i tried to figure out the rhythm of her heart while she slept on my foot

August 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

my dog doesn’t like it when i listen to her heartbeat
i don’t really like it either i can’t quite place the rhythm it’s either
six beats one rest or four beats one rest or six / rest / four / rest
every rest i think she has died
i hold my hand to her heart to get the measure of something
and she slowly rolls away
maybe she thinks i will kill her maybe it’s simply a spot too tender
to touch

barely morning still dark
the space between inhale and exhale
i feel the wind between my cheeks
mouth full of summer leaving
song on the radio says isn’t it isn’t it
i find the tender heart of the present the space
between this suffering and that suffering
for one second it’s everything and then it’s gone and i can’t
quite get that beat down again

my dog looks up at me
getting dressed for the early shift all stretched out impossibly
taking up the whole bed she looks at me like stay
how is my look back i have to do these things to pay rent
she blinks slowly just stay
she doesn’t understand anything but the space between suffering i think

yes people are forever writing about what their dogs teach them
and this is my lesson she really is so good and not in the ways
i’ve selfishly shaped her here she is exploring each pocket of the porch
sniffing out bees and lizards and sitting among the flowers and chewing
the wood chips i painstakingly spread thick and wide she goes wherever
her heart takes her until basically until basically i step in

my heart is taking me somewhere somewhere pretty nice i think even though
i might just sleep with my coworker even though the fantasy of him is much
hotter than the reality and i might just have tea with my ex every week so she
can see me as good as healed as not the one who caused her all this pain even
though eventually i’ll cancel our standing plans closing the door yet
again when i feel better because that’s what i’m still getting unstuck from

my dog hates the car like hates it enough that the anti-anxiety meds i stuff in her
mouth just make her lay down not even sleep she pants her heart races
but ten minutes later we are in the woods twenty and we’re at the creek
twelve hours later we’re at the sea and she can spin like a maniac across the sand
never have i seen her bound for joy like when we get to the beach the creek
the forest but i wonder if the suffering is worth it for her
i wonder if dogs kill themselves ever like birds can pluck that one feather above
their heart that makes them bleed out
suddenly i’m wondering if that’s apocryphal

if there’s one chance i get to strip away suffering in this life
the only real chance i have is with my dog
so how am i doing with that and does it have anything to do with what i’ve
stripped away in my own?

i don’t know where we’re going and now i’m the one panting at the window
sticking my face in the breeze and then changing my mind it’s a little too much
we’re going a little too fast for all that and not fast enough how are we still
in this hellbox it’s been seven seconds hours lifetimes and when we arrive
it’s pretty spectacular i have to say even though it’s one space between breaths
one moment in a billion trillion moments where everything feels okay and
like maybe all the suffering was a different life or a dream or just a movie
i saw once and cried at and then we get back in the car even though i’m
screaming and shouting no and i
wonder how many more times can we do this
before it stops being worth it

 

 

despite

September 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

when i was a child

my father told me marilyn monroe was beautiful

despite a small brown circle above her lip

 

when i was older

my father showed me pictures of the women he went on dates with

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

 

my father told me stories of the women he went on dates with:

vain cruel insecure

 

when i was a child

we had many large photographs of marilyn monroe

including one above the couch

where i sat beneath her

where his dates sat beneath her

we became a thumb

caught in the frame

 

people ask: was she really even that beautiful?

people ask: or did [they] decide who was beautiful and who was not?

 

people say: [someone else] is much more beautiful

 

i have no interest in individual beauty

either everyone is beautiful or no one is

beauty is so often cruel

beauty is always cruel

 

i hope i am beautiful

i look in the mirror and i don’t see it

i see a thumb caught in the frame

 

i say i love myself and the despite gets swallowed

despite: hair

despite: nose

despite: skin

[she was beautiful despite]

 

my father wrote a book on empowering women

my father came from a shattered cruel woman

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

 

i hope i am beautiful one day

one day i hope to look in the mirror

and see the ocean instead

 

one day i will look in the mirror and see

something big and beautiful

and cruel

 

love takes your shape

February 11th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

 


 

tell me how to love you best

with words that feel softest on your body

and pivot your heart godward

 

tell me how to love you best

at sunrise, to the sound of you coming

 

tell me how to love you best

when the world has weathered you

when a slammed door

sets you running from a buried memory

when hope becomes ash on your tongue

 

tell me how to love you best

and tell me how it changes

 

tell me how to love you best

when every day is deadly

 

tell me how to love you best

and tell me how to feed you

 

tell me how to love you best

and tell me how it changes

 

tell me, so i can show you

that love is water

and you are its ocean


 

Fifty-Five Notes to My Ex, Collected in a Box Under My Bed

December 7th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


During the first week of the break up a friend gave me a box and a stack of blank notes. She said to write down every thought I have of you and put it in the box. I kept both the box and blank notes next to my bed. For thirty days, when I woke up and when I went to sleep, I would write down the thoughts I had of you. These thoughts are both liberating and painful to read. I fear that I don’t come off very well. But this is what the truth looks like, I think. The thoughts I had are as follows, over the course of a month, in random order. This is what heartbreak looks like, even when it is done consensually and lovingly.

