disturbance is being addressed. After lighting a half dozen candles, I pour another glass of white as I have already decided I’m done for the night and continue skimming through a collection of old photographs of Kate Moss. Tanned and toned and thin as a rail with wide, wild glittering eyes, she is smoking a cigarette while strolling through a grand marble hotel lobby somewhere in Europe. So young back then, impossibly exotic in her black eyeliner and nude silk spaghetti strap cocktail dress. I remember being a young thing and obsessed with her seemingly effortless combination of disheveled poise. Gloss and glamour and grit in random measure. She wasn’t everyone’s taste of course, but as for me I fell for all of it. I was scrawny but she made me feel good about it even when some ignorant adult would tell me to eat something, you look sick and in my head I was telling them to properly fuck off. There is something intoxicating about watching a beautiful creature even from a distance, even when time has erased what was once reality. I light a cigarette and a few more candles and stand to look out across the street, still dark as pitch, and quiet save for the frosty droplets splattering against the windowsill. My phone lights up with a message from a friend I’ve not heard from in quite some time. I used to think that he thought we maybe could have been a thing but it was never right or wrong enough to really make a move. Now we text in quiet moments when one of us needs to feel seen and heard, just for a little while, before again passing off into the ether. You would be surprised how that feeling sneaks up on you. It isn’t loneliness but it isn’t without a little bit of fear, either. Fear of the emptiness in the abyss which is a life not anchored to fulfilling other people’s expectations. He once described the way my writing made him feel and to be told of the affect my words could have was an aphrodisiac I hadn’t seen coming. Perhaps that is arrogance, perhaps that is humility, who’s to say. Writers are strange people, we give and we take all in the same keystroke. We create and we destroy and we don’t look back on any of it. What was it Ms. Moss used to say? Don’t complain, don’t explain. I do try not to complain and it has been years since I felt the need to explain myself to anyone. Life is too short and no one knows what they are doing for the most part in any case. We are transient, unpredictable things. Untethered. I text him back something which borders on flirting, but the truth is I’m just bored.
The rain was torrential, a universe in every drop which crashed against the slick pavement. Standing by the window in an upstairs spare room, I scan the dead landscape which slopes away from the old farmhouse into some brown grassy hills which eventually give way to a graveyard. I can barely make out the little headstones, small gray slats pointing up to a cold dark sky swollen with winter. He walks into the room and stands behind me, tells me he finds me fascinating, and sometimes that means more coming from a stranger than someone who knows you well enough to know if he means it or not. When you are new to the game of love you make mistakes and when you are no longer in love you mistake that, too. We are such fickle creatures, how can we be trusted with anything as delicate and breakable as another human’s heart. Though our conversations usually stimulate, I have no stories to tell you on this dreary sunless day, wet weather often leaves me muted and pale, I move deeper into myself slow like a shadow and my eyes turn away from the light. Breathing steadily in the darkness, the floorboards creak as he pulls my hair back and traces the curve of my neck with his long fingers. I am motionless with need for touch, my core smoldering for affection. I can feel his heartbeat in my veins, the quickness which catches in my chest causes tingling all over my body. He knows my silence, studies me closely for signs of obedience, willingness, reception. There is a calculation he makes and I can almost hear him ticking off boxes as he removes my shirt and takes hold of my breasts, kneading, pressing, pinching at the soft flesh. The heavens open up as the rain pounds heavy slashes against the window pane, I place a hand upon the fogged glass and close my eyes. His movements dictate my movements, his needs are the map of my instruction. In a world relentless with gratuitous destruction, I find it hard to explain the way his greed, his roughness soothes my rattled nerves. Why before him I open like fruit. With a kiss he takes me to the grave, my tears are prayers as he drinks from the sweetness of my ache. This beautiful suffering, beautiful death on a threadbare candlelit evening in a far away place, overlooking the ones who have gone before, never to know of pain or pleasure again. We are all heathens. We are all broken and seething. And at the end of it all, we are only strangers, to each other and ourselves.
