brick by brick, limb by limb
i was born into a country
divided by a wall that:
cut through people’s breaths and yet
straightened their shoulders like a spine;
i was born into a country with
a cast grown tightly around (and into) its body:
finally, the fall came:
as the trees began to shed their leaves,
the wind picked up brick after brick and
carried it away;
it left us with a new kind of emptiness that
made my father tear himself apart:
he took limb after limb and threw it against
that same brick sky until he was no longer my father but a
tiny white spot in the distance
most wars won mean several battles lost,
no big victory comes without defeat on both sides
keep in mind the bigger picture, i hear you sing –
your catch phrase:
keep in mind the bigger picture,
we are making history, we are changing things for the better
(battle after battle, defeat after defeat)
sometimes I open an old book and some of my father’s
fingertips or eyelashes still crumble
out from in between the pages and fall into my lap;
we all keep in mind the bigger picture, of course
but you should know that in order see it clearly,
most of us have to stand on each other’s shoulders,
that’s why some of us fall and break their backs.
The question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The answer: “A poet.”
You get up, you breathe in, you drink your coffee, you work, you breathe out, you drink your coffee, you drink your coffee, you work, you work, you breathe in, you breathe out, you work, you go to bed.
The question: “Do people still read poetry these days?”
More questions: “What do you want to be when you grow up? You’re already grown up, so what do you want to be? What are you? Who are you?”
Some answers imperatives: “Choose a career path, choose wisely, make some a lot of money.”
The answer: “No one reads poetry these days.”
“No one reads poetry these days unless it’s scribbled on dirty walls in public restrooms, girl”, says the poet and pours himself another glass of wine from the box. “I should know”
“No one reads poetry these days unless they’re dead drunk and their life has just started unraveling like a badly knitted sweater”, says the poet and pours himself another glass of whiskey from the bottle. “Also, this is exactly when most people start writing poetry” It seems that he should know.
“No one reads poetry these days unless it’s referenced in an obscure pop song, honey”, says the poet and takes another sip from his bottle of dark beer. “And in the end, all they remember is the cute singer.”
You get up, you breathe in, you get dressed, you take an aspirin, you work, you breathe in, you breathe in, you breathe, you drink your coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, you work, you breathe out, you breathe out, you take an aspirin, you work, coffee, work, coffee, bed.
You still read poetry: on dirty walls in public restrooms, on stickers stuck to sign posts, in old books, in new books, in your own books, in borrowed books, on postcards, in magazines; you still read poetry. You still write poetry: in letters, in your notebook, in your head. In your head, in your head, in your head (where’s my notebook?).
The question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Another question: “Do you want to grow up?”
The answer imperative: “Make some a lot of money (and then spend it and then make more money so you can spend more money and then – ).”
Answers: “You still read poetry. Poets still write poetry. Some many people still read and write poetry. You can still be a poet.”
“Choose any career path, girl – as long as you continue writing, you’re probably a poet anyways”, says the poet and pours himself another cup of black coffee. “Trust me, I should know.”
Dear Mr. Grinch,
I get it after all.
Why you, why some people simply hate Christmas. It all makes sense now.
I’ve never been one of you. I may have been an elf in a former life, or a Who at least. I love the lights, ornaments, carefully picking out presents, writing Christmas cards, hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. If it was up to me, I’d be celebrating Christmas all year.
Not just because of these little things I just listed of course, also because – most importantly – Christmas is about spending time with people you love. And I suppose that’s where it gets complicated, unbearable even, for some of us.
This had never occurred to me until one particular conversation with a colleague some time ago.
Me: Aren’t you looking forward to Christmas, too? It’s my favorite time of the year!
Me: … oh … how come?
Her: My father passed away on Christmas.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry … then that’s understandable of course …
The thing is, though, I didn’t really get it. I just thought I did. Besides, it was the only reply I could think of that made a little sense when someone tells you something awful like this.
Two days ago I got a phone call. It was my dad. I’d just sent him a picture of the heap of Christmas cookies I’d been making with my roommates. There’s no way on earth I could have seen it coming.
His voice gave him away immediately, though: shaky and sort of muffled. I felt my heart sink, right past my stomach, down to the very tip of my toes. Your dad isn’t supposed to call you in a shaky and muffled voice. If anyone, it should be your mom. My dad doesn’t give hugs unless he’s forced to. He’s a practical man down to his very core. When my sister told him she was pregnant (sort of a little too young, sort of not at the right time), he just shrugged and said: Things happen. He doesn’t f***ing talk like this unless something’s really wrong. And it was.
