This is a blessing
For the bliss of
Breaking down
Breaking out
Letting go
Of love
(or closest proximities of)

Fond affections
Now disfigured
And distorted
Embers burn
Down to ashes scattered
Into the howling wind

What is a little bit of
Betrayal between friends anyway?
A glance over the shoulder, lamenting
How the worst enemies
Are always the ones
Who know us most intimately

I propose a toast tonight
With a heart closed
And a raised fist clenched
Drink to your health
And the wealth
Of lessons learned
In blood sex
Promises half spoken
Unremembered and never meant

Viva love
(or closest proximities of)
And long live its death

Dream of apocalypse sex with apocalypse ex

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

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.

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.

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.

In The Spirit Of Sound

Sound out lost youth
And dreams gone to dust
Shuddering, thundering frustration
Pulled screaming out of
Every last distorted chord
Scream it out, scream it out
Loss pouring from glass throats
Scream it out, scream it out
Every shadow that we hold
Every last cobweb from the corners

With quiet moments
Of cautious hope
Resounding triumph
And the joy we’ve lived
Or just a nights calm rest
Within a warm room
Or out to paint the town
(and ourselves)
Black and blue, but still true

This sound, the sound
Of breaking down
Breaking out
Paper cuts line tired, tired hands
Twenty years singing the same tune
And a movement for invisible truth
A lifetime of wearing wounds
Twenty years with the light creeping
Into the corners of a cold room

There is a light
Piercing through these miles of night
There is a light
And this time
We chose not to hide our eyes
Twenty years with beautiful noise
Coming from a crowded room
Twenty years breathing, moving, screaming
Living, always living
Every iota of us poured out
Into the spirit of sound




Oh, holy darkness
I ask you to reach down
From the vast night above

Oh, holy darkness
Wrap this burdened body
In the warmth of your ebony arms

You are not the most tender
Lover I’ve ever known
But tonight you suffice

Tonight your shadows
Carry me all the way home
And tuck me away into safety known

Oh, Holy darkness
My night is long
And dark, and full of dread

Save for the refuge you offer

Dear Absentee

Dear absentee
With this ache I want to much to believe
This could be our very last sad story
There’s just so much out there
Lurking in the dark to be afraid of tonight

First and foremost
I’m afraid for all the beautiful
Broken toothed victory stories
That we might never live to tell

How we were supposed to grow
Old, brilliant, but most of all, unbroken
Bitterness and defeat never taking deep enough
Of a hold on our bodies to ever hold them
In place

Because we were always born to run
To move and grow and bloom
And not let the brokenness of
The world we left behind break in turn

At home
I pause to breathe the cold air in
Beneath the light of the moon
I pray with all the strength I have left
That the light finds its way down to you too

Wherever you may be, lost in a wilderness
Of fractured reflections
And the hardest of truths
While everyone who ever
Ever loved you

Most of all
Waits and waits
And waits
You’ll just come home.

To Soft Trains and Hard Love.

Whenever I hear Cat Power on the stereo, I always think of the night I left my former home of Denver, Colorado for good.  Movement has been a constant in my life, ever since I was a child.  I needed a break from my life in Denver, but first I sat in my best friend Molly‘s room, in Villa Kula, the decrepit punk house, just west of Broadway we both spent years living in.  I listened to the same Cat Power song over and over.  My stuff was in storage, I said my goodbyes, and all that was left to do was pack my backpack.

Of course, I sat in Molly’s room and cried my eyes out instead.  Life is weird and dramatic like that, especially when you’re 24, and feel compelled to leave home for no other reason than you can’t think of anything better to do with yourself.  I was leaving the best home I had ever known, and I was leaving my community, and my best friend.

Molly and I had met in a punk gathering in Sunken Gardens Park, just off 8th and Speer Blvd when we were 18 and 19 years old.  We bonded over our love of music, zines, radical politics, and both of us being tiny in stature.  Our friendship had only deepened over the years.  We lived together on and off, we traveled together, crisscrossing the country on desolate highways and freight trains.  More often than not, we drank and cried together too.