He was a small trusting creature and went down easily after she first injected the sedative and then the final drug which would cause his swollen heart to stop. It was over in less than a minute and something about the efficiency at the very end clutched at my own heartstrings in a strange sort of twisting of relief and anguish. Grief is a swift thief I suppose, at once seizing upon all of your senses and choking your breath in its stiff hands. His heart, in every way imaginable, was too big. The tiny tri-color spaniel adored each and every human, animal, and living creature he ever made contact with. He just loved. Without question or concern. His gentleness would often break me into a million pieces for the innocence of such a kind of affection. The world is cruel and uncaring in so many ways but in the presence of this little dog all you knew was to cherish and be cherished. Cavaliers are known to have physically enlarged hearts which makes them very prone to dying from complications of the disease they carry from birth. I guess you could say in that way we knew it was coming. His heart was too wide and too tall and wouldn’t stop expanding, eventually straining his every breath until he couldn’t take the pressure any longer. He would have endured it until he exploded. He would have done anything, trusted anyone. His whole life he was gentle as a lamb. Handsome and affectionate beyond. It is hard to let go of a presence as wrenchingly kind as Shamus was. There is a hole, a void which is the purity only sadness can contain. I put his paw print impressions on the mantle over the fireplace, nestle them among candles and mini pumpkins. In the past I might have thought that was a silly thing someone would do, but sometimes small things feel more important than grand things do and maybe there are secrets only an animal can make you understand. As I look out across the autumn sky on the first morning in eleven years without the little furry guy at my feet, staring up at me with his gigantic brown puppy eyes, the wild geese are soaring like an arrowhead of dark shadows toward a destination far off over the hills. They cry out, and then they are gone. There is a part of me which is leaving and I can feel it and it is the color of pain. The air hovers cold and stationary over the invisible boundary between autumn and winter. Life and death. Season upon season. You can taste the snow on your tongue even before it begins its quiet descent into the empty streets. He was born on Friday the thirteenth and died on black Friday. I wore black, head to toe. Our little unlucky lucky charm. Don’t worry, he won’t feel anything, the doctor said, looking at me with kind round saucer eyes. And yet up until that final moment, for his entire life I believe he felt everything. And he deemed all of it good.
It’s too late or too early and I’m in a mood so we are ignoring each other and when we get like this the only thing to do is seal myself off to write behind closed doors. People make me nauseous and even though I’m sure it’s just as much me as it is them, cocooning myself inside the darkness of my own mind is how I deal with the seemingly constant onslaught of other people’s neuroses. When did we become so competitive? When did we become so paranoid and cruel? Why does everyone say one thing when they mean another? Why do we hide what we want so desperately to expose? As I light a candle at the foot of the blue virgin statue among my random collection of mysterious talismans and various house plants, the flickering flame twinkles and reflects on the crystals which adorn a taller faux candle close by. My grandmother, terrified of fire and water and a handful of other everyday occurrences, got us all into the faux candles a while back. I can’t say I blame her as by this point in my life I have caused my fair share of small fires due in no small part to negligence and probably alcohol, but I live to tell the tale(s). I’m supposed to be shopping for holiday gifts but all I can seem to concentrate on are a fine pair of tight black leather pants which make my little heart race, imagining all the ways I could style them over the coming winter months. It’s funny the things we crave. To have and have, to acquire, to rule over a world even if it’s just our own tiny personal universe of visions and dreams. How to fill the void of the days we have been given on a planet which is collapsing in upon itself bit by bit. What’s it all for and where are we going with any of it? All to the grave. A death which stalks each and every one of us which we cannot see. In a flash of memory, I remember you and the way you used to describe the world as you saw it, so much optimism, so much arrogant nonsense, but you believed in nothing more than you believed in yourself and I was too blinded by the sensuous tone in your voice to see that you were just taking me along for the ride. There are shadows all around even as we kiss and dance and smile in the glaring light of a day too bright. Wishing it would cloud over and rain hard and heavy to relieve the itch of my anxiety, I get up and turn the blinds closed. The writing comes and goes because I’m not focused on the deeper things, there are feelings and thoughts inside I am unable to access at the moment and I dread the wait for the resistance to fall. I’m still in a mood hovering over the black pants I now seem to have decided I rightly deserve, but you bring me a second cup of coffee and kiss the top of my forehead. All is forgiven because there was no point in being angry to begin with. As you exit through the doorway, my eyes drift up to survey a dusty book lined shelf. Curling my knees to my chest, I watch in silence as the sand in the hourglass falls.
