under my therapist’s guidance,
I switch chairs to talk
to my inner predator,
learn more about it,
what to call her
where she started:
now, now,
listen to the guilt,
it’s talking,
she gently
interrupted

but it was the shame
that was mocking me:
this pervasive groan
that stopped me from moaning openly
or owning anything, or only
owning the ways I failed
to amend my obdurate behavior
that started from the moment someone demanded
I stay on all fours in my daybed
while he comes in from behind me,
and has never ended.
so I keep ending up behind my dollhouse
cutting my hair, wearing my brother’s shirts,
ripping the hearts out of worms
and hiding them
in an effort to masculate myself
to purpose.
we were talking about a meat-eater,
my inner lion,
who once ate her own diaphragm
during a pretty short famine
so sometimes
I can’t be trusted to navigate things
or come back from them,
alone or
in silence.
let it go.

I decided to have some boundaries with the universe;
lined the edges of my bed with geranium and
lilac threads. my tub dripped nightly:
an altar of salt and
lavender sage.
watched my toes glide to the surface
by a dozen votives.
tease the cat
with little splashes at her nose.
forget everything.
my entire winter began to smell of spilled
rose hip oil and
diffused celestite.
the curtains shut tightly,
I could see the moon when I wanted
from my dining room table
or on a brisk walk
to pick up oranges and Earl Gray
for the morning.
rediscovered medicine in prayer and herb
and open mourning for my karmic retribution,
suddenly rectified,
suddenly deserved.
            do you deserve the good?

amethyst in my sock drawer and jasper
near the lamp. I hold
one shout in my throat

in an effort to continue to
subjugate myself.

protect myself from myself.
protect myself from himself.

until I just give in,
watch the killer waft in and out
without a discussion about what

s t a r v a t i o n

really means:

 

                            I decided to get rid of my light and aventurine,

                                                   I calmly tell Genie.

 

I just let her feast.

 

“gestalt”

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give it to me, God
can be a risky request.

immured in soft crystal, I felt
on the verge of therapeutically unhinged
all winter.
my hair was combed,
my lips were never chapped,
I wore blush every day,
stockings–
no runs,|
and my tongue tied
completely
so no one asked
what I may have needed.

chased an impartial sun
half of December
and spent the other half
shrouded,
soaked in flower essences        I preferred
helenite draped in tiger’s eye so I’m more
sudden hot eruption than slow boil
but tonight I try more benevolent blooms
and pausing
and
watch my flimsy, cherry-dipped
ylang ylang fingertips
shake unsteadily
and without any observable provocation,
suddenly stop untying my velvet collar,
suddenly shy away from the mirror,
suddenly lunge and land
on my ball of red sheen obsidian
delicately scraped from the bottom of some
extinct volcano;
still mired in sudden climax,
rinsed and smoothed for my
handling pleasure, now
pressed against my sacral as I spread my arms wide
on the mattress, making way for my
own crucifixion,
it was
“heart chakra activating.”

for wisdom.
for understanding.
for love, for love, for
soft, soft
l       o          v         e
with protection.
and my heart;
poor, twisted carnivore
always unsure of when the next meal will
bite back,
can shift her way into a
permanent snarl
with protection.

I stomp into the other room and
shatter the bowl
they let me borrow.
strip my skin of clothes and scent in
a hot steam bath
and
let the pieces rest.
watch my step
around the house
for now.

my place,
one carnelian cobweb,
can’t be swept.

“heart”

I am beginning my book.

 

 

It was 63 degrees and sunny and so dry that every five minutes I had to take a sip of water to keep my throat from tightening. My lips and throat were moist for only seconds at a time, and then my tongue would begin to scream again. It would feel as if a dust cloud just blew through and desiccated the entire plane. Before it hit my tonsils, I made sure I drank. It was urgent; every five minutes like clockwork, I took a sip. I became a machine.

