well, how do I write a love poem now?
it's been a tradition of pain
some desperate sensation wrenching the bowels
churning and sinking and pulling me down
how, now, can I write about love?
slow, afternoon, accidental porch nap love
unsure, clumsy, awkward
loose and just-for-fun
driving top-down and blind love
love that somehow made it through scarf weather
and back to shorts when nobody was looking
love that went from not having the time let me check my calendar
to when do I sleep next to you again two nights apart is too long
and pick up a bottle of wine on your way
I'll be fresh out of the shower and still putting all the pieces together for you while you wait
I'll even let you seen me without makeup and you dare not say a thing when I put on way too much
love that reads like Dave Barry
love that sounds like a.m. radio
love that floats like clouds in coffee
love that wears like grey scarves
love that plays like a big old dog
love that sleeps like a sleep number mattress
love that calls like a land line
love that echos like a city train
love that sings like a choir boy
love that lays like a blanket
love that tastes like breakfast
love that smells like baby skin
Aretha Franklin. I woke up with "Chain of Fools" in my head. I don't know her, I'll never meet her, she was from a different time, yet here I am on November 11, 2014 involuntarily singing one of Aretha's songs.
Can you imagine being a fixture of pop culture in the way that she is? She's etched into the subconscious of millions of people, spanning decades. That song will live on indefinitely. Even if the zombie apocalypse started today, there would be someone who would wake up on a chilly morning silently singing, "chain chain chaaaaaaaiiiin..." That's incredible. I wonder how it feels to be her. To be a household name. Even people who can't recall a song of hers know her name, they know that dress, they know those gloves. That stuff lives on forever. Can Aretha herself really perceive from the narrowness of her one-person vantage point the permeability of the work she's done? Does an artist ever quite fathom the reach of their message?
I wonder how many artists like her set out to change the world. How many hoped to become as abundant as the air we breathe, a fixture of our culture? The purist in me wants to curse this way of thinking, to call it too self-aware, self-indulgent. But on the other hand, what is so bad about setting an intention? I think the trap is being focused on outcome rather than process. If one gets too wrapped up in the impact or reach of one's art, they might lose the authenticity needed to really self-express. But I don't know that. This idea is so big, experiential, I'd have to try it both ways before having anything real to offer to the conversation.
I'm directing my first improv show five months from now. Right now it only exists on my mental calendar as a spacey, hollow blob on the springtime block. It has no form, it has no space -- the theater space it will be in isn't even built yet-- and it has no actors. And as of now, I have yet to put on a director's hat. My co-director and I have never worked together in this way before. I have a vision for the vibe and subject matter of the show, but until we get those people onstage introduced, bonded, warmed up, out of their shells, working together, trusting one another, on board with the vision, committed to the work, the show can't even begin to exist. It's baffling what it takes to put on a show. I'll have to do something I've never done before -- massage art out of people. I'll be an artistic snake charmer. The thing I want to harness won't come from marble, clay, canvas and paint; it's something intangible that lives inside of other people. People I don't even know yet. Paramount to this endeavor is trust that it will all come together. Trust in myself to charm those snakes. Trust in the hearts and minds of these beautiful actors who will, in turn, put their trust in me and my partner to create a safe and stimulating space in which to come alive.
In this case, there is so much unknown and so much to think about that it seems overwhelming to start considering the reach. Do I want to change the world? Why do I even want to put up this show? So I can prove that I could do it? It certainly didn't begin that way. It began as a spark. My partner and I were rehearsing for an improv show in her living room when she brought it the idea to pitch a show to direct together. Neither of us had an idea of our own but the moment we started talking, we knew it had to be about music, musicians, the industry. I honestly can't say who said it first. It was just there in the room with us. It's the thing we have in common and what we talk about endlessly if we aren't improvising. There was almost no decision to be made. The idea just sparked into reality and within seconds we went to work.
