for juniper

May 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

 

there once was a witch
who time-traveled with nothing but
two black cats in her small bag and
many names for every occasion

and they called her sister

her magic was born of blood dirt piss tears
her magic grew from the ground and rained from the sky
her magic wrote songs in the fire that burned themselves
deep into her flesh

sister she said
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she look through the glass and see him
slinking his way back through the garden
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she reach her maw into her food bowl
and take only half
sister how does a cat mourn her brother
or does she live with him still

the witch said brother how does a sister say goodbye
does she dig your grave with her fingernails
does she whisper your name to the setting sun
does she crawl through the night howling
or does she live with you still

brother she said i would claw my heart open to hold you again
to see you bathing sister under the achillea moon
to listen to you sing wild songs
to feel your magic once more

sisters he said you already know the bowels of grief
and you must not starve its hunger
feed it your heart your words your snot your tarot
feed it your song your ink your blood your breath
feed it until it can live alongside you
and wander with you through the forest
as your shadow

sister our paws will touch as i grow with
every rising and falling sun i will live with you
as your shadow in the light

sister in silence you will hear me
in the moonlight you will see me
in darkness you will feel me
as strong and wild as you are

there once was a witch and from her ribs
she conjured two cats as black as love
they called her sister in this life and the next

they say if you look closely into the thick summer dusk
you can see her walking through the garden
three shadows as one

 

 

understanding violence

November 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

the caribou calf call out as she runs
the wolves closing in
the calf calls out
for an answer? the mother
has calculated the risk and decided
to continue on. she understands violence.

or does the calf bleat simply because she is afraid?
her small rubbery tongue reaching out
to the biting air
just as we scream
out, our pink throats, gashes
that we are afraid

i do not want the wolves to go hungry
i do not want this caribou to die
the wolves are closing in.
suffering: transferred

a friend watches with me
they say violence is simply change.

what does the calf think—
the wolf’s mouth wrapping around her back leg,
like my precious dog as she picks up a stick
to be thrown—resign? or greater fear?
does she know she is about to be eaten alive?

please, i pray to the wolf, who hears
nothing, kill her fast.
please, no more suffering.
if we must all exist at the expense of another,
if life relies on the exchange of suffering
please let there be less of it.

i am just trying to understand violence
and why it is the mother of all life.

the pack does not close in fast enough
the calf gains ground, escapes.
luck, unluck: the wolves keep their hunger,
tomorrow another calf will call out
for nothing.

 

137 Second Ave (and Riddle Way), Manasquan, NJ 732-223-2976

December 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


1.

I don’t pay attention to the roads but I still know the way. It is my own map I follow: leave Thursday evening, as the sun sets. Pack the car quickly, bring no snacks, no coffee. Sit in the front seat and watch the whole world slide beneath me, listen for the click-click, click-click as the tires find the bridge with metal stripes. Repeat the names of the towns I pass through, say them with love and wonder, each one is a gift, bringing me closer to where I’m heading. Perth Amboy. South Amboy. Red Bank, Little Silver, Long Branch. Asbury Park. Belmar. Say them like a poem, as if their proximity and placement has meaning, has design. Say their names over and over, each one a bead to pass through my fingers. When you see the budweiser warehouse, make a right and sit up in my seat because we’re close. Let the orange lights pass over my face, a fiery bird reflected in the water. Take a left after the bridge, and another left at how loud my heart is. And there it is, and there it is. What do you say to me? Every single time, what do you say to me?

You’re safe now. This is where you’ll be safe.

2.

I’m talking about the house and the house is you. You are where I return to in my mind. I picture myself at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, overhearing the neighbors discussing the parties they will go to. Their voices float in and mean nothing. Their voices, the faucet running, the flag hitting the pole: these are your silence. After I finish the dishes, I lay down on the couch. There are two couches mirroring each other, pistachio and sinking. I picture myself lying down on the couch against the wall, watching the street through the screen door. People are walking to the beach, the soft siren of their voices are part of the silence too, the metal beach chairs scraping the concrete, the rub of a float against skin. Lying here on this couch, in the sounds of silence, I could be here forever. Every time I return to you in memory I lose you: something on the wall fades away, the feeling of the wood floor under my feet is disappearing.

3.

Your smells are small noises and you are music with them. The wet wood of the outdoor shower, the heat of the garden, the lavender, the hose, the wicker, the carpet. The stale smell of linen in the lofts and the smell of the ocean breeze through the open window. I walk through you and each room’s smell tells a story. Here we sleep late: the mustiness, the only room with air-conditioning, the painted wood, the glued plastic fruit to the dresser. Here we tell secrets: storage behind a tropical print curtain, an open window to the roof, and when I’m older, the smell of sex with strange friends under blankets. Here we dream: the moon, the sun, the stars falling all over the walls, the tin tea set, the warm sterile smell of the stereo. Even now, when I catch those same smells in different places—a Tennessee creek, a thick honeysuckle rain—the whole song plays and the song is you.

4.

