ON SUCKING AT SOCIAL MEDIA

I’ve been thinking long and hard about something. There is lots of talk in lots of circles about how to be a successful artist, you have to put yourself out there on social media in really fancy ways, using algorithms and heart monitors and crinkly little slinky things that measure the exact precipitation in the air, the number of teenage boys who have secretly been in love with one of the Beatles, and the amount of toe jam sequestered between the average centipede’s toes, and crunch these numbers to ascertain the precise moment in the day when you should post a video of yourself knitting to reach out to your followers. If you do it just right, you can have 40,000 followers in a week, and if you do it really, really right, you can ascend and become a guru (with or without a long white beard–facial hair is optional.) Fuck. That. Noise. Good God. Life is demanding enough without making social media and blogging into a full time job. I can’t. I just can’t. I know some people who have fun with this sort of thing, and are really good at it. I admire the heck out of them for it. But no, no, no, that ain’t me babe. The only time I ever went viral is when I got mono in high school after I kissed that weird kid on the sketchy roller coaster. I post things because I think it’s fun, and I want to connect with people, and sometimes, I just want to share a nice photo of my soup. Is that so wrong? To want to show people your lentils? There are serial killers in this world. There are street mimes. There is a Donald Trump, for God’s sake. Do we really need to get so up in arms about tasteful photographs of warm, hearty, healthy winter foods? Do we really need to criminalize posting cat photos at midnight when no one is watching, so you probably won’t even get three likes? I’m terrible at this game. I just want to write things, post videos of kittens attacking bemused, patient crocodiles, and eat my lentils, not necessarily in that order.60108_499292975827_5960664_n

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TAKEN

Desi's drawing of my back
My beautiful daughter, Desiree Wade, created this gorgeous art.

When I can’t sleep, because I have to teach a four hour class today, and why would I sleep when I could stay up worrying all night that I might not sleep, I finally give up and write silly love poems. I imagine this will be included in So Speak the Stars, a collection of love poems I’m working on, a tribute to the great love of my life. I have quite a caboodle of them now. They all say the same thing. I became a writer because of this person. I mean I always wrote, but I started getting good at it by trying to say I love you in a way that captured what was actually in my heart. I still haven’t come close, but I’ve sold some books now, so that’s cool.

I wrote this one in response to the weird phenomenon that has been happening (phenomenon is too big a word for this, but whatever) where strangers send me love letters. I think I may have been hacked by the “send people you don’t know love letters” hackers. Maybe they’d ask me for my bank account number if I responded. I don’t know. But anyway, one of them persisted for weeks and finally crowned his flurry of unanswered love letters with a marriage proposal, after which I blocked him. Last night, I wanted to write something because I couldn’t sleep, and my little brain said, “Why don’t you write that dude who asked you to marry him a letter?” So I did.

I’ve been having a revelation lately. I’ve had just about everything a human being can ever have. And nothing, nothing has ever made my life feel like pure magic except for love. Love is where it’s at. Love is the only true treasure. Really, it’s the only thing I want. And I hope that everything I do, say, and think somehow plays into the magic of love.

Last night, I had the joy of sitting next to Karen Joy Fowler at dinner. We talked about how publication doesn’t change your life in any real way, about how you are just the same old you on the other side. I thought I felt that way because I wasn’t a big writer, but Karen is, and she feels that way too. You would think that publishing books and having events that make you the star of the show would make you happy, but it doesn’t, not unless you do it from a place of love. If I go to an event worried about how many people will show up, and if I’ll do a good job, and how many books I’ll sell, it’s about as fun as cleaning toilets used to be when I was a maid. But if I go, and I think, “I don’t care how many people show up. If one person shows up, I’m going to do everything I can to give him or her the love in my heart,” the event is pure magic.

But I digress. This one goes out to the one I love.

TAKEN

I could say my heart

belongs to someone else,

but that would be a half truth, at best.

A quarter truth. A tenth truth. Here

is the whole shebang: Both hemispheres

of my brain also belong to him

as well as my torso, my toenails,

and the prickly bumps on my kneecaps.

My hair follicles are in love.

If you study my fingerprints

under a blue light supplied

by a medium who specializes

in languages spoken mostly

by dead men, you will see

that the whorls spell my beloved’s

name in ten forgotten alphabets.

When I went to the dentist, he asked me

if I had noticed my teeth were buzzing,

and if I had, did I realize

they were humming

my beloved’s favorite song?

