There is a candle burning the last shallow pool of its fragrant wax in a blackened jar on a low table by the bed. There is the way I cut off my own words like broken limbs in my head. Fingers running fevers, fingers running along the edges of the white linen sheets as my body catches fire. All night we are turning blue. I open a window and close my legs around one another like two supple stems. Even when I’m with him, I am alone inside myself. Such is the nature of this life of smoke and mirrors, these splintered bones and this fragile skin. He knows it when we touch. I know it but I keep that to myself. There are some who would say they know the right way and the wrong way to be with someone but I don’t buy it. No one is being honest even when they tell you so. He stands his ground as I settle in for the long burial season, drag my eyes underneath the darkness of the heavy pines and wait like an animal. There is snow floating in swiftly swirling drifts in the center of my palms on the beating of my chest as you kiss me on my lips, mouth to mouth, toe to toe. The distance between us is nothing and it is an eternal stretch, the time between starlight and stars burned out. If I reached for you and you were not there, the echo of the silence of your absence would destroy me all at once. Still, I push and push you, like a dare. Like a masochist, afraid and emboldened by the threat of pain. Like a disease, a poison you drink me down, in spite of us, in spite of yourself, and your veins, and your heart, and your love for a girl who is running like tears streak flame down her soft face. As I look out across the rooftops touched by the gray light of cold dawn, curls of thin smoke stream upwards from tiny chimneys into the frigid early air. The stoic sky of winter bleeding through the bare naked trees. You don’t need that many words to write a love story, just a few that come and a few that go. You don’t need that much time alone before you start to feel more at ease. I miss everything about you even before you leave. Why am I homesick for a place I have never been. Will this haunt take more than one lifetime to exhaust itself.
I’m not sure it’s an emergency but then again I’m not sure how I got here so who’s to say when the urgency sets in. Can a person slowly slide toward their own demise without ever actually seeing it coming? Doesn’t matter. Across the street, a woman has placed a blessed mother statue in her front window facing outwards with palms raised and eyes cast downward. I’d say she’s done it as some sort of ritual prayer for good weather but she did it so many years ago now it’s hard to tell if it’s worked out as she’d hoped or not. It’s funny to me what people believe in, or I should say it used to be funny until it started becoming more and more absurd. I am not a believer in much of anything but I do read tarot now and again and it stirs something in me, could be the idea of witches and magic, could be the pleasure of escape from the everyday world with its pragmatism and general low grade misery. I don’t think you need to believe, I think you just need to be open to making up your own story the way you want to. On the drive home, I passed the odd shaped one-level building tucked under tall pine trees back along a gravel road off the highway. It’s dark and seedy, the muddy color of wet bark and indignity. Used to be a sex shop but now it’s a kids day care center, made only slightly less grim by the cardboard cutouts of smiling red, blue, and yellow dancing crayons in the small front window. How much we endure between then and now. The grown ups I see, I can’t help but wonder what the hell they are thinking, or if they even think at all. So many random lives on autopilot, bodies and dreams on medication. How do they keep it all together and why do they try so hard to impress each other. And why does it always feel like I’m not one of them. Not even close. The more they want to make me like them the more I retreat. The more they reach for the outer signs of success the more I want to scream. There is a tangerine streak of cloud falling from the tail of a plane running jagged across the evening sky. It looks like lightening stood still and turning soft at its edges. The house creaks as evening falls in and I wonder why any one tells the story of anything. Why anyone who gives a damn about this life speaks what is untrue so often it becomes everyone else’s reality. I pour the wine and wonder why any one of us speaks at all.
Life is happening in a small body I once occupied, like a barren land frozen in opalescent frosted glass, far off beyond the streets I live on in this hard tangle of a neighborhood I didn’t grow up in. In my mind’s eye the visions of where I have been and where I think I ought to be going grow increasingly blurry, my head is heavy and my blindside dim. Some people never move and some never move on and at the moment I’m too tired to explore the difference. There are days you want to crawl inside yourself but you just aren’t there so it feels more lonely and less like home in the silence. These soft flickering evening moments filled with shadow and memory and time lost, dripping through the faucet that won’t turn off down the hall. The great writers write of great things as I lift a glass to the closing of another day, the beating of lonely hearts, the clasping of empty hands. These strange hollow nights when the moon does not glow, and no words are spoken because when you can’t feel yourself they don’t mean anything. And the dog in the distance barks at kids kicking a can down the road. And the whole world hangs its listless weight like an uneasy arm, slipped invisibly around your armchair shoulder.
