27 February 2009

Like a Prayer. Almost.

I wasn't going to write. I was going to drink Mint tea.

Dante and Derrida: Face to Face by Francis J. Ambrosio

I saw this tonight, sitting there saying, "yes, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking I am not real"

And I said "My God. Someone dedicated whole days to you, weeks, months! And here you are, lying there. Word for word."

I want to spend all my time with you, Dante and Derrida. I want to know, again, what you have to say. And so did your author, and so, now, do I.

I found this book at Barnes and Noble in the city, waiting for friends to show up at Union Square so we could head to St. Marks and have dinner, converse, catch up.

When I sat down to read, I couldn't put it down. Why is it, why, why, such excitement for other's words. I grab hold and my whole body feels like leaping! It cannot go anywhere, it cannot find a place, so it stirs.

I sat down and thoughts race. It's as though my brain finds a lover that was lost down a path, lost as the mist descended. And now, what I longed for, is in my hands. IN MY HANDS. The words in ribbons, silk. If I could, I'd brush my lips against them. And the voice in the words, some voice. A long lost voice. Someone is speaking.

So many of these books. How can I get my fill?

So I sat and read. And read.

I wasn't going to write tonight.

But sometimes I find that, during the day, I have moments of complete astonishment and I wish I could share it with someone. I try to share it. But people usually look at me like I'm off in a garden of hedgerows, mumbling to myself about Time, Relativity, God or Numbers.

....no point going round in circles, so long as the other has not won back that advance I shall not be able to avow anything and if avowal cannot consist of declaring, making known, informing, telling the truth, which one can always do, indeed, without confessing anything, without making truth, the other must not learn anything that he was not already in a position to know for avowal as such to begin, and this is why I am addressing myself here to God, the only one I take as witness, without yet knowing what these sublime words mean, and this grammar, and to, and witness, and God, and take....(Circumfession, 11)

And the book, Dante and Derrida: Face to Face by Francis J. Ambrosio, begins with this sentence:

How does it happen that, as persons, we are given to writing?

The tapestry unfolds from there.

And around me people wander, looking at books, drinking Starbucks, hugging their children, holding a loved ones hand.

And this is true. This happened. I was there. Reading. Looking. Loving.

So, I must leave, and purchase the book, now nestled in my purse as I walk out into Union Square.

The streets are damp. It was softly raining.

St. Marks is fabulous. It's so alive. It picks me up with two hands and parachutes me into a rush. Just to see, the lights, the tattoo shops, the people, the lovers.

A moment and then another. But I only noticed after each passed.

Someone was wearing black leggings and purple boots.

There were two poodles, walking somewhere.

And I was thinking, how can I love so much at once?

All the while, the weight of my new book inside my purse, my friends' happy chatter, and my mind circling it in joy, like children in merry-go-rounds, like dizzying the brain-waves.

It was like, I could almost touch the strings between us all. Almost. And I smiled at almost. The roundness of Al-Most. Kissing the blessing of never knowing.


Like a prayer.

24 February 2009

You Can't Judge Flowers

This morning I woke after dreaming that I was dying of some strange disease. There were spots over my skin and they didn't know when I was going to die. Before the dream, I was lying in the bath, looking at my arms. I thought,

I've lost a lot of weight

And didn't feel a particular way toward it. I tried to read a book about Spinoza, but fell asleep in the bath. The book fell in and I awoke thinking I was in a pond where goldfish brushed against my legs--but they were actually the pages of the book, enjoying a swim. I thought

Spinoza's been in the library too long. It was about time he took a bath.

I laughed and it echoed.

I then thought about loneliness.

Before bed, I tried to write. I recorded a poem. But I thought it was a bad poem, so I recorded it simply because I was afraid to. I thought

I shouldn't be afraid of words

And then I realized I am afraid. So I pushed through. I listened to my voice. I made myself do it. I thought,

Pretend it's someone else's voice.

That made it easier. I remembered Muriel Rukeyser saying that you should always question, "do I believe what I am saying?"

I secretly believed what I was saying, what I was hearing in my own voice, but there was a part of me saying "no good, no good." That was wrong, though. I thought

You can't judge flowers.

So, then I went to sleep, though frustrated that I "couldn't" write.

And I dreamed I was dying, though a man I once loved showed up in a movie theater and hurt me all over again, said horrible things about me in secret to show his strength.

You smoke? I asked

He said, yeah. Of course I do

Which I took as a sign that he lies, because for some reason, he never smoked in my previous dreams.

And then I woke, it was this morning.

I read Psalm 30. And then Psalm 29, which I liked better for the image of God's voice twisting oaks and breaking cedar to pieces. I thought I wanted to twist oak, as well. But even if I couldn't, I'd like to watch someone else do it.

So I had this feeling build in my stomach, a rolling and rolling until I thought it would grow and sing out of my lips like anger but in cherry-wood blood sap.

It didn't.

I cried. I cried because I didn't want to get out of bed. I wondered why I was so unthrilled for the day. But I knew to get up and find small pebbles to pick up and kiss. I knew it had to be hidden in the fact that I could feel.