A death in the family or within your closest group of friends always feels like a smack in the face. This one felt like being punched with a crowbar. I sat down and mumbled something along the lines of I can’t believe it, this is terrible, I don’t know what to say. Then my mom took over the phone because, clearly, my dad was in no shape to continue this conversation; especially with me being the eloquent dialog partner that I was at this very moment.
I spent the rest of the night sorting through all sorts of emotions, fairly unsuccessful. I was trying to come up with a brilliant message to send to my sister, because this terrible piece of news hit much closer to her home. I didn’t want to call her because if I could’t come up with a couple of words in writing, how was I supposed to say something remotely resembling a sentence. It took me hours and the words still felt inadequate and silly and unhelpful. I sent the message anyways because I wanted her to know that I was thinking about her. Because I was, all night.
I still am. I’m thinking about her and her husband who’ve been through so much already. I’m thinking about my two wonderful nephews, in particular the older one of the two, who’s already had so many losses to claim in his short life that it’s breaking my heart whenever I think about it. I’m thinking about my dad’s voice. I’m thinking and thinking and it all seems so horrifying that at times I catch myself wondering whether none of this has actually happened and it’s all just a terrible nightmare.
I’m thinking and thinking –
and I get it.
At the same time, I don’t feel like it. I still love Christmas. I’m dreading this year’s holidays but I’m hoping they’re going to be like a little break from the days filled with grief, confusion and anger that are lying ahead.
This is not an anti-Christmas manifesto. If anything, I hope it’s a reminder for all of you to be grateful for your family and friends, a reminder to let them know how much you care (more often, we should tell each other every single day), a reminder to be there for each other, especially during the hard times.
Have a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and love
It’s a Wednesday night and I’m in my sweatpants, drinking wine as I’m writing this.
I’d actually planned to go to this after-work-thing to be a little less anti-social with my colleagues but it was cancelled last-minute – thank God! Now I can be anti-social while pretending I’m not: sorry you guys, I would have loved to go out, too bad it’s not happening (did this sound too sarcastic you think?).
Now I’m officially free to do all the fun stuff I would have preferred to do all along and I don’t even have to feel bad about it: wear comfy clothes, eat in front of the TV, listen to any music I like, blog. Cause that’s fun, right?
Or am I getting lame these days? Is this what I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be out partying after all? Meeting interesting people and stuff? Is this why I’m slowly but steadily approaching my mid-twenties, still half (or three-quarters) in school, half (or one quarter) working, single, home alone tonight? Am I missing something? Was my mother right (and what’s her most important advice again – why can’t I remember this)? What am I doing with my life anyways?
Oh dear, is this it now – a quarter-life crisis?
No, I’m not helplessly neurotic – just a tad bit. Here are a couple more of my most recent thoughts on being (almost) 25.
Vocation or occupation or something else entirely?
Six-year-old me wanted to be a writer when she grows up. And seven-year-old-me, too. Eight-year-old me wanted to become a vet until she found out that they don’t just get to pet the animals all day long and decided to stick with writing after all. Now I’ve almost finished grad school, on the best way to become a teacher. What would six-/seven-/eight-year-old me say? Would they kick my stupid grown-up (and maybe too reasonable) butt? What do I really want? Do I even know?
Of course, being a teacher doesn’t mean I have to give up writing; I could always write on the side (like I’m doing now) – that is, if I have enough nerve and time. Or I could become bitter and cynical and just keep telling my future students about the novel I was writing and eventually going to publish, without ever actually writing anything. And then, 24-year-old me thinks, just because we make a certain decision at one point in our life, it doesn’t mean we can’t make another decision some other time.
I think, if six-/seven-/eight-year-old me made a fuss about it, I would probably turn to them and say: do you remember how one year all you ate for breakfast was Coco Puffs and then one day, you decided you wanted to try out Froot Loops because they looked really good? This is kind of like that, too. There would be a brief moment of silence and I would nod wisely and finally agree with myself. Hopefully.
Also .. what about love?
As my Mom loves to (accidentally?) point out whenever my sister brings her husband and two boys over for lunch on Sundays: I’m still single. While people around me seem to be procreating like rabbits (boy, it must have been a very cold winter last year and what’s with this biological clock everyone’s talking about?), I am a rock, I am an island. I’m going to tell you this much, though: it’s not because I just can’t let go of my precious freedom. I do believe in love – the heart-wrenching, earth-shattering kind; this incredible love that you can feel to the tip of your fingers. I’ve felt it. And then it left me.
