Walking home alone from the small cafe we used to frequent when we were a thing and things were a good deal less exhausting than they are now, I light up a smoke and inhale the soft springtime evening air. The trees which cover the stone city square are quietly creeping to life in mossy greens and deep pinks which tickles me in all the places I have left inside that still feel young at heart. How we used to collect pastel eggs in baskets at my grandparents’ house on Easter. My favorite aunt teaching me to use chalky painted chocolate eggs as lipstick, my eyes wide with defiance and excitement at eight years old, lips a freakish crookedly applied shade of lavender. There are new beginnings and disastrous endings along the curve which inevitably leads to grown up problems and more years piling up on top of your bones than wisdom of ages. We are hopeful underneath it all but rattled just the same. Rounding the corner along the park’s edge, I make my way along the path by the river and take a seat on the grass to finish my cigarette in solitary peace. Though I try not to let it happen, whenever I am still my mind floods with thoughts of you. Staring off into the murky grayness of the water, I curse myself because I am not myself when I’m caught up in your gaze, in its heat I am lovelier than I deserve to be. Something in the darkness of your desire calls to me, brings me down into the depths of my being that make me burn, make my tender parts simmer and twitch. How long has it been since we last grazed our lips over each other’s skin? So long the body aches. So long the song in my soul has all but gone out. I crush my smoke into the pavement while imagining every dirty thing you ever said you wanted to do to me. All that fire in your eyes, all that blood on your decadent tongue. As the night sky crawls its way over the tall glass high rise buildings behind the river, the cold air moves in with it. I pull on a hat and zip up my jacket. My hands are raw from washing so often, and the many blocks home move beneath me without my even noticing. A bottle of wine, another cigarette on a balcony overlooking stacks and stacks of squares filled with electric neon lights. In a velvet bar across town, tight young girls dance for dollars, swivel their naked hips like the sweet promise of a violent end to an undeserving world. And you taste them in your filthiest dreams. And you gush with jittery life as their headless bodies become the blackness you carry around all day and can’t let go of no matter how hard you try. You down another drink because you just need something to take away the pain you feel that tells you you are so empty that even happiness falls through you like grains of sand cast aside on the breeze. You just need one more chance to build a different kind of life. You just need the itch in your palms to stop keeping you up at night. You just need to kiss her but everything about her is nothing more than a whisper on the wind.
Drifting languidly away from everyone and everything which is disintegrating on this hollow glassy globe, I perch in a treetop like a fairy nymph lit up in moon glow. My little feet dangling in the empty night air, I watch as far below nothing happens that anyone else can see. The blackness of midnight stretches out in every direction, swallowing endless fields of graying husks left for dead against the cold hard ground. Looking up at the marbled purple sky, I see the moon looming larger than my entire life, hung there cratered and pillaged and beaming, basking in the strangeness of her own uneven face. When the hour is right, and the creatures of night move within every inch of my bones, I lean back upon the tree to steady myself, part my legs wide as each one falls on either side of the thick branch in which I have made my feathered nest. By the light of each winking star that shines on my skin, I finger my sweetness while riding the tender surges of energy that come in ecstatic eruptions from their distant glimmer. Make me one with the ancients, with each act of deep erotic penetration, commune me with every mouth which ever uttered the mighty names of the Gods as they raised their sharp blades, made sacrifices on altars of crimson and gold. Open my veins and drink of my blood like mad rivers of nightmares and dreams. Part my ribs and dig your grave in the calm center of my slamming heart that I may know you are not afraid of the chaos of the storms that I am and always will be. My sweat mixed with exotic night air, my hair all colors of the wind which blows with steady force against the rising of the tides, I move with them, heaving breath and sacred rhythm. Reaching my peak as the trees tremble and quake with my movements, I cry out in ragged adoration for the white hot explosion I have made myself endure. In this quiet seclusion high above the earth below, I have never felt more safe, more alone, or more beautiful. The others cannot understand. They need love but hate themselves for it. They want freedom but put themselves through all manner of hell to avoid revealing the little freaks they really are. But creatures like us, we worship only feeling. We suckle only upon the full breasts of melancholy, dip our tongues in to caress only the soft flesh of sadness as she moans beneath us, helpless, sinister, supple, needy. Give her what she longs for, bring her to her knees. Having heard my sensual song, you come climbing down from the mountain, your animal eyes flash yellow, reflective, hunting me through the swaying leaves. Your movements are primal, heart beat steady, as your muscles snake their way around my body in the dark.
