The Devil In You

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.

Bite Marks

It’s a life of destruction and regeneration. Of chopping off dead limbs and planting new seeds deep inside the dark soil of the earth, and as I breathe in the cold clear air of another day spent wondering what it’s all worth, for a few moments in broad daylight I am satisfied. Naked trees and light blue sky. Most people don’t think this much about things that are taken for granted by the many, but since I’ve been talking to you for days and nights on end I start to think our thoughts have become tangled up with one another’s and taken on a strange and curious life of their own. How many people does one meet in a lifetime? Thousands? Tens of thousands? And how many of those people are any real factor in altering the very narrow course of your life? When was the last time someone crawled underneath your skin and pulled at the empty, aching places in your soul? It is not an infinite number, maybe it’s one person, maybe it’s three or five if you are exceedingly lucky. Something in the way your eyes move made me let you in which is not to say that I trust you, but for some possibly very unsavory reason, I want to know more about what makes you tick. What you taste like hard and vulnerable in the dark. What you are afraid of and what makes your insides smolder like a crimson sunset sinking into the soft body of the wide open ocean. What you read about that makes you believe we are worth more than just a glance at one another passing as strangers do in the crowded city streets. As we share a bottle of wine while facing each other in front of a crackling fire, you go from explaining a theory about the nature of stars to describing the way you can identify my exact scent even in your dreams. The way your body curves toward mine and your hands form the shape of two crescent moons, I am searching you for answers that lie beneath your surface. You have a way of saying one thing when you mean another and though you won’t admit it and neither will I, I can’t stop my heart from racing when presented with a challenge. My mouth is wet for you, my skin floods hot for you. You are a puzzle, a maze of mirrors, walls, dead ends, tunnels that call to me to find a way out of being left for dead with nothing but sickened mornings and broken promises. There is a depth to you which is unlike any other. An abyss into which many surely have fallen never to return again. Willing to burn out like the light of the stars you so adore, I cross my legs, bite my lip, and try to drown the panic in my stomach by ordering another bottle of Sav blanc. So many have brought me in so close, right before they turned on the heel of a descending season, and slowly walked away.

Another Round

Alone reading Nietzsche, I’m curled up in a nest of blankets to keep out the cold as I glance around my writing room at all of the books lining multiple shelves and stacked randomly in piles all over the floor. Poetry, philosophy, mysticism, stoicism, nihilism, erotica, paganism, porn, humor, atheism, usage/grammar/diction, literature, and on and on. Essay collections, short stories, novels, by the young and the old and the older even still. How many words, how much we are trying to say and still we writers believe there are more ideas to be pinned down and translated, more dreams to chase after in our wild little heads. I have taken lovers, I have taken drinks offered by handsome strangers at fancy bars. I have taken cabs at three in the morning, taken the hands of those who got me high and those who held me down. I’ve taken what was mine and taken even more than that when no one was looking. But the one thing I have been reaching for my whole life without ever being able to quite hold on or quite let go is the word. The word that will capture it all, say everything I don’t know how to say, so that this fire in my veins can at last be sated. It is unstable. It is unrelenting. Writing is an addiction. I want to stop and I never want to stop. I write to keep the demons satisfied and the people who think they know everything at bay. It is protection, it is an ember of warmth in the dead loneliness of a starless night. But it also taunts me, laughs at me while calling to me even when I can’t do anything about it. Even when there is nothing left in me, it wants more. Who are we writing for and what is it we think is so important that it is worth the struggle or the search? There are no answers, and yet there are all the answers we believe can be found if we just keep at it for one more day, one more night, one more year upon year of the passing away of an entire life. There are  people who are content in this life with what is handed to them. They follow the rules and do as they are told and accept the punishments and rewards, artificial and oppressive as they may be. I see them smiling with nothingness behind their eyes. But something in the artist cannot bear it. Some strange fixation which tears inside my body forces me to question everything. De omnibus dubitandum. Even when they offer me a hand, I don’t trust any of their reasons why.

Dark Angel

Perhaps God forgives me when the words won’t stop, perhaps she is inside them and that is how she looks out for me. Perhaps God is not really a thing, which would make so much violence in every corner of the globe disappear. She was soft like rain sliding warm from a young green sapling, dripping sweet innocence, bent at supple knee. With hand outstretched, reaching for the moon in hooded seclusion, a sliver of silvery light cuts her face into pieces which scatter out across the open sea. She is one million reflections of pain, lust, forgiveness, creation, destruction, wet blood of birth, brittle bone of death, flashing on dark water. She walks alone in all of her stories. She is the forest and the wolf. The human heart knows not of distance only depth, and the more that you touch her the farther she fades so you take a deep breath, and you take a step back. Love is a delicate cloth. She is small enough that you fold her under your palm and bring her with you everywhere. When she flutters against your rib cage you are made to sing. Little angel, little nymph. I have seen you dance before, I have heard your music in hollow halls past midnight, as lamplight accompanies the stranger. In your tremble, the cry of all wounded souls. The whites of your eyes carry a lost man home.

