— -I’ll find you at the bottom of a highball glass-
I’ll find you at the bottom of a highball glass
A working one, not the fancy kind
(you’re not the fancy kind, you’re down to bone)
I know your bones, binding bones
Finding homes inside walls of whiskey
The crawlspace of a mind (short, stout, square)
Easy on the ginger, easy on the eyes
Hell on my head, aching head- heart- head
Conjuring is simpler on the soul, perhaps
Than staring down the bottom of a highball glass
I can feel my skin expunging neural tissue
get all the bad stuff out
I am the bad stuff
— Sometimes I can feel you creeping up my spine at night:
like the black beetle on her back, fangs meeting vertebrae and taking away all the precious time I could have used to save myself.
I remember 3:00 A.M. I do. I remember every word.
I remember how you sponged off from her, sucked and swallowed from her wretched breast. Your blood turned to ink and the poison pen you scrawled along my bones let me pass it on, and now I’m a plague carrier who is never quite sure if she is the cure or the Typhoid Mary, fit only for a life of solitude among others of my kind.
My kind, my kind! They crawl along the walls crying until they find the door, but it can take months to find it when you’ve been blinded (a poison pen shoved through the eye will do that) and when a white hand has stripped the skin from your back, you might not have the spine to stand up and open it once you’re there.
If you’re ever there, call for me. Remind me that a survivor has teeth, and she can use them to gnaw the chains from her neck and beat back words like fists and fists like words that remind you that if you love him, you’ll do it; if you love him, you’ll say it.
My back is straight. It’s taut. It’s a long arrow of hatred toward you that I can pull from my skin and use to arm myself when you come out of the woodwork to feed on me, drunk yet again from that dark-ink-bloodbath you call a home. I am a returning warrior from the land of love-lost-torn-tried-too-hard-but-never-could-get-it, and the door is never going to close again. I’ll reach back in, pull my kind out from the well of words that are ripping at their throats. Hope won’t be at the bottom waiting for you. It’s locked up in my heart, and I will let you rot without it.
— VII. So Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.
I am an old man now.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about the life that I have lived, and the things that I have done. The things I did during the war, and the things I’ve done since. There are many things that I am not proud of, but I know that what I feel for you has always been the right thing.
After the war, I tried to forget you. I did everything in my power to let you go, to try and get you out of my heart so I could know some kind of peace. So I could learn how to live without your lips pressed against mine, sharing oxygen and lyrical poetics whispered softly when were cheek to cheek. But someone so amazing is not so easily forgotten, and you could never be ignored, not even in memories and dreams.
I tried everything, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I tried to drink you away, but I would always find your face at the bottom of every damn bottle. It was like the pleasures I found in life were only an echo of you. A vibration inside me that haunted me from the moment I got your letter.
I tried to love someone else, and in so doing, destroyed her and my daughter. I took out all my troubles on them. I neglected the love of my daughter, and the guilt I feel still tears me up to this day. We have reconciled, strange though it is. I can’t make up for lost time, and that time I spent hurting her, has effected her the most. She’s settled down, with her own family now. Her wedding was one of the happiest moments of my life. My grandchildren are so beautiful and perfect. All this in spite of me, not because of me. It was no fault of their own, Grace and my daughter are two of the most beautiful and perfect people in the world, but I was blinded by my selfishness and the resentment that I didn’t have you with me. I make no excuses for the kind of man I was back then.
I tried to shut out my life, and with it, you. Forget the world in all it’s beauty, because somewhere out there, you lived in it. I closed my doors, and I tried to close my heart. I moved far away from civilisation. I burned your letter, and the bits and pieces of you I had. I worked so hard my fingers bled. I wrote words and music, all of them connected to you. The sadness that you were no longer in my life, or the happiness of when you were, has always been a part of me. My words were no exception.
Sometimes, I would look up and expect to see you hunched over a piece of paper, your pen moving like lightning strikes across the page, black ink burns smouldering out the words that would always leave me in complete amazement. You have always inspired me, since the moment we first met, in one form or another. But you would never be there. It took me years to realise that I kept expecting to see you, is because I wanted to see you.
