Images of Self

It’s Sunday and I should probably give it a rest but the words don’t stop and the truth is I feel a certain obligation to them to show up. Without them I’m unsure of myself in ways that are hard to explain. When you write often and honestly, people tend to tell you things you don’t want to hear or worse they tell you things about themselves which you are incapable of responding to thoughtfully because they don’t know themselves well enough to understand why they are even telling you in the first place. Perhaps this is neither here nor there, but there you have it in any case. As I sip my coffee, I glance up at the new painting on my wall, it is a breathtakingly gorgeous, nearly life sized portrait of the back of a woman who sits fully undressed, her white garment spread around her as though it had carelessly fallen off. When I selected the painting what intrigued me at first was her thick wavy hair, much like my own, tousled and piled high atop her head, as she looks off to one side. I cannot see her face but I can feel her, I can feel myself in her. The way I once sat for you as you sketched my likeness with charcoal and pencil upon a large canvas. In your small studio with the makeshift fireplace, you threw on a few more logs so I would not be chilled as I undressed before you, drank of your wine and took my seat upon a small pedestal. How your dark eyes flashed and studied, your fingers mastered each fine line of my face, my jaw, my collarbone, my breasts, my stomach. How I crossed my bare legs as I could feel your stoic gaze humming in my sex. In the presence of one who treasures such a rarity, who rejoices within it and drinks of it eagerly, there is no feeling of vulnerability and soft power like that. To be drawn, to be painted, to be seen, penetrated from a distance. To be touched, reflected, objectified. A woman knows these feelings intimately, she carries them deep in her psyche. They arouse and break her, play with and distract her. The image in my writing room reminds me of any woman but it also reminds me of myself. What it is to be human, to be silent, to be beautiful. To be curious, to be waiting. To be. Without word. Without shame. Without motion or angst or explanation. Without fear or hesitation. The portrait has a feeling of poise and contemplation to it, underneath there is also a feeling of need, want, nakedness, isolation, freedom, sadness. There are no other objects in the image, just the roughness of texture, gray on gray on white paint washed out around the woman who is facing away. I’ve turned my back on many things in my life, too, I think as my eyes take in the gentle curve of her feminine hips. Cruel lovers. Hopeless relationships. Myself, time and time again. Those who do not understand me and never will. Life is full of strangeness and it seems I am always inviting it in but I don’t want to be like everybody else. I would rather be alone with myself than faking a smile for the masses. It is a heavy world out there. People want to tame you, silence you, dismiss you. They want to whittle you down into a nub of what grandness you truly are. And as the powder blue sky opens itself over a clouded winter’s day, here I sit writing for the ones who are kind enough to listen. Of all the things I’ve ever turned away from, I’d break my own heart before I ever turned away from them.


Fog hangs soft upon the dark trees creating a smoky veil of quiet as far as I can see from the window of my writing room. The words seem to trip over themselves in between my mind and my fingers and as I curse myself for being so clumsy, I remember something a professor once said to me about writing what he called first thoughts. He was a live wire, handsome, bookish, intellectual, rebellious. There was something about his arrogance, his encouraging us to break the rules, that sparked in my body and within minutes I adored him. I didn’t just want to be in his presence, to hear him speak, I wanted him inside me- body, mind, and soul. First thoughts are the raw material of the mind, the things you think about but, stunned at their naked truth and terrified of letting them become visible to anyone else on the page and therefore real, you immediately censor them and only allow yourself to write clunky watered-down second, third, fourth thoughts. The basic ones, the ones that make you feel safe, like you haven’t gone too far, like you fit in, like you will not be judged, isolated, separated from the soulless, stupefied lumbering herd. Of all our fears, our deepest fear is without question ourselves. He encouraged me to break free of the rest, to enter into myself, to trust my own thinking and my own expression, my own unrestricted ideas. While the other students at university mocked poetry and philosophy, I was thirsty for the dark murky depths of it. The way it worked on and twisted the mind into beautiful knots of intellectual ecstasy. I wanted to be pushed, challenged, unnerved, made to blossom and to open. I wanted discussion, debate, stimulation. It seemed to me there was no more worthy or worthwhile endeavor than to surround oneself with literature, verse, art, creativity, sensuality. I had a body like an hourglass but I wanted a mind like a forest fire, burning, crackling, licking at the flame of knowledge and truth. Raging, wild and destructive. Breaking down barriers, inhibitions, hesitations. I wanted to know everything about what drives a human to do such things as write, compose, love, hate, worship, kill, defy, manipulate, build. I questioned everything, relentlessly, and he never stopped me, there was always more, more, more. Nothing I could say that he couldn’t handle with dexterity and care. He and I met often throughout the fall semester in libraries and cafes, book stores, coffee shops and bars. Speaking for hours about the way of the world, the way of society, culture, crime, passion, the way of desire. The way of a professor and his young student who should not be so attentive to one another. Who should not take such secret pleasure in an imbalanced relationship which only stoked the seduction that much more. Who should not trade confessional poetry, fictional short stories, fantasy, drinks. She who had written a tiny poem about a girl stood smoking alone in the courtyard, slender arms, sunlight playing upon her golden hair, which he tacked to the wall in his office as if to signify something he could not say aloud. He who lights her cigarette underneath a moonless late autumn sky, leaning against the only car left in the strip mall parking lot. She who wore perfume on her wrists, as he licks her scent there slowly, his tongue hot, circling her sensitivity as her body and mind melt easily, aching all over for his forbidden touch. First thoughts, Allison. Now you’ll go home and write them just for me. 


