Night On Earth – 11/9/18

L and P are asleep in my room with me.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor is playing softly on the stereo.  Okay, P isn’t actually asleep.  I just heard quiet laughter and noticed that they are actually looking at memes on their phone.  Kids.

While I cannot totally account for where today went, the company of two sleeping friends in my small warm bedroom leaves me feeling more content than I have felt all week.  I woke up not feeling well, staring forlornly at the gray sky outside of my window.  I can see across downtown, into the West Side, and to the mountains beyond that.  Sometimes looking out at this city, I struggle to account for where exactly the last five years went.

I’m thinking about my ex.  The one that emailed me a few days ago, who I never seem to feel fully disentangled from.  Connections are sometimes so weird and beautiful and painful.  We learn the worst and best about ourselves through them.  I would feel self-conscious about mentioning them here, if I thought that more than a few individuals read this nonsense, or if I thought they remembered my URL.  I guess I also don’t believe in doing anything aside from splaying my messy heart across my throat in lieu of those tattoos I have yet to work up the nerve for.  That is to say, with one glaring exception, I don’t really give a fuck who reads this.  Vulnerability is strength, and some days feeling everything as hard as I do, vulnerability is the only thing I have going for me.

I daydream about moving home.  I live with my chosen family in the mountains, and write and garden.  I finish my BFA.  I work on journalism, and chronicle this world I love so deeply burning down.  I somehow work it out with the various heartaches that have kept me away from home for so long.  I try to will it all into being with how much energy I pour into these fantasy scenarios.  I wonder if it’s all wasted effort.  I wonder if I should leave my bedroom.  I realize more and more how comfortable with that great and dark unknown I am.  I have no idea what my ex will say in their follow up email.  I have no idea what this winter and its travels will hold.  I have no idea what my upcoming visit with C is going to be like.  I have no idea what changes the spring will hearken.

I have felt strangely comfortable with my solitude lately, almost uncharacteristically so.  The burning need to have someone else soften the edges of the void that lives inside of me has receded to faint background noise, a minor discomfort.  I want it to stay that way.  There is this part of me that doesn’t want to need or want anyone.  I just want to be hard and cold and efficient forever.  It’s the perpetual BPD dilemma, between feeling everything so hard that it keeps you immobile and doing your best to deaden your nerves just to get through the day.  What a hilarious joke it is to know that the answer lies within a middle path, but to be cursed with a way of seeing the world that often leaves room for only two extremes.

Right now, I just feel strong and content.  The void feels like a pinprick rather than a gaping wound.  I am happy writing these words, essentially a reminder of how to breathe and a love note to myself and listening to a record I have been listening to for 18 years while two of my favorite people drift off to sleep around me.  The room is filled with music, magic, and friends.  My window opens to a view of a city I have always hated, but have strangely come to love in the most adversarial ways.  I know I will get out of here one day, just like I know years from now I will remember time spent in this room and with these people with an unvanquishable fondness.

I dream of escaping the rain and the petty bickering of my so-called community almost daily.  I dream of some grand escape.  Some more contented life waiting for me out there.  I feel like I have been going through the motions and missing a sense of home for five years now, ever since I came to this city all broken and fucked up.  My first winter here, I used to panic sometimes when the sun went down.  I would literally work myself up into a fear that it might never rise again.  Tonight the clouds blot out the stars, like so many nights before.  I always talk about nights here as abyssally dark.  The cloud cover cuts off the light from the stars and the moon, and you get the feeling as if the sky might reach down to swallow you whole.  There are candles lit, and my friends are snoring, and it is enough to keep the sky from swallowing us.

Maybe if I got out of bed and went for a walk, I would be able to find some comfort out there, some semblance of kinship and solidarity on the cold street, beneath the streetlights.  The other night, L and I walked home through downtown.  During our walk, we passed two different tent cities.  Both of them are a few blocks away from one another and prominently located downtown.  It felt like walking through a warzone of human suffering, the ultimate expression of an endless low intensity class warfare.

I thought back to sitting next to the water beneath a burning yellow sky, thick with wildfire smoke this summer on my first date with C.  Such a strange feeling of giddy first date nerves and impending doom at the thought of just how much of the Pacific Northwest was currently on fire.  C and I talked about the perpetual state of crisis wrought by late capitalism and the hopelessness it breeds.  Always a visitor to this city, never a denizen, they commented on the tent cities as well.  They weren’t here five years ago when C last came through town, because most of these folks had homes and jobs.  Yuppie scum, and business owners want to front like some horrible moral decline exists within their city causing people to sleep on the street, all the while blissfully ignoring the conditions that breed desperation, homelessness, and grinding poverty.

