I host a podcast called Spacetrash with my very dear cousin Mark who makes me laugh so much and chills me out more than most other humans ever possibly can. A new episode drops every other Friday morning and we riff about the things on our minds as fellow writers and creatives living in a world that doesn’t really make a lot of sense to either of us but we roll with it anyway because: life.
Today’s episode covers a lot of cultural ground in just 36 minutes! We get into such topics as Mark starting his next big creative thing and he reveals what computer coding is really like (writers and poets, you will be surprised). Also, not worn jeans since before quarantine? Listen in to hear what’s hot with denim – and what’s not anymore – and what is again – because the nineties were everything. We’re told. And among a slew of other things, we discuss the critical pros and cons of using the new Instagram feature which hides likes on your posts, or the posts in your feed. Why would anyone do this? Why on earth does IG even offer this when nonsense popularity is the name of their whole game? Grab a Friday beverage and let’s get into it. You can listen on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Seventeen drafts and not a single post worth saving, I delete everything hoping the emptiness will somehow grow into something new and more beautiful. I delete all my social media accounts. I delete all my posts and photos and works in progress. Fuck it. If it isn’t done by now it isn’t getting done. If it isn’t sparking anything inside of me now it never will.
The past is a story you tell yourself to try make the present a little bit more bearable. Which is fine, and probably advisable really, but that doesn’t make any of it real. You don’t want the past, you want a clean slate. You want a do over. Maybe next time you won’t be such a fuck up or at the very least maybe you will be proud. Could be worth a shot and so without any more clever idea, you just kill the story off like putting down a sick animal to let it out of its misery.
I see people who cling to the way it was. The way they were, by that I mean the way they think they were even though it was never really the case to begin with. You see, you can hang on all you want but even what you think it was can’t live up to your distorted expectations now. Too jaded. Too gutted, pale, carved out like soft melon.
I am just sick to death of it all I guess. How it drains you whether you are in the game or out of it, then you realize there is no ‘out of it.’ The web of toxic vibes glistens and tears all around you only to be rebuilt even stronger. The code. There is a code threaded through everything we do these days. What you buy, what you look at, what you speak about with friends, it’s all tracked and coded, bought and sold, so they can keep selling you the same shit over and over again without you realizing it.
Feels good though right? Feels damn good to spend the cash and order another round. Feels good to buy the swimsuit and pretend the body comes with it and the house on the pretty beach, too, and try to exercise what little freedom you have left and delete yourself all right off the map, drown your sorrows and insecurities and inabilities right down the straight center of the bottle, kissing and hissing and pissing yourself right out of here until you can make a better go of it some other time. Maybe never, even. But certainly not now.
Aiming his impressive bow skyward, he shoots arrow after golden arrow at the moon and while some of them stick, most of them explode like fireworks at night and then trail off and burn out like so many ancient stars. I once set a house on fire that way, not with the arrows, with the fireworks, but it was a very long time ago and no one got hurt because the neighbor found the hose in time and also because he never stops mowing his lawn and keeping an eye on things, which can be creepy but in that particular case was very much the reason we all lived to tell the tale. The handsome boy with the arrows, he is young and full of the kind of energy which breathes life through his tan skin, pumps and pulses with verve just beneath the surface where beats the heart of a lion or a dragon or maybe even both. His lips are perfectly flush, his chest and shoulders as wide and broad as the sun.
Meanwhile, I sip wine in the shadows and watch him in secret. I am trying to figure out how to remove myself from a conversation with a man who seems to have me cornered, backed up against the prison cell of my own social anxiety issues and insidious fear of hurting anyone else’s feelings, let alone someone who is already hurting mine. The wine slides down cool and softens my mood just enough that I laugh at things which are not funny and say things I think are but no one else does. It isn’t so much that I am not entertaining, though, it’s that they can’t hear me. It appears I can form the words with my mind and my mouth but I cannot make them fall forward to reach someone else. I am stuck in a dream where they can all talk to me, tell me things I may or may not want to hear, and I cannot respond.