You cannot wait for them, they will never understand much less encourage you. If it sings within your heart, take it and make it your own. Write what you know and write what you wish you knew but probably never will. There are no rules except to not die with stories unspoken, still haunting your sad skeletal bones. When I was young I wore a micro mini crimson dress that hugged the curve of my hips and made men twitch at bars and clubs until I could dance no more, before going home alone to pass out in bed without undressing. The mornings were afternoons, the mascara was smudged in circles underneath my eyes. Life as a multicolored blur of lights, pulsing music and game of desire. I couldn’t tell you if I was happy then, I didn’t even really try, but the fear which gripped me back then was nothing like the fear which flutters within me now. The fear of being rejected has been replaced by the fear of all the many things I reject. Life at arm’s length, life on its way as it passes me by. As I tell you stories about my younger days when I was carefree, stupid, and invincible, we stroll past tiny gardens fully decorated with twinkling Christmas lights, soft and glowing in the dark. Small scratched animals and a celestial blue virgin in the snow. Blinking stars, animated reindeer, and a plastic Jesus. In the distance I can hear the cars on the interstate sliding by underneath a billboard which flashes the hot pink electronic image of the word Risqué in fancy cursive letters next to a beautiful stripper in a red corset lined with white fur, legs for days and her eyebrows are perfect. The trees are icicles, glistening with crystallized frost. My breath catches in my throat from the stinging cold and I shove my mittened hands deeper into my down-filled coat. Life is a warm hay lined manger when no one will let you in. Life is a slap in the face when what you need most is affection. It’s a wonder any of us pause to celebrate. Too numbed by the frigid night air to continue talking, I look up at you, and you are quiet, your eyes scanning the lane for icy patches. Obstacles. Protection. And I cannot tell you if I was happy back then, when the water I dangled my young body over was black as death and ten times as deep. But as we make our way back on this long winter’s night for white wine and Chinese food at our place, I think I would tell you that I am happy now.
It can be lonely as night falls against the backdrop of a day whittled away to nothing but a rose washed sunset sky. Streaks of peach and amber and clouds drifting behind my tired eyes. It can feel empty in your chest without even a reason why. Such is the strange aloneness of being human, of being alive in stillness. Silence scratches its nails along the wall, pulling shadows down like shades. Wrapped in a flannel and dim light, I’m sipping on the spice of some old fashioned bourbon you left behind and tracing the curls of smoke as they circle from my lips to the ceiling and out the window which opens to the street. Desperate for words which reach inside and claw at the marrow of aching bones, I’m reading poetry by Donaghy, looking over his boyishly handsome face like a ghost in the mirror of a talent reflected back into itself for all eternity, too soon buried, filed away on a shelf only to be taken into soft hands on a cold winter’s evening. Somewhere in a far off hotel room, a man arrives with a bottle of champagne and makes sweet love to a woman he hardly knows who hardly knows herself, but with the tenderness of his touch he teaches her everything she needs to know to get her through another lonely night on the road. I’ve lit a few logs in the fireplace to warm more than just the body, the kind of flames which lick and split at the foot of the soul you carry around with you all day wondering where it fits. Where you fit. If anywhere. You write for some but others show up, unfamiliar, unforgiving, unable to listen or understand even the simplest of truths you hold close to your birdcage ribs. When you stop and think, as you too often do, of how many stories you have told you wonder how many are left to tell. Which will run dry first, you or them. Little rivers of quiet thoughts in your veins, thousands of miles to see what you have seen, to hold upon your tongue the words you searched for long ago only to find them back at the start. That’s the hardest part, maybe. Just to scrape together the courage to pull your heart from your throat. And start.
