all, prose & poetry

Past the pieces

He was a blur of faces, shapes and identities, familiar and half forgotten. His hair, dirty blonde and long, like the shy drummer she met online years ago, whose friendship she lost when they tried to become something more. His eyes and nose like the older all-american boy she knew in college, who flushed his drugs down the dorm drain one day and found Jesus in Connecticut.

His way with words and music, driven but scattered, like the teacher she had an affair with, who threw himself into every creative pursuit, as if desperately trying to draw or compose or write or fuck something out of his soul, always failing to connect that art to other people.

The way he glided out of conversations and spaces, so solid and present one moment, then gone the next, like an old roommate she had a short-lived crush on, who left a tangible, painful void when he disappeared, suddenly feeling so necessary, as though gravity itself no longer worked without his presence.

His voice, calm and thoughtful, with a touch of amusement, a bit like her former boss whom she had always aspired to sound like, and saw through the facade it was for a deeper storm of playfulness and fire within.

She thought about the endless permutations of people crossing each others’ paths, their layers of familiarity and strangeness intersecting to connect for one brief moment or a lifetime. She’d met him before, or pieces of him, liking and loving and hating them, losing them, only to come across them again on another body, in another space and another time. Their kinship happened before and would happen again.

She didn’t know what the universe wanted, throwing her past back at her in this human shape of roads taken and lessons not learned. She tried to see past the pieces she knew but never fully understood, into this abstract of a man, a stranger with a life lived and his own stories to tell of women who came and went, leaving traces of themselves in everyone he would encounter since. But the pieces of others wouldn’t part, his soul hidden safely beneath and out of reach.

“Good,” she thought. “Good.”

This was for the best. She wasn’t one to romanticize the past, painting over anger and regrets with sentimental lies and a varnish of what-ifs.

She closed her eyes and shook it off, all of it, the recognition and the memories he’d brought, the magnetism and the temptation to fall in. She centered on the now, this moment of music and fog and 2 A.M. beers and friends nearby. She let the melody take her over and danced, laughing and spinning. And when she opened her eyes again, there he was, dancing like no man she’d ever met before.

all, prose & poetry, thoughts

Take me

….to the old library in your home town. We will leaf through frail pages and trace the faded photographs of your ancestors with our fingers. We will sit down in a fort of books and journals pulled from the shelves and search through forgotten family trees and piece together untold stories. We will imagine what our lives would be like in those sepia tone years, how our days would be filled with work and fresh air, and our nights — with candlelight and barefooted siblings and freshly baked bread. We will find your namesake in a crumbling tome.

….to the bridge above the city on a moonless night. We will rise above the traffic and the taxis darting through the dark like so many fireflies among sleeping skyscrapers. We will watch the water of the river below us ripple and fall still in the breeze. We’ll look up at the stars and make up constellation names the way the ancients used to, connecting mythical beings to human fates born under their dim glow. We’ll write ourselves into the story of a star and float upwards, stretching our hands out until we touch the sky.

….to your windowsill, both of us breathless after a kiss so long and tight that all the air leaves our lungs. We will wrap ourselves in blankets and climb up into the window, nesting in that portal between the entirety of the world outside and your bed, still warm, where our shadows now stretch. We will share a cigarette from a pack your brother left behind, dangling our bare feet, our toes touching, unable to let go. We will feel innocent and young, like high schoolers drowning in new love, all the roads and possibilities still open, twinkling ahead of us and calling forth.

….to an island in the north, where fir trees and winds rule the landscape and the sea is onion-green and wild. We will come by boat and gather driftwood for a totem pole you want to build, and make a fire out of bark and pine cones. You will take the dog out for an early morning walk in the fog and come back hours later with a new song you wrote among the pines. I’ll make the coffee on a rusty stove and curl up on the porch, a ball of wool and fleece and notebooks on the mossy logs, writing a story that can only be told in a place like this, where the air is cold and filled with smoke and seaweed and your music drifting in the morning wind.

all, prose & poetry, thoughts

Cast away

You put a spell on me. Not with your words, which self-destruct like coded spy notes. Not with promises made in a haze of smoke and ice cubes cracking in your whiskey, which melt away with morning fog at first sunlight. Not with your lips, which are greedy and selfish, which pull me in, your stubble scratching my skin and your tongue rough, like a cat’s. Not with your eyes, which pierce and enchant, then look away when my own rise to meet them. Not with your music, which randomly shuffles into my life, usurping the soundtrack of my moments, disrupting the equilibrium of my thoughts, beating along with the throbbing of old wounds, as if your pulse is the same as mine, our blood flowing as one.

