My heart skips a beat a bit too often and it worries me because they tell me the palpitations are probably nothing. But when you are losing trust in all the people and systems which are supposed to keep you safe, yet are crumbling around you like sidewalk falling away from the soles of your feet, you watch your steps more closely, and their eyes, and the fog which smothers your hands as you hold them up in front of your face. What you see is not what they see. What you see they do not believe. What you believe is not held in their hearts or written in their palms, but rather in the sand as you approach the great gray waves, in the sand as you depart along the lonely beach you must walk alone into the cool ocean mist. Removing my clothes I wade into the rushing water. Removing my inhibitions, white robes cast into the wind. Renewal. Reclamation. Intention. Disrobing my fear, setting it aside like a discarded blanket. My nakedness, my beautiful skin, my fragile baptismal bones, I deliver myself to the womb of the tangerine sea. The lakes that I carry become one with the water which holds my body like liquid silk, warm against cold, fire against ice, frothing, bubbling, flashing, washing and burning away my terror of this life, this one life. Sparks, salt crystals flash hot in the orange sun. Finding my feet, I stand and welcome the evening glow all over my body, shining, shining, shining so bright I caress myself inside my own admiring gaze. When they come for me I will be gone. They will never come. I lay down upon the sand, it is warm and grainy against my back. Waves crashing like thunder slamming again and again, pounding in my ears. My heart is skipping multiple beats, gushing, squeezing, pulsing too wildly. They tell me it’s nothing. Just age. Just a random, fleeting kind of thing. You have nothing to worry about. You are nothing to worry about. My mind warps, inverts, collapses. There is no pain. There are only my fingers working my breastbone, massaging my own tissue, wondering if Death may only be peace. If He may simply take me soft like a lover would, into the petal pink tongue of His open mouthed heat.
Having traveled endless circles around the sun only to return to the same exact place each and every time, I lie back upon the bed and feel the warm heat of the blankets underneath my tired bones. I wasn’t always so tired, but now the days seem to stack themselves in towers which compress my chest like so many cinder blocks until it is genuinely hard to breathe. Drifting off into the abyss as I fall deeper into the darkness, there are dreams of another time and another place, another life and another version of myself which is dying to exist but I get tripped up inside the irony of it all and in some ways haven’t changed a single bit in decades. The skin fades but the eyes still shine like ocean in sunlight; the heart palpitates, lungs ache, but the ways in which we pleasure ourselves become increasingly hedonistic. In my childhood there was so much wide-eyed awkward potential, in my teens so much secrecy, wonder, and fear. The black cord necklace of his he fastened around my neck, my mouth grown thick with the taste of his heavy cologne. He lead me around and around for months like a new pet as I learned my body was a playground, my body a hot loaded gun. In my twenties, angst and freedom and danger and escape. All the power I claimed as my own back then without flinching terrifies me, takes my breath away now. In my thirties, perhaps something which could be described as desperation, devastation, destruction, but each one laced with sex and whiskey and hope. There is sweetness in numbness they just need you not to admit it. Numbness is like comfort but doesn’t feel nearly as close to the soul. Forty is no more excuses. I should own myself by now so what is it I’m searching for that is always just out of reach? There is a voice inside which is impossible to silence though it keeps telling me things I don’t want to hear about time and space, about regret and neglect, seduction and truth. The spine straightens, curves, arcs, at the thought of it. The stomach in the pit of my throat leaps at the sound of the grip of it. It is a kind of sick hunger wrapped around a deep moaning sigh. It is without name, it is without a face. But from time to time when I catch myself reminding the cells of my body to breathe, I think I can see the whites of its eyes reflecting themselves in mine.
