My Poetry


Stars casting light across
our bodies
in the deep night
and the moon is full and
I run barefoot
to meet you at the water’s edge.
We know, I think, not to speak
about blue darkness and moon shafts shifting
across pale dandelions between our toes.
We could sink deeply together,
we both know this.
I won’t tell you what to be,
I’m coming behind you crashing
We wear our loneliness like night draped
around each other.
I can hear my blood throbbing
through my body
I won’t take more than you can give
I won’t let you slip beneath
any darkness but the night
with me
and you lead the way, asking if it’s okay
I want you to kiss my virgin heart
that swells in a rhythm to you
I can’t say it, it’s too hard, I don’t know
but I love you, don’t ask me to say it again.
I’m tiptoeing in the water you swim in
your ripples eddying around my bare skin
not so much afraid anymore
of what I don’t know
you ease me in and I’m secretly begging you
to not keep me waiting



I’m afraid of love.  It’s strange to me to think it can be something delicate and sweet at the same time.  And strong.  I break delicate things in my clumsy hands.  I grab too rough, I pick it apart and find the errors.  As if I can think my way through emotion.  And that’s what I’ve been doing the last five years for survival–thinking and studying and writing my way through emotions so I don’t have to feel them, but understand them.  I don’t want to feel love from someone.  Why? I think it wakes you weak and foolish.  I’ve looked for it in the strangest places–in damaging places, which makes sense.  I’d seek out people that didn’t have a problem hurting me, because I wouldn’t hurt.  It was like a fuel I ran on.  What happens when someone comes along and all that burning eases into tranquility? What does that mean?  Flames are there still but different–like something deep inside awakening, no not even awakening but developing–something entirely new I’ve never felt?  This kind of burning is an alarming ache.  I can’t follow this.  Because it means everything I’ve stood on to keep my pride collapses, and I have to put my emotions out there.  I survived on pride Continue Reading

creative nonfiction & memoir


(play song while you read to experience it)

He feels like an acoustic’s string rippling with a dark simple rhythm that beats to the backdrop of city lights and black and white urban streets of Tokyo, somewhere foreign to me that I’ve always seen myself getting lost in. It feels like the music in his thoughts, the rush of his mind, read to me like the first time I fell in love with banned books and Henry Miller lovingly wrote “cunt.” I want to turn his pages, I want to read the forbidden words he paints in red for me to take. The drum rolls up in a hidden beat behind his body and I imagine those dark eyes scanning his surroundings, lost in thoughts on maybe meditation or sex, or maybe that ever-constant song to his story he can’t name—his story. Then I feel him make room around the bass, and the vibration makes me wonder how he would feel inside me. I want to crawl inside his mind, I want to take him to the shore and sing to the water that I am somehow content. I want to take a needle and prick holes in this, watch it deflate in illusion and glitter would land at my heels—telling me it was just a dream. Just a want. Just a hungry need. But I can’t penetrate this, and the song moves into something light like early morning sunlight on old wood floors, and I hear the soft guitar pluck away and he’s there, seeing all of me, and he doesn’t leave. I wait for the music to sharpen and hurt, but it only does deep inside where I haven’t been touched yet. The lyrics from his lips are gentle and he unfolds ideas the way I want to unfold beneath him. He turns down another street, cigarette in his mouth, tall and dark against a white setting sun. Like a dream I can never remember.

creative nonfiction & memoir

Every Day, for Three Years

My hands tremble again as I try to open a prescription. More Valium.
It’s the same as it always happens—the complete fear, the loose-jointed-hanging by a thread over a large hole. And then the sweat, the racing heart, the distorted perception of my peripheral, and I can no longer feel. Self-mutilating is often the cure for this, but I’m becoming too heavy in the drugs. I shake more as suicide creeps into the back of my mind again. My psychiatrist calls this dissociating. I call it Thursday.

