Dissonance

Everything is nerves. The coffee tastes sick, or maybe that’s the bile churning in my stomach. In my throat. My mind is chewed up inside the newsfeed as it makes of me, my neuroses, my tendencies, my addictions, a feast.

I am studied. I am a study.

I do not know how I feel because I feel so much I have had to go numb to survive. A little bit, I just breathe a little bit. Everything in small bites, tiny sound bites like a digital water torture I sign myself up for. Sign myself into. Login. Pay for. Pay handsomely for.

Somewhere across town a panicked woman watches a panicked man flashing on the screen and validates her own fears against his. Fear is manufactured, you know? They promised manufacturing jobs would return.

The coffee is cold as I shiver beneath my nest of blankets, window open to the chilled autumn air coming off the street. Inside the room inside my mind I feel the tension rise and fall with the spinning in my belly. The cognitive dissonance of these days is jarring. The threat is overwhelming because it is us.  The line between existing and not has always been us.

We are an experiment. We are the cure and the disease. We are the lab and the secretions. The junkie and the drug.

It’s finally fall which means we are finally done with the wretched scorch of the sun. I’ll take the razor sharp blue sky, the orange blaze of another season burning by. I adore the changing leaves, crimson cinnamon air, and the frigid ocean waves glittering in dazzling white morning light.

And all the while, the terror. A family torn apart. Entire lives and their dreamers, up in smoke. Comedians. Fundraisers. Artists. Soldiers. Models. Click bait. Murder. Botox. Kitchen supplies.

The pornography of a life distorted. Voided out. Blocked.

And I know I have to try. And I know they tell me it’s ‘now more than ever.’

I know it’s how they want us. Colliding with ourselves inside.

 

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Photo by Omid Armin

 

Worth Your Life

This confirms my sense that I have been allowed to use my life well, in work that was worth the time spent on it. 

This is a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin from the foreword of her essay collection Words Are My Matter. When I read this collection in 2016, I was moved by many of the pieces but I cannot say that any in particular stuck out to me in such a way that I could recall them now in vivid detail. Though, I am sure that in revisiting some, they would sound familiar in ways unexpected and welcome.

Reading most books is this way, each becomes part of me but more like they run through my blood together as a collective liquid life, one idea flowing right into the next and melting into new blended form, thus enriching, nourishing one another. That is to say, each book does not become its own single part of me, a bone or a tooth or a limb, but rather pours into who and what I already am, and then stays with me like an undercurrent of ever renewed and renewing life force.

In the dark hours of this morning, as I sipped my coffee and listened to the sifting of the crickets buzzing outside my window, I picked up Le Guin’s collection once again and re-read the foreword, coming upon this sentence which cut right to my center.

Perhaps the timing is uncanny and that is why these words in particular held my little sleepyhead face in their hands. I have spent my whole life writing, and have changed, evolved, and grown as a writer and consumer of the word (I believe, I hope).

But right now, in my life this minute, at the very top of today, a day on top of so many which have been rocked by fear and catastrophe, wonder and hope and uncertainty, I find myself wondering, why? What has it all been for, and have my values changed over all this time in a way that means going forward I will take a new path in my writing.

Could I have more intimate, intricate things to say?

How can I be sure I know that late in life, when I look back, I too can say I have used my life well, in work that was worth the time.

 

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Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Mind’s Eye

Crawling up close to me, he tries to pull me under the covers to fall back asleep but I want none of it so I get up quick and slide out of the bedroom, pulling the door closed softly behind me. There is another world which calls to me like a siren, and I need to get to her before she disappears out over the horizon with the first light of dawn.

It’s not him, it’s me. I can’t take the noise in my head and I can’t fold my body into sex anymore, it’s all just too loud. I’ve got too much on my mind. I know that sounds obnoxious, but I would hush the whole world if I could just to find some kind of quiet meaning in all of this.

I am drawn to the page even as the page causes me such terrible trouble. My system is a wreck of words and nerves, desires and dreams, and for some reason it’s the early morning hours that plunge me straight into the depths of my most favorite beautiful chaos.

