What would it be like to actually feel, to gently place my hand on your cheek and watch you breathe? To touch you, to simply be there with and for you. Nothing else, nothing more, no silent plea for you to fix me. Savoring the magic, two as one. Innocent and vulnerable, without the constant need, the drive, the yearning for your special gift to somehow make or prove me well. To be fully alive for even one brief shining instant, to share that eternity with you. To know and love you as you are and not as the one my fearful dreams would have you be. To kiss your tears and taste your laughter. I’m afraid, and I can’t get there on my own. Can you touch me with your love, can you teach me how to feel?
I want to spend the day walking around the lake. Or through the trees. Or over the rocks. I want to breathe the free air and stand on a mountaintop and not be afraid or worried or apprehensive or looking at my watch, thinking I need to be back in front of my computer or at a desk in x number of hours.
I want to remember that time we tossed coins into a wishing well and those wishes came true. The time we collected all the change from our pockets and cars and spare dollars and every cent we could scrape together for gas and went on a road trip to anywhere. I want to sleep in a car. I want to wake up next to my love. Every day. I want to walk by trees I kissed her up against, by lakes we skinny dipped in, places we made love where no one would find us. I want to have memories that warm my heart and lift my soul and make me smile no matter what lays ahead of me. I want to breathe the free air on a mountaintop.
This captive life is harder than we give it credit for.
Our minds are trapped within societal standards we cannot escape; packing up and heading to a new place is no longer an option - society follows us. Besides, there are bills to pay and dirty clothes to be washed and beds to be made, and truthfully, none of us really know how we’d feel about life without toys and television and gas-powered monstrosities. We think things about it - sometimes it seems easy, sometimes impossible; but we don’t really know how we feel about it, how likely it would be that we could survive, not really, not for sure. Wouldn’t we miss all the conveniences? The boxed cereals, the heat in the winter, the stove to cook on, the windows and walls and doors when it’s raining outside, the people to call when you’ve got nothing left to give, the soft sweet sounds of the quiet when only the fan and the fridge make any noise.
How would we communicate? Would we all move to the same corner of the woods? Who would deliver our letters? Do ravens carry parchment, still? Can they still be taught? Can we still be taught? I cannot make my own ink, I cannot gut my own dinner, I cannot tell if a berry is poison or sustenance. I only know poison oak if I start to scratch and the constellations are just a smattering of lovely, dying things to me; the moon and the sun are an eternal dance leading nowhere and I couldn’t find my way to their hiding places if I tried. How much water does an average garden need? Do you eat the entire coca leaf to numb the pain, do you need more than one?
And yet the wild is a home I have been nostalgic for my whole life. I find new places to make my bed and smoke my joints and watch the rain wash the dirty streets, but I always feel misplaced. I hunger for a place I’ve never really been but that haunts my insides like old cancer. I wake up in the night thinking, take me home, take me home, take me home.
I want us to remember this; there’s no way we won’t. The weed is in our skin now, but we still sweat under the heat of this August night. We gulp down caffeine, peeking over our shoulders while we traipse across busy intersections, wondering what fucking color the sky is, asking ourselves how much longer we have. For years after this summer has ended, we will still ask ourselves how we ended up clutching knives in the middle of the night, taking hits off our glass pipe until our fingertips were burned raw, debating calling the police as a last resort, and wishing we were the ones with the fire in our walls. Our inability to just say goodbye has carried us too far, filling up our mouths and lungs with smoke and excuses. We will be forever cautious. We will go past the boundaries of cautious and remain suspicious, untrusting, unable. I will never forget being told that strong stench of vinegar was just heroin, to have a seat, to stop worrying so much. You will never forget the cocaine you snorted, begging him to just leave, crying beneath that alien-blue glow of the television set and your ghost canopy. I didn’t drive him home that day and maybe now I wish I had. You told him where you moved and maybe you wish you hadn’t. We will love again, of course, but we will push back for a while. We will demand to know everything and never once believe we don’t deserve that. We will look for those who hurt us later, holding out our skinned palms, watching the days come and go, and then we will drop all the pieces at our own sore feet. We will laugh at the simplicity of the calendar when we’re asked how long our healing will take. There are all of the songs and films that carry us to and from safety, setting down in the middle of our tornado summer, and those are the pieces we want right now. When all of the pieces belong to us, just let us have what we’re ready for.
There is no such thing as 'forever'.
Seizing your hand on a sultry summer evening
they promise to always be by your side throughout the years
like the mental monsters you grew up with yet hope to vanquish
for no deed denotes nobility like the valiant blade of a simple man
engraved with the words: ”We will get through this, that is a promise.”
