Unsure of how to begin, I dive right to the center, or the middle, or the edges, I am never exactly certain which but I begin the nibble hoping to progress to a full meaty bite. Chewing on this life, this life the whole of which stands trembling before death as it has and does and always will on any given day of the week until the end. The Rest. The Final. I would tell you all about me but I fear it would shock or bore you so I dress it up as best I know how with a textural mix of sex and violence and drama and then try to weave my way back to the intricacies of the beginning so that you, and I, and we, the collective, can feel some sense of closure as we drift inside a tiny sliver of space within a world which is a never ending labyrinth of potential openings, doors, some already opened, some closed, some locked, some unlocked though we never know this because the fear of the other side is enough to keep us from even attempting to turn the knob and see. The terror of the blank page. The white blazing blindness of the vast empty and the threat of the desire to fill the void. To drain and fill the mind. Consciously. That of which we are aware. That which we deny. To re-fill the mind. To discard the old, not bury it, no dirty fingernails or ceremonial tears, but to stride deliberately into the darkness and set it on fire, thoroughly engulfed in flame and watch as the smoke rises into the hollow midnight sky. The piercing through of the ancients. The cutting of the heart, the suffering which is cathartic, which is relief. I am asleep, however, and unaware until dawn. I am clean. I am pure as in the womb, voiceless, warm and alone. The blood is red in the open air, it runs the distance which is blue, which is the track of the tubes of circulation which is a prayer, the prayer of kinetic energy, the prayer of budding teeth, a rosary of extending bone. The embers glowing as splits, flecks of eyes simmering out in the cold. Looking down into my own palms, I am this body and this age. I am beyond this moment as I am under it as I am moving toward it and away. I am these dreams I am desperate to speak of, but hold back. No more. No more, when there is no future whispering in the olive distance. No more, when the mist of this morning is a hall of mirrors hung upon the backs of doors which close and open, close as they open. Look into my eyes. Place your fingers in my wounds. Spread your lips beneath the wild gaping charcoal sky. Are you thirsty. Are you willing. Open, open, open.
Do you suppose
there is any difference
delicate and fragile?
Is it possible one wing would
break before the other,
even if by just a hair
a whispered single
I know you can’t understand
why I would concern myself
with such a ridiculous
in times like these.
With a matter so
Words inflicted upon
victims and guns.
It’s just that right now
every fine boned thing
feels like an open
Feels like a cut glass
slipper just about to
like a heart would,
before she could catch herself
shivering in the blackness
wet against tear
running fiery tracks down breasts.
I want to know the
am I delicate or fragile
in my naked
Hello out there, how are you doing? I am wishing you well, I am hoping you are safe and hanging in there wherever you are across the globe. I thought since we, well, many of us are spending more time perhaps alone that I would record this little something for us today. It feels a little bit more intimate, doesn’t it? Closer? To hear my voice in addition to the words? I feel so, I hope so. In any case, I was sitting with some wine last evening, or whatever evening whatever day in whatever month, and it was sunset and the light was fading out over the rooftops and the trees and I was just making a few notes here and there in some things I was reading, I’m reading some cultural texts, some books about current events and yadda ya all that madness. And my head was spinning in all of the mayhem, right, wishing things were different and knowing that it will be a long time before we crawl out from under the weight of what we are going through with coronavirus and grief and pain and the anger and the frustration and the fear and all these things. But all of a sudden my eye caught the reflection of just this small radiance, this shimmer of light reflecting through just some little houseplant in the corner of my writing room, and I remembered this poem I love, its a fairly popular poem by Charles Bukowski, called The Crunch, from his collection – I think there are multiple versions but the version I think of is the version from Love Is a Dog From Hell. You may know it, but it is a poem about loneliness, crushing loneliness and the state of a world full of neglected people, forgotten worn down souls.
So tragic but also, I am afraid so very real, right. And I think I will read it for you, first, and then I have a poem of my own I will share, the reason being is because it has been ages, ages, it feels like to me, since I have written a proper poem. I have been heavy with the prose and the non fiction and the story weaving, story telling, which I just adore, and I am so grateful that you are here with me for all of it, you hearten me very much out there. But poetry, poetry is where I come from, poetry is in my blood, it is a way of living and dreaming and breathing and being, a way of interpreting the world, outside and inside of myself. I couldn’t live without it. It has done more to transform and awaken me, enlighten me, than any other form of writing or art or expression. So I wanted to spend some time with poetry today.