Why Banish Silence / Fish Have Given Their Lives for Us to Touch

I was thinking,

I am hurting because someone else is hurting. I am doubting because someone else is doubting. And this pain is not to be condemned or banished. It is to be held and loved and listened to.

Who am I that I should ask something to leave my house? Do not leave, I should say, but sit with me a while. Cry, or take the time you wish to take. I should make notes. When you speak, I should listen.

But the day builds and builds and bridges are constantly burned. I say "Not you, not anger." I say "Not pain, again, not me."

But this is part of our common inheritance.

Under me pass many fish through the dead shale, their skeleton bones crushed into fine powders. And in their eyes, oil swims which brings us closer, sends us over oceans, through the desert in cars--the moss does this too, pressed by years and our feet.

Under me, movement. Though stillness is requested at night. Lie down, why should I? If I am given to rest, then I will sleep. But if something moves through me, I should listen.

I am no more myself than the grass is the sky, but in their meeting, through carbon and oxygen, words. Words that grab your wrist and mine. And this is our hold. I am yours and love, you are mine. But not possession, no sooner the grass expresses the sky than the sky unfolds into the grass, but are they not forever separate?

And below, the ashes of countless fish. Do you see? This mixture. How things pass, constantly.

So why banish silence? Welcome it as one welcomes adoration. The silence adores You! And so does darkness and pain, can it not touch you? Can your body be spared creation? It is creation. I do love You.

So what to do with days that build and bridges torn down? When doubt-birds and anger-birds have no more branches and I refuse to know the mapping of roots of trees from which the birds sing? Then I deny creation, again, like a final cry against my own self and You.

22 February 2009

To the Moment of My Death, I Will Be Holding This in My Hands

St. George, Utah. My mother and I eat in nervous quiet at Arby’s. I know this will be my last meal in civilization for a while. Soon, I will go live in the desert. I don’t know what to expect, but try to focus on savoring the Arby’s Sauce instead of thinking.

The van pulls into the parking lot. I hug my mother, put on a brave face. The staff tells me that, for safety reasons and program policy, they have to blindfold me. This is the first moment it starts to sink in that this is real. I have signed over the next 30 or more days to the wilderness. We drive for an hour. My body is sweating, heart pounding. I want to cry. I remind myself that I agreed to go through the program.

At base camp, they take the blindfold off. I smell sage. It is night and the stars are more numerous than even the West Texas sky. I think about the Charlie Robison song about the man in prison, how they “sometimes let him look up at the East Texas sky / which sparkle like the lights of Loving County.” I can’t help but feel trapped.

Inside, the woman tells me I have to hand over all of my possessions. They will provide me with everything: clothes, shoes, pack, and sleeping bag. Everything.

And we have to do a strip search.

A what?

A strip search. It’s for your safety, as well as the rest of your group and our staff.

I want to break down crying. But I keep reminding myself that this was my decision. Well, kind of.

Lubbock, Texas: My mother and I are in the police station as she pays my “ticket” for shoplifting while on a school academic trip.

My mom looks like she’s going to kill me, I thought. She slams the car door, turns to me and says: “You are going away. I’ve already researched some programs in Utah. Wilderness Programs. Something has to be done. If you don’t do this, you can’t go away to college next year. I won’t let you.

My mind is racing. How did I get here? Why did I even take that sweater? Why have I done any of this?

My forearm is still bleeding from my nails the night before. I couldn’t use anything else.

It seems I’m always looking for a way out. As if someone else kept taking over my body.

Utah: base camp

So, could you place your clothes in the corner? Okay, I’m going to have to ask you to bend over and…

I want to die, I thought. But I comply with their requests. They are doing their job. I deserve this, somehow, don’t I?

After the examinations, I am back in the van, blindfolded. We drive for miles in dark silence. I focus on the bumps in the dirt road, fantasize about the van rolling off the cliff.

Utah Journal:

Day 1:
I don’t know how I’m going to handle this.

Today was my first full day. It was hard. We hiked all afternoon and I was okay at first, but toward the end, I lost it. My stomach was hurting; I was weak and couldn’t breathe. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it. I kept thinking I just want to go home. I’m so filthy! Covered in dirt and sweat. I’m sad. I’m just really, really sad. On the hike, I was in a delusional state. I kept saying over and over again Philippians 4:13.

I wonder how my family would react if they knew that I just want to go home. Maybe I will talk to someone about it. If I’m going to face my problems, I might as well face them. I’m going home.

Day 3:
This place makes it impossible to leave, even though I am an adult. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel like death. I wish I had never chosen to come here, makes me sick to think about how much money this is costing. I feel horrible. I just want to lie in a bed for days and sleep. My body can’t handle this. My mind can’t…I hate this.

The next morning, the staff tells me I can leave if I want. I am, after all, in the adult program. But they won’t help me leave.

What do you mean you won’t help me leave?!

Well, it’s three days hike to any civilization, and seeing as you’ve just arrived and have yet to learn the necessary skills to survive in the wild, build a fire from raw materials, set traps, dress a wound, identify edible plants, well, I don’t see how you’ll make it out alive.