Maybe it was just a preview, though. Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Whenever this silly feeling deep in my gut rears its ugly head and wants to tell me to get real, because life’s not a movie or a fairy tale, that there’s no such thing as fate and that, by the way, Santa Clause doesn’t really exist, I decide not to listen to closely. It’s not that I’m a hopeless optimist/romantic – I’ve just decided that if
everything turns to shit life gets rough, nodding your head and mumbling I’ve known it all along doesn’t help you, either. You might as well have a little hope – even if it’s all you’ve got.
So much for my latest random thoughts. You may or may not want to call this a quarter-life crisis; probalby it’s just an almost boring reflection on life the way people like Socrates already did it way back in good old Greece (in the golden days, when they weren’t bankrupt or so much as knew about the concept of bankruptcy yet). And anyways, what’s in a name, as Juliet would say. No matter the label, it still feels the same.
Sometimes life gets so busy, you have to take a moment and recapitulate just so you don’t outpace yourself. And I don’t even mean busy in a spectacular I-just-shot-a-critically-acclaimed-motion-picture-and-now-I’m-having-Spielberg-over-for-dinner kind of way. Because sometimes you’re busy with things that are not that interesting, even though they matter a lot to you personally (like studying, work, cleaning the house or calling your mom). The past weeks, I’ve been jumping back and forth between class and work, trying to (finally!) finish my thesis somewhere in between. I have no idea how people can have a job, get a degree and have kids. The thought alone simply blows my mind. I have two plants (they’re doing fine, no worries), my apartment isn’t a mess and I manage to feed myself and every now and then some friends but that’s about it. So kudos to you guys, you are amazing.
But I digress. This wasn’t actually my point. I was talking about recapitulating, because that’s what I meant to do. So here we go: I’ve had to take cold showers for more than a week because I couldn’t reach the plumber and when I managed to reach him, he forgot about me in the course of his busy day (maybe he should have paused and recapitulated as well). He did come by today, though, and fixed what needed to be fixed – let me tell you: I’ve never been happier about the blessing of running, hot water! So that’s that. I’ve also spent the afternoon with my grandma who just moved into a nursing home. I don’t know about you, but I find the thought alone really depressing. Sleek linoleum covered floors, each and every wall painted in light yellow (because of the soothing effect … yeah, right), people moving around equipped with their emergency medication and wheeled walker. All of this may not be that interesting to you, but to me personally, it matters a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to share something even though it may not be the most earth-shattering of things. Because they are still things that have shaped your reality and maybe they’ve even changed bits and pieces of you as a human being while you weren’t paying attention because you were so busy.
Now, something else entirely! I’ve also written another piece that belongs to my last past, technically. At least, they’re part of one and the same overarching idea, even though it may not yet be apparent. Anyway, I still wanted to share it in its early stages, if anyone has any thoughts they want to share – please do! Enough of my Monday rambles, though. Here goes the next part of the story.
Transatlanticism, pt. II
He was saying that he knew where to go but, of course, I didn’t trust him until we were there. Because I never trusted anyone and also because Nathan’s sense of direction was worse than my own; and my own was already pretty bad.
“Are you sure it’s on Huntington?”
“Yeah, it’s just down the street – I double-checked. I won’t lead you around in circles again, I promise.” He smiled and I could feel that tense muscle in my neck relax a bit.
I smiled back. “At least now I do know my way around Providence.” Okay, armistice.
Not that he could really blame me and my skepticism. When he took me out to dinner the week before, we first ended up getting lost on our way back to the car and then he took the wrong exit which resulted in a two-hour long detour. Not that I minded terribly. I also learnt more about cranberry bogs that night than I thought there was to know about them, ever. You never know when knowledge like that might come in handy, though; especially when you’re a teacher (that’s what I like to tell myself anyways). When he finally rolled into my driveway it was already two in the morning and he felt so bad that he didn’t even kiss me goodnight. I minded that a little bit.
In the end we found the Museum of Fine Arts right away and I tried my best to hide my surprise. I was also still busy trying to figure out why he’d insisted on taking me to a museum, of all places. He didn’t strike me as the type who’d willingly spend his weekends wandering up and down museum halls, eager to learn, looking for inspiration or whatever it is that brings people to museums. That is, unless it had something to do with cars, motorbikes, maybe planes if the design was cool enough.
