The air is warm and still, an odd but welcome surprise for an afternoon this late in October. I’m sitting quietly in the local park on a plaid blanket underneath a sprawling oak tree now the color of flames and fire, her final exclamation before a graceful bow into the lifeless dead of winter. When you appear, I can smell the sweetness of the grass beneath the fallen leaves mingled with a touch of a wood fire burning somewhere off over the hills in the distance. Joining me on the blanket, you open your bag and pour us some white wine to accompany the fresh croissants you always bring from that tiny bakery I like around the corner from your place. I would have walked to the bakery with you, but I didn’t wake up with you this morning. This morning you woke up with her. So far we have been giving each other plenty of space to do whatever we want with whomever we please but somewhere in between pulling you close and pushing you away my callus heart has grown a bit too soft, a bit to affectionate, a bit too greedy. As we trade small talk about nothing in particular, I am beginning to wonder which of us is the other woman if she doesn’t know about me but I know about her. You tell me you don’t love her but she needs you and you aren’t sure it’s fair to untangle yourself when at the moment she’s so vulnerable. I drink more of the wine as I swallow your words and try to sort out your intentions but while the undeniable attraction between two bodies is simple, emotions are a lot more tricky. I am not sure if what you are saying makes you kind or unkind, or if my being here with you makes me a welcome or unwelcome presence in your life. Perhaps because I don’t know what I want I’m just trying to stir things up as a way to distract myself and give you a hard time. Either way, it’s a gorgeous day in late autumn and when you touch my neck I fall back into you with such ease it shatters all sense of what is right or wrong. All I know is I will give you everything the second you ask. Your mouth on my mouth is to drown in the vastness of the deep blue sky overhead and as you lift up my blouse and work your way down the length of my body nothing else matters. The evening sky has turned to crimson along the horizon. From the orange leaves on the dying trees to the electric pinks streaking the reddening sky it’s as though the entire world around us is on fire. Buildings raging into rivers, our naked bodies bare like open fields at the mercy of the heat of the relentless sun, burning, burning. It’s the way you kiss me until I’m ruined that I can’t resist. Losing myself to the magic of your lips, your hands, I am the only woman on the face of the earth.
Am I writing for them or for myself? So often it’s hard to tell. When I was just a young thing I liked to sing for people and offer them poems I’d been writing since I was nine years old in my bedroom covered in rainbows and unicorns and from a heart which raced at the thought of words about summer rain storms. Every sensation being new to me, I felt had to be honored in notebooks with pink and purple pens. I’ve been through so much since those tender days. Life has a mysterious way of growing you up while alternating between showing you all its splendor and slamming you against the wall. The slow death of loved ones and the fast pace of fitting in. Sipping my coffee on Sunday morning, I’m scrolling through my social media feeds looking for something to read. What, though, I’m really not sure. It’s hard to tell these days how you really feel or what you really want because there is so much coming at you all the time your senses become exhausted of trying to engage. Does anyone just read a newspaper for hours on Sunday mornings anymore? I can remember my father doing so while using an actual percolator to brew his pots of coffee. Even as a kid who was too young to drink the stuff, the smell of fresh coffee brewing and gray newsprint spread out all across the kitchen table was something I fully cherished. He’d separate out the sections, reading what he was most interested in (economics, politics) and letting drop to the floor those tall creased pages he had no use for, only later to be used to line the litter box of the cat we had gotten as a kitten which he hated but kept quiet about to keep the peace. He is a brilliant man, my father, and a gifted writer, always able to articulate and say the right thing for all the right reasons. I was lucky enough to inherit a small portion of his great talents, but more and more often I find I don’t want to say the right things and sometimes I am unsure what the reason is for doing anything. What is worth holding onto when we are all just going to disappear. I want to write for the thrill of it and it always crushes me when I can’t figure out where to start, what thoughts are worth sharing and which are trash. In a world full of ever growing noise I search for words that zero in on something which might matter to those who take the time to read my thoughts, to enter for just a few moments inside my mind. These words are an invitation as much as they are a way out. In my heart of hearts I know that no matter how hard this world tries to desecrate and defile what is sacred, I will never abandon my love for the words which tease me and thrill me and seem to be the only kind of truth I can bear to look straight in the eye.