My doctor worried when she saw

that my entrails had twisted themselves

into a reasonable facsimile

of the date of his birth. Twice,

my waxer has asked me to please stop

tweezing my eyebrows to replicate

his smile. But I’m not. They just grow

that way. Every cell in my body bends

in his direction. If I were a map,

I’d be a boring one. Of course

every road would end with him.

You’ve heard that one before. And yes,

every river would run into his ocean.

He would be the guru sitting

on the snowy peak

of every single mountain.

The moose in the forests

would constantly bellow

his name. At the heart

of each pyramid, you would find

a mummy, and when you opened

its coffin, a pharaoh him would sit up.

You’d be besotted instantly. A thousand

bucks says you’d love him too, on sight.

Do you get me? I’m a hopeless case,

a goner. Do not resuscitate. It’s done.

I’m his. There is no going back, not when

the bumps of my spine mimic his laugh in braille.

When my therapist asked me why, I said:

“He drives the darkness from my bones.

He makes me walk on water.”

 

 

 

 

IMPOSTER STAR

 

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People say I’m rising.

Every time they clap,

line up, ask me to write my name

I remember this plastic bag I saw blowing across the park

back in New York when you and I missed one another by a minute.

Remember?  I waited for you all day in a café

watching out a window

terrified you might pass and somehow

I wouldn’t see.

At night I think back, wonder if I jinxed us by being scared

or if I let the devil in when out of kindness

I turned to speak to that man

who wouldn’t leave me be.

I never saw you

just that red bag and

thought it was like me without you

beautiful to look at, ethereal even,

soaring, riding breezes, carefree,

but heading nowhere fast

or worse

somewhere

an iron gate

a gutter

a sharpened picket fence.

It was inflated

full of wind

full of everything that doesn’t matter

full of nothing.

I watched that hollow thing dance

until it was a red speck on the horizon

It could have been the morning star,

but I knew that it wasn’t.

It was a bit of trash

a jot of mundanity

an empty thing playing at being

spectacular.

 

THE CARE AND KEEPING OF A PTSD AFFLICTED BLADDER (OR HOW I ENDED UP FALLING ON MY FACE, SPILLING MY WINE, AND PEEING MYSELF WHILE SCREAMING, “THERE IS NO TOILET FOR MILES!”)

I’ve had chronic urinary tract infections since I can remember, meaning I am perpetually in a state of bladder induced agony.  If you have never had an acute bladder infection, and you want to understand how it feels, light your genitals on fire.  When I was young, I had this weird, chauvinistic doctor who, when I showed up in his office with yet another urinary tract infection, told me in no uncertain terms that if I kept it up (as if I were rebelliously choosing to live in interminable fiery genital hell), I might end up with a scarred bladder, which would lead to incontinence problems when I was older.

Well, I kept it up.  And I’m older. I don’t have incontinence problems, per se, except I have to pee every 20 minutes, and the second my brain announces, “Hey, we are heading toward a toilet,” my poor little, scarred, disoriented bladder thinks it’s time to let go.  I can’t blame her.  She’s been through a lot.  She has bladder PTSD.

I’ve learned to combat this disorder by talking to my bladder gently.  You know, like people do.  As I’m walking toward a bathroom, especially if I’m in a public place, I keep a little inner monologue going, designed to trick my bladder into believing we are nowhere near a toilet.  I think, “Man, I wish there were a toilet in this store.  Too bad there isn’t.  I think the closest toilet is like an hour away.  We’re just walking to the freezer to grab an ice cream cone.” I walk quickly while I’m talking to my bladder, but I don’t run, because if I run, she knows there is something for me to be running toward (namely, a nearby toilet), and she lets go.  File all of this under FML.

If I’m alone, or with family, and I have to pee really badly, I talk to my bladder out loud.  Which is weird and probably slightly psychotic.  My kids don’t bat an eye if they see me rushing toward the bathroom saying, “There is no toilet for miles.  Too bad we don’t own a toilet.  I’m just casually walking to get a book from my bedroom.”  Sometimes, they shout encouragement.  “There isn’t a toilet anywhere in the state!” my beloved daughter Desi will cheer, glancing up from the canvas she’s painting, sounding very much like a soccer mom trying giving a pep talk to a particularly inept 6-year-old.  “Yeah, we haven’t seen a toilet in years!” my lovely son Tim will agree without every looking away from his video game.

