Sunday, June 19, 2011

a mighty pen.

and the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

a verse from pablo neruda's "poem twenty." i understood what it meant, or rather, i had my own interpretation of it, when i had it tattooed on my right hip 7 years ago. its meaning to me has become more significant with time. it's as if the 27-year-old me knew...except its that kind of unknowing knowing, the kind you only find out later. my friend tattooed me in his shop above the bead store on high street in morgantown. depending on factors insignificant, people might call my friend "the mayor," because he knows everyone in town, or "big seize," bc seize is part of his graffiti tag. i met him when his older shop was next to the coffee shop where i worked. he and my boyfriend at the time were both into graffiti, and a group of us used to go to the park in osage, right over the bridge from downtown, to watch the two of them paint the wall of the building next to the basketball court. those were good days.

seize is a tall, burly fella with an affinity for cafe bikes and w.b. yeats. he has countless tattoos, though the sword beginning right above one collar bone and ending on the other side as if it went through his neck is a standout. his hair is the color of my dad's favorite black licorice but his beard is not, and sometimes his beard's length and girth give that sword tattoo a run for its money. seize is an intimidating-looking dude, though if he lets you get to know him, you'll find a big 'ol heart buried just due south of "diem," as in carpe diem, which is tattooed in a half circle on his chest. he and i don't speak often. i don't think about him much, and vice versa, i imagine. but i thought about him recently and it hit me that i hope we'll always be friends. we have one of those friendships where we always pick up where we left off. he loves to give me a hard time just for fun, and i love to be given a hard time just for fun, so it's always nice to see him. seize will give me my next tattoo for sure, but it'll be a while, who knows how long. all i know is it'll be a name.

i have a copy of pablo neruda's poem twenty laminated. it sits on my coffee table, gathering dust until i remember to wipe it off, which isn't as often as it should be bc i rarely sit on my couch to look at it. actually, it's not a couch; it's a futon. my dad bought it for me a few days before i moved to memphis. he insisted on the most expensive cushion. he and mom and i went to the futon store next to the mexican place next to big lots; mom loves to browse but dad and i like to get things done and get out, so we hurried it up. i remember saying let's get the least expensive one, but of course dad couldn't stand the thought of me sleeping on it for any length of time, which turned out to be a short length at that bc not long after i arrived in memphis he bought me a bed. the futon stayed, though, bc i could never afford a couch, or at least i never thought to save up for one. i've never been much for planning ahead. bc then i'd have to eschew whatever i'm presently yearning for in favor of some sort of calm assurance that in some far off span of time i'll be able to have what i want. and if there's one thing i'm inclined to do, it's yearn. and if there's another thing i'm inclined to do, it's to have an aversion to doing away with my yearning. discipline in my life is reserved for exercising and paying too much attention to my dogs.

so over the past five years, this couch issue became oddly important to me. i thought about it a lot. i wanted a leather a couch, a sectional. leather so the dog hair wouldn't stick and dog slobber wouldn't stain. i'd daydream about how good it would be once i got a couch, how i'd invite friends over to sit on it. not just to sit on it; i'd make food and it would be an occasion. as of today, though, i'm allowing myself to squash my own dreams of the couch. while another thing i'm inclined to do is enjoy being right about things, i am not always right. the damn couch won't change a thing. and i know this bc more and more i'm finding that oftentimes the things you don't think about — bc you take them for granted or they're too difficult so you push them aside — turn out to be more important than the thoughts, much like gray hairs, which take up residence in your head without you noticing.

today i thought about pablo neruda not bc of the verse on my hip, but bc of the verse a few lines down in the poem: my voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing. my voice all too often goes hoarse in the very same attempt — to touch another's hearing. i bet that's not how he meant it in the poem; i bet that voice was softer, less urgent, and perhaps even more accepting of its own limitations. i bet neruda knew that other people have to notice their own gray hairs. and if they don't, it's better just to let the verses fall, to quiet the voice and pick up the pen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

two hearts and a scale.

a week ago i weighed 102 pounds, plus an ounce or so. today, i bet i'd break the scale. if you counted the weight of my heart, that is. not the one pumping blood in and out of itself, somewhere behind my left breast, which lately i've noticed is bigger than my right. i mean that other one pumping feelings and thoughts in and out of me, somewhere undefined.

