Inside the American Nightmare

A few words appear, then disappear in reverse.

We say it and don’t say it. We ‘Happy New Year’ and scuttle away as fast as our fragile bones can take us to the safety of isolation once again.

What do you even say when your country is falling to hell.

The melon sky simmers the last of the winter day’s sky into smoke as I close my eyes and dream of anywhere else.

It happens like this: you are repeatedly filled simultaneously with shock and dread. As you are trying to process the horror of the most recent trauma, you are bracing yourself also for the next.

And there is always a next.

And this is repeated for years and years non-stop. The relentlessness of cruelty. The cheering on of the madness.

What is even worth saying when you are so exhausted by the end of the day your stomach hurts and your eyes ache and everything around you is cold as the icicles you saw last weekend, formed into perfect sharp daggers by frozen rushes of water plunging through the trees.

It is not enough to survive. You have to try to do it minute by minute, focus on each heart beat, each update, each revelation more gruesome than the last, you have to cling to each, like stepping stones you grab with your fists or your teeth.

The angriest parts of yourself, the saddest, they cling. they try to move you forward in spite of themselves. In spite of you.

Try to hold on. Try to hold on, it has to be over soon.

But nothing ends anymore. Not around here.

I’m sick to death of counting down to things. Dates. Elections. Deaths. Infections. Decisions. Betrayals. Disasters we should have seen coming.

We should have stopped it. It should never have come to this.

And so a deep well of disappointment, of desperation for a time gone by, opens up inside to swallow the shock and the dread and the utter, utter grief. And you realize the abyss they threw you into is threatening now the last of your sanity, your will, your equilibrium.

And if you understand what I am saying here, if you know how this feels, people will tell you not to feel it. They will try to cheer you up, make you see the good things, they will try to force your healing before it is time.

And you can tell them all to fuck off. Because I will tell you this, above everything else, feel your feelings. The true ones. If they are honest they are hurting, aching, crying, screaming.

This has been an American tragedy over and over and over for years.

We got here by denial. We laid our faith down in a bed of lies and hoped someone else would save us.

I am not sure why I write this, maybe to document my experience for fear it drifts away from me, even though I kind of wish it would.

We should be most afraid that we may forget. They want nothing more than for us to forget.

I try to catch all of it. I try to write it into history, but my mind gets heavy and my spirit falls like frigid winter rain.

It is tiresome, you know? This waiting for the end.

 

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Photo by Mike Palmowski

Writing the Ache: On Needing Poetry for Life

Writing away the ache is a real and true thing. It is, that is to say, it becomes, a lifestyle. The pressure builds and builds as with any addiction until you can no longer manipulate your mind or body away from what you most desire.

From what you must say, what must be said to keep you from exploding.

How devastating it can be, then, when you come breathless to the page and find yourself full of nothing, empty hands, a mouthful of anguish which opens to dead air.

It is as much a coping mechanism as a ‘passion.’ Makes you wonder if those who are so prolific are those who are also most troubled, most bothered, most distracted by things yet unwritten.

What must go on inside the psyche of the poet which so stirs, compels, claws, needs. The burning desire to express oneself while wrestling with the arrogance of that, the heavy need to reveal oneself and the shame which circles that very real need, stalking in the shadows, stabbing mercilessly, if futile, at the light.

“It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually.” – Louise  Glück, Proofs & Theories, Essays on Poetry

I don’t know if it is this way for all poets, I know only that it is this way for me. That the sense of longing for my art is constant, it is sensual, and plays out not just in my mind but in my body as a romance, or a compulsion, I am not sure they are different things.

What I know in the pit of my stomach, at the center of anything inside me that could ever be considered holy, is that if there is to be life there has to be words.

There have to be words enough to bring about an end to the brutal, exquisite, relentless urge, or at least a temporary reprieve.

It is always temporary.

 

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Photo by Kirill Palii

So What If She Was Bad

It’s later, though not late enough for dark. Not late enough to drown the memory of his filthy words from her mind with multiple glasses of wine.

Not enough to erase the shame that burns in her body, making her wet in places she feels too guilty to admit to, let alone touch, let alone speak about. Not that anyone listens to her when she speaks in any case, but still.

