August 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
Have you seen my tongue? I’ve lost it somewhere along the way and through the shuffle. Perhaps it slid through this hole in my jaw? How it managed, I don’t know. It’s slippery, that tongue.
I’ve looked everywhere for it. I even asked my lover, “Have you seen my tongue?” He replied, “No, not for ten months since,” and now aren’t I a neglectful daughter? He’s not concerned, and says he’s sure it’ll show up. I patted his plump pockets one morning before he left for work. They felt empty to my hands… but one can never be too careful, right? While I’ve not ruled out theft, I’d put up “LOST” posters around town if I thought its return worthy of reward.
It’s not always been so worthless – there was once a time which my tongue was the ruin of men greater than those who’ve stalled it in the year past. It brought tsunamis with its tip and caused orphaned hurt to seep from the pores of foes, that tongue. Quite a thing to see was Tongue, when it set its sights on singing out demands for ransom. You remember Tongue, don’t you?
I’ll describe it as such – busting. Filled with vigor and venom, the pandemonium of Tongue struck just before fists and slaps. The burn of bruises faded long before the tough tissue of my name gouged into the walls of the minds of my opponent. Psychological warfare is bonafide strategy, don’t you know? I read that somewhere recently.
Somewhere along the line the gears of war ceased to grind. It’s silly really. I suspect my tongue signed a treaty, stupid little thing. I’d hoped for better, but I knew deep inside its lascivious roll would call fiends of greater talents to suck its marrow. I was somewhat prepared for rapture but still was unable to exert control when each pink bud was stroked to silence. Oh, it was Tongue’s turn to leak and water, just Western karma at its finest.
So, I suppose you could say I’m disappointed, indeed. While my looks still hold their camp (my eyes are quite fine, if I may have a moment of vanity, Mother), my weapon of choice was always that pink petal. My looks, so sharp, are obvious. I have developed quite the distaste of them, those looks so close to yours. But, oh, Tongue was a magnificent secret weapon. It was enviable, really. Of all the loss I’ve had, the loss of my personal song is most regretful.
Perhaps in my disappointment of my tongue, I’ve forgotten to consider the possibility of your disappointment in me for being so careless. I’ve lain awake and struggled with the thought now though, after putting down this letter for a night. I lost my pen, too, somewhere between the darks. Do you remember when I was a child and I misplaced everything I owned? It was a rare visit to friends and family in which I didn’t leave my clutch behind. Perhaps Tongue is there, in a lost purse? It would be in good company, swimming among plucked weeds and secreted rocks were it so.
Though I’m disappointed, Mother, I have yet to give up hope. As I’ve mentioned, it’s slippery, that tongue, and it operates under a less than clear directive. I’ve looked into cups at bars, and peered into the mouths of men for it, to no avail thus far. Perhaps through my inquiries I will one day again enjoy the luxury of speech.
July 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
Seeing the place I lived as a child become a vacant lot was something too painful to have given much consideration to, until the point in time in which it became reality. Like most things that are dreaded and thus buried in our subconscious, the thought had itched in the back of my head. I’d been having dreams in which a bulldozer with teeth and laughter had come to eat the rotting boards and annexes on the house off Whitmore Street, dreams I’d been embarassed to realize I’d awaken from grasping for a little pillow I’d slept with as a child. Not finding it, I’d pull my sleeping companion closer to me and bury my face into his fur as though his was the chest of a man and seek to return to more pleasant memories of the home I was raised in.
And return is what my mind does, when it wanders on the days and night which I allow it to. I fall through a tunnel of age until I’m 6 again, sitting in this lot and picking flowers for my mother, flowers I’d collect with the childish desire to please that we somehow lose as time swings past us. In order to blossom as individuals we, for practical reasons, must lose some of those small niceties of consideration – “I do this because it makes you happy, I do this because it gives you comfort”.
