Ruined for Life

There are things they don’t tell you about yourself. Things they don’t tell you because they don’t fit and things they withhold because they can’t accept that they exist. Ignorance is bliss is numbness is annihilation. There are drinks that flow from a bottomless bottle and screams you throw away into an angry wind atop a rocky stone bridge which leads you no where you want to go. Wet with tears. Wet with rain. Wet with sex just before dawn followed by a day too bright, nursing a hangover, the one you swore you’d never let happen after the last time. The last time you saw him. The last time you lost yourself in a dream of colored lights, dancing underneath the moon for all the sweet recklessness of youth. As I write my mouth waters, I curl and bite and chew my bottom lip in anticipation of the story I’m trying so desperately to mold into existence. Have you ever read a line in a book that takes you out into the middle of a darkness you recognize as yourself, and left you there all alone? It’s a little bit romantic isn’t it? The way he took you into the graveyard just over the hills late at night, pulled your hair back and put his fingers in your mouth. God you’re so fucking pretty. Have you ever let a lover go and felt it like knives in your throat, blades to the stomach. What a wretched game this life, this choking on the bones of what you thought was safety but turns out it was a joke and everyone knew it except for you. There are things you do not tell yourself because you can’t bear the way it streaks the sky red behind your swollen eyelids. Staring into the sun until your eyes burn white, you have become a creature unrecognizable to yourself. Too much darkness, too much light, they’ll blind you just the same. And yet. And yet the itching comes and goes, sometimes it’s madness and sometimes it’s just a dizzy cluster of small butterflies thrumming about, just playthings this poetry and prose. Little thunderclouds hovering on a distant horizon, rolling out or rolling in, it’s all the same. In the shadows little fireflies, you can see them breathing as they glow, up and up they go. There is a promise in the touching of faces as two souls collide. There is a secret that nobody knows, which folds in a locket tucked close to my breast. There are the words pressed against my skin like cream colored linen. There is a rose colored beauty in the sunset which is taking down the sky.

You Take and You Take

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Lighting a cigarette as I sit against the tall windows, I am watching the street cars sliding along down below, the thin glass cold against my bare shoulder. They said it was supposed to snow around dusk and sure enough, in the final strokes of evening, the twilight sky has turned reddish purple as the snowflakes begin to fall in earnest. Street lights and crystal globes glittering behind me, I turn to look at you as you work a small flame in the fireplace, coaxing it into a soft roar. I swallow my whiskey and walk to you, feeling the delicious warmth smother my insides. The way you look at me tugs at everything tender. In your eyes I feel beautiful even as the stuff of violence and lust clutches in my chest. Embers flashing and crackling through the smoke, the darkened room becomes the outer reaches of the universe and we are satellites in orbit high above the earth, my hands skim down your arms as we kiss, our tongues dancing, tasting, searching each other. The taste of you is ocean in winter, is the clarity of sunlight falling through pines in a secluded wood. Easily, forcefully, you pin my hands, you lay me down. It is deliberate in its freedom, the motions of your body as you hunt and devour, the pleasure you take from me. What we have is strange and twisted. What we create tears at the skin, drives waves of crimson tides through the body and floods over the mind. Sweet brutality of touch. I bloom and bear fruit at your command. Shadows moving along the walls, shadows full of protruding eyes, observant in the darkness. As night falls all around us, snow swirling in prismatic cyclones, you take me into the fear, your breath is fire in my veins. You take and you take and you take from me, anything that burns you.

