Sunday, December 29, 2013

(to be natural means not to force things)

Bill Porter, who sometimes writes under the pen name Red Pine, interviewed Master Hsieh, a Taoist monk, living on China's Huashan Mountain:

Lao-tzu said to cultivate tranquility and detachment. To be natural. To be natural means not to force things. When you act natural, you get what you need. But to know what's natural, you have to cultivate tranquility. Huashan has long been famous as a center of Taoism because it's quiet. There used to be a lot of hermits here. But now the mountain has been developed for tourism. The tranquility is gone, and so are the hermits. Yes. But before you can teach others, you have to cultivate yourself. You have to know something before you can teach something. You can't explain inner cultivation just because you know words in books. You have to discover what they mean first.

-- from the book "Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits" by Bill Porter

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I wanted to craft something beautiful and full of sorrow.

I will not make art I will make and wish for it to be art, and more than that wish for it to be whatever it is that I've made.

shuffle my boots downhill a path frozen and strange.

copper rose petals. cold back not window nor door. satanic mink hats beard pointed faces.

bounded. perambusyncopations. I straight, firm, narrow. I unashamed.

I use my voice (say it) I (say it) I say (say it) n.


arthritic lumbar sweep furiously. snow tumbles down. slide my fingers through hair in the shower. slide (hot) my fingers over calves in the shower. arms dangle. feel separate from arms. feel the shinbone milky and shaved.

my skeleton awakes. my skeleton leers. you are part of this thing, compulsory embodiment. you cannot, beyond a certain degree, use this body you live in to alter it. 

and what of transcendence? what if I breathe, deeper, and with more intention? and then?

towel to scalp, damp feet-walk cold to the bedroom. drip into closet floorboards, crumb cracks coated with DNA. once I lived in a uterus.

was I (me) the same I (me) then? was I scared? did I like the uterus? did I whisper to myself go bravely, child. the new world will be frightening, and beautiful. 

was it so different there? did I not struggle with loneliness and want? did I not at first think I knew all there was to learn about living? before sudden exposure to a new and different light.

I step from hot steam first the left leg then right. I face foggy mirrors on a woven yarn mat. My skin is damp. He cannot see me naked. Can the dog see me naked?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

(moment to moment)

"What does it matter if 2,000 years ago Christ died on the cross and was resurrected if we are not constantly resurrected to the truth, anew, moment to moment?"

 -Russell Brand via New Statesman:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

(there is no simple answer to why I go)

"There is no simple answer to why I go on these trips. Not really. Some adventurers will tell you why they do it, but I think they don’t even know themselves. Some will say because it was there. Or the challenge. The excitement. The adventure. There is some magic to some of that stuff, but I don’t think it is any one thing. There is more to it.

Why must the goose fly north? Ask the arctic tern why he must go from the top to the bottom of the world every year. As for us humans, we must do the things that free us from self-imposed limitations. I am doing my own thing. My own way. My own time. I think that’s legitimate. I am doing what I must do to be true to myself and my nature.

I think it was Kipling who said: “Something is hidden. Go and find it. Go beyond the ranges.” There is something you are reaching for beyond the horizon, something maybe you can’t see. Maybe something beyond your ability, but still it’s worth reaching for. Some people might tell you that you are reaching too far. People may tell you that you can’t do that. You can’t paddle up the Grand Canyon. But if you have some reason, something in you, it’s still worth the effort. It is less important whether you succeed or not, it’s that you are true to yourself and your dreams."

 - Verlen Kruger, canoe adventurer extraordinaire. Verlen paddled over 90,000 miles in the last 40 years of his life, including one trip that started and ended in his backyard in Lansing, Michigan, and included the Arctic Ocean (Alaska), the entire Pacific Coast to Baja, Mexico, the Grand Canyon (upstream) and a thirty mile portage over the Continental Divide. (Heron Dance interview).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

(no, here)

The rabbit sits at the end of the driveway. The heron is back. The glass in the window has shattered.

Shards glint from wooden floorboards where the old man stands bewildered. Saturday. The middle of the afternoon.

Once they threw eggs. Impossible, they were told, to wash from brick. Such effort for a C minus.

An Escalade backs into the driveway, red lights blinking, then turns right and disappears from view. My breath scrambles into my throat and then back down again.

I am only beginning to realize how lucky I am.

Naturally this frightens me. I grow anxious and seek to control things. Pay attention to me. Look at me here. No, here. 

I worry about my decisions. I wake up at 5am convinced I have ruined my teeth. What if I have a heart attack. I need to start flossing again.

Of course the best living I have done is in thrashing surrender and blind, begrudging faith.

Friday, November 1, 2013

(on vacuuming)

There is a glass bowl filled with tiny pumpkins. There is a plant growing from three fat bulbs next to a rock. There is a circle of marble milky with indistinct memories.

I do not know if I am saying goodbye to me, or if I am leaving me, or if one of us is merely going into hiding for a while. I do not know if either of us plans, at some point, to return. I do not know if I am supposed to feel sad or uncomfortable or cling to my ankles until I have dragged myself to my forehead and swallowed me. I do not know if I am supposed to allow change to happen or to fish my boxing gloves out of the closet and get to work. Hiya. Hiya.

For now I will choose to accept the fact that this evening I dogeared a magazine article comparing the merits of various vacuum cleaners. Do I go bagless? Handheld? Roomba? These are questions which somehow interest me, despite having never purchased a vacuum cleaner in my life, and despite knowing that it is a privilege to vacuum and, in many ways, an act of utter non-necessity.