The midnight ocean mind is where the real seduction is, imagination, fantasy, escape. The mind is the muscle of the soul, someone wise and luminous once said. To think for yourself is holy work. And perhaps it is. Perhaps what I am searching for is grace, enlightenment, some kind of profound answer to the questions I do not yet know how to ask in a way that would reveal me to myself.

As the full bright moon glows like a single light bulb up in an empty sky, I realize that so often my mind feels completely disconnected from my soul, and everything else in my life. I go through the motions like everyone else but inside is a whole other universe, a whole other story. One that begs to be told.

This is me. I am an attempt to touch that place, and touch it, and touch it alone.

 

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Photo by Davide Ragusa

Flashing Lights (audio)

The screen of my laptop keeps flickering making it hard to write because all I see are black and white flashes in rapid succession, horizontal lines skewing up and down in distortion. Google tells me it’s some kind of ribbon in the hinge that’s malfunctioning but with the plague out there and my nerves eating the underside of my pale skin in here, I decide to wrestle with the laptop until I get it just so and the screen stabilizes for the time being.

Lazy I know, but these days it’s hard to tell what amount of effort placed in accomplishing anything is worth the time or the money.

He’s out running errands, so I ask him to pick me up a bottle of rose wine on his way home, something pretty, something he thinks I would like. There’s nothing to celebrate. It is no special occasion this evening but I decide the full moon energy is excuse enough to cheer myself from the well of clutching despair which I somehow manage to trip and slide deep down into in the afternoons.

Screen once again flickering, I sip my last now-cold swallow of tea and look out upon the thin gray rain. It is so thin I have to squint to see if it’s really there or if I am just imagining it, just willing it to be falling down into the dirty black street.

I don’t like the potential for a thing to be happening, I like the thing to just go ahead and happen, just get on with it, good, bad or indifferent. It’s the waiting, the watching, the wondering, the waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s the hesitation, that’s what kills you.

Glancing out the window into the garden I see that somehow the yellowish light behind the thick cloud cover makes the high trees appear a kind of unnatural electric green. 

As he shuffles in with the wine, I take a swig straight from the bottle and kiss him on the cheek. When the floral notes make their way down to warm my wild insides, the staleness of the day is so thin I feel it slip through my fingers and circle down the drain as I rinse our glasses in the sink. 

 

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Photo by Ari He

Fixation

The world is awake. It is Tweeting and bleating and screaming and angry and jilted and fucked, abused, furious, offended, opinionated, angry, nervous, outraged. Stupid. Conflicted. Livid, pretty, petty, cruel, obstinate.

Already.

It is Sunday morning. 9:09am. I have my coffee and my notebook and the air coming in is a glorious sixty seven degrees and blustery, pushing the trees all around like leafy green rag dolls. The sky is pale blue, washed with thin wisps of white cloud.

My neighbor has fired up his ridiculous lawn equipment so he can make those perfectly obnoxious straight lines around the edges of his property on which appears a political sign in support of a lunatic whose name I cannot even bear to speak let alone read or write or repeat.

He thinks he is protecting himself. He prays to a god he made up, to be spared a fate he himself controls all on his own.

And the most powerful are the most afraid, how much they stole, how much they have amassed, how much they stand to lose, so they tighten their grip around the throats full of hunger and confusion.

*How are you today?

It will always be the ones who are most cruelly treated who rebel.

This is the way of it. There is no other way, you see.

So get your coffee and read your newsfeeds. Share something, say something, do something. Try a little harder to not think about normal so much, it’s exhausting searching for something that doesn’t exist.

A word, a savior, a cure, a fix.

*How are you feeling?

And the wind turns heavy and brutal, and the bough breaks as the hinges come off of everything that was once held together so neatly. We watch in horror, stationary, we watch, we watch.

The world is awake, wide awake, as it all happens.

They tell you to write it down.

Write it down so you don’t forget.

There was a time before.

