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.
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.
It’s all connected. Your art. Your expression. Your fear. Your love. Your lust. Your sin. Your addiction. Your joy. Your power. Your beauty. Your friendships. Your lovers. Your interests. Your dreams. Your shame. Your needs. Your wants. Your voice. Your visions. Your escapes. What you hide. What you share. What you offer. What you deny. What you withhold. What you study. What you focus on. What you value. What you worship. What you believe. What you refuse to accept about who you are. The illusion is that you have to choose. Your soul comes not in pieces, but whole. The secret is to open your heart and mind and being to all of it. To swallow it whole, and accept and accept and accept. This is to heal. This is to recover, which can also mean to reclaim, to re-discover, to reveal, to uncover, to get back all of who you are.
You expect me to be slick and clever, witty and warmly engaging but today I am none of those things. Today I am a dark cloud hovering. Pent up. Swollen. My tears and my nerves pressing against the grain inside my skin. As the rain moves in I sink into my study but I cannot concentrate. I am distracted by the stacks of books, the words and thoughts, the poetry of others. Jumping back and forth from The New Yorker to Baudelaire, I run a hand across my forehead wondering who in the hell I am anymore. When all this is over, I won’t want to go back to the way it was before. I will want to stay at home. I will want to be away from people just like I always have. I won’t want to get dressed. There are days when you are so sure, so positively certain, that nobody cares. You sink into the lowest parts of your own human heart and you can feel the blank sadness. You can feel the grip of the lonely. Hear her sighs. Fold into them, watch the rain falling down quiet and soft against the trees, the grass, the little angel statue in the garden. I think of all the losses suffered all across the world, the sheer staggering amount of grief and pain. My whole being is crushed beneath the collective weight. I try to dream up a new vision to keep me going. I make tea. I help a young writer to remember who she is, encourage her to pay attention to each of her feelings, especially the dark ones. The shadows swallow the fear and live with it alone in corners. I don’t know why I am drawn to the them, the shadows, the corners, the hidden, the untraceable. I don’t know why but there is nothing more beautiful to me than the sun blotted out, shielded over, drowned in the wet sweetness of the rain.
We are not of this world, but of the stars expanding and melting into the far greater beyond. They try to keep us small and it hurts like hell because we try to cut ourselves to fit but it just makes us feel itchy and out of place. I like the way your hair falls across your face when you tell me you want to kiss me but you know it would be wrong. I watch that eager mouth of yours widen as you roll the words around on your tongue. So much we have not yet tasted in this hijacked ride of a synchronized life. What I wouldn’t give to swallow you whole, to turn your prickly panic into ecstatic waves of oceanic paradise. But there are commitments and there are bills to pay, and we’re so damaged we pull the blinds closed to protect our open wounds from daylight. We buy booze and we buy time, trading worn out ideas about regret and love and pain and death. You think the only thing that matters is worldview. You lecture me something about developing an outlook of strength that borders on callous indifference but then you melt like butter over my weakness for poetry and soft pink flowering trees. I don’t like frilly things, I feel awkward about romance because I can never figure out where to touch it to get what I want. I try to learn myself, I try to name the things inside which desire. How dangerous, a woman possessed with desire, how her fire threatens to consume everything she touches, caresses, gazes upon with her greedy alien eyes. We try so hard to be good but when push comes to shove, we are all starved for affection, hungry for love, hungry for a life so much bigger, grander, more electrified than this one. I tell you I don’t know why I write anymore, all it does lately is box me in and I’m already trapped as it is. Writing feels cagey, or maybe it’s me. I’m tense, I’m tight, and something about the darkened look in your eye feels like the release I’ve been pacing in front of for a long, long time.
