Twitch

What she saw before is gone now, replaced by gray dishes in a gray sink beneath a gray window beneath the clouded winter sky. The kind of sight which is a presence all its own, with its own weight and skin and intention.

Steady. Slow. Melancholy.

Life is for the ignorant and death is for the curious.

She has become the circumstance and the story. Her mind floating in the middle of no beginning and an uncertain ever-ebbing end.

All day she smiles and tries to blend in. Whittle away at the space she takes up.

The thought of rejection scares her to bits but the thought of solitude is her only comfort. Wanting to be alone and not alone is an exhausting mind-stretched space to inhabit so she opens a bottle to drown out the ricocheting pressure of the need to make any kind of decision one way or another.

In or out. Yes or no. Forward or back.

Truth or dare.

They tell her a hobby would help or maybe a man but she isn’t sure what help is supposed to actually mean so she picks up some arty shit at the craft place up the street and stares at it until finally shoving it all under the bed, lighting a cigarette and staring off into the gray distance.

Never minding the gray dishes in the gray sink.

She doesn’t want to draw this feeling. She doesn’t want to paint the terrible.

Writing is the only thing worth anything to her but that’s the problem right there: writing isn’t like anything else and it isn’t a hobby.

It’s everything real and sacred and true and it is the only thing that can save her because it has to.

It has to.

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Photo by Victoria Volkova

Far Away From Here

Closing my eyes and sucking a drag of my cigarette, I take in the cold feel of the frigid night air against my skin. It’s been a day and I’m happy enough to swallow the end of it down with the wine and the smoke and the tiny pricks of sadness and loss which never seem to quite leave me no matter how good the good things get.

The thick wet trunks of a half dozen large maple trees encircle me at the back of the yard and if I look up and peer into the pitch darkness, I begin to see beyond the stretch of their bare branches, the stars pierce through the void, little twinkling rushes of dead light, each its own jagged race to burst and burn out in a flash, light years away from the blink of an eye.

Encircled by the blackness, I imagine the owl who used to spend nights and dawns in these trees swooping down and taking his place on a high perch. I used to love his cooing sounds, and would lie in bed holding my breath waiting for each little moan and hoot. There was something so warm and soothing in the hollowness of his presence, his majestic solitude, his solemn song sung monotonous into the empty night for reasons I did not need to understand.

Some people are like that, though they are few and so far between. Most are noise and excuses. But there are some who are creatures of quiet wisdom, with a fierce kind of late night elegance which haunts you as smoothly as it tears into your veins with its sharp curved claws.

Though I am alone in this moment, I imagine eyes all around. The eyes of the trees and the night and the shadows and the animals, all turned upward toward the midnight sky.

If only we could get away from here. If only our roots weren’t so mangled and tight the way they wrap around the frozen barren ground.

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Photo by engin akyurt

Cold White Eye

I see his face in the white wide sky as the snow falls heavy and thick all around me, big fluffy chunks of it land soft and cold on my skin, stick against my eyelashes before sliding off down my pink cheek.

Ivory snow flakes nestle in my strawberry hair as my boots crunch into the drifting layers of crystal powder on the street. Blanketing the dirt, covering the holes in the asphalt.

It is hard to write when you don’t know who you are but try to pretend.

The snowy landscape is so gorgeous it hurts all over inside. It tears into the softest parts of you that have given up trying to understand, trying to make any sense, trying to try. I want the silent solitude of each little falling flake to pile up inside me because I lost myself somewhere I can’t seem to pinpoint and I would like to be buried against that feeling.

It is a struggle to understand what anything means to me as I take in the frigid scene. I can feel the whiteness of the sky like an open eye into my own mind. There is a brightness behind my trepidation which shines like a distant orbiting sun.

A rising of the temperature. A warming which threatens to melt the beauty and force it down into the gutter where it belongs.

I have become too many people all at once. I am consumed with jitters and apprehension, and the apprehension becomes a persona I can manipulate like a child builds a man made out of snow. Charcoal eyes. Standing alone in a field.

Geese cry over head, their darkened bodies soaring through a pristine sky, and I imagine the wetness of freedom. The feathered breast of the wild we were promised but destroy.

I imagine his face inside the clouded winter, the dark circles around his heavenly eyes. The mouth is moving against the air and my blood rushes faster and faster toward it. I want to be swallowed.

