Sometimes Depression Hits her like A freight train It's her own fault She lies on the Tracks Waiting for The force Surrendering To the pain Risking Everything for A chance at Heaven.
I have two good legsI hardly notice them I love my husband I always want more from him I adore my kids Sometimes I don't like them They are the only reason I know for sure I matter Sometimes I get sick But I am strong And smart and beautiful And insecure I am wasted space A tangled mess of power Pushing without organization Working without focus Deficient of attention Pulling knots tighter Not looser I am angry And I am grateful Blessings Can be curses Hope can do nothing If we don't lean upon it We are trapped Between narrow perspectives Like a tiny ant Searching for sustenance In the middle of a football field Where all directions look the same And he runs Away from the food Away from the others Because he doesn't know. He doesn't know. I don't know either.
An excerpt from the novel I started last year during NaNoWriMo that I'm just now getting around to editing. Follow the blog for more updates on my work in progress. Gloria stands up with a dramatic flourish, touching her belly. “Ralph and I are having a baby.”
I drop my fork and stifle a bellow. “Are you joking?”
“Why would I joke about that?”
“Because you don’t want kids. You don't even like children.”
My sister sits back down, staring at me with a familiar hatred. It's the same look Jerry's wife gave me. I cannot hold her gaze and I cannot look at anyone else for fear of reflecting the abomination onto an innocent. I know now that looks can kill. I pick apart my food instead.
Ralph clears his throat. “Gloria and I have been planning this baby for a long time,” he says.
“We built the house with children in mind,” she adds.
“Now you’re going to have more than one?” I say. Isolde squeezes my leg under the table in warning.
“Well, one at a time,” she says. My head spins, threatening paroxysm. Gloria isn’t allowed to have it all. She already possesses a career she loves, a house so new and clean you could eat off of the floor, and a handsome husband who squeezes her every time she walks by. I may have none of those three things, but I have three babies, three boys, three reasons that my life isn’t a total loss. The candle light blurs and my heart burns in the inferno that becomes envy if it goes unchecked for too long. My plate is full and my appetite has returned to its usual void. My stomach feels heavy and if I were alone, I would stick my finger down my throat and vomit. Vomiting is like a release for me, like a sneeze or an orgasm or a bloody cut.
No one wants to live withinA black and white world
Where white skies Turn water black
And vapor mutes color We want vibrancy
Blood dripping crimson Bruises shining purple
Butterflies flying In streaks of orange
Lemony drops of sunshine Against indigo depression
Jade valleys to contrast With red hot love
Harnessing the energy of One luminous star, it shines
Whether or not we notice Until the end of days
Fear not, my dears We will arrive together.
In response to this week's Tipsy Lit prompt: write about an adult topic seen through a child’s eyes.
When the sun beamed its mustard face through the window, Tanner could squint his eyes and see a rainbow swaying in his Mommy’s mirror, smiling at him like the man in the sweet shop. His neighbor lady, Dawn, said good things always followed a rainbow. She wore messy rainbows on her clothes every day. She made them herself, and she made one for Tanner, too.
“Ugh. Do you have to wear that shirt? It’s so hippie-dippy,” said his Mommy, her voice scrunched. Mommy hated Dawn, but she still let Tanner fall asleep on Dawn’s couch every night, scratchy and moldy, cartoons fading into dreams.
Tanner’s Mommy didn’t work all day like other mommies. She smoked her special sticks and painted her toe nails pretty and yelled at Ricki Lake and made snickerdoodle cookies. Her friends came over sometimes and they drank from tall brown bottles in between kissing on the mouth. They kissed like their tongues tasted of custard, or something else you couldn't stop tasting. Tanner felt funny on the underside of his tummy when they panted and licked like the stray puppies who rolled around the neighborhood. Sometimes his Mommy gave him a lollipop and changed the TV to cartoons and took her friend by the fingers.
“Now be a good boy while Mommy has grown up time, okay?”
“What’s grown up time, Mommy?”
“It’s when we talk about grown up things.”
