Rip Your Heart Out

What will you do when the words run out, when the sands of the grains of the time you spent together slide through your fingers only to scatter on the wind. Not everything you want is something you need. How do you tell the difference? I carry within me multiple hearts. I know because at least a few have stopped beating but I’m still here. People have come and people have gone, some a complete surprise and some I have helped along. I sit at my altar staring into a single flame which flickers and sways slowly in the morning breeze. I picture you and your liquid movements melting all over me. I imagine a pale blue sky above a cathedral, so full of black birds circling the steeple that their bodies and wings block out the sun. I wait in a smooth black dress by a fountain, my hair undone. Water cascading in grand arched streams, from the hands of topless maidens, from the mouths of naked children who reach for the heavens, white marble statue eyes, cold, like ecstasy unfeeling. A filthy city crawling to life beneath my fingernails. My skin is hot with a fire I am dying to remember. I’m wearing that lipstick you like, dark as blood, you hesitate to touch. You watch me like a picture you suspect may come to life. The ache in you possesses me like a predator, hungering for prey. If you come for me with teeth, I will offer you my neck. If you come for me with roses, I will fasten them in my hair for you, that you may imagine me innocent. I open my mouth and swallow the sun to keep precious the night. When I close my eyes, I still see you. Feel you ring through me hollow as church bells as they clang high above, shatter the air against my chest, locked in a tower made of stone. I once wrote a poem that went like this. A boy takes a girl and carries her home. She kisses him deep, makes love to him sweet, and come the serene light of dawn, can never return. And though one of them dies, the rest of the hearts within her continue to beat.

Little Flower of Evil

Please don’t come so close to me. I can’t protect you from all that I am and that has been enough trouble before to burn even the most beautiful temples to the ground. In my mind there is a circle of white winged doves, fluttering elegantly, continuously, in a slow spiral toward the sun, which descends as it glitters its golden rays over a placid pale blue sea. In my blue body, my veins are the rivers, my lungs are the flood. I am the womb I was born within, the womb rushing violent, the womb overflowing with peace, tranquility, the tides of time as humanity is created, humanity is destroyed. You dream of me, parting lips of an exotic fragrant flower, petals lush with warm sweet rain, the nectar of the deep folds of night. Please don’t. Please come. Come closer and tell me what you see in the mirrored halls of my eyes as I take you in, body and soul. He was forbidden and she was a playground as evening falls, she was a carousel of dazzling light on a crowded filthy city street. I hope you will write of the things no one speaks about, the things they are afraid of. I hope you don’t let them tell you what to say, or how to say it. You have to be on guard at all times, you have to protect the only thing you know for sure is yours and yours alone. That magic heart of yours. That mind racing like mad back into itself, shield it, lock it up tight. I know you don’t believe me. I know you think I’m skittish and paranoid but that doesn’t mean the danger isn’t real. This world will try to out run you, game you, play you, gut you, leave you for dead. Don’t let that happen to you, don’t you give them the satisfaction. When they threaten to leave you to the wolves, remember you are the wolf, you are the wilderness, you are the hunter. Make your own fire, be your own shelter. Shine. Shine brighter than all the rest and don’t look down and don’t look back. Smile in the face of death. Walk on water. Walk so you can run and run so you can fly and fly so your bones can burst into a million ecstatic stars dancing so high above no one can touch you, only wish upon you for the things they dare to dream of in the silence of their trembling hearts. Don’t be the answer, be the dare. Don’t reveal your secrets. Do it all and don’t explain any of it. Don’t forget you don’t owe them anything. Be the way an illusion shatters expectations. Show them even in the pits of fire and hell, nothing is as it seems.

