“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
I begin to count:
fourteen days left.
pull the first knight:
I get nothing done.
they kind of smile,
don’t believe me
but I amounted to nothing
I show them
sweeping my hand over
an obscured history,
really erased but also
no real success
I laugh, undaunted
usually and also kinda
breezy. I like smiling
and they like watching it.
pointing to one sentence
I like watching time.
I’m obsessed with unproducing,
or burning a process as you
watch it unfurl. it’s like
setting the bottom of each trunk
on slow fire and then you
climb to the top of
a pine watching it
engulf you, eviscerate
whatever you were.
I am up by dawn, or close
to it, thinking this is what
true love is doing
and I’ve done this before;
and the deep deep
null of feeling
that I really possess
daily filled with
plotting and idle time,
a rumination of these
my ability to rectify.
something always in my hand.
something always tinctured;
distilling and then
wanting you to see it:
my nullness and
overreaction and courting
that must be
facade or instinct or
mold it into something
better than the ice cold
well I am.
palms open with pleas.
that’s where people fall.
in the snow bank
in the bottom of the frozen
hole trying to help
I think a lot,
I say softly.
we are two inches from the
other and I must admit,
I flutter when brushed.
and I like learning
point to one
as he leans in.
what’s the meaning? he
says thumb pressed firmly
at the bottom of my buttox
til the mark sets in,
not clarifying if he means
the definition or
whatever we are touching.
it was lush, green and wet. a dewy late morning and I was well dressed for the season: face mask, hat, black jacket, black leggings, comfortable bright orange shoes so cars won’t hit me at night. she led the way having been here before which I prefer. not always oppositional– when it comes to other women, I defer. the trees were budding so still a bit sparse but their leaves were coming in bright where they were. no flowers yet but the idea of them drove me outside daily despite the news. the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle always smell the same to me so that I find joy in discovering which is which. as a child, I spent days with my best friend licking the nectar from the honeysuckle that grew along my fence. today let my fingers trace the white flowers and sniff. jasmine. we walked along long beds of clovers and to the side of us, skunk cabbage grew big and juicy glistening with last night’s rain.I always wanted to be an insect. any time I stepped into the woods, I wanted the smallest world immediately. to watch the detritus recycled. to watch the rolly poly roll. to lift the brick and find the worms. the ants carrying leaf or carcass. to be the millipede among them. I always thought like that. instead I sawed the worms in half. but like anything was stopping me from bending down and sliding my tongue along the long leaves right now or like I wasn’t pint sized and shrinking already.
we didn’t go far just far enough to stretch and get some use of ourselves. get out of the house. to take down our masks. to breathe freely in public.
“do you want to stop here?” she asked.
a valley in the middle of trees. I squatted down in the center of a patch of dirt and roots in front of a tiny creek with a little nature made bridge, a fallen log, to cross. remember throwing the jasper in the stream. things I can’t name are always lingering. they are felt like chords rippling from me but felt strongest when being cut one by one. a sudden electric vibration emits as they fall away and I am left holding one end, or rather, letting one end stay suckled to me; my making or the hook in mouth I fell for. I picked up a stick and drew the R big. I made a deal to write it.
it was neat and almost cursive.
it could get rained on and stomped
on, but there was my indent.
and I stated louder.
“I call Lilith first.”
I looked up at my companion. it is not austerity. it is commitment. loyalty is love’s true manifestation. I still have every recitation I’ve ever honored, somewhere. these things stay suckled to me like little violent chords I strum when people disappear. when I’m watching clocks at night, I take my finger and I press. it is not austerity for honor but rather commitment to an end. the pious aren’t lonely, just waiting.
“What does Lilith represent?” she asked me, standing, looking down.
I was most comfortable in mud as a kid. now, I am just trying not to touch my face.
“Her myth precludes that she was the first woman on Earth who rejected Adam as he tried to force her beneath him in missionary. she left to mate with demons in the sky instead.”
(there was more that I said in the chant but it is private the way things are private among friends.)
“Oh yeah. We need her,” she laughed.
we both laughed. we both laughed and I put the twig in my pocket. I still have some of my oldest recitations. shells from my first home. dirt from the catacombs somewhere (in a yellow bowl). got pieces of pieces grown quite lush like well drunk ferns. an oasis in my house I sip at night when the little violent chords get plucked one by one by one. I call them.