But that night, as we walked through the city of a million strangers and a dozen friends, you took my hand and held it so gently, so surely, never letting it go. You held my hand and I floated over the cobblestones, higher and higher, in disbelief and enchantment, joining the blossoms soaring in the city’s winds.

And then the night was over, and the day came, and the next, and I’m still here, floating with the fallen flowers and the plastic bags and the stray feathers, lost and off-course, getting stuck on branches and lampposts before the wind gusts rip me off and carry me higher still, possessed by the memory of your hand holding mine.

Where are you now that I am so high above, spell-bound and cursed, no longer even human, not knowing how to bring you up to me or how to come back down?

all, prose & poetry, thoughts

The jet stream 

Flying that night, caught in a fierce jet stream — the pilot’s voice emerging over the racket: “…there is nothing we can do about the turbulence, ladies and gentlemen, except ride it out…” — colors fading in and out of themselves outside, becoming sea-air-cloud-sea-night, ink pens bursting in perfect synchronicity over in-flight magazine puzzles at sudden jumps in cabin pressure, everything so free and beautiful and utterly unstoppable. At home in a tearing steel machine like nowhere else, thoughts rupturing in tune with all that ink, live among the deadly winds at 37,000 feet. But what are thoughtsworth, if they haven’t been turned to words, haven’t been birthed in molten liquid, haven’t fought and slaughtered a thousand samurai, haven’t shattered their own bones and minds to be worthy of depicting the frailest petal blush? what-and-what-and—

I’m smearing the ink into skin, rubbing it in deeper. I’m accelerating evolution, reinventing everything from flesh to bone. Imperative to attain the ability to write in blood, now only how to get the ink to smear that far within. My fingers belong at the birth of all civilizations, the tips are now black and from them spring mad naked spirits; they clutch to the night’s ends and pull it against time. My hair turned to sand sometime between the sea and the palm trees, my skin is marble — cold and immune to the tropical sun, and now my blood itself is ink. I must be passing over land now, I must be over you wherever you are, I’m exploding and little pieces of sand are landing — a grain at a time, a steady route to follow back to the sky, back if I ever have to find my way. Land (everyone claps as we collide into the runway), drive home, plug in — my brain is ones and zeroes, my dreams forever tied to keystrokes and in pixels.

New York stands warm and strong tonight, a fortress of toxic air and unrelenting hope. I look up to stare down the dragons on their hunting rounds at night, breathing fire and navigating over skyscrapers; embrace the trees as they hold council and raise their roots up high — with concrete, buildings, everything connected this is a city where the wind gods assemble shrines among lights and bridges. Here, I build my camp. From here I will wage my battles. 

all, prose & poetry

Nothing at all

We were in a boat, sailing in the North Pacific. That’s when the bombing started. We had to turn off course and hide behind a cliff of a small rocky island. Frantically scanning the radio waves, we finally caught a part of an English-speaking broadcast. Someone was saying “…we were so focused on Iraq, and now North Korea will destroy us all…”

So there we were, just a few kilometers off the coast of a post-apocalyptic nuclear battle station. Watching as the missiles were taking off in all directions one after another. We sat in our boat and watched. There was nothing else to do. Someone would get up once in a while to make sandwiches, or bring another bottle of whiskey. They tasted amazing, those sandwiches. Crusty bread and cold cheese. 

The missiles were leaving beautiful trails of smoke, curling and glowing as the sun had started to set. The closer the sun got to the horizon, the deeper the smoke’s color became. By then, we could hear the sound of explosions from where the missiles hit. It took just less then a minute between the fireball taking off and the sound of shattered everything.

