Let You Watch

For the most part, I’m unmoved. Walking together beneath the dead trees which line the street, he’s going on about something that matters even less than a little bit but such is the regular stuff of regular people who are afraid of any other way. Tell me what you write about, tell me what you see, I ask him in an even tone to let him know I’m not fucking around at all, I’m not patronizing like most people do when you tell them you’re a writer, no. I most sincerely want to know, because people write about the things they don’t know how to say, and the things we don’t know how to say are the most interesting. We are voyeuristic, we want to peek behind the curtain, but through a secret window so that we can see them undressing but they can’t see us. So that we can pretend we are in control of our perversions and not the other way around. Ducking out of the rain and into a dimly lit bar just west of the center of town, we order drinks as his eyes change. The way he leans closer to me tells me he has decided to trust me with those thoughts he holds deep within his soul. As he opens up, I listen with my entire body and mind to each and every single word he lets drop like jewels from his deviant tongue. He’s a dirty one for sure, but when he homes in on a subject he’s a fiercely quick study and a razor sharp wit. He writes about sex with women who submit themselves to his every command. They are beautiful and they are his and he makes them say it out loud while naked and blindfolded. He writes about the end of the world and laughing into the face of insanity while the forests and buildings all go up in flames. Destruction is resurrection and suffering a random misfortune in a mostly uncaring universe. He once wrote a piece so graphically horrific that he lost a good lot of even his most devoted fans but that only fueled his desire to delve deeper into the dark places so few others would dare tread. Swallowing his last and ordering us both another round of whiskey neat, his eyes are full-on raging wildfire now. Running his hands through his hair, a single wavy lock comes loose from the others and drapes a long black shadow across his left eye. I say very little and let him indulge me with grand tales of bondage, passion distorted, nihilism, Armageddon. I’m pulling off my sweater as he’s pulling back the curtain and all I have to do is sit back and peer in. This one’s a feast. Sipping my drink on this regular day in this no name bar and watching his whole body tell it’s most intimate stories, I’m reminded of a truth I didn’t even realize I had given up on believing long ago. There are those who admit to their sordid desires and those who do not, but everybody’s got something they don’t want you to see. There are no regular people.

Laid Bare

People want to talk about themselves and they will if you let them and mostly I do because so few of them listen anyway. To tell stories about myself, what would be the point? We are selfish and we are empty shells, kicking the can down the road in the quiet evening light. Pulling the cork out of a freshly chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, always New Zealand) I pour myself a proper glass as I’m reading Patti Smith’s enchanting The Coral Sea. I am struck by how much her work resembles the lucid dreamlike state in Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest. Nin writes with fascinating precision about the strangest of encounters with dismembered bodies, fish swimming through air, faceless figures in maze-like buildings set back within thick tangles of ivy covered walls. If ever a mind could turn me on and trip me out it was hers. Meanwhile, Smith’s book is a lengthy poem written to honor the tragic early death, and brilliant artistic life, of Robert Mapplethorpe, her lifelong beloved friend and partner in crime when it came to barely living on scraps of acid and nothing and chasing one’s own creative vision, one’s own style of expressing love, passion, erotica, power, creation. Not technically an artist myself, I’m often taken in with artist types, the way they see things of remarkable obscurity, the way they speak about them using everything but words, how they encapsulate a concept, distill it, reinvent it, reveal its sensuality, weakness, vulnerability. In all things there exists a beg, a want, a need, and it takes a certain sort of twisted sense to be able to pluck that wantonness free and expose it for all to witness. There is a savageness, a cruelty, a beauty. I once knew an artist who would make huge canvases covered in erratic lines of thick charcoal, and thin pencil, in broad block like formations. He would create some massive, expansive piece inside his bare bones studio, share it with me, and I would express for him in poetic language exactly how it made me feel, what I sensed within it. What I saw always affected me more deeply the longer I observed it. I can remember being completely entranced by the movement I sensed within his art which also seemed to move within me. Sometimes the lines and forms would be spare upon the large white space, sometimes there would appear an imbalance, a heaviness of dark black charcoal smeared together as if a storm, a passion, a wickedness. Some were raw. Some reminded me of ruins. Like the way an ancient building crumbles away from itself in a most haunting display of romantic destruction. With the viewing of the work came the crumbling down of my own walls within, I could feel my blood running in my veins, my breath deserting me. He could take down my defenses, he could take down my fear even as he reflected it back to me in large scale installations, with these strokes he’d slash from ceiling to floor in a warehouse somewhere hidden in a far off wood. I cannot remember the words I would use to tell him about my feelings because they fell from my memory the moment I laid them bare, but in my mind I can still remember image after stunning image of those lines crisscrossing, jutting in and out of one another’s formations, and being awestruck that a human mind could make these so, could manipulate, make them exist in a way which affected me on a cellular level. On a level I was certain only the artist and I could understand. He would tell me the words I used were eerily familiar, as though he had the feelings I would describe but never the words. This is how one makes love when one is held captive by another. Another work of hardness and severity. Another work of brilliance mangled within chaos. Another who is unafraid of the darkness, the mysterious heaven of willing exposure to pleasure and pain. What is madness, what is art, what is love, but the seeing of things that no one else sees.