  1. What if the future is just me being secretly in love with you?
  2. I saw a flash of your picture on a friends phone today.
  3. I wonder what you’re doing.
  4. I am both thinking of you less and less and still factoring you into every decision.
  5. I’m afraid you no longer love me or care about me.
  6. I wouldn’t be writing this novel if it wasn’t for you breaking my heart.
  7. The anger I feel toward you is a wall—I don’t want to go back to taking care of you.
  8. I’m still holding out hope for you
  9. I slept with some else today. She felt differently than you did, came differently than you did. This is nothing new. But I noticed it.
  10. You are starting to fade from my memory.
  11. Cigarettes have been incredibly effective at erasing my feelings for you. Except now I’m in love with smoking.
  12. Once again you’ve ruined the Mountain Goats for me
  13. You taught me a lot about love. I taught myself more.
  14. At first it was uncontrollable pain that compelled me to write these notes and put them in a box. Now it’s a way to recognize the (smaller) space you hold inside of me. Every day that space shrinks. I wonder what ghost of you will linger on.
  15. I’m afraid that you have forgotten me
  16. You had two chances with me. Now you don’t get me at all.
  17. If I find out you’re dating someone else I will burn your life to the ground.
  18. I’m sorry my email was so cold.
  19. I’m afraid I won’t find anyone better than you. You are so good.
  20. I talked to you on the phone today and you said that you sometimes look at pictures of us, wondering if you made a huge mistake.
  21. I seem to have been successful at burying my love for you.
  22. I wrote you a nice email even though I’m still committed to being angry at you.
  23. Every time I see one of your friends I want to tell them to tell you to go fuck yourself. But I don’t. I’m not asking anyone to hate you. The truth is, there is no one to blame here.
  24. I finished a novel today. I both accomplished a lifelong dream and gave you the biggest fuck you I could possibly think of.
  25. I just want to be held by you.
  26. I’m having a love affair with cigarettes
  27. Honestly, fuck you.
  28. These have become my letters to you, in absence of our communication. Today the moon was either waxing or waning.
  29. I am mourning our future.
  30. Yesterday I realized that we are not getting back together. I wasn’t doing anything special. I just felt it finally.
  31. To be honest, when I hear your name, I think “you can go straight to hell” in exactly the intonation you would have used.
  32. I don’t know what kind of truck you’re driving now so I look for you in all of them.
  33. Why am I smoking?
  34. I miss being your priority.
  35. How many times can I refresh my email until there is one from you?
  36. It feels so painful to hear others talk about sex and relationships.
  37. It’s unbelievable how many things remind me of you.
  38. Turns out this town is big enough for the both of us.
  39. I’m no longer counting down the days until we talk again.
  40. If you hadn’t broken my heart, I wouldn’t have written this novel.
  41. It’s been almost a month since we last spoke and the end is kind of in sight.
  42. I’m afraid that any reference to New Orleans will always hurt. I thought I would lose you to it. Turns out I lost you while you were still here.
  43. What if we are never close again?
  44. I wrote a whole book and I still miss you.
  45. And still—I’m dreaming of you every night.
  46. There was an email from you today but it wasn’t just for me. I read it and then deleted it. I don’t need you.
  47. Will I always be in love with you?
  48. I miss being held by you.
  49. I have avoided looking at the moon since we broke up.
  50. Who could possibly measure up to you?
  51. I can say your name now without pain ripping through my body.
  52. I have nothing left to give you.
  53. I wish I could tell you the incredible ghost story I heard today. I know exactly the face you’d make.
  54. Every night I dream that we are back together.
  55. I knew every moment with you was precious—and still—I thought we had more time.

 

Not now.