For now I will choose to relish the fact that there is meaning to be found even in vacuuming, that perhaps it is not vacuuming that is silly but I who has been silly all these years to catalog certain actions as somehow more meritorious than others. As if meaning needed to be rationed. As if it were not infinite.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

(Sunday, October)

Why one mug of tea was warm and the other cold is beyond me. Why, the warm one sat for 15 minutes before I raised it to my lips, and still generated more heat on my tongue than the first one. I heated them for the same amount of time and I poured both mugs immediately after the water became hot, so there's no real sensible explanation. I suppose there is magic afoot in this kitchen, and that's that.

The house rolls and rumbles and growls such that I think for a moment another rain storm is starting. Instead the clouds hang low, dry, desolate, and little ashamed after the mess they've made. Two months' worth of rain in the space of 24 hours. Okay, Mother Nature. Time to tuck it back in your pants.

I call my brother to ask for a kombucha. He groans; he's already several aisles away. Still he shuffles back to the rows of colorful bottles; a kind-hearted misanthrope in search of the Trilogy.

I believe the dogs knew I was sick last night, and that's why they pressed their tight little bodies into my stomach where I lay curled on the leather couch, and licked my nose occasionally. My throat still hurts but my nostrils have never felt better.

Today I walked in the woods by the lake, despite feeling like shit, and I do not regret it. I saw golden leaves; I hopped no less than two creeks and one giant puddle; I helped a wooly caterpillar to one more chance at living; I laughed as a big white dog bounded up to me, sopping wet and looking for love.

From the woods I drove to the local farm store where I bought apples and pickled eggs and almost literally ran into a man who kissed me on New Year's Eve several years ago. Or was it Christmas. Or was it the middle of September.

I hiked back down the hill and sat in my car for a moment, watching children roll pumpkins while their parents talked about how stressed they felt, with the holidays only two months away and so much to prepare in the meantime. I thought, if it means living like a child I will never throw a holiday party. I will sit in the house eating candy and then I will go outside and play.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(body politic)

signed a petition don't feel good
about it. was it me was it about
me cling dog paws to shoulders     beefjerky    liverwurst    myfather
sick. notsick cheese eyes flanbrain sprinkled
speck of a
holocene heart.

your ego makes you too
small your ego makes you too
big your ego makes it your
fault       per(the "i" of the law)
versities unbound

run away
corncob alligators,   run away    
                                                           little girl,  run

to the tripknot sweetrose carrotoid art. harbor
molluskrot.   secrete corroborobstination.

compensate me.
condensate dew-dripping
caligula,   collector of blood-bleeding
                                thumb.      eighth grade pizzatowers, parmesan cropcircle,  mouseketeers   shouldering

hear me out:
here's the steeple, here pilliated
telescopic headwear marks compass.
lookyou patcheye to the sailing sea.

the trueword is governance.
the trueword is duty.
the trueword is familial obligation.
the trueword is eating me  coffeecakecrumble side of fries

codified. underground LAN nameme heretic birthright

clampjaw stick peels rainslick
hallucinations. peak vibrancy matched.
my name is Tom and I'm a peepaholic.

my name is Tom I like to lick windows.
my name is Tom what's yours.
I can clean that for you. I don't know how to go about this. I was born on the wetdark tailtip of an antelope.

foamgurgle saltslurp slicked knobknees
shaking. the vet bows down. hold my hand
hold my hand child, hold

to the backs of eagles resonant hum
of guitars fleet-darkhighways dogearedlibraries caramelmacchiatomocha-freecalwhipeuthanasia
 the sincerer form of flattery.
choke down skin-cracked smile, cough to sorethroat perturbations
stinkrags skinheat dirtflesh touchme  
I'm warm.

split to graveldust skateboardbandits jabberpunchbuttons on the subway.
touch coldfingers to
calcified buttocks entombed in a lonely memorial. once we sat for something.

Monday, October 7, 2013

(Musical Notation III)


call me call
my faculties duressed I polish cone-
capped avalanches
purple dandelion
woodsmoke. transcend
en trance thomas tankcapital
my dear indubitably do      ex
claim. pialodoshish.

sleepy denia
lists hard tack sticky taped dementia to
bathroom walls. two
yellow ribbons 

things. hardscrabble orphan hair red
bricks and two-
toned shoes. hava, magnificence. 

cart that cartel-bound cartilage out of me. 
stand me on top of my wagon. swing my hips over your head like a shirt. 

swallow me swallowtail. fly me to the moon. 

make it sing, cowgirl. big thumbs knotted 
knees deep in wastewater we mine
the filliage mark this mucksucker: there's gold in this here yet. 

karmic gratification exists in the simplification 
of your life. yesterday i was a goldfish. today you will be a sooted crow. tomorrow she'll be a badger and none of this will matter, so cry before you sleep.     too, 
young friend, you'll never be alone again.

carry on, carry on, courage that you keep. 

(what it means to love you)

I touch my lips to my knee and leave a kiss there.
I kiss my left shoulder next, and then the right one.