They don’t see you even when you’re here, even though you observe each tiny detail with an obsession you are beginning to worry is problematic, or at the very least alienating. Your eyes, hungry, penetrating, absorbing everything and compulsively making note of it. The way the rain is wetter than usual on this early morning as you make the drive you’ve made for what feels like centuries, slushy drops landing in thunderous thuds upon the windshield. And are you living, and is this real, and is anybody out there, is anybody listening. Last night at the dinner table. Last night, the sink and the wine and the dishes. Last night’s pornographic scenes as you get yourself off just so you can sleep. The high school girl wearing red and black flannel pajama pants, smoking a cigarette while walking along the side of the road in rain boots and a winter coat, with the hood pulled over her head so tight the furry edges nearly obscure her tired, down-turned eyes. The corner convenience store with the lit up neon signs declaring it *OPEN* even though it appears too dimly lit to be any such thing. It’s only got one tiny window placed strangely high up and there are six thick iron bars over it. What miniature intruder are they trying to keep from breaking in to steal warm beer and chips? Sometimes your skin aches all over and you don’t know why. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. There are moments when you consider making something grand of yourself but they are mostly overtaken by the frightened way you perform this life you wear which you know doesn’t fit. There are naked winter trees, bare and black as tar, feeling their wiry way into the heavy white late afternoon sky. There is a dirty kind of peace in the stillness of this neighborhood. Patches of gray grass and alleyways full of ghosts. Little girls and boys who once were running, shrieking. Timid kisses and scratched up knees. There is an arrogant kind of gladness in being left alone as you walk the streets. Red foil hearts placed neatly in the windows of row houses placed neatly on maps placed neatly on a planet spinning out of control, hurling out into space. Back at home I read Nabokov’s love letters but can’t feel the heat in a single word. I scroll through images of lacy lingerie, poetry that tries too hard to be deep, and quaint little sail boats in some town in Sweden. I do not fantasize. I do not dream. I do not move as the sun and the moon continue rising and falling in lock step, in turn.
There is a certain space which opens up in the middle of the day in the middle of my chest in the middle of my heart that swallows me whole. It doesn’t happen every day, but nearly every day. Around four in the afternoon, something inside me drops deep within and the outside world becomes less a burden than a blurred background noise as my mind grows soft like thin gray rain, the kind of beautiful darkening mist that cools and stimulates just enough to make you feel like a flower as she opens for the gentle spray. There is a small airport I escape to where I can lay in the fields of grass and weeds and watch the small planes and jets landing and taking off. One after another they glide on the same flight path in almost any kind of weather. I hate flying but I’m trying to get better about it. On this particular afternoon, I’m watching the planes with him as we pass the bottle back and forth between us and the wide expanse of the sky is burning into fiery pinks and reds as the evening ripens all around us. Looking up at the electrified atmospheric dome, I feel myself beginning to fall into a kind of fear that I recognize and dread. I tell him that even though I know I’ve got it better than most, there are times when I want to run. Times when I want to slip away and start over as someone else. He turns to look at me, his face neutral except for the glassy shimmer in his eyes caused either by excitement or alcohol or probably both, and tells me I should go for it. He smirks, the side of his sly mouth curled in mocking amusement. He knows I won’t run I’ll only dream of it. People like us aren’t made for greatness, only plagued with wild imaginations and words in the blood that require constant tending to. As exhausting as it is necessary, we create things in order to have something we can touch that doesn’t leave us cold. To us the world is a mess we try our best to navigate without dissolving into nervous break downs on the daily. Just for now, we hold hands in the grass, our bodies limp and our minds hazy. I take a sip as another plane comes in, red and white lights glowing fierce and steady straight down the runway as the wheels come down. I envy whoever’s inside. Not because they are obviously rich enough to own a private jet, likely lavish with leather seats and a glossy wooden minibar. But because, for this moment at least, it looks like they know exactly where they’re headed.