And this is how it felt.

*Are you doing okay?

 

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In the Name of Nothing Holy (audio)

There is whisky in the water and there is death upon the vine, but I just sit here drinking white wine in the late afternoon, wondering what it would feel like to run out into the open like an animal, barefoot, naked, into the drenching summer rain.

I imagine the slickness of my whole body, the way my sex awakens for the warmth of liquid nature, until I lose myself.

I once heard an alcoholic say she doesn’t drink to take the edge off, she drinks to disappear. Addicts. Addictions. Labels. Cures. We are parents and wives and husbands and children. We dream too big or not at all, we walk a thin line and try our hands at the things we hope can save our lives.

From what? From whom?

I smell the earth rising up as the heavens fall gently in sheets against the pavement, wet the grass, wet the street, slide in swirling rivers down through the grates at the corner.

Rainfall, succulent relief. Just the sound of it arouses every sense within me, my skin reacts, my mind quiets, breathes, unfolds. Perhaps my psyche is a flower, blossoming, delicate, thirsty.

The weightlessness of beauty tangles around the heaviness which I have become accustomed to carrying in my bones. It is coiled in my womb. If one more person uses the phrase; now more than ever before, I will scream. Everything, it seems, is dying or heading there, at warp speed.

This mad world sets itself in motion but the swiftness of its spinning, its wretched eagerness to exceed, sets it on fire. I can see it through the screen as I watch from the upstairs bedroom window.

There are laws and guns and money. There is sex and family and greed. Cancer and houseplants and ignorance. The sky is mellowing, the rain is so soft as to almost fall silent, to pull down a veil of silence, over me.

Taking a pen from the drawer, I open my notebook. My heart is a clench of terrible loneliness. And the pen feels right and hard in my fingers, and the page waits hopefully for me there.

But how could I possibly?

What on earth was it I thought I wanted to say?

 

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina

Miser With Your Thoughts

Locusts are thrusting their brittle wings in the high tree tops, making a sound like they can’t stop shivering, which is odd given the thick summer heat.

I pour a crisp glass of white and set it down to sweat on the back porch table, while I light a cigarette on my way to grab the mail. Squinting behind my dark sunglasses, my eyes travel in the direction of two young girls walking toward the basketball courts, wearing cut offs so short you can see the tanned round curves of their perfect little asses dimpling in the slant of the sun as it cuts clear across the neighborhood.

A dog barks across the way, and for a second I think he’s mine before I remember he isn’t, and the mail gets delivered and I head back for my wine in my bare feet.

I make thousands of such useless observations a day but never think to share them. Who would read my thoughts, even if they could, even for free?

I think it was Nin who said something to the effect of not holding back, not being stingy or, what was it exactly? I wrote it down in a notebook someplace, give me a minute…

Ah, yes, this:

You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of the fullness.

What a thing to have said, to ever say. A woman unafraid of fullness.

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

Painkillers

A flash of quick flame scorches the tender tip of my finger as I attempt to force the near-dead lighter alive enough one last time to light up a smoke. Snatching it up, you somehow coax the exhausted thing better than I had and burn my cigarette under the dappled sunlight on this dry and brutal August afternoon.

There’s plenty of daylight still to come, though crushingly little to do with it, so we fill the pool and fill our drinks and re-tell the same old stories until the buzz sets in and we can finally say what’s on our minds. Mostly you’re content and mostly I’m overflowing with ideas, thoughts, opinions, anxieties, musings, and all manner of words about words written by the greats, wishing I were half the artist so many others seem to be, or seem to have been.

I’ve been obsessed with Anne Carson, reading everything I can during slow times at the office, scratching down line after line which drags its nails across my heart, my skin, my mind. A poet quite measured, calculated, and yet bold, daring, reaching in the most judicious manner. How I wish I could be such a thing, selective and audacious at the same time. These are qualities worth striving for, I believe.