There are millions chasing but few will ever grab the brass ring. She has full breasts and flawless skin but she is far from flawless. Riddled with self-loathing and the feeling that some kind of tiny insects are breeding at lightening speed and crawling underneath her veins, she smiles and keeps it all inside. She’s so pretty they take her picture for hours on end, make her frolic in the frozen ocean in the coldest winter on record as she wears a bikini and her hips are numb and her lips are blue as the razor sharp sky overhead which is a blank stare, offering no comfort and no relief. As I imagine all the models all across the world who have been humiliated just for show, I wonder why so many of us are willing to go so far for attention and why the rest of us care to see it play out in as many gruesome scenes. Is it sad or fascinating. The flashing lights and recognition, is it currency or oppression and are they different things. I once watched a TV show where a beautiful young girl posed for the camera while holding a tarantula inside her wide open ruby red mouth. And as the hairy thing crawled even further toward the back of her throat she didn’t even flinch, whereas I, observing from the comfort of my couch in my humble second floor apartment, began to gag and had to leave the room. I’m fairly certain it was around that time I stopped watching cable television. We share whisky and cigarettes and embarrassing secrets about ourselves late at night while wrapped up in each others arms. We push each other down and inflict bite marks which turn to bruises we then lick and kiss as we fuck with abandon until dawn. When you want it soft I’m distant and when I want it hard you disappear but every once in a while there are sensations which electrify every nerve and could never be described in mere words on a listless page. There are card tricks and magic shows, sleight of hand and lovers severed in half and all the while we wander this circus turning over stones in the hopes of finding anything worth believing in, worth pulling close to our chest and holding on to if for no other reason than to keep from drifting off into a state of permanent isolated melancholy. But truth be told I’m more curious about the ones who hide in shadows and pursue a strange light which burns only within themselves. The ones who cannot find the words but can make your body sing as though come back to life. I don’t want answers and I don’t need one more person telling me how to live my best life. I’ve rarely been one for romance but then again maybe that’s what I’ve been missing all my life. Read me a poem that tears me into a thousand pieces of myself I didn’t even know I possessed. Tell me about the way when she knelt before you and looked up at you with those wet hungry eyes you were certain this here before you was god herself in the naked body of an angel come to earth to spread herself only for you. There are some things we cannot bear to swallow, only write about. There are some things we cannot say no matter how hard we try because something in us is not ready. Will never be ready. And as we dangle our little feet over the gaping precipice, we want nothing more than to leap but something always holds us back.
It could be a burned out autumn, it could be the dead of winter, but either way there is a flame in his hazel eyes which seems to dance to the chant of maidens in the darkness of a thick enchanted wood. As I tug on my tights to pull them into place I catch a glimpse of my own reflection in the window of the small coffee shop where you and I have known so many late afternoon conversations which turned into dinner which turned into bottles of wine before falling easily, hungrily into your bed, which truth be told was just a mattress on the floor of your studio. We were not meant to be forever, at first we didn’t even seem to be anything at all but you were kind and gracious and I was curious and free. As I straighten myself up, the rain begins to fall soft and then hard and heavy causing me to pull my hood over my head and duck under a small overhang for shelter. Despite my best efforts to stay dry, the wind pushes the rain against my face and I taste its coolness sliding into my mouth through parted lips. Life is cruel when you least expect it. There are days when even though you try to fight the sadness it comes and puts its weary arms around you anyway. Across the street, the little stick figure people are running for cover while slamming their feet into giant puddles seemingly formed in seconds flat. Turning away into a corner of the building out of the wind, I cup my hand and light a cigarette letting the first drag sting my lungs. As I turn back to watch the hustle of city lights drowning their colored glow into the flowing streets, I feel your fingers lace with mine as you appear out of nowhere to share my smoke. I’m not sure how you got here or why and I am surprised at the electricity that jolts through my entire body when, without a word, I meet your eyes. You so close I can feel your heat, smell the scent of your skin gently dampened by the