surviving the wreck

for the one who woke this morning, uncertain how it is possible to have come this far and you stand in the space where nothing makes sense but there is still this. here. your own survival. your breath that filled lungs that expanded and your eyes adjusting, taking in the smooth arc of skin that curves from clavicle to the last rung of the rib cage. . .

i keep thinking of you.
though i do not know if it is intellectual thought as much as orientation, the way something in my body and bitten lip keep turning toward you, needing to know your location, needing to keep scanning the crowds and looking through all the languages until eyes lock and we land again, returned to the unnamed space where we silence neither the knowing of brutality nor the love lush as the greenhouse where you turned again to the light which is life.

the truth is, nothing i can ever say could ever make any of it better.
there is not a version of the story where the good measures so great that it ever takes away the horror or the holes left from when that which you loved and could not live without suddenly was taken.
there are no do overs, and this life seems not particularly interested in owing us anything.
the healing that sometimes happens is exquisite, shattering every idea i once had about how much a human heart can hold. against all odds, it is possible that sometimes our grief gives us our humanity, restores us to relationship.
but it does not return us to what once was.
so i refuse to meet you the morning when you wake to your own survival and tell you tales of the phoenix rising, the slick stories that carry the sheen of inspiration so as to quell the terror in the teller.
your life does not exist to make others more comfortable.
so just for now, just for this moment, i can offer this. even if nothing is ever made better, i love you and i will meet you in the room where nothing can be undone but for reasons known and unknown, you woke again this morning, breathing and beating life.

and i keep thinking of you. . .
the body that shows the map of injuries and knows a want like hunger and cannot bear to be touched lightly but only strong and sure, the way you might press down hard to try to stop the bleeding.
the haunting of hunting season and the hallowed spaces where you dug out the decay with bruised fists and the way sometimes still, even after all these years, you still feel the way two o’clock tastes on the mouth, filled with broken conquests and steam rising from the concrete. and somewhere in the space where shoulder blades attempt to touch in the chest opening, you still miss it.
the never being able to quite find the right language to say what really happened.
the wanting the relief of not having to explain.
the nightmares that never leave.
the reckless glory of a waterfall washing over you, the sound of it like a roar, and the way she brought you coffee in bed and the plant that hung there in the shower, spilling down like there was still time enough for everything that came after.
the scars that formed on the inside of skin, intimate and devastating, invisible to the rushing world.

i keep thinking of you.
I keep wondering how it is possible we survived.
i keep wanting to hold your face amid all the unthinkable things, and even in the moment by accident, how pulling on jeans over curve of hip and onto waist, i might happen to look up and see a reflection in the mirror, foreign and familiar, finally found.

what are we to do with all this loss?
what are to do with so much beauty?

this is for you.
for all the times you did not want to make it through.
for all the times you did things you never thought you could or would do, just to make it through.
for who you once were.
for who you became in the war you did not choose and the fight you found that saved you.
for the way the warm returned and the salted air changed your skin and you knew again how to let something hold you.
for you. to you. the one who swam to the other side, tossed to shore, waking in the morning to the sound of the city outside your bedroom window and knowing in the marrowed bone that all those things really did happen, and all of it will always be here in you, and so too is the sun and the moon and the stars. you are here in the living and the mango is sweet in the mouth and the dirt clings to feet and your belly breathes power.

for you.
this is not a victory march.
this is not an inspirational poem.
this is not about a bouquet of stories on the other side of loss that make it seem advantageous to know this name of suffering.
this is not a need for you to remember or retell.

this is simply me, standing here with an open boarder inside me and eyes that will not look away, saying thank you.
thank you for fighting and finding the way here, feet shaken and heart steady.
thank you for doing what it took.
thank you for your art and uprising.
thank you for giving a home to the sharp teeth or survival and holding the hurt in your lap like there is love enough even for this, even for the unthinkable, even for her, even for here.
thank you for choosing life.


dear thirty-nine

Dear thirty-nine,

Today is the day we begin, and your number becomes attached to my name. Today, I am thirty-nine. I do not know how to write you this letter without also somehow writing to eight and ten and twenty-seven and thirteen, because to write to the future is to return to the past, our own navigation devices forever pointing all directions, moving through time as if carried by the weightlessness of water. So hello. I am here, thrust backward and pulled forward, into matters of meaning and the unknown.