Sunlight is colder in the afternoon as I sip lukewarm coffee in a tiny gray room high above the rest of the world I look upon but can’t ever manage to fully understand. I hear his words in my head buzzing like one of those irritating hand held machines which hacks weeds to the ground and middle aged men can’t seem to put down on Sundays lest they, heaven forbid, be forced to actually stay in the house with the wife and kids as they claw their way through another day just the same as the last. But it’s tough and we’re punchy and who’s to really say we have deserved how far we’ve come in any case. Sunshine trickles in through trees and though I’ve lost count of the days, I keep enough hope in my heart to sing to myself, even if what I sing is only the blues. I think of her with the wide eyes of an excitable creature and nipples like two ripe raspberries pointing through her thin white tee shirt. Somewhere back a few decades ago, she would sing for them in smokey night clubs while sipping on vodka and tonic, or whatever the thirsty bartender would slip her slim under aged ass. She could feel them salivate, warm liquid honey dripping in response to some sultry song in that voice that was soft and low and just roughened up enough from the cigarettes to make them pulse quick in the chest and hard in their jeans. You’re so pretty, baby, come on, sweetness, don’t be so mean. The nights were every neon color swirled round and round into black until on one particular morning, in no particular month, in a season as long as the streets which lead to nowhere exceptional but call to her like sirens anyway, as a strong cut of light streaks in like a single intruding middle finger pressing through the smudged window pane and across her naked body, she realized none of it was coming back. Not the joy or sorrow, not the ache or the thrill of catching something just to taste the hot sweet blood of the kill. Life moves forward even if you try to hang back. Still. Still she has the shiny salmon scars on her elbows and knees. She has her wooden cradle of secrets, and though they may seem like nothing to some, are hers and hers alone to keep.
There is a bird on a wire across the street, a tiny ink blot with fluttering wings and a triangular tail that lifts up and down every once in a while. It’s a fidgety thing, poking itself under its black feathers with that pointy beak. High above, the gray sky is a peaceful dome of smooth dim shade. Lighting a cigarette, I let the faded light of evening wash across my pale disinterested face. I’m so tired I can taste the ache in the dryness of the smoke curled against the back of my throat, stale, burned, a hotness which ignites my chest, my exhausted bones sheltered in place. In my mind I crawl like a cat, slink up the walls of the cage which is home and look down at myself as I suck a deep drag. Out the window images move in front of my yellow eyes, lush green lawns and the silly people tending to them, driveways of cars they do not drive. A young mother in pajamas in the middle of the afternoon pushes a stroller around the block for the forty seventh time but who’s counting. We are in motion, we are detached. Bedroom slippers. Laptops. Hair ties. I remember the cold beer you drank as we sat at the outside bar and watched the city lights electrify the night. How the water droplets formed on the outside of the glass and slid underneath your thick fingers. Your cool hands on my bare skin in the heat of summer. Bodies melting into each other all around us, wine and whiskey and lipstick and the sounds of some indie rock band at the back of the place near the bathrooms, wooden walls and rum stained floors. The vintage vending machine which dispensed soft packs of cigarettes for twelve dollars each, you had to pull the long pole handle toward you to get the pack to slip out of the silver slot. I am thirteen, I am twenty two, I am thirty five. The women’s room was covered in raunchy articles and racy old fashioned photos, one featured a man from what had to be the 1930’s in a three piece tweed suit and top hat, blindfolded, two scantily clad young women leading him by each of his outstretched hands. Underneath the title read: Against His Will. Summer smolders in the pit of my stomach, the smell of a humid bar and a honeysuckled breeze. It is any given day and night of a season which has bled into all the others, in a time and place I cannot remember and hope I never forget. We ignore the signs and hope for the best. I pour the first drink of the night as your body encircles me from behind. Love is beautiful, numb, and blind. The little bird on the wire sings a crinkly twilight song, cocks his hollow quarter-sized head and flies off toward someplace, suddenly, without hesitation. Just like that, leaving this one far behind.
Pouring a hot cup of tea, I inhale the jasmine steam and think about the concept of the month of June. It is late at night and the moon has risen to the heights, a hovering globe among a nest of thick trees. Imagining June is, of course, a ridiculous thing to do given the current state of affairs but such is the nature of a mind wrapped gently in thin swaths of the elusive ebb and flow of underlying panic. Months, weeks, days, hours, none of it means anything in the present context of the itchy fabric of our insulated lives. All we have is this minute linked loosely to the next in a hazy continuum which leads into a darkness we don’t know if we will ever even get to see let alone come out of on the other side. On the other side. On the other side are rolling hills covered in tiny white flowers underneath wide open summer blue skies. Pulling my hair away from my face, you kiss me in those sunny fields so sweetly I gasp as my stomach turns into a low thrum of butterflies and soft breezes mixed with the song of wind chimes on a little wooden porch far off. On the other side are the dreams we dared not dream before the dark days came closing in, but now we have seen the terror unfold up too close. We know the sounds of the screams and have learned that they are not as loud as we thought they would be. The screams sounded just like everything else, there was no difference in the cacophony of voices spilling lies, voices spilling blood, voices spilling warnings in between commercials for cancer drugs and nicotine, beach rentals, marijuana, and pretty white teeth. The nights aren’t full of sleep so much as injected with booze and laced with thoughts of sinful acts involving a sultry girl who drags her long jeweled fingernails slowly across your bare sex. How my skin aches all over for pleasure, for a promise, for something to believe in. The sound of silence all around like a thousand outstretched human hands, you reach for them but cannot touch. Sliding underneath the blankets, my body sinks as my eyes adjust to the black. There is a woman in a long silk nightgown sitting at the corner of my bed in the dark. I can feel her breathing. I can sense her invisible body and its small weight. She is slender, ghastly, somber as she presses her hollow eyes into mine. My messenger, my voice. My pale apparition folds her hands in her lap, parts her white lips to speak. She fades and fades until at last I disappear.