We grow fond of the things uncertain to always be at our disposal
and find our perception of perfection shift away from the readily available.
Those with little are rich in appreciation; to move on is to let go,
isn’t the problem child known as ‘love’ the same?
We swear each other undying loyalty until ‘death do us part’,
but like the computer you spent hours on rebooting
just to chat up the second half temporarily separated by ocean and land
a promise can shatter into a million unrecognizable pieces.
Like the land conquered in a strategically brilliant campaign
we wish not to relinquish our firm hold over acquired goods.
Forgetting that life once existed without love, we prioritize it;
The heart we stole is made to substitute our own
for the original stopped beating to end a period of solitude,
and when a barbed arrow tears the tissue mercilessly
we find ourselves lost in familiar territory once known as ‘life’.
There is no such thing as ‘forever’ or a lifelong promise,
we can all but vow to ‘try our hardest’ and even if we fail;
at the very least our hearts spoke in intelligible phrases.
Bruising (Yellow Around the Edge)
Horrible things happened to us both but I crossed my fingers and toes pressed my lips into slim pink incision and wish, wish, wished them away.
There were voices all around whispering of preconceived fault lines barely etched into the concrete destined to become cracks in an already delicate foundation paper thin to start
these fissures ravaged and gutted my snug, neat universe so I covered up the cracks with cheap Picasso prints and hoped no one noticed that the pictures weren’t quite straight.
I chose instead to saturate the seldom marvelous times painting tales full of bright outlandish colors as natural to the touch as bare thighs on silk sheets. I accentuated all the wonderful nuances about you
waxing fondly on about the tattoos between your fingers and the brush of your pinky finger against my dry palms and the looks you gave me when no one was looking,
that at the time-
seem to suspend the universe.
I submerged myself between your nuances because the memories of sleeping alone were coarse and unnatural and frightening and everything that I refused to confront.
I relished in the warmth of another human being folding myself into an origami swan so I might nest in your jacket pocket
among half bent paper clips and old pieces of chewed up gum.
As I was falling
I mistook the concrete
for a kiss.
The leopard is beautiful, sleek in moonlight filtered through my bedroom window. It is looking at me, its eyes clouded by the moon. Those eyes probably woke me up. Even a leopard’s supple grace cannot veil its loud savagery.
It growls. Its claws wink at me. Its whiskers bristling. Muscles tensing. Then I jump. An instinctive, fear-driven jump. Not a rational one. It pounces, claws shining and everything. I hit the floor hard. The curtains flap. I scramble. The clock beeps. And it registers on my head that the leopard has crashed into my bed. I hear ripping sounds as I run toward the door. A roar. A thud as I grab the cool knob. Soft, hungry steps as I open the door. It pounces again. I cannot see the leopard, but I know.
It hits the closing door now, slamming it shut, making me stumble on the other side. Blindly, I run. My breaths are jagged. They do not mask the splintering sounds behind me. The corridor is dimly-lit, but I can see Uncle Chen Fu oozing out of his portrait at the end of the passage. I run faster to reach the stairs before he does. Uncle Chen Fu does not look the same way outside the portrait. He looks the way he did two years ago. He falls after a while because his emaciated legs are not strong enough to support him. He crawls towards me, eyes bloody. His fingers fall apart as he does so. The portrait was five years old.
I run down the stairs, vomit churning in my stomach, as Uncle Chen Fu makes slobbery, intelligible noises somewhere behind me. I apologize and wipe my snot. The phones begin ringing and the alarm clocks begin ringing. It is funny: I only have three phones and about four alarms in the house, but this noise is deafening. The mirrors shake. I do not dare to look at them. I will only see reflections that do not look like me.
The leopard purrs and preens itself at the foot of the front door. I stop, ice, then run back, covering my bloody ears. I can hear it watching, allowing, me to run first. Can hear it thinking. Can hear it raising. Eventually, I hear only my fuzzy footsteps.For a while, there is nothing but fuzzy footsteps. Nothing at all. The leopard pins me down easily. Hot breaths down my neck. A nail juts out, puncturing my back. Yellow fangs. Saliva.
I close my eyes. Gasp as the weight is abruptly gone. I open my eyes: Uncle Ch— body parts are rolling down the stairs. Legs. Eyes. The leopard bounds up the stairs, beautiful, sleek. I scramble. The curtains flap. I run to the front door. The clock beeps. I open the door, the cool knob like a sigh. The mirrors break. The ringing stops.
I run out the house. I run out the house. But there is no garden. No moonlight. I am in another room. I switch on the lights. A rocking cradle. Baby dolls that say I love you. A nursery. Yes. Yes. Of course. The safest room in the world. I feel a warm, furry hand on my nape. I need not look.