Jillian Audrey Design

Jillian Audrey Design

Another day in these rooms, pacing (lots of pacing). I spend most of my time alone. I say it’s because of this and that, and this, but the truth is I’m afraid—afraid I’ll bump into someone who once knew me and they’ll wonder what the fuck happened, and the rumors are or are not out there anyway. I may be paranoid, but I’ve seen their faces. Really, I didn’t want to see myself mirrored in their eyes—the same look of uncomfortable politeness, pity maybe, because maybe they’d already heard—and beneath that layer, the look of loss. As if seeing someone that never really came back.
So here I shake in my shelter I’ve patched together and I make tea. I pace more and more, waiting for something to end, because I can’t accept quite yet that madness happens on a continuum. I debate going to the hospital again, but really what else can they do for me. What else can they possibly do except tie down my wrists so I don’t do it (metaphorically), secure the over-the-counters and scripts, keep me away from glass and others. But I have a shred left in me that will allow me to do this myself—this tiny fucking thread that is my bridge

raceytay @ etsy

raceytay @ etsy

between despair and hope. And ‘hope’ isn’t that pretty-looking either. Hope is believing you won’t lose control and take that little pink razor. Hope is knowing you’re not quite that insane yet, so you have to stay at home alone, and pray to the god of Time to make haste and speed you along through the dark–through the carnival tunnel of the stuff nightmares are made on. Hope knows no faith, it is merely the least dark of the shadowed corners where the voices in your head are coming from. It’s like being in Limbo, where heaven is the speed getting turned down a notch so you can rest your spinning head, knowing you just made it another day. Hell is the cracking inside your skull, the matter of the brain no longer signaling right from wrong, pain and comfort. There is no God, there is nothing that can comfort you, and you have to give up, essentially, and hand over your own keys to yourself because you can no longer protect that self. Love yourself? Shit, that’s a delicacy.
And so it goes, like this, every day, for three years. I lived like that for three years. With a young child to bear witness. And I’ll forever wonder how I damaged her.
I make it up to her every day, I try, when I’m not slipping across the moods and concentrations. But I can’t make this about her. Not this one. I’m not ready. It hurts too much.
There weren’t too many days I didn’t cry, but on those rare days, it only allowed for clarity to reveal to myself what I had become. I don’t know how to put into words Continue Reading

mental illnesses

a thought





parts of you become numb along the way and they fall asleep in their idea that this kind of living is okay, and you neglect parts of yourself that need you, because you don’t know how to help it—it’s not that you don’t really know any better (though that’s largely the case) but that that particular sight or emotion got tired and gave up,


Bipolar Disorder

A Beginning (Memoir)

Cold January cracks through the diamond patterned lines on the security glass. The winter sun blinds my puffy eyes, stretches across my white blanket, my white sheets. Everything is white. I look for it in my gut—the comfort of warm familiar glows and dawn, but there is none. And the empty nothingness overwhelms me to a sit-up position. Fear. Fearing fear. This fear that had started spreading through me, and now continued as soon as I wake, like a black ink filling my veins. It has a mouth and a long, wide throat and there’s sharp teeth to catch me. There certainly aren’t people because people don’t exist in your head. And I cry because no one can help me out of this. That’s why I am here. I feel the nausea rise and the taste of rubber in my mouth. I cry because there is no God. I try to whisper Hail Mary again like last night. It’s not working. Focus. Panic. Focus. Feel the textures, feel the temperatures. Be present you will not die. I’m dying. Alone in my room, wearing their navy blue scrubs. It’s that starving cry again and I’m no longer embarrassed here to try to muffle it. I also know it doesn’t help worth a damn, but I’m that little girl, aren’t I? That little five year old getting her head kicked in and her underwear pulled. Wasn’t the time I put into this madness enough? It may never end, and I prayed to Mary to let it be over. I hear the little girl’s voice again, sobbing gently in my head. I want to reach inside myself and cut her. Because I know she is where I must begin–this is only the bottom of the well. It’s unexplored down here and only a shred of January streaks through lupengrainnetealbulbabove me, in that small opening to the world. Miles away. And I have to know this well like the back of my hand if I intend on not only surviving but never coming back. Memories, speak. Memories I’m down I’m down, I can’t fight anymore. And there is nothing left but terror—and even more terror awaits but I must break into this and start eating it alive—I must figure this out. I must feel. I must remember. Or I won’t make it.