I think about that sometimes; how I left home on a whim, or it was supposed to be temporary, or whatever I told myself to get out the door, and I never went back.  Denver would enact a pit bull ban just as I was leaving home, and of course, I would be walking back to where I was staying in a city far from home two months later, and adopt a pit bull who I thought needed a good home, even though I didn’t exactly have one…

Luke and I spent a fruitless night of waiting for a freight train in the backyard of the outpost.  The Outpost was another decrepit punk house, this one on the northeast edge of town.  The rent was cheap because it was bordered by a junkyard on one side, and the Union Pacific Railyard on the other.

Luke was part of a group of younger boys who had recently migrated north to Denver from the suburbs.  They all dropped out of high school, and moved into punk houses and squats.  It was like they couldn’t wait to drop out of society and start living reckless lives.

Luke was nineteen years old, and traveling for the first time.  I was 24, and a nearly a seasoned veteran of the road at this point.  We didn’t know one another well, but both needed to head west, so we agreed to hit the road together.  This kind of travel arrangement can be common in punk circles.

When nothing rolled through, Sarah offered to drive Luke and I to the much larger intermodal freight yard a few hours north of Denver in Cheyenne, Wyoming the next night.  Now it was locked in.  I was leaving town.

Kristy came to do a goodbye shot of whiskey with me, right before the car left.  Kristy stomped up the rickety stairs of Villa Kula, and knocked on the door of Molly’s room, I wiped my eyes and opened it.  She set down a bottle of cheap whiskey, and two glasses.

We had awkwardly kissed a few times that summer, and never talked about it again. She was smart, older than me, and seemingly had it so much more figured out than I did.  I was 24, and adrift in a sea of heartache and directionlessness.  She was 27, and so cool.  She worked mornings at the Twentieth Street Café downtown.  It was one of Denver’s oldest greasy spoons, and perhaps a symbol of a largely bygone era.  Denver was changing rapidly, and many of the older, more affordable spots were rapidly giving way to high priced restaurant sand loft apartments.

She also didn’t get mad at me when I gave her scabies.  Oops.

“Maybe I can use it as an excuse to call in sick to work for a few days.”  There are worse ways to look at it.

We kissed one night in her room, after staying up all night planning a benefit for a political prisoner, and another after some super rowdy show at the skate warehouse that was next to the Jesus Saves rescue mission.  The last time I was back in town, that part of the city was heavily gentrified, virtually unrecognizable from the working class, largely empty industrial neighborhood our parents had been afraid to let us venture to far into during our high school years, and the still seemingly less-than-savory, but in the process of being gentrified neighborhood I fearlessly rode my bike through whenever I wanted to as a brazen twenty-something.  I wonder what that warehouse is now.

I was sober that night, a quite a few people had way too much to drink, and I ended up driving them home.  I put my bike in the back of the station wagon we used for Food Not Bombs, and drove the kids home, the whole time praying that I didn’t get pulled over in this fucked up, graffiti covered car, with two blacked out underage kids in the back.  The kids laughed exuberantly at the creepy older men hitting on them at the show that they had manage to duck, and slurred out praises at length for the bands that had played.

As soon as we pulled up to the house, one of the kids puked at least a gallon’s worth of malt liquor vomit all over the sidewalk.  I put both of them to bed, and went back outside with the hose to clean up, which is totally a normal thing to do at three in the morning.  Like, of course, we’re scummy punks who are drunk all the time, and live in this fucked up house, seem to never sleep, eat, or even drink water, but we care about the neighborhood, damnit!  I grabbed the garden hose, and drug it to the sidewalk in front of the house to wash the vomit off the sidewalk so our neighbors don’t have to walk through it, after it’s been baking in the early morning desert sun tomorrow.

With the kids safely in bed, and the house quiet, I laid down on the couch downstairs to tentatively rest.  Kristy rode her bike back to the house, and laid down on couch with me.  I didn’t have a house of my own that summer, and just lived on the couch at Villa Kula.  I had literally spent years of my life sleeping on this couch, or in the basement, or on the roof.  Molly and I did that a lot, when neither of us had a stable place to live.  We would throw our sleeping bags up on the roof before climbing up a rickety ladder to fall asleep together in the late night, only to be woken up by the early morning sun.  The first time I ever did Yoga was on the roof of Villa Kula.  Molly had just gotten home from a cross-country bike trip where upon waking up every morning, our friends would do their sun salutations before the day’s ride.  Again, I wonder at the sight of two punks doing yoga in their underwear on the roof.

Our neighbors had maybe seen weirder things.