Make Them Tell You What They Want

As I glance up at the darkening evening sky, I catch a glimpse of a v-shaped formation of geese flying off into the grayish almond sunset, sunk low beneath black trees. An almost imperceptible current in the air is sifting itself through the melancholy and autumn spices, the scent of dead leaves pressed down upon the hardened earth. Sitting on the window ledge watching my breath fog up the glass, I’m staring up at some electric wires slung out against infinite space. Drifting past the pierced netting of twinkling starlight, I imagine you at a small table in a cafe somewhere in a foreign city. A few melting candles flickering upon the old polished wood, you are gently lit by the glow as you sip your wine and sink into the book you are reading while ignoring everyone and everything around you. You have read the words a hundred times before, the pages are worn at their soft edges, some of them torn. But that mind of yours, ever insatiable, ever advancing over the hills, thought by intricate thought. All knowledge is an ascending and a descending. There is a cadence in each of your bones. There are secrets people keep because they are unsure of who they are, and because they are susceptible in ways they cannot stomach for reasons they may or may not understand. Who do you burn for, there in your simmering eyes? Think of each body who has felt the curve of your mouth, licked the shape of the heat in the blood in your fingertips. Separate them into the ones who deserved your worship, and the ones who didn’t. Was each just as sweet, just as willing? Does it matter now or has every feeling faded into the nothingness that is a past riddled with shadow and smoke. What was it you told them you wanted from them most? Was it the truth, or was it a game, and is there a difference? Remembering in vivid detail the one you sunk your teeth into deep, ignoring her whimpers and pleas for relief, you look up casually from the text you hug close to your chest and take another warming swallow. Someone has thrown more logs on the fire as a group of patrons come shuffling in from the cold. Umbrellas and overcoats, wet rain on young faces of no one you know. I once met a girl who believed in love. She smiled at strangers and let them take her home. Drank every night like she was already gone. Rug burns on her knees, eyes glued helpless to the diamond-like stars.

Woman In the Mirror

I like my French roast coffee ground from fresh beans first thing in the morning and by morning I mean before the sun comes up by a handful of hours. My stomach is in knots with a fluttered mixture of excitement and angst, almost without fail, before every sunrise as my whole body and being itch to get to the little room with all the words. I need the words and I like to believe they need me. I like writers who are unafraid. I hope to be one someday. I’m not sure they exist. I like women who enjoy being looked at, taken in, hungry and alive. In my younger days I worried a lot about being looked at as I was awkward, tall and thin as a rail. Skittish, bookish, shy in public but under the right stormy circumstances a brash little thing at home. Wild imagination nonstop, I often felt more powerful than I actually was. I had passion, conviction, desire. All the things you are taught to keep under wraps as a girl, so I tumbled them all together and expressed them in outwardly acceptable ways: fashion, makeup, hair, clothes, boys. But that was ages ago and now I’ve been through more than that little girl could ever possibly have imagined. As she teased her long blond hair. As she teased the other girls, as she teased the boys who became the men who teased her back and though they were not more clever, they were more calculated. You play ever more dangerous games because you can’t resist the way they taste smoldering in your mouth, tingling inside your fast beating chest, and you win and you lose and you can never go back because back never existed even while you were in it. You realize life is land mines as often as it is miracles and that both can fit in the palm of your hand at once, flexing and fanning its wings, up and down, up and down slow. Separate synchronized motions, each unaware of the other, conjoined in a body at the center. Muscle. Tendon. Breath. Curiosity is a wet lung, a starved aching thing. To crave feeling, crave knowledge, crave attention, crave solitude. A woman lusts for many things. A woman is patient for too many things, sits at the window as snowfall lights up her face like an angel. Like a ghost. Divinity, transparency, a mind within a mind fragile like a painted springtime egg. Cracks in the ceiling of a shattered heart. There is a sky full of endless sky, it watches from a distance overhead. A woman who needs. If only the world could handle that without recoiling. Punishing. Silencing. Injuring. Damaging. Degrading. What would it take to witness and not dismiss. To acknowledge and not frighten. To cherish and let go without a fight. To touch and not taint. Who will teach us, who will listen, who will hold space. Women. Women. Women.

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 its 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.