Inside, the place was lit with candles and there were a few mingling around the snack table in the kitchen but I could see past that everyone was out back.
“Here,” my friend handed me a joint. “It’s got lavender in it.”
“Perfect. I could use the relaxation.”
“You have beautiful eyes,” he said.
I did not tell him I was already stoned nor that I don’t do well in crowds but merely sucked the paper and felt it burn in my throat.
“Thank you,” I cough. “Take me to the backyard.”
I hand it back. We walk past the crowd and I realize his friend and the angel are behind me, shuffling and I hear her murmur but can’t make out what she said.
“First,” he says. “Pardon me, mate.”
I did not realize at first he had an Australian accent which made it more interesting.
“Greetings,” I say to the man he pushed aside.
I am seven inches taller than I am, towering over the women in the room.
“You have to wear a name tag,” he hands me a black sharpie.
“I don’t have to do anything, mate,” I say mimicking his accent.
“Haha,” he squints at me. “True. Where are you from?”
“The night.”

Outside, it was cooler and I was relieved to be out there as the weed was getting to me. The crowd was getting to me too.
“Unseasonably warm, yeah?” Sansom was blathering.
I found it hard to focus and kept nodding, clutching the seltzer in my hands. He touched my hand lightly admiring my long, red acrylics and it didn’t bother me though I hissed.
“What’s your name?” he yelled over the music.
It was an accordion synthesizer. There had been no lyrics since I had been standing here which felt like an hour but I was certain only fifteen minutes had passed. My eyes darted around the room. One index nail pointing to the name tag.
“Isn’t that part of the game? We don’t tell anyone?”
Everyone was wearing a mask of some sort. The angel had one of those ones you held the whole time with big white feathers at the top and pearls lining the edges. All white.
“How did you get here?” Sansom asked.
“I walked, mate.”
“Haha, I mean, like, who invited you?”
“You did.”
I touched his arm and he forgot the rest.

“Excuse me.”
We should match.
My cape hit a woman’s mini skirt as I balanced myself on my right foot, baring down and feeling the shock through my knee; a sudden current of flame. Twenty five blocks in and in closed toed black velvet knee highs to boot. Letting a little ssssts escape my mouth,I stood up straight so as not to aggravate my thigh any more, draw attention, centering my torso and with grace (and because I didn’t want to touch anyone), I paused. I faced the women and then pulled my  left heel straight out of the crack.
“Excuse me,” I said again to the Barbie in all pink sequins.
Not jealous but dazed, amazed at her attention to detail; her hair pulled back, tense. I remember what that felt like as a kid; so tight the creases of your forehead hurt. Maybe she’s a mermaid. She had a turquoise shell at the top of her head, pinned. Neat. Blowing her cigarette my way. Her nails long, clear with just the tips colored silver and sparkling. Blue eyes. She winked at me. I nodded, dizzy for the moment and back in time.
We should match.
“Excuse me,” I repeated, turning to the rest of the crowd.
“Excuse me,” I barrelled
“Excuse me.”
Politeness was the indelible torch I carried. Way was made and things broke at the green light. The crowd was just out front of the building for a smoke. The clacking of my  heels became louder as I moved away from the speakers, the crowd, a blaring of a horn somewhere behind me. Some blue eyes. My knees on fire.
We should all match.
“We should all match,” I say out loud.
I picked up the edge of my cape and tossed it over my shoulder so it hit him as I passed. Underneath my hood, I smile but I don’t turn around and I don’t reach out.  Thirty blocks in and counting. Heels clacking. Knees on fire: resolute and willful.

I could hear their caroling before I even arrived, at least ten feet from the door; the chorus of guffaws and low fi. That’s how I found them.  Walking up to the door with nothing in my hand save the same red and white straw I’d been gnawing on for days, covered in my saliva, anyone who touched it would be dead. My key around my neck attached to one gold chain.
“Hi there.”
A group of two men and one woman turned towards me. The men were both pirates, I supposed. They had patches on their eyes and the woman looked like an angel in all white with wings and a little white halo, gold star streamers dangling down.
“Hi there,” the man nearest me said leaning on the railing. Holding a beer can in his hand, he gestured to blue cooler at the top of the stoop. “Want one?”“No, thank you.”
“We have other party favors,” his companion interjected.

They were  both wearing black and white striped shirts and black palazzo plants and a red kerchief so they matched. Leaning on opposite railings, they looked similar. Both had sandy brown hair though one was a little taller than the other. I could only see the one on the right’s name tag: Samson. She was on the ground, leaning on the bottom part closest to the window. From my periphery, I could see her arms were crossed and her hair was long and dark. I could also see a little orange pumpkin light glowing from inside.
“Oh yeah?”I kept my focus on Sansom.
A tingle went through my right arm as she eyed me up and down but didn’t say anything. I didn’t look at her once.
“Would you like to come in and see?” the taller man  on the left said. The one who offered me the beer.
“Yes,” I smiled real big showing my fangs. “I would love that.”

you? you will know me by
the devil etched squarely on
my thigh and my ascetic
right arm, twitching
for something to grab,
my left nail picking
at the scripture
In God We Trust,
circling a web on
my inner elbow
now red
from the plucking.
my nails are unpainted,
filth-tipped and broken.

my clavicle is jutting,
as are my eyelids,
sharp  and
neck perched, gazing upwards
and down at you,
the long legs beaded with sweat,
tongue lolling,
panting,
you found me exhausted
and

watching it drip
from my lips
like little fits of rave
and fury; my concern
not being water,
or the saliva
leaking to my bottom lip
but posterity,
warning.