I thought to myself: he’s doing some kind of reverse psychology on me. I know my rights. I can leave, and they HAVE to help me. I am NOT staying here any longer.

The rest of my tribe looks on. Some of my seasoned contemporaries sigh and place their heads in their hands near the fire-pit. They’ve seen this scene before. They know how it ends. Some stir their oatmeal and lentils, looking nervous about what is about to happen.

Fine. I’m leaving.

Blackwolf looks disappointed, but says

All right, but that means that Spirit Knife is going to have to follow you. For your safety. And this means the rest of the group will have to stay at this camp until a backup staff member can meet us. We won’t be able to hike to our next location until nighttime.

I gather my things, tears brimming my eyes. I feel a slight pang of guilt, but I push it aside. They will comply. They have to.

I set off. I don’t know where I’m going, but I guess they have to see that I’m serious. Maybe then we can sit down and sort things out, be reasonable, send a van to pick me up.

I keep walking. I look back. Spirit Knife is still following me. But she doesn’t say anything. I watch my boots. I keep my eyes on my boots until I get to a small mountain. Shit. I could go around it, but that would take longer, walking. I’m so frustrated! Why haven’t they seen that I am serious, that I want to leave? God. I guess I’m going to have to climb this damn mountain.

I start scaling its side. My hands have to pull at the dirt. Spirit Knife is still behind me, climbing. Fuck. What am I doing? How did I get here? With each step, my calves burn. The pain shoots up and down my arms and legs. Beads of sweat nestle into the eye-sockets. The desert blurs. Black dots dance in my vision.

I haven’t refilled my water bag and there’s a 15-pound pack on my back containing my food and sleeping bag. The seat-belt straps around my shoulders cut into the skin. The pain grabs at my lower back.

Fuck. What am I doing here? God. Just let me go home. I won’t drink, I won’t smoke, I won’t cut, I won’t swear, I won’t…I won’t…. I hate you Shannon! Why are you doing this? Why are you? I hate you. I hate you.

My body recoils with pain, as though to respond to my mind. I can see the summit. I can’t breathe.

I pull my body over to the top, trying to pull air into my lungs, full of bees. I sit down. The distance spirals in and out of my eyes. There’s nothing. Nothing but wild for miles. Days worth of miles. I can’t do this. I can’t do this on my own. Why am I running away? Why am I…

I look again out into the expanse. I feel so small. What am I doing on this mountain? I am running away. God, why am I running away?

I push my palms into my eye-sockets. Sob. Why have I abandoned myself? Why am I doing this to myself?

Spirit Knife walks up behind me, places her hand on my back.

Are you ready to go back?

I look up at her and, between gasps of air and tears, ask

Why are you being nice to me? I just made you walk three miles and climb up a mountain because I’m being a stupid, stubborn fool.

Sometimes, the hardest person to love is our self. Are you ready to go back?

Utah Diary, Day 23:

I can see a difference in myself. I can feel it, too. I try and reflect on this at night when I’m in my sleeping bag, looking at the stars. I can feel a love for myself I’ve never felt before, and a respect for myself. It’s as though someone introduced me to this amazing woman, strong. And then I catch my breath. She’s me. Why have I tried so hard for so long to hide her light?

Day 26:

I got my earth name tonight. Sunset Sky. Blackwolf named me and gave me
a powaka. How did he know, how could he know, my favorite sight in the
world? Did God tell him in a dream? My name. My name.

Day 30:
Vision Quest—well, I am on my vision quest. I feel lonely. It’s been 32 or so hours alone in the desert. Perhaps I need this isolation right now. It’s funny how many different thoughts go through my head when I have so much time to think. Yet I feel content. Maybe it’s the fact that I am able to feel, to feel such appreciation and gratitude for everything! I feel I am so much a part of this earth, so connected with the land. I can’t describe the bliss. I am going to miss being here. It’s amazing…did I actually want to leave when I first got here? Why was I so afraid to meet myself? I am never going to be the same after this.

I know I can do anything. I have already done it.

Vision Quest day 2:

I saw it. I won’t say what I saw. You’re not supposed to. But may I always remember this moment. This one. Which is already the moment after the next and next. Growing stone. To the moment of my death, I will be holding this in my hands.

20 February 2009

Don't Get Me Started on Last Year's Cabo Trip // I'm Telling You, T. J. Max is a Lifesaver

10:30 AM—Sarah Lawrence College Gym—Ladies Locker Room.

I hear a gaggles of voices as the Women’s Swimming Group walk into the locker room from the pool. I turn on my shower quickly, knowing soon the hot water will soon become scarce. The voices rise with laughter and chatter, non-distinguishable until a couple of the flock separate into the shower area.

Shower 1: Diane! Can I borrow some shampoo? I forgot mine!

Shower 3: Yeah, sure. Here you go. Cute swimsuit, by the way.

Shower 1: Thanks! Oh, you like the suit? T. J. Max. 20 bucks. I'm telling you! Great deal! I’m getting my hair colored today and I know you’re not supposed to shampoo your hair, but I also don’t want to chlorine to keep the color from penetrating.