November 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


It finally hit me today that it’s over. It’s been twenty-one days since you broke up with me. I am still in shock, still mourning our future. But today, while I was doing nothing in particular, I realized you’re not coming back, we’re not on pause. And that I need to move on. The grieving process has been a slow undoing, shedding off the layers of you. I still am waiting for you to call and say you’ve made a mistake but the longer I wait the more foolish I feel. I can’t wait forever. And part of me thinks I will always be in waiting, forever. And I feel anger now. At you. For taking up so much space in this town, in my life. I feel anger. I feel anger. I feel anger because my heart wants to make a clean break of it. If I see you, I want to tell you to fuck off. Because you had no right… And here’s where the anger dissolves, and becomes something more complicated. You had every right to take care of yourself. Am I angry at the trauma you went through that made it so you have a difficult time setting boundaries? No, I am saddened by that. Truly, I don’t want you to feel unnecessary pain. Once again, I find that I am begging to hate you and I’m coming up with only love. Am I angry that you’re trying to heal yourself? Of course not. I wish it had happened sooner, I wish we could still be together. I wish I could brush my teeth with you, our socked feet touching. And we could once again ride in my car, singing along to Mariah Carey. I wish I could be in your arms, feeling safe and loved and held. My heart can’t make a clean break of this. I am shedding. Every day without you is another reference point for my life without you. Every day the future looks a little different. There is far less of you in it. Maybe one day, we can laugh and hold each other and sing badly. Maybe one day we can be there for each other to confide in, to bring each other soup and understanding. I don’t know when that day will come. I can’t wait for it any longer. If you want to be with me, you’re going to have to do the work. I’ll be over here, reading by the fire, writing a novel, spending time with my chosen family, cuddling my dog. Maybe one day you’ll be back in that picture. But not today. Not now. It’s over.


The only thing that’s changed

November 14th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I am still in love with you. The only thing that has changed is that we are not together.


 

I have to write about you first.

November 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Tomorrow will be two weeks since you ended things. You ended things poorly. At least, that’s not how I would have done it. It was the first time I’ve ever seen you cry. You lay with me for a while and when you left I screamed “no” over and over and over again, so loud I thought my throat would tear open. I cried for days. But that’s how everyone does it, right? We all say: “I cried for days.” By the fourth day I was hiking alone, astonished, repeating: “I have the remarkable capacity to heal.” It’s true. I can heal, I am strong. I have a community that loves me in ways I could never love myself. And yet, I feel lost, I feel empty. I try to make conversation and my lips have only your name.

At first, I thought that I would never be able to trust anyone again. That might still be true. And still, I find myself cultivating trust for you. I do trust that you did what is in your best interest. Things are different with this heartbreak. For one, I still love myself. I feel proud of almost all of my actions. I’m being transparent about how much this hurts. And you are not a villain. All of those talks we had, us and our community, about queer break ups, they set a precedent. I did not ask anyone to hate you or reject you.

One week to the day and I still thought we might get back together. I met you at your place and immediately you said that we were broken up, you needed to be clear about that. That’s when I cried again. I gave you a letter I had written, a letter that I had to go to fedex to print. It outlined the ways we could be together, to heal together, to set boundaries together. I thought we were still in this together. Perhaps in a way we are.

My phone feels empty without you. My email feels empty without you. My mind does not feel equipped to understand how to go from constant communication to nothing. No good morning text, no goodnight moon. I don’t know what you ate today or who you saw or what work you didn’t accomplish or what amazing ways you stood up for yourself and others. You were the person I trusted beyond all others, in ways I never thought possible. I opened up more and more of myself. And still. I know that I was enough. But I still wasn’t enough.

That day, one week later, we lay together, I felt your hand run along my back. My ribs craved you, my mouth craved you, my cunt craved you. I felt you crave me in a way that I had almost forgotten. I remember a few weeks after we had gotten together, you didn’t seem excited to be with me. I told you this and you said that hurt to hear. I was enough and I wasn’t, even then. I know what it’s like to feel bottomless, to fill and fill and fill and still be empty. How long have you been this way?

You had me on my back, naked, except for my boots. You said: if you ever feel like you’re not sexy, remember this moment. That night when you hugged me goodbye, we were all glittered and masked. You said you love me, I said I love you.

How long until we stop being in love? Maybe you’re there already. This breaks my heart, all over again. You are like water through my fingers. The moment I fill up on you is when I start losing you.

Two weeks to the day. Every memory I have brings me to you. You are etched into every road, every building, every corner of my house. The only way I know how to forget you is to retrace every step without you, over and over, until you are a faint line. You are not a ghost, you can’t be forgotten. I am retracing and you are tracing all new lines. It’s just that they are being carved without me.

I think back to those days when we kissed and the whole world was still ours to build. Two weeks ago.

Those days—two weeks ago.


Hindsight

November 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


I am discovering days where we where we

Where we kissed and still had the whole world to build.


bush-hog to god

October 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

There was a time when I needed to shave my head.

The end of October, standing on four years sober. I was broken & leaking & open. It rained. Damp porches, the daylight a closing door. Everything in calendar: days since I moved, days since we ended, days until winter, days sober, days since my last, since my last.

I had the razor already, sheathed, waiting for impulse to strike. A party was being prepared, elsewhere in the house. And then the first kiss: the guzzling blade to hair to scalp. I chose the crown of my head to start with, which is to say I chose to not turn back. Whole calendars lifted & relinquished into the sink. My history. My hair. Burn it down. Raze it to the ground.