I want to say that I am glad that I am here, walking into your arms. That there are so many changes happening and still yet to come and it can feel like kaleidoscope chaos, shape after shape after color sprawled and illuminated shape.  And so there is something that feels good about having the day that is both a closing and opening. I will never be thirty-eight again. How terrible. How wonderful. And then there is you.
I want to say that I am here and will stay. I am staying this time, because it’s all I have and it is what matters most. Whatever happens or does not happen, I am not leaving myself. So we are in this together, remembering old stories and re-envisioning old myths, carving out a different possibility entirely from the wood which will always be wood, scarred and sanded smooth.
I want to say I will show up and stand strong and put up a fight.  If the mystery begs me to come slip inside the space of silence and drink what is unnamable, then it is also true that the lover in me is sometimes found in the fighter and when the lines are drawn, I know what side I will be standing on.  Because as they cry out in the streets, if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor. So let’s just say, I’m not neutral.
I want to say that there are these moments when I can see the outlines of things, like flashes of images that come and say here, this way.  How I see the desk where I sit and write and Susan Speaks and maybe, just maybe, the story I’ve waited to tell my whole life finally finds its form. How I see a lamp lit street and a request and the first snow. How I see learning and a voice emerging and I do not know how far away she will feel, but I do know she is there waiting up ahead for me to come back, home. How I see the imprint left after the dancing, and the late night when the work roared, and the questions and the craving and the pelican swooping across sky and coming to stand in the still water.
I want to say I am sorry. I love you. Thank you, even now before their happening, for all the moments when you will come and surprise me with your recklessness and wonder, your unapologetic humanity and inarguable truth, your need and your lungs and your graceful reckoning.
I want to say we will make something spectacular with these days, and that the math of time will reveal a broken open belonging, and we will remember to be kind.

I want to say all these things, and I do not know. I hope so. I seek. I build. I devour. I stand on the ground and stare at a star filled sky, gaping in wonder and aching for witness. But I do not know. So all I can say is that we can also go back in time and find all the torn and still tethered places, all the ways of staring in the face of the unknowable, every time I fought and lost and won, all the pounds of my flesh I carved off to appease a forsaken god called sanity, all the hallways that lead to nowhere and all the sublime and inexplicable survival which tossed me to a shore, foreigner and found, filled with savage knowing of the terror grief and yet nothing but reasons to live. They are all there. They are the maps and the places where the map will always and forever fail and we are left to forage and flail. They are the secrets and the scars in the hands and the blister on the lip from biting down to hard.  They are the wound that does not heal and the way forward into what comes next. They are the gift, and the great cost, and the leaves that felt like mana one afternoon after everyone else had left and I thought, “this is the entrance to everything.”

I suppose you and I don’t get to our introduction, merge into number and name at this point in life, without loss and mad love. And maybe that is why I feel some kind of revelation in having arrived here, into you.  We are human. We touch and are touched. We affect and are affected. We are marked and marred. We learn or don’t learn, and we bleed when cut and we are remarkable in the brilliance of our beauty and the messiness of our soft want and unmasked offering. Though I have no explanation, only the maps and the places where all the maps will fail, the past which was once me, I woke up to you this morning. For the love of all things known and unknown, I did arrive, and I am here.  Here, where we are a mystery even to ourselves, as you are a mystery to me on this day, on the cusp and on the closure. And I love you, and all the names I’ve known and numbers I’ve traveled that brought me to you.

