…My weariness amazes me
I am branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
and the ancient empty street’s
too dead for dreaming…
–Bob Dylan

He is standing at the end of the dock with a cigarette hanging from his dry lips. Late July sun is rising, warming his bare feet on the planks of warped wood–just inches above the water. His spirit belongs to older generations–an ancient part about him that sent him away from cities and busy people, never trying to chase or capture time. Maybe it was because of the rheumatoid arthritis; he had it since he was seven and now, at thirty-five, he’s found where he belongs–taking each day slow and steeped in chamomile, never knowing or planning for the next flare up.
He tinkers with cameras and foods and clay until they make sense in his hands, creating masterpieces in the long afternoons of tea and painkillers. On summer nights he sat outside his house, smoking in the dark, capturing fireflies with shutter modes, trying at it every time he noticed the camera buried somewhere on the counter.
He embodies that Beat-look–aged blue jeans worn thin at the knees and seat, torn and meticulously patched, fitted and worn white t-shirts, shaggy hair. He doesn’t go without his Continue reading

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

“but when I t came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.” bell jar

So I have three copies of The Bell Jar.  Well I only need two–because one of them I still can’t bring myself to look at.  But I refuse to let it go.  It means too much.  When I do look at it I feel that old familiar feeling of dread, the bad kind, the kind that is a glimpse of what you know inevitably is 1111111111112wedfcoming.  I was in high school when it became really strong.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew something was mentally off with me around sixth grade, and had cried and worried so much about it in private by then that I had become accustomed to that level of panic.

…until I got a copy of Plath’s The Bell Jar.  An old yellow one with browning pages.  The bold, curly letters in the title.  Her gnarled name–the woman who didn’t make it.  And she was me.  She was so much like me.  Or IS.  I couldn’t read as I read it in class after class.  I was nauseous but unafraid.  When you know something is going to happen to you that cannot be helped, you somehow brace yourself for more pain, and the fear becomes a numb root in your gut.  And these roots had taken their initial digs years ago, and yet I felt too mildly mad at this time of The Bell Jar reading, that I dared myself to continue and explore what felt like a schizoid terror.

I read and read and read, ill and beyond uncomfortable.  My head fell asleep like a limb, and I couldn’t shake it out.  My friends looked different, they talked different.  I was suffocating.  And I learned only later why Sylvia named it The Bell Jar.  Because that’s what I was in–and it was what I remained in for over a decade after until I broke it.  I decimated the mother fucker.  But it took years away from me…  Continue reading

He is the bass stripped down to a dark rhythm that hums to the backdrop of city lights and black and white urban streets and alleys, somewhere foreign to me I want to get lost in. My thoughts around him read 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. A steady and heavy cello across absurd piano strokes crash into everything I’ve judged myself on, every law I am governed by and I am intoxicated by the strangeness, drunk on this existential, loveless affair, this music. Something cold in his quiet demeanor, almost cruel–a hidden beat to his body, to his sex; a muted aggression beneath a tie. I imagine his eyes ignoring his surroundings, lost in thoughts on maybe statistics, maybe sex, maybe the structure of all things black and white, applying logic and reason and theory to the strange design of women. Or maybe he is seeing only scale and the black dots of notes and wanting only an outlet for himself, and maybe I am making this all up because I am looking for it too–somewhere to release it, choke out my tired morals, or at least to have a corner where I don’t have to hide. I feel him make a little room for me, and just the tone in his voice makes me wonder how he would feel inside me. I want to crawl into his mind, I want to be taken senseless without expectation. Just a want–a hunger. I don’t want to be so alone all the time with this appetite, this contorted rhythm in smoke.

I’ve been on a crazy literary kick and I thought I’d share my findings, including some INCREDIBLE books (and links, author blogs, literary websites and magazines/journals).

For starters, I want these books (many of which were found at Ampersand Books and Brain Pickings):

Letters of Note –Shaun Usher (and his awesome Letters of Note blog)

A Writer’s Diary–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As Consciousness is Harnassed to Flesh: journals and notebooks (Susan Sontag)

MeaningofHumanExistenceMech.inddThe Meaning of Human Existence (BOUGHT IT!) by Edward O. Wilson

–and here’s a review by the Washington Post

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (Anne Lamott) –BOUGHT IT!

