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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 on my lips, still

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Maybe we’ll work it out when we’re ghosts. (How it hurts to outgrow.)

I had the dream again last night. Similar variation to the one I have been having on and off for five long years now.

My life’s greatest heartbreak and I. Someplace warm and safe. We forget just how fucking mad we were at each other. We forget all the petty bullshit. We remember the love we shared, and let go. We don’t try and start over. We don’t try and repeat toxic patterns. We just lovingly let go.

The other night Relic and I were talking about our belief in ghosts, how maybe the places that were significant for us hold our imprints and this is what ghosts are. My first thought was “Holy fuck, my sprit better not go back to Grail Street.” Because Grail Street was significant, but goddamn was it miserable. Nothing says “healthy life choices” like destroying one another and then continuing to be neighbors, too stubborn to give up cheap rent; coughing up black mold and haunted by strangers with familiar faces for a full year. I hope they don’t go back there when they’re gone either. I used to sit in my room, beneath the sound of furtive footsteps I knew too well and write stories that I never had the nerve to publish about what I hoped our specters would say to one another if they were to linger on the steps or behind the walls of Grail Street too long. When I was finally done being mad, I’d tell myself:

“Maybe we’ll work it out next time around.”

Gods, I’ve been fucked up and sagging under the weight of depression for days but I love being alive right now. I love it harder than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone in the world, because it’s the one thing I can count on. I thank every heartbreak for never breaking me, but giving me the opportunity to reconstitute myself into a different form. I thank the heartbreak for bringing out the absolute worst in me so I can learn to never be that person again.

Once upon a time we were fucked up kids who saw the best in one another. We were the loving reflections offered to haunted and straining eyes when the mirror was too painful to behold. I’ll never not be thankful for that. There are nights where I wish we could just see the best of what we’ve become. I never quite know how to reconcile that feeling. The knowing outgrowing connections is okay, and sometimes painfully (agonizingly) necessary, but you still wish you could visit every now and then. Just because whatever, five years on you are so over whatever the fuck it was you were pissed about and you can see how thoroughly someone coming up at the right place and right time fundamentally changes you forever. You want people to know that they had a profound effect on you, even when they’re gone and you’re reflecting on a dead connection.

So if we meet when we’re ghosts:

I’d say in all the years that went by, I never forgot:
How much I love your awkward teeth.
And the sound of your laugh.
I still can’t refrain from breaking into a grin when I tell the story of your icy stare freezing a confused nurse while I pathetically laid on the waiting room floor.
I’d say I finally learned how to stop hating myself.
I’d say how sorry I was for my lack of patience; for not letting you grow.
Seeing the best in you was never an excuse.
I’d say whisper how sorry I am for letting you down.
For not knowing how to let my anger calm.
For holding on so tight that it stifled us both.
I hope you are warm and well, and that your demons finally laid down to rest.
I hope your body and spirit are hale and whole.
Always.

Maybe we’ll work it out when we’re ghosts. (How it hurts to outgrow.)

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.

Homecomings (Dear Lover)

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.

Late night panic blues.

The things you think of, late at night when the hours have stretched long past the point of no return.  You are just trying to calm your mind down You just want to let it all go and surrender to the mercy of sleep.

First and foremost:  You are absolutely certain that there have been roughly seven thousand, seven hundred and sixty nights that you have spent just like you are spending this one.  That’s twenty-one years.  Twenty-one years of sleeplessness and dread coming for you at night.  Twenty-one years of late night hours passing in crawling flesh.

If your feel like being honest, or melodramatic (you can’t always tell the difference.) you could call it an even ten thousand.  Ten thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven point twenty-seven.  That’s roughly thirty years.  You did the math.  You remember being six years old watching the crack of light from the hallway in your childhood room, waiting for the radio to lull you to sleep.

“This is Power 96!  Greater Miami’s party station giving you greater South Florida’s dance hits all night long.”

The red lights on the clock radio change almost imperceptibly.  2:27, 2:28.  It’s a school night, even.  You wonder how you will pay attention to you lessons tomorrow.  You wonder how all the other people up this late at night are occupying their time.  You wonder what the streets of quiet neighborhood are like this late at night.  You get a sinking feeling that the clock might as well read 2:28 AM for the rest of your goddamn life.