 

When I wasn’t holding the canteen, there was nothing in my hands: no straw, no crystal, no unsent or sent text, no paper, no letter, no unfinished plot. I thought nothing of ceremony. I reminded myself to drink every five minutes, the canteen always placed next to my hip: cool and pressing and getting lighter with each swallow. I had nothing to celebrate. I let my body breathe without consumption. I felt my lungs expand without restriction, without analysis, without thinking about the mystery of breath, the mystery of atmosphere, condensation, the way each part works to form the cloud. I accepted my body as a perfect instrument that needed no interference, but some general nourishment, water, and rest. My palms faced down on the cooling ground so I could feel the buzz of the knoll run up my arms, through my elbows and hit my shoulders. My fingers dug past the sparse patches of grass surrounding the exposed roots in the dirt. I smiled without provocation and for no one. My feet were bare, my toenails unpainted and resting on the dry earth. There was no cathartic weeping. There was no unnamed longing. There was no burial or elation. There was no show about any of it. I shivered.  

 

I could feel the tiniest shift in the wind’s direction, the tiniest gust through my hair.  These winds froze the land at night, but I had been here before and was prepared. I had a sweater on and a hat somewhere nearby for when the sun finally went down and the desert dropped thirty degrees without warning. The land will teach you once with mercy, and again without it. She is gracious in that way, but to emphasize acceptance, she gets you alone there, and she takes her time with you. It was four pm and I had several more hours before I had to consider the night. I opened my mouth and tilted my head back to relax my jaw which had been clenched shut again. It popped in and out of place all day as I ground my teeth into my gums, but now it breathed with me, open and grateful for the change in pace. Mouth gaping, I leaned against the trunk slowly, letting my spine adjust to the slightly uneven support; the little extra digs from where the bark protruded, and folded my hands in my lap.

 

I was alone with my mind and yet, there was no preoccupation with occupying it. My head felt spacious: no racing delusions, no hourglass turning, no second thought, second guess, second regret. I could feel my whole body. I was my whole body. In front of me laid just trees; just a field of grass on a small hill and then an endless grove of turquoise and pine and a spackle of sorrel and burnt orange. The sky was blue; bright blue. The southwest had the kind of sky that inspired nurseries painted by eager, over-indulgent parents who wouldn’t dream of anything less than opulent for their male newborn. There I was, surrounded by untainted opulence and not trying to name a swatch after it, or prove that we both were here, that I had ever even been here before. No one would be inspired by this moment because no one would ever see it.  Is this contentment? I thought. The clouds were scattered; thin and snow white, not a rain droplet up there. The sun was bright and coming from a direction I was not facing. It was 63 degrees and I felt it. I heard no animal. As far as I could see, there were no roads or people or even brooks running through this small sanctuary. There were only trees and whispers of breezes, a small boulder in the short distance that something could perch on, a bird or a small ground animal, for a rest, but that was it. I imagined nothing.  

 

My mind did not fight to distort the image into being not about me or about me or about us or about anything. My mind relaxed with my jaw. My jaw relaxed with my elbows, now folded. My arms relaxed with my toes, now resting on top of the ground. The only movement was the shifting wind. My stomach did not rumble. My tongue was set in place, not lolling about, only slightly sandy. My body was not on display for anyone. There was not a single unsatiated need in my life at the moment. How soon would it be, or how long did I have before the budding inquisition began? And how long from there before the questions got stuck in my throat so I would only think and not say? So I would distort and submit to each distortion? How long did I have here before I lost my eyesight, before I could not see the trees for what they were; indifferent yet supportive? Before I tried to pick out the perfect song about it, tried to pick out the perfect word for this fleeting inception of nothing coming together at once? Where I would dissect every intersection I had crossed to get here today at the foot of the only yellow cottonwood on the hill at the beginning of autumn in the middle of the high desert at the first sharp cold breeze of the day. My heart jumped.

 

“God, what do I owe you for my liberty?” I spoke out loud.

 

I felt my body swell, uncaged, and grasping what I could never say, what I could never hear, what I could never embody. I conflated freedom with perfect living amends. I conflated happiness with exaggerated euphoria. I conflated trust with control. I had never been content or contemplated the meaning of the words I spoke when I tried to describe my emotions. I was a dagger. I wore my words like a dagger demanding space and taking everything from others. I agreed with these distortions and stayed stagnant, caged. The air was still. My jaw began to clench. My fingers began to wander to my bag to pull out a straw. My toes began to wiggle.  I knew what was next—the story would soon begin.

