But Not Like This

A hundred times I’ve laid down in the middle of a dream and waited for it to finish lying to me and I hold my hand out to someone I don’t know who’s waiting for their dream to stop lying too. We always find each other. It’s like the worst prom in the world where everyone is chewing through the walls with chainsaws and knives and eventually the slow song ends and everyone waits in silence for the dust to settle before running to the exits in panic. I want to exit too, but not like this.

We is me and you and her and him and they and the everyone hanging out in the unknown dark waiting to emerge clean and new-baptized in their own skin to the truth that shines through them into the light where we all end up. But not like this, not like this.

Water rises over bridges, mountains fall down across plains. Spirits rise above bones, ashes fall down across memories like butterflies smothering tissue-thin blossoms. We reflect everything around us and everything reflects us back. I have clothed myself in black and chains, moving through your life recklessly like the thing you try to lock away but can’t keep hidden. You hate me because you hate yourself. I have clothed myself in wreaths of blossoms with my hair falling to my waist. You love me because I remind you of your young heart. I see it crushed, we all get crushed. But not like this, not like this.

I will give myself over to the light when it releases me from the shadows where I’ve grown taller than my fears. When it becomes more than what I’ve found in the dark. I’ll give myself over to the light when there aren’t any hard questions left, when I’ve run out of coins for this parking meter of lost souls. I will give myself over to the light when there’s a surfeit of love for the broken down queens of solace. When the richest see themselves reflected in the faces of the poor. I will give myself over to the light when it lays down for me first. But not like this, please, not like this.

 

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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.

 

Your Secret Self Without Skin

the extreme light

I can’t decide how much of my nightmares I should leak into my waking life, how much of them I should try to tell, how much to suppress, how much of them I should cherish like the skin of my child, how much I should scrape away like the sharp unforgiving barnacles of the deep regretful sea.

I have a secret self without skin.

You have one too even if you won’t acknowledge it. It’s the self you protect wordlessly because to breathe on it would collapse its wild delicate musculature, would warp its margins beyond recognition, beyond reconciliation.

Your secret self is louder than anyone can hear.

The things I want to tell you are thick with D minor in a fugue state you can’t reach from any chair.

When it’s all over there’s just enough room for you to disintegrate prettily into the second skin you knitted when your own slipped off without your permission.

Beyond this, there is less than nothing.

 

Grave Digger’s Shovel

Sonoma tree

Give over your tools of anger, there’s no room for them here in the banquet hall of the dead. Give over your strangling ropes and your braided whips of mean discipline, there’s no room for them here in the banquet hall of love. Give over your walls built of soot and silt that crash down on sleeping enemies in suffocating sludge tsunamis. You don’t need any of this artifice to express righteous anger. You don’t need any of this destruction to come right-side up in the morning. Slough off the language of hatred while you  bed deep in the bound hay of summer. Let it go down the devil’s road until it burns without your heart for fuel. Give over to love completely like you’ve got the wings of a thousand doves powering your blood through your arteries and your mind above the highest canopy of trees where you can chase the light and the wind that takes you far away from the gravedigger’s shovel.

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.

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.

 

You Don’t Know What I Pretend You Can’t Know

precious trees

There are moments in life when someone sees something in me that no one is ever supposed to see. My slipped mask, my naked imperfection, my exposed ax-wounds. I can’t acknowledge that they’ve seen what they shouldn’t have seen or I have to kill them. (Metaphorically)*. But I’ll never be able to not be aware of them seeing the thing they shouldn’t see that we’ll never have a conversation about.

What makes me sleep less well than I usually sleep, which is already pretty fucking awful if you didn’t know, is thinking about who else sees what they shouldn’t see who I haven’t caught out yet. I know from my millions of misinterpreted social interactions that most people don’t see much at all beyond the graffiti scrawled beautifully across my front door that’s meant to obfuscate and misdirect.

I’m not sure I would tell the desert trees the truth I keep knuckled tight to my chest even if it promised me water. I’m not sure I would let the last bastion of my most private self crumble even under the duress of a street mime following me all the way home on a dark hot Saturday night. I’m better at this game than anyone knows, so when I detect a crack in my carefully constructed subterfuge-suit it’s a code-red alarm and I start running all the way to the gutter where the game started before I reached my first decade on this planet.

Some might call this “running to ground”. I might be one of them.

This train goes nowhere. Runs through a hole in a mountain and never comes out.

Perhaps the world would be a different place if we all accepted the universal truth that an aloe vera plant requires water in order to plump up enough to provide relief for burns. You have to feed your fucking medicine if you want it to fix your ass.

I’m talking about a lot of things in order to not talk about the thing making my skin itch, making my soul scrub itself with lye and thyme, making me look over my shoulder to reassure myself that when I address the bursitis in my toe, I’m quite alone.

I’m not alone in here anymore. There has been a breach. I want to believe that if I stand super still for hours at a time and appear not to breath that the interloper into my truth will be confused and wake up from a surreal dream of self-emptying suitcases and stupid single-entendres that never end and wonder what food they ate that made them have such fucked up bad dreams? I cast spells through nightmares. It’s my only superpower. It was secret until now.

*(mostly)

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.