Inside the American Nightmare

A few words appear, then disappear in reverse.

We say it and don’t say it. We ‘Happy New Year’ and scuttle away as fast as our fragile bones can take us to the safety of isolation once again.

What do you even say when your country is falling to hell.

The melon sky simmers the last of the winter day’s sky into smoke as I close my eyes and dream of anywhere else.

It happens like this: you are repeatedly filled simultaneously with shock and dread. As you are trying to process the horror of the most recent trauma, you are bracing yourself also for the next.

And there is always a next.

And this is repeated for years and years non-stop. The relentlessness of cruelty. The cheering on of the madness.

What is even worth saying when you are so exhausted by the end of the day your stomach hurts and your eyes ache and everything around you is cold as the icicles you saw last weekend, formed into perfect sharp daggers by frozen rushes of water plunging through the trees.

It is not enough to survive. You have to try to do it minute by minute, focus on each heart beat, each update, each revelation more gruesome than the last, you have to cling to each, like stepping stones you grab with your fists or your teeth.

The angriest parts of yourself, the saddest, they cling. they try to move you forward in spite of themselves. In spite of you.

Try to hold on. Try to hold on, it has to be over soon.

But nothing ends anymore. Not around here.

I’m sick to death of counting down to things. Dates. Elections. Deaths. Infections. Decisions. Betrayals. Disasters we should have seen coming.

We should have stopped it. It should never have come to this.

And so a deep well of disappointment, of desperation for a time gone by, opens up inside to swallow the shock and the dread and the utter, utter grief. And you realize the abyss they threw you into is threatening now the last of your sanity, your will, your equilibrium.

And if you understand what I am saying here, if you know how this feels, people will tell you not to feel it. They will try to cheer you up, make you see the good things, they will try to force your healing before it is time.

And you can tell them all to fuck off. Because I will tell you this, above everything else, feel your feelings. The true ones. If they are honest they are hurting, aching, crying, screaming.

This has been an American tragedy over and over and over for years.

We got here by denial. We laid our faith down in a bed of lies and hoped someone else would save us.

I am not sure why I write this, maybe to document my experience for fear it drifts away from me, even though I kind of wish it would.

We should be most afraid that we may forget. They want nothing more than for us to forget.

I try to catch all of it. I try to write it into history, but my mind gets heavy and my spirit falls like frigid winter rain.

It is tiresome, you know? This waiting for the end.

 

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Photo by Mike Palmowski

She Was an American Girl

Breathing is harder than it should be.

I have to remind myself to do it.

I watch the sunset. A giant white glowing orb sinking into the veins of the dead winter trees. They aren’t in fact dead, of course, but their gnarled bare branches, snaked shadow fingers creeping toward the gray sky could fool you.

Graveyards. Concrete. Insurrection. The year that won’t seem to end hasn’t really ended, I still feel it lumped in my throat. Pricking at the back of my eyes inside my skull.

There are seasons but this one is more stubborn than the rest.

And we choke on the things we try to run from. And the sky blooms darker than it ever dared before. As we shuffle our feet and ignore the signs.

I remember to breathe but only because someone on Twitter reminds me to by accident. I shut off my phone and light up a cigarette in the quiet, watching the twilight evening descend. I haven’t been able to write a goddamn thing since I don’t know when.

Time exists on some alternate continuum which has little care for we human beings and the monsters we let grow out of control.

I don’t know how anyone does it. Keep the faith. I think about the ones who died believing in something which killed them.

I think about how he does not mourn, not anything. And the endless possibilities that leaves him in the end.

My love brings me wine and a kiss as everything we do not say falls around us like a kind of grief we aren’t sure how to hold because we don’t know if we are at the end or the beginning of the pain.

Taking a drink, I count the first few glimmering stars and swallow the fear and think about all the people out there who seem to be dealing with this so much better than I am.

For all the hype and optics and posing, dry January sure picked a hell of a month.

And somewhere out there across this land, this earth, this hellish place which is so lost and so broken and so angry and so cold, the sun is coming up.

Somewhere, as my tears won’t come and my heart won’t stop, it’s morning.

