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.
It can be lonely as night falls against the backdrop of a day whittled away to nothing but a rose washed sunset sky. Streaks of peach and amber and clouds drifting behind my tired eyes. It can feel empty in your chest without even a reason why. Such is the strange aloneness of being human, of being alive in stillness. Silence scratches its nails along the wall, pulling shadows down like shades. Wrapped in a flannel and dim light, I’m sipping on the spice of some old fashioned bourbon you left behind and tracing the curls of smoke as they circle from my lips to the ceiling and out the window which opens to the street. Desperate for words which reach inside and claw at the marrow of aching bones, I’m reading poetry by Donaghy, looking over his boyishly handsome face like a ghost in the mirror of a talent reflected back into itself for all eternity, too soon buried, filed away on a shelf only to be taken into soft hands on a cold winter’s evening. Somewhere in a far off hotel room, a man arrives with a bottle of champagne and makes sweet love to a woman he hardly knows who hardly knows herself, but with the tenderness of his touch he teaches her everything she needs to know to get her through another lonely night on the road. I’ve lit a few logs in the fireplace to warm more than just the body, the kind of flames which lick and split at the foot of the soul you carry around with you all day wondering where it fits. Where you fit. If anywhere. You write for some but others show up, unfamiliar, unforgiving, unable to listen or understand even the simplest of truths you hold close to your birdcage ribs. When you stop and think, as you too often do, of how many stories you have told you wonder how many are left to tell. Which will run dry first, you or them. Little rivers of quiet thoughts in your veins, thousands of miles to see what you have seen, to hold upon your tongue the words you searched for long ago only to find them back at the start. That’s the hardest part, maybe. Just to scrape together the courage to pull your heart from your throat. And start.
Good enough isn’t but you continue to pretend because life is complicated and you aren’t as strong as you wish to be. You want to write about anything else but this is what keeps bubbling up and it’s trash and it’s useless. You pour the coffee and check the news. Social media. Prophets. Sages. Hand sanitizer. Beach wear with no where to go. Money where money always is and poverty everywhere. You scroll through your phone too many times a day and make tiny calculations in your mind. What am I worth. What is art worth. How do you cup the meaning of a word in your hands. How do you explain you can’t help the ones who need you most. What is the weight of the poetry on your tongue, and what would you sacrifice to ingest it. Would you dare let the past burn down to the ground right where it’s standing. Would you light the match. Do you trust yourself to see past the flames, watch the heated burning smoke blurring the tops of the pines. I remember she said to me: This too shall pass. Stay close. I remember her dress caught on fire, I remember the sound and the smell and her face. Fear. Indifference. Infatuation. I remember. Underneath the screaming is the anger and underneath the anger is the sadness which just will not shift, like a lump in your throat on the cusp of the tears you try so desperately not to cry. Don’t let them see. Just don’t let them see what you see. Where has your soul gone in all of this. Can you turn your back on your self, the ghost of your body, a severed head. A severed heart, alone in a far off field, still beating. Each night a dream takes me to visit my desire. Each night an angel kneels next to me, repeating the words my blood knows by heart. I speak without speaking, my voice is the pulse in her chest, the sound of the beginning of time, the music woven into the fabric of every star long faded out. How did I get here, why did I come. Where am I going to rest my tired bones, will it be safe there. In my own womb. In my own hands. In my own head.
Lighting a cigarette as I sit against the tall windows, I am watching the street cars sliding along down below, the thin glass cold against my bare shoulder. They said it was supposed to snow around dusk and sure enough, in the final strokes of evening, the twilight sky has turned reddish purple as the snowflakes begin to fall in earnest. Street lights and crystal globes glittering behind me, I turn to look at you as you work a small flame in the fireplace, coaxing it into a soft roar. I swallow my whiskey and walk to you, feeling the delicious warmth smother my insides. The way you look at me tugs at everything tender. In your eyes I feel beautiful even as the stuff of violence and lust clutches in my chest. Embers flashing and crackling through the smoke, the darkened room becomes the outer reaches of the universe and we are satellites in orbit high above the earth, my hands skim down your arms as we kiss, our tongues dancing, tasting, searching each other. The taste of you is ocean in winter, is the clarity of sunlight falling through pines in a secluded wood. Easily, forcefully, you pin my hands, you lay me down. It is deliberate in its freedom, the motions of your body as you hunt and devour, the pleasure you take from me. What we have is strange and twisted. What we create tears at the skin, drives waves of crimson tides through the body and floods over the mind. Sweet brutality of touch. I bloom and bear fruit at your command. Shadows moving along the walls, shadows full of protruding eyes, observant in the darkness. As night falls all around us, snow swirling in prismatic cyclones, you take me into the fear, your breath is fire in my veins. You take and you take and you take from me, anything that burns you.
