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Ferrying the Sun

The path of humanity winds through darkness, and all must strive to illuminate the way, that more may find happiness.

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If you believe strongly in something, to be true to yourself, it  is your obligation to speak on your beliefs.

I remember sitting on the street one night with my husband, playing music, and one of the older, homeless regulars (home bums, as we say. The stationary homeless) scampered past, looking at his socks and sandals, muttering about the light. Later in the evening someone stopped him and he said, “I can’t stop now. It’s getting dark; isn’t safe. I must prosper the light. Always prosper the light.” And he scuttled off. At the time I just found it amusing, but I find myself telling that story more and more.

We live in a moral dark age. Everyone simply seeks pleasure and money, and those who can find neither often comfort themselves by spreading their own darkness, snuffing out whatever light they can affect. This is my biggest concern, my soap box, if you  will, because the easily extinguished light, is often that of a child.

I put myself places I never should have been as a result of naivete brought on by a dark upbringing under a rock of fear. I crawled out from under that rock ready to believe in the ultimate light bearing properties of the world and discovered, in fact, I was raised in a pit of seclusion out of my father’s fear, and I met and understood all the dark, leering faces that drove him into hiding.

It’s been a ridiculously long and difficult journey, but I’m in a new place now, where I recognize the need for “prospering my own light,” without hiding in a way that makes illumination impossible. I can’t participate in a world of dusk.  At best it’s fluorescent lighted soul selling, just for the comfort of an elaborate box I do nothing but stare at a tv inside. At worst I perform  whatever selfish action will dull the aching of the lack of my own light source, whatever form that takes. I’ve seen many, many forms. Most just seek meaningless human contact and intoxication, but we all know misery loves company and the deplorably miserable can be frightfully creative.

I find myself unable to choose any of the templates of adult life I was raised to see as “the options.”  I floundered for a while, being a good little grown up and doing what I was “supposed to do.” I now understand the general unhappiness of the average human being. I deconstructed my reality, my self, am still tearing down my perceptions and it’s like tearing down wallpaper in a room I’ve never left, only to realize the long coated walls are, in fact, windows, and beyond them lies a dazzling view. Do you know how happy you are capable of being? Do you know how thoroughly you could fulfill yourself? It’s so much easier than anyone imagines.

When was the last time you saw a robin wearing a backpack, or a fox snapping strategically angled  photos of itself to make its coat seem to look the best. We preoccupy ourselves with the art of being less animal and cut ourselves off from all the meaningfulness of our lives. All you have to do to be happy is denounce the need for Stuff.

My catchphrase has become, “There’s a reason I live in a bus.” The only way life makes sense to me is apart from your loudly self indulgent society, that prefers to stay silent on all the nasty things lurking, often visibly, beneath the surface. The unhappy world of ignorance and property. Give me glistening forests, exuberant streams, fierce beaches and infinite skies. Give me music, the open road and the other barely civilized human animals who spread light from coast to coast.

I’ve been broken, I’ve torn myself to pieces, I’ve been wrong and dark and silent. And now I can also say I was strong enough to face those truths and reignite my spirit; build myself as a new creature and live a life I can wake up each day, glad to find myself facing.

Hug your children. Listen to them. Get off facebook. Say, “Fuck you,” to a tweaker. Life is beautiful. Live it.