You think of all the time passed since your childhood room.  You think of all the nights, in all the rooms that led to this one.  Childhood, childhood’s end, and adolescence and onto the rigors and ruins of adulthood.  Each year, you swear is gonna be different.  Each year you find yourself right here; in another empty feeling room, late at night holding court with your own ruined nerves.

You think about them.  Oh, how you hate thinking about them.  Really, you just hate thinking about love.  You loathe thinking about anyone you’ve ever thought you loved, or said you loved, convinced yourself you loved.  You convince yourself that love is just some bullshit word lesser humans say.  Something we say to justify our appetites, or fill our cavernous voids. The thought of being vulnerable right now makes you shudder.

The hours crawl, and you convince yourself you’re so above it all.  You find a certain sickness in being soft.  You hate yourself only a little bit for letting them in.  You marvel at how we reach into each other and sink our teeth into the most tender parts.  We get a taste of forever.  We sate those hungers.  We come and go.

The minutes pass like pouring rain flooding gutters outside the window.  You are absolutely sure now, that you have never been loved, and have maybe never loved anyone in return.  You know you have been everyone’s favorite maladjusted mutant since the day you rode your skateboard to the cemetery in eighth grade.  Rumbling wheels rolling past crumbling civil war graves, she’s standing there beneath the graveyard trees.  You make out in the summer breeze.  Her mouth tastes like cigarettes and lip smackers.  You finish kissing.  She makes a joke about your dick, and you skate home.

“My friends will never know.”

“Oh, I know.”

You laugh to yourself as you skate home, because it’s all so fucking hysterical.  It’s all so fucking cheap.

You wonder what that girl grew up to be.  While you’re at it, you wonder about the boy who called you a faggot every day, but then asked you to suck his dick in the locker room when no one was around.  You wonder if they grew up bruised and without hope just like you.  You could look them up on facebook if you wanted and make fun of their ugly kids and shitty tattoos.  It’s not that late.  You remind yourself that you don’t actually care, and when was the last time you went to Pennsylvania anyway?  You certainly fucking write about it enough though.  Six years in a place that felt like it was too small raised by people who wouldn’t let you stand tall, and motherfuckers wonder how you got so hostile.

Like you could ever stop.  You know some things they’ll never know.

The hours crawl behind four walls.  You’re spiraling now, remembering it all.  You remember every last step and misstep, stumble and fall, all the time hard spent with so little to show at all.  You are absolutely sure that the world you knew is gone, and everyone else has moved on.  You are absolutely sure that you are still staring out through alien eyes and the world never actually had a place for you at all.  The hour is late now, and no one is going to call.

You have now convinced yourself you can’t breathe, even though you can.  You worry you might just die in your sleep.  This is a familiar and funny dance you’ve danced before.  You think of it as a well-known, and much loved song.  Coughing black mold out of your lungs and clutching at a lover’s sheets for a bummer of a summer.  There’s no lover-comfort offered tonight.  You wouldn’t want it anyway.  You are alone and you ask for no quarter.

You smile.  Finding glory in the rasping pain of being alive.  A moment’s certainty creeps in.  Maybe death is still stalking you, but you are pretty sure it’s neither heaven or oblivion waiting for you in the sky above.  You thank your blessed and still breathing body for pushing through the night.  You give thanks for all the nights before this one that could never hope to swallow you whole.

You think about your reckless and not so reckless youth rusted and left long behind.  In the morning the light will creep ever so slightly through the blinds.  You think about your excuses.  You think about your failure to thrive.  You think about your failure.  You still worry there might be no future, even though you’re living in it.  You still think dying young is stupid.  You still feel too obstinate to do anything other than die of old age.  So you push through, like always. Most of all; you soften and think about love, and how you are luck to have loved and been loved so much.

Or if we truly are in the end times, you could at least go home and die with your friends when the hammer fucking drops and it’s lights out on the world one last time.  That doesn’t sound like the worst option either.  You always had a feeling you and your one friend were going to die in a hail of bullets together anyway.

You think about the hidden and holy world you inhabit.  The world of fucked up noise filling crowded rooms made by mutants bruised and never quite broken, just like you.  You decide there’s time for one more song.  One more song to calm your nerves before the mercy of sleep, better make it a good one.  You flip the record over.  In the silenced that fills the air, you wonder if you’ve ever been home at all.  The needle drops and a hiss, and the spirit of sound rushing to fill the void.

Of course.  You don’t know where else you ever would have gone.

Late night panic blues.