Say My Name

We open and we close, in tandem. Tempting, seducing, coercing. We manipulate, distort, disrupt. We kiss, we fight, we make up. You think I’m scattered and I don’t think you understand me in my deepest places, my intricacies, my mechanical inter-workings. I don’t think it is important to you, either. But I’m wrong about a lot of things and you say love and they say love and we all say love and turn the keys in the ignition at the start of just another day, another day, another day. Sometimes you are distant, and sometimes it’s me. But there is intention behind your eyes as you bring me my coffee in a porcelain cup. The one with the faded roses and gold around its rim. It is delicate and charming, and my skittishness eases up. Have you any idea how long a writer simply stares off into the distance, penning not a single word because none belong? It is not easy. We search, mine, dig dead things up. It has all been said before, by someone else, only better. Sunday morning. Winter so cold you can taste it in your mouth as your toes sting like ice and your eyes scan the whiteness of the stoic sky. An unfeeling frost. There is a scent in the air when the seasons click but you have to be very attentive to notice it. It is undeniable, it is the scent of smoke and all of nature passing into the underworld. The breath of a thing which is leaving you. On the streets the sound of church bells, and the scratching of the huddled crowds. A man without a home drinks from a bottle in a brown paper bag. He curses and smiles and has nothing. I think of you more often than I say because the world is a gray tombstone place and my heart is a soft patch of earth. How many tiny thoughts drift away never to return. It’s sad to me that we just let them go. That there are some things which cannot be captured, cannot be observed. A single small bird flutters up against the window and as I watch him rustling leaves, I fill with a melancholy blue which I secretly hope lasts all day. A day of silence, day of rest, a day without center. Beginning, middle, end, falling as would sand, infinite grains into and into and into one another. This is how I sink back into you. I am distracted with your image, your pieces, your movements, your words like rosary beads I slide over and over again through my fingers. Hard little pearls you once held stiff around my neck, Now I will touch you and you will be still.  

You Take and You Take

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Lighting a cigarette as I sit against the tall windows, I am watching the street cars sliding along down below, the thin glass cold against my bare shoulder. They said it was supposed to snow around dusk and sure enough, in the final strokes of evening, the twilight sky has turned reddish purple as the snowflakes begin to fall in earnest. Street lights and crystal globes glittering behind me, I turn to look at you as you work a small flame in the fireplace, coaxing it into a soft roar. I swallow my whiskey and walk to you, feeling the delicious warmth smother my insides. The way you look at me tugs at everything tender. In your eyes I feel beautiful even as the stuff of violence and lust clutch in my chest. Embers flashing and crackling through the smoke, the darkened room becomes the outer reaches of the universe and we are satellites in orbit high above the earth, my hands skim down your arms as we kiss, our tongues tasting, dancing, searching each other. The taste of you is ocean in winter, is the clarity of sunlight falling through pines in a secluded wood. Easily, forcefully, you pin my hands, you lay me down. It is deliberate in its freedom, the motions of your body as you hunt and devour, the pleasure you take from me. What we have is strange and twisted. What we create tears at the skin, drives waves of crimson tides through the body and floods over the mind. Sweet brutality of touch. I bloom and bear fruit at your command. Shadows moving along the walls, shadows full of protruding eyes, observant in the darkness. As night falls all around us, snow swirling in prismatic cyclones, you take me into the fear, your breath is fire in my veins. You take and take and take from me, anything that burns you.