Can’t Not Cry

It’s impossible not to revisit over and over and over and over and…..The trees are desperate to be heard before all they’ll have is the rasping of branch against branch, summer’s exuberant chatter fallen to gasp into gutters and trash bags with jack o’ lantern faces, if they’re lucky. My house was small, the carpet smelled and I left it with fleas, like a true impoverished champion. I slept on floors. Slept, angry in the car. Slept in a tree house. I always bring that one up. I could smell the ocean, cold and seasoned but we didn’t go. We were always in a hurry, rushed dully from one place to the next by discontent and a bubbling brew of mental illness I still refused to acknowledge or name. Only the dog was nonplussed, so long as she had trees to race between on a fairly regular basis. He didn’t stop me from drinking then, because everything was a fight, and I just wanted to be drunk and broken. I refused to lick my wounds because I deserved the infection. I was sure of it. He still tries to talk me out of that thinking. I didn’t celebrate Halloween that fall. I remember sitting on the floor, looking out the window at the glooming dusk and hating his back at the desk in front of me. If I owned the failure I would just kill myself. I tried. He was more willing to let me pin it all to him, nail him up and let him carry as much as I couldn’t handle, so long as I carried some, built up my strength and slowly let him return what was rightfully mine. I could never see what he was doing for me. All I saw was his unavoidable anger. I blamed him for how I made him feel. He handed me glory and I used it to slap him across the face. His heroes always die. There’s no place for them, for their wisdom, bottled like a pressured geyser that has to be opened with desire that never comes. Even while I was bleeding him out I was his place. When I kicked him, I kicked at the dirt crusted over the spring. Whole blocks of that autumn are missing from my timeline. I didn’t confess to him until last week that when I tried to kill myself it wasn’t so much defeat as it was poor impulse control. That phrase has always seemed so vague to me, but now I know it’s the name for the teeth in my soul, that won’t tell me what to put between them when they set to gnawing. Maybe they just need to chew through my guts; that’s the one thing I haven’t tried. And what’s with trying to turn the semi colon into some kind of hopeful pity party? I can’t look at them the same anymore. They used to make me think of cinnamon buns, but now I just see doughy girls who identify as the need to be seen as broken. It’s not an identifier that’s desirable. Most of us with that badge are trying desperately to tuck it under our tattered lapel. The lady who redefined the semi colon as an anti suicide movement killed herself. Why does every episode of my self expression turn into some kind of hate speech? Can I just own the hate without apologizing for it? I hate you. There. There it is. I hate your social media. I hate your attempts to mask your emptiness. I hate your false unity. I hate your lives; none of them matter, regardless of their color or pronouns you’d be mad if we guessed but you hate clarifying. I hate your bumper stickers and your willingness to pay five times the worth for a cup of coffee. There are plenty of things I hate about myself too, which began to crystallize that immortal autumn. I found the poems I don’t hate the very most. I got rid of three quarters of my shit and I don’t remember what most of it was. Then I tried to carry the rest of it around in a giant back pack and realized, to lose the attachment to that insurmountable weight I saw as need, this idiot sheep needed to be shorn. If you leave the flock do you gain the ability to shift forms into some other animal? Or were you always an “x” in sheep’s clothing, you just had to notice the clothes to find the critter underneath? There’s a lot of significance to goats that was lost on me before. The church picked them for a reason. Dirty little bastards. They don’t eat trash like people think. Well, they do, but moreso they figure out what things are like sharks- with their mouths. Capricious. Caprine. Did you know that’s where they got that word? Maybe you did because you know about that goofy sea goat that owns most of January. Also applicable because January owns my genesis. September