Please Don’t Go

As the rain comes down angry and hard against my window, I curl deeper into my cocoon of warm blankets and pillows while attempting to thread through the million thoughts gripping my insides at once. In between the rooftops scattered with pigeons shuffling for space among their dirty huddle, the sharp point of a church steeple pierces a dark low hanging cloud, as if probing it to unload its heaviness onto the sleepy streets below. Behind the weather, morning creeps, slowly turning the driving rain into a thinning drizzle, the crystal droplets intermingling with the wafting white smoke coming from multiple chimneys across the way. The sky is charcoal gray, back lit with an eerie yellow light which makes the atmosphere feel unpredictable, unfriendly. Full of voices struggling to be heard. They are as sinister as they are honest. In every swaying branch there twists a ghost come alive from my haunted past, still shallow breathing, still waiting to take my hand, to grip my throat. Last I saw you I had been impossible and knew it. Sometimes I can’t help the way I shut down like a vault, trapping all of my feelings inside. For someone so blindly obsessed with words, my tight lipped demeanor doesn’t make any sense to you. You are pissed, certain I’m withholding on purpose, locking you on the outside while I am conniving on the inside, but your anger only fuels my refusal and the air between us becomes a fuse. Love is a ticking time bomb, love is a train gone off its slippery rails. When it all feels helpless, useless, desperate, there are no guidelines, no rule books, no referees. And if there is one thing a human being is good at it’s being stubborn, I’m no different and neither are you. As I sit in clipped silence, my mind flashes back to that night in your apartment, as you poured our drinks I sat comfortably in a bra and leggings on the edge of your couch near the mirror, lining my eyes in onyx liquid ink. As I traced my blue eyes until they were black as midnight I sipped on gin and tonic while imagining us naked, our bodies entwined in positions I’d only heard about but had yet to explore. Back then everything was so loud. The drinking, the music, the anger, the passion, the sex that shook the walls and split us both in two over and over again. I wonder when you look at me can you see it in my eyes. That freedom is just as hard for me as captivity, and in some ways just as sweet. That all my life I’ve been hunted. That even on a cold wet morning which threatens a snowfall that will have us stuck inside for days, my heart still burns with the fire of a young girl who knew what she wanted as soon as she saw it and took it without asking a single soul for permission. I hold on and I hold back. I want to be consecrated and I want to be shattered into a million pieces, thrown out into a wild winter sky. Lost and found and missed and deserted. Words can heal, words can obliterate. Please be patient. Please don’t go. I am a chapel as much as I am a cave, and what I explore in the darkness is the only light I ever learned to trust.