I could rip his heart out right here and now, feel the pulsing beneath my fingertips dripping with vitality. My hands blood soaked and the final words bouncing back in forth in my skull; all jumbled and discombobulated. The light in his eyes dimming as I plunge elbow deep into his chest, screaming with violent hues of blue right before I yank as though plucking a flower from the earth.
I could hold his heart in my arctic hands and feel it wiggle in a failed attempt to flop loose and swim the airwaves back into that nook behind his drafty rib cage. It would be unbelievably simple. No logic necessary.
He is currently standing adjacent to me an arm’s length away or so and we are silently sharing a cigarette break. His gaze is averted to the cracks in the blacktop his bare feet rest upon. The line of his jaw is rugged against the tightened skin of his oval face. I imagine the knife tucked in my boot, nestled against my calf and a wild surge of adrenaline shoots through my veins. I squeeze my nails into my palm and form a fist with my restless fingers.
The itch to kill is a scorching fire I cannot put out. I smell hints of fear in every exhale from his paper lips. Fear smells strangely like the tulips he gave me as an apology last May when he fell off the map without a word. This only heightens my malevolence towards him.
My heart skips a beat with excitement. I wipe a drip of drool from the corner of my mouth with the back of my sleeve, toss my cigarette into the dewy grass, and advance slowly to the front door. Once I am inside, I quickly bolt the door behind me to buy some extra time and scramble up the staircase to the room at the end of the hall. I lift the flap of comforter at the end of a queen size bed and roll underneath. The stairs creak beneath his weight as I soak up the shadows and let the darkness infest my thoughts.
The hunt begins.
People forget angels make love too. That while devils and demons make sure to enforce meaningless, there is light and there are clouds that creak to the sounds of thrusts and kisses full of intent.
I have found happiness in heartbreak and found another to lullaby me into darkness that doesn’t entertain night terrors.
My sadness does not have the time or the energy to make the effort to smile. This is also from fear my lips may crack like soil erosion and my cheeks may disintegrate the rest of my face into unrecognizable collapsed pieces of brokenness.
He kisses me with such softness and parts my legs with the same pace as his kitchen clock. I cannot help replacing my dreams with dreams and fall into the anaesthetics of his kisses numbing me from everything else.
Morning thoughts. Waking in his bed.
My first and biggest mistake was believing that love made any sense. What would I have never known if I did not turn to dust and learn that true brokenness is better that false stability.
Love Letter #7
I miss you like you have flown to the far corner of the earth, and I’m chained to a train track where I can’t follow you. I’m held in this space and must wade through time before I will find you. I miss you like the stars in a black hole miss the light. I would learn to warp worm holes and form ftl travel if it could put me in your arms for a minute. My mind is too weak to conjure a portal for passing through fabric of space orbits. I wish I was a shape shifter do I could fly then transform back into myself and wrap my arms around you, press my lips to yours, and live forever in your kiss.
Sincerely, and always a bit of a sci fi nerd,
P.S. I miss you.
One Day in the Shadow
I got fired that day, for the last time. It began soon after. (I took too many pills at once the last time. Instead, I got sick). This time it was early and I had time before they’d come for me. I was on the phone but didn’t tell her it was today. She knew I lost my job and could have guessed the rest. I never let on this time. It was part of the plan. I was saving them and myself from me. There would be no calls, no cries, and no apologies. There would be no note or rituals. It was all self-explanatory,
Take a bit of food and a handful of pills, and then repeat. I ate more than usual that day. This time there was no empty stomach to irritate and fewer than hundreds of pills at once. (I remember the names and effects but no numbers). It was once an hour at least four times before I fell asleep (unfortunately).
The knocking began around seven. The sun had already set. Awake was a bad sign that I would be successful. Soon after, alive and disoriented I was on the street. I still had pills but was without any fluids. There was nowhere close find a drink without interaction. I walked while I thought, though my eyes were blurry. Whatever effect the pills would have was happening, but I didn’t feel weak. I called my little sister. She’d know what to do.
Without pause, she insisted I go to the hospital. She never asked why or what, just that I go. I was five to six miles away, with all I still owned, either worn, or in a backpack. I hadn’t yet decided, but I walked in that direction and stayed on the phone. I was good enough to walk but walking and talking was getting harder. I had to hang up, but first I promised to live.