owns my exodus. The first of many. Maybe it was just some inspired Jewish gentleman, but if it wasn’t their idea the church certainly ran with the concept of the evil goat. Cloven hoofed, behorned Satan. Did you ever wonder if there were things in Hell enjoying themselves? I got in trouble as a child for voicing curiosity on that subject. There are a lot of questions my parents couldn’t or wouldn’t answer, but mostly the former, so they taught me how irreverent I was. I now know I particularly treasure things described as “irreverent.” Of all the word policing in our present “culture” how do I not hear all the religious colloquialisms being challenged more often? That shit is everywhere and a lot of it goes unnoticed. So much is ruled by pandering to religious sensitivity. We know more than ever that it’s pretense but it’s some sort of enduring obligation that sleeps under every political bed. It’s the brick wall someone can throw up in the middle of any road they believe has gone too far from their camp. There’s so much verbal exorcism, like sitting in the college computer lab, belligerently denying the role of the lab moderator when he told me to go at midnight, because I was realizing. In general. I was seeing. Everything and it came over me in enormous waves, filling my nose and eyes and lungs and I couldn’t possibly stop in the middle of figuring out whether to learn to swim or just be pulled out with the tide. I’m more in the camp of the latter lately but that fleet is halfway across the world now. So many ships. I decided to start, to begin the chronicle I’ve long been talking about, but now we’re at the point where I realize I will never be ready. I thought it was a sea but I have to withstand the tsunami before I can begin more oceanic metaphoric considerations. Every time I open the door I see more than I saw the last time, and this has been happening for years. The disease had to spread for me to admit its severity. That fall I decided to attempt a temporary surrender, but I can’t. And, the truth is, he was right. I said, “I’m not fighting to give up.” But that’s all I’m doing. I know it’s not an option and I keep focusing my energy on trying to find a way to make that less true because trying, REALLY trying and doing all that entails will break me and I know it. The liberation ended in death. We were listlessly watching I Know What You Did Last Summer and eating nothing but peanuts in the rooms where the shower water came in from the stinking lake. It wasn’t even a phone call, just a casual, “did you hear” text message and the next morning we’re running back to the city we spent most of our lives in to watch an empty body be surrendered after its owner ditched the brain with a bullet. Weird how entirely separate some bodies, minds and spirits conduct themselves. Not everyone’s though. I wonder if his new blushing bride got a semi colon tattoo before she started fucking his friends? He couldn’t find his place and he was too young to believe if he got older it could be better. Where were we when we heard about Maestro Mischief? Washington? We all sat in the van and there was that picture of him with the opposum and I cried when I read it was his wife who had to confirm his missing persons story ended in death. For some reason no one wants to say he did it on purpose. I’m listening to his music right now, and all of this started because I can’t not cry hearing everything he ever said now framed by his surrender. imgHome-Squatter-EnvyIt was…what? Couldn’t have been a month after that the DSC died. Dead in the alley behind the liquor store and no one else seems to see the perfection in that. When a free climber falls to his death, at worst it’s, “What did he expect?” and at best, “That’s how he would have wanted to go.” But the guy that gave up family and beds and food to be drunk on the street corner outside the drive through coffee place- they all say it’s so sad. I will never be done. There’s always something else to say. A place is not so much a stationary location as it is a state of being. As in Your Place. A frame of mind. An emotional condition. A safe place. To be put in your place. To put into place. I am his concept. And he is mine and a lot of people never get to have that, don’t know where to look. I don’t think you can look, and some people get tired of drifting around, waiting for it to happen to them.