In my name I hear the echoing voices of each of the women who came before me since Eve taught us all the wild beauty of our sinful desires. The pain of each birth exists within my womb and now and then I feel it all at once. Last night in a dream I asked you not to touch me but you wouldn’t stop. I don’t remember what came after but I know parts of me were frozen while other parts fought you off with a rage that came from some place primal, some place we are told doesn’t exist for fear we discover the power of its jaws, of its shiny white teeth. All the women, all of us. We stand on the ledge of a building in flames, afraid of each way out. When I jump I learn I can fly and leaving is as easy as I feared all along it might be. How we tremble and shake to unlock the chains which don’t even exist. Soaring like a wide winged bird up in the sky as I encircle a high rise and catch the wind as it swings around the tallest reaches of the steel beams of a massive extension bridge, I swoop out over the water, dipping so low I become drunk on the salty scent of the sea, swallow it down whole. Dare I dream of a life more beautiful than the one I left behind. Life is a series of traps. Life is a collection of delicate shells you keep in a jar on the side of the sink. Walking along that same bridge I flew over earlier, the street lights come on as night closes in. All that dark water swirling and rushing below is a thrill. I think of those who have made it their grave, their final riotous destination. I think of Virginia Woolf. I think of women wearing stockings and layers and layers of skirts. Heavy. Tangled. Writhing. Did they regret it half way through but then realize it was too late? I hope when I’m dying I don’t know it. Or maybe I do. It depends. How many days are left if I count backwards from you might be losing me? I’m not ready to go but I light up a cigarette anyway and burn myself to stun the pain. I don’t know you but I wish you were here. I wish you would look me in the eye and tell me it’ll all be okay even though we both know that’s impossible. All of these wishes, little aches in my soul like feathers of soft weeds blown out into the night air, scattered, surrendered. Wondering, just like me, what any of it means.
It can be lonely as night falls against the backdrop of a day whittled away to nothing but a rose washed sunset sky. Streaks of peach and amber and clouds drifting behind my tired eyes. It can feel empty in your chest without even a reason why. Such is the strange aloneness of being human, of being alive in stillness. Silence scratches its nails along the wall, pulling shadows down like shades. Wrapped in a flannel and dim light, I’m sipping on the spice of some old fashioned bourbon you left behind and tracing the curls of smoke as they circle from my lips to the ceiling and out the window which opens to the street. Desperate for words which reach inside and claw at the marrow of aching bones, I’m reading poetry by Donaghy, looking over his boyishly handsome face like a ghost in the mirror of a talent reflected back into itself for all eternity, too soon buried, filed away on a shelf only to be taken into soft hands on a cold winter’s evening. Somewhere in a far off hotel room, a man arrives with a bottle of champagne and makes sweet love to a woman he hardly knows who hardly knows herself, but with the tenderness of his touch he teaches her everything she needs to know to get her through another lonely night on the road. I’ve lit a few logs in the fireplace to warm more than just the body, the kind of flames which lick and split at the foot of the soul you carry around with you all day wondering where it fits. Where you fit. If anywhere. You write for some but others show up, unfamiliar, unforgiving, unable to listen or understand even the simplest of truths you hold close to your birdcage ribs. When you stop and think, as you too often do, of how many stories you have told you wonder how many are left to tell. Which will run dry first, you or them. Little rivers of quiet thoughts in your veins, thousands of miles to see what you have seen, to hold upon your tongue the words you searched for long ago only to find them back at the start. That’s the hardest part, maybe. Just to scrape together the courage to pull your heart from your throat. And start.