Laid Bare

People want to talk about themselves and they will if you let them and mostly I do because so few of them listen anyway. To tell stories about myself, what would be the point? We are selfish and we are empty shells, kicking the can down the road in the quiet evening light. Pulling the cork out of a freshly chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, always New Zealand) I pour myself a proper glass as I’m reading Patti Smith’s enchanting The Coral Sea. I am struck by how much her work resembles the lucid dreamlike state in Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest. Nin writes with fascinating precision about the strangest of encounters with dismembered bodies, fish swimming through air, faceless figures in maze-like buildings set back within thick tangles of ivy covered walls. If ever a mind could turn me on and trip me out it was hers. Meanwhile, Smith’s book is a lengthy poem written to honor the tragic early death, and brilliant artistic life, of Robert Mapplethorpe, her lifelong beloved friend and partner in crime when it came to barely living on scraps of acid and nothing and chasing one’s own creative vision, one’s own style of expressing love, passion, erotica, power, creation. Not technically an artist myself, I’m often taken in with artist types, the way they see things of remarkable obscurity, the way they speak about them using everything but words, how they encapsulate a concept, distill it, reinvent it, reveal its sensuality, weakness, vulnerability. In all things there exists a beg, a want, a need, and it takes a certain sort of twisted sense to be able to pluck that wantonness free and expose it for all to witness. There is a savageness, a cruelty, a beauty. I once knew an artist who would make huge canvases covered in erratic lines of thick charcoal, and thin pencil, in broad block like formations. He would create some massive, expansive piece inside his bare bones studio, share it with me, and I would express for him in poetic language exactly how it made me feel, what I sensed within it. What I saw always affected me more deeply the longer I observed it. I can remember being completely entranced by the movement I sensed within his art which also seemed to move within me. Sometimes the lines and forms would be spare upon the large white space, sometimes there would appear an imbalance, a heaviness of dark black charcoal smeared together as if a storm, a passion, a wickedness. Some were raw. Some reminded me of ruins. Like the way an ancient building crumbles away from itself in a most haunting display of romantic destruction. With the viewing of the work came the crumbling down of my own walls within, I could feel my blood running in my veins, my breath deserting me. He could take down my defenses, he could take down my fear even as he reflected it back to me in large scale installations, with these strokes he’d slash from ceiling to floor in a warehouse somewhere hidden in a far off wood. I cannot remember the words I would use to tell him about my feelings because they fell from my memory the moment I laid them bare, but in my mind I can still remember image after stunning image of those lines crisscrossing, jutting in and out of one another’s formations, and being awestruck that a human mind could make these so, could manipulate, make them exist in a way which affected me on a cellular level. On a level I was certain only the artist and I could understand. He would tell me the words I used were eerily familiar, as though he had the feelings I would describe but never the words. This is how one makes love when one is held captive by another. Another work of hardness and severity. Another work of brilliance mangled within chaos. Another who is unafraid of the darkness, the mysterious heaven of willing exposure to pleasure and pain. What is madness, what is art, what is love, but the seeing of things that no one else sees.

Please Don’t Go

As the rain comes down angry and hard against my window, I curl deeper into my cocoon of warm blankets and pillows while attempting to thread through the million thoughts gripping my insides at once. In between the rooftops scattered with pigeons shuffling for space among their dirty huddle, the sharp point of a church steeple pierces a dark low hanging cloud, as if probing it to unload its heaviness onto the sleepy streets below. Behind the weather, morning creeps, slowly turning the driving rain into a thinning drizzle, the crystal droplets intermingling with the wafting white smoke coming from multiple chimneys across the way. The sky is charcoal gray, back lit with an eerie yellow light which makes the atmosphere feel unpredictable, unfriendly. Full of voices struggling to be heard. They are as sinister as they are honest. In every swaying branch there twists a ghost come alive from my haunted past, still shallow breathing, still waiting to take my hand, to grip my throat. Last I saw you I had been impossible and knew it. Sometimes I can’t help the way I shut down like a vault, trapping all of my feelings inside. For someone so blindly obsessed with words, my tight lipped demeanor doesn’t make any sense to you. You are pissed, certain I’m withholding on purpose, locking you on the outside while I am conniving on the inside, but your anger only fuels my refusal and the air between us becomes a fuse. Love is a ticking time bomb, love is a train gone off its slippery rails. When it all feels helpless, useless, desperate, there are no guidelines, no rule books, no referees. And if there is one thing a human being is good at it’s being stubborn, I’m no different and neither are you. As I sit in clipped silence, my mind flashes back to that night in your apartment, as you poured our drinks I sat comfortably in a bra and leggings on the edge of your couch near the mirror, lining my eyes in onyx liquid ink. As I traced my blue eyes until they were black as midnight I sipped on gin and tonic while imagining us naked, our bodies entwined in positions I’d only heard about but had yet to explore. Back then everything was so loud. The drinking, the music, the anger, the passion, the sex that shook the walls and split us both in two over and over again. I wonder when you look at me can you see it in my eyes. That freedom is just as hard for me as captivity, and in some ways just as sweet. That all my life I’ve been hunted. That even on a cold wet morning which threatens a snowfall that will have us stuck inside for days, my heart still burns with the fire of a young girl who knew what she wanted as soon as she saw it and took it without asking a single soul for permission. I hold on and I hold back. I want to be consecrated and I want to be shattered into a million pieces, thrown out into a wild winter sky. Lost and found and missed and deserted. Words can heal, words can obliterate. Please be patient. Please don’t go. I am a chapel as much as I am a cave, and what I explore in the darkness is the only light I ever learned to trust.