There is a vast blue in front of me, cloud covered as if the whole world might be lit from within, streaming secret messages and hieroglyphics through sky. Thank you, for this. Thank you for welcoming me. Thank you for having me. May we grow wise and wild together.


trigger warning: we are human

Trigger warning: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material.

This is a trigger warning, for being human

trigger warning: i have done the unthinkable to survive. because i loved myself.
it was all love, even though it would be hard to understand if you saw only the carnage.
trigger warning: sometimes, the fact that you can survive so much is, itself, the most horrible hurt. that you are here these years later, watering a garden plot and installing the air conditioner into the window and then you are there one morning looking in the mirror at your wet hair and your tender veins and you do not know how to reconcile where you came from and where you stand, and the love feels like it will undo you.

trigger warning: when you meet her, you will question things that make you uncomfortable, make you feel like you could devour something or wrestle it to the ground, make you want something you cannot name, make you feel like crawling out of your skin except it also feels so fucking good to be fully inside of it, and it will be hard after that to forget. no, it will be impossible.

trigger warning: white police officers kill black humans an average of twice a week in the united states.
between the years 2006- 2012, eighteen percent of those killed were under the age of 21.
as these killings are self-reported by law enforcement, and not all police departments choose to participate in the recording of these deaths, it is fair to say that the numbers are likely much higher than the horror of what has been written down.
so, so many things are murky and many sided and not something that can be understood in the tidy categories we cling too. but trigger warning, this much is clear in all the discomfort it causes: white supremacy is at the rotten root of the poison that is killing human lives, destroying human dignity, and then blaming the victims of this violence for their own injuries.
when african americans rise up and speak out, march and protest in the streets against the violence done at the hands of those with power and guns sworn to protect, they are more likely than white protesters to receive police force in attempts at dispersing them. they will be arrested at higher rates and more severe physical force will be used in these arrests.
trigger warning: there is a war on the lives and bodies and souls of persons of color in my own country and city and neighborhood, resulting in acts of murderous terrorism.
trigger warning: it is those we claim to keep us safe that are continuing the hate and causing harm.
trigger warning: black lives matter. and if your response is, “all lives matter,” than you are part of the problem.
trigger warning: if you are offended reading this, it is worth asking yourself why (and if you want to learn more about white fragility, here is a good place to start)

Why are you so angry?
Why are you still here?
Why can’t you be quiet, play nice, know your place, wear more make-up, smile?
Why don’t you forgive?
Why are you still talking about it?
Why did you have sex with so many people?
Why did you leave?
Why did you not stop him?
Why did you not report it?
Why can’t you get over it?
Trigger warning: I do not owe you my life, and my existence is not here to offer comfort to the oppressor, to confirm your own stories of right and wrong, to smooth away wrinkles in my face or your ideals, and pretend like this should make me satisfied.
My life belongs to me. And my existence is as magnificent and wrecked as Pollock painting, but this much I know. I am here to be fully human, to be true to my own self, to love harder.

trigger warning: humans do the most horrible things to other humans, while a great gathering of people stand by and watch.
trigger warning: we are so afraid.
trigger warning: your silence will not protect you.

trigger warning: everything ends.
and still, the ending is not yet known.
what are we to do with so much uncertainty and so much smashed and smeared love and so much need to connect, only connect?

trigger warning: i crave the kind of intimacy that makes the heart bang in its rib cage drum and that makes it safe enough to say everything, that insists on days together in bed and carves out some kind of space where i would not have to walk forever with the brute force of making it through alone.
trigger warning: the trigger is already pulled.
her mouth already tastes like the ocean.
her love already liberates.
“do you want to do this?” my therapist said to me. “do you want to be feeling this? do you want to be in this work that her presence ignites? you are not required to open the vault if it is too painful, if it is not what you want.”
“it’s too late,” I said. “no matter what happens, it’s already been opened.”
“then let’s dive in,” she said.