I reached the ER after a little more than an hour. A woman behind glass asked me why I was there. I responded, “I took pills today”. (Explaining that I didn’t want a tomorrow was more uncomfortable than the pills). She asked, what, how long ago, how many pills I took. The answers were pain, blood pressure, twelve to eight hours and I don’t know. She focused on the, “I don’t know”. I explained that I did not count the pills, because counting is a cognitive process. “The thing that makes someone count the pills is the same thing that makes someone not take them”. “I did not count on purpose.” The conversation continued, with why I came to the ER. “I promised my sister I would come” and “I walked” were the answers to her next question. Finally, she asked why I didn’t call 911. All I said to her was, “it wasn’t an emergency”.
I was immediately taken back and put in a chair. A security guard and nurse watched as I gave my personal information to the clerk. Then I was taken to the ER bed and given my paper clothes. I don’t remember whom I talked to next but I was given an IV and EKG. The let down wasn’t that I’d be okay but learning how I erred this time. One pill was time released so it would have taken maybe days to stop my heart and something as simple as Tylenol would have shutdown my liver. I left out that pill, because I had so many more of the others. The rest of that night just faded into the morning and that is another story.
The First Sciad
Early in the Twenty First Century a tension that had been bubbling for many years finally spilled over into violence. It is my responsibility here to record these times for future readers, should such readers indeed come to be. I hope with all my heart that they will, that we can find a way through these difficult times that currently challenge our hearts and minds.
You will not, I am sure, need me to remind you of the parties involved. They are plenty famous – infamous – enough, without further word from me. Suffice to say that as long ago as the late Twentieth Century tension was perceived between the Einsteinian Relativists and the Quantum Theorists. It was hoped that this could – would – be simply resolved by a process along Hegelian lines: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. But it was not to be. A new century dawned.
Tensions mounted. Correspondence between the two parties became increasingly heated, increasingly rude, then ceased altogether.
Then came the first terrorist attack: March 2031. Year Zero. Both parties claimed responsibility. Then, both assuming the other party had been believed, there were two more in quick succession. Later that year the Relativistic Army and the Quantum Fundamentalists officially distanced themselves from their pacifistic peers. But by then there were already few pacifists left. Both parties charged the other with desecrating the One True Theory. The cost of failure was too great; resort to pacifism was not an option. All force was justified. This was not mindless terrorism: it was terrorism in the name of science.
It was inevitable they should turn on each other. Two forces attacking the innocent, when only attacking the guilty would stop the spread of falsity, the spread of malignant lies that masqueraded as truth.
They – someone – coined a term for it: sciad. It was added to the dictionary:
sciad n. A violent war undertaken by a sect of scientists against unbelievers. Derived from an amalgamation of science n. and jihad n. (meaning ‘holy war’)
If you locate this new word in a recent dictionary the irony of its positioning may strike you, as it did me. For the word directly below is:
sciagraphy n. the art of shading , as in drawing etc
There was no shade whatsoever here. It was black against white. Nothing in between. The battle lines were drawn in chalk and ink; only a fool would blur them.
And all of this, of course, in the name of progress.
So, to conclude: this is the First Sciad. So far there has been only one, for we are still locked within it. The First World Sciad, as it is now officially known, for it embraces all nations, all cultures. Even those whose scientific knowledge lags behind our own have been indoctrinated: missionaries from the sects have seen to that. We do not yet know whether it will destroy us all, or whether some, at least, will survive to build a better tomorrow. Let us hope and pray that this will be so.
The fever of first love is both intoxicating and fleeting. It seemed so unattainable that when it finally happened, I didn’t quite grasp it. I thought I understood it, that I could contain it, but I couldn’t. Not really. It slipped away, fading out until there was only a smudge of it; the unhinged, all consuming brokenness of it. Every feeling of happiness and pain was elevated to the highest degree, so when those feelings were removed, there was an immeasurable aching inside my stomach. I was driving when “Lonesome Tonight” started blaring through the speakers, and I had to pull over because I could no longer see through my flooding tears. I withdrew from that entire album until the pain of remembering him morphed into a dull, nostalgic ache.
It’s impossible to love anyone that way more than once. It was the first time I saw myself through someone else’s eyes and learned what I could and could not tolerate in a relationship. I saw myself revealing raw, unfiltered parts of myself that I had been unaware of, and I changed in ways that I both appreciated and hated. Having someone to share things with that I had never expressed to anyone else was a relief. I watched him absorb everything that poured out of my lips and, still, he wanted to hear more. I told him my favorite stories and memories, dreams that I carried since childhood but knew would never come true, goals that were achieved and the countless disappointments that outweighed them. For once, I didn’t feel embarrassed to cry in front of someone else, or felt any pressure to be anything more than myself. I soaked in new music, sports obsessions, eating habits, and inside jokes without even realizing it. I always said that I would never become that kind of a person, but it’s inevitable, at least in some ways, when you’re in a relationship. People imprint on you, leaving behind lasting marks even after they are long gone. Still, there was a calmness around me that I wished I could capture and fold within myself as a keepsake. I like this idea of running into him, years from now, in this city that took us in when we were both still just kids, fumbling to find a place for ourselves amidst the newness of being an adult.
