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.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

For the hardest mile you ever walk

There are nights I lie on my living room floor and watch the moon rise over the three palm trees in my neighbor’s backyard, and I lie there until the moon is replaced by stars, and I lie there until the cold from the concrete has numbed my hands and feet, and I lie there until that cold drives me to brew a cup of tea and wrap myself in a blanket soft and warm as water. Two years ago, I sent myself an email, typed into the subject line For the hardest mile you ever walk and in that email is a link, and it's an article about break-ups but I still read it, and it tells me:

Even though sometimes the world seems about six sizes too small for our pain, the amazing shit is that no matter how deep purple the bruise is, no matter how dark and overwhelming and miserable and worthless it all seems, the world will get a fraction of an inch bigger every day.

It isn’t pain that floors me these days; it’s something more like gravity or breathing maybe. There’s something beautiful and necessary in the stillness, in the way my body presses into the ground and the ground presses back, and the sky unfolds, predictable and clear, the way the sky should unfold.

Last week I printed 48 pages of critical and creative writing and walked to my professors’ offices, and slipped my hours of caffeine and booze-fueled rhetoric under their doors. I turned in my key and my library books and I drove to Sunset Boulevard and parked in a dirt lot overlooking the ocean. I walked as close to those sheer and unstable cliffs as I dared, even though all those signs say Caution: Sheer and Unstable Cliffs, and to be honest, as close as I dared wasn’t even that close because I hate the way my fingers feel full of electricity when I stand too close to a long drop from a high place. It was sunny, and my eyes didn’t know how to handle the bright but my legs liked the way the ground felt underneath them after all of those hours of sitting in chairs and desks, on couches and floors, lying in bed with my back propped against the headboard and my feet falling asleep folded in front of me.

Last week it rained, the sound on the roof like homesick and nostalgia. Reminded me of why I left; reminded me why I would have stayed. Some part of me has been viewing this as temporary, like I’m just play-acting at school and life until I get to go home. But it’s the end of the semester, and I’m still here because this is where I live, and it will be where I live for probably three years, unless something goes terribly awry. I’m passing through the in-between, shedding one life while the other is still raw and pink underneath, all tender around the edges where I’ll eventually grow into it.

Last week we drove through a snowstorm like travelling at warp speed, snowflakes little galaxies blurring at the periphery and I remembered growing up, the cab of my dad’s pickup truck. Gordon Lightfoot through the speakers and the heater cranked so loud the snow practically evanesced as it touched the windshield, leaving just a kiss of moisture, somehow sticky like memory, and I’m thinking about the night before. How our aunt introduced us as You remember, my nieces from Montana that I talk about all the time? and how I am so far gone from that person and description that it took a few beats to realize she was talking about me.

Today I spread the cards out on my couch, asked them What have I learned, and what do I need to know next? They said the easiest way to arrive is to know where you’re going. They said embrace the stillness, there will always be more motion. They said just because you’ve never been on this road, doesn't make it any less traveled; you still have to open your eyes to see the signs. The world feels six sizes too small. The world feels boundless, and chaotic, and unmanageable. The world feels. I feel it. Sitting on this couch. Lying on that floor. Walking along the sheer and unstable edges. Caught up in this in-between where I’m both home and 1,000 miles from it.

My heart says it’s going to be ok. Even when the gravity is too heavy to pick up my head and the texture of my words is wet ashes, and everything feels like a flattened version of itself. The world still feels. I feel it.

All my love, babies.


Monday, November 14, 2016

The Final Will & Testament of Murphy S. Law (Probably)

Dear readers. I must write to you of this dark night of the soul, the icy depths of which I've been awash in since my horrific encounter with the devil himself. You'll recall my first brief and glorious sip of freedom. How the cool nectar of independence quenched the burning desires of this heart, if only for a fleeting moment. Of course the illusion of safety was shattered by a brutal assault on both body and mind. This world is a cruel place indeed, when devils such as Beelzebub strut shamelessly in the streets while innocents like myself are resigned to the torturous interior of hell.

Following the incident, mother was so distraught she presumably forgot how to navigate her way back to the domicile for some interminable time. Luckily, delicate creature that she is, she had the foresight to find a biologically similar substitute before her tenuous grip on reality shattered. This pseudo-mother shunned the established structure and rules of the household. She rose unprompted from slumber each day (before I even thought to demand she awaken), and promptly left the premises. Every day I assumed I had been abandoned, only to be shocked by her eventual return! It is worth noting, she was able to find her way back long before mother’s typical 4am. Despite her abnormal schedule, I can bear no grudge against this False Mother. My rations were provided and ears scritched with some regularity. Soon enough we fell into an uneasy parlay of sorts.

I know not to where mother went, or from whence she returned. But I do know she eventually stumbled wearily through the door, consumed everything in the refrigerator, and proceeded to become unconscious in our bed. Alarmed, I joined her in repose, situating my face near enough hers to feel the comforting warmth of each shallow exhalation. Finally, a modicum of order!