All I have of your body now is what I’ve collected of you in pieces, in every shell and sea glass, in every corner of sand. I’ve salvaged you, in photographs, in paintings that once hung on your walls, bedsheets that once covered you, in all of the blue I’ve found, I’ve salvaged you. I gather and gather them closer because the thinking is this: if I press them to my life, to my skin hard enough I will become you. I will lose shape and become you: salt, wood, water, memory. Because without you, I am unknowable.

5.

I am not one for loving walls. I am not one for loving fences. But this is how you were born. And this is how the story goes: there was once a tree that spit and now it is the porch. There was once a spitting tree here, next to the outdoor shower, you see: this stump here, a stump to hang the hose on, to shave our young legs on. You were born as walls and fences and doors and windows, to run my fingers along, to climb out of, to lift up and push through. And how do I build you now? Words are not walls. Memories bleed and disappear.

6.

This is how I come home to you: I step into the bright light at the back of my mind. Every time I return to the kitchen window and I become your silence. No, I think it’s too short this way. I go back further. To the train, the smell of the leather seats. The train is surrendering me to you. Here I recite the names until I get to yours, I walk down Main Street, past the canal we named Lagoon. At Second Ave, I make a left. The ocean wraps itself inside of me, I carry the whole of it. Cross Riddle Way, along the sidewalk I am convinced is stained brown from a rumor I once heard. Then I reach you. Here you are: a small grey house, with puzzle-piece shutters, blue trim (the same color I will paint my room, much later, to crawl inside of you again). I go around back and find the key on top of the windchime. I remove the glass of porch screens because the ocean is large and we must invite all of it in. Open the back door: my mother is not here but she is in every inch of you. Since she was twenty, she has been building you, painting you in every color and design, no part of you has gone untouched. Love is painting everything you have. Painting the bathroom to look like a jungle, painting the cabinet to look like the world, the brick walls painted white. The moon is painted outside the wall of my parents room. The wall falls away, it is a lake, the moon over a lake and looking at the moon and the lake through ferns, a fake palm tree that she has place in front of the lake and the moon and the ferns. There is a lizard painted on the floor, running from the kitchen, and a spider creeping toward the back door. A painted bear and a tiger playing a horn, the tiger forever playing a horn, the bear reaching up its tongue to taste the music. On the driftwood wall of the outdoor shower, two turquoise seagulls flying over forever with R + D above their wings. I have given a home to those seagulls on the knuckle of my thumb. Because eventually the paint peeled away. I remember peeling the paint away. My parents divorced and I made a home for the seagulls in ink on my thumb. It is my favorite tattoo because it is a call to you.

8.

Twenty-eight years of me have been opening your doors. The train door the car door the front door the porch door the shower door the cabinet door the bedroom door the shutter door the shed door the screen door the front door. My memory of you is a door, that’s all it is.


i write and i write and i write and this is barely what i am trying to say

July 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

i am trying to say that we did nothing to deserve what we have.

i am trying to say that there is nothing to protect except fear.

i am trying to say that this is ending very badly.

 

 

Dear Keri Hulme,

May 21st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I knew Simon P. Gillayley. I knew him in my bones before I ever set foot in your book. I knew the words, I knew the homes, I knew the sea.

Sixty pages to go and I am already in mourning. Even if this were the first reading, I know what’s coming. The book itself is finite, characters confined to a wordcount, the binding taped backed together, the final blank page.

Your book said what I mean. It’s a mirror, reflecting all of my fragments back at me as a whole. It’s a window, making playthings of the outside. It is my wildest imagination worked and weaved by the hands of a truly skilled master.

Kerewin Holmes. Keri Hulme. All of you that you poured into this book became the seawater I drink. And now comes the thirst. The book is a vessel, not a faucet.

I write bad poetry, trying to wriggle out of this feeling. Of simultaneous loss and gain. Of a story that is only a wave—here, reaching, reaching—and then, receded, gone.

Of the ache I hold in being a witness.

I sleep with the book underneath my pillow, asking to meet it in the shadowspace of my mind, the screen on which my impossible desires can play out.

And if the impossible could—might—? I would dissolve myself into the three of them: Simon, Joe, Kerewin. Bind myself inextricably through them. The truth they tell is far greater than the one I can hope to live in.

There’s the wound. (I knew we’d find it.)

To be opened wide and left like that.

And I’m reminded of my first reading of the bone people. For the next year, everything I created was an attempt to sink the story into my life. To give Simon P. Gillayley substance off of the page.

In 2008, here are the words I found:

 

XI.
Simon is
                   quaking pennies upon train tracks
And us is rattling bones by the word,
Raptured, among the cold and electric.

Us is meeting the edge,
                    staring down a rushing freedom
And a life of mornings.

 

Simon P. Gillayley
I think I know what Jesus feels like

When I realized your character was known
Like meaning before language tied it up
Your silence roused something regrown in me
Words easing and blooming around thorns.

It is when your heart presses
Against the membrane of belief
That fills the chambers with what feels like blood
But I think it might be love.

 
2016. And the words I have are just these:

Once again, I’m opened wide and left like that.

 

Ever gratefully,
Your reader.

 

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Cut here.

