I do not write anymore.
I do not write.
Lists fill my mind, purse, journal, which used to contain
The lists remain undone,
my hair shows strands
I would find this beautiful on anyone
but this body,
the one I must live with, and watch
with the contempt of a house cat
who has lost her perch.
Do not worry, this is not a poem. Or an essay or a study
there is nothing scholarly witty or worthy in these lines
– a journal grants great indulgence. “It’s mine,”
as my 4 year old might say.
These are the briefest jots of grief
I simply miss the act
of sitting with
and then dispensing with
thoughts along a digital page.
This is why I do not write.
In the last 2 months
I sold my house.
I searched for another
(43 unlocked doors for sale –
And found myself with a full account
and an empty end point.
And this is why I do not write.
I have this Ex-Husband. Father to three
little children who grew within me
and now can somehow grow
The Ex-Husband (how does a person become an X?) prefers the three
small beings to be split down the middle,
two houses two lives two families…
and I am unsure
if this will not make for more than 6 huge problems:
Identity, Security, Consistency, Home(lessness), Displacement, Confusion –
in the age of the refugee
there are more than a few sorts…
And so I asked
begged bullied pleaded
for the little creatures to have 1 house life family. Avec moi.
“You’re dreaming.” He said.
Well… no one could deny or argue with that.
But… who is not dreaming?
My dreams are image and wisdom
pulled together by invisible synaptic string.
The string becomes a hum:
“the children need a home.
the children need a home, singular
Not in the singular, spectacular manner of fantaisie royale
just a simple home. One home. One room. One bed.
You must give this to them, as a womb outside your body.”
This is why I don’t (can’t) write anymore.
I took an apartment in a neighborhood filled with trees
a block or two from their fairytale school.
It is a flat with windows and a sunrise that
uncurls without impediment
every morning into my high bedroom
a wall of windows open
to the Eastern light.
The apartment is a place to sleep.
Keep my books.
My obscene amount of clothes.
It is a flat to hold my body during rest,
while I tend the children
at their father’s house (their Home)
during the days and evenings.
I have a beautiful flat
I am homeless
I am city-less
with this Ex
with this president
I have a beautiful flat
filled with boxes, neglect
My children have
And lest you think
I am filled with self-pity
I beg the reader to remember:
a woman with three children
has lost her mind
to a complicated math:
three hearts, none
in her possession.
And as long as the three hearts
are beating as they should
it does not matter where her frame resides.
As I write these words
that reach for a meaning
the writer herself cannot grasp
I am text-fighting.
This is the primary manner
of communication, the chosen
both sacred and necessary
and absent utterly
Do you ever catch yourself
in the modern mirror?
Your reflection a recreation
and an editing
like a weak and fearful
in the ether
of the digital world?
There is no love.
This, a cocooning comfort
to the man
whose rage used to grip my thighs
(“fucking” he always called it)
Do I hate him?
I do not know
what hate is.
But I do know
what fucking feels like.
that my soul
and he stared at me
the way they do
they train for an expressiveness –
the grace of wisdom
even if they
when the initials are stripped from the name.
This is what I needed to say:
I am cast
There is no family for this life or body or heart
my children live in a home ringed with spiked wire
and all I do is bleed in the crawling
my torso is mud
vertical lines of blood.
I cross him
every day to reach them
he is a man one does not cross.
I am on the run.
ownership is alien
for a mother with no family
one day I might hold them
and whisper the Gayatri
in their spiraling sleeping ears
hair damp with dreams –
I wide awake as dawn nears.
know a certain sort
of alone-ness –
a single plane
flying high, high, high
The thin plume
widens and opens
like a single wing
against the domed sky –
remembered lifetimes later
as the small upward-turned mouth
Dexter Filkins, divorce, eating disorders, free-form essay, history, imagery, Las Vegas gunman, Mos Def, motherhood, personal history, photography, poem within an essay, poetry, politics, suffering, Trump, Wallace Stevens, war
It is autumn. An unexpected solitude. Children, gone to play on the hills outside my mother’s summer cabin. Friends disappeared, for the most part, along with the marriage. The husband is an X, still so strange to pronounce. He’s been gone for centuries I think. My hands will grow to gnarled claws. Aloneness a relief, but hollow.
When I was young and first introduced to Plato (Formal as a King’s Ball, my gloved hand in his lined ancient paw), I was enthralled to the ring of Gyges and its power. Common questions: ethical limits, temptations of greed, the never ending invitation to live fully, exclusively, in realms of Id and desire. But also: what does it mean to exist unobserved? Then the questions become existential, not ethical, or enters a territory in which the two mix like tangled river beds.