My entire life has been informed by the absent space between us; not the physical space but more the distance of my language. The distance of my touch; pressing, firm, direct, too blunt then aloof, across the room. The sound of my tenderness is the sound of my heels tapping on a floor receding in volume. The warmest I’ll get is far away. They’ve memorized the muscles of my back. They’ve memorized my pout and the echo of my cry filling cavern carved by the sound of my heels tapping on a floor retreating. Longing, and the way I succumb to holding, or allowing touch, recrudescent and poxed by them after a period of silence. Tarred by them, marked after a period of respite. A period of cavern and them memorizing the color of my shoulder blades in the sun so I’m tall and olive and taut from tension. Always desperate for the distance. Tall, and wrought with tension.
I am strolling when I see them. I am even sauntering til I see them. I am thinking til I see them then vapid, seeing nothing but a way past. Emptied, but not quite that: automatic. Spurred by instinct. Moved by force. The pervading eyes and I am (smiling) seeing the space close in around me again. Torpid, yet still walking being dragged by shell. I’m a shell. Inside a buzzer goes off telling me to clench my jaw, to tighten my shoulders. I was moving my hips until I saw them. The way there was once twenty feet between us. The buzzer says suck in my waist and walk straight. Don’t fall. Don’t move your hips. I was swaying til I saw them. Ticking from nerves, I looked too gaily upwards. Maybe a pleasant thought crossed me right before I saw them. My most pleasant thoughts are false memories: reverie. Suddenly there was ten feet (I am smiling), then five feet (in reverie), then one foot. Suddenly the ubiquitous hand on my shoulder, on my middle back, my lower back and “you’re too pretty…” dusts my ear. I am still smiling as they trail their fingers further down. A mass. They are all in a huddle. So many of them with their fingers out filling the space between us. I am smiling. They are reaching for me, touching me and
it is most important they tell me I am too pretty to frown.
I love counting, addition. And theorizing. When you take one thing away, how many more do you need to replace to feel safe? This is innumerable. That is, you can’t manage that thought because it’s gaping. I feel prepared for things when I have more of them. I feel safe in math.
I wish I could keep accurate track of myself. I am wearing my armadillo suit now. I left the store tonight and gave a man change: a dollar bill. I always do it at Wawa. They always ask and I always do it. When I am in line, I get a dollar bill out and hold it and hold the coffee in my other hand. It’s not a thing to me. I walked to get decaf knowing it would disgust me to have it but feeling high and untethered, I needed some mission of some sort. Something docile and childish to control myself. I had lost all mission or virtue. No. No no no. Something else: the bellows of the daily news, the sleet, the thirty degree weather. I was staving off the winter blues. When I began to leave the store, I could feel another man closely behind me. He told his comrade not to beg for money after I stuck a dollar in his cup. That was Muslim law, he said. I could tell by his tone that he was going to keep pace with me, or rather, I would keep pace with him.
He followed me for twenty feet and began to whisper slut, I know you can hear me. Which was factually true though, I am promiscuous at times and I had earbuds in and a song playing so I could have drowned him out but I didn’t. He quickly got in front of me too, even though I was in front of him, he made sure to pass me. He chanted slut, you think you’re better than me. Which was factually true though only because of my sheer politeness. Rudeness annoyed me. Although I have screamed at people. I have lost it before. He yelled slut, I know you can hear me and you’re following me. Slut, why are you following me? It was like when my brother used to put his finger close to my face but not touch me, or or follow me throughout the house six inches from me at all times, bored, full of hormones and I would collapse squalling because factually he was right. He wasn’t touching me. All my mother said was: “Alex, don’t touch her!” Whenever I begin with actually, you can say I’m being smarmy.
“Actually, I have music on and I’m trying to listen and you’re following me.”
He turned around, and because he was in front of me, my case weakened.
Before he could say anything, I said, and when I start with a swear, it is because my spine has bubbled into acid and is eroding slowly all the way up.
“Motherfucker, I’m not following you, I’m just walking. You’re the one who keeps talking to me,” I said.
We carried on for a solid minute and I passed him to say:
“See, you are following me.”
Most women won’t do this I learned. Especially at night.
“I can’t even walk without being harassed, I am going to call the police,” he said.
