Life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life. – Carl Gustav Jung
It’s not that I cannot write a nice little poem about a sunlit trickling stream, or a lovely rose, or a sweet smelling meadow. Of course I can do those things. But even when I try, something drags against me. Something is always pulling me in the opposite direction towards darkness. It wants to be dirtier. It wants to be decay and destruction. Chaotic, sensual, and unpredictable.
Even in my gentlest moments it is there underneath. A kind of prickling reminder that no matter how hard you try to pave over something with perfect order, the wilderness is always gripping you back by the hair. It will never let you forget it’s out there and it’s bigger than you ever will be. It isn’t nice about things like girls are always told to be. It’s got fangs, is not afraid of blood.
And it’s not out there. It is inside you. You are made of the stuff you think you can run from. Maybe that’s why we run. Deep down we know that if we stop we will be right in the dead center of the hot pouring rain. Fear of being saturated with the madness of daily life. Alone with its stubborn unwieldiness . Sucking on the drench of unpredictability and the jagged patterns of the inevitable.
For me writing is a kind of handcrafted wilderness. You take the beautiful filthy chaos and you wrap it all around yourself, pull it, tug it, play with it until you blend together. Until it fits. It is not pretty or safe. It’s like slipping into some racy lingerie. Intimate. Delicate. Deadly.
Summer sunset is sliding along your tanned face. You by the window writing in your leather notebook. Your eyes cast downward, those magnificent fiery eyes. I want them on me. I want your gaze all over my body. Hot. Penetrating.
I imagine what you may be writing about. Something sensual most likely. About the subtle movement of a nocturnal creature, or a flower opening into the low evening light. You are always taken with a kind of softness which bends itself willingly towards the dark. This I understand with my whole being. My whole body and soul.
In a world of palpable and constant apocalyptic dread, in this madness where the height of human condition is to maul and destroy one another for money and the satisfaction of blood, here you are. Steady pulse of burning attention. Hungry mind reaching out in all directions. Pulling into you that which fascinates. That which is sinister. That which catches the breath in the throat.
Recording the way things are and imagining the way they could be.
Truer. More trembling. More alive.
For all the bravado and showmanship, the flexing of muscle and thirsty threat of war, how much more dangerous it is to adore, to worship, to drink of the cup of that which remains mysterious even after ages and ages of study.
Silently you sit alone in the elegant air. An amethyst universe, glistening, turning in the palm of your ancient heart. There are secrets you are made of, places within you which exist beyond the realm of the written word or spoken language. I am drawn to you because of this. Because you are a thick forested wood and I am a wanderer. Your rich soil flashing beneath my naked feet.
What if the heart could become unguarded. Would you know how to handle the feelings that would flood within you? What if the most powerful defense against death was complete and utter surrender to the ache of passion which begs, and tempts, and tugs at the veins without relent.
Your fingers trailing along the tears in my cutoff shorts as we sit in our small garden on a Sunday evening. Sadness and sweetness hang suspended all around us like twinkle lights. Tanned knees and crisp white wine. Behind my dark sunglasses, I close my summer sky blue eyes, taste the grassy notes on my tongue and thank god for foolishness, fools in love, fools for thinking any of this was going to last forever.
The problem is you distract me. Like the constant buzzing of the rattling air conditioning in the stuffy room at the back of the house. My mind flashes. It hinders, hovers, blinks against glimpses of you and I on the beach at night, the wilderness collecting our bare feet into the soft beds of silken sand. Darkness falling behind cranberry clouds.
I remove my shirt and straddle you in your chair, the glare of afternoon light stinging my bare nipples, now exposed and hard despite the scorching heat. The trouble is I can’t stop myself and the truth is I like the trouble that you are. Hands in my hair, gripping my neck, sliding up my ass, sucking me into you like water rushing the gutters when a late June rainstorm slashes the heat from the streets.
I rise like steam. I take your mouth with my mouth and forget how to breathe.
