Archive for September, 2012

She unwraps the scarf like a bruised peach.

I tell her to be careful, her neck resembles smashed alabaster. These are the sort of words that only spill out of your mouth at those hours. The sort of words that work fingers over tethered hearts, make monsters of latent dreams.

The problem with speaking, mostly with writing, is accepting the world as it is. As a creator, as a shaper, we impress our images upon the necks of those we meet. If they bruise, and when they bruise, we wonder silently at our own strength.

Perhaps it changes with age. Perhaps, when younger, we more readily accept the bruises. We beg, even, to be marked. The mark, to the young, represents the continued sense of being. The permanence of feeling, the exposed wound of existence.

Older hearts find this curious. They talk about scars. I am dumb enough and know the difference exists. I am young and foolish enough to believe I understand something about ugliness, about permanence.

Life will teach me differently.

Eventually my skin will look more resilient. It will be older, less clean, but firmer in its stance. Or not – the novelty of skin swelling may never escape me. The closeness of you, your heat, may always push me to pucker. How beautiful, I say on this early morning, to imagine us in flames together. How complicated, on this early morning with her, is the sprawling of a road.

Maybe I will unwrap you. Maybe you will beg me to rip it off because it reminds you of a past life, an earlier form. How could I know? I would not recognize parts of you in winter.

Still, still as snowflakes I begin the unwrapping. This is not the age of the dream. These are hushed words blown backwards across the waves of your hair. These are fingers which only intensify with knowing, I promise the push does not become lighter with familiarity.

I wonder, in these moments, if beasts are true lovers. I lose myself in your neck, a buried secret. We hope never to find each other. But if I remain present, noticed, what are the implications? How does one begin to surmount an eternity? How does one make gentleness into a screeching whisper?

I will wrap you back up in the end. A silent promise that something is different.

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Like Osiris, I am scattered in so many beds.

Our bed is buried in the desert

(10,000 years ago it was an ocean)

You are a ruby wrapped around a rose, an oasis, perhaps.

(Once you were a mermaid, skin rubbed raw)

All of me is scattered there –

(There is no Isis in this instance)

My body has always been an electrode /

My body has always blown bubbles.

(You are there in the markings)

If all of me is being (broken

all of you is being filled.)

I know the difference between our legs. I know that you are worth having. I know the marks on your legs, your neck (my hands). We let go (within each other) – distinct from she, the broken branch, she, the questioning eye, her, the dandelion, it, the smoldering fire, my darling, a sugary star.

(I am between them in ugliness, in feeling alive. Never before have I) Let go. (Let go of all the hearts on your chain, strung down your side – remind yourself that hands were meant for healing, not) Tearing. (You ask me, through tears, why I touch her) I touch her to understand (myself).

I am a part of you.
I am apart of you.

My body is scattered elsewhere –
(it is there, somehow.)

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We are passengers. Strangers, far from hearts and power-lines alone. We dream on carriers, lanes that stretch into infinity.

Once, I drew you. Manufactured the slim legs and poking bones that define you now. Watched, like a panting wind, as you sat there listening to something French in the 1950s.

I watched you strip naked in Montmarte. A colored pinwheel washed over your body.

This is not a case of being there, this is not a case of I was there.

Your bones are scattered across European fields. So are mine. I’m positive. I’m positive about the body and the bus and the graveyard. The crows, your old relatives, squawking in the distance.

We need not speak of some disasters. Your mouth could not form something as true as the glint of your skin after bomb blasts.

You would not recognize my arms now. You would not see the electrodes that lit me into existence fifty years ago in a Paris basement over the color of my skin, my name, our touch.

To say we were alive then, that we made love in a farmhouse before your body was engulfed by a plague darker than our grove in the Congo three hundred years later. Who would know the difference?

Who would know the past – knotted like a shattered mirror? Who can say we are not ghosts, fictions, written into being by etchings of heart.

