Beavers and Coyotes

I don’t have stories. I have stories.
I use to be addicted to heroin.
I have never been addicted to heroin.
I was a beaver before. True.
I had stiff whiskers and a paddle for a tail.
I should be a beaver still. Look at my mouth,
And tell me I wasn’t meant
To gnaw at tree trunks and peppermints and
The white skin inside my arm, sleek as my own teeth.
[I gnawed. I did what I was supposed to do.
I do what I am supposed to do. I gnaw.] Put a silk purse full of sticks
Between my teeth. Hurry. Snap closed the plastic gold clasp with a click.
Some echoes are like shadows that drop in front of a balloon.
It is deep night and coyotes are pulsing on low hills while I gnaw.
See their flanks shine. My flanks shine.
My flanks glow like teeth. I gnaw and worry at wood,
At my glowing arm, worrying away, pulling splinters from my skin.
Coyotes foam and pulse. It would all be different if I could foam and
Pulse. I foam and pulse. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.
I was high on heroin. I’ve never touched heroin. I should have touched heroin. I
should touch heroin. I should touch it now! I should
Gnaw open my veins with friendly old square teeth. Time is
Wasting. Wasted. I am wasted. I am lightheaded.
I woke up in a cardboard box of sticks tee-pee’d on a concrete
Sidewalk. Inside blankets were circled into loose, friendly nests on the
Pebbled sidewalk, like piles of hair shorn from
The quietly pulsing scalps of small girls.
I am the smallest girl you have ever known, and I weeded out my
own hair, hands motoring in circles, into a nest for
Anyone who will stop to rest beside me.
Pull me into your lap. Fold me open
Like a paperdoll. Curl me into a pillbug,
a bloom, a teabag with a square paper tail.
Crimp me until I please you.
I didn’t sleep enough. I can’t ever, not
Ever sleep long enough. Coyotes cried and
Barked all night, stirring their yips
In their bellies. I understand.
My head is loose and the sun is wiping snazzy
Fingers over my face. My hands are dry and dusty. When I snap, powder
Puffs from my fingers. My skin flakes. I get a palm-sized broom, borrowed
From a diner crowing about its chocolate pies. I am covered in scales.
Peel me down. Take care. Watch the powder. My teeth crack on peeling sticks,
Breaking like eggshells over the rim of a silver bowl. The unevenness of their
Shells is just exactly what I have been thinking about. I sand my thoughts down,
Worry at the rough edges. This is what I do when I’m doing what I’m supposed
To do. I dull my thoughts, break their sharp points down into
Little mounds of sawdust, piled like anthills on hot sidewalks.
The sun presses on my forehead. I am a pile of limbs. My pelvis rocks. I eat
Limbs. I eat anything in piles. My arm bones dry up, crack.
The morning sun does this: crack like an egg
On the ocean’s rim. I was lightheaded. I am lightheaded. The sun is just right.
I’m alone in a chilly pond. The sun can only be like this
When I’m brown and
Waist deep in chilly water, teeth pulsing and gums foaming.
I am made for sawing.
I was made to saw. I am ready to saw.
I’m swaddled tight and dry in athick pelt.
Sun smacks my cheeks with both palms,
Pulling my face up to the white glow.