When we looked at an exhibit of different paintings and drawings, it turned out I already knew him well enough after all.
“Okay, so this just looks like a bunch of shit if you ask me” he snorted.
“Okay, so we should have just gone to see a movie if you ask me” I should have said.
Of course, I didn’t. Because I was the type who would willingly spend her weekends wandering up and down the halls of a museum, getting lost in the wild dabs of blue and green of an impressionist painting; reading about the origins and background of a collection of historical artifacts and other things I’d just forget as soon as I would leave the building. Maybe he’d taken me there because he knew me well enough, too.
I’d realized that we had absolutely nothing in common on our first date already, but I liked his cynicism and his light blue eyes. I also liked that he took me out on real dates and that he openly announced them as such. He always picked me up at home and called me beautiful (and it always seemed like he actually meant it) and so I didn’t really mind that he had a terrible taste in music, movies and that he was rooting for the wrong team. I also didn’t mind that he was constantly complaining about the state and possible decline of America as a hegemon in the world and about the American people as such, even though he was such an all-American guy himself, with his beige khaki slacks and his degree in business and finance. I didn’t mind a lot of things simply because of the way he treated me. I’m sure we’d have had beautiful children. I’m also sure we’d messed them up terribly (then again, who doesn’t?).
The last night I saw him was Valentine’s Day. He came over to give me a single red rose; to say goodbye or maybe I’m sorry or both. Not because he’d also figured out that we didn’t really have anything in common. He simply had to fly all across the Atlantic for work. He seemed to feel just as bad as the night we took the 2-hour detour but at least he did kiss me, his beard rubbing against my chin until it was red and warm. I took his hand and pulled him out of the doorway; gently pushed him into the apartment. Later I took his hand and pulled it out from underneath my shirt; gently pushed it under my skin. There was nothing else left to do.
Whenever I think about it, it almost makes me laugh (one of those stories that doesn’t hurt anymore, you might as well turn it into an anecdote – maybe not for dinner party’s; maybe for drunk and confessional nights out): I watched him climb into his old and way too spotless BMW one last time; I didn’t wave, I just stood on the porch, staring at the tail lights disappearing around the corner.
Sometimes nothing is said and yet: you still know it’s over – despite the promises (“Of course, I’ll call as soon as I get out of the plane”), despite the exchanging of e-mail addresses; even despite the fear of loss, lonely nights and the possibility of falling back into old habits (too many drunk nights in a row and never enough Advil in the medicine drawer to fix all that needs fixing, dear God).
I thought of his eyes and hands one last time and I thought that just couple of hours later he would be able to visit my family as easily as he’d been coming by my apartment for the past months.
Sometimes it’s really hard to beat the irony of life.
What’s been going on this weekend: It’s incredibly hot. I got a fan! I died my hair (which isn’t nearly as spectacular as it sounds because it doesn’t mean “Hey, I have blue hair now!”, but more something like “Hey, I just died my hair!” – “Really?” – “Yeah, it’s darker now, what do you think?” – “Really?”) and I also just started writing different parts of a longer story I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Okay, this is a weird preface, but here comes the story!
After seven hours on two different planes the city welcomed me with a six hour time difference, the funny smell of a bunch of people who’d been in the same clothes for too long and five different but equally long lines at customs.
I spent about an hour watching the same “welcome-to-America” commercial on a large screen above the official’s booth over and over until it was finally my turn. I was half-expecting him to quiz me on it – he surely could have; I would have aced it, hands down.
Instead, the guy simply looked at my German passport, took my German finger prints and told me that he’d been to Oktoberfest about 11 years ago. He loved the German beer. Of course, everyone does – or so I’ve been told. He was still daydreaming about it whenever he had a Miller lite, quite understandably. I smiled politely which, apparently, was good enough for him; then I left him to his beer-filled memories. There’s nothing better than having your entire cultural heritage reduced to one single stereotype. You travel a lot lighter.
When I stepped outside it was already dark. The fireworks would probably start any minute now and I doubted that I would be able to see anything at all standing just outside of Logan. I quickly got into a cab and gladly paid the heavily overpriced fare when it stopped in front of the hostel just 20 minutes later. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be stuck in traffic or just stuck in front of a barrier for a lot longer this late on a day like this, but even the roads were free on the 4th of July. Go figure.