So here is Charles Bukowski’s poem, The Crunch:
strangers with faces like
the backs of
armies running through
streets of blood
waving wine bottles
bayoneting and fucking
an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.
there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock
people so tired
either by love or no love.
people just are not good to each other
one on one.
the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.
we are afraid.
our educational system tells us
that we can all be
it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.
or the terror of one person
aching in one place
watering a plant.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
I suppose they never will be.
I don’t ask them to be.
but sometimes I think about
the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud
and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.
more haters than lovers.
people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.
meanwhile I look at young girls
flowers of chance.
there must be a way.
surely there must be a way that we have not yet
who put this brain inside of me?
it says that there is a chance.
it will not say
Mmm. That poem murders me, it kills me with its terrible truth. But somehow, sometimes, when the truth hurts so badly we just want to hear someone say it. Out loud. We are not good to each other. Anguish in the form of poetry.
And I think about some poetry I have written, and one poem came to my mind to share with you today, it is titled “Remember Me” from my book Luminae. I wanted to read it for you in the hopes that for a little while it keeps you company, whatever you are doing.
Here is Remember Me:
Has this been the hurt inside of you
these cuts on my hands
the crush of broken promises.
Your static mouth a shrieking fog
buzzing in my head, humming –
you like grains of sand
scratching a desert
in my throat.
Remember me a grapefruit moon
hanging in your rear view mirror
love in the back seat
melon. sunset. smoke.
took a back seat.
Now the morning rolls down her sheets
silicone heat waves sweat across my tongue.
I listen for you but all that moves nails along the wall
are reflections of an empty afternoon.
(my arms reach
for three corners from this corner)
The windows are swallowing sunlight
the sunlight is dangling through trees
traces of a dim lit landscape
you used to speak of
And so with this I leave you for now. Please take the best care of yourself that you possibly can. Please be safe and well. And thank you, always, for spending some time with me. Until the next time. Cheers.
You tell me that when you read the poem I slid underneath your office door you had to take a seat and read it over multiple times. You enjoy the way the words taste like the sin of flesh and bone and youth. You do not smile at me and I do not smile back. I don’t want your happiness. I want to tear you into a thousand small pieces from the inside out, set you on fire and leave you there to burn. As you say encouraging things to me about my work, your gaze travels over my body slowly, drinking in my subtle movements, the crook of my wrist, the bend of my hip, the cocky way I tilt my head against the paint chipped door frame so my long wavy hair falls over my elbow just enough to skim my waist. Your eyes like two beautiful blades slicing me open, exposing me without even a touch, coming back up to meet my eyes. You stay there forever etched in my brain and even all these years later I recall you sat back like a very bad man who wanted very bad things. I miss the poetry and I miss the high of seduction, intrigue, play. But I am not me anymore and you are not you. Now the world is upon its knees as angry mobs line up together and demand their own execution. Make it grave, make it public, make it hard and make it hurt, how bored we are of the lives we don’t even bother to lead. Now my dreams are screams, I can hear them so clearly in their vivid colors. Sex and death. Bright fires flaring up along the empty streets of my skin, my soft blue veins engulfed in thick tongues of flames. My image fades in and out of a mirror which stands still against a blank wall, as the wind moves shadow into shadow. Intercourse. Dark moon. Nightgowns on pale women, singing on the lawn in the haunted hush of night. Their black eyes reach out like claws, they touch one another. The clutch of a bare hand to my chest. A fist of long fingers gripped tight around my throat. I need it, can’t you understand that? There is a cord which runs invisible from the pulse in my neck to the heat of my sex. I need to feel something which honors the fear. Something which penetrates the veil. I have such nightmares of late, and wake washed flush in a sweat, in the kind of glistening tears a whole body cries. I have these mad times threaded through the hallways of my ricochet mind. We cannot return to the way things were, but I’ll be alright. I don’t miss your eyes. They are with me all the time.
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.