Laid Bare

People want to talk about themselves and they will if you let them and mostly I do because so few of them listen anyway. To tell stories about myself, what would be the point? We are selfish and we are empty shells, kicking the can down the road in the quiet evening light. Pulling the cork out of a freshly chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, always New Zealand) I pour myself a proper glass as I’m reading Patti Smith’s enchanting The Coral Sea. I am struck by how much her work resembles the lucid dreamlike state in Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest. Nin writes with fascinating precision about the strangest of encounters with dismembered bodies, fish swimming through air, faceless figures in maze-like buildings set back within thick tangles of ivy covered walls. If ever a mind could turn me on and trip me out it was hers. Meanwhile, Smith’s book is a lengthy poem written to honor the tragic early death, and brilliant artistic life, of Robert Mapplethorpe, her lifelong beloved friend and partner in crime when it came to barely living on scraps of acid and nothing and chasing one’s own creative vision, one’s own style of expressing love, passion, erotica, power, creation. Not technically an artist myself, I’m often taken in with artist types, the way they see things of remarkable obscurity, the way they speak about them using everything but words, how they encapsulate a concept, distill it, reinvent it, reveal its sensuality, weakness, vulnerability. In all things there exists a beg, a want, a need, and it takes a certain sort of twisted sense to be able to pluck that wantonness free and expose it for all to witness. There is a savageness, a cruelty, a beauty. I once knew an artist who would make huge canvases covered in erratic lines of thick charcoal, and thin pencil, in broad block like formations. He would create some massive, expansive piece inside his bare bones studio, share it with me, and I would express for him in poetic language exactly how it made me feel, what I sensed within it. What I saw always affected me more deeply the longer I observed it. I can remember being completely entranced by the movement I sensed within his art which also seemed to move within me. Sometimes the lines and forms would be spare upon the large white space, sometimes there would appear an imbalance, a heaviness of dark black charcoal smeared together as if a storm, a passion, a wickedness. Some were raw. Some reminded me of ruins. Like the way an ancient building crumbles away from itself in a most haunting display of romantic destruction. With the viewing of the work came the crumbling down of my own walls within, I could feel my blood running in my veins, my breath deserting me. He could take down my defenses, he could take down my fear even as he reflected it back to me in large scale installations, with these strokes he’d slash from ceiling to floor in a warehouse somewhere hidden in a far off wood. I cannot remember the words I would use to tell him about my feelings because they fell from my memory the moment I laid them bare, but in my mind I can still remember image after stunning image of those lines crisscrossing, jutting in and out of one another’s formations, and being awestruck that a human mind could make these so, could manipulate, make them exist in a way which affected me on a cellular level. On a level I was certain only the artist and I could understand. He would tell me the words I used were eerily familiar, as though he had the feelings I would describe but never the words. This is how one makes love when one is held captive by another. Another work of hardness and severity. Another work of brilliance mangled within chaos. Another who is unafraid of the darkness, the mysterious heaven of willing exposure to pleasure and pain. What is madness, what is art, what is love, but the seeing of things that no one else sees.

Please Don’t Go

As the rain comes down angry and hard against my window, I curl deeper into my cocoon of warm blankets and pillows while attempting to thread through the million thoughts gripping my insides at once. In between the rooftops scattered with pigeons shuffling for space among their dirty huddle, the sharp point of a church steeple pierces a dark low hanging cloud, as if probing it to unload its heaviness onto the sleepy streets below. Behind the weather, morning creeps, slowly turning the driving rain into a thinning drizzle, the crystal droplets intermingling with the wafting white smoke coming from multiple chimneys across the way. The sky is charcoal gray, back lit with an eerie yellow light which makes the atmosphere feel unpredictable, unfriendly. Full of voices struggling to be heard. They are as sinister as they are honest. In every swaying branch there twists a ghost come alive from my haunted past, still shallow breathing, still waiting to take my hand, to grip my throat. Last I saw you I had been impossible and knew it. Sometimes I can’t help the way I shut down like a vault, trapping all of my feelings inside. For someone so blindly obsessed with words, my tight lipped demeanor doesn’t make any sense to you. You are pissed, certain I’m withholding on purpose, locking you on the outside while I am conniving on the inside, but your anger only fuels my refusal and the air between us becomes a fuse. Love is a ticking time bomb, love is a train gone off its slippery rails. When it all feels helpless, useless, desperate, there are no guidelines, no rule books, no referees. And if there is one thing a human being is good at it’s being stubborn, I’m no different and neither are you. As I sit in clipped silence, my mind flashes back to that night in your apartment, as you poured our drinks I sat comfortably in a bra and leggings on the edge of your couch near the mirror, lining my eyes in onyx liquid ink. As I traced my blue eyes until they were black as midnight I sipped on gin and tonic while imagining us naked, our bodies entwined in positions I’d only heard about but had yet to explore. Back then everything was so loud. The drinking, the music, the anger, the passion, the sex that shook the walls and split us both in two over and over again. I wonder when you look at me can you see it in my eyes. That freedom is just as hard for me as captivity, and in some ways just as sweet. That all my life I’ve been hunted. That even on a cold wet morning which threatens a snowfall that will have us stuck inside for days, my heart still burns with the fire of a young girl who knew what she wanted as soon as she saw it and took it without asking a single soul for permission. I hold on and I hold back. I want to be consecrated and I want to be shattered into a million pieces, thrown out into a wild winter sky. Lost and found and missed and deserted. Words can heal, words can obliterate. Please be patient. Please don’t go. I am a chapel as much as I am a cave, and what I explore in the darkness is the only light I ever learned to trust.