Who would know us in the darkness? Your husband would not know my name now. He would not recognize the scar of you which has persisted. The skin is not new, I swear, ripped through eons.

You might ask yourself why in every life we are always barren beside one another. Why we are always torn apart from the mouth to the base to the root through the bones.

I could not say, except that the warmth of you triggered something older than ancestral memory. That the love of you reanimated the ash of my former lives.

The secret I am telling myself about the future is this: the only portal into the past is a touch so soft it recalls decades of distance. Transcends oceans of emptiness.

You are on the bus across from me with bare legs and a book we read together on an island in the Pacific. The nick on your finger, inexplicable since birth, happened during a dinner I made for you on your sixtieth birthday in a cottage on the banks of the Thames. I kissed it until it sealed, still puckering.

When I get off from my stop in three minutes you will stand up in front of me and I will accidentally caress your hip. Perhaps nothing will happen this life. Perhaps I will mention your book. Perhaps I will bring up the bird we owned in Corsica – you like warblers, yeah? Who will we become by bus-stops?

Who have we been in the darkness?

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I marked you into my skin one evening to see if you’d remain. Creeping, like the falcon around my shoulder, you pushed into me.
Gaping, like the ribcage unraveled around your knuckles, I wondered about all the marks I would accumulate in your orbit.

They crept in slowly. They washed in like tides. They stung like nettles. One day I found them wrapped around my body, a blanket empty, my body a portrait of your tongue.

The chinese phoenix trapped in a burning cage was you. Its feathers unraveling as it sparked into existence.

A whirlpool on my right shoulder. A reminder that everything is circles, twisting, unbroken. When you climbed on top of me you’d rest your fingers on it.

My back became a web of vines, roots, tree limbs. Sometimes they were whips and scratches, other times they kept me safe from harm. Buried in all of you, life continued growing.

A tiger on my left calf. Something so mighty the jungle could not contain it.

A galaxy on my left shoulder. The faint outline of a presence, a God, a mystery wrapped so deeply into me only your fingers could trace it out.

A peacock on my right thigh. To be close to beauty, sprawling out like magic. To know my affection fanned out like a thousand stars.

Feathers on each arm. Speckled with colors, a dream. Reminding me of birds. Reminding me of cages. Reminding me that I once came from something different.

A dream-catcher on my neck. Pinned down upon me, a reminder of power far older than my own.

My stomach became a canvas. Recklessly, I dumped two dragons on it – wrapped around my breast and entwined at the thigh. They were kissing, or killing, or looking for something in a reflection.

Composed, all of you literate as my skin.

When they found me years later,
frozen to the bone –
they knew something as
beautiful as you
was written
into me.

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Two major things happened when I turned 24.

I met Anna, and Julie jumped in front of a train.

I always thought it was true that something had to leave your life for something to come in. 24 was a weird time, really heady. I was working in the negative developing room of this little camera shop in the city, and listening to a lot of music coming out of the Portland scene.

I hadn’t talked to Jules for a few years, like two, after school ended. That’s not to say we hadn’t run into each other on the street a few times – the city’s that small. I’d thought about calling her a few times, particularly New Years. It was just one of those things, the way someone can be a surrogate in your life for a real connection.

She used to do these little paintings of owls. They were really good, really, and she made a living off of it for a while. She’d been the most talented of the art-school kids, and her room always had these weird little tribal drawings from Japan or the Congo or Peru. I always figured they were prints, but one day I ended up there and after we finished she started working on some little illustration. It was Russian or something, Modigliani.

When I heard about the lady who sprayed all over the train I didn’t realize it was her. I just assumed it’d been some homeless woman, but there she was. Her body hadn’t been cut in half or anything like that, I don’t think that’s how it works – it was more like when you squeeze a bean too hard. Part of her had just punctured. I stared at the coat for minutes after they took her away – the blood spatter reminded me of a rorschach test.