There was also the summer we set up a beautiful queen sized bed under a canopy on the back yard.  I slept on that a lot too.  Nobody really seemed to notice, or mind.  If they did, they kept it to themselves.  I was hardly the only person in our crew without a stable place to live.

Soon, Kristy and I started kissing.  She was pinning my arms behind my head, and sinking her teeth into my neck right and I was inhaling sharply with pleasure right as someone barged into the room slurring that they left their backpack with hundreds of dollars’ worth of Food Not Bombs, or Derailer’s money in it.  Would someone who was sober go back across town to the show space and get it for them?  Kristy smiled at me and I knew of course we should probably ride our bikes back across town to the warehouse and retrieve it.  It would be fun.

Out of all the things punk has given me, the feeling of freedom that comes from being a tough as nails scumbag racing across town on a bicycle remains one of my favorite things.  I used the errand as an excuse to borrow a bike belonging to a friend who was similarly small in stature to me.  It was much lighter, and nicer than my own.  It had no breaks, and wouldn’t stop pedaling once you started, and the only way you could stop was by locking your knees, and causing the wheels to stop moving.  We hauled ass across town, running red lights and laughing, skid stopping when we had too.

Fucking fixies.  I think my knees still hurt.

We got to the warehouse, retrieved the bag in question, declined invitations to hang out and drink more with the punks still partying inside.  As we were getting ready to jump on our bicycles outside we found a drunk punk couple a few years older than both of us fighting.  Jeff and Noelle.  They were both sort of notorious in the scene.  One of them for being a wasted dirt bag who had a kid she didn’t really take care of, and the other for being a drunk and kicking the shit out of both of them.  I never really cared for either one of them, but I liked Jeff way less.  He had left town earlier that summer, under duress.  People heard about what he did, and weren’t having it.

Tonight he had shown back up and somehow they both ended up drunk and screaming at each other in the middle of Lawrence Street at three in the morning.  Kristy and I didn’t know what to do; we were both skinny, vegan, and afraid of Jeff, but when he leaned up into Noelle’s face and slurred “I’ll fucking kill you!” we did our best to get in between them.

Two cops were across the street, with a group of homeless men sitting on the curb in front of their glaring headlights.  They momentarily looked up from the group of men they had detained and yelled at us to keep it down.  Jeff took a few steps away from us, stumbling into the middle of the street to yell “FUCK YOU PIG!” at the cops.  Momentarily distracted, we were able to pull Noelle a few steps back, before the cops walked over to arrest Jeff for public intoxication, and just you know, because they were cops and could do so.  Noelle insisted on going to jail to bail him out.  We left her to her own devices to get to the police station.  I never saw her, or Jeff again, much to my relief.

Disgusted, and shaken up, we rode our bikes back home.  Big Mike had taken up residence on the couch we had been making out on, drunk and banged up from a fight at the end of the show.  The mood was pretty much gone anyway.  Kristy decided to ride her bike back up to her apartment on Capitol Hill.  We smiled warmly at one another, and kissed on the sidewalk in front of the house before she climbed back on her bike, and I went to the backyard to sleep on the roof.

Three months later, it’s my last night here, in my best friend’s room, in the house that still feels like the first good home I ever had.  It’s dilapidated, and dirty, full of rowdy punks all the time and sure, sometimes you wake up with mice in your hair, or scampering across your feet in the night.  We’re young and impulsive, and don’t always know how to best care for ourselves, or one another.  Sometimes we stay drunk for days, but at the same time I can come home, and I’m not afraid of anyone.  I’m not afraid of saying, or doing the wrong thing and ending up on the receiving end of someone’s misguided wrath, which is a new experience for me.

Kristy pours both of us shots:

“To soft trains, and hard love.”

I had been going through my first major heartbreak as an adult all that summer, and everyone knew it.  The end of a relationship drug on for months, and that ache was written across my face, or spilled out in my slurred words nights I drank too much and passed out in Molly’s bed.  Maybe it had more to do with why I left home than I cared to admit.  This story isn’t about that heartbreak though, not this time around.  Heartbreak is maybe the backdrop, like so much of our youth, especially when you grow up punk and become an expert in breaking your own heart.

