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. It 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.
I will never understand
Your inability to love.
Your lack of gratitude.
Your inability to appreciate the shimmering details,
the small things
right before your eyes.
Your insistence on misery,
and everyone around you.
Your unwillingness to speak to your children
like real people
for any length,
or at all.
Your lack of substance
and the way you fill in the gap with lies
rather than effort.
Your self obsession.
Your self loathing.
How you can be so self obsessed when you hate yourself
Why you just follow along,
all the trends,
the meaningless music,
the constant tv
and ever increasing
Pretending that allowing
everyone to look at your
is owning the skin you’re in.
Controlling the people you claim to love.
Not allowing your child’s other parent
Letting your child be the parent.
Children and technology.
Children who can’t speak,
use a toilet,
but know how to operate a cell phone,
a game controller,
Lack of imagination.
Schools catering to unparented children
because otherwise there would be no one
to cater to.
The “______ Lives Matter” game.
You don’t understand
that no lives matter
That all you have is you
and your limited perception.
That, as long as you refuse to acknowledge
how limited your knowledge and experiences are
you can never grow.
All that matters
is already right in front of you
but you insist
on pretending you’re headed for another life,
but that is in no way connected
to your present actions.
When did living like today is the last
boil down to
a frat party?
They told me,
When I was young,
That the dock was the only safe place.
No life preserver
Could serve at substitute for the semi solid wharf,
Despite what I saw others act out;
Flying across the water
Or pushing it aside with their bodies,
“Weightlessness is sin, ”
They impressed upon me.
” The cruel spirit
Of hatred and vengeance for the wayward,
Would never put more on you
Than you are able to bear.
But He built you weak
And He built you fragile,
And He built you wicked, and to untether
From the pier of misery
And righteous fear
Is to lean unto your own understanding;
To selfishly profess
That you are your own master
And challenge He
Who had his son tortured
And put the blood on our hands. ”
What they failed to mention was
The beauty of the open sea,
Made all the more breathtaking
In contrast with its fearsome power.
They never mentioned
How the waters were teeming with life,
Unimaginable shapes and shifting colors
That may have burned awe of a majestic creator into my mind,
In place of paralyzing fear.
Unmoored, at last,
Adrift amidst alien scenery,
I see the futility
Of life at the end of a rope.
What then, is your faith,
Having never faced the Power you give your life to,
Out of horror at the thought
Of facing the Power?
Your anchors be damned,
Any and all.
You think you’re in control-
Wages, dreams of wealth,
religion, and grave plots;
Waiting to rot, like the salt encrusted timber
You lash your soul to,
Until the day
It’s taken back by the sea.
Small, icy orb
Demoted from planet status
In favor of the sweaty, bloated
basking in the glow
Of sure destruction.
Way out here,
Tries to reassure me
That my outlier status
Is more beautiful than the well accepted melt down
Near a merciless sun.
My soul bears its own illumination.
I could write a poem. I could be brief and say, “most things” or write a witty haiku to concisely make the same point, but there’s a List of Meaningless Things running through my head and I’m feeling it. Shine on, list. Do your thing!
- Social Media
- The news
- College, insofar as academics are concerned. If your parents will pay thousands of dollars for you to figure out which booze you should never drink and what you like sexually, by all means, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to fuck off and discover yourself, for most people.
- Public school in general. Don’t kid yourself, it’s just fancy free(-ish) daycare.
- Voting. I always say it’s like a coloring book – sure, you picked which pretty colors to put on the page and it made you feel special, but that didn’t change the lay out of the thick black lines, did it? (Just ask Florida.)
- Other’s opinions. Feedback, input, context and perspective are great, if you don’t depend on others to define you.
- Beauty. Our culture is so obsessed with such fleeting qualities. I remember the old country song about the girl with, what was it first, a glass eye or fake arm? She starts taking off all her fake parts-peg leg, prosthetic arm, glass eye, wig-and by the time she’s done there’s more of her in the chair in the corner than standing before the singer. I can’t help thinking how many girls must enact this routine every night, despite two healthy legs, functioning arms and perfectly good eyes. You can paint, color, insert and strap on a whole fake human!
- Appearances in general.
- “Socialization. ” Homeschool families know all about the questions you get asked on this topic. You know that thing I say about all the world’s problems and bad parenting? My kids can wait til they’ve developed their own sense of self, morals and convictions before being subjected to the hoarde.
- Financial success. Unless stuff really does make you happy, I suppose. It’s success of the soul that truly matters.
- Relationships with people who only care about themselves, without truly loving themselves.
- Chatter without substance.
- Talk without action.
- Radical political opinions on your social media account.
- Pop music.
- Life, on any greater cosmic scale outside this moment. And isn’t that the beauty of it? My life only matters to me, and those directly within my bubble. I am free to live out simple happiness, so long as my happiness doesn’t stomp out anyone else’s joy. My happiness already resides within me, it’s my job not to lose track of it or walk away from it towards the heaps of talk and appearance and glimmering junk stacked along the roadside.
Do you agree with my list, or do you think there are points I should reconsider?
I could be
that ordinary girl, they raised me to convince people
with a closet full of blouses,
a good career, and
heaps of college debt I chip away at
Dishes in the cupboard, a neat set
I received as a wedding gift;
plants on the window sill and a cat
whose box I dutifully scoop
in a room no one uses.
I could collect coupons
and pebbles from the beach
and get together with the neighbors
on warm saturdays
to have a beer on the deck
and watch the sun set as the children chase each other
across the neatly manicured lawn.
I could be-
I even aimed to be,
but along to the path to Great Ordinary Achievment
I saw a light through the trees.
I cannot convince people
that I am anything resembling ordinary.
I’ve given up trying.
My suitcase holds a homemade kilt,
patched together with leather scraps
and a rabbit pelt,
a couple of shirts, one black,
one intricately patterned in green and gold and blue;
I do not work for money,
but for my family,
teaching my children what truly matters
outside the constraints of waxed tile floors
and desks attached to the seats;
my college debt will be forgiven
in eleven more years, because I talk to the right institution
without ever giving them a penny-
they know I don’t have any to spare and I’m grateful for our understanding.
I own two pink plates and bowls,
and two of each in blue,
two tin cups
and a box of plastic flatware that were not
gifts from the zero guests in attendance
at the courthouse the day
my beaming boyfriend
Became my glowing husband.
The windows in the bus
have no sills
and my treasures live in a box
with a bronze clasp, and the children speak in hushed voices
every time I pull it out
to rifle through the polished stones and four leaf clovers.
The dog prefers to wander
and grows morose between four walls.
She craves the feeling of moss and leaves beneath her paws,
the wind singing in her ears as she races
to the stream’s edge to drink
with her feet in the water.
I collect road kill
and draw pictures upon,
or make wind chimes and hair ornaments of their bones
that they might live again
rather than be dumped in a city disposal site
far from the cries of their kin.
We get together with our brothers and sisters of the road
for cheap booze and shitty liquor
and shoot off fireworks under the bridge
or gather around a pit, warm and bright
and eat day old bread and beans from the can,
as the children dance wildly
in the moonlight to the sounds of the mandolin,
the guitar, maybe a kazoo
and the rise of fall of voices and laughter
through the moonlit wood,
some well meaning young lady pauses on the path
unbuttoning her collar and wondering
where the flickering light creeping into her line of her sight,
and the drifting, jaunty music
off the beaten path;
this life is beautiful
and anything but ordinary.
Fierce and beautiful planet,
Fools believe conquered.
Human pride will not survive. 🌎