“What are grown up things?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
The men smiled big yucky smiles, their teeth sharp as the big bad wolf, while she ruffled his hair and winked one eye. He listened for the click, the signal she’d pushed in the lock, and then he pressed his ear against the door and listened for grown up things. But they didn’t talk. They jumped on the bed and Mommy made sounds like she was eating a box of chocolates or slipping into a bubbly bath.
Sometimes Tanner tip toed back to the TV like a good boy and sometimes he walked down the street slow as a tortoise, hunting for friends that didn’t want to be caught. He offered a freckled girl on a strawberry bicycle a lick of his lollipop one day.
"It's strawberry! You'll love it!"
"Gross!” she screamed, pedaling away, calling for her daddy. Tanner wished he could call for his daddy, but he already knew that no one would come.
Mommy’s friends always left before dinner. She cut hot dogs into octopuses and baked chicken into dinosaurs. He drank big boy milk and she gulped purple mommy juice and they smashed their glasses together and said “cheers!” After dinner, she packed up her big black bag with underwear and sparkly shoes and a funny wig. He liked the long yellow one best because it turned Mommy into Rapunzel. Mommy loved to be beautiful, she said it felt like she’d captured the stars in her pocket.
At work, she twirled on a stage, and she did it so nicely, like a fairy princess, that people gave her money. Whenever Tanner asked her to dance for him, she grabbed his hands and they spun around the living room until they fell to the ground in a happy pile.
He tried to wait up for her always, but his eyelids grew heavy as rain clouds. Always. When the stage set her free, she carried him from Dawn’s couch to his bed so that he awoke in a different place than he’d fallen asleep. He loved waking up in his own little bed, counting the cars on his bed sheets.
But one morning, he woke up on Dawn’s couch and it felt like the world had cracked open for a one-eyed hairy monster to crawl out. It chewed up his brains and left him dead but alive and itchy. Dawn’s face, round as the full moon, appeared before his nose, asking him if he wanted rainbow loops or frosted flakes for breakfast.
“I want Mommy.”
“Well I'm not sure where she’s at, little guy.”
image credit: themusicreunion.com
Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to use the third definition of "fly." "I'm here," the little one announces, chest taut with hope.
His mother ignores him as easily as she flouts the tax man. She's talking on the phone and looking out the window, running fingers through broken yellow hair. She speaks in a low voice sweet like honey, whispering secrets and lies, topped with whipped cream and cherries.
"Who're you talking to, mommy?" But he knows the answer already: the clients. Every time he asks to become one, she lights up a cigarette and blows the smoke in his face until he coughs. He'll cough forever if she'll keep looking at him.
He says, to no one in particular, "I'm hungry, mommy." He bites his lip, it's almost as chewy as a gummy worm. He approaches his mother. He stands close enough to smell her perfume. Roses fused with nail varnish. His favorite scent in the world.
She turns away from him so that her bottom is in his face. Ripe and round as a peach. He can't help it. He's so hungry. He bites her in the ass. She drops the phone as her arms fly into motion, swatting at him with both hands. He runs away, the screen door slamming in her face. She doesn't follow him.
He hides behind the neighbor-man's truck where no one can see him. The man's belly is so big that the boy thinks there might be a baby inside even though his mother says only girls can grow babies. He watches as the man grills hot dogs, one after another. He drools like the skinny mutts who roam the trailer park, the dogs too ugly to feed, or love.
When the man drops a hot dog onto the gritty earth, he doesn't shout "dammit!" or "fuck!" Instead, he peers into the shadows where the boy hides and he calls to him.
"Hey boy, do you want this one?"
I am youngThough I look old More silver than brown Imprinted with non-linear Focus, non-stop worries Tattooed by UV rays And the stretching Of time, volumes of Blank books loaded With my affairs Collections of change I never saw coming Obligatory trauma Because easy costs Something I never Could find, now I am Quarantined like a Leper or a hermit Though it's not Contagions I seek To contain but risks I call blasphemy Selfish and ravenous For the youth I once Possessed in spades Bleached out by too Many super moons Emptied by too many Chances shriveled Like dead orchids No matter how much Water I drink in dreams Of a resurrection.
