“You raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam ‘unskilled laughter’ coming from the fifth row. And that’s right, that’s right — God knows it’s depressing. I’m not saying it isn’t. But that’s none of your business, really. That’s none of your business, Franny. An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”—J.D. Salinger, “Zooey”
So I went to the beach today and usually I guess that means scads of the under-clad All tan and languorous on their blankets like housecats in the sun Stupid and purposeless and happy about it (Sorry—you know how I get when I’m in one of my quotation-mark moods) But I didn’t go for the people, obviously (you’d find more interesting people amongst the sewage rats) I went to see the ocean Kind of uncharacteristic, but my father was giving me a lecture on my lack of spirituality (Again) And I couldn’t bear to visit some low-slung dirt patch behind a church famous for its money laundering, And I suppose I know someone buried here well not buried but you get the point Her ashes were scattered here (My grandmother’s) Typical cancer patient The chemo makes them think all kinds of sentimental shit, I swear (And this is why my father hates me He always says where did you come from, what kind of girl thinks and says such awful things) If I was feeling more mature I would probably say that with all I’ve gone through I understand sentimentality And that there are much worse things And I actually like my grandmother’s grave because the nice thing about it is it’s not about her Gravesites are kind of selfish in a way The fact that you expect yourself to be memorialized for all eternity in a nice plot of dirt Well first, chances are someone is going to dig you up But second, it seems kind of selfish to me to claim a piece of land as your own even though you’ll never need it It’s like you’re not accepting your temporariness Very American But my grandmother, she was from Poland A country that was invaded, torn apart, boundaries redrawn several times over It was even erased from maps entirely for a few years That was when she came here And I think when she died, she didn’t want a grave because she wasn’t even a country, she was just a woman And before long nobody would even know who had existed, the person on the headstone They would only feel bad about digging her up because they thought there were supposed to But that’s stupid People are stupid about dying You die anyway Might as well get one last swim in
I am writing this in the tire tracks that lead off the highway on the road home from school-
40 miles in a 65.
my dad thinks we’re gay now because we like to run and eat pizza together. I don’t think he understands that eating pizza is code for talking to cute girls who look like they’ll have good taste in music, and I don’t really care that he doesn’t like it, but the way he told me I was too attached to you
It was like he thought love was a hate crime.
Andy do you think we know really where we go when we die? I always wondered if there was a track there, some kind of eternal oval where you just run 400 repeats at 65 seconds a lap, the 4:20 mile until time decides to give up She told me to leave tonight, Andy.
I don’t think she meant her room.
68 in a 65
Remember how I could always eat more pizza than you? Like it was a good thing that I was living a B-Rated romantic comedy Nicholas Sparks rip-off week to week as though the tears of girls were some kind of drug and me the worst kid of addict
Andy pizza gets old And all the girls the last year weren’t worth it you see “all that pizza” is just an example of what happens when we take it too far when you really lose control and start burning everything around you just to keep yourself alive
Remember when we ran through light-houses named after rock songs and sang about cloud formations as though we knew exactly where heaven was and it was home in our beds?
Whenever I’m tired, I think of mermaids. In the light of my thick-backed T.V. My mind lingers, half-asleep, Dreaming of water clean and clear And wet hands braiding my hair.
And whenever I’m tired, I want to be touched by everyone Except by those who want to Touch me; I am always disgusted By the people that love me. It’s horrible, And it takes a green-skinned Creature with gills and scales To understand that, That half-human tendency of mine.
I’ll never understand people who avoid writing things anything that could be seen as disturbing and downright disgusting, irreverent and irrelevant. Sometimes you have to say the things that are supremely fucked up. You can’t just pick and choose with your thoughts—sometimes you’re going to think big, scary, grotesque thoughts, and you think those just as much as you think the pretty poetry, so you should express them just as much.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”—Anaïs Nin
All the stories sound the same, she thought, when you line them up. The slick businessman here only until Wednesday morning and the ratty-looking high school kid with the pubic hair beard—eerily similar. It was disorienting, at first.