That was five months ago and although I haven't been working explicitly on it every day, I'm always thinking about it on some level. I have raised my antenna and I'm absorbing every wave on this frequency that I can. I'm in the middle of reading my fifth biography of a musician. First it was Linda Ronstadt, then Patti Smith, then Anthony Kiedis, and now Dave Grohl. I don't know these people and it's likely that I'll never meet them but their influence is all around me. It's in the lives of all the artists they've met and worked with, it's in fashion, it's in nostalgia, it's all around in nearly imperceptible ways.
It occurs to me that the question I was going to pose -- Could I that? -- is not sufficient. It's too small, loaded with hesitation and doubt. The question I'd rather ask is this: Am I already doing that? These people probably weren't thinking globally or cross-generationally when they got up in the morning and made their art. If they ever thought that way, it was probably after they had already reached around the globe.
So, am I today making a lasting impact on the lives of the people I meet, work with, perform with, perform for? There's no way to know the answer for sure but I think the key to harnessing that power is in authenticity. By staying true to myself, acting from a place of self-expression and humility and respect for the power of art to influence others, and by just being really here and now, present to each moment, I can have a lasting impact on those around me and start that ripple that becomes a wave.
What would it be like to spend a day in another person's head? To wake up like they wake up, to see how they see, to think like they think, to be right how they're right? I wonder if other people are as mean to themselves as I am. Or meaner. If I went back in time to visit my old brain, I'd be appalled at the sadness and anger in there. My old brain was much quicker to judge, much angrier, much more restrictive, afraid, rule-oriented, worried. What would Gandhi's brain be like? Barack Obama's? My mom's? My baby niece's and nephew's? My dog's?
To be human is to be alone. I've found ways to get around this idea. But sometimes I go back to it. I can't know you, really. I can only know how you are for me. And it will change. Maybe that's all loneliness is: some realization that you'll never really be known, and you'll never truly, perfectly know anybody else. Shit, I don't know myself sometimes.
I had a dream last night that I accidentally overheard the truth that my boyfriend didn't love me. It was as if I had been waiting for that missing bit of information and finally got it. I wasn't even sad -- I was just relieved to know this Truth that I had been seeking. Then I ran away.
This happens over and over in my dreams. I find something beautiful and become overwhelmed by it and let it transfix me. It becomes everything to me. Then I try to share it when others and they don't understand. They just can't get it. I feel flustered and crazy. Then it's revealed that what I thought was this beautiful Truth was, in fact, a lie and I have to run away to save my own life. Hmm.
I feel stagnant. Writing feels hard. I want to go back to bed. I feel like I'm eating my own brain. I guess that means I'm bumping up against something I don't want to look at.
Waking up is like playing the lottery. It's a gamble how I'm going to feel about life from one day to the next. Sometimes I wake up feeling that everything is as it should be. Other days I wake up with something's wrong, something's wrong, something's wrong, something's wrong. I wear it around like pants that are too tight. I desperately want to put on other pants but these are the only pants I have right now. I have to be careful because other people will notice how tight they are and laugh at me or be concerned for me. But the world around me is the same as it ever was.
At times I get so fed up with having to take care of myself. Always working, considering, noticing, being conscientious, efforting. It's work. It's life. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.
Dogs, dogs, dogs, dogs. There are two dogs this morning. My little neurotic Franklin and big, protective Zoe. Well, and some dog a few doors down who wants to be in on it too.
It's cold outside now but still and welcoming. The air is dry and crisp. The leaves shiver. That dog is still barking.
The feeling that I'm doing everything wrong is creeping up again. What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? Leave me alone, voice.
"I don't mind whatever happens." I don't know who said it first but a very loving, wise old man said it to me.
I - that's me
Don't mind - to not be bothered by
Whatever - any possible thing
Happens - life unfolding
There's a lot of space and freedom in that statement. I've been chanting it for days. I don't mind whatever happens. I don't mind whatever happens. Can you imagine what you'd do if there were no consideration of the outcome? If you just lived every moment for the ultimate expression of the self, a maintenance of integrity, and without attachments? It's work. Hard work that never stops. But that's the sweet spot. That's when life works.