A Poem Always Loved, Never Truer

Love Song: I and Thou

BY ALAN DUGAN

Nothing is plumb, level, or square:

the studs are bowed, the joists

are shaky by nature, no piece fits

any other piece without a gap

or pinch, and bent nails

dance all over the surfacing

like maggots. By Christ

I am no carpenter. I built

the roof for myself, the walls

for myself, the floors

for myself, and got

hung up in it myself. I

danced with a purple thumb

at this house-warming, drunk

with my prime whiskey: rage.

Oh I spat rage’s nails

into the frame-up of my work:

it held. It settled plumb,

level, solid, square and true

for that great moment. Then

it screamed and went on through,

skewing as wrong the other way.

God damned it. This is hell,

but I planned it. I sawed it,

I nailed it, and I

will live in it until it kills me.

I can nail my left palm

to the left-hand crosspiece but

I can’t do everything myself.

I need a hand to nail the right,

a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Alan Dugan, “Love Song: I and Thou” from Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry. Copyright © 2001 by Alan Dugan. Reprinted by permission of Seven Stories Press, http://www.sevenstories.com. Source: Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry (Seven Stories Press, 2001)

Mama Wolf

It was a good house for a breakdown;

A little too big

But with just the right kind of light.

I seem to remember a different view

Out the back bedroom window

Than the one I know is real,

But in the memory

There’s a giant elm tree

Reaching up to spread its arms

And protect that space

With the awful zebra gum striped wallpaper.

The truth is

The root of today’s evil

Is in that room

Where my children sat, alone,

Wondering when the doorknob would turn

And a friendly face would arrive

Bringing the promise of food

And dry diapers.

But I didn’t come

When they needed me.

I couldn’t bear to climb those stairs,

Look into those tiny faces

And pretend that I wasn’t the wolf

They needed protecting from.

There was no one for them,

Not even whispering leaves

Outside their window.

Dinner was often after dark

And their mother didn’t look at them,

Didn’t eat,

Just looked at the wall and cried

Until the dishes were ready to be washed.

Sign Posts Along the Way

Do you ever find it amusing

That in childhood

And adolescence

We were so quick to give in

To the throes of despair,

Horribly distraught

And convinced our lives were utterly unbearable,

Completely ruined

By the hiccups along our path;

But, in “adulthood”

When real tragedy strikes

And the weight of years of bad decisions,

Or unkindness,

Great injustices,

Crush our resolve and everything

We fought to build,

We tell ourselves not to be dramatic;

Imagining the embarrassment

Of expressing the depth

Of our devastation,

And learn instead, to live with the headaches that result

From holding our breath

So as to focus on resisting the pressure

Building at the backs of our eyes?

Little did we know,

When we were children

And dreamed of all we would do

With the freedom that comes with age,

Our dreams were illusion

Based on adult facades

Silently misrepresenting all life

To our tiny minds.

And the truth was,

Has always been, for most,

That “adulthood” doesn’t come with a starter pack

Of answers

And “Get Out Of Figuring This One Out Free” cards.

It’s simply the transition that occurs

When we learn,

Or have cause to feel,

Shame.

Guilt.

Obligation.

The pressure of making decisions,

Grave and life changing decisions

For ourselves

And those who dream

Of rising to our position

That we wish like hell

We could have somehow

Been lucky,

Or clever, enough

To avoid.

