I tell you you have the same name as someone I hate so that is how I will remember you.
I am the girl with the flowery legs. That’s just my leggings, I say, you shake your head.
My friend is vomiting into the toilet and I should probably go.
Do you want to smoke a j, you ask, and I wonder if your roommate told you more about me than I thought. I always want to smoke a j.
When I am drunk, and with a guy, I maintain this level of almost freakish detachment and I am so, so cool down to my bones. I fade in and out and I wind around and I don’t get stuck on anything. I flow. I wish I could be like this when I am sober. When I am drunk, everybody wants me, and it electrifies me. I have a little sexy half-smile that only comes out when I’m drunk.
We walk back to your house with your other friend and we talk as you roll the joints and then he sits on the mattress and we sit in two chairs facing each other and smoke them. This is the moment I realize we’re going to hook up tonight. You pull my legs into your lap and run your fingers up and down my legs and they get higher and higher until you’re pressing them against my inner thigh and we’re just staring at each other with watery, decided blue eyes as your roommate talks about his internship.
And then he says he needs to take his contacts out which is a lie, probably.
You’re cute, you say. Maybe a thousand times.
I’ll take off mine if you take off yours, you say.
You have a tattoo on your chest and I ask about it and you explain it but I can hardly picture it now, let alone remember what it means.
Our mouths are dry from the pot but the kissing is good, so good. When you lock the door and turn off the lights our bodies are just lit by the moon peering through the skylight and I know I am very drunk but it is so beautiful.
You’re a few years older than me and I’d forgotten what that would mean, maybe—that you’re actually good at this, that you know what you’re doing, that when your teeth slide over my breasts or when your fingers slide over my slickness that it could be good, that it could be this good. I make little sounds that I claim I only make when drunk (this is a lie) and you’re pleased and you leave a round hickey on my neck that my friend tells me looks like a Pac-Man when I’m brushing my teeth the next day.
I never take off my flowered leggings, you just work under and over them, squeezing my bare ass on the sides of my thong. I paw at you as you do this but either you are too considerate or know that I am too drunk to do anything but receive.
I am slightly frantic when we fall asleep. I remember my friend that is puking and realize I left my phone at the other house where the party was. You tell me just to sleep for a little and I do. I wake up again still drunk and you pull me in and tell me I can’t leave at this hour it’s too late now…and then I wake up again and it’s the morning and I’m not drunk anymore and you help me find my bra and my shirt and you walk me downstairs and point in the direction of the house we came from where my phone still is and we kiss briefly. You try for longer but I pull away because it’s morning and I’m already bored with you.
A few weeks later, you give me a joint at another party where you’re rolling them. I pretend I don’t know your name.
“You’re in bed and you’re hearing your parents talk. You’re just hearing the lovely lilt of it. It’s this beautiful music, and you want to be a part of it, and it doesn’t matter that you don’t understand. And that mystery of not knowing what they’re saying is a wonderful mystery. And you’ll never know what they’re saying. Even if you knew the words, you still wouldn’t know what they were saying. I remember that, I remember listening to just the sounds of language and thinking it was so beautiful, or more the intonations, the ups and downs. The contours. Which has an interesting connection with T.S. Eliot, when he said, about The Wasteland, that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the languages that are in it, you just let it wash over you. That’s an interesting bumping up against that childhood experience, overhearing just the contours. How comforting it is.”— Dorianne Laux, from Mattress Talk
A bad metaphor for competitive friends/competitive self/jealousy/a lot of other ghastly gooey black feelings that only make life poorer
This doesn’t have to be an arms race. One of us is not the U.S., and other is not Russia or China or India or whomever the competitor of the week is.
You know, maybe I’m just Sweden. I barely have a military. I am not worse than you if you still live as if you’re Russia. I’m not like you because I don’t want to be like you. Not because I can’t be, because I don’t have the will power or skill. It’s just not whatt I want. I want to be a Nordic state, boring and happy and going through my life without a ton of forethought. I don’t have to force myself to be a fore thinker like you if that is not what I am. In fact, I shouldn’t. It’s a disservice to me and the way I process and understand the world and it’s also a disservice to you.