In looking deeply at the scams I run on myself, I've run another scam on myself. When I try to keep my word and I break it, I'm a fraud. I'm full of shit. I get back up and do it again and again. That's the human condition, I suppose.
I feel like there's something I'm supposed to share with the world. The whole world. A story, a joke, a poem, something. I've been looking deeply not just into myself but into others. What can I share with you? How can I let you in on this THING that lives inside of me?
Today I get to work with a friend I haven't seen in a while. He only works Saturdays and I rarely do. As much as I would like to sleep in today, I'm looking forward to that hug.
When I meet someone, I immediately want to know them. I want to let them know how special they are. I want them to be seen. And I want to be seen by them.
I like your necklace. That's my favorite salami. Look how much we have in common.
Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to work in a place with a constantly rotating crop of new people every day, every hour, every minute. The regulars are the comfort; the newbies are the spice. Some days I can just barely peek through my own fog but other days it's clear and I see right into their souls.
I want a way to honor all the people that are special to me. All these people. All the weirdos. Everybody's a goddamn weirdo.
The guy who's distracted by a faraway sneeze. He has to leave the deli before his turn because he's so grossed out.
The lady who needs me to cut the rind off her ham. It's too dang hard to chew.
The vegetarian woman who dutifully buys oven roasted turkey for her sick cat. She gags when she looks at it.
The old couple that still acts like teenagers. He talks like he's on acid and she thinks he's the king. She pulls him along behind her, laughing at all his childlike observations.
The guy who is either flirting or is just a really pleasant, polite, noticeably present person.
The twenty-year-old twins who always shop together. They both hold onto the basket and quietly consult each other on every purchase.
The young stressed out mom who needs her ham sliced thinner this week --to crumbles--lest her child refuses to eat it again.
The thirteen-year-old boy with braces, changing voice, and hairy upper lip trying on confidence. He orders his cheese looking off to my left and then back at his parents. They stand proudly behind, beaming with pride and thankful that I'm being patient. Every week he's more sure than the last.
These people. I love them. Even the asshole who tried to fight me over the price of Canadian bacon. I love him. He reminds me what this world really looks like. How on earth do I honor these people?
Good morning, page. I've missed you. I thought about you all night and shot straight out of bed without hitting snooze to get to you.
Today is my mom's 74th birthday. I guess that's pretty old. I haven't seen her since Christmas and I miss her. It takes a lot to miss her but I do. I miss her smell. It's the original scent of skin - so familiar, distinct, irreplaceable, comforting. She calls me pumpkin and pats me on the back when I hug her goodbye.
I'm in a missing mood. I miss my boyfriend. Four days can feel like forever. I need lots of skin-on-skin time. There's just no substitute.
I need to reconnect with my friends. It's easy to feel lonely when you see your friends making art and hanging out without you. Most of my best lady friends have moved far away. Oregon, Chicago, NYC, Portland. I'm proud of them for making the move. They're all up to big things.
The dog is eating away at his own skin. It's like he can't get enough of teeth-on-skin time with himself. He's a pack animal; maybe he misses biting the skin of his mother and brothers. I bit him on the neck last night and he launched into a whole other level of play that I had never seen. Maybe I should think more like a dog when we play.
It's already 3-blanket time around here. If it's under sixty degrees, it may as well be the dead of winter for me. I need a heavy blanket to shoosh me off to sleep. If it can't be skin-on-skin then I guess three blankets and four pillows will do. One pillow rests under my head, one under my arm, and the other two form a barrier between me and the deadly wall. I can roll over and feel the pillow there and snuggle it. Otherwise, I'd roll off into the endless, cold, dark abyss that is the other side of the bed. I'm in a missing mood.