Open Wide

There’s always a chance, a terrible chance but a real one none the less, that you may never write again. That all the things you are dying to say will fall away for good and neither your tongue nor your fingers nor your mind will be able to offer you any way out of yourself again. Perhaps it’s writers block, or perhaps you will just have used it all up and for no reason whatsoever the magic will have gone the way of old record players and static transistor radios. A distant memory of a time when you knew exactly who you were and wouldn’t let go for anything or anyone. Your life was yours, as was the way you told it. Was there ever such a time? A time with no rules and no expectations? Without being able to write, you could not access any of the answers you seek. And without any answers, what are you at all but lost among the wreckage. And the minute that fear of dead inspiration finally settles into your skin, you can feel the panic in the pit of your stomach. There’s wine, there’s smokes, there’s the taking of a warm body into your bed. There are thoughts he wants to know about and thoughts you can’t express. Two days away from the pen, three days, a week, and now everything is a red fiery sunset behind the eyes of every stranger, every lover, every one who speaks to you no matter what they say, all you can hear is the mashing together of the words erupting from the mess you carry deep inside. They talk and you pretend to listen. They lament and you pretend to care but, jesus christ, you are spent. Can’t they tell your jittery mind needs your undivided attention? Your bones, your thoughts, the very life beating in your chest, so precious and so fleeting, and all they want to do is flick cigarettes into the gutter and complain about not having won the fucking lottery. People are absurd and all the while they’ve no idea they are anything of the sort. Walking the streets on a gray afternoon, as fallen leaves swirl and crunch along the pavement, I am lost in thoughts of the many things we never speak about and why we never do. Is it that the words are too soft or too sharp? Too real, too true, too irretrievable? How frightening to be revealed for who you truly are when your whole life you’ve done such a good job of covering up the scars, the failures, the claws. The secrets we keep, who are we keeping them from? Those we’d hurt? Those we love? Ourselves? I can count on one hand the number of people who understand me and the list gets shorter every year that passes away into the soundless ether. Is it me, or is it them? Or is it that people are so consumed with nothingness inside their phones that we are simply, second by slim ignorant second, ebbing ever away from each other. Far be it from me to say or judge, considering I’d rather be alone most of the time anyway. Humans are troubled and I’ve had enough of their self-made woes. It’s always the ones with the farthest reaches of undeserved power who complain the loudest, demand the most. Tell me something that will last forever. Tell me a truth so beautiful it breaks your heart to know it and have no way to properly express it. There are feelings without words to accompany them, only tears, only screams. These are the feelings I obsess over without relent. Give me a thought that cuts through all the bullshit and electrifies the night sky with a single promise you’ll never be able to keep but with each and every drop of blood in your timid veins you will try, try to believe until your breath leaves your weakened body for the last time. When I round the corner and slip inside the coffee shop, the envelope of warm air and cinnamon mixed with coffee beans surrounds and welcomes me. I write here when I can’t write at home but nothing much good ever comes of it. It’s hard to concentrate when lives are being lived out all around you in hushed detail. Someone’s lying, someone’s pregnant, someone’s promoted, someone’s leaving. Someone got stood up, someone can’t put down the bottle. Someone is lonely and they are not saying it out loud. The elderly are crumbling and the newborns are needy and it’s all life in little coffee mugs, in little capsules of humanity huddled against the frosted window pane with it’s glittering snowflakes carefully painted into place within the white noise. But you and I, we are so much more than this. While they disintegrate in their small houses lined straight in rows like headstones in graveyards under forgotten skies, we are angels soaring high over endless snow covered hills.

