The Beautiful and the Damned

The morning is balmy and close, hot already in the early shining rays of summer sun. As I watch the buildings begin to glisten in the light, a wet fog pulls in nearly obscuring what I know to be there, angles and lines which have been there for as long as I can remember. Tracing my gaze over his face as he sleeps in perfect breathy silence, I wonder who I am sometimes and how I got here into a place both familiar and unknown. There has always been a part of me which was detached, sifting, both here and away, both touchable and untouchable. We are born into a game which has two sides and no way to win, only ways to keep kicking the can down the road. Only ways to keep flipping the coin until it all stops for good. Today, heads. Tomorrow, a tailspin, perhaps, or the same old thing underneath what you wish you could bring about but haven’t the skills nor the energy. Having little tolerance for sleeping in, I pull my ever lengthening strawberry golden waves into a knot, slide out of the warmth of our bed, and tip toe off to the kitchen for coffee. The salons have opened up again and my favorite one calls and leaves me voicemails which I ignore. Come back in, we’re open! A cheerful pleading desperation. As if by making an appointment for a haircut I’d have cured something no one yet knows how to cure; soothed a fear no one can bear to feel shocking through their hearts minute by minute; affirmed a truth we all know is fabrication. We are not okay. We have not been okay. So very little of what is happening is okay. I drove by the other day on the way to the liquor store and saw the tiny salon parking lot overflowing with cars. Ah, yes, the herds are herding, the flocks are flocking, all trimmed and tweezed, waxed and highlighted back into a perverted kind of normal which I increasingly despise.

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Photo by Daniele D’Andreti

When I Think of You

Time is running short and the day is closing in faded pinks and blues like an eyelid over a dying world. I could not chase you without the strength and so I let you go. But I never forgot what you told me, in the quiet light of midnight fire, about beauty, about the value and nobility of listening to the harvest moon. It is wrapped within the silence, this is the way I feel you now inside my skin. Untouched, untouchable, and pure. My way of moving through the world is at times waif thin, at times so quiet you could swear we had never even met at all. But you remember when you see my face in the mirror beside you, a ghost of the way we once were, radiant, magnificent, two voices tangled in laughter down the hall as we passed through one another into the rest of our lives. When I am alone, I light a cigarette and fill my lungs and the air with pain, sweet, burning pain which crushes out the embers of illusion. I cannot get you out of my head and yet I know my heart is only the more tattered and torn for it. Perhaps what we savor the most is the dread, perhaps it is the poetry which breathes the aching in our ribs. Little cages full of roses and water. In my mind, your hands encircle my throat and hold me beneath the ocean waves. You, like a baptism by drowning. You, like blood in a vein, a body pulsing with pleasure, sound, and magic.

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Photo by Mahir Uysal

May I Tell You About the Rain (audio)

May I tell you about the rain? It is now falling softly upon the grassy lawn outside my bedroom window, as the sun is gently trying to peel through a rough scatter of deep purple gray clouds. I can see the yellowed melon rays glinting along the drainpipe which runs down the corner of the house across the street. I can’t explain why but there is this very real fear inside of me, throbbing in the center of my bones, that if I cannot tell you about the rain, I may as well not exist at all underneath this skin which tingles at even the tiniest idea, the smallest suggestion of the sound of poetry. Sizzles with the heat of anticipation, possibility, and dread, the clasp of an invisible hand around my heart whose fingers subtly press, squeezing tight enough to pump the veins full of fresh crimson concern. I am alive with the rain, I am alive for it. The rain, meanwhile, with its wide ancient mind set upon other things, has moved out across the fields away from me and I can no longer hear its tiny drops on the hot pavement. But the scent of its memory comes in a gauzy wave through the window where I sit, coffee in hand, head in an alternate universe. I miss all the things I have not yet written about. I carry the rain inside when it goes away. When I tell you about the rain, I am wondering if you can hear what I am saying. Are you able to listen beneath the listening. Do you understand that the rain is not a substance but a sensation, that it is an experience with which I am deeply involved, in which I am eternally invested. Some may read this and call it madness, obsession, nonsense. I am well aware of that kind of thing by now. But I feel it is important to note, that in one’s single precious life, there should be a very important difference acknowledged between what one is simply aware of and what one is willing to give one’s self over to completely, heavily, dramatically, wholly. What altar at which one deliberately decides to worship. And if you have paid me any mind at all, and I do hope you have because I truly do wish to exist, you will understand that I’ve yet to find anything, living or deceased, more worthy than the rain.