Unsure of the best way to slip out unnoticed, I take a door that looks rather hidden in shadow and open it to find you smoking a cigarette behind the bar. The air is bracing and the smell of snow threatens ever so slightly off in the distance. My eyes catch yours in a flush of surprise recognition. I’m glad to see you but unsure of your feelings toward me, since last we were together I was making out with your girlfriend in a parking lot as you watched. Exchanging pleasantries in somewhat awkward fashion, I notice that the way you look at me almost seems tender as you offer me a smoke and I accept. I’ve had a few whiskeys and my insides are glowing with the spice of the stuff as the stars in the heavens begin to be covered over by dark gray clouds, one by little beaming one. The girl you’re with, is she the one? Do you love her or are you just fooling around? You answer in the vaguest of manners, essentially telling me you are both in it for kicks but there is something special there, too, though love is perhaps too heavy a term for who can really ever be sure. The more you tell me the more I want more. It turns you on, the way I am when I am with her. It excites her, too, and she wants more of the way I kiss. You smile and something inside me melts a little, slides toward the gravitational pull of your devilish charm. You look like freedom but the kind that feels intimate instead of expansive. There is a wilderness inside of you that calls to me in the same way as my own. The same way as hers. To be explored. To be naked within. To be worshiped and warmed. Savoring my final drag in a lengthy dramatic exhale, I lean my back against the brick side of the building as a stream of bright white smoke lifts, widens, and slowly disappears. Sensing my curiosity, you step into me close, cup my chin in your hand and trace my glossy bottom lip with your thumb. The pressure releases the faint sweet scent of strawberries. It takes every ounce of my weakening self control not to bite that thumb hard, take its beautiful thickness into my hot wet mouth and suck on the taste of your bare skin. But before I can even utter a ragged sigh, you slide your fingers down my neck like petting an animal, look at me clear as the cold night air, and ask me to meet up again sometime. Just the three of us.
As the tired voices fade from my blurred memory of yet another day gone by, I can hear the traffic sifting below my window. Pouring a glass of wine, I remember a poet who used to think I was quite something special and then just as quickly lost interest and moved on. We float in and out of lives and nothing sticks, nothing at all except random flashes of light across an empty bedroom wall. Even the silence comes and goes unless you hold onto it with everything you’ve got to keep the demons at bay. I write about things which matter to me but I don’t really know in the grand scheme of things what good it is beyond soothing my nerves. Or igniting them. Writing is strange that way, you never quite know if it’s the beginning or the end, the matchstick or the spark. Shuffling through a stack of books on my writing room floor, I come upon, perhaps rather eerily, Ariel, a most devastating, sinister, and gripping collection of poetry by Sylvia Plath. I must have read it a hundred times. How could a creature so cold spin poetry that scorches the skin with every syllable, every breath between beats black as a raven’s wing hung suspended from the ceiling. Plath died on this day fifty seven years ago. Gone almost twice as long as she was here, a tortured soul to be sure. Still her words reach from the grave and grip you hard by your throat, stare down the whites of your eyes. Even after all this time, the maps of terror are the same in the human heart. We recognize them in the purple lines of our veins, the grooves in our brains where the fears settle in. I wonder why we fixate upon those who end it all at their own hands. You think those who write are telling you everything but I guess even, try as we might to come clean or climb our way out of the darkness through the words, there are some things which even the most gifted writer cannot tear from their burdened chest. Cannot break free of the claws in the marrow of the bones. Some hauntings are too bitter, too malformed, disfigured, to convey outright. Wrapping a blanket around me tight, the air coming in through my window is suddenly chilled with winter even though all day it felt more like a springtime February, a sweetness threatening to bloom before nature was ready. Ill prepared. Awkward, and out of place.
“In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.”
-from Medusa by Sylvia Plath
Tired of making things up, I tell you something real about myself which you dismiss because my real bits can be tough to take. I light a cigarette and think about all the things I’ve wanted to say for so long but could never quite find the words so silence was key and darkness was comfort. Do you ever dream about the day you can finally come clean about the way you feel inside? Do you ever chew your fingernails while worrying that it will be too late in the end, when the wind and the rain and the sky come closing in on you and death doles out his inevitable fate? So little time and so much to say. So many mouths and so many empty promises swimming inside the churning sea of our complicated souls. I refuse labels but since you seem hell bent on putting me in a nice tight box I tell you I am a sensualist, which seems to both satisfy and frustrate you because you think I’m being coy. The truth is I don’t have the energy to be anything but honest which is likely what gets me into tricky situations I then find difficult to wiggle out of, though somehow I always do. Taking a drag, I lean back in my chair and spread my legs a little too wide. You raise an eyebrow as I breathe clouds of smoke into the dead air between us and stare at you straight. Open your mind and let me in. Open your doors and let’s fly away to a place where they can’t touch us, soar higher until they can no longer claw us down. Can’t you see I want to run away from all the things they promised would keep me safe from harm. Can’t you see the flash of hunger in my eyes when I ask you what you see when you look deep inside those secret places you keep hidden from everyone else. I want to taste every last drop of this life on my tongue. I know they don’t understand you and I know it hurts. You dance for them. You jerk them off to the self-righteous hymns of the religion they shoved down your throat and you hate yourself for it but alas here we are. You’re no better today than you were last week and I’m none the wiser but I still believe I could show you things you’ve never seen. Out the small window littered with tiny potted plants, the horizon begins to blush as the sun’s coming up. Another day, another chance to forgive and forget and throw it all behind you once and for all. But you and I both know you won’t run, and if you can’t run you can’t fly. We are alone when we are together and together when we part but somehow the agony sticks in your teeth. Behind me I feel your hand on my shoulder. I hear the indifference as you turn on your heels, and leave.