In my memory I shred the map.
My knees skip the bridge and I'm falling.
Sayonara, icicles.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Helen and Charlie

Helen Keller and Charlie Chaplin
(credit where it's due)

Plucky Purcell on authority

"The fact is, what I hated in the Church was what I hated in society. Namely, authoritarians. Power freaks. Rigid dogmatists. Those greedy, underloved, undersexed twits who want to run everything. While the rest of us are busy living-- busy tasting and testing and hugging and kissing and goofing and growing-- they are busy taking over. Soon their sour tentacles are around everything: our governments, our economies, our schools, our publications, our arts and our religious institutions. Men who lust for power, who are addicted to laws and other unhealthy abstractions, who long to govern and lead and censor and order and reward and punish; these men are the turds of Moloch, men who don't know how to love, men who are sickly afraid of death and therefore are afraid of life: they fear all that is chaotic and unruly and free-moving and changing-- thus, as Amanda has said, they fear nature and fear life itself, they deny life and in so doing deny God. They are presidents and governors and mayors and generals and police officials and chairmen-of-the-boards. They are crafty cardinals and fat bishops and mean old monsignor masturbators. They are the most frightened and most frightening mammals who prowl the planet; loveless, anal-compulsive control-freak authoritarians, and they are destroying everything that is wise and beautiful and free."

--Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

(if I die now it will be 26 years and change until I'm gone)

It takes as many years for a fallen tree to decompose as it took for it to grow. If I die now it will be 26 years and change until I'm gone. I will leave behind a pair of hiking boots and a mad desire to help people feel loved.

I walk down the trail there are mushrooms mushrooming. The deer leaps into the woods and turns to look at me. I look back. I whisper without making any noise, I will not hurt you please stay here looking at me. Oh please wide brown eyes. I keep walking and looking and wishing for understanding. The deer does not run any further. Its eyes follow me as I push up the hill and turn back, over and over, smiling.

I want to be visible. I want to know what I want and to want it. Oh when did desire become a four-letter word.

There is a man with sun-lit streams for eyes. He puts his hand on a woman's jean-clad knee as they're laughing.

She speaks these words as if she owns them, has rolled around in the mud and wrestled and licked them: We have to leave room for mystery.

I have been myopic. I have drunk the medicine in the form of brightly colored leaves and the scent of woodsmoke. I hang my head and then thrust my chin upwards, inhaling.

How about courage. How about abundance. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013


silly  ->  myocardial

infar-- infra-- red
eyes burn lungs/pollution semi rumble  semis  crack semi

  the heart
                                       grow      grows  

fondle [me] in treetops firesmokefingershairears different.
save [me] baptize putrid water putrid splash   spill
                over     OVER

abrasion. ripping sounds.

            Tanta. tantalies [me]. tar buildup tar runoff    tar-hot

         cocoon.     so                   far     fetch

[me] stingray foot cry grandmother please 

dead. is sucking stinger from the bottom of my foot. is kissing me kiss kiss kiss
me kiss marry    may  

I bottomfeed. I algaesuck. I planktonslurp. I cough exhale wheeze smoke blue bile, Gotham

     long [me]. forsake    
     for [he] shall be   for  (sake)   give  

[me]    plea .

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I walk piebald and scathed. Black tires roll silent
concrete. Leaves scatter. Bend to a liberated shoelace.
Little girl chases blue balloons.

Memory: come on, daddy. daddy, 
come on. Videotape.
He is of the screen and observing it.
I/she turn to call for him.
Long brown hair swings.

Tell me why. Tell me tell     Don't be.

Time differ
ence. He eyes
the sun      set banks
of the Thames. The sky
    starless in

I forgot his tattoos. I forgot
him. I    forgot   tongue-- breath-    to

The moon sets.Reflect                                             me
-shone in gotham       windows. A plastic bag full of hair.

I cut I
   cut cut   cut     it    
                          out,  OUT,   our

scabbed psyches, bloody chimera,
yellow-faced baboon. Gorilla grip hands girl a black balloon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(in the next moment I forgive her)

And why can't I.

I smile at the young woman seated across from me on the subway. She holds my eye contact and does not smile back. Goddammit. We're starting a war in Syria because we can't even smile at each other on the subway. I shake my head in her direction. I make believe that she looks contrite as she turns away. I will resent her for this forever.

In the next moment I forgive her.

I have been sitting in the apartment for hours feeling lonely. I've only just remembered to listen to music. I do not want to go to sleep for fear of the bugs crawling into my orifices. It could happen. I read about it online.

Corn Plant, my dear friend, I lament lament lament our parting. Ours was a good and dedicated friendship; you are a good and dedicated corn plant; you have grown even in this apartment, where I watched my other friends die. On the day that I leave I will carry you to the courtyard and hope that someone cares for you, as I have looked after Tyrese and the other stray cats these hot months. Give them shade until your leaves wither and your determined stem begins to droop. I will remember you as a beacon of solace and an inspiration.

The roaches have taken my kitchen utensils, my mattress, my paperwork, my paper bags, my sleep, my corn plant, and a large portion of my sanity. Let this be a lesson: Even the tiniest creatures can make an impact.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I request a refund. To walk in crowds hurts me. I stand under the trees dangling thick strands of moss and look up, inhaling. I hope this breath will last me. And this one.

The water swirls in the sink. I swirl the water with my fingers. I am watching the water swirling.

I brush my teeth with my brother's toothpaste. I am accustomed to baking soda and castille soap. Instead it's like rubbing sugar over my teeth, hoping they won't rot.

The kombucha has fallen in the driveway. It is covered with small twigs and fizzing. He carries it inside at arm's length. I rinse the twigs into the garbage disposal. I remember that I do not have a garbage disposal. I look at the debris in the center of the sink. I walk back to the armchair and sit down. I hope no one will notice.

There's something in this refrigerator that's gone bad.

