Noise Pulled into Notes

“Still, we ignite anyway,
becoming love in
a time of fire, almost
touching our lost
fingers in a collapsing
swirl of sparks—”

–from Brendan’s poem “Love in a Time of Fire”

I’ve been sitting on these words, so many words, and I have been lost on them and yet breathing them for too many seasons. Brendan’s poem above unblocked me, so here goes a start to what I am centering around:

 

 

It’s Just You. And a Pulse. And breath.

 

Carl Jung said

“The highest and most decisive experience of all…to be alone with one’s own self…whatever you choose to call the objectivity of the psyche…the patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.”

I have been spending the last several months to maybe even since last winter when I wrote an essay about a little black flower, Papa Hemingway, and the circles we center around and travel and leave lost footsteps around. Here’s a clip:

“…Walcott’s old and tired voice deep in my own chest it seemed as he read: ‘I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone…you were my little black flower…’   And just like that, breathing was suddenly harder to do. My throat hurt, my eyes stung. I stopped walking. I stood there on the sidewalk staring into a sort of what I call a “shiver” of what was keeping me—a glimpse. Emotions rolled to the surface and my heart continued a forgotten ache. That line, that one line (I bit my glove off and replayed the audio) “I broke my own heart, my little black flower…”  The tears were a relief and I walked home with a hole in my chest. I replayed it over and over, pacing the warm wood floors, an eagerness growing in my body….”

Later in the essay I wrote “love doesn’t exist when it cannot get in or out-what keeps you are the black petals surrounding your center–and those petals are what you had left out of all that you had and lost , that kept you going.” –They are the pieces of you you spent your life giving away, letting, and taking from, cowering from yet hovering over your gutted pearl someone took from you and threw into the ocean, leaving you the shell sucking up silence like the ocean–an emptiness you would forever try to fill, your identity and worth words others use freely towards their own foundation.  You spend a lot of time losing yourself in what you thought you would be versus what you had become, and then that black flower dies and blooms again wild and new, into what you are becoming–constantly becoming. I am my own Black Flower. We all are.

I thought I had to find love from someone to fix this. To be the something that would pull the noise I am into notes. But love never belonged to me as my own, so I put it in a box-designed, painted, framed and absolute–so absolute that I couldn’t fit inside it right–loose in all that room. I thought love meant something was wanted from me that I couldn’t part with because there were so few pieces left. I was too small for what I Read More

With Wild Wolves Around You

“Petals”

A Memoir Excerpt Published Here at Two Drops of Ink

Note: This is a vignette from my memoir-in-progress, Small Parts. This piece is part of a chapter early on in the memoir-a scene of myself with my biological father before I left for another city with my mother and abusive stepfather. That abuse resulted in suffering from Complex Trauma/Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder and dissociation for a large part of my life. A loss of the self, and the rebuilding of a woman. The memoir is in vignettes and disordered prose, mirroring how my mind works.

 BY AMY SPRAGUE

 

 I fish for the knife in the pocket of my dirty overalls and slice at Barbie’s pretty blue eyes, so they open. I sit and poke little holes where her pupils are, and then I saw at her ratty hair. I lick my bottom lip, almost got it. A pleasure fills me.

“Amy!” Nikki dashes out of the white hamper of a farmhouse, the screen door slamming shut. I throw the doll, stash the knife in my pocket, and leap out of the lilacs in time to see her break across the dirt driveway for the grass. I know she is heading for the apple trees.  The swing.

Lunch must be over because Gramma Helen walks out after, pressing her wrist to her lower back, her heavy arms tan against the white apron she always wears.

“Amy Jo, I know you was out here in them flowers again,” but I have no time for her, it’s my turn for the swing.

“Daddy John says he’ll push you now!” Nikki squeaks with excitement. I can hear the zip-zip of her corduroy pant legs racing ahead of me, but I know she’ll save it for me even if she wins.

The swing is made out of a splintered, soft wood with thinning yellowed ropes knotted beneath it, reaching up to the boughs of the crab apple tree. It creeks when I swing and the pink apple blossoms shake down like snow to
the green grass my bare feet dangle over. I pick at the unraveling cords and notice the fresh grass stains on my knees around a medium-sized hole I had managed to make in the pant leg. I want to pretend it’s not there, that it will go unnoticed at home. Read More

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil–in that order.

THE TRIPWIRE–TO TRICK AND CATCH ME, KEEP ME LOOKING, ALWAYS LOOKING WITH ALL OF MY SENSES, KEEPING THAT INTUITION SHARP AND PARANOID.

THE CIGARETTE–FOR ATTEMPTED ESCAPES, FOR GRANDIOSE TAIL-CHASING, ESCAPADES IN THE BIN, SMALL REWARDS FOR BAD SHORTCUTS, COMPRESSED AND REPRESSED PASSIONS, DIRTY GOODNESS AND SNEAKY REMORSE, THE ULTIMATE CURSE FOR ALL OF US THAT WRITE OR PAINT OR PLAY AND COMPOSE–BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE ABOUT OUR BALANCE IF IT’S GONNA TRIPWIRE THE PROCESS; BECAUSE WE KNOW WE WILL NEVER PERFECT THAT SONG, THOSE WORDS, THAT VISION, THAT SOUND IN OUR MINDS AND HANDS, PLAYING OUR BODIES AND ABUSING OUR MINDS THAT NEVER REST.