I lost my role as the pleasing child when I learned that I couldn’t fly. I stood in that back of this lot right here, in front of the still-standing chain link fence and demanded my mother let me fly from the top step of the trailer inexplicably parked in my backyard. She argued, fearful of what would happen to me when my feet left the step, and I chafed at the weakness of her fearfulness. Even then I shrugged restraining hands from my shoulders and lunged for air instead of ground.
I fell that day, and oozed with scrapes and wounds. I cried with the injustice of being wrong and with the disappointment of being, at that point in my life, incapable of flight. But eventually, within the confines of backyard and the backyards of the friends that surrounded it, I conquered greater leaps and greater heights. The jump from the steps became a leap from the swing set at it’s highest arc. The jump from swing set became a free-fall drop from the highest limb I could climb to on our magnolia tree. The free fall became a leap from the roof of a storage shed nearby and on and on into infinity, an endless list of drops and jumps spanning a lifetime.
At twenty-seven, I am still leaping. I still look for the highest points to climb to and calculate the impact and success rate to legs that have grown in some ways stronger and some ways more unreliable as the years set in. No old maid am I, but the nicks and small fractures of being a habitual jumper have led to landing pains. You know, the jolt that radiates through you after a particularly long fall — it’s indescribable, isn’t it? The rise of your stomach with the weightlessness of flight, followed by the electric agony that bolts through your shins and into your hips is addicting, isn’t it?
Perhaps it could be said that home is an addition of sorts — a return to a place because of the feelings it conjures or the sense of security it brings. Maybe no one has stopped to wonder if home is something we’re all mainlining, sitting in white rooms with TV sets that show us places too far from home to reach… at least for those who can’t bear to trek the distance without their fix of comfort and security, without a dealer to dial. I’d like to think my own addiction of distance jumping may yet turn out to be less harmful than the addiction to complacency.
And so, it must be said, that perhaps the lot serves a better purpose now as a vacancy than the structure of memories it once was. If you’re planning on a clean break, it’s often said that either the physical or psychological totems of the past addition must be removed, snuffed out, burnt down. With the symbolic burning of my home and past comes the birth of high hopes from that which might arise from the ashes of past comforts. Perhaps I’ll encounter taller structures still to leap from.
June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
“I can find camaraderie in darkness, at least”, the girl thought to herself, sitting in the glow of a streetlamp.
Camaraderie seemed to in short supply these days, so far as the girl could tell. She crossed her right ankle over her left and stubbed a pilfered smoke out on the sole of her shoe, relishing the acrid smell of burnt rubber. Maybe comradery was why she was here, following some homing beacon through alleys and across sidewalks. Her eyes flicked out into the night — she sat, 15 and obvious, on the curb of a residential street. She thought of sleep, and of the endless days that lay before her.
The girl couldn’t remember what she’d been dreaming of or what had overtaken her, but then again she rarely did. Sleep for her was fitful but hardly ever memorable; she had awaken earlier that night as she sometimes did – calm, yet deeply sweating. The hardwood floors in the bedroom she shared with her little brother had gleamed with streaks of moonlight. Rolling out of bed, the girl made a careful point to step over the beams as she hunted for the shoes she had kicked off earlier that evening. Shoes located and in hand, she moved seamlessly from room to hallway to door (mind the creaky hinge), as gracefully as a ballerina performing a long practived paus de duex.
Sighing, she raised herself off the curb and kept shuffling. So far she had seen no cars in the two miles she had come on her own miniature trek to the West, but experience reminded her that it was always better to stay in motion. This wasn’t the first time she had run away, but it was the first time she felt solid instead of unmoored. What had started as an impulse had now become a drive.
The majority of houses she’d passed on her journey thus far were dark and sleeping, but here and there she spied the occasional light of a shift worker or night owl. Pausing outside of one such house belonging to the latter, the girl was gripped by the urge to see what was illuminated by the glow that beamed out of a nearby window. She took care to step lightly over the precarious tree roots that reached up from the yard to catch her toes and reveal her trespass. Peering into the window, she found herself looking into the bedroom of a girl who appeared to be around her own age. What would happen if she helped herself to this home, put on the pajamas of this girl who lived in a soft pink room? What to do after she cut out and zipped into the pink girl’s borrowed skin?