The Story of Your Life

Nuzzled awake by a soft sunrise sliding its fingers through my bedroom window, I’m already in deep contemplation about what to do with my stacks and stacks of old journals which now do nothing but prop up potted plants and collect dust in the corner of my writing room. So many years, so many words, so many thousands of pages of nothing more than hopes and dreams of becoming something more than just a no name writer holed up in a small room overlooking a life of mediocrity and patience. As the hourglass pours through its allotted portion one minuscule grain of sand at a time, we begin and we hesitate. We dream and we wake, we bleed and we quiver and in the end it’s just hot coffee on a freezing cold morning in mid November, baseboard heater pumping and creaking away beneath a pale blue sky, pierced by a slim line of naked young trees. The notebooks though, I have never quite known what to do with them. And as I mull it over, I keep penning more and more still, thus compounding my dilemma. Old memories and angst filled pages, I’m sure, and I want nothing to do with reading through them again but I have this strange (admittedly completely unfounded) concern that if I threw the lot of them all out in the trash at once some random waste management worker will actually sit and read them laughing and judging and cursing me all the way. This random person would read through my entire story and have all the answers I could never find because they would see all of the things I couldn’t. My life can often feel like looking at an object up so close it is impossible to see what it is. Or perhaps by unbelievably ridiculous chance, an artist would come upon the journals and make a terrible movie of their wayward story. I’d be humiliated, mortified, exposed, and get no credit whatsoever. I could burn them, page by page, one clear winter night alone by a fire sipping wine, smoking cigarettes and letting everything I’ve ever been through, cried about, tore my heart to shreds over, go up in dark clumps of exotic smoke, ember and ash. As I gaze up at the moon still hung there on this early morning, I think about how she is the same cratered moon who has been spinning about me all my life. And no matter what I do with the journals, whatever it was that moved my hand to write the things I would never dare speak aloud, moves deep within me still. I could destroy and dismember the material but the skeletons walk within me until I’m no longer. I could take the pages out to sea. Let the tide wash them clean as salt water does all things, drops of ocean, drops of tears only a woman could understand and only in the privacy of a heart worn thin but still warm, still beating. We are of fire and water, wind and earth and spirit. Little transient fools of beauty and lust, fury, vision, and bone. Dust to dust, our bodies and our stories.

Never Meant to Hurt You

Even though I write, I hold back. Even when I push people away, I don’t want to be left alone. Even when I say I’m done, I can’t help thinking of him until he finds me in dreams and takes me high above the sadness which cloaks me in every kind of weather. And even though I have feelings that don’t seem to fit anywhere in this world, I still go on searching which means there must be something in me that still believes there is a reason for all this madness. Writers. Seekers. Addicts. Cowards. An intoxicated man passes out at the wheel, killing himself and a young family in a fiery car accident on an avenue no one’s ever heard of.  He didn’t feel a thing. Did they? Or was it too sudden to react or feel anything at all? Was this always going to be the way it ended or did fate take an awful turn just because some fool made a series of poor decisions? Even though I worship at the altar of the word I harbor thick fears about the things I want to say. The pressure they imposed upon me to be good, to obey, to please, to achieve. Be polite. Be sweet. Say you are happy when you are suffocating. Smile when you are afraid. Say yes when you mean you don’t know. Say yes when you mean I don’t want to but I’m terrified of hurting you so I let you hurt me. How we mess up as parents. How we mess up as kids in a world which tried its best to keep us safe from monsters when all the while it was raising them good and proper deep inside of us. Pawns. Knee socks. Choirs. Confessionals. Long after dark in a small church whose west wall is crumbling from neglect and lack of funding, a young girl stands before a newly ordained minister. In the flickering light of candle glow, through a thin veil of incense burning near her bare shoulders, the girl removes her top as the minister looks on, mouth dry, heart pounding. It is late and the church pews are empty, the holy atmosphere aches full of forbidden acts of temptation. Perversion. Serpents. Sin. As though possessed, his mouth moves down to taste her breast as she closes her eyes and sighs for forgiveness, for a way through the darkness into the light. Flesh and blood and skin on fire. He touches her where she is weak. Savior. Sacrifice. Wine as drink as body as feast. What they never tell you is that to access your divinity you have to fall on your knees for your broken humanity. To touch the golden garments of saints you must be defiled at the hands of the wicked. That the more they deny you the more you will crave. I met a writer once, a beautiful writer of ethereal skill, who told me that to get at what he really wants to say, he has to write about something else entirely. You have to write fiction to get at the truth. You need to circle and circle the prey. Stalkers. Con artists. Thieves.

