There’s always a chance, a terrible chance but a real one none the less, that you may never write again. That all the things you are dying to say will fall away for good and neither your tongue nor your fingers nor your mind will be able to offer you any way out of yourself again. Perhaps it’s writers block, or perhaps you will just have used it all up and for no reason whatsoever the magic will have gone the way of old record players and static transistor radios. A distant memory of a time when you knew exactly who you were and wouldn’t let go for anything or anyone. Your life was yours, as was the way you told it. Was there ever such a time? A time with no rules and no expectations? Without being able to write, you could not access any of the answers you seek. And without any answers, what are you at all but lost among the wreckage. And the minute that fear of dead inspiration finally settles into your skin, you can feel the panic in the pit of your stomach. There’s wine, there’s smokes, there’s the taking of a warm body into your bed. There are thoughts he wants to know about and thoughts you can’t express. Two days away from the pen, three days, a week, and now everything is a red fiery sunset behind the eyes of every stranger, every lover, every one who speaks to you no matter what they say, all you can hear is the mashing together of the words erupting from the mess you carry deep inside. They talk and you pretend to listen. They lament and you pretend to care but, jesus christ, you are spent. Can’t they tell your jittery mind needs your undivided attention? Your bones, your thoughts, the very life beating in your chest, so precious and so fleeting, and all they want to do is flick cigarettes into the gutter and complain about not having won the fucking lottery. People are absurd and all the while they’ve no idea they are anything of the sort. Walking the streets on a gray afternoon, as fallen leaves swirl and crunch along the pavement, I am lost in thoughts of the many things we never speak about and why we never do. Is it that the words are too soft or too sharp? Too real, too true, too irretrievable? How frightening to be revealed for who you truly are when your whole life you’ve done such a good job of covering up the scars, the failures, the claws. The secrets we keep, who are we keeping them from? Those we’d hurt? Those we love? Ourselves? I can count on one hand the number of people who understand me and the list gets shorter every year that passes away into the soundless ether. Is it me, or is it them? Or is it that people are so consumed with nothingness inside their phones that we are simply, second by slim ignorant second, ebbing ever away from each other. Far be it from me to say or judge, considering I’d rather be alone most of the time anyway. Humans are troubled and I’ve had enough of their self-made woes. It’s always the ones with the farthest reaches of undeserved power who complain the loudest, demand the most. Tell me something that will last forever. Tell me a truth so beautiful it breaks your heart to know it and have no way to properly express it. There are feelings without words to accompany them, only tears, only screams. These are the feelings I obsess over without relent. Give me a thought that cuts through all the bullshit and electrifies the night sky with a single promise you’ll never be able to keep but with each and every drop of blood in your timid veins you will try, try to believe until your breath leaves your weakened body for the last time. When I round the corner and slip inside the coffee shop, the envelope of warm air and cinnamon mixed with coffee beans surrounds and welcomes me. I write here when I can’t write at home but nothing much good ever comes of it. It’s hard to concentrate when lives are being lived out all around you in hushed detail. Someone’s lying, someone’s pregnant, someone’s promoted, someone’s leaving. Someone got stood up, someone can’t put down the bottle. Someone is lonely and they are not saying it out loud. The elderly are crumbling and the newborns are needy and it’s all life in little coffee mugs, in little capsules of humanity huddled against the frosted window pane with it’s glittering snowflakes carefully painted into place within the white noise. But you and I, we are so much more than this. While they disintegrate in their small houses lined straight in rows like headstones in graveyards under forgotten skies, we are angels soaring high over endless snow covered hills.