C’s last night in town, we went to the store to procure ingredients to make dinner.  We had parked at separate entrances and I was walking back to my car alone when I noticed the moon, low dirty and red in the sky above us.  I texted C “Look at the moon!” and they responded with “I was just thinking the same thing at you!”.  I appreciated the quirky tenderness of the moment, given the gnawing dread that accompanied the rust colored moon.

Driving home, I thought about my first affinity group.  Shit.  I guess it was actually my second.  We named our first affinity group “Wet Hot” because my friends and I all quoted the movie Wet Hot American Summer at one another incessantly on the road to the protest we were headed to.  It served as a brief moment of levity in the coming days of fleeing riot cops and clouds of tear gas in the searing California sun to yell “Wet Hot!” any time we got separated in hectic streets.  Or to announce “This is the Wet Hot affinity group reporting in” at nightly spokes council meetings.

“Blood Red Moon Crew”.  More of a loose knit group of vandals and street artists, all obsessed with the apocalypse.  The name stemmed from one of us who was raised Christian in the sterile Denver suburbs.  Late one night she remembered a sermon quoting a bible verse where a moon the color of blood heralded the end of all things.  We had the name of our crew.  Young and desperate, eyes pried awake from the complacent sleep and naiveté of childhood, but still immersed in youth.  We were awakening into a world we fervently believed to be burning down.  We spent countless hours hunched over typewriters and drawing boards, skating to the Xerox machine and back, writing our missives and warnings to anyone who would listen.

Tonight I’m thinking about love and loss.  About moving on.  About sickness and anxiety.  About what fifteen years lived in the last days have done and how a moon the color of rust is pretty close to the color of blood.  I’m thinking about how times seem desperate in such a way that makes our restless youth seem quaint and comfortable.  I’m thinking about how everyone I love is scared, and I don’t know where to be.

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Night On Earth – 11/9/18

For My Mother and Desmond Dekker

Sixteen years old
Doing my chores
On a summer afternoon
With the window opened
Out over the rolling hills
Of Southern York County
Desmond Dekker sings to me
On the stereo for company
I can hear the world waiting
In the soundwaves
Making their way down the street
Reaching escape velocity
On their way out out
Of my lonely little town
I will make it out one day too

Scrape the dried Elmer’s glue
Off the sink with a smile
Check the stiffness of my hair
In the mirror for the tenth time
Spiked towards the sky
Like a middle finger aimed at every sideways eye

My mother sticks her head in the door
“Oh! I like this song!
I remember when it was on the radio”
Back when I was young
She hums along
With a rare smile
Cracking across her face
Remembering a life
Thirty years gone

All the sudden
My mother is no longer
The narcissistic monster
Living as a prisoner
To her suffering
Tethered to this decrepit house
Raising a selfish afterbirth
Already racing for a world
With no room for her in it

I see you as you were, mother
Young and full of hope once
Summer of ’68 in the desert
With the radio on
A glint of moonlight
Catching in your smile
Your broken home caught
In the reflection of
A rearview mirror
With good things on the road
Ahead of you

Raised ducking for cover
Seeking shelter from gathering clouds
And the chill winds
Blowing ill from a cold war
Summer of ’68
With power’s proxies catching a spark
From fires lit before you were ever born
Your older brothers
Jump from from iron birds
And into the firestorm
With not a reason why
But to do and stay alive
One took a bullet
To the thigh
And never quite got right
The other made it home
And never talked about
The War Again in his life

You grew.