I then crossed the street out of politeness and absorbed my temper which was blaring and sometimes really honest. I felt like I had hurt him differently. Somehow with my charity. I had proven my point anyway. Factually, I could walk really fast, was walking fast, and was going to walk even faster so if he kept it up, I could stop a stranger and present to them a simple math challenge. They would nod and say: “Indeed, based on the direction both parties are walking, I would say he is following you.
My arms will be crossed and I will squint. Sometimes when people squint, you have to watch their mouth. When they cock it to one side, that’s the peacock.
Two other men appeared to be following me that night and when I turned around, one went the other way and one seemed like a fluke. I had stopped many times, engrossed in a thought about the man who called me a slut for fifty feet. That may have been why two men were watching me later. But that’s what danger does. Conceals. It’s 830 pm, I’m alone walking the city of Philadelphia. Danger conceals and lurks. That’s what I do. Lurk. If the two men looked at the note in my phone, it would simply read:
I want to be soft.
And they would lower their arrow.
I hold onto this tracking for a day or two. I can tell this will be the problem; the lapses. It’s unequivocally my fault. My meandering is a making of my own cruel device. Prone to very long bouts of dissociation, it grows legs. That means I go on fugues. That’s what the hospital says: fugue, but real short and if I said it, it would be elongated. I h a v e a d i s s o c i a t i v e d i s o r d e r. So it’s elegant and Virginian, kind of mysterious.
I know how my habits start: strong, detailed, honored like idols whatever routine I set. Sweep the altar. Cover the altar. Marry the altar. Sing to each moon and with fervor. Set the house with rosemary. Line the tub with lavender. Line the door with salt. Don’t let anyone in who doesn’t know you. Don’t call entities by their name. Then suddenly, reverse and harsh and they call it chaos magick. Call entities by their name several times. Throw away all the presents. Remove the altar. Divorce the altar. Burn the altar. Throw the amethyst in the water, take it out, suck the tip. Devout and anciently catholic and strumming naturally along, carried on wind, not food, but deconstructing. All the time, I am devolving and then becoming.Thin and easily excitable, papery. You could cut me in half but like a starfish, I would grow more paper. My ex used to say interesting after everything I said. I hated him because he had a small penis and said interesting after everything I said. Physically. I am a little bony but appear more robust until you hug me. Then I am very small. I am tall but I have this amazing accordion ability to fold over into someone’s arms like a pile of bones falling into a pit. Perfect victim. Fall easily and shatter like glass when someone says my name. It’s why I am keeping journal. To track each failure in scrupulous detail. But I am prone to very long fugues. That will keep me distracted too.
I live on ignition. I’m at the corner of Spruce and 12th in sunglasses, hat, scarf, coat, no gloves, new straw. I haven’t eaten for hours. It’s one pm. I’m on my fifth cup of coffee, I have generally loose plans for today and myself as a whole, and I think: will I always be like this?
But I say it out loud and an old man looks at me. That’s the only interaction I have the entire day with another human.
What am I missing? Generally nothing but I don’t believe it so I go outside every day to check.
I trace my finger along the cream wall without gloves. I never wear gloves. Focus on the way the cracks fade into the pink of the painted flower from the mural on seventh street. Paint the slums. Or the run of the black spray paint and other stains left by time, like water leaked out the pipes and mixed with their tag. I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t see mold often but color drips from internal leakage and weathering, or the times someone peeled it with their fingernail. Or the times the plaster just broke off. I see a lot of breaks in foundation. Cracks. I watch walls for minutes as I walk through the town. I’m always looking at cracks and the changes in texture. Like fissures. Like they are tributaries. I trace my fingers over them. This is when we could touch things. It was my favorite thing to do–touch things.
They are all so bright–teal, green, chartreuse, yellow, carnation, orange, clementine, blue, azure, sapphire, white, eggshell. Painted like slums. They paint slums all the time. I name the colors to keep my brain sharp. Green: verdure. Red: carnise. It actually kind of works that simply. The shades of red have many names. I prefer to name them accurately. It’s a nice trick too; little boxes of adjectives. Blood-red. Crimson. People feel more alive in color. Florid. I touch the light verdant siding of a house with the cardboard box full of diapers in front. There are lawn decorations crowding the stoop: a windmill, a leprechaun, some kind of gnome, a plastic plant. In the window a fat woman with red hair and big red lips sits and holds a sign that says “God Bless This Mess.” Irish.