“I’ve got meanness in me. And some of you girls have meanness in you, too. And it’s not necessarily something I know we’re very proud of. Well, sometimes I’m not. When I’m vvvvv-vicious. And that usually happens because, ohh god, who knows why. But it’s funny when it happens and you just become one of these like um… You know those comic books? Sven the Berserker. Well, it’d be nice if I uh… had a better understanding of it. And I think those of you that have those crazy tempers know what I’m talking about. Now some of you are at the other end of those crazy tempers, which isn’t that fun, either, is it? Or maybe it is, isn’t it, you little mmm, mmm, mmm, you little gimp, you! [snorts like a pig] But um, the thing is, this girl I knew once named Marianne, who was the absolutely, you know, coolest. She was totally cool. And yet she didn’t have this meanness in her. She had so many other things in her. You know, nanana, but meanness wasn’t one of them. So when I was hanging around her, I didn’t need to have this meanness. Basically when my mother said, “Hey, um, oh my god, Marianne killed herself,” the only thing I could think of was, “Fuck you, mom.” Because… in truth, nobody was really the same after Marianne killed herself.”—Tori Amos, 8 June 1996 concert, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This is how I lie: (all the heavy-lifting takes place in the space of second)
First, I remember to breathe. I think of the secret pure world as I know it; Myself, out of breath in clingy athletic clothes six miles past the reservoir Berry blood sliding down my left thigh and it is dusk and My soul’s moss is wild and ragged and coarse And I breathe again, a vivid mountain thought in my lungs "Chest cogestion relief advertisement"
Then I think of him, the vampire And the way he fingered my floral headband in his palm as we fucked Radiant and dull; whichever one is beautiful
And I think of my trust for him, how I trust him in that extraordinary way you trust those who have clutched your breasts and stroked your nipples— Your luminescent former lovers, your cold-handed pediatrician, your quiet, diligent mother.
I let that trust well up inside of me and drain itself out through my vagina until I am a withered, thirsty garden of a person whose eyes glint like you, and I let the lie glide out and it is even smoother than the menstrual blood and I betray no guilty cramps, no flash of a look of pain, no sweet sweat leakage through the holes of my cable-knit sweater
I know how to lie, I know how to lie so well and the way I lie to him is even more special because I simply forget there is truth. Not the truth specific to situation, but the concept altogether.
I abandon it out on the reservoir because I’ve learned the only way to live is to discard what scares you.
And the trick is to remember that, But also not to.
“I have this idea that I don’t look like anything—everyone else looks very specific and I just kind of look like whatever. It’s not true. It’s not true! There’s a specific way that you look, and your eyes are a particular color, and your legs are some weird way or whatever, and you have to work with that. My feet are a different size than I thought they were for years, which taught me a bit about self-deception. A friend of mine was saying the other day, ‘I’ve just realized at age 32 that I’ve always been getting my shoes the wrong size.’ I was like, ‘How could you not tell?’ and he said, ‘Well, I just thought it was normal for my shoes to be slightly uncomfortable.’ I’ve had that with so many things… .
The other thing is, just as I think I have no appearance, I think I have no personality—I think that I’m totally malleable. Whatever I say is just an expression of what I feel like at a particular moment, whereas when other people say things it’s a representation of some deeply held belief essential to their identity, a belief they’ve had for a really long time and feel really confident and stable about.”—Elif Batuman, No Regrets (n + 1, 2013)
Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me.
I wish I didn’t burn like this I wish I didn’t yell like this I wish every word that boy says was not a punch to my solar plexus
I wish that I could sit quietly like I used to When I stayed in the art room for recess And drew as vibrantly as I thought I could be Angry colors swirling because even then I felt it
Even then, even when I didn’t speak, Even when I was so afraid of someone recognizing my desire for change That I did not switch my hairstyle for an entire year
Even when I felt useless When I felt alone When I felt like an accomplice to the crime of the things my father would say And do Because I knew that if I was older and stronger I would say and do those things too
But I didn’t, then. I didn’t yell or blink bloodily after smashing my head on the garage floor I didn’t threaten to drive off the docks into the oceans at the beach
But I felt it, I felt that drive I felt that endless rage And I didn’t know why.
So I was quiet. So quiet that no one would know that they would mistake me for one of the good girls without unholy demons inside eating her out, scratching their way through her itchy, bleeding vagina
And I never spoke about that, either I mean I never spoke about anything
But it was there The potential, I suppose
And I don’t know if it was inherited, or when, or what But I know that sometimes I want to rip out the throats of boys with my teeth And I wish I didn’t
And I wish I didn’t fantasize about decapitating people who say things to me that are purposefully incendiary but in some deep, dark corner of my mind I do and I wish I didn’t
But here is the thing you need to understand The violence isn’t real; it’s just a stand-in Another real-life metaphor some physical representation or image of it.
