when her hands unfolded:
they made a table of my lap,
spread uncharted at my fingertips,
turned me to more of a map maker
than the other men
I had dressed as prior.
There was petal and
caligraphy in her palms;
valleys, lifelines dug
or stitched, or carved,
Tigres, or Euphrates or
some other river I haven’t learned
a name for —
her mouth opened
and sung cradle.
she smiled and
my arms and legs became
aware of one another,
of their distance from my torso,
and from hers, they
quivering, exhausted, as the
epitaphs and coffins —
my past and the post-ambles
I was dragging behind me
like a burden
“i call it facesliding down the rabbit hole —
those moments before sleep
when you only can think of the things
you know you don’t want to dream of
and the person you wish you were
sleeping next to.”—12/30
every time the doors slammed thunder
I would open my eyes, slow, checking my
panes for shatter and the soles of my feet
I would strip naked and stand
in front of the mirror and
examine myself —
splits in the bark;
charred trunk or branch
no one ever tells you when
you fall in love with a spring storm
that your life will be spent
trying to catch lightning in a bottle;
waiting for tornadoes to climb from their cradles —
hanging like mobiles from the green sky.
when we stopped talking
and kissing and whispering
things we couldn’t have spelled
in each other’s ears, the only sounds we left lingering and
echoing through the room
were the slow drip of the faucet
diluting the acid in our stomachs
and the prayers we squeezed between our palms
until they became feathers and dreams and
hopes that we hadn’t bunkered ourselves
so corrosive that even
holy water would only react
violently inside of us.
I can’t tell you that I remember things that I’ve said;
somehow always been better at
“anything for yous,”
than “anything specifics” —
better at the way your hands felt in mine,
than the color of your nails.
I can’t tell you if the scratch marks
started at my shoulders and dragged down
like drapes your cat had swung from,
or if they started at my spine
and fled — high speed chases across my back
along a rib-cage-lane-divided highway
toward my sides,
I can’t tell you how your hair started —
only how it looked in the morning as you slept,
and that I hated the pattern of your carpet.
It made me dizzy.
I spent eleven minutes
trying to stare through the design,
trying to find my feet,
trying to convince them to join forces with my calves,
and knees and hips and spine;
to stand me up
to run me home.
too scared by how
I loved the way
you tried to love me
to try to stay.
with my bags packed,
singing at cliff faces
sowed into pew rows
at base camp;
that I watered the only way I had left,
that I watched grow from sprout
that it hurt more to walk away from
than the mountain.
It feels like I’ve spent
every morning since I learned
how to bleed or
or whatever this thing we do with pens is best described as;
watching the place where land meets sky
as if the dawn I slept through and missed might
backspin if I ask nice enough,
might sunrise one more time;
just for me,
just for you —
might mercy mercy my hands,
show things how they used to and
show me love like the first breath you take
after feeling your lungs cry Mother Mary when
your kick-off lame ducks and it takes too long to find the horizon —
if I am the sun, submerged,
then you are the sky I see:
prayerful for another chance to breathe you,
kicking twilight into last night
and spending my day in your arms —
you are a dream worth fighting away the dark to chase.
I can never remember the song,
only hearing it
I can never remember the words,
only the hair that grew and stood straight along my spinal column when they landed in my ears,
if you hold me when I dream at night you’ll feel the goosebumps come and go,
my lalaland is more of a merry-go-round:
surrounded by circus clowns and yeti,
and white people standing their ground
and tyler perry
and other shit that niggas like me tend to fear, and
wedged between Madea and Zimmerman and Krusty is a speaker
playing our song,
and for 3 seconds of every orbit I make through my nightmare —
around our planet —
I can hear only the words to a tune that I know if I could remember to tell you
would keep you here forever,
so if you want to know why I wake up in cold sweats every night
and I tell you that “it’s fine,”
and promise you “it’s fine.”
I just need you to remember that I’m doing battle
with all the things that scare me, hoping that
every night, in 3 second increments,
I’m learning the thing that will teach me to sing
in a key that opens locks
on doors you had forgotten.
could open and
release millions of paper planes
chased by enough wind to carry them across the
“I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.”—Brian Andreas, Story People
“I hope you never
pew yourself into a faith
that might make scripture of
settling for me
just so there’s another plate
at the table,
and local sets of hands
trained in your praise.”—Fragment Two 3.3.14
One of the rarest sights in America is a black person who doesn’t suffer from post-racial traumatic stress disorder (PRTSD). Our whip, and hose, and rope, and bite-mark-scars have grown over. Black don’t crack, and we believe in Shea butter. Our memories have not re-built so cleanly. A cultural topography covered in fault-lines and abandoned homes. We are refugees in our own country. We are a walking messy-bundles of nerves. A ticking time-bomb.
