Straight No Chaser

Spreading my fingers out over the keyboard, I feel certain this is where I belong even if it doesn’t come out right. I’ve cracked a window open and the air coming in smells like the slightest touch of spring. It dares me to imagine warmer weather moving closer and I almost do.

It’s that time in winter when you are desperate for even just a lick of spring. The trees are dead and the sky is cold in a way that numbs your heart and hardens your skin.

And yet something inside will not loosen its hold around the hope that we just may come through unscathed, alive.

It is, of course, too late for that. Some winters leave scars.

How do you destroy a world? First you lie about it. Then you convince everyone, including yourself, that the lie is the truth. You take reality by the hair and force her face into the dirt. You value money more than people and some people more than others.

We try to live in the space between terror and trust. Our hands tremble when we touch. We reach for a pill, we reach for a gun, but the threat is invisible and it’s found its way inside. It has already multiplied and cannot be undone.

He used to stroke my ego and I used to like it. Told me how beautiful I was, how he could gaze into my eyes for all eternity and stay inside my body forever. For a while I tucked my entire being underneath the promise of that.

But beauty fades and he faded even faster, into the nothingness that is the randomness of a brief encounter with a stranger.

We grasp at straws while praying for wings. We can’t shake the feeling that everything we ever wanted is just around the corner if only we could figure out which corner. But the whispers are only the wind. We circle the block, around and around again.

Our eyes scan the white upon frozen white of winter across the endless hills as we gnash our teeth against the indifference of the cold.

Even still, not everything we wish for is warm. Not everything that’s warm intends to bring us back to life.

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

Swallow It Down

The pavement is as dry as my mouth inside the long hallway of my bleak emotions. I think back to a time before time meant to me what it means to me now.

Before I realized my life was in my own hands. Before I knew no one was coming to save me and there was no way out of this alive.

I’m tracing a heart into the fogged back window of our old blue Chevy. I can’t be more than twelve years old, my torn up jeans hanging from my lanky frame. My fingernails are long and painted cotton candy pink. J + A in the center of the heart shape, with an arrow piercing right through it.

You want nothing more than a kiss then. Dancing in the darkness of the musty gymnasium. Stairway to Heaven, grape soda and Skittles. Your heart throbbing in your chest, smoke, sweat, and the anticipation of something you don’t even understand yet. But you want it. You just know you want it and you want it so bad.

We learn to crave dark things. We learn there are some desires we should not speak about to anyone but our diaries. We learn to drown for years and years without making a sound.

As the rain begins to really come down, I forget my day dreaming and remember my own skin. I hear the crunch of my boots on the ground as I make my way through the long winding streets toward the life I have built on a hill in the distance.

The dark heavy storm clouds gather in close circles and I look up at the thickness of the falling globes of water. I sense the pleasure of the feeling of swirling chaos, an atmosphere alive and electric with the change of season.

All we ask is redemption from who we became before we knew it could have all been different.

I open my mouth and swallow the weather. I have been thirsty for so long.

 

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Photo by Jasmin Schreiber

Sometimes the Darkness Helps

We build our temples up to the sky hoping it will save us but we don’t know why or what from until it’s too late to do anything about in any case.

As I wind my way along Main Street, my boots crunch against the snowy sidewalk and my eyes follow the structures of the mansions on either side of the narrowing road. A lot of money buys a lot of pretty real estate. What’s that saying? He who dies with the most toys? Still dies.

One of the biggest places has a bunch of flags flying from their many ornate balconies. Some shit about patriotism and conspiracy theory somehow making so such sense to them they have to fly banners and announce to the world that they mean to come fuck it all up.

So much privilege. So much angst.

Wealth is a kind of blindness. A way to see and not see. A selection, a distraction. I have met people like this. Eyes and smiles all glazed over with the palpable fear and panic which courses through their jittery veins.

I take the last drag of my cigarette and toss it into a snow bank where it glows, then burns out in a flash of frozen winter air.

Somewhere across this town and on the border of the next, a guy with a lot of problems stands on the edge of a bridge which over looks a wide rushing river, churning its icy currents down toward a massive waterfall. He stares into the whirling darkness of its bottomless depths and wonders if he will ever be free.

If freedom is a thing you have to take for yourself in the best way you know how even if it isn’t in this life. Maybe there is a next. Maybe to leap is to fly and to fly is to escape. Second chances. Second looks. Second guesses.