Shower 4: Oh, I know. Do you shower at night, too? the chlorine stays on even after I shower here in the morning.

Shower 3: Yes! It does. I can taste it on my skin even!

Shower 1: Oh, how does your husband feel about that?

Showers 1, 3, 4: [giggles]

Shower 1: I can’t get the water hot, can anyone get hot water?

Shower 4: Oh, guys, Marissa’s birthday next week, so we should all do something for her.

Shower 3: How old will she be?

Shower 4: She’s turning the Big 5-0!

Shower 3: How old are you, Susie?

Shower 4: Me? Oh I just turned 45.

Shower 3: you do not look 45. I would have said 38.

Shower 4: Well, you know, my mother looked young for her age. I’m telling you, things start slowing down after 40.

Shower 1: [shouting] Who slows down?

Shower 4: I said the BODY. The body slows down.

Shower 1: I don’t get that. Maybe it’s because my MIND is slowing down!

Shower 3: Susie, things will pick up after you get the last kid outta the house!

Shower 4: Oh, I hope so!

Shower 3: Besides, we ALL look young, don’t you think?

Shower 1: Yeah but my hair, you know, if I didn’t color it, the gray would make me feel older.

All Showers: (silence, sound of running water)

[Locker / Changing Area]

{One woman, previously Shower 3, opens Locker 3, drops her towels, grabs underwear. Turns around to Shower 4, who stands by Locker 4.}

Locker 3: (pulling underwear up) Susie, what is in your husband in?

Locker 4: (putting lotion of her legs) He has a joint venture company.

Locker 3: Can I have some lotion? Oh, that must be hard right now.

Locker 4: Sure, here you go. It’s great for your skin. Yes. Since it’s with small business, there are fire alarms going off every day. I tell you! What about your husband?

Locker 3: (puts on bra) He owns a law firm.

Locker 4: (now in jeans and bra) Oh, really? How is that right now?

Locker 3: We’ve been lucky. It’s the bigger firms letting people go.

Locker 4: Oh, it’s just hard on everyone right now. Everyone’s suffering.

Locker 3: It is. It is. So hard

[Shower 1 walks in, shaking her hair with towel, stands by Locker 1]

Locker 1: [still shaking wet hair] Diane, you and the kids going away for spring break?

Locker 3: We’re going to St. Thomas!

Locker 4: Nice! Oh, that’s so nice. All inclusive?

Locker 3: Yes! We couldn’t decide between skiing and the Caribbean, but this winter has just been brutal!

Locker 1: I’m telling you, All Inclusive is the only way to go with kids. I mean, otherwise it’s just too difficult and expensive!

Locker 3: I know. Don’t even get me started on last year’s Cabo trip with the boys! John wanted to golf the whole time and the boys were bored to death! I was dying! I thought to myself, “well THIS will never happen again! What a waste of money!”

Locker 1: Can anyone lend me a blow-dryer? I forgot mine!

Locker 4: Here you go. Oh, I love those jeans!

Locker 1: Aren’t they great?! I’m telling you, T. J. Max is a life saver!

***This was this morning. Interesting Group. They always have funny stories and dialogues. And let me tell you, believe it or not, most of these women (who I regularly see walking about naked) have better bodies than I do! Of course, they have a lot of time of their hands to work out….Shower / Locker 1 character is hilarious. Always loud and eccentric and talking about the latest deal she found at market or T. J. Max or online catalogues. I get the sense that she kind of annoys the other women, but they have to put up with her because she’s in the “group.” There’s also another Swimming Group that consists of the older women…60’s and 70’s. Now THEY have some HILARIOUS conversations. And sometimes they even start talking to me while I’m trying to change…they do not respect personal space, regardless of if you’re clothes or not. And sometimes, the older group will talk about you like you’re not standing next to them. For example, just last week:

Livvy: Oh, Maureen, look at her (points to me, while I’m hovering in a corner, trying to put on my bra) She has a tattoo!

Maureen: Really? (looks at me) Honey, what is that tattoo?

Me: (with bra successfully on, turning around to grab shirt) umm, uhh, a rose type thing

Livvy: A rose! Maureen, did you hear that? A rose!

Maureen: Yes, yes. Oh, dear. Have you ever been to Ireland?


19 February 2009

Words of Flight, How They Pass Between

Passing different lines, I try and see exactly where the intersections spell out your name. It twists and turns, and I write about it, not for myself, not even to clarify the smog, perhaps not even for you…but to lay some tracks across an otherwise na├»ve trail.

I wish I could give each person this gift. If I could lay before the sunset, trace the red that changes so brilliantly to orange and spell it out somehow b-e-t-w-e-e-n the curves of letters, if I could, it still wouldn’t create a ribbon between my dreaming and you.

It shifts, the subject. At first I thought I was writing to you (points North) but perhaps I am writing to you (points West). And if that’s the case, I change my tone, slightly, because even if we meet at the exact same place, the shoe-prints will be of different sizes.

I love you in my way. As if I could produce manuscripts on the way you think, how your line of thought goes in and out of the briar patch, stuck, some days, to my sides.