The night Grace left me, I wrote your name down on a piece of paper. I still have it, as you know. From that point on, I had to find you. I had to have you back, because when you weren’t there, it wasn’t living. I have had a lot of time to think about my life, and this much I know for sure.
Finding you was not without it’s challenges. Especially when you did not want me to find you. Not having you was something I couldn’t stand a moment longer, and I threw myself at the feet of everyone who knew you. Nobody would tell me anything, because as I later discovered, you had told them to keep me in the dark. I understand why you didn’t want to be found, there are things in my life that have been extremely difficult to face up to. I understand the pain that comes from hurting those you love, and worse, hurting those who love you.
It was your mother that cracked. I begged and pleaded and broke down. I told her the truth of my life, the truth that my life is wherever you are. I needed to be there. She was stone faced for a moment, and I thought she would be like all the rest. She knew, just as well as everyone else, what I had become. But she also understood why. A single tear formed in her eye and she brushed it away. She told me all about you. How she had heard you say the same words about your life when I wasn’t a part of it. How you couldn’t bear the thought of the pain you’d caused me. About the man you had trusted with all of your heart, who used it for his own shallow needs. You were his toy. His plaything, and once he got bored of you, he’d put you away until he was ready to take you out again. Just like a child. She knew what I was alright, but she knew that I loved you. That I cared for you. That your heart was safe in my hands, fragile though it may be. She was right. I know you didn’t want her to tell me, but she just wanted you to be happy. I promised her I would take care of you.
As you know, love isn’t always that simple or romantic, and some promises are hard to keep. When I’d finally tracked you down, the first time you opened your door to me. You squealed and fell backwards, sending a glass of wine sailing through the air. Then you quickly composed yourself, slapped me in the face, and closed the door. I always wondered why you slapped me, but then I’ve always just put it in the “You” column. That was the first time you had touched me in a lot of years. I still remember the static electricity clap of our skin meeting, I also remember the subsequent lump on my forehead from smacking my face on the doorframe. Perhaps I should have announced myself, first.
You were tempestuous as ever. Life had not extinguished that light inside you I loved from the moment we first spoke to each other. From the first moment you woke up on my pillow. I would later find out that you felt the same way. That you remembered what it felt like to have your heart beat for something, instead of being a clock ticking in the darkness. It took a long time to convince you that I loved you. It was a slow and steady process. We spent many hours talking and crying and laughing. We had both lived a lot of life, and had much to reflect on and share about our time apart. We were becoming the friends we never had been at the start. That probably has something to do with me trying to stop myself from proposing to you when you first laid eyes on me. I introduced you to my daughter, and watched you cry tears of joy. “She’s just like you…” you smiled. I still chuckle when I ask myself if that’s a compliment, or an insult, to her. It was a long time, full of change and healing and brutal truths, but eventually we got there.
A lot of years passed. A lot of words were written. A lot were spoken. We never lost that love, I could never stop because you are who you are. Powerful and wise, passionate, youthful. We would take walks in the morning sun, like we used to when we were younger, our wrinkled fingers wrapped around one another still. We would look into each others eyes when we had spoke, and we never paid for coffee that didn’t deserve it. All the younger couples would smile and wave and say hello to us, and I would always hope they had what we had together. I hoped they still would when they had liver spotted skin and a little less colour in their hair.
When you got sick, they took you to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I have never been a man who cared for religion, but I prayed. I don’t know who I was praying to. Anyone who would listen would be my first guess. I felt so helpless, it was all I could do. I didn’t pray, so much as beg, from the deepest cavity of my chest. That place where your gut meets your heart, the part that is always the hardest to communicate with, is where my words came from whenever I asked the powers that be to watch over you.
When they took put you in a coma for surgery, I refused to leave your side. I felt sick and uneasy, worrying myself into the ground one hour at a time. The hospital security dragged me away, until a nurse rearranged the room just for me. I had a bed, and the hospital agreed that I could eat meals for a small fee. I read to you, both classics that I knew you loved, and words that I had written you that day. Occasionally, we would get an audience of a few staff and patients. They thought it was amazing that I wrote something for you every day. At night, when everyone else was asleep, I’d crawl into your bed and lay beside you. I would hold your hand and sing to you while you slept.
