I’m Burning I’m Becoming

Write.

Flirt

Perfume Challenge for Thursday (I’m late) at Real Toads. Here goes:

It’s been a long time since I have taken in

the essential scent and essence of a man;

but I know

that I am short

and I would walk past him on tiptoes

at his back when I enter the room he’s in

for my first impression.

Oops!

I’ve dropped my notebook while reapplying lipstick I never wear

and as he bends down to get it for me (this man I’m thinking of,

I think he would do that) I lean too, towards him, and bend

perpendicular to my legs and I rotate my extending body

over his, a sort of horny swivel lamp,

just in time to catch the wind of him.

There would have to be oiled mahogany, a sort of

clean but painful polish smell,

that, as he stands back up again and I swivel away

just late enough to make him wonder; I also

catch lye. Or Lava.

he works with his hands, my eyes like violets as I see ink stains

on toughened skin, a few scars, dirt that wouldn’t come off

but clean nails.

you have a sliver I see

and I feel all yellow and then like bourbon

splashed and soaking into some kind of workbench

lemme see

tucking my notebook in my arm I take his hand,

turning him a bit into me as I bring it close

and inspect with my nails a defined splinter

I could care less about

I am touching him.

His pointer and middle finger are stained black, and an

acrid paper steamed with punched ink from the press,

inky and I hear angry typewriter keys from Hemingway’s

handsome days in Cuba;

he looks closer at our hands.

Sweat. His sweat.

let’s see, turn it here,

this might hurt a little, there we go oh it’s in there

Reality has its own scent capped in a bottle:

it smells like the cheap musk perfume I bought

at Family Dollar, mixed with the stream of the towing trucks’ exhaust and

stale cigarettes in the parking lots of my youth:

“Can you please…not do that?”

Hymns for the Broken

Listened to Luis Alberto Urrea’s podcast at Tin House “Hymns for the Broken”

and I didn’t know how it affected me or any of my feelings and comprehension until after writing this post.


 

Grapeling–this post is because of you; thank you for taking the time to

making my feelings finally emerge and surface. It’s been a while. 


I told myself if I had nothing, that’s what would come back. I spent too long after filling my hands with what I thought I could keep, only to find that what was within me was beneath the soil, deep in bones. All I had to do was stop. Stop giving myself away.   –me, this morning



“Don’t you know–everybody’s broken. That’s what makes us holy.”  –shaman in Mexico


LEONARD COHEN SANG “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.”


“–and those bad men that tell you to be ashamed…take their drills, look for the scars to re-wound you–But she says ‘we kiss you upon your scar to show you you’re beautiful.” –Luis Alberto Urrea, on the Tin House podcast “Hymns for the Broken.”

Write with purpose. Reach out to me. I need you. I am stripped but not afraid. 

 

I write to take my own hand and lead myself back out into light.  That is a line from Urrea’s Hymn. He goes into a story about being the misfit, the out-of-place one, the outcast–taken away by guardians into abuse and ultimate shame. This, as he goes on and his voice rises, is why he writes–because a part of him is always going to be in that chair. And I’ve been reading up a lot (for quite a long time now) on finding one’s worth, your possession, the bones of your gut, the mother you are to yourself. And I am taking in and letting go so many things, so many past and done parts of myself that have had their time and I will not retrieve. But I am retrieving the indestructible parts I am made of. And I gotta say, it’s fucking emotional and I didn’t even know it was until Grapeling commented on “Reflecting” –you know what he said? I’m going to cry again. See, I’m so good at shutting off emotions still, that I don’t even know I am until someone says something so beautiful and real and almost painful, and reminds me why I am here; why I write.

He said: “Amy, when I read your work, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s line – ‘there is a crack in everything -that’s how the light gets in.’
Peace ~”

I looked away, and then read it a hundred times. And put it down again. But it followed me all night and morning. And there I was listening to a fellow writer and survivor’s podcast and he quoted the same Cohen line. And I was suddenly sobbing. Because Urrea then says about himself as a child: “I’m trying to write for him, but I can’t do it. I need you. I can write for him, but you know what I can’t do? I still can’t take his hand, I can’t lift him outta that chair because I’m still ashamed of him. Shame. They teach it to you…for ‘your own good’…and I propose that anyone who changes you–anyone who betrays you, anyone who gets out “the drill” for you, anyone who leaves you, because you aren’t good enough?–is an ASS-HOLE.”