Nuzzled awake by a soft sunrise sliding its fingers through my bedroom window, I’m already in deep contemplation about what to do with my stacks and stacks of old journals which now do nothing but prop up potted plants and collect dust in the corner of my writing room. So many years, so many words, so many thousands of pages of nothing more than hopes and dreams of becoming something more than just a no name writer holed up in a small room overlooking a life of mediocrity and patience. As the hourglass pours through its allotted portion one minuscule grain of sand at a time, we begin and we hesitate. We dream and we wake, we bleed and we quiver and in the end it’s just hot coffee on a freezing cold morning in mid November, baseboard heater pumping and creaking away beneath a pale blue sky, pierced by a slim line of naked young trees. The notebooks though, I have never quite known what to do with them. And as I mull it over, I keep penning more and more still, thus compounding my dilemma. Old memories and angst filled pages, I’m sure, and I want nothing to do with reading through them again but I have this strange (admittedly completely unfounded) concern that if I threw the lot of them all out in the trash at once some random waste management worker will actually sit and read them laughing and judging and cursing me all the way. This random person would read through my entire story and have all the answers I could never find because they would see all of the things I couldn’t. My life can often feel like looking at an object up so close it is impossible to see what it is. Or perhaps by unbelievably ridiculous chance, an artist would come upon the journals and make a terrible movie of their wayward story. I’d be humiliated, mortified, exposed, and get no credit whatsoever. I could burn them, page by page, one clear winter night alone by a fire sipping wine, smoking cigarettes and letting everything I’ve ever been through, cried about, tore my heart to shreds over, go up in dark clumps of exotic smoke, ember and ash. As I gaze up at the moon still hung there on this early morning, I think about how she is the same cratered moon who has been spinning about me all my life. And no matter what I do with the journals, whatever it was that moved my hand to write the things I would never dare speak aloud, moves deep within me still. I could destroy and dismember the material but the skeletons walk within me until I’m no longer. I could take the pages out to sea. Let the tide wash them clean as salt water does all things, drops of ocean, drops of tears only a woman could understand and only in the privacy of a heart worn thin but still warm, still beating. We are of fire and water, wind and earth and spirit. Little transient fools of beauty and lust, fury, vision, and bone. Dust to dust, our bodies and our stories.
Even though I write, I hold back. Even when I push people away, I don’t want to be left alone. Even when I say I’m done, I can’t help thinking of him until he finds me in dreams and takes me high above the sadness which cloaks me in every kind of weather. And even though I have feelings that don’t seem to fit anywhere in this world, I still go on searching which means there must be something in me that still believes there is a reason for all this madness. Writers. Seekers. Addicts. Cowards. An intoxicated man passes out at the wheel, killing himself and a young family in a fiery car accident on an avenue no one’s ever heard of. He didn’t feel a thing. Did they? Or was it too sudden to react or feel anything at all? Was this always going to be the way it ended or did fate take an awful turn just because some fool made a series of poor decisions? Even though I worship at the altar of the word I harbor thick fears about the things I want to say. The pressure they imposed upon me to be good, to obey, to please, to achieve. Be polite. Be sweet. Say you are happy when you are suffocating. Smile when you are afraid. Say yes when you mean you don’t know. Say yes when you mean I don’t want to but I’m terrified of hurting you so I let you hurt me. How we mess up as parents. How we mess up as kids in a world which tried its best to keep us safe from monsters when all the while it was raising them good and proper deep inside of us. Pawns. Knee socks. Choirs. Confessionals. Long after dark in a small church whose west wall is crumbling from neglect and lack of funding, a young girl stands before a newly ordained minister. In the flickering light of candle glow, through a thin veil of incense burning near her bare shoulders, the girl removes her top as the minister looks on, mouth dry, heart pounding. It is late and the church pews are empty, the holy atmosphere aches full of forbidden acts of temptation. Perversion. Serpents. Sin. As though possessed, his mouth moves down to taste her breast as she closes her eyes and sighs for forgiveness, for a way through the darkness into the light. Flesh and blood and skin on fire. He touches her where she is weak. Savior. Sacrifice. Wine as drink as body as feast. What they never tell you is that to access your divinity you have to fall on your knees for your broken humanity. To touch the golden garments of saints you must be defiled at the hands of the wicked. That the more they deny you the more you will crave. I met a writer once, a beautiful writer of ethereal skill, who told me that to get at what he really wants to say, he has to write about something else entirely. You have to write fiction to get at the truth. You need to circle and circle the prey. Stalkers. Con artists. Thieves.
And yet I am unable to recall your face. Memory blinks in and out, the fade of a single dying star in a midnight fog. Atoms circling at the center of a universe which repeats itself, rippling outward until all is what was, what will ever be. Featureless, you move within me as rib, thigh, muscle, bone. The blood in my mouth, the blood of you. My body a map of the heady taste of you. My hands as they reach for the moon, silken fingers trembling, still resemble the shape of you. Uneven cobblestone streets on early autumn evenings, we walk together in lavender light as wild geese soar silent overhead. Their black silhouettes stark against white sky. Some people suffer unspeakable deaths while others continue to exist on heels more and more uncertain. You should have been here. You should have opened your mercury eyes of hallowed vision inside the sweetness of morning bird song. You should have shone bright as the sun on a cold winter dawn. You with a glass of wine, sitting on the edge of the claw foot tub as my body soaks away another day, another year, another lifetime we thought would never end. You read for me, some mythical passage which spoke without words, only an emotion I cannot name but recognize as ours and ours alone. Nothing from nothing ever yet was born. Lucretius. De rerum natura. What was it in the movement of your voice that resembled ocean cradled in droplets of moonbeam, felt like swimming to the bottom of the earth, all creatures bowed on elegant knee, each a return to its own beginning. The haunt of you, eerily specific, the ghost of you a finger print upon a stain-glass mind. Your hand on the curve of my ivory hip, your mouth thirsty at the pulse of my neck. I was alive, eager, expectant. As our season in my palm turned red, the seal of the scar at the edge of a knife, you were gone. On a road far off, the wind catches dry leaves as they scratch and spin on the pavement. Little cyclones, little deaths dancing. As the universe begins to collapse into itself, I become aware of a face at the window of a house boarded up long ago. A shadow falling out across snow.