A beautiful married woman becomes an aging divorced mother, wears that ring like a noose.
It is a living poem, for one to observe those who cannot or do not care to return one’s gaze. But as any fairy tale or moral philosopher will tell you, there are no creations given freely; something must die along the way.
This evening I went to a bar. I was loaded down with headphones and Thucydides and Dexter Filkins. My hair is short, no longer white-platinum, my eyes weary from days and days of toddler tears, sleepless nights. I drank vodka scented with lavender.
A birthday party of beautiful Korean women got louder at a nearby table. They had long hair and red lips and seemed like true friends. Next to me sat a couple enclosed in a womb of New Love. The woman’s skin changed by the minute, growing flushed, darker, her lips full. The bartender was out of a film: perfect skin and gold hair with a voice to match. I thought vividly of bedding him without telling him my name.
The once observed is now the observing. The wind blows against my bones. There is no cover, the little deceptions that were the great comfort of marriage, of youth, of babies and beauty and all the fecundity of children, family, husband – gone. There is no comfort. This is an evolving fact, if such a thing exists: a life without comforts can lead to infinite possibilities. Or at least a satisfied eccentricity.
Noisy solitude, nameless yearning.
And then I picked up Dexter Filkins. He knows something of bones, and strength, and pure observation. Fallujah, 2004, black night lit not by stars but artillery, advancing yard by blood-smeared yard. Kabul, before the U.S. invasion. Men and boys murdered, slowly, with showy imprecision, in reluctantly filled stadiums, orphans gathering by the dozens.
Orphans. I thought of this. The plural, that devastating s. Orphans. The heart twists, lurches to the unimaginable void of the word.
There are many types of solitude.
“I do not know which to prefer
The beauty of inflections
or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
or just after.”
– Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
I had just turned 18. My addiction to “thin” had just turned 8. To this day I adore the feel of my hip bones, and the sense of my spine emerging like some amphibious spiked creature when I bend at the waist. Deprivation, for some, is safety. The calm of fleshless limbs: so many of us know it, and only belittle the need without comprehending the benefit. Everyone wants for refuge.
Even if that refuge takes shape as its denial.
Speeding in a black sports car, leather jacket, cigarette permanently attached to bony fingers. The best friend circled her hand around my thigh. “Too much.”
I did not look. At her, at my thin (not enough) exposed leg.
And I said, “I cannot have anything extra. I want my life to be utterly spare. Clean.”
She curled her mouth in that charming, wise way she had, even in elementary school, and even now, all these decades later. “I understand,” she said. “I understand that.”
The sweetness of this brief memory arrives almost daily, finch at a windowsill. The irreplaceable understanding between girls… She still knows my interior, but our lives are lived far apart, territories rarely joined. And I’m still the girl who wants to roam, loveless but somehow safe, all through the world. Untouched.
Understanding. Necessary futility. Filters, mirrors, want, needs real, needs imagined. My husband (X) knew something of me. Didn’t he? Once we danced on a graveyard in Pennsylvania.
There are many types of understanding.
“And we are alive in amazing times
delicate hearts, diabolical minds
Revelations, hatred, love and war.
And more and more and more and more
and more of less than ever before…”
— Mos Def, Life in Marvelous Times
My life is a shadow.
The shadow moves, sometimes, but is for now changeless.
The stagnation will end when the shadow grows weary of itself.
Through brute foreign masculine strength I must ensure that the shadow is not replaced
by another one.
There are children who surround me. They are my own, of my own making, of my own
force – their faces reflect parthenogenetic antecedents that are both royal and primordial. X, in our case, never marked the spot.
They are part of the shadow, the poor small aliens. They are too beautiful in their grief, their anger and dis-connection. Look: they are blind. I weep to see their small fingers explore this new habitat.
Cruel cruel land: uninhabitable for a child’s evolution of dream and waking. “Catch Up” – catch up to our insanity, our anger, our incompetence, demands the warring lord and the deposed queen. Race through heartbreaks that should be slow, and I will catch you as you leap, though there are but two arms now, weak from the lifting.
Our Earth has a sickness, a fever. Only she will know its resolution.
This morning: I am in a park crowded with dogs and sleek running women.
Visitations. Sometimes they linger, and some unnecessary part of me is killed off. Surgical. Often it is so quick I don’t know the pain.