I haven’t been writing but thinking a lot lately, living a life lately. Working in a women and children’s shelter where mostly I feel good about what I do there, but sometimes, like last night, I couldn’t shake it off. I couldn’t not bring it home with me.  What I am talking about is awomen all over the world in these situations though. Because what can happen mirrors what happened to me on a very deep, personal level. In the one of two areas I haven’t figured out how to heal from yet. And it’s hard my friends. It’s very big, the biggest thing yet, but the difference is I am able to stand, withstand, and remain steady at the helm. I have become captain of my own ship. Finally. And I don’t want to lose that. But I prove to myself not on purpose but by the cycles and rhythms of my nature that I won’t lose it, that yes I am cracked and sometimes those cracks feel like land mines or crevasses and I am on the mountain about to get swallowed up. And I wait. And I continue with my life. I find joy and sorrow in a forming balance. And getting swallowed doesn’t happen. These words I must tell–my story I must tell–is changing shape. I am changing. And the facts are there are some things you don’t recover from, there are some things you can’t get back anyway–and you do not “heal” in the sense you’d think, you only learn to adapt and live differently so that you not only survive but you thrive. I never meant to write to let light in. I never knew I could–and I’ve heard it once or twice before kind of, but I tell you I can only write what I know and it feels very selfish. Very egotistical. But I also know that right now, there is a girl the age I was when I was shamed and ashamed and wounded, and she’s at the bottom of the mountain not knowing where the ledges are to clutch her little fingers to. And I am writing this for her spirit that is about to break. And there is a young woman who will disappear soon, and I write and I pace and I outline and I take notes and I feel everything I can through my own forms of grounding and meditation and calm.–I do this not for me anymore, well I do it because it’s like the beast or birds in me that never sleep, it must be said and said well. But I do this for her. I am honoring what she is about to experience. I am honoring her suffering. I suppose this is my Hymn for the Broken.

I wish I could meet these girls and women–before, during, and after. And there’s nothing I could say to them, accept that there is love. You will survive, I command it, because you must feel this love that is at the end of that road–whether anyone loved you or not, you loved yourself, because you didn’t give up. You must hang the hell on without knowing why. But hear me. Hear my voice.

 

Amy

 

 

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

Water of Memory

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 Lidia Yuknavitch has written a memoir (also the author of The Small Backs of Children–here’s a link from the review by Electric Literature-“Novel As Self…”) that has struck so many nerves in me I couldn’t write for a week. Absorbing. Shocked. Mystified. Ever read a writer like that? It’s called The Chronology of Water  (that will link you to Huffington Post’s review and how this memoir is going “viral”) and I’m going to share a couple of lines from the book, a link to my essay reacting to it, a video from Lidia speaking on TED, and other random thoughts.Go look around and read the reviews, she has made ART of madness, sexuality, abuse, war.

Her voice in Chronology. You will never forget, maybe I’m so overwhelmed because it feels like I have, my entire life, been on the verge but not ready to write something so close as to how I feel. Here’s a video from TED Talks “The Beauty of Being a Misfit.” I dare say, this woman has inspired and changed my writing. This should be my damn home page.

Lovely Lines–because what she’s saying is stronger than words can even hold:

Lines/Quotes from Early in:
Under “Metaphor”:
Have endless patterns and repetitions accompanying your thoughtlessness, as if to say let go of that other more linear story, with its beginning, middle and end, with its transcendent end, let go, we are the POEM, WE HAVE COME MILES OF LIFE, WE HAVE SURVIVED THIS FAR TO TELL YOU, GO ON, GO ON.
You will see you have an underlying tone and plot to your life underneath the one you’ve been told. Circular and image bound.
Something near tragic, near unbearable, but contained by your irreducible imagination–who would have thought of it but you–your ability to metamorphose like organic material in contact with changing elements. The rocks. They carry the chronology of water. All things simultaneously living and dead in your hands.
From “on sound and speech”:
It was my voice that left. In my house
The sound of leather on the skin of my
Sister’s bare bottom stole my very voice
Out of my throat for years. ..Alone in my room, I drew on the walls knowing the
Punishment–pushing the waxen color as hard
As I could against the wall, until it broke…
 MY VOICE WAS COMING. SOMETHING ABOUT MY FATHER’S HOUSE.
SOMETHING ABOUT ALONE
It was my voice that left. In my house
The sound of leather on the skin of my
Sister’s bare bottom stole my very voice
Out of my throat for years. ..Alone in my room, I drew on the walls knowing the
Punishment–pushing the waxen color as hard
As I could against the wall, until it broke…
MY VOICE WAS COMING. SOMETHING ABOUT MY FATHER’S HOUSE. SOMETHING ABOUT ALONE AND WATER.  –Lidia
*reminds me of end of my poem “Reflections” –the doll/father/self/blood and “she’s beautiful….” losing voice/beauty to my power and destruction=self-destruction, perverse and all turned inward –amy
~my essay (first draft) is here, called “Reinvent Yourself Endlessly”, which you will hear in the TED talk:

REINVENT YOURSELF ENDLESSLY:

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds–I actually stopped my bike on my way down to the shore to watch them-and all of these are very simple and right in front of me. The colors and sounds and smells and sights don’t have intentions. They just are. And I can relax my mind around things like that; nature is like a fact, an unwordable cause and effect that has rhythm even in its own chaotic events-it’s all one thing sliding into and around the other. Motion. Repetition. Change.  Recycle. Like music.

As humans we try to master outcome. We try to master choice and effort and even failure to make sense of the things we cannot hold, of the things that happen to us.  “Events don’t have cause and effect relationships the way you wish they did,” Lidia Yuknavitch writes. And that’s true right through my gut–life is fragments and patterns and repetitions that do not hold true to the words we use, to the scenarios we build, words are just metaphor; we are of an imperfect nature-we don’t have natural disasters, we have trauma and loss and all those kinds of events at random, no one is picked out and chosen, and we’ve spent millennia trying to prepare our reactions and behaviors for these things. And it isn’t possible. What is inevitable though is that we will come out of it changed–“to something new, something strange,” (Longfellow? Not sure). But before we understand and are aware of that change though, somehow our natural systems undergo a small microscopic atomic evolution–or what I think of as the nightmares during the sleep of adaptation. Also called, in a flimsy, whimsical word, “healing.” And that is the perfect part of our ourselves–we’re part adaptation and evolution, but the rest is a blank slate.

I believe I am becoming who I am because I scribbled on a blank page my words and crossing-outs of what others had scripted on that slate-who I used to be, and becoming anything but her, for me, is a gigantic relief and forward motion–not towards anything, there is no goal, but into something I can’t describe yet. Into what–myself? Is it predestined that I would find this? Is this who I was before I hid away in my mind as a girl? Or did she all together vanish, and that’s why I had the breakdown and it took seven years to repair–because as an entirely naked being I had to start over? I don’t believe in destiny. I used to with a sort of romantic twist on it. I believe I am almost atheist in my perceptions. Or views. Or…something.  Scientific facts, math, denominators, constellations, physics–these are things with solidity. They cannot be moved. And maybe people are afraid to be moved; people are afraid that what they base themselves on in the private parts of their minds is illusion, and it can be terrifying-even if you are  used to a lot of change inside. We find religion. We find atheism. We find addiction. We find facts. We find knowledge. We are constantly looking. We seek other people, looking for strands of ourselves to keep aligned inside–a shared bit of the stars we come from–so as not to feel alone. Connection. Gravity. We think we need it. That it is necessity. Maybe it is, but going without it opens up a world’s worth of information. Gravity, connection–losing that is to study yourself as a microbe. When all connection is cut, when you lose your belief system so ingrained in you, when you find yourself no longer cursing a god for damning you but beholding something much scarier-that seemingly factual, unmoving reflection in the mirror of you dead inside–these are the facts, these are the equivocations of what you’ve totaled into, of who damaged you–all you felt, all you did, all you endured and you just weren’t able or built to survive that way at that age. You see yourself as just another product of a common tragedy all over the world–and it is not a pretty thing to see.  Being out there, weightless in space and only time will help you get used to, it’s fucking terrifying, losing that person. That illusion. It’s Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time” —…pinned against the sweating wall/a man goes far to find out what he is/Death of the self in the tearless night/Dark, dark my light …It is, as he says, a death of the self. I never forgot that poem. But after the terror, after time-the only thing that keeps you-you gain so much more.

