Burials and Boxes

What am I meant to leave behind? Bury into the soggy, spring ground and walk away from? This morning, while walking the pup, each leg felt like an office building with more windows than one could count, and cubicles and photo albums from every calendar, and at least 100 underpaid employees, and it may have been someone’s birthday because there was cake and an awkwardly harmonized Happy Birthday. 

All of this latched onto, into my thighs as I walked.

This weight I carry with me cannot be lost with a diet of grains, gluten- and sugar-free, and more water. I don’t need to join a gym right now. At least, not because of this office building built into my body.

I think I need a burial. For everything I carry with me that can be let go of, that can be left behind.

Last night, I dreamt that I lost my sandbag. I was walking and fell–while clutching my sandbag–into a thick, deep pit of mud. It pulled me in, but I got out. Unfortunately, my sandbag did not make it.

In real life, I sleep with a purple sandbag stuffed with flaxseeds and scented with the calming aroma of lavender. Others may call it an eye pillow. Sandbag prefers to be called Sandbag. There are nights I wake up and cannot find it. I travel my fingers beneath each pillow, search further down the bed. My sleeping spouse will sometimes (instinctively) find it for me.

Some have teddy bears. Some prefer light music to fall asleep to. Some like to sleep in silk undergarments. Or leather. Or….we all have our needs.

For me, Sandbag puts me to sleep. And though I do sometimes put it over my eyes, there are many nights, I fall asleep clutching it like a wish against my chest.

To analyze my dreams, I become each person, each important part. This helps me to understand it, unfold it. A therapist suggested this once, and it has offered me quite a bit of insight.

So, as I walked my dog and felt the wet air twist itself into my curls, I thought about my dream. I became my sandbag, losing itself in the dirt. Burying itself.

So, what am I ready to bury and move away from?

My current therapist–the best one–has told me that I may be ready to rewrite my story. I keep telling the same one.

But I know it so well. I’ve memorized only a few facts, but THIS story I can recite backwards.

When I was in my twenties, I had boxes. The first one started when I was nineteen, and I was with my first girlfriend. It became a casket of memories, even though we were still together then, as I stuffed receipts from outings, movie stubs, love notes, photos, even some gifts. When we broke up, I couldn’t get rid of the box. It was such a large piece of us, so I hid it beneath my bed, in closets as I moved and carried it with me past many state lines.

The next box was smaller and that one bled into another box which was bigger and then my next box overflowed and I had to graduate into a bigger one. I never told anyone of my boxes because it was a way of holding on, it became another secret I collected (I was so good at that). But then, my partner (at the time) learned of my collection and asked me to get rid of them. I was reluctant, but understood. We were moving in together and it wasn’t right to move in my past loves too.

So. I threw. Them. Away.

There are some things we simply cannot get rid of. I’ve got this army of scars on my arms and (elsewhere) that cannot be recycled or composted or buried beneath my bed. I guess there are creams and treatments, but mine are so embedded, and just like my glasses and the way that I hiccup only once sometimes, they are a part of me.

My sandbag is trying to tell me something. As it comforts me through the night, it whispers in its healthy flaxseed-soaked voice: How about you stop living behind you, and living ahead, and start walking within your current?

I do not like to leave my house. The subway has become a traveling circus of panic attacks. Lately, I have been daydreaming of mountains and closet space. I just don’t know how to be present.

Perhaps this is all to say that maybe a contemplated burial is enough right now. A realization that yes, it is time to let go because by doing so, I can make room for more. More memories that have been waiting on line for years to get into the packed club that is me.

What I was and what I am have been battling my whole life. I am ready to examine what I could be.

 

how to talk about love when it stops talking to you

The floor of your voice smells like slow-dancing globes

trotting over scratched-up versions of songs

I used to know the words of but now

can only whistle because it hurts to pronounce the reek of retired

love stops swarming around me like honey hungry wasps wishing for foreheads to sting,

and do you remember when I hijacked the music video of your loins

but it happened so quickly that what you used to love

to kiss

blurred its way out like an erased track—

that hidden song you had to wait through twelve minutes of silence

to listen to.

Drunk

You hid your empty bottles behind your teeth because you knew I’d never check there. Your fingers tasted of bitters and bitter and it is so difficult to kiss a drunk because their mouths are always occupied. But last night, I knew time had touched the nooks of our skin because your eyes were river phoenix blue and and mine were the ones stumbling, drunk.

