Archive

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Attention Must Be Paid

 

I can’t remember the last time
I woke up
and the world wasn’t terrible—
and this is my privilege,
me, a white girl
who’s never had to run
from bullets, who won’t
take the late train
home,
who always parks
under a street light,
and carries keys
as a weapon (just in case).

Me, a white girl
who doesn’t
have to be afraid
to wear a black hoodie,
to have a broken taillight,
to sell CDs,
to hold a toy gun,
to buy cigarettes,
to exist.

I can’t remember the last time
I woke up
and didn’t want to look away
from everything. Instead,
I make myself look,
watch, take note,
speak up
even though it hurts—
this, too, is my privilege.

I am not under fire.
I am not someone
anyone is afraid of
for arbitrary reasons.

Too many men
eat fear like candy.
Instead of teeth,
it rots souls,
seducing them
into action, greedy
as any addiction—
don’t let it win.

Do you hear me?
Don’t let it win.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

all your best monsters

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

First, you will pull your heart
out of your chest, feed it
carelessly to any wolf
that wanders by. Then,
you will fill that space
underneath your ribs with stars, a universe
so vast that it makes you
feel small inside your own skin.

You will begin to live
like a warning shot: all noise
and suggested danger,
no lasting heat.

Second, you will learn to lie
with things other than your mouth,
but your hands will keep
telling the story of your gone-heart,
wanting to break
every window, every clock,
every failed confession
until the pain sets in again,
feeling so much like relief,
a flood of otherness
that spins the absence
off kilter.

You will lose your breath
like an old arsonist: lungs
tarred with regret, fear pocketed
for safe-keeping.

Third, you will stop coming back
to this doorstep, even as you
return and return, harsh
in your routine, this practice,
this pretending, this dark—
it’s no match for this alarm,
its disclosure a wail
for the safety
of what is wild, the lips
of all your best monsters
begging to be kissed, intimacy
flinging itself against
your sanctuary
until you see it for what it is
in all its broken glory.

This is your warning
to get out
while you still can.

This is your reminder
that age doesn’t matter,
that nobody’s safe,
and that hearts are not harbors
where love is kept still, moored
and neat. No, that universe
between your ribs
is the chaos of new star—
and you are a constellation
of everything
that has brought you here.

That old wolf
is just your head, all teeth
and tricks. You may believe
you will never again
find your way home, but
what if
what if
home begins
here?

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

a band-aid for this bad heart

November 27, 2015 5 comments

I don’t want to be gone
but that’s what I am:
an empty coffee mug,
a house full of old silence,
a ghost-filled parking lot,
arms and bones
shaped by the word without.

How did I get here?
This place where there’s too much
blame in my blood, where
I’m sure I’d fly away
if it weren’t for these
bricks of doubt
around these clay feet; now,
even my heart
refuses to beat right, a reminder
of everything’s that matters
more than I do—
sometimes grief echoes,
and the sound is worse
than its origins.

I made this
with my own two hands,
but it’s gone monster
and it intends to swallow
every one of my limbs,
and sometimes (don’t tell)
I consider letting it,
because giving up
seems to be the thing to do—
tell me
how many broken miracles
does it take
to make one that’s whole?

You don’t know
what I’ll do next, and that’s
a problem. You were
what kept me
from burning down
this house, with me
still in it. Now, maybe
I don’t care. Now, maybe
it’s time to stop
swallowing the flame,
to let the new undoing
push out the old, if only
to recognize
everything holy that hurts,
heart like a wafer on a tongue,
I’ve always been
a melting woman.

But in the end, it isn’t shame,
never regret, never wished-it-didn’t-happen,
no, this devil in my heart,
it’s grief. It’s adding up
everything and finding the total short,
it’s not getting to see your face,
it’s a goodbye by proxy,
it’s the flashbacks,
it’s not enough.

These walls, this war,
this want, the cruelty
of losing. You were so much
brawl, so much fight, so much
courage, so much strength.
When did you lose the word
for love? When did you turn
your back on hope? When
do you misplace the power
of forgiving yourself? When
did you sell your fierce
for something dull, something else?

