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

Skies Like Scars

Say, everything is going to be alright. Mean it but be unsure of yourself, just enough that I can feel it weighting down my limbs.

Hold me close, almost too close. Feel how I can’t breathe. Afraid to breathe anyway, not sure I remember how. There was a time. I am almost certain of it.

When the air wasn’t so tight.

When I could taste the sounds of cars rushing on the highway late at night, when I would hum with the quick pulse of my machinery.

When my veins were the color of soft pewter
and I didn’t even notice
them.
Or stare.

Say, you are so lucky, you’re an angel, made for this.

Say, it only hurts at first, say, but that’s okay.

And it does.
And you’re not sure if it is.

But you let it burn
for as long as you can in case
you don’t know yourself well enough yet

to know better.

 

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Photo by Anthony Tran

On Aligning with Your Soul’s Desire

This isn’t my usual type of content, but fuck it, it’s my space and I feel deeply compelled to write about some of the things that go on in my daily experience right now as they relate to the current climate of revolution sweeping across my country, and across the world.

I was speaking with a very dear and precious friend a few days ago, about living authentic lives, as in: lives which bring us joy, challenge, and fulfillment as women. And how we feel “crazy” when we follow our calling, our spirits, our soul’s desires. We feel misaligned, out of whack, but we also have never felt so alive, so renewed, so fulfilled, gratified, energized.

So OURSELVES.

And I got to thinking maybe we feel crazy when we are aligned with our spirits because our whole lives we were taught what we “should” align with was the world’s expectations of what we are supposed to do, who we are supposed to be.

This alignment with false promises put us at odds with who we were truly meant to be. Deep down, we knew it, but couldn’t name it. We longed for ourselves but looked outside instead, as all women are taught to do, for validation.

All our lives we were conditioned to believe aligning with the patriarchy, with capitalism, and with commercialism, was the right thing to do, the right way to be. So when we finally begin to align with our soul’s calling instead, we feel disjointed in exactly the way we are meant to on our journey to our Selves.

We are dislodging from our conditioning so that we may get in order with our Truth.

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Photo by Izabelle Acheson

Flinch

Surrounded by vague-eyed people who don’t mean anything but the possibility of deadly infection to me, my hands are shaking because I’m nervous but I couldn’t tell you why. Haven’t even ordered my large coffee yet, let alone sucked any of it down. Well, maybe I could try to explain but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to hear it, or you’d say you did but once you do you’d wish you never got into it with me in the first place.

I guess I’m just generally like this, just like this in general. Skittish, maybe you might call it, I mean, that’s one of those words that means exactly what it sounds like.

Jumpy.

Eyes which dart around the room looking for something that isn’t there, but could be. At any moment. The walls could shake, the towers could fall, the glass could break in case of emergency.

In the tight air of the coffee shop, sifting fragrant among the brown paper bags of ground coffee stacked neatly on the corner shelf, the various assortment of berry muffins, and the beat up burnt orange over-sized soft leather sitting chairs arranged too close in a dimly lit corner around low tables by the window, there is a kind of tension, an uneasiness I’m sure no one else detects but me.

All they can see are the lines on the floor which mark a safe distance and whatever those watches are that people wear now which tell you everything but the time. All they can smell is dark roast beans and frothy milk, while they can’t see past the ends of their pierced high-rise noses.

Do you see? I can. I can’t help but look and the more I do the more I see that unsettles me.

That’s why I’m so nervous.

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Photo by Annie Spratt

Pleasure Cage

Darkness rolls in overhead, and I am hopeful. They have been promising rain for days but, so far nothing. This day, though, is different. The air all around is thick with the smell of it, the muggy scent of wormy earth and lemongrass wind. All that is missing is the fire but that’s not out there, it’s in here. In me.

The rain water balances my insides, cools my burning, wets my heat.

I dim the lights, pour tea with honey, and pull a single tarot card, which I do daily as part of my spiritual ritual. It doesn’t always ‘work’ but I don’t know what that even really means except to say that some days it doesn’t resonate. Sometimes the cards and I are at odds and I have to remind myself that I am not so ordered, so simple as a deck of cards, no matter how thorough they may appear to be. No matter how organized or random, I am even more exponentially so. More organized. More random.

I ponder the intricacies of the human organism.

The exact weight and design of the internal organs.

How they fit together in a slick stacked pile.

The card I turn over is The Devil. Fifteenth of the Major Arcana.

The Devil resonates fiercely and exactly, like the precision of the sting of a cut on the blade. Immediately sliding parallel with every vein, every artery in my system, everything which flows into and out of the heart.

The Devil rules the underworld where there is eternal darkness.

Finally. Finally, the benevolent, merciful, enveloping dark. Finally, I am alone with it.

I watch for the whiteness of curling bone around black eyes. I sense the liquid silk pleasure of the void. Here is the life of the hallowed shadow, here are the hands of the wicked: slender, long. My hands and all which they have touched, harmed, caressed, stolen, violated, destroyed. My hands and all they have done to soothe my own aching body. All they have done to dismantle my mind.