trigger warning: memory is not static and set in stone.
it changes.
we change.
the events, all those things that happened and did not happen, remain the same.
and yet, it is also entirely possible that you can tell yourself a story your whole life, and then some day when you are sitting there in the outside seating by the river sipping gin drinks in your leather skin tight pants, you will open your mouth and realize the story has changed, the memory is morphing, and you hurt so much it’s like weight wearing heavy on the bones, but you are no longer afraid.

trigger warning: life is messy. i am messy. my cooking is messy. my bed is messy as i sit here writing. so is my psyche, with its round table and everyone here has a seat and sometimes they talk all night. so is my loving. so is the part of me that still misses smoking. so is the visceral longing i still have to be seven years old at my grandmother’s house, laying on the floor with my face close to the fan, mouth opened to release the sound that would echo through whirring blades, ricocheting into the empty room.

trigger warning: cancer comes and it steals things and destroys cells and stories you thought you would be telling about your life as you walk towards turning thirty nine in the blaze of the summer sun sign.
illness makes strange shapes of all the thing you thought you knew.
and then there is this- i don’t want to go back to the other way.

trigger warning: the most dangerous place for a woman to be is at home with the man who says he loves her.
all the threats spoken of, the terrible things lurking in bushes and from intruders and those horrible people “over there.” but this is what is true. domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women. one out of every four women in the united states will be assaulted, physically harmed and injured by a lover or partner in her lifetime, and if you do the math that means a woman is being assaulted every nine seconds. domestic violence is the number one cause of emergency room visits by women, and the health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and murder by intimate partners exceeds 5.8 billion each year.
trigger warning. there are over 1,000 homicides every year of women murdered by husbands and lovers, and former husbands and lovers, meaning on average, three women are killed every day, by someone who says “I love you and that means I own you.” pregnant and newly postpartum women are more likely to die of murder than any other cause.
in addition to this, women who kill their husbands or partners (so very often because they themselves were being assaulted by the man) will serve on average twice as long in prison than men who kill their wives.
trigger warning. a rape is reported every 6.2 minutes, and a great many rapes go unreported. three out of every four women who reported they had been raped or assaulted said that a present or former spouse, lover or date committed the crime.
and none of this is treated as a raging epidemic, a form of true terror, a pattern of gendered abuse that permeates homes and makes being a woman an experience fraught with possible peril. no one is declaring this is a crisis, calling for a war against the terror of being a woman and being harmed by men.
so trigger warning: being a woman can be dangerous and i do not know what it will take for us to wake up and see.

trigger warning: i have been sexually assaulted and abused, beaten and bruised, harmed more times than I have digits on my hands and feet, and all but one of the perpetrators was someone i knew.
trigger warning: my body is the site of the crime and the place of the injury, the vulnerability of letting myself want and the terror of memory that masks itself as dreams that still wakes me in the night. my body is the placement of my love and the house of my own holy hunger.
trigger warning: this body of mine is temple and skin of terrible stories and both are true and i get to inhabit it on my own terms.

trigger warning: sometimes it is the ache, the beauty of the intimacy, the way she looks at you first thing in the morning, the feel of her body underneath you and your hands in her hair, that feel like they could destroy you because it’s so beautiful it splinters every idea you had about what you could and could not know.  
trigger warning: if you cut me, i bleed.
trigger warning: even in the presence of so much violence, so much possible harm, so much wreckage, still what is alive is this:  the color of pink in the peonies, and the way the light came and shattered the wall on that worst day, and the taste of cold plums, and that your skin is still here asking to be touched.
trigger warning.  i am human. i am human. i am human.

trigger warning: this is it. this is your life. may you love it with all of you.

trigger warning: sometimes my heart is the loneliest hunter, and the bull finding querencia when it matters most, and the home of true refuge.
trigger warning. i would drive out and find you, even if you never pushed the button.
trigger warning: i love you.
no, i’m serious, i said.
i love you.
with everything unknown. with all the uncertainty. in the mess of the broken and beautiful things.
i love you. i love you. i love you.