I tell you a story which begins with the sun sinking into the ocean and ends with a killing at dawn on a hill overlooking a graveyard littered with broken glass and dotted here and there with those ugly dollar store plastic flowers. The blade was sharp and she was willing and you probably saw the ending coming anyway, as I’m not the most clever story teller especially when I’ve been drinking. But I can tell you for sure that both the ocean and the blade were slashed crimson as blood. We disregard the danger to get to the thrill and with you and I it’s no different. There are bottles of whiskey smooth as hot silk and my tongue stroking yours as you gasp for air. You’re so pretty when you struggle, baby. There is the wet taste of my sex on my fingers as I insert them into your mouth and make you suck them deep down your throat. I like the sounds of you when you beg to be used. Such a handsome needy thing. I like the whimpers you make when I get you close to the edge and keep you there as I ride you like the wind. In the corner of my room there is an altar I made to remind me that I don’t believe but if I ever had a change of heart I would know exactly where to confess my undying devotion to whatever it is that has turned me into such a mess. In dreams, I carve symbols into your forearm as I kneel before you in the center of a towering cathedral. It is dark except for the bluish and purplish light streaming in through dusty stained glass high above us in the peaks of the church ceiling. As I lick your wounds I drink of your sweat and your skin, my chest aches with lust for your pain, your healing, it all belongs to me. In the presence of every god and every saint and every sinner who ever walked the earth, we fuck like sweet slutty angels upon an altar of marble and gold, much more solid, of course, than the makeshift one I’ve got at home, but still there are similarities. The ivory candles and the smell of incense, an air of reverence which gets me off as I take pleasure in our ruinous acts of desecration. You come so hard you start to cry and in my sated haze I lap like a kitten at the stream of your beautiful tears. Out across the graveyard, the one I told you about in the story earlier, the sky does not end nor do the clouds and something about the endlessness of the view from atop the hill is captivating in its eerie stillness. We are so small, so completely insignificant it both inspires and devastates. Our hearts pump the blood through our veins until they give up on us for good and all will go black, all will go silent and the pain will finally be done. I remove the blade from my pocket and carve the symbols from your forearm into the tree which stands stoic and tall in this unfeeling place. Maybe I do believe in something it’s just that it’s something no one else can understand. They hand you a rule book and tell you to pray. They tell you to keep their naughty secrets and look the other way. But the truth is, you get to decide what you worship.
My habit is you, yet instead of taking twenty one days (is it twenty one, they say, to form a habit?) I was born already squirming with you in my tiny blue river veins. Wet, exposed, raw, helpless. Screaming. Eager. Starving. You, the womb I bathed and blossomed within. I see pink peonies, their lush petaled heads dropping heavy with morning dew. I see the sun coming up in soft tangerine behind the sap running amber down the trunks of green trees. Each one the texture, the scent, the presence of you. You are every commandment written in my skin, and every command on which I feed. The mornings are dull, the mornings are mournings soaked with gray rain, weeping from my eyes which are windowpanes. The days are mirrored, all sides of lost hope and lost minds, in all of this and through it, is you. I like the way Mary Oliver describes swimming in a cold lake at dawn, quiet and naked and alert among the reeds, the swans and the animals. I like the girl with the blog that nobody’s heard of, who writes about stabbing her boyfriend as they make love, he begs and begs for release. I like the torture. I like the tease. I like that I can smell it. In sex, in nature, in wilderness, in violence, I see only you. In an airport in a foreign city over run with disease, a man carries a bag which carries a bomb which is sniffed out and caught by a detective dog. In thickest fog which looks like a mountain which looks like the sky which looks like the sea, a flying machine slams into the air and explodes, ending everything. In the wreckage, in the ghosts of the souls exiting the flesh and the steel, in the coding of the fates of the extinguished, whispers you like cruel sadness, you like the final moments of terror, pure, sheer. You are the constant and the permanent, an expressionless pair of twin bodies which continue to twin, spinning and spinning without ever stopping. When I lie beneath him and part my legs, when I feel the slamming of his heart in his chest as his ecstasy pushes him over the edge, it is you in my mouth as my teeth tear his neck. Under my fingernails at the back of my mind in the warmth in the bottle in the smoke on my breath. This divine hellish perversion in me, the twisting of pleasure into blind aching need. The darkness I see in the monsters I breed all alone in my bed. Eyes shifting like curtains drawn while the storm rages on. Kiss of life upon the hands of death, feather of each shadowed dread. You.