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

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

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.)

Punks is sharks.

Adrift and sinking, out where the horizon unfolds
Into rows of waves crashing down
Our lifeboats are full of holes
And someone threw away the oars
Our boats are taking on water now
As the lives and loves We forged sink below…

I just want a metaphor
For how we’re maybe out of our depth here
Where the water is deep and dark
Maybe we’re out of our depth here
And way out here there’s sharks.

Maps marked with blurred lines
and the last of a sky so blue
Just as summer gave way to fall
“You have to breathe. You have to breathe.”
Swallowing mouthfuls of air where the traffic snarls
Marveling at just how fucking ugly
Of a picture this world will paint you
Right as it runs you through

We’re out of our depth here
With blurred lines inked indelibly into skin
Too tender, too thin
Blurring the line again
Always between the intimate
And the violent
We’re out of our depth here
Because nothing prepared us for trespasses like this
Or taught us how to love without fear

The hour is now late
Ashore, annihilation comes home to call
With a knock knock knock at the door
Wolves hunger at the windows
Sharks circle the shallows
Murderers who murder each other
Set loose to stalk the halls

Punks is sharks.

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.

Untitled. Unfinished. Unfinishable.

Even the brightest stars die
Exploding outward
Over and out
Rain slick and
Steaming southern streets
Long after they have released
The sun’s last heat

Even the brightest stars die
Imploding inwards
Collapsing just like
A black hole
Which nothing will escape
Not even light
This time around

Inner light hemorrhaging
Angles and breaths
Drawn chaotic
And all too sharp
Following the path
Of an irregularly beating heart

You and I:
Did not create this world
Nor did we do a thing to deserve it
But here we are, chained earthbound
To this violent and rudderless world
Accelerant soaked and burning down

Now I write this for you:
Love letters to dead summers
Pages torn out from closed chapters
Love stories for
Ghost lovers singing
Silent songs carried
Across empty years
And barren deserts
Dried of their tears

Untitled. Unfinished. Unfinishable.