Open Wide

There’s always a chance, a terrible chance but a real one none the less, that you may never write again. That all the things you are dying to say will fall away for good and neither your tongue nor your fingers nor your mind will be able to offer you any way out of yourself again. Perhaps it’s writers block, or perhaps you will just have used it all up and for no reason whatsoever the magic will have gone the way of old record players and static transistor radios. A distant memory of a time when you knew exactly who you were and wouldn’t let go for anything or anyone. Your life was yours, as was the way you told it. Was there ever such a time? A time with no rules and no expectations? Without being able to write, you could not access any of the answers you seek. And without any answers, what are you at all but lost among the wreckage. And the minute that fear of dead inspiration finally settles into your skin, you can feel the panic in the pit of your stomach. There’s wine, there’s smokes, there’s the taking of a warm body into your bed. There are thoughts he wants to know about and thoughts you can’t express. Two days away from the pen, three days, a week, and now everything is a red fiery sunset behind the eyes of every stranger, every lover, every one who speaks to you no matter what they say, all you can hear is the mashing together of the words erupting from the mess you carry deep inside. They talk and you pretend to listen. They lament and you pretend to care but, jesus christ, you are spent. Can’t they tell your jittery mind needs your undivided attention? Your bones, your thoughts, the very life beating in your chest, so precious and so fleeting, and all they want to do is flick cigarettes into the gutter and complain about not having won the fucking lottery. People are absurd and all the while they’ve no idea they are anything of the sort. Walking the streets on a gray afternoon, as fallen leaves swirl and crunch along the pavement, I am lost in thoughts of the many things we never speak about and why we never do. Is it that the words are too soft or too sharp? Too real, too true, too irretrievable? How frightening to be revealed for who you truly are when your whole life you’ve done such a good job of covering up the scars, the failures, the claws. The secrets we keep, who are we keeping them from? Those we’d hurt? Those we love? Ourselves? I can count on one hand the number of people who understand me and the list gets shorter every year that passes away into the soundless ether. Is it me, or is it them? Or is it that people are so consumed with nothingness inside their phones that we are simply, second by slim ignorant second, ebbing ever away from each other. Far be it from me to say or judge, considering I’d rather be alone most of the time anyway. Humans are troubled and I’ve had enough of their self-made woes. It’s always the ones with the farthest reaches of undeserved power who complain the loudest, demand the most. Tell me something that will last forever. Tell me a truth so beautiful it breaks your heart to know it and have no way to properly express it. There are feelings without words to accompany them, only tears, only screams. These are the feelings I obsess over without relent. Give me a thought that cuts through all the bullshit and electrifies the night sky with a single promise you’ll never be able to keep but with each and every drop of blood in your timid veins you will try, try to believe until your breath leaves your weakened body for the last time. When I round the corner and slip inside the coffee shop, the envelope of warm air and cinnamon mixed with coffee beans surrounds and welcomes me. I write here when I can’t write at home but nothing much good ever comes of it. It’s hard to concentrate when lives are being lived out all around you in hushed detail. Someone’s lying, someone’s pregnant, someone’s promoted, someone’s leaving. Someone got stood up, someone can’t put down the bottle. Someone is lonely and they are not saying it out loud. The elderly are crumbling and the newborns are needy and it’s all life in little coffee mugs, in little capsules of humanity huddled against the frosted window pane with it’s glittering snowflakes carefully painted into place within the white noise. But you and I, we are so much more than this. While they disintegrate in their small houses lined straight in rows like headstones in graveyards under forgotten skies, we are angels soaring high over endless snow covered hills.

The Story of Your Life

Nuzzled awake by a soft sunrise sliding its fingers through my bedroom window, I’m already in deep contemplation about what to do with my stacks and stacks of old journals which now do nothing but prop up potted plants and collect dust in the corner of my writing room. So many years, so many words, so many thousands of pages of nothing more than hopes and dreams of becoming something more than just a no name writer holed up in a small room overlooking a life of mediocrity and patience. As the hourglass pours through its allotted portion one minuscule grain of sand at a time, we begin and we hesitate. We dream and we wake, we bleed and we quiver and in the end it’s just hot coffee on a freezing cold morning in mid November, baseboard heater pumping and creaking away beneath a pale blue sky, pierced by a slim line of naked young trees. The notebooks though, I have never quite known what to do with them. And as I mull it over, I keep penning more and more still, thus compounding my dilemma. Old memories and angst filled pages, I’m sure, and I want nothing to do with reading through them again but I have this strange (admittedly completely unfounded) concern that if I threw the lot of them all out in the trash at once some random waste management worker will actually sit and read them laughing and judging and cursing me all the way. This random person would read through my entire story and have all the answers I could never find because they would see all of the things I couldn’t. My life can often feel like looking at an object up so close it is impossible to see what it is. Or perhaps by unbelievably ridiculous chance, an artist would come upon the journals and make a terrible movie of their wayward story. I’d be humiliated, mortified, exposed, and get no credit whatsoever. I could burn them, page by page, one clear winter night alone by a fire sipping wine, smoking cigarettes and letting everything I’ve ever been through, cried about, tore my heart to shreds over, go up in dark clumps of exotic smoke, ember and ash. As I gaze up at the moon still hung there on this early morning, I think about how she is the same cratered moon who has been spinning about me all my life. And no matter what I do with the journals, whatever it was that moved my hand to write the things I would never dare speak aloud, moves deep within me still. I could destroy and dismember the material but the skeletons walk within me until I’m no longer. I could take the pages out to sea. Let the tide wash them clean as salt water does all things, drops of ocean, drops of tears only a woman could understand and only in the privacy of a heart worn thin but still warm, still beating. We are of fire and water, wind and earth and spirit. Little transient fools of beauty and lust, fury, vision, and bone. Dust to dust, our bodies and our stories.