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Photo by Can Şerefoğlu

My Greatest Wish for Disillusioned Artists at the End of 2020

 

When I came across this passage in my readings the other day, it stopped me in my tracks. I re-read these particular lines a few times, letting them sink in. It was the first time I read something about exactly what I have been feeling for a few years now, most especially this year:

“I have written a lot of articles and several books about Russia’s transformation under Vladimir Putin, but the experience I’ve always found hardest to describe is one of feeling as if creativity and imagination were sucked out of society after he came to power. The reason is not so much censorship or even intimidation as it is indifference. When the state took over television, for example, it wasn’t just that the news was censored: it was that the new bosses didn’t care about the quality of the visuals or the writing. The same thing happened in other media, in architecture, in filmmaking. Life in an autocracy is, among other things, dull.” – Masha Gessen, for the The New Yorker

One of the insidious cruelties of living through an attempted coup by a sadistic psychopathic wanna-be dictator and his fellow goons is one that goes unspoken but not unnoticed by the artist.

When you are made to be constantly on alert for the next crazed dangerous act against the dignity of humanity, you enter into survival mode. What to watch for? How to know when it’s “really bad”? If it is really bad, what even do you do to protect yourself, the ones you love?

You become obsessed with understanding the new hell hole you find yourself in suddenly. At some point, and you can never quite put your finger on that point, it all becomes life or death. Sink or swim. Put up or shut up.

And all the while, a numbness toward your own writing, your own art, your own creativity, seems to have permanently lodged itself within your own spirit. You feel as if access to your very soul has been hijacked.

It becomes impossible to create the way you used to because you used to be able to detach yourself from the world entirely in order to touch the freedom inside of you, the wilderness. How that wilderness would welcome you readily into her beautiful dark.

When a leader disregards all life and crushes the pursuit of liberty and freedom for all every five seconds, a cloud of hopelessness, numbness, uselessness, descends into your body little by little. And because you are so disoriented by the noise and the chaos and the shock and the anger, you do not seem to realize what is happening to you.

Until you want to create something and find exhaustion where vitality used to be.

Indifference where curiosity once thrived.

I haven’t talked about this with anyone, but this is what I have been experiencing for a long time now. I haven’t told anyone because until I read the above passage, I didn’t really even know what I was feeling.

There will be a push for us to forget, to sweep all of the brutality of the past four years under the rug and just move on. Pretend it never happened.

But if you forfeit your opportunity to name what happened, to understand the depths of the wounds you have at the hands of a lunatic with a lust for death and destruction, how will you ever recover your creativity?

There has to be a clearing, or perhaps more precisely, a clarity. A clear awareness of what you have endured, what it felt like, why it felt that way.

Because you are never going back to the way it was before. Now you have experienced the madness and the shock of the realization that blunt viciousness can also cause a dullness within. Abuse causes a dulling of the senses without your even realizing it because your nerves are too busy fraying at the edges over and over and over again.

The next twelve days are holidays for me. I’m planning to close out this terrible year with a great deal of quietude, soul searching, reading, poetry, journaling, and time in nature.

I love the winter. The solace of the silence of the snowy cold and endless white-blanketed fields.

With all my heart I hope that we artists are not buried for good, but slumbering.

That in the darkness we learn again to thaw, again to melt, again to let go.

Again to dream.

 

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Photo by Hannah Gullixson

Which of Your Selves Will Tell Your Story?

My fingernails have grown out and I am quite pleased with the clicketty clack sounds they make whilst tapping and scratching all over the keyboard keys as I type.

Sharp lengthy nails aren’t always me but for now they feel like a much needed change from the cropped stubs I usually keep super short and chewed upon.

As the clock ticks on and I drain my coffee cup for the second time, I am thinking about the telling of stories and how a narrator – if she wants to be in the least bit compelling – must first choose the self from which she will speak.

To achieve intimacy, the depth of experience she wishes to convey, she must remain loyal to two critical elements throughout the telling of her story: who she is and why she is speaking.

It’s the who she is which can be entirely problematic, and yet also fully stimulating. In fact, it could be that if a writer cannot decide on who she must be in the telling of her particular story then she will not be able to tell the story at all.

With no self in which to anchor the narrative, the story will not hold together. Without that central pillar of cohesion, everything falls apart.

Knowing who you are, it would seem, is what gives you voice.

This is also the part of writing which compels me most of all to write. The siren call of the self I cannot be anywhere else except on the page. The self who runs barefoot through the depths of the forests of dreams.

The self who is nothing to anyone. Who owes nothing. Who has nothing to lose but worlds and worlds to create. Who is not married or employed or mothering or daughtering or tied in any way to the expectations of, or commitments to, others.