I lean my arm against the bar. I lean my bare back against the cold wall. I am wearing a lovely dress with the back entirely cut out. In the mirror on the wall behind all the pretty multicolored liquor bottles, I can see my back is covered only by a gigantic tattoo of a wolf howling at the moon. It is a beautiful tattoo, the artistry so intricate and precise that as I stare at the image of the majestic creature, I can feel the heat in its primal eyes, taste the sharp cut of its teeth. When I was a child, my mother read me a nursery rhyme about a girl who runs through the woods at night. The girl was good but made a bad choice and the wolf ate her right up because the wolf was neither bad nor good just hungry. Just an animal. Alone. Clever. Strong. On top of the world, on top of a mountain of bones and blood and might. I didn’t know what the story was supposed to teach me or where on earth little girls run through forests alone at night. All I knew was, I wanted to be the wolf.
It happens like this: I am inspired but then I am bored as fuck and restless for something that gets my creative juices flowing and by that I mean whatever it is you think I do. He knots his long hair in a tight and perfect bun and uses all my fancy hair product to manage its flyaways and make it smell like the lightest, sweetest, most delicious summer afternoon even as we are only here trying to maneuver around each other in the small upstairs bathroom. They say the whole truth about a relationship is just two people sharing the same tiny space. I can promise you that’s not the whole truth of it. I am naked turning the shower to as hot as I can stand it and just as I catch him staring at me in the foggy mirror he slaps my ass and I scowl and smile at the same time. Unsure exactly what’s right or wrong about either of us, let alone us together, I step into the steaming spray of cascading water and swirl the coconut soap suds all around my soft smooth skin.
The sun is shining but it’s cold because of the wind. The wind is pushing the trees around something fierce, one by one like a million fingers pressing them back as far as they will go toward the ground. Spring has finally fully burst forth, all the plants and flowers a lush shade of enthusiastic greens or blushing pinks and purples. As I towel off, I see their sloped petals soaring past the window like little silken boats cast this way and that on a rip roaring gust of fresh morning air. The chimes in the garden next to the weathered angel statue are clattering their sporadic melody like church bells in a high hollow medieval tower.
Somewhere in a land far off, which comes alive only in my mind when it wanders on its own, the witches and warlocks of old worship the return of the light by performing the mating rituals of goddesses and gods frolicking freely in wide open fields and part of my aching ancient heart wishes with every bloody beat of itself to join them in ecstatic dance and revelry. Flesh and fruit, sacrifice and fertilization. As I stare off into an outer space I seem to occupy a bit too often lately, he reappears in the door frame with two mugs of coffee, passing one to me as he takes a sip of his own. When I kiss him on the lips in gratitude and awe, he tastes like the darkest French roasted beans and a thousand suns which blaze and burn and heat my quivering bones.
In the blink of an eye, it could all crumble into the blistering sea and be over for good. It could all be gone, really. I’m never quite certain if this motivates me or just chews inside my head like a manic kind of disturbance which keeps me from being better. I don’t know what ‘better’ means exactly, I guess I just always feel like it’s something I should try to be although I’m also pretty sure it’s why we spend too much and drink too much and get diagnosed with ‘generalized anxiety’ because we have fears which span a spectrum so wide and varying that it’s not even special enough to warrant a specific label. But maybe that’s just me. Humans always seem to be striving toward something and I can’t help but think that’s why they are so exhausting. They expect you to get so high even as they pin your wings to the ground.
The sky is dark navy velvet as I sip coffee and type in the dimly lit upstairs room. I listen to the little birds outside my open window, chirping away with marked intent. Together their sounds become a beautiful collection of voices which seem to surround me entirely, head to toe. Sometimes I just stare at them in the garden, peer deep into their teeny tiny black beady eyes, watch the clicking of their small fragile heads and the flick of their clever movements. What holds these creatures together but frail tendons and thin feathers and the breath of a god I almost believe in when I see a bird soar right up into the elegant morning air.