Into the mother
I once knew
Tiny and sometimes cruel, filling the world
Smart and sharp
With a quick wit
And the bitterness lingering
Below the surface to match it

You taught me well
How to stand up for myself
To everyone save
For you
You taught me to lock
All the doors at night
Hide my heart
Hide my light

I see you there sometimes
Out there in the shadows
Lonely and uncertain
Where I am sixteen years old, steel-toes
Stomping up the stairs
To the sound of Desmond on the Stereo
Singing for every mouth to be fed
And waiting for the war’s end
Where all our noble failures born
From the best of intentions are forgiven

I see you now, in the lateness of the hour
The mother who
Did the best she could
With the mess and neglect
And violence
She was given
Spent a life running
Looking for the calm
After the storm
Looking for her son
Without seeing the one she bore

I will meet you there
When sun finally breaks through the thunderheads
Where Desmond Dekker is singing
For every mouth to be fed
Holy forgiveness
And every war’s end

Desmond Dekker

For My Mother and Desmond Dekker

Untitled

12:42 AM
Drunk, but not too drunk
Just marveling at
The taste of alcohol on my tongue
After five years of
World crushing panic
Every time I tipped a bottle back

Lying in bed
With candles lit
My last great love’s
Scent lingers on the pillow
Long after the echo
Of their laughter
Exited the room

Lingering on
Like cigarette smoke
Permeating hair
Painfully aware
Of toil dragging a body down
Taste the weight of age
Gravity gripping my face
Fear the grave
Lick my lips
Taste a long kiss goodnight
With all the beauty and bitterness
Of mortality languishing on my tongue

Untitled

I don’t Know What To Say

I was six years old the first time I was sexually assaulted. I can recall the majority of the details with clarity and alacrity. This is a blessing and a curse, I guess because the memories have stayed strong and present with me all these for the past three decades. I have spent the majority of my adult life wrestling with them. Like many survivors, the memories often come bursting out of me with little warning, and at inopportune times. Sometimes during the summer if I am sleeping in a room with a ceiling fan, I wake up with a start thinking it is someone’s breath on the back of my neck. I have spent much of my life in and out of various states of dissociation and bottomless rage. I have spent much of my life like I still don’t know how to say no, and often find myself intimate with individuals who know just how to exploit that.

On the other side of that survivorhood, I distinctly remember being thirteen and my male friends and I figuring out that that there was a blurred line between persistence and coercion. To our young minds, the absence of physical violence somehow differentiated us from the individuals who assaulted me years earlier. Furthering that idea, when I was fifteen, a group of boys abducted one of my friends and took her to a party where they assaulted her. This crime was never reported, but served as singular turning point in the young lives of my friends and I; a reminder of sorts of the secret truth we had always known, encoded in our young bodies: The bad men were real, and they mostly got away with what they wanted. My best friend and I walked around school carrying knives secreted away in our pockets the rest of that year, swearing that we were going to stab the one perpetrator we could identify to death the first chance we got. We never did. He went on to live a normal life until dying in a car wreck on the run from the law ten years later. I was at a party when I heard, and I laughed audibly, comfortable in the certainty that my friends and I were so different from this sorry, dead asshole.

When you are a young person, especially when you grow up in punk, you define yourself by what you are and what you are not. You delineate everyone into a clear “them” and “us”. You surround yourself with other freaks and outcasts and convince yourself you somehow live outside of the unrequited-blood soaked horrorshow that is life on this planet. My friends and I naively believed we were somehow different, all the while shutting out the voices of the women and queers in our lives who have been imploring us to just fucking listen and do better. The few deeply intimate relationships with I have had with men have been with fragile boys with fragile egos, unable in varying degrees to examine hard truths about themselves, always wondering why their lives are perpetual disasters and their exes fucking hate them. Don’t worry. I am counting my relationship to myself in there too.

I wrote letters to two of the individuals who assaulted me at the beginning of my thirties, never having the nerve to send them. Two years back, I decided to send them while trying to reconcile and change my own patterns of abusive behavior towards intimate partners. I held the naïve belief that maybe these two men would hear me out and open a dialogue and that maybe we could sort out some of this mess together. One of them responded. I obviously could not hear the tone in their voice as they composed an email, but I am fairly certain it differed very little from Brett Kavanaugh’s as they berated me, simultaneously calling me a liar and weak for still feeling the effect of their actions thirty years later. They included their phone number in the email, demanding that I call them, which I never did. I have no doubt that had we spoken on the phone, they would have sounded *exactly* like Judge Kavenaugh did on television the other day.

This individual also came out to me as trans in their email. Two days later, they committed suicide. I blamed myself for the death of another trans woman, and wondered what kind of common ground we could have found had they just listened. I wondered how similar the paths we had walked really were. I spent the next week certain their ghost was in the room with me at night and slept very little. I left my room only to eat or walk my dog. I told my friends I was sure that they would be waiting for me in hell when I died. The crushing feeling of guilt stuck with me until I thought about what an utter fucking chump move it is to hurl yourself into whatever afterlife will claim you rather than take responsibility for your actions.