Private Lives

After a fitful night of tossing and turning, I finally fall into a deep luxurious sleep exactly three minutes before my alarm goes off. Feeling warm and toasty and knowing that when my bare feet hit the cold hardwood floor it’ll send shivers all through me, I push snooze and try my best to ride out another nine minutes of snuggled bliss. It’s impossible though because I’m already fretting about something which may or may not come to pass months from now and so, my mind having raced out of bed ahead of me, I decide to pull on a hoodie and socks and go downstairs for coffee. The early November morning is pitch dark, stars still twinkling in the blackness high above the naked trees. When I open the door to let the dogs out the frigid air is clear and bracing, tinged with the faint scent of frosty dew and burning sticks.  There is something in the air this time of year, something sinister, mystical, and inviting. There is a dark side to everything, in nature and in us. For every lover’s kiss there is a knife to the throat, for each birth a death. You are half way across the country and although I miss you I also like the whole bed to myself and the particular kind of silence that comes only with being alone. When we have one thing we want another and one thing humans are just not good at is being content. Restlessness comes with the deal and a raw deal it is. While the dogs set about sniffing each individual blade of grass in the yard for any trace of wild intruders that may have passed through overnight, I head upstairs and settle in with my steaming mug and laptop. I’ve been getting up to write like this for over a decade now. Since the day I realized that this life is not guaranteed to any of us for any significant length of time. Death will do that for you, at least. People are stunned when I tell them I wake up hours before is reasonably necessary just to write words on a page. But I can’t understand how life has meaning if you don’t grab secret time and space to do the thing you love the most in the world. What do other people believe in? Do they even know the beauty of what it means to worship something that will only fall away? Isn’t a cold autumn morning filled with nothing more than silence and coffee and words as good a god as any?

Behind Closed Doors Out In the Open

There is an ocean which glitters in sunshine and sprays its furious foam for miles along deserted golden sands. There are women who want nothing more than to please a man and men who want nothing more than a subservient woman. There are people who will tell you to stay quiet and to lay low and these are the people who are most adamant and most afraid. We are living in a dark and vicious age, skin and bone in a constant brace for assault, while the human heart is as fragile as it is fleeting. Waiting in train stations waiting in bars waiting in waiting rooms in blue buildings with breathing machines and silver balloons. Made to watch it all play out in vivid display on big screens. The more grotesque the better, as long as we keep watching. There are two sides to everything and on each side there are knives which cut and divide us even further from each other, further from ourselves. We are bloodthirsty, prismatic, rainbows of color streaming as we fade away slowly, quietly, alone in a bathroom mirror staring into two dark eyes lined in charcoal, melting, mixing into the soot of another day, another night cloaking itself in chaotic fits of sleep. There are endless fields bending in the night wind, dry cornstalks covered in thin frost from the first night the temperatures dropped below freezing. My stomach is cramped and the coffee is sick and the words are only words if somebody reads them. There is resentment in my attempt at affection, a metallic taste at the back of my throat. You touch my shoulder and everything hurts but there is poetry in my despair. There is an empty chair in the corner of my room facing east, as the dawning sunlight streaks across its rich upholstery in ribbons of orange, I am quiet and still for a portion of time no one knows about and no one will ask. There are soft fingers, in my heart there is warm healing as if there were mourning doves, as if there were angels adorned in ivory flowers. There is a man I see in my dreams who covers my mouth as I try to scream. There is a long dim hall I recognize as escape but my legs belong to someone else and I fall, and I fall, and I fall. There is a man who wants too much from me, in his hands are the doors to a life beyond this one. In my mind I am flowing like sand through an hourglass, in my mind I am a specter, a season of moonlight gliding in streams.