November 7th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

The other party can be cut and pasted. There is a roughly person shaped space, like a clumsy toddler, I try to stuff you and you and you in it, and then dust over the rough edges, stone that barely kisses stone.

Now that I’m not trying to make you fit, I’d prefer to excise you completely. Pretend you are only a memory, one that can be pushed and pushed and pushed off the screen. The whole illusion shatters when you wave to me from a truck or I run into you at Grumpy’s or you pass by SCRATCHbread, friend in tow. The towers of sand, time, space, denial– an avalanche.

If I pathologize our years months moments together, I can cure it. I can cauterize the wound. You were wrong, I was wrong, we were wrong. It wasn’t going to work.

Because if I admit that this is exactly how I needed it to play out, if I admit that this pain is the reward… There is no “next time,” no future someone I’m getting better for– I’m working my way up towards– perhaps that person is me. Perhaps my edges are softening so I fit more comfortably into this existence, into myself– not so I fit better with you, future you, past you.

I’m uncomfortable with how much I wish you all are hurting without me. I am hurting without me. I am hurting because I am constantly trying to run away from my own feet. If you hurt without me, I must be worth hurting for.

I think about the love I have for my friends, for strangers. How beautifully their lives unfold, how heartbreaking heartwarming how touching how special. I assume I must be the only one who sees the progress of others– and that idea causes me to search and search and search for the person who watches me.

Does this mean anything at all if it is not read? Not watch, noticed, heard? Maybe I don’t get to know. Maybe I am seen, but I can’t know by who. I’m tired of waiting for someone to try on those eyes.

I will be the seer, I will be the seen.

 

The Wedding

September 29th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” – George Saunders

I’m not sure how other people see their fellow human beings, but I see them in double vision. There is their non-performing self that struggles (or stands, depending on the person) against their performing self. I don’t mean this metaphorically either. I see double, with my eyes out of focus. Sometimes, it’s more of a light thing. Or a colorful thing. Or a flipbook thing. But the non-preforming self always presents itself.

Lofbelli

This might the practice of a grandiose ego. Or a delusional mind. Or an overly romantic sentiment. I could be seeing what I want to see. In a way, I am. People still surprise me. I don’t assume this is supernatural. Or mystical. Or even extra-intuitive.

But I do believe it is what keeps my heart open, so open. It’s hard to not have that door thrown open when you see people’s pain suspended next to them, while they slide across the dance floor to Madonna.

It’s all just a story: The over-performing friend with freckles who just wants happiness. The woman in chevron stripes who is pregnant again, after losing her first child. The quiet prayer-hands guy who feels like he doesn’t belong. It’s a story my eyes and my heart and my imagination conjure up to keep the door propped open.

As a result, I cry a lot. As a result, I walk around smiling. As a result, I bruise easily. As a result, I get the wind knocked out of me.

If I don’t write it, this big mush of love rots away, inside of me. I love you Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyouiloveyouiloveyouilove. 

There’s something else, too. I’ll never be able to capture it with the language I speak. Ever ever. And I am starting to accept that it might be born and die in my mind only and that is worth settling for. Here’s a rough sketch though: it’s a vision of a heart, but something that defies anatomy, and religious undertones of ‘soul’ and ‘spirit.’ But it’s certainly in that vein. It is imaginary and real and made of endorphins but also something experiential. And it’s so open it hurts.

 

 

Somebody Stranger

August 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

 

It’s been 25 years and

my body is still a stranger to me.

Brushing fingertips feel like glancing trains

Adjusting my breast, I am caught off guard.

I do not inhabit my body

As I do my couch on Sunday mornings

As tomatoes inhabit the smell of summer’s night.

 

It’s been 25 years and I still

have the sense that my brain is dragging around a person

bagged and fighting to get free

inside, roving toward boundlessness.

 

My eyes like flashlights in the dark

catching restless just out of sight.

 

Each morning I whisper my hands awake

so they may collapse my frame

inward toward oblivion every night.

 

In another 25 years

may I lay claim enough to

wiggle my toes and pump my arms

as though I were alive

as though there were

no stranger

between our minds

The Practicing Queer

July 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Being queer is a practice.

I am a practicing queer.

Practice being queer through sea-kissing.

Practice being queer by eye-gauging women.

Read queer writers on queerness to practice being queer.

 

But practice slips through fingers like cupped-water.

Do I lose a little queer when I choose half-and-half over whole?

Or close the backyard gate?

Pick lint off of the couch?

 

Man, no one is queer here because no one is practicing.

A queer hand can’t be held.

 

Unless I

Keep up the practice.

Keep up the practice.

Because I can’t just run alongside the knowing.

 

Some Container of Life

May 23rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

 

I’ve noticed the
Objects have shifted since
You’ve come and gone
Unlocked themselves and
Left home

For instance,
The underbed storage
Was empty
Then it was full
Now it is empty again

There will be something
To fill it once more

Contained life is
Empty, not empty.

But wait–
Here, corner-pushed, has
The Almost Gone collected:
A lonely aspirin,
A tear of paper,
Smattered blond threads
From a shaved head.

Could we call that empty?
It is empty enough.

 

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