As a plow truck shoves dirty snow into a pile against the corner where the coffee shop hums with fragrant activity, I watch the blinking traffic lights and stare off into the distance in the direction of the white church steeple high up in the hills, covered in bare black trees and worn out gray winter snow.

So many heroes, so many saviors, so many false gods.

The atmosphere, for the rich and the poor, the young and old and somewhere lost in between, is heavy.

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Photo by Mitchell Hollander

Before You Lose It All

Gun metal gray shadows slope along the snow covered roofs of the houses standing stark against the cold blue of the winter sky.  The entirety of the years gone by curls into a clear crystal ball and slides itself down into a frozen spike of sheer thick ice, slowly dripping from the slant of an old wooden doorway hidden away off the street.

Time melting into place before suddenly breaking off and shattering into a million pieces against the pavement. A million tiny globular tears glistening like jewels in the frigid white February sun.

He hates this time of year because the bitter cold keeps him from plunging into the ocean, but we still walk this beach anyway, all bundled like two Eskimos, sipping on this or that to keep warm.

I read somewhere that the warmth you feel from alcohol is deceiving and can get you killed in extreme cold. The alcohol draws the blood into your extremities and heats them up instead of protecting the vital organs which need the heat to keep you alive. Neither here nor there at the moment I guess, but if you ever find yourself facing down a case of hypothermia, ditch the bottle is what I’m telling you they would tell you.

Life can be cruel. It can scream and chase and gnaw at you despite all your best efforts to keep the hurt at bay. Life can push you to your limits and then stomp on your neck all the same with little care for even the slightest choke of your mortal struggle.

But for now at least, there is he and I and the endless ocean tides crashing against this thunderous, deserted beach. The sand, the water, our hearts and our shadows stretching out endlessly before us.

As I look up at the too bright sky, I can see the sun and the moon suspended there together which seems eerie and strange like they shouldn’t occupy the same sky even though they always do.  It occurs to me it’s kind of sweet and kind of stupid how we spend our whole lives trying to compartmentalize the universe – past, present, future, good, bad, beginning, end, middle – when the truth is it’s all there all the time, staring back at you all at once.

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Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra

Untouchable

You’re afraid you’re losing it all to them.

To the young. To the rich. To the beautiful.

It happens so fast you are shocked by the jerk of the rug being yanked out from under you. When did the crumbling begin? When did the circles ring your eyes like saucers.

Like a punch in the face of the pale precious moon who orbits your shy little life. Lets her dark eye seep all over you. Lights up against the fears you try to escape in the dark. Lights them up like a mute scream in a dream in which the ground races beneath your feet but you can’t move.

You could be nicer and quit ruining things for everybody else, you know. You could sit quietly and do as they ask of you and do as you are told to do, so they wouldn’t have to waste so much time keeping you in line. Inside the lines.

But you know something they don’t know and never can and never will. You know the fire in your bones burns from a place they don’t believe in even when you show them the scars.

You know the possibilities because you have been mapping your own desires your entire life. It scares you, the things you know about yourself. The things you hide that you wish you didn’t.

It was never about youth and it was never about beauty. It was always about pain and your endurance of it. Your craving for it. Your running from it. Your conversations with it. Inviting it in. Kicking it out. Chasing after it again.

It was always about the way you were stronger than they ever had to be.

It was always about the freedom to say the thing you need to say. To write the perverse, the meaningful, the crushing gasp of the truth they would not see.

You are losing it all at the hands of a time gone by that you can never get back. You are losing your grip on the things they told you to hold most dear. And the letting go feels just fine. And you laugh at the gods in the face of the sky as you drift higher and higher out of the body they stitched you into when you were small.

It was never about them; always about you. You as ageless, you as timeless, you as endless. You as some kind of impenetrable thing which can never be touched and never be held on to.

It was always about the way you can only be you and nobody else, and how that devastates and gratifies you all at once.

In the deep wells of your ancient soul, you know this.

Since the beginning of time, you always knew.

 

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Photo by Hugo Tasca

 

Twitch

What she saw before is gone now, replaced by gray dishes in a gray sink beneath a gray window beneath the clouded winter sky. The kind of sight which is a presence all its own, with its own weight and skin and intention.

Steady. Slow. Melancholy.

Life is for the ignorant and death is for the curious.

She has become the circumstance and the story. Her mind floating in the middle of no beginning and an uncertain ever-ebbing end.

