Archive for January, 2017

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Gifts

January 26, 2017

Hair curls on the edge of a collar folded like the steam from her morning coffee.
I never knew what material her dressing gown was made of, something caught between terry cloth and velvet, zipper drawn up tight against the sight of her thin nightdress below.
I never saw her without it on, as though it was the equivalent of nudity, to be unadorned by quilted burgundy. Dressed enough to open curtains and greet the day, but breakfast required her to be fully dressed.

My mother rarely wore a dressing gown, soft curves contoured by cotton, her breasts heavy round and reminiscent of a legacy she shared with her first born, though not with me. Her casual night wear suggested a welcoming closeness.
I never snuggled in grandma’s bed if she was there too. But there was always room between mum and her book.

With grandma, it was music, lullabies sung from the edge of the bed, pushing us into a dream country she dared not visit.
But mum carried us there, in the pages of stories that fell from her lips, tucked within the kiss she pressed with a featherlight love, on the foreheads of her near sleeping babes.

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I want you to see it; a dreamstudy

January 23, 2017

They’re fighting and she is trying to be quiet about it, withdrawing into a denim jacket, taking on the qualities of a store window mannequin. Look, don’t see me. Glance, don’t notice. But he is flamboyant, he speaks in a strut, means to make you look.
A black book of newspaper clippings pulled from her lap, she doesn’t fight anymore.

Wishes she could sink deeper into the sofa, it having grown soft from spending years on this porch, watching rain and holding court. Silent and faded, it bears sad witness.
He pulls more dramatically than her capitulation requires, the book spins. Clippings flutter like the feathers of a bird half dressed. He stands and is gone, tucking his shame in to the pockets of his tight jeans with lean fingers, none of us notice where. A fact that might devastate, as he is reliant on the way it feels to bask in hearts and eyes, even if through a tint of envy or scorn.
His meticulous attention to detail is wasted on me.

She freezes in his wake, her secrets spilled on the porch. I wait a count of three and lean slowly, creaking forward from a wicker chair with barely a sound.
My contact, fingers against the corner of a yellowing page gives her life again. She scrambles to gather the pieces of herself he carefully tossed with disdain.
Papers folded delicately, obituary origami, pinned by paperclip to keep them uniform.I see the pattern in her collection.
“Do you only collect the dead?”
She hesitates, trying to discern if the note in my voice is judgement of a kind she’s accustomed to.
I gesture with some of the papers I’ve picked up and she takes them as definitively as she can, while still being gentle. The motion of her hands, smoothing them, suggests the ‘no’ that she whispers, is a lie.

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Progress (a drabble)

January 21, 2017

I am comprised of stories, words that find their way home to my flesh and etch themselves upon me.
Shadows following calligraphic contours haunt the corners of my eyes, their swirl and sweep will make you dizzy if you look too intently.
I carry words on my feet that carry me, they describe all the places I’ve been and all the places I’ll go and they speak of rest with the same enthusiasm as adventure.
A mind to fingers blood ink connection, a black character on white page pursuit of something that is consistently honest, even when it isn’t true.

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On time

January 13, 2017

I have no time for a quick bath.
Any thoughts of rush through this and on to the next are lost in the smooth eddies that form around my sinking hips.

My feet, tentative ambassadors from the department of testing the waters bravely pave the way and let me know just how difficult this might be.
Sometimes it takes me just as long to find myself all the way in, cool skin to hot water ratio off the charts, as my would-like-to-be-orderly to do list brain has allotted for the complete experience.

It could be I’m economical with warmth. As long as there is heat, rising in waves of steam from the surface it makes good logical sense to stay. Better to delve than to dissipate.

I’m greedy for the weightlessness, the all encompassing sensation of being submerged. The feeling that I’m not trapped but set free, a contentment of containment.

Caught up, enraptured by the fancy of a fever dream more dream than fever. A notion I am a personification of Atlantis, a lost continent found, and fortunate be any man who finds himself alighting on her magical shore.

There is enchantment in the music of it, the toe toying with the spigot steady tap drip accompaniment of a slightly different temperature, creating rhythm with the ripple effect.

It’s a communication between the substances separated by surface layer of skin. Like the whales, I’ve found my way back to the sea, however temporary and saltless the visit.

There is poetry in the sound of the world from below,
an echo chamber where time’s influence is only measured in how long I can stay breathless.

