People Like Us

From the night sky I pull down the last wisps of thin gray cloud and tuck them under my pillow so I can watch the stars clear and bright before drifting off to sleep. You can have all the love in the world and still feel alone and although some may read that statement as a sad one, to me it feels like it is a kind of mysterious gift. There were times, of course, when loneliness cut me so deep I couldn’t breathe. It is no small thing, that kind of weighted grieving over a thing untouchable. But to be alone is a thing which morphs. It is a shape-shifting kind of space in which you can be free of the expectations of others, even the expectations of all the ancient unwritten rules which held you down and forced your face into the dirt time and time again. You can crave it even as that kind of unbridled freedom scares you to bits.

He was a writer and a deeply introspective, intelligent one at that, if perhaps a little intense. When he would send me his stories I was always taken by their depth of connection to the physical body even as he wrote about fantasy. I always wanted to be able to reach a reader in such a way that they could feel the very feelings I felt, which seemed to me like it would be the closest I ever came to creating magic. To immerse another soul into my own, like I was a wishing well or a wide open ocean, deep with dark canyons and secret creatures of gigantic shadow and eerie though magnificent light.

In dreams I see the stories of my life play out in reverse. I see myself as a child of only six or seven, running in the grass to capture fireflies into my small little hands. Back when a moment was a moment and they all seemed to string together endlessly. Like every evening for the rest of my life would be as soft and sweet as summer, taste like strawberry chapstick, smell like honeysuckle and the coming of a night spent snuggled in blankets next to an open window above the back yard which was just a small square but to me held all the adventures my tiny heart could ever imagine.

It’s funny how we tell stories in order to entertain and yet we need them for so much more than amusement. We aren’t just bored we’re hungry and terrified and so much more intuitive than the world gives us credit for being. If you are too afraid to sit alone and let the words come, you are too afraid to know yourself as you really are. And that’s fine if you want to buy everything they try to sell you. It’s no matter if the ramblings of the pompous guy in the corner office are enough to keep you working your fingers to the bone.

But for some of us, even the faintest prospect of no story is the greatest sorrow, the deepest grief we could possibly fathom. For some of us we’d go absolutely mad if we couldn’t be alone. I don’t always know what I’m going to write until I sit down to do it. But after having done it for so long now, I know the surprises are enough to keep my faith alive. To keep believing that there is something out there in the void that keeps me reaching for the other side.

Eyes Like Crystal, Blue Like Rain

When I look into her eyes I can see the universe as it was meant to be before there was such a thing as injury. I can see the intensity of her clarity of visions no one else could ever possibly fathom and the way she can touch those dreams, pull them close, make them her own. Delicate and strong as bone. Where there is pain there is possibility. In places that shatter like broken glass crashing against the pavement, you can feel the wind rush in, you can learn to breathe again. You can kiss death on the mouth and live again. The white sun slides behind a veil of steel gray clouds, black liquid tear drops held suspended by hands unseen. A collective cosmic mind wide shut over a difficult earth. The gravel is crunching beneath our feet as we trade ideas about the tender things the world can’t bear to hold the way she can. With elegance and grace and a soul which is as deeply darkly symphonic as it is electric, as brittle as it is fire as it is brave as it is relentless the way an open field dares to be endless, lush with wilderness, tangled, blossoming, rolling out as far as the sky can reach underneath the storms which will ravage, which will destroy, which will recede, become sweet mist upon a glittering ocean. She is an angel down from heaven, a place she conjures and almost believes in and brings to life with those crystal blue eyes like the laughter of bright secrets, like the smoke of the heat of the cold. As if she deserves any of this hurt that she does not deserve. As if this ridiculous world could ever deserve a woman of a child of a beauty like this.