And to trust that even among strangers I can see your form.

That we have already forgiven each other for loving imperfectly.

That my Dictionary weighs less because of the absence of your name.

And your light? What can I do but sift through with my toes what my mouth has already spelled, leapt forward to catch?

Yes, wind comes through the cracks between wood, but notice, so does sunlight. We build for ourselves as much as for each other and I’ll be here for ages cleaning the dust from the modest floor, sweeping the broom and repeating words and names into the air which float to the roof as I watch them fly out into tops of trees. Because I live there, too, flying to greet our unborn joy.


Tell me, what faith have you gathered around you? Where is the source? I can never trace it back to mud, to the body, to the places one can visit. Sometimes I read your words and sit silently for hours.

When the heat breaks through, it rests its heavy body somewhere next to my heart. Do you know this panic? To listen to its static all through the night, hoping among the paper-shreds, a speck of you might come through, and I can save it, record it.

I am merely a boat of sorts, catching things along the way. Some days there are anchors. Some days a shifting of words. The point is, I know nothing about direction. Sometimes I cannot even see your light. Where is the source?

To open your arms like you do, like the world could send itself kindly to your door. But I know there are hours of teeth and I cannot catch you in the middle of brier, frozen in between states, doubting I’ll be your messenger again. The brier grows up to the throat.

Still, I read your words and sit silently for hours, wondering. Who unfolded their hands first? Did your words fly in from the window. What is the origin of their bones?

17 February 2009

Own Splinters

Do not be conformed

to this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

That my mind can lift me, thank you.

For discipline and forgiveness, lavender bath salts and Brahms,

memory, how it fills gaps where loneliness grows too bold.

And for loneliness. It has an achoring effect.

Otherwise, I think I'd forget to reach out, to be more than just a body, but a movement.

I thought of this, feeling a heat rise up in my chest. Again, anxiety-creature. I locked myself in the restroom to breathe. My head was swimming like a balloon up on a hill. I didn't know where each thought would drift. I had no map for the moment. This can be a shock. We forget how controlled we keep the mind, most days, until it somehow breaks through the gates.

But I thought, let it pass, hold out your hand. Offer it help. Allow yourself this. Allow yourself to feel panic. Bend around it softly. Present it with flowers and a pasture to work things out.

There's no wrong moment, no perfect emotion. Only those that walk away unheard and those that are given a chance to come undone, without judgment.

For a moment—I could be the calm around my own splintering. And I thought, energy is energy—cry, kiss the forearm, remember running through the rain, asking the evening to extend itself, how sometimes it feels like the body dissipates. This can happen in confusion and in joy.

14 February 2009

Meditations on a Water-Tank

ou see, I try to hold another, to gain access to another day, to garner something close to my chest.

Imagine a water tower peppered with bullet holes, millions of them, so that when the sun sets, it’s as though orange-peel stars descended on its belly, chatting next to one another. I mean that to fill this tank would be fruitless. The sun shines through it, minutes pass from under it, time has its way with its body—it holds nothing but air, and even air finds the escape-hatch.

And each morning I wake, forgetting that no matter success or failure, each moment is clean, bringing with it no residue of the last or premonition of the next.

I forget the tank is peppered with holes, faulty. I forget that anothers words are fleeting and could change their tone at any moment. I forget, even after I remember, that I cannot fill the day with errands or litter my hours with trophies—if I do, they turn to ash in sleep.

And so I remember the desert, where nothing but Nature was my companion. This companion does not watch you, waiting for you to succeed or fail. It does not linger over your thoughts, trying to conceive a way to hold intelligence over your head. Nature simply is. It moves whether the day was a “success” or not.

I could have placed stones in a pile and said “look at what I have created!” and Nature would not respond but keep moving. If one really notices, Nature does not move forward, but inward and outward, all at once. It radiates because it is and knows how to be only Nature. It does not try to possess or hold, to garner or steal.

Nature is a perfect companion to observe habit. I sat, first, for hours and wrote. I climbed a tree, made a tent when it rained, took a walk and ate when I was hungry. But I was lonely after a day. I grew anxious as it darkened. I had made no plans. I had no one to speak to, nothing but sky and animal eyes. The trees became so human-like I thought I could speak to them. I thought about the ants and whether I could make something from a stone and bark, pieces of string. Leaves speak in patterns to the wind. Still, I had no one to parrot my mind back to me. I had no one to hold and the day was door-less. I had no access or possession of anything but my thoughts.

Nature is full of holes, why should I expect to be any different, any less “broken”? It simply is, though fires burn acres, though rocks fall and become pebbles, though it has nothing but its own bones.

Try and possess it. You can’t. And so the tank cannot be repaired. Days will leave out of the back door while you lie in bed, going over lists and managing fear. Call someone on the phone and link your fear to their fear, look at the chains they make, the lines and distintions you can draw. But the sun shines through the holes just the same.

When I had run out of ideas of things to do while in the desert, I simply watched. Watched things move and shift, watched the sky change hue, the ants form lines. And I suddenly felt as though I was standing in someone else’s living room, asking to be seen. Until I felt in some part of my brain sound:

I see you.