Part of the beauty of this kind of intimacy with the words is that you do not need to cover up or shy away from mixed emotions or complicated, messy, ugly, harsh, or difficult feelings.

Those paradoxes are exactly where you enter the scene, they are your way in.

Who is speaking, and why. This is the first decision. The choosing of the persona, the particular self you must be in relation to the story you wish to tell. The experience you wish to create within your reader.

And there, in that deep wide dark space, I am always and must always remain alone. In the silence of the mind, selections are made.

What to reveal, what not to reveal.

What to tell, what not to tell.

And I cannot help but wonder, is it the writing which intimidates the aspiring writer. Or is it that in order to write, one must make a choice, one story at a time, of who to be, how to see, how to approach and move about.

When there are so many selves from which to choose, how do you know which is the right one for the moment?

It’s a gamble. It’s a dare. An invitation. A chance. To be everything you dreamed you could be. To be bigger. Wilder.

Someone else entirely. Just for a bit, the self you are dying to be.

Clicketty clack, clicketty clack . . . 

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Photo by Ann Danilina

The Thing About Turning 42 No One Tells You

At 7:23am today I will have been on this earth for exactly 42 years.

December 8th 1978 seems a long time ago. And no time at all.

Time is a funny thing that way.

Rushing towards you even as it is rolling on by.

Birthdays are a funny thing, too. They always make me feel reflective but often leave me with nothing of any substance or wisdom to say. Birthdays are more listening than speaking, perhaps.

Just another day in a string of days and nights spent searching.

And I guess forty-two isn’t monumental in any certain sense. Each and every life is different, follows its own pattern, trajectory, path, fabric, and star.

All my life I have been a poet at my core. Everything I write, create, imagine, dream about is, at its heart, in its soul, poetry.

It can be so excruciating to wander the planet with this kind of heart on the sleeve, with these kinds of feathered bones and soft stumbling feet.

All these years, how many times I have killed off and resurrected my own magic, my own desperation. So often I have felt I do not know myself, do not trust myself. Thought that maybe I’m just crazy to try and fit into this hellish earthly place.

But there is so much beauty, too. So much mystery. To be a poet is to trust the voice you carry inside. Submit to it, let it mold you, change you, grow you, expand you.

It’s a weird way to live, to feel, to exist, because you sort of feel like you are trying to express an emotion, or conjure up a vision that no one else can ever understand.

And somehow you know this, deep down. You know it is futile.

But when you are born this way, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times your little poet body swings around the sun.

There will always be a fascination which borders on obsession going on inside of you as you braid your soul into the love and the fear.

Even after all these years, I want to inhabit myself.

Even if it never fully satisfies.

Even if it scares me.

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Photo: self portrait 

At the End of the Day of the Longing Year (audio)

It’s that time of year when the rain falls at dusk and you secretly hope it turns to snow, just so you can smell its moisture kissing the bare concrete.

Gray on gray skies to match the gray on gray drizzle and mist.

Bones in the midst.

The skeleton of the year passes through your finger tips.

Light a cigarette.

Lose the phone and your clothes and everything inside that forbids you.

Looking out across the tops of the empty trees which tower high and spindly above the naked, weary, wet blackened streets, I pour whiskey. It burns hot like the few spiced candles flickering in my windowsill, and I nestle into my thick buttery leather couch by the fire.

Cozy blankets, waning late afternoon light. It’s that time of year when the world and your insides and the mood of the space you occupy in your small self begins to dim.

Ever since I was a child I have found comfort in the low light. Something about it is worshipful to me, reverent, sweet with solemnity. Gentleness. I am touched with the idea of the undoing of harm.

My skin tingles with ache. All I haven’t done. All I have left to do. Crawling toward me and away.

Something in the way the dirty white cloud cover mutes all of the anxieties which too often seem to scream inside.

Something in the shadows which climb the walls like so many enchantments, widening chasms of welcoming deep.

This has been a year of such cruelty, frailty, tenderness. A year on its knees.

There is something about a kind of silence which hangs in the center of the room of the heart. The constant softness of the beat of the truth.

So soft as to be nearly imperceptible.

But, nevertheless, steady, constant, unending. Unpretentious. Demanding by not demanding, it knows nothing of loneliness.

Though you do. How you know, how you know. How you reach, and reach.

Comforting and unnerving in its immobile presence.

Because you see, no matter how loud they get out there, there is a voice without sound repeating in here.