Anna walked into the store one day with these weird little prints she wanted developed. It wasn’t until I was sifting through them in the room that I realized they were these artsy nudes of her backside. She had this really curvy body, so the photos emphasized all these swirls and turns and I was just really confused. She had this silvery, Veronica Lake hair. She always wore black lip-stick. Months later I’d be kissing her lower thigh and find a giant, sprawling tattoo of a daffodil. She was that kind of woman.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this story is because I couldn’t really get Jules out of my head after that. People walk in and out of your life or whatever, but it’s like, nobody dies that young. She was supposed to make post-cards or something, not spill herself all over some train-yard.

Anna used to leave me marked up a lot when we were together. Something about pushing and punishing made the whole thing last longer, or feel more real, I guess. And the longer I’m with her the clearer I see that all of this pain and hurt and angst is just like this desire to have someone against you. It’s anger, or not even anger, but some sort of circuit in the heart that only gets complete when there’s an element of danger, escape, or need.

She needed me in some strange way to push her down. She wanted something so strong, or fierce, or a thunderstorm when she needed a breeze. She was begging me to break her, but losing herself in the ether.

I wonder if Julie really needed that from the train. If the gears and machinery opening her up from the outside reminded her that something, even hulking metal, wanted to press her hard. Love had always seemed like another one of those things we did to cement ourselves into other people. Good plaster. Girls and trains, though, always had this thing about connection.

I still have a few of the drawings Jules did for me. They’re laminated on my wall. I still have a few of the scratches Anna gave me. You can’t see them anymore. I ride the train every weekend, and I think a lot about the tracks.

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Every idea comes from somewhere. Deimos, magus, wormhole, a burrowing hand against yours. Every idea has an impetus, a shock treatment genesis moment.

All of the bikes were lined up outside the library when it started raining. People didn’t file out for fear of getting drenched, I watched from a corner of the room while they all wondered.

When the library closed I noticed there were two bikes nobody had claimed. Just two. Sitting there in the rain, occasional lightning flashes, and me. My hands fumbled around my jacket and the zippers, and since nobody else was around, sometimes lower.

In the distance, the water was running on the pavement. It looked like quick-sand, simply shifting.

I wondered if those bikes had asked to be clicked together. If they were friendly, or distant, if they shared anything special on the rack that day.

I asked myself if they were lovers, a red bike and a blue bike, and scolded myself for being so silly. They were just bikes, and no amount of pinned hearts or locked up loves would change that. They were just two bikes hooked together in the darkness and the rain.

Eventually the rain let up. And eventually my thoughts turned elsewhere. Bikes have always had the strangest ability to take me away, to foreign lands and desert places. They have always taken me with them. They have always wanted things beyond my words.

To be chained to something, or released. To be a bicycle, made for another. To sleep in the rain, content with a partner.

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When the month comes
like coats and handshakes
your heart will bend gracefully
to mine.
Careful, I will break you.
I – who have never missed
mishandled, mistreated, mistook
you for anything but a dream
will have you like a savage
axe swung like a body bleeding
open for a touch
or a grasp
or a need.

Careful, I remind you,
I will break you. Open
like a palm, or a thought,
a teacup in a storm
always smashing.

Careful, I repeat,
I will break you. Apart
like two dreams
swirling in the ether,
watching as the stars
milk hours of tonguing –
jealous as a fireball
kindling in your throat,
yes, I will burn you
alive to be with me.

Careful, I will break
you along the thighs
as missed promises and
late-night ideals. Always
a beggar, always so fragile,
in the night my hands will
become softer than butterflies
and angrier than oceans
lapping at your body for
air and respite.

You will give it to me.
We will forge it together.
On the plane ride, bus ride,
car drive, long hike, your
hands will crave me and
remember the touch, firm,
tell me about it then
because I will already
be guiding your wrist.

I do not want to see you cry.
I want to take you like an orchid,
upright and blooming. A piece of the
Earth, living. A constellation of the
stars, beaming.