After Life

We will bury my uncle today. I sip coffee in the early morning air alone. To be with the trees and the cool grass and the little birds which flutter here and there. Processing. He was too young and as I say it I know it isn’t true because the only way you know how old you really are is if you know the day you are going to die and nobody can ever know that shit. I think about death which is a way to think about life in reverse. What could you have done and all that jazz. What will you do now. How will it feel to burn beneath the tears. How will the rain smell as we stand around embracing and not embracing. Speaking and holding back. The human condition is so strange in ways we pretend we cannot see because we don’t know the words to say. There are the things we know, the things we believe, and the things which are entirely a mystery. These are all woven together even though we keep trying to pull them apart. To touch the face of God. To Rest In Peace. To leave, to be gone. To be over. To be left behind with life beating soft through your veins like a time bomb. Like a gift. Like a joke. Like a complete stranger breathing from your own lungs. I grip the hardness of the coffee mug. I walk upstairs to my darkened study and light what is barely left of a lilac candle among my plant covered makeshift altar. I stare at the chipped veil and hands of the virgin mother statue my grandmother gave to me long ago. The sky is brightening behind her as if morning is a thing that will never stop rising over the treetops and the creatures and all of us. I see a robin upon the wire outside my window and as I watch him fly off into the heavens all by his thin-winged lonesome, the tiny flame of the candle burns out.

Naked Eye

With my naked eye I saw you in the naked light. Beautiful, complicated, sinister, trembling. Creature of nocturnal nature. Proximity is not a true measurement and by that I mean it is very difficult, if not entirely impossible, to see a thing so precious up so close. Reach for me. Stretch. Struggle for me. Can you feel this intrusion thickening, growing inside of you where you open like fruit, in your limbs like vines dripping with the honeyed liquid of many thousand sapphire suns, silvering moons. You have to be able to understand the mood, baby, sense the melody, the messages in the vibrations. She tells me how she spits in his mouth. He needs it. Begs and begs for it. Gets off on the degradation. Now try not to think about that. Try not to feel it in your core, throbbing like the most decadent hatred. There is something inside that wants to feel the terrible cruelty we think we deserve. Please do not say these things, write these things, want these things, spread these things like disease. Like you are diseased. I like to pull the pieces apart from the others, watch it all disintegrate around you like you aren’t even there. Like you never were. Like we never were. Sunshine is blistering along the grass on top of the sea water as no words are exchanged, no emotion, no currency, no transaction, no rushing current flowing along the trickling side of the steepest hill. Had you had expectations. Had you had demands, had you said things you wish you could take back, no. He presses into me where my sap runs deepest, most fragrant, heated, milky. You have to feel the vibrations, you sweet stupid thing. You can’t let go you have to feel it all. His hand is the hand which moves through everything that ever existed or ever will, his hands are the hands which absolve you, break you, tear you until you learn to take it, make you come so hard your tears stain the pillows, his hands all over you, his hands refuse to touch you, his hands offer and withhold and you spread out so thin you become the atmosphere itself, a bare little wing, little pulsar brimming with revolution. The sweat and blood of evolution. And you turn and we turn and we turn into drops of water suspended in the atmosphere which is only the way we are forever our delicate selves, turning and turning and returning. You just have to trust me. You just have to place it to your lips and taste it. You just have to be able to understand the mood is the mood. I cannot explain it.

It Sticks in Your Throat

The mist over the ocean is moving onto the beach. I’ve cut the tip of my finger doing something I cannot remember and now it throbs and stings from my drenching it in the salty sea water until it shriveled. I’d tell you something clever now like healing hurts first before it soothes but I’m not really in the mood for clever and healing is such a tricky thing to actually nail down because it is not linear. The waves are crashing and breaking in very strange ways, swelling way far out and then slamming straight down quickly, suddenly, without hardly ever standing up. They erupt one after another after another up close to the edge. I once heard these kinds of waves are called ‘dirty’ but I can’t ever be sure if I am using that term correctly. I don’t surf, I barely swim, and I spend a good portion of my time worrying obsessively about death by drowning.

I know the tides. I know the way they feel inside me because I have been studying myself my whole life. Still, your insides can surprise you if you get too arrogant, if you ignore them, or try to turn away. My heart is racing from the chill of the ocean and the hazy moisture in the air is pebbling my skin. I take a drink of ice-cold gin with lime and let the sun warm me all over. There are people on the beach tanning, splashing, little kids screaming, laughing, running. Kids are forever running on the beach, toward the ocean, away from the ocean, things need to happen and they need to happen fast. One little guy wears red sunglasses and a tee shirt which simply reads DUDE.