The drive in the old red Chevy is a quiet one, nothing but white headlights through the haze of cigarette smoke—Dan, my stepfather, chain-smoking Dorals, watching the road and my thigh. None of us speak—we hardly ever did in those years. I stare through the glass, watching the mental ward set back against the tall bones of the birch trees draw near.
The sky is the only thing I want to see. The only thing I don’t have to think Continue Reading

mental illnesses

A Trauma Theory


It was my third year in college when I first heard the term string theory.
I remember moving forward slightly, anxious for what
he’d say next, and as the professor strolled over
quantum physics and how this theory could explain
all the forces of nature—what it could reveal, the dark mysteries
it could possess—
I know that I felt the spindles in my irises unraveling
like a sketched star in reverse, and thatwhitecottagephoto2
it connected to words in my brain, and then
to the angles in my fingers, the shoots in my nervous system

bodies in cubic space and time, specks in the ether, strung
together, moving each other,
causing and effecting
And all of this happened not out of belief
no, but from the simplicity of proofs.
I know that I felt the chemistry in my brain spark,
and that these strings moved around, refracting
and bending the way I did against my
faulty wiring. My amygdala had a pulse
and my usual emotional responses went static—perhaps
it was my first touch with existentialism.
Or perhaps it was my first touch with faith.
But I lost the comfort of a small ignorance and I was exposed,
and all at once, in the back of the room
at my desk, I pictured, in the span of a thread,

my mother
repelling me, twisting and corrupt and
in sync with my own–out of alignment, changing rhythm,
her defections streamlining down to
me like a shared, infected vein Continue Reading

mental illnesses

The Elements of Loss

I don’t hear you say my name
as you ask why it is
I let no one love me.
I feel something stir
and I laugh.
This is my way.
There’s no room for clumsy.
Take me or leave me, I
say I’ll give you one chance
when I know I won’t
give you any.
Best to shield before
they want to leave.
But deep in the
infection of my gut
I’m saying
love me, love me.

After my father’s funeral
my mother gave me back
all the things I’d made her
as a child. Continue Reading

child abuse

“Darkness Starts” Christian Wiman

Darkness Starts
By Christian Wiman

A shadow in the shape of a house
slides out of a house
and loses its shape on the lawn.

Trees seek each other
as the wind within them dies.

Darkness starts inside of things
but keeps on going when the things are gone.

Barefoot careless in the farthest parts of the yard
children become their cries.

Bipolar Disorder

Dear Virginia

I would have met you at the water if I
were then without a daughter; I would have
held your hand–my lost keeper.
I would have decided on the hour–on
instinctual impulse–when the lower
haze of swaying moods sends me down.
I would have called you I bet,
and the moon would’ve been full and
I would’ve ran barefoot in my nightgown
to meet you at the water’s edge.
We would’ve known, I think, not to speak
about blue darkness and moon shafts shifting
across pale dandelions between our toes. Continue Reading

My Poetry

Love, Your Angry Ballerina

In another language

you tell me I am only dancing

in your room for you,

you tell me I am a stamp

of a woman, elegantly abstract

across your stage of equations,

silly in my shoes.

I watch myself in your iris

and I shrink to pose,

turning for you I

want to say

See?  See

how I slip

behind the





published in Psychic Meatloaf, issue 3

*photo by Heather Jacobson


Poem of the Day from Oscar Lush

I found this poem at the blog, Dead Beats.  It’s written by Oscar Lush and I feel it deserves the Poem of the Day. Enjoy.




Out of some human sadness,

pale faces bloom like roses.


The ones you once loved

stumble like children,


from carnivals come Autumn–LupenGrainne99999

the lights that slip between.

The creases

in your fingers

dim in the distance

before they are gone,

over the harbor,

and you are gone, too.


Ships hover in the fog

and they won’t come near

nobody will come near tonight. Continue Reading

My Poetry


The pop and snap of prescription pill bottles,lupengrainne986
swallow, light, inhale, scrape of the chair,
cluster of tap-tap-taps on the keys, a silence—

beyond this room, beyond this wall
I can almost hear you—the soil
sifting, seeds spreading out, dry in your palm;
folds of light robes around you like
birds’ wings—your child
asleep on your warm back,
your sky a sea, an earth, a breath

because you’re there I’m less anxious
(as I palm another pill) because I rely
on sedated time I sit in my chair,
lost somewhere before the border,LupenGrainne2
where I see myself later—aged and worn away—
walking to you, palms up.
“Here, here I am…” only you aren’t waiting
for me, time is something else to you—
so I see I don’t have to tell you
where I’ve been or why I am here
but that I’ve arrived
out of the cement tomb;
the rise and fall of my chest is all,
seas of breath and I am.