I quickly got my key and dragged my luggage up to the third floor to be able to at least catch a glimpse of the fireworks above the city. I took some blurry pictures for my mom and enjoyed the warm evening breeze. There’s something about having the ocean right at your fingertips; at the tip of your toes. I took a deep breath because that’s what people always do in books and movies when they want to hold on to that one moment; really live (whatever that means). I’m not sure why, but it does help. Maybe it’s because of all the oxygen that’s suddenly pumped through your system – a sudden and brief high of O2; O2 and fumes.
For quite a while after the fireworks I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. I watched a couple of innings of a Red Sox game rerun in the community room and would have killed for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who in the hostel I would have needed to threaten in particular so I decided that the next morning wasn’t too many hours away and that I might as well wait and be civil about it.
I texted Michael to let him know that I’d made it safe and sound. That summer, I fell for this city and for him. Sometimes I wonder whether two summers later the same city was what made it all fall apart. And then I think it probably wasn’t the city. I’m not exactly sure what made me fall for him, but I’m sure he’s loved me for all the wrong reasons; he’s been in love with someone that wasn’t really me and, which may have been worse, never wanted to be.
When he finally did see me (behind all the things he’s imagined me to be), he was so full of disappointment, that there was no room for anything else anymore; let alone something like love. This city, really, never had anything to do with it. It was just the one thing that remained; a road sign that remained and kept me aware of everything that didn’t.
It’s easy to get worked up about love, even if you’re not sure that that’s what it is; it’s easy to get worked up about something you’ve lost, even if you’ve never really had it.
Is it Christmas time yet? That’s not possible, it’s only May – yet: I feel rather festive today; like a Who decorating the Christmas tree, a happy Who-ray on the tip of their tongue! Well, it may not be Christmas but it might as well be because I was just nominated for the Liebster Award, my first blogging award! This calls for another Who-ray!
The Liebster Award is an unofficial award that is passed through the blogging community from blogger to blogger – there is no overseeing authority, no prize money or anything official really; it’s pure blog(ger) love, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. So thank you very much for nominating me Realiction boy!
I also love how the title of this award is half German (those of you who read my last post can guess why: I’m German as well and most days I’ll happily admit it). I’d say the rough translation of it would be Favorite or Dearest Award – and that’s pretty lovely, right? It may not be what we’re generally famous for, but believe it or not (behind the beer and the weird ch-sounds): we Germans are some lovely folks.
Without further ado, though – here are the rules for the Liebster Award:
1. List 11 random facts about you.
2. Answer the questions that were asked of you (by the blogger that nominated you).
3. Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and link to their blogs.
4. Notify the bloggers of their award.
5. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer once they accept the award.
11 Random Facts
1. I have a cactus named Earl. I named it Earl because when I got it, it sort of looked like Earl from the 90ies children’s show “Dinosaurs”: round and chubby. Ever since I got it though, it weirdly changed its appearance and now looks more like a Medusa: it has many heads/arms/legs/whatever. I never renamed it just because I don’t want to own a cactus named Medusa.
2. I don’t own a car. I have a driver’s license and every now and then I’ll drive one for some random reason but I usually get around by bike/bus/on my two feet for two reasons: I can’t afford a car just yet and living in a city, I don’t really need one at the moment.
3. I think eating in company makes the food taste better.
4. I love chocolate, especially when it comes in the shape of a chocolaty chocolate chip cookie. Who doesn’t? That’s what you may think. But seriously: I LOVE CHOCOLATE.
5. I will surely judge your taste in music – if you judge mine. If everyone’s being nice and civil, we’re cool and I won’t even snort when you play that freakin’ Rihanna song that annoys the hell out of me. Promise.
6. I hate when Ingrid boards that plane without Humphrey at the end of Casablanca. And I think Louis is probably way cooler than his uniform makes him look like.
7. I love the sea. Actually, I love all kinds of water: lakes, rivers, even ponds – but most of all I love the sea.
8. There’s a scar on my right hand from when I burnt myself on our downstairs neighbor’s oven when I was four.
9. In my opinion, The Little Mermaid is one of the worst Disney movies ever (a girl that gives up her voice to be with a guy she’s never talked to? Come on. That’s not even subtle, that’s just lame).
10. For a while I couldn’t fall asleep between twelve and one because of witching hour (obviously) – I just spent an hour being afraid.
11. I collect pig-related things: I have a few stuffed animals, a watering pot, even an ice cream spoon. But I’m not weird or anything.