We were so open, once—
tell me how to pretend
it never happened. Offer me
a broken dam
for this willful river,
a band-aid for this bad heart,
one kiss I don’t have to send back,
one moment
that doesn’t corner me
as an accident; be unapologetic.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

between the lines

July 7, 2015 1 comment

I ask the easy questions: how are you? How has your day been? I talk about the storm, the lightning, prattling on about work. As if that’s really what I’m thinking about. As if I’m not wondering about your hands, your mouth. As if I’m not trying to say I miss you in a thousand different ways, but the words vanish when I open my mouth. I’ve gone soft. That is to say, afraid. That is to say, silent.

I don’t want to be the one who says it again, first. The silence after leaves too many scars. And I’ve gotten really bad at waiting, but I don’t say that either. Instead, I ask about work, if you’re ready for what’s ahead. I know the question has more than one meaning. Neither of us acknowledges the wake of it. You give me the easy answer, but I hear the way your voice dips, that half growl. I picture too many things and begin to stammer.

I wonder what you’re thinking – how loaded is that shotgun in your heart? Do you hear the bullet in my teeth? Every now and then, it whispers: you’re going to have to swallow eventually.

.

Categories: poem, prose poem, Writing Tags: , ,

Uncanny Magazine’s Content Is Live

June 2, 2015 2 comments

Darlings, the second half of the May/June issue of Uncanny is up, for free, on the magazine’s website. So, if you wanted to read the rest of the content (YOU DO), you can. In particular, if you wanted to read my piece (YOU DO), wander over here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/from-the-high-priestess-to-the-hanged-man/.

I hope you enjoy the magazine as much as I did. Every piece is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of it. That poem is especially close to my heart, and I’m so thrilled it found at home with Uncanny.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Writing Tags: , , , ,

miracle

March 13, 2015 1 comment

There’s still mud on my shoes
from the last miracle – a reminder
that things grow
in a mess, that to be real
is to be undone, drop
by drop, heart like a river
in a rainstorm: wild
but honest.

Your chaos is sweet,
a whirlwind salvation, love
that comes with a laugh
and the kind of smile
that is its own secret –
this isn’t luck
but I am lucky.

There are no locks
between us, just fire
and the way
our hands fit like keys,
you look at me
how spring turns the flowers,
and this is magic,
no ceremony, only
sanctuary.

This is a blessing,
all kisses and sacred hips,
water to wine
in a single afternoon, bodies
bent toward joy, an affirmation
that love is always a familiar skin,
and I want every inch
of everything, no holding back
and no hesitation –
I’m leaning in,
and so are you.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Writing Tags: ,

honest monsters

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Something always
goes wrong, and we end up
here, lost in a language
made of rain boots
and untied shoes, leaving
the windows open
in winter, boundaries
earned in inexplicable ways –
I’m a postcard girl,
always so close to leaving,
always wanting to stay.

But here we are:
a man, a woman, a coward,
a moon – an easy study
of separation, inherited thorns,
and something that calls itself
relief when it’s really flight
we take turns ripping out the garden,
guessing at what might’ve grown.

If you put me on a scale,
I’ll weigh no more than a photograph –
the idea of something, a memory
gone gray around the edges,
and this story is old
but repeating, feelings
so bright they’re bleeding,
heart an unsleeping
crime scene –
okay, yes: I miss you.
So, what?

There’s only ever one train
to this city; we both live here,
we’ve both left, and we always
come back, carrying words
like new pennies, kisses
like vanishing points, full
of last spring and everything
we’ve yet to learn, convinced
there’s a new bravery
in place of our spines, that ruin
is not our only gift, that love
may not be the first sin
but it is the last,
and this is war
and this is peace,
but I believe I can hold us,
so, give me the stars again
and I’ll give you the keys,
fear dissolving in light,
let’s invent new ways
to become who we already are.