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Photo by Esther Ann

Made to Suffer

The professor speaks to me of pain while twisting it into a kind of pleasure which is not a new sensorial experience for me, but is new to have someone attempt to explain it in such clinical terms. Intrigued, I close my mind to all other thought and listen with marked attention. There is a blurring of boundaries which takes place both inside of his mind and inside of my own as he describes the body’s natural responses to stimulus, both hurtful and enjoyable, defining each as ‘punishment’ or ‘reward.’ I watch his eyes, flashing almost imperceptibly when he uses certain terms. Like ‘administer’ and ‘the subject’ and ‘threshold.’ Taking a sip of water to quench my thirst and attempt to cool the heat beginning to simmer in my veins, I slide a wet finger across my lower lip and take a note down in my notebook. It is the separation which is the illusion. It is the labeling of a feeling such that categories may be constructed to fit inside a mind which is instinctively fearful of discomfort. How we fear and crave discomfort in the same sweaty breath which holds the heart and mind suspended above the mundane human experience, elevates us for a few heavenly moments into the divinity which expands beyond the body, only rarely accessible through it. Forcing myself to concentrate on this man’s teachings, I observe the slowness with which he crosses the room in front of me, setting a pace, a rhythm, the deliberate pattern of his steps a metronome back and forth rustling a fire beneath my blossoming curiosity.  Perhaps to suffer is a prerequisite for euphoria, not entirely apart from it, some kind of distorted abundance. A terrible excess. To suffer is to feel deeply everything except the thing you most desire to feel. As a lover suffers the undesired absence of both the pleasure and the pain inflicted by her object of affection. It is the void which is the gaping, the ache, the mystery. As a poet suffers for the word. For the ache of being made aware that the word is there, just beneath the surface of her own skin, yet cannot be touched.

What It Does to You

Stefano Zocca

You take out the trash and spin little white lies around your tongue wondering if you let them fall from your lips would they tear everything you’ve been building for so long apart in the spark of an accidental instant. Keep it together. Shake it off. Get over yourself. The tall trees are lush and green with the sweet heat of summer as they sway on the breeze, while the sky is the kind of razor sharp blue that stabs in your chest and makes you wish you could just be alone for a while to figure things out on your own. But the rush of demands is how they steal your life away, minute by minute, like a strategy, like a sport, as you chase the pain they run out the clock. Time has a way of collapsing in on itself, in on you, you can feel it in that knot right at the center of your shoulder blades. The boss and the kids and the leak in the basement and the dreams you once had all screaming so loud in your head it’s hard to find your own voice and pull it from the wreckage of the things inside you let die long ago. The days are long but they fade swiftly into oblivion with everything else and you find yourself wondering what any of it means, how many soft heartbeats line the rest of the path you’re meant to take. You carry such grand visions in your soul, there’s a secret place beaming and bursting with fire amidst the gray. There is something out there, you are sure of it, it slides through your veins like a whisper, somewhere you belong more beautiful than this. But it won’t get you rich and it won’t tuck you in and you’re not sure if the wild that once was within you is there anymore. Sometimes the dream is too big and in the vastness between your hand and your breathing the hope they fed you circles thinly down the drain. Did you know if you count the seconds from when a satellite first appears on the horizon to when it finally disappears on the other side of the sky, it takes the exact same amount of seconds for it to come back around and reappear again? Try it, I mean, if you find yourself on top of the world and have the time. The night air is stiff and cool as it comes through the open bathroom window. The face in the mirror is a barren moon with rock white eyes. Brush, rinse, spit, repeat.