Poets are deeply observant which is likely why they can be so unnerving. It is a strange kind of torture-worship which calls a person to the word. The ones who write too much about sunshine and rainbows, I can’t trust them. Nothing is ever that simple. Or maybe I’m too complicated. Either way, I need darkness in my veins if I want to feel turned on enough to pick up a pen.
Sylvia Plath used to drink martinis with Anne Sexton (“three or four or two”) after their poetry class. At the Ritz Carlton if I am not mistaken (I could be). Sexton would drive them and park in the loading only zone, exclaiming to hotel staff that it was okay because they were only there to get loaded. They spoke a lot about death, and spoke about it with fervor and passion. Tragic in the end, of course, and yet what compelling, intriguing figures both of them were. Women who wrote poetry and thought thoughts which they actually expressed were near scandalous back then. They wrote about masturbation, miscarriage, the cruelties of marriage and motherhood. Unacceptable.
There is something about obsession which transfixes not only the obsessed but those obsessed with observing them. To surrender to your passion for expression, for writing, for a life bigger, deeper, than anyone around you is living. So much of life is a question of what kind of conversations you are having. What you discuss is who you are and a reflection of how you value yourself. Which, truth be told, makes the culture we are living in at present a very sad state of affairs indeed.
The artists you cannot get enough of, who are they? They are not just artists, they are so much more than that. They are the embodiment of the dare. Do you or don’t you salivate over a thing. And if you do, will you let yourself feel it all the way through. Will you turn toward it or will you hide it away. Will you own it, say it, stand in it.
If what you want to discuss, if what you feel you need to say, or dismantle, or explore, may turn some people’s stomachs, would you still do it? Would you put your desires, your burning needs ahead of everyone else’s?
What if you did. And refused to explain or justify any of it.
We get so high that I keep inviting someone into the conversation who isn’t there. He’s laughing because it’s just a wrought iron chair and I’m laughing because I don’t like to leave anyone out, and somehow my sudden grave concern is that this empty chair feels rejected. My heart is as big as an ocean and my mind is as free as the little birds which flutter about from tree top to tree top in the sweet evening air.
As I lay back and watch the colors of the sky change, he tells me it’s all in my head and I tell him to shush because when he talks I can’t hear the electric peaches and lavenders as they spread out like gigantic fuzzy fingers across the wide open expanse. I take a drink of his tequila while he’s off to get a beer and somehow the start of a new season doesn’t feel so bad at all.
Somewhere very far away, but not far enough, disease grips the young and old people alike and snuffs them out one at a time or in droves all together. Death is always around the bend but we cocoon ourselves in a secluded garden and play like kids who haven’t a care or an inkling that whatever this is which surrounds us in natural beauty and majesty is nothing more than a breath away from near catastrophe if not complete and total annihilation.
Feeling the effects of everything I’ve done to escape the world around me, I think of a man I once knew who was so hell bent on looking on the bright side that he fell right into the trap they set for you from the beginning. If you peer too long into the abyss it will swallow you whole, along with your entire sense of reality and what’s left of your magic. I don’t want to stay and I don’t want to go and I want both at the same time. I want the warm smooth grass under my feet all day and the stars above to come kiss me on my soft pink mouth one by silvery one each night until my entire body explodes into celestial galaxies which expand and expand forever. For each light, there is a light gone out. For each new beginning, an ending of impossible wonder and exquisite pain. And so it goes on and on like rings of fire blazing out into an endless night which you cradle in the very palms of your hands.
Be horny like an impressionist painting on the wall of an orthodontist’s office. Expect your lover to know what turns you on without telling them or even hinting at your actual needs in the slightest. Actual advice dished out in a modern culture magazine by some young thing who probably also advises against washing your face too ‘aggressively’ or eating anything with real sugar in it. Horny is trendy but only if you do it right. How gruesome. How hilariously stupidly entertaining, and yet even so, I can remember gobbling up advice like this from wherever I could get my hands on it in my younger days.
