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.


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.


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.


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.


Ordering a drink after a long day made to feel even longer because I’ve had to fight the rain to make it up the street, I’m watching as the guy across the bar drapes his arm around the girl he’s with and gives her a long deep kiss right on her pretty little mouth. Just seeing them making out in public is enough to turn my stomach but it’s not so much disdain I judge them with it might deep down be jealousy. How disorienting those beginners kisses are, dizzy with desire and lust, fascination, hunger, the numbing bliss of ignorance. As I swallow my whiskey I taste you on my tongue like a drug, feel you slide down my throat and torch my insides until I burn myself to the ground all for you. You who would lick me until my embers turned to ash, until I was nothing but air, breath, weightlessness, beyond. Those fingers of yours, how they teased and penetrated and bruised and penned your dark poetry all over my alabaster skin. Love and blades and ink and dreams of fields of wild flowers bending beside a turquoise sea. Love is a fog they say but it is also an electric current which cuts through right to the heart with lightning speed. Not for you and I, we were not love we were mouths, tongues, bodies, cravings. Or so we thought we could be, thought we could sever the feelings from the flesh, cut the heart out and leave it on the square patch of grass by the hotel we rented too late and left before the early morning light could reveal to us the staleness of our sinful ways. Maybe none of us are quite sure what love is. Maybe it’s just another tired place where right is wrong and wrong is right and everything turns inside out on a dime. The guy at the bar and his doe eyed girl drown in their last sips of cheap happy hour beer and stumble out the doorway, lips still locked as they giggle and trip beneath the rain blurred neon lights. I miss a time when you could smoke in bars but I suppose it’s all for the best we’re no longer permitted. A dirty habit in a filthy world. I’m more careful now. Not to confuse who’s in control with who’s in power. Not to build castles out of sand or wish upon a shooting star, spinning and falling and dying so beautifully inside a black hole sky.


I pull my hair up into a messy bun teetering atop my head, open up a bottle of white and walk out into the garden in the fading tangerine evening. The last rays of autumn sun turn to beautiful colored beads of sweat sliding down the chilled glass, tiny globes of peaches, pinks, roses, golds. I light a cigarette and watch the droplets glide, remembering the way you traced the curve of my shoulder as you undressed me for the first time, my body reacting with pulses of warm sweet nectar. We are never quite the same person we are at the beginning. People change like seasons, evolve. Some do, in some respects and not others, but their troubles are nothing to me at the moment as all I want to do is shed the remnants of another day gone by, my body and spirit offered up for someone else’s ridiculous wet dreams of power and brutality. I know I’m not the only one and it’s just the way of the world but something in me has never stopped believing there could be more. Different. More honest. Less moral and more genuine. What in this life could ever possibly be worthy of the splendor of your body, soul, mind, and spirit? Doesn’t it have to be more glorious than numbers, deadlines, time clocks. We are so reduced, so imprisoned. Too accepting of what is and how it’s always been. Acting like there is some sort of way back to what once was when what once was is a lie we’ve been telling for centuries anyway. We chase our money and we chase our tails and try to get our kicks along the way in secret. Behind a closed office door somewhere in a yellowed building across town, a woman gets on her knees to ask her boss for a raise. She hates it but it kind of turns her on to be reminded who’s in charge. She isn’t sure of much these days because the loneliness is palpable when she gets home and crawls inside the emptiness. She cries a lot. She smiles when she knows she is supposed to, though. Telling no one seems to be the only way to make sure her existence isn’t too tight a fit. As the sounds of the freeway running close to the yard pour over me like one of those white noise sound machines my therapist places outside her office supposedly to protect my privacy but I think it’s more to protect the yoga practitioners on the other side of the door from hearing my sordid tales of self destruction, I pour glass of wine and down it rather too quickly. As the chattering teeth of my ‘generalized anxiety’ finally turn to liquid heat, I look up at the trees as the little birds flutter and chase each other in circles. I recall the taste of the hot pressure of your kiss and how our bodies sunk into each other perfectly. There is no way out, of course, only in further and further until it’s all blackness or light, no one can say for sure. But until I can figure a better plan I’ll keep writing. Digging. Disrupting. Fantasizing. What else is there to do when this life is madness. Everybody’s drowning, and everybody’s thirsty.