See the slaughters infinite: Duterte, the Rohingya, Boko Haram in North Nigeria, the new (old) right wing power in Germany. The ruin of Syria, elegant Damascus, with its scholars and long boulevards; see the ancient stones bombed to ruin, while the North chokes on toxic air. Once women wore miniskirts in Kabul, and they lit cigarettes after dropping their children at school.
Trump sitting happy rich and stupid on his throne, this ugly spoiled child with a new toy. He brought his crayons to work, made his House White again. His eyes are small as a sunning lizard from the years of counting, hate, and keeping secret score. Power is an Etch-a-Sketch, and he will erase the wisdom and grace of the Black man who lived there once, in a time long, long ago….
A madman sits atop a hotel, aims his gun(s), watches the bodies fall like puppets. He loves the lights on the Strip. American life is a video game, thrilling wildly to itself and numb, all at once.
Stillness. A rare visit now – snow leopard heavy on a branch – it vanishes before the mind can capture it. Imprint. This stillness brings a small gift. A man, just a man, sitting in a clearing. Whittling. Blackbirds overhead. A man. Silver glinting blade, tiny, efficient. Quick hard fingers. I cannot see what lies between hand and knife, patient on a table. I see only, for that flashing moment, this quiet man, silent in his creation. It is an act of discarding, and a bringing forth. Then he is gone.
Something Like Venice
There are remains, even after the mind
is scrubbed raw as an old surgeon’s hands
even after the skilled scalpel fails to find
a remnant, there is something still that stands
behind memory before thought beneath
the past the future the never-always
present too. It is a shade, or a sheath
of wending color, coiled on silver trays
Courtyard – A Moment
Two winters ago. Paris, daily rain for three weeks. Stolen passport, stolen money. But not lost, or scared, not really. It is Paris, after all.
The wait was long, for the passport. The French like to do things properly, and time moves in slower waves there; it is one of the countless reasons my love for the place runs so deep: my true nature is both slothful and awake, qualities that seem unable to intermix in the either-or of the United States. It is possible to be both sleepy and piercing, Godard proved it.
Grey skies that turned pinkish blue every evening, as the lights of the City refracted against the heavy clouds. Headlights were blurred stars, taillights the brilliant tips of embers.
That winter I had been married many years, none of them particularly happy, and as each passed there grew more and more polluted space between us, tiny toxic rivulets carving intricate gulches throughout the landscape of our life. His life. My life. Joined, by then, only by the three iron threads of children. They formed, poor innocents, the dangerous bridge between us, and the bridge served as a mirror in reverse to our growing offspring: the more they grew and thrived, the thinner and more rickety became the passage between us.
Passport, gone. Money, gone. Concern or worry from my lover, gone. (No. Not lover. My husband.) It was his moment to unmask the years of rage, the years of perceived betrayal and impatience, even hatred, that had grown in him like a shadow turned, through its neglect, to something solid and corporeal.
Trip extended for the wife, which created anxiety but of course also joy: Paris! She was trapped in the web of embassies and papers to be filled out; she became friendly with the head of security at the U.S. Embassy, who on the last day told her she was “magnifique,” and gave her a perfectly timed wink. A man at home with three children. A man at a home that didn’t feel like a home, waiting for a woman who didn’t feel like a wife but a series of necessities, unexamined promises, lists gone stale through repetition:
1. Save the vulnerable wife.
2. Save the vulnerable wife.
3. Have sex, never enough.
4. Fight about the children.
5. Fight about the wife’s constant lateness. The disrespect.
6. Fight about money.
7. Fight about money.
8. Just in case (6) and (7) were not covered in full, fight with more vitriol. Over $.
9. Feel guilt because – despite the debt – flowers, jewels, remembrances of any sort
have never been given.Ever.
10. Fight about not going out.
Which the wife now understands was never about
money, but the tedium of the wife. (Knife-pain, shivering lips, still, to write that
Now the wife is not a wife, and knows she has not been for many years. What is a wife anyway? Now the not-wife thinks often of the etymology of husband – from the Old Norse Hus, or house, and bondi, peasant, householder. And of course, Husbondi as Master.
Now the not-wife understands that she hates living in and owning a house, and keeps the days marked on her office wall until she can rent a studio in some ancient part of Paris. And she is certainly not a peasant, either in antecedent or taste. The Master element… this is more complex. Perhaps the now-not-wife was searching for a Master. Someone to lay waste to her appetites, her peripatetic nature, her groundlessness. Perhaps the now-not-wife wanted to slaughter (husbandry) the delicate ether of her half-embodied nature and become a woman, rounded and busy, unafraid to touch the Earth, beast of burden to Hus and Master.