I am not like most other girls. You probably couldn’t make me cry. There is something much more toxic inside my blood Something that burns rather than flows And the thing is Our body can release its tears but not its fire
And I think I’m finally understanding why and who the people are that spontaneously combust
Because carrying all this muchness and passion inside of me is enough to set anything and anyone off
And it does And it will And it always has, for me
And that’s just part of who I am And fuck my desire to change.
I am angry for the right reasons.
There are reasons, there are reasons To be this mad.
There’s this shitty thing that happens when you learn about the reality of racism, heterosexism and misogyny. You start to hear it from the mouths of your parents, grandparents, friends and siblings and you can’t ignore it anymore but you’ll see how many of them will ignore you when you speak out about it.
the flesh covers the bone and they put a mind in there and sometimes a soul, and the women break vases against the walls and the men drink too much and nobody finds the one but keep looking crawling in and out of beds. flesh covers the bone and the flesh searches for more than flesh.
— Alone with Everybody, Charles Bukowski
(It’s weird how I’ve gotten old enough to forget entire chunks of my life. I had this taped to my mirror for 2+ years and I completely forgot about that until now. Is my life just morphing into this series of experiences and routines that will be forgotten until I stumble across something one day and remember/reflect briefly? Ugh why I am having a crisis right now
In other news, my fourteen-year-old self was sort of morbid).
I can’t sleep again tonight and so my brain goes to all its indigo parts The parts I cannot keep alive when I’m trying to They squint and swallow in the daylight but at night I catch them off-guard
There are bugs eating my hungry stomach so I swallow a flashlight, switch it on, and they recede
Little flecks that move to my head, maybe
I wish I had a tape recorder for my brain I write poetry to fall asleep I wake up and it’s gone, so gone Most of the time it’s not worth it But usually I wish I knew what I said, what had made it enough, or okay, to sleep
Soul-mind loud and routine
It’s a little bit dumb but I wish I could remember my source of comfort in that moment right before I collapse to entities other than mine
(The women with the soft ghost nails combing my hair, checking for lice)
Look I don’t know who left the lights on in my head tonight and don’t worry, I will complain to maintenance because goddamnit, what a waste of energy.
When I try to write about sex, I think back to when I was just out of college and, handy with a makeup brush, took a job to make some extra money doing makeup on a gay-porn film set. On the second day, we filmed a three-way that took up most of the day. The actors struggled: one was hard, the others weren’t, then the others were and the first was not, and so on. After a few hours, the director sent us all out of the room and turned out the lights so the actors could work it out. This was before Viagra—you had to have an honest hard-on to shoot. We waited outside the dark room, the lights out, even the cameramen outside, waiting, until finally we heard the signal, and then the crew rushed back in to film. We turned on the lights.
The actors were made to pause, immediately. I had to touch them up.
They were panting, sweating like athletes. They’d rubbed off most of what I’d put on them. As they held their positions, I touched them up. I thought about how something had happened in the dark that we couldn’t see, an excitement that couldn’t be in the film. It was probably better than what we would film, more interesting.
It seems to me I am always in pursuit of that.
”—Alexander Chee, “Sex and Salter” excerpt from The Paris Review (2011)
I’m trying to figure out if I’ve grown or changed at all over this break. I know I still have two and a half weeks, but it’s mostly over and I’m going to Puerto Rico on Saturday so I won’t have much time to think about this toward the actual end of break. I should have changed somehow. I should have made at least one major decision about what I plan on doing in the near future. Except I haven’t and I haven’t done anything that’s really improved myself and I just feel very pathetic. Even my self-destruction has been subpar lately. I just sit around and do nothing. I masturbate way too much. Masturbation is vaguely reminiscent of Doritos for me. Like, it’s good at the time, sort of?, but it’s also not actually good. I just end up feeling sort of gross. It’s not like a female-sexuality-self-loathing thing, it’s just like an I-could-be-doing-better-things-with-my-time thing. It’s not like I have this massive sex drive, it’s just this thing that I always seem to do.
I should draw or paint or learn to play the guitar. Why am I not dong any of these things? I genuinely want to. I genuinely want to be better as a human but I don’t do anything and it’s sort of disgusting.