They took bets, you know that, angel? They bet against us from the very start. Thought we were full of shit. Full of ourselves. Lost in a fantasy which could only culminate in disaster. But what they couldn’t see was that disaster was the least of our concern. Our skies had fallen ten thousand times already. We taught ourselves to raise them back up.
The other shoe was always about to drop – that’s how life is. They were pointing out on the blackened horizon while you and I were behind them alone and on fire. We were the emergency. We were the only responders to each other’s alarms.
And you can hold your breath and shut it all down or you can scream with everything that you have, with everything that you are, with your whole body and mind and spirit, and your heart racing in your chest, you can scream until the pain of the deafening silence stops. You can fuck until the tears come streaming down your burning face and you finally feel anything but numb.
You can let it all out and let it all in and crawl broken and mighty into the arms of a love which promises everything and guarantees nothing. And if you are very, very lucky, your wild desires will find you a cave in which you can duck out of the fears the world is trying to sell you for a while.
Just as the wine seeps warmly into my soft gray blue blood, you bend my body over the wooden table and make me ask for what I want.
I try reading erotica but nothing gets me there. It all just feels like body parts thrown against the wall to see if any of it will get you off by accident. I feel sad for the writers and sad for the characters and scenarios they halfheartedly create. I shut everything down, lay back upon the bed in my writing room, and stare out the window at a pink and blue striped sky. The lighting is breathtaking at this time of evening, a softness in the way its peachy fingers skim the leaves and pines.
On the street below, some exasperated mother screams at her kids to clean up god knows what. I never wanted kids, all I want is silence, so I slam shut the window to the outside world and bury myself in poetry. That, too, proves insufficient at getting me where I seem to want to go but now I think I can see that it isn’t the fault of the poorly written verse or the gratuitous speed with which the author of erotic porno fiction explodes her little pawns into orgasms completely unearned. I can’t get where I want to go because I am as lost as I ever have been and don’t know what it is I’m really after.
Maybe its the summertime that gets under my skin. There always seems a current of madness running through her empty tin can streets. What is it that makes us so restless, so disjointed when there’s too much light? Is it everybody or just me? Tonight the full moon will glow in all of her naked radiance. The reflecting pool face of a dead rock thing.
I read that the tricky thing about Oscar Wilde is he told stories in which the sins of the body redeemed the soul. If only that were true in this life. If only I could reach out of this cage and stroke the forbidden desires as they approach my trembling hands, my open eager mouth. Sin like the Eucharist. Passion all sustaining, a melancholic illusion, wafer thin.
There is a forest in my mind, with trees which grow so high that the sunlight barely penetrates. Cool dark earth beneath my feet. Streams flowing out from my body in all directions, rushing over rocks, cascading over cliffs as waterfalls, diving into mist. This mysterious place inside of me, the ache of my center I cannot touch.
The mother having somehow calmed her hysteria, I light up a cigarette and slide open the window once again to inhale the grassy yellow evening air. I lean my head outside to feel the last of the sunlight on my face. We are all of us lost and none of us quite at home in these body shells. Our blood is alien even to ourselves. A bunch of kids are playing some kind of old school cops and robbers bit as the mother sips something from an opaque thermos. She’s out of her mind. I feel for her, though.
I host a podcast called Spacetrash with my very dear cousin Mark who makes me laugh so much and chills me out more than most other humans ever possibly can. A new episode drops every other Friday morning and we riff about the things on our minds as fellow writers and creatives living in a world that doesn’t really make a lot of sense to either of us but we roll with it anyway because: life.