I run. Girl with a greyhound and tattoos on both calves. Three attempts at hello. Three failures.

There is a large mirror across from the toilet. I watch my shadow peeing. I am surprised by how small I look, sitting there. If I think about leaving I will cry again.

You cried the first time?

There is too much loving in me.

The words I am reading scare me. I cannot decide whether it is good to be scared. I want to drink and fuck in the woods. I do not like to have sex when I'm drunk. I don't know if I am bored or repenting. I can call everything many things, but none at the same time as the other. It is the same way with feelings.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

(I think I am the only awake person on this train, sometimes)

Ryan Adams is Dead. L.V.Newc is listening. 

Sometimes I feel that he tolerates my eccentricities.

I am a crazy artist-painter. I feel like I've been repressing her but she's in there and that's who I am. Are you okay with that?

Yes. I miss her.

I am nearly crying. On the subway I listen to music and stare people in the face. I think I am the only awake person on this train, sometimes. I look away when they notice me staring.

The young boy will present his talent a day early because he will not be in class on the day of the talent show. He prepares his materials to palpable tension. He holds up his beakers. He draws to him bottles of vinegar and iodine, dead bugs, crushed leaves, dirt. He begins to mix.

He continues mixing. He wants to send home beakers full of his concoctions, one for each member of the audience. He wants to continue mixing. After ten minutes the teacher ushers him from the front of the room.

Monday, August 12, 2013

(not quite)

When we return to the hotel this time a stranger's hair is stuck to the soap in the soap dish. Someone has used a tissue to transfer my underwear from the drying rack to the side of the tub. Everything else remains unchanged.

This morning I ran. For one block the homeless man watched me advance upon him. I started to be afraid. As I drew closer he nodded his head to me. I nodded mine.

Did you like the book I lent you?

Yes, I felt at home there.

Where else do you feel at home?

I am trying to get back to a place within myself.

You're already in yourself.

Yes, but not quite.

After I run I walk back to the hotel. I sit on the couch dripping. I drink a half gallon of water, small plastic cup by cup.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

(should he be?)

In the hotel I run water for a bath. I have not taken a bath in nearly a year. The water quickly becomes too hot. I run cold water until I am almost too cold. I put my head under the water and tug on my hair and breathe out so that my hair squeaks at the same time that I am sighing. I do not know if they can hear my sighs from the other room.

He's not good. He is good, but everyone else is bad.

Does he have anything that redeems him?

No. Well, kind of. He cares about his family.

A book of stories can save you. I sit on the boat and count alligators. I hold a newborn in my arms and cannot stop looking. When I walk back to the hotel my hands smell like his temples, cornbread and honeysuckles.

I take another walk and am followed. The bell jingles between my feet. I splay my fingers across his cheek and wait for him to rub me. The baby bird is alone. The baby dog is alone. The announcer creates a story in which the baby dog is alone.

By the corral we dare each other to touch the electric fence. I hold on the longest. We pull apart grain bags and slide down the ice covered hill. I don't remember what happens at the bottom.

I am scared for our world.

Other people do not seem to be scared, in the natural grocery store or the Mexican restaurant. The stockwoman tells me which echinacea to buy. The server tells me which fajitas to eat. My parents tell me I must have health insurance. The baby is not afraid.

("I like having to wear tights under my dress")

"I like having to wear tights under my dress. It's because of something inside me. Their hair blowing back lightly from their faces. You'll never understand how angry I am. Today the plants are like a painting. It's not a cry to writing, it's a cry to a future novel. Always ignoring her. People have fucked in here. Here is a novel which-- I know them in a certain kind of way. Sylvie has picked up a rhinocerous and is hitting it against a wall."

--Amina Cain, Creature

Sunday, August 4, 2013

(who has time to cover their nipples when their allergy medicine is swarming with bugs)

One can be a cat lady without owning cats. I obsessively splay the blinds apart with my fingers and check to see if Tyrese is huddled in the alley. Last night he actually laid down to actually rest-- "he's lying down!", I called from the back room-- and today he (or she, I have yet to know for sure) started cleaning himself with his tongue. "He's cleaning himself! Come see!" And why hasn't he eaten all of the Meow Mix that I left out for him? I thought he would like salmon topped with tuna, but perhaps he will prefer the self-labeled "REAL beef!" that I plan to leave out for him tomorrow. He seemed in good spirits today-- this morning I watched him bound across the fallen boards almost as if for fun, a far cry from his hurried slinking attempts to press himself into the concrete so that I will not see him or touch him or, I know he fears, hurt him as I step into the alley, cooing, to leave him water and salmon pate.

I have decided to open a Roth IRA. I am trying to be smarter about my investments. I resent this.

On Saturday we drove 27 minutes to Target and bought two large plastic containers for $2.79 each in which to store all of our dry goods. I transferred soup cans and bags of quinoa into the clear tubs, then reached for my Zyrtec D-- yelped, and dropped it to the kitchen floor. Roaches fled in every direction; even after the exodus there were at least six more in the bottom of the box. I grabbed the newly-dubbed "roach shoe" and got swinging, then plunged the box into a plastic bag, sealed it off, and carried it hurriedly at arm's length out of the apartment building and up the street to the public trash can. The men stared because I was wearing a thin white tshirt without a bra and my too-large skirt was slipping down over my hips. Who has time to cover their nipples when their allergy medicine is swarming with bugs?

I am working to make choices again from a place of hope, not fear. I save the bottle top from his can of beer and glue it onto a magnet which I then stick to the freezer door: Raise hopes not fears.