I don’t want to write about you. I don’t want to write about me. I don’t want to write about the state of things because there is no state, only stasis. I comb through the works of recluse poets as though there were any other kind. A poet lives in a room in her heart, and stays there writing forever. Listening to words of wisdom, words of strife, I am not transported in the least. I ache for the words I cannot find anywhere. I am looking for something I do not know how to see. All I want is to be alone and the world has served the opportunity up to me on a silver plate. Is this what you wanted? Is this how you like it? How could you have let this happen? Perhaps we wash our hands forty seven times in a single day and never once come clean. Perhaps we can’t come down with an illness if we’ve no longer got any skin. In the trees I see the stars as they blink on and off in an early morning sky. Winter, she hangs on and hangs close and drapes herself like ice frosted along the branches. Yesterday I saw some little pink buds, tiny whispers of life, preparing itself in spite of the sting in the cold. And as those on the outside talk and talk, on the inside I don’t hear a thing except silence within silence, I can’t feel anything but a strange eclipse of fear over distance, fear over distance. Time like the ticking of a clock. Time like a lead balloon. There is something at work here that we refuse to see. Weakness, indecency, arrogance, hysteria, seeds of anarchy, greed. Cruelty. There is a cruelty which marks the heart in the declining character of the civilized world; indecision, dishonesty, incompetence, deceit. It goes on in its bluster, it is a joke, it is entertainment, it is ascending, it is the nameless name of all venomous things. It claims lives. It is numb. It is senseless. It is afraid. Please define civilized. Please spell civilized. Please use civilized for me in a sentence. You want to make love and I want to scream my head off until my throat bleeds. You want me to paint the kitchen cabinets, keep my hands busy. Keep my mind off of things. My mind is a thousand tentacles writhing freely, even at home, even in the living room. Even as I speak back and forth with you, unblinking. Even as the news breaks and breaks and breaks all day like tsunamis over our heads, my mind grows three hundred arms as she reaches, reaches, reaches, grasps, grasps, grasps. What will become of the flesh. Will all of our molecules be transformed, will we emerge as new creatures when all this is over. Will any of this finally change us.
I wanted to tell you a story but my grand ideas were all swallowed up by the ocean, whose voice is much deeper and far more profound. The sea knows more than I will ever know, has covered more ground and sunk lower than I ever will in this lifetime or any other. Do you believe in reincarnation? The thought alone terrifies me so I don’t think about it, try to distract myself with anything else. Imagine having to do this all over again but as someone or something else. No, thank you. If I can manage to create something intimate of this one life I have been so randomly given, that will be enough for me. In the thick of the confusion which has now become the general state of the world at large, we pull on our cold weather gear and walk a frigid deserted beach for miles. No one around, only the thunder of the crashing of the waves as the sun streams down, crunchy collections of broken up seashells under our boots, and an empty fishing shack worn and battered atop a lengthy pier. Wind tearing into our faces, we tighten our lips and do not speak. Crisp white gulls with their wide pointy wings are swooping out over the ocean, which is the heaviest inky velvet dark navy blue I have ever seen it, while the sky is a quiet light sandy blue. As above, not so below. Light and darkness in stark relief. Nature all around and inside of us is eerie, distraught, tumultuous. Somewhere in an ancient city across the globe, people are dying by the hundreds in hospital beds. People are singing lullabies, people are trapped, people are writing love letters and eating fish from small jars. Somewhere in the distance between he and I, my anxiety jitters right beneath the surface of my skin. When he touches me, my body reacts by pulling away. My mind reacts by screaming inaudibly Don’t touch. Maybe I’m colder than I used to be, maybe I am afraid. Maybe the things we try to hold on to only want to get away. I don’t know why I get like this, I don’t know why I live with one foot out the door and the other on my own throat. But I know he stays when times are tough. When times are impossible. When my insides are relentless, dark black velvet waves. He stays and he stays until we ride out the storm.
Giving you the middle finger, I smile and take another sip of my drink. We’ve been messing around for hours discussing the disastrous state of the world as the fools who run it flick on the code red emergency lights right before taking off in their private jets to masturbate themselves to a comfortable death as the rest of us run the streets and spin wildly out of control. It’s a sickness that lives in all of us I suppose, something like self-preservation perverted into a blood sport, but you and I have decided to try to be on our best worst behavior in order to forget about everything just for one forgettable night. Pouring us each another, you lead me into a darkened room with a plush rug upon the floor. You trace your finger along my jaw while telling me I look like somebody famous, you just can’t figure out who. The taste of your kiss turns my insides to liquid heat. I’m so warm from the whiskey I’d be anyone you want me to be just to feel your skin on my skin, but I don’t tell you this because it sounds so goddamn cliche. There are lovers and there are players, there are nihilists and there are fatalists. Romantics and devils and jokers and right now we are all of these things and so much more. Like two drunk fugitives, we build a crude fire in the fireplace, smoke something to take the edge off the edge we always seem to be teetering on, and make mad love as our little hearts pound like heavenly thunder rolling out across the breathtaking beauty of a crimson apocalyptic sky. To the moody sounds of The Cure, I curl into your arms and wonder what it would be like to live in a world where everyone is free. Everyone is loved and no one is ever left out in the cold. Impossible, of course. But sometimes when I’m alone, when I don’t have to fake being hopeful or charitable or kind, something inside me is anyway. There are people in this world who are so much better than me and at times I wish I were one of them. They are compassionate and sweet, even when nobody’s looking. I watch as the fire weakens to a cold electric blue, turns to smoky embers and then flickers out. You have fallen asleep, the opalescent light of the moon glowing a sheer path across your peaceful face. I close my eyes and fold my hands praying for escape, but only the stars disappear. Inside I am a wide open space, a static vacancy, an empty silence where faces in dreams fade in and out, but none ever stay.
