Just for a Taste

There is a mysterious light which sometimes trickles through the caramel leaves in the trees, glistening my strawberry blond hair into a shimmery halo around my head. I’ve recently cut much of it off and now I’m waiting impatiently for it to grow back again because when I have it one way I always want it the other, such is the story of so many seemingly trivial things in my small little life which, to be honest, feels like it’s growing smaller and smaller with each passing day. As the years slide by, this strange life becomes more and more like looking through a keyhole that leads into a most heavenly garden: soft grass beneath bare feet, beautiful bodies caressing each other to ecstasy, ivory flowering vines, tiger butterflies and a perpetual sunset glow, if only you could open the door and step foot where you know you belong, or finally become so small that you could slip right through that tiny opening and disappear into someplace warm, welcoming, free of the mindless clutches of calendars and clocks. We are insatiable creatures. We want to hold tight to the lives we have for fear of the fall from grace, the fall from the esteem we hold in other people’s eyes, and yet we want a taste of the life that has been living alongside of us like a haunting, flowing like a stream you can admire from afar but cannot swim in. A life less organized but infinitely more honest, real, alive. There are choices you refuse to make.  There are dreams you have about chances to be brave and in those dreams your courage is reckless, wild, untamed, it is the pulse of the life not explored, not taken. It’s the hungriest pieces of yourself that you let fall away which come back to wake you in the dead of night. As I turn and pull the blankets up around my chin, the white unblinking eye of the harvest moon watches as I shudder at the first crisp night of another autumn curling itself around me in silence. I know I want too much and I know that is what keeps me at arm’s length from everybody else. It’s only the poets, the artists, the difficult, the sleepless, the shipwrecked who still believe in the whispers of what could be.  So many ghosts around my throat, so much time has passed and will I ever be more than this wandering woman, grasping for the hand of something with no name.

Stray

As I tighten my mouth around a smooth cigarette, you are telling me things I already don’t care to know about. Something about the guy at work who never has his shit together and always manages to drag you into the mired mess with him because that is what people who are clueless do, grab onto everything helpful around them and drown it out. Meanwhile I, on the other hand, feel something of a smug triumph because I have managed to hold down a day job that doesn’t come home with me. All the useless drivel is left where it belongs: inside the gray and dying walls of a building which corrals hundreds of people for the better part of their days, the majority of their squirmy eyeless lives. Taking a long sip of wine, I attempt to change the subject and talk about moving because I am terrified of a future together which is devoid of adventure, but the truth is I love our house with a bone-deep kind of love I have never known in a place ever before. It’s just a split level house in a no-name town, but over the years we have carved ourselves into it so deeply that I can’t imagine being anywhere else let alone leaving this place behind. The way it feels like living in a park when I wake up to the sunlight falling through the trees and streaming through our open bedroom windows. The logs on the fireplace in the dead of winter as snow piles up against the back patio. It’s a home now, one that stays inside of you even when you go away for a while so that it is always calling you back. I think sometimes I talk to you about home because I don’t know how to talk to you about writing, how much it means to me, how much I need it. To have a home like this is a beautiful trap not unlike writing. There is a wandering loneliness in writing which is oddly seductive, it keeps you writhing around in its web until it kills you or makes a meal of you or both. But if I don’t write, I can feel the sickness crawling up underneath my skin, the sad panic at not being able to find the words. For all the romance they will offer you about being a writer, it’s nothing short of an affliction really to have a relentless desire to retreat alone to a room and be with the dead quiet so that you can close your mind to everything except the most immediate sensations and thoughts. It’s still dark outside as I type, there is a cat crying loudly down the street. The sound is so crushingly hollow with pain and desperation it makes my insides ache with both affection and disgust. For as long as I can remember I have had myself convinced that I am a writer who can only write in the very early mornings before the rest of the world realizes anything is even happening. It’s not true of course, a real writer can write at any hour and we are always writing no matter where we are at any given time. We are just especially good at fooling ourselves, at backing ourselves into corners in our lives and in our stories. The only way to claw out of ourselves is to dive into ourselves. Maybe that’s why I love the home we have built together so much. No matter how far off I need to wander I always seem to wind up coming back. The cat is screaming now— hasn’t let up. And high above the idle moon watches, glowing from a vast cold distance.