i'm not unique, though. i think we all have two hearts. and i think both are necessary to sustain life. though different people tend to their two hearts differently — maybe one more so than the other or maybe not tending to either at all. truth is, both hearts can bring you down if you aren't careful. that's why i'm writing this.very.moment. today, for maybe the first time ever, i realized i had to — just absolutely had to — let it be. i had to let my bandaged-but-burning-bright heart burn itself out rather than burn me.

it occurred to me on the drive from downtown to my house.

i was on the phone with a friend who was in despair over a decision, although i never worry about her bc, more than anyone i've ever met, she never runs from a hard decision, no matter how hard it is to make. i was driving down peabody, listening to her explain all the feelings clogging her second heart as i passed the corner store with "cold cuts" in giant letters across its facade, the quick mart by the housing projects where the woman with the large rear barely covered in blue spandex shorts was rocking her hips back and forth while waiting for the light to change, another liquor store with the barred windows where the guy with a bag full of chips and beer yelled something unintelligible at me, all the while my belly growling in anticipation of the leftover tabouli i made last night with fresh parsley and mint and my second heart pumping the same thought in and out, in and out: oh god why can't he just understand. as i crossed the four way stop where i never know which person is supposed to yield first...i never know in real life, either...i told my friend that her heart, at least that troublesome second one, was in one place, while her body and her life were in another. and i said to her: all of you should be in one place so you can be at peace.

from now until forever, i hope i can take my own advice, and maybe sooner than later i won't break the scale.

Friday, June 10, 2011

the lesson in sticker collections.

last night, sleep came and went in short bursts, the way clouds spill rain in summer. at least for the first few hours. i eventually fell into deeper sleep, because I remember dreaming was vivid the second my eyes popped open this morning but now it has slipped away. during one of my wide-awake bursts in the wee hours, i remember looking up at the ceiling and wishing it were covered in glow-in-the-dark stickers that were popular when i was in junior high...stars and moons...were there constellations, too? i can't recall. i never had them on my ceiling. i'm sure i would've had i asked, but i never did. i don't think i asked for much as a kid. i remember specifically pining for a few things...a huffy bike, which i barely rode...a barbie doll house, which i never got...a hot pink nash skateboard, which i only rode sitting down...a brass vanity with glass shelves, which i grew to hate bc it constantly collected fingerprints and dust...a horse, but i settled for frequent rides at my aunt's house and a set of plastic horses from the movie the black stallion...and a puppy, of course. a beagle my brother named cujo. we got him when i was in 4th grade from the older couple up the street who had tons of dogs in their backyard. cujo was smart and obedient and lived from the time i had my first fake boyfriend at 10 until i had my first real boyfriend at 24, the same year he had congestive heart failure. one day, mom called to say cujo had to be put to sleep. i remember taking the news well; i didn't cry at all, which now i think is weird, especially bc my boyfriend and i were broken up at the time. you'd think i would've been emotional. but back then i was still doing that terrible thing where i kept my parents at a distance. i don't know why i did it for so long, but i did.

mom said the day they put cujo to sleep, dad was crushed and swore he'd never have another dog. then i brought home chloe from wal-mart later that year. he looked exasperated when i came in the house with a big smile on my face and an armful of silky fur. chloe is 10 now and dad calls her cody girl and gives her special food and glucosamine and all sorts of herbs at my brother's direction. dad also hated cats for i don't know how long, but he for sure stopped the year he and mom moved to the house on the edge of the woods and their cat collection grew from zero to four — dixie, dusty, lacy, and josie. i named josie after josie wales.