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson

Dataclysm: Who We Are (when we think no one is looking) by Christian Rudder –BOUGHT IT!

The Life of the Mind by Hannah Arendt

Changing My Mind: Occassional essays by Zadie Smith

(poetry) Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck –OWN IT9780374152017_custom-c010e93aece861fd1783b68ce6c0eabdc7044d67-s99-c85

****The Muse of Abandonment: Origin, Identity, Mastery in Five American Poets by Lee Upton (…bought it)

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit –BOUGHT IT!

Henry Miller on Writing

Sex, or the Unbearable by Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman

978-0-8223-5594-6_pr

and oooooh

22022747I want this one: Blacken Me Blacken Me, Growled   by Cassandra Troyan  (which I saw over at PANK)

(poetry/Ampersand): For the Woman Alone (at Ampersand Books) by Ashley Inguanta  71h2yIQfwdL

(fiction/Ampersand) We Take Me Apart –Molly Gaudry (and I believe there is a sequel coming out)

Now, other cool literary/poetic places I like–and most of them have podcasts, links, reviews, music, and more:

How a Poem Happens (one of my favorite places)

Identity Theory–has everything

Jacket2

MadHat Lit

Tin House Workshop Podcasts (with a special podcast there by Ann Hood on 10 steps to an essay)

Bookslut –books, interviews, posts, good stuff

dumbfoundry

Largehearted Boy–music, books, lots of great shit (and downloads)

Luna Park

Laila Lalami Continue reading

I’m standing on the roof of a four-story building downtown in a city. I’ve just taken Ecstasy. I don’t feel ecstasy. I feel what I learned later to be verging on a psychotic panic. I’m going to jump off if someone doesn’t stop me, if someone doesn’t touch me.

The sky is clear. Alisha spins and spins, her arms out “Amy, oh Amy I love you,” her red hair flashing.

I tell her she looks like Satan.

I feel like the roof is going to tilt and my body will let itself slide to its death. I’m too embarrassed to speak; the stars pulsating in time with the veins in my temples.

It intensifies. I feel the depth pressure when I look over the edge and then run back to the center and fold, wrapping my arms tight around my legs. Alisha is sliding all over in smooth colors. She’s scaring me. And then suddenly I am fire; I am bottomless.

I am I am I am.”

Fucking Sylvia quotes in my racing brain. And then I see her head stuffed in the stove and I hear the blade wretch back on my wrist. Suicide. The very word gives me metal chills, the way the “-cide” sounds like a knife slash on cold teeth. I can’t take it. And now I start believing I am going to die. It has been per-ordained from a higher power that my heart will stop. ….Now

Alisha’s laugh peals through the air and I choke down my fear of the word.  It must be obvious, this affair I’m having with “suicide”–so now it feels like a major question on my lips, but I can’t get up and tell her. She’s holding her breasts through a Dropkick Murphy shirt. The moon high over the rooftop glints on the barbell piercing under her lip. Ed, her boyfriend, makes me think she is a suggestion to a woman like me. Nonsense. Ed. I feel a wash of compassion for Alisha. And then the memory of Ed Norton’s forehead creases, “I am Jack’s raging hard-on.”

I’m a train. I need the ultimate climax in everything I do until I’m repelled by fear—that is all that I have learned about myself, living out here. And that new fear –it’s hard to scare me. Alisha takes my hand and pulls me through the thick air and into the stairwell and kisses my lips, “Let’s go,” and I hold her hand and crash into another night.

I find myself rocking in the dark wet grass behind my apartment. I don’t know how much time has passed since the rooftop. A few people are here and there, bottles of booze and clear baggies of coke. My head spins and then stops, spins and stops. Someone comes out of a threshold somewhere, and I think it’s my dead father, no, I know it’s him. The familiarity I felt when I turned to look over my shoulder was real. The moon shine’s down on a large, flat, white face. A choker with spikes. I am alarmed at this apparition, and then at this ease of myself seeming to slip between reality and delusion. I feel the blood in my temples pound. I’m tearing at the grass, desperately making piles under a calm facade. My roommates are having a party inside and after what seems like hours of confusion, I see clearly, a thought. An act. I have an idea.