I was born
for this, hands open,
heart full of ugly gods,
honest monsters –
I am always, but you
are not sure
how to love me, your
body a surrogate
for fear, but it’s time
to lean in, skin to skin,
shut the windows
and begin, watch
what I can do with my hands –
sometimes yes
is the answer to all questions.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Writing Tags: , , ,

A Brilliant Sense of Fury: Constantine’s “Danse Vaudou”

November 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Everyone is running from something. Sometimes, it’s something/someone we lost. Sometimes, it’s something we did – or failed to do. Experiences like that shape us, like water cutting through a canyon. There can be no mercy in it. Where we come from is a facet of who we are – the past always informs the present – and the present, the future. But what we believe in is a powerful tenant of who we are. A person’s belief shapes his/her world.

And that’s a major theme of this week’s Constantine (Danse Vaudou). In the beginning, we find Zed working on her skills, but only coming up with snake eyes and a migraine. Until, that is, John pulls something out of his magic bag of tricks, forging a connection between Zed and the map. Zed is eager to learn how to use her gifts, and it doesn’t seem like she notices the tone of Constantine’s delivery when he says, “Seems we’ve opened up a physic connection between you and the map, which is what I wanted.” That’s what he wanted. Because there’s an angle to him that is all about a means to an end, people as tools. He seems like he never gets too close. Because he believes that anyone close to him will die. (Which, you know, Chas. Poor Chas. However, Charles Halford is a delight in this role.) John, though, is clearly shaped by the pains of his past. At one point, he tells Zed, “Pain’s good. That’s how you build muscles. Find something that guts you, and do it over and over again.” Is pain the only way to grow as a person? No. Is it an effective catalyst for change/growth? Yes.

This episode takes the gang to New Orleans, where they meet a detective, Jim Corrigan (exquisitely played by Emmett J. Scanlan). Corrigan initially laughs off Constantine’s profession, calling him a con man and delivering a very snide, deadpan bit of skepticism. Clearly, his belief is rooted in accepted norms. Until, that is, he starts to realize that there are things that can’t be explained in easy, simple terms. Trouble is that there are ghosts rising from the dead – a hitchhiker killed in a crash, an ex-model with a scarred face who committed suicide, and a husband who died of cancer without his wife getting a chance to say goodbye. But Corrigan doesn’t even entertain the idea of believing, until much later in the episode.

There’s an interesting scene between Constantine and Zed, when they’re getting hotel rooms for the night. It’s a bit of a cat and mouse, except each thinks they’re the cat and the other the mouse. John makes it clear that he really doesn’t know anything about her, and it’s more than idle curiosity. There’s a glint of suspicion to it. He trusts her gifts, but it doesn’t seem like he trusts her. Not yet. But he couches the conversation in terms of sex, quipping that he always respects the people he sleeps with, but he usually knows more about them first. Despite his tendency toward being ruthless in his decision making, there’s a depth in that moment. A hint of someone who, when he lets his walls down, really lets them down. But for all her psychic abilities, Zed’s as closed as ever, not really giving anything up to John. There’s kind of a sharp, smart edge to her general vulnerability. She seems innocent and sweet, but this episode highlighted her resourcefulness. And we do get a hint of her background. More on that later.

John ends up being arrested by Corrigan for trying to warn him about the hitchhiker killing again. After that Chas ends up on alleyway ghost hunting duty, trying to figure out the dead model’s weakness/purpose. Even in death, everybody wants something right? Meanwhile, Zed visits the hitchhiking ghost’s grandmother, getting backstory on him. But it’s Constantine’s conversation with Corrigan in the interrogation room that is most interesting.

You can see that Corrigan is coming around to the notion that there’s more to work in the world than what can be easily explained. There’s a fierce quiet to Corrigan, a steady kind of strength. It’s the underplay of interested calm that is intriguing. He asks John how he does it, how he handles the darkness, essentially. The reply is a belief that Constantine is desperate to believe: “It marks you. For life. But it doesn’t change who you are.”

John wants to think that what happens doesn’t alter who a person is. That knowing doesn’t turn the world on its axis. But there are always the things we carry with us, the things we are haunted by. Maybe the core good doesn’t shift, but the edges fray. You can’t always be good to do good. But how far does one go before tipping over the line? I don’t think John’s found that moment yet.