Having traveled endless circles around the sun only to return to the same exact place each and every time, I lie back upon the bed and feel the warm heat of the blankets underneath my tired bones. I wasn’t always so tired, but now the days seem to stack themselves in towers which compress my chest like so many cinder blocks until it is genuinely hard to breathe. Drifting off into the abyss as I fall deeper into the darkness, there are dreams of another time and another place, another life and another version of myself which is dying to exist but I get tripped up inside the irony of it all and in some ways haven’t changed a single bit in decades. The skin fades but the eyes still shine like ocean in sunlight; the heart palpitates, lungs ache, but the ways in which we pleasure ourselves become increasingly hedonistic. In my childhood there was so much wide-eyed awkward potential, in my teens so much secrecy, wonder, and fear. The black cord necklace of his he fastened around my neck, my mouth grown thick with the taste of his heavy cologne. He lead me around and around for months like a new pet as I learned my body was a playground, my body a hot loaded gun. In my twenties, angst and freedom and danger and escape. All the power I claimed as my own back then without flinching terrifies me, takes my breath away now. In my thirties, perhaps something which could be described as desperation, devastation, destruction, but each one laced with sex and whiskey and hope. There is sweetness in numbness they just need you not to admit it. Numbness is like comfort but doesn’t feel nearly as close to the soul. Forty is no more excuses. I should own myself by now so what is it I’m searching for that is always just out of reach? There is a voice inside which is impossible to silence though it keeps telling me things I don’t want to hear about time and space, about regret and neglect, seduction and truth. The spine straightens, curves, arcs, at the thought of it. The stomach in the pit of my throat leaps at the sound of the grip of it. It is a kind of sick hunger wrapped around a deep moaning sigh. It is without name, it is without a face. But from time to time when I catch myself reminding the cells of my body to breathe, I think I can see the whites of its eyes reflecting themselves in mine.
In my name I hear the echoing voices of each of the women who came before me since Eve taught us all the wild beauty of our sinful desires. The pain of each birth exists within my womb and now and then I feel it all at once. Last night in a dream I asked you not to touch me but you wouldn’t stop. I don’t remember what came after but I know parts of me were frozen while other parts fought you off with a rage that came from some place primal, some place we are told doesn’t exist for fear we discover the power of its jaws, of its shiny white teeth. All the women, all of us. We stand on the ledge of a building in flames, afraid of each way out. When I jump I learn I can fly and leaving is as easy as I feared all along it might be. How we tremble and shake to unlock the chains which don’t even exist. Soaring like a wide winged bird up in the sky as I encircle a high rise and catch the wind as it swings around the tallest reaches of the steel beams of a massive extension bridge, I swoop out over the water, dipping so low I become drunk on the salty scent of the sea, swallow it down whole. Dare I dream of a life more beautiful than the one I left behind. Life is a series of traps. Life is a collection of delicate shells you keep in a jar on the side of the sink. Walking along that same bridge I flew over earlier, the street lights come on as night closes in. All that dark water swirling and rushing below is a thrill. I think of those who have made it their grave, their final riotous destination. I think of Virginia Woolf. I think of women wearing stockings and layers and layers of skirts. Heavy. Tangled. Writhing. Did they regret it half way through but then realize it was too late? I hope when I’m dying I don’t know it. Or maybe I do. It depends. How many days are left if I count backwards from you might be losing me? I’m not ready to go but I light up a cigarette anyway and burn myself to stun the pain. I don’t know you but I wish you were here. I wish you would look me in the eye and tell me it’ll all be okay even though we both know that’s impossible. All of these wishes, little aches in my soul like feathers of soft weeds blown out into the night air, scattered, surrendered. Wondering, just like me, what any of it means.