I play with fire and burn the house down to the ground only to raise you up again from the ashes and use my own tongue to lick you clean. This world we’ve created is madness. It is hell on earth brought down like a curtain, like a veil draped over the faces of eager virgins. Faces obscured. He wanted all of me and I gave him the few slivers I had to spare after dividing up the bones and discarding the filth. While I’m soaking in the bath reading poetry aloud because the way my voice reflects back into itself as it echoes against the tile walls is a turn on, he kisses me when I am drunk. I kiss him back because I like the taste of the liquor on his beautiful lips. He has the most wickedly talented mouth, I can’t deny that. With it he violates, penetrates, and dismantles me entirely. He reaches a strong hand beneath the water and touches me where I open like the gates of heaven, warm, blushed, honeyed. This is how we breathe at the bottom of the ocean of uncertainty. We close our eyes and grope each other’s bodies searching for something we need to feel but cannot bring ourselves to lay eyes upon. The burdens of the ages they try to fasten around my neck are their way of telling me I mean something but I don’t want any of it. I don’t want to mean anything, I want to be free of definition, left to my own reckless devices. After we make love, I sit in our small garden beneath the bedroom window naked, smoking a cigarette while watching the storm clouds move in across an apocalyptic sky. Please let the rain come down hard and heavy all over me. If there is a god please don’t let it take away this exquisite pain which threads itself in my blood. No one’s aloud out and no one’s aloud in. We have only each other to degrade and to satisfy, to feed and to fuck and to sink and to swim. I am gray as the others fade to black. I am the ghost of my haunted past and always have been but the trick is that none of it matters now. Taking a deep shredding drag of my smoke, I run my hand down my body from neck to breast to stomach. Will we ever get out of here. How do we ever get out of here when all we ever do is keep turning back.
I wake up long before first light, make my coffee and fire up my laptop. There are things I share and things I keep to myself and each time I sit down to explore this unknown with you, I wonder how we will fall into the abyss together. I suppose I am the lead, I am the one offering my hand to you, inviting you in to the mood I occupy, the worlds I create. Perhaps there is a hopefulness to it. A dare. A question. A promise. An illusion. Perhaps there is a rawness here in this place that you are not used to experiencing in your day to day life. And this is where we meet. In a field of twilight stars, far enough away from everything else to be ourselves. As I sip my coffee and type, the birds are awakening, one by little one, beginning their individual songs. Last night was a flurry of terrible dreams. Dead bodies along the side of a highway, I looked out the passenger side window to try to understand how many there were but it was dark and there were too many to count, all scattered across the concrete, some in burlap type bags. I did not scream. I did not turn away. I could not tell if I felt anything except confusion. The faceless man who was in the driver’s seat, he told me not to look. It’s just the way it is around here. I ignored him as he careened the small car through the human obstacles. Too many people in my life think the answer is not to stare down the agony, not to look the cruelty right between its eyes. They don’t want us to see. They call it protection, they call it help. They will call it anything they need to call it in order to maintain control. Keep you placated. Distracted. Optimism is a game they play and sell it to you for cheap. Now I’m sifting through some new material I’ve written for a reading I want to pour my soul into fully. I think I must have been born this way, with a deep desire to give myself completely to the creative work that I do. A lot of people can understand that, but only up to a certain point. The sensual realm, the erotic expression, is a dark power for a woman to possess. And what they do not understand is that the erotic is not a separate category, that my sensuality cannot be severed from all the rest of me. Darkness is a part of the mystery of me which courses through every single thing I do or say. Darkness to some is evil, is frightening, because of its rugged unapologetic power. This is where shame is born. Where the imaginary chains of modesty, morality, and religiosity tighten around the flesh of the spirit, the mind, and the body. Darkness to others is bliss, is pleasure, is heaven, is beautiful, is life giving, is seductive, haunting, twisted, welcoming. Beckoning. What many cannot understand is that some of us want the fall. We want the shadows to penetrate us deep, we adore them. We spend our private time inviting them in. We want to possess the intimate feelings which churn within us, make them dance, make them poetry, make them come to life. How much of the song of my soul must I suffocate in order to fit in with those I do not respect. How much of my wilderness must I leave unexplored, sacrifice, death before death. It is raining now out in the street as the blue gray fingers of the dawn rise up toward the tears in the sky. I won’t get to read this one aloud and it breaks my heart a little. I love to read for you. It is one of my very favorite things. But I couldn’t not write it. The more insane the outside world becomes the more I need this one that you and I occupy together. More and more, as I live my strange life, my imagination is the only place I want to be.