The Liebster Q & A
1. What’s the worst nightmare you’ve had?
I went through a phase where I constantly dreamt of being murdered. All the dreams of that episode were pretty frightening – the one with the scream killer trying to stab me is probably the winner, though.
2. What time of the day do you prefer to write?
3. Ebooks or Paperbacks?
Paperbacks, hands down. Because you can mark sentences, scribble notes in the margins, and they smell really nice.
4. Do you follow the news and current affairs closely?
I try. I just got a couple of news apps for my smart phone – that’s pretty handy.
5. Keyboard or Pen and Paper?
6. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I booked a very spur-of-the-moment-flight to London last summer to visit a friend for just two days. I also had a friend do my hair dreadlock style in high school and kept it for a day. Does any of this count?
7. What is one movie you can watch throughout a single day over and over again?
A Day at the Races, a Marx Brother’s classic. And also While You Were Sleeping, just because.
8. When it’s raining, would you run through it or stand and enjoy it?
I would choose the golden middle and walk. Or pull a Fred Astaire and start singing.
9. Do you cook?
I enjoy cooking a lot but I only cook if it’s not just me eating in the end.
10. How many drafts are stuck in creative procrastination on your blog?
I don’t even know. If I start counting now, there’s a good chance I’ll be falling asleep in the process.
11. Has blogging made you a better person somehow?
How do you define “a better person”? It’s made me write more therefore I’m complaining less about not writing enough. I’m sure my environment appreciates that.
11 Questions For My Nominees
1. What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
2. Why do you write?
3. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
4. Poetry or prose?
5. If you could have coffee with any person, dead or alive, famous or next-door-neighbor, who would you choose and why?
6. Favorite sports team?
7. What’s your comfort food?
8. Job or vocation?
9. Do you (mostly) write in your native language?
10. What’s the last movie you’ve seen and did you like it?
11. What inspires you?
1. Linamay – a lovely blog that deserves a lot more attention because it’s serious in a funny way. Or funny in a serious way. Either way, it’s really nice!
2. FairyBearConfessions – the second blog I ever followed on wordpress; and still really wonderful!
3. Penguin Hugging – Photography I really enjoy.
4. A Flock of Crows – Inspiring writing.
5. What If It All Means Something – some nice poetry & prose; funny too.
6. Prairie Muffin Manifesto – a blog on food and love – basically all the important things in life.
7. Mirror Muses – Musings.
8. Nathanguitars – poetry, typewriter-style.
9. Bullets & Dreams – A seriously funny lady.
10. Reelsoundtrack Blog – music & movies, because they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
11. Kana’s Chronicles – one of my very favorite blogs, that’s all.
Just a poem.
A Piece of Advice
An eye for an eye
the Bible says –
just one of its vague suggestions on
how to best love
But you never listen to
what others try to tell you
(because no one listens to you either,
and when was the last time you‘ve seen
any of your neighbors, really?)
so instead of taking the knife
to cut a large X into his thorax (and then hers),
deep into the soft, warm flesh and
muscles, arteries, valves,
11 ounces: a secret maze
butchered and all the secrets shed
on the cold, tiled slaughterhouse floor.
You dig deep down into
your own chest:
nausea, lethargy, dehydration, a tremor
(11 shots of vodka or what was it again?),
a severe case.
And you, the lamb of
a god who’s never read the Bible
and hands out hamburgers and beer for communion,
lie on the cold bathroom floor,
split open like rotten fruit
dreaming of bible verses smudged against
the stark break of day, scribbles on the tiled
slaughterhouse floor: grant us peace.
I haven’t made changes to the previous two parts I posted yet – nevertheless: here comes the final one. Yes, yes – the point is still to get someone’s opinion but it occured to me (last night, right before falling asleep; best time for revelations of all sorts) that I wanted to share the entire
story draft piece with you before making any changes. And then the changes will come, big time. Or whatever. Enough rambling for a Monday morning, though. Time for some prose (okay, there’s some poetry hiding as well; sorry…not).
Part III: Count what’s left.
Emma traced each letter with her index finger as if she wrote them, once more. What she really wanted though: erase them, with the slow rub of her finger tip. Or edit them. Of all the books she’s edited in her life, this was the one she desperately needed to re-write.
She leaned back in her chair, staring at the letters in front of her: each one stiff as dead body (unchangeable). She blinked once: they twitched (maybe?). She blinked a second time: they were as motionless as ever (dead still).