Leaves {Turn} A New Leaf

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I went to the Renaissance Festival for the first time when I was nineteen. It was strictly off limits, even to the imagination, when I was a child because my righteous father (who had never been) told tales of the salacious nature of the event and the abhorrent behavior of all in attendance. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I followed my curiosity to the infamous event. I found the outrageous price of everything beyond the gates the most sinful part of the whole thing, but the cleavage was, in fact, impressive and the feeling of walking through a woodland village was worth the crowds and aimless quality of our whole experience. The thing I took away from the fair that had an impact on the rest of my life in a way I never could have guessed, was the handcrafted silver owl ring.
Fast forward three years. I’m back in my hometown, everything I had built upon leaving, now seen in reality. A life collapsed, my mind recoiling while my body went through the motions of keeping things afloat.
And then he shows up.
I knew Jesse in high school. We met when we were fourteen. I became new friends with all his old friends as he was silently transforming into a boy wise beyond his years, who knew the rest of us weren’t ready for the things he was discovering. So he just kept it all to himself. He was strange. Awkward. Didn’t say much. I had a messy relationship based in teen angst and drug addiction with his best friend. Jesse helped us get together, staying characteristically quiet about his own feelings for me. I was charismatic. Chaotic. Smart and mouthy and a tomboy who felt it useless to try to find a place in the teenage beauty hierarchy. Jesse never told me how much he appreciated that quality. He ended up dating my best friend.
Because of situations that arose from my activity with my boyfriend, my parents transferred me out of district for my junior year. In a fun twist, my boyfriend’s mom moved their family to that district at the same time. I only saw Jesse a handful more times. He visited me at my new school and got in trouble with the principal for standing on the school mascot statue out front, and we were all asked to leave. Most notably, he was there when I ran away and stole his mom’s car to deliver me to my planned hide out, where we shared the devastation of seeing his girlfriend, my best friend, for the last time before she moved out of town. We held each other and cried. Who could have guessed how often we would do that in the years to come?
We didn’t see each other for five years.
And then turns of fate brought us to pause in our hometown at the same time. I was in no position to start a new relationship but, long story short, he was everything I needed and he knew that. I didn’t fully understand what I felt for him, almost immediately upon reuniting, something I had never felt about anyone before. I told him it couldn’t happen, I wasn’t ready, I was a mess and I would just drag him through it. He had a trip planned to the west coast and he didn’t know how long it would take. He told me he would come back for me, but if I still wasn’t ready he would go on his way and who knew when we would see each other again? You can’t put a spark on a shelf and have a fire later.
He left. All I could think about was him. We talked every day. He made the fog in my life seem to clear, but I was afraid to jump into anything, especially anything that meant letting someone else take care of me at a time in my life where it was vital for me to know that I could float on my own. He was back three weeks later. His first stop was my house. What followed was a sort of organic fusion, and I don’t think it was conscious for either of us. It was just natural to be in one another’s company and it felt like it had always been this way. Nothing was stated, nothing assumed, we just were.
It was the end of August, after a handful of fairly serious shared experiences, that we realized, and spoke aloud, what exactly our bond was. Summer tipped gracefully into its usual, golden pre-winter attire, and found us taking hikes and long evening drives, lying about on sunny afternoons and spending hours at the skate park. We even spent time with one another’s parents and even they acted like it had just always been this way. There are a multitude of places my mind goes at each season’s turn, and as this summer fades I return to this place. I lost my job not long after Jesse returned from the coast and it was my first stretch of joblessness since I started working. You know the feeling when you have a couple days off in a row and twenty four hours seems endless and doing nothing is a luxury? My life transitioned into that place and as Jesse and I blossomed I realized I had never loved or been loved, with the exception of my children, in all my life. Everything from before seemed so dull and lifeless and base. It was like just being in his presence opened up this wealth of knowledge whose existence I had never come anywhere near.
I remember telling him I no longer believed in the permanence of love. I saw it as a formless, floating sort of thing, like smoke drifting from a constantly shape shifting flame. We were sitting on the orange leather couch in his parents’ garage and I said, “I feel like we should tell other people, ‘I love you right now,’ and only tell our children that we truly love them.”
We had spent night after sleepless night talking, sharing every minute thought, and just looking into one another. We had developed this habit of just staring at one another for a while and one of us would ask, “What are you thinking?”
Later on the night I made my statement about the transience love, we were in his old room, his head in my lap. He looked up at me and just stilled, his mossy amber eyes gentle and inviting. I knew what he was thinking, but I was afraid to say it. Instead I asked, “What are you thinking?”
His response was so comforting…It’s hard to put into words how it felt. Not quite comforting even, but comfortable. Like I was coming home in a way I had never been able to in all my existence. Every facet of my life is peppered with, or altogether steeped in some sort of horrible shade. All shapes and sizes of trauma, abuse, emptiness, disappointment, total lack of love, security, trust or ease. When he answered me I felt relief, like this was the beginning of what I had always been so desperate for- a place I could truly relax, knowing I was safe, knowing I belonged.
He kept his eyes locked onto mine and said, “You know.”