Edit

Take one look at my fleshy mouth,
And you tell me I wasn’t meant to
Gnaw at wood and peppermints ticked red and mostly
The white skin inside my arm, running up sleek as my own teeth.
Put a silk purse full of sticks between my teeth.
Hurry. Snap the plastic gold clasp with a click.
Coyotes are pulsing. Coyotes pulse. See their flanks shine.
My flanks glow like teeth. I gnaw and worry at wood,
At my glowing arm with sharp teeth.
Coyotes foam and pulse. It would all be different if I could foam and
Pulse. I foam and pulse. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.
I was high on heroin. I’ve never touched heroin. I should have touched heroin. I
should touch heroin. I should touch it now. I should
Gnaw my veins open with dull, sharp teeth. Time is
Wasting. Wasted. I am wasted. I am lightheaded.
I woke up in a cardboard box of sticks tee-pee’d on a concrete
Sidewalk, wool blankets circled into loose, friendly nests, like
Piles of hair shorn from the quietly pulsing scalps of small girls.
I am the smallest girl you have ever known, and I weeded out my
own hair, my hands motoring, into a nest for anyone,
Anyone who will stop to rest
with me. I didn’t sleep long enough. I can’t ever, not
Ever sleep long enough. Coyotes cried and
Barked all night, stirring their yips
In moist circles over a fire. My head is loose and the sun wipes
Fingers over my face. My hands are dry and dusty. When I snap, powder
Puffs from my fingers. My skin flakes. I get a palm-sized broom, I borrow
It from a diner crowing about its chocolate pies. I am covered in scales.
Peel me down. Take care of the powder. My teeth break on peeling sticks,
Cracking like eggshells over the rim of a silver bowl. The unevenness of their
Shells is just exactly what have been thinking on. I sand my thoughts down
On rough edges. This is what I do when I’m doing what I’m supposed
To do. I dull my thoughts, break their sharp points down into
Little mounds of sawdust, piled like anthills on hot sidewalks.
The sun presses on my forehead. I am a pile of limbs. I eat
Limbs. My arm bones dry up, crack. The Morning sun does this: crack
Like an egg on the ocean’s rim. I was Lightheaded. I am lightheaded. The sun is just right.
I’m alone in a chilly pond. The sun can only be like this
When I’m brown and
Waist deep in chilly water, teeth pulsing and foaming. I am made for sawing.
I was made to saw. I’m swaddled tight and dry in rough, wet fur.
Sun marks my face.
You know how it is when the sun is this
Way and you’re brown and dry and wet.