It is late enough, however, for the descending winter storm to dim the neighborhood sufficiently such that the many strands of multi-colored twinkle lights click on, shining their holiday glow of greens, reds, oranges, and blues from underneath a fresh frosting of snow along the windows and trees.

She hadn’t meant to go so far as to actually interact with him online. It wasn’t something she normally did but, alas, quarantine seems to have blurred her virtual boundaries. Isolation, that is, along with the pale white wine she appears to have increased her tolerance for exponentially over the past many months while stuck inside with nowhere to go.

How many months has it been now? Eight? Nine? A year? Five, ten? Doesn’t matter, of course. The damage that was to have been done is done and here she finds herself quite alone, aching for touch, watching the heavy snow pile up on the street, pouring her precious liquid escape into a long stemmed glass.

The way the alcohol numbs the skin and tingles it at the same time makes her feel like she is flying high and sunk down as low as the Titanic at the bottom of a tranquil distant sea. Her limbs, heavy and light and chained to the ocean floor.

Looking up she sees little children coming out to play across a few yards down the block. Screaming and throwing themselves all over into the snow drifted hills. She remembers doing the same once in a tiny pink snow suit, little white boots with little white tassels. Her eyes like wide sapphire stars staring blurry into the heavens as she opened her tiny pink mouth to taste the falling frozen droplets on her warm protruding tongue.

How could a creature so innocent grow into something so grotesque with insecurity, so riddled with deviant desires and angst.

Perhaps that is how he somehow suddenly caught her off guard when they spoke the other day. Perhaps that is how he managed to skewer her right there between her near animalistic craving for affection and the jagged edge of her breath-taking loneliness.

The mouth of the world overflows with judgement, of course. She had been every nasty thing they called her growing up: a slut, an easy lay, a bitch, a snob, a brat, a loser, a loner, a nobody, a disappointment, a whore.

Sometimes they would say it outright, sometimes just with the slant of their prissy eyes. Either way she knew what they meant and how they wanted her to feel. Like an outsider. Like a freak.

The thing about certain older men was that when they looked her dead in the eye it sent her heart racing into her throat. With a gentle word, the slightest touch, they could send her fragile bones trembling with want, soak her head to toe with need.

When they spoke to her with sincere admiration it set fire through her thin pewter veins and made her feel desperately alive.

The addiction to approval. Intoxication by flattery, even if by calculated design.

So what if they had bad intentions.

So what if she was bad, too.

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Photo by Peter Bucks

Which of Your Selves Will Tell Your Story?

My fingernails have grown out and I am quite pleased with the clicketty clack sounds they make whilst tapping and scratching all over the keyboard keys as I type.

Sharp lengthy nails aren’t always me but for now they feel like a much needed change from the cropped stubs I usually keep super short and chewed upon.

As the clock ticks on and I drain my coffee cup for the second time, I am thinking about the telling of stories and how a narrator – if she wants to be in the least bit compelling – must first choose the self from which she will speak.

To achieve intimacy, the depth of experience she wishes to convey, she must remain loyal to two critical elements throughout the telling of her story: who she is and why she is speaking.

It’s the who she is which can be entirely problematic, and yet also fully stimulating. In fact, it could be that if a writer cannot decide on who she must be in the telling of her particular story then she will not be able to tell the story at all.

With no self in which to anchor the narrative, the story will not hold together. Without that central pillar of cohesion, everything falls apart.

Knowing who you are, it would seem, is what gives you voice.

This is also the part of writing which compels me most of all to write. The siren call of the self I cannot be anywhere else except on the page. The self who runs barefoot through the depths of the forests of dreams.

The self who is nothing to anyone. Who owes nothing. Who has nothing to lose but worlds and worlds to create. Who is not married or employed or mothering or daughtering or tied in any way to the expectations of, or commitments to, others.

Part of the beauty of this kind of intimacy with the words is that you do not need to cover up or shy away from mixed emotions or complicated, messy, ugly, harsh, or difficult feelings.

Those paradoxes are exactly where you enter the scene, they are your way in.

Who is speaking, and why. This is the first decision. The choosing of the persona, the particular self you must be in relation to the story you wish to tell. The experience you wish to create within your reader.

And there, in that deep wide dark space, I am always and must always remain alone. In the silence of the mind, selections are made.