THE PENCIL–ALL I HAVE.

Hurt

The sun is bright in my windows, warm in the curtains. Spring blooms outside the glass. I am content in my life. And this song plays, Hurt, and an old pain comes back, overwhelming in these lyrics. I still hear his voice, strange, how you don’t forget the voice of a loved one that died. And his smell.
The facts are I spent my life hurting him. I hurt him bad. Because I thought he’d live forever, as we all hope parents will do.  I wanted to because I told myself he was an alcoholic, so he wouldn’t feel it. Because I told myself it was his fault I wasn’t safe at home with my stepdad and mother. Because I was so screwed up and had so many bad memories I couldn’t place, so I placed them on him. I’m sorry dad. I’m sorry for blaming you. Even when I broke into your house, your room I found upstairs shocked me, stopped me from breaking things, because you had pictures of us up on your cracked walls, because you had our letters from when we were little in a pile next to your bed, because you were so poor and alone, because the tape of me singing Patsy Cline when I was five was on your nightstand, because the same old blankets were on your bed from when we were little and spent weekends with you. You lived in your car for awhile, and I’d walk by it all the time and look in the windows. All the times I’d see you walking downtown and I’d ignore you, look the other way. The time I found you and yelled at you for hurting me and what did you do and you were so gentle and kind, asking me what was wrong. That was an opportunity for me to be held by you, and you would have, but I missed it, I was so angry, blaming you. I didn’t tell people you were my dad, because everyone knew you were in the bars starting at ten in the morning. Old Style, that’s what you drank with Pa out at the dadandusfarmhouse when we were little, and you were so gentle and shy. And after you died, my sisters and mother and I had to go through your house (we didn’t know where it was) and pick out what we wanted. We were 20, 21, and 22. Your house was empty of everything except garbage and old pictures and beer. Not even towels in the bathroom. It was cold. It smelled. Your mattress didn’t have sheets. We were numb and cold too. And then we opened your closet, and we could smell you, as if you were there and we were those little girls again, playing at your feet. We took out your shirts (the same ones you’d had 17 years ago) and buried our faces in them and finally wept for you. Our own private hurting, I remember smelling the shirt and crying into it, with a whirlwind of thoughts in pictures going through my head–how I’d wanted you to save me Read More

Publication…

I just wanted to share with you all that my racy little essay is getting published by Mad Hatter’s Review! I’ll share when it’s up!

My Brain a Splitting Continent

The sun has set and I am standing on the back porch, leaning over the railing.
I hear the screen door creak, his heavy boots sliding.
“Are your friends picking you up tonight?” The nicest question he’s asked in a while. He’s imploring about nonessentials. Something is coming. A faint alarm spins my gut.
He leans against the house under the yellow glow of the porch light and I turn so my side is toward him—I don’t want my ass in his view, and I can read his body language this way. His arms are crossed over his plaid belly, hands under his armpits. He’s nervous.
Hesitating, “Amy, I want to tell you something.”
“What? ‘Is Jeremy going to be there?’”
“No. I trust you.”
Silence. The crickets are loud this spring. I hear the frogs mating out back behind the pole barn. Beyond the tree line, a semi’s headlights float.
“That’s a shocker,” I smile at him. He smiles back and makes room for himself.
“Amy, what are you going to do with your life?”
My smile ends. I look down at Kurt Cobain on my black t-shirt, and hear
“…‘nothin’ on top but a bucket and a mop and an illustrated book about birds…”
I look into the railing’s grain. “I dunno. Why?”
I cannot fully absorb this question. What was I? Who am I but space? I cannot entertain this.
Silence.
I feel his presence suddenly. The atmosphere has changed. “I want you to know something—something I think no one tells you—you have so much potential in you, Amy–so much more than your sisters. You’re talented, you’re smart, you’re brave. There are so many things about you that you will use in this life and you don’t even know it.”
I turn my back to him and watch the tear seep and spread into the wood. Come on Lori…
“I just wanted to tell you that, because you don’t know. Because you act like you don’t care. Because I…”
What is paternal love but the sick twisted measure of a man? I do not know. I think of Jeremy when he says this, and I feel a sickness colliding with compassion for my stepfather. For the quickest moment of my life he is not a monster. He is human. It’s almost love.
The moment passes and I imagine him looking at my body again—yet something in my heart tugs, 16something that has always been a mystery and desperate for me.
“Thanks,” I say coolly, as if in passing. I can’t look at him. Headlights, bass. “Lori’s here.”
“Ok. I just wanted to say it. Have a good night.”
“Thanks,” I say without looking at him and skim down the steps toward the car, heart pounding.
“Hi my Jo-Jo Bean!” Lori smiles, her bouncy self turning down Tupac and putting the Buick in reverse. Night slips around me, the only light from the dash. She hands me a cigarette.
“Hey turn that up,” I say and smile. As if nothing had happened. As if I would forget this.