Careful, I will break you.
I will leave the pieces scattered
across the floor and, only if
your heartbeat remains
like a whisper, will I
re-build you.

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During a troubled dream, you once whispered in my ear:

Exactly how many hearts do you keep on that chain of yours?

My forefathers were bluesmen. Thieves and gamblers. Men more likely to pickpocket the stars than your watch. Your uncle was one of them, you said. He gave me the chain when I started. He held my hand in his calloused fingers, promised me I would always be a wanderer.

My language was taking. Experiencing life like breath on breath. The chain is an extension of me – part of the body, compulsive. It imagines, somehow, I love them anything like I love you. It acknowledges, I suppose, the scars I’ve accumulated by wearing it.

She asked me not to become like her father. As though begging a bomb not to detonate could push the hands of the clock backwards. I told her that her neck resembled a ladder to the moon – we shouldn’t climb it because we’ll never get there.

I am my own creation. The thing that only knows how to want you by loving elsewhere. The thing, embarrassed, more fragile than a soft bruise. A wanderer, he said. A jackal, I thought.

Someday I will set my chain down and let you wear it.

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I remember, strangely, discussing Hiroshima at the lunch table in eighth grade. The boy across from ardently believed it was the right choice – talked to me about fire-bombing – listed statistics, overwhelmed me. I wasn’t sure, and how was I to argue? How could I have known differently?

I read much more now. I’m reading Kenzaburo Oe’s classic text Hiroshima Notes. I’m watching, watching, watching. I’m thinking about the bomb / the shock-wave / the black rain.

Yes, the rain that fell like Heaven’s blood and took shape in the people. Turned their insides out, their skin to rot. A generation of ash, a new year zero.

I sat at the table and let the issue wash over me. I never considered, fully, the implications of that silence. Now I wonder so deeply about the cost of our nuclear world. Not I imagine the scar across the neck of Japan – the shoulder of the Earth – and wonder why we don’t know differently.

I wonder how, as a young boy, I couldn’t understand destruction more clearly. Smart Andrew, beautiful Andrew, didn’t something about the bomb make you sick as a boy?

Read the story of a twenty year old girl born the day after the bomb drops dying of radiation sickness. See images of women rotting away, their skin peeled back, in workhouse huts. Consider Oppenheimer’s words – yes, destroyer of worlds.

Destroyer of hearts, homes. A marred landscape, history has already turned you over Hiroshima. A new land has been built, shadow stains been paved clean, but we are not yet home.

My heart breaks for the city, the people. My psyche shakes when I realize World War 2 even happened, that we didn’t fire-bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki so we could see just how much blood would flow out of the country.

The deeper into the bomb I look, the more I wonder about that eighth grade boy. About my inability to imagine that a bomb – a single action – can have greater impact. That Hiroshima is still a graveyard, hardly silent.

At 8:15 on August 6, 1945 we entered the nuclear age. I wonder, truly, if at that minute we began writing our own epitaph.

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My heart is a camera.
It captures everything.

Yes, I still keep the polaroids
on my wall,
sometimes stapled to my chest,
inscribed on my bones.

Yes, I have been trying to
them for weeks –
they linger.

I know that photographs tell
us who we were, and why me
matter – I know they make
tiny universes more
beautiful than we will
ever be.

My heart is a camera.
Click, shudder, freeze.

It lets me mull
over your
imperfections, lovingly,
an artist.

It gives me something
to bury,
beside other bodies
I have shot.

I know that all of
our photographs
are lies – anything
that tells us what
we mean to one another
is too far away.

I have been trying to capture
you since the moment we met –
failing, an articulate beauty
too big for any frame.

I love the photography of us
because I’m a sucker for the
way our bones go together –
like ancient bodies buried in ice.

My chest is a memory-keeper.
I keep all of you inside of me.
The prints, the negatives, every
inch of your body somewhere so
safe even time won’t take
it away.

My heart is a camera.
You are my favorite subject.

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