I like to feel things even if they’re sharp and cold like frost on a metal pipe with white letters, it says “BET.” This is near the fence to someone’s backyard. I care nothing about how they feel about me. I take a picture of it. I am always stopping in front of someone’s house to write a thought down or change the song. If people looked out the window, they’d think I was unusual, maybe hallucinating, creepy. Some people have seen me case things and they call me dexterous and stealthy and know to stay away from me. That’s why I am keeping the journal now: to keep track. Of the several sides of it. I want to be portrayed matter of factly and precise as I always was. Stern. I want only facts. When they read it, I want them to describe both my motives and my findings with complete tip top rightness.
I never wear gloves and I carry my clear cup with the sky blue rubber wrapped around it for my palm to stay cool while I sip hot beverages. Though, I could use the shock of a burn to wake up most times. Everywhere I go, I bring the cup and say please. After everything, I say please and also thank you. This is the most southern thing about me besides how long it takes me to finish a sentence. G e n e r a l l y I c a n t a k e m y t i m e. We call that drawl. Northern men are stunned by it. Like fishing hook. When they turn on me, they say it’s the most affectatious thing about me but I would say that’s my politeness. Watching girls get slapped across their faces for not calling their mother ma’am doesn’t make obedience innate, it makes it probable you’ll repeat the behavior for a lifetime even if you don’t see any more little girls get slapped for not saying ma’am.
I need some reason to be here, out in the world; skeptical but full of energy so I plant stops along the way. I know the baristas at every coffee shop within a one mile radius, not by name but by sight. How they wear their eyeliner (cat wings or “regular”) or how they wear their hat (yes or no and for winter or pleasure) or their tattoos (elbows, arms, shoulders, calves, and what detail of work and if there is color and if I actually like the tattoo or just think they are brave for sitting for that one and if I think they are cute enough to compliment). Wedding rings. I smile. I use exact change. I tip everyone double what the person in front of me tipped. I squint when I’m pretending to think so no one talks to me. I take up the smallest amount of space in corners. If I can’t see the rings, I know they are married by how they shyly turn around, not squarely, not young and seeing my youth, become coy. Like they could reverse time. I am older than I look. I want to say this matter of factly to them but don’t want to engage either. I would use the word slimy out loud to describe the way their lips peel from their teeth when we accidentally meet eyes but I always cough. Take the high road. A loud cough into my sleeve so I can naturally turn and if I don’t turn around again, it’s because I’ve coughed and was forced to change direction. This is when we could still cough in public as a deflection method. I have a way of avoiding people that invites them to look further at me, yes, ok. I have no reason to linger in this store except I am cold and waiting to be less cold.
I touch three dogs today.
Suddenly, I am stopped in an apartment complex, at the edge of the parking lot. These moments can be frightening but I have tools. I have no recollection of stopping and I see children in a distance staring at me so I know I was speaking out loud. In the middle of my path, there is a large stone in front of my feet. This is a good diversion. Rubbing it beneath my sneaker, I appear to be engrossed in this activity. Almost as if that was the point. The sensation of the rolling loosens my hip and I become enthralled in this activity for several more moments because it is such an acrobatic movement. Losing sight of the children and all purpose, I begin to talk out loud freely again. I should note I am also very high on drugs. I have forgotten why I stopped and noticed how dirty my sneakers were but also my hands are brittle and feel like they may snap. This takes precedence though I am alarmed by the tightness of my hips. I catch myself saying “that will be more of a problem later but your hands are a problem now” out loud and then I am awoken by the sound of someone clapping behind me. The children. I consider taking the stone for my altar but ultimately walk away, not kicking it either. It is set there for a reason: anyone feeling scathed or unsafe could pick it up, use it as a weapon. I see these things in my head sometimes. I look behind me towards the direction of the clap to see three families watching me now. The parents are out. I don’t live here. I am a stranger. A small boy on his bike, steadying it with just his torso balance and long legs, holds my attention. He moves the bike back and forth without using his hands. The whites of his eyes shine from here.
