Fall but please don’t drown

I fell for your mountainous mouth
for the waterfall down the middle
that pours both filth and love,
for the sweet and salt you whisper
into my ear at night while my dog
sleeps between your Greek art legs
or at the edge of your flat feet
that don’t hurt when I pull your toes
backward. Your hands know what I
like and where to find me in the dark.
Their wanting washes over me,
tirelessly surging like waves.
We make love in the hospital bed
that was gifted to me. Ophelia
drowns in a painting on the wall
alongside our transfigured bodies.
Hers was the worst way to fall.

Friend

I want to say that I’ve been hiding
on stable grounds and in warm beds.
It’s okay to want these things,
but I’ve been cooped up
in the kingdom of “you and me”
I’ve built for everyone.
And I’ve been an outcast
staking inside windows,
watching birds build nests,
passing up friends who make me
feel the massive depths of myself.
If you were still sitting across from me,
Franco who likes men and M2M,
Anny Banany, the aspiring missionary,
Jess who helps animals give birth,
and all the other healers of my life,
I’d tell you that I’m an accumulation
of our memories, that no one is anyone
without sincere friendship.

Mundane Lemonade

Two girls and a lemonade stand.
One has overalls with lace flowers
on the pockets. I want to tell
her how pretty they are, but
she’s not making eye contact.
It appears her mother taught
her about stranger danger.
The whole fire department
pulls over to the curb.
We’re all heroes supporting
homemade business. I’m trying
to hold onto the liquid light
swirling around in my cup
like a sun. It’s not as sweet as
it could be. I don’t need pills.
Just a squeeze of humanity.

Another man’s trash

On my way to and from school I used to pick up one piece of trash off the side of the road or in the grass along the sidewalk. I always double checked to make sure it wasn’t particularly goopy or sloppy or infested with critters. Because I wasn’t about to pick that one up. But other more normal looking trash, sure. No skin off my ass.

Then I’d throw the piece of trash away.

I did this every day for years. No one asked me to do this. No one even hinted. I did not feel controlled by guilt or fear. It wasn’t going towards my GPA. There was no one around to “catch me being good.” I didn’t do it to get into heaven. No competition.

I just did it because it made me feel good in my own little life.

I’m not sure when or why I stopped doing this. Maybe because it was no longer apart of my daily routine. I stopped walking to school and drove a car an hour to get to the city.

But I have a dog that I walk every day, so it’s literally that easy for me to get that groove going again. Even if it’s pointless. When I was a kid, it didn’t seem pointless at all.

I’ve been staring out my window at the same discarded UPS box for the last two days, and oh look, my dog has to pee.

Soft

It’s a character I grew up listening to,
a silly face.

Funny how funnies always water
the night terrors down.

Oh, I’m not ashamed that I need them.

Don’t you dare tell me
what I need to be ashamed of.

Did you notice that?
Everyone telling each other
what shame to feel?

The world is a heavy sponge
filled with shame.

Someone wring us out.

We dream about former love
people, places, things,
love that almost was
then drown ourselves
with static versions of it.

Does anyone know anyone anymore?
Does anyone accept that the people
we love will inevitably change?

If I told you I was different
would believe me
or would you judge me by
my surroundings?

Please tell me there’s a few out there.
Are you out there
in the ethereal disconnect?

Create, just create,
that’s all I can think.
My concepts of children
are always half born.

I’m a chaotic machine,
but when you tear me open, you’ll find
fur, felt, lint, stove top stuffing.

I soak in the bath for hours
until I’m soft, soft.

Sundays at Valli

I love free slices of deli meat,
when they ask you if it’s cut
the way you like.

Today I ask for honey
roasted turkey.
It’s cold and salty.

When I was a kid my dad
always asked for a slice
of American cheese for me.
I never chewed,
let it melt on my tongue.
If we were lucky
there’d be freshly baked
chocolate chip cookies
by the bakery.
Mostly bird bits
in the latter parts of the day.

