a visit back to exit signs and U-turns

What is there to do here besides loot mother’s pill stash / cover limbs in preservatives and aluminum slashes / memorize the pattern of face expansion and bleach stains on adolescent scalp in framed photographs / watch television for less than ten minutes after realization there is no substance to these moving pictures / eat crackers coated in the aroma of childhood / look through cupboards and count the deer marching in backyard/ & / wonder what part of this exit still exists in you.

[fugue]

she makes love to the hysteria of inscriptions on sternum

stop me if you’ve heard the one about the gender neutral pronoun and the one who got away because that one did not prefer leashes like this one or the time the basement flood like her body on that Wednesday in August or when her lover threw fire against that pile of bones and what they wanted were ashes but all they were left with were doctor’s bills.

On exit 9, one may collect residences like sexually transmitted diseases: a starting place of hope leading toward infection and regret. On your right is the time she almost hung herself with view of geese and donated benches. To your far left, the school she ran away from.

She used to wear dresses; she still cuts her own hair; she is no longer a virgin; she still dreams of death; she has replaced Plath with Bukowksi; she still cheats and hijacks bodies; she hoards secrets and screams; she stopped telling them what her plans are.

What is there to do here besides transcribe the vital signs from one doorway to the next / feed limbs to the ghosts / memorize the way cracks and weight gain allow room for swallowed analyses / memorize mother for signs of openness / eat enough meat to bloat away the aroma of aged vegetarianism / look through self to search out what has changed, shifted, evolved, calmed down / & / wonder what part of this exit still exists.

notice what you notice when you notice it

Notice a tree.  Write about it.

Bark  infected like homeless mother’s limbs with skin weathered from winter and bed bugs. 

Go outside.  Write about it.

I stare at an open field and search for the bodies held captive by tall wheat or poison ivy.

Visit amusement park for children called zoo.  Write about it.

 

I see an elephant and describe its skin as heated crust. I count each fracture disrupting the smooth. I call it monster call it mammal of wild grey call it me in the evening when enough bodies have rubbed against me to feel bloated and heavy, a swell of weight.

Climb up staircase of memories in body. Question what needs to be questioned.

 

Why do humans violent away their childhoods?

 

 (instruct)

search urgency

     

Treat body like leftover supper and microwave toward normal

 

(an urge)

I want to remember the days when nothing occurred.

and all this time we were paragraphs

“a paragraph was a fence that held words” –sherman alexie

My mother is a paragraph that encloses my childhood. My brainstem is a paragraph housing [former] addictions and anger managements. New Jersey is a paragraph to the epic novel around it: New York City. My ankles are a paragraph around the roads I’ve twisted my heels into.

    Indent.

      Skip a line.

        Leave room for swelling and misspellings. Suddenly paragraph is overrun by errors and it is too fat too long too many run-ons and it needs to slim down. Starve this paragraph–write it out in less words. Girdle it away gone.

    This paragraph is loose and it needs more transitions and locations; how far along are the muscles? This paragraph is written beside its own translation which is really just the scars of what it was before all the edits. How do you label this paragraph? What is its genre? Is it academic or informal? What is its sequence function thesis statement?

    My hair is a paragraph to the noise I want to be making. My belly is a paragraph of uncertainty and dissatisfaction. Some of my paragraphs have birthed poems flash fiction erotic remedies to the yawn of schedules. None of my paragraphs have been written about.

    GreenFenceHorizontalL

    I am that fence that wooden beamed paragraph holding it in holding it in until all that is left are the holes peeking their way out.

familia

Some things can be explained.

The indentations on cheeks like puddles also called dimples.

Curve of hairline, similar to low tide.

The elongation of your toes.

The intonation of voice. It’s pitch and peaks.

When you are around them, it is easy to assemble where your parts came from. Skin tone. Body type. Strength of shoulders and inclination to laugh during the sad parts of movies. Every root can be labeled and tagged as an offshoot of someone else.

In the morning, when I am alone at my desk– which used to be a piece of scrap wood balanced on plastic crates and has since been replaced by a yellow fold up table purchased at summertimes stoop sale– I think about the parts that cannot be explained. And I search for these parts in lovers too. Because I want to decipher the mannerisms swiped from family tree and the ones which came much later.

We arrive and we watch and we learn as we watch and we do as we watch and our opinions are like a giant garden watered by our parents or guardians. It is difficult to decipher what is chosen, when nothing is its own anymore.

I’ve done some things that were not mentioned at suppertime or holiday gatherings or through school research of family history. I follow the dust, bred from the chalk-marks surrounding these things to figure out its true origins.

Where did all this arrive from?

Youth is something we push away and push and smother with a pillow because we want what the grown-ups have when we can’t have it. We let go of overalls too quickly and imaginary friends and nap time and excitement over snowdays or water-slides. We put on make-up when our faces are colorful and dramatic already or slick our hair back and replace wide-open laughter with brooding glares.

Then when we are real adults (which I am still researching), the bills arrive and suddenly we are judged by our credit score instead of how many U.S state capitols we can memorize. Our status is marked by how many computer friends we have and the latest phone upgrade glowing in our skinny pockets. We surround ourselves with things, similar to when we were young, but our things are plugged in and flashy and everything must match including underwear and whatever happened to those faraway days when life was marked by play-dates and tree climbing?

In the olden days, we played a game on looseleaf paper called MASH. This light-hearted game was like a scratched out fortune teller.

Mansion. Apartment. Shack. House.
What is your fate?