It’s hard to write when you don’t know what you want from life. Your own life hanging in a closet somewhere among other things – lost, forgotten, discarded things which no longer fit. You keep what you have because it’s all you’ve gotten or ever will. What a joke. What a waste.

All around me this beauty, this terrible beauty which twists in my heart like a knife.

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Photo by Micah Hallahan

Run, Girl

Beyond the painful thoughts which stab and prick underneath my skin, there is a field of beautiful dreams which I create out of desperation or maybe because I have always believed in magic while cursing the manic grief that is the current state of affairs in a world turned bitter and diseased.

The sun glares so bright against the hills of snow I have to squint and shield my eyes for fear of going blind. Everything is covered in shimmering crystal and for a while I know that I am made of it. Clean. Prismatic. That in each ray of light which bounces off of each tiny droplet of frozen water and ice, I exist shining for all to see across the miles.

When the world has all gone to shit and the weight of it on my tiny bones is too much to take, I run off to be alone, to unhook myself from the walls they pin me to so they can take what they want and leave the rest. There are vultures and they are everywhere and they do not smile or turn their heads, but rather pierce you square in the mouth with their dead black eyes. Blood suckers. Fools. Maggots.

In the field I am alone with the sky, the grass, the earth, sun, moon, birds, animals, butterflies, flowers, trees. It is every hour of every season all at once and the ocean breathes its way through the tall stalks as I am one with all of my surroundings.

I am not the cage of my body or the fence around my mind.

I am only expansion, uncontained, unowned. Free. Beautiful. Raw. It’s the rawness that is the most beautiful. A creature dangerous in its unpredictability.

I am not who I pretend to be to get along in this world which crushes out the soul like a cigarette under its thick dirty boot.

Ever since I turned twelve, I have had this nagging little fear of going to wide open spaces alone because: murderers. It may sound insane but there is this thing that always happens to me, and I do mean always.

No matter where it is, an empty beach, an empty street, an empty classroom, hallway, deli, restaurant. Out of nowhere, a stranger will appear and he will act strangely near me, at me, to me. I have done nothing but exist alone minding my business, and the universe will sense my aloneness and send in some manner of lunatic to interrupt my solitude with their unhinged antics.

It is maddening. It stunts my life. Makes me paranoid, jumpy, distracted.

Perhaps for this reason, in my mind I run into that field of dreams to escape the world which seems to stalk me back into myself.

Perhaps we are all someone we don’t want to be. And yet perhaps we wish we were so much more of ourselves at the same time.

Because the truth is that the animal within is monumental in its power to tempt. To betray. To seduce. To see, to touch, to awaken. To dare, to jump, to leap, to fly.

To kill.

To multiply.

To say No. To say Yes.

To open and open and open endlessly, do you understand? When you show them exactly what you are, you show them exactly what they are.

But they are too terrified to see.

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Photo by Dima Kosh

Breaking Skin

My card doesn’t work and the wind cutting bitter against the skin on my hand is so fucking freezing it burns like hot pinpricks all over. Times are tough and the globe is melting into itself but at the moment I’m stuck cursing the gas pump card reader while foraging for another card to try so I can get the hell out of there before my coffee gets cold or my frostbitten digits fall off, which ever comes first.

If I had half my act together I would have filled the tank yesterday but I was tired of everything and the old familiar feeling of gloom had settled in by the time the red sun sank low into the naked nest of trees in the meadow across the street.

Wandering the back roads on the way to the office, I watch as a man emerges from the side door of his little cottage-like home with his dog on a leash wearing only pajamas and an overcoat. No, the man in the pajamas and overcoat, the dog wearing only the collar and leash and a grumbled look on its face as if it, too, thinks walking in this nasty cold is a bad idea indeed.

The man lights a cigarette, oblivious. Numb.

I shudder as I drive on by.

Listening to someone on the radio chatter on about whether or not to break off her engagement with some poor chap who spent a good portion of his meager salary to buy her a shit ring, I wince and laugh out loud as people call in to offer their advice which the girl listens to and debates as we secretly judge her and all the other strangers for having poor instincts and even less tact.

I shouldn’t judge, of course, but everybody does and I’m quite tired, in fact, of worrying about what I should and should not do or care about according to a society so completely and perfectly morally screwed up it has no business instructing anyone about anything.

Later on I’m back at home with a whiskey, re-reading Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth” and trying to warm my hollow bones. Woolf observes the helpless winged specimen as it flits and flutters erratically in her windowsill until finally it struggles its last with tiny legs wriggling against the empty air and perishes, as small and strange in fitful life as it is frozen stiff in death.