We have seen terrible things, and done terrible things, and been treated like terrible things, and learned to call ourselves terrible things just to try to somehow make terrible things something that we could find love in inside of our homes.
We have become so used to gunfire. But no one quite knows how to react. They tell us, every day, that the bullets aren’t real. But everybody has watched someone fall dead after one hit them in the stomach. We’ve held people as they bled out. How do you combat an enemy who claims not to be fighting you?
1) coil, strike — v. a refusal to cower in the face of incessant danger of stray-and-well-aimed bullets, often characterized by bullet proof vests, disregard for authorities we did not appoint, and a high murder rate. celebrate those risen before their time. A response marked by a quick reaction time. Sometimes inappropriately forceful. High-risk of mistaking falling plates, and books, and doors slamming, and balloons popping at celebrations for gun-shots and reacting instinctively. Stray bullets are likely.
2) cover, pray — v. hide in the bathtub. teach your children to do the same. wait until the bullets stop flying. cry for the dead. cry again that your tears didn’t bring your brother back. your son back. your daughter back. Reconsider option 1, where at least you didn’t die with your eyes closed.
everybody loves the sunshine. we just all have different ways of ensuring that we get to dance again.
There’s a Schrödinger’s Cat/Box joke here (chuckkkkkles). I’m not gonna make it. Or maybe I just did. Idk.
This is a tough question. If I met the woman I wanted to marry today, and she wanted to go to my bed, or hers, or yours tonight — would I say no? I don’t know. I might.
But I believe in right now, and I believe in doing things because you can’t not do them. So sometimes you sleep with someone because you can’t accept the idea of not being closer to them than you are right now.
At the same time, I’ve never been good at not connecting to someone for a little bit of forever during sex. It doesn’t make sense, to me, honestly, to have that proximity and intimacy without any sort of communion. That isn’t to say that everything is a long-term-everything, but it is to say that it’s forever if it’s only one night.
Is it still a one-night stand if for hours at a time during that night, it never ended?
When he stood in line for so many hours that they counted into days; taking one step (writing one word, every two minutes like clockwork) towards a destination unknown and in a direction that no one returned from; west — toward sunsets, and his-or-maybe-just-every lonely face reflecting in the moon at night:
When the head-or-tail of the line (I can never remember which is which) opened to a set of parallel and disparate cliff faces and fanned out along it forming a delta, fertile with a belly full of hopes and fears and panting and stomach grumbling, “shores” lined by squinting eyes, dry and desperate:
When he couldn’t hear the questions (“what would happen if they saw the person they came here to find on the opposite cliff?”) and when he never joined us in questioning a God (“who would lead us to a place triangle-wedged between a return journey, a fall, and a hunger we might not have sole enough to walk, or wing enough to fly, or faith enough to stave off?”):
When he stood so close to cliff-edge he teetered back and forth — the only thing holding him upright the tension from being wedged-snug-shoulder-to-shoulder with the other dreamers, each of them looking across a faulted crust (cracked deep enough that they could still hear echoes of heartbreaks they weren’t here or maybe even alive to witness), each seeking a smile worth trying to become a miracle for:
When he locked eyes with her cross-fault: and they each, without thinking or speaking or looking back to let us know how it felt, smiled (if her’s was any indication) one of those unburdened smiles at each other — the kind that we all got in line and chased sunsets and moon risings, and strafed cliff-edges for — before they stepped out into nothing, and never broke eye contact on their way down:
When he was gone, I knew that he loved her, because I wanted to follow him, and taste whatever freedom was on his tongue before he swallowed and became insatiable. I almost chased him over the edge to ask him, but I looked up and saw your face across forever.
I don’t. That’s part of why I’m not writing, probably. That and the fact that I’ve laid out a pretty difficult (for me) challenge to myself for 2014. In place of a “muse,” I have wants and hopes and dreams and wishes and I could-love-you-if-you-could-love-me-backs and all kinds of lonely, but none of them speak to me the way I usually feel spoken to by the muses I’ve been blessed with in my life.