All day she smiles and tries to blend in. Whittle away at the space she takes up.

The thought of rejection scares her to bits but the thought of solitude is her only comfort. Wanting to be alone and not alone is an exhausting mind-stretched space to inhabit so she opens a bottle to drown out the ricocheting pressure of the need to make any kind of decision one way or another.

In or out. Yes or no. Forward or back.

Truth or dare.

They tell her a hobby would help or maybe a man but she isn’t sure what help is supposed to actually mean so she picks up some arty shit at the craft place up the street and stares at it until finally shoving it all under the bed, lighting a cigarette and staring off into the gray distance.

Never minding the gray dishes in the gray sink.

She doesn’t want to draw this feeling. She doesn’t want to paint the terrible.

Writing is the only thing worth anything to her but that’s the problem right there: writing isn’t like anything else and it isn’t a hobby.

It’s everything real and sacred and true and it is the only thing that can save her because it has to.

It has to.

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Photo by Victoria Volkova

Far Away From Here

Closing my eyes and sucking a drag of my cigarette, I take in the cold feel of the frigid night air against my skin. It’s been a day and I’m happy enough to swallow the end of it down with the wine and the smoke and the tiny pricks of sadness and loss which never seem to quite leave me no matter how good the good things get.

The thick wet trunks of a half dozen large maple trees encircle me at the back of the yard and if I look up and peer into the pitch darkness, I begin to see beyond the stretch of their bare branches, the stars pierce through the void, little twinkling rushes of dead light, each its own jagged race to burst and burn out in a flash, light years away from the blink of an eye.

Encircled by the blackness, I imagine the owl who used to spend nights and dawns in these trees swooping down and taking his place on a high perch. I used to love his cooing sounds, and would lie in bed holding my breath waiting for each little moan and hoot. There was something so warm and soothing in the hollowness of his presence, his majestic solitude, his solemn song sung monotonous into the empty night for reasons I did not need to understand.

Some people are like that, though they are few and so far between. Most are noise and excuses. But there are some who are creatures of quiet wisdom, with a fierce kind of late night elegance which haunts you as smoothly as it tears into your veins with its sharp curved claws.

Though I am alone in this moment, I imagine eyes all around. The eyes of the trees and the night and the shadows and the animals, all turned upward toward the midnight sky.

If only we could get away from here. If only our roots weren’t so mangled and tight the way they wrap around the frozen barren ground.

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Photo by engin akyurt

Run, Girl

Beyond the painful thoughts which stab and prick underneath my skin, there is a field of beautiful dreams which I create out of desperation or maybe because I have always believed in magic while cursing the manic grief that is the current state of affairs in a world turned bitter and diseased.

The sun glares so bright against the hills of snow I have to squint and shield my eyes for fear of going blind. Everything is covered in shimmering crystal and for a while I know that I am made of it. Clean. Prismatic. That in each ray of light which bounces off of each tiny droplet of frozen water and ice, I exist shining for all to see across the miles.

When the world has all gone to shit and the weight of it on my tiny bones is too much to take, I run off to be alone, to unhook myself from the walls they pin me to so they can take what they want and leave the rest. There are vultures and they are everywhere and they do not smile or turn their heads, but rather pierce you square in the mouth with their dead black eyes. Blood suckers. Fools. Maggots.

In the field I am alone with the sky, the grass, the earth, sun, moon, birds, animals, butterflies, flowers, trees. It is every hour of every season all at once and the ocean breathes its way through the tall stalks as I am one with all of my surroundings.

I am not the cage of my body or the fence around my mind.

I am only expansion, uncontained, unowned. Free. Beautiful. Raw. It’s the rawness that is the most beautiful. A creature dangerous in its unpredictability.

I am not who I pretend to be to get along in this world which crushes out the soul like a cigarette under its thick dirty boot.

Ever since I turned twelve, I have had this nagging little fear of going to wide open spaces alone because: murderers. It may sound insane but there is this thing that always happens to me, and I do mean always.

No matter where it is, an empty beach, an empty street, an empty classroom, hallway, deli, restaurant. Out of nowhere, a stranger will appear and he will act strangely near me, at me, to me. I have done nothing but exist alone minding my business, and the universe will sense my aloneness and send in some manner of lunatic to interrupt my solitude with their unhinged antics.

It is maddening. It stunts my life. Makes me paranoid, jumpy, distracted.