Believe it or not, it works.  In addition to having PTSD, my bladder is inordinately gullible.  But when I get to the bathroom, I have to drop my pants really fast, because the second I see the toilet, my bladder is onto my tricks, and she lets go.  I’ve been this way for years, so I’m really good at tricking my bladder, and also really good at getting my pants down quickly when the jig is up.

I’ve only ever wet my pants once, and that was during a road trip.  Desi and I were driving across an endless New Mexico desert, and I’d had one of those trough sized sodas they sell at truck stops. I had to pee really, really badly.  We drove for like an hour, but there was no bathroom anywhere.  Just cactus and sand as far as the eye could see.

At first, conversing with my bladder out loud worked, but then, it stopped working, even when Desi tried to help.  My bladder didn’t care if Desi said we were in a desert, and there really wasn’t a toilet for miles.  My bladder was going to let go.

“Pull over!” I screamed.  Knowing how wily and unpredictable my bladder can be, and not wanting to mar the seats of her brand new charcoal gray Charger, Desi slammed on the breaks and screeched to a halt on the shoulder.  I hopped out of the car, dropped my pants, squatted, and started to pee by the road in broad daylight, hoping against hope no other cars would come along.  Because God is sadistic, when I was halfway through the peeing session, a cop drove over the hill.

I pictured myself on the stand in some courtroom, trying to combat my public indecency charge.  I pictured trying to explain it to my employers, my readers, my friends.  I ordered my bladder to stop peeing and whipped up my pants, only my bladder thought there was no reason to stop peeing, as I had proven conclusively to her that there was a toilet in the vicinity.  So she kept going, and while the cop drove by, I stood there peeing my pants, saying, “I’m peeing, Desi!  I can’t stop peeing!”  Desi just pointed and laughed.

But that was years ago.  Ok, maybe a year.  Anyway, since then, I’ve been accident free.  (I feel like I need one of those little boards they have in factories that says, “This facility has been accident free for 376 days.”)

Which brings me to tonight.  I’d had a long day, so I decided to have a little me time.  I grabbed a glass of pinot and filled the tub with water and bubbles.  I stepped in and was preparing to sit when my bladder saw the toilet that was two feet away and announced that she had to pee NOW.  (She can go from zero to Niagra Falls in three seconds flat.)  I know better than to disbelieve her when she says she has to go, so I jumped out of the tub and lunged for the toilet.  But my feet were wet.  And the tile was slick.  My feet made that weird little “whoop whoop whoop” motion cartoon character feet make after they slip on a banana peel, and then, I fell in slow motion, dumping my wine all over myself as I went.  “There is no toilet for miles!” I yelled as I plunged toward the tile.  “I was just getting out of the tub to get some bath salts!”

But my poor traumatized bladder had already seen the toilet, and no way in hell was she going to put the brakes on just because I was tumbling ass over tea kettle. So she let go.  I wrote all this to announce that I just had the distinction of being the first woman in history to fall on her face, spill her wine, scream “There is no toilet for miles!” and pee herself simultaneously, all while completely sober.

After I’d mopped up the wine and urine, I texted my son and said, “I went to get in the tub, realized I had to pee, started to get out, slipped, spilled my wine, and fell on my face while peeing myself.  Classy.”  His reply?  “Des says go to bed.”  No shock.  No, “Wait.  What? How did this happen?”  Just another day in the life of Freaky Bladder Mom.  Go to bed.  That’s all my sweet children could muster.

I questioned the prudence of sharing my story with the world at large, but it was funny, and I am almost always willing to humiliate myself for a laugh.  My bladder isn’t the only one with issues.

This facility has been accident free for 0 days.  And counting.

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I didn’t have a picture of me peeing my pants to accompany this blog post, so I decided to go with a pic of me and Desi.  Here, we see Desi making fun of girls who do “duck lips” in their selfies.  Desi is a brilliant writer/visual artist and is working on a comic called “The Real Tawni Waters: Not As Cool As She Looks On Paper.” I tell her she can’t publish it until I’m dead.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY

I know I’ve been inordinately quiet lately.  There are socially respectable reasons for that.  I’m launching a new novel in three weeks. (Count them-three!)  My third literary love child, The Long Ride Home, will be welcomed into the world first at Albuquerque’s Bookworks on September 8, and then at Phoenix’s Changing Hands on September 9.  The Long Ride Home is already getting great reviews.  Kirkus loved it, and so did School Library Journal.  Brandon Hartman of Second Time Books wrote this gorgeous review. So I have hopes for this baby of mine.

