Homecomings (Dear Lover)

Work in progress from a larger piece written about a trip this summer.

Dear Lover,
It’s somewhere near one AM. Sam and I are driving through the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. We are speeding along route 30 between the small town I grew up in, and Philadelphia. We should be arriving in Philadelphia just past one AM. We left North Carolina at nine this morning, stopping a total of three times between our departure and now.

We just left a diner in the heart of York County. The same diner where my friends and I used to spend hours rotting with nothing else to do; smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee after punk and goth shows in the 90’s. Sam was kind enough to indulge our stopping for two hours so I could have a reunion of sorts with some old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in close to twenty years. We are talking the kids who formed the crux of the formative years and the person I’d grow into. I’ve practically written novels about these people, and here we were; all together again, and all grown up. Our reunion was brief, and joyous. Outside the diner I promised my childhood best friend and first love I wouldn’t wait seventeen years between to see her next time. I told her I’d come meet her partner and her baby.

I meant it too. I fucking miss the east coast. I miss the oldness of it. I miss my roots. If nothing else, I miss how compact everything is. I miss how trips like this aren’t so seemingly impossible out here. Sam and I had to coordinate for a solid six months to make our cross-country meeting happen.

Sam is leaning back in the passenger seat with their eyes closed, resting. I have the new Chelsea Wolfe record playing quietly on the stereo for company. I thought about listening to Sisters Of Mercy or Cock Sparrer for old time’s sake; I have those two bands on my iPod, and they helped define my youth haunting this old highway, but this record is just so fucking good. I’m listening to it again, and composing this letter to you in my head to stay awake.

The houses that line route thirty all have their lights long off. They feel like home to me in this strange way. Oddly frozen in time, as if I could just pull off the highway and settle here, like it was still 1998, and I never left Southern York County. I imagine moving into an old house; trading bitter winter walks to the post office and writing by the fireplace for Pacific Northwest winters drenched in rain. I tell myself I could keep in touch with the outside world by buying records and zines at 3DCD (or whatever record store that opened to take its place, since I’m sure it has long since closed.) again like I was a teenager. At this present moment the idea appeals to me. Funny, because I spent the entirety of my youth scarcely being able to wait until I was old enough to escape this place. Seriously, Melanie and I would talk about it for hours. We planned that shit out. We’d dream about running away. We would hold each other close, reassuring the other one just another year or two until we were eighteen and could escape. We counted down the days until our grand departure from Southern York County, never ever to return.

Now I’m laughing at myself in the late night hours for (however unseriously) briefly entertaining the idea of moving back here.

There was just a storm. For the first time in several days it almost feels cool outside. We have the windows rolled down. The air is thick with humidity and lingering lighting. A flash will crack the sky in jagged streaks every now and then, leaving the clouds red in the afterglow. I love it. I don’t know if I’ve seen a thunderstorm since I left the south. I have missed them terribly. The storm was torrential and massive, nothing like the pervasive Pacific Northwest rain we complained about all winter. I fell in love with you in that constant drizzle and gray. The rain smells differently out here, but I smile at the thought of how that love deepened to where I smell rain, and feel that love even three thousand miles away, in a place that feels light years away from the small world we know.

I don’t know if I miss Olympia right now. I miss you. I miss the sanctuary of my bedroom on my dead end street. It feels weird and indulgent to go on a trip when it feels as if everything around me is crumbling down and the world is a goddamn dumpster fire. Who am I to go running off to meet up with some of my oldest friends on the other side of the country when there is so much work to be done at home?

Over the winter, Sam and I often reflected on the nature of impermanence; just how fleeting and fragile everything feels. The world feels a shade darker than it did a year ago. In that regard, two old friends on a road trip makes all the sense in the world. Tomorrow we will wake up in Philadelphia and wind our way through crowded city streets to meet up with one of our other oldest friends. The three of us shared the stroke of luck to meet in this city almost exactly twelve years ago. We managed to forge the kind of friendships that survive the pitfalls and anxieties of old age.

We will sit on a rooftop overlooking the city that brought us all together so long ago. We’ll laugh at the follies of youth and be thankful for having left them behind. We will give thanks to for resilience and adaptability. We will give thanks for everything we ever outran. We will give thanks for a future that may be fraught with incalculable fear, but is still yet to be written.

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Homecomings (Dear Lover)

Dream of apocalypse sex with apocalypse ex

A dream of you this morning
Three years on
Pressed against the wall
All filthy and tender
Open

We were never
Going to be anything like
The love of one another’s lives
Or grow old together
And that’s just fine

Because we both have known
That kind of love
Shakes you to your core
Pulls you out of your skin
To dance in your bones
The kind of love that
Will not let you settle for anything
Gets you fucking moving
And this, this just is.