They say a person spends something like seventy percent of their time worried about the past or the future. That the amount of time you spend literally in the moment you are in is minuscule, fleeting. I want to feel better about death, or about life which I guess is the same thing in a certain sense, so I put on my dark sunglasses and stare meaningfully, purposefully, out into the farthest reaches of the wild blue-green sea and try to be in the place I am in. Feel the salty humid air flowing through my hair. As the horizon line blurs into a soft distant kind of turquoise imaged space, I lick my lips and remind myself that the horizon does not exist. It is always out there, unreachable, untouchable. How comical are the men who think they own the world. Think they can plant a flag. Think they know what it is to die for something when they stand for nothing. Nothing at all.

In writing, you can be anything you want but you have to know enough what it feels like to have what you want even if you don’t. You can dissect a thing but never inhabit it. You can know about something without knowing of it. Writers like to talk at you, see what sticks. I like to know if you feel anything because sometimes I can’t feel a fucking thing and I am terrified it means I am starting to disappear. Into the past. Into the future. Either way, we all just want to escape. I like to think that in the words I can escape but mostly I am only revealed. Maybe that’s why they say you need to go away to find yourself. Maybe it’s a lie. Maybe you write because you hope to Christ you will and will never be found.

Arrows in the Sky

Aiming his impressive bow skyward, he shoots arrow after golden arrow at the moon and while some of them stick, most of them explode like fireworks at night and then trail off and burn out like so many ancient stars. I once set a house on fire that way, not with the arrows, with the fireworks, but it was a very long time ago and no one got hurt because the neighbor found the hose in time and also because he never stops mowing his lawn and keeping an eye on things, which can be creepy but in that particular case was very much the reason we all lived to tell the tale. The handsome boy with the arrows, he is young and full of the kind of energy which breathes life through his tan skin, pumps and pulses with verve just beneath the surface where beats the heart of a lion or a dragon or maybe even both. His lips are perfectly flush, his chest and shoulders as wide and broad as the sun.

Meanwhile, I sip wine in the shadows and watch him in secret. I am trying to figure out how to remove myself from a conversation with a man who seems to have me cornered, backed up against the prison cell of my own social anxiety issues and insidious fear of hurting anyone else’s feelings, let alone someone who is already hurting mine. The wine slides down cool and softens my mood just enough that I laugh at things which are not funny and say things I think are but no one else does. It isn’t so much that I am not entertaining, though, it’s that they can’t hear me. It appears I can form the words with my mind and my mouth but I cannot make them fall forward to reach someone else. I am stuck in a dream where they can all talk to me, tell me things I may or may not want to hear, and I cannot respond.

I lean my arm against the bar. I lean my bare back against the cold wall. I am wearing a lovely dress with the back entirely cut out. In the mirror on the wall behind all the pretty multicolored liquor bottles, I can see my back is covered only by a gigantic tattoo of a wolf howling at the moon. It is a beautiful tattoo, the artistry so intricate and precise that as I stare at the image of the majestic creature, I can feel the heat in its primal eyes, taste the sharp cut of its teeth. When I was a child, my mother read me a nursery rhyme about a girl who runs through the woods at night. The girl was good but made a bad choice and the wolf ate her right up because the wolf was neither bad nor good just hungry. Just an animal. Alone. Clever. Strong. On top of the world, on top of a mountain of bones and blood and might. I didn’t know what the story was supposed to teach me or where on earth little girls run through forests alone at night. All I knew was, I wanted to be the wolf.

Mating Ritual

It happens like this: I am inspired but then I am bored as fuck and restless for something that gets my creative juices flowing and by that I mean whatever it is you think I do. He knots his long hair in a tight and perfect bun and uses all my fancy hair product to manage its flyaways and make it smell like the lightest, sweetest, most delicious summer afternoon even as we are only here trying to maneuver around each other in the small upstairs bathroom. They say the whole truth about a relationship is just two people sharing the same tiny space. I can promise you that’s not the whole truth of it. I am naked turning the shower to as hot as I can stand it and just as I catch him staring at me in the foggy mirror he slaps my ass and I scowl and smile at the same time. Unsure exactly what’s right or wrong about either of us, let alone us together, I step into the steaming spray of cascading water and swirl the coconut soap suds all around my soft smooth skin.

The sun is shining but it’s cold because of the wind. The wind is pushing the trees around something fierce, one by one like a million fingers pressing them back as far as they will go toward the ground. Spring has finally fully burst forth, all the plants and flowers a lush shade of enthusiastic greens or blushing pinks and purples. As I towel off, I see their sloped petals soaring past the window like little silken boats cast this way and that on a rip roaring gust of fresh morning air. The chimes in the garden next to the weathered angel statue are clattering their sporadic melody like church bells in a high hollow medieval tower.