Her first thought had been: I don’t belong here. She still didn’t really, because she’d never spoken. There was nothing for her to say, you know? She felt pathetic, sitting here with the crumbling cookies and too-strong coffee, because she’d never run the full length of the course—DUI, arrest, breakup, custody battles, homelessness, wet brain—and everyone else had done something, everyone else actually had a breaking point or a bottom or whatever you want to call it that made sense. Something that had really forced them into this pathetic cafeteria at 8 p.m. She felt fake, overly dramatic, like she didn’t live up to the first letter of the initalism the way everyone else so clearly did. They all laughed and talked and cried but she couldn’t without feeling like a bad actor. It was almost like she wished she could watch all of them on TV, or from a distance so she could react more honestly and without an audience and all. No obligatory joke-cracking about her constant silence. It would be expected, as an audience member just sitting alone in her living room.
Also while we’re on the subject of all this: the religion crap. She had despised it in the beginning. She prayed like they said she should, but it was fucking impossible in some ways when God had stopped being that person with nails through his hands and had transformed into something she never really wasted much time thinking about. It was like they wanted her to be part of organized religion again, and she couldn’t go back to that with the priests and their garments that were drag-queen-bright and befitting for Mexican farmers in a period piece. And all the standing and sitting was so pointless, it was like just when she’d started to think about Jesus Christ or fucking Thomas or whoever they interrupted her with the unspoken motion. (She did like, though, how they always talked about God as you understand Him. It gave her the illusion of choice, and she took it. She decided that God was the kitchen doorknob, because whenever she could see It she knew she was sober. That made things a bit more bearable, she supposed).
As a writer, she kind of relished in this whole thing. The people. The underbelly of society—and it was laced with the some of the last people you’d expect—just talking, some more theatrically than others, about what had happened to them, looking back on it and trying to make sense of all the shit, like how you can want so so so so so badly to stop doing something and for some inexplicable reason you just can’t and she had originally been surprised at how much insight these people could have, how much they could make her think more deeply about her own situation, even though some of them, she suspected, couldn’t even write their own names.
“There’s a disconnect. You have to walk the beaches of Goa barefoot, then climb the steps of Sacré-Coeur in 5-inch heels to know how conflicted I am, to see how I love two worlds and waffle between them. I can describe Paul on paper, that’s easy. But you can’t understand how I felt when he ran after me at The Standard and kissed me outside my room and spent almost a decade with me—at our age, an eternity—who I left and lost and spent the last year trying to forget. All I can say is this: He’s the reason I flit from hotel to hotel, living everywhere and nowhere, and right before I put my key in the door I always look down the hall, hoping he’ll come running around the corner. He never does.”—Ariana Roberts, “To Swim Across the World”
I’m wondering if it’s possible for a girl ever to just be on her own Because I can think of plenty of old artist men holed up in shacks Breathing lead paint; but even the women that Seem to have entire plumes of feathers instead of hair Even they get married eventually, and most of them divorce only to remarry, And that’s how they’re free, that’s how they’re independent, Because they’re with several men at once but never are they alone Never did Marilyn Monroe clandestinely reapply her lipstick With no one to go to bed to.
So—am I crazy? Because in so many ways, I don’t want it, And I mean not ever, The slippers and the plaid bathrobes and The arguments over paint swatches (Because yes they’re important— That’s the side I’m supposed to take).
Should I lie in bathtubs chanting hymns? Ready to drown myself just before my mother walks in? Should I move to a cabin in the Canadian wilderness, Survive on indigenous fish and grow a unibrow?
I’m a menace to society, I thought As you kissed me because all I could do was Stare at the map above your head, and feel so deeply sorry That I’ll never be enough for you Because I don’t have the type of mind that could ever Stick around in one place.
Sometimes I think I could’ve been—was supposed to be— A child that died young. A martyr to no cause but a prolonged sense of despair And I would bring tears to other mothers’ eyes When they would think of me, and how I died, Crushed by a falling tree at Girl Scout camp Or in a hospital bed, with tubes in my nose.
Sometimes I think all life is Is a series of bifurcations— You know, forks in the road And sometimes you choose the lucky road And sometimes you don’t but Thinking about that, that road I think I passed So long ago, I’m not sure which road was the Lucky one.