I know the scent of your skin,
the feel of your warm, bent back Continue Reading

mental illnesses

Excerpts from Carl Adamshick’s “The Emptiness”

“…the forked branch of my existence
was lit like a crackof lightning.
My breath, my tongue, the broken fontof my voice had wanted to praise.
And when I didn’t speakI became a secret, a testimony
against my own body. I lived
and lived

with the fact that I watched others
struggle and pray.

I watched them lie on the shore
with their heads adrift in a shine if stars

and wanted their hunger
to finally consume their sad,
hurting bodies.

I watched, hoping
when the tide came and lifted them away

I could live without shame.
The emptiness. The tongue bound

to the betrayal held in the mouth,
to the apology held

in the mouth, to the brutal remains
held in the socket of the mouth.

And still, under it all,
I feel an orchid, the cold river flow

around my feet. I see the stars
as the shimmering bones

Of migratory birds
and swallow the humiliating taste

of beauty. I am the dirt,
the worm-dirge, the lament and procession

winding through a garden burning
with flowers.

I am not the body that dies naked,
swollen and torn,

infested with beetles.
I am not the body that lacks

the funeral and its offering of plums.
I am not the body,

the empty midnight station.
I am not the bombed-out factory…

…I am the severed hands of a war

and feel it escape into me like a tired lover

I am comfort into the dark hours,
where my body, swathed with heat

and sorrow, listens to air
pass through the gate of its teeth.

…When light around the field is spilt moon
and memory is a nest

of mud and grass hidden in the bright
summer branches,

when emptiness is an open door,
the well-black pupil of an iris.

I am lost in the living, in the acceptance
of rain filling a bucket,

in the belief
that the chemical burn was a washing

for the exodus
and the smoke rising through
the chimneys

into the pale-blue morning was
a love song.
There are days when I wake

and find my face is a hole
and I have nowhere to hang my

Continue Reading

On Writing

Norman Mailer on Writing

Lupen Grainne

Lupen Grainne

“Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.

The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral

consciousness of people.

Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.”

—-Norman Mailer

creative nonfiction & memoir

Henry Miller “Reflections on Writing”

Today I went to a used bookshop across the lake from my little hometown.  It’s probably one of my favorite places in the world.  It’s in an old, 18-foot-high ceilinged long rectangle of a room with shelves and shelves up to the ceiling with ladders all over.  The wood floors are il_570xN.636354803_92rrold and creaky as hell, and there’s a little coffee room permeating over the smell of old books.  Poetry books, literary fiction (tastefully chosen, no Nora Roberts), history, world religions, psychiatry, tons on shamanism and healing, war, westerns, floral, local, books on writing, books on poetry, all jammed in tight in sky scraping bookshelves and they somehow keep it organized.

So I came across The Henry Miller Reader, edited and with an intro by Lawrence Durrell, copyright 1959 I believe.  As most of you know, I’m a fan of Henry Miller.  When I first read Tropic of Capricorn in college I was shook up and stunned to learn that you could write like that–honest, no conformity but a telling of a story/life/times like he just opened up his brain or his soul without capitalizing on the idea that a soul is perfect and beautiful.  He makes fucked-up look just right.  And that’s a relief to me as a writer trying to figure out the form to my voice.  He hit a point in his writing that I think we all have to reach–where we think we’ve lost it, we’re no good, we can’t make it as a man/woman because we can’t write the way we think we should.  But then there comes the point–you throw ALL of those preconceptions out, all the noise out, all the how-to’s out, all the examples out–AND YOU WRITE FOR YOURSELF.  You write out of the pit you’re in, and you write the scum your in, the beauty you’re in, the truth you’re in, you’re not ever going to find a point or thee truth, but you hover around it and the whole of your craft (not the words, but the language) the whole of your intention, shines a light on a truth you can’t even name.