Falling in Love with Garamond

“I’ve changed my font time and time again. And now it’s Ariel.”    –Eileen Myles

You used to be newspaper. Linear and predictable. A few verb tense issues but barely any spelling errors.

When you were living near the mountains, you grew fond of a poet with windy hair and red, red lipstick. Her voice was smoky and intellectual. You started carrying around a dictionary to look up the words decorating her sentences. It’s like she spoke a different version of English, one with linen napkins and foie gras. You both shared a love for Bukowski and chai tea. She always had scrapes on her knees and her fingernails were chewed.

When you shared one of your poems with her, she said, “It’d be better in Garamond.”

When she left, you looked up this word because you’d never heard it before and you weren’t sure if it was a color or perhaps a type of sonnet.

Once, she let you kiss her because it was a Tuesday, or because it was raining and you let her use your umbrella or maybe because she like you. But probably because of the rain.

Her lips tasted of Henry Miller and peppermint.

You never told her that you started writing everything in Garamond, which you learned was not a color but a font. A shape of lines and curves. You never told her that you started to forget all about her red, red lips and instead, daydreamed about Garamond, named after a Frenchman. Spent your paychecks on ink for your printer to pronounce Garamond’s figure. You became monogamous with this font, unable to notice beauty outside of its letters and punctuation.

She started to notice. She started to notice that you stopped noticing her. She started to notice that your eyes no longer cared about the various shades of red bled into her lips and instead, just stared down. At your paper. And Garamond.

She had never been jealous of a font before; she wished she had never introduced you two.

You used to be newspaper. Black-and-white monotonous.

Now you are 16th century, Parisian engraved.

the other side of things

I’m trying to understand my inability to sign my name to things.

Recently, I was asked to list all of my scars, every side-effect from every human I’ve ever let inside me. I had to name two references who could locate my left ovary. I went back on medication because I missed having night sweats and hallucinations of solidarity.

I decided to cut all my hair off.

I removed all my clothes, including four of my moles and part of a vein that never seemed useful. I like that my scalp reminds me of a mountain.

Several days ago, I was yelled at by a man who hates white people. Or queer people. Or former Jews. Or drug addicts. Or teachers. I’m not really sure. My lung just couldn’t stay inside me anymore, so it jumped out, crossed the street and I’ve had difficulty breathing ever since.

I kissed a beautiful woman wearing lipstick on her toes, missing one-third of her wrist. I had forgotten how to take off bras, so we just did it wearing straps and confusion.

After the sun had clocked out, I watched a silent movie in the sky starring Anne Bancroft and Gene Wilder. I ran out of popcorn, so I started stealing nasturtiums from the garden I keep inside my pocket. Nothing is ever salty enough.

Maybe I will be approached with a piece of paper in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge or a fence and I will signature my name in black ink or blueberry preserves and I will not hesitate because when I look out the window every sunflower will be looking straight at the one who most resembles the sun. And we will kiss as though we have invented something no one has ever heard of and our tongues will cure buildings.

Or something like that.

Bed Bugs & Boneless

1.

When I was a child, my father would read me books like “Green Eggs and Ham” or “The Giving Tree”, kiss me goodnight and then say, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” These bed mites were something I equated to Pandora’s box. Unseen and mythical, a lesson not to unlock what is clearly meant to remain closed, or to wash sheets and skin regularly or else invisible parasites will ravage the flesh.

2.

Dear Bed Bugs,

It was around the time of January or Winter’s midsection, when I sat in my girlfriend’s apartment in Boulder, Colorado and saw you for the first time. Her and I sat beside each other, reading from Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, when you jumped out like a singular surprise party, but it was neither of our birthdays and there was absolutely no cake nor presents.

Her fast fingers caught you and shuddered at the thought of what you were. You had a red tinge, as though we were engaged in some form of flirtatious banter and your entire body was blushing. She grabbed a clear ziplock bag and placed you in it. Then, we went online, hoping we were wrong about your category.

We had a hunch. About a week earlier, her neighbor called Ron or Greg asked if she had noticed any bugs in her place. As she shook her head, I took in the sight of his arms, like the beginning stages of connect the dots: tiny red spots on white, white arms.

It seems there was an infiltration of bed bugs in her building, causing her to take an immediate detour from solo studio living to cohabitation with me in my tiny 500 square foot apartment.

We threw away her mattress, checked all her books, gathered sheets and clothes into a sealed plastic bag, left outside until we could wash everything under hot, hot water.

At that time, there were few products on the market to free us, so we researched all the ways to escape their infiltration. They were like my third girlfriend: unbearably resilient and could go without eating for days (though bed bugs could starve for up to 300).