“I need my small, meaningless lies. I need all my self-created semi-truths. It’s the only way for me to keep exclusive parts of myself to myself. Believe me, I do not even perceive them as lies. It’s something different that keeps happening inside my head. At the same time, I long to tell you the truth about me, always. I want to share with you each important or unimportant detail and feel and fully embrace the very act of sharing. But it occurs to me that it’s the hardests of tasks; I hate it. I hate unveiling bits and pieces of anything permanent or temporary that resides in me. I loathe it with my heart. You can find more honesty in the smallest of my gestures rather in my words; my words are too impatient, too loose, too doomed in some way.”—Anaïs Nin, from “The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1”
“I wish I wrote the way I thought
With maddening hunger
I’d write to the point of suffocation
I’d write myself into nervous breakdowns
Manuscripts spiralling out like tentacles into abysmal nothing
And I’d write about you
a lot more
than I should”—Benedict Smith, “I Wish I Wrote The Way I Thought”
This is the kind of love my friends warned me about, back in high school when the strongest feelings I’d ever felt involved making the soccer team and a drunken hot tub night after prom. They warned me as they cried into their pillows and as we bought cranberry juice cocktail mix at the grocery store in the middle of the night, they warned me that there was a certain kind of love you wake up with one day, and find yourself covered in it, like chicken pox sores. And that once you recover, you’re immune. You’ll never get it again for the rest of your life.
Jack, you are my chicken pox love. I know I’ve hardened like some form of toxic rock candy as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to be one of those adults moored in the tiny details, in stupidity. So many of them, like my parents, obsess over these meaningless, everyday things and let the greater things slip away. It’s not even that they let them slip away—it’s that they grow to believe the big things aren’t worth thinking or talking about. They live their lives in a cold, subconscious, soul-fear sort of way, too afraid of any real sensation.
Promise we will never be this way. That the big things we talk about will never be forgotten. We can realize when we’re being pretentious or absurd or overtly philosophical at random moments when we’re at Chick fil a or my cousin’s graduation party but let’s still talk about those things anyway. I think I would go crazy without them. Without you. And so I promise I will never grow immune. I will want you everyday, always. But it’s not even want—it’s something deeper than that, much grosser than that, it’s honesty, it’s connection, it’s intimacy, it’s feeling simultaneously tethered to the earth and untethered from it all because of one person. It’s just you. The way you talk and laugh and the way your butt looks in those jeans and the quiet half-smile you get when you’re playing your guitar and you’re doing it well or when we’re watching a movie in the theaters and you’re all focused and contemplative as the light from the screen plays across your face. You know I love movies but I can never fucking look away. You’re so beautiful it hurts to look at you.*
*Ten points if you know what this is from. Just kidding I am setting you up for failure—I know you never watched that box set.
“I’ve never liked the word “sexy.” In high school my friends tried it on as if it were a costume a few sizes too big. Before Valentine’s Day they made stealthy trips to Victoria’s Secret, in hopes that a shock of red or black lace under their well-mannered clothes would persuade them that they had wild sides waiting to be unleashed. The boys at our brother school ranked us according to “hotness,” and as offended as we were by their rampant objectification of us as women, there was not a girl among us who didn’t secretly long to be on their hot list. The boys even devoted a page in their yearbook to the girls they deemed worthy of pinup status… We knew the boys weren’t worthy of passing judgement on us. And yet we had spent our lives chasing approval. We had been trained to get A’s. We were good at taking tests. We abided by rules and honor codes. We underlined our books, made careful observations in the margins, aced our SATs. And so these sons of statesmen, uniformed in blue blazers—they pulled off their ties at the end of the school day and swung them around like weapons—became another jury for us to please. Before we walked across the Cathedral Close to play fans at the boys’ lacrosse games, we brushed our hair, glossed our lips. They wore helmets; they brandished their lacrosse sticks like Vikings.”—Elliott Holt, excerpt from You Are One of Them
This is the problem with a poem— It should be fragmented, sparse.
I am neither of those things; my stories, when I tell them, are long, poorly punctuated, people glance away.
I am full and finely detailed. A poem is meant to be a glimpse— an iceberg can be beautiful and powerful from above the water because we know how much more is underneath.
This is the problem with a poem— I cannot write it if I’m drunk, stoned, or half-asleep because if I did you could read my feelings like the lines of my palm.
This is obviously the last thing I would want.
This is the problem with a poem— it leads me straight into “your eyes” territory. Fucking Siberia.
This is the problem with a poem— I cannot give it away properly. Paintings, sculptures, a song played on the guitar— These are gifts you can give someone. The copies of the painting are not the same, are worth less, and the song can only be performed that way in that one moment.