my dad was a tough guy back in the day but time has softened him, which is exactly the reverse of what it does to his favorite italian gets harder and crustier with every day, and he likes it best that way. i bet mom likes dad best now that he's like the bread on the first day it's baked...warm and just slightly smooshy. nowadays, dad doesn't even try to hide it when he talks to the cats in that tone of voice men only use when they really love something, usually a child or a pet. or maybe a woman, depending on the guy...and the woman. me, i'm not into baby talk. or whatever you call it. but i do like to be called baby...or babe or darlin, or sugar, even. maybe i might be okay with a man using that soft, cutesy tone with me on specific, brief occasions...i can't think of any off the top of my head, but i imagine they could exist. i also don't like when men get that sexy tone of voice, the one that makes me think they've watched too many sex scenes or gotten some misguided advice along the way about what women like. a few years back, i went on a couple dates with a guy like that. he tricked me, though. at first he seemed really cool, with the exception of the way he wore his peacoat with the collar turned up...but mostly he seemed like an eclectic southern boy who liked to shoot guns and listen to good music and make good art. he had that way of making me feel like i was out with a real man...i can't explain that feeling exactly but it has something to do with me knowing that i'm in charge but letting the guy think he is. i like that kind of thing, though the re-occurrence of it seems on a par with me getting anywhere on time. i wasn't terribly attracted to southern boy, but i liked our dynamic at least. then one night he kissed me and i don't know if he'd had too many drinks or what, but out of the blue his voice lowered and his eyes narrowed and he clearly thought he was working his magic on me, and i couldn't get away from him fast enough. he sent two text messages after we parted that night, and i could just imagine him feeling sexy as he was typing them. i never went out with him again. similar things have happened on dates with other guys, all of whom i've never went out with again. i don't mind a man wanting to win me over if i've decided i like him...a decision which is usually as dangerous as driving blindfolded on an old mountain road full of hairpin turns and no side rails ...but anyway, overt sexy talk is decidedly un-sexy, and kinda hilarious. so while it never results in more dates, it does give me a good laugh.

early this morning i'd already started writing about glow-in-the-dark stickers in my head. i almost got out of bed to start typing bc i was afraid i'd forget the string of associations i was making from staring at imaginary moons and stars on my ceiling, but then i fell back asleep. today all i remembered to write about was the stickers. so i started with them and did what i don't do well in real life...i let go. and i ended with a good laugh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

who'd wanna be...

that narrow rectangular box on my fb page is always there, beckoning me to tell what's on my mind. i frequently oblige. however, in particular moments, i find myself typing and retyping, trying to condense my overflowing thoughts into — what is it, 420 characters? i could do it. after all, finessing words is what i do for a living. but this isn't work; it's life. and in those particular moments during the tug of war between my fingers and the backspace key, the writer in me comes along and beckons me elsewhere. so i come here, to this forgiving rectangular space that stretches as long and wide and deep as my thoughts. this space, where i can be that "jug filled with water both magic and plain...only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me." that quote is taken from too loud a solitude by bohumil hrabal, a czech writer whose tiny little book is so simply, beautifully written that it doesn't matter that in real life we are far less inclined to see beauty or find depth in the life of an aged, lonely drunk. unless you buy into bukowski's brand of smug self-satisfaction disguised as literature. i do not. hrabal and bukowski are both dead. but if hrabal hadn't ended up in a pile on the pavement — just like the droppings of the pigeons he was supposedly feeding that day in 1997 from his 5th-floor hospital window — he'd be doing the world more good. as for bukowski, modest mouse says it best — who'd wanna be such an asshole?

i've no reason to write about hrabal or bukowski today. they crept in unexpected, just like everything else that ends up making sense to me later. today my mind was pacing back and forth between wondering why i never know when to give up and knowing that if i knew when to give up, i'd be somebody else. and i like being me, even when i want to not like being me. did hrabal and bukowski like who they were? doesn't seem so. the former internalized it, to the point of suicide; the latter externalized it with women and booze. so they both got it, it being life, horribly wrong. what a waste. i think about things like i never want to feel like i've wasted an speak my mind or go after something i want, whatever it may be. lately my life has become immersed in things absolutely heart-making and utterly heartbreaking. so i held my breath and dove in, looking for whatever opportunity i shouldn't waste. so far i've found myself nothing but out of breath. i told my mom today that i'm fed up and frustrated and tired of false starts and dead ends and really, mom, i think i need a miracle. and she said they're still out there. miracles. hmm. i can't say i believe that, or at least not in the sense of something wonderful happening without me doing a thing to facilitate it. you give good; you get good. that's how it works. so of course i knew there would be no miracle, that i'd have to fill up my own little jug with more magic. and to hell with bukowski.