Of course, it turns out the ruckus of the dead rising is Papa Midnite. John waltzes into a ritual with all the swagger of an old-school cowboy. He sassily apologizes for coming empty-handed, because he didn’t know what dessert paired with pig’s blood. Make no mistake: that bravado is also one of Constantine’s weapons. He showed up, alone, at Papa Midnite’s home turf. The way he carried himself conveyed a casual, unconcerned confidence. Not fear. He remained remarkably self-possessed, even after Papa blew some sleeping dust in his face. For John, he did what he had to, which was to warn Papa Midnite that he’s not allowing grieving people to speak to the dead. He’s accidentally raising it. Oops. Talk about embarrassing. At least there wasn’t a creepy mask involved. (Again: Buffy shoutout!)

Papa Midnite, with his own bag of tricks, consults…his dead sister’s skull. Which…ew. It seems that she’s condemned to hell, and it was implied that Midnite was involved somehow. Eventually, he’s convinced that his magic’s run amok, when he goes to the house of a woman he helped…to find her dead husband alive and slowly killing her. Talking to John, he eats a bit of crow, and asks for his help. There’s a sense of honor to Midnite, here. Raising the dead was not his intention, and his magic has gone sideways, because of “the growing dark.” A Big Bad’s coming, and it’s messing with the order of things. For helping, John gets to ask Midnite’s sister a question. His sense of duty wouldn’t have let him just walk away and leave the dead traipsing about, but Midnite doesn’t realize that. He agrees.

This leads them to, of course, squabble like wretched children while stealing bodies from mausoleums. Midnite’s snaps that John is “jackass of all trade, master of none,” as they metaphorically measure each other’s magical…well, you know. What I liked most about that scene was a subtle catalyst for Constantine’s actions/strength was his grief. He’s struggling with the stone door that he can’t get open, and Papa brings up guilt and responsibility, throwing a hint of Astra in John’s face. And, without verbally reacting to what he’s said, John takes his anger/blame/rage out on the marble slab – and it’s that berserker show of guilt that gives him the strength to get the job done.

Elsewhere, Zed and Corrigan have teamed up, trying to keep the hitchhiker (Phillip) from killing anyone else. It’s during their escapade we learn the barest glimmer of Zed’s backstory. Remember when Chas asked who would name their kid Zed, because it means zero? She’d spat back that her parents didn’t call her that. Through Corrigan, it’s revealed that Zed is a missing person, whose name was something else. Zed, then, must’ve named herself. And because all names mean something, why zero? My guess is that it’s an attempt at leaving everything behind, going back to the beginning, a reset. Zero is a clean slate. And whatever Zed was running away from, she clearly didn’t want to bring any of it with her. Her belief is that disappearing would let her begin again. But if there’s anything to be gleaned from the past, it’s that everyone carries the past with them, for better or worse.

Papa and Constantine set out to do their joint spell with more than a bit of resentment. Their spell to put the three unruly spirits to rest (a bonfire of bodies that John lights with a flicked cigarette) fails spectacularly. Each blames the other fervently, leading to a snark-filled fistfight, wherein Constantine realizes that it’s not necessarily Papa’s magic that raised the dead. No, it’s the beliefs of those people left living. Those left behind.

So, the hitchhiker’s grandmother, the woman responsible for the model’s disfigurement, and the wife of the cancer stricken husband are brought to the ritual site. Constantine explains the power of pain, belief, and grief like this: “You keep the dead alive, because you can’t forgive yourselves.” The ravaging tide of loss is a powerful kind of magic, and blame is a heavy burden. They agree to the ritual, and the balance of things is restored. But this scene really spoke to the reality of loss – and how those left behind cope (or don’t cope). How the belief that we could’ve possibility done something differently, or done something more, affects our belief in ourselves. It rang true.

In the end, Zed has a vision of Corrigan dripping in blood and engulfed in green smoke. John and Papa share a Scotch, and Midnite deliberately pokes at an old wound. We learn that Constantine’s mother is dead, and Midnite offers to let John talk to her. For John, though, he refuses (with a hint of remorse) to let his grief inform his decisions. Instead, he calls in the marker for communing with Zatanna, Papa’s sister. A means to an end, John wants to know more about the growing dark. The choice (this, over his mother) is a practical one. That doesn’t mean it was an easy one.