I clear my throat again.
excuse me.

you invite me in.

“the women”

 

My entire life has been informed by the absent space between us; not the physical space but more the way I succumb desperate to the craving for distance. Strolling, vapid seeing nothing but a way past. The pervading eyes and I am (smiling) seeing the space close in around me.  I’m a shell. Inside a buzzer goes off to clench my jaw, to tighten my shoulders. The way there was once twenty feet between us. To suck in my waist and to walk straight, don’t fall but I am picturing something or just ticking like that. The way you tic from nerves and I looked too gaily upwards. Maybe a pleasant thought crossed me. Suddenly there was ten feet (I am smiling), then five, then one foot and then a ubiquitous hand on my shoulder, on my middle back, my lower back and “you’re too pretty …” falls from the sky.  (I am still smiling) and the way they trail their fingers further down. But in a huddle. They are all in a huddle. So many of them. 

It is important they tell me I am too pretty to frown.
“the men”

we needed a spark.
I grin full tooth to
show you my new
porcelain canines.

“We are obsessed with exposure, and prefer to take the initiative, to expose ourselves.”

 

–Louise Gluck

 

I am  walking behind three hooded women in some sort of cave. they are carrying torches so all I can see are the outlines of their bodies and a foot ahead of them. I am not looking ahead of them. I am staring at the back of the woman on the left’s cloak when she turns around. they are all in black robes. they all look the same from behind. she says, you’re lucky, you know. but I couldn’t say anything. physically, I couldn’t move my mouth. the cavern opened to a well. the three women parted and walked around it but I couldn’t see them anymore. I walked closer to it. 

I wake up. I don’t know what time. I turn to the nightstand for my phone when I see her at the foot of my bed. cloaked, she is sitting on the floor, kind of leaning to the side. comfortable like she’s been there for a while and her eyes are green though I know it’s her. when she smiles, I know it’s her. she says

does she kill for you? does she kill for you? kind of hisses it. I can see the corner of her lifted aristocratic brow and her lips are painted a flame red. then she begins to stand.  pressing her arms into the mattress, I feel the weight of the bed move downward. I am not terrified but paralyzed. I can’t say anything. I remember feeling like I couldn’t say anything or move and in her full stance, she was much taller than I remembered. 

“Artemis”

 

from a young age, I cherished quiet. I cherished secret games. the color game I played a lot. I would spend hours in my room alone. as long as I spent outside with friends, I spent alone.  it was soothing, the deprivation. I was often immured in noise or tension so sometimes I  would place my head face first into the pillow and begin to see little colors form everywhere.  squeeze my eyes real tight to see the colors pop and change shape. I could do this for a while, often hiding under the covers to do it. I would pull my eyelids shut or I would stick my face into the bed hard and my retinas would burst like a kaleidoscope. depending on the lighting of the room, depended on the colors you’d see. if you shut your eyes and stare up at the sun, you’d see a burst of red. or if you were under water sometimes it bled: a green spot that slowly spread like a spill on a paper towel. I couldn’t explain the pleasure or the phenomenon to anyone, I just enjoyed the visions it produced without understanding why sometimes I saw orange and sometimes I only got  black static like a tv was out.   it was my secret eye game. a solo activity i did in my room or when I was swimming privately away from my friends. playing with the sun, playing with the shallow end. resting on my daybed.

however, I’m impressionable and one time I saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries where a couple was listening to a ghost through a pillow and then the wife was possessed. or she floated up to the ceiling maybe even without being possessed. I think she was possessed but for dramatization they made her float.  the beginning music of Unsolved Mysteries scared me enough so that every time I hear it still, I wince. it was the rejection of closure that the series provided. these madmen and mad paranormals are still here.  for years after that particular episode, I had a hard time laying down flat and listening to the pillow. a hard time laying down having to sometimes sit up suddenly.  listening to the buzz that reverberated from each window from the telephone wire outside, I swore I could hear them.  I opened my eyes to look at the closet and felt the closet was responsible. a woman lived in my closet and came out at night to mate with me. I didn’t tell anyone for fear they would disown me for the pleasure I got at six from her sex. 

she was not a color. she was a force. but when I closed my eyes, I felt yellow. 

 

“the color game”

I am thinking of culpability
as it relates to
feelings towards me.
I am thinking
you’re thinking
what’s the probability
I still hold grudges and
what’s the likelihood
I save a thing that any
man has given or said to
me, but we also have to examine
formula so you
reverse and see the way

 

I move at night first.
foremost, you have to
ask yourself whether my stasis
is truth or lie, and if all
perpetrators love getting
caught what does that mean for
us? and starting to feel myself
dissolve into the walls,
I become
first so large I cannot be unseen,
and then with a snap of
my fingers, a panel
blending in like camouflage
with the cracks along my walks.
I could not stop myself
from seeking; even in
chill, I could go from one
end of town
to the other.
like a slow exhale.

when the city closed the
streets for the pope,
I walked from Frankford and
Allegheny to 30th and Market,
having also biked it first.
even though we lacked the
snow capped hills,
something about spending an
entire two months
watching for black ice and cars
even at red lights,
hearing them skid,
thrilled like the slipping
over jagged rocks.
and being watched daily
by a nemesis and every man in this
town really made it feel much
more weighted
and at such a shifting
ponderance. there were
glades of icicles
to wade through,
my hamstrings so strong
towards the end of
February, my fingers
like wrinkled rulers
measuring the space
between neighbors,
the circumference of
baseball sized holes in
windows, the sting of
locked knobs,
and

crippled by the straws
I clutched ungloved.

 

“February/February/July”

 

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