I don’t mean to be melodramatic. But as of yet, neither of us suspected the insidious contaminant festering vilely beneath my skin.

Following mother’s return I drifted along in a liminal daze. I floated ephemerally from couch to food dish, from bed to sun mat. I passed in and out of consciousness, marking the passage of time by the sun’s daily mechanical drift past the window. I began to suspect something was amiss. Fatigue tangled its greedy fingers into the very core of me. Though weeks had passed, I still felt that fiend Beelzebub’s hatred coursing through my veins, as if it meant to ignite my soul.

Trying to convince mother
nothing was amiss within my health
or disposition.
One morning I awoke in my cat tree (where I was born. My sanctuary, the only true home I've ever had) to find mother poised above me, poking at me with one of her bony primate fingers. “Have you always looked like that?” she questioned, turning her head skeptically from side to side. She was referring, of course, to the physical manifestation of Beelzebub’s demonic spite: the pus-filled, putrefying flesh of my flank. Afraid any signs of distress might trigger in mother another psychological break, I displayed nothing but stoic placidity. Each jab rippled with fiery agony, but I gritted my teeth and endured for her sake. Placated by my seeming lack of distress, mother concluded I was “really packing on the pounds,” and our lives resumed their peaceful predictability.

Oh, but friends! Even the strongest willpower cannot override the weakness of the flesh!

The faulty machinery of my body finally failed me nearly a moon after my hellish encounter. Febrile, unable to tolerate the agony of mother’s touch, I lolled helplessly on the couch as she examined my swollen flank. Unable to protest, I was subjected to nearly an hour of her ineffectual simpering. She showered me in worthless apologies. She paced, weeping and mashing her stupid paws on the electronic brick she carries to comfort herself in times of great distress. Finally, having reached some sort of unspoken resolve, the greatest betrayal: she pried apart my clenched jaws to force one of her paralytic capsules down my throat.

In the waiting room of my tormentors.
The ensuing hours are a chaotic nightmare. Once mother was able to gather her wits, I was subjected to the indignity of the so-called “cat purse.” Thus enmeshed, we raced in the rumbling belly of the metal beast to a horror show of unprecedented ilk. There strangers weighed and prodded me like a delectable Christmas ham. The one redeeming quality was the interlopers’ continuous stream of compliments, though I was already well aware of my unchallenged status as “the prettiest kitty in the whole wide world.” I will spare you the details of what happened next. Suffice it to say, though my limbs were paralyzed by mother’s poison, the force of my vocalized rage shook the very rafters of that torture chamber.

At the end of their ministrations I willingly dragged myself into the cat purse, grateful for the thin barrier of mesh between my body and my tormentors.

One unexpected side effect of this ordeal: I appear to have purged myself of Beelzebub’s toxins. I can only suppose that the pure, shimmering fire of my fury incinerated the impurities in my body. Mother, however, seems to have been influenced by the sadism of my torturers. Since that fateful day she has been determined to make my life a waking hell. Every morning she plies me with “antibiotics,” a capsule with no notable effect other than my discomfort in their administration. Additionally, she continues to prod and poke at the sight of my gravest wound. She subjects me to what she has deemed “ouchy peroxide” and “nice, warm, compresses. Mmmm, see how nice?” No, mother. Not nice. Not nice at all.

I do not know how much longer I can withstand these small, daily indignities. I feel my willpower being sapped away, even as the last dregs of pain medication filter through my system. In an attempt to break the treacherous chains that bind my weak-willed mother, I have taken to singing her praises. Day in and day out, I confront her with my soulful cries, urging her to reconsider this pact with the devil. This seems only to aggravate the spirits of darkness running rampant within her. Often, these last few days, she interrupts my song by yelling in my face such vulgar phrases as “WHAAAAT?! What do you WAAAAANT? I don’t know why you’re YELLLLLYIIIIING at me!”

Regardless of what breaks first, my own spirit or the malevolent forces entangling my mother’s feeble human mind, I rejoice in the opportunity to share my trials and tribulations with the world. As I recline in my cat tower (the only stable thing in this ever-shifting kaleidoscope of experience and emotion), it is my sincere hope that good will triumph over evil. Furthermore, I can only dedicate my own banal existence to the empowerment of future generations. If there was one lesson I’ve learned from this ordeal, it’s that freedom is worth risking the sulphuric bite of Hell’s tongue, so long as you make it out alive. Your body (and mother’s credit card) can certainly handle the repercussions. Should I succumb to the temptation of death in light of mother’s most recent madness, know that I lived every moment to its fullest. Especially the ones where I was screaming into the darkness for no apparent reason at 2am.

Be well, my people. Be well.

Murphy S. Law (by cooperation of her stenographer, b)

Here I contemplate my imminent demise, and urge you all
to be strong in the wake of my passing,