I had a dream that my old work friend was accused of murder. Some fucked up torture scenario that I can't recall. Her face was flashing all over CNN -- all the worst shots. Half-blinking, tired, sadistic-looking shots. And videos of her saying questionable things out-of-context that anybody would say if they thought they were in private. No one is perfect and it's so easy to find dirt on people if all you want to find is dirt. I cried and cried because I knew that even if she did murder someone, she was a good person. But her life would never be the same, guilty or innocent.
No matter how completely you clean up after your mistakes -- acknowledge your actions, take responsibility, apologize, seek out those you hurt -- you can never get back to where you were. All you have is now and now and now and now. The catch-22 is, you can't stop making mistakes. And even calling them mistakes is misleading. There are actions, consequences, and reactions. What one calls a mistake, another might call a blessing. I've made plenty of these so-called mistakes in the past two years but they have all led me here. My life is more perfect, more complete, more me than I ever could have imagined.
I just found myself doing something I did for countless hours as a kid-- staring at my skin. I would sit under a sunny window and let the sunshine make sparkles every color of the rainbow. It shimmers like diamonds - purple, green, yellow, red. It's a lifeless desert. It's a map with blue rivers running through it. There's a pulsing force beneath trying to escape. I got lost in these questions. How does the body know where fingers should stop and fingernails should start? How do we get our fingerprints? Why don't dogs have fingerprints? These are my fingerprints and no one else's. There are so many people in the world and no one has these fingerprints. For a child, this is mind-blowing shit. For an adult, it's all science. DNA, genetics, the circulatory system, blah blah blah. We can't un-know what we know about our bodies but it's incredibly satisfying to indulge in that again. To get lost in the tiny hairs, and now scars, and tap into that wonder, to feel small, to grapple with the paradox of being totally unique but ultimately a blip on the radar of humanity.
When my dad was in hospice -- at the very end when he had lost consciousness -- there was nothing to do but sit quietly and stare at his hands. I'd always loved his hands. Leathery, covered in a million scars, swollen knuckles, wooden fingernails, dry, dry, dry. There was no window or sunlight to make sparkles on his skin. I don't think there were any sparkles left at that point. He was gone in a matter of minutes. But I still have his hands burned into my memory. And besides the scars, my hands look just like his. He is always with me.
I had a dream that I called my sister. We haven't talked in many years. I
assume she knows some things from context clues on Facebook, but she doesn't really
know about my business, my divorce, my life as it is now at all. And I
don't know her kids anymore. Her daughters are 15 and 13. Her son, who
was a shy little toddler last I saw him, is up in the double digits
himself. In the dream, it was effortless. I don't even remember who
called who, but I picked up the phone and, as if by magic, she was there. We picked up
right where we left off.
30 minutes of creative writing. It sounds easy but it's not. So many things get in the way.
I have to pee. The dog needs to pee. My neck hurts. I need a desk. One complaint after another comes into view, between me and the page. Now the roommate's taking a shower. I'll never get to pee.
Sometimes I wonder what my heart is doing. Is it beating right? How big is it, really? What's it look like? Is it going to betray me someday? Have I already betrayed it? When will it tell me it's had enough bacon and that I should have paid more attention? It's always with me yet I've never really seen it.
I miss the smell of sycamore trees. No, I miss feeling good when I smell sycamore trees. Now I feel nostalgic and vaguely rotten and twisted up inside. I used to have family. I used to have childhood. But I'd never fight to have either back. Funny.
My room is a little nest of warmth. I've put trust into a forty dollar heater to keep me warm and not kill me. It's full of oil. It crackles. I'm suspicious. So far, it does its job. Please, heater, don't kill me. If I say I trust you will that help? I think you gave me this headache I woke up with. Now I have something new to blame these morning headaches on.
Ah, sweet relief. Bathroom access permitted.
The dog does not understand the dog door. The cat does. The dog sees the cat move freely in and out, from yard to kitchen, from human world to animal world over and over every day. Yet he does not assume that he could do the same. I've showed him how; we've done it together. But for him, it's not an option. He will wait patiently (or impatiently?) for twelve hours for me to open that door so he can pee. He's free and doesn't even know it.
