Love is I Don’t Know

Love is you feeling me up under my shirt like you’re a school boy and it’s our second date but really we’re a year in and it’s a Tuesday night or a Monday night and we both have stew breath.

Love is me moving into your house alittle–okaymaybeway–toosoon. Love is me making a scrapbook of photos from your recent cheesy family cruise and pasting concert stubs in there too from the Dave Rawlings Machine and Gillian Welch and that time we saw The Wolf of Wallstreet and pasting in there the notes you’ve left me like “Squash in the oven for lunch” and “Be home around five, love you” and “Had to go to farm real quick, love you.”

Love is you saying I love you even though we both wonder What is Love? and Why can’t it be more like lust? and is he gonna get me off forever and is she gonna turn me on forever and those sad little thoughts like we’re losing red and we’re losing it fast and we’re going on and on, plummeting forward as our sex becomes less and our friendship and caretaking one another grows like a tumor. We think yeah we might have a thing that could last forever–if we live really short lives–and maybe I’m just speaking for myself here but I would maybe take a really short life so I could say yeah we loved each other forever. And it was easy, because then we died.

Next Best Move

They say you
can’t be helped if
you can’t help yourself

So I wet a rag and wipe
the dust from my long
wooden desk

I am alone

I wipe it with
a dry cloth too–
watermarks make
me nervous

I water the jade plant
and consider re-potting it
but the plant only makes it as far
as the foot of the screen door–
a low priority on my
list of things that
“help” my “self”

I pour a hot cup of coffee
but on a warm day it’s
somehow less satisfying

I glare a disgusted look
at my laptop, smeary
fingerprints on its
black hood

“Traitor”, I think..
I know your shtick and
you’re not as glamorous
as you think you are
you’re convoluted
too full, yet empty
will just make my
shoulders hunch over
and my jaw go slack
as I search search search
for spacenuggets of wisdom
and the sun struts across
the sky outside
and the moon prepares to
rise and all the while you’re
sputtering out slacktavism
and maybe a
good song
for me

I won’t waste my hours,
not today, too short
today I need more than
that so I choke you out,
shut you off,
think of how the Internet
has turned Art into a
popularity contest–
a snapping of the fingers
a dusting by with the eyes

Maybe I get sad cause I
never was too good at those
–popularity contests
too self-conscious, too bitter,
too insecure for contrived
showing-offs
not quite so carefree and
pretty as to be popular
But still

Do I try at becoming an
online sensation?
“Rub shoulders” with
the literary stars and musicians?
Start up an Instagram and
filter my life so pretty?
Arnt ya so pretty still?
Remind me.
Arnt ya still eating well?
Show me.
Shit, I aint got
time for that!

I think today I’ll just sit
at my kitchen table and
read the paper
write a book
blue ink and white sheets
you hold in your fingers
scribbles and all
visceral

Discoveries I find in
the quiet quilt of my
own mind
reflecting on the fact
that I am certainly not an image,
not my supposed doings
not my desperation
or just my smile
but feelings
and thoughts
and blood,
so much blood.
I am just white paper
and black or blue words,
and what is more mysterious
than that??

I’ve still got it
I’ve still got it
shit, I’ve still got it

Still bitter

Nobody likes to hear that shit

I believe I am
how I make
people
feel

Whether or not
I am saying
the exact
right
thing

Yeah.

I am responsible for
helping myself

You can’t be helped
if you can’t help
yourself

I am unattached to
your validation
(ahh! refreshing!)

Part II

On my drive to work
I turned down the
radio to say a prayer
it might have sounded
petty but it wasn’t,
it came strait from
my worn and hopeful
heart

“Lord…just be with me
…in general,” I sighed,
defeated

I sit at my kitchen table now
and work at shedding negative
energy from my shoulders to
my hip bones–always popping and distraught
to my bare feet and out through my toes
I sweep it all up from the floor
and I beg for solitude
for even when I am all alone
I sometimes feel crowded,
maybe it’s the internet thing
or the cohabiting thing or
the responsibility thing

Don’t let anyone preach to you,
including me
But ask yourself, what makes
you angry?
Now throw something at it.
Trash things you once thought
valuable
Hang onto things but
do not crowd them
If you smile too much, frown
you’re faking it
If you frown too much
take vitamin D and
think like Buddha