But I Keep It to Myself

Jr Korpa

As you tell me a story about your messed up college days, I’m watching your full lips mouth the words you throw away. Imagining your tongue down my throat, I try my best to concentrate on the story but it really doesn’t matter to either of us so what’s the use. I know sometimes I’m too much. I know I should hold back. I know sometimes I’m too intense, I can be obsessive. I try to pass it off as artistic fire but the only place you seem to appreciate my inner animal is in the bedroom. Beneath the sheets you worship it as though it were sheer elegance, pure grace. Perhaps it is after all and you can see it better than anybody. My obscenities alchemize, become holy, become electric liquid heat. You were raised right, you were not raised with God nailed into your bones. I was raised up so high on prayer and sacrifice I was bound to come undone. God wrecked my sense of boundaries, pushed my face into the thin metal bus window frame. God put me in a dark tight box with a strange man and forced my mouth to open. God punished me and I liked it. God was humiliation, degradation, masturbation, fear. And I walked single file in skirted linen and lace straight into God’s unkind, unforgiving hands. God is dirty. God is bad. God is perverse. God is ferocious. God is pissed. The only difference is, She has no issues with any of it. Not like you think I have. When we kiss, the night sky inverts itself and pulls the air from my lungs in waves. And just when I think maybe I shouldn’t write the things I do, maybe I talk too much, you open me so deep I know it’s too late. Every word, glistening in wide constellation, is laid bare for you. I bite you for the blood not the bruising, trace the sweat along your thigh as a veil falls away between us. As every cruel ecstatic thing we do, God sees.

Bloodshot

Annie Spratt

Lighting up a cigarette, my eyes drift to the ceiling and fix upon a long legged spider as she takes her many thin spindled steps across to a cobwebbed corner. At least I think it’s a spider, could just be more dust spinning in the breeze or one of those nearly invisible gauzy things that fall upward for lack of alternate ambition. Should clean up around here but right now my eyes are stinging red, bloodshot like bugs squished against screens. Too many screens. Did you know they make special eyewear now, specific for people who stare too long at screens all day? Some sexy looking girl was pushing them on Instagram, something about blue light. People are diluted. Nothing amuses us more than creating fantastic problems so we can then drum up costly solutions to those problems which we invented in the first place to distract us from what matters the most to begin with. Love. What we wouldn’t give for just a little sweet taste of it on our bitter stained lips. Love for nothing. Love without strings and without end. Which cradles us and lets us run as fast and far as we need without ever asking why. Turning toward the window in the fading evening sun, I wish for the darkness to hurry up and close my eyes tight as I inhale a sick deep drag. Flashes of summers as a child flicker across the back of my mind like those tiny racing seabirds which scuttle against the edge of the ocean tide, warm images close enough to touch, to inhabit. Tan and wild and untamed and free in the way only a child can be, because she doesn’t know she isn’t. It is so fragile in the heart of a girl, the sword of the word at the base of the tongue, cuts on the knee, laughter over nothing at all. And everything. So absurd. I don’t want to be like other girls and yet I want to be like all of them. I watch as a mother pushes her baby in a carriage (carriage? do we still say that?) down the pavement. I hear the kids playing basketball in the park up the street.  It’s been a hot one and perspiration pierces through at the back of my neck. It’s been a long fucking day. A long fucking year this day has been.

The Beat Goes On

In the early morning light as it cuts corners into stark shapes along the buildings arranged in rows, a kind of hot energy bends and breaks itself upon the edges of the shadows. I hear and see things they cannot perceive and it both drains and fortifies me. Watch as the sun rises and falls, remember it stays the same, remember it is motionless and without need. White as cold ice melting at the bottom of a late night glass. As I fold my few things into a suitcase, the ocean plays itself in soft foam waves in my mind. Where in the world can we ever be free, but we try and we try and we run the pavement. He pours his coffee in the kitchen, I hear the mug slide onto the marble counter and something inside of me echoes inside of his daily routine. How do we tear our hearts out of this place. Sweet froths of pleasure sewn into the pain. Landscapes, seascapes, the heart is a difficult unnatural terrain. A summer of protests, the heat of violence, injustice, screaming and wrecking and pleading in the steaming streets. As I was taking down the words of Janaya Khan, something in their beauty tore a fire straight down the center of me. The Future. Their words full of fists, their soul full of dazzling light. I want to be changed. I want their hands on my skin, my wrists, my face, fingers in my blood. Don’t let me stay too long; don’t let me stay the same. They say the only punch that hurts is the one you don’t see coming. Eyes open now, beloved. Head up now, child. It’s time we learned ourselves a tough lesson. It’s time we held each other closer to the flames.