It tugs on your lapels like aNeedy child needing you and only You, traveling through brain mass Finding new spaces to fill, breaking Your life into two neat pieces. One for the addiction, another for Everything else, everything that matters. You hold the pieces together with your knees, Careful not to move your hips, gambling on The outcome, the hit, the blow, the shot. You reel, you breathe differently, you feel The new space where the cracks have widened And the vapor rushes in like epoxy or Super glue, which always does a better job sewing Your fingers together than the fractures.
LoveSits in the corner, holding hands Sleeps in a pile, legs intertwined Comes home each day at the same time Until it doesn't. I'll be back, says Love. So you wait at the same time every night Prostrate in cold empty sheets, tears pooling Inside your ears, swallowing and digesting Fear like sugar. Until it becomes stubborn Flesh clinging to bone. Still waiting for Love. You gaze at images to conjure it home But the feeling collapses lungs, steals Oxygen, transforms blood into salt water And hope into desperate, crashing chance. Hungry yet starving, the only food being Love. You sleep under white sliver of moon, wake up to Infinite black sky, nothing out there but Space, spinning planets, exploding stars Tossing wishes like skipping rocks, waiting for One to land and last. No guarantees, but for Love.
Black coffee sweatArmpits moldy Whisky shit Eyes varicose gray
Wrinkled knee caps Nits clinging Scabby lips Nose drips red
Bones protrude white Cavities hungry Purple nails Crescent-shaped spine
Nappy curled sweater Underwear cut Soulless shoes Shit-stained pants
Stomach scraping whining Fingers fumbling Cracked toes Fissures pulsing pain
Mind body numb Spirit fighting Choked heart Hands stretched searching.
Written for Trifecta. She soaked in a bath tub topped off with a bottle of champagne too flat to drink. She held a book in one hand and a hand-rolled cigarette in the other. She burned candles, their flames balanced on all four corners like controlled suicide threats.
Still holding the accoutrements, she submerged her head, allowing alcoholic bath water into her nose, ears and mouth; while locking her eyes shut like windows. She decided to count the seconds.
At the same moment she hit ten, the ten-second countdown began. Her drunken neighbors shouted from the apartment below, echoing through the walls, through the water, invading the perverted hideaway of her thoughts.
Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!
She broke the surface, squeezing air into the very bottom of her lungs, and it was not unlike being born. She heard, though she wished she didn't, bells and explosions and the silence of a far-away kiss. Exhaling every last drop, she completed her first breath of the year.
On her second breath, she dragged on the cigarette and resumed the novel where she'd left off. She was free of anticipation as she lived in the shadow of expectation. Everything that mattered was behind her, or so she believed.
Written for Trifecta. I tell him before the curtains open. He doesn't flinch.
During intermission, he turns his head as if this limited range of motion requires infinite strength. He looks at me through tinted eyeglasses, and he says, “so you’re rich. You’ve been rich for two years, and you thought it best not to tell me. You let me waste away my life driving that truck until I went near-blind. Is that correct?”
I return his gaze, black glass reflecting black iris. Resentment pressed against aversion like lovers meeting in a kiss, or a blow.
“I’m telling you now.”
He rises, knocking his glass onto the floor with a rogue piece of fleshy hip, my relief as intense as a choir of angels. The lights dim, and I grasp my own wine glass, hollow yet whole, transfixed by the performance and the unfettered existence unfolding at my feet.
Relief relaxes into a giddy, heady, blurry evening. I crush the shards of Leroy’s wine glass with the heel of my boot, and then I introduce myself to the piano player. He lives alone in an apartment downtown, in the top half of a high rise. Before he succumbs to sleep, we share a cigarette and he says I should make myself at home.
I sit, pressed against the cold window, gray plumes curling from my mouth and memories sailing through my head, everything dissolving into the invisible wind that blows on the other side of the thick glass. I memorize the panoramic view, balls of lights piercing the absence of light; I suppose this is all our universe is.