It’s one of those Sundays
where you pick up items
you don’t recognize
and ogle at their contents.

A jar of honeyed nuts.
Walnuts, pistachios
almonds, corn flakes
precisely aligned.

Smoked baby clams
in a can are $2.99.

Who uses the olive bar
and feels the need to
try seven different
types of olives?

And who among us
has braved cow tongue?

How do you cut a pomelo
and what citrus dream
does it taste like?

I put raw fruit
on the belt to avoid
using more bags
to bring home
to my cupboard of bags.

While we were away
at the grocery store,
our dog tipped over
the garbage can, sifted
through coffee grounds
and vegetable ends,
slurped up leftover
tomato sauce,
gnawed rib eye bones.

Containers licked
clean, now littered
across the house.

When our eyes lock,
her ears droop.

I want to be mad,
but she just wants
to try everything.

Blueberries

The blueberries were on sale.
Hundreds of containers sat on a table
in the front of the store,
over-ripening,
simply wasting away.

I placed the abandoned fruit in my cart.

They’re best when left in the freezer,
less mush, more tart,
but I’m eager to try them.

My bird helps me, picking up her deflated
piece and setting it down into her dish.
She clicks her throat in approval.
Her beak looks like it’s been stained with ink.

The whole world is not in my hands;
it’s a pale blue dot I roll between my fingers.

 

Through the Roof

The tree outside my window
with its decaying crabapples,
jaundice yellow leaves, and
the garbage bag the roofers
left behind, claimed by the wind,
now streams from a branch.

A black cape without an owner,
it waves goodbye to summer
when there was a man in every
window. They wore shoes
made of thunder, and they
stormed us from all sides.

Drilling, hammering holes,
peeling pieces off our home.
The deconstruction, a slow,
agonizing exposure, took days.

I awoke to knocking, sideways
picture frames, couches covered
in debris rained from the skylights,
and man crashing through ceiling.

A Room of One’s Own

44421677_301415193920417_249787231986778112_n (1)

I’m lying on the floor of my office, watching the clouds outside my window upside down. This is the exact spot my dog likes to sunbathe in. I can see why she likes it so much.

Patches of light poke out from clumps of cloud. It’s been a while since I’ve made a conscious effort to watch the earth turn.

My eyes wander from crabapple to crabapple in the tree outside my window. I just Googled “crabapple tree”, and learned that it’s formally known as a Malu, and there are 55 different types of these trees. (Just to make you think I know a shit ton of things about trees.)

The crabapple tree begins to thrash in the wind underneath a restless sky. Jagged, gray clouds have begun to swarm and dominate the fluffy whiteness. The tree’s branches shake like violent pom-poms.

I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. I’m only 15 pages deep. I probably won’t finish this book, even though I really like it. Honestly, I haven’t finished a novel in at least two years, but have started and stopped plenty. I’ve dog-eared the pages of this particular book at least three times. I enjoy it, and it hooks me every time, but so do news articles, long-winded social posts, and everything else.

For example, this morning I sat transfixed in bed on a BBC article about the hundreds of Caravan migrants at the Mexican border right now. I burst into tears, quickly swiped them off my face, and grabbed Egan’s national bestseller. Because this is what I do every time I’m overwhelmed by reality—I reach for fiction, and sometimes I try to create it myself.

I’m reading about a narrator who’s a kleptomaniac in treatment. She just brought a date home to her New York apartment. He’s excited that her bathtub is in her kitchen, and asks to take a bath after they fuck. He uses some bath salts that the narrator stole from her best friend.

I stop reading. I make a note in my notepad about the tub drawings I’ve been sketching every weekend for the last three months. It says, “Draw tubs in other rooms of the house.” Then I yell downstairs to Sean, who’s immersed in gunfire erupting from the television.

“I want to go to New York. All the writers are out there.”

“The writers for Red Dead Redemption are in New York.” Right now he’s playing Half-life II and counting down the days to the release of the game he really wants to play.