I Am the Storm

All night the wind rattled the clanging chimes in the backyard and drove itself mad in loud rushes against the houses and buildings. The rain slashed the window panes and glittered in large crystal gobs, pinned, suspended by the great winds, before sliding its streaky path downward. I tossed and turned a little but not much, more because I left the notifications open on my phone and the random glows lit up the corner of the room like those many soft fireflies we’d collect as kids and put them in jars with fistfuls of leaves and sticks. I can still recall the way it felt to be out in the late night of summer, my bare toes rustling through the freshly cut blades of grass underneath the low hanging trees, you could see the bug’s lights better under there where it was darkest. I could scarcely believe my mother would let me go out in my thin fuzzy nightgown even though I was already clean from the bath. I remember vividly the feel of the warm air upon my skin all over underneath the fabric as I ran and ran and twirled and opened my arms to everything. It is my first memory of freedom, of wilderness, and the taste of the dream that I belonged within it. One misty morning, I woke to find my tiny jar of glow bugs didn’t glow anymore, too young to understand I’d smothered them by fastening the lid on too tight. We try to hold things we have no business holding. We make our attempts at nailing beauty to the wall and think nothing of the arrogance of that. We punish, we manipulate, mutilate, violate, annihilate. We glorify control, exacerbate it, turn it into a perversion and call it adoration. As I sip my coffee and type, I flashback in my mind to the night I left his apartment after we had a brutal fight, stabbing each other with words like knives. Some wounds are invisible to the naked eye. Suffocation. Gashes in the psyche, bleeding in the red tides of emotions we refuse to tame. Pain is where the tears come from, screams come from, hurt comes from, a place you can feel but cannot point to on your physical body, on an x-ray, on a scan; it does and does not exist. Perhaps this, too, is the place where poetry comes from, this placeless place. A pin on a map that nobody can print. A homeless home we crawl towards with what is left of us, that we try to return to when the storms come to your front door. And like a perfect fool, you open up and watch, as they come crashing in.

Break Glass In Case of Emergency

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.

Higher and Higher

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.

Epicenter

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.

Folds

Being my own worst enemy, I dust up old troubles just to see what comes of it instead of leaving well enough alone like a properly adjusted person would do. I get bored and I get lonely and I get to wondering if I’m the only one who feels that way. The words are solace and they always seem to be there which is a good thing most of the time as long as I can get to them. If not, I get anxious. Scratch that, I’m anxious all the time, words or no words it makes no difference. Last night I dreamt I was walking down a cobblestone street somewhere in an old foreign city. Could have been Rome, though I’ve never been so your guess is as good as mine, but in any case it was absolutely dazzling. Tall buildings lit softly in afternoon light, red and white striped umbrellas, street fairs and tiny moped bikes, beautiful women, beautiful men, all brimming with life at an enjoyable pace as the deep blue of glittering sea moved lazily upon the shore in the distance. I’d like to tell you I was wearing some sort of indulgent flowy designer sundress, would have been so much more romantic, but I know I was wearing high-waisted jeans and a white midriff top punctuated by a very large pair of over sized black sunglasses. I know it was jeans because at one point I took the opportunity to slip my fair hand inside them to pleasure myself. It could have been under a sweet smelling willow tree in secret or in all honesty it could have been while walking down that cobblestone street, without shame, in front of the whole adorable scene. Judge if you will but dreams are dreams and if I had to venture an explanation I’d simply point to the pathetic way we treat acts of sexual pleasure in my culture. Girls are taught to be sexy in everything they do, made to feel they are on display at every moment, here to seduce every man, married or single, attached or not, attractive or not, while we are eating, shopping, studying, walking, sleeping, showering, dressing, undressing, drinking, speaking, teaching, learning, breathing, and the list goes on and on. And as we are out there being as pretty as we know how, we are also not supposed to be doing that because that is being immodest. Shamed if you do, shamed if you don’t, and truth be told I’m over all of it. If left to my own devices, I find myself intoxicating. Not because I’m special but because I am here, a flesh and blood and bone creature of mystery even to myself. Women fascinate me. Sex and fantasy draw me in again and again. All growing up I was never sure if that made me a good girl or a bad one so I played both sides all at once, splintering and shattering myself into a thousand tiny pieces I had to learn to put back together all by myself. Fuck what they think. They tell you lust is a game you play to try to capture someone else. But did you ever think that maybe you are the game, and you’re just playing with yourself?

Time Apart

I have to be away from the writing for about a week and I am dreading it. I don’t know why I am telling you this but I don’t think anyone understands except for writers, what it is like to have to put down the pen for a while. Even if it’s just a handful of days. It feels like severing part of me, the truest deepest most loving part of me, and leaving it behind. In any case. Hopefully maybe there are some rare times when, if you can bear it, the time apart makes the time back together even sweeter.