In the place beyond the body, beyond the mind, beyond the spirit, beyond the love, beyond the fear.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.

And the darkness swallows the corners of every room of every longing all over the globe.

Little listless stars pierce the galaxy somewhere beyond the clouds, like so many eyes, covered, glistening. A showering light falls past the tearful distance.

After billions and billions of the beg and yawn of quaking years.

Warmth. Light. Crystal cold vacancy.

Still here.

 

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Photo by Laura Chouette

If 2020 Taught Me Anything It’s This

Somehow the radical reality of this year seems to be setting in as we are pushed into the holidays. I have no problems staying home. Staying in. Staying isolated.

Both because I want nothing to do with spreading the deadly virus, and because I’m just really, heavily, fully, mightily tired.

Learning to hold righteous rage in the same palmed fist with genuine compassion has left me feeling raw, shredded, exposed, and inadequate in so very many ways.

Being unable to hug the ones I love the most in this world has left me feeling a loneliness I never knew I could feel. A longing stretches out within me, a reaching, a craving for the kind of up close and intimate touching I always loved but now realize I took for granted, too.

I am a big bear tight squeeze hugger. Hugging is my favorite. Not in a creepy way, mind you, in the kind of way where it is just a flood of gratitude to be with each other. A tiny fleeting ecstatic celebration. That we have each other. That we can hold on and hold fast and know we are not alone hurtling through empty space.

A lot of empty space this year. And plenty of chaos, fear, terror, and turmoil to fill it.

So I’m not going to fill my holidays with screens or Zooms or chaos. I can’t stomach it. I can’t be bothered to do or be a single thing or way other than what I am. Exhausted. Over it. Done.

There will be plenty of delicious food, and many bottles of wine. There will be a table glowing with candles and set elegantly with silverware and crystal for my two greatest loves in all the universe, my husband and my son.

There will be holiday jazz.

There will be pine boughs on the mantle.

There will be pajamas all day and an endless number of cut logs blazing in the fireplace.

Warm hearts and laughter and complete and total ignorance of the outside world.

I need my bubble now. I need to reconnect with the beauty of nature and the quiet thorough joy of reading for hours on end. Leftovers. Sleeping in. Twinkle lights.

The thing about 2020 has been the countless ways it has broken, stretched, and shattered my insides. The hard lessons. The breathtaking manner in which people and events, culture and society, have snapped me wide awake.

Hit me like a lightening bolt over and over and over again.

But the truth is you cannot stay awake forever. You will go insane.

So for now, rest.

For now, enough.

For now, peace in our tiny homes.

In our little trembling hearts.

 

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Photo by Joyce Huis

 

 

America, What the Fuck

I live in a country where Kyle Rittenhouse gets out on two million dollars bail, praised, uplifted, …. and rumors of some bullshit deal with a coffee company? It’s so stupid I didn’t even bother looking into it.

He murdered two people in the street in plain sight.

He’s a kid. He’s old enough to know. By seventeen, you know a lot of things. You have learned what is right, what is wrong. What you have been encouraged, expected, even, to become.

A hero. A murderer. What are these words we use? On which we cannot agree? What is sickness? What is health? What is criminal? What is commercial?

I live in a country where we incarcerate for profit. Entire lives are thrown away for money. Depends, of course, on what you look like. Not what you did. That’s always, somehow, debatable.

This administration is dragging its buffoon clown feet on transitioning. What absolute fucking fools. What completely ignorant useless bastards.

People are dying. Starving. Jobless. Homeless. On the precipice of eviction just before the bitter cold of winter sets in hard, dark, and indifferent.

And the ones who could help, they turn their backs.

The rich and powerful head on home to their glossy marble fireplaces and turkey dinner super spreader events as the doctors and nurses cry alone in their hotel rooms, watching their babies through small screens.

There is wealth in this country. And there is bankruptcy. Humanity and inhumanity. Money, morality, hope, despair, agony, agony, agony.

My heart has been so heavy with grief and rage for so long. When all around things are bleak and mean and growing worse.

Yes, Biden. Yes, a vaccine. Yes, good people. Yes, yes, yes. I know. But those are hopeful cures for ills we are not even sure how to name yet. They may help, sure. But we are sicker underneath than we want to admit.

Is this what exceptional means? Because it’s a fucking joke right now. Right here. Here in the ‘greatest country on earth’ where half of us care with every fiber of our beings and the other half simply don’t care at all in the least.