I feel myself stalk. My arms possess waves and my hips are on rails. Lily comes to me and she hugs my face and dances in the square of light coming from the kitchen window. “Rider’s on the Storm” is humming and rolling through the house. I scream for Bill to play “Not to Touch the Earth,” and before I realize I finish asking, it shakes me to my core—that high organ keys sounding like an Atari ghost chasing me and I smell brown smooth leather boots and jackets and “Wake up GIRL, WE’RE ALMOST HOME!” And we are dancing. Or we were. Or I just thought we did. Because in another moment I am alone in the quiet grass, easing out of a scare and into a numbing. Not a fine numbing. It used to be fine until it started mattering. It’s easy not to feel. I lie down and let it, inhaling anything that might fill me—be it words or fantasy or pills or gin—until I am brimming with and drowning in just a reflection of myself, pooling into a glass the man I fuck takes a drink from. Electrified flowers. Naked shoulders. I am gone.

THE LETTERS

Erica’s in a rectangular room with one-hundred and four strangers–people sitting in a semicircle, some in chairs, some standing against the walls, all facing Sobonfu Some, “keeper of the rituals” of African spirituality, traveling the world on a healing mission. Sobonfu talks for a few hours and people ask questions, discussing grief and fear and abuse and loss and pain and where it comes from.  Erica explains this in a letter, and she is getting dreamyphotssssready for a grief ritual, a “transformative experience” she writes, and I am instantly sucked in.
Three altars were set up, she wrote, the grief altar with a black cloth, to the left of that is the ancestor/strength altar with red cloth, and to the right, in blue, is the forgiveness altar.

I imagine her sitting there during Sobonfu’s talk, her head cocked to the side in a deep focus and secret pain she’s about to ’hare with strangers–I know her private bravery.  I think of the letter she wrote me years back about her journeys through Nepal and Europe, basically backpacking and doing housework for boarding.  She had saved up, left her job, and took a plane to Hawaii where she met Matt.  They traveled together, scraping by on a journey across the east, when she had a breakdown and locked herself in a bathroom for nearly a week in……..
In 1996 you would have found us jumping onto moving trains together near Lake Superior, back when trains still ran around the quieter parts of town and on the outskirts.  We’d take our bikes and get lost from dawn until dusk, walkman speakers wrapped around my dreamyphoto789handlebars playing Green Onions. We’d found mountains of sands before the cemetery out on Sanborn Avenue on the edge of town, and we’d climb up to the top and leap off, rolling and tumbling down.  The ridges looked like ancient, carved faces, and in middle school that’s what our essays and poems were about, huddled together in the cold little room of our Catholic School, in a class of thirteen, reading The Red Pony and writing.  We wore Airwalks and chucks, cut-offs and Nirvana tees.  We’d roller-blade before school to the grand hotel on the lake front and break into the pool and swim on hot summer mornings, and then head for school.  We followed the tracks once out past the Bay City Creek and rolling countryside spread out before us, rolling with a horizon of pines.  It began to sprinkle and then, to our amazement, the largest rainbow we’d ever seen arched over us from behind us, nearly over us, and then into the horizon.  We looked at each other and just knew–this was magic.  We did our handshake and said “Philly,” as w“ always”did.  We talked about our dreams, about the unknown, about music and philosophizing on our dreamyphotos66lives.  Sometimes we just walked and sang “California Dreaming” in two-part harmony.
She never said much about her mother and her own pain and confusion.  I never told her I was sexually abused and getting hit and mistreated at home.  It was like, when we were together, it was paradise–a real kind.  We were more ourselves and we were safe.  Safety was a thing I’d never known, ’nd to have it just blocks away changed me.  I grew braver.  Damn near fearless.  We both did.  And yet I wonder, if only we’d confided in e’ch other what was happening in our hearts and scaring us, maybe none of the bad would have happened.  Maybe I wouldn’t have broken h’r heart and humiliated her in front of our friends over a guy, leaving town with one of her best friends to a bigger city.  Maybe, if she’d only known my’fear and insecurity of men, my utter loneliness in my pain, and her in hers, maybe things would be different.  Yet I feel they’re meant to be ’his way, as fucked up and bittersweet as it is.  My connection to her was strong, stronger than any I’d ever known.  ’ knew, even then, she’d always be an important part of my life, a spirit I would judge everyone else’s by to check their w Continue reading