And you have to name who your future husband would be (before we knew we were queer). And what we wanted their job to be (because we control that, right?). And the car we’d drive and the name of our kids and animals and even the place we’d honeymoon (for those of us legally allowed to marry).

I remember even as a kid, I never wanted the mansion and I wasn’t too keen on a house either. For most of my adulthood, I’ve lived in an apartment without a wife or kids, had a perfect pup for some time, and I never dictated my partner’s job but I always wondered when I’d get the one I always hoped for.

When I am around my family, I study them in a way I never did before. I do this in order to understand myself a little more. Someone drilled into my mind and stole so many of my childhood snapshots that many years are blurred. Kind of like how it looks when I take my glasses off….but worse. I don’t remember full years. So I try I try I try to be present now because this moment is loudest and the ink is still wet and the words are at their thickest.

Maybe I should address the calluses on my feet from all the paths I’ve taken. They know where I’ve been, recalling each time I’ve gotten lost. Perhaps all the answers to our selves can be found in the hardened formation of tissue decorating our unseen bones.

how native is your tongue

Two small Hispanic men walk onto the 2 train with a guitar and accordion. Their faces turn into spotlights beaming happiness, as their fingers begin pressing keys and plucking strings.

I have no idea what they are singing about, but it doesn’t matter. It is 9:28 am and I am being serenaded on my way to work in one of the most beautiful languages: Spanish.

I have fallen in love with Spanish tongues, slurring curled letters into my ears. When I speak, I don’t always pay attention to where my teeth go or if my tongue touches them or if my lips grow into a tiny circle instead of a pushed back parallelogram.

When I am on the subway, my metro card turns into a passport and I become a world traveler. I hear Portugese and Mandarin. I hear Patois and Hebrew. I hear slang and hybrid variations. I wonder if I stayed on long enough, if I could learn enough to call myself trilingual.

I have swallowed a lot of almosts. I almost learned how to properly play clarinet (though I really wanted to learn drums). I almost went to culinary school. I almost got married. I almost lost my life a few times. I almost went to Germany. I almost memorized a poem. I almost fainted the other day. I almost left Brooklyn (again).

In high school, I almost learned Spanish, but I was too preoccupied with trying to die and learning how to understand the directional pattern of my awkwardly growing body and some stuff about my mom and … and … and …

I’d like to practice my tongue roll. I’d like to learn how to read Neruda’s original work, without its English translation. I’d like to sit on the 2 train toward work and not only hear these men singing, but understand them as well.

I’d like to be bilingual.

how to neglect a memory

Something has happened…

When you spend too much money on your credit card, there is a block on future spending. It is a punishment for lack of control; for purchasing that expensive pair of shoes far out of reach of your economic class; for thinking you could buy a new computer when you couldn’t even afford a printer.

My memories are like this credit card im/balance.

There is a block. But instead of a barrier against the ability to produce new memories, there is a pause against the old ones.

I cannot remember.

She asks me to write about my earliest memories, so I think about breakfast today:

Homemade granola with toasted coconut and sunflower seeds and almonds crushed beyond recognition and oats and soy milk and my appetite moving too quickly to savor each bite. And coffee.

Further back?

I remember falling up the stairs at the Franklin Ave. subway station and my fear of Brooklyn’s disease on my palms.

Further?

There was that man last summer who…too many pints…a walk home…non-threatening?… STOP.

Keep going, you coax. Further still.

Oh, that canoe trip in western waters of B.C., Canada. Creating a living room out of driftwood. Washing my underwear in the salty water and pacing around nude over fallen tree trunks. The beauty of turquoise-squeezed sky. Mosquito-ravaged skin. Making love in a tent too small to show off in.

Push back.

I remember my mother getting sick that last time. Shipping her sorry body to Brooklyn to make visiting hours easier for us. Visiting her in between full-time job everyone knew about and the one I kept hidden. Hearing her complain about their lack of toasters and what else is there to eat for breakfast beside charred bread? There was that woman there. And I started to feel like my visits were for her, rather than my mother. And I just wanted to push pills made of poems into this young one’s mouth and save her from the prison bars inside her bones.

What is left to remember? Why am I forcing this push…

Look at a photograph of yourself from at least 5 years ago or maybe ten or go back before the braces came off.

How can I look forward…how can I remain present…and still look through those notebooks stained with mildew reminding me why I am like this.

I just want to talk about breakfast. I just want to make you supper. Let’s just talk about your childhood, since something in my body won’t let me talk about mine.

paralysis of gaze as pants unzip toward puddled ground

photograph by francesca woodman

photograph by francesca woodman

From far away, see gizzards.
See Stockholm commuter train and newspaper unwelcome mats by throbbed feet.
See dancer or poet or unclaimed daughter or unemployed prodigy.
See airbrushed beautiful.
See exercised appendages grow frigid from the pinch.

Move closer now.
Closer still.
Get in there.

Notice the tear.
The point of reference from childhood.

Notice the frugality of sound.
The desperation for audience.

Someday your lonely will rock against me and create a baby.
This baby will have teeth where arms should be.
This baby will smudge like erasable ink.
This baby will be the weight of dictionaries and have skin sutured with semi-colons.

Someday I will feel clean enough to ask you to puncture me with paper clips–
to keep me together
codified.

Someday I will offer my real resume flooded with suspended spermatozoa and handcuffed to-do lists.

Someday I will send that letter.

Someday I will find you where I left you on train track where you lifted my shirt and dripped sofrito down my throat.

Someday paralysis will be more than a frozen and closer to a communication of stillness.

Unzip pants.
Walk away from clothes.
Hug the first puddle you see.