It’s enough to make you sick. And quite honestly, I’m not interested in sugar coating anything. I want to acknowledge it. Finally.

For four years I have been “holding on.”

Well, now I’m letting go. Letting go of trying to pretend things are not as disgusting as they are. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. And I have so much privilege. And even still, I am spent.

I imagine what it’s like for those on the front lines of this pandemic. Risking their lives everyday so some assholes can recklessly spread a disease while claiming there is no disease.

Is this what we are now? We just completely disregard life itself? Kick in the teeth of the most genuinely good, selfless, and decent among us?

We are so ugly. We are so cruel. We are so divided and perverted and lost.

This is not an uplifting post, obviously. I didn’t plan to write it, just like I wrote a lot of things I didn’t plan on writing this year.

Plans seem ridiculous anyway.

But I had to say all of it. I am sick to death of people not just saying it. All day long, the smiles, the idiocy, the holding it in and holding it back and not having the ability to see what’s right in front of our ignorant faces.

For months I have researched and read articles, journalists, posts, op-eds, books, commentary, listened to podcasts, interviews, IG lives, and all the rest. Trying to understand. Trying to pull apart the lies from the truth.

To pinpoint some kind of guiding star glittering above the rubble this nation has become.

I know it’s there.

There’s just so much dust and sadness in my eyes right now I cannot see.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. A bit of a break from the daily stuff for a few days. I am thinking of taking a social media break, too. I can’t keep up, I can’t stomach any more of the last gasps of this wholly incompetent and deliberately sadistic administration.

It’s an absolute bloody clown horror show.

Fuck every single one of the people who could have stood up and spoken truth to power to protect our democracy but didn’t. They do not give a single fuck and we should not compromise with a single one of them.

We are beyond the merits of a few individual actors. The GOP as a whole is a monstrous machine.

There is no compromise with bigotry. They can come over to our side if they want but the hell if we should move a single inch toward their nihilistic nonsense.

Fuck being nice. Fuck ‘understanding.’

I understand perfectly.

I see exactly what they’ve done.

 

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Photo by Gijs Coolen

 

New Podcast Episode: How to Be a Prolific Writer, Thanksgiving Plans, and Harry Styles is Hot in a Dress

In this week’s episode, Mark and I chat about all manner of writing topics including what helps us stay prolific, what drives our creativity, and what it feels like to write from the depths of the soul.

We have a few very interesting Ah-Ha! moments with fresh insights into the secret to getting your work out there and busting through writer’s block.

We also, of course, get into the modern culture stuff: the nonsense that is Twitter fleets, the pure joy and deliciousness that is Harry Styles in a dress, and so much more.

It’s been A WEEK. Come relax, laugh, and be inspired with us!

Listen to our podcast Spacetrash on Spotify here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

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Photo by Zino de Groot

You Do Not Need to Apologize for Being Intelligent

You do not need to apologize for your intelligence.

The number of times I have been attacked, shamed, ridiculed, mansplained, dismissed, unfriended, laughed at, yelled at, punished, humiliated, ignored, told to be quiet, told I talk too much, all because I am a woman with a brain, intelligence, and savvy, and am highly capable of critical and creative thought is an enormous amount of times.

Because this trash is normalized. It spreads rapidly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, through our culture, society, community, family.

We are “uncomfortable” with intelligent women being intelligent – exploring and displaying their intelligence unapologetically in their daily lives.

In public.

In full view.

Out loud.

So we patronize them.

We minimize them.

Cut them off.

Cut them down.

And so we women have to lean into that discomfort. Press it. Make them feel it. Don’t let up. Wake up. Pay attention to what is really happening when someone makes light of your thoughts, your intelligence, your ideas. When someone makes fun of you or dismisses you for knowing more than they know.

You are scaring them.

You are upsetting the balance of power they need you to believe in in order for it to continue to exist.

Fuck that.

Do not shrink yourself to make them feel more comfortable. Expand yourself. Expand your mind. Your reach. Your prowess.

Say what you know. Say what you think. Say what you believe. Tell of what you experience. Speak and breathe your ideas, visions, and thoughts into writing. Into art. Into existence. Into the light.

There are many, many deeply thinking, extensively well read, well researched, well spoken, powerfully moving women of every race, orientation, and background.

Seek them out. Read them. Uplift them. Pay them. Support them. Follow them.

And if you are one of these women – one of us – please don’t ever, ever let up.

No apologies.

No regrets.

 

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT