Shame and Lightning

 

 

“I am Burning and Becoming…
I Heard about shame and I heard about lightning…”

I have spent I wonder how many evenings and dark mornings pausing beneath street lights, circling around and over and through and across but not quite in to the center of what has been festering in me, blooming, burning, becoming. How many trips did Bon Iver take with me as I worked my away around charting the symptoms of lust and love confused, of a discovery of myself, my body.
I have been pretending in my life. Not sleeping. Pretending. Because parts of what I am and who I am are hard to accept for me. This is about looking at myself, stripped of tragedy and triumphs, and I’m standing in the street alone in the dark, my heart fluttering in my chest as I make yet another connection–the big one about my body. Hunger started fucking me long ago. So much hunger. But I’ve passed that point and am now mapping the symptoms I’ve charted.
I am my body.
I just spent six years rejecting that notion, teaching myself with reason, logic, and books from the greats that I am consciousness–I am not my body. But I am. My body has been my instrument since its very beginning. It shut down when it was taken, and it hid so well I lost me for a very long time. It returned in a sick state I tended to once I was able to attend. My body has been my alarm system, enemy and foe and protector for a long Read More

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Self-Preservation

The black fly on the window sill

I walk the dark hallways

barefoot in white.

Sleep. I cannot sleep.

My body shakes and rattles like the windows,

waves trembling.

I am silence.

Every law I have been governed by

dissolving in a strike of lightning.

Heart, heat, heart, what is this?

The panic that had risen like a monsoon

is calm and still, but rolling and boiling beneath–

me soft across the wood floors.

I can’t do this.

Do not come here.

The broken window sill, the sheer curtains billow from a gale

and the storm enters this house. But I don’t hear it.

The black fly drowns. Scurries. Tries. Out by the sea,

the purple dark blooming in the sky as the rains are coming;

I go out to stand at the edge of my island at midnight

letting it pour down my body.

Comfort comes against my will

and the edge of the cliff is near

but no man is an island, this I know.

Can’t he see maybe he is the ocean

and I am just a stone.

He is paddling hard in the distance pushing.

The sheets of rain hit me and he keeps on,

the boat growing near on the crest.

The heat, I cannot cool this down, I rake my skin.

Please, please don’t make it, I breathe out,

the tears are words I refuse to say.

I know he sees my pale frame on this edge, with

his warm eyes cast, these sure and strong hands,

courage in his chest, he is coming for me.

My god, he is coming for me.

I cast it—the spell webbed through my marrow is all I know–towards

his motion, you are the ocean can’t you see

and I am just a stone.

I call out the waves, I call out the lightning

and the wind, pelting stinging burning rain,

my anger growing

I arch my back and gather the elements in my arms

in an unyielding sphere

and I let go

the wave turns him over

the water swallows, the foam comes and leaves

the black fly on the window sill

is buzzing when I return in the lightning’s shadow

this house empty and cold

my return alone

it’s supposed to feel different…I’m supposed to sleep.

Shadows on the empty walls play like puppets.

I walk across the floor and puddles form

in the cracked dining room,

watching the white light inside that was too hot

shrink beneath my gown, then breasts, then skin and bone

ribs and blood and then I grow cold.

no man is an island, this I know.

Can’t he see maybe he is the ocean

and I am just a stone.

I crawl like a ghost onto the mattress

beneath the window overlooking the drop

to the sea

not seeing his boat break on shore

I watch the cracked ceiling in the howling wind

I lay down to it, the rain is seeping in

dripping and dropping on my cheeks like tears

I could never make myself yet now I am weeping.

My limbs numbing and hardening, toes to hips now

not seeing the figure on the rocks moving

toward the house below.

The last spell is for pain-

to stop the pain, to eat up the loneliness

that beats through my thickening veins.

I watch my girlhood in flashes:

years of fighting in flickering images. And then

the years of my womanhood–

trying to feel the sand on the shore when I had no skin,

years of building

this house out here.

The man ascends the white stairs, his shadow

passing up the stair well, passing the dead flies

at his feet.

I await the completion.

Absolution.

Washing all away out there.

My breathing slows and is now the only sound in the room.

Chest barely rising in its weight.

I cannot forgive myself even now.

He enters. I’m too frozen to hide as he nears.

Loneliness turns to fear that beats at my chest with wings.

I close so hard I shake.

I shake harder because he leans and touches my skin.

My god he wants to take it–the shaking–

and he does

and he makes love to it–

to me, I feel it on my body

touched skin

and suddenly the ocean of myself

is gone

and here he is with his

real hands and innocent eyes,

flesh and blood and bone

Can’t you see, he says, maybe you are the ocean…

and he takes the wings and quiets them

with his palm.

I feel a painful thawing.

It pushes me beyond fear and into something

like forgiveness

as he cups me up and tells me to bloom.