Somewhere in a land far off, which comes alive only in my mind when it wanders on its own, the witches and warlocks of old worship the return of the light by performing the mating rituals of goddesses and gods frolicking freely in wide open fields and part of my aching ancient heart wishes with every bloody beat of itself to join them in ecstatic dance and revelry. Flesh and fruit, sacrifice and fertilization. As I stare off into an outer space I seem to occupy a bit too often lately, he reappears in the door frame with two mugs of coffee, passing one to me as he takes a sip of his own. When I kiss him on the lips in gratitude and awe, he tastes like the darkest French roasted beans and a thousand suns which blaze and burn and heat my quivering bones.

The Thing With Feathers

In the blink of an eye, it could all crumble into the blistering sea and be over for good. It could all be gone, really. I’m never quite certain if this motivates me or just chews inside my head like a manic kind of disturbance which keeps me from being better. I don’t know what ‘better’ means exactly, I guess I just always feel like it’s something I should try to be although I’m also pretty sure it’s why we spend too much and drink too much and get diagnosed with ‘generalized anxiety’ because we have fears which span a spectrum so wide and varying that it’s not even special enough to warrant a specific label. But maybe that’s just me. Humans always seem to be striving toward something and I can’t help but think that’s why they are so exhausting. They expect you to get so high even as they pin your wings to the ground.

The sky is dark navy velvet as I sip coffee and type in the dimly lit upstairs room. I listen to the little birds outside my open window, chirping away with marked intent. Together their sounds become a beautiful collection of voices which seem to surround me entirely, head to toe. Sometimes I just stare at them in the garden, peer deep into their teeny tiny black beady eyes, watch the clicking of their small fragile heads and the flick of their clever movements. What holds these creatures together but frail tendons and thin feathers and the breath of a god I almost believe in when I see a bird soar right up into the elegant morning air.

Poets are deeply observant which is likely why they can be so unnerving. It is a strange kind of torture-worship which calls a person to the word. The ones who write too much about sunshine and rainbows, I can’t trust them. Nothing is ever that simple. Or maybe I’m too complicated. Either way, I need darkness in my veins if I want to feel turned on enough to pick up a pen.

Sylvia Plath used to drink martinis with Anne Sexton (“three or four or two”) after their poetry class. At the Ritz Carlton if I am not mistaken (I could be). Sexton would drive them and park in the loading only zone, exclaiming to hotel staff that it was okay because they were only there to get loaded. They spoke a lot about death, and spoke about it with fervor and passion. Tragic in the end, of course, and yet what compelling, intriguing figures both of them were. Women who wrote poetry and thought thoughts which they actually expressed were near scandalous back then. They wrote about masturbation, miscarriage, the cruelties of marriage and motherhood. Unacceptable.

And yet.

There is something about obsession which transfixes not only the obsessed but those obsessed with observing them. To surrender to your passion for expression, for writing, for a life bigger, deeper, than anyone around you is living. So much of life is a question of what kind of conversations you are having. What you discuss is who you are and a reflection of how you value yourself. Which, truth be told, makes the culture we are living in at present a very sad state of affairs indeed.

The artists you cannot get enough of, who are they? They are not just artists, they are so much more than that. They are the embodiment of the dare. Do you or don’t you salivate over a thing. And if you do, will you let yourself feel it all the way through. Will you turn toward it or will you hide it away. Will you own it, say it, stand in it.

If what you want to discuss, if what you feel you need to say, or dismantle, or explore, may turn some people’s stomachs, would you still do it? Would you put your desires, your burning needs ahead of everyone else’s?

What if you did. And refused to explain or justify any of it.

Bad Girls Need

I want to pull each candy pink cloud down from the early dawn sky and wrap it around me like a cape. I think of the cape I will escape to in just a few days, to hear the pound of the waves upon the wide open beach, listen to the cry of the seagulls as they swoop low and skim the top of the glittering ocean. For now, though, the smell of salt and sand, sky and water and majesty, is only a pattern of ripples in my ever wandering mind, as I sit sipping coffee in the cool morning air. There is something about catching the break of the day before anyone else can get to you and muddle your thinking.