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As if all that weren’t enough, the day after my second book launch, I fly off to Philadelphia to be the writer-in-residence at my beloved Rosemont College for the fall semester.  I’ll be teaching two classes for the Rosemont Writer’s Studio while I’m there, as well as doing various readings, signings, panels, and appearances.  I can’t tell you how stoked I am about all the good things that are happening in my life. In addition to being kick ass, all these opportunities are keeping me very busy.

Rosemont beautiful
The beautiful house in which I will be staying while at Rosemont.

But if I said that was why you haven’t heard from me, I’d be lying.  My life has been weird and wonderful and excruciating all at once lately.  I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you about the excruciating part.  In June, I was teaching at Rosemont’s summer writer’s retreat when I found out my beloved mother has stage three breast cancer.  I felt like someone punched me in the stomach when I heard.  Not that I didn’t know it was coming.  I’d seen the worst lump, and clearly, something was wrong. Mom had gone in for her biopsy results the day I left.  So I’d tried to emotionally prepare myself for the worst.  As is usually the case with these things, my emotional preparation did nothing to stave off the ugly, black, curdled grossness that came to live in my belly when I got the news.

Currently, I’m spending tons of time with my momma and my big brother on our family’s land in the New Mexico mountains.  We hike a lot and talk a lot and look at the stars a lot.  You’ve never seen stars until you’ve seen stars from the vantage point of an isolated New Mexico mountain.  They are so close you can touch them.

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Me and my momma, outside the lodge where we stayed on our spa trip

We spent some time at a spa in Colorado, dipping in hot springs and getting massaged and eating things that were bad for us.  I have this amazing feeling of being closer to my family than ever before, which is saying something, because we are a really tight knit clan.

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Me and my homeslices in Colorado, about to eat things that were really, really bad for us.

A few nights ago, right after the 24th anniversary of my precious father’s death (I got a tattoo to memorialize it—this year, I am exactly the same age he was when he died), a storm knocked the power out, and I dreamed magic dreams.

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My “daddy died, and I’m taking up where he left off, and living a life of pure love and faith” tattoo

 

In one of them, my brother and I were sleeping on the floor in my mom’s room in sleeping bags we used to own.  (When we were kids, one of us slept on the other’s floor every night.  We couldn’t bear to be apart.  The scene at the beginning of Beauty of the Broken where Iggy and Mara are holding hands, watching the moon, is me and my big brother all the way.  But I digress.)

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Me and Bryan

In my dream, my dad was sitting on mom’s bed, watching over all of us.  He said beautiful things to me in that dream.  I woke up full of hope to a night that was the blackest black I’ve ever seen.  There were no lights for miles, and storm clouds shrouded the stars.  In that silent darkness, I felt strangely happy, more content, more myself, more at peace, than I have ever been before.  I touched something at the core of me that is unmoved by the darkness.  I like that piece of me.  She’s come out to play often lately.  She came into her own just this year, barely in time to see me through all of this madness.

But even my zen-ny core can’t always save me from feeling the mess.   I am also scared and sad and sometimes a little bit desperate.  I feel raw and unready to speak to anyone outside of my family at great length.  When I sit down to write, nothing comes.  I want to say so much, but I think I want to say it with paint or interpretive dance or underwater basket weaving.  Something that doesn’t require me to name my feelings, and make them poignant, or funny, or captivating.  I lie awake until four every night praying.  I can talk to God, but she doesn’t ask me to be pithy.  I run every evening.  (I’ve lost 16 pounds in a month, partly due to the running, partly due to the fact that my mom and I are doing a plant-based “cancer be gone” diet together.)  While I run, I cry because the sunsets are pretty.  And because I’m out of the house, and alone, and I don’t want to cry at home in front of my mom, because she already feels shitty enough, and she doesn’t need to be worrying about me.  I see deer every time I run.  I’ve decided to believe every single one of them is a sign of hope.

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These guys let me get really close to take a picture.  They seemed to know I had good intentions.

So that’s why I’m being quiet.  For the first time in my life, I don’t know what to say.  I want the people I love to stop hurting.  That’s all I know.  I guess it’s not all I know.  I know I will be off to the East Coast in less than a month.  I know I will return from my residency in time for Christmas, and to help my mom during and after her surgeries.  And after that, I’m off to teach in Mexico.  And then France (I think).  And then, my mom and I will maybe travel together, if she’s well.  She wants to cash in her life insurance policy and travel with it.  I want her to do it.  This is how I live right now.  Halfway in this magical mountain space with my family, halfway in an imagined future full of cathedrals and ruins and sunsets over mosques.