Wasteland

We create because we are afraid. And we would much rather not be. We drink because we are coming apart all across the kitchen floor in slivers, anxiety in liquid pools at the center of our drowning. Chattering teeth, shaky hands. We are unsteady as we pretend to make dinner we pretend to build a house around a home which is part of the display. And the vines of crimson panic growing along the empty afternoon walls of my disordered mind remind me that nothing matters in the end. We had tried out the various sins: pride, greed, lust, gluttony. We had tried the gym and Facebook and little beads around the wrist, big rocks upon the finger. We had tried, we had really tried. But the devil finds a way inside and once you stop trying so hard her poison tastes just fine. Novocaine and bloody gums. If you looked like me, honey, you’d be alright. You could be famous on the internet and curl up in the heat of happy empowerment as you watch your ratings rise. Tits and ass and injections, a painted face and a Mastercard. Come on, baby, for a price I’ll let you be my savior, leave you sick by the pallid light of dawn but I’ll get you through the night. Red shiny apple rotten to the core but you know… nobody else wants you anymore. And I’m here to help and you could make something of yourself. It’s easy. It’s some beautiful kind of hell out there but it’s all the same, you could go anywhere, you could have gone anywhere. And we try and we try and we try. But the wasteland promotes itself.  Smile for me, sweetness. There’s nothing emptiness won’t buy.

Woman On Edge

Sipping coffee in the pitch darkness of morning, I’m sitting in my writing room staring at a stack of old laptops which are tucked on the bottom of a bookshelf which is full of paperback copies of my book of poetry, Luminae. Those laptops. It’s impossible to say just how many tired words about old thoughts they contain. How many photographs of a younger self, a more ambitious, lighthearted woman. Beaches, bikinis, cold white wine and cigarettes in bars when that was still something you could get away with. Moments of hope, mischief, and inspiration now collapsed inside a few black boxes sunk deep into the sea of many years ago. I’m not sure I’ll ever dive back into any of them, I mean who can remember all those old passwords and security codes and besides, what is there to see? What use would it be now? A girl moves on just to stay sane, lets go just to hold on to the best parts of what she can still believe in. Entire lifetimes discarded. Sometimes I think I write today just to make it to tomorrow. I scroll by the perfect faces on a screen and I wonder if they are trying to capture a self they wish they could know but don’t quite, a glimpse of happiness before they inevitably fade to nothing. There is a feeling stirred into the cooling coffee in the bottom of my cup, there is a fear which is thin like porcelain. It is fragile and rings high through the autumn wind in the trees as I sit alone by the yellowing light of a lamp on this gray couch. It is the sensation of time sliding away from me, time unnoticed and as soon forgotten. It is a life divided into parts, trapped inside a stack of black boxes in the dust of a girl gone by. A woman on edge, by herself with her selves inside of a room.

False God

Dark thoughts of bad behavior flicker in your mind along with fire flies trapped in jam jars in the hands of a mischievous child. We have been cut down to less than we are worth, it happens without our being aware of it. Hacks. Con artists. Scammers. One night stands. Old boyfriends, some you’ll never forget because every time your hear their name your heart pinches just a little bit with the pain of the recollection of lusty nights and tender love slashed apart at once. All you’ve lived through just to get through it and never ask for anything more ever again but to breathe without the ache in your chest. Google will finish your sentences for you if you aren’t sure what to say. I guess there’s nothing sacred left in this place if we are now reduced to prerecorded catch phrases, we hardly need brains anymore let alone writers, who would want to try to understand any of this sterile madness. The rich get richer and fast, baby. Faster than you can count your anxiety ridden self luckier than most but still fearful of losing it all in the blink of an eye. Pouring cold white wine into my favorite thin stemmed glass I think about how addiction runs in my family but only the ones who play it safe seem to die ahead of their time. It’s a cool afternoon in early autumn and the leaves are just barely changing from green to orange in the fading late day sunlight. If I told you I wanted to radically change this game called love, what would you say? If I told you this wasn’t enough even though it’s already more than I’m afraid I deserve, would you turn against me on a dime? Or would you find it in your heart to understand that I’m only human and humans are such complicated creatures to begin with, what do you expect? I have cravings just like everybody else. Some aren’t socially palatable but what of that? What of them— the ones who demand you live up to their polite expectations so they can feel like they have a handle on a world that is turning to dust right in front of their very eyes. I think of a writer I used to admire who could take words out of thin air and assemble them just so, and use them to do whatever he wanted with you. Without even laying a hand on you he could touch you, gut you, cut you, get you off. Have you any idea how hard it is to find writers like that anymore? We stumble, we search. Whiskey bottles in hotel rooms by the hour and chipped white wedding chapels on sweet green hills far away from here. As the tangerine sun sets behind a purple autumn sky, the liars and the cheaters hold in their hands every shiny broken thing they ever wanted. Are you jealous or disgusted or both? Sometimes the darkness wins. And the world has never felt so hungry. so empty. so angry wet and alive.