Maybe I poetisized the stars all along, because I no longer believe things happen for a reason.  I was not destined for this, I was not, as so many people say “becoming the person I was meant to be.”  I no longer believe that my dead father is the middle star in Orion’s Belt. He is gone. His body is part of the elements now, back to where it came from-into the patterns and rhythm of nature. But his essence is inside me, I have, from him, his voice telling me I’ll be okay. I remember many times looking up into the night and trying to rationalize with my brain what Catholic school had been teaching me, but at that age all I got out of it was an old man up there watching me to make sure I didn’t fuck up, and to make sure I loved. The contradiction was as easy to believe as it was believing all the other contradictions that were around me. What isn’t contradictory to me is that death, be it of the self or of the body, does what nature tends to do–breaks down the matter, recycling parts and pieces into different directions, different things, new things, and each finding a way.

I was afraid of suicide-of the actual act itself. I believed with all I had that my body would commit the crime against me.  So they tranquilized me on Seroquel for a year and a half so my body wouldn’t die. But it’s not how it sounds. A sort of mental or more-so a spiritual death is not specific, it’s not a quarantined moment. It’s sort of like the way dammed water floods. That time is a fragment to me now, but it’s quite concrete compared to other memories but it only has a linear order for a brief period of time. So. It is, after the frightening adventure of losing everything, including faith in religion, it’s an awakening. It’s a cold, cruel way to get to it, but it is an awakening.

I am not going to force my words into a frame anymore. My mind certainly doesn’t work that way.

I’ve known that Roethke poem almost by heart for years. Once you experience it, it is only understood by others that have. And their are easier ways I’m sure. But I’m going to add that poem, so that you can see. He describes it better than I can.


Theodore Roethke: IN A DARK TIME

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;   
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!   
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.   
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,   
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,   
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.   
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,   
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.   
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,   
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

and here is my poem, VAPOR:

This body’s breath
caught sharp and held
I hold it and like water
it escapes my fingers and spills
over my toes
when I am thirsty
asking too much from my body
when I am not enough
I give it tea and fruit and poisons
I exhale the fumes of the vices
herbal or smoky and fine
licking at these wet fingers
that let a pen scratch
let a word be plucked
from a curl of steam
this body’s breath
will learn it can’t hold what is borrowed
and maybe then stop
cupping and drinking
hold and take nothing
it’s enough just to breathe

let the vices unthread from the seams
of the spine into origami wings
taking flight in paper vees
and leave me in the water
enough

This Spin

The nights have been getting so cold for a while now. I have been absent from my writing, and instead of forcing myself to write a poem or a weird essay or some shit, I thought maybe I’ll just sit and write. Conversationally. I’ll just…write. Let my agenda fuck off and the words just come. That’s like giving your inner critic a Tom Collins. Several of them.

I’ve been busy painting my new home into a modern minimalist artsy but thrifty home I want to feel like I am myself in. Tall ceilings, gray walls, white trim and windows, no curtains this time, keep it clean and light, black metal and soft wood lighting, Picasso’s framed poster “Blue Nude,” simple frames sparingly up with my daughter in black and white, the white warm linen shade propped up by couch on angular wood legs, hardwood flooring, no rugs. There’s a writing desk where our family photos cluster nicely together all cozy. But I want room. Room to breathe and think and be myself and I’ve always wanted to do this but for some reason never thought it was “me.” But I’ve always loved the way atmosphere in a room (I’m a lighting fanatic, even particular bulbs) can settle over you like a calming smell or certain albums. Certain feels that settle and relax your skin.

So I have been, in my painstakingly slow paint sessions, cleaning, short work shifts, three a.m. walks under the street lamps in my silent neighborhood, I have been using all of this time to settle in, yet further into myself, and out of myself, with forward momentum.  I thought maybe I had been escaping into things for months and months, maybe even in a certain someone,

…but the truth is I was looking at myself in the mirror the whole time and just waiting for my image to come into focus. And it isn’t really a mirror but a black frame propped up against the plaster wall of this old house. I am not hyper-focused, I am just….there…wondering what it is that seems to turning over and over in me, trying to tell me something.

And there were evident facts, like the person I told everything–everything to–told me I was “incredibly scarred.”

and

“Well, look at your life, your past, your scars, all affect now-look at your job, at what your write.”

And that bothered me, because it hurt, because it’s true. And I handle it. But that’s not what was turning and pushing its way.