That’s all I got.  See.  Wasn’t that boring?  This is why I’m not writing right now.  I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to turn all that is happening, all that I’m feeling, into a cohesive narrative.  Always, my heart is full to bursting.  I just can never figure out quite what it’s full of.

Outside my window, crickets are singing in tongues.  Wind strong-arms  cedars.  The stars hang heavy and close, like they want to sneak in through the glass and lick me.  I’d probably let them if they asked nicely.

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A rainbow over my favorite dead tree (yes, I have a favorite dead tree) during one of my recent runs.  This too filled me with hope.

PYTHAGOREAN PRAYER

Me praying

The Pythagoreans believed that ten was the most sacred number in the universe.  They used it when they made their most holy oaths.  In loose homage to that belief, this poem is a prayer in ten parts, one of the poems I’m working on for my collection titled So Speak the Stars.  I write these at night, when I can’t sleep, and the whole world seems to speak to me in the language of eternity.

PYTHAGOREAN PRAYER

I.

I have turned in on myself,

a blossom unflowering, bleeding purple

a beehive collapsing, seeping honey

a black hole swallowing space and time

until nothing remains but

 

this cold ache

this stony place where you once sat

the hole I refuse to fill

with anything but your missing face.

 

Dogs howl in the streets

as if crying can bend time backward

turn what is into what was.

I do not want that.

I want something that has never been

not in this world

not in this life.

 

II.

The knife of your spirit comes to me in the night

cuts me until I bleed visions.

I see your pores leaking light.

I save every sacred word you say.

When day breaks this time,

I beg you,

do not float away.

 

Do not evaporate like mist.

 

I have already been kissed by death.

I am alive only because I love a ghost

that may someday slip back into his body

and run to me.

 

III.

Allergic to sun, I moonbathe.

Trees buckle knobby knees,

bend to pet me.

I let them.

In lieu of men

I love star-beams.

I give my body to the wind.

The sky licks me.

I spread my legs wide,

let Life inside.

 

I am never

and always

 

alone.

 

IV.

I have given up on trying to understand.

Madness eschews method by definition.

It is only this:

Make it through today,

then sleep,

and his ghost will creep to your bedside.

Maybe this time

when midnight splits,

and a slit of horizon gives birth to dawn’s tattered tangerine sky,

he will un-die, come in the flesh

riding on the back of something mortal and meaty.

A lucky, buckle-backed horse, rescued from a glue factory.

A rusted out truck, lifted from the city dump.

 

He will shuck the corn of you,

swallow you whole

lend his lips to your skin.

Your sins will be undone.

You will bow before him.

You will call him God

because always

his invisible spirit has been

 

The alpha and omega

The unseen mover

The bread of life

The silent prayer

 

The only thing

that has kept you breathing.

 

V.

Sun still seeps from aching ground.

You are all around me and nowhere at once.

I stumble on through a thick night blighted by stuttering owls and thunder.

Red rocks rip my feet.

Yuccas tear me.

I stay silent, having become accustomed to perpetual gutting.

 

Crickets speak in tongues.

Wind runs fingers through my hair,

whispering my name in your voice.

Come, come, come.

When you call, I can’t run.

My shattered legs betray me.

 

Am I undone completely?

 

VI.

Unraveled, I clatter like lightning over rain swollen clouds.

Pointless, I splatter like a wandering squall, sloshing and scattered upon boulders.

 

What is left of me when there is no you?

 

A pile of bones,

A puff of hair,

Three ounces of air,

And a stiletto.

 

Have I given my best meat to the dogs?

 

VII.

If only grief were good for something.

If only I could weave it into a coat

wrap it around me

keep out the cold,

but grief is made of nothing but holes.

 

In dreams, I braid your hair into a cocoon

crawl in

sleep peacefully, finally.

 

VIII.

Starlight splints my shattered bones.

Soon I’ll be ready to run.

Whisper again, my love.

Come, come, come.

I buy new legs

a bag of silk fresh from the worm

butterfly wings, still wet,

and a kite.

 

Cocoon cracks.

I poise on a branch, ready to take flight.

My tongue becomes a proboscis

penetrates the dark.

