Please don’t come so close to me. I can’t protect you from all that I am and that has been enough trouble before to burn even the most beautiful temples to the ground. In my mind there is a circle of white winged doves, fluttering elegantly, continuously, in a slow spiral toward the sun, which descends as it glitters its golden rays over a placid pale blue sea. In my blue body, my veins are the rivers, my lungs are the flood. I am the womb I was born within, the womb rushing violent, the womb overflowing with peace, tranquility, the tides of time as humanity is created, humanity is destroyed. You dream of me, parting lips of an exotic fragrant flower, petals lush with warm sweet rain, the nectar of the deep folds of night. Please don’t. Please come. Come closer and tell me what you see in the mirrored halls of my eyes as I take you in, body and soul. He was forbidden and she was a playground as evening falls, she was a carousel of dazzling light on a crowded filthy city street. I hope you will write of the things no one speaks about, the things they are afraid of. I hope you don’t let them tell you what to say, or how to say it. You have to be on guard at all times, you have to protect the only thing you know for sure is yours and yours alone. That magic heart of yours. That mind racing like mad back into itself, shield it, lock it up tight. I know you don’t believe me. I know you think I’m skittish and paranoid but that doesn’t mean the danger isn’t real. This world will try to out run you, game you, play you, gut you, leave you for dead. Don’t let that happen to you, don’t you give them the satisfaction. When they threaten to leave you to the wolves, remember you are the wolf, you are the wilderness, you are the hunter. Make your own fire, be your own shelter. Shine. Shine brighter than all the rest and don’t look down and don’t look back. Smile in the face of death. Walk on water. Walk so you can run and run so you can fly and fly so your bones can burst into a million ecstatic stars dancing so high above no one can touch you, only wish upon you for the things they dare to dream of in the silence of their trembling hearts. Don’t be the answer, be the dare. Don’t reveal your secrets. Do it all and don’t explain any of it. Don’t forget you don’t owe them anything. Be the way an illusion shatters expectations. Show them even in the pits of fire and hell, nothing is as it seems.
All night the wind rattled the clanging chimes in the backyard and drove itself mad in loud rushes against the houses and buildings. The rain slashed the window panes and glittered in large crystal gobs, pinned, suspended by the great winds, before sliding its streaky path downward. I tossed and turned a little but not much, more because I left the notifications open on my phone and the random glows lit up the corner of the room like those many soft fireflies we’d collect as kids and put them in jars with fistfuls of leaves and sticks. I can still recall the way it felt to be out in the late night of summer, my bare toes rustling through the freshly cut blades of grass underneath the low hanging trees, you could see the bug’s lights better under there where it was darkest. I could scarcely believe my mother would let me go out in my thin fuzzy nightgown even though I was already clean from the bath. I remember vividly the feel of the warm air upon my skin all over underneath the fabric as I ran and ran and twirled and opened my arms to everything. It is my first memory of freedom, of wilderness, and the taste of the dream that I belonged within it. One misty morning, I woke to find my tiny jar of glow bugs didn’t glow anymore, too young to understand I’d smothered them by fastening the lid on too tight. We try to hold things we have no business holding. We make our attempts at nailing beauty to the wall and think nothing of the arrogance of that. We punish, we manipulate, mutilate, violate, annihilate. We glorify control, exacerbate it, turn it into a perversion and call it adoration. As I sip my coffee and type, I flashback in my mind to the night I left his apartment after we had a brutal fight, stabbing each other with words like knives. Some wounds are invisible to the naked eye. Suffocation. Gashes in the psyche, bleeding in the red tides of emotions we refuse to tame. Pain is where the tears come from, screams come from, hurt comes from, a place you can feel but cannot point to on your physical body, on an x-ray, on a scan; it does and does not exist. Perhaps this, too, is the place where poetry comes from, this placeless place. A pin on a map that nobody can print. A homeless home we crawl towards with what is left of us, that we try to return to when the storms come to your front door. And like a perfect fool, you open up and watch, as they come crashing in.