An exercise in anything goes
An exercise in escaping emptiness
From one moment to the next
Running circular furrows in
All the same well tread paths
Until boots burn holes in our maps

In the afterglow
Beneath the flickering lights
Whisper your secret fears
Of the fire next time
Written into your genetic code
Whatever horror this world holds
You feel it coming for us
In your root of your soul

So here we are
All fucked up
Yet unbroken
Against the wall
In love and war
All at once now
For war
But never in love.

Dream of apocalypse sex with apocalypse ex

For fucking fearless queer love.

queer bootyI wanted to send my sweetheart a cute selfie tonight.  We will not be seeing one another for a few days, and this is literally what I look like in bed, so I figured why not?  I look fucking good.  I’ve been feeling myself hard lately, and not ashamed to admit it.  I wore a ton of make up to the gym the other night, and chuckled internally just a little bit at the bros giving me a wide berth as I made my way to the squat rack with Black Sabbath’s Paranoid blaring in my headphones.

I’ve hit a wall with my writing the last few weeks.  I have two larger pieces in progress, and I just don’t know how to land the first one, and the second one, well some of the subject matter just feels so raw somehow to dive into fully.  So instead I write short poems, and read a lot.  I don’t do enough work revising pieces intended to submit to journals.  I keep meaning to, and I keep running out of time in the day.

I’ve been playing with gender expression regularly lately for the first time in a long time.  In so many ways it’s still such a strange and terrifying journey.  I grew up effeminate and sensitive in your slightly more homophobic and right wing than average family.  My lack of masculinity and sensitivity quickly made me a target for bullying, and soon after it made me a target for sexual violence when a few of the older kids in the neighborhood got me alone.

By the time I was seven, I was well on my way to learning to keep parts of myself cold and buried forever.

And those pieces of myself refused to stay buried.  For that, I am so, so lucky.  This isn’t to say I didn’t grow into one hell of a vicious streak, and that I don’t still have plenty of ruins to undo, but still.  I’m so blessed to not have a head that is entirely filled with bad memories and broken glass.  I’m lucky enough that I figured out how to not let my trauma define me.

I have spent my life surrounded by some of the most courageous and loving people on the face of this battered earth.  I don’t know how any of us could have made it through this burning nightmare that is the modern world without one another.

Middle school in the 90’s, and tough girls in combat boots taught me how to wear raccoon eyeliner like my idol Robert Smith.  When I was in high school, I played in bands with boys who cried, and crusty punk girls who punched nazi skinheads at shows.  I hit my early twenties and came out as genderqueer.  I wanted my gender to be total negation.  I didn’t want a gender at all.  I would wear all black everything, and keep my face shaved a smoothly as possible.  I learned to only share my body with those who I could actually be intimate with.  Nobody else deserved it, or could even understand this strange and distorted reflection I saw myself in.

When it was time to drop out of the rat race we’re expected to inherit when we get out of college as soon as I fucking could.  I hopped freight trains and into speeding vans with fearlessly criminal trans women who survived and braved lives that I could scarcely imagine on and off the streets while I was still dreaming of running away from Southern York County.

In my late twenties and early thirties, still trying so hard to live bravely through trauma and mental illness, I allowed black and white thinking to cloud my vision.  In this world supposedly without boundaries and binaries, I still found myself feeling as if the world held no place for me.  Maybe if I tried harder to squeeze into a binary, it would.  I would identify solely as a transwoman.

That part, I don’t really want to talk about, aside from noting that my exploration of this identity led to the worst mental health crisis I have ever faced in a life that has been well, kinda filled with mental health crises.  It took years to pick up the pieces and get back to where I am right now; which is living relatively comfortably in my occasionally made up and lace adorned skin.  While existing in this gender fluid space with relative ease, I also I live in awe of all the courageous, creative, and criminal queers that came before me.  The trans women, the gender benders, the fags, and the dykes that fought and died so I could be right here.  I think about the QTPOC who threw bricks at cops a decade before I was even born, and live with a lack of privilege that I can scarcely comprehend.

Thank you.

I’ve rambled enough, and it’s time to sleep.

All this to explain one cute selfie.

For fucking fearless queer love.

Anyway, things burn.

Flicking matches scratched
Off of broken teeth
Into broken homes hollowed out
Dry as bones and drenched in gasoline.