You Come and You Go

It’s 4:17am and it’s not time to be awake yet but you are. The room is dark as the sky is out the open bedroom window, save for the faint distant glow of the harvest moon drifting behind the fog. Your mind is wandering as it so often does these days, skittering over events long past, over and done with, if only you could let them be. The email you didn’t return for no real reason that cost you an entire friendship. The million things you do in a day except for the one big thing you didn’t and you lost the respect of the colleague you hate anyway. You seem to be incapable at times of cherishing the things the world expects you to and you’ve no idea why. What is wrong with you, anyway? Don’t you know how good you have it. Don’t you know how many people would kill to have your life, your body, your stuff. But what do you do when this need-with-no-name persists in you and keeps you awake and motionless in these early morning hours that crouch before the dawn. What is wrong with you when a beautiful home doesn’t cut it, and marriage doesn’t cut it, and money and security and retail therapy and wine and smoking is only temporary relief. You love your family. You love them with all the heart you have left after so many many heart-obliterating things have happened to you. But how often it feels like the love you have is tainted, inadequate, blurred out like your image in the bathroom mirror when you lift up that warm hand of yours to wipe the steam from the glass and catch that sadness in your eyes that you can’t remember when it lodged itself so quietly there. Looking closer, you realize there is something underneath the sadness and to your surprise it is mischief, it is a feral desire, it is a boldness and a freedom you would give anything to touch.
Opening your mouth you begin to say the words you hear in your heart that scare you to death, the words you know no one else will say to you but yourself because they are afraid even more than you are afraid and fear makes everything a never ending scream on mute. You say the words to your own reflection as an act of faith because you aren’t even sure you deserve them but if you can’t, if you won’t, then why are you even here anyway? It’s only a whisper but it’s yours: ‘I believe you.’ It comes from a part of you that is desperate to flower into its own kind of strength. It comes from the person you are, that you have always been, and that you wish you were now but you were certain had been drowned out long ago. One that no one else can see or understand but somehow that only makes it all the more real to you.
It’s still dark inside the room inside the bed you share with your husband. He is sleeping soundly and you are more alone than you were as a kid staring wide eyed up at the stars through the soft summer air. And time isn’t enough and words aren’t enough and prayers aren’t enough because as you hit ‘snooze’ to fend off the start of another makeshift Wednesday, beyond the hum of the crickets and the rustle of the big oak trees on your front lawn, you hear the faint rumble of the railroad tracks two blocks away, and all you know for sure is that God has caught the last train out of the worn-down town that is you.

Deep Down

Before the storm there is thick fog and before the fog there is a dreadful humidity that suffocates every molecule of the air around and inside of us. As I settle in with my laptop to write literally anything I can think of to get my fingers moving and give permission to even my most perverse thoughts to come forward, however sheepishly at first, I am wondering what gives anyone of us the energy to keep going. What is it we are after that we believe will prove to us that any of this is worth it? What is it that drives that man in his properly pressed button-down blue shirt and buttercream tie to walk into that office just one more day and try to hold it all together. Why does it feel like I’m walled off from everyone else by some kind of static impenetrable distance. So much of what I am supposed to find fulfilling I find unnervingly not so. What they worship I cannot understand. Is it enough to work the week out in administrative minutiae and microwave leftovers and water the houseplants on weekends in between bouts of writing? Don’t you ever want to just cut loose from everything in your life that feels so maddeningly mundane and do something else – something that actually matters, something that finally scratches that wretched burning itch to wrap your arms around the sky?
The thunder is collapsing loudly now, shaking the very foundation of the house as I reach for my coffee and take a long hot sip. I make a mental note that we need more coffee beans and sugar next time I am at the market because a day without either is no day I can drag myself through.
Fraught over my lack of creative flow and cursing myself for my obsession with trying to remain loyal to my writing practice despite very little interest from the outside world, I pick myself up off the couch, slide off my sandals by the back patio door and step outside into the pouring rain.  I can taste the sweetness of the heat coming off the pavement as it rushes full with fast forming rivers. Closing my eyes I turn my head toward the clouds and feel the cool water streaming onto my face, down my neck, over my bare shoulders and soaking my skin thoroughly all over. Hands in my hair, heart in my throat, wondering if the only worthy motivation for writing is to put myself in deep touch with this melancholy soul of mine who cries out for something so much more than this. And I can’t help but wonder what about our souls makes us terrified to live the lives we are so desperate for? How they ache to tell us so many secrets and how we turn them to face the corner again and again convinced that to listen – to quit being so damn afraid and choose our dreams for ourselves – would be the end of our sanity. When the truth is that those wild dreams are the only worthy motivation for anything.