There is an ocean which glitters in sunshine and sprays its furious foam for miles along deserted golden sands. There are women who want nothing more than to please a man and men who want nothing more than a subservient woman. There are people who will tell you to stay quiet and to lay low and these are the people who are most adamant and most afraid. We are living in a dark and vicious age, skin and bone in a constant brace for assault, while the human heart is as fragile as it is fleeting. Waiting in train stations waiting in bars waiting in waiting rooms in blue buildings with breathing machines and silver balloons. Made to watch it all play out in vivid display on big screens. The more grotesque the better, as long as we keep watching. There are two sides to everything and on each side there are knives which cut and divide us even further from each other, further from ourselves. We are bloodthirsty, prismatic, rainbows of color streaming as we fade away slowly, quietly, alone in a bathroom mirror staring into two dark eyes lined in charcoal, melting, mixing into the soot of another day, another night cloaking itself in chaotic fits of sleep. There are endless fields bending in the night wind, dry cornstalks covered in thin frost from the first night the temperatures dropped below freezing. My stomach is cramped and the coffee is sick and the words are only words if somebody reads them. There is resentment in my attempt at affection, a metallic taste at the back of my throat. You touch my shoulder and everything hurts but there is poetry in my despair. There is an empty chair in the corner of my room facing east, as the dawning sunlight streaks across its rich upholstery in ribbons of orange, I am quiet and still for a portion of time no one knows about and no one will ask. There are soft fingers, in my heart there is warm healing as if there were mourning doves, as if there were angels adorned in ivory flowers. There is a man I see in my dreams who covers my mouth as I try to scream. There is a long dim hall I recognize as escape but my legs belong to someone else and I fall, and I fall, and I fall. There is a man who wants too much from me, in his hands are the doors to a life beyond this one. In my mind I am flowing like sand through an hourglass, in my mind I am a specter, a season of moonlight gliding in streams.
My mind swirls in circular patterns around the center point of a dread so certain it nearly calms the nerves purely by paralyzing them into numbness. My stomach is sick, clamps tight around the moth wings fluttering madness inside. These timid hours hung around my neck like a wreath. Glancing down at my hands and opening my palms toward the ceiling, I observe from a distance these silent dark flashes which melt into one another like tissue, sinew, veins, skin, teeth. Of what is this body made, in what womb is it contained. Speckled lights are pin pricks at the back of my eyes; this is how the gods made the night come alive. Smearing their breath like tar, small hands held alone in the dark. Touching my fingers to the soft and dying leaves, I open the well worn book of you. Healer. Teacher. Priest. I am reminded of you, your smoothness in body and tongue parting the lips of an ancient sea. Red stained wood and a word broken away from its heat. The way you mouthed desire into my blood, with just the glistening threads of the idea of you, I stroke and soothe my ache.
The air is warm and still, an odd but welcome surprise for an afternoon this late in October. I’m sitting quietly in the local park on a plaid blanket underneath a sprawling oak tree now the color of flames and fire, her final exclamation before a graceful bow into the lifeless dead of winter. When you appear, I can smell the sweetness of the grass beneath the fallen leaves mingled with a touch of a wood fire burning somewhere off over the hills in the distance. Joining me on the blanket, you open your bag and pour us some white wine to accompany the fresh croissants you always bring from that tiny bakery I like around the corner from your place. I would have walked to the bakery with you, but I didn’t wake up with you this morning. This morning you woke up with her. So far we have been giving each other plenty of space to do whatever we want with whomever we please but somewhere in between pulling you close and pushing you away my callus heart has grown a bit too soft, a bit too affectionate, a bit too greedy. As we trade small talk about nothing in particular, I am beginning to wonder which of us is the other woman if she doesn’t know about me but I know about her. You tell me you don’t love her but she needs you and you aren’t sure it’s fair to untangle yourself when at the moment she’s so vulnerable. I drink more of the wine as I swallow your words and try to sort out your intentions but while the undeniable attraction between two bodies is simple, emotions are a lot more tricky. I am not sure if what you are saying makes you kind or unkind, or if my being here with you makes me a welcome or unwelcome presence in your life. Perhaps because I don’t know what I want I’m just trying to stir things up as a way to distract myself and give you a hard time. Either way, it’s a gorgeous day in late autumn and when you touch my neck I fall back into you with such ease it shatters all sense of what is right or wrong. All I know is I will give you everything the second you ask. Your mouth on my mouth is to drown in the vastness of the deep blue sky overhead and as you lift up my blouse and work your way down the length of my body nothing else matters. The evening sky has turned to crimson along the horizon. From the orange leaves on the dying trees to the electric pinks streaking the reddening sky it’s as though the entire world around us is on fire. Buildings raging into rivers, our naked bodies bare like open fields at the mercy of the heat of the relentless sun, burning, burning. It’s the way you kiss me until I’m ruined that I can’t resist. Losing myself to the magic of your lips, your hands, I am the only woman on the face of the earth.