Everybody wants to own a piece of you and all you want to do is break away. For just a moment, you stop the work you are doing at the computer on the dark mahogany desk and instead gaze out the large office window which overlooks a park. The clouds rolling out high above are pillowy ribs of charcoals, grays, and whites in a pattern which repeats itself for miles off into the distance. Through a hazy fog, you can just about make out the faint city skyline, barely visible set back against the wide mouth of the river. How many times you have joined him- tanned skin and light eyes shining- in his fast boat running up and down that river in the high heat of summer all the way through to the chill of the first of autumn’s early evening sunsets. All those carefree days of swimsuits, sunscreen, cold white wine, and stealing to the cabin below, making love all afternoon. As your mind wraps around the warmth of days gone by, you take a sip of coffee and wonder where all the time went, wonder where it’s all going. Last night you had a dream of dying but it wasn’t you, it was your mother who had passed. But here she was standing right next to you, so real, so very real, she seemed. Her high cheekbones soft in the light as she spoke, lips parting and closing slowly, exaggerated, around words without sound. What is she telling you? Now that she knows what none of us do: all about the end of time, that there really is an end to all this. Waiting. A man you know only vaguely but dislike immediately asks you if you are ‘looking for inspiration’ as he finds you staring out upon the world. You tell him the view is so beautiful this time of year and he just laughs a dismissive little laugh, glances blankly at you then at the carpet, never looks out the window, and walks away. The rusted yellow tree line in the park across the street is stark and bright against the muted blue of a darkening sky. There is so much beauty out there, you know because you’ve seen it, dancing in glittering sparks of golden light on the water. Coffee rings turning cold in the bottom of your cup, you sit back down to work at your computer on the deep mahogany desk. Everything has changed and everything has stayed the same and even those with everything, if they can bear the truth, will tell you it’s never quite enough.
I tell you I hate you but that’s only because you turn me on and pushing you away is a good way to ensure you stick around, if only for the game. There are black birds circling in a winter white sky as gray swaths of thin clouds move swiftly in the opposite direction. Something invisible but razor sharp in the atmosphere plays with my body like ten thousand tiny hot pin pricks, an energy live as electric wires and I can taste the heat in my mouth. There are moving cars and street lights streaking haphazardly across the wet blacktop as I remember the first time we gave in to our darkest temptations, like two predators with nothing left to sink our teeth into except each other. I like the way you look at me when you know what you want and how you want it and won’t put up with anything less. The chaos swirling in your hungry eyes is the only sight in this frightening world that calms the fear which claws inside me all the time. As you grasp the back of my neck, I feel the cruelty of the ages slide off of me along with my tee shirt and torn up jeans. All the mental brutality of living which I carry around with me all day, kneading it constantly between my fingers and my shoulder blades, falls like meat off the bone. I’m so much more tired than I let on, I’ve been fighting my whole life it seems, to get out of my own head, to spit in the face of convention and crawl away from the terrible of gray cinder block walls and coffee stained hallways that snake through the dead buildings in this miserable city. The pain in you, that’s what I want to taste the most because it’s the only way to know this feeling is genuine. The way that you make me ache all over splits me open, and I need that in ways only you can understand. You like that when I come to you I’m willing, so you can work my body until it is worn waif thin. When we merge, we kiss until our bones beg for relief. Sex is death is a way to erase each other and disappear. Let me break you, baby, let me break you slow. There is a cigarette burning in smoky silence on the nightstand and a hole in my heart where love should be but I prefer a little emptiness. What is love anyway but a vanishing, a marked figure stalking in shadows. There is a fence around the walls which guard my heart for protection. In the fading evening light, I pull on your beat-up cotton shirt, and arrange some flowers in a vase while sipping on the whiskey warming in your glass. Every fleck of dust is my breath suspended, every creak in the floor boards is a lover who has walked away. As you are gazing out the window which overlooks an empty tree lined street, I place my hand on your stomach. We are no fairy tale, you and I, this I have always known. But just for a time, when this life gets under my skin, when I don’t know what I believe in or if standing at the gate I’m looking outside or in, I lay my head in your hands and let you pretend to call me home.
As my eyes darken and the storm erupts inside my veins, you mistake my anger for passion, slide your hands around my hips and press me to you hard. My mind is a lightning rod of electric visions, none of them tender. To be alive at all in times like this is to exist inside a caricature of cruelty, the outside world has become a pornography of brutal harm. Women and children fleeing for their very survival in the desert, chased into madness by the callus greed of the rich and powerful men who own everything but most importantly they own the power to kill. Kill us. Destroy all of the things we worship and believe in as we scramble to understand what is even happening when it’s all happening too fast. You grab a fistful of my hair and firmly tug while kissing the soft skin of my exposed neck and in one deep exhale I try to imagine what it must feel like to die. To be on the other side of destruction, free of the fear. Do we still feel affection even after we cross over? Do we still know all the same things we know now but are they somehow neatly tied together in such a way that it all makes sense? You don’t ask yourself any of these things that I obsess over with near relentless hyper attention which may be why there are times when you can get yourself off while all I can do is roll with it through the numbness. Who deserves pleasure, who deserves pain. Who deserves more of one or the other. As I drive to work with headlights peering through the hollow darkness down the same old road, I pass a deer on the side of the highway, headless. In the split second when I notice it I see only its wide stump of bloodied insides, then its beautiful young body limp, lifeless. We have been told there are too many deer and it’s a problem and it’s a shame. We have been told a lot of things are not as they seem. Violence is not violence, truth is not truth. What you see is not what you see. But who hits a deer with a car in such a way that the head comes clean off – and then disappears? A static voice on the radio speaks of the most recent catastrophic event on the other side of the globe. Hand grenades and the smiles on the laughing faces of the enemy. War is not war. Death is not death. Life is not life and this one’s not mine. I sip my coffee, and drive.