In My Hands, the Shape of You

And yet I am unable to recall your face. Memory blinks in and out, the fade of a single dying star in a midnight fog. Atoms circling at the center of a universe which repeats itself, rippling outward until all is what was, what will ever be. Featureless, you move within me as rib, thigh, muscle, bone. The blood in my mouth, the blood of you. My body a map of the heady taste of you. My hands as they reach for the moon, silken fingers trembling, still resemble the shape of you. Uneven cobblestone streets on early autumn evenings, we walk together in lavender light as wild geese soar silent overhead. Their black silhouettes stark against white sky.  Some people suffer unspeakable deaths while others continue to exist on heels more and more uncertain. You should have been here. You should have opened your mercury eyes of hallowed vision inside the sweetness of morning bird song. You should have shone bright as the sun on a cold winter dawn. You with a glass of wine, sitting on the edge of the claw foot tub as my body soaks away another day, another year, another lifetime we thought would never end. You read for me, some mythical passage which spoke without words, only an emotion I cannot name but recognize as ours and ours alone. Nothing from nothing ever yet was born. Lucretius. De rerum natura. What was it in the movement of your voice that resembled ocean cradled in droplets of moonbeam, felt like swimming to the bottom of the earth, all creatures bowed on elegant knee, each a return to its own beginning. The haunt of you, eerily specific, the ghost of you a finger print upon a stain-glass mind. Your hand on the curve of my ivory hip, your mouth thirsty at the pulse of my neck. I was alive, eager, expectant. As our season in my palm turned red, the seal of the scar at the edge of a knife, you were gone. On a road far off, the wind catches dry leaves as they scratch and spin on the pavement. Little cyclones, little deaths dancing. As the universe begins to collapse into itself, I become aware of a face at the window of a house boarded up long ago. A shadow falling out across snow.

Mouth Full of Diamonds

Coming alive for you as you stroke my tenderest places, my breathing is ragged as I try to describe how writing a perfect poem is like building to a perfect orgasm. You want it to bloom petal by soft petal opening under expert touch, you want the layers to send wave after wave of ache and heat until finally you can no longer breathe for the beauty of it all and heavenly desecration spills over upon the page, dripping from finger and mouth and tongue. Impressed by how little my need to tell stories even during such intimate moments distracts you from finishing what you started, I turn over while still quivering and you work me from behind until your desperation rattles the walls and shatters us into weightless shimmering pieces. After a few minutes of spiraling down like feathers on a warm summer breeze, all is quiet and motionless. People are needy and mostly preoccupied with themselves and I’m no different. As much as there is an impulse in me to soothe and nurture, there is a part of me that switches empathy off like a night light flickering dead as the first rays of slim morning dawn relieve it from duty. Lighting a cigarette as I stare through the curtains down to the dirty street below, you slumber peacefully and I’m content to be left alone with my thoughts about what, if anything, can truly be considered beautiful and the color of the sky after one has passed over to the other side. These moments of tranquility which shudder in my veins. These itchy fears of a life wasted on emptiness and greed, how they stay with me as if they, too, need comfort from the outside world. I have been a thunderstorm. I have been a shelter. The thing about people is they flicker on and off and there is no way to know when they’ll be dark and when they’ll be light. As I close the curtains and turn to look at you, I blow smoke across your naked body and imagine you feeding me a mouth full of diamonds, glittering in moonlight as you watch my parting lips. You with your heart full of black birds, head full of blades.

