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.

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.

Blood Is Red In the Open Air

Alexander Krivitskiy

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. 

Finding Myself: Reflections On Self-Transformation During Quarantine

“Getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are.”
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

As I move through the days, I realize more and more that I feel desperate for a world that is more thoughtful, contemplative, aware, awakened, transformed. Desperation, though, is not anything I can work with, this wishing for a different kind of world, as that is not within my control. What I can work with, however, is myself. So I am taken recently with the idea of doing inner work with myself in a way I wish society and the outer world at large would take the time to do before emerging from this gruesome pandemic. You see, I don’t want to go blindly back, I want to move forward transformed. And my fear is that too many people want the former even as I am starved for the latter. I am hungry for a transformation of some kind to take place both within and around me.

I have admired Rebecca Solnit for so many years I can’t even recall when I first was introduced to her work, save to say it was a long while ago. But I had never before read her incredibly eloquent, insightful book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. It has come into my life just a few days ago and met me exactly where I am in my -sometimes/often rattled- mind and soul. (Incidentally, the irony of a book about being lost finding me where I am in the dark right now is not. . . ahem, lost on me.)

There is a quote by Henry David Thoreau which I find quite poignant: “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves,” that resonates very deeply and profoundly with me in this present moment, some nine weeks into isolation. In a sense, I do feel I have lost the world, lost connection to it, not completely of course, but very much so in many ways. And I find it such a gift to have this extended period of time to turn inward, to take the journey into my own heart and mind and ask the big existential questions. What is most important to me in my life? What is my purpose here? What will I do with my gifts, interests, passions, ideas, thoughts, visions? What do I want to explore moving forward into a brand new phase of life, expression, creativity?

I am privileged to be able to spend time inside of myself with very little outside stress. I am safe, many are not. And I cringe every time I hear someone say “We just need to get back to normal.” I physically wince inside as though I have been struck because I am afraid of the grave mistake of going back to the old idea of normal. The idea that we need to rush to the end of a major global catastrophe and quickly forget it ever even happened. Well, I don’t want the world to forget. I don’t want to forget. And I don’t want to rush out. Not out of my house, not out of this moment in this one precious life of mine when so much is being revealed, our weaknesses exacerbated and our strengths tested at every turn. I want to sink inward and search for what I need to find, what I need to understand about what this experience is teaching me. Turn toward what is calling to me to be still and listen, to learn, to be made new. I want to be changed. Opened. I seek answers. Revelations. Insights. Discoveries. Magic. Mystery. We are all lost right now. We are surrounded by the unforeseen, the unknown, and the unknowable. Isn’t this where rich art is born? Out of uncertainty? Out of the searching for the secrets within? Out of being lost, and found, by ourselves in darkness?

In a beautifully elegant passage from A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Solnit writes:

“Edgar Allen Poe declared, ‘All experience in matters of philosophical discovery, teaches us that, in such discovery, it is the unforeseen upon which we must calculate most largely.’ Poe is consciously juxtaposing the word ‘calculate’ which implies a cold counting up of the facts or measurements, with ‘the unforeseen,’ that which cannot be measured or counted, only anticipated. How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control. To calculate the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.” (emphasis mine)

For me, this is the very essence of the creation of art of every kind. A collaboration with chance, with the dare, with the unknown, the unseen. An acceptance, and even a welcoming, rather than a rejection or denial of the unforeseen, the incalculable, the mysterious force with which we interact in order to transform and be transformed.

“In her novel Regeneration, Pat Barker writes of a doctor who ‘knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.” Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (emphasis mine)

We have, in a sense, lost the world, lost contact with much of it. Lost control of much of it. Lost the illusions of a control we thought we had but in truth never did. We are experiencing grief, rupture, disintegration, decay. I don’t want to have gone through all of this mind bending upheaval and have learned nothing, to have nothing to show for it, nothing to emerge with when we see each other again. I want to find the gifts of this moment in time, brutal, surprising, breathtaking, and honest as they may be. Through all the heartache, I need to know it was worth something. That there is something in me I can still give, and a place within me which is still open to receiving.

The truth is, there is no going back, there never is. And I wouldn’t want there to be. I want to move forward, to be transformed into a new person, a new being with deeper awareness and intimate insights and renewed perspectives on everything. I want that for myself and I want it for the world. But I can only take care of myself. So I start in my own mind, my own body, my own spirit, my own soul. I read about getting lost and more and more, I am finding the deep abiding wisdom which can only be revealed in silence, in isolation. I cling to the hope of my soul’s voice, as wide as an ocean, wild, powerful, roaring, steady, ancient, shimmering in the dark.