After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.
”—Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal”
I feel like some summers you move move move forward with your life, seeing things you haven’t before, actively changing. And then some are sweeter and thicker, stagnant like a pool of molasses, and you just stay the exact same person you’ve always been. But I think all summers, secretly, are for evolution. Even if it’s slow. Even if you aren’t traveling anywhere (your Instagram is filled with your college friends feeding elephants in Thailand and clubbing in LA) you still grow, I think. This summer = sweaty = mosquito bites = sticky alcoholic drinks = dry marijuana coughs = reading atmospheric novels = reflection = swimming = remembering = the perfect kind of regression, the kind where you move back to someone you used to be who you desperately want to be again.
A lot of girls say “oh, boys scare me” in the sense that they don’t know what to say or do around them, how to appear cool or pretty or whatever
and I sometimes want to yell at them—I don’t, for the record—because boys really do scare me and it’s so fucked up that a few could ruin me for the rest
but that’s where I’m at right now. Sometimes being drunk helps the fear momentarily slide away but I’m not really sure if I want it to. (I also don’t even know if I want to drink much anymore, it usually just feels like I’m poisoning myself, and that’s probably because I am)
I hate that chain smoking or cigarettes in general are popular as a certain type of poetic trope because I just want to write about how you make me feel (also see- how you made me feel, how you will make me feel) and for some reason I connect that with smoking.
I don’t cry over romantic or sexual situations under any circumstances. Please don’t think I’m tough, because I wish I could. I will cry about not getting the job, movies, books, death, friendships, frustration, grades, etc. like a normal person (normal people cry over most things at some point, even if they do not engage in the act regularly, I assume. But who really knows with crying and private uncomfortable practices like it). I think it is the feminist in me, or the independent girl, or the (rather large) part of me that likes to pretend outwardly that I never get rejected, or at least never in high stakes, I-think-this-is-love cases (because I pretend those cases don’t exist, even just quietly to myself).
and so I probably will not cry about you, or about this unfortunate welling up of emotions I have inside of me involving you that can sometimes make it hard to sleep at night until I anesthetize myself with orgasms or the stories of others. But you have, (indirectly of course) at least once—and you probably will do so again in upcoming months—effected a trip to a convenience store, where I bought two packs of cigarettes that I promptly smoked one after the other, like I was sucking on some infinite cancer-stick of alternating long whites and short yellows. Smoking is sort of like crying, is my theory. It satisfies the same pangs inside you, quiets the voice in your head, unrequited unrequited unrequited unrequited (even though I haven’t even tried, or asked).
You will probably end up dating one of my friends. I am okay with this. I have pictured the scenario in which one of the ephemeral she’s tells me, and the pain I will feel, and the way I will smile supportively, and the way I will not angrily mention your name when I’m drunk off cheap vodka. We are nothing alike. If you took a thousand 2-minute personality quizzes, not a single one would match you with me.
And yet. For me, all roads lead to you. And it’s pretty much always going to be awful.
“We all agree it’s too big to keep up with, that we’re surrounded by life, that we’ll never understand it, so we center it all in by swigging Scotch from the bottle and when it’s empty I run out of the car and buy another one, period.”—Jack Kerouac, Big Sur
It’s funny how I used to write pages upon pages—endless streams of poems—about feelings and experiences I knew nothing about. Or I would capitalize upon tiny details of importance that occurred in an otherwise stagnant life. And now, things are happening to me and things have happened, and I have no words for them. It’s all super difficult to write about. I’ve lost the ability to take them apart and dissect them (or maybe it’s more appropriate to say I’m just out of practice).
I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.
Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.
“I think the average guy thinks they’re pro-woman, just because they think they’re a nice guy and someone has told them that they’re awesome. But the truth is far from it. Unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations.”—Junot Diaz
I want it to be this way, I want to extend myself like an elastic waistband addition to my jeans, I want to be further than other people
When I’m at the beach, with others, I do this thing where I pretend I’m drifting out to sea and it is fun to do this, to scare people, to be alone in the green water with seaweed hair, when I know I am getting sunburn but am “too far-gone” to care
I need to be alone. I don’t want anyone to see me naked. At parties I don’t want anything. Our interaction already bores me. Or worse than that—it distracts me.
I am lost right now, at this point in my life.
I traded in a lot of items of mine that were nonrefundable. I shouldn’t have.
Sometimes I am sexual, sometimes anyone with testosterone makes me rabid, but most of the time, these days, I am tired of all of it.
How can you be tired of people when you’ve hardly been with anyone in months?
“Dear Emotional Creature,
You know who you are… I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-sync every single memorized lyric. I love your restlessness and your hunger. You are one of our greatest natural resources. You possess a necessary agency and energy that if unleashed could transform, inspire, and heal the world.
I know we make you feel stupid, as if being a teenager meant you were temporarily deranged. We have become accustomed to muting you, judging you, discounting you, asking you - sometimes even forcing you - to betray what you see and know and feel.
You scare us. You remind us of what we have been forced to shut down or abandon in ourselves in order to fit in. You ask us by your being to question, to wake up, to reperceive. Sometimes I think we tell you we are protecting you when really we are protecting ourselves from our own feelings of self-betrayal and loss.”—Eve Ensler, I Am An Emotional Creature
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”