For a year I woke up sad every day and knew why. I just didn't want to lose. I wanted to be right. Every pain in my heart not caused by death is caused by my rightness. I'm right about that, by the way.
These days, I wake up inside a space. It's quiet. It moves slowly. I see myself from myself floating somewhere off to the right. I can feel my hand resting over my heart. I open my eyes and for a brief moment, I know that I am safe.
the arms of autumn reach me through the window
it's fifteen years ago and I'm a child
alight with the unknown, my eyes gone wild
within my gut the stadium's crescendo
the dirt beneath the bleachers cool and mild
the arms of autumn reach me through window
it's fifteen years ago and I'm a child
the crickets sing out future songs of sorrow
the beating hearts and drums unreconciled
what first was sweet the second kiss beguiled
the arms of autumn reach me through the window
it's fifteen years ago and I'm a child
alight with the unknown, my eyes gone wild
I was at work in a big, old house. One room contained a giant picture window facing an open horizon
with a perfect view of the sunset. I stood before the window and could see that the sky was vibrant, and the clouds
were violently swirling, swelling, moving like they were time lapsed. I had the sense that the sky was putting on a show just for me and I couldn't
believe how lucky I was. People walked in and looked at me but they
didn't speak or stop to watch the sky with me. They were too busy. I ignored them and lay down
on the floor. It began to storm violently. I watched clumps of clouds
slam onto the ground and make thunder. I peered through the sheets of water that poured down the glass, focused and unfocused my eyes to see the infinite shapes these simple drops of water formed together. As I let the display wash over
me, I was filled with great peace and a secret sense of understanding.
All these people around me -- how could they not stop and take the time
to watch this? When the storm concluded, the clouds broke and the sky
was crystal clear, the darkest black, with a giant full moon right in
I saw another moon appear off to the left, close to the horizon. Though it was full
and gave a glow like the real moon, it left me with an uneasy feeling.
It suddenly began revolving around the sky over and over. I knew I should have been impressed but I couldn't let myself enjoy it because it didn't make
sense. I went outside on the patio with everyone to check it out. It
disappeared briefly but was soon replaced with... what was this? A
glowing World Cup 2014 soccer ball? The crowed oohed and awed but it
didn't feel right. It felt cheap. Then the dancing, glowing light transformed into a
butterfly that tickled people's faces, a lumberjack that made
conversation, a dog that barked.
The crowd grew restless and turned on each other. I ducked to get away, but the light focused its
attention on me. It had assumed the shape of a stuffed monkey with a
dart gun. It locked eyes with me, took aim, and shot at me. The crowd
watched on as I slow-motion Matrixed my way around each dart. When the battle was over, I had only a moment to feel triumphant before a crazed man from the crowd brandished an open knife at me, demanding a fight to the death. I pleaded
for him to let me go inside for a moment. There was something I needed
to do in there. He relented and I ran inside the house. I somehow found
the strength to push the angry mob off the door and lock it behind me.
In the relative quiet of the house, my brain switched into survival mode. I straightened my spine, dashed
off to the back room, found my purse, my debit card, and my phone. I
made my way to the back door. I would run. I would not fight. I would
run. "You've done this before," I thought. With my hand on the door
knob, I remembered a stash of guns in the cabinet. I slid open the cabinet door
and grabbed a .20 mm. Not big enough. I grabbed a 9mm. No bullets. Fuck
it. I don't fight fire with fire. I'm running away. I threw the guns
back into the cabinet and ran out the back door. Then I woke up.
ghosts laugh behind red lights
mock 290 and Lamar
tease Oltorf and Lamar
taunt 5th and Lamar
torment Airport and Lamar
scorn Rundberg and Lamar
up up they gaily tread
the highways their highways
gobble up white broken lines
knock over leaning houses
rip up swaying bluebonnets
guzzle up red quicksand
grow weary at the border
the one we never reached
take refuge in high neon lights
still smirking in their sleep
every place to come a cruel jest
another revel for the ghosts