Worth Your Life

This confirms my sense that I have been allowed to use my life well, in work that was worth the time spent on it. 

This is a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin from the foreword of her essay collection Words Are My Matter. When I read this collection in 2016, I was moved by many of the pieces but I cannot say that any in particular stuck out to me in such a way that I could recall them now in vivid detail. Though, I am sure that in revisiting some, they would sound familiar in ways unexpected and welcome.

Reading most books is this way, each becomes part of me but more like they run through my blood together as a collective liquid life, one idea flowing right into the next and melting into new blended form, thus enriching, nourishing one another. That is to say, each book does not become its own single part of me, a bone or a tooth or a limb, but rather pours into who and what I already am, and then stays with me like an undercurrent of ever renewed and renewing life force.

In the dark hours of this morning, as I sipped my coffee and listened to the sifting of the crickets buzzing outside my window, I picked up Le Guin’s collection once again and re-read the foreword, coming upon this sentence which cut right to my center.

Perhaps the timing is uncanny and that is why these words in particular held my little sleepyhead face in their hands. I have spent my whole life writing, and have changed, evolved, and grown as a writer and consumer of the word (I believe, I hope).

But right now, in my life this minute, at the very top of today, a day on top of so many which have been rocked by fear and catastrophe, wonder and hope and uncertainty, I find myself wondering, why? What has it all been for, and have my values changed over all this time in a way that means going forward I will take a new path in my writing.

Could I have more intimate, intricate things to say?

How can I be sure I know that late in life, when I look back, I too can say I have used my life well, in work that was worth the time.

 

.

Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Spirits (audio)

The hands of the clock slide down the wall as shadows dance playfully in the quiet fading light of evening. Creaks in the floorboards remind me of haunted things, each sudden sound a touch on my shoulder and I could swear someone was there.

The silence gets to you, toys with your senses and knocks your sense of perception just off enough to make you wonder whether or not you are losing your mind. These days, of course, how would you even know.

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid in the backyard right before a rainstorm? How the little hairs on your tiny arm would stand on end at the first distant rumble of thunder, the smell of the earth mingled with moisture, and a rush of electric excitement would course through your veins? Those moments felt so alive to me, more alive than so many moments now all grown up.

Something of the magic falls vacant inside. What it feels like to have faith in a universe which can still surprise you in a way that you can hold in your heart forever.

How long ago was forever?

Sipping my wine, I look out above the empty street. I watch glittery specks of light pierce the dark as the stars come out all over the globe. The curtains blow in the sweet summer nightwind against my cheek.

When I close my eyes, I can feel something in the atmosphere as it is breathing.

A sound like footsteps in the hall as a kid lying still beneath the blankets in the dark. I could have sworn someone was there.

 

.

Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Mind’s Eye

Crawling up close to me, he tries to pull me under the covers to fall back asleep but I want none of it so I get up quick and slide out of the bedroom, pulling the door closed softly behind me. There is another world which calls to me like a siren, and I need to get to her before she disappears out over the horizon with the first light of dawn.

It’s not him, it’s me. I can’t take the noise in my head and I can’t fold my body into sex anymore, it’s all just too loud. I’ve got too much on my mind. I know that sounds obnoxious, but I would hush the whole world if I could just to find some kind of quiet meaning in all of this.

I am drawn to the page even as the page causes me such terrible trouble. My system is a wreck of words and nerves, desires and dreams, and for some reason it’s the early morning hours that plunge me straight into the depths of my most favorite beautiful chaos.

The midnight ocean mind is where the real seduction is, imagination, fantasy, escape. The mind is the muscle of the soul, someone wise and luminous once said. To think for yourself is holy work. And perhaps it is. Perhaps what I am searching for is grace, enlightenment, some kind of profound answer to the questions I do not yet know how to ask in a way that would reveal me to myself.