"Let's make this our house motto and design it into our crest," I say. "You know, like in olden times."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(until yesterday I hadn't seen Tyrese in eight days)

Until yesterday I hadn't seen Tyrese in eight days. Yesterday I checked through the blinds of the back window, as I have every day since beginning to care for the cats, and there he was again, sitting in front of the chain link fence. "Tyrese came back!!!!," I texted.

Now I am sitting with the phone playing ads and lousy muzak beside me, waiting to tell the underpaid customer service representative that I refuse to be taken advantage of any more than I already have been. So far I have wasted 25 minutes, trying to make justice happen.

Corn Plant has put up another shoot. It is small, light green, and delicate, hugging the bottom edge of Corn Plant's thick strong stem. More than six years of straining ever so slightly upward, and suddenly new growth appears. I noticed the bud the day my nephew was born.

His face is squinchy, thick and smooth, and a little skeptical. He stares with one eye squinting into the camera, clutching the red crab sewn onto his chest. When my sister calls I hear him hiccuping into the phone. I have not met him yet but I feel like I know him already. I hope we will be the best of friends.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

(or something is moving us apart from each other)

I feel all my friends are moving away from me, or I am moving away from them, or something is moving us apart from each other. In any case the end result is the same. I feel as if I am standing at the bottom of a very deep well, its cool stone walls dry beneath my fingers. I am not necessarily scared there, and I am not even, or at least not always, anxious. What I do feel is alone, and a little dazed, unsure of what to do next as I look up at the sunlight above me, blinking.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

(hair ties and principals)

We have decided to use poison. The decision was not made lightly. Still I have consented to spreading 12 canisters of toxic chemicals throughout the kitchen and bathroom. The reason is that roaches were spreading across the apartment like the ivy up Allison Conroy's dad's house in middle school, and to imagine them infiltrating my bedroom is to imagine myself taking to the streets, a suitcase in one hand and a toothbrush in the other. It is enough that they have crawled into the cupboards, the fridge, and across our clean dishes and food. I have tried the natural methods and they have failed. It is was my choice and I made it. May they all die, quickly, and may I rest in peace.

Meanwhile a mouse ran into the bedroom today, tiny and quite adorable, really, though my intent was not to ogle it but to shoo it away from the mattress by sweeping it gently with a broom. Instead it dashed across my foot and into the hole by the pipe that runs from the boiler through the apartment to the second floor. I am reminded of my own memories-- of choosing to live in a cabin with a family of mice and a lost bat or two-- and attempt to take solace in them. I have done it before.

Edwidge tells me that creation is an act of revolution, and of course I agree. Still I struggle to accept the responsibility of such a movement. To create is to release an expression into the world and watch it be twisted and crunched and rotated and expanded into something other than what you believed it was or ever would be. Thus I am learning: the responsibility lies not in the result and certainly not in the conversation, but in the making.

I imagine her climbing up that hill, thirteen hours of effort to see an old aunt whose best friend remains her deceased daughter, whose hands press hot coffee from burlap sacks at dawn. I am struck by the memory of Bangor Forest, the beginning of March and still frozen in ice. We skated our hiking boots across miles of trail, departing once from the path to sprint up a short hill. It was yellow with fallen grass, pockets of snow giving way to waterlogged soil and only the bravest of tiny green shoots. The sky narrow, textured with clouds and the memory of snow.

The star-spangled ball bounces across the crowns of our heads and tips of our fingers. He grasps it with one hand and begins to dance. I stare mesmerized as my body moves.

Two weeks ago I danced in the rain and the cold, for hours I danced and as the weather defied me I held my ground, shaking my stinging wet hair and laughing, and shouted from my mind I will not leave my people. We kept each other standing that night, and the music kept us alive. Fire burned in my torso; I knew who I was again, and knew how powerful that means.

Recently I realized that I have trouble relinquishing control of labels. I name everything I relate to, including inanimate objects, and I hesitate to allow anyone else input. Perhaps it is because I am afraid of what I will be called. So I busy myself with grand shows of perfectionism as a form of distraction while assigning names, loudly, to the new spatula and the guitar, to the cats out behind the apartment and the mice running around inside of it.

Two days ago I asked him to name the wooden fish, and though I did not like it I consented to the referent Baxter. Forty-eight hours later I would not think to call him anything else.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

(the heat in the apartment has killed all but one of the plants)

The heat in the apartment has killed all but one of the plants. Those who have died were my friends and I mourn them. Only Corn Plant remains, my companion of more than six years.

If I left a dog or a child in this place they would die. In the meantime I have purchased a cactus. It is covered in sharp spines and sits angrily by the window, yearning, I imagine, for a drier heat. I have named him Marcus Martin. We will try to get along.

I have adopted three alley cats who come every night to the concrete beneath my window. They are quiet, respectful of me and, for the most part, each other. The big orange one takes what he wants of the food I leave out before the calico slips in for a few bites, then slinks to the shade to lick herself. Meanwhile Tyrese has yet to feed, or at least not under my supervision. S/he is orange and white and so small, bony. Flies cover him as he sits all day long with his tail curled round his feet. On rare occasions his eyes will drift closed before flipping open again, startled by even the briefest of encounters with letting go. He stares from the same spot through the chain link fence, every day for hours, waiting. If I took him inside he would bite me, I think, out of desperation to return to the fence.