Making way for moving the fuck on
I just wanna watch it all go up in smoke
Tearing out every page we wrote

The story wasn’t even good the first time around
Bored as I get with cliched melodrama
And true tales of tragedy and woe

Come on baby, dry your eyes now
We’ve all fucked with fire
Just to know how
It felt to get burned. 

Anyway, things burn.

Boredom won’t get us tonight.

Hello!  I’ve been mostly posting poetry here lately.  The winter gloom has fucking worn me down, and a few lines at a time have mostly been what I could focus on for the past month or two.  I managed to make some progress on a as yet untitled book I’ve been working on about rural punks in the nineties for the past year this weekend, and I’m going to post a segment of it here.  I’m not sure if this will make the final draft, but I’m pretty proud of it regardless. Some names were changed to protect the anonymity of those involved in this story.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for reading.

Take care of yourselves, take care of one another.  ❤

We sold weed sometimes too.  Weed was never a huge part of my life.  I had had a brief infatuation with it that previous winter, but it cooled quickly when some of the kids I smoked up with moved onto shooting dope.  Dylan and James smoked it when they could.  Skinhead Jimmy smoked sometimes, but mostly liked to drink.  I had been sober since spring, taking the lyrics of that Minor Threat cassette Forrest loaned me to heart.  I just had no interest in, (and far too many opinionated teenage judgements about) drugs.  However, I had no qualms whatsoever about selling weed to Kenny, who lived down the street.

Kenny was one of those dudes who was born to spend his life in Southern York County, loud, entitled, and dumb as all hell. He was the kind of douche who made those “Looney Tunes wearing generic hip hop clothing” t-shirts so popular in small towns in the early 90’s.  We had been friends a few years back; back before my dad died, but that might as well have been a lifetime ago.  We’d have sleepovers and late night wrestling matches often went on just a tad too long, and ended up with him pushing his ass back against me and breathing heavily until it got awkward.  We would never talk about it in the morning.  We drifted apart before middle school was even over.  The irony of his referring to me as “faggot” when he passed in the hall once we hit ninth grade was secretly delicious.

Faggots or not, we still wanted his money.  He would show up at the front door of Dylan’s dad’s house and start pounding on it.

“Dylan!  Open up!  I wanna buy weed!”

Dylan and I would share a look.

Fucking idiot.  He’s going to get us all goddamn busted.  Luckily Kenny was never dumb enough to show up knocking the door down on a night when Dylan wasn’t home.  The presence of Dylan’s not conspicuous at all Chrysler Cordoba was telling like that.

This particular night, it was just Dylan, Skinhead Jimmy and I watching some long forgotten zombie movie in the living room, waiting for Dylan senior to drink enough cheap wine to pass out.  We’d hit the streets and wreak whatever havoc we could after that.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

It was Kenny and his neighbor.  They were drunk on rum they had stolen from Kenny’s parents and swaying.  They wanted to buy enough weed to go smoke a joint on the baseball field.  Kenny shot me a look through the door.  I did my best to shoot one back that said: “You talk tough now, motherfucker.  I know how much you wanted my cock in your ass just a few short years ago.”  I don’t know if it translated.  Dylan told them to wait outside and he would go see what he had.

Dylan, Jimmy and I practically raced one another to the kitchen.  The act of summoning dimbebag out of kitchen spices to sell to Kenny and his friends was a tried and true routine between Dylan and Jimmy, and one I took much delight in observing.  Dylan stepped into his room, and returned with a baggie full of green leaf and some Elmer’s glue, the exact same kind I used to spike up my ‘hawk.  Jimmy rifled through the spice cabinet.  There it was.  Oregano.  This would be hilarious.  Since time immemorial, many a burnout in this town were known to shuffle through the halls of our high school selling dimebags or oregano.  We were not original in this endeavor.

I liked to imagine that none of them took as much malicious amusement in selling bogus weed as we did though.  The vein that bulged in the shape of an X in Dylan’s forehead when he laughed was practically jumping out of his skull as he sprinkled some weed on the counter to mix with the oregano in Jimmy’s hand.  Jimmy in turn, was giggling viciously and muttering under his breath.

“Fucking idiot.  I can’t believe he keeps coming back.”  Jimmy said.

I had to cover my mouth for fear of Kenny hearing my laughter outside.  I watched with amusement that bordered on amazement as Dylan and Jimmy poured some shake into a baggie and then poured oregano in after it.  My amazement turned to sheer awe as I watched them roll some oregano and shake together with Elmer’s Glue, and then jab a stem into the whole semi dried mess in order to make a fairly convincing bud.