rain. My hair is a mess and you see it. My face is cold and stained with gray weather but you tell me all you see is the way everything about me glistens and shines. Having nothing to lose or believe in, we begin to kiss, tongues drinking each other in. Maybe it’s the rain or maybe it’s the rush of seeing you again after all this time, but in what feels like only a blur of slippery moments we are back at your place removing our wet clothes by candlelight, settling in upon a blanket you’ve laid out on the floor at the center of the room. As your mouth tastes the curves of my wet skin, your touch is familiar, delicate and rough in equal measure. Just as it has so many times before, my body responds and opens for you, something about the way you move unlocks me. You trespass and I allow, I beg for the sweet violation. We are an ocean at midnight, our bodies as helpless and obedient to our desire as the rise and fall of the tide. After we are satisfied, after the secrets are braided into our goodbyes, I’ll not stay and you’ll not insist. I take what is mine and leave what is yours behind. Not every story is a fairy tale. There are no princesses and there are no white knights and no one knows what they are doing most of the time. But perhaps there are angels in this world who take you back to their bare apartments with the warehouse windows stretching high in to the empty trees. They’ll make you Manhattans and feed you black cherries in the purple hours of random evenings you will remember for the rest of your life. Maybe in the rare artful hands of a familiar stranger, we are made exquisite, messy and divine.
Some days I am more poetic than others and this used to be hard for me to be okay with, even though to define what that even means is nearly impossible. A poet should always be poetic, no? Have the words and ability to make all things more beautiful. But the truth is I have many sides, many shapes, many forms of expressing how I observe and move through this multifaceted existence. Sometimes you can dress it up in a pretty box all you want but the reality is nothing but gruesome cold hard facts. There are days like today, freezing rain outside and me warm as toast inside with my morning coffee, still in a muffled sleepy state as I shuffle from bed to the writing room and nestle in among my books and papers. Staring up into the white winter sky, I remember a hazy dream I had last night soaked full of lust and carnal fulfillment to the tune of multiple toned and writhing bodies torturing and pleasuring one another into an aching shattered explosion of collective ecstasy. Faceless except for their mouths, the figures were the embodiment of greedy physical desire, the desire to please oneself by violating another. Watching and being watched. We are creatures of unspeakable cravings and yet we are also beings of great ingenuity, generosity, openness and compassion when we want to be. I once read that we imagine a wide variety of sexual fantasies we would never actually want to live out in real life. The imagination provides a cocoon, a buffer, a safe space to play around with dangerous scenarios. I’ll leave that right there and let you decide how you feel about it, my only point is that people are far stranger inside their nasty little heads than we admit and there are days when all this self-righteous prudishness strikes me not as noble strength but as a sad sort of weakness. Too often we cringe at ourselves just for being human. Sure there’s something to be said for decorum and modesty in certain circles but there is also the fact that few things delight me more than reading about other people’s perversions which in no small way validate and celebrate my own. This revelation is no doubt revolting to some and endearing to others but at the end of the day, here we are. There is the truth and there is nibbling around the truth and one is more valuable than the other. Because your last breath is coming and possibly sooner than you can guess. And when it’s all shadow closing in on you and your next heartbeat is the final for all eternity, do you want to have known yourself in all your weird deviations or greet death only ever having propped up an empty hollow shell? There’s writing for them, and there’s writing for yourself, and you have to decide which is more sacred to you. I was brought up to please, to be polite and palatable, and the older I get the less I care about the comfort of others. As a stiff wind moves through the tall bare trees, I crack the window even though the air is a frigid bite against my hands. Running a hot bath, I sink into the liquid pool, observe my alabaster skin beneath the vanilla scented bubbles, and wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I spill secrets on the internet as if there were no consequence. It’s funny how humans are. We want to hide in plain sight, to be seen and understood and yet remain a mystery. We want to believe we are immune to caring what other people think of us. And in our backwards attempt to own what little of our story we have left, we seek control by giving it all away.