Such is one’s eagerness to get her desires met but only if she doesn’t have to fall on her face in the process. We learn our tricks. We learn the trade and all the while our lusty, blushy, pulsing youth is fading into oblivion as our nerves rattle us near into bits over nothing but mass marketed bullshit.
Sitting down on a park bench which overlooks a little man-made pond, I slip my phone back in my bag and sip my cappuccino as I take in the brightness of the early spring afternoon. It feels good to have nowhere to be but as is too often the case, when there is nowhere you belong, you can’t help but wonder if there is someplace you should and then you start missing it. A little rattled by the assault of so much light, I put on my dark glasses and allow my mind to take my senses back to the memory of the beautiful darkness of the night before.
He wanted to kiss but it wasn’t in the cards. I don’t kiss because it feels too much like suffocating and he knows this about me even though I know we both think it’s insane and possibly more than a bit tragic. Not discouraged by my neuroses, however, he persisted in asking me to dance for him and so I swiveled my hips and threw back my hair and I did it all with grace and rhythm and you would have thought I was some exotic gypsy queen or other worldly creature entirely, in spite of the butterflies clattering in my stomach.
It’s funny what you will do to feel alive. To feel desired in a world which makes you feel degraded and commodified at every turn. As I watch the little kiddos place their tiny homemade sailboats into the water, I see them cheer with delight as the breeze moves their carved wooden vessels smoothly across the top of the pond. One kid with messy red hair and a tee shirt which fits like he’s growing right out of it before my eyes, finds a jumping green frog in the grass and follows its zig zaggy movements off into the rocks, forgetting all about his painted yellow boat which is now tipping almost all the way over sideways against a gust of wind.
In the middle of the day, the sky is as wide as eternity and the trees are frothing with gorgeous pink blossoms, their musky scent a delicious kind of melancholy warmed by the high sun. As the poets all across the world dream their dreams, I wish I could live the life of every single one, just for some hours, just for a haunted night to crawl inside their minds and watch what dirty secrets make them twitch. And suddenly the muscles between my thighs begin to flex with a tender kind of ache, wetness sweats succulent across my soft tongue, and I know for certain that never once was I ever turned on by anything at all in the orthodontist’s office.
Smearing my chest with cool thick mud, he makes the sign of the cross all the way down to my navel and across my breasts before using me the way he likes to do when we both need a way out. The strangeness of the crooked stars high above and his crushing body pounding over mine makes me wet but I am used to my body betraying my mind by now. Still, it makes me struggle and gasp which only serves to hustle the whole scene along until we both find our animalistic release.
It isn’t pretty but it’s honest. This is what I tell myself as I straighten up and light a smoke from his torn up pack which falls out of his coat pocket along with a gold wedding ring. He thinks I don’t know but only because he doesn’t think much and because he’s afraid that if I did I would care but I don’t. I’m eighteen and he’s forty six or something close to that but none of it matters to me because I’m on my way to much better things and he’s got a wife he can’t stand and a career that’s killing him, a slow kind of seedy death one stale-ringed Styrofoam coffee cup at a time.
Pulling my knees to my chest, I suck in the smell of summer grass and gaze out across the deep black lake which is sunk low at the center of the park where we trespass in the darkest hour. Watching as the moonlight pools and dips on top of the rippling water, I think about how tight my body is, how satisfying. I spread my legs and admire my pale limbs as they soften into the fresh blades of sweet green weeds speckled with dandelion and periwinkle. A girl gives up her body to keep hold of her mind. It is a sordid trade but nonetheless expected. A shit bargain which must be made in order to play the game, which has fuzzy rules that only make it more intriguing. Smart girls like puzzles. Good girls like pleasing.
I pick up a stone and carve my name into the dirt. I lick at the tiny cuts on my knees and talk to myself like I know what I’m doing but something inside is seething and feels like if I turn toward it for even just a split minute, it will morph into a giant ocean wave and swallow me whole. I am strong, though. I keep it in. I push it down. I am the ruler of the tides.
