One More

One more batch of cookies with sugar lemon icing

One more Christmas making every ornament by the fire

One more call telling me your love of blackberry brandy

One more time hearing granddad shout “That’s my French talking lady!” after you’ve been cursing down the hall

One more I love you is not enough, I want to say them all.

Warm Hands

My hands were cold.

We were sitting outside at a table, sharing stories of our exes, just friends spending time together, this wasn’t to be considered a date.

You took my hands into yours and blew warm air onto them.

I remember drinking delicious beer that tasted like banana bread.

We were having a supremely excellent time, being innocent, talking.

Hepcat’s “Dance Wid’ Me” was being covered by a live band.

All of these things culminating in a swirl of serendipity.

At that moment, in my chest, my heart took the shape of a ship passing yours in the night. 

Knowing if I didn’t say anything, this moment would continue sailing, turning into treasure lost at sea.

I couldn’t leave our time together, it didn’t matter that someone was dating you.

Blurting was the best I could do.

“I have a secret crush on you!” a primal, guttural, hindsight, embarrassing thing. 

Just standing in the street with my car door open, hanging in that awkward limbo, not ready to head home.

You had just finished walking me there, I still wasn’t ready to go.

“I have a secret crush on you too.”

Relief washed over me when you echoed it back, in the dark, in the quiet of the night that was turning into day.

That moment was the beginning of everything.

A smile locked on my face, our future full of possibility.

It persisted as I passed the threshold of my front door, as I laid down for a moment, after finally getting home.

We crossed out the word friends, replacing it with lovers, our lives changing forever.

With you, my hands have always been warm.

Muse


I want to press into you with a mortar and pestle. Break open your binding and extract what makes you essential.

A little dot of you dropped onto my fingertips, smeared lightly onto the pulsing vein laid bare on my neck. 

Exhilarating this thing you bring, adventure, exploring beyond comfortable boundaries. The danger in you is invigorating. 

There are fire and poison mixed through your meat, rubbing you onto me proves a fatal mistake. 

Wanting you to be my muse, refusing to acknowledge the bomb inside you. 

Exploding against my throat and face, blood rushes out, into black, into space. 

I chose you, your elegance, your grace. I ground you up into an opalescent oily paste. 

Believing the notion of mixing us like this would be a climactic soul rendering embrace.

Here I am, clenching my hands around my throat. Laughing while the blood swells around them, aware that I’m some cosmic joke.   

You, my muse, standing over me, with deep ruby lips grinning unapologetically, placed your fingertips against my eyes, closing them this one last time. 

“You should have known better sweet simpleton.” 

The last message delivered with tongue curling venom. 

March 26, 1963

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

I don’t see how anything lamb like can happen for us by the end of this month.

My cousin Maxwell was bitten by a raccoon, the kind that came out in daylight, the kind everyone knows is rabid. It happened first thing this morning.  I wasn’t around, so I’m not sure exactly what or how it happened.

I do know he’s too small and rebellious to do anything anyone tells him. He thinks he can talk to animals, he’s always telling our cats what to do.  The only thing I saw was his hand bloodied and bitten.

Aunt Drucie ran out to help him and bring him back into the house when she saw the black and gray animal up on its toes, arched with all of its hair spiked. She said its mouth was covered in foam. 

Dr. Creighton was called immediately.  He still lives across the street.  I think this coming summer will be the last time I babysit his daughters, they’re getting big enough to manage on their own.

Last Christmas he asked me to help decorate the tree with them.  The lights were filled with liquid, and we had to be especially careful because if they broke they weren’t replaceable.  They were so beautiful, watching the liquid move around, light up, and burn through the tiny pieces of glass. 

None of that has anything to do with what happened today, I just wanted to write something on your pages to remember something less terrible than what happened to Maxwell today.

No one wants to talk about what we have to do for him, certainly not my uncle, even though he’s done the best he can to make sure he is kept safe and comfortable.

Dr. Creighton recommended keeping him from the rest of the family.  He said he’d be by daily to provide his next shot, one each day for the next fourteen days.

