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

La Loba

 

My mother collected the pieces

one by one

in the desert, the sand and skulls

cutting at her feet.

The Bone Mother, they call her,

La Loba

La Que Sabe

the Wild Woman.

Piece by piece she collected

the bones of the wolf,

her ratty cloak sweeping the dunes

behind her, her weathered fingers

clutching those indestructible pieces,

never resting until each one was accounted for.

Patience, she’d whisper to me at night

My love, you’re going to need patience

as I lost count of the scars

as I lost another piece slipping

out the window toward the moon.

Once she found the very last bone, the paw,

she’d take them to a fire, lay them

in place, raise her arms, and sing. Read More

Beyond the Border/Hamsa

(published in Frigg Magazine 2014)

HAMSA

The pop and snap of prescription pill bottles,

swallow, light, inhale, scrape of the chair,

cluster of tap-tap-taps on the keys, a silence—

beyond this room, beyond this wall

I can almost hear you—the soil

sifting, seeds spreading out, dry in your palm;

folds of light robes around you like

birds’ wings—your child

asleep on your warm back,

your sky a sea, an earth, a breath

 

because you’re there I’m less anxious

(as I palm another pill) because I rely

on sedated time I sit in my chair,

lost somewhere before the border,

where I see myself later—aged and worn away—

walking to you, palms up.

 

“Here, here I am…” only you aren’t waiting

for me, time is something else to you—

so I see I don’t have to tell you

where I’ve been or why I am here

but that I’ve arrived

out of the cement tomb.

I see there are no distractions in the sky;

the rise and fall of my chest is all,

seas of breath and I am.

 

I know the scent of your skin,

the feel of your warm, bent back

beneath my body, I know necessity.

 

I will arrive

when I am not so afraid of myself.

When I am not so sick.

I will cross into the motherland.

I will go home.

I will leave what I’ve built behind and

I will take my place

among the living.

 

I can hear you beyond this room.

 

 

 

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