To talk about hair is to talk about race, is to talk about gender, is to talk about expectation, assumption & oppression.

For me, to talk about hair is to talk about the little war I’ve been fighting every day for as long as I can remember. All hair, everywhere. Calendars marked by hair. Laser appointments, haircuts, waxing, all Sunday spent in the salon chair, painting chemicals onto my head, straightening a few finger-gathered strands at a time. Days, hours, cm, mm. Darkness, thickness, visibility.

It’s to talk of hormones and femininity and sexuality.

The parasitic wasp, these notions of beauty. So deeply seeded you don’t recognize it as foreign, as not mine. Until you are tearing at your body trying to destroy it from the outside in, while it expands, occupying more, claiming more. Hair: leaves me feeling too repulsive to live with, or to look at. At which point it feels very much like mine, & “it” being what exactly?

They say god hid itself inside of each of us, waiting for us to arrive at a divine moment of self-recognition. I think it must be even further down, beneath all of this other crap. Most of us never get down that deep.

A shaved head is a swung needle, pitched right or left, all of the way: the extremes of spirituality, of bigotry, of illness, of war. It’s to lay bare identity. To uncover, to unframe. I unframed all of the things I thought about myself, pictured confidence first, hoping my mind would follow.

Act as if, they say.

A shaved head, my bush-hog for god.

People believed me, I think. I believed me. And it was true in that regard. It is a mainline to self-love and self-acceptance, this hyper-visibility, real or perceived.

& then the regard of others: Men stopped me on the street and told me I was beautiful (reluctantly flattered; unwillingly welcomed); older women admired (so bold!) and peers praised (badass). I swung on this attention: hooked myself to it, pulled up and up, for a time.

“Are you a boy?” a child asked me. I hesitated, not-sure, suddenly, once again, non-neutral.

& yet the people I was attracted to (who might also be asked if they were boys) seemed further away, my appearance unarticulating my insides: the fluid movement of self from room to room: butch & femme & strength & grace. (Here’s where I want to say “or.” Here’s where I resist intersection.)

Who did I do this for? I asked myself.
Who am I doing this for?

There’s hair and then there’s hair. There’s the glamorized and there’s the war. How good it would feel how free to let it go. To toss the arsenal: tweezers, razors, waxers, lasers, clippers, bleachers, relaxers. When I talk about hair, I talk about both kinds, and they are the same, they are both pain.

I stand on one side: the exhausted I wish this weren’t a thing side, the taming, the fighting back.

Some divide, I see another: one of expression, of making personal, of fighting for, taking back notions of beauty, of worth. Reclamation. The only reference point I have, some keyhole to the other side: the first time we had sex, the hundredth, and every time was different, every time felt like an opening, a shrugging off a lead blanket: the lie we had been told: that we had just one way of fitting together. Sex with you felt like liberation. Felt like coming home. Reclamation.

With this, with hair, I know I’m being sold a lie. I know it and that knowledge does nothing for me. When I talk about my hair, I talk about growing it back, blending back, passing. I recognize the choice. & if I choose nothing?

A shaved head was once a forest fire. A fertile void.

It’s October again. Almost five years since my last, since my last. I suppose I call this place home now. The treeline diminishes. My hair like bristle: the razor, sheathed.

This is the way I know to let time take time.

 

 

It’s About a Book

August 24th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I ask my heart, please, never stop speaking to me. I ask that, when I wander far from my dreams, my heart press me and sound the alarm. I swear that, every time I hear the alarm, I will heed its message.

– adapted from The Alchemist

 

I.
it’s
about a book
and the book is you

I look up from the last page
and there you are
ordering a small cup of coffee
from that place off Myrtle

you’re telling me
one hand like a catcher’s mitt in the air
how close you’ve gotten to the flame
how much brighter it burns at this length

the barista slides the small cup toward you
and you make a joke
something like “you’re like my favorite human alive now”
laughing first and louder
it’s that your laugh is a tower

 

II. next chapter

in whole foods the ceiling is starless, dark
you’re telling me your skin feels like paper
this close to the fire

“sorry” you say
“no sorry” I say

 

III. next chapter

you’re a gray bubble
worrying about the final chapter
an ellipses, this is you thinking

this is me thinking
of the star who drives
by her own light

who is very much the forest
who is very much the fire
who is very much the tower
who is very much the doe
who is very much the star

 

IV. final chapter

the author announces
on some late night show
there will be ten more books
each so thick you’ll need three people
to read it

its name will surprise you
it will tell you something about the story
but not everything

it will ask you if you should order
another coffee

it will draw another card
it will show you each brick in a giant tower

it will be a word, underlined, that you can live in
while the rest is written

 

V. epilogue

and the fire is you

 

 

 

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