And still, I forget. Each day, I forget that I don’t need to hold another, gain access on the day, garner something to my chest. What am I missing while trying to prove my existence?

The tank is peppered with holes. It cannot be filled. What am I missing, trying to fill it up with deeds, hours, language, trophies, bodies?

I am missing the chance to gaze back at You.

The You that is my continuation, what I lean back and laugh into, filled with joy.

11 February 2009

Blessed, We Read "The Winter After Your Death"

Today, thank You. Blessed piece of grass. Thank you for humidity and my blue coat. For the woman at the atrium cafe, carrying her baby, smiling at me though it's early morning.

Thank You for Craft class, scansion, brains and study.

For a moment, I thought I was in a math course--the strikes and dips on the board may has well been on my body, scanning lines with concentration, a connection with each person in the room.

Sharon Olds' poem "The Winter After Your Death" under our eyes, offering the tiniest patch of grass. Look. "Deep in my body my green heart" I read, and felt the body lurch forward.

"What does your body do?" teachers ask. What can it do? Nothing...herds are inside. Herds, acres full of them. What can it do, my body, but bite it's own freedom in the bit of containment.

Poetry is the gate swinging open. The ears twitch. The soul-withers gather, let go. There's a coming freedom for us. That's what poetry shadows. The pasture gate, swinging open. Click, rusted, yes, but it will open to god-mountains.

And so we scanned lines. Jasper and I agreed on pyrrhic and dactyls and trochaic inversions. Sometimes I get lost just in those words alone. Word-joy. Who called this word-joy? Stressed/unstressed.

I laughed, laughed out loud in class because I didn't think I'd ever feel such happiness, learning scansion. Not like this. Not in a community, a table, which should be a fireside. That's what the professor said, "Pretend we're gathered round a fire." A fire that melts the "thick trap / door of ice, ... water moves"

Spring foot--like a fermata, a hold. And that's what we do. Hold things out in our cupped hands. They could be sweet moments, or bitter.

Like staring into a lamppost. She said she could carry it with her in the watercolor. Yellows running out of the lines. Moments or poems. Hold the breath, as we do, in-between next breath.

And so I remember scanning poetry in class. Olds poem between us, fireside...tapping our fingers or feet. Dipping in and out of accentuals. Signals.

Patch of green. We could lie there. For a mid-morning moment. And sing to the god-of being-alive.

Blessed. So we read "The Winter After Your Death" and feel joy.

"A poem is breath in the air. Or it’s ink and paper. It’s standing for a heart and a mind. And I go to people’s poems to learn about the heart and the mind, and to be less lonely as a human being, and to have fun. And maybe people go to poetry partly to find out what we’re really like, to find out how bad we really are, how essential it is that we change while there’s still time, maybe, to change. But a day in a life and a poem about that day, there’s something profoundly different." --Sharon Olds, BOMB Magazine: Sharon Olds by Amy Hempel

Library Triangle, Page 83

In the library. At a desk with girl in blue boat. She has a nose-ring. Hair in a bob and pink sweater.Took off blue coat.

Man at a table behind her reading a book, biting nails, wearing swiss amry watch. Pearl snap shirt, he flicks the light on—high, low, high, low.

Girl with nose-ring types on Mac.

Her Mac looks at my Mac. Hers: white, mine: silver.

She touches her face, around the mouth.

Army watch chews his nails in time with her, both touching mouths at the same time. Now, drumming finger-tips. Smooth circle with index finger.

A girl diagonal army watch reading Count of Monte Cristo.

All girls touch their hair in the library.

Cristo's hair is a dark drape. Cannot see her eyes, just the book, hunched. Wearing all black. Rubbing eyes, combing hair.

Army watch biting his nails, petting lamp.

Girl with nose ring covers her mouth. Lips and fingertips, hiding a deck of cards, which are her teeth.

Monte Cristo pushes hair-drape aside.

Army watch keeps touching the lamp, high, low, high, low.

Monte Cristo is wearing skinny jeans, got up to get a magazine, New York Times.

They make a triangle: Nose-Ring, Army-Watch, Cristo.

Nose-Ring takes out library card. Walks to copy machine, not touching her face.

Army-Watch rubbing eyes, not touching the lamp, has tortoise-shell glasses, twirls them.

Monte Crito lies open to page 83, abandoned.

Three makes a triangle, though Nose-Ring is still at copy machine.

Army-Watch put down glasses, fingers pages. Has to be touching something, like girls who cannot let go of hair.

Woman in her 40’s sits down.

Triangle messed up.

Nose-Ring is back. Library card on top of her journal. She’s wearing pink, not hiding a deck of cards.

Monte Cristo open to 83.

No triangle, or three, because woman in her 40’s sat down.

Mac laptop. Everyone has one.

Cristo is leaving, black coat on.

Took Monte Cristo, abandoned New York Times.

Army-Watch put glasses on, fingering pages, took glasses off.

No more triangle. More a line. Page 83, gone.

