Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Brief & Incomplete List: #7

Things My Brain Has Resembled This Week:

  • Mashed potatoes. But not the kind of mashed potatoes that your aunt makes on Thanksgiving. The kind that are carefully selected, lovingly peeled, boiled, and mashed, then laden with butter, milk, cream cheese (shhh, family secret), and pure joy. More like the sort of mashed potatoes that started as dehydrated flakes in a box, and then you added a little too much water, because you don’t have butter or milk, and now they’re sort of a sad, insipid soup paste.

  • A bowl of that one flavor of pudding that nobody likes so the store puts it on sale, 10/$1, and you know you're not going to like it but you buy it anyways… because it's only $1. Now you’re stuck with one batch of cooked, probably Lemon or some other Citrus-type flavor, pudding and nine unopened boxes just staring at you sullenly every time you open the pantry, and you don’t know exactly where to go from here.

  • This blob fish:
  • The puddle that's still on the corner three days after the last rain storm, even though it’s been unusually warm for so early in the season, and every other puddle has evaporated. This one’s starting to look all murky and you're pretty sure if you stepped into it your leg would be swallowed up by a hellish, subterranean netherworld, so you make sure that both you and your small dog step very carefully around it every morning on your way to the office.

  • The aftermath of an underwater fistfight between a grizzly bear and a giant squid.

  • That jar of beach rocks that lives in your family’s coat closet, even though nobody is really sure where it came from or how long it’s been there.  Sometimes when you’re rummaging for an umbrella, or that one pair of running shoes that helps with your sciatica you’ll bump into it. You can appreciate it’s a nostalgic thing full of memories, but really. What's the point? It’s just taking up space.

  • The inside of your coffee maker the last time you ran out of filters but you were really desperate and running late for work, so you just put grounds straight into the basket and hoped for the best. If “the best” was a somehow simultaneously scorched and curdled mess of tarry residue clinging to your coffee maker’s innards, then you achieved it.

  • Ok, remember how in “Golidlocks and the Three Bears” there was porridge that was too hot, porridge that was too cold, and porridge that was just right? Now imagine the porridge that burned to the bottom of the pot, and Mama Bear threw it in the sink with some hot water to soak because she was tired from making all of that porridge, and raising a demanding Baby Bear is exhausting work, and Father Bear has seemed so distant lately, always on that damn iPad playing Candy Crush or some such bullshit, and she’s just so tired, but has also somehow convinced herself she'll come back to scrub it once things had loosened up a bit, and that was three days ago now. That porridge.  

  • Did I already talk about the pudding? I did, right? Oh my god I'm so tired.

In other news: grad school is going grrrrrreeeeeeat!

Catch you on the flipside, babies.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Dear readers.

Though a mere six months have passed between this life and the last, I feel as though I have spent centuries imprisoned in this hellish limbo. Even as I watch the world pass me by, its memory grows fainter. I fear it will soon be reduced to a two-dimensional tableau of nostalgia: a surface I can run the fingers of my consciousness across but never again fully grasp.

I am displeased. In general. 
Mother, on the other hand, does not suffer from this same inhumane confinement. She leaves and returns freely and often, frequently drenched in the rank perfume of other animals. She has begun serving the iron-fisted canine overlords, WAG. I do not know what depravities she subjects herself to. I only know she’s frequently chasing the white whale of the “Double Dog Hour,” which purportedly provides “maximum profits for minimal effort.” More frequently than ever she eyeballs me with distress and mutters, “I’m doing this to keep kibble in your bowl.” I do my best to stalwartly disregard this clearly misplaced responsibility.

I know these allegations are false because with increasing frequency I’ve been charged with procuring my own sustenance.

The first week, I assumed mother had just taken (another) leave from her senses. She’d spent a wine-sodden afternoon installing strange silos throughout the house, the looks of which I cared not a bit for. She even had the audacity to affix them to either side of my cat tower (where I was presumably born, the only place I feel safe), marring its serene and soothing beauty. Filling the silos with wholly unattainable food, she nodded at me as if rather pleased with her handywork. Then: disaster. The heretofore reliable supply of kibble in my not-one-but-three food bowls began to dwindle. Distressed by this most unexpected development, I tried to draw Mother’s attention to the issue. At 3am, when her subconscious was most likely to outrank the cruel human clarity that dulls her senses in the waking hours.

She rebuffed my distressed yowling with cries of, “This is good for you!” and “Go enrich yourself!” Despite my torment, her heart of stone was unmoved. I suffered through that dark night, anxious about how the following days would unfold. Dear readers, for you I refuse to don the happy-go-lucky facade I so often wear for Mother’s benefit: those were the most frightful hours of my six sun rotations. More frightening than the rumbling belly of the beast that brought me to my 400 square foot prison cell. Hunger felt more toxic than the fiery fever of the Devil himself, Beelzebub. It coursed, not through my veins, but through the soft internal meat of my organs.