As the full bright moon glows like a single light bulb up in an empty sky, I realize that so often my mind feels completely disconnected from my soul, and everything else in my life. I go through the motions like everyone else but inside is a whole other universe, a whole other story. One that begs to be told.

This is me. I am an attempt to touch that place, and touch it, and touch it alone.

 

.

Photo by Davide Ragusa

Flashing Lights (audio)

The screen of my laptop keeps flickering making it hard to write because all I see are black and white flashes in rapid succession, horizontal lines skewing up and down in distortion. Google tells me it’s some kind of ribbon in the hinge that’s malfunctioning but with the plague out there and my nerves eating the underside of my pale skin in here, I decide to wrestle with the laptop until I get it just so and the screen stabilizes for the time being.

Lazy I know, but these days it’s hard to tell what amount of effort placed in accomplishing anything is worth the time or the money.

He’s out running errands, so I ask him to pick me up a bottle of rose wine on his way home, something pretty, something he thinks I would like. There’s nothing to celebrate. It is no special occasion this evening but I decide the full moon energy is excuse enough to cheer myself from the well of clutching despair which I somehow manage to trip and slide deep down into in the afternoons.

Screen once again flickering, I sip my last now-cold swallow of tea and look out upon the thin gray rain. It is so thin I have to squint to see if it’s really there or if I am just imagining it, just willing it to be falling down into the dirty black street.

I don’t like the potential for a thing to be happening, I like the thing to just go ahead and happen, just get on with it, good, bad or indifferent. It’s the waiting, the watching, the wondering, the waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s the hesitation, that’s what kills you.

Glancing out the window into the garden I see that somehow the yellowish light behind the thick cloud cover makes the high trees appear a kind of unnatural electric green. 

As he shuffles in with the wine, I take a swig straight from the bottle and kiss him on the cheek. When the floral notes make their way down to warm my wild insides, the staleness of the day is so thin I feel it slip through my fingers and circle down the drain as I rinse our glasses in the sink. 

 

.

Photo by Ari He

Now More Than Ever

Meaning has lost all meaning, I come to this conclusion as I sit hovered over the page, pen in hand, empty, confused, wondering how exactly I got here. Not that here is anyplace particularly perplexing. I am a writer, the page, the screen, the pen, the keyboard, it’s all a home of sorts, just one that sucks me in only to kick me down and leave me feeling disconnected at times like these.

But we come back for the mistreatment. We always do. Writers are masochists.

I’ve taken an interest in researching carnal alchemy. BDSM and that. Always fascinating to me, mostly from a psychological perspective. Sadism. Marquis de Sade. I had read that the sadist is also the artist, which was an interesting concept.

“The Sadist is also the Artist. The insightful definition of Sadeanism offered by Gorer (“the pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer”) is equally true of the Artist or Magician. In the work of all of these types something is imagined in the subjective universe and from there it is caused to come into being in the objective universe.” – Stephen E. Flowers

It has been said that Sade had an uncanny ability to be both outrageously grotesque while at the same time terribly boring. I’ve not read him so I cannot say, but just having this impression is somewhat amusing. Humans are so hellbent on pleasure they numb themselves to it all in the end.

We think there has to be something more. Is this all there is, we think to ourselves.

I get through the day to get through the day to get through the week. I try placing my faith in hope but the love, the trust, just isn’t there anymore. I reach out and my fingers stretch deep into the void.

I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know ‘how I am.’ I don’t know who I am. Or perhaps I should say it in this way: I don’t know who I am in relation to what is happening all around me.

Is it too much out there or too much in here?

My country is dying. It is in the fits and throws of gasping and grasping for breath. The fires are all consuming and we are trying to stand back and assess the risks of running in or running away.

I listen to a beautiful person speak about purpose. They mention God and I light up a cigarette as I watch their immaculate face illuminated by the light reflecting off of the ceiling as cars pass on the street below, flashing quickly by.

Purpose. Direction. Worth. Life and death and madness. Any sense of purpose or direction I felt before, I’m over that now. It’s all over. The way it was. Never even was.