“I imitated every style in the hope finding the clue to the gnawing secret of how to write.  Finally I came to a dead end, to a despair and desperation which few men have known, because there was no divorce between myself as writer and myself as man: to fail as a writer mean to fail as a man.  And I failed.  I realized that I was nothing–less than nothing–a minus quantity.  I t was at this point…that  I really began to write.  I began from scratch, throwing everything overboard, even those whom I most loved.  Immediately I heard my own voice I was enchanted: the fact that it was a separate, distinct, unique voice sustained me.  It didn’t matter to me if what I wrote should be considered bad.  Good and bad dropped out of my vocabulary.  I jumped with two feet into the realm of aesthetics, the nonmoral, nonethical, nonutilitarian realm of art.  My life itself became a work of art.  I had found a voice.  I was whole again….”

“I had to grow foul with knowledge, realize the futility of everything; smash everything, grow desperate, then humble, then sponge myself off the slate, as it were, in order to recover my authenticity.  I had to arrive at the brink and then take a leap in the dark.” Continue Reading

creative nonfiction & memoir

Bitched From the Start

“Forget your personal tragedy.  We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously.  But when you get the damned hurt use it–don’t cheat with it.  Be as faithful to it as a scientist–but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.”

Ernest Hemingway, to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Selected Letters)


Writers on Writing

Richard Price                                                                                                                   Anyone who’s a writer or a painter–or anything in the Arts–is no portrait of mental health. I have to be an artist, I have to take this lonliness and make it work–it’s not a happy or a proud choi8ce, it’s a desperate choice.

Alice Hoffman                                                                                                                                    In my experience, ill people become more themselves, as if once the excess was stripped away only the truest core of themselves remained. …Writers don’t choose their craft; they need to write in order to face the world.

Billy Collins                                                                                                                             You read not to discover the poet, you read to discover yourself.

Elie Wiesel                                                                                                                               Authentic writers write even if there is little chance for them to be published; they write because they cannot do otherwise… Writers write because they cannot allow the characters that inhabit them to suffocate them.  …Writing, however, is becoming much more difficult.  Not to repeat oneself is every writer’s obsession.  Not to slide into sentimentality, not to imitate, not to spread oneself too thin.  To respect words that are heavy with their own past.  Every word both separates and links; it depends on the writer whether it becomes wound or balm, curse or promise. …writing is anything but easy.  (on the difficulty of Night)…and yet it was necessary to continue.  And speak without words; more precisely, without the proper words.  And to try to trust the silence that surrounds and transcends them.

Toni Morrison                                                                                                                                    If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. …Without writing you’re stuck with life.

Joan Didion                                                                                                                               All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

            Which was a writer.

            By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want to what I fear.  Continue Reading

On Writing

Annie Dillard, from The Writing Life

“A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.  Strange seizures beset us.  Frank Convoy loves his yo-yo tricks, Emily Dickinson her slant of light; Richard Seizer loves the glistening peritoneum, Faulkner the muddy bottm of a little girl’s drawers visible when she’s up a pear tree.

…your fascination with something no one else understands…it is up to you. …There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.  You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.  ‘The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity.’  Anne Truitt, the sculptor, said this.  Thoreau said it another way: know your bone.  ‘Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life…Know your own bone: gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.’

Write as if you were dying.

Describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris.  Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford, Connecticut.  Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.

The writer studies literature, not the world.  He lives in the world; he cannot miss it… He is Continue Reading

creative nonfiction & memoir

John Updike on Writing

(taken from Fresh Air: Writer’s Speak with Terry Gross)

“…you can take painful and bad experiences and somehow just in writing about them you get rid of the pain…Writing as a release, a kind of therapy…when you write about something in a strange way you become lightened of it.  Writing is my sole remaining vice; it is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable.  In the morning light one can write breezily without the slightest acceleration of one’s pulse about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in a panic to God.  In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning, of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all nature and scenery, and the bright distractions and furniture of our lives; even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death.  Writing and making the world light in distorting, pitifying, verbalizing approaches blasphemy.  …I think there’s something demonic in the complete writer…an ideally nice person would probably not become a writer…we are cruel beings and all of the shadow sides of one’s self-knowledge goes into writing and in a way energizes it.”