What to reveal, what not to reveal.

What to tell, what not to tell.

And I cannot help but wonder, is it the writing which intimidates the aspiring writer. Or is it that in order to write, one must make a choice, one story at a time, of who to be, how to see, how to approach and move about.

When there are so many selves from which to choose, how do you know which is the right one for the moment?

It’s a gamble. It’s a dare. An invitation. A chance. To be everything you dreamed you could be. To be bigger. Wilder.

Someone else entirely. Just for a bit, the self you are dying to be.

Clicketty clack, clicketty clack . . . 

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Photo by Ann Danilina

Cold December Rain

In the dim light of thick fog, I reach for the moon and fall short.

The scent of damp soil, the hardness of stoic earth, rises from beneath my feet as my boots make tracks on the forest floor. I can see the little lights coming on in a string of small houses dotting the woods.

Electric candles, crimson Christmas ribbon, holly branches, shaggy low pine.

I was born in the dark of the morning, into the darkness of a kind of perpetual evening. This is what they told me. And in my innocence, in my eagerness to mean anything at all, I believed.

To believe is a way of holding onto time. I fold my soul into a sheet of paper, bargaining with chance, crumbled in the bottom of the pocket of my black wool coat.

One of the falsehoods we carry with us into adulthood is that we are only worthy of love if we try hard not to break it. We break ourselves instead, as protection. Melancholy. Spiked. Reckless. Bones like steel and hearts like fire, foolish, fevered, desperate.

Our hands on our chests. Our empty legs, like the slim bare trees groping toward the white endless sky, spread wide apart and glistening.

Expectant.

He reaches for me beneath our warm winter blankets. We lie naked and join together, moving in swivels of curled hips and feathers of touch, until we become the rain which streams down along the grand windows all around, prismatic, the translucent pale color of tears.

His hands trail over my arms as he presses me deeper into the soft mattress. There is a kind of silence that swallows a body like death, a welcoming. The vacancy, the heaviness of slumber.

Of escape or eviction.

Beneath his heavenly pressure, I slide into the blank darkness of sleep.

Every star in the cold sky above us

still out of reach.

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Photo by Lea Dubedout

The Thing About Turning 42 No One Tells You

At 7:23am today I will have been on this earth for exactly 42 years.

December 8th 1978 seems a long time ago. And no time at all.

Time is a funny thing that way.

Rushing towards you even as it is rolling on by.

Birthdays are a funny thing, too. They always make me feel reflective but often leave me with nothing of any substance or wisdom to say. Birthdays are more listening than speaking, perhaps.

Just another day in a string of days and nights spent searching.

And I guess forty-two isn’t monumental in any certain sense. Each and every life is different, follows its own pattern, trajectory, path, fabric, and star.

All my life I have been a poet at my core. Everything I write, create, imagine, dream about is, at its heart, in its soul, poetry.

It can be so excruciating to wander the planet with this kind of heart on the sleeve, with these kinds of feathered bones and soft stumbling feet.

All these years, how many times I have killed off and resurrected my own magic, my own desperation. So often I have felt I do not know myself, do not trust myself. Thought that maybe I’m just crazy to try and fit into this hellish earthly place.

But there is so much beauty, too. So much mystery. To be a poet is to trust the voice you carry inside. Submit to it, let it mold you, change you, grow you, expand you.

It’s a weird way to live, to feel, to exist, because you sort of feel like you are trying to express an emotion, or conjure up a vision that no one else can ever understand.

And somehow you know this, deep down. You know it is futile.

But when you are born this way, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times your little poet body swings around the sun.

There will always be a fascination which borders on obsession going on inside of you as you braid your soul into the love and the fear.

Even after all these years, I want to inhabit myself.

Even if it never fully satisfies.

Even if it scares me.

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Photo: self portrait 

At the End of the Day of the Longing Year (audio)

It’s that time of year when the rain falls at dusk and you secretly hope it turns to snow, just so you can smell its moisture kissing the bare concrete.

Gray on gray skies to match the gray on gray drizzle and mist.

Bones in the midst.

The skeleton of the year passes through your finger tips.

Light a cigarette.

Lose the phone and your clothes and everything inside that forbids you.