Wishing he were with me but knowing we are countless miles apart both in distance and in thought, I slip out of the day clothes and into something comfortable. I’ve been told I have an active imagination and an animated face, that my wide eyes and curved mouth reveal my secrets, and my expressions though often fleeting are unmistakable. I think this is probably true as I can sometimes see it reflected back to me in the faces of those to whom I am speaking. When I raise an eyebrow, they react even if they don’t notice it. I do. It may only be subtle but I can see it on their faces, in their movements. I watch people more closely than they know. I am quiet, observant, always have been. Curious, calculated, fascinated. A little twisted. Most people are an easy mark and playing them is not much of a challenge but once in a while you come across someone special, someone different, someone who excites you with their sleight of hand. Lately I’ve been tired and by tired I mean bored but the thought of him still stirs something deep in my bones and makes them vibrate as I imagine his lips upon my neck, his rough hand pinning both of my small hands behind my back. Reading erotica and finding not one thing that gets me there, I consider writing a few pieces of my own, something raw and indecent to get the juices flowing, pull the last of the shy defenses down. We want to control and we want to submit. We want someone else to uncover that which we fear to reveal about ourselves. Forced to obey. Made to give of everything, and then give even more still, for the pleasure of another. Awakened to the darkness which claws at the veins, seeps in the mind like a mad craving which demands our fixed attention, toys with it, presses into it like nails into flesh. The way you made me beg for release. The command in your voice like thick knots secured around my gasping for breath. Even now as I pour a glass of blood red wine and lose myself at the end of an evening which cloaks itself in the shadows stalking this empty room. Even though you were elusive like the ghost of a soul not even beauty could tame or hold or keep. The power of you is still affixed to my tongue, still at work upon my body as I build sensual dreams of you in the dark.

Come Away With Me

There is nothing left to say but the poets keep trying and with the full moon hung high in the sky as it glitters through the blinds, I am drinking chilled rose wine in a hot vanilla bath unsure if it is the gravitational pull of the universe which has me agitated or it’s just a passing mood. Perhaps agitated isn’t right, it isn’t a sexual craving but at the same time it is not completely devoid of a sensual nature. Something in the way melancholy drapes itself across my mind in the evening is a cocktail of deep sadness, dark mystery and a kind of kneading arousal which I suspect emanates from an inescapable feeling of desperation. Even at a young age I fell in love with, or became addicted to, longing. That sense of a low sweet tugging seems to be always at the strings of my solemn heart, tied like a weight at the tip of my soft pink tongue, worn bare upon my sleeve. People come and go in and out of my life without so much as a passing glance but once in a while there is a person who sees beneath my smile to the hope I have inside of being understood. It is rare and I have long since stopped holding my breath in anticipation. We breathe and we cry and we swivel our hips at the bottom of a bottle which holds our head in the lap of another sifting midnight. Moving my hands beneath the silky water I watch as the bubbles form strange shapes like white soapy clouds moving out over the hills in the distance and for a moment I am warm and safe and very far away from the pain of this chaotic place. Out the window the sky turns to purple sapphire and little stars begin to pierce through as twilight blossoms along the tops of the pointy naked trees. I pull a hand above the water and run it slowly down my chin and trace the long elegant curve of my neck, feeling the hot bath water slide liquid heat along my skin. I think of you but only in a flickered wing of thought, a flash of an image of passion and lust. You knelt at my feet, your mouth at the center of my burning desire, your movements forceful and your body generous, pouring all of yourself into me. My fingers move slowly caressing my body down. The way you would have spread me like innocence, exposed me like truth. We contemplate so little in this life though we think we have it all figured out. And even though I have come close to recognizing myself in other lost ones out there, the reckless and the mad, the holy and the troubled, there is a shadow inside me which eclipses my view, a darkness I cradle and just can’t shake.