Our Unholy Nature

Having no idea who is real and who is fake any longer, and having long given up trying to discern the difference, I decide to lump them all together as one shady lot of characters and call it a day, thus freeing me up to think about more important things. It’s late evening, the sky overhead stretches out in the deep navy of a placid ocean, as I slide into my comfiest sweats and slink away to my writing room closing the door shut behind me. The sigh that comes through me is low and cleansing. With one long private exhale I can feel the day’s grimy burdensome hands loosen their death grip on my shoulders, leaving me feeling open, relaxed, dare I say hopeful. Staring softly at a small collection of treasures nestled on a table near my favorite window, my eyes fix upon an old worn statue of the blessed virgin mother from Italy, a gift from my great aunt on my father’s Italian side. Mary’s small fingers and celestial blue gown are chipped in multiple places, as is the serpent slithering at her bare feet, and with her arms spread wide she stares down at nothing in particular looking solemn, holy, and misunderstood. I’m no longer a faithful practitioner of any religion but Mary and I get along fine, our relationship slight and distant over the years. But I do feel a fair amount of affection for a kindred girl who also mothered a child as a teenager, well before she was ready, well before she knew how to stand up for herself enough to not get pregnant in the first place – although I suppose that is where my story got real as fuck and hers, well, let’s just say a bit less grounded in physical possibility. Across the street, smoke tumbles thick and wafting from my neighbor’s chimney catching briefly on the telephone wires before vanishing against a backdrop of trees the muted colors of smoldering autumn. There are so many stories about myself I never tell and yet so many words bubbling up inside every time I hide myself away alone. Alone is when I feel the most alive. Left only to my thoughts and my keyboard. And the blessed mother, of course, surrounded by flickering candles and the deck of tarot cards I use on occasion to help me map what I’m going through in secret, things that no words can describe. For every person you have ever met or ever will, there is a secret they hold inside you cannot possibly fathom. Perhaps the stories we don’t tell about ourselves say as much about us as the ones we do.

Baby, Talk Is Cheap

As the light falls its lonely last rays across the emblazoned trees, I think about how many writers have tried to describe an autumn sky. That gray and shifting dome like one great marble eye curving its gaze over the earth. What does it see down here but a beautiful ignorant mess. The more I know of this world the more I retreat, hoping, maybe, that if I find the right words – tell the right stories – I will find some kind of way out, or through. Or to disappear from the world they have created and appear in the midst of my own free place, a thick wooded forest untouched, untainted, designed with pleasure, curiosity and truth in mind. A place to calm all the ticking inside which never lets up. Have you ever felt like the only one in a crowded room who wants to scream to put a stop to all the bullshit chatter but you know that would only make you seem nuts so you just pour another glass of red to numb the panic and let them talk to you about money and mergers and fancy vacations? As the planet torches itself to charred embers all around us at ever increasing speed, we photograph our dinner plates at designer restaurants and compare acquisitions and hate-like our friends and cut ourselves up and cut each other down. Try as you might to keep them happy, no one really sees you. Who will talk with you about the poetry that is so unbearably touching it makes you weep and rejoice just for the impossible magic of being alive. Who will explore the nighttime stars with you as you lie huddled together on a grassy hill in the cold of midnight, shivering and electric with hope and possibility. We are transient beings, here for such a short time and yet no one and nothing stops for a second to notice our dumb glorious luck. We dream, we wish, we hide, we settle.  But somewhere deep down inside these bones of mine I am still searching which means I must have some kind of faith that doesn’t fit anywhere else but inside of me. Something which grows stronger with age, a voice, an urge which runs far deeper than the reality or spirituality or pop psychology this cheap world spews at every turn, it calls to me like the most beautiful siren. There are others who seek her voice. They are artists, musicians, lovers. They worship their gods and I worship mine. For me it’s the word. No matter what comes and goes in my life, it has always been the word.

Make It Last Forever

As I lay back on the bed in complete darkness, I can feel the weather shifting across the landscape even before I see the tiny glittering crystals spinning just outside my window. There is a moon carved out behind a swath of aimless clouds. Save for my steady breathing, I lie naked beneath multiple blankets and do not move. I listen to the careful sound of midnight snow falling gentle on my January heart. Each cold milky orb a universe descending into miles and miles of smooth snow-covered hills. My mind reaches back to the day years ago, you had extended a warm hand to me to hold and I took it eagerly, taken aback by your vulnerability. Your openness, willingness, selflessness. The way with your entire being you seemed to let the world in, sure you could change it, sure you could make things better. Unafraid. Your words, half broken with sincerity, became the touch which carried me home. Home is not a place you can pin on a map; home is the distance between lost and found. In my awed and mild shock, my sort of sad surprise, my eyes follow your tender movements with marked attention not out of fear but out of deep admiration mixed with a kind of morbid curiosity. So exquisite are you, so wind blown and angelic in a golden morning glow. Never would I ever have deserved you. How rarely I allowed for that kind of connection, a stranger’s soft palm to cup itself against the fragility of the rawness in my life. For all the screaming voices which stalk a frightened mind on any given day, the kind of trust which can soothe a trembling body and soul can only be born of silence. I do not remember words, only sensations, only safety. Thin wing, trapped clear and bright in the ice of memory. I can see your face as if before me. So vivid is this dream, this echoed presence of the ghost of you. Heavy snow drifts begin their climb against the side of the house. All the past has now gone quiet. Winter, watching with white eyes as I sleep.