Please turn down the daylight, please shut out the noise streaming through the blinds. A single lonely jet rolls by overhead in the sky which is obscured by heavy clouds, I hear it rumbling the glass of the window pane as I sit motionless. As the world stands still amid the tumult of crisis with voices mingled in between hospital beds. And all of its lonely people sit motionless. Few things are more sinister than an entire population sunk in their sinking seats. Mouths pursed. Wide eyes protruding into a blackness which has no end, no beginning, no intent. It is a silence veiled over a scream which is featureless. My mother used to tell me I was boy crazy. My mother used to tell me I was rude. My mother did not like that I was shy. Or pretty. But secretly she did. I found out later, much later toward the end. That for her I was a beginning of something she never got to finish, she never got control over. Grabbing my keys from the bowl on the side table, I’ve no where to go and finally everything is in its place. For a long time now, maybe, set in its place, as the dust sifts in through stripes of evening light. I watch my reflection, decide it is the age of the woman and I will be everything a woman needs. Soft. Supple. Willing. Are you afraid and looking for something to do with your trembling hands? Give them to me now. Feel the warmth of the beating of my chest. This is what we have in the darkness of days which have lodged themselves in time like logs in a dam in a river. What we have in the hallways of the minds we sit reverently trying our best not to take leave of. I curl my body behind a curtain like a snake. There is a small corner of the room where I hide when I cannot stomach the day. There is the smell of old coffee in semi cold rings, the hope of a tiny flowering seed. I keep track of the minutes as they tick around the face of the clock. I think of the man who liked to watch young girls at recess. I am reminded of the temptation I once was. And something inside me begins to ache.
Crawling out of bed and into the light of the soft pale moon, I sit at my open window gazing up at a gray swatch of clouds moving past. The truth about me lives somewhere deep inside but all my life I’ve had to try very hard to get to it. You might think as a writer it would come easily to me but it doesn’t. I circle too much and never seem to land. Hovering above the world as if on a string, I observe the madness down below and lose my sense of self, which is disorienting because your sense of self is all you ever really have in any given moment. Thinking of you while smoking a cigarette, I tap the ashes into a small flat tin on which is painted some sort of an exotic bird, blue, purple, and golden feathers draped long and elegant over the branch of a pink flowering tree. There is dirt in the beautiful and magic in the filth and no one showed me the splendor of that sultry paradox more vividly than you once did. In your hands I became the muse, in your gaze I became the apex of all creation. You had a way which was sinister, devastating, alluring in its dark command. You could reduce me and raise me up in the same heartbeat as you took me to the edges of my very being, pushed me just to watch me fall. Cut me just to admire my pieces, one by one fondled my vulnerabilities under dim shadowy light. How I worshiped the devil in you, how the smell of you ruptured me sweet. But even in bad dreams the clock strikes twelve. My richness turns to rags and the empty streets begin to twinkle in the gray morning silence. In every lover a tsunami swells. People change and bodies disintegrate. The way of rebirth is the way of destruction and history is bound to repeat itself even despite our best intentions.
Never enough time to do what you want, you trade a flashy smile for a few moments to yourself in peace. Is it you or is it them or is it the encroaching of everything that has you short of patience with the mundane? You know the stares and the blankness which surrounds you so well you can see it with your eyes closed. It curls around you as you sleep. You feel it in the backdrop of the dreams you once had which you let fall away like tissue paper snowflakes disappear on the warm cheek of a woman you once knew to whom you no longer speak. All of those wishes for grandness, for a way to touch the sky and dance along the edges of a drunken starry night. The way your hands slid easily up her shirt and encircled her perfect milky breasts as she straddled you in the backseat of your beat up old hatchback, Radiohead, vodka, cigarettes. One at a time your tongue thick upon each nipple, your teeth sunk deep into her cinnamon flesh until you felt her pulse quicken as she sucks at the empty air for breath. You with your angry bloodshot eyes and she with the tight body ticking like a clock. With every thrust you make her count backwards from the end of innocence. Now there is no time like the present and there’s so little hope for a future as the world drapes a noose around itself while humming holiday classics. Sinatra, martinis, pantyhose, mobsters, excess. And for all the elegance she displays somewhere out there where you’re not allowed to be, you can still feel her trembling skin underneath your fingernails, taste the sweetness of her heavenly folds as she lay open, blossoming before you, begging for you to stop. Not to stop. The mind is a dangerous place without escape, your addictions spread inside your bones like wildfire. And as you walk along the streets the swollen winter sky turns from white to gray to black. The traffic lights blinking are signals you’re sending to your own tired heart. Walk. Don’t walk. Yes, no, maybe, try again later. Go, baby, go, and don’t you ever, ever look back.