One Trick Pony

Kseniya Petukhova

The morning is cool and still, dimly lit underneath a light washed peach colored sky. As I sip coffee and listen to the birds singing wild and free outside my window, it occurs to me that I can’t go back to the way I was, and I sure as fuck don’t know how to move forward. The gurus would tell us to “be here now” I suppose, so perhaps I’ll start with that. My body is here now typing of course, but my mind skims over the happenings of the past few weeks. I would rather not obsess over what has transpired, but alas, such is the nature of an obsession. You can’t want the thing you want the most. It’s all a flutter, a multifaceted blur of emotion, drama, karma, clashes, fits of anger, sadness, rage, fear, lit up here and there with tiny flecks of shimmering hope. Not sure what if anything you know about me by now but I am just like everybody else. Neuroses, addictions, stupid mistakes, bad choices, dirty desires. The thing is no one is ever completely themselves on the outside, and I am no different. On the inside I am wracked with dreams, visions, ideas, heartaches, shadows, secrets. When I get it right, I can write of these internal things, I can conjure them, send them shooting up like bright flares into the dark velvet skies of night. Do you see me? Have we connected if only in the few seconds my hidden light scatters itself across your beautiful face, as you gaze up at the stars praying for the same absolution I do? In a few days I will be by the sea, this I look forward to very much. I have missed the expansive sight of the ocean, the sunlight flashing along the waves in the morning, bathing in tangerine and electric pinks at dusk. In times of extreme turmoil it seems only natural to reach for surroundings which remind us of who we really are, which ground us in the tangible, textured elements of earth, wind, fire, water. What is the story you tell about yourself to the ones you love? Do you tell it straight out or do you bend it toward who you want to be, someone better, more brave and less afraid? Toward who you wish you were, or who you wish they thought you were when they look at you? If the past is an illusion and the future anyone’s guess, perhaps all I can tell you is this: I’m here now. And in a world as mad as this one, I try very hard not to lose myself. I chart out plans, and write poetry, read the news, pack my bags, and just like you, I make my bets on what any of this might be worth.

The Patterns of the Mind

by Jacob Mejicanos

It is possible to be out of words, I know because it terrifies me as often as not, it comes and goes. I am a writer and it happens all the time but being out of words is easy, you just write some more until you can start to fit them together and make a little story. Make them into something people like to look at, look through, make their own, or project back onto you. Then again, it is possible to be so full of words you are choked by them into a crippling type of silence. They could be your own words, they could be the words of those around you, it has become harder and harder to tell. And there are so many people around you. So many, many voices. Telling you what to do and feel and think, how to act, who to believe!!! Who to believe. But you need to decide that for yourself. Through the noise, you peel back the curtain and you make your selections. You carve out a cause and you make a sign. Women and children and men in any order. So many voices around you. Perhaps they’ll tell you what to say. But it’s nothing you haven’t heard before only now it’s very loud. Only now it is louder and louder. And the ones lifting you up are the ones holding you down. But all you want is to be touched anyway so little by little there are tiny erosions in the difference. It is possible the end is near or, even worse, the beginning. It could be we are only just at the beginning of increased cruelty, well, some of us. (It’s a continuum, you see. Don’t you see?) This seems most likely, although they would prefer you don’t speak about that. “They.” Such a spooky term to use. How jarring to have it fall from my fingertips so easily. And to understand exactly what I mean so clearly, unequivocally. (Did you?) They need to pull us apart to get inside where they can do the rest of the job they came to do. There are cracks in the ceiling. My eyes trail over them back and forth as I listen to the voices. Listen. Listen. Listen. Sounds like skin. I suck the smoke through the gaps in my teeth. I swallow. I spit. I break a fingernail and chew. See if you can notice the inflections in the tone, the sarcasm and the degradation. See if you can get at your own sense of worth in spite of everything else trying to convince you otherwise. Recite the words in small phrases, small bites. Try to go fast without thinking, you know what that’s probably it: you probably just think too much. Forget it. Just select your five hundred words a day. It’s okay if this was really tough for you to put together. It’s okay if they don’t understand you right away. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.