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Vellichor – the strange wistfulness of used bookshops

January 9, 2017

My heart finds it easier to breathe here.
Surrounded by cracked spines, spread open wide, intimate details shared readily, because all friends start as strangers.

I thread my fingers between parchment dust coloured pages and before I know it, I’ve waded into the depths.
There is magic here, walking hand in hand with science.
Nearly faded reminiscences of past dance intimately with speculative hope of future interwoven with here and now.
The casual, the serious, the inhale, the exhale.
The entire human experience.

These are stories shared, loved and lost and left behind.
There is comfort here.
There is home.

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Rubatosis – The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat

January 8, 2017

I woke up hungry and I called for you,
But there was no answer because you were gone.
I lay there and I tried not to think
tried not to focus
on the empty space inside me where you used to be.
I rolled over and I closed my eyes tight,
Whispered ‘no, I’m not crying
These tears are a parting gift,
compensation for the prizes I didn’t win,
but thanks for coming out and being on the show.’

I wrapped my arms around myself,
I tried not to pretend they were yours,
But just between you and me…
Wait, the only thing between you and me
is the heavyweight quiet of a house where you don’t live anymore.
I didn’t realize how much room you took up
Until you took all that life with you.
What you left behind? It isn’t death
Death is not empty.
But at this moment,
I am.

It broke my heart that you didn’t say goodbye.
Just pushed me away in increments,
the silence pressing against my skin,
A surface tension stretched tight with unmet need.
I saw the fire dying, though I was still feeding it,
and you didn’t have the strength to tell me it had already gone out.
You didn’t want to be the one to hurt me
But that grim line that used to be a smile ripped me in two.

I think this is how a hedgehog must feel
on those days when it forgets
Which way to curl
And all the prickles stab from the inside out.
But hiding only works for so long.
Even with breath held and mind quiet
The dull thump in the centre of my chest
Pushes back against the sticky temptation of inertia
A tick-tock
to-do list
moments count
2..3..4
and 1 more time..
A consistent beat that finds its way
everywhere
To ears
To fingers
To toes
A slow motion woodpecker rat-a-tat
Poking holes in my theory that I can’t go on
Without you.

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Monachopsis – The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place

January 7, 2017

The middle of the nightmare wake up call fantasy hotlines are currently busy.
Please retry your curtain call,
your fall from grace,
Your taking up of too much space
Attempt to erase your memories in a disjointed manner
Without plan or
map to work out
how the hell
We are going
to get out of this place.

Because there’s a part of me that feels as though I just don’t belong
Like a line from a song
I forgot how to play.
And I don’t have time
To revisit every yesterday
In the hope that I can retrace my steps.

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Opia – The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable

January 5, 2017

I felt her moving behind me. My breath caught and held as I waited for a count of 1, 2..3..

“Where is she looking?”
“At me, but I think at my bottom lip, definitely not in my eyes.”

A whistle, the sound and then seconds later, fire.
I bit down hard on the scream before it pushed through my lips.
I looked him in the eyes.

“Now she’s looking. Her vulnerability is breathtaking.”

Her whisper in my ear, as soft as the earlier pain was still sharp.
“Good girl.”

I sighed as she kissed my neck.
I was hers.

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Sonder – The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

January 5, 2017
“I am me.
I create, process, analyze, contribute, engage.
I inhabit my body though I sometimes forget it’s not a separate entity.
I dance freely when I’m unafraid.
I experience the pounding of my own heart – exhilaration, fear, expansion.
I stay still and yet move almost effortlessly through time.
I depend on memory to catalogue places, people, events both grandiose and mundane.
I see, I smell, I hear, I taste, I feel.
I wonder about people and things outside of myself, discover compassion, empathy.
I incorporate lessons to help me grow, evolve, understand.”
 
“So do I.”
 
“Oh yeah, that’s right.”
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La Petite

January 4, 2017

I don’t think there was a single moment one could pinpoint as to when I stopped caring. It was a slow erosion, the idealism of youthful independence giving way to a realization that it weren’t no different with Madame Lalonde than it had been with my daddy. Except my clothes were a lot fancier, hand me downs from nameless girls I was too scared to ask about, wonderin’ who would go off and leave such pretty things behind. I used to pretend they had saved up enough and moved on, the way I would someday.

Madame told me, with that sweet note in her voice she used on the customers she was serving watered down whiskey to, that she was putting all my money away for me, and one day when I had enough, I could buy a train ticket east and go find my mama’s family, see if they’d take me in.

If I had to tell it straight, I would admit that I was probably treated better at Madame Lalonde’s. After all, daddy never had any doctor take a look at me once a month to make sure none of those men had tore me up too bad. All in all, it wasn’t a bad life, even if the parson crossed himself when he saw us leaning on the railing of the upstairs porch. Some of the girls teased him, showing him their lady parts, but my mama taught me to read from the bible before she went off and died. I tried to share with them, especially the part from Ephesians about let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving,’ but they only laughed harder and called me a sweet and silly girl. I know what we were doin’ weren’t right in the eyes of God, but that didn’t mean we had to be unconscionable sinners.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that sweet baby jesus was kind to whores and let them wash his feet with their hair. Not that I had enough hair to wash anyone’s feet with, Madame made us keep it short, for fear that we’d attract louses from some of those dirty prospectors we entertained. That’s what she calls what we do, entertaining. Some of the other girls have different names for it, but they’re all what Pastor Ridgeley calls euphemisms. I think that means a lie, because of how he says that word.

He used to preach to me, back when I first showed up in town, on a wagon with that nice Mr. Armistead, who brought me to Madame after daddy was killed by claim jumpers. He was very kind and whispered to Mrs. Armistead that they should take me in, that I didn’t have no family here and that I was a victim of circum-ferences beyond my control, what with my daddy trading on my pretty face, bein’ that he was a no good snake and a terrible father. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t, but Mrs. Armistead didn’t want another mouth to feed, and she had given me up as a fallen woman. That preacher still had hope that I could be saved, even if Mrs. Armistead didn’t. But eventually he gave up too, seeing the set of my jaw harden over time and the shadows gathering in my eyes.

No, I couldn’t tell you when I stopped caring, but I remember exactly the moment I discovered I could still be surprised.

It was the 18th day in June, 1863. I know because I had been practicing reading with the newspaper as Madame thought it was helpful to have a girl who could read and converse about the current events of the day. It gave her house an edge over La Belle Riviere down the street. In more generous moments, she talked about bringing in a tutor to help the rest of the girls learn how to read and write, but then pointed out, “they’re not paying you to use your mouths for talking!” with a coarse laugh that made the smoke from her ever present cheroot tangle in the feathers that dipped over her forehead.

I sat on the threadbare sofa, like every other night, a tawdry display of violet, black lace and taffeta with the shine worn away. Madame said I looked best in violet, it set off my dark hair and made my blue eyes sparkle like stars.

It had been glamourous, to sit half-reclined on what might have once been a dusty rose coloured velvet sofa lounge, waiting for someone to sweep through the door and lock eyes with my innocence. What was left of it. Madame told me that my piety worked in my favour, keeping the light in my eyes from dimming. I figured that was those drops of belladonna she made us all use.

She said it was something that Italian countesses did, to make themselves look as innocent as a baby kittens. I must admit, I sometimes liked the fuzzy vision it gave me. Sometimes I could squint and pretend that the man I was leadin’ upstairs was a real genteel sort, rather than a dirty miner who’d got lucky. Though I didn’t figure on a real gentleman smelling like hard scrabbled dirt layered on top of desperate hope and sour mash rotgut.

I’d been sitting and waiting, trying to look innocent and frail, Madame said men liked women who needed protecting, when a soldier walked in. He was wearing the blue, which I knew would make Madame happy. She was a staunch supporter of the northern side, though she never spoke of her allegiance in mixed company. She said a lady did better by being agreeable to whatever opinion her paramour might state, even if that opinion was a disagreeable one.

I had just been reading about Nevada having raised a battalion of calvary to aid the union, and wondered if I would have a chance to speak of such things with him. My eyes lit up when he glanced at me, something in his eyes I couldn’t read and he made a beeline toward me, before Madame intercepted. They negotiated quietly, while I tried to look demure yet seductive. I was never sure if I came close.

Madame gestured to Francis, the boy she kept on for menial labour and I almost clapped my hands with joy. If Francis was being summoned, that meant he’d asked for a bath!

He stepped to the small bar in the room to his left, opting to take a drink while the bath was being filled. I moved to join him and Madame caught my arm.

“The gentleman has a *special* request.” She emphasized special in such a way that suggested I might want to rethink my enthusiasm for the handsome young soldier. I drooped inwardly, allowing the emotion to touch my eyes only briefly, though Madame noticed.

“It’s nothing terrible. Not like Lacey and her Mr. Hughes.” I shuddered to think of the incident last March and Madame shook her head at the horror in my eyes. “Nothing like that, ma petite. No, our young soldier would like you scrubbed clean of makeup and wearing a night gown. I know, it’s odd, but he’s paying.” I nodded my understanding and turned away. He didn’t want to have drinks with a woman of easy virtue, he wanted the illusion of innocence as intact as possible.
I walked up the stairs and turned right, there was only one room that had a bathtub. It was the fanciest in the house. Normally everyone bathed in the wooden tubs on the main floor, next to the kitchen, but on our birthdays, Madame let us have one decadent hour in the ivory coloured enamel. I didn’t remember when my birthday was, but Madame had decided my eyes were as blue as September sapphires and so I must have been born then.
She used to press me, surely my mama had said something about the special day I was born, but I didn’t have any memory of much before that year she decided I was to learn how to read, because knowing the words of the lord might keep me safe from the evil that exists in the world.

I guess she didn’t know about the evil that was residing in her husband’s heart because he didn’t have much use for my reading after she died. I didn’t consider it so strange that I had no nice memories of being a little one, no birthdays and the like.

Sometimes, when I thought really hard, there was the memory of a sound, a strange whistle or shriek that made my skin crawl so I tried not to think about it too much. Instead I smiled at myself in the mirror, looking at the pink cheeks scrubbed clean of rouge, my naturally almond shaped eyes bereft of the burnt cork I used to outline them. Hair brushed to a sheen and covered from chin to ankle in a soft cotton nightdress, I gawped at myself, for I looked the part of the innocent virgin pretty convincingly.

I sat on the edge of the brass bed, my fingers idly finding the pattern in the white coverlet atop it and waited, though I didn’t expect he would delay overlong. Men never did when it came to gettin’ their needs sought to.

Sure enough, pretty quick the door opened and he stepped through, glancing about the room before his eyes settled on me. The expression on his face was…sad? I couldn’t figure what he was thinking, so I waited in silence, like Madame had taught me. If he was one of those who liked to unburden himself before he unburdened himself, I just had to be patient.

He paced a moment, like he was gathering his thoughts and went to the table where there was a bottle. Sometimes they poured themselves a glass and sometimes they poured me one too. I didn’t like it much, the way it burned, but it did make everything fuzzy when I squinted, just like the belladonna.

He opened the bottle and then stopped, came over and sat next to me on the bed. I kept my eyes down, thinking he’d tell me where he wanted me to look. He cleared his throat, once, then once again and stood up quickly. He walked back to the table and, after pouring a drink, threw it back and cleared his throat once more.

“What is your name?” he asked me, something tangled in his voice. I looked up at him and he was staring intently at me.

“I am called La Petite.” He shook his head.

“No, not the name that woman downstairs gave you. What is the name your mother gave you?” I was confused, no one ever wanted to know my name. Sometimes men had a preference, something they wanted to call me because I reminded them of someone, but no one ever asked what my name had been before I came here. I thought back to the time before. Daddy always just called me girl. But mama, she called me…

“You can’t remember, can you?” He was there, on his knees beside the bed, as though he was about to pray, my hands in his. “You can’t remember because they never called you anything. Because they weren’t your parents. They lied to you, they used you. I’m so sorry it took me so long to find you but I have. And I’ve come to take you home.”

I never thought anything could make me feel as dizzy as the liquor did, but the room started spinning and my head started to hurt. The memory of that shrieking sound getting louder and louder until I couldn’t hear him anymore, his lips moving in a pale face with eyes as blue as september sapphires. And then darkness reached for me, and I fell gratefully into its quiet.

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January 4, 2017 to……

January 4, 2017

Growth.
Joy.
Music.
Dancing.
Work.
Learning.
Stories.
Benefit.
Movement.
Stillness.
Listening.
Engaging.
Home.
Love.
Me.

 

 

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‘Tis an ill wind…

January 3, 2017

My name is Ilene. They started calling me ‘ill wind’ back in sophomore year of high school. I didn’t care. There were some who thought it was some kind of sly play on how I must fart a lot. Like there is anything sly about teenage boys. To anyone who asked, they would clamour to explain the full statement, with a perverse emphasis on *blows* nobody good, to ensure the full weight of the nickname was understood.

