MAKE ME

war paint

When I’m not telling people

I am the least competitive person you’ll meet

I shouldn’t have moved to America, I am an anathema

I am nevertheless, competing with myself

to survive

the breakage, subtle and merciless of my whole

appears to be my greatest talent

should they look me up in the dictionary

I would stare out bleakly at Consequences in Fetus of Nicotine In-Utero

it began before words were formed, a slow

incompleteness quite unlike the robust energies

of my relatives

a thin, wan girl, slow to learn, I made up for it by being sporty

denying the gnawing, gnarling pain in my stomach

was more than a night terror

swimming for medals was competitive after all but

didn’t feel so when, head under water, the cheers sounded

like waves breaking on distant shores, easy to forget

noxious rinse of chlorine in verruca filled inner-city

swimming pool where small measure of fame could be found

among cast-off plasters.

Beneath water I felt powerful, unmolested, not burdened

by sandwich of pain in my gut or how

no-one for me sitting among keening spectators

when I came up for air.

Since then, fantasy has been my succor, I can’t deny it

perhaps I have lived half in petri-dish and tree house

with ‘here be dragons’ written on its door.

When teachers told me; I wasn’t behaving like a good girl

I said ‘make me‘ and spent the afternoon kicking muddy

kid shoes against linoleum hallways

what do they think we imagine as, willful, disobedient, opinionated

we are shunted from our positions as ‘well behaved’ to the

shrine of sinners lost in plastic corridors?

We learn the company of other Reparates

is oddly comforting, no-one to remind us we cannot

make sense of numbers and still struggle with spelling

soon I gave up trying for A’s

locking lips with strange boys who wanted my best friends

instead of this disinterested girl

briefly kissing felt like swimming underwater

but coming up for air was much harder.

I am teleported now into a body and time I never imagined

surviving this long or sitting at this table, watching birds

battle their pecking order outside in a hostile green world

I rarely visit

it’s not reluctance or shyness, they have grown comfortable with

the shifting skin of me

something that happens when you begin to leach

that essence of youth and vigor

realizing, if you can make it out of bed today

you’re doing better than the day before.

I hear in my head, the scold of my mother

who believed I gave myself this illness

and much as they’ve told me that’s madness

I am often found returning to those words

as if they have some clammy power over me

which of course, they do.

I know I was well and then I was not

just like you can remember the day you lost your virginity

or survived a car accident or inherited a country cottage

it’s a day when colors and sounds change

in this case, terror walked into my throat

sucking on me, whispered; bitch, this is your new normal.

Fight as I may, these years have unfolded like those

paper flowers I used to buy in joke stores

put them in water and watch them bloom

only long enough before turning to ink and

wet tree pulp

it’s a form of flaying when strangers are kinder than

those you expect

angry with yourself for not learning sooner

expectation leads to disappointment.

This could be why I didn’t

enter many races or attempt to claw my way to the top (of what?)

better to stay low and wait it out until

you can have your turn

only sometimes, waiting uses up all the time you have left

then it’s almost too late and you have to change

everything.

Nowadays I compete with myself

can I cure the beast that’s become constant companion?

Will it matter if I do?

What happens afterward?

Fear is mauve and dives and swoops like unmated Mockingbird

I hear the kitchen clock and fast thud of my tired heart

Somewhere, I’m still the girl in the treehouse who says ‘make me’

perhaps one day it won’t be disappointment but

something lovely, I can only hope

though my body likes to punch me in the gut

as I fall asleep and try to dream

thump, thump, thump, my mother’s voice

this was something you did wrong

thump, thump, thump, my own voice

no it wasn’t this was an explosion taking the long way around

even getting half way there would be some kind

of accomplishment

which is why I always said it’s not about winning

but making the effort

to which I was told, that’s pretty negative foreign-born-girl.

Where’s your sense of spunk? I think I lost it somewhere between

throwing up for 4 months on end and the doctors saying

maybe it’s incurable…. ho ho ho …. you see

I’m not from here, I don’t belong

though where I came from I hardly know anymore

so I will forge ahead, outcast or survivor, pick a damn straw

with every passing year I realize

I can’t win, I but I will fight

MAKE ME I whisper to myself

bloody well try to MAKE ME stop.

 

We cried a long time ago. We don’t cry anymore.

