Run

The lake you run around
is a man-made safe zone,
and you know it,

but the birds could give
a flying fuck.

Finches cling to reeds,
flicker their tail feathers,
calling yellow
to their mates
who are more or less
yellow than themselves.

Blackbirds mind their business,
and you mind yours,
paving your sweet escape
through trees and sweat.

Running is the combination
of calves and chords;
a cacophony of body
calling to atmosphere.

You huff harder to bridge
brief lapses of oxygen.
Your joints tight like bolts
loosen, and your muscles
slip into familiar ways.

Suddenly, everything fits,
everything flows.

This movement is warmer than
you remember, and the G-spot
on your brain begins to hum.

You find the smell of your work
intoxicating.

A gnat cloud circles overhead.
It consumes you, and one
flies into your tear duct
where it dies.

Night is the next cloud
to consume you.
You know the route
through the forest
by coolness and wet bark,
but you’ve never seen
it past dark.

It could be your secret,
you shiver.

Then all the little hairs
on your arm dance to the tune
of your run.

My favorite spot is your favorite spot

35267152_10217184344425649_608698351625437184_nThe mountains are calling, and I must go. Cool, but when I can’t make it to the mountains, I’ll happily settle for my favorite nature spot, which is ten measly minutes away from my house.

It’s a grove that’s tucked behind a woodsy, unincorporated community. It features a dusty, gravel trail wrapped around a man-made pond people enjoy fishing in. There’s a grassy knoll I sometimes force myself to scale. I call it Three Trees Hill even though there’s way more than three trees that greet you at the top of it. I’m super lazy with titles.

I like this spot because there’s no more than four to five people there at a time. And everyone winks at each other like we’re all in on some big secret about being there.

Today I sported my new favorite shirt (this blog has a few of my favorite things). I bought this shirt from a street cart in Boston. It’s royal blue with white lettering. It says: WICKED SMAHT.

I know, how touristy.

But there’s brilliance in running in a shirt like this if you’re particularly self-conscious about your body. People will judge your form the second it appears in their plain view. Because that’s what we do. We’re trained from the womb to assess each other’s sacks of flesh and bone. How much control we have over it and how much work we put into it.

Here’s the fun part: when people assess my body and assign a term to it while I’m wearing this shirt, they’re distracted by the terminology I’ve thrown out at them without any introduction, without vocality.

WICKED SMAHT.

I catch three walkers and a cyclist scanning the words with their eyes. They seem to accept my projection, offering me sly smirks in return as I run toward them, breathing in heavy, inconsistent breaths.

After I get over myself and my total win of a shirt, I focus on the residue of the day. Today was a good one but a hard one. At work, I received the most amount of feedback I’ve received in a while. I felt the full weight of it still sitting on my shoulders and wrapped around my neck like an itchy scarf.

I just started a new job, and I’m relearning the way I’ve been doing things for the past four years. My new job calls for me to be free-falling, fun, inventive. It’s what I wanted, but in starting off, I realize I’m unsure what to do with all the white space that clashes with the constraints of time.

I’m a writer. I can make magic when I put my mind to it, when my mind isn’t trying to unravel me and wear me down. I’m one of those fortunate souls who has known what I’m good at and what I like to do. But when I’m writing about a brand new topic I’m unfamiliar with, I can feel myself scraping around in the dark for information. When words leave my fingers they feel clownish, contrived. I don’t want my reader to think I don’t give a fuck.

Because dear reader, I give a fuck.

So here I am running and thinking about writing and readers, and this deer pops its head out of a patch of pussy willows, or what I’m calling pussy willows because it’s fun to say. The deer flicks its ears and pretends not to exist. My stomach backflips at the sight of this doe-eyed discovery. 35329201_10217184348265745_1398846757835636736_nThis is the part where I try to concentrate real hard on the stress I’m clenching in my body’s tightest sections. This is the part where I give myself away to the deer. My favorite spot is your favorite spot. You can see deer anywhere if you look closely.