I was pure as a child, and I wish I had a larger vocabulary then A wider understanding of syntax Because I could have written things That would encourage the fishes out of water And they would have sprouted little legs and arms To hug my head and try to clutch its scarily raw And impressioned thoughts I wasn’t psychic but I guess you could’ve called me a seer, A see-er, because I loved the world, And I watched it, and I’m the type of little girl That should have died Before she was infected with whatever disease it was That made my heart grow callous And my legs grow longer.
At 12 years old I started bleeding with the moon and beating up boys who dreamed of becoming astronauts. I fought with my knuckles white as stars, and left bruises the shape of Salem. There are things we know by heart, and things we don’t.
At 13 my friend Jen tried to teach me how to blow rings of smoke. I’d watch the nicotine rising from her lips like halos, but I could never make dying beautiful. The sky didn’t fill with colors the night I convinced myself veins are kite strings you can only cut free. I suppose I love this life,
in spite of my clenched fist.
I open my palm and my lifelines look like branches from an Aspen tree, and there are songbirds perched on the tips of my fingers, and I wonder if Beethoven held his breath the first time his fingers touched the keys the same way a soldier holds his breath the first time his finger clicks the trigger. We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.
But my lungs remember the day my mother took my hand and placed it on her belly and told me the symphony beneath was my baby sister’s heartbeat. And I knew life would tremble like the first tear on a prison guard’s hardened cheek, like a prayer on a dying man’s lips, like a vet holding a full bottle of whisky like an empty gun in a war zone… just take mejust take me
Sometimes the scales themselves weigh far too much, the heaviness of forever balancing blue sky with red blood. We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways, but you still have to call it a birthday. You still have to fall for the prettiest girl on the playground at recess and hope she knows you can hit a baseball further than any boy in the whole third grade
and I’ve been running for home through the windpipe of a man who sings while his hands playing washboard with a spoon on a street corner in New Orleans where every boarded up window is still painted with the words We’re Coming Back like a promise to the ocean that we will always keep moving towards the music, the way Basquait slept in a cardboard box to be closer to the rain.
Beauty, catch me on your tongue. Thunder, clap us open. The pupils in our eyes were not born to hide beneath their desks. Tonight lay us down to rest in the Arizona dessert, then wake us washing the feet of pregnant women who climbed across the border with their bellies aimed towards the sun. I know a thousand things louder than a soldier’s gun. I know the heartbeat of his mother.
Don’t cover your ears, Love. Don’t cover your ears, Life. There is a boy writing poems in Central Park and as he writes he moves and his bones become the bars of Mandela’s jail cell stretching apart, and there are men playing chess in the December cold who can’t tell if the breath rising from the board is their opponents or their own, and there’s a woman on the stairwell of the subway swearing she can hear Niagara Falls from her rooftop in Brooklyn, and I’m remembering how Niagara Falls is a city overrun with strip malls and traffic and vendors and one incredibly brave river that makes it all worth it.
Ya’ll, I know this world is far from perfect. I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon. I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic. But every ocean has a shoreline and every shoreline has a tide that is constantly returning to wake the songbirds in our hands, to wake the music in our bones, to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave river that has to run through the center of our hearts to find its way home.
Someday I think we’ll be in a museum Not our art or our stories or The boots you’ll wear when you give that speech I know you’ve been Itching to say, Just our bodies. Our bones discolored by the dirt of a thousand years will sit inside a case With specially-designed air pressure (to prevent decay) And in death, as fossils, we’ll be important, We’ll be the breath of science The only signs of a past and fallen civilization
And I don’t know how I feel about it, I don’t know if I want anybody studying the bone structures of my hips But you.
Maybe it would be better if we could all climb off our family trees Hit the dirt with two soles of our very own feet Or maybe the trees could grow out instead of up And all the branches of all the trees could touch And maybe then I’d feel together enough with everyone To have the courage to do what I want, alone An apple that had fallen straight out of the sky.
I’ve always loved the foods I keep stacked in my freezer In little towers of dry ice Round, crunchy waffles and low-fat fruit bars I’ll never eat Because there’s something to be said for preservation And you can shake your head and laugh at me Say nobody cares what I do with my 4-month-old hot dogs But I do And in the cold I know they’re safe And even though I’ll probably never want or need them, I’ll know they’re there, untainted. They’ll still taste alright after you leave So I’ll never even get hungry.