Looking more closely at the room’s owner, the girl contrasted her own tight brow to the other’s smooth eyes. This girl would be hard for her to imitate… but not impossible, at least for a brief spell. But what to do when she was inevitably discovered? She already walked uncomfortably, sat uncomfortably; she felt sure the others in her school saw her own skin sliding when she moved. Cheer, walk, learn, fuck. She smiled and dug another smoke out of her jacket. After inhaling deeply, she blew smoke out the corner of her mouth and stepped slowly back to the street, her eyes thirst for voyeurism temporarily slaked.
Where to wander now? She had no real friends of note, none worthy of being called upon for aid in a crisis. The girl knew that her solicitations would be met with mock sympathy, or even worse, false understanding followed by an instant newscast from one friend to the next until everyone knew where and (most importantly), what she was. Somewhere in the night a cat called out, as if voicing agreement.
It came to her suddenly as she stepped over the crack where grass met pavement — John, the name of the boy with slanting eyes. Being 25, perhaps “man” was more apt, but he was a man with the hands of a boy much younger. Glancing at a street sign, the girl remembered the way to his house, only three blocks distance from where she stood. The girl turned left, and the wind changed with her, pressing into the small of her back.
When John opened his door in response to the girls light tapping, he looked low slung and heavy despite his height and lanky frame. The girl was momentarily struck with the possibility of allowing herself to care a bit for this quiet boy, but as he opened the door farther to allow her entrance, the glare of the streetlights fell into his eyes and she remembered herself. Her stare dropped quickly to the worn threshold.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked her, reaching out and tipping her chin upward, hoping to catch another glimpse of her furrowed brow.
“Things,” she replied, gently removing her chin from his fingertips.
Despite the easy gesture, he looked abashed and withdrew slightly into the doorway. “Come in,” he said softly.
The girl stepped over the crooked doorway and breathed in deeply through her nose. She loved the smell of other people; every one of them was different, as though an individual’s thoughts leaked out while they slept and stained the smell of them into their possessions. Patting her sides as men do when they’re looking for their keys, the girl’s mouth allowed a small smile. The smell of ownership was another reason to travel lightly.
John had moved on while she daydreamed, easily regaining course even through her unorthodox entrance. Back to sucking on a joint, rocking slightly on the balls of his feet, he turned up the crooning of a man who was singing about something he could never have. They sat in the living room floor and watched one another out of the corners of their eyes. The girl allowed herself a small sip of his; they were limpid and beautiful, the eyes of someone who might understand if she could just bear to let him.
She was high, gloriously so. She was high in the way you can only be when you’re 15, riding passenger in a 10 year old Buick, a vagabond looking into the stream of a Texas afternoon. The thought struck her – she was alive. She looked incredulously at the backs of her hands. She was made of cells and throbbing matter, she could eat or bleed and it was all the same to the universe. She gathered her hands to her and concentrated on keeping her eyes off of pets who had wandered too far from home. The girl settled back into her seat, trying to rejoin the thoughts of the others.
She flipped down the visor and made the motions of fixing her hair in the cracked mirror set there. Life was all about acting natural. That’s how you made it through being high, through classes. She caught one of the three passengers in the backseat (all friends of John) staring intently at the back of her head, and his eyes flicked away as though she had burned him. She flipped the visor back into place and took a deep breath.
It was hours or minutes later when they came to their destination – a house on the edge of town where no one would care that she was 15, high, and a runaway. Stepping onto the pavement, the girl silently surveyed the teetering two-story structure, surprised by the similarities between this and the house her aunt lived in just a few blocks from her own home. The similarities didn’t bode well for her hopes of finding a place to blend in and disappear for a moment – though she smoked and drank and fought with the rest, she knew she would never be easy here.