The Story of Your Life

Nuzzled awake by a soft sunrise sliding its fingers through my bedroom window, I’m already in deep contemplation about what to do with my stacks and stacks of old journals which now do nothing but prop up potted plants and collect dust in the corner of my writing room. So many years, so many words, so many thousands of pages of nothing more than hopes and dreams of becoming something more than just a no name writer holed up in a small room overlooking a life of mediocrity and patience. As the hourglass pours through its allotted portion one minuscule grain of sand at a time, we begin and we hesitate. We dream and we wake, we bleed and we quiver and in the end it’s just hot coffee on a freezing cold morning in mid November, baseboard heater pumping and creaking away beneath a pale blue sky, pierced by a slim line of naked young trees. The notebooks though, I have never quite known what to do with them. And as I mull it over, I keep penning more and more still, thus compounding my dilemma. Old memories and angst filled pages, I’m sure, and I want nothing to do with reading through them again but I have this strange (admittedly completely unfounded) concern that if I threw the lot of them all out in the trash at once some random waste management worker will actually sit and read them laughing and judging and cursing me all the way. This random person would read through my entire story and have all the answers I could never find because they would see all of the things I couldn’t. My life can often feel like looking at an object up so close it is impossible to see what it is. Or perhaps by unbelievably ridiculous chance, an artist would come upon the journals and make a terrible movie of their wayward story. I’d be humiliated, mortified, exposed, and get no credit whatsoever. I could burn them, page by page, one clear winter night alone by a fire sipping wine, smoking cigarettes and letting everything I’ve ever been through, cried about, tore my heart to shreds over, go up in dark clumps of exotic smoke, ember and ash. As I gaze up at the moon still hung there on this early morning, I think about how she is the same cratered moon who has been spinning about me all my life. And no matter what I do with the journals, whatever it was that moved my hand to write the things I would never dare speak aloud, moves deep within me still. I could destroy and dismember the material but the skeletons walk within me until I’m no longer. I could take the pages out to sea. Let the tide wash them clean as salt water does all things, drops of ocean, drops of tears only a woman could understand and only in the privacy of a heart worn thin but still warm, still beating. We are of fire and water, wind and earth and spirit. Little transient fools of beauty and lust, fury, vision, and bone. Dust to dust, our bodies and our stories.

In My Hands, the Shape of You

And yet I am unable to recall your face. Memory blinks in and out, the fade of a single dying star in a midnight fog. Atoms circling at the center of a universe which repeats itself, rippling outward until all is what was, what will ever be. Featureless, you move within me as rib, thigh, muscle, bone. The blood in my mouth, the blood of you. My body a map of the heady taste of you. My hands as they reach for the moon, silken fingers trembling, still resemble the shape of you. Uneven cobblestone streets on early autumn evenings, we walk together in lavender light as wild geese soar silent overhead. Their black silhouettes stark against white sky.  Some people suffer unspeakable deaths while others continue to exist on heels more and more uncertain. You should have been here. You should have opened your mercury eyes of hallowed vision inside the sweetness of morning bird song. You should have shone bright as the sun on a cold winter dawn. You with a glass of wine, sitting on the edge of the claw foot tub as my body soaks away another day, another year, another lifetime we thought would never end. You read for me, some mythical passage which spoke without words, only an emotion I cannot name but recognize as ours and ours alone. Nothing from nothing ever yet was born. Lucretius. De rerum natura. What was it in the movement of your voice that resembled ocean cradled in droplets of moonbeam, felt like swimming to the bottom of the earth, all creatures bowed on elegant knee, each a return to its own beginning. The haunt of you, eerily specific, the ghost of you a finger print upon a stain-glass mind. Your hand on the curve of my ivory hip, your mouth thirsty at the pulse of my neck. I was alive, eager, expectant. As our season in my palm turned red, the seal of the scar at the edge of a knife, you were gone. On a road far off, the wind catches dry leaves as they scratch and spin on the pavement. Little cyclones, little deaths dancing. As the universe begins to collapse into itself, I become aware of a face at the window of a house boarded up long ago. A shadow falling out across snow.

Mouth Full of Diamonds

Coming alive for you as you stroke my tenderest places, my breathing is ragged as I try to describe how writing a perfect poem is like building to a perfect orgasm. You want it to bloom petal by soft petal opening under expert touch, you want the layers to send wave after wave of ache and heat until finally you can no longer breathe for the beauty of it all and heavenly desecration spills over upon the page, dripping from finger and mouth and tongue. Impressed by how little my need to tell stories even during such intimate moments distracts you from finishing what you started, I turn over while still quivering and you work me from behind until your desperation rattles the walls and shatters us into weightless shimmering pieces. After a few minutes of spiraling down like feathers on a warm summer breeze, all is quiet and motionless. People are needy and mostly preoccupied with themselves and I’m no different. As much as there is an impulse in me to soothe and nurture, there is a part of me that switches empathy off like a night light flickering dead as the first rays of slim morning dawn relieve it from duty. Lighting a cigarette as I stare through the curtains down to the dirty street below, you slumber peacefully and I’m content to be left alone with my thoughts about what, if anything, can truly be considered beautiful and the color of the sky after one has passed over to the other side. These moments of tranquility which shudder in my veins. These itchy fears of a life wasted on emptiness and greed, how they stay with me as if they, too, need comfort from the outside world. I have been a thunderstorm. I have been a shelter. The thing about people is they flicker on and off and there is no way to know when they’ll be dark and when they’ll be light. As I close the curtains and turn to look at you, I blow smoke across your naked body and imagine you feeding me a mouth full of diamonds, glittering in moonlight as you watch my parting lips. You with your heart full of black birds, head full of blades.