That ache sat there in the background, like white noise.  Molly and I had both been reeling from our failed relationships that whole summer.  She took off for Europe for the summer, and I stayed home and worked a coffee shop job four days a week, and stayed up all night riding my bike, or writing, trying to unravel the convoluted maze in my brain.

Maybe the story goes deeper than that.  It’s about leaving home to find something else.  It’s about a random ten year old toast someone gave me ten years past.  Most importantly, the toast can be seen as a marker for a bygone era.  A eulogy for a gentrified Denver, and a subterranean punk rock era unremembered and unrecognized by all but it’s participants.

The toast made the most sense out of anything that anyone had said that summer.  Easy travels, and loving deeply.  We led charmed lives despite the heartache.  It had never been so clear than in my tipsy brain.  The Cat Power record ended, the needle skipping and popping on a run out groove.  I moved the arm to it’s rest, shouldered my backpack, and we walked downstairs.  Kristy and I kissed goodbye, and she walked down Lipan street, and out of my life.  I would see her two or three times more that, one time when she went on tour with a band and met me for an awkward afternoon in Portland, and twice when I was back visiting.

I took another swig of whiskey on the sidewalk, for the road, and hugged Molly goodbye.  The other punks all came outside to hug me goodbye and wish me luck.  I tried to freeze the image of my friends smiling and alight, framed by Villa Kula in the background.  I wanted to hold onto it forever.  I cried quietly in the back of car as Denver receded in the distance.  I meant it when I said it:  “I’ll never love anything else just the way I love this.”

We got dropped off in Wyoming, and waited around in the train yard all night.  We caught out just as the sun was rising.  Our train pulling up, right as we were about to give up, worried about being caught in the yard, with little cover and nowhere to hide from the rail cop.  We jumped in an open boxcar, and spent the next sixty hours rumbling across the prairie on our way to Oregon.  I tagged the inside of our boxcar with “Ache leaves a ghost.”  It made sense at the time.  The ache of leaving Denver would stay with me for years after that, and I knew it.  I’ve always been too sensitive, and moving through grief and loss feels like pulling a planet out of orbit.

Rolling through the middle of nowhere, maybe in Wyoming or Utah, a full, huge yellow moon rose above the plains.  I stood in the doorway of the boxcar and thought about being broken, about healing, about everything that came before, about what I was riding into.  I had started out 2005 with getting destroyed by a speeding car, breaking my pelvis and shoulder, and I was leaving home barely six months later, with no real plan, except to wander, run from my ache, and spend time in the woods with a faraway lover.

I moved around for years after that; feeling unsettled and rootless, like The Flying Dutchman adrift and forever seeking out shore.  Denver to Portland, to Oakland, then to Richmond, then to a little town in North Carolina for a few months.  After that it was the highway and living out of my perpetually broken down diesel truck for a six month spell.  After that it was back to Oakland, then to Flagstaff, back to North Carolina, and finally settling in Asheville, in the western edge of the state, right near the Tennessee border.  Each mile a story and every town a struggle to make home, or make some sort of a life, none of them ever feeling like they held any place for me until Asheville.

I saw Kristy once more, six years after I left Denver.  Wanderlust had called, and Teal and I were making that cross country trip we had both made so many times before; Olympia to Asheville, I felt like at this point I probably had all the truck stops in Wyoming and Kansas memorized.  What had supposed to be a six month break from Denver had somehow morphed into six years, and the landscape of Denver was now almost alien, yet hauntingly familiar to me to me in it’s gentrified streets, and now long gone punk rock hang out spots.

Teal had been part of that between-time journey too, living together in Richmond, and then spending the next several years seemingly trading places from coast to coast.  We came through some much hell and heartbreak in that space too.   We failed at relationships, friends died from drug overdoses, or suicide, or murder.  “The Big Three”.  As punks are sometimes heard to call them.  As in, you hear about someone dying, and you figure it was one of those three ways, and you are maybe too often right.

We crawled through the hell in the darkness of mental illness, and deep seated identity struggles together.  Teal was there, that fall in Richmond, when I cried and cried, and cried.  “I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed to fit in this skin.” I dramatically wailed.  Teal was there the morning Mosca died, Teal was there the first few hard months in Asheville, just after Sali was murdered.  It seemed like all I could do was drink myself to sleep, and live day to day.  If we’re being honest, it was usually me coming to pieces in my room, or in some strange city somewhere, and Teal being the steady voice on the other line.