 

3.

Bed Bug, a derivative of Cimex lectularius, playing hide-n-go seek with humans’ blood, living inside mattresses or nooks of beds. Unwanted intruders insistent on being bedmates with their food. Often nocturnal, extremely sly.

 

4.

Let’s take a detour from the trauma of their existence and talk about their sex lives, which is far more interesting, and a distraction from the fact that they use their mouths to saw through skin, in addition to their historical lineage dating back to ancient Greece as early as 400 BC!

How they mate is through traumatic insemination, which, oddly, is what I referenced my brief experimentation with sexuality, upon becoming a heterosexual.

The male punctures the female’s abdomen with his syringe-like penis and ejaculates inside her. After doing insignificant research, I saw no courting rituals, hand-holding, Netflix-watching while eating a home-cooked dinner, noteworthy listening skills insisting that kissing and above-the-shirt touching is enough. It seems male bed bugs just barge right in and their marathon sperm inseminates upon reaching their ovaries.

Good news is, the women get a break every so often because there are gay bed bugs too, as the males will impale other males’ abdomens as well.

But during the time of their invasion, it was difficult to see them as sexual beings. Every part of me itched at all times, mostly phantom itches, derived from the fear of my blood being stolen.

We later moved into a larger apartment, but I never forgot about them: silent predators of skin.

5.

Bed bugs, noun, a bloodsucking bug which is a parasite of birds and mammals. But let’s take a detour from that restriction of speech and use them as an adjective.

  • My twenties were bed-bugged, a series of days where I felt myself getting sucked dry of life, energy, imagination, and desire.

Or how about as a verb?

  • X bed-bugged my heart, deflating it of pumped blood, leaving me lifeless and forever weary of ever being loved again.

Future band names:

  • Bed Bugs & Boneless LIVE at the Mercury Lounge
  • Bed Bug Boner   LIVE and acoustic showing at The Bottom Line

And my as-yet-unpublished memoir:

  • New Jersey & Bed Bugs, or Lifetime of Trauma off Exit 128

6.

When I think about all the detours in my life, it is difficult not to think about bed bugs. Sometimes I wonder if maybe we should be using them as an alternative to the reality television show “Hoarders”, where strangers infiltrate/shame humans who have a difficult time letting things go. Maybe we just need to set off a smattering of these persistent parasitic insects through the vents. Then, people will be forced to let go of things in order to cleanse their home.

A detour from avoidance.

A detour from the cost of an over-priced house cleaning.

A reason to replace bed mattress, with stains of thirteen ex-lovers, and your brief stint as a bed-wetter and all those embarrassing yet ironically artful menstruation stains.

I want to believe that the pests which exist, flapping their wings or mouths beside us can have purpose beyond skin rashes, psychological stress and the inevitable fear of the world ending.

Of course, there are always those exceptions, the nuisances that just have no redeeming quality, which have no detour to bypass: mosquitoes, gentrification and of course, Donald J. Trump.

an extinction

A scraping of light can be seen from the distance. Everyone else calls it moon’s glow, but she knows better.

“Restless Death Syndrome,” she whispers to her lover who looks quite similar to the others who came before.

“W-what might that be?”

“Cadavers of dreams. You know, like….archaic fiddle tunes.”

She collects ribcage and spine, thighs and distended belly into what could be described as a tightened fist, and rolls over without comment. She removes one part [of body] in order to make room for what was always there.

“Long tailed hopping mouse,” she moans. “Japanese river otter. Elephant bird. Mascarene coot. Sassafras Hesperia.”

Suddenly, she is engulfed in the flames of her tears. Third degree burns singeing her blood.

one day.

One day, you will rise out from the ghosts of your bones and declare your entire body a forcefield of beauty.

One day, doors will no longer be a vehicle for slamming or keeping others out, but the shape of a wooden welcome banner.

One day, you will walk outside and forget about the trauma of yesterday; instead, you will gasp at all the oxygen and color and music and calories awaiting to be consumed.

One day, you will not be afraid to keep going.

One day, you will finish all the books you had difficulty starting and then, write a poem for all the days that led you here.

One day, you will try out religion again.

One day, you will ask yourself out on a date and actually enjoy…no, savor… the company of your skin.

One day, you will eat without guilt, without mathematics, without purge.

One day, you will leave your declared sexuality behind and experiment with the language of all-of-the-above.

One day, you will dance in the middle of an ocean and flap your arms against the salt that has waited for your swallow.