The cool dawn is so clutched with frost that the atmosphere cracks when I exhale. I have been here all this time waiting for you to come home, to build your little warm nest inside me and thread your ribbons through my bones. The air has become rich with darkness inside my lungs; thunder and church steeples round and round like a crown above my low fallen skull.
How is it we emerge again? Is it through sheer force of will, is it by the benevolence of something tried and tested by the fires of hell, something divine which guides the universe. White lights are flaring up, one by one, along the runway toward eternity and all those uncertain things which eat away my organs.
How many ways are there to find your way home. How many people are as lost as I am, listening for voices, calling out for affection, tracing their chipped fingers over bumps in the globe.
As I gaze up into your cloud space eyes, my skin blooms with the taste of that heady sensation just before ecstasy and the way it tingles through my wet body. I drink the sweet rhythm of you and at last begin ebbing away from the pain. I am only as strong as what I believe and I believe in nothing if I do not believe in you. Prayers are fresh tears in a jar by the bed, prayers are the beads of dread and sweat I swallow to try to forget.
With my mouth I hand you a leash of promises and you lead me like an animal into the sun. Four small sparrows sit huddled upon the window ledge and as we depart the earth they sing. Every winter which ever scarred the womb has buried itself inside my final breath. A tangle of rose buds encases my heart like a cage and I sleep with you peacefully as the stones which once erected the bloodiest cities in the world begin caving in.
The footsteps I hear are whispers and the whispers are trees. Could the beauty of your stride be my darkest secrets suspended overhead for all to see. The way you collect me like a child collects the dying leaves tells me we are not done here. We are not done.
and the static played long
children lost, bred from the bleeding of chewed tongues
the sounds came from each corner of a carousel
crumbling human paper
entire days thrown into waste baskets affixed to nowhere
digital profanity came dripping from their radio eyes
all in the streets the Sickness
in dark rivers rushing
cutting the small silent figures away at the knees
but they do not see
what i see
they do not hear
they have faces which blister with angry sky
bodies blown away slow
on the wind.
Low in sound
skin bereft of shadow
it was you
tongue the soft feather bed, you
crushed into the word
broke free the wing
of dark autumn sky.
you frothing window
you moving hands among wreckage
they do not know
how to speak
for you. you each night turned
at the beginning
always the beginning
again and again the ground
clawing at the back teeth
a dream gaping, half-lit
within a dream.
Isn’t that what you always wanted, something to dangle me over the edge with, some kind of blade some kind of sliding eyes. I believed you when you told me I was everything but maybe we are all thirsty, maybe we are all scabbed over the knees and forever halfway between home and heartache. Some of us live here. And die here. And spin ourselves sick in the cruel open hands of those who cannot take care of themselves. I would open my mouth for you but then you’d come too close. This is a silence we wear on the outside, we are window panes heavy and drunk with rain. Locked down tight but completely transparent. We would hide but our hearts had long ago, by unspeakable things, been forced open. And oh, our hearts. Our mad beautiful masochist hearts.
Turning to look at you, I can barely feel my own body as we nearly kiss. Under your gaze I am already the faintest linen sheets, even before your fingers reach my skin. This is the fascination and the destruction, the way you build me up into heaven before all hell rushes loose from you. No matter the weather, I drink.
Late night phone calls, sex on the sliding pale of dawn, cigarettes and wine, the way the moonlight splays herself down along an endless hallway of cherry hardwood. Through a break in the blinds I can see the old wind turning shadows upon the autumn leaves.
The time changes to sweaters and tall boots and my new obsession with photography even though I never get the angle right so I end up mostly paralyzed and distracted. When it’s pictures of myself it only gets worse, the insecurity, the hyper attention, the opening in my stomach which imagines new and more spectacular worlds, more quiet and less beautiful. We have made ourselves this way as if on purpose and yet we cannot seem to undo ourselves quite as easily.
I like the taste of your fingers across my mouth and how when you speak your voice is nearly choked with worship yet there is a tinge of something on your tongue that tells me you don’t have the capacity to care beyond a certain point. Some people grow a callous around the place too many have touched the wrong way and it gets walled off forever. I don’t need that part of you, at least that’s what I tell myself so that I can live on the edges of a pain I can give my innocence to without losing it completely.
They tell me I have a problem with addiction but I think it’s just that when I look at you the devotion in my heart is like ribbons threaded through a young girl’s dream. Tug on it and the whole thing falls apart. The trouble is you’re just like all the others, the way they sprung up around me like the gush of sudden fountains just to collapse in upon themselves. Mindless. Reckless. Incredible. How the mind can leave its shell behind and we just take whatever we can get.