Like fresh fallen snow which blankets an endless field beneath a heavy gray winter’s sky, the page spreads itself before me in all its pristine whiteness. As would a child, I want only to run right into in, stomp my little feet right through its glorious empty perfection, dig in, disrupt, burrow, tunnel, build, destroy. Leave tracks. Impose my footprints over and over just to see what they look like trailed out like alabaster snakes behind me for miles. My mind is a meadow of infinite expanse. I write because I am trying to touch it everywhere all at once, like a wild tentacled beast. I trace my fingers over the mouth of it, open wide. Alone with myself, I scan the dim backlit horizon looking for shapes of things I’ve long forgotten but would somehow recognize, I’m sure of it. There are shadows which lengthen out upon the snow like fangs. A full moon rising as the stars begin to reach out in all directions. We forget the way the universe extends itself from every angle. We think everything is pointing toward us but it isn’t. We are not the center of it all, much as we would like to imagine ourselves to be. I watch the people who can’t see past the end of their nose. I see the people who cannot see beyond themselves and these are the ones who terrify me the most. The blissful, the unaware, the ignorant. The ones who have all the answers. The ones who care only for the sick bulk of their wallet, get off over the throbbing size of their stock portfolio, thinking all the while they can separate themselves from the obscene indignities of the rest of the world. Stone hearts and hungry mad saturated eyes. Living for greed as though it won’t be that same disease which annihilates all of us in the end. Meanwhile, I sit in a small room and listen as the geese cry their shrill cry, soaring past the clouds in the sky overhead. Somewhere across town, the sign on the front door of a small cafe flips from Open to Closed too early. Two young mothers fight over the last small tin of tuna fish. And the earth somehow stands still in its spinning; darkness, like an eyelid tired, swollen, descends all over the globe.
People will take as much as you give them and then ask for more without so much as batting an eyelash but maybe that’s why we only pass like ships in the night instead of slowing down long enough to see each other’s faces. I don’t want to see, I don’t want to know. I’ve seen and known enough as it is to last a few lifetimes, most of them just as chaotic and aimless as this one. The rain is coming down steady and quiet. I listen to it plinking on the tin roof of an old farmhouse just down the road. You can hear that the street has been soaked for hours already and tiny lakes are sinking into the places where the sidewalk is cracked and uneven. There is no wind, there is no chill in the air as there had been all week. It is a random warm day nestled in among the others, more seasonal. I write about the weather because I need to know what’s inside me, and the way in is always through. Through the things you can sense with your body, touch, taste, caress. The trouble is, of course, I see just as much inside me as I do outside me and it can sometimes be tough to tell the difference. We long for a life instead of just the same day on repeat for an eternity until it’s over. We want the magic but we resist the change of seasons. We want the sun but not the burn, the light but not the dark, the pleasure without the pain. I want all of it. I want all the wrong things and the more I keep that locked away the more it pricks its claws in my veins. In an old hotel room with crooked wooden floors and a high slanted ceiling, I am drinking rose wine and trying to abide by the nonsmoking rules of the establishment. Above a distressed looking chest of drawers, there is a painting of an enormous pale blushing pink peony, its dense heavy head hanging low, its single wide eye gazing down at a shadowy garden below. There is something about the way this delicate flower appears to possess all of the ancient secrets to melancholy, whispers from the beginning of time about the way beauty and sadness are forever intertwined. The way its petals are layer upon lush layer of story, of feeling. It is a universe with endless depths. Its softness like the bend of a sumptuous ache which attracts me to it. I run a hot bath and think of the way you pull my hair and kiss my neck. The way you trail your tongue along the curve of my hip, leave little bite marks on my pale smooth skin. How even though I feel it, I am still alone inside and always will be. When the rain falls I can hear its voice, I can feel it wet and healing as it pours itself over the gravestones on the hill underneath a full gray sky. In the stillness I am most alive but what is ever still anymore. What isn’t constantly chewing on itself. What isn’t lying flat on its back, staring up to the heavens, as the earth comes falling in.
