Tag: poetry

I Run Towards Arrows

try to follow if you can

In my mind I live life operatically. In reality I live like an animal balloon wheezing out its last squeak. I run towards arrows like a reckless soldier who knows her luck, such as it was, has diminished into negligent margins. I make wide gestures of living because I don’t know how to keep my thoughts and limbs tight. I’m a constant explosion of raw thought and strange spaghetti words stuck to peeled paint ceilings falling deftly, silently, into the mouths of witless dreamers.

Most of the time I doubt the substance of my own bones. I’m the bitter ghost of all abused children, the patron saint of broken skin. Most of the time I feel myself disappear  beneath the weight of human suffering. I can’t breathe when you can’t breathe. I can’t move on when your nightmares burn through your last defenses and you construct walls to hold your bleeding fear in check.

Whatever I am is less important than holding your wings out for your free-fall from earth’s atmosphere. Whatever I am is less important than helping you find the light burning quietly through your solar plexus, the same light that will ignite bonfires across a universe of unquenchable thought.

I can’t make you see yourself in your own mirror. All I can do is reflect you in mine where you shine like a spirit without anchor, where you shimmer into a pool of collected precipitation.

I will always break your fall here in the cotton mornings.

I will give you my skin. I don’t need it where I’m going.

I will give you my voice. It’s the only weapon I’ve ever mastered.

I will give you my heart, because a lifetime of shattering couldn’t prevent it from mending under the protective film of poetry.

You are magnificent. This morning, right now, in every stumble towards the next frame, the next conversation – YOU. ARE. MAGNIFICENCE.

Go on. Close your eyes and dream.

I will never be far from you.

 

The Wrong Kind of Luminescence

Oakland

If I could live inside music I think I might be okay for always. I wish I could sleep in music, breathe in music, and dream in music. Why must I always sink in the cacophony of human voices instead? Hearing the scratching of souls against blank dark windows for someone to open them when no one answers. I hear the caterwauling of pain all the way through the milky way. Why can’t I snuff out the voices full of pain across the world and get lost in the joy of music?  Maybe the pain of it too, but in music human pain is more bearable because it’s being flung outward across plateaus where it careens into lush mountains or across molten plains of wheat and is sheathed in otherworldly light, baptized into something more holy and healing.

I wasn’t meant to live like this, in fragile skin, with breakable bones, and friable teeth. I was meant to be strong medicine, like retrograde Venus.

This is the wrong kind of luminescence. It’s kindred to the death-mask. The last thoughts and prayers that paralyze the dead under cover of arching oak trees.

What will I have left to say when my bullets are drawn? What will I have left to say when the spirits are dry and the party is over? What will I have left to say now that Mattis is dead and buried and his shadow isn’t even pressing into my nightmares with the calm cool gloves of the gentleman’s touch? What will I have left to say when all the smoke has drifted to the heavens and found I haven’t got a place higher than the short English daisies meeting the sea? What will I have left to say when the last of us is slit open in the bathtub of God’s hot water?

Tonight I can’t even put a dying fly out of its misery. And it hurts that its reached its end in my office. Slowly, covering the surfaces of my desk and skin with mirthless determination. It rests just left of my computer screen, gathering the strength to traverse just a little more wood until it can’t move through the light. So we stare at each other and we understand how alike we are in relation to our vulnerability. I’m careful not to set my beer bottle on its exoskeleton. Its not so careful it doesn’t climb my beer bottle.

I miss when I was more in my body, as much as I fear it. I liked the thrust of a sword to express my determination to keep taking up space. I liked the bees crowding the ivy in the light of the lowering sun. I liked when my foil flashed through semi-dark to cut down the last light. I liked when sleep was an exercise in hope instead of inevitability. I liked when I could meet the dawn with the vigor of a resuscitated hero. Now I slink behind my own shadow like there isn’t a better bigger shadow I can  twist into my excuse for everything.

Rise, motherfuckers, like you’re the breath of Christ and God is real. Rise, motherfuckers, like you’re what God hoped for all along.

