CREATURE SELF

People talk about finding yourself
As if the search were an archeological dig
The self, to be unearthed
Found from looking
Dusted off with a special brush
And put in a museum
It aint like that
As far as I can tell
Self is a forest
If you can manage the Goodall-like patience for it
Creatures you never knew existed
Will show themselves from behind trees
And you will watch with awe
As self emerges with horns
And whiskers
With movement so deft

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HEY SIRI

Do trees die of old age

Navigate to the nearest sinkhole

Translate “I am lost” into Cantonese

Play “Operator” by Jim Croce

Find a cult near me

Set a timer for forty years

Remind me to drain the bathtub

Call mom

BLADERUNNER

Anyone who thinks we are not already living in a dystopian society is fooling themselves
I drove south down Nelson Road
Looked up to the barrier wall on the west side of the road holding up the train tracks
Grey and stained with wet and creeping with dead ivy
Styrofoam garbage tucked into the curbs of the road
Thirty degrees and drizzling
And the sky is the exact grim-grey as this West-Germany wall

I’m headed to the store to get my rations
Of fat free greek yogurt,
Low fat granola,
And tea
Just to drive back again
Through slow traffic and brown slush
To my hiding spot

Just to place a shiny screen close to my face
And look at images of 120 pound girls
In bikinis
Sleeping in rainbow hammocks on the porches of luxury huts in Tahiti
And puppies cohabitating with piglets
And huge muscle bound men bench pressing their girlfriends
“Oh, this is nice” brain says
“This is good. I’ll just… stay here for a minute, or two”

I asked my husband, “If we’re living in the matrix, would you want to know?”
“Are you depressed?” he asked

I shrugged
And scrolled

LAP SWIMMING

I have been learning to swim
It is not a natural thing for me
There is no rhythm
No ease of effort

I am an awkward animal
Not built for underwater propulsion

My goggles fog-up quickly from nervous heat
And sometimes create an image
In the lane just next to mine
Of a person’s legs, underwater
Who is not there
I get to the end of the lap
And rub the inside of the lenses to
Wipe away potential hallucinations

Tonight I share a lane with a stranger
As kids have occupied the rest of the pool
Adults are here for more boring reasons like exercise
So we defer to those involved in more important tasks
like play

She slips in
Sets up her water bottle, her kickboard, her flippers and a thing i don’t have a word for
And i feel like a girl at the 8th grade dance
I don’t know where to put my arms or legs
So i sink down deep into the water
I hold the ledge
To hide
“Hey”
I bubble of the top of the water

“Hi”
She says

And she pushes off and settles in immediately
to a delightful, musical,
Water-slappy kind of swim
I watch her and mimic his arms
In the dry open air

I wait for her turn around
And head in
I’ve got it, for a length
Or at least i think i do

When we pass one another
I think i feel her heat
Pushing out from her strokes at me

Her tiny waves make me aspirate
Chlorine water

I cough it up under the surface
And come up the next third stroke
Pretending to be okay
Making a terrible gasping sound

There is something peaceful and horrible about breathing out underwater
For three strokes at a time
There is some pearl of zen in there
That i cannot seem to crack open

I see her collecting those pearls
While i flounder
And
Cannot help but feel jealous

The second time we pass
I am overcome so much by the pressure
Of her waves
That i indulge in fantasy
And as i propel in her opposite direction
I drift off into a place where

I am swimming underneath her
Facing up towards her underwater-mouth
Like a smaller fish docking onto the safety of a whale’s belly
No names
No history
No future
No friendship
No love affair
Only feeling not speaking
Warm wet bodies locked together
Underwater
Long enough to require
Gasps for air

PEOPLE FROM GOOD HOMES

I went out to dinner on New Year’s Eve
And as soon as we opened the door to the restaurant
I felt like an escapee from some kind of cultural bunker
Or like my grandmother any time she took me to the mall in the 90s.
I openly ogled two ferocious men at the bar
Wearing full sequin blazers
One with dangling, sparkly earrings in the shapes of airplanes
I am wearing a black dress I bought nine years ago
Something inspired by a break-up
And high heels I bought at Payless the same year
I do not participate in fashion, so-to-speak
(I don’t need any more insatiable hungers)
But I like that it’s happening
Out there
In the same way that sandstorms are blowing through a desert
Or that glaciers are moving in an ocean

Female Gaze

In college, I took an aesthetic class
We read articles on the “male gaze”
And how it relates to sculpture