While the girl was lost in her thoughts, John had slipped into the space by her right thigh. Taking her by the hand, he leaned his weight towards the house and pulled her the rest of the way from the car. “Come in,” he said.
The girl had always loved the beach.
She had occasionally met people who claimed to love the beach as well, those these people were the infrequent relation or visitor from out of town. They said “beach” with a different thing entirely in mind. They said “beach” thinking of swells and white sand and Floridian bikinis on top of idle tans. The girl looked out at the beach that surfaced in her mind when the word was introduced; the tide was browned and murky, clogged with seaweed.
It wasn’t necessarily welcoming. One had to be careful for predators and debris when stepping into the surf. It wasn’t many years before that her sister had come screaming from the shore with bright red streamers on her legs, the calling card of a particularly vengeful jellyfish. But if you knew how to step, and knew when to be still, the water could take you where you needed to be. The girl’s vision narrowed for a moment, and she allowed herself to envision a barefoot John, pausing on the edge of the waterline. He reached back to catch her hand.
“Come in,” he said, and she allowed him her hands and her feet.
As the day went down into the Gulf of Mexico, she sipped a beer (another courtesy of John) and hung her tired shoes over the edge of the seawall. John had protested hotly when she requested to be left here in Galveston, 40 miles or more from her home. Her silence had convinced him more than any argument would. She looked past her feet to the beach 30 feet below and thought how ironic it was that silence communicated more than words to people who knew how to listen to it.
She ended there, close to the way she began, sitting on concrete and smoking conspicuously. The girl saw the cop’s lights as he pulled to the shoulder of the seawall, but she made no motion to move. The girl was used to being caught, and knew people who struggled in quicksand sank faster than those who knew when to bring their knees up, those knew how to relax and listen.
A cop ambled over to where she sat, blonde and still high, smoking the cigarette that turned out to be her freedoms undoing. As he closed the gap between them, the girl dug the toes of her right foot into the ground. She lifted her left foot over her right knee and crushed out the last of her stolen cigarettes into the meat of her sole. Smiling, she sat still and waited for her next current to come.
May 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
You shuffle and I hear the sound
Of your cigarettes in your pocket and my coat on your back
The worst of my riches are gone
We stole together once, I think
There’s memory of darkness and shared secrets,
I think (you know how I’m forgetful)
And I wore dark gloves with my dresses
At night when we clanged bells and dripped
Together in a fountain of found pennies
But I think I stole someone else’s wishes
When we scooped up shiny bounty, it looked
Easy and piled and newly minted
I used to suck on pennies when I was seven
I liked the bitter taste and the texture
Of something foreign in my mouth
Did I tell you I make habits and break habits
Like falling stemware from my wedding
I lost three crystals in one move
And here we are among mountains
Of our own wishes looming over
And I do believe I love you
February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Running is painful.
This thought occurs to me on my 8th loop around the track during a reluctant Sunday run. I still run clock-wise, an act to appease my obsessive personality, though this is one of my first runs after a nearly year-long hiatus. My body and lungs are screaming and my breaths aren’t just short but burning, the result of a recently discontinued pack-a-day smoking habit. Such a habit produces a (somewhat necessary) sedentary lifestyle, so my weakened legs sting in tandem with my singed lungs. My heart pumps “stop, stop, stop” with every triplicate slap of my feet.
I don’t stop. The pain of running past the point of comfort is like a small death. I am ashamed to notice something akin to the feeling of being near tears and I’m transported back to the year I was 12, on the athletic team at my intermediate school, huffing out endless laps each day before classes began. My morning runs were usually beautiful and squint-inducing, bright glints shocking my retinas with every new corner and angle. I had the mindless ability (like most 12-year-olds, especially those as active as I was then) to churn out lap after lap without much effort, at least compared to the effort I must exert at 26.