Sex Weapon

There are those with more and those with less and then there are those who have so much they can’t think what to even do with it so they build gilded mansions on hills complete with twenty seven marble bathrooms, a handful of movie theaters, vineyards, wine cellars, swimming pools, and all the rest. Meanwhile my cycle has synced itself with the full moon, which makes me feel like a magical witchy woman and only slightly lessens the excruciating pain of mind numbing cramps scorching through every fiber of my being. Women’s bodies are wondrous and ferocious, capable and soft, oscillating ever between sweet affection and terrible rage. I had a girlfriend back in college who, after her boyfriend broke up with her, got drunk and gave his best friend a blow job in the back seat of his car because she hated them both but it felt dirty and mean in perfect measure at the time. Girls grow up trying to understand the way they fit into the world and most often we do it through a strange and distorted lens, we learn early on to see ourselves from the outside looking in. No, scratch that, not looking but inspecting. It’s deliberate, calculated, critical, obsessive. Examining with a microscope, checking our pores in magnifying glass, standing in closets lined with octagonal mirrors so we can assess every side, every measurement, every angle. The body as addiction/instrument. The body as pain/pleasure. The body as weapon. Sex as power, sex as subjugation. Sex as art, sex as punishment. And in those rare, intimate, miraculous moments, sex as a love so bright it would burn daylight into being just by opening a fevered soul and breathing into its cruel desire. I remember how you were the death of me and death was all I wanted. Kill me with hands, kill me with mouths, kill me with words so obscene you could only whisper them slow like honey, and only to me. I remember, clear as the harvest moon on a cloudless night, the sound of your voice low and heavy as you pressed into me, as if I were the last thing, the first thing, the only thing that could ever take you to the brink and hold you there, until your mind went blank with ecstasy and you fell in tortured explosions into the stars above, panting and grateful, hazy with false promises of never leaving. You with your kind tenderness and confusion, so defiant yet so sincere. As we lay helpless in whatever the glow is which glistens in the aftermath of some perverted kind of sensual destruction, you thread your fingers through mine and together we hold my body until she sleeps. Body as prison, body as bedroom. A body of milky midnight skies, of shadowy lakes beneath an unbroken circle of darkening moons.

Private Lives

After a fitful night of tossing and turning, I finally fall into a deep luxurious sleep exactly three minutes before my alarm goes off. Feeling warm and toasty and knowing that when my bare feet hit the cold hardwood floor it’ll send shivers all through me, I push snooze and try my best to ride out another nine minutes of snuggled bliss. It’s impossible though because I’m already fretting about something which may or may not come to pass months from now and so, my mind having raced out of bed ahead of me, I decide to pull on a hoodie and socks and go downstairs for coffee. The early November morning is pitch dark, stars still twinkling in the blackness high above the naked trees. When I open the door to let the dogs out the frigid air is clear and bracing, tinged with the faint scent of frosty dew and burning sticks.  There is something in the air this time of year, something sinister, mystical, and inviting. There is a dark side to everything, in nature and in us. For every lover’s kiss there is a knife to the throat, for each birth a death. You are half way across the country and although I miss you I also like the whole bed to myself and the particular kind of silence that comes only with being alone. When we have one thing we want another and one thing humans are just not good at is being content. Restlessness comes with the deal and a raw deal it is. While the dogs set about sniffing each individual blade of grass in the yard for any trace of wild intruders that may have passed through overnight, I head upstairs and settle in with my steaming mug and laptop. I’ve been getting up to write like this for over a decade now. Since the day I realized that this life is not guaranteed to any of us for any significant length of time. Death will do that for you, at least. People are stunned when I tell them I wake up hours before is reasonably necessary just to write words on a page. But I can’t understand how life has meaning if you don’t grab secret time and space to do the thing you love the most in the world. What do other people believe in? Do they even know the beauty of what it means to worship something that will only fall away? Isn’t a cold autumn morning filled with nothing more than silence and coffee and words as good a god as any?