They want you to tell them what they want to hear, but they don’t know what they want. In my life, I have made myself into many forms of woman to fit in, to get along, to be what men want, to be what women want, to do what they say and please as I had been taught to please. But I never like myself much for it. Not as much as I like myself when I do what I love, what I crave, what I desire, in spite of the judgment of everyone else. So now I do not beg. And now I do not chase. And now I do not need anyone to tell me what I’ve done is good enough. In this world, evil rises. Cruelty reigns over many a nation, climate, industry, air wave. I am not sure how I missed this, or how I ever believed anything else. Childhood, protection, institutionalization, privilege, innocence. I still remember the exact feeling of pulling a knee sock up my little leg, sheer virgin white with a thick elastic band at the top. Tight. Tight to keep it up, where it was supposed to be, strangling the small area where the calf met the knee. When I would remove the sock upon returning home from school, I could still see the ridges, the red indentations left in the skin in a circular band just below the knee. I don’t have words to share that people want to hear. I don’t have stories worthy of telling. But if they would want me to, I could turn myself into one. I could be any kind of story they want, I know how. I have done it ten thousand times before. It’s easy once you get the hang of it. You just remove your eyes. Peel off your skin. Cut off your hands and pick apart your heart into a few hundred tiny pieces. And eat them. Swallow them down so that it doesn’t hurt so bad to need the love they promised if only you could just behave.
I wonder if you knew what it felt like when the mist of the rain stung softly against your face, would you stay outside with me a little while longer. It’s hard for me to write when I’m distracted so please put away your burning eyes from my mind. I spend the day drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and watching as the birds flitter and dip and soar outside my open window. The air is grace and light. Spring in winter, I know, the universe is off, it isn’t right, but for now just… a little more coffee, a little more cream. Let me be inside myself, let me be the hollow of church bells high above an ancient city square. In the middle of the afternoon, when the rooftops and the angles slope just so, I’ve finally caught the tail of a poem before it gets away from me like so many others have. The trick is to be vigilant, and still. I am very good at sitting still. Most people can’t do it but I can do it better than the others, though it can also be deceiving. My quiet silhouette draped over the depths of chaotic worlds I churn over in my thoughts, little ribbons of desire fingering rays of sunlight through the attic skylight of my daydreams. Memories of you and I distract me. Honeyed love, warm golden hues thick with sweetest satisfaction. I soften at the way you open me, touch me, reveal me. How much of me has been so long stowed away. How much of me those haunting eyes have not yet seen.
A small black bird sits alone on a wire high above the street which winds around the train station. There is the guy who is always wearing the same thing: jeans, tee shirt, heavy boots, green army jacket, too big in the shoulders and too long for his thin frame. His back is slightly curved so he hunches over just a bit, making him look much older than I imagine he actually is. As he shuffles across the train tracks, he drinks a cup of coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts up on the highway and I get the impression this is not just a daily procession or a special ritual, but this is his entire life. Right here in this over sized old jacket walking slow along this side street by the train station into the misty morning fog, he walks, always in the same direction. Or maybe it’s just me making up stories about people I know exactly nothing about, just because I can see them, and I can’t help but wonder. What do they do? Where do they live? What are they worried about? What keeps them hanging on? Across town, there is a girl in an apartment building watering a plant which sits on a stand by the window. She’s going through some heavy shit, what with being a newly single mom, and the cancer they found in her mother’s breast. She tries to be a good girl even though she’s a grown up woman, tries to be a good daughter and a good mother and a good friend. She stays positive in front of everyone else though at night she closes the door and cries, but not tears because that would be the end of her. No tears fall because if they fall she falls apart never to get back up. Instead she cries bottles and bottles and she cries cigarettes on the back stairs under the gruesome yellow motion-sensor porch light the landlord installed for safety. Nothing feels safe now. But crumbling is not an option so she goes a little numb and she chews on the trembling fingers of anxiety and she keeps her sadness to herself. And everyone seems to think she’s a really good girl even though what she really wants to be is bad. Because bad is a choice you have to make, and a lot of times, good just feels the same as fear. In a stale high school classroom, a bunch of fidgety teenagers sit in their desks and listen to a lecture about the history of their country which has been re-written to make things seem less bleak and more noble, as the hands of the clock click slowly toward the rest of their lives. It’s strange the way time passes differently for all of us. We keep track of it as though it were the same, but it isn’t. For some it’s speeding by faster than they know. And the bird on the wire does not sing. He just flicks his pointy wings, once, twice. Tilts his tiny tick tock head. And watches.