“Until he recovers, he needs to be kept separately from the rest of the family Thurman.”  That was no easy thing for my uncle to hear.  Maxwell is his brave baby boy, and my uncle finds himself at the mercy of medicine, not something he is used to.

There was only one place to make this accommodation, the attic.  It’s at the top of the curved banister-less staircase.  Horsehair plaster is exposed in the cracks leading up to the landing. 

At the top of the stairs, everything in the attic is open.  A single window lets in enough light to keep it from feeling depressing, dust is everyplace.

Really journal, it’s where I fill most of your pages.  No one ever goes up there.  It’s my, I mean our quiet space.  Don’t tell anyone, but I break off pieces of the plaster and pull the horsehair out.  The way it crumbles is strange.  I feel sad for all those horses.  How many died to make this house?

“Keep the door locked while he’s up there, but sleep in the room just below it, that’s your new base. Anything he needs, you put it at the top of the stairs, come back down and lock the door. He’s going to be treated, but there’s no guarantee.” That’s the last thing Dr. Creighton said, while he was packing up his case.

Aunt Drucie is beside herself.  She took her apron off after scrubbing everything in the attic and started crying. She’s a thick woman, made of sound stock, her hair today is wound in a practical bun and her brow is covered in beads of sweat. 

My heart had sad butterflies fluttering in it, seeing her shed tears like that.  Trying to console her didn’t work, not that I expected it to.  It was one of those moments that caught everyone up in it, there wasn’t a single person in the house today, including the tough men who had eyes that weren’t wet.

We moved an old trunk into the attic and turned it into a table for him.  It used to hold costumes for a ballet company, it’s covered in travel stamps.  They made sure it was locked so he isn’t tempted to climb in. 
There’s also a cot with a hand-crocheted blanket on his bed.  It’s from when grandmother made one for each of us, it’s his favorite blanket, the least we could do was give him that. They filled a canteen with water and left him a bucket for him to do his business in. 

Aunt Drucie made him a ham sandwich on freshly baked bread.  He asked for extra mustard and a pickle, that’s his favorite. Knowing him he’s up there now with mustard stains on his mouth and hands.  Probably wiped his hands down his overhauls, like he always does, so they’ll also be covered in stains.

How did this day get so disturbingly sad?

I didn’t go to school today.  I was waiting for the bus when all this started happening. No one gave me a hard time about skipping, that’s been the only good part of this I guess.

Living in the same house with all this going on is scary.  I’m afraid for Maxwell, afraid for my Aunt Drucie and my Uncle Thurman.  I keep thinking, “what if it happened to me?” God, that is just frightening.

My mother made supper tonight, you could tell it was her anxiety cooking.  She made fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, and biscuits.  For the first time in a long time, we joined hands before our meal and prayed together.

We prayed for Maxwell’s protection.  My father asked for the good Lord to send one of his guardian angels while he is alone in the attic for the next fourteen nights and until he is well.

I dropped a dish tonight, during my turn to dry.  Normally gets me in trouble, but it didn’t this time.  It was one of those moments where my mind slipped away from me, thinking about the raccoon attacking him, what it must have been like.

My sister and brother helped pick up the pieces.  Everyone is nervously walking on eggshells, we’re all sleeping downstairs on the couches if you’re an adult or in sleeping bags if you’re one of the kids like me. All the parents decided it’s not safe to have anyone on the second floor in case Maxwell gets out.

My Father and my Uncle will take turns staying up in shifts in the room leading to the attic until Dr. Creighton says it’s all clear. They brought whiskey and a first aid kit up with them, they’ve locked the door on Maxwell and placed a chair firmly underneath the knob. Poor little cousin, there’s no way he’s getting out.

No one’s going to sleep tonight.  No one is going to be alright.  I’m writing this on your pages, under the covers I’ve layered onto my sleeping bag with our camping light.

I’m shaking thinking about Maxwell.  Fourteen days of shots are going to be a nightmare.  No matter how many times he’s pinched me, he doesn’t deserve this.  Aunt Drucie and Uncle Thurman don’t deserve this.  The raccoon that got sick didn’t deserve this.
 