I did, and he felt it, but it was one of those moments where crippling self doubt crept over the knowledge and made me afraid to say something stupid; to say I knew and be mortifyingly wrong. I couldn’t say it out loud. He felt that too. He could read me like a book, even then. But he waited. Silently challenged me to try, to trust myself.
I smiled a little. “Do you love me right now?”
He said, “I just love you.”
At the time I didn’t even understand how full bodied and true a statement that was. If I were to say, “I left him x number of times,” I would have to sit down and really think through the last four years. I ran from his truth and his peace so many times. But every situation in which I left had three things in common- One, as soon as I was gone I knew I couldn’t live without him, and my thoughts were always on him because, Two, he just loved me. And Three, I was always running from an opportunity I saw only has a threat. Out of that pure love he challenged me again and again to rise to the occasion. To burst out of my old skin and be the person he saw me keeping down, denying in favor of whatever was easier. We’ve all heard the phrase “brutally honest,” but never had those words been so thoroughly defined. His truths were like crushing blows to the skull. Like knives to the gut. Like looking into the eyes of a boa constrictor and thinking, “So this is how it ends,” as you feel your ribs give way. PC was not his MO. “Putting it nicely” was not his thing. And what I couldn’t appreciate was that he loved me enough to trust I could handle the things he was saying. That he saw me as someone who, even at her weakest, could catch the meteors he hurled at me and hold on while they burned down everything I thought I knew.
He almost lost me. I didn’t think I was as strong as he already knew I was. And now I’ve never been so thankful for anything as I am for my crushed skull, spilled guts and punctured lungs. We’ll leave phoenix metaphors out of this, because even my cheesy metaphors can’t do justice to what my husband did for me.
And now, summer is winding down and in my mind I’m back on my sun dappled street, outside the little brown house where I restarted my life, experiencing that weekend-off feeling and remembering those eyes on my soul, sizing up my potential. Jesse met my little, tattered family and knew he was home. No matter how hard I fought, how far I ran, how lost I felt, he was there, whittling off the useless bark and taking whatever undue retaliation I dished out. If I had tried half as hard to help myself as he has always helped me, we would have known years ago that I’m bi-polar and progress would have been a lot easier to make. We tell ourselves that ten years from now we won’t feel the weight of how things all started out, hell, maybe even five years out, but right now it’s like a long storm has stilled its raging and we’re finally piecing things back together.
I never took that owl ring off after I bought it, except for one of those times I ran off. Jesse found out I was planning to leave, I don’t even remember how, and he said, “At least let me take you myself.”
I agreed, but he also told me I should let him have my owl ring, so he could at least have something beautiful to hold onto out of all this. I really didn’t want to, but I felt guilty and agreed. I regretted it the whole time we were apart, although it wasn’t the greatest of my regrets from the moment I watched his car disappear around the bend. When we reunited I asked for my ring back. He was upset, I’d told him he could have it. I felt it was unfair to keep a relic of something you still have. As begrudgingly as I had first parted with it, he returned it. We both have a deep appreciation for owls, and it came to be “one of those things” that’s a deeply meaningful shared detail. That ring was a lot more to us than just a band of silver, in a lot of ways.
That year I scoured the internet, in hopes of finding a ring similar to mine. I used any and all keywords I could find, discovered all kinds of unique sites I’d never heard of, and found a lot of cool jewelry, but it seemed my handcrafted piece had no equal. Until, some time after I had given up hope of fulfilling my quest, but habitually continued the search, I happened upon a ring almost exactly like mine. It was glorious. It was fortuitous. I was ecstatic! I ordered it, intending to give it to him for our anniversary, but I couldn’t wait.
We were married that winter. His parents gave us their original gold bands that they’d replaced years ago as they grew older, but had always held onto. It was a deeply meaningful gesture, especially since it was my father in law’s idea, and he’s the prototype of the hardworking, emotionally distant male who is chronically disappointed in his sole heir. (Secretly he liked me. I always knew it!) We wore them proudly, but over time it just sort of came to be that we wore the owls on our left hands. It has become a symbol of affection to make a fist and rub their little silver faces together.
It was always going to be him, strolling in with a deep seated and well justified hatred of all mankind, yet carving out a space for the one person he thought could go against that belief. That first night we came back into each other’s lives we walked from my house to the river and sat on the bank hurling stones into the racing sludge. I tried to skip mine, impossible on that water, but he grabbed all the biggest rocks he could find and launched them like Zeus hurling smiting thunderbolts. I tried to argue with him on behalf of humankind. Ironic, considering what I’d just, and really always, been through. Years later I realized he hated everything because he was such a sweet and benevolent person, but no one ever seemed to prove worthy of the depth of his ability to love.
This is the first year in a while I haven’t faced the prospect of winter with some sense of dread. I can appreciate this autumn as a time of relief while rich colors wash over the land. This time four years ago was when I first happened upon “Wild Geese,” just flipped a book open to a random page and there it was, embodying everything I needed to hear, and when I shared it with Jesse it was like a piece of understanding of all things that we held between us. Right now, however, the wild geese are headed out, and the world goes on. Tarantulas come out in late summer here, and ticks start to consider leaving us alone for a bit. The air thins and no longer insists on being quite so soupy. And my head is full of images of my first meeting with deep, life changing love, and my place in the family of things.
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Twenty One Years In 1400 Words (Introduction to a Seasonal Memory)