Don’t worry about stories
that go from a to b to c
Read a book that’s so good
you almost don’t get it
but don’ t think too hard
and you will get it
Make lists.
Make a meal for someone
then ask them to leave you
the shit alone
Instead of napping,
sleepwalk through your
house pondering your
father
your brothers
your boyfriend
your friends
and what they
really mean to you

Burn old bad poems
you wrote
smile at the flames
hands clasped in your
lap, eyes closed
release your short comings
and accept yourself

Don’t let anyone preach
to you
Including me
but turn off your computer
and do something awesome
Don’t tell anyone about it,
just make yourself proud

Mind Fuck

The truth is: I still get depressed. “Still” being despite all the good things I have come to obtain–things I’d worked toward like a good paying part time job which affords me the “time to write”; and meeting my boyfriend who is hard working and kind and so wonderful that I often fear losing him. I sometimes think that if I give him away then I will not be losing him. This is untrue. Nevertheless I set little booby traps for the both of us, one little slip here and we’re done, a step too far that way and I’m out. Not even two years in things are so predictable. But I’d set out to do it different this time–to see it through and find out what happens when you do. And I have every reason to! But between you and me, I’ve been daydreaming.

I’ve been daydreaming about roadtripping across the country in an airstream trailer I will make payments on, painted on the back will read “Less is More”. I’ll wake up next to the sea shore, and camp in the parking lots of our National Parks. I’ll fry myself eggs (airstreams come with stovetops, right?) every morning, eat lots of that soft Taylor’s beef jerky, and live on black coffee with tons of sugar. I’ll give up smoking, for good, dammit. I’ll journal under the moon roof, under the stars. I’ll listen to public radio and really good books on tape. Hell, I’ll even write a book about the whole thing. Or at least an essay.

The only thing stopping me is fear of loneliness and regret. So say I give up my boyfriend and I give up all my new friends–the girls who invite me to their blessing ways and craft nights, the young men who cheers me after a hard days work, who run around with me to rock shows and barbecues, then what? I find new friends? Someone else to have sex with and the whole circle begins again?

See it’s not so much humans that I’m looking for. Being alone and being sad, it’s what I do. Starting over, it’s what I’m good at. It’s safe to say it’s all or nothing for me. It’s safe to say I am impatient. It’s safe to say I dream about pregnancy and motherhood and in vain cause….well, never mind. It’s safe to say I have chronic malcontent, I go after something, I get it, I fear losing it, I begin to fantasize about throwing it away, I throw it away. It’s safe to say there is something unresolved inside of me. This does not make me special. There is something rather unresolved within all of us. I always tell myself “don’t let on, don’t let on”. I’ve told myself that people who let on are weak. That we all have our problems but we shouldn’t just go on and on about them. That’s what separates the strong from the weak. But I don’t fully believe that either. You want to be strong enough to voice your opinions, to talk it out, and to make change. But there is some strength in keeping quiet too, not showing how much it hurts. People have enough problems without taking on yours too, and that’s a fucking fact.

So I quietly plot out my life:

Plan A. Stop sleeping so much. I fucking sleep right up until seven a.m., the latest possible hour for me to get to work on time, then when I get home I exhaust myself pondering what to do with all my spare time and I fall into an angsty, maddening sleep, the type that says “you should really be doing something else” or “Steve’ll be home soon and he’ll catch you sleeping”.

What is unresolved within me? What, in my daily life, am I running (i.e. sleeping) from? The uncertainty of it all? Is anyone else this hard on themselves, this hard on life? Are they just not letting on? Plan A. Keep on doing what I’m doing well, and fucking start enjoying it more. Take pride in the work I do. Push myself further. Yet allow for rest. Know when it’s time for what. Greet the day optimistically. Cook a good fucking dinner. Trust others. Do yoga (I don’t know, its recommended and it does fucking feel good). Be in nature. Play along if I have to.