I may have buried my voice a little so that I wouldn’t be discovered in time to hear the responses I don’t want to acknowledge. I want the fierce writing and self care habits of my past but with the wisdom of my present. I want for all those lessons to have not been in vain. I want for all of that blood-letting to have been constructive, or at least to have meant something. Anything.

Under the Bakelite weight of this phone I can hear the past recalling itself to order, planning its comeback in tight satin pants and spangles.

This slow poison is how I communicate with the devil of my disorder. You can fuck yourself.Whatever voice is shouting loudest in my head right now is the one I pray to. Fuck loyalty. It’s about who can out-maneuver me in my own head, every single time. I’m crippled by my own fear. I was lost before I hit double digits. Lost in the atmosphere of my own bile and quickened heartbeat. The nightmares were brutal and absolute. They swallowed everything before I knew what everything was. There are memories that require quashing. Memories that can never be unburied without complete annihilation of self. And yet, there they are. Like concrete statues of fact shimmering in the corners of recollection like ghosts.

 

My Wild Flowers

Calistoga Road

If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because you bloom in the most adverse conditions, showering light and color where a carpet of grief has smothered me. It’s because no matter what careless community service butcher has hacked you to the ground you rise again, triumphant, where your pieces were left to rot. You rise, predictably, like an indomitable spirit.  Your seeds germinate in hostile soil after being frozen solid on the surface of winter soil.

If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because we dress this poor soil together in bright robes and majestic umbels until it shines with dignity, with laughter, and growls with a hunger to reach the moon. It’s because your gift isn’t the greatest pride but the greatest humility through which the most honest love illuminates the darkest paths. It’s because your complex mind is housed in a clean spirit with roots that gather nutrients from nothing.

If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because there is no flower more valiant, more strong, more beautiful, or more noble than the flower that opens when nothing else is willing, where no other signs of life prosper. It’s because you are luminous and I know how fortunate I am to collide with you in this dusty gutter of weeds.

The Threads Hang down

beligerant smoke sepia 2

Let the threads unravel all the way to Oz

let them knot and choke and cut veins

on their way back to the original spool

like taught ghosts with razor wings and spurs

digging into your dreams like barking dogs

teeth snarling and punctuating the air with grist

be the chaff that blows into invisible dust

be the blood that dries brown on grim sunlit walls

 

Let the threads unravel in damp tangles

let them snake into your sour heart like sugar cubes

melting into a hostile room full of small savage fires

like crystals the dead wear in blazing caskets

hope misshapen with eyes full of soot and ash

be the heart that walks doubt down the plank

be the heart that cuts all the tangled knots free

 

Let the threads hang down, used and frayed

the way you felt when you were turned inside out

by your first crush of bone and muscle out on the field

where you fell hard into the turf and time stopped

with breathless love never whispered through the heat

be the one girl who gets up and walks away with dignity

be the one who knows the prize waits out of frame

 

Let the threads weave voice into uneven weft

without hyperbole of fiber or selvedge edge building up

believe the pattern your nightmares have drawn

like tight hot embers burning through every layer

like your heart is made of a spider’s web

be weightless and open in your search for truth

be everclear in your spirit and clean water in your heart

Keep Your Mind Flexible and Fertile

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Calcification is what happens when people get to a point in their lives when they stop learning, stop growing, and become suspended in the amber of the brightest moment from their youth and all the sweet ephemera that will haunt them and dog them until the day they die.

I refuse to become calcified in spirit even if my hip pain plasters me to the sidewalk in abject pain.

I spent an inordinate amount of time and gasoline looking for a very precise mini-muffin tin. A venture that was doomed from the start as are most super specific quests. It turns out I just need to remove the rust from the perfect muffin tin I already own and was trying to replace.

There are tiny paws grabbing at my toes while I write this. The paws of a brand new being. Nothing brings out my maternal instincts like a kitten. I’m fostering a feral kitten Max has named Sonar. He’s not more than 11 weeks on this planet and as untrusting as I have been my whole life. He came to me hissing and shrinking and slinking and now he’s dashing across my office like he owns it and battling my toes like a true son of the earth.