Breaking the silence open with my teeth, I chew on my tongue while trying to breathe. It isn’t always this way, but sometimes. Sometimes. Writing is a complicated beast, you wrestle with him. You try to seduce him. Just when you think you’ve pinned him by the wrists, he’s got you by the throat. The truth is I must like the threat. I get a rush from the danger of coming close enough to myself to move in for a kiss. Walking along the highway, I watch my footing on the concrete curb as high above the clouds are rippled tightly together, layered thick as powder white and blue tectonic plates across the broad expanse, as far off in the distance as I can see. My onyx tights are thick enough to keep my legs warm despite the chill in the air. It is winter inside my body. It is any given day of the week in the sanitized hallways underneath my skin. My boots are heavy and I could use a drink. And though they are saying otherwise, I could swear it looks and feels and smells like snow. You remember that feeling when you were a little kid? Snow was a feeling you got in the pit of your tiny stomach. You could sense the icy crystals melting on your tongue before the first flake ever descended. Snow was a taste for something magic to come. Winding my way around the track which encircles a full sized baseball field, I light up a cigarette as I pass the bench they built as a shrine for a local boy who died of an overdose. There are fresh flowers by the small tree they planted right next to the bench. On the front of the clay flower pot is some sort of small woodland animal announcing the joys of spring. Butterflies and angel wings. Demons and nightmares and all the ways some of us never find a way out of the pain. I wonder what his dreams were and if any ever came true. If the ones that didn’t still exist somewhere out there, waiting on an autumn wind in a far off place, for their turn, for their chance. I wish I could say I know exactly how to change my life so I could die with no regrets. The cluster of evergreens by the tennis court must be a hundred years old, shaggy towering pines. In my mind there are ghosts. In my hands there are lines that cut off at the edges. A heart full of stories that beg to be told. It is too early for sunset, the days are too long for my melancholy taste. I’d rather the dark move in all around. Watch as the softness in the gunmetal clouds turns slowly to black.
In the time it takes to burn the bridge back to everything you have ever known, you could build a dream that extends from the sharp gravel in the street to beyond the expanse of the clouds as they feather and separate like candy pink taffy on a sticky summer evening. Reaching up for the stars was never on her mind, just reaching out for the boys who made her a woman without their so much as changing a single thing about themselves besides maybe hairstyle or bad cologne. Inside she is becoming something she always was but no one has ever seen since her childhood. Nine years old, sky blue eyes and strawberry golden hair, too scrawny and too loud. Too much fire, too much passion, eyes too big to leave any corner of her tiny world unseen, unswallowed, undesired. When you can tell stories, you learn you can tell any story you want, yours or otherwise, and people won’t know the difference. This is how you become an entertainer. This is how you become a chameleon. You can hide anywhere. You can hide in plain sight. You could be anyone and you’ve been just about everyone by the time the jig is up. But on this particular morning, as you sip your second coffee and type, listening to the traffic sliding by down below on the highway, you want to tell the story of yourself. The story of yourself as you are, not as you should be. There are no words bubbling up inside because the words have not yet formed. There is only a feeling. But it fits. It is the exact size of your insides and your insides are infinite. It is a story without words, only memory, only freedom, only voice. What does it say? You cannot only listen. You have to feel. And you know that it is that feeling, the one you aspire to be, though it is already within you. The voice that you are is the one you’ve been missing.
What will you do when the words run out, when the sands of the grains of the time you spent together slide through your fingers only to scatter on the wind. Not everything you want is something you need. How do you tell the difference? I carry within me multiple hearts. I know because at least a few have stopped beating but I’m still here. People have come and people have gone, some a complete surprise and some I have helped along. I sit at my altar staring into a single flame which flickers and sways slowly in the morning breeze. I picture you and your liquid movements melting all over me. I imagine a pale blue sky above a cathedral, so full of black birds circling the steeple that their bodies and wings block out the sun. I wait in a smooth black dress by a fountain, my hair undone. Water cascading in grand arched streams, from the hands of topless maidens, from the mouths of naked children who reach for the heavens, white marble statue eyes, cold, like ecstasy unfeeling. A filthy city crawling to life beneath my fingernails. My skin is hot with a fire I am dying to remember. I’m wearing that lipstick you like, dark as blood, you hesitate to touch. You watch me like a picture you suspect may come to life. The ache in you possesses me like a predator, hungering for prey. If you come for me with teeth, I will offer you my neck. If you come for me with roses, I will fasten them in my hair for you, that you may imagine me innocent. I open my mouth and swallow the sun to keep precious the night. When I close my eyes, I still see you. Feel you ring through me hollow as church bells as they clang high above, shatter the air against my chest, locked in a tower made of stone. I once wrote a poem that went like this. A boy takes a girl and carries her home. She kisses him deep, makes love to him sweet, and come the serene light of dawn, can never return. And though one of them dies, the rest of the hearts within her continue to beat.