AR-180119488

A warbling, holding, green glass pain

Like joined hands make paper cut

Invisible like girl in crowd, falls

Deep as ink without light

Stinging with clamoring cymbal

Tears almost bare themselves as first night lovers, tremorous

Retreat beyond the naked streets

It is not brutal gnashing strength

But soft lipped resignation

And a little elipsing hope

For bare faced ceasement

Lain like prayers and rushes and thrown flowers wetting paving stones

No ceremony. Only, black cars devoid of dust

A trail without salt. They bent lower to seek. Not yet.

It’s hard to say it. The wind chokes words. Before.

We walk on. Omphalos in fatigued lament

Toward reprieve, illuminate in muted tempest.

The fear of others, becomes the dismissal

Long before now

there was a time I did not write

could not write, would not write

I danced, I moved, I climbed, I painted

with our heads together like arrows, friends and I

toy rabbits, ladybugs, a glow in the dark star

would entertain ourselves with crayons and pastels

plasticine and Lego, wooden blocks, old socks, foil and glue

I built fortresses in the woods near my grandmothers

house where she looked out occasionally, a glass in one hand

erected camps in trees fallen in the storms

or beneath protesting furniture that wasn’t meant to be moved

turning into a gypsy tent, bedding, blankets, string

anything the imagination could seize and shake out into magic

I did not write

even then I felt

words were just words

so glib and easy

words like; ‘have a good birthday’ from

people staying absent

words like; ‘you know I care’ from

people not caring

I couldn’t spell, so I didn’t reply

I didn’t enunciate, so I didn’t call them back

the phone would ring in the distance, mournfully

if it got too loud, I turned the music up

all this by the age of ten

I was free of words, they were not my language

a song and the movement it encouraged was

an elongation of expression and urges

and later, a dance club, even at 14, seemed safer

than three sheets of echoing, empty paper

rubbing shoulders with strangers who sought like me

to raise their arms through the strobe lights in search

of something missing

not seeking drugs or sex but the fury and beauty

of dancing away their sadness

I didn’t know it then

acting upon instinct

the instinct to run, when you cry

dance when you want to jump

push away those who clamor for attention

stop feeling the pain you do, every single day

whilst some of my friends who were depressed

listened to The Cure and other sorrowful LPs

I scorned anything sad and

stepped into the light of disco, rock, electronica

in time I found there were other things you could do

to turn off the hurt

and I did them ALL, every damn one

There is an honesty to admitting to yourself

I don’t know what’s been happening, but I’m in pain

everything I should rely upon has gone or never been

I am alone and I am scared, I haven’t yet grown up

nobody will help me so I have to help myself but

I don’t know how

I learned it felt good to lie in bed with someone

even if they were nothing more than warmth and key strokes

I learned it felt good to give rather than receive

because you protected those parts of you, rarely revealed or wanted

I learned drugs were not a menace but a street form

of antidepressant for kids who couldn’t tell their hurt

didn’t know where to begin or how to heal the

emptiness and anger growing in their bones

I learned if you are crushed badly enough, time and again

you grow a skin of fur and you become a feral creature

not human anymore

but living for the night, pulse of music playing

brief flicker of excitement, when you forget being yourself and all that comes with that