 

.

Photo by Shadow Walker

Fixation

The world is awake. It is Tweeting and bleating and screaming and angry and jilted and fucked, abused, furious, offended, opinionated, angry, nervous, outraged. Stupid. Conflicted. Livid, pretty, petty, cruel, obstinate.

Already.

It is Sunday morning. 9:09am. I have my coffee and my notebook and the air coming in is a glorious sixty seven degrees and blustery, pushing the trees all around like leafy green rag dolls. The sky is pale blue, washed with thin wisps of white cloud.

My neighbor has fired up his ridiculous lawn equipment so he can make those perfectly obnoxious straight lines around the edges of his property on which appears a political sign in support of a lunatic whose name I cannot even bear to speak let alone read or write or repeat.

He thinks he is protecting himself. He prays to a god he made up, to be spared a fate he himself controls all on his own.

And the most powerful are the most afraid, how much they stole, how much they have amassed, how much they stand to lose, so they tighten their grip around the throats full of hunger and confusion.

*How are you today?

It will always be the ones who are most cruelly treated who rebel.

This is the way of it. There is no other way, you see.

So get your coffee and read your newsfeeds. Share something, say something, do something. Try a little harder to not think about normal so much, it’s exhausting searching for something that doesn’t exist.

A word, a savior, a cure, a fix.

*How are you feeling?

And the wind turns heavy and brutal, and the bough breaks as the hinges come off of everything that was once held together so neatly. We watch in horror, stationary, we watch, we watch.

The world is awake, wide awake, as it all happens.

They tell you to write it down.

Write it down so you don’t forget.

There was a time before.

And this is how it felt.

*Are you doing okay?

 

.

 

In the Name of Nothing Holy (audio)

There is whisky in the water and there is death upon the vine, but I just sit here drinking white wine in the late afternoon, wondering what it would feel like to run out into the open like an animal, barefoot, naked, into the drenching summer rain.

I imagine the slickness of my whole body, the way my sex awakens for the warmth of liquid nature, until I lose myself.

I once heard an alcoholic say she doesn’t drink to take the edge off, she drinks to disappear. Addicts. Addictions. Labels. Cures. We are parents and wives and husbands and children. We dream too big or not at all, we walk a thin line and try our hands at the things we hope can save our lives.

From what? From whom?

I smell the earth rising up as the heavens fall gently in sheets against the pavement, wet the grass, wet the street, slide in swirling rivers down through the grates at the corner.

Rainfall, succulent relief. Just the sound of it arouses every sense within me, my skin reacts, my mind quiets, breathes, unfolds. Perhaps my psyche is a flower, blossoming, delicate, thirsty.

The weightlessness of beauty tangles around the heaviness which I have become accustomed to carrying in my bones. It is coiled in my womb. If one more person uses the phrase; now more than ever before, I will scream. Everything, it seems, is dying or heading there, at warp speed.

This mad world sets itself in motion but the swiftness of its spinning, its wretched eagerness to exceed, sets it on fire. I can see it through the screen as I watch from the upstairs bedroom window.

There are laws and guns and money. There is sex and family and greed. Cancer and houseplants and ignorance. The sky is mellowing, the rain is so soft as to almost fall silent, to pull down a veil of silence, over me.

Taking a pen from the drawer, I open my notebook. My heart is a clench of terrible loneliness. And the pen feels right and hard in my fingers, and the page waits hopefully for me there.

But how could I possibly?

What on earth was it I thought I wanted to say?

 

.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina

Geometry of Desire

We come to understand the triangulation of desire. We see the lover, the beloved, and the obstacle which separates them from one another. Desire requires this separation, without it the structure of Eros collapses in upon itself.

The lovers wish to remove the barrier, dissolve the boundaries, to become one. This is the nature of the craving, the need for union, the longing for dissolution of the boundary. The aching for sacred violation.