She was overcome by the sudden urge to rip out every single page. She wanted to rip out page by page and crumple the paper. Or tear it to shreds. Burn everything. She pulled the secret lighter out of her secret cigarette pack. The flame went on, off. On, off, on, off. She put it back, closed the pack. She pulled it out again (on, off, on, off). This would leave her, once more, with nothing. Then again: after spending all these hours reading; hours full of words she didn’t understand. She hated them. They meant nothing. So really, she was left with nothing already. After a little while (on, off, on, off) the lighter ran out of gas: off.
She couldn’t remember the last time words hadn’t been a shelter, comfort, an escape. But now, they had let her down. His words had let her down. She’d thought they would help her. She’d thought if she’d get to know them, she’d know it all. Now, she knew them – by heart. She could recite them like poetry; poetry in a foreign language. Much like when she was little and sang along to Spanish songs (tried to): she never knew what she was singing and she mostly made up words that sounded like something she’d heard before. A faint echo no one would ever correct.
Liam wasn’t the only one with secrets in the house.
Soon after Dave was gone, Emma started smoking – although she had promised to never touch a cigarette again (she’d promised herself and she’d promised Liam and Lucy). She snuck up the stairs from time to time, hid in Dave’s office and blew cigarette smoke rings out the window, like she and Dave had done it out the bathroom window of his parents’ house when they were sixteen. She thought, like then, it went unnoticed. But, of course, it didn’t. Not then, not now.
She hid her cigarette packs where she thought Liam would never find them but he figured out all her hiding places in no time. She had always been lousy when it came to hiding things. He’d always found his and his sisters Christmas presents, long before the 25th.
After a while, he started hiding the cigarettes from her. He knew if he was serious about it, she would never find them again. And she didn’t. She never even got suspicious. She simply thought it was her – scattered and depressed, desperate; desperately trying to hide everything from her son.
And still, Liam knew. He knew about her little cigarette breaks (he knew all about her sadness).
April 5, 2012 – the last entry. He’d scribbled a few words in sloppy handwriting, she could hardly read it: I might never be able to tell you in any other place or at any other time: don’t let me go. Then (in the same, eerily sloppy handwriting) another poem:
it’s all bombs and white flags –
I’ve been on war,
as long as I can remember
it’s all bombs and white flags
I can’t remember anything else
not even how I was shot
an ache in my chest: the bullet
still moving, stretching
a butterfly’s wings within its cocoon
metal that spreads
cold and hard
against my skin
it’s all bombs and white flags –
a battle that’s
making me sick
got me a gun,
a helmet (a deadhead) –
still I know: it’s nothing but a gamble
weighing options, making the right move:
the one that finally breaks your neck
I’m on on on,
I say no no no:
I say: I quit
no more torn bodies, feelings
limp in the mud
out of the protect dig: out!
out to lie down and rest
and breathe and
rest and breathe and
Emma and Liam
She got up, stepped out in the hallway, closed the door behind her. She stood in front of his room. In front of his red door; his screaming red door.
She’s felt it staring at her the last days (or weeks? Or months? Or something that didn’t have a name yet?), screaming red, screaming his name.
(Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam). Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam.
Tiny stitches. Leaving her full of tiny pinholes.
She wasn’t able to set one foot – one toe, the tip of a toe – in the room, not since she’d found him in there.
She’d found him: a belt around his fragile neck; his body limp, his face pale, almost blue.
There was still a dark spot where she’d vomited on the wooden floor.
She swallowed hard. Her mouth was dry. It was simple after all. How do you make sure no one ever (evereverever, love) leaves you again? Beat them to it. You have to be the first to go.
She pushed the door open and entered. She could still smell him. He was everywhere. She was hurting thinking it was because she’d lost him forever.
Now, she realized that wasn’t it. It wasn’t.
As she stood in the middle of his room, it suddenly struck her: she was hurting because he would never leave (out, out, out).
He would be in his room forever, he would never get out (out, out, out).
Shake it out. Seriously: Shake – it – out…
I’m sitting here, a glass of wine in my right hand (because it usually helps me to talk a lot more than I normally would and maybe, the same goes for writing?), waiting for inspiration to strike me – like lightning, or at least, like a tiny spark.
I’m sitting here, fairly uninspired.
Last night, I did manage to get a start on what bears the potential to become a fully-grown and respectable story. And yet. It already has a fair amount of brothers and sisters huddled in drawers, crouched together in notebooks, sitting and waiting in long-forgotten files on my laptop: none of them ever made it past the literary toddler-stage.