Today’s episode covers a lot of cultural ground in just 36 minutes! We get into such topics as Mark starting his next big creative thing and he reveals what computer coding is really like (writers and poets, you will be surprised). Also, not worn jeans since before quarantine? Listen in to hear what’s hot with denim – and what’s not anymore – and what is again – because the nineties were everything. We’re told. And among a slew of other things, we discuss the critical pros and cons of using the new Instagram feature which hides likes on your posts, or the posts in your feed. Why would anyone do this? Why on earth does IG even offer this when nonsense popularity is the name of their whole game? Grab a Friday beverage and let’s get into it. You can listen on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
From the night sky I pull down the last wisps of thin gray cloud and tuck them under my pillow so I can watch the stars clear and bright before drifting off to sleep. You can have all the love in the world and still feel alone and although some may read that statement as a sad one, to me it feels like it is a kind of mysterious gift. There were times, of course, when loneliness cut me so deep I couldn’t breathe. It is no small thing, that kind of weighted grieving over a thing untouchable. But to be alone is a thing which morphs. It is a shape-shifting kind of space in which you can be free of the expectations of others, even the expectations of all the ancient unwritten rules which held you down and forced your face into the dirt time and time again. You can crave it even as that kind of unbridled freedom scares you to bits.
He was a writer and a deeply introspective, intelligent one at that, if perhaps a little intense. When he would send me his stories I was always taken by their depth of connection to the physical body even as he wrote about fantasy. I always wanted to be able to reach a reader in such a way that they could feel the very feelings I felt, which seemed to me like it would be the closest I ever came to creating magic. To immerse another soul into my own, like I was a wishing well or a wide open ocean, deep with dark canyons and secret creatures of gigantic shadow and eerie though magnificent light.
In dreams I see the stories of my life play out in reverse. I see myself as a child of only six or seven, running in the grass to capture fireflies into my small little hands. Back when a moment was a moment and they all seemed to string together endlessly. Like every evening for the rest of my life would be as soft and sweet as summer, taste like strawberry chapstick, smell like honeysuckle and the coming of a night spent snuggled in blankets next to an open window above the back yard which was just a small square but to me held all the adventures my tiny heart could ever imagine.
It’s funny how we tell stories in order to entertain and yet we need them for so much more than amusement. We aren’t just bored we’re hungry and terrified and so much more intuitive than the world gives us credit for being. If you are too afraid to sit alone and let the words come, you are too afraid to know yourself as you really are. And that’s fine if you want to buy everything they try to sell you. It’s no matter if the ramblings of the pompous guy in the corner office are enough to keep you working your fingers to the bone.
But for some of us, even the faintest prospect of no story is the greatest sorrow, the deepest grief we could possibly fathom. For some of us we’d go absolutely mad if we couldn’t be alone. I don’t always know what I’m going to write until I sit down to do it. But after having done it for so long now, I know the surprises are enough to keep my faith alive. To keep believing that there is something out there in the void that keeps me reaching for the other side.
The mist over the ocean is moving onto the beach. I’ve cut the tip of my finger doing something I cannot remember and now it throbs and stings from my drenching it in the salty sea water until it shriveled. I’d tell you something clever now like healing hurts first before it soothes but I’m not really in the mood for clever and healing is such a tricky thing to actually nail down because it is not linear. The waves are crashing and breaking in very strange ways, swelling way far out and then slamming straight down quickly, suddenly, without hardly ever standing up. They erupt one after another after another up close to the edge. I once heard these kinds of waves are called ‘dirty’ but I can’t ever be sure if I am using that term correctly. I don’t surf, I barely swim, and I spend a good portion of my time worrying obsessively about death by drowning.
I know the tides. I know the way they feel inside me because I have been studying myself my whole life. Still, your insides can surprise you if you get too arrogant, if you ignore them, or try to turn away. My heart is racing from the chill of the ocean and the hazy moisture in the air is pebbling my skin. I take a drink of ice-cold gin with lime and let the sun warm me all over. There are people on the beach tanning, splashing, little kids screaming, laughing, running. Kids are forever running on the beach, toward the ocean, away from the ocean, things need to happen and they need to happen fast. One little guy wears red sunglasses and a tee shirt which simply reads DUDE.