I always say; the debt of life-saving gratitude I owe Teal is incalculable, and I pray she never has reason to collect.

We had just pulled into Denver, and parked in front of Villa Kula.  You could see it from the west side of town, the city skyline we had loved so much was changing.

We needed food, and to stretch our legs.  We pulled our bikes out of the back of her truck and rode them to Watercourse through the snow.  We took the bike lanes on 16th avenue to get up Capitol Hill.  That was always my favorite route to get up the hill.  Not as manically busy, or dangerous as Colfax, or fourteenth, it was a nice and quiet ride.  Going back down the hill though, you wanted thirteenth.  Sometimes late at night, if you timed it right, you could hit all the stoplights as they were green, and bomb your way the whole way to Lipan street, only pedaling once or twice, and never once use your brakes, until you had to slow down to take the left turn on Lipan.

Watercourse had moved from its original location on 13th Avenue, where I used to go get the vegan blue plate special every morning on my way to work.  I always swore breakfast tasted even better when I was hungover, or hadn’t gone to sleep yet.  Scrambled tofu, home fries, and sourdough toast for five dollars.  I’m sure the price is at least double that now, though the portions have probably shrank, and the quality diminished.

Teal and I slid into a booth, and giddily scanned the menu looking for food that seemed like was something either of us wanted to eat.  Watercourse was the hip vegan restaurant in Denver, and both of us had stopped being vegan some years ago, and taking a step backwards was interesting.  How did we ever convince ourselves that tofu tasted good?  I glanced over at the next booth, and Kristy was there.

“Shit, Teal…  I made out with that person twice, and we’re maybe kind of friends?  We haven’t spoken in years, and I don’t want to deal with superficially catching up when I’m this tired and hungry.”  Teal reached across to squeeze my hand while giving me that look that friends who have transcended into family territory give you, the one where they know you, and know where you’ve been, and love you despite, but more and importantly because of all that.  We both giggled at my awkward shifting in the booth, and kept our heads down.

We finished our food, and rode our bikes back down the hill to Villa Kula, well fed, and content.  It had started to snow lightly, but not enough to stick to the streets yet.  I stole a glance at my friend, beautiful and radiant, racing down a windswept and snowy thirteenth avenue.  I got that same old feeling that I got speeding across Denver on my bicycle as a teenage punk, free, invincible, feeling like the world was wide open and ahead of us.  I’ve had it a thousand times since that first time, on bikes in any city, on trains, in urban spaces full of vibrant life and community, and places of almost unbearable loneliness and desolation.  That feeling, like everything is still ahead of you, and your heart feels open and ready.  It’s still never quite the same as Denver.

I thought about that toast, given to me years before:  “To soft trains, and hard love.”

Maybe we’ll spend our lives crisscrossing the country, like ghosts haunting ourselves, creeping across the same lonely stretches of highway over and over, as the world we knew recedes into the distance.  Maybe we’ll still always be wondering what we’re actually going to do, never figuring it out until we’re doing it.  Sometimes this life is hell on our hearts, and our bodies, and we’re hell on wheels for sure, but for tonight, and with friends I’m lucky enough to love as hard as this, that doesn’t seem so bad.

Teal and I hit the corner of Lipan and Thirteenth Avenue without falling off of our bikes.  We pedaled up to the Villa Kula, and locked up.  The hour was late and the night was cold, and we were road-weary and exhausted.  We pulled out our sleeping bags, and curled up on that same couch I had spent my summers on so many years ago.  The highway was waiting, and it was a long road home.  Surely that could wait for another day, though.  The news just came that the house was finally disbanding after nearly a decade.  We could use another day at home.

We led charmed lives, despite the heartache, and we weren’t in any hurry.

April, 2015.

Dear Talya.

It’s that time of year again, where I write about you, or write to you.  Four years ago tonight you texted me, late at night.  I didn’t answer until the next day.  By then it was too late.  I hope you at least read the reply before you went.

I still have two bottles of mead that Roth and I brewed with the last of your honey.  We brewed them in that awful haunted apartment on Grail Street that you and Adrien helped me move into. I’ll never forget the look on your face when we walked through the front door the first day and saw the acid-nightmare graffiti that the hippies who lived there before me left scrawled all over the walls.

“We need to paint all over this shit before it comes to life at night and eats you.”