Kenny was known to brag to anyone who would listen how fucked up the weed he bought from us always got him.  I didn’t know the chemical make up of Elmer’s Glue, but I wondered if he wasn’t getting at least a little buzzed from smoking it.  I imagined sticky brown residue filling his lungs and killing his brain cells all at once.  I couldn’t convince myself to feel particularly guilty either way.  He was after all, such a little asshole.

Dylan and Jimmy took their crafted dimebag back to the front door where Kenny and is friend were waiting eagerly.  Kenny was leaning against a post on the front porch for support, eyes half closed and grinning.  I hated him in that moment.  I hated him for the ease with which he walked the through the world, like it owed him something.  I hated him because of the stories I had heard about how he acted around girls at parties.  I hated his douchebag swagger, and the way he tried to make his voice sound deeper than it was when he spoke.  I hated him for convincingly playing the part of mommy and daddy’s good little Christian boy and then being such a piece of shit as soon as he was out of their sight.

Dylan palmed him the bag of mostly fake weed.

“Ten bucks” He said flatly.

Kenny laughed easily and pulled out his wallet.

“Here you are, my man.  My dude here and I sure do appreciate it.”  Kenny slurred.

“This shit got me so fucked up last time.  Goddamn.”

Kenny’s friend did his best to look hard.  I wondered if it was his first drug deal, and he was going off what he had seen in the movies or some shit.  I mean, I guess Jimmy with his shaved head, boots and braces was an intimidating sight, but we weren’t in one of those movies these sheltered ass small town white kids were always emulating to try and act hard.  That reality would have eaten them alive.

Whatever.  We took their money and sent them to smoke their dirt weed, oregano and glue combo at the baseball field.  Ten bucks would mostly fill up the Cordoba and we had the satisfaction of ripping off someone we all thought was an asshole.  The three of us busted out laughing almost as soon as Dylan shut the door behind him.

The ten dollars we made from poor Kenny took us no farther than driving aimless circles around Shrewsbury all night.  It was enough.  Dylan and Jimmy in the front seat, and me stretched out in the back.  The windows rolled all the way down and the AM summer air mixing with a tape of Subhumans Time Flies, But Aeroplanes Crash EP playing on the stereo.  The speakers sounded just fucking awful and perfect all at once.

I thought about Kenny, all those years ago writhing beneath me in his underwear, neither of us ever quite brave enough for what came next.  I thought about my boys in the front seat.   I loved them both as bravely as I knew how.  I loved them both in a way Kenny in all his stumble, swagger and posturing would never understand.  Jimmy and Dylan were both laughing freely.  Jimmy launched an empty glass bottle carelessly out the window to hear the sound of it smashing on country blacktop receding in the distance.

I imagined all the lights that small town streetlights flickering to the south of us.  I imagined those lights leading our way to everywhere else, giving way to the lights of all the cities I couldn’t wait to see.  Five miles to the south of us lay the Pennsylvania state line.  Another forty miles of rural highway and you were in Baltimore County.  Those exit routes counted for something.  In that moment I knew all of us would make it out of this place and might even have a chance of growing into the people we always wanted to be.

This tiny, shitty world we were stuck in for at least another few years may cater to Kenny and all the other thoughtless Neanderthals just like him, but tonight we had gotten his money and converted it to just enough gas for a brief respite.  With the music and our laughter cascading out the windows and into the summer air, we knew some things they would never know.  We went south on main, towards the Getty to turn right on constitution and creep the long way home through New Freedom, the threat of boredom and entropy vanquished for another night.

Boredom won’t get us tonight.

Spell for letting go.

A blessing:

A sanctification
Whispered to quiet rooms in
The afterglow of spells spoken
Balm for the bleeding and the bliss
That is the burden of letting go
Releasing love
To heal the hurt we hold
Breaking free from bonds
That no longer nurture our souls
The air holds a charge
Crackling lungs breathing in the dark
Soothing everlasting aches
Giving thanks for the strength
Of hearts that never break.

Spell for letting go.

Written in the dairy Aisle, 8:08 PM.

I love you and
I hate you and
I don’t hate you
At all.

We were both just
So fucking mad
And I’m so sorry for that.

I hear nowadays
You are hurting real bad.

How seizures keep
You shivering in your bed
Gasping for breath
And clutching for your CBD pens

I heard it at the grocery store
My first thought
Was to shoplift
As many of those
Little fuckers as
I could possibly push
Into my pockets.

Seal them safely in a package
Sent with no return address
To your last known residence.

With love,
Your favorite ex-friend.

Written in the dairy Aisle, 8:08 PM.