My eleventh grade English teacher was a guy named Paul MacAdam. I got a D in the class, and I only got the D because I wrote a paper about Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye over the summer. I was a crap student: I didn’t read; I didn’t participate; I didn’t turn in papers, or when I did, it was embarrassingly obvious I hadn’t read the books. I also skipped class a lot. It was in the morning, and I didn’t think very highly of morning classes.
I actually said that to him once. He took me aside after the bell rang one day and said you’ve been missing a lot of class, and I was like, “Yeah, I don’t think too highly of morning classes.” I was a real peach.
But when I did go to class, I was usually the last person to file into the room. One thing I remember about that class: Mr. MacAdam always held the door open for us until the bell rang. We’d walk in, and he’d greet each of us. He always held the door open until the bell started ringing, and I’d come in last, three seconds before the bell rang, staring at my untied sneakers, stinking of cigarette smoke, and he’d say, “Mr. Green, always a pleasure,” and then he and the class would talk about the book. Say it was Slaughterhouse Five. I hadn’t read it, of course, but they would talk about it, and MacAdam would get to talking about war and the nonlinear nature of time and how Vonnegut had stripped down the language to tell the nakedest of truths.
But the discussion was always so interesting—these big, hot, fun ideas seemed to matter so much. So I read the books. I never read them when I was supposed to read them; I’d read them a week later, after I’d already gotten an F on my reaction paper. But I’d read them. In essence, I was reading great books for fun. MacAdam didn’t know it, of course. He probably still doesn’t know it. But it didn’t matter whether I was worthy of his faith; he kept it. He still held the door open every day for me. He still treated me like I was the smartest kid in the class, still took me seriously on those rare occasions when I’d raise my hand, still listened thoughtfully to me when I’d give him my reading of a passage I could comment upon only because he’d just read it out loud. He believed I was real, that I mattered. I wasn’t yet able to understand that he mattered, but he was okay with that. He just kept holding the door open for me.
”—John Green, excerpt from his 2008 speech at the Alan Conference
The morning, for those of us who don’t often see it, is odd— It represents an expectation that afternoons, nights, Even evenings, lack.
I usually write late at night When the world is—at least on my street—temporarily Dead. It gives me this nice degree of jadedness And cynicism, lying there in the dark like the only person alive Finally able to hear to my brain because The rest of my house is asleep.
And it’s funny how that sense of silence and stillness goes both ways— How the end of the day and the beginning of the next Are the same for most—spent asleep, Passing unnoticed.
I, for one, have always found these times of day To be the only times really worth anything— And as I sit here, my breath sour and my eyes swollen Like I’d just been crying, I know why But I can’t seem to say.
I looked at this photograph of her, one of those photographs that’s all discolored and wrong-looking in ways you can’t put your finger on, and she was wearing this striped mini skirt and you could see half her ass, I swear, and she also had this crazy lipstick on and her hair made her seem like she was straight out of a fucking roller rink where she’d just smoked a joint with a backup singer and I just stared at this photograph for a little bit and my stomach kind of dropped out like it does on a roller coaster because how does someone like that get so old and boring and domesticated like a fucking house cat?
“I want a soulmate who can sit me down, shut me up, tell me ten things I don’t already know, and make me laugh. I don’t care what you look like, just turn me on. And if you can do that, I will follow you on bloody stumps through the snow. I will nibble your mukluks with my own teeth. I will do your windows. I will care about your feelings. Just have something in there.”—Henry Rollins
I like how summer makes my brain completely empty and I don’t even notice, half the time—that I’m sitting here not even thinking, really, letting my teenage instincts rule and it’s nice, I’d forgotten how nice it is to just…not really be anything? Unformed, nebulous, a mind with all the windows open…
1. There were these two little old ladies, you remember, Who lived on the corner in the blue house. And none of the neighborhood girls were allowed to Ask them to buy Girl Scout cookies or Ring their doorbell on Halloween.
2. When you were supposed to go to the grocery store for your mother You stop at the pharmacy instead And you buy these medical-type scissors. And you stand staring in the mirror wondering whether you Should take them to your hair or Your flesh. (You decide on both).
3. You were fourteen after all. You trace a heart into your stomach, To the left of your belly button, And as for your hair—you get rid of as much as you can And end up looking like a baby chick Sprouting down.