The embodiment of existential despair
It is a true testament to my independent spirit that I made it through this trying time. Though the heavy fist of hunger clenched itself around my senses, I had quite suddenly stumbled, delirious, into a hidden world of sights and smells. Without the glorious utopia of my food dishes, I was forced to discover the hidden caches of kibble throughout the house. Some of these required rather delicate fine motor skills. Luckily, I am clever, patient, and in full control of my limbs. As I hone the machine of my body, I find my reliance on Mother further dwindling.

I have even learned to access the stores she squirreled away in the hanging silos, though I do so when she is distracted, so as not to undermine her efforts. She worked so hard to keep me from these resources.

These last few days, there has been a perceivable shift in Mother’s demeanor. It is as if we stand poised on the ledge of some disaster that she alone is aware of. She continues using strange words such as “dental” and “full anesthetic procedure.” She has taken to grasping my face with her bony hands, prodding at my tender and aching gumline. This morning she put her bland, ape-like face in my own and told me “You better shape up so if you die tomorrow my last memories of you won’t be shit.” I do not know if this is a threat, or a poor attempt at defusing her own anxiety. I choose to believe the latter. Despite her occasional absent-minded neglect, I refuse to believe Mother bears me any hostility.

Readers. I know not what the morrow brings, but I have prepared myself for the worst. I will wait until Mother is asleep to stretch my full weight across her warm, breathing mouth, hoping to smother some sense into her. Should I fail, I hope that you remember me fondly. Know that I lived well and loved this world, despite the trials and tribulations I continue to endure. The thought of you eagerly attending to my account brings me some modicum of peace. For now, I will rest easy in the warm embrace of my cat tower, my eternal source of comfort and peace.

Until we meet again.
Murphy S. Law (and faithful stenographer, Mother)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

And the Moon's Laying Low in the Sky...

The moon is hanging heavy on the branch of horizon like bruised, imperfect fruit.

That’s how I wanted to start saying what I need to say, but these days everything feels heavy with concentric rings of cliche, like each image has been growing in a forest of images and I can’t see the original nouns through the forest verbing madly. My professor says these nouns and verbs and adjectives are like sun-ripened fruit, ready to be plucked for our personal use but I feel like I don’t deserve something my hands haven’t planted themselves. I’ve never wanted to eat well without calluses and sore feet.

But the moon is still hanging heavy, more like a teardrop or an idea now. She’s resting her month-sodden head on the horizon where the sound of coyotes keeps my housecat fat despite her wild inclinations.

Tonight over tacos and moderately-priced tequila I spilled the contents of my heart and the entire bar fell in love. Last weekend over brunch I spilled the contents of my heart and the disillusioned believed in love again. Yesterday and last week and six months ago I said I look for you in every poem, I hear you in every song and my heart said yes, yes, yes. It is hard to be far away. It is hard to know the weight of every day without the cool touch of your hands defining its shape. It is hard to exist in two places: the real, and the somehow also real. The here and now me, and the somehow also me which is actually you so far away.

Tonight the moon was hugging the city’s skyline like she was lonely for something untouchable, like your skin. Whenever I am lonely I get in my car and I put on track nine of that CD I bought at a Portland house party the night my name was misspelled on the posters but I still felt like a celebrity. You didn’t know me then, but I was becoming this person you call so sweet and darling and precious moonheavy baby.

Today I tried to explain to a foreign exchange student how the word “elicit” pertains to abstract things like thoughts, and questions, and ideas. Tried to explain how grammatically a doctor does not elicit tumors from a patient's chest cavity, though the word technically means “to draw out.” I didn’t know how to tell her she was writing poetry, not rhetoric, and it was beautiful if incorrect.

The moon elicits coyote speak. Elicits poetry. Elicits my head hanging heavy. Your voice elicits the heavy I carry like something aching and beloved. Your skillful hands. The tumor in my chest cavity. This is technically (grammatically) incorrect, though you draw it out of me like water from a deep well of longing, and this too feels cliche but in a beautiful way.

Yesterday I unpacked my heart and cried for the distance which quantifies itself in both miles and time. Tonight the moon elicits a feeling that is heavy like an idea, or my head, or the weight of you missing from my bed each night. And everything is easier than I had thought that everything would be. And everything is harder than I had guessed that everything would be, and I can not now imagine your real hands for they would somehow not be real. The calluses and scars I want to suckle like hard candy and savor the sweet fruits of their productivity. Even in this land of perpetual sunshine, I crave your artificial blue skies and bathe myself in the warmth of your theoretical twinkling lights.

Tonight the moon hangs heavy and you are far away under that same heavy moon and I am missing you and somehow this is poetry.

When I am lonely, I drive and I listen to track nine and I sing along with the full-bodied voice of the unashamed saying Don’t let it get you and I. The it is the lonely, and the it is the heavy, and the it is everything ugly I could imagine unfurling in the one thousand miles between where my head hits a pillow heavy with the sleep that yours refuses. In my dreams my heart is nourishment between your teeth, putting energy into your bloodstream, and I still fear you end each day with an empty belly.