 

But God provides obstruction for the self obsessed; obstacles to keep us present, keep us moving forward. It provides problems to solve so you can use that investigative piece of your brain as needed, and sit and mend nothing as solutions naturally evolve, but you feel involved. You feel good about it. And perhaps God just wanted to show me that I am always beholden, always handcuffed to my own desire for divination. I am always trying to dehumanize myself for the sake of relaxation, for the sake of “rising above.” God wanted to humanize me; teach me that existence is divine. Or maybe God was trying to be a mirror so I could see my ridiculous demands on the world produced the world’s ridiculous demands of me. Or was that me to me? I think God just wanted me to understand grace in seconds, then minutes, then hours of moments, until you live in it. Until you are graceful. Until you are swallowed by it and you become someone people say is filled with grace.  They say oh she is so graceful and they invite you to their parties and they mean it when they say they are happy you came. Until you no longer beg, plead or make a single demand. Until you are grateful to have nothing to mend. Until you are grateful you have anything at all.

 

God replied as God does, without warning and in a way that no one will ever believe or trust that it really happened that way. It doesn’t even have to be remarkable for people not to believe you. People just don’t believe you heard things correctly or saw things correctly or understood things the way they were designed to be understood. Most of all, no one believes a dreamer. Perhaps I just don’t trust.  I heard a snap of a twig or a scratch on an object or something that made noise with its appearance and turned my head just as soon as I heard it. Standing on top of that boulder where only a bird or small animal may perch, I saw a full grown coyote. Lizard dangling from his mouth, I caught him watching me. Bated, I watched him back. We held each other’s gaze before he hopped off the rock without effort and sauntered west. He stopped after a few feet, turned around to watch me with complete assurance like killers do, and I watched the defeated reptile swing lifelessly with him. In that moment, I felt compassion for the whole forest; the entire game. I didn’t have time to go into it. I moved not at all. I inhaled and held it. He sensed my subordination from the distance and continued on into an opening in the trees we had both stalked our way through. Without missing a beat a sudden chorus from another direction. Near, but not too close, I heard a howl: long and billowing and announcing. Within seconds, a return howl just as urgent, and within half a second another return howl, and then another until there was a victorious cacophony surrounding me. Dozens of howls, nothing but howls; no sound of a highway or a phone going off or a song blaring from a radio. What does pulsing blood smell like? My heart raced with presumption.

 

Sarah… ticking time whispered, stay a wild animal.

 

If I had anything left besides a dry tongue and no love of want, it was instinct. I leaned back against the tree and listened to the last dog’s response subside and the woods quickly return to dead silence. No animal would move right now. No bird would chirp. No bird would dare be that mocking.  I shuffled not at all. It was 4:08 pm and 62 degrees and I felt it. The sky was bright blue. The clouds had shifted so none were in sight. The sun was bright and coming from behind me.  My feet were bare and on the ground. My hands were clutching blades of grass. My heart was racing. My breathing was paced. My jaw was clenched. God makes pacts with predators. God provides the prey.  If there is no prey to be found, God makes way for the long hunt, and we, in complete unison with its’ will, make way for the hunters and for the hunted to be caught. What we do in between and where we fall on that spectrum is entirely up to us. That is liberty. We will each have a death, yes, that is inevitable.We will also be responsible for a death. One, at the very least, which is our own. Some of us will be responsible for many. We owe God only that.

 

As I faced my woods, and I began to see them, I remembered my definition of a successful life was just one moment of complete contentment, complete presence, a feeling of being emptied. One moment of total reality that I did not imagine or showcase. With the grace of God, I had that, and I had it surrounded by the kind of sky that pinned women long for, would pay for. Some would kill for it. They like it so much they paint their whole house when they are done with the nursery. Do you like green-winged teal or blue-winged teal? they ask their unresponsive partners. Aware of his cutting disinterest, his biding time, she suddenly comes down with macabre so they go with burgundy. They redo the awning, the siding, the trim. Their baby grows as the house does: sterile, color coordinated, locked away to be untouched by the sun, and always at the whim of the mood of the couple. They consider themselves to be lucky.  They were lucky not to be barren, lucky not to be stranded, lucky not to be without things. They think they plotted it. They think they are innocent. They think they owe God nothing but good intent, and certainly are not responsible for any deaths. They feel sorry for me even at this distance.