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A Lentil and a Popsicle

I am living just outside my life. On the edges, sewn into the hem, along the outline, in the grout. I am quite sure I can fit myself into one of the cream tiles lining the bathroom floor. Picture it: the tile is a square dime, smaller than an inch by an inch. I could fit there, or on the head of a pin or on the pale green shoulders of a dry lentil. I am bigger than the blue in the sky if it were to be bottled and sold on low wooden shelves at a farmer’s market. I would never sell shit at a farmer’s market. I’m not that kind of person. I’d buy it, though. I like to own things. I’d like to own the pattern of my breath. I believe I can fly. I think I can walk. Walking trips me up. I am usually not here. I cannot put my thumb on life. It is curious. I cannot press it or mark it. It is like this. I sit in meetings and talk numbers and dates. You can’t imagine. It’s not me. I never show up. The furniture is out of proportion and I consider touching the person sitting beside me. To feel their outline. To know if they are as porous as I am. They’re not. They are soup sloshing in a bowl. I’m a flowered bowl holding still soup. I spend a lot of time pressing my back teeth together, like a hot iron held firmly in place on a stubborn wrinkle. I want to flap my wrists and flutter my fingers in the air beside my temples, shaking my head like a child and humming low and deep in my throat. It is curious. I look pretty when I do this, if you have the right kind of eyes. I sit in a meeting. I sit in a chair. I perch on a top shelf. I curl into a candy dish. I drop my eyes onto a pencil on the table, a pencil gnawed by a nervous child. I am a nervous child. Teethmarks run the length of the pencil with dents, the pencil marked like an old fashioned typewriter. I slip into the slats in the heater vents. I pull at my feathers with my beak and chirp from a tree outside the office window. I know songs. I know songs. I’m full of shit in real life. I’m top notch on the edges. This is hard to follow. I could not have names for myself. I haven’t a clue what my name is. I don’t answer to anything. I’m confused like a glass vase holding dirty flower water, dying flowers pulled out from the water with a tight hand around their neck. Maybe it was me who gnawed the pencil in the real life that I sit on the edge of, like a child sitting on the hem of a community pool, concrete pulling at the seat of her swimsuit, legs loose in the water like cooked spaghetti. Her thighs are hot. Her calves and feet slim once they cut through the chilly casing of the pool water. I am stuck in casing. I am going to die in here. It’s definitely probably me who gnawed the pencil. I am always gnawing at something. You haven’t any idea. I am at all times looking for something to bite, something to sink my teeth into, something to fill my mouth, something to worry at with my teeth. I am going to break my teeth doing this, crack them and grind the stubborn ones into a fine powder. I should have been a beaver. I would have been an excellent beaver. I am not an excellent human. Humans aren’t always looking to bite, to snap. Maybe the little girl is me. Maybe those are my thin legs in the water. I left myself behind so long ago, sitting on the edge of a pool and sucking on a grape popsicle. Sucking the grape from the popsicle and leaving behind ice the color of skim milk. My lips were cracked and purple, my tongue wrinkled. I haven’t eaten in years. I can’t stop eating. Maybe somewhere a narrow version of me is walking, thin and tall as a pencil. That bitch is probably living my real life, leaving me behind lead footed. I hate her and mark her as selfish. I cannot fit into my life. I am too big. I cannot fit, I would like to scream. Wrists flapping, fingers fluttering. I ruined my bathing suit sitting on the concrete. The seat is pulled and pilling, so I left the suit behind in a damp pile on the tile floor. I stand naked in the middle of a 7-11 on a fake street in a real town in a fake city with matchbox cars zooming across steaming black asphalt. I clench a soggy box of grape popsicles in my hand. My fury has a fury. The box is soft and furry as it melts, and I scream at the bald cashier with a tattooed neck: I can’t fit. He doesn’t look up, he rings up a young mother with a thick brown ponytail held in place with royal blue elastic. I am too small, and there is too much room to fill. I get tired of thinking about it. I can’t sleep. My mouth aches. I am always tired. My tongue is pilling. A pale green lentil rattles in a mason jar. A string of cooked spaghetti slips down the kitchen wall, leaving behind a tacky streak of starch. Grape syrup can’t just leech back into ice. That’s not how it works. I don’t know how you don’t know these things. My wrists are flapping, my purple fingers are fluttering. Blue pistons break apart the glass bottles, too big to be contained and splitting the glass with sharp cracks. There is no place for me here. It must have been me who gnawed the pencil. There’s no other explanation.

July 7, 2012: Loving Her. CWE 279

It’s these lyrics that keep running through my head but the song hasn’t been written yet. They wake me from black sleep, and I carry her in my pockets like memories of a trip to Paris, which is somewhere I haven’t been. There are so many stones in my pocket that I wear my pants at my ankles. She’s this candle on the windowsill with a snow white wick and my fingers are warm. An apple in my stomach that I will eat at my desk tomorrow morning. It’s like this to love her. I am weary with love and I slept the soundest sleep last night in my black bedroom. Singing birds woke me when the night was still on its knees. I did not want to shoot them like I normally do because they were singing the song that I sing in my head. That’s what it’s like, loving her. It’s like birdsong, singing a song that hasn’t been written, in a black bedroom in a blue night.

July 6, 2012: Worries that wake people up in the middle of the night. CWE 278

  1. Money, bills, credit
  2. Sick children
  3. Sick parents
  4. Addictions- self and loved ones. Anorexia, alcohol, drugs, shopping, porn, sex
  5. Depression and anxiety- self and loved ones
  6. Job security
  7. Providing for family
  8. Getting into college, getting a new job
  9. Loneliness
  10. Gambling
  11. Extreme debt
  12. Mortality
  13. Strained family relationships
  14. Natural disasters
  15. Kidnappings (a parent- a dad would be interesting- who struggles to bond with child because he worries about kidnapping)
  16. Religion/salvation
  17. Sick pets. This is an awful one if you’ve been through it.
  18. Lost dreams. Crippling.
  19. Fights- work, personal
  20. Legal issues. Divorce, DUIs, arrests, cleptomania

July 1, 2012: First Sentences. CWE 273

She knew shit was bad when lines from poems kept popping in to her head when she waited in line at the grocery store or shaved her left knee without shaving cream. Snippets of heartbreaking poems woke her like bad dreams. She felt like an aluminum popcorn popper shaken over the stover burner, bursting with sadness and apathy and anxiety. She was tired of herself.