I am not sure there's much I can do to help him. I am not sure I am helping any of them, by enabling dependency on 79-cent cans of Feast. Still I have to do something. I myself have been bony and tired and covered with flies.

The glass sits only a third of the way empty on the apple crate in the living room. I have lost my taste for vodka, diffused as it is with memories. Instead I sip water from the new filter and believe that I really do taste the difference.

Once we returned to the apartment to find that one of the pilot lights had inexplicably gone out. I have learned since that it is crucial for pilot lights to be burning at all times, that if the other light had blackened we could have exploded as we walked in the door. And so I am huffing and puffing, doing what I can to stoke the flames. I imagine stroking velvet noses and the huuff of horses breathing, my family's old dogs, the shooting star on the way to Vermont, wide fields full of wildflowers. I imagine the trails, a pack on my back and my body steady on the earth in well-worn boots. I remember floating leaves in rivers of rain and living life in bare feet. I remember the wolves. I remember standing on top of mountains.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(you are reading this it makes me uncomfortable)

We drink champagne from tiny soda cans in black plastic bags and sit with our feet in the grass in a park. It is good to have friends.

I walk 25 blocks to the subway. The train is late as usual, so I pull Claudine from the front pocket of my backpack and thumb to Iron & Wine.

He bought me a green iPod nano for my birthday and I cried. Not because it is an iPod, but because of the reasons why. That he thought about me. That he invested money he does not have in making my commute that much more bearable. In my having access to music at all times.

Eight years ago someone else bought me an iPod, and I told him I could not would not keep it. I was afraid of how he would hold it over me, and he did hold it over me-- that I told him no. He followed me in my parents' navy blue caravan as I drove back to their house after last period; he bumped the nose of his car up against the back of mine as we drove down Midland, and in the rearview mirror I saw him laughing.

Eight years later and I say yes, I'm crying a little, I feel loved. So. Healing is not always planned.

After dinner I suck on a tangerine popsicle and point the fan at my feet to keep from melting. I left my favorite jar in the sink for two days and it grew enough mold that I decided to throw it out. I am sorry, environment. I will miss you, jar.

The thing that is special about me is me. If I ever have children I want them to know every day that they're a miracle. At the same time I want them to know that they will act like little shits at points in their life and they'll probably feel pretty shitty too sometimes and other people are for sure going to treat them like shit occasionally and that this, too, is part of the miracle. Because there is a chance that who knows how many years later all that shit will have fertilized one phenomenal garden. And that there will be music there.

When I am old I intend to dress in bright psychedelic dresses with wild updos and wear brown, rectangular glasses on a chain that wraps around my neck, and I will stand on my porch shaking a broom at kids walking by. Then we'll all have a good laugh and I'll invite them inside for lemonade, just like always, and they will tell me about the kids who are mean to them in school and the stories they're writing outside of it and I will say don't listen to them be yourself.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

(I am perturbed by my ability to stop listening to myself, sometimes for months at a time)

I am perturbed by my ability to stop listening to myself, sometimes for months at a time. I am so easily invested in other voices that I can forget about my own. There is reason to believe I was meant to be a hermit.

In some ways I am more of one than I have ever been, though I am living with millions of people in New York City. The street outside is disgusting and grey. There is pigeon excrement everywhere, and pigeons threatening to excrete, and few people seem to care about much of anything, including littering. Three days ago as I sat on the subway on the long ride to work I watched a man toss a plastic bag out of the train as it opened its doors to new passengers. How the fuck is the world going to get better if people can't even be responsible for their own trash. Stick the bag in your pocket, for god's sake. There are trash cans immediately to either side of you no matter where you disembark the train. Throw it away then.

But no! Instant gratification! Any load is too much for me to bear! The world owes me perfection while it is reasonable for me to shit all over it. Just like a goddamn pigeon.

So I make my way to the apartment as quickly as possible and I close the doors and make believe that outside there are flowers and trees growing.

Of course I am painting in stark colors. Of course it is inevitable, were I to continue writing, that they would start to bleed together. Of course we all have bad days and of course there is goodness to this place and of course if someone litters it doesn't mean they are categorically bad and unworthy of love. Still. Don't throw trash on the ground.

Lately I have been feeling angry for the fact that you valued me less than the idea of conception, even though it's been years since I've though of it. You would have left me to labor while you gallivanted through emerald sheep-dotted fields with accents on and a fedora, or left me if I chose not to. At the time I thought my heart was big enough to understand but I see now that you were acting like a self-absorbed ass with a superiority complex and a strong mind twisted by misogyny. I wish you well and hope you are happy, always.

I remember when I allowed my anger. I said, "I need to go vent, now," and I walked outside and kicked the trash cans until my foot was bruised and the bins' sides were dented-- so much that the lids never quite fit again. I felt just fine afterward! Anger is energy! Bottle it up and what are you left with? Confusion and misdirection on the eve of turning 26.

But of course that's not the whole story. I have stopped believing that I have to do it all right now. I've been through a lot and I have a lot of competing visions in my mind and it's okay that it's taking some time to pick and plant my way to where I want to be. It is quite a relief, in fact, to know that seedlings need time in order to grow. That with soil, water, air, and light, they will.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

(If you want to be happy be yourself)

I put on the Grateful Dead and read for a little while and start to feel a little better. Earlier I felt scared, partly because I made the mistake of reading House of Leaves while home alone and partly because I have not had free time in so long that I have forgotten what I like to do, how I like to think, what it is to have room to breathe. Tonight I sit on the brink of two whole wide-open days and I am ecstatic with relief and anticipation at the same time that I want to hide under my covers or in front of reruns on the tiny TV.