When you think about your life, do you think more about yourself or more about the ones you have encountered in it? Trick question. You think about yourself just like I do and whether or not you happen to like yourself or wish you were someone else entirely is sort of a mute point. You are who you are and you are with yourself from here on out.

The sky is so perfectly soft right now, so swathed in hazy pink across powder blue behind the willowy spring green of the trees that an actual tight feeling in my chest aches with something which is a blend of utter awe and swollen sadness.

All my life, this sadness seems to have held me so close that I sometimes cannot tell if it is love or fear or emptiness. You could call it emptiness I suppose, a void of sorts, meant perhaps never to be filled. But if it is such an absence why does it feel so very present with me. I swear to you on my life that there are times that this feeling, this shady melancholy emotion, takes a nearly tangible form, cups my chin and my face in its gentle hands and gazes at me with the most compassion I have ever felt. It is a tender sadness. A longing, but one which acknowledges me, one I treasure and somehow, for some completely bizarre reason, protect.

There are regrets we carry in our hearts, people we have hurt, people we are terrified we might because we are doing our best but we are also weak and fickle and sometimes it can feel like we stalk and attack ourselves at any given minute. In poetry, there is allowed to exist every inconvenient emotion, every incompatibility with a world trying to destroy itself. Through the word, we are allowed everything we ever wanted. How electrifying and how liberating, which is to say do you dare risk devastation to get to the truth of a thing. How much is the truth worth to you and what are you willing to sacrifice for it, if anything. If everything.

Most people will tell you tales of grandeur about themselves and you don’t even have to ask. They will make it sound and seem as though they have risked it all to come out on top of whatever it is they think will impress you most. They scored the promotion, they got the girl, they made the deal, they quadrupled the cash, their kid did whatever, this and that thing and they are the best at it. Behold the flawless and the blessed. How lucky you should feel to be anywhere in their midst. But they don’t know what they’re doing any more than you do. Don’t let them fool you. The design of this world is fit for so very few to ‘succeed’ inside.

The older I get the more disillusioned I become. If everyone is so impressive why do I feel so generally unimpressed. I suppose you could say it’s me, that may be fair enough. They may say that you see what you wish to see, but I say the heart wants what it wants. And I want so much more than this it hurts like hell to even write it down.

Death All on Your Mouth

I once heard the voice of love say she was my pain. Not that she was inside my anguish but that she was my anguish itself. Looking up at the giant flower moon high in the cold night sky, I feel my sadness swell in my chest. It is a kind of tender ache which accompanies awe, which tugs at the sleeves of wonder and amazement that we are at the mercy of so many invisible, sinister forces out of our control.

You cannot choose with what you will become obsessed. Something other than you sets you off, something beautiful, menacing, much bigger than you could ever hope to overcome, with claws and nails and teeth. Take your hands and touch me everywhere and know that I am here with you. My body is the deepest sea of a love so crushing you have no chance of surviving it. Death will come for you and you alone in an intimate moment of climactic separation. Death is the ultimate intimacy, complete and utter solitude and oneness with the universe which spins and pulses indifferent and eternal.

This love you seek is lethal and still you seek it. Beg for it. Seethe for it. Sin for it. Grieve for it. A wise poet once said that when we mourn we mourn ourselves. It is not the dead that choke up in our throats but our own lives in the shadow of their absence. And here I thought I knew it all about loss. But it could be that everything I pinned my life against was always crumbling down, falling away, full of rot and decay. Could it be that the tears I shed were a kind of reflecting pool. I hate to think we are so selfish as we are but I don’t think we see it. Or if we do we think it is somehow justified.

Love like a sedative, love like a junkie, love like a death you want only to fall naked in front of just to be free of the chains of a life you are ashamed to have constructed and know not how to dismantle on your own. Sex as death, orgasm as death, and a life afterwards fucked up with desperation, confusion, emptiness. Drooling, crying, hating yourself.

Some people never get it do they. They think they can side step, they think they can play. But the devil is in the details they say. You think I am sweet but I am never satisfied. I always want more. More feeling, more worship, more thoughts, more creation, more revelations, more pain, more dare, more stimulation. Death is never satisfied. It wants it all and it takes it all, too. Death and I are insatiable.

Is this why you come to me and ask me to break you all the way down. Is this why your whole body trembles when I come too close. Is this why you need it.