The sun is sinking low into the hazy peach colored envelope of early evening sky as I attempt to unwrap my mind from the stiff hold its got around a stress filled day. I’m tired of people and the messed up games they play. Posturing. Posing. Pushing their fingers in your eye as though they aren’t just one among the many who haven’t a clue and don’t care to find one any time soon. I’m a good person at heart and underneath it all I try to do what’s right but it’s when life gets under my skin that I tend to size everyone around me up and cast judgment freely with abandon. He’s been giving me the silent treatment but probably only because he thinks I care more than I do. Truth be told I could use a break from the forced back and forth in any case, so win win, or same same or no harm no foul, or however you say it when it’s all for the best in the end. I’ve been through hell and back plenty of times, honey, so you can spare me your mediocre attempts at stirring up drama. There is so much horror in this world every which way you turn it often makes me shake my head in disbelief that a person would try to dust up even more. Everybody’s bored and everybody’s got an angle. Winters come and go and hearts change like the turning of seasons from spring to summer to fall. At the moment, two scrawny women at the end of the bar sip half priced pink cocktails and make fun of the girl across the room who is brazenly scarfing down hot wings in quick succession, one after another after another without pause. The older skinny women conclude that the wing girl must be stoned and then proceed to talk very loudly about this, and for far too long, pointing and laughing and generally behaving like absolute assholes before the one decides to go out for a smoke leaving the other to pay cash for a third round of tacky lime adorned drinks. Cruelty and booze. Ignorance and bad hairstyles left over from the ’80s. It’s a wonder any of us can stand each other with such impressively low standards of human behavior. I’m lost in thought and my own glass of Sav blanc when suddenly the pretty young bartender stands directly in front of me on the other side of the bar, stares at me, places her hands firmly against the wood, and takes a huge breath in, letting it out slowly. She’s looking at me because she is turning her back on someone else. I can see she’s had it and she’s trying to calm her growing frustration with two fresh idiots who have now entered the place looking for beers and whistling at her to get her attention. The bar is packed three deep and she’s already been working for seven hours. She hasn’t stopped moving for even one second since her shift began. I can see in her wide blue eyes that she, and I, would like to punch the whistling man in the neck. I look at her and shake my head as I tell her she’s amazing and I can’t believe you have to put up with this shit. Over her head on a huge TV screen, the well dressed, perfectly airbrushed newscaster announces that today Harvey Weinstein was convicted and sent immediately to prison. They finally called the sixty seven year old rapist a rapist to his disgusting bloated fucking face.
We try and we try and we sink and we swim and yet in the end no one’s ever good enough so we pick a thousand petty fights we know nobody can win but at least it keeps our weary hearts occupied for a while. We want the dance but were never taught the moves so we make it all up as we go along hoping one day everything will fall into place without our having to know the difference between love and pain, sunshine and agony. People are difficult but mostly it’s because they think that they aren’t that they grate on your nerves. Attempting to lessen the ache of my hangover by drinking more wine, I don’t feel much of anything as the sky shines bluer than a razor sharp ocean cuts across the icy winter horizon line. Joining in step with me, you and I walk the same trail through the same park we like to wander through on Sunday afternoons. Sporty people and their dogs and ice cream vendors and the little punk kids daring each other to jump farther and farther out on the rocks that jut into the rushing water as it carves its way past the NO SWIMMING sign and snakes through the side of a steep hill. We talk about things that don’t matter because it’s always the beginning of the end no matter which way you look at it, foolishness is the new black and death the only predictable constant. We laugh at the ones who don’t know to laugh while they can, laugh in the face of all of it as the forests burn and the lovers cry and the poets dream and the face staring back at you in the mirror at night is locked in a scream. The world is a strange place, too big and too small and yet, with my hand in yours, for this moment at least, it feels like a perfect fit.