Disappear

The moon is one dead white eye, shining full in rocky light. In dreams, he strips me naked while telling me fairy tales about enchanted forests and animals who stalk and kill but just for food not for random cruelty. Only humans do that, so instead of dwelling on it we go down by a lake of swans, tease each other into a frenzy and make sweet love until the sky disappears and we become the air which vanishes after caressing the cold light of each forgotten star. All those glittering diamonds, all that generously scattered space which expands and expands and never stops for all eternity. Makes me feel both tremendous awe and completely insignificant at the same time. I respect the universe even as it shreds my nerves and causes me to panic. As I put pen to paper to document a series of disturbing dreams about my skin sewn in places too tight and a man staring at me on a train I am taking to a city whose name I can’t seem to make out on the ticket because my eyes won’t focus, the story of an alternate life begins to emerge. We run across a warehouse rooftop and tumble so close to the edge it makes my heart slam in my chest and tempts me to see if I can fly. Grabbing onto the belt loop in the back of my jeans, he pulls me in and pins me underneath him while letting my head spill backwards over the edge of the building. Observing my exposed neck as my hair whips and blows and turns all colors of the midnight wind, he places a strong hand behind me and to my surprise asks me how my writing is going. Blinking with shock and something that feels like affectionate gratitude for his benevolent attention, I tell him it’s a maddening goddamn torture but I will never stop as long as I live, which if we’re not careful could only be another minute and a half. Suddenly realizing, as one inexplicably does, that I am in a dream inside a dream and he’s about to evaporate, I quickly sketch a mental image of this man into the soft folds of my memory. He is a shadow I want to swim inside, he is a stranger I want to hold my hand. He is a messenger, perhaps, or an omen. He grips me tight without a sound and then fades to black. I wake to the darkness of morning, pull on a knit hat against the cold, pour coffee and open my laptop. The full moon is a single yellow eye sliding down behind an electric wire. We watch each other closely, until she finally slips out of sight.

Take This Cup

You have a way of turning away from me while still looking back at me that my blood cannot seem to forget, it courses like silk panic through the blue rivers in my veins. As though you were holding me and leaving me at the same time, I am suspended, one foot in front of another but only half of me has crossed the line between freedom and captivity, huntress and prey. The thing is I can’t blame you because then I’d have to let you go completely and that would be too hard to do. Hard because of the quiet softness of your eyes on my skin. Hard because of the tender sweet ache which consumes me, head to toe, body and soul, when your hands shake reaching for the small of my waist. All of this swirls within my chest as I walk along a lonely street as this early evening in January is becoming dark. The concrete scent of cold pavement mixed with the spiced fragrance of a distant wood burning fire. High above the frozen buildings I can just see a few twinkling stars, washed out by a thin swath of pewter clouds, spread almost as scantily as the atmosphere itself. Filling my lungs with frigid night air, I reach into a pocket and pull on my gloves. It would seem in winter we are always protecting, shielding vulnerable things. A sleek sedan passes by slowly, its tires along the cobblestone the only sound aside from my boots scratching against the sidewalk. The driver stops at the corner to let out a tall woman in black tights and heels, she thanks him, slams the car door and lights up a cigarette as she leans her curvy hips against a wrought iron railing. Her coat tight about her, eyes and lips glistening in the moonlight, she exhales short breathy plumes of smoke and I can almost feel her heart beating fast on the nicotine. Back at home I pour a glass of wine and nestle in among my many stacks of books, notes, papers, journals. I’m trying to decide how I feel about the difference between erotica and pornography because for reasons I cannot seem to explain this matters to me. It matters to me to understand if it matters, if that makes sense, which I am fully willing to accept that perhaps it doesn’t. Nin opens her collection of erotica Little Birds with these words, “It is one thing to include eroticism in a novel or a story and quite another to focus one’s whole attention on it. The first is like life itself. It is, I might say, natural, sincere, as in the sensual pages of Zola or Lawrence. But focusing wholly on the sexual life is not natural. It becomes something like the life of the prostitute, an abnormal activity that ends by turning the prostitute away from the sexual. Writers perhaps know this. That is why they have written only one confession, or a few stories, on the side, to satisfy their honesty about life… But what happens when a group of writers… devote themselves entirely to the erotic? How does this affect their lives, their feelings towards the world, their writing? What effect has it on their sexual life?” There is so much I don’t know about how I feel about any of this. For my entire life I have been a sensual girl, a sensual woman. Every nerve ending, it seems, is acute, alert, attentive. Some of my senses were praised, while my sexual senses were down played or hushed at kindest and outright publicly shamed, mocked, or ridiculed at cruelest. But despite what harsh and belittling treatment I have known, there remains in me a desire, a need, a curiosity, a passion, which flickers and licks at the walls of my tight little prison. There is no such thing as a poet, an artist, devoid of sensuality, sexuality, eroticism. There is no such thing as a woman who does not hunger and thirst to devote at least a portion of her most secret self to those forbidden flames. I light up a cigarette and open my notebook. I blow smoke to the ceiling and write about burning things. I write and write and write until my ink runs dry.