I have a date next month with an old friend. He’s coming to town for the holidays. we’ve been talking. But no, it’s not that. There’s no pervasive anxiety with that other than wtf am I going to wear.

New flashbacks came up–a memory lengthened and highlighted and felt. Yes, the awful thing I saw in that flashback is real, because I remember it like I remember sleeping with my stuffed Kermit when I was nine. Every night. But I also know that the more you start to heal, the more you start to live your life, the more new doors open. So I scheduled an appointment with my psychologist and to discuss a few fears I know I can master I just choose not to write about.

PTSD does not go away.

But you manage.

Because the beautiful things in this world are worth the terrible. And I am mastering something ever so slowly but surely–the scary things, the fears, the fears of rejection, abandonement, attachment blah blah blah–all of these things are becoming…okay…because I let them have their room, and feel them when they arrive, but I am now able to recognize when that’s what pops up and affects me. When you feel the shit, set it aside, and put yourself in check–rejection and even abandonment stop hurting–because you take the power away from those that held those in their hands over you, and you stop, and it all comes from within. I am not abandoned because I have MYSELF, I am not going to be hurt by this or that rejection I risk every day with more honest words-I am not going to hurt because I do not reject myself. And I feel like I am in my center again and it spins and pools and it is lovely. This center is becoming so familiar to me, as familiar to me as anxiety, now it is this nest, this pool, this safe place to push for more and more life, more experience, more love, more curiosities….

The thing turning in me is this: I am living. I am challenging the borders I have limited myself by and I am pushing them back kind of easily. And with the choice of deciding to try new things like different approaches, kinder words, more blunt and honest words, standing up for myself, stopping pleasing people-one at a time; knowing the kind of woman I am without needed descriptive labels–I can’t describe who i am, but I like her. And there’s no need to explore any further.

If Death Were a Woman

poetry for and inspired by Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

–free-write, first draft, just going for what I see…

 


IF DEATH WERE A WOMAN


 

She will come for me

like words do when they wake

me from dreams, printed

in my mind’s eye, an inkblot of

the perfect image, the perfect metaphor,

the perfect motif, the perfect theme,

the clearest point.

 

She will wear a black dress

that moves like it’s in oil, her figure

slight and round and complete;

her dark eyes will summon me

outside, to a garden, so dark the night

will be that it is almost purple.

 

The moonlight will reflect on one thing–

an orchid tall and splendid

and she’ll take me by her warm, bony hand

and lead me on in front of her,

“touch it” her deep, quiet voice will command.

 

Death will know herself.

Death will be confident, with the grace

only aged women know.

 

I will feel like Alice through the looking glass,

and I’ll tiptoe up to it, my white nightgown

clinging to my naked frame--had I been sick? I’ll wonder.

I’ll feel the sweat trickle down my neck

like some heat-maddened moth, and I’ll

suddenly be anxious and afraid.

 

Death, permeating

everything fine, will tip up my chin

when I turn, and her eyes will

have yellow flecks like mine,

we share a scar beneath the left brow.

 

“Touch it.”

 

My nature has always been

not to disappoint, but this time

I am not willing to please-

and Death knows this, so her presence

will embolden me to embody

my own grace

and I will move my pale fingers

into the moon beam

and touch the orchid’s round center,

down into its curving dip.

 

“What do you wish to say?” Death will ask.

 

I will look to her again.

The orchid’s reflection glowing in her

irises–I will be bewitched. And see

she has smudged eyeliner on, and

her lips are fading.

Her dress that had moved like oil

will be disappearing into a white shift that seems

transparent but slowly

filling. The wrinkles that had been there

will start to trickle

and run down her face like

ink,

 

and I suddenly will remember

the words that had woken me

all those nights out of all those

nightmares and dreams–I’ll see

them in the ink of her tears

 

“What do you wish to say, Amy?”

her low voice is not asking,

only guiding

 

I will turn back and step closer

to the flower, the moon’s light

blinding on my shift that

will seem to be fading

into something dark, something

beautiful–black, somehow, moving as if in oil.

 

My words will be printed on its petals;

a fine script emerging as I bend nearer

there they will be–the point.

 

The clearest point.

 

 

(*wow, where the hell did that come from? Interesting write, Real Toads!!)

Reinvent Yourself Endlessly

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds Read More