I saw my brother tonight. Beloved wild kid turned 43. I spoke to my sister several nights ago. My Stevie Nicks heart in Vermont. Fuck sibling day, every day is sibling day that you get to hug or talk to your siblings. And for some that means hugging your best friends. Sometimes that means remembering those who’ve gone already. I can’t even begin to know what it’s like to have to say goodbye to brothers and sisters.

More and more I’m convinced that if there’s no other evidence indicating how far humans have come, discontinuing troll dolls is IT.

It might be proof of my de-evolution that I’m listening to Journey right now.

I’ve come to a point in my life when acquiring beakers bisects that point between my professional aspirations and my deeply held personal belief that all things in life can be measured by volume.

When I look back on my youth I see a graph depicting how not to commit suicide by the skin of your teeth.

It boils down to a long collection of barely connected set of circumstances that support waking up in the morning against all odds.

It’s always a shock when I realize someone gets it all, gets all the invisible armor, gets all the invulnerability, the moat they cannot cross. Most people never try because I impressively discourage them from making useless attempts.

I used to think Roy Orbison was a creepy hack but I’ve changed my mind and think he had a brilliance worth notice. I’m the last to realize this, obviously.

My hip (the one I didn’t break) has been hurting now for a solid two weeks. I accept that this is part of getting older. I accept that some of this pain would diminish if I would only lose a ton of weight. I accept that my joints are going to complain at an increasingly irritating rate.

What I don’t accept is that things were at a peak of awesomeness when I was at my peak of youth. I don’t accept that the way we did things when I was young is the gold standard for how things should always be. I can tell you that if I’d had then what I have today I would have been a much better vessel for preserving what it IS to be seventeen and full of death.

I would have been a more effective documentarian.

If humans cease to evolve they cease to be worth even the salt that comprises their natural makeup.

I’ll know we’ve evolved enough when we no longer separate ourselves by skin color or nationality.

Listen to yourself. Do you hear yourself complaining about youth with their noses buried in their devices? Are you complaining about how no one knows how to talk face to face anymore? Are you lamenting those halcyon days when everyone answered their land lines and when they met for coffee without the encumbrance of connectedness to anything outside of coffee?

Have you closed your ears to new music? New ideas? New thoughts?

Hips hurting is nothing. Hips hurting is like continental breakfast: it’s painfully inadequate but it’s regular like pink sunrise with an Advil wash.

My hips might become as stiff as a mammoth’s grave site but my mind is constantly stretching itself beyond its limits. This is how we adapt, stay young, and not die.

Not die.

I’ve got the blueprint for happiness if you’re willing to wade through the border between beer and bitch.

I’m not gonna cry, but you should let it go like the river you’ve been holding behind the gates.

Don’t wait for me, I won’t be meeting the light in my pyjamas.

Bullets for Wheels

good bye slc

Hurry into dawn like you’ve got bullets for wheels. Don’t stop for the smell of your last conquest or the muddled dream of the next one. Your night is full of suitcases refilling themselves as fast as you empty them. You’re racing against an impossible empty promise. Stack as much love as you think you have against the shipping wall and watch it empty out into the bay pushing in at your feet. You’ll never be able to dive deep enough to retrieve your heart. You think it’s there under your skin, in the protection of your ribs and your intention, but it’s gone the way of all the waves before it. It’s gone with the siren call of the moon, shredded itself on the shoals you never saw in the lampless dark.

I can’t say there’s no way through here but I know there’s no way through here today. The myths you’re telling yourself, willing to be true, they fit only half your skin, only half your belief. You know you’re fitting words too precious for life into your fresh mythology. You have to let go for it to find you.

This under-voice of vice is not lying, this remembrance of past ghosts can’t walk paths without your feet. It can’t speak without your tangled language of loss.  It struggles to find itself in unfamiliar dialects but struggles against ocean logic. It struggles to rise up through salt foam and cold wave to bring your memory back to the beginning where you first met yourself.