The essay was published a year after Virginia Woolf ended her own life by walking into the River Ouse at Lewes with stones in her coat pockets, weighing her down.

A deep tug of sorrow fills my heart for someone I admire but do not know.

I swallow hard and watch as a steady swath of white smoke trails from a chimney across the way, thin and pale, vanishing like a ghost.

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Photo by Michele Seghieri

Dirty Plastic Hearts

The table is grubby white plastic much like her heart, propped up in the dead of winter and sprinkled with peppery flecks of cigarette ash as the wind blows cold around the side of the house.

She is supposed to be doing whatever it is she is supposed to be doing. Folding laundry. Vacuuming the last of the dry pine needles left behind from the remnants of a holiday spent indoors with more than a little bit of booze and sadness mixed in, too.

But instead, she is sat outside in the frigid air at the corner of the patio crunched into this rickety table which wobbles because one of its cheap legs is cracked and neither she nor he has bothered to invest in a new one.

The smoke tastes like fire and burns her lungs but it feels good to feel alive and as though if there has to be pain, at least she is in control of it. At least she’s doing it to herself.

Looking out across the fenced in yard, she exhales great plumes of white smoke and watches as the snow begins to flutter down and settle on the frozen ground.

In her mind, images of years ago when she was young and ripe and could have any boy she wanted with just the wink of her eye and the flick of her long auburn hair. It’s funny how the years go by without you noticing. How you can watch the seasons turn in the palm of your hand but you can’t see much past the end of your nose.

When the sky turns purple and the stars begin to bud high above the naked winter trees, she sips her wine and tugs her old coat around her tighter. There once was a guy whose touch made her weak. Whose voice was low and commanding. He left her for someone heavier, told her she was too thin. He liked a woman’s curves he could grab a hold of, something to squeeze.

Everyone was a body inside a body back then. She’s always been a mind, a heart, a soul as wide and expansive as the sea, but who has the time for that when there is money to be spent and suits to fit into and plans to be made.

Crushing out her cigarette into the little ceramic ashtray that she got at a road side flea market a while back, she catches a glimpse of the pretty house across the street. In each of its perfect tiny windows, a red heart decoration glistens with flashy glitter and lace.

Love. You can stab it all to hell but it always attempts a come back.

 

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Photo by Tiko Giorgadze

 

This Will Be Our Drug

Across town, he lies in bed in an upstairs room in the darkness of early morning, trying to write out a poem entirely in his mind. He is anxious, sweat seeps from his bare body into the soft white sheets. The trouble is he can’t help who he is.

Sleep doesn’t come so easy. Writing helps but that, too, seems elusive these days. When your mind runs in every direction, the subject of your work is impossible to stabilize. He is always somewhere else and he is always racing to get there.

The world spins desperately slow. If only he could rush it along, get to the next thing. He doesn’t know when he lost his nerve. When he let himself off the hook for building a life of adventure, wonder.

It’s in the words, he knows that much. Every castle, every love, is in the words he is dying to write if only the shaking would stop. If only he could stop the self-abuse. The sex, the drugs, the drinking, the smokes. It all wears him down, gets him off, drowns him out.

There was a girl once but she passed away long ago. In dreams, she stands off to the side of his visions, motionless, eyes as wide as the many turning moons which orbit his head like a halo.

He can sense what she feels by the shape of her mouth. That mouth, that sensual sinister moving mouth, how it would thrust him right out of his mind.

One by one the stars burn off like so many glittering deaths. The cyclical nature of the universe is the pulse in his veins is the measure of sanity throbbing in his snuffed out brain. Night always gives way to morning. And the words do not stop not coming.

Peeling off the covers, he rises to peer out the window into the first swellings of dawn. Across the sky, a pink ribbon, faint like smoke, a shifting mist of rose water over the crystal blue horizon.

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Photo by Shannon VanDenHeuvel

Tempt the Tides

Fire flickers in my chest, I feel its heavy heat as I look up into the bluegray sky, dark with promise, thick with secrets I keep to myself.

The wind is shaking the trees, hard and stiff they sway from the pressure. The invisible air makes a crushing sound against my window pane, pushing, pushing, roughing up the atmosphere like a shoving into and out of place.