There must be something in the air that constantly stunts their growth – maybe the occasional incense I light, or maybe there’s asbestos within the walls of my apartment, or maybe an old case of writer’s block, drawn-out.
Still, I’m sitting here, fairly uninspired.
Story Beginning, Pt. I:
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.
It was early, merely dawn. The sun hadn’t had its morning coffee yet and was stumbling across the sky, still half-asleep. Much like her.
She didn’t even know what time it was. She had been awake for hours, flipping through pages, pages and pages. Running her fingers over every single word, every single letter in the book. Breathing them.
She’d taken them all in, had almost choked on them. It was his handwriting.
Now, she knew all of it by heart. And yet. She just really wanted to know him. Understand him. Understand it all.
March 23, 2012 in the upper right corner. Then: Mary. Then: Mary. Mary. Mary. Mary. Mary. Mary Mary Mary Mary Mary Mary Marymarymarymarymary.
Because there wasn’t another day, not for him.
I’m sitting here, a glass of wine in my right hand (three or four sips emptier than before), waiting. Maybe not even for inspiration. Maybe, I’m just waiting.
I’m waiting, inspiration?
I opened a window to air out the past days’ heat that’s collected in the small room, gotten stale; some of the past days’ memories that have collected in the window curtains like cigarette smoke (I am sorry; Don’t apologize; I am truly sorry; I know; I am sorry things are so complicated; So am I…).
I’m waiting, inspiration?
Story Beginning, Pt. II
“Why is the sky so big?” His question came out of nowhere, like always.
A minute ago he had been busy biting off the crust of his peanut butter sandwich. Now, he was looking at her through his thick-framed glasses (the ones she didn’t want to buy him because they made him look uncomfortably grown-up – but he had insisted).
She tried to think of an answer that would make sense to him, like always.
Usually, she couldn’t come up with anything that seemed reasonable enough to him. Scientific enough. Once, she had tried to put on her favorite high school teacher’s tone – simply to sound scientific. She really tried. She wanted to explain the world to him. Yet mostly, she couldn’t. She knew that. Mostly, the world was too complicated for her to understand, let alone explain it to anyone else. One day, she hoped, he would be the one to explain things to her.
“Or do you think we are just so small?” He was still looking at her. Crumbles of toast and smears of peanut butter stuck to his mouth and tiny fingers.
“That’s probably it, Coop” she said. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
Still, I’m sitting here, fairly uninspired.
I’m waiting, inspiration?
Still, I’m waiting, fairly uninspired.
I’m sitting here, inspiration?
Story Beginning, Pt. III
She’s standing at the edge, bent forward a little. Her thin, white dress is fluttering in the wind: one moment it rests calmly on her legs, like a second skin almost, entirely covering the pink scar on her left knee; the next moment it shoots up into the sky, maybe wanting to cover up other scars (ones that are not pink but black or some dark shade of blue or purple); scars that lie way beyond her left knee, beyond anything really.
She’s standing at the edge, bent backwards a little. Her smooth, brown hair is fluttering in the wind: curls are flying through the air, like migrating birds – always headed South, South, and further South…
She’s squatting. Her hands feel their way along the two ropes they’ve been gripping tightly for the past several minutes (maybe hours). She’s sweating. It’s October, but unusually hot – the summer has melted in its own heat and oozed into the cracks of fall, sweet and sticky, like syrup (maple).
The swing creaks as she’s moving: backwards, forwards; forwards, backwards.
I’m sitting here, a glass of wine in my right hand (it doesn’t help to loosen my tongue, it just make it numb, which is just as good, at least for tonight), waiting. I’m here she says, I’ve been here all along – you just didn’t want to see me, her voice sounds unusually high, accusingly. I know, I do know. I try to reassure here. I’ve been here all along (a pair of eyes; grey, almost blue). You just didn’t want to see me (I couldn’t bear it; I already feel you all the time — I can’t feel any more).
I’m sitting here, not waiting but wondering. I wonder, now that inspiration has found me, what I am going to do with it.
We always claim that it is inspiration we need. And yet. Inspiration is not like an invisible friend that whispers stories into your ear and keeps your nights from being too lonely, too dark. Sometimes, it’s an invisible friend that pushes you into the lonely darkness (a pair of eyes; grey, almost blue), makes you dive in deep in order to find the stories that are hiding at the very bottom of it.
I’m sitting here, slowly finishing my wine. I’m here she says, I’ve been here all along.