The darkness is sensual, forbidden, tempting. Looming. It is all I want inside of me. I light a candle and summon it forward, unafraid. Wanting.

The rain moves in as I close my eyes. I listen to the hypnotic sound of it. Gratitude. Relief. I want to be taken into that place which quivers and trembles. I feel him now, his mouth of soft crimson at the base of my neck; the ecstasy of my self made sacrifice, of my aroused surrender. In the mirror I observe my own reflection: pale, detached. I seek the fire in the cave of my being, I press my swelling emotion against the walls of its womb. I am the host and the parasite, the mother and the strain of her milk; the burden of the infant and the blind fear of its infinite scream.

Madness is nothingness, this is why it echoes into itself.

During my meditation, there is an internal struggle against binding forces. We are killed by love and killed by no love. We are abused by fear and abused by no fear. We are beyond all of it, and encompass it. The Devil liberates by showing us ourselves from all sides, showing us the illusion of the separation of sides.

Fix your eyes. All light contains within it darkness. Within all darkness, light.

In a kind of ethereal trance, I lay back upon the floor as my beloved Demon pulls me close, whispers to me softly, seductively. With him I am serene, supple, yielding. Beautiful. He requires of me only that I show him everything.

I swallow his poison, taste his succulent death on my skin. Let him devour me whole.

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Photo by Richard Jaimes

 

 

The Otherworldly Contemporary Author to Be Obsessed with Right Now

Little dark clouds are forming out over the horizon in low clusters, as the purple hills off in the dewy distance lay themselves down before the pale morning sky. The sun just barely skims the trees while I sit sipping coffee on the grass of a small park on the outskirts of town. The air is still and smells of the empty kind of clean, and it feels good to be alone even in lonely times like these.

I am lucky to feel this way, of course, some are not so lucky by far. Perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of solace, perhaps in the name of a new way of making art, my latest obsession is the contemporary author Ottessa Moshfegh, who is making a splash because her works are oddly gripping in their merciless dark humor, focus on the aimless, and as she describes in her own words,

“My writing lets people scrape up against their own depravity, but at the same time it’s very refined… it’s like seeing Kate Moss take a shit.”

Makes me wince to have that image shoved at me but there it is and it is a very keenly self-aware thing to say. She’s right. I’ve just finished her 2018 novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation in which the nameless narrator is a young woman, hip, pretty “like an off duty model” living in NYC. Both of her (very cold, very emotionally detached) parents have died and she lives more than comfortably off of her lavish inheritance on the Upper East side of Manhattan. She’s depressed and riddled with existential angst and ultimately decides she must not only start her aimless life anew but be completely reborn, transformed into an entirely new person, not on the outside, but on the inside.

In order to do this, she decides, she will need to hibernate, as in spend four months essentially unconscious, sleeping. She finds herself a lunatic doctor willing and ready to prescribe exorbitant amounts of drugs to “cure” the narrator’s made up “insomnia.” The whole thing becomes something of a high stakes artistic experimental endeavor to see if one very messed up girl can start over anew by essentially sleeping her way into a new kind of existence.

The final page of the story describes a scene which occurs on 9/11. I’ll not disclose the ending but suffice it to say there is an epiphany which takes place in such a way as to shock and arrest the reader into (perhaps) feeling lucky to be alive, even in a life which often feels overwhelming, aimless, useless, and terrible.

The whole experience of the book was like looking into a dark tunnel, reaching for the poetic black void, seeking to escape into what feels like freedom but also terror. Looking for a hand to hold but never quite touching it. Whatever this feeling is, be it longing or simply the nature of humanity to reach, to search, to seek, I have it in me. And to read of it in such a bizarrely crafted  story made me feel both more and less crazy, both more and less alone.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Moshfegh reveals that an artist friend once told her,

“Whatever it is that you’re going to do, you can’t just fit into the mold—you have to break the mold, blow people’s minds, do it perfectly, and then not care . . . Because if you care you’re not cool, and if you’re not cool you’re shit.”

Moshfegh, of course, cares a great deal. In fact, she goes on to explain her perspective on creating while describing why she ended a relationship with an ex,

“He told me in the middle of an argument that being an artist was something that weak people indulge in, and I made him leave, because I guess what I feel is the opposite of that . . . I think art is the thing that fixes culture, moment by moment. I don’t really feel a reason to exist unless I feel my life has a purpose, which is creating. So I feel—I’m not going to call it pressure—I feel I have a karmic role to play.”

Writing strangely as karma. Writing, even if it is dark and nearly shapeless, as the point, as the purpose. This is intensely fascinating to me perhaps because I was brought up to believe there were very clear lines between what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad,’ what is worthy and unworthy, worthwhile and a waste of one’s energies and skills, moral and immoral. But the mysterious Moshfegh inverts everything I have been taught to believe about what I am “allowed” to do with writing, with creativity, with art.