Love comes in doorways.

Love comes in from the long dark journey across your currents.

Love breaks and sinks and swims

touching you as hard as you are

and words fall

like tears down your lover’s face

as oceans of your own

tenderness tear through you and reach out.

Starry Eyed Seas

I’m stuck on what to write about for the blog, as I am in a sea of stories, vignettes, ideas, chapters, tabs, notebooks, note-cards, and a new storyboard on the actual wall. But this quote by Allen Ginsberg I found in my writing notebook is saying something to me in some kind of poetry, about my current life as of now and how it feels and how the creation of the book grows, and so on. So I am going to free-write a poem about Ginsberg’s quote, which is this:

“Without even intending it, there is that little shiver of a moment in time preserved in the crystal cabinet of the mind. A little shiver of eternal space. That’s what I was looking for.”

–Allen Ginsberg

 

“That’s-what-I-was-looking-for.”

When I look at it, when I word what I’m looking for,

it vanishes. Once I get to the word “looking”

I see the tail end of its nightgown moving as if underwater

rounding the corner or entering a door, carrying away

the simplest sentence I have chased all this time.

The words, the connections, move but also elude me. Like treasures

in lush green grass I get intoxicated like Sarah

in Jareth’s labyrinth, time escaping, all wrapped up by

oddities, curiosities, layers, touch, sight, smell, test.

 

So I go back.

“…there-is-that-little-shiver-of-a-moment-in-time-preserved-in-the-crystal-cabinet….”

Shivers of moments. Shimmers. Light. Slivers. I see Chekhov freshly pressed in Times New Roman:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

I carry so many shivers, gathering them in my notebooks and poems,

quick jots, so that I may take it to the keyboard and write the vignette–

the cut-out of my heart.

 

All these pieces are from one broken mirror, its large pieces

splintered; sharp diamonds reflecting the night sky overhead.

I near the broken mirror barefoot in the grass, and the pieces

look like speckled seas I could dip my toe in, then maybe my limbs and body

and then under into the cool diamond-studded water;

so deep is the purpose of my reflection

that it too eludes me–

the water, the night reflecting myself

contains universes, black holes and dwarf stars,

death stars and gases and vacuums

and molecules and atoms

and the graveyard for stars.

 

The purpose.

The purpose of the words? To reveal the shiver,

so shaken that words lose sound and then form.

To reveal the shiver–the trembling, clearest point

of guts and instinct and longing, pain, and beauty.

To reveal the shiver–which is ourselves.

 

 

Rush

Thursday Poetry Challenge at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.  This poem is first draft, just going for it, inspired by the picture of an oil painting by Paul Whitener, “Unfinished Landscape” 1950

Paul’s paintings were started with an underpainting of warm or cool oil paint thinned with turpentine. Paul used both rose and brown pigment for the underpainting in the canvas above. The contrasting greens in the landscape will be made more vibrant by these warm tones which will peep through the final applications of paint…

 

I treasured his hands–those cracked, dry, cut

and dug-up hands with the bitten nails

and callouses and blackened gashes. I watched

him hook my line as if I were his little girl. I watched

him wipe the grease from the engine on mom’s

kitchen towels, cigarette stuck to his bottom lip,

squinting his left eye at the smoke,

“Yeah I think this’ll get ‘er runnin'” as he fixes

yet another one of my cars.

 

Every time I went to my mothers since I was twenty,

I spent my time in the garage with Dave.

“Husband number three.”

There was hope in this one,

which I waved back and forth

almost carelessly, because anything happens.

 

When my father died, I was twenty-one.

Panic attack on the bathroom tiles and then

Dave holding my shaking body

and hushing me like I was a kid,

just “shhhhhhh…poor baby, it’ll be ok…”

his hand rubbing hard circles on my back.

 

He broke a lot of things.

He fucked up a lot of things.

Like boats.

He sunk a boat.

He chain smoked like a mother fucker,

biceps like Popeye on his short frame, back when

he worked at the lumber yard, before he got injured.

That was our thing together back then, smoking

and coffee in the treasure trove garage

(he collected junk from the dump and yard sales–

“this is worth five fuckin’ dollars!”)

and he’d hold up circular metal spinny spindly things

with screws in it and various attachments he’d taken

off and I’d ask him what it was, how it worked,

and we smoked and sipped and talked. I could

listen to him for hours talk about tools and gadgets,

machinery and equipment; felt like I was with a dad.

 

“Yer ma, I tell ya, I dunno man, I love her but…

she makes me crazy!”

–“yeah, ma….”

“Hand me that so I can splice this–”

 

The painting by Paul Whitener.

“Unfinished Landscape.”

 

Makes my eyes sting,

makes my throat hurt a little.

I didn’t see landscape before or while

I saved the picture to write about it.

I saw blood and gray matter, a bleached out brain

washing out like Whitener’s oils with turpentine.