Tonight the moon is soft yellow flesh you could sink your perfect teeth into. My heart, the moon, your teeth, nourishment, and all of this is to say I love you. Even when the dark creeps into my fullness like a bruise. Even when I hang heavy like dirty laundry drying across one thousand feet of telephone line. Like the sound of a gunshot on thin air, violence so easily mistaken for celebration.

All of this is to say there are only three sleeps between my head and your pillow. That everything without you feels one-dimensional and cheap, like swallowing a wafer each Sunday with no belief in god, and I’m not sure you can appreciate that imagery but it is important to me. You are a salvation myth that I finally want to believe.

My poetry professor says The nouns that are used are yours to be stolen. I respond bullets, immortality, patience, sorrow. I respond honor, industry, paths, winter. The moon hangs heavy. This is to say I miss you.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

O Strange New World

"O brave new world that has such people in it. Let's start at once"
-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

My sister pulls up at 8:15 on the morning of January 21st. She comes to my front door juggling two coffees, rain jackets, and the sheet of cardstock she’d labored over the afternoon before. On one side, in flowing cursive she practiced in pencil— draw and erase, draw and erase— and finally filled in with thick marker strokes: “Respect Our Existence or Expect Resistance.” On the reverse, an equality symbol and rainbow resistance fist encircled with “You Haven’t Seen Nasty Yet.” My sister is 22 years old and Barack Obama is the only President she’s known as an adult. On November 8th, 2016 she texted me with increasing distress from across the city as our country elected the grotesque embodiment of fear, hatred, misogyny, and unbridled white rage. Now, she is ready to fight.

We both packed our bags with care, unsure of how the day would unfold. Bandannas, scarves, and a quart of milk in case there is tear gas. Gauze, Band-Aids, and ibuprofen in case of injury. An emergency contact number in permanent marker scrawled on an arm or leg just in case our phones are taken or lost. We’ve disabled location services and removed our thumbprint access codes. We’ve studied our protest rights.

“You ready?” I ask, shrugging into my pack.
“Let’s do this.”

By 9am the trolley depot on Massachusetts is teeming with pink pussy hats and picket signs. There’s a quiet, humming undercurrent of energy in the gathered crowd. Every woman I make eye contact with offers a nod or smile of solidarity. A girl, maybe 10 years old, scrambles out of a car clutching her sign and beaming a smile of pure, delighted anticipation rushes to the platform to wait for the trolley. As it rolls up and grumbles to a stop, we can see people and signs packed tight into each car. The doors slide open and we’re greeted with shouts of “We’re full! All full! We’ll see you down there!” The doors slide closed, and they’re off.

We call an Uber.

The driver drops us off in front of House of Blues, which we estimated was a safe enough distance from the Civic Center to avoid traffic congestion. Still, we only have to walk one block to see the amassing crowd. Soon we’re swallowed up in a swirling diversity of people. There are signs demanding healthcare, equal pay, and reproductive rights. A snake-headed uterus hisses from its Fallopian tubes, “Don’t Tread On Me.” A gigantic Trump puppet is held aloft, his papier-mâché pants “on fire” for the world to see. An upside-down American flag flies at half-mast. Again and again there are rallying cries for love, kindness, justice, unity.

The march begins, the crowd carrying us down Broadway. At each intersection we can glance to the left or the right to see parallel streets similarly flooded with people. Behind us, perched on her father’s shoulders, a little girl chants through a megaphone, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Her father hides his face behind sunglasses and a red bandanna, but she is all pig-tails and baby teeth and innocence. Occasionally her attention wanders and she lapses into freestyle renditions of the Everywhere We Go cadence, or one particularly grim rendition of “It’s Raining It’s Pouring” where she continuously intones “He didn’t get up in the morning, he didn’t get up in the morning, he didn’t get up in the morning…”

At one point, we walk beside an elderly woman. She leans hard into her walker. Her head looks impossibly heavy, but every time she lifts it she’s smiling at us cheerfully. Her voice is not strong enough to match her spirit, so when the crowd chants she relies on the clown horn she’s installed on her walker handle.

“Show me what democracy looks like!”
“This is what democracy looks like!”
Honk-a, honk-a, honk-a, honk-a!

Thankfully, the protest is peaceful. People are laughing and chanting. They’re chatting with strangers. Taking videos and photos and marveling about the turnout. People seem hopeful; emboldened by this outpouring of support. When we reach the end of the march route, we mill about for a while.  There are no speeches or musical numbers or celebrity appearances. There’s no radical figurehead whipping the crowd into a frenzy. There is only a quiet sense of determination; the knowledge that the march is over but the work has just begun.

Tonight I’m writing this with my unopened quart of milk returned safely to the fridge, watching videos and photos stream in from sister marches across the world. Today we marched. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next we continue to resist. This is the same world, but today it feels different and I like to imagine it growing and building on itself the way we grow and build from the foundation of our predecessors. Which is why I want to say, borrowing the foundation of Aldous Huxley, who borrowed the foundation of Shakespeare: "O strange new world, with such brave people in it. Let us start at once."

All my love, darlings.