We learn to shift. We learn to lose. We learn to surrender. We learn our flexibility and our strength. I think of lovers who have moved me, startled me, awakened me.

Wanting something else. The recklessness of that. To dare the wreckage of that. To tempt the pain. Tempt the tides. Bend the waves.

He speaks to me in silence. I come to him in the same manner, hauntingly still. Desperately eager, hungry, empty, alert. I know what I want. I know I have not found it yet.

Or no, that isn’t quite right. I have caught glimpses of it.

Felt its soft black feathers swinging in the soft flesh of my throat, my breast, my center. The words which unlock my timidity. My experience of the truth sometimes feels like begging, pleading.

I have dreams where I cannot find the way, door after door, hallway into hallway, endlessly. I hate it and I trust it. The only way is no way at all. The only way is never ending and alone.

Perhaps as poets we know only to reach out for phantom things.

Open our mouths against the words which may or may not come.

What would you die for. What does it look like. What does it feel like.

It isn’t what they told you, is it. It is never like they told you.

You cannot name it. But god, how you bleed for it, seek for it.

This exquisiteness you swear you’re made of

vanishing inside

behind the burning sun.

 

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Photo by Pietro Tebaldi

New Spacetrash Podcast Episode: The Biden-Harris Inauguration Episode! Hope, Celebration, and Bernie Sanders’ Mittens

Your favorite cousins are back with FULL COVERAGE of all that is the historic Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris!

Mark and I discuss the feelings we didn’t even know we could feel after toppling a dictator, the fashion, the love, the incredible spectacle of Lady Gaga, JLo, Garth Brooks, as well as the show-stopping, breathtaking beauty and command of Amanda Gorman performing her brilliant poetry.

It is a time – brief as it may be – to celebrate how far we have come.

We talk everything from Bernie’s fantastic mittens to finally being able to get back to making art without feeling guilty that we let the world fall apart on our watch.

Relax for a bit. Let the leaders lead. We did good.

Grab a drink, listen to Spacetrash Podcast on Spotify (or wherever you listen to podcasts), and come chill with us!

 

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Photo by Anthony Fomin

The Dawning of a New Day in America

We made it through. This is the first thing to say, because it is true and it is monumental. President Biden is in the White House safe and sound and we breathe and weep and try to take it all in. To understand what it means to feel the flutters of ecstatic joy, the rush of blessed relief, and the gut wrench of utter grief and disbelief all at once.

I, for one, am exhausted yet contented in a way I never could have predicted. Watching the majesty of the Inauguration yesterday felt like power in the way narrowly escaping the clutches of death feels like power – exhilarating but also let’s not do this again, yeah?

Let’s not let this country dissolve into such madness as it has over the last years.

In 2017 I wrote a poem titled “Regeneration” which appears in my book Luminae:

Everything will fall away.
Even the beautiful things.
This will be the beginning.

I wrote it while imagining the worst was yet to come from the administration at that time. I was right. Everything fell away. Even, and it seemed on purpose and especially, the beautiful things. Safety, health, compassion, truth, dignity, all fell away.

The nation was stripped to the bone.

We didn’t just have to see ourselves naked, we were forced to bare witness to ourselves as only skin and bone. We became skeletal. Vulnerable. We were starved intellectually, spiritually, mentally, creatively. In all the ways that mattered most, we were beaten down and threatened.

Our very existence was called into question again and again.

Yesterday we finally got the answer to that question, at least for now. American democracy is not dead, tested and tattered as it may have become.

Yesterday we rose from the ashes. We have a real chance now to reflect on how close we came to annihilation. And also ground ourselves in hope in a way we couldn’t before because we never knew how truly dire it could have been.

We pulled each other out and pulled each other through. What I like best about President Biden is his true and honest and deep compassion. What I like best about Vice President Kamala Harris is her strength and confidence and also her deep and palpable compassion.

We have leaders who know how to lead. With science, with truth, with care and with love. Love as in grit, determination, and vision for how to rise to the best in us. And they know they are there to serve us. We the people. Americans.

I am still overwhelmed by the emotions of this time. It will be a while before I stop flinching at the word “President” or dreading the daily headlines before I remember that we have integrity now, we can be proud now and not ashamed.

There is much to work through, much to heal, much to do. But we are in it together. And we made it, finally, achingly, to the third line of that poem I wrote those many years ago, from a place of deep sorrow, and deep hope:

This will be the beginning.  

 

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Photo by Alimarel