What's a good way to become well spoken such as yourself?
Read everything. Read it aloud. Read the newspaper. Read fiction. Read poetry. Find rhythm in the words. Dance with your voice. Find the author’s tone and cadence in it (you’ll be wrong, but imagine that you aren’t). Then write out loud. Then read it back out loud. You’ll hate it. It won’t sound like the paper and book and poem did. Do it anyway. Again. Again.
Rinse and repeat until you realize somewhere inside of you (don’t force this part) that you don’t need to sound like any of then as long as you sound like you.
War will not prepare you for this. Nothing readies you for a person holding a gun in their right hand, to be carrying your heart in the left; clutched like a prayer that disappears when you stop whispering it. Clutched like they never stopped loving you.
A clenched fist around their holdings, and even as an index-finger-hug swaddles a cold trigger, you can’t help but feeling like you might not see heaven if they stop speaking you soft; your body simply does not comprehend this battle.
You still cannot think of a safer place for your organs — not even in the now-empty holes; homes inside of you, where they used to live — than with the gunmen.
We walked past a large canvas in the living room that I’ve spent years covering and priming and recovering and re-priming, releaving, reliving, re-again-ing.
The surface of it is thick, at this point, with years of layers spread across it like farm-hand callouses. Covered in my failed attempts at self-potraits and self-love and self-proclamation and self-determination; painted-by-the-numbers of times I’ve failed before this moment. I pointed out all of the missed brush strokes and shaky lines and indecision and all of the places the palette slant-blended two colors that didn’t match.
She stepped back and smiled and turned her head sideways as if the angle might help her decipher me. She walked up, close enough to hug it, and couldn’t figure out how to, because it was so much more than was fair to expect her to hold, and then she turned to face me, and for a moment compared my face to its and hers and every other one she had seen before asking what it was called, like she thought I was some kind of new art.
I looked down across my chest at her. Couldn’t tell how long we were there, because I failed trying to count time watching the frequency with which she blinked. Smirked for all of the times she had feigned anger at me because my eyelashes were longer than hers.
I watched her trace whatever cut or contour she could find south of my collarbones. Thought about how lucky I was that she wasn’t the type who needed me to be in shape. Maybe she thought a fat guy would be easier to chase.
I watched her drown out the noise we always tried to fill the room with; watched her press her right ear against my left lung like Martin was inside of it preaching about his dreams, or maybe Stevie was singing about ribbons or bad math affirmations. I watched her try to learn new rhythm, like she only knew how to translate love into a movement or a song. She struggled trying to hear my life for melodies that had bounced enough off of soft things that they were little more than heavy air.
I wondered if she thought less of me when all she could hear was the aftermath of a rally, my insides home to little more than tumbleweed blowing across the feet of the Lincoln Memorial — when I was more clean-up crew than concert.
But she stayed, listened to my heartbeats strike and kick-drum through my ribs — echoing like her high heels in long empty hallways. I watched her try to calm them silently, like she could hear ventricular wings growing, like she hear from flutter that I’d fly away soon.
Humans are built for fellowship. So much so that loneliness is painful. So much so that we will cause someone else’s pain for nothing more than the fear of being lonely in our own.
Failed protests against our own solitude; festering wounds, and while we’re bleeding it feels like we might halve the hurt by sharing it.
Some times it’s desperation, but sometimes desperate is all we have to hold on to, and so we burn and hate and scorn and scold and scald and scratch and kick. So much so that revenge looks a viable option, because it brings someone else into the narrative of our hurts, and keeps us from dying a monologue. Even if our ceiling becomes a broken and off-key duet.
Revenge is low hanging, and worm-infested fruit. Climb higher if your goal is addressing your hunger.
“Calculating blackness feels like a failed exercise of forceful coercion. One side condemning people to the perceptions and projections they attach to the box they feel safe to keep us in; “we,” on the other coin-face renaming the box, and applying our own rules and definitions for cotton club admission. Everyone ignoring the distinct and dissonant nature of our individual voices. Black is a made up thing, that we are shackled to and left to wrestle with… But how do we wrestle a monster with no legs? How do you attack the foundation of a baseless assertion?”—NMH, Random Thoughts 12.27.13