Play for Keeps

Her face is chiseled and poised, her lips lush and glistening, such is the existence of beautiful people in a world hell bent on selling it fast and then crushing it out even faster. I think about her sensual body as I run my fingers over her image in a glossy magazine. What would she smell like if she were standing before me. Could I bear the heat of her eyes gazing into mine while she speaks with that perfect pink mouth. Meanwhile in a land far from the posed or polished, the fog outside my window is so thick I’m certain if I were standing in the street I’d not be able to see my own feet. It is my favorite kind of slow morning, the sound of soft rain, heavy mist like white linen curtains draped over the charcoal trees, and an almost imperceptible breeze which stirs the scent of wet soil and cold winter air, blends them together and moves them around you in a ghostly embrace. There are those who would prefer you stay silent and those who tell you to speak up but you won’t do either unless you agree to it. Unless you are ready. With you I was always ready. To speak, to fall quiet. To open, to bend, to give, and to receive. Such was the strength of your hold on me. Your hands upon my neck, your hands upon my hands. What perversions in that dark mind of yours. How creative your play, how vivid the colors and sinister the shadows of your secret desires. Your scorching words a constant trickle of heat which gently, relentlessly, fervently broke through my long frozen ground. With persistence, with intensity, you unraveled me with intention, stroke by elegant stroke, encircling, taking down the crumbling walls of the resistance in my body, in my mind, in my spirit. Resistance. To my own hunger. My own magic. My own pleasure. My own need. You, the crimson fever of sin in my blood. You and I. Beautiful people. Flawed. Broken. Bound.

Burn for You

It’s all been done before and probably better than you can do it but that doesn’t keep you from trying. You scratch your palms and then your forehead but only because your gums itch and you can’t seem to get at where the itch is coming from. You are fidgety and wired from too much coffee, so you light up a cigarette and continue typing terrible prose into the empty void just to feel the keys clicking beneath your fingers. Somewhere in you deep down inside, you know this is where you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to be doing, word after word, trash or gold, thick or thin, the writing has kept you steady when absolutely nothing else in the world could do it. There is an itch in you that you can never quite scratch and it is torture and it is madness and it is beyond pleasure into some kind of masochism, but it often seems to you it is more than life itself. All the hangovers, all the lovers, all the failures, all the fantasies, they swirl in your rib cage like a drug or a sickness, like flowers blossoming forth, delicate and heavy with wetness in the soft mist of a rainy August evening years ago. You and I, bodies, tongues, whiskey, and the way my head tilted back as you whispered decadent words against my neck about the way I taste like the open ocean, a smoldering summer sunset beach. You bound my hands together at the wrists, raising them above my head, a single finger to your hushed mouth. Instruction. I suck my bottom lip, go silent as I struggle to hold in the sounds of pleasure I’m desperate to release. Gazing down at me as your fingers grazed and teased the center of my glistening ache. In your eyes, the endless darkness of midnight lakes, pools of sweet danger I drown myself in. At the mercy of your hands which played me until I was taut in glorious frustration, you twist me, dangle me, push me to my blinding limits. At the command of your naked desire, I laid before you exposed. Vulnerable. Hungry. Unashamed to become the embodiment of my need for you. Who in this world can you trust if not yourself. When you write you can fly but only if you write the things you are afraid to say. Tell the stories which flutter and bite at you. How afraid are you to die? How terrified are you of what you really want? How afraid are you that life has already passed you by? Taking a drag from your cigarette, you invite the smoke into your lungs and tap a crinkled clump of ash out the window which opens to the garden where you once had me, dirt stained, rough, our skin smooth with sweat in moon glow. Though these memories are now nothing more than time gone by, to you they mean something sacred. They have become a part of the way you move, the way you see things. You can still taste them, conjure them, almost reach out and caress them in all of the sensual experiences you crave. The way you touched me with control, measure, fascination, admiration. And as you raise your eyes, gray clouds move steadily over the black night sky, erasing all heavenly light. You can no longer see the stars. But you know that somewhere out there, beyond all time and space and eternity, they still burn.