Zatanna’s message is merciless and clear: Constantine’s fighting a losing battle. What’s coming cannot be bested. And what’s worse: it will be heralded by someone close to John. Someone will betray him. Given that Constantine isn’t close to many people, it’s probably a short list. But this revelation may also reinforce his tendency toward emotional distance and isolation. It’s one thing not to trust easily. It’s another to know that someone you’ve given that trust to is going to put a knife in your back. That might put a damper on all your relationships.

John absorbs this harsh knowledge without a word. But there’s a kind of quiet rage on his face. And you can see, in that moment, that he’s decided to do everything he can to stop what’s coming, to fight even in the face of futility. Again, John is not a good man. He’s not an easy man. He’s brash and he’s unapologetic. But there’s a sense of goodness and honor about him, a grim determination. As he told someone in this episode, “Sounds like your hell-bent on a path to redemption, love.” In their own way, each character in this episode is – but Constantine owns that motivation with a brilliant sense of fury.

Don’t Date a Writer

November 18, 2014 16 comments

If you are looking for simple,
don’t date a writer. Don’t even
flirt with her. While you are talking,
she is considering
how you might look in a story,
or a poem,
or, possibly, in her bed. She analyzing
the metaphors in your smile,
the conjugated verbs
sprinkled in your laugh,
and the way your hands dance
in the air while you talk –
she is writing a story for those hands.

She will have bad days.
She will break dishes and cry
because failure feels like an adjective
for every incomplete sentence,
even though it’s the wrong part of speech –
her heart is always dangling
over a precipice, thoughts
wandering like a hurricane,
no one can swallow that –
but will you try, anyway?

If you are looking for simple,
marry a woman who won’t
wake you in the middle of the night,
full of desire and tequila, flames
foraging through her body
like wildfire made of lightning –
there will be countless paradoxes
and no end to her examinations,
always a heart full of purpose,
a kiss without any questions.

She will have good days.
She will laugh without armor
because you have taught her how to love
in seven different languages,
reminding her of how a river tastes in spring,
offering her inspiration
like fall apples, blossoms
of becoming, and such extraordinary trust.

If you are looking for simple,
don’t date a writer – she will
love you until the gods
stop whispering her name. She will
not be concerned with survival
(hers or yours), and
she will use the burns
and the tears and the floods
without fail. Everything in her
won’t collapse at your touch –
it will explode, creating a universe
unvisited before: only
the brave ever live there,
and nobody gets out alive.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Writing Tags: , ,

vulnerable as a match

October 19, 2014 1 comment

You told me
seeing each other is not
a good idea – echoing
a confession I had once made
to myself, breaking
my weakest moment
like a bomb made of wolves,
all howl and teeth, pacing
and moon, no relief,
just a fear loping
between my ribs.

Maybe we are not
perfect – maybe
we are a circus
made of madness, a bridge
of wishes taken for granted,
kisses consumed like air
until I don’t know
how to breathe without you –
maybe, maybe that’s love.

So many times, I have burned
you out of my life
by accident; so many times,
you have sent me off
in a flood. Each time,
I think maybe it’s my fault,
did I make this burden myself?
The truth is,
I don’t know how to hate you,
and I don’t know how to stop
missing you, and I think
the wolves are hungry –
what should I feed them?
What’s left to give?

Maybe we aren’t
a good idea – maybe
there’s nothing safe
about a body made of earthquakes,
hands like a hurricane, heart
like a four-alarm fire
but vulnerable as a match –
but this is what I offer,
this is love nakedly surrendering,
and yes
I am small
and easily pulled apart,
but I know your mouth
like a poem, I know all the worlds
in your voice, and I know
your hands like wind chimes
moved by an invisible force.

Good may never be
our adjective, and maybe
ashes are all we’ve become –
but I will not disappear
because of what people
might say – I am right here,
I have not changed the locks,
and my luck
is a wolf willingly standing
on the train tracks, defiance
for a spine, unafraid
to face the wreck – the question
then is:
how gone are you?

Categories: poem, Writing Tags: , ,