Author’s note: This personal essay was originally written for the Literary Mixtape Reading Series in December of 2015.
Kristen and I were smoking Kools together in her room. Curling iron plugged in and resting on the formica top of her dresser where there were several scorched divots already. Wearing t-shirts and underwear and waiting for the last possible moment before laying down to zip up our acid wash jeans.
Kristen was beginning to tease her hair around her face like a fan, covering one eye, the left one. Her black and silver double deck boom box silent before she flipped the empty tape case to me and pressed play. Kristen was gorgeous and dark. Dark in a slashed jeans kind of way. Dark in a melting the tip of her eyeliner with a lighter kind of way. She used White Rain hairspray because Aquanet was for pussies. She may have already had capped teeth.
The night of the seventh grade dance, when I heard Purple Rain for the first time, when Darling Nikki came on, winter of 1988. I smoked. Poorly (never any of my own, holding them like a dork between first two fingers instead of pinching between thumb and forefinger), but it was enough to give me a little cred with the kids at the pool hall down on Central.
The challenge these days
is avoiding my deepest desire to be an antelope.
I would never survive my
own predatory instinct and would devour me.
It is well known I
have the stomach acid of
and can pass bones through my intestines.
I hang out with lesbians and straights and
kiss squarely with both mouths;
I’ll worry about it later. Continue reading
During the time when your hair had a middle part, we took pictures feeding goats. We were in the petting zoo and one ate my hair, and you rescued me and tried to wash the green out of hair that matched yours, in the public restroom. You rushed to my aid.
When the holy ghost would wash over us all in the green and white striped tents. Hairy men blissed out from a conspicuous lack of weed and booze erecting tent poles in prairiefields and vacant lots. Dust was raised and straw scattered subsequently. Wood slatted folding chairs for the evening. Me with a doll and you on stage with microphone exhorting with your gorgeous voice. You told me once you wished to be Grace Slick. I thought you were better than her.
Of Tan Lines On Wrists
I heard this woman the other night,
we were talking about abstinence
and she said instead of no she says:
That’s not mine.
It is interesting what one defines as possession
bound in by tracks of feet on linoleum and gold bands.
I’ve never had so much choice in my whole goddamn life
and for once I have no purchase.
I am your tall cracked glass;
I exact your space apart from mine.
Don’t marry her yet:
my shoelaces are untied,
mass graves left un-dug.
I won’t either-
Not until I can disengage the dimply-knuckled toddler arms around my knees.
Plucking grips like leeches; leaving subcutaneous blood bruises,
wishing I could disappear like a vanquished character
in a mist of digital death.
I imagine myself sawing through flying carpets in Barcelona;
and, like Nancy, I use only broken bottles.
Till past to muscle tissue,
fascia that ties my skin to me.
The flayed effect of being the one left;
of knowing, finally, you were never with.
Even in the together, half-gone.
Spending all of my currency to buy an ok that wasn’t.
Oh this house of loss and regret-
You are not the one to claim ownership,
I built what I live in.
I cradle it about me
I don't change, I metastasize.
I eat that which surrounds and the glory of devouring,
it fleshes me to fullness.
Look back at those tremendous arcs that follow behind all of us.
Such vision- those arches those bridges
the sense of destination
WE ARE GOING SOMEWHERE.
These huge arcs against the sky
(they do cost us something)
mine asks much I can't give
but do anyway.
You think the fierceness of your longing sets you apart?
That death and taxes makes each of us unique?
This temple of icons I sleep in
does not in itself make me holy.
My holiness arises from burnt organs
from stripped wires
from copper stolen
from splintered wood and undone dishes
from flaking iron
from pebbling cobble, invading viruses, broken locks, protest signs, unmerited trust,
suicide pacts, and losing faith.
My holiness is me on your porch asking for you to take me back again.
My child sits with pencil in hand
suspending his body in gymnast push-up form
Over pages with lots of blanks.
Balmy hair cups past chin and neck where
I see soft blue under almost translucent jaw.
Such fragile skin.
Turning to ask about missing E's and not enough punctuation
leads to earnest discussion of fluffy cotton spiderwebs
and possible tombstone rubbings,
my young macabre boy.
When I wake up these mornings that the weather fools me and
I breathe in air full of warm water to hack cough it all out icy.
When I wish I had worn more than just tall socks
because my knees are effing freezing soaked.
When I stand for ten hours daily arms above shoulders counting minutes
while recounting stories while counting split hairs.
When I calculate risks of depression, pocketbook, darkness,
then depression again.
When I take martyrdom seriously and myself not too, too.
When I look at my small gymnast in his iron-cross stance.
I fail and I rise, this is why.
Bedding Down For the Night
This is the year I tried to pay attention;
it is also the year you resurrected.
Some dudes seem to do this on occasion,
you conjure perennially.
This is the year I did not put thumb to hipbone when you looked at my lower lip,
instead I watched the breath squeeze down
panes of glass ON THE INSIDE
while every Joey in town got his ID checked.
Still in their rotund bones relief does not abound.
Still in your face I can remember finding follicles where twin whiskers would sprout,
but I guess somehow this is not unique to you.
And everything I want to be JUST US
comes triumphing around corners
snorting out of bull size nostrils any of that life that we had.
We did believe ourselves into stillbirth.
This is the year I did not ask for remedy,
yet such is this divorce.