* * * * * *

I save up for a stereo. It is three hundred dollars and two and a half feet wide. I clear off my dresser with the scarves draped over it, Kurt Cobain on the wall in back. I take my time with my prize; my favorite possession. Speakers hooked up, red to red, black to black. I inhale its plastic newness, the luxury. I open up the four-disc changer and gingerly place Lynrd Skynrd in “disc 1.” I skip to number seven and as the electric guitar starts I gauge the volume by the round knob. My stepfather knows I am angry, so the loudness is acceptable today.
...if I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me…
I turn it to the right more, until my chest can feel it. It’s the only thing I can feel these days–physical vibrations. The lyrics take me outside myself. I think of Forrest Gump–Jenny standing on the banister of the balcony before her shoe slips. I know that–the curiosity, almost psychotic. No feeling. No thinking.
Next comes “Rage”–Paul York’s take on Bach and the angry, almost cutting violin terrifies me, like a slice through a vein. I want to play it. I see my future in it. I want to be afraid. I want to feel, fear, cry. Anything. (FYI –THIS SONG, RAGE, STILL TERRIFIES ME)

I go to the full-length mirror by the door, a pile of purple and blue eye shadow on the cement floor. The dim light from the lamp shines in the mirror behind my head. I stare as I always do. Waiting for something. I take the shadow applicator and press into the purple powder, as purple as the crayon. I stroke it beneath my eyes and around one, so it looks bruised. Then I hollow out my cheeks, defining the high cheekbones in darkness. I am satisfied and go up the basement stairs to show my family. My stepfather Scott and older sister Nikki are in the kitchen. My mother cross-stitches in the dining room by the bay window. I walk around to face her and wait for her to look up.
“Mom? Can I go to Janelle’s?”
“Yeah,” she barely speaks through pursed lips–a thin white line. She doesn’t look up. I watch her dry, knobby knuckles bend and pull the needle to the dark thread, punched through and in the hooped fabric.
I go back to the kitchen. Scott looks at me, then my chest. He is pale. Read More

The Love Between Sisters

5th Ave Sisters Journal

Fifth Avenue East was a place of constant change. While our young bodies and minds were developing before Barbie dolls and Santa wanted to be let go, other things were changing, too. Shit, everything changed. I was feeling my brain and emotions develop “abnormally”—it must have been the Bipolar Disorder making room for its ass on my couch—because I felt off and wrong and terrified because of it late at night–my designated time to “feel” things. I began to start shutting off at random, I began to do and say the routine things without being behind the wheel, I was crying every night—my emotions getting all caught up in my head and tangled there with the far-reaching snares of home life. I didn’t know I was also physically developing until my stepfather pointed it out in his various ways, his touching, his comments, his need to tickle us on the ground until we cried. No one had the talks with us about our coming periods, they just came and we each cried alone (so I learned later) until mom noticed it in the laundry and gave us pads. Womanhood simply did not exist in our household. Well, it existed—it was bursting out the eaves—but it was not discussed. Periods were a thing of disgust and emotions were things for children that we had to learn to put away. We weren’t punished for these things, it was worse—we were ridiculed and teased and took turns being the butt of Scott’s bantering. Even thinking of yourself as a woman was humiliating—flashback—I’m on the swing singing a Little Mermaid song (I knew every word and song to that movie) and Scott walks by and tells me Ariel’s a slut. Just that, just now popped into my head for some reason.
Letting go of childhood—meant letting go of those you loved and if they were hurting you’d better leave them alone to do it. Scott used to beat our

Read More

Limitless

In a flash of chrome our banana-seat bikes tore us down Highway 2 towards the lake. The entire small town of Ashland swelled on a hill, rolling down into the point of it–the moody waters of Lake Superior. Pedaling downhill we took a short-cut behind Frankie’s Pizza where a gravel trail wound through the dense green. The crickets and cicadas filled our ears against the rush of air from our speed. And then, abruptly, the trees canopying over us cleared and there it was—the small field of thistle and weeds that led toward the stone ledge that dropped four feet to the water below.

Mike and I had no need for words. Our slothful summer days were filled with them. He was my cousin and my best friend, and to be eleven without permission is, I think, the last enchantment of childhood. We Read More

A Writer’s Avoidant Behavior Episode

Yeah so…Nanowrimo…I’ve got about 5,000 words, I’m a tad behind. And I’ve really made the effort each day, several times a day, to sit down and write. And guess what? My house has never been so clean!! I sit to write, right? And I decide to clean the vacuum out before I vacuum cuz as I sit here staring at a blinking cursor, seeing debris on the carpet out of the corner of my eye. So then, I must dust all the wood in the house because maybe the smell of Pledge will stir up memories and inspire my pen. There’s a paint brush and unfinished trim, and my clean house doesn’t look complete without finishing that nagging project, then maybe, if I get it done, the nagging sensation will go away and my mind will be clear to write. Oh, I need a water. Bottled. I save what I haven’t typed and Read More