We all laughed.  It was funny in that “Maybe it can’t get any worse than this” way.  There were a few months in that apartment that were alright.  I liked living alone there.  Some days I hid too much.  Some nights I was really good at keeping myself occupied.

It was sweet when Molly moved in too.  You only came over once more because the place was so creepy.  I always look at that summer now in that like they were the last few good months we had before you died.    You know how it is, when you end up dividing time in that before and after a person died way.  Everything before they died just looks pristine and feels light, even if that wasn’t actually the case.

I felt haunted by the spectre of your death and it’s aftershocks for a full year.  It manifested it self physically and I had to leave North Carolina.  When I left  North Carolina, the mead continued to ferment with Roth in the home they took me into when I got too sick to stay at Grail Street.  I came back a year later and we bottled and labeled it.  Then we spent the night we creeping around town like nocturnal fairies in the late night heat, delivering the bottles to your friends and loved ones.  I think you would have appreciated the design.  There was a lot of glitter.

I still have mine.  I haven’t drank them yet.  Whatever broke in my heart and brain in the aftermath of your passing still won’t allow me to drink alcohol, despite the fact that I maybe stayed drunk for an almost heroic three days straight in the immediate aftermath of your passing.  Now I just can’t do it.  I’ll start to feel sick and dump the rest of my bottle out.  Even last summer, I tried to drink a bottle of hard cider on the banks of the French Broad with Ed.  One of my favorite places, with a person I cherish.  I took two sips and felt nauseous.  I dumped the rest of the bottle into the the rushing water, thinking of it as an offering, and feeling comfort in the thought of all rivers leading to the Ocean.

Or worse, when the alcohol hits my bloodstream and I start to feel that sinking terror that I felt in the aftermath of your passing.  You know that gnawing, deep dark existential terror we all feel at some point.  We stare into nothing and worry that maybe just maybe, we live our lives for nothing, suffer, and then go into oblivion at the end.  There is nothing else.  No rhyme or reason, just chaos, violence, and darkness.  That feeling happened a lot after you died.

The winter after you died Adrien and I had an end of the world party for ourselves on December 21st, 2012. You know, the night all these annoying ass new age crackers were telling us that the Mayans said the world was gonna end, or change, or whatever.  It seemed like nobody could really decide which.  I wasn’t sure if I cared.  I just knew I was in pain a lot of the time and I hated everything.

We sat in my room on Grail Street.  I was cleaning.  Cobwebs lined the corners of my room.  I didn’t knock them down.  I thought of spiders as company.  I put things that had belonged to the boyfriend in boxes to throw out.  You had lived with him when you passed away.  We broke up shortly after your death.  It wasn’t sad.  I was just ready for something else, and clawing to get away from him.

After that, then I read the runes.  I can’t remember what they said.  I only remember that it was no comfort.  It thought back to a few months before you died in the summer.  The day was too hot.  You were crying alone in your room.  I had never heard anyone be in such pain.  I asked the boyfriend if he thought we should go comfort you.

“She’s fine.  She just does this sometimes.  I’ll check on her later”  He said indifferently.

I had to leave because it was too agonizing to hear you hurting so much.  I will probably regret not saying anything, or at least offering to bring you snacks, water, just fucking anything for the rest of my life.  I thought about that day, and told Adrien I’d be right back.  I took the boyfriend’s stuff out to the curb and threw it unceremoniously into the garbage.

Adrien sat in my bed drinking beers.  As if he could tell what I was thinking, he mentioned you.  Of course.  It had only been maybe four months at that point.  We talked about you a lot.  All of us did.  I’d like to think that you could somehow see how utterly beloved you were.  I mean, seriously..  People were literally painting the town with your name.  I also think you might have been embarrassed.  I don’t know.  Adrien was so sweet and assured me that they didn’t believe in oblivion, and that you were finally safe.

I just didn’t know.  I just didn’t know anything except I missed you and you were gone.  The nagging feeling that you had gone into oblivion just wouldn’t subside.

That darkness and emptiness swirled around the apartment all winter.  We saw ghosts, but they were all scary, and none of them were you.  Maybe you were just so ready to leave earth.  I never really blamed you.  And who would wanna spend the afterlife visiting the fucking Grail Street apartments, anyway?  Sometimes I worry that I spent so much time being miserable in that building that my spirit is just going to gravitate back there when my time is up.  Don’t worry.  I’m doing everything I can to avoid that outcome.