Rise against the sand and rock, the only place you’ve ever known yourself to bleed true, to blue in frigid water, to stiffen in false twilight. Here is your nest of intention, your nest of sinew and unlit wax effigy. I have only this to give. Don’t burn me until you’re ready to set me free into the horizon of dense fog. I promise to hide whatever you’re not telling yourself today.

 

I’m Here For The Music Tonight

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I’m here for the music tonight. Mine, yours, his, hers, theirs; the sound of the dark encroaching on the boundaries of light, the sound of people hitting the floor with fiddles flying, the sound of guitars resurrecting Spanish ghosts. I’m here for all the music.

I’m terrified of silence. Not the silence between myself and the empty room I’m in. I’m terrified of the silence between uneasy people, the silence that squats down on a street with thunder clouds that never break, the silence whose cold breath rushes across my skin without stirring a single hair or locust or ghost.

The silence that lets all the other voices in.

I’m here for the slow song blossoming into morning with the plaintive cry of the grieving dove shifting above us all, remembering before we do the lost notes of our sacred instruments abandoned for brief disillusioned passion.

I’m the grieving dove. I’m the bow of the fiddle. I’m the instrument shed to the ground in exchange for ephemeral passion whose cut-lawn fragrance fades before you can wrap it in your silk veil of prayerful propositions. I’m never sure the grieving is worth the life of the song. Never sure the grieving is worth anything.

I’m the muscle that takes you in and pushes you out of love. I feed you oxygen and blood and at the end of the day I would bleed you out if I could because you never appreciate the small gesture, the small proofs, the boutonniere of passion. You unwrap everything like the cheap chocolate you crave but hate because it makes you sick, because it never tastes quite big enough for you. Because it’s never quite sweet enough for you. Because it never satiates your false hunger.

I’m here for the music.

I am the music.

 

None of the Pieces Match

killer van

I wish everything in life could be reduced to an equation that ends in fruit pie.

Instead, I orchestrate my life carefully to resemble an easy jig-saw puzzle confusing everyone who approaches my board so they never discover that none of the pieces match and most of them are bruised anyway.

I’m the first carnivorous plant that feeds on its own flesh.

I’m the first moth killed by the shadow of its own wings.

I gave all my secrets to a bay tree when I was a kid. I gave it all my tears and shudders of shock. I shouted my nightmares into its leaves, slick with rain, reflecting the last light of my soul. Storms were born in that canopy of sharp herbaceous scented leaves. Storms railed and burnt out in its branches.

Sometimes I think that’s where I left myself.

I wonder if the course of my life would be perverted if that tree were ever cut down.

Full of Emptiness and Thorn

all in the eye

Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about graves and soft warm webs of earth that suck me down into the heart of everything where I suffocate kindly with the brevity of winter twilight. Breath frozen across lakes of cold fire will become pebbles in your shoes, slowing your steps until you stop and look behind you at the ghost dogging your every step. All you’ll see is the veil of frost my shadow has become. All you’ll see is the bluing of your ragged memory. Time is kinder than you know.

Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about the graves I’ve dug to bury myself in, lost in blind thickets of brambles where only the wasps dare visit. Under cover of damp leaves, fresh with soft rain, my bones shift restlessly, clattering against each other like new life impatient to breathe in the first dawn. Impatient to taste dappled light and sour fruit and all the other young things. My bones rustling in their nest of soil, rock, and petal attracts the keen hunter threading through the woods. Nothing here, nothing here, I whisper just above the serrated edge of the leaves that hide me. Move along, move along, move along thirsty hunter! My bones are dry as your parched mouth and full of emptiness and thorn.

Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about the graves at the edge of town where all the homeless people huddle for warmth in the cardboard city built of acrid sweat and torn shoes. Their roofs of thin branches and icicle daggers are nothing more than spider lairs hung between their thin blankets and the feelingless stars. Even when I try to hold their heads in my marrow lap they can’t feel these dead hands. Can’t feel anything but the chill of my heart spread across the winter grass fields in hoarfrost.