My Grams w/ Emma
My Grams w/ Emma

It was a late Spring afternoon.  Mike and I sat across from grandma on the back porch in the shade, the hanging baskets of mixed pansies   fragrant on a gentle breeze.  I remember it so clear–she was wearing her light blue jeans and her pastel yellow, short-sleeved blouse with the white flower basket across the front, a lace collar.  We were enjoying the moment I remember, it was quiet between us–a gentle kind as sweet as Spring.  And then she said something to both of us that I’ll never forget.

lostinthevalleygrandma“I want you two to know something, what happened to you–it wasn’t your fault.  Neither of you.”

It was quiet.  I choked up.  She’d never brought it up before.  And I wanted her to hold me and say it again and again, yet the one time was enough for a lifetime.

Mike, my cousin and best friend my entire life, has Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Bad.  He’s 34 and has had his shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles replaced.  He’s a fighter.  He obviously cannot work and he fills his time with creation, and discovered he’s one hell of a sculptor–he is self-taught, and his work is incredible.  (Here’s his blog: Chicks Dig Scars).  If you’d like to read my essay all about Mike it’s HERE.  Ok, one more–my interview on him for his blog is HERE. Continue reading

I found my flashdrive from college back in 08′ and I found this piece.  I wrote it when all my essays and poems and stories began spilling out in college like a damn fever and this, oddly, is before the PTSD hit full-force.  And it describes my current nightmares.  Weird, eh?

Amy Sprague

Eng 360

04-08-08

Meditative

The Nothing Caper

 It came in the night.  We were all sleeping in the creaky house and I woke to it lifting my sheets; it made my nightgown bleed.  My doll saw it all so I ripped out her eyes the next morning before breakfast.  Then it started coming in  my dreams, and I thought a monster was asleep beneath my bed, gathering my things.  On the scratchy carpet where the sun comes in, it branded my skin with its tongue, so I gave it my voice.  Mother and father swallowed it up.

They found me in corners and closets and they didn’t hear their words running from my mouth.  I didn’t know so I swallowed the words whole; they fed me spoonfuls of aches that echoed deep into my belly, burning my insides until it dulled.

I began to sweat them out my pores like a broken fever.  I washed and raked my skin Continue reading

I read a beautiful essay in Huff Post Parents on The Blog entitled “A New Season” by Lindsey Mead (on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog–A Design So Vast).  And it struck a nerve.  A big nerve.  And I’m now going to confront exactly what I’ve been avoiding for a while now–my Emma is growing up.

You know what my trouble with parenting is?  I’m always so prepared TO BE prepared, I plan for the worst and hope like hell for the best–the idiotic thing about this is no one can control everything.  ESPECIALLY with children.  Emma surprises me daily from her new-found 10-year-old ways and seemingly closer to her teens by the minute, to coming home with a drawing she made of flowers that says “To Mom Love Emma I love you” on the back.  And man alive the looks she gives me-!  And that’s just it–welcome to……dut dut daaaahhhhh–your child growing up.