Little fireflies are dimpling the silence of the night air. I can see them glowing gently as they multiply and surround me like sweet honey droplets, amber coordinates of a heavenly guidance system. The more I look, the more I see.
I finish my cigarette alone with my winged companions and wrap his flannel around my small shoulders. He just sleeps it off.
Far away from here, there is a beautiful sprawling countryside and a wide open field of wildflowers, flickered with tiny butterflies as they tumble and flit from one stray bloom to another. In a soft patch of new spring grass, she makes heavenly love to me with her wet succulent hunger before she disappears, right before my eyes, becoming a kind of magnificent bird of prey with pristine ivory wings, which vanishes into the slowly sloping sun.
Dazed by the smooth heat of passion and the sweet afternoon air on my skin, I assemble my hair into a towering mess atop my head and wander barefoot toward a stream. It is cool underneath the dappled sunlight falling through tall trees. In the back of my mind there are images of terrible scenes. The horrors of war and the suffering of every person, animal, helpless creature, all collected in my veins. They run with me even when I am not running. They are swift and deft, they endure and they deflect and they outwit, outsmart, outlast the evil screeching at their backs.
In my womb, unrelenting circles, cycles, tides, planets, and orbiting moons. In the center of my palms, the middle of my throat, there are voices which have persisted throughout all of time and eternity. I have made of myself a home, a sanctuary, a temple of sorts, for them. Have you ever known a haunting you couldn’t bear to let go of? Have you ever felt the pulse of an unexplained, inexplicable thing coursing through you at such a breakneck pace that it quickens your breathing even as you sit trying to keep still?
I realize this could be a manic dream, but couldn’t all of it be, all the time? If everything they ever told you, fed you on, bathed you in, was a lie meant to rip the spine right out from under your skin, then what would you choose to believe if you could and why? What if within you, deep deep down, grows something so soft it is untouchable, so wild it is unstoppable, so bright it is unconscionable.
Lying on the forest floor, soft cool moss beneath my strange little head, I stare up at the fading pale peach sky far off, high above the leafy green tree tops, that endless dome which cups every monstrous beast and every last faint ripple on the waters all over the globe, every transgression, every sweet molten ache. I lift a slender finger up into the invisible evening air which surrounds me, open my mouth and say her name as I trace it into the wind which promises only to blow all of us away.
I’m toning the body and flexing the mind and all the shit you’re supposed to do to keep on top of things while living a life you only half understand. We like our women pretty and their bodies tight and their thoughts subdued. The currency in beautified, petrified silence.
As I walk the winding windy streets alone, a shower of apple blossoms descends into my long strawberry hair and I reach to touch their smooth pink petals just as a gust of fresh spring wind rushes through and casts them away onto the hard concrete. It’s that time of year when you can wear heavy boots and a tee shirt, or a chunky knit hat and flip flops. It’s warm and it’s cool in equal measure at any given minute, all the while the sweet scent of lilac swirls on the pollen-dusted air along with hints of wood fires burning somewhere off in the distance.
And distance is all there is these days, ways to measure it, ways to deny or cheat it, in the hopes it won’t drag you down. There is sorrow in my heart and a pulsing heat in my veins. Because the seasons may change but life never does. It ends as breathtakingly mysterious as it begins, out of nowhere, out of sight, out of the mind of anyone or anything but a god we’ve been making up since the beginning of time. Was time always a thing or was it the human creature who made it up?
No star has need for it. No planet ever speaks of arriving late or dashing out early.
Doesn’t matter. All I can tell you for sure is that the light is growing in the mornings as well as the evenings and while this may be comforting for some it has a kind of menacing effect on me. The darkness I can understand, I know what it wants and I can soothe it by letting it enter me, fill me, have me. I know how to breathe for it so it will trust me.
But the light can be deceiving. Perhaps because no one expects it to be. She’s just like the springtime wind, she will lick you cold as ice and you won’t even see it coming.