One day, you will finally go to all the lands you read about in the Travel section of The New York Times.

One day, you will finish your novel.

One day, you will forgive yourself.

One day, you will learn how to trust men again.

One day, you will remove part of your body in order to feel whole.

One day, you will get married and it will not be synonymous with any other contract or relationship. It will be gorgeously queer.

One day, you will sleep through the night.

One day, you will recognize your body.

One day. One day. More.

Thank you to Crab Fat Review for publishing my poem!

 

The poems have been arriving like tiny drips from an old, creaky faucet. I hear their sounds but often find myself without enough time to listen. So, I do my best to ink them into whatever book I am reading. Sometimes, if paper is not around, I use the skin of my wrist or hand. Time is like this faraway land that I know exists, but have a difficult time finding.

But one of these poems, inked on paper, marinated in time, made its way toward publication.

Thank you to Crab Fat Review (love this name for a journal!) for believing in my words and existing as a space for writers to write for. Check out my work and the work of other excellent writers!

CRAB FAT REVIEW  (pages 4-5)

And if you’re an artist and/or writer, submit your work to this fantastic and supportive journal!! 

 

love in a disemboweled cigarette

Hair in its infinite stages of death can be far more beautiful than any orchid or moonlight or kiss.

This is what I was thinking when I watched the German with long, blond dreadlocks, parading death down his back like frozen stalks of sun, speak to me about getting lost.

We were in the front room of Bob’s Youth hostel located on a street in Amsterdam I still have difficulty pronouncing. I had been staring at him for what felt like hours, burning my hazel into his whole milk skin. I finally got up and sat across from him, asking if he’d write a poem with me.

“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t really know how.”

“I don’t really either,” I said. “But if you can rummage inside your gut for the words which feel most potent, I think,” I paused, “I think you may find something there.”

So I gave him my tiny red notebook given to me by a lover who I had just started learning how to kiss, given to me to fill up during this two-week trip away from New York.

This was supposed to be an adventure on how to move toward who I was or who I wanted to be. My relationship with a different woman had ended just a few months earlier, one which I thought was the one I might marry, even though I did not believe in such a word.

It was a mourning trip.

I watched as the German, fingers sprinkled with fine commas of bleached hair, pressed his handwriting into the pages.

His dead knots became whispers soaring past his shoulders, for as he wrote, they shook. I wondered how many secrets were hiding in the decease of his hair.

“One must get lost,” he spoke. “Where are you from?” he asked me, handing back my pen and closing the book.

“Brooklyn. Quite a faraway land from here,” I said.

“Leave your maps behind, Brooklyn,” he said to me.

“No need,” I said. “I never carry them around. I get lost even when I do not intend to. But I like your reminder.”

He smiled. He had a tiny chip in his front tooth like the curve of a hammock. I wanted to lay in his mouth and nap beside his ridges.

He told me traveling is about connecting to the land, not the pages that speak about it.

“You’re beautiful,” I spat out. His eyes walked over the length and width of my face. I could feel his lashes even though we were an arm’s distance away from each other.

“Yes,” he said. As though I had asked a question. Or maybe he was answering something that he had heard much earlier. Either way, I enjoyed the oddity of his syllable.

“I’m trying to lose myself here. Bring another version back to New York,” I told him.

“Smoke enough hash and that will happen without trying too hard,” he smiled.

“I am trying to let go of a love. One so big, my heart still has stretchmarks.”

He smiled.

“There is not enough smoke to inhale, which will get rid of that,” he said. “But how about this. Actually…” he paused. I watched him remove the tiny, hand-rolled cigarette between his fat, slightly blush lips. With the tip of two fingers pressed together, he put out the fire on the end. Then, I watched him peel it open, drip the nicotine out and hand me this frail rolling paper, half wet from the spit of his mouth.

“I can see from the rest of your notebook….pardon my snoop,” he interrupted himself, “…that your handwriting is bitty. Write what you want from love on this.”

I held this disemboweled cigarette in the palm of my hand. As though it were a tiny space alien, which had fallen from the sky from a spaceship that our eyes couldn’t quite fathom. With the fingers from my other hand, I poked at it.

“It may not even be words,” he said. “The love you lust may be symbols.”

I thought about every word I ever learned. The ones I kept and the ones I could never quite remember. I wasn’t thinking about limbs; instead, my brain began to conjure up images of smells. Music of taste.

I dropped the cigarette from my palm and grabbed my pen.

The German smiled and I could feel him get up, though never let my eyes wander away from the paper.

I began to finally get lost.