An Infinite Synonym for Shapes

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Many years ago I was a poet in work boots, wool coat, and creepy fur pillbox hat. I believed writing was the key to the universe and the flickering neon sign “Jesus is the Light of the World” that I could see from the window in my cramped one bedroom apartment if I turned my head sideways at an uncomfortable angle was the period at the end of every sentence. I didn’t have to look to feel it there and for my bones to laugh at the spectacle of Jesus not affording good bulbs like everyone else in the Tenderloin.

I have always been a pessimistic optimist.

Or an optimistic pessimist.

Two sides of the same conflicted coin.

I’m listening to Pete Seeger singing “We Shall Overcome”*. I believe I was born singing this in the cruel corners of the One World Family Commune in Berkeley California into which I was born. I must have dreamed the words in my anonymous little cubby on the wall of children’s beds, pretending I didn’t know there was a predator among us.

The words of peace have stuck in my heart.

Words of peace so at odds with the darkness that periodically subsumes me. That also subsumed a few of the unfortunate children who were molested around me. How I was spared when my 5 year old best friend wasn’t I will never know. Might be because I had a reputation for screaming like the devil when upset.**

All these years later and my first language still informs everything I think and write: poetry. My poetry, alone, is not sublime or award-worthy. It was merely my first language. Before English, I understood how color is memory, how scent is emotion, how shape is an infinite synonym for other shapes. I think in abbreviated sentences, sometimes staccato, sometimes soft. Poetry breaks rules and makes rules simultaneously.

Pete Seeger leads me back to Dylan. My favorite Dylan song of all time is “Girl From the North Country” sung with Johnny Cash. I could never be all Death Rocker because of Cash and Dylan. I could never be all anything because of them.

Not long before I’m off my childhood charts.

Today I got a job. You know when you need something desperately and it never materializes? You smash your head against the universe and it continues to close the door on your skull again and again and again until you haven’t got enough bone left to lose?

This wasn’t like that. I had that little nervous breakdown a lot of people witnessed and then I saw this listing on Craigslist. It sounded perfect. An essential oil company here in town needing skills I have? Paying probably enough to make our ends meet? I submitted my funky resume with my earnest cover letter, the way I DO, and waited. I had no faith. Because life has taught me to be cautious and not hope overmuch.

I got the call. I got an interview. I wasn’t scared. I don’t know why as I’m a worrying kind of person in such situations. It felt right the minute I read the listing. It felt right the minute I met the people interviewing me. To the point where I had the strange urge to hug them. I wanted to say “LET’S GET ON WITH THIS PARTY BECAUSE I’M GOING TO WORK MY ASS OFF FOR YOU AND IT’S GOING TO BE GREAT!”

Today I got the position provisionally. For the next week I will work and if they like me and I like them – I will get the job officially.

Nothing feels more right than this.

I want to say that the only thing that would feel more right than this is not needing a part time job at all. But you know when you can feel that an experience is necessary? That whatever is coming is important to you in some way, even if you can’t know how yet? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you wish life could be when you’re dreaming, what we need are experiences that shape us, that help us grow, and enrich us in one way or another. Every job I’ve ever had has given me more experience, more interaction, more stories, and more language.

It always comes back to poetry if I’m willing to see it. If I’m willing to acknowledge it. The mother tongue. The place everything started. My original language.

I haven’t had a pair of work boots in too many years. It bothers me. I have foot problems now and I can’t afford them. But I am, in my soul, a boot girl. Not a fancy boot girl, a work boot girl. I love wool and berets and pea coats. I love eyeliner and red lipstick. I love Scotland and winter. I love trains and other slow transportation. I love efficiency and mail, possibly oxymorons now. I love Fleetwood Mac and Beethoven.

I love dancing to music that’s blasting so loud I can hear it under my own skin.

Tomorrow I’m going to open my damn accordion after I get off work and I’m going to make some incomprehensible noise for the pure joy of it.

*My friend Kele is responsible for reuniting me with this track.

**My nickname in the commune was “Devilina”