She quit drinking on a Thursday. She woke up after being awake since 2:00 AM which is what always happened when she drank too much. She was, as she always was, disgusted with herself and reeling and thinking about how much she sucked at life. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror after she showered, and her skin looked pinker and fresher than it had for years. Her teeth were whiter and her eyes clearer and her hair was drying in a kind of wavy, fancy way instead of hanging limp. This was strange because she had not slept and was still likely drunk and all around, she was hating herself and this day pretty intensely considering that it was only 6:45 AM.

His house was the size of a postage stamp. This is a true story. The roof was even edged with scallops, just like old fashioned stamps were. The kind you had to lick.

When Noreen touched her, she felt like she was being prayed over. And under and through and into. Noreen wrote prayers along her arms and across her stomach and she wrote prayers in the air around her and pulled her hair into long, shiny prayers that were very heavy and very light at the same time. Noreen filled her like water tipped into a vase so that things could begin blooming and the air hummed with yellow and prayers and flowers breaking open in the morning air when the sun burned off the last parts of the night.

It wasn’t so much that she was bossy, although it’s true that the was bossy. It’s more that she was what her grandmother would call a Nervous Nellie. She could work conversations in a certain way, building up interactions and breaking down others. She pulled this string and that leg kicked. She pulled that string and this hand raised.

Title? Prayers, Puppets, and Pumpernickel

She lived in an apartment above a liquor store. All windows to the liquor store had been boarded up years ago. Her attic apartment had to windows at either end, and beams of sunlight met in the middle of the floor.

She sat at her desk going through unimportant emails and she reached down beside her hips to grab two ends of a seatbelt.

I knew the potatoes weren’t soft enough. I knew they should cook longer. I knew I didn’t need another beer. I knew things were getting worse.

***

She kept biding her time, waiting until something came along that was a joy. She kept waiting for joy. I told her over and over that that wasn’t how joy worked. Joy wasn’t going to come along and sit its fat ass in her lap and let loose a bouquet of balloons into a sky washed with a paintbrush dipped in blue. Joy didn’t work that way.

She didn’t listen. She didn’t ever listen. It didn’t matter. I was desperately in love with her. I wanted to name each curl that sprung from her scalp. I wanted to give them middle names and throw each curl a bat mitzvah and a confirmation party and a sweet sixteen. I was at all times twisting garlands of paper streamers and breaking broccoli trees into manageable little bushes to roost beside bowls of dip. She was the party of my life.

I met her in an economics class. It was the second time I’d taken the class. I failed the first time. It was a hard class, but really I failed because I stopped going. That whole experience taught me the importance of failing. Failing will sit you in a plush seat in an ampitheater and raise a red velvet curtain with a fluorish. The curtains will part like the seas and there’s no need for Moses because she will be standing there in the wake, her curls snapping, her eyes flashing.

I haven’t seen her in years. I’ve bought three houses and sold two and cleaned my fridge maybe two hundred times and shaken out clean sheets over a quilted mattress maybe seven hundred times. I’ve made love over and over and slipped my head in to the laps of a parade of women. She still sits in my lap with a carboard book of matches, lighting one match after another and giggling while they fizzle. She still sits her fat ass in my heart, building bonfires and pumping the billows. I smell like sulphur and have spent years in the burn unit.

To contemplate: a story about someone who fell in love with you, instead of a story about you falling in love.