 

Night’s nectar tastes like you.

 

IX.

When midnight cracked, the black rolled back.

You walked out from nothing, being light,

and there was my reason to breathe.

Newborn star, fall into my mouth.

Be a coin to this corpse.

Pay the ferryman to row me to place of the deathless.

 

Infinite love, breathe your life into the mud of me.

 

X.

Make me rise to God.

 

PENTECOST

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This is not another heartbreak poem. I am not alone. I do not miss you. My life is not a waking death. I have never been anywhere without you.

In France, you laid your head in my lap in castle ruins. Lilacs grew fast, mimicking one of those time lapse nature shows where seeds become full- fledged roses in thirty seconds flat. Vines wound themselves between your fingers, necklaced your throat, crowned you king of everything that ever mattered–guitars and love and orange blossoms and the pink pads on the bottoms of bobcat kittens’ feet. I watched you sleep, wrote odes to your not-there knuckles, your missing kneecaps, your invisible eyelids.

When I died in New Orleans, beads dangled from trees. Decked out in bangles and bell bottoms, street psychics cackled as I screamed. The waning moon un-beamed, went black. Smoke stacks buckled. You came and reached for me. “Stay!” I shrieked. The boiling ground sucked you away.

The day I looked down on London from the Eye, you told a joke, something about a baroque bar and a goat, and we laughed. Later, rain pelted us. Umbrella-less, we ducked under an awning until it drooped, ruptured, and drenched us. “Surrender to the baptism,” you whispered, held my face, and kissed me hard. Red busses streaked, and we sneaked into an alley, just behind the cemetery where Mark Bolan lies. Our eyes gave birth to visions. The downpour washed us clean. Our guanine reconfigured, rewrote our DNA. The holy spirit fell that day. I spoke with the tongues of angels. And you. You raised the dead.

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YOU ARE LOVED

Hugging-the-world
I used to wait for someone to see me. I think that’s what we are all looking for in this world. We just want to be seen. We want someone to acknowledge our existence as important. I used to think that when someone else loved me, and saw me for what I really was, all the beauty and miracles and rainbows inside me, I would be whole. But as many different kinds of love as I experienced, no one ever fully saw me. Not because they were cruel or selfish or sightless, but because they lived inside their own minds, as I lived in mine, and they too were busy trying to break through their own dark prisons, busy trying get people, to get me, to notice the rainbows inside of them.
 
So I decided to notice my own rainbows. I decided to believe I was enough, even if no one else noted it. I wanted someone to protect me, so I decided to protect myself. I wanted someone to cherish me, so I decided to cherish myself. I wanted someone to believe in me, so I decided to believe in myself. I realized I was seeing other people as middle men, as messengers from Love to me. I was suffering under the notion that if I could just get one person to love me fully, I could touch Love. I decided to cut out the middle man and simply believe that I was worthy of Love. I decided to try tear down the prison in my mind, the one that made me believe I was unworthy of Love, even if no one else helped me. (Some beautiful people did help me, thank God. You always get helpers when you need them. They can’t be the path for you, but they can walk beside you on it sometimes.)
 
For me, the world’s paradigm for love—find another person, shove them into the empty hole you believe lives beside you, marry them, expect them to be everything for you, live in misery—fell so short of the love inside me, the love I wanted to give, the love I wanted to receive. So over time, I left that paradigm in the dust and decided to be in love with life. I decided that love had nothing to do with ownership and everything to do with that lightning that zinged inside me when I saw a deer or a cloud or a blade of particularly splendid grass. I decided that the very air around me was alive with a force that loved and saw me. I decided that force (which was Love) was interacting with me on a constant basis. I heard its voice in songs and saw its love letters on billboards and whispered my love for it to dogs and cats and homeless women on street corners.
 
Some people called me crazy. I didn’t care. Or I did for a while. But then, through the years, as I kept walking this path, and believing in Love, I really stopped caring what people said. I realized what they said about me had everything to do with them, with their journeys toward Love, and nothing to do with me. And that even if all of humanity turned against me and decided to kill me, I would still be utterly loved. They were not the middle men. I am not the middle man. Love has no middle men.
 