That’s when the sun stopped setting, hanging just barely an inch over the horizon. The ocean itself began exploding, and water seemed to be draining out from under us. The boat was dragged along with the retreating water, and then just sank into the drying sea-bed. From here, we had a better view of the nuclear station. It had also lowered into the sand, with its metal upon metal and steam and endless rails and ladders. The missiles kept taking off, but there weren’t any people in sight. We watched as gravity itself seemed to shift, and the sun was suddenly in the wrong place. The ocean floor was breaking up and gallons of sand were slipping off somewhere deep into the newly formed cracks. Someone passed me an almost empty bottle, and I let it slip out of my hands, off the boat, into one of the cracks. It disappeared, and someone else laughed, and then…

I woke up and the TV was talking. A bald guy in a worn suit was saying something about inevitability. Someone must’ve left it on. Nothing wrong with the world. Nothing at all.

all, prose & poetry, thoughts

Instructions for Breaking Free

Paint nail polish over your broken dreams. The heart, or what’s left of it, should be tied firmly to the rib cage. Use staples and duct tape to hold the pieces together if necessary. Wash out memories in industry-strength bleach. Throw old photos into the rinse cycle. 

Douse your soul in 2-3 liters of alcohol daily for about a week. Follow up with equal amount of tea and juices. Refrain from ingesting food throughout the process. Avoid contact with anyone capable of commenting on how thin, starved and sickly your soul has become.

Drape sexy red velvet securely over stapled, duct-taped heart, and allow beautiful strangers to cleanse your mouth with kisses and body with imaginary love. Wake up, re-adjust drapery, repeat until the velvet sticks permanently. 

Resist urges to indulge in any artistic impulses. If you must create, discard these misguided fruits immediately by fire or nuclear weapon. Resist thoughts of looking back, chopping hair, reading religious publications, lemming/virginiawoolf tendencies, and calling mom. Resist calling anyone, for that matter, as it is crucial from now on to only communicate with those who will initiate such actions. Cross out names of anyone who hadn’t done so in over two weeks. 

Substitute warm couch blankets with fresh, freezing air; rhapsodic music with silence; TV with yoga. Imagine your body as an icicle filled with frozen flowers. Turn your arms into tree branches and stand still long enough for birds to complete a nest between your fingers. Your hair is now a wind-torn spiderweb over a mountain rock. Gales and snow-storms holler among the cliffs. You are now free.

all, prose & poetry

The Fall

It’s been one of those months that build up inside you, day by day, each hour a composite of lead-weight minutes, and the seconds all ticking from within your rib cage, tick-tock atop a tickety-tock, all at once, like a flurry of water drops on cement, loud, pointed, neverending, each a tiny kick, cracking the surface until wild underground weeds push their way through and take over. Eyes blink slower, hair rustles, whispering amongst itself, and the heartbeat becomes an overflowing river of white noise. Something will implode, alone in the proverbial forest, with not a soul to hear nor make a sound.

You write the same thing over and over. Start with a doodle and the inevitable comes out. Sketches of blank-faced women, thin arms ending in long, alien fingers, falling, floating in space. Sentences that drag on, imagery of decay, destruction from within, people morphing into something inanimate, entrapment, something impending to both awe and indifference.

You try to hold onto your old gods and their prophets: a sea of pink elephants swimming in the rising sun; impending apocalypse; a dozen photos of the sunset spread out on a bed; an old envelope filled with a moment, a breath, a key; the sounds of enormous flying whales, their wings flapping-flapping-flapping, moving higher and higher and taking you up up up, beyond air, beyond sound and life, to somewhere that never existed but matters more than anything that ever has.

You stagger, pull up, fall. The sky above is actually cracked white plaster, pipes forming a crude geometric design alongside its breadth. Wind is gushing in the largest of the tubes, clouds escaping among steely weldings, precipitation forming in small shuddering droplets.

Mesmerized, you are unable to recall the oldest of all things – how to breathe, move, struggle. Your thoughts form into hollowed out caverns, framed by impenetrable rock and darkness. You forget what came before, what brought you here, what lies beyond the present and eternity. Sounds descend through a burrow of interweaving nerves. Vision calibrates among lost concepts of dimension and time.

You focus on the last remnants of what was memory and language. You put words to what are floating, unsteady instances in the quandary of being. This here is a stone, a brick, one upon another. Between them, a solid membrane and another above, and here, yes, another brick, hundreds of them, in tall, proud columns, gargantuan rows. That’s around and below. A body of you stacked in still, umber pieces.

Abandoning your dreams of the sky, you try to sink into the earth, reach for the groundwater, sprout roots and harden with bark. In a last breath of reason, you absorb this solid new self until the reality of it is irreversibly set and wrong. Despite your best efforts, you have not become a tree, but an empty, abandoned building.