And if you look deep enough into the eyes of a red-winged blackbird you’ll find murder. Because they’re crazy this time of year. Trust me on this one. You’re probably interrupting their bone session if you’re anywhere near them right now. In flight, they look as burly as football players, with fiery red shoulder pads. Don’t mess with these bad to the bone birds.

I run. The wetness on my back is soothing, reassuring. Maybe I can outrun the mosquitos’ thirst. Maybe I’ll see my work the way I see the flutter of wings, rotted bark, or insect eggs on leaves. I’m waiting to catch my breath, and then it floods my lungs. I’m a blur, whirling through curls of green.

I have to stop running at some point. There’s a cotton candy pink sunset sitting on the horizon like the ultimate dessert of the day. I thank it, think of it as a reward for working my problems out here. The water and sky accept my honesty. They pat me on the back with their long, wisps of arms.35296111_10217184344225644_7128660158099488768_n (2)The four other trailblazers and I stand still as deer in our respective places along the trail, wordlessly uttering our silences. Together, we eat the sunset.

Irene

Back when I still shelved books for far below a living—well, read books or whispered about them with my co-workers between the stacks—I knew this peculiar bird of a woman, Irene who worked in adult reference.

Irene always wore homemade things—earrings of two crooked figurines woven from sharp wire, a speckled feather broach with a flimsy emerald in the middle, or a sweater patterned with different shapes and colors of eyes. She was like one of those storks you see along the highway that juts out from a pond on two long stilts, with a brightly colored bill that doesn’t blend well against the back fall of soft, pastel greens.

But there Irene sat behind the reference desk, attempting to bleed into invisible reeds. She was always surprised when a patron approached her. “Excuse me, do you think you could help me use the print card?” a patron would ask. In her thick-rimmed glasses, her eyes readjusted as if light was shined directly into them, and she looked desperate to fly.

It must have been hard for Irene to thrive eight hours a day in a building completely surrounded by glass on all sides. Under the green, limey lights, there were books filled with songs and rhythms sung by birds of paradise, the poets she idolized.

I remember taking big fish gulps of air in my car before coming into work. I did this a lot to prepare myself for a long silence that was usually punctured with the unsure, rampaging thoughts of a growing person. Once, I saw Irene’s face from the employee door window. There was no color in her cheeks, and her eyes welled wildly, bulging with whiteness. Her gray face staggered back and forth, and her bottom lip trembled. She looked beyond seasick—more like she just discovered a corpse, or something worse. Though her stare lingered in my direction, our eyes never met.

Irene had disappeared before I had the chance to meet her at the door. Once I clocked in, I rushed over to Irene’s desk on the other side of the library. I demanded to know what it was she saw in the window, and why she was staring like a seer with a horrific vision. She was confused, like I just informed her that I had seen her sleep walk. After a long time, she seemed to come to her senses. She said, “I didn’t even know you were working today—you aren’t even on the schedule. I had this weird feeling. I could feel you all the way from here behind my desk. I just knew you were here.”

One time she discovered me writing a poem in the break room. She made a strange cooing sound and cocked her head sideways as if to hear the words I scribbled onto the paper. And once again our eyes missed one another’s. She looked like a little girl who wanted to share a secret, but didn’t know how. Irene told me she tried writing for herself, but she stopped because she got a “little carried away.” Somewhere along the way, she misplaced something and had to retrace her steps. By the time she went back to her trail, the breadcrumbs were all gobbled up—by birds if I were to guess.

A few years later, I heard Irene had a run-in with death. She never married or had any kids. She donated one of her kidneys to a man she hardly knew. Her body seemed to know it was missing something and put up a fight. I have a hard time imagining doing the same—offering my body for harvest while it’s still alive—to help a stranger.

These days I hear Irene is lighter, even flightier than before. She’s somber when she stares out the windows. I hear she has begun to write again.