the disappointment, the heartache, the rejection

you’re just a shivering wretch, gaining admittance into forbidden light

you’re just a body that can move and shake and vibrate

beneath the waves as they engulf the roar and scream

every morning I swam 25 laps

every night I ran in heels for the bus

every stroke of midnight I transformed into anyone but myself

it felt good, it felt more real than trying to

inherit the mantle of despair and unwanted closing walls

I climbed out and didn’t go back

I never wrote down a word

not even when I received

another letter stating things that were never real

words were lies, words were lies

I’ve always been drawn to truth

Somewhere in those years, something changed

maybe you get lazy, maybe you forget your way

or the pain becomes something you think is who you are

or the hurt is a coat you wear without knowing you do

I stopped swimming in the mornings

I quit dancing in the evenings

in my blood lay a virus of dormancy and despair

it grew and grew like a wild flower teasing out of concrete

until I’d forgotten my way through the elaborate maze

I was just another lab rat, waiting to live their life, turn to ash and regret

Now the irony is, I’m writing all the time

I write how I feel, I write how you feel, I write out

the hollow cries kicking from inside out

but words are fickle, they are not your friend

words convey what you mean, and equally they contradict

words don’t get things done

words are on pages, often unread

If it would work I’d burn my thoughts

watch them light up the night on the 5th of November

put on my running shoes

go to you

take you by the shoulders and shake

all my words out of your head

run with you down the highway

find the place we can be in my mind

get on the dance floor, pull you with me

try another communication

another way of getting through

anything but the languages that leave us empty

mistrustful, doubtful, not waiting for more

we’ve both been there before

at the end of a letter

shaking our heads

for all that was done, versus said

is often quite the opposite

you tell me, if I knew you, I would not like

the person I came to know

but you are wrong, so very wrong

it is in the imperfect there is wonder

I’m used to people backing off, going cold, erecting walls

it’s what I experienced every day

the fear of others, becomes the dismissal

there is another way

let me show you

but not like this

let me show you

in between words

with every gesture of my soul

give me this

Erasure

Unrecoverable

As you may imagine

She was known as the girl with the waist length hair

The girl without siblings

The girl with turquoise eyes

She had a 23 inch waist

Those were the paper cut emblems of her life

She was vain

Though not empty headed

Her vanity was a poor replacement

Covering up loneliness and uncertainty

Perhaps if she’d had children, the size of her waist

Would have seemed so trivial

But she stayed in that sticky fingered past, sucking on old boiled candy

Where teenagers plume and forage

Because she found no other purchase

And that was sad and pathetic and lost and theatrical

And it was understandable

To those who like her

Watching themselves through glass

Like half packed suitcases

No hope chest

Using the acutrements to fill empiness

With

Costumes and colors and measurements

Because what her true circumference was

She had no idea

And how people could love her for more

Than the length of her hair

Or her green eyes

Or the width of her waist

She couldn’t fathom

Having only been

Nothing

Then no one

Then an object

People commented on

And touched her hair

And fit their envy around her waist

And smiled into her big eyes

And then

That attention gave her meaning

Shallow and superficial

Like eating too many chocolates

And spurring the taste

Swearing never

To gorge again

But she would

When the obscurity of being alone grew too much

She’d wear a fine dress

Put on eyeliner and lipstick and heels

And suddenly everyone saw her

And she was not a girl in the shadows

Waiting for her mom to come home

Or anyone

This

Is

The

Reason

For

Vanity

It’s not always as simple and egocentric as

You may imagine

Thin girl

couples-sleeping-1

The afternoon

like used rubber

lost in roll

one in pleasure

the other cold and full

beneath their day clothes

thrown off like wings

she looked nude like a thinner version of herself

lost in angles and jutting hip bones

a little skinnier than his wont

but you know what they say about skinny women?

you can put them on top of your pencil and rotate

sharpening to a point and using until blunt

her smell is on his fingers and in his hair

his mouth aches from kissing her between her legs

she’s showering with the door open

the tiny bones in her spine popping

as she leans into the heat

the steam fogging up frosted windows

he inhales her and his fifth cigarette

simultaneously

it is this

the indistinct

stillness of afterward

sought most of all

when his body is sate and slick with her dew

nothing, not anything, matters

she

will ask for him again with her eyes even after

she has washed him off

it’s the contradiction of

passion

to re-dress only to have them torn off

he traces with his little finger

a selfishness that tells the rest of the world

to go to hell

languidly replaying how

her thin body rose and fell above him

weightless

the sound of her pleasure

pressed against his neck

like vibrations from a train

speeding into station with

oiled momentum

 