Looking out across the tops of the empty trees which tower high and spindly above the naked, weary, wet blackened streets, I pour whiskey. It burns hot like the few spiced candles flickering in my windowsill, and I nestle into my thick buttery leather couch by the fire.

Cozy blankets, waning late afternoon light. It’s that time of year when the world and your insides and the mood of the space you occupy in your small self begins to dim.

Ever since I was a child I have found comfort in the low light. Something about it is worshipful to me, reverent, sweet with solemnity. Gentleness. I am touched with the idea of the undoing of harm.

My skin tingles with ache. All I haven’t done. All I have left to do. Crawling toward me and away.

Something in the way the dirty white cloud cover mutes all of the anxieties which too often seem to scream inside.

Something in the shadows which climb the walls like so many enchantments, widening chasms of welcoming deep.

This has been a year of such cruelty, frailty, tenderness. A year on its knees.

There is something about a kind of silence which hangs in the center of the room of the heart. The constant softness of the beat of the truth.

So soft as to be nearly imperceptible.

But, nevertheless, steady, constant, unending. Unpretentious. Demanding by not demanding, it knows nothing of loneliness.

Though you do. How you know, how you know. How you reach, and reach.

Comforting and unnerving in its immobile presence.

Because you see, no matter how loud they get out there, there is a voice without sound repeating in here.

In the place beyond the body, beyond the mind, beyond the spirit, beyond the love, beyond the fear.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.

And the darkness swallows the corners of every room of every longing all over the globe.

Little listless stars pierce the galaxy somewhere beyond the clouds, like so many eyes, covered, glistening. A showering light falls past the tearful distance.

After billions and billions of the beg and yawn of quaking years.

Warmth. Light. Crystal cold vacancy.

Still here.

 

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Photo by Laura Chouette

If 2020 Taught Me Anything It’s This

Somehow the radical reality of this year seems to be setting in as we are pushed into the holidays. I have no problems staying home. Staying in. Staying isolated.

Both because I want nothing to do with spreading the deadly virus, and because I’m just really, heavily, fully, mightily tired.

Learning to hold righteous rage in the same palmed fist with genuine compassion has left me feeling raw, shredded, exposed, and inadequate in so very many ways.

Being unable to hug the ones I love the most in this world has left me feeling a loneliness I never knew I could feel. A longing stretches out within me, a reaching, a craving for the kind of up close and intimate touching I always loved but now realize I took for granted, too.

I am a big bear tight squeeze hugger. Hugging is my favorite. Not in a creepy way, mind you, in the kind of way where it is just a flood of gratitude to be with each other. A tiny fleeting ecstatic celebration. That we have each other. That we can hold on and hold fast and know we are not alone hurtling through empty space.

A lot of empty space this year. And plenty of chaos, fear, terror, and turmoil to fill it.

So I’m not going to fill my holidays with screens or Zooms or chaos. I can’t stomach it. I can’t be bothered to do or be a single thing or way other than what I am. Exhausted. Over it. Done.

There will be plenty of delicious food, and many bottles of wine. There will be a table glowing with candles and set elegantly with silverware and crystal for my two greatest loves in all the universe, my husband and my son.

There will be holiday jazz.

There will be pine boughs on the mantle.

There will be pajamas all day and an endless number of cut logs blazing in the fireplace.

Warm hearts and laughter and complete and total ignorance of the outside world.

I need my bubble now. I need to reconnect with the beauty of nature and the quiet thorough joy of reading for hours on end. Leftovers. Sleeping in. Twinkle lights.

The thing about 2020 has been the countless ways it has broken, stretched, and shattered my insides. The hard lessons. The breathtaking manner in which people and events, culture and society, have snapped me wide awake.

Hit me like a lightening bolt over and over and over again.

But the truth is you cannot stay awake forever. You will go insane.

So for now, rest.

For now, enough.

For now, peace in our tiny homes.

In our little trembling hearts.

 

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Photo by Joyce Huis

 

 

America, What the Fuck

I live in a country where Kyle Rittenhouse gets out on two million dollars bail, praised, uplifted, …. and rumors of some bullshit deal with a coffee company? It’s so stupid I didn’t even bother looking into it.

He murdered two people in the street in plain sight.

He’s a kid. He’s old enough to know. By seventeen, you know a lot of things. You have learned what is right, what is wrong. What you have been encouraged, expected, even, to become.