Plan B. Pack up and move in the day, when everyone else is at work. Leave a letter note saying I’ll be back for the rest of my stuff eventually, so don’t worry about that. Cry all the way to the coast, all the way down the 101. Stop on the side of the road to vomit, likely. Remember all the other times that things weren’t “quite right” or “good enough” so I left, changed location, got a new job, replaced my boyfriend. Remember how time frantically erodes all the mystery anyways and that all the mystery and peace, it lives on the inside of me. So does the dissatisfaction and pessimism. I carry it all with me wherever I go.

Not a year ago I wrote a poem titled Staying Power. That’s what I wanted. Now I’m leaning more toward Runaway. But it’s all a mind fuck. I know this.

It’s safe to say when I am alone I am in control.

It’s safe to say I like being in control.

I feel I am at sea in my home, with my man. Okay so it’s better than ever. It works. But I don’t know which way we’re going, I don’t know how long I’ll be out here for. And it’s all so average, I don’t do average. Give me neat and tidy and I’ll muss it up and rebuild it to be my own version of neat and tidy.

It’s safe to say I am confused and at times sick with worry. Things are just-so and that really unnerves me. I want more. In this peaceful space–my brain builds catastrophes, spiderwebs of what-ifs and what-for’s delicately stitching together my present moment and existence–I tip toe through my mind, more afraid than ever of what I might find there.

End All Be All

I’m not the
end all be all
of face and body
nor do I want to be
that business is for young
playthings, Hollywood, and shallows
What I want to do is show
you my insides
the words in there
the stories the hope and fire
burning, begging truths and
pointing fingers at all the liars
I want to rise from my sweatbed
naked and then I want to take
that off too
remove my skin and bones
and bare the colors and vibrations
proving I am soul
I am spirit
not just shorts and
breasts
bones
and
lipstick

First World Problems

Not a whole lot of space
to write today—
at a Mexican restaurant
penning on Keno cards again.
First, praise the Mexican’s for
cost-free chips and salsa, among
many other wonderful things,
like good looks and hard work

Second,
“I just got out of prison,” the man
across the aisle says to our waiter
“How much would it cost to get
rice and beans?”
I notice he’s drinking water, does
not order soda or beer, just a
Chimichanga. I want to say something
like “You’ve been through enough,
I’ll buy your rice and beans”
But I do not.

He’s got a girlfriend who sits
across from him in a hairbun and jean
cut-offs, poking at her phone, sullen.
They look like we do sometimes,
a couple with not much to say,
even just out of prison.
I send little smiles his way and
I even cry but that’s all on me
As usual, I am invisible

My food comes first which I regret
I sit and wait for his to come…
He of piss-orange prison juice and
white slips of bread made for toddlers,
fed to men

Gosh it takes forever waiting on
that Chimichanga
I drool at my plate of
enchiladas but I do
not take a bite

When finally it comes
we lift our forks to our
mouths and my tongue gets
burnt, food still hot even after
waiting five minutes

I figure if the mouth of the man
got burnt too, he’s probably just
thanking the Gods for food
that’s so hot

Tears catch on my plate as I
contemplate Mexican’s and prisoners
and what my next step will be now that
I’ve got a full belly

See I am no different from him

20 Reasons I Write

It’s cathartic

I love books and reading

My hand has a mind of its own

I want to express myself

I want someone to know that I have been there too

Letters are pretty and clean

I want to be an artist in some form

I am one voice of a generation

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

I want my kids to know me better someday

I want kids someday and I want everyone to know it

I feel liberated when I say it out loud, whatever “it” may be

I feel that I have a valuable story to tell

I feel that my story is unique

I want to tell my Dad’s story

I feel that my Dad’s story is unique

I want to thank my grandmother, in writing

I want to take a snapshot of a place in time, and lock it inside the binds of a book forever

I want to challenge myself, it’s fun

I want to make somebody smile

A Writer With a Deadline

Things are getting messy. They are falling apart so that they can be arranged together again in a newer, better way. Most of you think I am talking about my boyfriend. I’m not. I am talking about writing.

It is painful. Oh is it painful. Not this, not pecking away at the black keyboard, not talking to you like I am talking to a friend. Not talking about writing, that is the easy part. I could talk til’ I’m blue in the face, and finally, I am. I am meeting with other writers over coffee, I am emailing them and asking them questions, I am reeling over my work, I am supporting other writers and applying for scholarships for writer’s workshops in places like Big Sur, California.