Lap 10. My mind finds my mother, at 51, huffing prettily as she answers my phone call during a jog around the block. I huff, gasp, huff, gasp. Will I be able to run at 51? What if I can’t make it to 51? What if this circular loop claims me on Lap 67 and I spend eternity sitting on the sidelines with blood and lust and theft and love on my back and in my heart and in my mind? No, I cannot sit. I must reach my destination with speed, with gusto.
Running is an obvious choice, as the fastest form of unaided human locomotion, yet it’s not the most efficient in terms of calories (energy) expended in relation to distance managed. Men on a track running at a pace of 6.3 mph use 1.20 times as much energy to travel the same distance compared to walking at a pace of 3.15 mph.  The exertion of running then must be said to be indulgent, a luxury. In order to exert the expenditure there must be an excess of energy than that needed to sustain the walk of life.
The laborious cost of running isn’t happenstance; we pay in pounds of sweat for the fancy of feet in flight so that the act of walking, which is more often performed in the daily course of human life, will be easier. The heel-down posture of the human gait, in contrast with the toe-first posture of cats and other proficient runners, “increases the economy of walking but not the economy of running”.  Although our very makeup is not conducive to our sprint, we persist. But why when it seems irrefutably unnatural to force ourselves into marathons, onto tracks and treadmills? There must be something else in our makeup, some penchant for pain and perseverance, some competition with our own minds and biology. I shall not walk. I will not be ruled by the bounds of nature or will. I have always been defiant in the face of authority.
So there is life and death and the struggle in between. There is the panicked need to sprint through my body’s desire to stroll, and I feel it on soft Sunday’s such as these. Every lull feels like a death, a reminder that neither my face nor my heart are as soft as they once were. Each lap hardens my body and my mind while causing simultaneous deterioration. My joints begin to grind and my hair threads with silver. I race myself to wisdom while pieces of flesh and sinew are left like sand in my wake. I pant, “Faster”.
So I run harder, my mind broken in obedience not to nature but to my own will. In this break I find reward – here I find my destination hiding under the guise of purpose.
Lap 15, but I no longer struggle. I’ve hit my stride and now my slaps and huffs make sense instead of conflict. There is no destination. There is no pleasure, but nor is there despair. I am running and must continue to run — that is all. When my shoes begin to fail, I will run barefoot. When my clothes become rags I will in turn become content to have breath in lieu of labels. I was created to run this loop, in line behind my mother and hers. There is peace with the acceptance of necessity, of inevitability, of sameness and flesh-toned brand uniformity.
With this solidarity in mind, I drop my eyes from the sunset and let my lids fall closed. I don’t need to see; I’ve know the pattern of this circle before I knew its naming letters. When the sun drops and I no longer feel its warmth on my cheek, I grind gears into a sprint. There’s relish in the scream of my hamstrings and, eyes now open, I aim my feet towards home.
February 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
I often wonder at the capacity of people to disregard investigation into the origins of their beliefs. Although I usually pick on religion here, I have bigger blood lusts today. Instead, I marvel at the things we believe about ourselves, our lives, our own origins as a species. We ponder life and wonder from what rib came our capacity to hurt, to die, or to birth.
After seven years of living together and five years of marriage, my first marriage is coming to a close. It’s not as contentious as some, not as passionate as others, but the impact of its dissolution has rocked the foundation of my life. I have spent days sobbing. I have spent days feeling like the most terrible person on the planet. I have felt a fool.
What I have not done is disregard the question of origin. I was nineteen. I was lonely. I was afraid. I needed a father, a savior, and he came to me in the form of a husband 13 years my senior. I clung to his armor for as long as I could, believing things about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I felt I needed a knight. He felt I needed saving. How could I know that I needed neither, but instead required expulsion from the comforts I’d come to rely on?
Birth, as any mother will tell you, is unpleasant. It’s more than physical pain, although the pressure threatens to rip you in two during the process of delivering new flesh is quite intimidating. No, birth’s trauma comes from the objectionable smell and slime and fear that books and mothers of past delivery rooms don’t speak of.