Em and I, it’s always always been Em and I.  And gradually her life is ballooning out in front of her in such healthy ways (compared to a lot of my moments growing up).  Now there’s a boy she has liked forever and she found out yesterday he likes her too.  And the greatest part?–she couldn’t wait to tell ME all about it.  But I’m becoming more of that back-pocket person now: i’m here if she needs or wants me, but she’s more than ready to take on many things by herself.  Terrifying.  Fucking terrifying.  And it’s okay, too.  Fear doesn’t bother me, it’s the lack of control and the speed in which this is moving that bothers me.  All of the sudden, she’s not my partner in crime.  No one can teach you this shit–that those years of pure joy and discovery and companionship only lasts so long, and you have to let go.  And the harder you love, the harder it is to let go.  In the essay mentioned above (read it!) Lindsey writes:

“The predominant emotion of this time, as Grace embarks upon the vital transition from child to young adult and to an autonomous and independent sense of self, is wonder.  Wonder upon wonder, so many layers I have lost count: there is awe, fear, and astonishment, and also an endless list of questions.  I gaze at my daughter, coltishly tall, lean, all angles and long planes, and wonder where the last ten years went.  It is not hard to close my eyes and imagine that she is still the rotund baby or chubby toddler that she was just moments ago.  At the same time I can see the young woman she is rapidly becoming in her mahogany eyes…..”

and lastly, and ever so eloquently, Lindsey writes:

“And all I know to do as we move into this new season is to pay attention, to look and listen and write it down.  Everything I write, and everything I live, is an elegy to what was and a love letter to what is.”

So, I think she sums it up best.  Pay attention, because this moments are so precious and yet slipping from our grasp, soon we’ll just be watching from afar.  Are we prepared in our hearts for this?  My guess is–never.

imageI was going through old writings and essays from college and I found a paragraph I just might use for my book’s intro (oddly enough, my book is going to be called “Small Parts”):

She’s pushing me hard. I want to say, “What is there to push?” I have nothing. She’s convinced someone is buried inside—some scared little girl. I’ve heard this shit before. I’m convinced whoever I once was is dying, because I’m trying to kill her. She doesn’t need to be anywhere around me. I enjoy watching her choke out and dim. I want to tell this psychotherapist, and ask her, “Then what?” What happens next? Because I can’t create someone out of nothing. I can’t start over. I can’t create what you want or he wants or she wants or I want. I don’t want anything but to float about through the day, but my body is always shaking and then I can’t breathe. They took me to the hospital and some small part of my mind wanted to go. Some small part of me. Small parts—that’s all we really are, aren’t we? And in the grand scheme of things this is all insignificant. We’re just statistics. Facts. Bodies filing into clinics for revival and pills and assessment. A small part of me wants to lay in a hospital bed for the rest of my life, watching tubes feed into and out of me; white coats, white blankets, white. Fix me, medical people. A part of your brain doesn’t comprehend the difference between physical and mental; all you know is there is no God and there is no point.

Needs a little cleaning up, but I like the endish area. :)

I was coming back from my appointment at my psychologist’s this afternoon. Its a fifteen minute drive along Lake Superior in the country, through the changing leaves of fall, sun and shadows flickering on the windshield. I was trying to remain calm, noticing my hand squeezing the seatbelt, the sweaty palms (just ’cause, this always happens, the clenching). I was using my new “tool”–to notice my thoughts, just notice them and see what they are like they’re just a boat passing on the harbor. I always feel very intune when I leave there, I feel, for the first time….ever…understood. Bigger than anyone else has ever understood me-at least the workings of my mind and my deepest most private thoughts. My tears were dry, I was appearing normal for my driver, but I was lost in thought, lost in just looking at the light on the leaves blowing and suddenly out of nowhere my chest hurt. It ached, and tears came down, and I thought of my dad. Out of nowhere. I’d totally forgotten that tomorrow will be eleven years since he died. Just this ache, and it’ll always be there, my old companion in this life. So far anyway. Then I started thinking about how I wasn’t good to him. He was an alcoholic. No one was good to him. He was a little mentally slower. He couldn’t be responsible. He couldn’t quit drinking for us girls though he wanted to so desperately. Our visits went from weekends to nothing at all as he sank deeper and deeper into his illness. We moved, we were abused. We wanted our daddy but eventually gave up that hope, carrying the dream of him with us that didn’t exist. I remember in Green Bay how, at night, I’d cuddle up between my bed and the wall and cry so hard for him. Third grade? I’m beyond crying about things I never got–that’s such a waste of the heart. But I think about how I treated him when we moved back to our hometown on Lake Superior. I knew I had been molested, but by whom? I decided it was him, because he was an easy target. Because he maybe didn’t love me–and if he did I could hurt him. I’d show up (in my teens) at his house and ask him–scream at him–why did he do it to me. He was quiet and hushing and begging me to tell him what I was talking about. He didn’t once raise his voice. He came comin toward me, then back away in fear, his tall lanky figure in the dingy kitchen, wearing the same clothes he had when I was a little girl. I wanted this weak person to hurt, I was beginning to feel nothing and I needed to feel something. Anything. That silent, sleeping beast was just started to very gently stir. I left unsatisfied, as he begged me to stay saying “I love you’s.” I felt guilty, he was this lonely innocent man and didn’t even know it. Another time I broke into his place and went up to his room to sabotage it(ii guessed which room was his) and instead, I saw our pictures of us when we were little on his cracked walls, the cassette of me singing Patsy Cline by his bedside, our letters, the same orange afghan, the uncased pillows and bear mattress on the floor (this was after he’d lived in his car). I just stared and cried and left. And then, years later, I met him at a bar, and for the first time ever I sat with him and said “Hi, dad.” He bought me a beer. He kept saying he loved me. The alcohol had done a number on him, but it was his gentle, quiet voice just the same, and his same strange smell I’ll never forget. He took out his wallet and there were pictures of me and my sisters at the age we were when we moved away from him–no, a year younger. The years in there when my stepdad was molesting me. I look at my face in those pictures a lot, wondering what I was like, feeling a hint of an ache for her that I always shut off right away. Is that really me? Was I ever her? Was I anything. I never saw him again until after he died, in the funeral home laying on a table in the basement. The sweep of his long dark lashes. My aunt says I have his eyes, and that makes me ache and smile at the same time.