What Gets You Off

Watching as the snow blankets the street in a thick coating of white, I think about the time you licked buttercream icing off my breasts as I stood stark still absorbing every delicious stroke and nibble. That tongue like candy, soft and then stiff, and your perfect teeth working me brutally until my nipples were hard as two succulent milky seeds. It’s too early and I’m already dreading the commute as my mind turns suddenly to railing about how people only want from you whatever you can give them to sedate their anxieties. A naked body dripping with need, a bottle, a scare, attention, stimulation, entertainment, praise, stories of horror and destruction, anything to get us off the mark and out of our rabid racing gerbil minds. He was a distraction I wanted slithering in my veins without relent, washing heavy and wet upon my mind, and every time I tried to shake the memory of the way he played my body until it was taut, I’d only end up more strung out, more deeply entangled in his sticky prismatic web. I don’t blame myself. He was quicksand disguised as decadence, the moment you laid eyes on him there was never a turning back. How easily we are molded, sculpted, trained, made into the likeness of someone else entirely. How willingly we turn ourselves in and turn ourselves over to anything that makes our stomachs flip, makes our faces light up with wonder as if observing the first freshly falling snow.  Most people are maniacs and as the days go by they press their heads ever more closely into their little black phone screens telling stories about themselves which are true and not true, exaggerated and useless, and by the middle of the week I’m exhausted of all of their nonsense and mine as well. Come morning light the neighbors will be shoveling out their shiny SUVs as we all scuttle about to waste our lives away bent over at the altar of the almighty dollar. There are those who may judge my habits, my private obsessions, my dark cravings. But the truth is we are all distortions of some recklessly chosen version of ourselves grasping for a kind of perverted distraction. We are all trapped, all writhing, all talk, and not one of us sated.

Watch Your Mouth

I once read the eyes of a man who wanted me down on my knees in prayer but that’s not what he said. What he said was, The color of your lips burns in me like fire. There was a darkness in his taste which I knew instinctively how to touch, to grasp not with hands but with the rhythm of my breathing. There were desires swirling in his eyes, as he knew exactly what he wanted, and how to take it swiftly when granted the chance. In his deliberate movements, his elegant, torturous stare, there played the low music of seduction. There is a dance we play out as the days go by and we learn to trust ourselves a little more and everybody else a little less until we finally decide none of it matters in the end anyway so we might as well get on with whatever it is that makes our little melancholy hearts race. How ironic the way they act as though to be a writer means nothing at all but how much they’d have to say if you said all the things you want to say without looking first for permission. Having grown up in a religious household that will do it to you good, mess with your sense of shame, degradation, indignity. Nothing gives you a lust for misbehavior like being told all the naughty acts which will send you to hell for all eternity. The rain is coming down steady and cold in the darkness, just to listen to it sliding down the window pane is enough to make me pull up the blankets and shudder. Placing my fingers upon the warmth of myself I remember the first time I discovered the sweet secret urge and worked myself into discovering euphoria, finally breathing in quick ecstatic flutters like a brand new butterfly, sated all alone in awe and release. In joy and defiance I took myself over and over again. We are not so shameful as they would have us believe. We should not be as quiet as they hope we’ll be. Deep inside, you hold every single answer you seek, you just have to look where you have been told never to go. Open those hidden doors, realize all along you have held the golden key. What they are afraid of is not how beautiful you are but that you might somehow learn to believe in such beauty, to trust in your own hunger, your own naked desire. I think of the man with the eyes which flickered over my entire body before he took my jaw in his hand. How electric that made me feel, the effect so sharp with pleasure and pain it made me gasp for air.