There is a candle burning the last shallow pool of its fragrant wax in a blackened jar on a low table by the bed. There is the way I cut off my own words like broken limbs in my head. Fingers running fevers, fingers running along the edges of the white linen sheets as my body catches fire. All night we are turning blue. I open a window and close my legs around one another like two supple stems. Even when I’m with him, I am alone inside myself. Such is the nature of this life of smoke and mirrors, these splintered bones and this fragile skin. He knows it when we touch. I know it but I keep that to myself. There are some who would say they know the right way and the wrong way to be with someone but I don’t buy it. No one is being honest even when they tell you so. He stands his ground as I settle in for the long burial season, drag my eyes underneath the darkness of the heavy pines and wait like an animal. There is snow floating in swiftly swirling drifts in the center of my palms on the beating of my chest as you kiss me on my lips, mouth to mouth, toe to toe. The distance between us is nothing and it is an eternal stretch, the time between starlight and stars burned out. If I reached for you and you were not there, the echo of the silence of your absence would destroy me all at once. Still, I push and push you, like a dare. Like a masochist, afraid and emboldened by the threat of pain. Like a disease, a poison you drink me down, in spite of us, in spite of yourself, and your veins, and your heart, and your love for a girl who is running like tears streak flame down her soft face. As I look out across the rooftops touched by the gray light of cold dawn, curls of thin smoke stream upwards from tiny chimneys into the frigid early air. The stoic sky of winter bleeding through the bare naked trees. You don’t need that many words to write a love story, just a few that come and a few that go. You don’t need that much time alone before you start to feel more at ease. I miss everything about you even before you leave. Why am I homesick for a place I have never been. Will this haunt take more than one lifetime to exhaust itself.
I’m not sure it’s an emergency but then again I’m not sure how I got here so who’s to say when the urgency sets in. Can a person slowly slide toward their own demise without ever actually seeing it coming? Doesn’t matter. Across the street, a woman has placed a blessed mother statue in her front window facing outwards with palms raised and eyes cast downward. I’d say she’s done it as some sort of ritual prayer for good weather but she did it so many years ago now it’s hard to tell if it’s worked out as she’d hoped or not. It’s funny to me what people believe in, or I should say it used to be funny until it started becoming more and more absurd. I am not a believer in much of anything but I do read tarot now and again and it stirs something in me, could be the idea of witches and magic, could be the pleasure of escape from the everyday world with its pragmatism and general low grade misery. I don’t think you need to believe, I think you just need to be open to making up your own story the way you want to. On the drive home, I passed the odd shaped one-level building tucked under tall pine trees back along a gravel road off the highway. It’s dark and seedy, the muddy color of wet bark and indignity. Used to be a sex shop but now it’s a kids day care center, made only slightly less grim by the cardboard cutouts of smiling red, blue, and yellow dancing crayons in the small front window. How much we endure between then and now. The grown ups I see, I can’t help but wonder what the hell they are thinking, or if they even think at all. So many random lives on autopilot, bodies and dreams on medication. How do they keep it all together and why do they try so hard to impress each other. And why does it always feel like I’m not one of them. Not even close. The more they want to make me like them the more I retreat. The more they reach for the outer signs of success the more I want to scream. There is a tangerine streak of cloud falling from the tail of a plane running jagged across the evening sky. It looks like lightening stood still and turning soft at its edges. The house creaks as evening falls in and I wonder why any one tells the story of anything. Why anyone who gives a damn about this life speaks what is untrue so often it becomes everyone else’s reality. I pour the wine and wonder why any one of us speaks at all.
Life is happening in a small body I once occupied, like a barren land frozen in opalescent frosted glass, far off beyond the streets I live on in this hard tangle of a neighborhood I didn’t grow up in. In my mind’s eye the visions of where I have been and where I think I ought to be going grow increasingly blurry, my head is heavy and my blindside dim. Some people never move and some never move on and at the moment I’m too tired to explore the difference. There are days you want to crawl inside yourself but you just aren’t there so it feels more lonely and less like home in the silence. These soft flickering evening moments filled with shadow and memory and time lost, dripping through the faucet that won’t turn off down the hall. The great writers write of great things as I lift a glass to the closing of another day, the beating of lonely hearts, the clasping of empty hands. These strange hollow nights when the moon does not glow, and no words are spoken because when you can’t feel yourself they don’t mean anything. And the dog in the distance barks at kids kicking a can down the road. And the whole world hangs its listless weight like an uneasy arm, slipped invisibly around your armchair shoulder.