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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You were meant to be so much more, weren’t you? What was meant to be, what could have been, how these useless anxieties run through your mind relentlessly, producing nothing but angst and that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach. The coffee I grabbed at the corner shop is bitter and I’ve added too much sugar so now I’m drinking it purely for the caffeinated rush as the flavor has gone to absolute shit. In this part of town there is a river which runs through the center, churning silver as coins as it flows swiftly by. There is a black swan on the shore, motionless in the cold spiced air, watching with her blindfold eyes as the frigid water laps at the riverbank below an upscale restaurant which won’t open up until five. How many times you and I walked this path tucked up against the water, drinking wine all afternoon, entering the sex shop where I am too shy and the plastic packaging of cheap collars and corsets and naughty instruments makes me cringe and want to cry. All the world is plastic please don’t make me plastic, too. We pass the second hand shop which is always piled up with dolls, the one with red lettering and fogged windows, doll parts, legs, arms, torsos, chopped off hair, tiny plastic girls naked with painted on Mary Janes, scratched out white cracked eyes. Pulling me away from the street and against the rails which line the river, you kiss me so fully it’s as if you intend to erase me from existence and I breathe you in deeply because I want nothing more than to disappear. You in brown boots and me in black tights, dreaming of a life that would never come to pass. Life has a way of winding up mountains you didn’t see coming through the veil of ignorance, or innocence. You think what happened to them won’t happen to you but humans are in so many ways predictable, they get frightened easily and they close, and they close, and they close until their entire lives are barely a squinting slit of panicked attention. The sky is gray overhead as it has been for weeks and though others are quick to complain about the gloomy weather, I pity their shallow understanding of the universe, their blind worship of an empty light which is so much colder than any shadow, and revel in the darkness of the shorter days, of my clipped and pressed together heart. Some people are just better than others and though they try to tell you we are all the same it isn’t true. Some people try harder to fit in, to stand out. As I pass by the little French bakery which always smells of freshly baked breads, I light a cigarette and pull my wool hat down lower over my ears. Swallowing the last of my terrible coffee, I glance up toward an old house I have passed a hundred times but only now notice its haunted appearance, worn down faded shutters and majestic crooked towers pointing like bony fingers into the clouded sky. As I make my way back up Main Street to the place from where I began, a dog barks at a swirling cyclone of leaves in a far off lot. The black swan at the water’s edge spreads her phenomenal wings and takes flight in silence. And the day bows down heavy, the metallic sadness of steel armor in my chest.
We open and we close, in tandem. Tempting, seducing, coercing. We manipulate, distort, disrupt. We kiss, we fight, we make up. You think I’m scattered and I don’t think you understand me in my deepest places, my intricacies, my mechanical inter-workings. I don’t think it is important to you, either. But I’m wrong about a lot of things and you say love and they say love and we all say love and turn the keys in the ignition at the start of just another day, another day, another day. Sometimes you are distant, and sometimes it’s me. But there is intention behind your eyes as you bring me my coffee in a porcelain cup. The one with the faded roses and gold around its rim. It is delicate and charming, and my skittishness eases up. Have you any idea how long a writer simply stares off into the distance, penning not a single word because none belong? It is not easy. We search, mine, dig dead things up. It has all been said before, by someone else, only better. Sunday morning. Winter so cold you can taste it in your mouth as your toes sting like ice and your eyes scan the whiteness of the stoic sky. An unfeeling frost. There is a scent in the air when the seasons click but you have to be very attentive to notice it. It is undeniable, it is the scent of smoke and all of nature passing into the underworld. The breath of a thing which is leaving you. On the streets the sound of church bells, and the scratching of the huddled crowds. A man without a home drinks from a bottle in a brown paper bag. He curses and smiles and has nothing. I think of you more often than I say because the world is a gray tombstone place and my heart is a soft patch of earth. How many tiny thoughts drift away never to return. It’s sad to me that we just let them go. That there are some things which cannot be captured, cannot be observed. A single small bird flutters up against the window and as I watch him rustling leaves, I fill with a melancholy blue which I secretly hope lasts all day. A day of silence, day of rest, a day without center. Beginning, middle, end, falling as would sand, infinite grains into and into and into one another. This is how I sink back into you. I am distracted with your image, your pieces, your movements, your words like rosary beads I slide over and over again through my fingers. Hard little pearls you once held stiff around my neck, Now I will touch you and you will be still.