4. There are many sad stories you’d Like to forget from then, but you don’t forget Any of them. When you dream, It’s like someone turned the sound Way down. Those are the best dreams.
5. You fell in love with trigonometry because it Kept the voices out. You always wrote in your textbooks Not just the answers—messages and things, Secrets.
6. You cut your hair again and wore bandannas, Pretending you had cancer. People in the food court at the mall would Give you smiles. The other girls at school Treated you like you were a disease.
7. Your mother’s lips get thin, turn white When you hug the freckly girl on your softball team For too long. You figure there was something you should’ve said, Should say, but the words can’t even form Inside your head.
8. She is unsettling. She unsettles you, at least. You’d always watched her Out of the corner of your eye, and then one day She is watching you with both of hers. She comes up to you at your locker, asks you If you want to hang out sometime and You’d never realized she was taller than you.
9. She tells you you’re pretty in a diner And you try to swallow your pancakes and Act like that doesn’t matter at all. You kiss inside her car later, Your back pressed against the steering wheel.
10. There are so many words for infatuation And you’re a writer but all you can think of Is the heart drawn on your stomach How it rises and falls when you sigh The smell of her all pressed against your neck.
sometimes i just want to get a fake orange spray tan and bleach my hair blonde and wear hollister and a&f and american eagle and uggs exclusively and wear frosted lipglosses and make ducklips faces and care about jersey shore and gossip girl. because apparently “nice” dudes hate when girls that
because it’s “fake”, it’s “slutty”, it’s overdone/tasteless/”dumb” but fuck you. everything is fake. all persona is persona including what you’ve been conditioned to perceive as a “neutral”/”inoffensive” appearance.
because i don’t want your “respect”, and i certainly don’t need your advice on how to “respect” a body. i don’t need your fake concern about skin cancer and burns on my scalp when my body doesn’t even feel like mine sometimes. when breast cancer becomes selling sex to teenage boys who wouldn’t tell you about the lump in your breast they felt while they were feeling you up. your concern for my body will always be mediocre until it is mine to create/destroy/create, and even then it wouldn’t even matter because you do not inhabit this flesh, or these organs, or this mucus/snot/bile/blood/spit/fluid/fluid/fluid. so stop trying to crawl into my bed of skin, asshole. stop trying to own my ugliness. you can’t have it. too bad, so sad.
i don’t want you to wait before i leave the room to talk about how gross i am. i want my skin to be greasy and leave big orange stains on every man who touches me and who i choose to touch. i want my hair to make you puke. i want my clothes to remind you of how capitalism lives in tube tops and booty shorts just as well as it does in jeans and a t-shirt or whatever the fuck makes you feel like the girl you wanna fuck is real “authentic”, real “down-to-earth” or whatever. i want to remind you that every picture is posed. no expression can be pure when you can see the camera and the camera can see you. i want you to know that i spent three goddamn hours straightening my hair and putting on my eyeliner over and over again and removing it over and over again so there’s light grey rings under my eyes and when i reapplied my lipgloss for the 20th time tonight in the backseat of my best friend’s car it hit a pothole so it’s smudging against my lipliner and i’m still not “sexy” to your pretentious jonh lennon art school ass. my labor is MINE, and it’s ugly because god loves ugly. i wasn’t put on this earth to give you a hard on. i want to scream and drink and grind to shitty club music because i want to scare the living shit out of you. i want you to go home and post a facebook update about how “our generation is doomed” and get twenty likes from all your pretentious john lennon art school friends and all your fedora-wearing self-entitled pasty sarcastic bros and all your edgewatch xvx police officers and all your “nice guy” indie rock microbrew date rapists who all secretly wish they could make a man want to remove himself from this earth just by getting a spraytan.
i don’t want you to want to fuck me, BRO. i want you to have to look at me. i want to be the bright orange flesh you don’t want to fuck but you also can’t ignore. i want you to be very, very scared of what is going to come out of my mouth. i want you to cringe at the sound of my voice because it is both too feminine and too loud. your disgust makes me even louder, even more powerful. and it’s so funny to me, so funny to me, because you know and i know we are both just pretending we aren’t aware that deep down you so badly wish you could be a monster, too.