It goes back years and years…It’s hard to even pick one reel out of the churning snapshot memory bank of Autumns. Vaughn’s Apple Orchard with the strange apple pickers and the indoor/outdoor bees who built their hive in a “bee window” you could look through in the gift shop to see the bees at work in their home. The pumpkin patch across the road that stands backdrop to perhaps my only good memory of first grade, and to later memories of hooliganism on high school trips. I really am sorry I smashed the Golden Pumpkin at the center of the corn maze. That was really mean.
Just outside town, after you cross the big blue bridge over the torrent of muddy oblivion that separates two states, the Missouri hills begin their joyful undulation across the landscapes, raising the woods to the sky, that all below may watch as green yellows, burns orange and glows red in ripples for miles, interrupted by snaking highways and county roads. This was the way to my grandfather’s Midwestern paradise that can’t be synopsized because the poetic detail is boundless. In a child’s imagination the glory was absolutely unrivaled and I can’t simply run my fingers across the surface without wanting to plunge in head first and float endlessly.
There were quaint towns peppered along these roads. Towns that knew their only draw was their age and maintained turn of the century downtown storefronts, with names that included words like “Apothecary” and “Shoppe.” There were soda fountains and two story antique stores that smelled of potpourri, crumbling leather and dust. Towns reeking of nostalgia that all seemed to have their own Apple Fests, but were under constant threat of being swept away and forgotten given one good rainy season. I find it ironic that some of the ugliest stretches of the Missouri River run through Missouri.
Not long after moving out of my parents’ house I was finally able to taste the over-indulgent nectar of the Renaissance Fair that passed through every fall. My father used words like “vulgar” and “bulging” and “streams of alcohol,” whenever he mentioned the unholy passage of the event. As a child I would sit wide eyed as my father spat his views on the popularity of this debauchery, and I would wonder after the souls of all the willing participants in this Devil’s Fair. At nineteen I saw it for myself. The biggest evil was the price tags on everything. Two bit swords for $299.99 and cheap Lord of the Rings replicas, $300 stage costume clothing and $40 stoneware beer steins. Amongst all these things were peppered wonderful works by local artists, like stained glass panes featuring faeries and unicorns (I knew the lady who made those. She called herself Fable and wore her Renaissance tunic even when it wasn’t fair season), handmade knee high moccasins, intricately detailed belts and, most memorably, lovely silver rings in the shape of animal faces. I only had enough walking around money for one overpriced relic and it was one of these rings, whose role in my future I never could have guessed.
The “bulging” cleavage was, indeed, impressive, the humor delightfully unchristian and the “streams” of low grade modern Meade delicious. Experiences like this one set me on a quest of exploring all things my father had decried, because it seemed he hated anything where delight might be found.
All of this is the speed reel introduction to the memory of the hour, like telepathically absorbing snippets of each text as you run your fingers over the spines of a long row of books, on the way to one resonant title. Which is:
End of Summer, 2013. I was twenty-two, unaware of how incredibly young and naive I still was. The Autumn previous could be called “The Fall Out,” a witty little angsty pun.
I visited Florida for the first time and in one devastating twenty-four hour car ride all my illusions and self built walls crumbled, leaving me staring into the mouth of the demon who had been swelling for years, reveling in the lifeblood of my denial. Which, of course, lead to the cute little title of the next chapter of my life. You know the one, where you realize you’re an idiot and you’ve been lying to yourself so you can float around in the stasis of “what I’m supposed to do,” and then the water is drained from your shitty little pool and you try desperately to crawl back into your lies? I spent the autumn, and then the winter, trying to pretend again but it was impossible. This resulted in the most miserable spring of my life. Usually my favorite season, that year I felt the rejuvenation and spreading green mocking me. Chirping out the juxtaposition of my demise against the promise of infinite life.