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“Let’s take a trip,” he says.

“Yeah.”

I stopped fighting my need to escape Illinois, because I realized that I can travel when I choose to or do creative things that push my imagination in my down time. And so far it’s been working. I have never wanted to live a life I need to escape. I moved so much when I was a kid, so I find the thought of moving around and trying to find myself in places outside myself versus inside, super exhausting.

I prefer warm socks. Wine. Fumbling around with a pencil in my office. Flipping one of my dog’s ears inside out or rolling it like a tortilla. In the comfort of a consistent home. You know, like a lot of people.

When I stop to think about it, this town home is the first place I’ve ever lived in that I’ve actually enjoyed. It’s not to say I hated anywhere else I’ve lived—I just didn’t prefer it.

The third floor apartment I lived in before my current home drove me crazy. I was literally stalking flies in my underwear late at night.

The kitchen was a joke. I couldn’t reach any of the pots and pans in the cabinets, and there were at least three fake drawers you couldn’t open. The cracks in the ceiling. The paint the landlord said he would fix. Then there were the groceries up three flights of stairs. The angry laundry room notes. And the shit in the closets that started to accumulate. I hate holding onto things I don’t need, things I begin to feel the weight of.

One day I was so mad that I swung open a closet and started heaving everything onto the floor. Sean was horrified at the wordless drama, but I was having an angry blast. It felt so good to see dusty games we never played, random pieces to things we didn’t even know existed come crashing to the floor, forced to explain their existence.

It’s not that I’m any less crazy, it’s just I feel more at peace here. If that makes sense. I have established my nooks. Sean sits in a spot on the couch downstairs that’s sunken in from his days of excessive gameplay. In my office, there’s a sign on the wall that says, “Create.” It’s colorful and corny. I found it in the two-dollar section inside Target. I realize it’s the only reminder that I really need. Every now and then, Sean and I call to each other, and then we resume our respective hobbies.

A car engine vrooms down the street. I call to Sean, “That sound is annoying. It’s just noise, not music.”

“It’s music to someone,” Sean calls back. And I begin Chapter 2 of my book.

Letter to 13 year old me

I want you to know that you were right before you felt the need to be right.

The dog in the picture that sits inside your arms is different now. She’s a longer, daintier half breed. People stop you on the sidewalk to tell you how pretty she is. A beagle on stilts.

But you don’t forget the now deceased animal of your past. Small with soft ears too big for his head. You once sat up all night cleaning the worms he vomited onto the couch. He was one of those puppy mill puppies that was broken when you got him, but you were prepared to love him anyway.

You were fiercely jealous when he curled up next to your brother at night. Once you snuck him out of your brother’s room, but he stumbled his way back.

The dimly lit space behind you was too snug for him. The neighbors complained about his howls through thin apartment walls. And your mom didn’t feel well enough to chase him around. So another family loved him instead.

You were a clash of color. A smorgasbord of thrift store finds. Musty, knitted sweater. Yellow beanie. Yellow like sunshine. Yellow like madness. You put every single one of those rings on in the morning as armor. You knew you belonged here.

Why do I keep coming back to you?

What is left for me to forgive? To criticize? What is there to learn from you that I haven’t already internalized?

Today you match everything except for your socks, because you can never find the partners. You wear an engagement ring on your middle finger. Your grandma’s watch on your left wrist. It has since stopped ticking. You remember the day it stopped ticking and felt a little more alone, until the next meaningful conversation rolled around, and you stopped paying attention to time.

It’s raining. There’s a spider outside your window. You left it there because you admired the amount of work and time it put into its web. Your dog is asleep on the couch. Your man is washing the dishes you filled with dinner. You had a good day. People see you. This is the present. This is the love you surround yourself with. It loves you back.

You were right before you felt the need to be right. Thank you for allowing yourself to be huge by nurturing the most fragile parts.

42878869_245265669491498_721447097185861632_n