It is anyone’s guess what I said to the rock as I mumbled that whole time and truly only they have any idea how long I stood there. My pace quickens but not by much. Pulling a straw out of my pocket, I laugh out loud. Begin to gnaw on it like its jerky. Like its edible. I gnash it. The dentist told me to stop this but self soothing is an insidious mechanism. They see this as well: the jerking movements, me pulling the spit covered straw out and twisting it in my hands as I begin to walk away. So unusual. This is when you could touch things still and put them in your mouth. Still unusual but not disgusting. They see me kick the rock into the bushes suddenly. I continue back towards my house. The little boy squints from a distance. Squinting denotes a range of emotions so you have to pay attention to body language. I can’t hear him but I can imagine it. When they suck their teeth like that, it’s because they thought of it. phh. That’s the peacock. The movement of the rock to the bushes alerted him the rock still existed and where it could be found again safely nestled out of sight from everyone but him
december 13 xxxx
It is refreshing to be out here. Elbows creak as I stretch them, pop. Joints delineate from their socket. I’ve been stuck in stone. Kick my left leg out and drop the brown jasper. Fuck. Just think things today. Brace it between my middle and index finger of my right hand, the more dexterous of the two. Still clutching the seltzer bottle, I gulp down the rest to have more flexibility. More literal wiggle room.
“What would you like me to do today, dark lord Lilith?” I ask in a bit of a British accent, tossing the bottle into the trash.
Check to see I still have the jasper. I have a ceremonial leer and a black lace dress to match, bright orange sneakers that don’t make a sound and a bit of a tall stalk if I don’t have to crouch. When he turns the corner, I turn the corner. Walk steady. Keep about twenty feet between us and I don’t hum out loud. When he turns the corner, I turn the corner. It’s true, I’m a bit avaricious. Also only contented as victor: battled, but crowned. I have a giant red stitch going down the side of my right ribs from where my body caught metal fence. Keep about twenty feet between us.. Turn my headphones down. Keep at least fifteen feet between us and when he stops at the stop sign, I loll and time-tested, it’s true, I can walk for miles.
“I’ll jump in. I get it,” the man who offered me the beer can said.
He was wearing a cat suit of all gold and looked like the man in the blue and silver. They kind of matched. They both shone. I didn’t even realize that someone had turned all the starlights off until then. I looked above him and saw the string there, with the translucent plastic, off so it was only the fire lighting our faces. They both looked like skin of shiny satin you could stroke, like big, manicured cats. When the man in all gold leaned forward, I saw he had the same headband as my old friend. Gold coughed, passed the joint to the Blue who stared at me and whispered,“We’re aliens.”
People have me all wrong. They have their projections about me but they don’t know me. I let a finger trail over his jeans as I moved past him at the crosswalk. They think, this person is abrasive, too Machiavellian, maybe a bit undiscerning. I pause in the middle of the street so two men split and walk around me. I just tell it like it is and swallow what I want. I was around 12th and Chestnut and walking back home after stopping at Capogiro, as was my normal routine at the time.
“I’ll take banana,” I said.
An unkempt young boy; blue eyed and pocked, was working today. His black hair was greasy and he leered. No time for games. I had finished the sorbet long ago and needed to get home. I have drawing to do, I thought but truthfully, the weed had worn off and I was tiring of my playlist.
“I better get home,” I said out loud, standing abruptly and ignoring the group of men in the corner who had been staring at me. Blushed, I coughed, as if I hadn’t spoken the first time. Just a clearing of the throat. Just a narration in my ears to my mother on the phone I clutched tightly.
I love walking. I turn the headphones up. For miles. Someone bought me these noise cancelling headphones recently and now I can block out all of the traffic. I can block out the passing screeches. The city titter. Horns. Groups. I can listen to The Gauntlet. This is the part where you are about to start running. Your lungs build. Chest pounds the bones with inimitable force like bong. If you could hear your pulse in your head, it would sound like tick tick tick. Rapid. Mladic.
I love this song, I thought, closing my eyes and turning my noise cancelling headphones up. I didn’t even feel the guy try to grab my bookbag as I stepped off the curb. I didn’t feel the breeze, just the hot, mid-day sun and one bead of sweat roll from the top of my throat to the bottom. And it’s accompanying electric guitar. My right knee pinched and the temper of the drum, flared, spurring into several taps at once. My pulse to match, I could feel even though I couldn’t hear as I turn my headphones up. The sound rising. Not the man yelling behind me. Not the screech of the tire on the pavement. Not the horn. Not the violent crescendo I wanted but (perhaps)the violent crescendo I deserved.
“The Woman Who Saw Her Own Death” or “The Woman Who Walked for Miles”