When the sun rises, I do not mourn the end of night, the pastel glow melting the rooftops into one continuous dream. I am ready to start again.
(Adapted from my current manuscript in process.)
Written for Trifecta. When he walked out that door, he closed it behind him like he was sneaking away f0r another midnight tryst with one of the girls, not realizing I awoke every time he cleared his throat.
I wished he would slam it with the same force he used when we were fighting and the fighting turned to fucking, eyes wild and wrists bound. I wanted to run after him and shout the insults I'd written in my head in as much detail as a sonnet. But he didn't disturb the neighbors with their sleeping babes, so I didn't, either. That's always how it was. I didn't do anything without his permission.
He packed his suitcase, which I'd given to him last Christmas, like he was preparing for another trip to New York City, counting socks and matching outfits. Black and black. Blue and brown. The same colors as the bruises on my arm. His dark eyebrows cinched together, calculating his most prized possessions, like a mother gathering family photos and ancient heirlooms before the fire swallows them whole. Except for he had a lot more time. He had everything in the world, including time. Including me.
Though he took with him only what fit in that single thrift store suitcase, once he'd left, the apartment was hollow. Like my mother's eyes after she'd died. Like the two year old baby down the hall who didn't walk or talk. Like the clouds that hovered but never washed our dirty alleys.
I clawed open the medicine cabinet to find it empty; the pills like marshmallow pebbles and the powders like pixie dust were as gone as my husband. I searched in every crack, every shadow, every pocket for redemption. For secret money, for a water-marked love note, for a sign that my life wasn't over.
Written for Trifecta. He squints because he is nervous, examining the silk sweater, which is finer than white sand. Usually, he judges silk only by touch. The eyes of a saleswoman rest on his back with intention. God made him a thief, but at least he can trust his intuition. He sets down the shopping bag and glides to a rack of silk dresses, rubbing the slippery fabric between his thumb and middle finger. Underneath his designer jeans, he wears three pairs of silk boxers.
The first time he discovered silk, his parents were on a cruise in the Bahamas. He'd woken up minutes before sunrise and padded into their room while the nanny slept. At five years old, his mother's dresser held treasures more precious than the doctor's trove of lollipops, comic books and plastic horses. He rifled through her top drawer, inspecting each item as if looking for flaws.
At first, his favorite was a thick, shapely bra, red and lacy. He wanted to take it into bed and cuddle with it, he didn't know why. Then he found the silk underwear, which he did take back to bed, rubbing the material between his thumb and middle finger until he fell asleep. When the nanny found him in bed with his mother's lingerie, he didn't know to feel uneasy. But after she scolded him, he did.
At age eleven, he stole an eggplant-colored silk robe for his mother. She thanked him, but never wore it, so he took it from the hook in her bathroom and threw it under his bed. He would never give her another gift. At 17, he opened a shop on eBay selling silk items. He got $75 for the eggplant-colored robe. At 20, he is richer than all of his friends, including the ones who work in construction.
The saleswoman continues to watch him, so he catches her eye and asks for a fitting room. When she turns her back, he disappears.
Written for Trifecta. She scratches her cheek, wondering if this is a psychological or a physiological response. She's no longer sure of what's real and what's imagined, or if the line even exists. Something real can be imagined and something imagined can be real.
Does she hear spirits because she doesn't want to be alone, or because they're there? Whispering in her ear, tickling her face, playing with her hair.
Is she sick because she wants to be? Are the ghosts here to lead her to the other side? Or is she dead already?
All she knows is that she knows nothing. Which is why she makes no decisions for herself.
She learned during her life as a foster child that the only way to live is by blind chance. She would do whatever they told her to do. If she disobeyed, they would hate her. Since she had no love, she was petrified of hate.
When her foster mother told her to finish her dinner, she did. When her foster brother told her to take off her clothes, she did. When the social worker told her to keep her mouth shut, she did. When they told her to leave, she moved out. When a rich man offered to take her off of the park bench and into his bed, she followed him. When she got sick, she told no one because there was no one to tell..
She is ready to die.