They say a person spends something like seventy percent of their time worried about the past or the future. That the amount of time you spend literally in the moment you are in is minuscule, fleeting. I want to feel better about death, or about life which I guess is the same thing in a certain sense, so I put on my dark sunglasses and stare meaningfully, purposefully, out into the farthest reaches of the wild blue-green sea and try to be in the place I am in. Feel the salty humid air flowing through my hair. As the horizon line blurs into a soft distant kind of turquoise imaged space, I lick my lips and remind myself that the horizon does not exist. It is always out there, unreachable, untouchable. How comical are the men who think they own the world. Think they can plant a flag. Think they know what it is to die for something when they stand for nothing. Nothing at all.
In writing, you can be anything you want but you have to know enough what it feels like to have what you want even if you don’t. You can dissect a thing but never inhabit it. You can know about something without knowing of it. Writers like to talk at you, see what sticks. I like to know if you feel anything because sometimes I can’t feel a fucking thing and I am terrified it means I am starting to disappear. Into the past. Into the future. Either way, we all just want to escape. I like to think that in the words I can escape but mostly I am only revealed. Maybe that’s why they say you need to go away to find yourself. Maybe it’s a lie. Maybe you write because you hope to Christ you will and will never be found.
Aiming his impressive bow skyward, he shoots arrow after golden arrow at the moon and while some of them stick, most of them explode like fireworks at night and then trail off and burn out like so many ancient stars. I once set a house on fire that way, not with the arrows, with the fireworks, but it was a very long time ago and no one got hurt because the neighbor found the hose in time and also because he never stops mowing his lawn and keeping an eye on things, which can be creepy but in that particular case was very much the reason we all lived to tell the tale. The handsome boy with the arrows, he is young and full of the kind of energy which breathes life through his tan skin, pumps and pulses with verve just beneath the surface where beats the heart of a lion or a dragon or maybe even both. His lips are perfectly flush, his chest and shoulders as wide and broad as the sun.
Meanwhile, I sip wine in the shadows and watch him in secret. I am trying to figure out how to remove myself from a conversation with a man who seems to have me cornered, backed up against the prison cell of my own social anxiety issues and insidious fear of hurting anyone else’s feelings, let alone someone who is already hurting mine. The wine slides down cool and softens my mood just enough that I laugh at things which are not funny and say things I think are but no one else does. It isn’t so much that I am not entertaining, though, it’s that they can’t hear me. It appears I can form the words with my mind and my mouth but I cannot make them fall forward to reach someone else. I am stuck in a dream where they can all talk to me, tell me things I may or may not want to hear, and I cannot respond.
I lean my arm against the bar. I lean my bare back against the cold wall. I am wearing a lovely dress with the back entirely cut out. In the mirror on the wall behind all the pretty multicolored liquor bottles, I can see my back is covered only by a gigantic tattoo of a wolf howling at the moon. It is a beautiful tattoo, the artistry so intricate and precise that as I stare at the image of the majestic creature, I can feel the heat in its primal eyes, taste the sharp cut of its teeth. When I was a child, my mother read me a nursery rhyme about a girl who runs through the woods at night. The girl was good but made a bad choice and the wolf ate her right up because the wolf was neither bad nor good just hungry. Just an animal. Alone. Clever. Strong. On top of the world, on top of a mountain of bones and blood and might. I didn’t know what the story was supposed to teach me or where on earth little girls run through forests alone at night. All I knew was, I wanted to be the wolf.
It happens like this: I am inspired but then I am bored as fuck and restless for something that gets my creative juices flowing and by that I mean whatever it is you think I do. He knots his long hair in a tight and perfect bun and uses all my fancy hair product to manage its flyaways and make it smell like the lightest, sweetest, most delicious summer afternoon even as we are only here trying to maneuver around each other in the small upstairs bathroom. They say the whole truth about a relationship is just two people sharing the same tiny space. I can promise you that’s not the whole truth of it. I am naked turning the shower to as hot as I can stand it and just as I catch him staring at me in the foggy mirror he slaps my ass and I scowl and smile at the same time. Unsure exactly what’s right or wrong about either of us, let alone us together, I step into the steaming spray of cascading water and swirl the coconut soap suds all around my soft smooth skin.