A copy of a poem is the same. Of equal worth. And I am too narcissistic about my work to give you one I care about without saving the file first. As the years pass, I will probably read something about you at some stupid coffee house thing. I keep doing these gigs even though I sort of hate them.
I don’t hate them entirely though because I like the distance they provide. The more I read about you to strangers the more I know you will recede into the distance, the more you become little more than a captured moment in time. And the time is not even yours. It’s mine.
I only gain that power once the moments have passed, however.
For now, for now…when the moments are here or still coming I suppose you maintain a certain level of ownership. You know, copyright.
It’s hard for me to concede this. Because this is the problem with a poem— It’s a part of myself. And if I write one about you, you matter.
One of my friends said to me recently, “Almost all the pictures on your blog are of women. That’s how I knew you were at least partially gay.” I don’t really think that’s why though (why I have so many pictures of women, I mean), because I desire men so much more, so much more often. I think—well, just to preface this, I view my blog as something of a diary/journal. I’m always glad that other people read it and especially when they show they appreciate it or like it or whatever, but at the end of the day this is for me, this is about documenting, not just in my own words but in pictures and the words of others, who I am at this point in time. And right now, I think I’m much more focused on what type of person I’m going to become, what I’m interested in and what I want to emulate (professionally/artistically and morally and even aesthetically too) than what I desire. So I think that’s why.
“It’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it and they love you and you know it but it’s a party and you’re both talking to other people and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes. But not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual, but because that is your person in this life and it’s funny and sad but only because this life will end and it’s this secret world that exists right there. In public. Unnoticed. That no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”—Frances Ha (2012)
I want to go back to Europe. Actually, not necessarily Europe, but that state of being, that constant traveling and constant obsession that each little thing I did and saw was an "experience" because I was somewhere foreign. I wish I could apply that sort of thinking I had during those two and half weeks to my everyday life always. It could make even eating fucking mcnuggets in the middle of the night seem poetic, just because it was distant, just because I was finally on my own physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, whatever. Just because I found control in that complete lack of control. Just because I like trains. And I like being somewhere new because it forces me to listen and really look around because I have nothing, really, to say.
I’m beginning to fall into a rhythm, my rhythm, and I’m not talking about these past two weeks of being home again and sort of hibernating underneath all the snow, but kind of some grander rhythm, one that is slower, more intense, and could go on for years. I am finally beginning to understand what I want and doing what it takes to get what I want. And I suppose that sounds self-absorbed and vaguely manipulative but that’s what I’ve learned this year. I’ve learned I can make things happen like I want them to a lot more than I used to think, and I’ve learned that if I maintain my rhythm, know who I am and constantly take stock of things, then even the bad things can begin to drip with positivity, everything a lesson to be learned eventually.
“I don’t give a shit what the world thinks. I was born a bitch, I was born a painter, I was born fucked. But I was happy in my way. You did not understand what I am. I am love. I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious. I am; simply I am…You are a shit.”—Frida Kahlo, from an unsent letter to Diego Rivera
When I was a child, I used to like taking baths in the dark. I would fill up the tub, shut off the faucet and close the door. I would turn off the lights then take off my clothes. Everything’s visceral, in the dark. I would possess this sudden awareness of my hairless, bony body, all of its crevices. And I could descend into the lukewarm water and be nothing. It was so quiet. One time I left a rubber duck of my sister’s in there accidentally and brushed it with my foot. The squeak was like a scream. I jumped a million miles out of my body and hit my head on the faucet so hard it bled. I stared there for a while watching the black blood pool and stretch stringily with the movements of this water I could hardly see.
I was a weird kid. I could always look everything straight in the eyes, unflinchingly, like an elephant hunter in some Hemingway novel. My skin was freckled with dark matter and I was not afraid.
Poets like to write about losing things. Keys, pets, friends, their virginities. I think this is because loss—real loss—implies some greater dark that cannot be fixed. Conrad would say ‘impenetrable,’ Wallace would say ‘brutal,’ my parents would buy a nightlight and my friends at school would hand me a shot or a joint.
When I think about darkness, I don’t think about words to describe it. I’m not enough of a writer for that. But I also don’t think about possible solutions or distractions. I don’t know what I am enough of, then. What I am full of. When I was younger, I could sit in the bathtub and be comforted by the blackness that surrounded everything. Now it scares me like everything else does.
I want a camera or a video camera for my birthday so I can start taking pictures or recording documentaries or something. I want to do something new. I want to be nothing at something; empty of expectations (from both myself and other people). To just create and learn in this big clean white space.