The funny thing was, they never stopped trying. Even though they spread the rumour I gave the worst blowjobs around, the fact was, a bad blowjob is better than none. Hardly a week would go by without someone cornering me, glancing furtively about, to make sure there was no one watching him approach the ill wind.

I turned them all down.
I’d never given a single blowjob in my life, good or bad. My best friend since grade two, Gina, perfectly cute and bubbly in that teen magazine acid wash denim, pink hightop cutout way, used to get so angry.

“Why don’t you say anything? Why do you let them perpetuate this bullshit?”
“Because it won’t make a damn bit of difference.”

It made her roll her pretty blue eyes every time, but she never argued. She knew it was the truth.

Gina had given a total of four blowjobs, preferring to get her boyfriend off with her hands, though she found the whole process distasteful, her lips twisting in a grimace that wasn’t well suited to magenta coloured tutti frutti gloss. She was saving her perfect pink pussy for after graduation, a fact which she had already shared with Dan, her perfectly popular jock boyfriend, though she hadn’t disclosed that it wasn’t him she was saving it for. “I’m not stupid. If Dan knew I planned to drop him the second we graduate, the pressure would be on. But I’m not going to be the high school cliche. I’m saving myself for a real college man. I can’t wait to get out of here.” Her perfect boyfriend later spiked the punch at junior prom and date raped her free of her cherished virginity. We didn’t call it date rape back then. It was just a date that ended the way most did. It also got her pregnant.

Her parents put her on a greyhound bus to her mother’s younger sister, two states away. Aunt Ellie, the weird one who could never land a man. Whenever she came up, Gina’s dad used to guffaw slightly, as though the laugh got caught in his throat and somehow transformed into a choked out, “lesbo!” Then he would erupt into actual laughter, more forced than hearty, while playfully punching his wife in the shoulder, as though her sister’s supposed sexual preference was a joke on her.

The last time I saw Gina was two weeks before our senior year was due to start. There was nothing pink about her anymore, she had a sallow look, as though the acid wash from her jeans had leached into her skin. One battered blue suitcase carrying what might be left of her dignity teetered on the sidewalk while her father looked anywhere but at her. I waited for him to laugh and punch her lightly in the shoulder but he didn’t. He just hugged her awkwardly and turned away before she could see the guilt that shimmered in his eyes. Guilt that he would spend the next two years trying to drown in whiskey from the inside out, until finally succeeding from the outside in when he drove off the elk river bridge one rainy Thursday in March.

I thought about asking her “Why didn’t you say anything? Why perpetuate this bullshit?”

But we both knew the answer to that.
At least her dream of getting out came true.

I remember the day the new kid showed up. A month into our senior year, he blew across the quad, intermingled with the dead leaves, a skittering crackle of russet. Messy hair, amber eyes, tall and lanky. He’d be big at some point, I could almost see the muscles he didn’t have yet. But for the moment, he looked frail enough that I could believe the wind had actually pushed him here.

I watched the shadows gather in the halls all that day. The boys were just like their fathers in our little town, cruel and frustrated, looking for someone or something to blame for the fear that kept them from sleeping soundly at night. Oh, they’d never admit to such things, and even if they had, it would be impossible to speak into words what they were afraid of. But that fear crept into the corners of their eyes and waited. For someone or something to blame. I felt bad for the new kid, I hoped he wouldn’t get it too bad, but there was a small part of me that was thankful for the attention that would be diverted from me, by his mere existence.

I walked home every day through a forest that had been forgotten. The suburban development encroached to a certain extent, and then just stopped, backyards petering off into moss covered rocks and thick stands of trees. Every so often someone’s cat would wander too far, curious and in search of prey, forgetting its own domesticity, and vanish. No one ever bothered to put up posters. Somehow this gave the woods a certain ominous atmosphere and most people stayed away. I was grateful for that, to me they felt like sanctuary.

Except that day. When Dan and his jock buddies decided to beat up the new kid on his first day, out of boredom, most likely. Dicks. He ran for the woods, who wouldn’t? But would they chase him in?
I watched from my perch, felt the thunder of their athletic feet drive into the damp October soil, their lust for blood heavy in the crisp air. I waited until they passed below and then lightly dropped, my knees bending on contact before I sprung forward and loped after them.

I had wanted to save my first time for after graduation, like Gina. But I suppose I had to practice on something more formidable than neighbourhood cats at some point.

It’s time they learned how ill the wind can blow.

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