The sun is shining but it’s cold because of the wind. The wind is pushing the trees around something fierce, one by one like a million fingers pressing them back as far as they will go toward the ground. Spring has finally fully burst forth, all the plants and flowers a lush shade of enthusiastic greens or blushing pinks and purples. As I towel off, I see their sloped petals soaring past the window like little silken boats cast this way and that on a rip roaring gust of fresh morning air. The chimes in the garden next to the weathered angel statue are clattering their sporadic melody like church bells in a high hollow medieval tower.
Somewhere in a land far off, which comes alive only in my mind when it wanders on its own, the witches and warlocks of old worship the return of the light by performing the mating rituals of goddesses and gods frolicking freely in wide open fields and part of my aching ancient heart wishes with every bloody beat of itself to join them in ecstatic dance and revelry. Flesh and fruit, sacrifice and fertilization. As I stare off into an outer space I seem to occupy a bit too often lately, he reappears in the door frame with two mugs of coffee, passing one to me as he takes a sip of his own. When I kiss him on the lips in gratitude and awe, he tastes like the darkest French roasted beans and a thousand suns which blaze and burn and heat my quivering bones.
In the blink of an eye, it could all crumble into the blistering sea and be over for good. It could all be gone, really. I’m never quite certain if this motivates me or just chews inside my head like a manic kind of disturbance which keeps me from being better. I don’t know what ‘better’ means exactly, I guess I just always feel like it’s something I should try to be although I’m also pretty sure it’s why we spend too much and drink too much and get diagnosed with ‘generalized anxiety’ because we have fears which span a spectrum so wide and varying that it’s not even special enough to warrant a specific label. But maybe that’s just me. Humans always seem to be striving toward something and I can’t help but think that’s why they are so exhausting. They expect you to get so high even as they pin your wings to the ground.
The sky is dark navy velvet as I sip coffee and type in the dimly lit upstairs room. I listen to the little birds outside my open window, chirping away with marked intent. Together their sounds become a beautiful collection of voices which seem to surround me entirely, head to toe. Sometimes I just stare at them in the garden, peer deep into their teeny tiny black beady eyes, watch the clicking of their small fragile heads and the flick of their clever movements. What holds these creatures together but frail tendons and thin feathers and the breath of a god I almost believe in when I see a bird soar right up into the elegant morning air.
Poets are deeply observant which is likely why they can be so unnerving. It is a strange kind of torture-worship which calls a person to the word. The ones who write too much about sunshine and rainbows, I can’t trust them. Nothing is ever that simple. Or maybe I’m too complicated. Either way, I need darkness in my veins if I want to feel turned on enough to pick up a pen.
Sylvia Plath used to drink martinis with Anne Sexton (“three or four or two”) after their poetry class. At the Ritz Carlton if I am not mistaken (I could be). Sexton would drive them and park in the loading only zone, exclaiming to hotel staff that it was okay because they were only there to get loaded. They spoke a lot about death, and spoke about it with fervor and passion. Tragic in the end, of course, and yet what compelling, intriguing figures both of them were. Women who wrote poetry and thought thoughts which they actually expressed were near scandalous back then. They wrote about masturbation, miscarriage, the cruelties of marriage and motherhood. Unacceptable.
There is something about obsession which transfixes not only the obsessed but those obsessed with observing them. To surrender to your passion for expression, for writing, for a life bigger, deeper, than anyone around you is living. So much of life is a question of what kind of conversations you are having. What you discuss is who you are and a reflection of how you value yourself. Which, truth be told, makes the culture we are living in at present a very sad state of affairs indeed.
The artists you cannot get enough of, who are they? They are not just artists, they are so much more than that. They are the embodiment of the dare. Do you or don’t you salivate over a thing. And if you do, will you let yourself feel it all the way through. Will you turn toward it or will you hide it away. Will you own it, say it, stand in it.
If what you want to discuss, if what you feel you need to say, or dismantle, or explore, may turn some people’s stomachs, would you still do it? Would you put your desires, your burning needs ahead of everyone else’s?
What if you did. And refused to explain or justify any of it.