I guess I wonder, if he were alive now, and now that we’vechanged so much–would I have let him in my life. Would I have accepted and loved my dad for everything he was and wanted to be? There’s a picture of him when he was maybe ten with his eleven brothers and sisters in a row, and there he is, somewhat slouched and maybe embarrassed, his eyes large and no stranger to dissappointment. I think I would. I would invite him over and erase his guilt. I would tell him I love him, and that I missed him for a long time but it wouldn’t happen anymore. I’d call him dad. I’d smell his shirt when he hugged me and kissed the top of my head saying “I love you’s girls.” I’d have a beer with him. He’d meet his grand daughter when he wasn’t drinking, even if it was just once. He of course couldn’t erase all that’s been done and undone to me, but it’d be someone here, that loved me unconditionally–no matter what I did or who I was–he just loved me, all because he wanted to. Because I was his. Sometimes I just want to be someone’s.

Join in the fun at Kellie Elmore‘s Free Write Friday!  It’s fun and great brain exercise for all you writers out there looking for inspiration.  This week the inspiration for the Free Write is a beautiful summer picture with this quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Then followed that beautiful season…Summer.

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

galleryoncentral at Etsy
galleryoncentral at Etsy (not the image from the prompt)

lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

K, here goes nothing.  No editing, no self-criticism, just write:

Outside the decrepit white farmhouse, the lush yard is our menagerie of imagination.  Arching trees soar into the blue sky, their heavy limbs creating a canopy over the dirt driveway.  Two apples trees blossom near the fence, and when June’s breeze blows, the pink petals fall like snow across the green grass, a lazy hammock swaying between the trees.  Fat bumble bees buzz low to the ground.  Honeysuckle in the air.

I’m in a white summer dress, my white blond hair in a pigtails, my skin sun-kissed.  I’m standing beneath the plum tree, sucking on the bitter purple fruit, wiping the juice on my dress.  I bend over and pick the yellow dandelions, squishing the soft center into my cheeks.   I hear my sisters laughing on the swing beneath the pink blossoms, my daddy pushing them, one at a time, higher and higher.   I want a turn but I can’t help but follow that scent–the scent I’ll carry with me dearly for the rest of my lives.  I follow it and I’m taken to the lilac trees against the house by the humming bird feeder.  The aroma fills me and I crawl into the tree’s cavernous entrance and huddle down inside.  This is my summer–the summer of my life.  The summer I dream I will return to after so many cold years.