That is, to the extent that anything is worth becoming in a world which makes it increasingly difficult to concentrate on any given subject, let alone cocoon oneself inside of it achingly long enough to be transformed. Time is taken from us in tiny sarcastic bursts, death to the glorious psyche by a thousand cuts of pixelated knives.

As the sun sinks low, a burning ball of orange fire behind the darkening trees, I watch the ripples of tangerine colored water rising and falling all around our gentle floating bodies. Wine in hand, I swim over to you, drawn in by the way your wet lips glisten with the touch of faded summer sky.

When we kiss, there are hints of lemongrass and grapefruit. I can feel your desire spark electric in the liquid softness of the water. The taste is heaven and the words don’t matter when in your eyes I see the end of everything that hurts.

 

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Photo by Karina Tess

But I Keep It to Myself

Jr Korpa

As you tell me a story about your messed up college days, I’m watching your full lips mouth the words you throw away. Imagining your tongue down my throat, I try my best to concentrate on the story but it really doesn’t matter to either of us so what’s the use. I know sometimes I’m too much. I know I should hold back. I know sometimes I’m too intense, I can be obsessive. I try to pass it off as artistic fire but the only place you seem to appreciate my inner animal is in the bedroom. Beneath the sheets you worship it as though it were sheer elegance, pure grace. Perhaps it is after all and you can see it better than anybody. My obscenities alchemize, become holy, become electric liquid heat. You were raised right, you were not raised with God nailed into your bones. I was raised up so high on prayer and sacrifice I was bound to come undone. God wrecked my sense of boundaries, pushed my face into the thin metal bus window frame. God put me in a dark tight box with a strange man and forced my mouth to open. God punished me and I liked it. God was humiliation, degradation, masturbation, fear. And I walked single file in skirted linen and lace straight into God’s unkind, unforgiving hands. God is dirty. God is bad. God is perverse. God is ferocious. God is pissed. The only difference is, She has no issues with any of it. Not like you think I have. When we kiss, the night sky inverts itself and pulls the air from my lungs in waves. And just when I think maybe I shouldn’t write the things I do, maybe I talk too much, you open me so deep I know it’s too late. Every word, glistening in wide constellation, is laid bare for you. I bite you for the blood not the bruising, trace the sweat along your thigh as a veil falls away between us. As every cruel ecstatic thing we do, God sees.

Bloodshot

Annie Spratt

Lighting up a cigarette, my eyes drift to the ceiling and fix upon a long legged spider as she takes her many thin spindled steps across to a cobwebbed corner. At least I think it’s a spider, could just be more dust spinning in the breeze or one of those nearly invisible gauzy things that fall upward for lack of alternate ambition. Should clean up around here but right now my eyes are stinging red, bloodshot like bugs squished against screens. Too many screens. Did you know they make special eyewear now, specific for people who stare too long at screens all day? Some sexy looking girl was pushing them on Instagram, something about blue light. People are diluted. Nothing amuses us more than creating fantastic problems so we can then drum up costly solutions to those problems which we invented in the first place to distract us from what matters the most to begin with. Love. What we wouldn’t give for just a little sweet taste of it on our bitter stained lips. Love for nothing. Love without strings and without end. Which cradles us and lets us run as fast and far as we need without ever asking why. Turning toward the window in the fading evening sun, I wish for the darkness to hurry up and close my eyes tight as I inhale a sick deep drag. Flashes of summers as a child flicker across the back of my mind like those tiny racing seabirds which scuttle against the edge of the ocean tide, warm images close enough to touch, to inhabit. Tan and wild and untamed and free in the way only a child can be, because she doesn’t know she isn’t. It is so fragile in the heart of a girl, the sword of the word at the base of the tongue, cuts on the knee, laughter over nothing at all. And everything. So absurd. I don’t want to be like other girls and yet I want to be like all of them. I watch as a mother pushes her baby in a carriage (carriage? do we still say that?) down the pavement. I hear the kids playing basketball in the park up the street.  It’s been a hot one and perspiration pierces through at the back of my neck. It’s been a long fucking day. A long fucking year this day has been.