 

I put on my hat. I put back on my socks and boots. I took out my buck knife and my locket with my brother’s ashes. Carefully pulling the necklace over my neck so as not to scratch my glasses or break eye contact with the forest, I arched my back hard. I exhaled loudly.  I stood up with the knife in my hand. I began my recitations.

 

“Dear God, thank you for my freedom,” I started as I walked forward.

grieving is merely accepting that you are letting go. it’s the emptying that we cling to, that we push through as it rips us apart. it’s the knowledge of endings without closure. it’s the knowledge of endings. it’s the interminable shutting door when all we wanted was one more glance, one more crumple of tissue paper, one more hug at Christmas with your only brother and then years later, a shared joint over a fire for his birthday: laughter at our family’s dysfunction, meeting his wife, meeting his smile, holding his gaze, discussing our parents mold and hot water problem, persistent plumbing problem, pet problem, general money problem, gambling problem, drinking problem, dads looming death with earnest discussion, with large toothy smiles. but all those things took my brother with them. the ardor cracked my fragile brother in two until he was just ash around my throat, that I read tarot to as I swallowed one bone so we can never be apart in a manic frenzy of hurt. there is no birthday bonfire. there is no more nightmare on elm street marathons. there is no more “you are adopted, sarah!”and the abrupt tantrum to follow. there is no teaching me about men.there is no eye contact. there is no getting any of that back.

we can’t comprehend death even though it is the only anticipated thing. we are offended by its snarling creep. we are mortified by the ways it takes the ones we love. we are mortified to admit he died by vodka. we are guilty we survived. we are ashamed of our poverty, our lack of sleepovers, our lack of security, yet so much perceived privilege from the world and how privileged were we? both inheriting yellow livers, flooded lungs, rum ropes to hang ourselves from. and my only ally is gone; the only one who understood what it meant to be raised in that way. that storm. embarrassed by the way their deaths take us, right here right now on the train where I hide my crying face because no I can’t fucking get over his death. but my grief for the living is harder. because they are there but they are not. I project it all onto the living.

that kind of grief requires the acceptance that life inevitably goes on and I still did not get what I want. I still did not get one more glance, they did not see me weep in a burgundy dress on the train on a day when I let it overtake me without pause, they did not see me try to hold it in, they did not see me try to change. they never saw the liquid comas I swam through. did not see the knives pointed over my hands. they did not see where I came from and I have no one to prove I shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be thriving, shouldn’t be here at all. I can call the living that walked out but I can’t be five years old with them in my backyard cheating at softball,talking to butterflies, hoping for more: more money, more chalk for the sidewalk, more living bunnies the cat won’t touch, more love from the two men in my life that just can’t seem to hug me with any meaning until it’s over. until I’m moving to Colorado and one of us is dying. until it’s way too fucking late to teach me male warmth. I don’t blame them.

grief holds you captive like one long steady choke until you one day you finally let go on the train in an unexpected outburst that startles your neighbors and jostles you to remember your brother is a libra and his birthday is coming and you both always wanted to be something scary for Halloween . but your brother is dead and all your lovers are gone. you parents are dying and your pets will be too. your brother is dead. your brother is dead. your uncle shot his head off last year. your brother is still dead. your family is sick and a lot of them prefer suicide and your brother is dead.

I had written it in the back of a notebook after it happened to comprehend what it meant when something is never coming back.
not a single moment in my life will ever be repeated again. I let go. I become. I cry quietly on the train without interruption or romance. I ask for nothing ever again. everything you learn to love, you lose. I appreciate fleeting moments and every ounce of joy the presence brings.

my astrologer said to me: your self undoing will be grief and romance. thank you god for so many endings. thank you for trusting my strength. thank you for helping me fall. thank you for raising me to my limits to show me what my limits are. thank you for my gifts that came with perseverance. I learned to love when I finally accepted my brothers death. I have been looking for my brother, you see, and when I finally accepted I will never have that again, I suddenly broke wide open and hugged everyone back. I held them too.

“The fall”