Perhaps for this reason, in my mind I run into that field of dreams to escape the world which seems to stalk me back into myself.

Perhaps we are all someone we don’t want to be. And yet perhaps we wish we were so much more of ourselves at the same time.

Because the truth is that the animal within is monumental in its power to tempt. To betray. To seduce. To see, to touch, to awaken. To dare, to jump, to leap, to fly.

To kill.

To multiply.

To say No. To say Yes.

To open and open and open endlessly, do you understand? When you show them exactly what you are, you show them exactly what they are.

But they are too terrified to see.

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Photo by Dima Kosh

Fixations

He thinks I’m morbid but the truth is this is just how I am. I need to get a grip around my feelings and I like my feelings strong, vivid, unmistakable for anyone else’s but mine.

Some may call it intensity but for me it exists as heat, sensation, a presence which calls to me and cannot be denied, from which I cannot turn away, until I am able to map it out in all of its intricate intimacy.

Truth versus reality. A harshness of tone. All of this is textured in the patterns of my mind. I don’t know how to just be in this world. There is always a gnawing, a craving, a need. I read poetry to stroke my inner longing. A masturbation of the body of emotions.

You are only and always alone in the reading of poetry. The effects of the words on you, no matter how sinister, remain unseen by the outside world.

I am stalked by a dreadful feeling that these observations of mine will disappear before I may grasp them in full. That I will one day lose them even though they are, by definition, constantly leaving, repeatedly over, and there is nothing to be done about it because the nature of life is the steady destruction of everything.

Morbid is a matter of taste and inclination, not a matter of fact.

Snow is mixing in now with the freezing rain, the frozen drops soaring sideways just beyond the glass. The cruel sound of the wind lashes against my skin all over.

It’s not the big things that trouble me.

It’s the little things, the everyday terrors that grate underneath the surface of the hours. As the ice sprays like razors against my window, the silence in the house crawls upon my shoulders, pressing them in. I hate the hour from two to three o’clock in the afternoon. It is a mean hour indeed, like a glare, like a coldness caught out of the side of the eye.

It approaches and then there is something stubborn in the way it drags itself like nails down an empty wall.

In the dimming afternoon light, I trace the shadows in the corner with my tired almond eyes, following their eerie edges and wayward curves.

There is a shape in the heart which does not resemble the animal it is fitted within. Time ages the skin and whittles the bones, but the fire inside burns just as bright as it ever has.

The child, the shaken creature transported to earth from an alternate mysterious realm knows nothing about time, only eternity. Only forever.

Perhaps it’s the slowness of the ticking of the old clock on the desk that maddens me. Perhaps the way the lines on my hands resemble the waves of my hair or the smell of cold winter in the rings around my coffee mug.

The way mornings become afternoons without so much as a whisper.

The way the night slides in with its claws and its blood and its teeth.

Eyes fixed on me.

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Photo by Malicki M Beser

Tempt the Tides

Fire flickers in my chest, I feel its heavy heat as I look up into the bluegray sky, dark with promise, thick with secrets I keep to myself.

The wind is shaking the trees, hard and stiff they sway from the pressure. The invisible air makes a crushing sound against my window pane, pushing, pushing, roughing up the atmosphere like a shoving into and out of place.

We learn to shift. We learn to lose. We learn to surrender. We learn our flexibility and our strength. I think of lovers who have moved me, startled me, awakened me.

Wanting something else. The recklessness of that. To dare the wreckage of that. To tempt the pain. Tempt the tides. Bend the waves.

He speaks to me in silence. I come to him in the same manner, hauntingly still. Desperately eager, hungry, empty, alert. I know what I want. I know I have not found it yet.

Or no, that isn’t quite right. I have caught glimpses of it.

Felt its soft black feathers swinging in the soft flesh of my throat, my breast, my center. The words which unlock my timidity. My experience of the truth sometimes feels like begging, pleading.

I have dreams where I cannot find the way, door after door, hallway into hallway, endlessly. I hate it and I trust it. The only way is no way at all. The only way is never ending and alone.

Perhaps as poets we know only to reach out for phantom things.

Open our mouths against the words which may or may not come.

What would you die for. What does it look like. What does it feel like.

It isn’t what they told you, is it. It is never like they told you.

You cannot name it. But god, how you bleed for it, seek for it.

This exquisiteness you swear you’re made of

vanishing inside

behind the burning sun.

 

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Photo by Pietro Tebaldi