No Gods No Mangers
“And when there is no hope, I smoke some crack; I shoot some dope. When there’s no enemies I’ll sit and stare at my TV…”
In the summer, during the day, this city feels like hell. It’s an existential sardine can filled with the writhing, sweaty bodies of the damned. Packed in shoulder to shoulder, stacked one on top of another just choking down each other’s stench. Public transportation is the river of lost souls. Except we’re not being quickly herded into the deep and the black of Hades. We’re traveling at the speed of ants burning slowly under a magnifying glass, right into the center of the fucking sun.
At night the city becomes a vampire, humidity sinking into your flesh like a pair of fangs, sucking the fight out of you. Every living room is a cemetery, inhibited by zombies. The television set is a voodoo priest, commanding mindless, drooling hordes of the walking dead. Every bed is a grave, haunted by the lonely, sexually frustrated spirits of the single — rotting alone, for what feels like eternity.
After dark. the streets are a special kind of limbo. Where the ghosts of what used to be decent people wander the earth. Every white light turns out to be a neon sign, flickering like a candle at the entrance of a tomb. Into the belly of the beast, where there’s a million earthly pleasures spread like an all you can eat buffet, but once you have a taste there’s no way to go back. Whatever you consume holds a grudge and eventually, if give half the chance, it will clamp its savage little teeth in and consume you.
During the day, this city is a dog and pony show. A spectacle of artificial intelligence and rigid code. An efficient machine designed to transition the living into the dead. The smiles are plastic. The odds are set. There’s no beating the house. You cash in your chips when they tell you to. There’s no beating death.
At night, it’s a dog eat dog world. Meat is meat. No rules; no clemency. An amoral playground where anything can happen, and “anything” usually means a rough fuck with the tip of a knife blade. The smiles are gashes in throats from ear to ear. The outcome is fuzzy. The house is burning and no one has the attention span to even piss on the flames. You lie, and cheat, and steal to make a buck; to live another day…
But at least there’s no gods or managers looking over your shoulder.
I love this city because it proves that dead men do tell tales…
It’s the never ending story about how any intelligent life in the universe has turned its back on us. Humanity is like a helpless dog, locked in a hot car, who doesn’t even have the energy to lick its own balls anymore.
You deserve a poem, fearless girl.
Books should be written in your honour. You deserve to have authors putting pen to paper, ink and ideas squandered on you, to be wheeled away like rotting corpses after a war. They waste words on the damsel-in-distress and the doubting heroine but what we really need is a muse from flesh and bone, of steel and pride and passion.
Let them write ballads about your journey, the way you dance light-footed around the globe. On your Instagram you are in a hundred different countries, leaping through countless photos, always alone. A picture speaks a thousand words but in your Polaroids- novels are born. Let the thinkers sit and solidify in their thoughts. You are too alive to waste your time on things that are still; let them write.
Shakespeare died four hundred years ago but his sonnets could have been for you in any case, in your relentless chase of love and lust and sex. You, alone amongst so many, enjoy the simple freedom of knowing exactly what you want and having the sheer daring to pursue it. I was one of your conquests: you liked the way my eyes crinkled when I smiled and I gave in to your boldness, to your fearless body marking and tasting and owning.
I don’t know how to write poems, fearless girl, but the curve of your lips is poetry enough.
Lately I’ve been feeling like I want to erase my mind. All that extra baggage – I don’t want it. But the more I want to let it go, the tighter I cling to my past. It’s my security blanket; my reminder it could be worse, that I’ve lived through this a million times.
Love could be the problem, but it’s not my incapability. I loved him. He’s one of those men you find at a diner at three in the morning, slouched in a booth. He’ll have a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other, making dramatic gestures. He loved to argue and I loved to provoke him, proding at him until I found his vulnerable spots.
If you got close enough to him you’d smell the soap on his skin and a faint lingering of pot. I loved to put my head on his chest and inhale; for a while he smelled like home. My closet is still filled with shirts I took from him that have his scent woven among their fabric. Or maybe that’s an echo from my memory.
We aren’t forever kind of people. As our fights got more serious, and I pressed those buttons a little too hard, the time we spent together got less. Maybe there are some pains you don’t mind carrying and maybe there are excuses for unclaimed baggage at the airport.
Sometimes you need to leave it all behind.