Dave skulking around those houses

we tell the girls to never walk by.

Dave driving on the wrong side of the road,

oblivious and half-eyed.

Dave disappearing.

Dave’s mind a soupy, rotting,

eaten mess similar to my father’s. But my father’s

made him only softer, farther away;

Dave’s made him mean to my mother.

 

But not to me.

I watched him disappear in those rounded

clouds of Whitener’s–purple, orange, red

a fire bloating what space was left, with the sinews

of greenish yellow dispatched and unattaching

from the helm.

 

Four days ago:

“It’s rehab with all of us behind you, right now, or you go.”

…tell me tell me he didn’t say he’s leaving

“Fine. There’s the door,” I had said simply.

I wanted to grab his leg and beg him to try.

I became my seven-year-old self in heels,

there in the garage, stone-face, sweaty hands.

The doctors and officers in agreement

that it was probably too late for rehab.

Words like severity. Deep-in. High levels. His age and conditions.

Dropping dead before he hits rock bottom, if this drug has a bottom.

 

Three days ago:

Cops can’t find him. Restraining Order out.

“Dave can you help me build Emma’s bookshelf?”

The meth houses aren’t giving him up.

Dave, wanna go fishing?”

 

Two days ago:

I have to keep my doors locked.

Yesterday I went into my mother’s garage

to get the mower. Knee deep in bikes and boxes

and a broken down car Dave had crashed months earlier;

dust and abandoned tools, half-finished

pallet projects–and there I was, trying

to screw the handle back in it,

taking in sharp, loud breaths as the tears came.

 

I can’t write how I’ve seen him die off. The rot there.

I can’t.

The painting can. That painting of Dave

thinning down his soul with

methamphetamine like Whitener thinning the oils

with turpentine, –“the effects will visibly peep through

during the final application...

 

The red clouds lined thinly in pink–they’re moving

away into the distance, almost behind

the painting; you can see them move

like you’re coming up with speed on a drop-off

and the sky rushes to your face

rushes to his veins

rushes to the wind up the base of the canvas

rushes into the yellow and green warning that curls

before the eruption of sky red, blood red, pink body insides explode

rushes over the dead-end and off the drop-off

rushes away and spreads thin and disappears.

 

Tell Me Where Did You Sleep Last Night

The Wolf

I first saw him when I painted the library black. Space Black” from Sherwinn Williams. Black lamps, black shades, black shelves, black desk and chair, black frames, black pictures. Radiohead’s A Wolf at Your Door” was playing. The only song I couldn’t stop playing. I was manic, keeping myself awake with speed and caffeine because when I shut my eyes the voices came. And when I shut my eyes during the day there was the black creature with a red eye behind my dead grandmother’s armchair long ago given away, house sold. But it was there, on that brown carpet behind the green back, watching near the outlet in the wall. Just a flash. But a flash is enough when it comes to that shit. He was hungry in my paint brush. He was angry. He was at the apex of his prowl.

Or maybe it was before that. Yes. On the rooftop in a bigger city, high on Ecstasy.
Alisha spinning around me in her magenta-red hair and Dropkick Murphy’s t-shirt, singing her love for me. The stars had heartbeats. She kissed my lips. I giggled to hide my terror of the existential leap I was imagining myself taking to the sidewalk. Still wet with cum from the guitar player, rocking on the rough shingles of the roof. This was my third trip and this time my chest was beating wild, my body electric, hers far away and too fucked up to save me.
Then after the painting extravaganza, years after the nights in the mental ward squeezing my sweaty sheets in my fists and praying the Hail Mary” over and over as fast as I could, in case that might work. In case that might save me.
And for years the beast slept. He hibernated as I read my way through brain disorders and chemistry, how-to books and my own pen scratching out my secrets on napkins and notebooks. I had all this energy building, and it came in the ink, it came in the walks I forced myself to take, the dreams I forced myself to forget, the memories I forces myself to accept.
He stirred.

I stirred.

As I started touching the world again with new fingers, something fierce swelled in my chest like a tight balloon. I adjusted and I made more space for it, and it filled my body. I saw the eyes in the mirror–mine–but his.

I met him in the form of a man constructed of straight lines, code, discipline, and the beauty of geometric figures. Cold. Ruthless. Aggressive. Wild. I saw my nature in his words. Just words but all these eloquent words, I gained my nerve, my own sharpness came into focus, my body singing alive, my brain all electric. He had become my 8-Ball. I stretched him across my chest and let myself come through it. And there I was. A woman. He had to go then. I had what I needed–validation that I was of substance.