It is so rare for me to find an author who truly sinks her claws into me, who will not let me get away from her madness so easily, but Ottessa Moshfegh is such a creature. Meanwhile, I toss my empty coffee into the trash, brush the grass from my shorts, and head off into this life I’ve got pulsing through my slim little veins, a life of nothingness, wilderness, bliss and grime and grit.

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Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

I Walk Right Through You

I bite my lip and hold my tongue as the fog rolls in, thick, heavy, white, like a translucent apparition wrapped around the stained glass hallways of my mind. The air coming in through the bedroom window is so damp it wets the sheets I’m spread out on, they are gummy against the stickiness of my bare skin. I shouldn’t leave the window cracked open but I can’t write if I feel trapped. It wastes the a/c and causes the glass to frost over with cool mist so I can’t see the outline of trees, just a greenish blue glob of darkness beyond the droplets of sliding pale blue sky. I shouldn’t smoke indoors but I do, I shouldn’t drink so much but I’m fairly certain by now that fuck everything is a new kind of pop religion counterculture. The only logical reaction to a 24/8 nihilistic news cycle, yoni eggs, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the ridiculousness of ‘self-care’ touted on social media platforms built to sell you back to yourself over and over again for cheap. You thought maybe I could entertain you, keep you company, stand at the center of the ring underneath the pink satin lights of a candy-striped summer evening. Drink champagne with you. Dance for you. You thought maybe I would make you feel safe and seen and heard and worshiped for a while. As I stood before you naked, blank, stared off into a distance where I exist only as light, only as sound, a distance I knew you would never see because your heart is closed while your eyes are hungry, lazy, ignorant. Your mouth, warm and affectionate, twisting your hips in the hopes of opening doors. When I leave you, the discomfort is stale on my gums like the aftertaste of the last crumpled cigarette from the bottom of my bag. It will do the trick in case of emergency. In case there is no other way out, you always have me, you figure, which is good enough for now. But even as I walk the gray stone streets of this unfeeling city, heavy with chunks of glass buildings lodged in my chest, underneath the rubble I can still feel you. The pulse of your hopeful devotion keeping time with my heels on the pavement. The faintness of your tattered heart, oblivious, still quietly beating.

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Photo by Kevin Laminto

May I Tell You About the Rain (audio)

May I tell you about the rain? It is now falling softly upon the grassy lawn outside my bedroom window, as the sun is gently trying to peel through a rough scatter of deep purple gray clouds. I can see the yellowed melon rays glinting along the drainpipe which runs down the corner of the house across the street. I can’t explain why but there is this very real fear inside of me, throbbing in the center of my bones, that if I cannot tell you about the rain, I may as well not exist at all underneath this skin which tingles at even the tiniest idea, the smallest suggestion of the sound of poetry. Sizzles with the heat of anticipation, possibility, and dread, the clasp of an invisible hand around my heart whose fingers subtly press, squeezing tight enough to pump the veins full of fresh crimson concern. I am alive with the rain, I am alive for it. The rain, meanwhile, with its wide ancient mind set upon other things, has moved out across the fields away from me and I can no longer hear its tiny drops on the hot pavement. But the scent of its memory comes in a gauzy wave through the window where I sit, coffee in hand, head in an alternate universe. I miss all the things I have not yet written about. I carry the rain inside when it goes away. When I tell you about the rain, I am wondering if you can hear what I am saying. Are you able to listen beneath the listening. Do you understand that the rain is not a substance but a sensation, that it is an experience with which I am deeply involved, in which I am eternally invested. Some may read this and call it madness, obsession, nonsense. I am well aware of that kind of thing by now. But I feel it is important to note, that in one’s single precious life, there should be a very important difference acknowledged between what one is simply aware of and what one is willing to give one’s self over to completely, heavily, dramatically, wholly. What altar at which one deliberately decides to worship. And if you have paid me any mind at all, and I do hope you have because I truly do wish to exist, you will understand that I’ve yet to find anything, living or deceased, more worthy than the rain.

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Photo by Esther Ann

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.

The Whole of Who You Are

Ryan Moreno

It’s all connected. Your art. Your expression. Your fear. Your love. Your lust. Your sin. Your addiction. Your joy. Your power. Your beauty. Your friendships. Your lovers. Your interests. Your dreams. Your shame. Your needs. Your wants. Your voice. Your visions. Your escapes. What you hide. What you share. What you offer. What you deny. What you withhold. What you study. What you focus on. What you value. What you worship. What you believe. What you refuse to accept about who you are. The illusion is that you have to choose. Your soul comes not in pieces, but whole. The secret is to open your heart and mind and being to all of it. To swallow it whole, and accept and accept and accept. This is to heal. This is to recover, which can also mean to reclaim, to re-discover, to reveal, to uncover, to get back all of who you are.