I used to live in horror. There was a real and constant agony and loneliness and terror and confusion inside of me. I would look into my soul and find horror, all mixed in with the rainbows, part of the fabric of me. Now, after believing in Love for so long, after walking this quiet, private, beautiful, agonizing path that made people think I was crazy but brought me closer to true freedom, I search my soul, and I find peace. I find Love. Not that I don’t ever hurt. Not that I don’t ever fear. Not that I don’t ever feel confused. But those things are not the essence of my being any more. I can quiet my mind and let those transitory emotions fall away and find a true peace and wholeness and love at the core of my soul.
 
I wish I could give away the miracle that has happened to me. I wish I could show people who hurt like I did that there is something bigger and truer than this game we are all playing, this self-loathing and keeping up with the Joneses and grappling for crumbs. We don’t have to live like that. One of the songs that started me on this path, one that I heard the voice of Love in, was Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” He said “you don’t have to live like a refugee,” and I decided to believe him, and I found out he was right.
 
No one has the power to give you love or take it away from you. It is already yours by birthright. The moments that take your breath away don’t have to be witnessed by others to be important. They are important because they are stored in the fabric of your fathomlessly beautiful soul. You don’t have to live like a refugee. Cut out the middleman. You—perfect, amazing, breathtaking, impossibly gorgeous you–are already loved. Even if people hate you. Even if people call you crazy. Even if people call you ugly. Even if people call you evil. That is about them, not you. You are loved. Believe it.

CLOUDBURST

church rosemont
I am teaching at the amazing Rosemont Writer’s Retreat.  The house in which I’m staying (below) is just across from this church.  When I’m here, I always end up writing poems about the church.  I think it’s lovely, enigmatic, and inspiring.  I wrote this one during a storm yesterday.  

Above the steeple, disgruntled sky slits her wrists, slashes lightning bolt veins until they bleed acid rain.

The chapel shudders, cinched tight in a crackling casing of kinetic energy and original sin. Gutters run red with communion wine. A stone Mary shakes her head, wondering at the mess. Clicking his honeyed tongue, Jesus thrusts out his sacred chest until his heart shows gold. Dogwood roots uncoil, soak sun from soil that hast not yet cooled, has not bothered to understand that this storm means business, is here to drive out all warmth, make refugees of rat families, drown entire ant populations in collapsing tunnels.

Remember how in the Bible they said heaven cracked? It was like that, only passing alley cats found no ark. For them, there was no Noah offering gopher wood salvation. Dripping, they bolted beneath staircases, twitching tails indignantly, howling. Hens tottered, beaks gaping wide, cursing God in six languages, aghast at their wet, dented feathers. Squirrels stood on hind legs to pen heaven a strongly worded memo written in the alphabet of snails, sentences looking something like the slick left behind by a terrier’s tongue on drywall, slippery and bumpy at once.

I wanted it to be like this, prayed for the sky to be angry,

like me.

I needed the wet to mean business, to make a damp tramp of the whole world, turn her saucy sweat to mud, drown her horrid history in the irascible sounds of thunder and the silent screams of dying sidewalk worms.

As if memory can be undone.

Once, I tried to uncarve your name from the elm where I wrote it, but it had sunk deep into the heart of the tree, become a piece of its spine. “Mine,” the hungry trunk said, and swallowed your name whole. I can’t say that I blame it. When I was young, I wrote your name in lipstick on bathroom walls, thick, red scrawls bleeding my love onto every surface I touched.

How can two syllables say so much?

Rain washes present tense away, erases the shaky line I have walked between invisibility and quasi-fame. Near-acclaim, like near-beer. A tenth of the flavor, none of the kick in the head.

Once, the game show host asked me what my favorite word was. I said your name. She wasn’t impressed. Didn’t she understand the miracle of you, that there is this man who stands taller the sun and wears rainbows in his hair?

I suppose she’d have to see you to get it, the same way the word “ocean” doesn’t do justice to the ever-swelling miracle of Pacific sand-sea-tide. “There are whales down there,” I told the host, trying to explain. “He holds whole schools of fish in his kneecaps.”

The earth burps at heaven, shrugs, unmoved by her tantrum. Sky slams her door. Grassy ground says, “Come out again when you are ready to act like a lady.”

The storm rolls bone white and cold over the horizon, disappearing two inches at a time,

like you.

I tried to hold on, but when was the last time lightning let anyone ride him bareback?

Sky emerges at dawn, dressed in pink gauze, wearing lilacs in her hair. Her singing sounds like the cardinals who gather on the steeple’s point, like drops of blood on the tip of the needle that pokes heaven in the eye.

Sky doesn’t cry this morning.