And this, of course, is impossible. All time cannot be removed between the two, all space cannot be destroyed, for we are human creatures, bodies and minds and souls, made of our own flesh and bone and skin and psyche.

We are destined to remain within ourselves, to remain individual selves. All the while, within each of us, a longing which can never be fulfilled, never be satisfied.

There are some of us who seek for even the slightest satiation of these needs, sparking, burning, flashing in the dark.

And here we have the poetry that is desire. The poetics of loss, of need, of want, of the tragic beauty of the bittersweet emptiness.

Star gazers. Seekers of knowledge, tasters of the forbidden fruit. Practitioners of the art of seduction.

We beckon, we sing our siren songs for no one who can save us from ourselves.

Ouroboros.

Desirer of the desire, wanter of the want.

 

 

.

 

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy

 

Something to Believe In

It’s about having something to believe in, he says to me with something quite like, but not exactly, conviction in his eyes. As the words jut from his mouth like a stiff tongue down the throat (more probe than aphrodisiac), I watch his hands moving in such a way as to emphasize his point, which I think he thinks is revolutionary for me but in reality causes me to question everything I’ve ever thought about him all over again.

This is not a rare occurrence, my questioning of him, my questioning of myself, of the entire meaning of existence and my specific mysterious random place within it. If I could take a stab at it, I would guess I cycle through what could be called a collapse of certainty or lack of confidence in a world which proves itself untrustworthy at many a turn, every hour on the hour.

And here we sit, across from one another in a small room, coffee and cigarettes and he looking exquisitely poised as he gazes poetically out the window at nothing in particular. A tiny bird zips by, catching my eye in the split second its small body appears, then disappears, in the afternoon sun.

Observing the tense of his jaw, the subtle flex of his strong arms as he tilts back in his chair, I can feel the way I build up and knock down each emotion he causes to swell up within me. I know exactly what love feels like and I don’t know anything at all about love.

I ride and swing empty punches at the waves. Meanwhile, in his palms he wishes to offer me the idea of belief, as if in justice or peace or charity, kindness or boldness or nobility. Belief as some kind of final resolve, so I can relax. So I can sleep. So I can move ahead.

So I could be less intense, less afraid.

As if the questioning would produce, suddenly, some kind of satisfying answer. As if the questioning itself weren’t the only thing I trust.

 

.

 

Photo by Yohann Libot

Through to the Other Side

Morning is still a deep ocean blue outside my window as the cool air moves in over my skin. Accepting the periwinkle dawn’s invitation into another day, I slide out of bed and into a hoodie and head downstairs for an obscenely large mug of coffee.

I read the news on my phone, or a bit of it, before clicking the stupid thing off and tossing it face down on the desk in my writing room. The news of the day is the news of the minute is hardly news at all when you’re so jittery you can’t remember what’s come before or after anything else.

And this is, of course, how they want you. Internally chaotic, externally enraged. Afraid. So twisted into knots that you oscillate yourself perpetually between two states of being: immobile and flailing. Away. Out of their way as they make their way into a brave new apocalypse.

But you know what they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

I make my way through a day as anyone might, coffee, writing, office, wine, dinner with my beloved, with whom I discuss some things and not others because we have learned each other well by now. Time passes and you arrange yourself into the habits and kinks, making of commitment and attraction as nuanced a cocktail as you can divine.

As the sun is swallowed behind dark clouds of nightfall, I consider giving up the bottle for good, but decide now isn’t the time and sink into bath water hot enough to turn the soft skin on my thighs bright red as I submerge below lavender bubbles. There is a hardness inside which melts a little into the beautiful heat, steaming itself off of my bones, soothing my numbed nerves.

As I lower my face beneath the water I imagine another place and another time, and a childlike innocence sweeps across my tender lost little heart. When I come up for air and open my eyes, will it be different? Will it be better if we make it to the other side?

 

.

Photo by Velizar Ivanov