“Tell me your despair
And I will tell you mine,
Meanwhile the world goes on.”
But I didn’t know that poem yet.
In April I wandered off like a pathetic ailing doe and found an abandoned house to shrivel up inside. By nightfall I still wasn’t dead and the blood coating my arms had dried and the crust cracked and burned when I moved. Suddenly the haze lifted and the dead, rotting structure, filled with small relics of whoever had left and never looked back, was horrendously frightening and I couldn’t get over the rubble, down the stairs and back to my car fast enough. I’d never felt so stupid.
So, I scraped together what little energy I had left and demanded we depart the wretched small town no locals ever left, and head back towards my old stomping grounds. Not too far from either mine or my ex’s hometown for family to visit. April was one big ice storm, turning every surface into deadly mirrors, daring you to move and keep your feet under you. As we left town for the last time, every branch and blade of grass a glinting crystal, we saw a semi jackknife and careen down an embankment. We were amused, finally seeing someone other than us slipping completely out of control.
The rest of the spring and early summer were filled with thick, green air, which I usually love. The rolling hills, this time, devilishly playful, engaging their inhabitants in a game of hide and seek with lightning bolts and funnel clouds.
But I was reading Sylvia Plath and my life had the same flat, unengaging hopelessness that leaves one finding amusement only in ruminating on clever ways to pull the final curtain. I took great joy in ending my communication with a man who claimed to love me, by dropping red food coloring and a razor blade into the bathroom sink, sending him a picture and then changing my phone number. I can forgive myself for that now because my personal growth in the years following lead me to realize, everyone from that part of my life was absolute shit. I already knew I didn’t have the guts to follow through and my poor children were alone enough, orphaned by my insurmountable despair. So, three weeks after the four year anniversary of the worst decision of my life, I broke my two year silence with my father because I had no one else, and he swooped in to save the day, helping me cart out my children and anything I could carry while my as-of-that-moment ex was at work. I stayed in the house I spent my formative years craving to escape, for one more dreadful night before dear old dad was up to the same antics that lead to silence between us in the first place, and I retreated to the local women’s shelter. Within three weeks I had a job and a small rental house a few blocks from the river.
An old friend saw I’d moved back to town and said he and some friends would love to hang out. I invited them to come by after I got off work one day and when I opened my front door that evening there were three friends I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. One I didn’t recognize at first. The last time I’d seen him he was maybe a buck sixty, barely taller than me, draped in baggy clothes and hiding behind nose length hair. Now he was this hulking young man, easily two hundred pounds of raw righteous anger. I was immediately equal parts enraptured and surprised. His presence held the comfort of old memory, but his new form held a person I had never truly known.
..009

Destined

One can imagine

That there existed a rock and,

Compelled by a motherly urge,

She transformed herself into an egg

From which sprung a small feathered beast.

But as for the other

great rhetorical query,

There is a definite answer.

While love

And positive input,

The creation of beautiful memories,

And wholesome foods

All work together to form

A perfectly constructed

And warmly lined nest,

None of this is any match

For the tenacity,

The strict adherance to balance

The sheer violence,

Of nature.

All life leading to,

And made of,

all death.