But also, it is a quiet time. It is a time when I am sitting on the back porch, summertime scorched, iced-tea’d up and happy as a clam but I am all inside of my mind. I am only inside of my mind. My hair is greasy and I do not care, for once. My boyfriend asks me if I want a cold beer. He knows I never do but I’d told him to keep on asking cause I find it amusing. But all I am thinking of is words. My words. I almost do not hear him. Like a builder building his house, I am thinking over my material. Will this page work, or is this log rotted? Is there a workable structure to my story? How will it hold up? Will it stand? On it’s own two feet?

I am devouring favorite selected memoirs and books on writing like ice cube crunchers crunch ice from a glass on a hot day. I listen to everything and anything writing; podcasts, NPR, Ted Talks. I dissect their wisdom for hours. I am snapped back to the present, if only momentarily, when my boyfriend asks “Wanna beer?” again. “No, no thank you,” I tell him. “Sorry, I’m kind of out of it. In a good way though, in a good way. I’m single-minded right now.”

He says he understands and is proud of me.

I think it a good sign that I will brew a pot of coffee, pour it into a mug, and before I can finish the mug I have finished a page or a chapter. Just a security blanket– that coffee. In the kitchen there is a sink full of dishes. “I’m going to be ignoring some things,” I’d warned Steve. “Like you,” I joked, “and maybe some chores.”

I need to shower. I don’t want to. Could derail me. Don’t have time.

I wake up these days like there is a fire in the house. Alert. I only expect this to last for a couple of days though. This is the beginning. This is the beginning of being a writer with a deadline. I’d be lucky if this wild enthusiasm kept up. I could maybe Get There if it did.

Steve suggested I buy a printer. “Genius! Genius!” I told him and rushed down to Bi-Mart. As it was I was paying 10 cents a copy and the gas and time it took to go to the library. Now I can print off a chapter, sit down to edit at the dining room table–full, cold coffee by my side–then jump back onto the computer to make the changes. All in one night. And I can do that several times again.

I have three weeks. I have three weeks and then I pass off my full manuscript to an editor I’d contacted, on a whim, several weeks ago. I get the feeling he’s kind of a big deal. He might even be reading this right now. Gosh I hope not, cause I’m just talking, I’m not really writing…..am I?

Other than hope, I am armed with a sturdy oak writing desk that was here when I moved in. It sat, sadly, in the open, unused office space under a pile of instruction manuals and green twist-ties. It was covered in dust. I asked Steve about the desk. He told me it was his old roommates desk who likened himself a writer but mainly drank a lot and chased women. He said he’d had to drag that damn heavy thing in here would love to see it finally be put to use. “Oh, I’ll use it,” I assured him.

There is a pleasant nautical-style chandelier light hanging above my head, a window that looks out into the front yard providing at least some natural light, a solid wooden floor, and a grand bookcase taking up an entire wall where Steve and I both store our personal collections–him: Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens and many others; me: Janet Fitch, Lidia Yuknavitch, Mary Karr, Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, some of Steve’s Kerouac, and many others.

Aside from the cold mugs of coffee, writing inspiration (ie books), and the desk; I’ve got about 525 sheets of blank computer paper–a whole drawer in the desk dedicated to it–a jade plant, a jar of water for drinking, a small clay vase filled with one unsharpened pencil, two sharpies, several ink pens, and a pair of scissors; tonnnns of written work, most of it printed out, self-edited, and needing to be stitched into my memoir, eight copies of The SUN, a new, cheap, Canon printer, jumbo-sized assorted color paper clips: pink, baby blue, red; a stapler with turquoise staples, and one or two unmentionables.

I sit and write on a hard wooden stool. Steve will often drag the soft, blanketed love seat into the office to watch movies at night but I just drag it back out during the day cause I can’t write all splayed out on my back like that, else sinking down into the cushions. Yep, I am a writer now. With a deadline. I am talking to other writer’s and I am asking them “How does it feel to be a writer with a deadline versus a writer without one?” I am hoping they will tell me it’s much more painful to be a writer with a deadline. But that there is pleasure on the other side of that pain. Surely, surely there is pleasure.