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.

a death more charming

i never quite feel like i’m breathing (i tell her) – it’s like i’m walking around trying to inhale deeply a sweet breath that finally fills my body and being, but the world and i and my breathing are just shallow little gasps.
she places her hands upon my throat and keeps still.
they always want you figured out: masculine or feminine, pleasing or displeasing, sharp or dull, attractive or unattractive. but i don’t think i’m rightly made into or described as any of those things. i think our bones understand energies we ignore and this is where anguish comes from. most of us are buried with it.
her hands are moving now as if to pull the evening down over us like a shade. the golden eyes of stars protruding. she and i and our sick thoughts dark and rich and ringing hollow as a moonless midnight. i extend a finger and begin to trace the imprint of the words now carved eternal into rough stone: “the past and present are as one— accordant and discordant/ youth and age/ and death and birth/ for out of one came all— from all comes one.” from all comes one, we are stories birthed in half.
quieted by the silent smoke of purple November, she listens with the softness of an afterlife i’m thirsty for all over. the air between us is the beg of touch without relief.  we are stories birthed in half.  we are the tears at the start of the bleeding.

blank stare (monster, i love you)

it’s the blank mind that frightens; one made so terribly messy that all the lines crisscross over top of each other endlessly rendering each individual thought useless. it’s a blank made of noise, crushing static noise. the sound; the vision of suffocation.
but they tell me to write whatever comes and not hold back just keep on so i do until the looks, the ones i can feel without even seeing them, the looks bore into the back of my head like insects boring into the side of a tree they know only how to eat from the inside until they die in there along with the beast. trees are beasts of course, they too have heavy eyes and knowledge, skin and teeth and bones and wisdom; tears. feelings. longing.
i once read that if a tree is dying, a tree close to it will wrap its roots around the dying one’s roots in an attempt to share nourishment. like holding hands or… donating organs, i guess.
i think that is beautiful. and so very sad.
i wonder how many humans would do that. i wonder if i would but oftentimes i am truly very numb. i’ve let up on the drinking a bit but i still go numb from feelings. some my own, some borrowed. i think we want to read someone else’s diary in the hopes of finding the nastiest parts of ourselves. we are all spies but it’s just to try to end the loneliness. i think we want to grow wings and save ourselves but that’s as far as we think.
what if we did get out of this terrible nightmare city of death, lies, cruelty, and destruction. what if this were no longer reality but some kind of emotion-soaked memory of a time we fucked everything up but figured out a way to undo the whole damn thing. the human heart beats for a time before it stops and vanishes forever. the human, her feelings, her gut, her mind, does the same thing. we are (i am) smoke and mirrors, we are embers falling from those mighty trees, eaten from the inside. and i keep writing because they tell us not to stop. who tells us? the ones looking for something to read, i guess.
the childlike ones whispering in the dark to the monsters in their hearts: i love you, i love you, i love you, i do. 
the rain begins again, the gray of the sweeping sky sliding cold along my windowpane and it is the season it is. i blink away dry invisible tears. wipe away the coffee rings on the pages of all the things i don’t know how to say. they do not budge. the leaves are flaming and the air is not quite a sharp razor, not quite a soft kiss. as i look along my wrists i see butterflies circling the veins. i see angels in the clouds and i stare out across the brownish fields looking for something like an animal. like a little girl is able to run away to escape herself.