10 February 2009


You said you shot the film in Sweetwater. I wonder if you held her in a trough. People do that. People make hotness lick off their skin like that, in the desert, stealing horses. Making room for each other in a trough. And if the sun was setting, I bet the heat was breaking. And if you shot the film in Sweetwater, I bet there as dust. There was dust up to eyelids. All the way to the ears. You laughed. In the trough. Washed sins. Like a baptism. But love isn’t kind enough, or holy. So the dirt gets in. So it should. So you laughed between one another. The sun was setting, breaking the heat. Stealing horses, you and her. Making something between two, kicking dust.

In Sweetwater, hell slides its snakes. Hope gets in between love, which isn’t kind enough to wash sins. But you laugh. You knew it wasn’t kind, but the baptism goes on. Like the film, I suppose. Just once. But it was a dream. It ran away, stole the horses. The sun was setting, but you said it was kind. Like hotness on the skin. The dust gets in. Gets in between you two. Like hell. People do that. People wash in troughs. Love isn’t holy. So they should.

09 February 2009

And the mountains fall
Into the heart of the sea

But this stone is precious.

Still, under canyons
lie open-mouthed--
fish, scaled, hooked.
Gut a spoon for once;
break me against
giving sounds: oak,
round, my grief.

07 February 2009

Don't You Just Love it When...

Dont you just love it when....

1. You can smile at stranger's on the street and then they say "hey...um, give me your number!"

2. A friend calls you just at the moment you're feeling kinda lonely.

3. The sun shines and there's the smell of fresh cut grass...

4. There's a gorgeous sunset just down the way, and you're running and thanking God you're alive to see it (this is mainly a West Texas thing, I think...since I've never seen the sunset here in NY)

5. A stranger smiles at you on the subway

6. You are sitting in Barnes and Noble, reading two poets' letters to each other, and you just happen to sit next to someone else reading the SAME BOOK!

7. You buy the person behind you their Starbucks drink, just because.

8. Someone writes you a hand-written letter and it comes in the mail on a day that things just weren't going right...and it makes you smile.

9. You get to have a nice bottle of wine with good friends

10. You get sick, but it's not the getting sick that is the good part, it's the getting better that is great, because it makes you realize how good you have it to feel better!

11. You create something beautiful, and it comes out like a soft rolling sound...like you're in love with the world and can't wait to tell it so.

12. You finally forgive someone, and release your hidden pain.

13. You wake up laughing (my God, that's the greatest feeling in the world!)

14. There's a night in with friends...and you get to play Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog and it makes you feel like a kid again...and there's beer and it tastes really good!

15. You get to travel, and the world astonishes you.

16. You spend a couple minutes in front of a painting, and you find yourself moved to tears

17. When there's a brilliant movie on, and when it's over, you're completely silent because you're blown away by it's sheer awesomeness.

18. The smell of coffee in the morning.

19. Your mom's homemade lasagna (My mom's is fantastic)

20. When someone kisses you for the first time, and you feel tingles all over.

...you realize you have so much to be grateful for...

Get Out

I cant' stand sitting here at my desk anymore. I am breaking down into tears. I don't know what's wrong with me. I have this fear that I won't find the words. I am so lonely. I feel like the air is thinner. I think I'm just going to forget about trying to write poetry today and just take the train into the city. I think I should just take the train. Because I can't get anything accomplished here. Maybe I'll go to Union Square and walk around. Maybe I'll read in the 4-story Barnes and Noble, drink coffee at a shop. Walk around and listen to people. Maybe I'll feel less out of my mind. Maybe I'll just listen to people talk to each other. Say something to them by saying nothing. Look at two people holding hands. Walk around in the waves and listen to my iPod. Restore something to myself that's missing. I don't know what that is. But maybe I'll find it when I get out of this box. I think I'll get lost and jump on a subway line I don't know where it goes, just to go, see new faces. Eat sounds. Chew on other's sentences as they kiss other sentences. Smell the cologne. My body needs to be around other bodies. Like flocks. I am tired of sitting on my own wire, branch, telephone pole. Maybe I'll go to museum, look at art. Stare at other's creativity. I don't know. I just know that all of a sudden I feel very lonely. I can't write anything today. Maybe I shouldn't write anything today. Maybe I should just feel the day. Feel others' days. What are they doing, where are they going, who are they loving? It's probably good to get out of this head of mine. I don't know. What will I do? I don't know.

06 February 2009


Didn't sleep. Can't stand this phase where nothing I write is good. Slept in between panic at the thought of having to complete a book by next year.

Why is it that now writing is a stress? Why is it that now, my form of self-mutilation is forced study? If I don't write something "good" then that's cause for self-doubt and criticism. If I can't write, then I shouldn't sleep. I shouldn't leave the room for days.

All of this. It's consuming. I feel like I did, halfway up the mountain, when I was sick, throwing up from the cramping of muscles around my stomach, bees in my lungs, ache in every bone. I wanted to lie down, but the rest of my group said "get up, keep walking." I looked at the dirt. Took each step in anger. Forced myself to feel all of the pain in my body like it was sweetness. Like I could master something if I could master this pain. And didn't the pain tell me I was alive? And so, each step I'd want to cry out, to lie down and give up. But somewhere inside me I thought, no, you don't deserve to feel the absence of this pain, you haven't finished. You have shown nothing.