A mouse has taken to sporadic wanderings through the apartment. The first time I saw him, he ran underneath the futon where I was sitting. I stood up on the hard thin mattress and said, firmly and with conviction, "Get out mouse. Mouse, get out." Pretty soon I got sick of standing, so I sat back down cross-legged on the mattress. A few minutes later he left. Another time I got home from work and sat on the futon for nearly two hours before he scooted out from beneath my legs and headed nonchalantly for the kitchen. We have named him Donny.

A week ago it was a veritable menagerie in here, what with Donny and the caterpillar, chowing down then slowly metamorphosing. He slid from his chrysalis and bled blood. He tested his wings for sixteen hours before he flew. I raised him then he left. Daddy daddy where have you gone.

Not long ago I detested butterflies. What may have been months ago I painted tulips growing out of onions and dark shadows. Many months before that I painted two neon-blue cala lilies, intertwined.

I shower, looking at my body in the window's reflection. I am in love with my collarbones. I come and gasp, then realize I've forgotten my towel. I tiptoe fast across wooden floors to the back of the apartment, wrap myself in damp navy blue cotton that belonged, once, to my mother. I stare at my reflection again, this time in another window. I look through the slats in the blinds and see lights turned on across the alley. I wonder what my neighbors are thinking to themselves. I am less concerned with what they do.

If you want to be happy be yourself. If you want to be yourself do what makes you happy. Also, don't listen to self-help advice, except when it's helpful.

The trouble with writing anything nonfictional is that everything changes, even in the time it takes to write it! Still there is virtue, I suppose, in one sentence being true.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." 

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Friday, March 22, 2013

(you are eating an orange.)

You are eating an orange.
Your fingers are sticky.

You are listening to a song for the memories it brings.

You remember her hair, dark. Ukuleles. People singing.

You remember dirt beneath your fingernails, baked into the creases on the backs of your hands. Eight days' worth of sweat gathers like layers of sediment beneath your breasts, in the folds of your armpits, behind your ears.  

You pee beside a tree then peel off your clothes, like unwrapping maple candy in summer. Sticky.

You walk into the center of the river, to its deepest. It's only a few feet but it'll do. You press your elbows into a rock and stretch your legs-- hairy, strong-- across the eddies to another boulder. Prop your feet up. Tilt your head back. Close your eyes. Stay there.

The water pools around and then crests over you, tickling, making you laugh. It is cold, ever-changing, clean.

(Things to Think)

by Robert Bly

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Monday, March 4, 2013

(here is how the world is changed)

Define me! Define me! Define me!

I swoon. come to in a pig sty black eye blackening. the cat hugs the piglet walks away on its hind paws. check the stopwatch return to the pumpkin patch three hours prior. we must not be seen.

uncle twists scratchy rope round the basket and tosses it over the bridge. Caddy is screaming. years later children hunt golf balls in the creek. the earwig burrows deeper.

here is how the world is changed: grip the sun. swirl your fingers through thick stripes of color. brush your hair, touch your jaw bone, finger the half-scarf black at his neck. take off your clothes.

I am naked from the waist down. my elbows are a rainbow. the guitar sits in its case on the floor. play me.

Friday, March 1, 2013

(we're swimming in it!)

you are what you read.

I am beginning to accept that I will continually reinvent myself for the rest of my life.

oh, heaven is the lakes and trails of maine and pennsylvania, and maybe licking an ice cream cone in a small town in vermont. the shores of lake george, purple lightning tap-tap-tapping the tops of trees. touching my lips to the soft creases of a horse's nose. my face pressed into the steady breath of a dreaming dog's stomach. the rise and, equally, falling.

I am a big fish I am a big fish I am a big fish ain't nobody got time for jokes about the sea. we're swimming in it!

yesterday Claudine asked me if I was happy. I said who the fuck are you Claudine I just made you up in my head. then I walked down 52nd street, turned a corner, and disappeared

(I am a prophetesse with my eyes open)

I am a prophetesse with my eyes open. I do not tell him who I am so I may continue to be a prophetesse. I wear a long flowing gown. Caesar quivers on hard gray stones. I open my lips to speak.

A brown swallow dashes from between my teeth. In one fist-grab he is feathers and bones.

My hair smells of coconut. My earrings hang from a navy blue placemat tacked into the wall. I choose my prepositions carefully.

Down down down we go under the water where the current drags and the chains run deep. The ship pulls hard against its sails. Brown boards and rotten planks, a knife clasped between my teeth as I hang from the bowsprit hauling at lines. How I wanted to be a seawoman.

I eat the grapefruit section by section, like my old lover taught me. All is diagrams and Latin names.

sunflowers burst from the darkness. water kneads my dimples like jelly. relax the backs of your thighs.

Yesterday I was a bowl full of water. we drank four quarts of liquid and still we got sick. still we managed to dig the trenches, diversions for floods and the safety of wolves.

arthritic fingers turn rust-red wheels in a begrudging neocortex. to write exactly what you are feeling!

I am a prophetesse with my eyes open. I open to the world in sleep. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

(I finger the cardboard but do not pick up my brushes)

I have shopped at the forbidden planet and I have located la reux san michel and I have taught myself these words, if spelled incorrectly, by listening to a man speak softly into my ears so no one else could hear.

At times I am afraid of his body for reasons that seem obstructed by clouds. I blame the news, partly, and a certain book of short stories.