The attic is scary, everyone knows this.  Being alone in the dark is scary for little kids.  I’m thirteen and still get scared, you precious journal and best friend know this.

Weezie Jenkins, the lady with the Appaloosa horse that lives at the edge of town, found that raccoon. She had her shotgun with her, just like she always does, a good thing, because she was able to put the poor creature down.

Almost forgot to write the weather in.  It started off cold today, it was 33, then it warmed up to the mid-50s.

Maybe I’ll distract myself with thoughts of Ricky Flannagan until I fall asleep.  I hope that’s not disrespectful.  It’s not, is it journal?  I hope no one finds this – ever.  They wouldn’t understand.

Magic Apple Tree

She was five years old and precocious as they come. 

Freckles, green eyes, walnut brown hair that had hints of red in the sun.

She blew the best bubbles, bigger than her plump cheeks. Bright, enormous pink ones that made her laugh when they burst against her tongue.


Her imagination was paired with curiosity, she had an old soul that would never stop investigating.

Being her mother was challenging.

Still, her mother had a few tricks up her sleeve, and she wasn’t going to let this daughter of hers win the year of five without giving her a run for her money.

It was fall, the apples were ready for harvesting.  Her mother went to the store and bought bundles of a thick blue string and prepared nearly every apple within her reach.

She created a magical setting that looked beautiful, full of round, red orbs hanging like ornaments in a Christmas tree.

The next morning her five-year-old ran out into the cold.  She was going to climb the tree and pluck all the apples that the fairies brought her. That’s the story she’d been telling everyone, she even wrote it down, detailed with illustrations made by her tiny hands.  

“Come and see! Come and see!” Her impatient voice was racing, giving away that something miraculous was happening.

Her mother grabbed a basket, ready to bring in their picking.  She prepared her face for the surprise her little girl was about to spring.

You could see the child midway up the tree, hanging herself out on the branches, she couldn’t manage words through all her giggling.

“Mommy look! The apples are on strings! I told you there were fairies around our tree!”

Her mother grabbed the apples, string by string, placing them in the basket, while her daughter climbed down to sit on the autumn grass next to it.

“I told you!”

“Yes, you did my dear darling girl.  Who knew fairy apples grew on strings?”

“I did.  I know everything. It’s exactly like the pictures in my book!” The little girl held the apples by their strings, laying on the ground with them above her head, dangling.

“Off the cold ground now young lady.” The mother laughed as she helped her daughter up, placing the apples back in the basket. 

They walked back into the house, peeled the apples, cooked them down, and made a cobbler fragrant with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar of the deepest brown.

“Those fairies made delicious apples.” The little girl said, filling her stomach with the warm magical apples hung in the tree with blue thread.

“Yes, they most certainly did.” The little girl’s mother was quietly pleased, keeping her secret of blue strings and apple trees.

She kept it in her book of mother’s magic, filled with spells that grew her child’s imagination while going to great lengths to inspire her insatiable curiosity.

It wasn’t until many years later, still blowing pink bubbles, and knowing everything that this curious child was told the secret of her mother’s spell.

She cherishes that memory and raised her children similarly.  Casting her own mother’s magic, the kind that happens from generations of imagination being handed down.

Breakfast




The smell of breakfast in the morning, it’s different than what you imagine it smells like.

In a perfect world, it’s thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, two eggs bubbled away in a pat of butter, and a toasted English muffin.

Coffee, but the kind that’s from a percolator, that smell of gas stove boiling the kettle while it bubbles to the top, letting you know it’s ready to be ripped from the kiss of the flame.

The smell of steam and hot water mixed with Ivory soap, soaked from a 6 a.m. shower. 

Squeaky clean hair bundled in a towel right out of the dryer.  The kind that’s been thrown in and popped out to be kept warm so you can wrap yourself in cozy before your breakfast.

With the smell of clean plates from the cabinet, your eyes aren’t blurry anymore from hitting snooze too many times.