My heart feels ripped out of my chest this week. My heart is broken for all the people I love who are survivors (and that is almost everyone I know.). My heart is broken for all the people I love who are raising children, especially daughters in this thresher. My heart breaks for the kids who come after us, who were supposed to inherit a better world. My heart breaks for the people I love who live the duality of being both survivor and perpetrator this week, because every person I have loved the most has endured/is capable of/has inflicted some serious harm, and we have to live the lives we’ve made and pick up the pieces. My heart breaks continuously thinking about the people who I have done harm to. My heart breaks thinking about what it is to live in a culture that benefits you so intensely that your hard-learned life lessons usually come at the expense of the people you love the most, and that is treated as normal.

I am tired. We are all tired. We are all tired and heartbroken, and I have no optimism with which to end this post, only a small body filled with venom and unwavering love for my friends doing the best they can.

I don’t Know What To Say

7/25/18

’67 Airstream with the radio on
Sweaty Appalachian air thick with heat
Cicadas sing me to sleep
Out in the restless southern dark

The night called me home
With song and blood
Skin never quite shed
Right here
Where god spoke to me
For the very first time
Once upon disaster and nuclear atrocity

Outside the trailer door
You can still smell the scent of it
In the air like a thousand sleepless hours
Passed in this city before this moment

This city
Always in my heart
There was never any choice
I loved this place ever since the moment
An angry kid first set steel-toed boot
To heat-cracked pavement
In the rush of misspent youth

I love it now, still
Walking alone on tourist-choked streets
As an outsider to my former home
With aging eyes searching for familiar sights
Across this beloved skyline
I lost my heart in the shining
Concrete and glass relics
Built for a collapse yet to come

Down in the dives
My friends and I
Drink our liquid bread down
Grown like bitter weeds
Breaking through cracks in the concrete
Poisoned plants from poisoned roots
Choking on words wielded like weapons
Smoking cigarettes and talking trash
Breathing in bitterness like our lungs could last
Building lives out of sculptures of ash

7/25/18

9/6/18

Sit on the porch
In the fading afternoon light
Smile and soak as much of the sun
Into this straining
Solar-starved skin as we can drink
Winter is making
Its way home again
Laugh at ourselves
Behind grim determination
To live fully in the lives we’ve built
“I think that was my chance
I will maybe never love again.”
It’s all laid out
In the lines tracing our skin
Noble failures, battles fought and lost
The lives we could have lived
People we could have been
Love slipped through clutching hands
Lost like tears drowned in the coming rain

9/6/18

Goodbye To A Bedroom

Sit alone and content in a room
On a quiet evening just at summer’s end
Give thanks to these four walls sheltering my soul
For just under 1,000 nights
Breathe slow in the darkness before dawn
Think of the four nights left to go

I spent my very first night behind these walls
Just as the sun cracked summer wide open
Heartbroken, restless, and all alone
Pacing in front of the window
Glancing down at my phone
Waiting for calls
That would never come

I spent days that followed
Settling for a companion culled from
The worst in humanity that I have ever known
(Yeah, yeah, you know who you are)
Just as you know your
Actions ensured no force on earth
Would ever call me home
To your door with flowers
Or any remnants of love
As you run the race alone
In delusion, dishonor and sickness
From bottle to the bottom of the grave

Three nights in August
Spent in spinning sorrow
Faced with the lonely death
And the haunted by the ghost
Of my very first nemesis
For three nights
Her spirit crawled from my childhood nightmares
To stand spectral watch over my bed
Staring hate from eyeless sockets
Into my sleeping back
Goring war into my soul

I fell in love in this room too
Despite those first nights
Painting portraits of a void-filled heart
Writing love letters to nothing at all
Feel myself change shape the beautiful glittering dark
Cold winter moon, streetlight glow in the window
Warm nights wrapped in your arms
Your fucking smirk
Giving way to one of my favorite grins
(Yeah, yeah, you know I’m talking about you)
Giving thanks for all the times we cried
Finding the deepest strength I’ve ever known
In the afterglow of vulnerability

Leaving behind every single night
Spent in this room worn down
Burnt out and breathless
Certain that the day had come
And I saw my very last sunset
To my demons
To my enemies
To every lost hour
Spent within the confines
Of these walls

I thank you for the opportunity
To rising above
And destroying you.

Goodbye To A Bedroom