Tell Me How You Want It

As I’m sipping my coffee while flipping through magazines, you mention my birthday and I shrug. It’s on a Sunday this year, tomorrow in fact, so we decide on shopping in the village followed by dinner someplace nice with a view of the river we hope to live along one day. Last year I turned forty and the fact that one continues to have birthdays after that seems to have taken me by surprise this year for reasons I cannot explain both because that’s ridiculous and it makes perfect sense. All of this is only to say that much time has passed, many moons have spun across many a midnight sky since I was just a kid who didn’t know better and didn’t think to care about what would become of me in adulthood. As I stand in front of the mirror and toss my hair up in a messy bun, I see it in the hollow of my cheeks. I see it in the pain throbbing behind my sleepy eyes, still smudged with yesterday’s mascara. I’m still smoking and I’m still drinking and I’m still here and in a million ways none of that should be true. There is so much I have that I don’t deserve which should make me sick but mostly makes me numb. I skim through an article about the morbid state of the world which posits that we are very angry, and what we are actually angry at is existence itself and with no where else to go, we take that rage out on each other or turn it against ourselves. To be here is to be lost, to be alone and afraid and left as such until we can find or invent something to cling to that helps us sleep at night without falling into the depths of despair which lurk around each and every corner. To exist is a cruel trick and a breathtakingly beautiful gift, and that dichotomy alone turns us into our own little traps. We want out and we want in and we want what we cannot have and when we get what we want we decide we want something else entirely and start the whole insane cycle over again but we give it sexy names like ambition, drive, success. It is years ago and you and I are drinking vodka at the bar around the corner that we frequented because it was cheap, convenient, and dark. Fuck commitment, we said, Let’s just fuck. No strings, no promises, no cares, no anyone else in the world except you and I and our sin drenched bodies ticking like lust filled time bombs. Heels and handcuffs. Lipstick and collars and secrets we keep deep down inside that make us twitch. We want to be used. We want to drown each other and raise each other from the dead. We want to be brought to our knees and told exactly who and what and how to worship to be saved from the hell of having to decide on our own. We want to be wasted and tasted and make our pretty mark upon a disgraceful world and have something to say about everything, told we are exquisite and mysterious and devastating and special. Or maybe that’s just me. But perhaps you will indulge me, just for a day. Just for a day which falls exactly forty one years after the day I was first welcomed into this hysterical madness. It’s all absurd of course but for what it’s worth, on this cold winter day beneath a wild white confetti sky, I will smile and I will sigh and I will raise a glass to that.

In Sickness

We wander through life trying to find something we lost which we cannot name or even quite remember but we knew we felt its warmth once and it was all we needed. Human hands extend toward something inhuman, human hearts beat to the rhythm of a mysterious force. And for a moment I am kissing you beneath a crooked cloud of street lamps as my boots scratch the pavement cutting slits into the night air. There are bare trees and they are protruding in and out of the darkness which falls across your face. You are a shadow I reach for in the night when my humanity is so honest it hurts all over just to move, just to breathe. You took me to you. There was a touching and you were there as a whisper against an empty space. The morning light is a trouble I cannot shake, the unbearable dawn of a cold hard day which will not retreat. There is a heaviness rising in spite of its weight, it sinks in my chest as I stalk these interior halls. The sky opens its single eye to the turning of the planet, stillness, motion, chaos, disaster, kindness, anger, love. And we are alone upon a marble floor. Matchsticks scattered into the wind which moves beneath my feet. You are a figure in the back of my mind in the blood in my veins in a chair in a room smoking a cigarette. You watch as I unravel and place a finger to my lips. I love you but I can’t. And even though you never left I feel you leaving. And even though I misread the signs and believed in sickness over health, I meant it when I said your body reminds me of something I once curled up against. A phantom limb which vanished and I’ve not stopped searching since.