Tame me. Slay me. Put your hands around my neck on Friday; I’ll join the corporate sisterhood on Monday.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
When I was in Paris that year we fought. By text, by email, occasionally by phone. I could feel the messages delivered to me. Not the messages sent through crude technology, but the messages of the invisible companions who have always traveled beside me, within me, and have been silenced to an alternating grief and bemusement at what their charge has (not) been up to all these many many years.
As he typed furiously the words
“You are a selfish bitch.”
“You only think of yourself.”
“I have lost hours of work trying to get a card/money/ID to you”
those Daimons slowly stirred, and their song, inseparable from action, woke me to the loneliness, the nothing-ness, of attempting to shape-shift my shapeless Self into little more than a sweet smelling mare in a well-kept barn.
The Daimons sent me a cruel gift, or was it a test? Both.
They placed my bodily form, tiny and freezing in the early winter twilight, at the very center of the Louvre’s Cour Carree, which still bears stones from its early life as a 12th Century fortress. The light lifted, the courtyard seemed alive from every angle, every height, as tourists took photos in the precious brief glow of the soft sun.
Sound. Light. Cold facades briefly blond-white before the coming darkness. Lovers. Space. So much space, but of the joining kind; I felt held close to the city and its most charming hour.
My phone lit up with many letters that formed just enough words that I finally understood. Despite Daimons and books and poems and travels and children, I am terribly slow to face the realizations handed to me. But that moment, I saw.. I felt.. I knew. I stared at the hard mean words and grew colder, deep in the bone.
I am sure many thoughts drifted about my frightened mind, but mainly they settled like small birds with tired pale wings on slender branches:
It is 1 day after the last day, but there is no last day, only, as the mathematicians say, the Lemniscate, the circular 8, fallen to its side, inescapable infinity.
And on the 1st day, which was 2 days before the final day of 2000,
they made love
almost before they met.
She, the seducer, because he was the 1st man, and then, somehow, the last man,
(marriage is contradiction to the pencil point of infinite regress)
in an abacus of men she thought worthy of capture.
They were 1, and then, logically, painfully, 2.
So she tugged the dangerous curve of
back to the steady road of 1,
and they married.
She, the wizard of increase,
he, the patient accountant,
never quite able to catch
1 became 2,
but the 2 died
at 9 weeks,
and her heart threatened
to make them only 1/2.
1 again became 2, but no! After 6 weeks, the discovery of another was made,
and so 1 became 3, 2 boys of = DNA. But upon their glorious 6 month birthday, they, too, died, and so 3 became 1 once again, but the part of the 1 carrying the 2 began to curl into a 0, so despondent was she.
In the 6th month of the year 2007, 1 (the 2 of them hardly conjoined anymore, except, perhaps, at the wide base) finally became 2 for the 3rd time, and he was born on the 28th day of a late winter month.
18 months slid down, or over, the slipstream of love, marriage, time,
and 1 girl came to them, and then they possessed, for a brief handful of happy years, what every symbol loves: mirrored symmetry.
As in all good fairytales or equations that cannot be solved, even on a scroll that has
and no beginning,
the mirror contained a crack, a flaw, a number overlooked.
She saw it, but did not see how
the mirror would shatter, and turn her mind to bloody ribbons –
she reached through the singularly complete reflection, over and over
and over again,
rather like a tall autistic child counting out her secrets in a corner of a lonely room.
She almost died, her mind decayed, and somehow out of the rotting
less than 0
issued forth 1 child of complete and total perfection. Check. Mate. In 9 months of play. In the sheering of her brain,
the child’s mother had granted every perfect wish:
3 great intelligence
4 the will and charisma of a queen
Love was a flood, swollen and rushing madly from her breast, her heart, the ruin of her brain.
The ruin was patched by:
12 months of therapy
200$ dollars every 60 minutes
1 quieting yellow pill
1 mellowing pink pill
3 astonishing red pills, that plugged the holes, and did a little extra on the side.
1/3 heart/brain surgeon
1/3 contractor (body, soul, brain, no job too small or big)
1/3 drug dealer, and you are lucky if you get a good 1. She did.
It is known, now, that if enough atoms are
then the chain reaction that results makes everything else,
as those who leave like to say,
“too little too late”
The story became a skipping record
and love, which all sadhus say is
does have an expiry date after all.
Mine was Solstice, 2017,
21 days into June,
450 days, give or take a 10 or 2, past the smoldering chain reaction
that even practiced habit cannot bury forever.