The wolf follows my heart. My fucked up, dirty, clean, curious, submissive, dominant, angry, wild heart. I thought those things were nouns and I had to live them. I thought I was the stained bed sheets. I thought I was only the experience of leaping off the levee into the waters. I thought I was a creature giving my vulnerability in exchange for release and power. I thought I was the pills I swallowed. I thought I was the diagnosis in the bin. I thought I was an anger. I thought I was the rain that fell on my chucks when I searched for peace in the woods. I thought I was the den to the very wolf I was.
We are creatures–our geometry bottled and shaken. I am a mess. I am in love with the world in my teeth. I will keep my fangs and my instincts about me.

“My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night. In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don’t ever shine, I will shiver the whole night through…”


Self-Exam

All I wanted was the shadow

of your fingers

and cool eyes to kind of soften as

I gather my wounds in this tulip

and with you I would say

here

here

enter and close me up

 

I waited in your room

like this, folding and unfolding

my fingers over my palms as if it were

the tulip opening and closing,

bearing witness to my wounds

you know so much about, and then each time I

closed them, I saw a sort of smooth scar spreading

over old stitches, and the new ones

blended so well in these new petals.

Read More

Human Cylinders in parts, Mina Loy

Human Cylinders

(my favorite parts of the mysterious poem anyway)

by Mina Loy

The human cylinders

Although born in England, Mina Loy worked as a poet and visual artist in Paris, Florence, and New York City, where her beauty and outlandish behavior shone at the center of several avant-garde circles. The eccentric vocabulary and syntax of Loy’s free-verse poems and their sardonic treatment of love can puzzle and offend, but no reader can question the work’s originality nor the poet’s fierce intelligence.
1882-1966–The Poetry Foundation

Revolving in the enervating dusk

That wraps each closer in the mystery
Of singularity
Among the litter of a sunless afternoon
Having eaten without tasting
Talked without communion
And at least two of us
Loved a very little
Without seeking
To know if our two miseries
In the lucid rush-together of automatons
Could form one opulent wellbeing ….
Simplifications of men
In the enervating dusk
Your indistinctness
Serves me the core of the kernel of you
When in the frenzied reaching out of intellect to intellect
Leaning brow to brow       communicative
Over the abyss of the potential
Concordance of respiration
Shames
Absence of corresponding between the verbal sensory
And reciprocity
Of conception
And expression
Where each extrudes beyond the tangible
One thin pale trail of speculation
From among us we have sent out
Into the enervating dusk ……
….The impartiality of the absolute
Routs      the polemic
Or which of us
Would not
Receiving the holy-ghost
Catch it      and caging
Lose it
Or in the problematic
Destroy the Universe
With a solution…
Mina Loy, “Human Cylinders” from The Last Lunar Baedeker

Silent Centers

My father arranged me to frame despair

in the shape of a shell–

he said it

would make me look pretty

as he dropped my gutted pearl

into the water,

closed me in his palm,

and took me home for dinner.

 

I’d curl up in my empty body late at night

when the heater kicked in

and line my dolls up on the smooth

belly of the shell,

sweating and organizing and kissing them,

trying to make room, trying to love

and a forgotten piece in me would move–

like an isolated bubble, a pressure in my chest rising

until it hardened into a globe of glass,

and I fingered the marble

in my pocket each time he made me nervous.

 

My skin hardened into porcelain.

My lips a painted curve.

The girl in the womb and the doll in the house

looked at each other in the mirror,

and I was the mirror

I was a million different faces;

this cannot be explained any other way.

 

I became the dolls on my bed and

in their small house in the corner

I became their holidays and patterned wallpaper;

I became the patterns of my behavior–

trained, obedient, good.

I became the shell at the dinner table,

sucking up silence like the ocean.

 

I told myself

if I had nothing,

that’s what would come back.

And getting nothing back

meant you didn’t have to love.

And what was love to that girl

with her marble

and no pearl.

I Know About Love

“I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone. Everything I believed in and everything I cared about I left for you because you were so wonderful and you loved me so much that love was all that mattered. Love was the greatest thing, wasn’t it? Love was what we had likeabossHemingwaythat no one else had or could ever have and you were a genius and I was your whole life. I was your partner and your little black flower. Slop. Love is just another dirty lie. Love is ergoapiol pills to make me come around because you were afraid to have a baby. Love is quinine and quinine and quinine until I’m deaf with it. Love is that dirty aborting horror that you took me to. Love is my insides all messed up. It’s half catheters and half whirling douches. I know about love. Love always hangs behind the bathroom door. It smells like Lysol. To hell with love. Love is you making me happy and then going off to sleep with your mouth open while I lie awake all night afraid to say my prayers even because I know I have no right to any more. Love is all the dirty little tricks you taught me that you probably got out of some book. All right. I’m through with you and I’m through with love. Your kind of pick-nose love. You writer.”

–from Hemingway for his first love; read by Derek Walcott at New York Public Library (“Hemingway and the Caribbean“)–well worth the listen. This part was my favorite thought. It sorta choked me up one winter morning when I was walking.