A hero. A murderer. What are these words we use? On which we cannot agree? What is sickness? What is health? What is criminal? What is commercial?

I live in a country where we incarcerate for profit. Entire lives are thrown away for money. Depends, of course, on what you look like. Not what you did. That’s always, somehow, debatable.

This administration is dragging its buffoon clown feet on transitioning. What absolute fucking fools. What completely ignorant useless bastards.

People are dying. Starving. Jobless. Homeless. On the precipice of eviction just before the bitter cold of winter sets in hard, dark, and indifferent.

And the ones who could help, they turn their backs.

The rich and powerful head on home to their glossy marble fireplaces and turkey dinner super spreader events as the doctors and nurses cry alone in their hotel rooms, watching their babies through small screens.

There is wealth in this country. And there is bankruptcy. Humanity and inhumanity. Money, morality, hope, despair, agony, agony, agony.

My heart has been so heavy with grief and rage for so long. When all around things are bleak and mean and growing worse.

Yes, Biden. Yes, a vaccine. Yes, good people. Yes, yes, yes. I know. But those are hopeful cures for ills we are not even sure how to name yet. They may help, sure. But we are sicker underneath than we want to admit.

Is this what exceptional means? Because it’s a fucking joke right now. Right here. Here in the ‘greatest country on earth’ where half of us care with every fiber of our beings and the other half simply don’t care at all in the least.

It’s enough to make you sick. And quite honestly, I’m not interested in sugar coating anything. I want to acknowledge it. Finally.

For four years I have been “holding on.”

Well, now I’m letting go. Letting go of trying to pretend things are not as disgusting as they are. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. And I have so much privilege. And even still, I am spent.

I imagine what it’s like for those on the front lines of this pandemic. Risking their lives everyday so some assholes can recklessly spread a disease while claiming there is no disease.

Is this what we are now? We just completely disregard life itself? Kick in the teeth of the most genuinely good, selfless, and decent among us?

We are so ugly. We are so cruel. We are so divided and perverted and lost.

This is not an uplifting post, obviously. I didn’t plan to write it, just like I wrote a lot of things I didn’t plan on writing this year.

Plans seem ridiculous anyway.

But I had to say all of it. I am sick to death of people not just saying it. All day long, the smiles, the idiocy, the holding it in and holding it back and not having the ability to see what’s right in front of our ignorant faces.

For months I have researched and read articles, journalists, posts, op-eds, books, commentary, listened to podcasts, interviews, IG lives, and all the rest. Trying to understand. Trying to pull apart the lies from the truth.

To pinpoint some kind of guiding star glittering above the rubble this nation has become.

I know it’s there.

There’s just so much dust and sadness in my eyes right now I cannot see.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. A bit of a break from the daily stuff for a few days. I am thinking of taking a social media break, too. I can’t keep up, I can’t stomach any more of the last gasps of this wholly incompetent and deliberately sadistic administration.

It’s an absolute bloody clown horror show.

Fuck every single one of the people who could have stood up and spoken truth to power to protect our democracy but didn’t. They do not give a single fuck and we should not compromise with a single one of them.

We are beyond the merits of a few individual actors. The GOP as a whole is a monstrous machine.

There is no compromise with bigotry. They can come over to our side if they want but the hell if we should move a single inch toward their nihilistic nonsense.

Fuck being nice. Fuck ‘understanding.’

I understand perfectly.

I see exactly what they’ve done.

 

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Photo by Gijs Coolen

 

New Podcast Episode: How to Be a Prolific Writer, Thanksgiving Plans, and Harry Styles is Hot in a Dress

In this week’s episode, Mark and I chat about all manner of writing topics including what helps us stay prolific, what drives our creativity, and what it feels like to write from the depths of the soul.

We have a few very interesting Ah-Ha! moments with fresh insights into the secret to getting your work out there and busting through writer’s block.

We also, of course, get into the modern culture stuff: the nonsense that is Twitter fleets, the pure joy and deliciousness that is Harry Styles in a dress, and so much more.

It’s been A WEEK. Come relax, laugh, and be inspired with us!

Listen to our podcast Spacetrash on Spotify here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

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Photo by Zino de Groot