My habit is you, yet instead of taking twenty one days (is it twenty one, they say, to form a habit?) I was born already squirming with you in my tiny blue river veins. Wet, exposed, raw, helpless. Screaming. Eager. Starving. You, the womb I bathed and blossomed within. I see pink peonies, their lush petaled heads dropping heavy with morning dew. I see the sun coming up in soft tangerine behind the sap running amber down the trunks of green trees. Each one the texture, the scent, the presence of you. You are every commandment written in my skin, and every command on which I feed. The mornings are dull, the mornings are mournings soaked with gray rain, weeping from my eyes which are windowpanes. The days are mirrored, all sides of lost hope and lost minds, in all of this and through it, is you. I like the way Mary Oliver describes swimming in a cold lake at dawn, quiet and naked and alert among the reeds, the swans and the animals. I like the girl with the blog that nobody’s heard of, who writes about stabbing her boyfriend as they make love, he begs and begs for release. I like the torture. I like the tease. I like that I can smell it. In sex, in nature, in wilderness, in violence, I see only you. In an airport in a foreign city over run with disease, a man carries a bag which carries a bomb which is sniffed out and caught by a detective dog. In thickest fog which looks like a mountain which looks like the sky which looks like the sea, a flying machine slams into the air and explodes, ending everything. In the wreckage, in the ghosts of the souls exiting the flesh and the steel, in the coding of the fates of the extinguished, whispers you like cruel sadness, you like the final moments of terror, pure, sheer. You are the constant and the permanent, an expressionless pair of twin bodies which continue to twin, spinning and spinning without ever stopping. When I lie beneath him and part my legs, when I feel the slamming of his heart in his chest as his ecstasy pushes him over the edge, it is you in my mouth as my teeth tear his neck. Under my fingernails at the back of my mind in the warmth in the bottle in the smoke on my breath. This divine hellish perversion in me, the twisting of pleasure into blind aching need. The darkness I see in the monsters I breed all alone in my bed. Eyes shifting like curtains drawn while the storm rages on. Kiss of life upon the hands of death, feather of each shadowed dread. You.
All dolled up in leather and lace, matte red lips and heels so high I’m half distracted with worry about teetering from the slow drip of my martini, I’m stood before you wondering what you think of me. I hate that I care but here we are and I’m unsure of so much that’s gone to pieces in this world but you, with you I forget everything else and focus. You exist somewhere dead center inside the line between aphrodisiac and sedative which perhaps makes no sense, this I’m willing to concede. It has been a while and by that I mean we have never been, but the way you pierce me with those eyes, electric, sharp, blue as God though I’m not a believer. As you speak I skim my hand across yours and I wonder if you know it means I would suffer for you. I would swallow the sin deeper and deeper until my veins expand and contract with the delicious agony of you, gliding smooth as silk across the melt of my tongue. You don’t say too much so I say just enough to keep you guessing. I like the way you maneuver inside the words you choose, the way you move into and out of me, tasting me, testing me. Daring me. Turning me round and round in your prismatic mind. As clever as you are, I can feel the heat rising in your blood. I see it in the way you sip your whiskey while your fingers cradle the glass. I can see your cool fingers upon my neck. I can feel your fingers unfastening the dread I carry around with me and all I can do is pray for you to continue. Please don’t stop. I crave the hellish tease of you. I suckle upon the torture which hangs suspended between knowing and not knowing the devious things you desire of me. Speak for me, coax me, breathe into me. Underneath my skin, my lungs are tender wings, my heart is a fragile race against a time when it is at last too late. Underneath the words I offer, there beats the pulse of the words I hide. Only a poet can touch me there. Only a poet could ever know the mysteries which glisten and burn within this darkness which calls me home to a place where good and bad no longer exist, only slow pleasure, only slow death, and only the holy have mastered the way to manipulate the difference. You finish your drink as you trace the curves of my body in silence. Only a mad creature of the word could ever penetrate these depths, hear the quiet beg of my aching reasons why.
There’s a game we play with ourselves. The game is called denial and when we become quite good at the game we use it more liberally. It becomes as a salve, a soothing balm for slathering over the rough patches of our lives we don’t seem to know exactly how to handle. I don’t get too close because I don’t trust you because I know deep down you don’t even trust yourself. No way to live, but what’s the alternative? The truth hurts as does reality so better to run away inside that fantastic mind of yours and pull something shimmering from the discarded rubble. You have it in you, you just weren’t allowed to know it because nothing is more important to capitalism than distracting you, prying your attention away from the flutters in your stomach which beg you to resurrect your most magnificent parts and turning toward the outside world worrying what the others will think of you for having such petty dreams. Ah the mighty American consumer, not unlike taking a bite of the proverbial Apple iPad in the Garden of Eden, we are made to realize we are naked without all of our gadgets and things and consequentially shamed for it. Just the thought of all this nonsense plummets me to the bottom of a crisp bottle of white wine, the very liquid silk which simultaneously soothes and destroys.