That last summer in Asheville, mold sick and more depressed than I had ever been, I’d think I heard voices in both my waking hours and my dreams.  I never knew if I was hearing an actual malevolent force, or if I just had to personify something that took you.

I got too sick and lost too much of my mind to stay at Grail Street.  I moved in with Roth.  Sometimes the voices and the panic would come to me there at night.  I would lie in bed and claw at a now irregularly beating heart and pray for it to just beat right again.  Some nights it just wouldn’t stop raining.  The terror would get to be too much and I would lace up my boots in the night and speed over to Ed’s house to hyperventilate in their bed until daylight crept through the blinds.  We were both terrified that my heart would somehow stop and death would come for me as I slept.

When I did sleep, I started to sleep with a loaded gun under the bed.  I kept a baseball bat in the passenger seat of my truck.  I would walk through downtown like a ghost haunting myself; eyes to the ground, fists clenching and unclenching.  It was time to move on.  It’s not that you were Asheville, but the pall your death cast across everyone I knew became to consuming to stay.

It took two full years of you being gone and a move across the country to feel any sense of lightness about you.  Rachel, C-80 and I climbed a mountain on the anniversary of the day you left.  We got to the peak late in the afternoon.  You cold see for miles around.  I whispered hello to you, and I told you how much I had loved you.

And that it was nice to see you again.

Maybe it took going to a place that was just too beautiful for words to feel like there had been anything else but pain and death for all of us.

And I hope you could see it.  I really do.  Because places this beautiful deserve to be shared with the people you love.  And goddamn, were you ever loved.  Not just by me, but by everyone who encountered you.  Nobody had a bad thing to say about you.  That’s a rarity in something as viciously petty and rife with shit talking as the radical queer community.

Every year, I write about you or I write to you.  I post the same haunting photo of you.  This year won’t be any different.  I’m not ready to drink your mead yet.  Maybe I’ll give it another six years.  In 2022, it will have been ten years since you left.  You’d be turning 38. I’ll be 41.  If you were alive today, you’d be turning 32 this year.  I still don’t resent you for choosing to go.  I say it every year.  Your death and it’s aftermath devastated me in a way that was almost awe inspiring.  It broke me down and left me in pieces in a moldy room.

It broke everyone.

The only choice as to forge ahead through the ruins and reconstruct ourselves into newer and better people.  We’ve all got to do that work for the rest of our lives.  I know my works in that realm are far from complete.  If anything was to be gained at all in the aftermath of your death at all, it’s to be inspired by the level of kindness, deep love, and humor you brought to your friends.

I hope to one day be able to bring even a fraction of the kindness and light to those I love that you showed everyone around you.

It hurts to become.  It hurts to outgrow.  It hurts to grow back.

Losing you wasn’t worth it.


that picture of Talya
Talya Shira Mazuz




Downpour and Drought.

You were not the first person I ever loved
Even though I always say how
Love is just another word people say
Spoken too lightly, spoken too often, and too soon
And how love is just a word that I cannot bring myself to say

But I loved you, and how when you walked into a room
All the pressure would drop right out of
My stomach and into a pile of nerves on the floor
Just like the pressure drop in the air filling this town
The moment before a summer storm

You once told me something like I was ice water roaring
Down a mountain, and you were my gorge
I wish I had told you how you were the downpour
Drenching my years of dry rot and drought
And every tender moment that I forced myself to do without

You loved me as you found me, overdosing on darkness
Choking on the very moment when forever came crashing in
When all hell came home to call
Loosing every last demon, pushing through tired skin
Pressing lifeless lips to taste anxiety’s biter kiss

In all that years after this one:

I will mourn neither one of us learning a thing

About how to be gentle, or how to keep loving
When all the weight of distrust and trauma
Sets in, and leaden absences send us sinking
All hands on deck, straight to the bottom

It’s a short story, with a dismal ending
The same tired tale told again and again
Growing even more worn with each telling
Written on repeat, until the ink runs out of our pens
Longing for how we could have been everything

Instead of all this time wasted
Lives short lived, and far too full of bitterness
Our years spent in silent regret
Because we never learned a thing about gentleness
And filled our listless lives with beautiful broken things instead