We investigated
The archetypal pose of a bashful young woman
Nude
No, naked
And turned away
A plea for modesty
Caught appearing unvirtuous
When perhaps all she was up to was
Wandering the family garden
Enjoying summer air on her breasts
Or
Trying on gowns before the party
And in comes malegaze
Uninvited
Judging
Odious

Sometimes, when I’m sitting alone in a bar
Or a café
I subject a man to my gaze
An unwelcomed disrobing of flannel shirt
And jeans
An inspection of beard and mustache
He runs his fingers through his hair
With both hands
Imitating high school movie dream boat
I wait for him to turn away
And wonder why he doesn’t

DNS

You can make a comeback
From a failure
Your heart may be broken, but you are not
No one will quit being your friend
Your family will still love you as hard as they ever have
(Maybe harder)

You will wake up tomorrow
And you will put your legs under you
And you will put the pieces back together

You are a warrior
You bare the marks on your face
And you will bare this scar
In the same way a win leaves a mark

If you left it out there
If you spent every damned penny
They you should sleep hard tonight
Knowing you did everything you could

I promise you
Your wounds will heal
You will race again
And your heart will recover

But you will never forgive yourself

For not showing up

WILD

I want so desperately to be incorporated with you, Wild
But I am so aware of my own tame
I take my clothes off and beg to be consumed
But Wild is blind to my endeavor
TAKE ME
I scream
But the wind only howls and the birds only sing
And the water only rushes
I feel like Wild laughs at me but I know it’s not true
Is it so silly to want to be yours?
I am pitying myself
And I know it’s unattractive to Wild
I mix dust with river water
And paint myself clay-brown
I AM HERE
I beg
Only humid heat and woodpecker pecking
And sun beating
In a final display, I run
Sweat mixes with clay and streaks my bare belly
My hair tangles
My eyes dilate
My pores open
My lungs inflate
Everything is alive
And only in this state
I am taken

THE FEAR OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL

When the train is riding along,
Gliding effortlessly on its track
I get queasy, itchy, restless
Just thinking about the termination of the track
The cinematic station with the hankies and the hugging and the happy ending
Ick
If I see something adorable coming down the line, I am likely to set the train ablaze
The story, so far, goes:
Found the guy, the perfect guy
Guy wants kids
Guy would be great with kids
I can picture, in vivid detail
Our children and their
Chicken nugget-less lives
I can hear us calling their perfect little names
A sensible mixture of novelty and tradition
I can see our lovely home
A balance of tidy and lived in
And I want to set fire to it all

Where once was blood, risk, and desire
Now, neat rows of snack-pack celery stalks and peanut butter bites
I want to bake it all in a casserole a la Sylvia Plath’s head

I know
I am preprogrammed to disdain the conventional
In high school, I prided myself in the rejection of Dave Matthews Band
And Prom

But I know now
I am a victim of a system
That lets me believe I was inspired and revolutionary in my thinking
All the while, I was precisely in line with the
Algorithm’s projection
I listened to Kid A in an ’89 Ford Tempo

Now is the time I am projected to resist
Which is why, perhaps
Facebook keeps asking me if I’m nursing
Or if I’m planning a baby shower (Fuck you, by the way)

I am projected to resist
This
Lovely marital bliss

I ride the train
Watching from the rear as the engine car rounds the bend

Always assuming
I am both the passenger
And the conductor

A MEMBER OF EVERYTHING

It’s winter again in Ohio
And I have banished myself to bedroom Siberia
A white tundra of down comforter

Ohio is lovely but she is quite a grey thing
Her ad might say
“Come to Ohio, you’ll love our indoors!”

The problem with our indoors
Is missing out
On being a member of the everything
The risk of
Belonging only to yourself (or your pillow, or Instagram or a good afternoon wank)

And what a crime

But, if I can force myself to, I belong to the “out-of-doors”
I bravely shed baby blanket, bath tub, self-coddling
In favor or a renewed membership
To the everything

WET PINE TREES CLUB
I belong
EMPTY HOUSES ANONYMOUS
I am also a (secret) member
BLACK BIRD POLKA DOT SKY
I want to incorporate with you
SMELL OF DIRT, IRON AND FOG
I am with you!
FILTHY BUS BREATHING FILTHY AIR AT ME
I attend your board meetings
SCREAMING TEENS IN NEON BACKPACKS
I pay dues quarterly
DEAD QUIET, UNEVEN BIKE PATH
You are worth your drab meeting minutes

I implore you to give up
Your Netflix
Your tea and your cat and your foot rub
And
Brave the damp chill

If it had an ad
It would say
“The everything: Worth the temporary discomfort”