And so, when we finally reached the top, I thought I'd feel relief. I thought I'd feel a swelling of pride.

Instead, I stood, surveyed the stillness and thought, out of all this, I am nothing, fleeting.

I think I fainted.

But it was finding my smallness that was the gift. Not that I had climbed the mountain, but that I could finally see how small I was. And though perhaps I should have felt discouragement, I felt comfort. Because somehow, I was there. Even if I fail at everything I set out to do, I existed. It was letting go, I think, of expecting a win, a prize, with accomplishment. I didn't feel joy at the summit. I only felt small. Sometimes, that's exactly how we need to feel.

I wrote this at four in the morning:

Other Voices
I want to lock myself in a room for days upon days, like a monk with his scroll or ancient book. I want to sleep for only an hour and wake with pain in my bones, teeth that crack and a heart that cannot help but stutter. I want lines to roll down my chest, lines of text. To have nothing to consume but the thoughts of others more brilliantly laid out than my own, so I can be humbled, hour after hour, about how the world is more beautiful than I could describe. Days of this. Days of trying to write and failing, days of other people's voices. Days where I get lost enough in the wooded words and rinsed metaphors that nothing seems perfect, or placed just so, or called out correctly. Where time loses its tick. Where I no longer want to write, because nothing I've written says something new.

Then, release me somewhere. Silence. Stillness. I cannot hear their voices. The Babel Tower has fallen. Then, I may have something to say.

But to You, I'd ask, what does it matter now?

05 February 2009

The Essential Thing

Nothing to write. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I will never experience the field of becoming because I have too much anxiety to contend with.

All day I've paced back and forth from one corner of my head to another. Paced until the pounding begins in the womb and moves into the ribs, a heat-baby that gets stuck, nestled next to my heart.

Something in my bones said “be still.” Not that I am the kind for stillness. “Waiting has no object.” But there are objects and then there are knots. The knots overwhelm me. The heat-baby stirs, bumps up against my heart. And I cannot sit still for the plain to come into view.

So all I've accomplished is a small chewing piece. My mind feels like trout have been nipping its edges all day. Nothing to sustain. Nothing to care for.

Except, perhaps a small offering. Though it is so flawed. But I imagine it still and blue, in the corner of my room. Standing there, hands curled one over the other. Or maybe it's an air. Yes, more of an air moving around some central point. The point is the poem, and its edges are a starry blue sparkling. If I could get through the atmosphere, I could read its text. But for now, I just enjoy watching it swirl, though imperfect. So, hang about in the corner, blue swirling node or knot or kind eye. I hope to get to know you.

Here it is, in it's baby-ness:

The essential thing has been stolen.
A monk, it crawls out into the night
to worship a moon in secret.
I know You are missing.

It was not that I awoke, but
the filed woke in me, a tree
lying upside down, tangled
in faith-matter, hope-birds,
wet, out of nest. I want to be
alone in this, to cry by the night
stand. My sudden joy. I forget
how to bar the door with my whole weight.

The monk has left his tower,
his robes dirty up in the muck
by the river, his hands pray
into the mud-mistress. I watch.
The essential thing has been stolen

01 February 2009

One in the Morning, Listening to Four in the Morning

“Reverence is one of man’s answers in the presence of mystery.”
–Abraham Joshua Heschel

The quote above was read by me tonight from a friend’s blog. She’s gorgeous. Her voice is gorgeous. Go look at her page: Lesley Sawyer

I was just listening to her song, Four in the Morning and I feel this weight. Always the weight. There’s this odd fuzz that rolls up over me. “I didn’t know if this was the way it was supposed to feel” she sings. “we were idiots, my god we were idiots.”

I smile.

I sit in my bed, my books piled up beside me, hopeless, helpless, kind. I know that all of the words in the world couldn’t reach and heal the rift between here and heaven. But it’s words, and expression, that reaches around us, connects one moment of someone’s pain to another’s moment of joy.

Whatever creative impulse grows out of her, whatever the road that lead to the pushing up and laying down of that song, or that letter, or your hands on my forehead; it can only be love that holds us all together. No matter the differences.

How someone’s viewpoint on beauty can be my home away from home. I can curl into someone’s recollections and sigh. You may have no recollection of me, but in your dreams, I have stopped by to watch, to listen, to spark off your beauty because I’ve been bleeding. I’ve been singing to get here, sitting up late at night, watching the dust settle on the ceiling fan. Watching my fingers find the right words to answer old broken hearts.

And someday, my rough edges will smooth and calm someone else’s pain.

That’s what we’re here for. Because without knowing it, we are each other’s keeper…regardless of what or how we feel, we are guarding, not our own hearts, but our neighbors. When we rejoice, it’s for some stranger. When we grieve or break open our alabaster heart, it’s the Other’s burden, soon we will know why.

I will keep reminding myself this. (how pain makes us turn inward and forget)

I will practice reverence.