Lying half dressed on the backseat of his car, she pulls her panties down as his eyes grow wide with mesmerized lust. They are young, as clueless as they are gorgeous, smooth skin a glow in the moonlight shining straight through the passenger side window and bathing their pulsing bodies in pale white light. Breathing heavy and shallow, his heart races as his fingers trail along her perfect abdomen, stroke gently over the soft slit glistening sweetly beneath his heated gaze. As she watches his movements, her body reacts in ways she had not experienced until now. As he swivels and strokes, her desire grows wet and hungry, spreads, flickers and licks through her veins like wildfire. She needs him, craves him. Everything about her that opens begs in desperation to be filled, stretched, plundered, ravished, taken. As he exposes her to such pleasures as this, forbidden treasures unlocked in the confines of this beat up old Volkswagen, this tiny trap of steel and leather, he is ragged with an ache he feels will rip him to pieces if not satisfied. In one smooth motion he removes his fingers and slides beneath her as she straddles him, biting his neck, his strong jaw, moving her strawberry tongue between his lips. Pressed together and quivering on the brink, they find the rhythm which carries them over the edge, shattering into prismatic ecstasy like a thousand shooting stars exploding one after another across the clear midnight sky.
The ones who say the youth is wasted on the young have forgotten the beauty in the wasted. As they slice and dice us and sell us back to ourselves in jagged little pieces, we continue to search for a truth we’ve known since birth but constantly deny. What good are fancy clothes when all we want is to be naked. What good is safe when what we want is to be free.
Even though I write, I hold back. Even when I push people away, I don’t want to be left alone. Even when I say I’m done, I can’t help thinking of him until he finds me in dreams and takes me high above the sadness which cloaks me in every kind of weather. And even though I have feelings that don’t seem to fit anywhere in this world, I still go on searching which means there must be something in me that still believes there is a reason for all this madness. Writers. Seekers. Addicts. Cowards. An intoxicated man passes out at the wheel, killing himself and a young family in a fiery car accident on an avenue no one’s ever heard of. He didn’t feel a thing. Did they? Or was it too sudden to react or feel anything at all? Was this always going to be the way it ended or did fate take an awful turn just because some fool made a series of poor decisions? Even though I worship at the altar of the word I harbor thick fears about the things I want to say. The pressure they imposed upon me to be good, to obey, to please, to achieve. Be polite. Be sweet. Say you are happy when you are suffocating. Smile when you are afraid. Say yes when you mean you don’t know. Say yes when you mean I don’t want to but I’m terrified of hurting you so I let you hurt me. How we mess up as parents. How we mess up as kids in a world which tried its best to keep us safe from monsters when all the while it was raising them good and proper deep inside of us. Pawns. Knee socks. Choirs. Confessionals. Long after dark in a small church whose west wall is crumbling from neglect and lack of funding, a young girl stands before a newly ordained minister. In the flickering light of candle glow, through a thin veil of incense burning near her bare shoulders, the girl removes her top as the minister looks on, mouth dry, heart pounding. It is late and the church pews are empty, the holy atmosphere aches full of forbidden acts of temptation. Perversion. Serpents. Sin. As though possessed, his mouth moves down to taste her breast as she closes her eyes and sighs for forgiveness, for a way through the darkness into the light. Flesh and blood and skin on fire. He touches her where she is weak. Savior. Sacrifice. Wine as drink as body as feast. What they never tell you is that to access your divinity you have to fall on your knees for your broken humanity. To touch the golden garments of saints you must be defiled at the hands of the wicked. That the more they deny you the more you will crave. I met a writer once, a beautiful writer of ethereal skill, who told me that to get at what he really wants to say, he has to write about something else entirely. You have to write fiction to get at the truth. You need to circle and circle the prey. Stalkers. Con artists. Thieves.