5 Children, 3 Living
1 little embryo
4,000 Days of Love
4,001 Days of Fights
You do the math.
The marksman, the poet, and the mapmaker
together saw a sliver of light at dusk. The first
took aim, the second found its name, and the third
on hard ground drew 5 circles, and then made the 5th
a shadow. “I remember every tree,” she said, “from here
to the new there, and back again. Draw it, you will create it.”
The poet kept her silence, feeding the moon to the night
as worlds arranged themselves in her throat.
The young marksman, thin as his own arrow,
his voice like fire at the cold lake’s edge, said:
“We’ll have a treasure hunt by the stream where
Dada once caught a dirty fish.” The poet’s eyes not
seeing but knowing. “X marks the spot.”
LSD with M
I do not remember which came first –
the storm of serotonin or the spring rain
that was first a soft dance and then
a stomping torrent and then a thundering flood.
The hopeful boys were there, trailing after you,
picking up the crumbs, turning scent to secrets.
I think even now, during slow days, fast years,
our faces turned to the West,
those boys remain boys
when they think of you
and your inviting laugh, impossible hair,
wild eyes blue as lupines
in the high mountain sun.
When the flashing joy took hold
and shook us out of the little sense we had
you grabbed my hand, or I grabbed yours,
and we tripped into the rain,
asphalt gleaming like satin ribbon.
When my smallest child in the not too distant future reads Alice in Wonderland, I am not at all sure she will not conflate the White Rabbit with her chronically disorganized and over-scheduled mother.
“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say Hello Goodbye I’m late I’m late I’m late.”
Indeed. My temperament has never been particularly geared toward modern life, or at least the sort that uses clocks. Where others prepare I meander, and usually by the time (that horrid word again, one cannot escape it even in descriptive writing) it is time, I am just beginning to consider what it might mean to actually meet the Buddha on the road or what might happen if Artemis had failed in her slaughter of Acteon or when my children might be old enough to live for 6 months in France after a year in India. Also, of course, what to wear. To the thing that started 20 minutes ago.
This ungrounded tendency of mine has been the almost ruin of friendships, certainly took a few years off my chronically, bizarrely on-time ex-husband’s existence, has caused irritated receptionists, poor innocent souls, to squeeze me in at the last moment, and has made me rue the day, almost every day, I agreed with my ex-husband to move back to Denver, where the problems of traffic are hardly a dream-bound woman’s friend. Invariably when I am in traffic, and this being Denver I am usually behind some huge Trump supporting truck or horrible “save the environment” SUV, I find myself thinking of life in a small village in Southwestern France, or becoming a nomad like the characters in Bolano’s The Savage Detectives. They, I seem to recall, were not bothered by time, except perhaps in an existential way. I dislike rushing but I loathe being forced from my vision states even more; I have yet to find a kink in the universe where these parallel lines might be forced to intersect.
Being late. It is rude, and thoughtless; it’s a habit, perhaps even an addiction (somewhere there must be a fear of not being late); it is presumptuous and arrogant and belongs to a non-existent aristocracy of unequal humans.
Lateness also causes me to rush through experiences that could otherwise be savored, or at least not be crushed under the worry wheel of catch-up and speed.
A few days ago I woke smallest child early from her nap. “We are late!” I cried. “I have to take you to a meeting, we must leave right now.” And so we hurried through mounting afternoon highway traffic while she told me stories about her new imaginary friend and asked endless questions about subjects I am sure were utterly fascinating save the fact I cannot remember them. I was too late.
Clutching the cheery little creature to my chest, I began a familiar race from car to building, where I was sure (I am always sure) I was going to be yelled at or dismissed or given the final lecture that would once and for all turn my behavior around forever. I’m positive my eyes were as huge as a wild pig.
“Look Mama!! A tree. A big tree.” Somehow through the self-absorbed frantic chatter of my own useless mind the tiny child’s voice pierced and quieted me, and I came to a sudden stop.
There in front of us, it is true, was a tree. And it was indeed a large tree. I looked at her. She was gazing at it with curiosity and amusement, as if this tree were the one tree for which she had been searching her entire short life. Which, of course, it was. Because she searches for the new. Or, to be more precise, everything is the New to her, and therefore worthy of her curiosity and fearless amusement.
And so, in the act of noticing, we were both momentarily absorbed. We were not small child and frantic mama. We were the gaze that unites with its object, and therefore for a brief second, we were the object, which of course could have been anything, and we could have been anyone. I felt myself dissipate. There was the seeing. Just seeing. It was all we had to do.