Eaten Alive

Choked with a particular kind of nausea brought on by accidentally reading very bad poetry on Instagram, I shut my laptop cursing myself for having fallen into a ridiculous rabbit hole on the interwebs once again. It all began innocently enough while reading some article about these women who write poetry together in a cabin in the woods somewhere in Iceland. Their names were exotic and I couldn’t pronounce a single one if I tried, but I admire their commitment to writing books of poems against what they call impostor syndrome and marvel at their ability and willingness to do so as a group. Would not be me, this is for certain. I write alone. I read and think alone. Other people crowd me even when they are across the room. Even as I sit here typing by myself I am crowded by the ones I’ve read and revere, the ones I’ve read and despise, those who have told me I’m good and those who tell me I’m not good enough by a long shot. They never say that kind of thing outright of course, they say it in their slanted eyes angled toward the floor as they smile too wide and shuffle their feet. These people will never understand and should be ignored and avoided at all costs. The best you can do is carve into yourself. Like those little bugs which bore into wood, you eat and eat and drill and drill into your tenderest places. Tiny holes. Thin focused nibbling but determined and relentless until you are all the way inside. There is a warmth within you which is the firelight of all the things you love and treasure and have made your own. Kept in secret from even the ones you love the most because there are intimacies which are yours and yours alone. The average person is terrified of such things, as well perhaps they should be. Intimacy with yourself is crushing and deadly, you walk a fine line between fascination and annihilation. As I watch these people who dare to call themselves poets trashing cyber space with their heartless, soulless, plastic drivel I feel a palpable mix of dread, fury, and desperation. We are pathetic creatures. We degrade and smear beautiful things with our own filth. We barely scratch the surface and yet declare ourselves experts, lovers, gods. There is a peculiar kind of sadness spreading its bluegray fingers throughout the world around us. It is pulling us under while we try to pretend it is raising us up. Peeling myself away from the laptop, I watch my reflection in the bedroom mirror as I brush my hair, remove my necklaces, and crawl under the covers. There are those of us who believe in something beyond this physical reality we call life. There are those who believe in God and those who believe in poetry, and I used to be someone who believed they were the same thing but now everything is up for grabs and the only thing for certain is I’m no good at writing in groups. So I shut the door, and shut it and shut it and shut it. For every one of us who upholds the truth there are those of us who debase and defile it at every turn. There is a voice which is many voices which is the terror of burrowing inside ourselves for fear of what we will find waiting for us there. And so, fake poets. And so, fake lives. And so, fake feelings. Fake distance and fake together. And so, another drink until you can finally fly away from this sinking ghost ship. We hate what we have become but can’t imagine any other way.

Run As Fast As You Can

There is coffee and there is wine and in between it’s a lot of silliness we are forced into from birth, awaiting a death we can neither predict nor defend ourselves against even though we think we are invincible. I take my coffee strong and my wine dry and what happens in between is anybody’s guess. Mostly I blend in and collect a paycheck. I am punctual, reliable, quick, attentive, pleasant, compatible, and have an entire week’s wardrobe of black on black on black. There is the occasional red, but keeping things to perfectly fitted black suits everyone fine. After hair and makeup, I am dressed in one minute flat and out the door, and nothing blends in more perfectly in corporate America (and funerals, rather unironically) than black. Why am I telling you any of this? I’m not sure. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. I would normally prefer to share something more beautiful, erotic. This daily stuff is boring enough to slog through let alone share it with innocent people who just want to be entertained, but perhaps look closer. I’m any woman you meet on any given day in regular clothes with a regular job doing regular things to keep up in a world that would rather I didn’t, or couldn’t. I am also only a fraction of who I am underneath that glossy veneer all day long. My heart is the heart of a dreamer, someone who wants to escape all this and dive into a life full of art, writing, study, beauty, adventure. Passion. How we are told to follow it, to worship at its flighty feet. Most of that message is nonsense, of course, for passion in our dimly lit society translates to capitalism, to making a quick dollar by mass producing various methods of forcing other people to conform. Does everyone have the urge to indulge their true passions or just the rare ones who yearn for it constantly hoping each day for even just a little taste? The faces I see pass by unfazed by the things which torture my insides. Their eyes are frantic and boozy over things that don’t matter in the least. They do not see past the end of their nose and they see no reason why they should need to. I used to talk about this with people but I don’t recommend it. You know everyone will have an answer they cannot wait to deploy upon you to shut you up or drown you out. They will tell you exactly how it is and what to do without so much as batting an eyelash. There are those who will tell you not to dare and there are those who will tell you to just throw it all away in pursuit of something dramatic and there are those who will simply stare at you as though nothing has been said at all and none of these people will be right nor will they care what becomes of you in the end. But somewhere deep down inside that restless soul of yours you know as well as I do that even though you blend in, you are not the same. Even though you look polished, you’re a mess. Even though you are afraid, you want very badly to run very, very far away.