Sitting down at the table and adding just a touch of salt and scattering of pepper.  All of these smells come together during breakfast getting your morning underway.

That’s the imagined perfect breakfast.

That is not how real smells of the morning play out.

It’s a crusty eyed hustle, ignoring the many screams and shouts of the alarm, squeezing in one final micro dream, something this time worth journaling. 

The smell of the pillow reminding you that you have to get out of bed, there’s a deep morning breath yawn with a stretch telling you there’s no time for breakfast.

It’s the smell of soap splashing against the face, of saline that drips a tiny salt spot onto your cheek, putting in contacts while blinking.

The smell of coffee is true enough, that’s the wrap of the morning, glug, glug, glug.

Pull-on some comfortable pants that smell like fresh laundry, not breakfast you’re thinking maybe there’s time for a toasted bagel. 

Pull a shirt on that passes the sniff test, spray some wrinkle remover on it.  This doesn’t remotely smell like breakfast, but at least you’ll look respectable for that last second remote meeting.

Mint fills your mouth and sink as the toothbrush grinds with activity. Take a moment to put a brush through your hair that smells like green tea shampoo, a reminder of the shower you took last night to help put yourself to sleep.

Cup your hand around your underarms to make sure they’re pleasant, never wanting to sit in your own smell, there’s no body oil, winning at staying fragrant.

Breakfast smells like an apple today, the crisp flesh being bitten by cleaned teeth pulls it away. 

More coffee, more cream, the smell of vitamins, especially B happens to be overwhelming.

Run up the stairs, throw a hat on and smell the dust burning during the morning turn on of heat.

This is the smell of breakfast that ran out of time today. You’ll wake up on time tomorrow and capture those toast dipped eggs.





Remember that Night

We were at a show, it was summer sticky, the air was thick with patchouli & peace tea.


The band was moving bodies, limbs were flexing & flowing in rhythmic contortions under the spell of their set.


Mounds of flesh blending, cooling themselves with condensation dripping with cold alcoholic wet.


We were laughing at the stage diver because this wasn’t that kind of show, he seemed so foreign, almost funny that he wasn’t ‘in the know’.


On his last failed attempt at crashing they pulled him up by the pits of his long shirtless arms.  


He thought he had command of them, doing his bidding, but for them, he held no charm.


They were pulling leaves from the palms around them, fronds peeled into strips it was strange, the audience perplexed by their actions, and then it happened jaws dropping center stage.


The musicians leaned into him, saying something inaudible, but his actions made it clear, he went pale, very sudden, the leaves were his humiliation meal.


Picking them up he started eating, looking like a conquered bully deposed by the underdog champion wearing a freshly plucked crown.


The band pulled him behind the curtains and made a gesture to us all — middle fingers raised to heaven and a quick kiss that absolved.


The music never stopped & I wondered if he vomited from the shame or eating what one aught, had he learned anything, had anything been taught?


A frame by frame replay loops in the swelter of that day, and while the band name escapes me, the memory stole some innocence, something changed in me that day.

Knock

Knock on your door.

You’re not interested.

How could you be?

Why would you ever want to talk to me?

The idea of changing your thoughts with a knock on your door feels like a high comedy.

Knock on your door.

You pushed me.

What gave you the right to lay hands on me?

The idea of a stranger touching me because of a knock-on your door feels like insanity.

Knock on your door.

You’re not listening.

Why would you bend your ear to the honeyed words of a girl dressed like a virgin on Sunday?

The idea an innocent saying anything of real weighted merit feels like an exercise in stupidity.

Knock on your door.

You’re not answering.

Why would you answer to a stranger knocking?

The idea of expecting anyone to was becoming obvious in its intrusive vulgar absurdity.

Knock on your door.

You’re not welcoming.

What is the message all these unanswered doors were sending?

The idea that this act was no longer something I would participate in willingly.

Knock on my door.

I am answering.

Why did it take so long to stop believing?

The idea of calculating all the time lost on this choice everyone made for me was infuriating.