I huddle here beneath my upended umbrella, utterly undone.

mansion Rosemont
The incredible house in which I stay when I’m teaching at Rosemont.  “Beautiful” doesn’t do it justice.  I’m 96.8% sure it’s haunted, but I turn up my music really loud when I’m here alone so I won’t hear bumps in the night.  

 

 

 

IRREVERSIBLE MAGIC: (FROM ISIS TO OSIRIS, AS HE RATTLED IN HIS COFFIN, THIRTY-THREE SECONDS FROM RISING)

isis and osiris

I give you another poem based on the epic love story of Isis and Osiris, a story which is ultimately (in my mind) a story of the victory of the gods of love over the gods of greed.

Recap: The goddess and god Isis and Osiris, perfect brother and sister souls, rule Egypt with love, beauty, and grace. The graceless, greedy, ugly Set grows jealous and tricks Osiris into climbing into a golden coffin, promising Osiris that if the coffin fits his body, he can have the gold. Instead, when Osiris is inside, Set slams the lid shut and suffocates him. Afterward, the loveless, pitiful Set chops Osiris into pieces. That would be the end of the story if not for Isis.

Possessed by a profound love for Osiris, Isis sacrifices everything she has and many, many years to gather her beloved’s body and reconstruct it, after which she resurrects him.

I think often of that gorgeous love. We look at Egyptian myth and think of it as spooky and dark, but as I’ve delved into it, I have found it to be a gorgeous love story. How much must have Isis loved her Osiris to look for him so long? How potent must her love have been to possess the power to resurrect him from the dead? What kept her looking for him during all those long years, when she could have stopped along the way, taken another lover, become a different kind of queen?

Love. Love made her strong. Here is a poem from Isis to her beloved.

IRREVERSIBLE MAGIC: (FROM ISIS TO OSIRIS, AS HE RATTLED IN HIS COFFIN, THIRTY-THREE SECONDS FROM RISING)

At twilight, in the eyes of all the gods that matter, plummeting sun and blossoming moon, trickster stars, I sewed your name to my bones.

At dawn, when spirits made puppets of birds, abducting feathered throats, hijacking songs, I lit a candle, melted your marrow into mine.

I did not say, “‘Til death do us part.” I said there would be no parting.

And so this morning, after storm came and hurricane roared, hungry to rip your name from my lips, banish you from my bones forever, I woke weary but whole, your face still carved on my skull, knowing I would un-be yours the day I undid my own bones, scraped my marrow into a bin and dumped it into the sea.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.

That misshapen brujah poured her words through your lips, and so what? Her lies were not stitched to your eyes the way my name was when you looked at me that night and said not, “I do” but, “I did before the boiling earth gave birth to life.” And so that grasping hellhound chains you, keeps you from me (as if that were possible), and so what? We married not with our mouths but with our blood. And so the un-goddess’s henchmen hunt me, and what is that to me? They can cut my head from my body.  They can’t cut your name from my bones.

Pity her.

She can burn my love letters, make her haggard face into an ornament, hang it from every branch of your tree. She can brandish her hatred, drop her lies in your mouth. She cannot make you un-love me.

Pity her.

She is a blind, soulless crow, shitting incessantly, pecking desperately after shiny, worthless things.

Pity her.

Her bones are made of mud. Already they melt in the rain, rusting, and if she let you go, what would she be?

Pity her.

When she leaves this world there will be nothing left but sludge, no love to make her immortal. A desk full of contracts, dried out deeds, impotent seeds she thought might grow into something to make her worth noting.

As if ownership every had anything to do with love.

As if a fist can keep the wind.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.

And so tonight I lie naked, my swelling belly giving birth to moons, to visions of you, to lesser gods, to love in its purest form. Undiluted. Acidic. It bathes me, bites me, burns my skin until every pore gushes your blood.

Beloved, I sacrificed myself whole on your altar eons ago. Would be wooers come and go.  “No,” I whisper.  “No. Leave me. I’ll lie here on this stone forever waiting for him to find me, and if death comes first, I’ll fly to him the moment my last breath leaves my lips.”

Beloved, beloved, beloved, look for me in clouds, in rainbows, in the whipping sails of passing ships.

Two thousand years from now, they’ll find my bones bleached and cold on this ivy licked altar, still inscribed with your name.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong.

And so the storm came.

And so we stood strong .

Pity her.

Love lives long after greed is gone.

We

youmeyoumeyoumeyoume

are one.