At the time I did not say no. Nor did Pam, topless, but that doesn't make it consensual. Nor did he do anything wrong according to law. And still he did something wrong. These things are more complicated than we like to acknowledge. It is so much more comforting: "no" versus "yes". We forget that we speak with more than our mouths and feel with more than our bodies. Though they may quiver, though we may be both pleasured and afraid.

I pull apart the ether and grasp at fistfuls of air. All I have to bet with: a bottle of cider and acrylic paints in eight colors. I finger the cardboard but do not pick up my brushes.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

(I will sew you into my thighs and crochet my eyes across your biceps)

Here is a feeling that I struggle with: the need to have my suffering acknowledged. It is what makes me consider what it would be like if you killed yourself in the shower, and I had to tell people.

I do not want to be appropriated. My day did not go as planned. I poured myself into him. I dripped liquid.

The scarf is almost finished I will sew you into my thighs and crochet my eyes across your biceps. I hold my fingers in the flames until my flesh drips onto your flesh.

I smash my face into your face. My forehead molds to your cheek. Colors explode out of the canvas, textures and slipstreams bursting bright light.


In another life I will marry you. I will hold your shaking hands until we sleep.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

(I cling to the seat and scream lava)

Swinging, my childhood friend and I jump-- and land in Mars. My younger brother was allowed to come, but only sometimes.

I have rearranged the plants. The lamp survived the guests. The chemical-free deodorant was inordinately expensive, though the organic walnuts cost less than in comparable stores.

Tomorrow I will buy new pants. I will care about where they were made and how but in the end I will probably buy the pair that's cheapest. That morality should be anything but easy. The old wizard nods, winks, evaporates into the night.

Porcupine quills protrude from the vase shaped by his clay-slicked hands. He prepares at night, for the morning.

If I forget what I have written it's because he has sliced through his fingernail with the bread knife. The tires list threateningly toward the couch; I cling to the seat and scream lava.

She walked down the street, carefully, and into the alley. Every morning at least three rats and one man leering at her, keys slipped between her fingers like brass knuckles at her side. 

Once a man followed her through an empty park at night. He advanced and she said, NO over her shoulder, meaning it, NO. She walked faster but not so fast as for him to think she was scared and she flexed her fists but not so much that he would anticipate the threat and she tried to emanate this energy from her body if you touch me I will destroy you.

Eventually he gave up and she walked back home and after taking off her coat and pouring boiling water into a mug she stood by the kitchen counter staring lifting the tea bag in and out of the water.

(I will weave my hurt into these yarns and my gratitude and joy)

Certainly I have reason to be perturbed. I am suckling a barren popsicle stick and he is making bear noises in the kitchen. He lifts his knees and holds his fingers up like claws.

Certainly there are infinite ways of becoming new. There is a bookstore with dramatic literary titles mashed with architectural concepts I will go. I will read until I am stuffed to overflowing with other people's lives. I will celebrate theirs as my own and feel the needles slithering through flesh. Ours is a bond made by the veins of our hands.

I have flipped the popsicle stick from my tongue to the futon beneath me. The likelihood is high that a gnat has just flown into my mouth. I am remaining calm.

I delight in the give of the keys beneath me, concavities cleaving to fingertips. I really should be brushing my teeth.

It is time,
she said,
to do nothing.

I breathe. God is golden clouds and I am easing back into them, hugged by wool and the faint smell of sheep. I hear bleating, see the wide green and the crags and the hooves, meandering toward grazing and streams.

I am called back by the plant and the book on the wooden apple crate propped beside the doorway. Though there is no door, though perhaps it is more realistically, resplendently, a way.

I have gotten off track. Skeins unwind as my fingertips grow red, needles arcing over and over again into flesh. I will weave my hurt into these yarns and my gratitude and joy. You will wear it round your neck for seasons. It is a token of the words I cannot say because they are not words anyone has yet said and still I believe it exists, somewhere: the way of saying it.

You're a genius all the time. Be sure of it. Find your family and hold their hands as the lightning strikes. Drenched in rainwater and fingernails charred, your shoulders brush, warming the place where you stand.

The movie made him cry and then I cried not because of the movie but because of the part in the movie which made him cry, which would have made me cry had I not been crying because he was crying at the part of the movie that would, otherwise, have made me cry.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

(It is a story I tell myself that I need constant love)

It is a story I tell myself that I need constant love.

We are blackened air-domes bubbling underwater. We pop to the surface gasping. You drag me down hard by the ankle. I kick at your face and collapse onto your chest, coming.

We drape in flannel sheets, bare legs stretching from beneath the covers. I roll to my side. You stand up and wipe yourself with an old shirt.

I close my eyes and trace fingers across her lower spine. She is damp with sweat. I feather my chin along her stomach. My eyes lift to her cheekbones, dark hair curled against her temples.

He throws me to my back and I spread my knees and the wind blows out the candle.

He cannot stop cleaning. My intestines are impregnable. Try. Make me.

I don't want to write I don't want to write I don't want to write I have finally clipped my nails. I'd been meaning to since Christmas.

He keeps his wallet in a plastic bag because the zipper has broken. My words are your interpretation. My words are ivy clutching yellowed lattice. I once was a romantic.

Your eyes are becoming my eyes but only sometimes. At the same time I am growing more willing to let you see. I light a candle by flipping a switch; battery-powered flames.

By its flickering light I am knitting a scarf. She is made of a sweater, all stitched together with different colored threads. My words are the needle and the erasement.