Am I writing for them or for myself? So often it’s hard to tell. When I was just a young thing I liked to sing for people and offer them poems I’d been writing since I was nine years old in my bedroom covered in rainbows and unicorns and from a heart which raced at the thought of words about summer rain storms. Every sensation being new to me, I felt had to be honored in notebooks with pink and purple pens. I’ve been through so much since those tender days. Life has a mysterious way of growing you up while alternating between showing you all its splendor and slamming you against the wall. The slow death of loved ones and the fast pace of fitting in. Sipping my coffee on Sunday morning, I’m scrolling through my social media feeds looking for something to read. What, though, I’m really not sure. It’s hard to tell these days how you really feel or what you really want because there is so much coming at you all the time your senses become exhausted of trying to engage. Does anyone just read a newspaper for hours on Sunday mornings anymore? I can remember my father doing so while using an actual percolator to brew his pots of coffee. Even as a kid who was too young to drink the stuff, the smell of fresh coffee brewing and gray newsprint spread out all across the kitchen table was something I fully cherished. He’d separate out the sections, reading what he was most interested in (economics, politics) and letting drop to the floor those tall creased pages he had no use for, only later to be used to line the litter box of the cat we had gotten as a kitten which he hated but kept quiet about to keep the peace. He is a brilliant man, my father, and a gifted writer, always able to articulate and say the right thing for all the right reasons. I was lucky enough to inherit a small portion of his great talents, but more and more often I find I don’t want to say the right things and sometimes I am unsure what the reason is for doing anything. What is worth holding onto when we are all just going to disappear. I want to write for the thrill of it and it always crushes me when I can’t figure out where to start, what thoughts are worth sharing and which are trash. In a world full of ever growing noise I search for words that zero in on something which might matter to those who take the time to read my thoughts, to enter for just a few moments inside my mind. These words are an invitation as much as they are a way out. In my heart of hearts I know that no matter how hard this world tries to desecrate and defile what is sacred, I will never abandon my love for the words which tease me and thrill me and seem to be the only kind of truth I can bear to look straight in the eye.
The cool dawn is so clutched with frost that the atmosphere cracks when I exhale. I have been here all this time waiting for you to come home, to build your little warm nest inside me and thread your ribbons through my bones. The air has become rich with darkness inside my lungs; thunder and church steeples round and round like a crown above my low fallen skull.
How is it we emerge again? Is it through sheer force of will, is it by the benevolence of something tried and tested by the fires of hell, something divine which guides the universe. White lights are flaring up, one by one, along the runway toward eternity and all those uncertain things which eat away my organs.
How many ways are there to find your way home. How many people are as lost as I am, listening for voices, calling out for affection, tracing their chipped fingers over bumps in the globe.
As I gaze up into your cloud space eyes, my skin blooms with the taste of that heady sensation just before ecstasy and the way it tingles through my wet body. I drink the sweet rhythm of you and at last begin ebbing away from the pain. I am only as strong as what I believe and I believe in nothing if I do not believe in you. Prayers are fresh tears in a jar by the bed, prayers are the beads of dread and sweat I swallow to try to forget.
With my mouth I hand you a leash of promises and you lead me like an animal into the sun. Four small sparrows sit huddled upon the window ledge and as we depart the earth they sing. Every winter which ever scarred the womb has buried itself inside my final breath. A tangle of rose buds encases my heart like a cage and I sleep with you peacefully as the stones which once erected the bloodiest cities in the world begin caving in.
The footsteps I hear are whispers and the whispers are trees. Could the beauty of your stride be my darkest secrets suspended overhead for all to see. The way you collect me like a child collects the dying leaves tells me we are not done here. We are not done.