The Things We Deserve

As we are frolicking about acting like children in the makeshift swimming pool in our back yard, the rest of the country is mourning the most recent mass shooting in America. Actually, this time it’s two shootings within hours of each other. El Paso and Dayton. After sipping coffee and scrolling on your phone, you reluctantly inform me of this as I have taken a break from the news and the rest of the outside world for the weekend. This planet is so full of cruelty and pain I’ve decided to try to write myself out of it as often as I can. What should never happen already has: I stare across the yard almost unfeelingly. You aren’t supposed to feel numb right now you are supposed to be enraged and do something because enough and this has to stop and never again and never forget.  We are a country that disgraces the dignity of people, their bodies and their words. Bodies are for counting. Words are punchlines, words are excuses, words are little trap doors for the monsters to slip out of sight.
Once I can get past the shock, disbelief, and numbness I will feel something and it will be awful. I’m still human just a much more jaded and cynical one than I once was. As the birds are singing and locusts buzzing all around us in the grass and we decide it is in fact early enough to start drinking, I pour us some wine to share while eating turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch. And the next day, another lunch, another dinner, another bottle of wine and a cigarette and the waiting for the other shoe to drop in this vacuum we call life. I’m sitting in my office and people come and go obsessed with their executive performance, ranking, standing, achievements, retirement plans. Not a word passes between any of us about the shootings because it isn’t the time or the place or the thought or the prayer so best to just keep on punching that time clock and smiling fake smiles while ignoring all the blood and death and ignorance and cowardice and self-destruction happening right outside our glossy corporate floor to ceiling windows. I can smell the stale coffee burning in the glass pot in the break room. I can hear the screaming of the terrorized and the wailing of the mothers who cannot find their children. Are they among the dead? I can see the sunlight splashing through the trees on this beaming summer day in August 2019 that shouldn’t belong to anyone.

Only Way Out

Leaning over the counter top painting my toenails a deep raisin, I am wishing I were a better writer. You know like the ones who can conjure up an entire world made electric with the sweetness of wicked delicious fantasy. Most people think writing is just about writing but it isn’t. It’s so much more than that. Writing is about coming undone and dying inside over and over. It’s about becoming the person you always knew you could be without the hindrance that is most of the rest of this ridiculous life. It’s about giving a middle finger to the rest of the world because you know they are ignorant to all of your most sacred fears and why they matter so much to you. It’s about fingering your darkest secrets until they flower for you into everything that makes your gums bleed with naked desire; the way you obsess over the guy with the shifty eyes like blades and the scent on the summer breeze as the evening sifts inside your open bedroom window. It’s about hungry mouths and the aching memory of bathing nude with a lover under the cascade of a secluded waterfall. It’s about the glistening tangerine light glinting down the side of a pink wine bottle as it sweats from coming right out of the fridge onto the back patio in the balmy air.
If you can really do it – if you can really write, like write with the very best of them, the rest of the world doesn’t even have to exist at all. Because you have enough dirty love in your sad little heart and enough big impossible visions swirling like stars in your weary head that you don’t need anybody else. Or anything else. Not time or space or permission. You don’t need healing you just need a way to let it all out and sex won’t come close and drinking won’t fix the scars on your bruised insecurities. Only writing. Only the brutality and beauty of the chasing of the words and the spinning of the scenes and the giving of your entire soul to something that will kick you in the teeth just as readily as it will cradle you in your darkest hour. That’s what writing is and so few have any idea. At least, it should be.

Grade schoolers

two grade schoolers kissing
in a thin soft rain
at a bus stop. public transportation
public displays of private affection.
wet sweetness, hard concrete
street, observers.
it is early and the sky is pale gray
and i can taste the strawberry chapstick
of my childhood, slung on a braided string
around my neck.
the fade of shy gymnasium
romance smoldering in my skin.
i remember a time when i thought
i had to be everyone’s favorite girl.
all the while knowing
i never would be.
the weight of the world
on the wait of my girlhood.
the sharp claws of that. made to think like that
was the only way to think.
like that. because he
likes that, they like that you
don’t say what you really
like. what you are really like
is
whatever it took, whatever I had to do,
to become, to degrade, downsize,
legitimize
to hide.
it takes years.
decades. fire storms. drownings.
to exorcise that sickness.