Knocking that was awakening.

I answered the door with a rush of possibility.

What will my new life of no longer knocking bring to me?

The idea that everything is now on my terms healing my callused knuckles soothing the pain of knocking.  

Love, Violence, Failure

Talk about love

Talk about violence

Talk about failure

Unable to love

Unable to hold back violence

Unable to cover up failure

The story about love

The story about violence

The story about whitewashing failure

Change your love

Change your violence

Change your failure

Become someone worthy of love

Become someone behaving without violence

Become someone worthy of success after failure

Love is not to be used as currency

Violence is not to be used as currency

Failure is not to be used as currency

Talk about how love can change

Talk about how violence is the lever

Talk about how failure doesn’t ruin

Love will break the curse

Violence will be the curse

Failure will flourish until love conquers the curse

Until then talk of love is empty

Until then violence feeds the void love abandoned

Until then failure conquers love and violence completely

Sammy and the Whispering

Did Sammy ever tell you about the time he called begging me not to marry you? It was out of concern for me, our engagement, the call was a warning. 


“Yes, he’s my best friend.  Yes, you both appear awesome together – please don’t marry him. You are not like him in the ways you think you are. He’s not marriage material, end things, try to stay friends.”

I really did love you, just to be clear.  You were a wonderful human being, creative, funny, kind, a friend to so many.  Why would I doubt your love came in any form but sincere? Still, there was a whispering ever-present in my head, and then he called, pulling my head from the sand.

Sammy dropped the hammer on my dreams, but I needed his unsolicited sobering. The kind of message that can be delivered only out of friendship, nevermind the brutality. What sucked was knowing he wasn’t wrong. Listening to him explain his worries confirmed the suspicions I’d had all along.

I loved being with you, the time that we’d spend.  Driving to Orlando, hanging out with our group of friends. But you, my wayward artist, and misguided man were going to drain the life out of me honing your potential,  in a process that would never end.

You were going to turn me into that nagging bitch of a wife, and Sammy knew it from experience, he’d watched happen before. “He is going to ruin you.  You’re not a bitter, angry person, don’t let him change you into something that you aren’t.

He thanked me for the letters I wrote since he moved away, talked about his wedding that was coming, and ended our call with an apology. “I know that wasn’t easy to hear.  If I hadn’t called you, hadn’t said anything, I couldn’t live with myself, I’m truly sorry my dear.”

All those things that he told me, things that I didn’t want to admit to myself, I needed that phone call, that lifeline, but I wanted to hear you say them myself.

Your honesty was a curious thing, I found it liberating, heartbreaking, and infuriating. Our relationship had been a fool’s errand, one that I ended after asking all of the questions. “Why wouldn’t you just tell me?  Why did it take me feeling like something was wrong and asking a million questions, like some inquisition to find out being together isn’t where we belong?”

“Because I love you.  Because I need you.  Because you are the one that is strong. I don’t have what it takes to match you, it’s scary that you’re everything, what I’m lacking, I should have told you, it shouldn’t have taken this long.” You started babbling about making amends, working on us, what breaking up would do to the life we had planned. It was white noise, and there was no appetite to accept your ardent pleas.

“You really would have used me like that?  Put everything on me without attempting to give anything back?  That isn’t loving, that’s selfish and indolent, hearing your answers cause me pain.  You would have hated me for it, and I would have hated you.” At that moment, that intractable moment, our future vanished, even from the realm of friends.  The past two years vanished, my heart sank, then hardened, nothing you could say would soften or charge it to care.

“This doesn’t have to be where it ends. Couples bounce back from things like these, it’s not like I was cheating. I want you to marry me.  You’re the best thing that’s been in my life, and I can’t let anyone else have what you’re capable of offering.”

When you said those words, I could only think: “Thank god for Sammy calling me.  Thank god I had the good sense to listen to him and my inner whispering.”  I hung up the phone with a simple goodbye, paired with a long, exasperated soul recovering sigh, “Yeah? I know with one hundred percent certainty that is never happening.”