Find me in cinder

777bbca7e13ef8f0b821cfb0c2ee3e63Press tighter

the ribbon too loose

the welt too shallow

press tighter

block out light

kneeling in our find

discovering strange arms

do not right the wrong

of absence

you lace your shoes all the way to the top hook

standing by the gutter watching imagination speed past

grab a cab, take a train, hail a bus

erase the deep scratch

take yourself as far as you are

find me

find me in cinder

I’m sweeping up my make-believe

ashes mark the brand with loving hand

I left myself on a train somewhere

heading past the blur

trees convening into walls and thorns

thorns

shaping my need

pricked back to defeat

raise your hands in prayer

watch them fall leaden

like pennies who deny wish to the carp who

listless grows fat on his doom

once you reach the bridge’s middle you will know

the circumference of your blank page

I am here split into footsteps

wet with their hasten

I am here giving birth to your disregard

bloodied in veined marble

it was always the fault of mine own flaw

I don’t have a skin like you do

this girl rends in spinning glass

pretending she is well enough

for this loud world

we who bruise on emotion

catch the lasting arrow

so fine they go, the ones who can

shine themselves well

boarding future with jagged step

watch them marvel at themselves

for six weeks and six years and six centuries

I buried feeling in soft velvet boxes

whispering to the fox

we who are timid

cannot stand the jolt

we who are fractured

do not wear pain for long

before relinquishing fight

deep in the rosebud

where the fold has yet to

come undone

they told her she was wasting her time

trying to be normal

give it up

you speak in imperfect step

from passive to shout and back again

you do not understand your tense or your verb

you were rejected by the snotty folk

who pinch their noses as they bustle past

in formula

and alacrity

bet you know all your grammatical rules like

a foreign language whilst

I paint in saline and muzzled howl

save this last lesson

when you shout

ensure the fields are on fire

and the birds indigo sky in their fright

you will never know what it is like to be

savaged in kind

is that the sound of my neck breaking?

over the ache?

reaching one last time

growing old in perpetuity like

light staying too long in the same place

turns listless and if you listen carefully

with young ears you can

hear the rustle of her gown

bitter with the after glow of grind

I know I’m wasting everything

except this last buried purse

of everything

if I let go now

the seeds will spill

out of me

and grow taller

than I ever

even on tiptoe

could be

Within the woods

thYou lost your grip on reality around the same time

my own dalliance with death disturbed the rafters

my shoulders of a man, yours of a sparrow

we danced around amber whiskey bottles

setting fire to tarmac

lifting our skirts before silver ash enveloped us

but maybe I didn’t clean my feet well enough

you began to tremble in the morning

and I found I could not move

it was as if a deer had been startled

standing quite still in dried grass

he was frozen in situ

for a time I wanted to break out

resume merriment and three penny carnival

until the feeling of falling inside

behind the bones of your face

where all emotion blanches and traces

secrets and lies

became my norm

I did not know anymore

how to stir cocktails of polite acquaintance

or make small talk trace like sleepy snails

I did not know anymore

what became of my social graces

pinned and folded beneath me like taffeta

it gave me comfort to

lose my art of conversation

the yawning maw of fraternization

I listened to words and they did not

beckon me come closer

I felt as strange as the outdoor moth

who half wishes he did not

slap against warm glass trying to

eat the light

for it is not you he seeks

but the burn and blitz of some fantastic

singeing his wings in tattoo

and I too

had always yearned for that feeling

never discovered among the feeding troughs

of social intercourse

and once or twice I left

a full and heaving party

to lift my legs for a stranger in

cramped confine

because the hard bang and knock of his

emptying wood was

more honest than all the winks and nods

whispering behind my back

words

I no longer needed to use

only three ever necessary

I love you

though now you are smudged out

by burn of cinders staining toes

gone as cold as foggy morning

selecting mute I retraced my arc

pushed myself back beneath my bones

within the temple

within the woods

where the deer finally moved

from her camouflage and

sprinted light as powder

into converging dark

Clasp

freja-beha-erichsen-tomek-szczukiecki-for-interview-magazine-designscenenet-03I miss intimacy

not the kind that comes with notches

but holding back her hair

spooning her smiles

into my lap

she claims my whole in little hands

where I see the flush of cheekbone

eclipsing against wool

if leaves fall outside we do not

clear them from dry grass

fervently my kisses

linger beyond chiming hour

expectation demanding we

still our rapture for mundane

wash dishes

scour chores

instead lying in each others arms

our low fire keeping at bay

worldly cares

nothing but this exists

surrounded by shadows we

persist in our linkage

pulling faces at the chill

edging our clasp for one another

as two children lost in forest may

share timbered warmth

I miss her plum mouth

the way she reserves the longest

embrace for passover darkness

how her body surges like

a water wheel against my slow pull

as if I am garnering from our union

the best of us both

encased in fire, disputing chill

without her I am just a person

tredding tightrope

touching concrete and fabrication

like a carpenter, void of wood

should raise his empty hands

beseeching listening deity

for the weight of

his craft

she became the life preserve

and I the blinking shell of light

guiding her to familiar shore

without each other

we are simply icebergs

seeking dissolution

in barren stretch of ocean