Our Unholy Nature

Having no idea who is real and who is fake any longer, and having long given up trying to discern the difference, I decide to lump them all together as one shady lot of characters and call it a day, thus freeing me up to think about more important things. It’s late evening, the sky overhead stretches out in the deep navy of a placid ocean, as I slide into my comfiest sweats and slink away to my writing room closing the door shut behind me. The sigh that comes through me is low and cleansing. With one long private exhale I can feel the day’s grimy burdensome hands loosen their death grip on my shoulders, leaving me feeling open, relaxed, dare I say hopeful. Staring softly at a small collection of treasures nestled on a table near my favorite window, my eyes fix upon an old worn statue of the blessed virgin mother from Italy, a gift from my great aunt on my father’s Italian side. Mary’s small fingers and celestial blue gown are chipped in multiple places, as is the serpent slithering at her bare feet, and with her arms spread wide she stares down at nothing in particular looking solemn, holy, and misunderstood. I’m no longer a faithful practitioner of any religion but Mary and I get along fine, our relationship slight and distant over the years. But I do feel a fair amount of affection for a kindred girl who also mothered a child as a teenager, well before she was ready, well before she knew how to stand up for herself enough to not get pregnant in the first place – although I suppose that is where my story got real as fuck and hers, well, let’s just say a bit less grounded in physical possibility. Across the street, smoke tumbles thick and wafting from my neighbor’s chimney catching briefly on the telephone wires before vanishing against a backdrop of trees the muted colors of smoldering autumn. There are so many stories about myself I never tell and yet so many words bubbling up inside every time I hide myself away alone. Alone is when I feel the most alive. Left only to my thoughts and my keyboard. And the blessed mother, of course, surrounded by flickering candles and the deck of tarot cards I use on occasion to help me map what I’m going through in secret, things that no words can describe. For every person you have ever met or ever will, there is a secret they hold inside you cannot possibly fathom. Perhaps the stories we don’t tell about ourselves say as much about us as the ones we do.

Baby, Talk Is Cheap

As the light falls its lonely last rays across the emblazoned trees, I think about how many writers have tried to describe an autumn sky. That gray and shifting dome like one great marble eye curving its gaze over the earth. What does it see down here but a beautiful ignorant mess. The more I know of this world the more I retreat, hoping, maybe, that if I find the right words – tell the right stories – I will find some kind of way out, or through. Or to disappear from the world they have created and appear in the midst of my own free place, a thick wooded forest untouched, untainted, designed with pleasure, curiosity and truth in mind. A place to calm all the ticking inside which never lets up. Have you ever felt like the only one in a crowded room who wants to scream to put a stop to all the bullshit chatter but you know that would only make you seem nuts so you just pour another glass of red to numb the panic and let them talk to you about money and mergers and fancy vacations? As the planet torches itself to charred embers all around us at ever increasing speed, we photograph our dinner plates at designer restaurants and compare acquisitions and hate-like our friends and cut ourselves up and cut each other down. Try as you might to keep them happy, no one really sees you. Who will talk with you about the poetry that is so unbearably touching it makes you weep and rejoice just for the impossible magic of being alive. Who will explore the nighttime stars with you as you lie huddled together on a grassy hill in the cold of midnight, shivering and electric with hope and possibility. We are transient beings, here for such a short time and yet no one and nothing stops for a second to notice our dumb glorious luck. We dream, we wish, we hide, we settle.  But somewhere deep down inside these bones of mine I am still searching which means I must have some kind of faith that doesn’t fit anywhere else but inside of me. Something which grows stronger with age, a voice, an urge which runs far deeper than the reality or spirituality or pop psychology this cheap world spews at every turn, it calls to me like the most beautiful siren. There are others who seek her voice. They are artists, musicians, lovers. They worship their gods and I worship mine. For me it’s the word. No matter what comes and goes in my life, it has always been the word.