The pain of birth itself, however, is something we speak of often. Yet according to a study done by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, after five years nearly half of all women are shown to recall birth as less painful than what they recalled two months after the birth. I’ve heard rumor that this memory lapse may be charged with the task of ensuring the propagation of our species; doesn’t it make sense that the shocking memory of filth falls away for a similar purpose?
My own son made my abdomen clench in more than the pain of birth, but also with the fear of my life’s necessary changes to accommodate him. I recall a line in a poem I once wrote:
Too weakened to smile, instead
I bare teeth, mimic breathing (11-12)
Although my bared teeth in that instance related more to matters of the heart (much like the sub-plot of this entry, if you haven’t picked up on that yet), it is still too apropos to a description of labor to limit to only to the pain of unrequited love. The pain of the messy change which comes with being a parent scared me more than the fleeting pain of flesh.
As painful and gross as evolution is, it is inescapable. As much as I lay in that bed and wished I could escape my new reality, I would open my eyes again and again until I knew only the white of the delivery room. I knew only that soon I would love something more than myself for the first time in my life. I knew that evolution, by nature, could do nothing but foster the adaptions which would ensure the survival of my soul.
And I will survive. Diana Ross might have made a mockery of that particular string of words, but survival is the intent of evolution. Like Gregor in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, my heart and life grow shells before burning out and into something new. I embrace the discovery of my own unicellular origin, and look forward to more showers and funerals before I am but a husk which once was woman.
December 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
We’re all mad, mad hatters. We’re all in medicated stasis – allowing our children to latch on and suckle up the propaganda of Playboy bunnies and sexless marriages, ensuring their own slavery to cars and flash and effervescent happiness. It pours out of hidden bottles and makes living widows of women and shackled demons of husbands, all while parents scold when witnessing the evidence of their own foul doing.
Which is my own foul doing – my search for a strangers heat on winter nights that leave me breathlessly alone with my identity. I thud in clubs and discos with my revolutionary hat and bestow on empty souls the reserve that should be corked and saved and cherished. But no, line them up. Shots of me for you and you, until I’m weightless and free of sloshing personality.
When that bar closes you’ll find me in my white tank, sitting watch over Clear Lake Bay with whiskey lubricant handy. When the sun sizzles out into the waters, I think of that first day you burned me. We played chicken with your cigarette and my arm, and my stone flesh won ten dollars over your late blossomed sympathy. I stroked that circle for two full months when I found out; if only the other reminders you left were so shiny and white. But instead I’ve made dark corners, drunk days under shade trees. I’ve made fearsome discoveries and seen myself become a rapist.
How else do you define the loss of days spent wasted in mourning over lost items that never brought happiness to begin with? Nothing more than broken toys when you stop to consider the vast collision of infinite matter we hang in. How is it not robbery when we are the only known beings gifted with the capability to burst with unique creation that births sonnets and punk rock insanity, yet we throw ourselves away in false pursuits?
Have you ever seen a face of madness? Are we not imbeciles for failing to see it reflected back at us each morning? This world, the way we misuse it, is madness. The fat-fucking-free version of love and value and honor and kindness. That we are each gifted with talent we waste and abuse until it leaves us cold like a rambling lover we knew damn well was no good. The mistakes we repeat and the children we ignore until it’s too late, and those relentless vices that we allow to consume our reason. All this baggage eats us, like the cancers we fear and cause in the same breath — we let the delusions we use as protection from reality carry us away into madness.
Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. We live in a wonderland we fritter away but still expect fulfillment from. It’s time to change course, stop repetition from claiming the sand in our hourglass. Embrace pain and love and happiness and even madness with appreciation. I will stop today in the middle of a busy street and let the world rocket out of sync without my participation. I will slow dance in my kitchen and break cups and break bread. I will experience my own wonderland.