“…so please don’t take, my sunshine, away.”
The doctors told me that you would recover, and I had never felt so relieved. There was a lot of murmuring and muttered whispers about your condition, but all of a sudden, everyone was smiles and cheerfulness and happy news. The doctors were amazed by how quickly you were recovering. Then one day shortly after the surgery, they brought you out of the coma. Healthy and smiling, all my fears were washed away. You looked into my eyes as you thanked the doctor’s for giving us more time together. When everyone had left us to our own devices, you asked if I still thought you were beautiful. Like you needed to ask such a thing, but you did. I told you that you were still as amazing as the day I met you. I told you that you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
You died the next day.
It destroyed me. I was awash, a man in a bottle caught in stormy seas. Pick me up on the beach, and you would not find any words. The hospital had to take care of all the details of your funeral, because I simply could not bear the reality of a life without you. When I entered the service, I was the last to arrive. Everyone stood up for me as I entered. I held my head high, but faltered. I couldn’t keep walking. My daughter appeared by my side, “It’s okay, Dad. You can do this.” I think you would have been happy with it, friends and family who loved you. I could not bring myself to speak, and I longed to be alone in my misery. The drink would grant no solace from what I felt. My only sunshine, who understood my darkness, taken from me. At the time, I did not write. I could not. There are no words for what life is with the knowledge that you’re never coming back. I wanted no part of this world, because it all meant nothing without you. I had lost the taste for life that you inspired simply with your presence. I did not believe that I could continue, and I wondered if I would be one of those widowers who died of a broken heart without the love of his life. Sometimes, I wished that I would join you in such a manner.
But I did not. I am still alive, and being an old man, means I have had a lot of time to think about you. I know that you would not want me to become lost in grief and mourn you for the rest of my days. I eventually picked up a pen, and when I did, the words poured forth. They had waited patiently for their chance to escape, and they did not stop until there were pages and pages stained with the flood of ink. I resumed writing for you every day, at my desk in our little home. The shadows in the hallways seem longer, and everything seems to be so much more draining without your beaming energy in the house. I keep expecting to see you turn a corner, dancing and singing silly lyrics aloud. Then you would stop at my desk, pout your lips and extend your hand for me to join you, the way you used to when we were first together. I reminisce about laying in our bed, our faces on each others pillows, as the sun poured through the window. One of our favourite ways to spend time with each other. I keep expecting to see you scribbling furiously at my desk, producing more words for me to become excited by and fall in love with you all over again.
But, you’re never there.
Now I continue to live my life, the way you would want me to. I approach life with the same excitement and passion you always did. I spend my days honouring your life, and cherishing the time we spent together. My daughter and I take walks, the same way we used to. She misses you as well. I am lonely, but the love I have for her keeps me going. We talk, we remember. I still write for you. I always read it out loud, just so you can hear it. I know you can. Now, I wait patiently until it is my time to meet you in the next step of our journey. I look forward to seeing the look on your face when I write something for you, again.
I am an old man now, and I still love you.
There is this odd moment when someone else’s smell gets so wrapped up in yours that they are nearly indistinguishable:
when someone else’s scent is stuck on your fingers and in your hair and down your throat;
when you live in their clothes and bed and bath;
when you share the same scent in the same house and the only person who can tell the two apart is you.
There is this odd moment when six months after you have left, you catch them on your pillow, as if their head were just their a second ago when you turned away to look at your lover who doesn’t smell a thing.
— I keep getting away from myself
I keep getting away from myself,
dropping my hand and forgetting what it feels like to be held when you walk down the sidewalk and someone you love is curbside, “just to be safe”
finding the time has passed by while I was still standing,
remembering that the last meal I ate was a few days ago and maybe I should get some sleep.
Nothing tastes good, feels good, looks good, sounds good, seems good, knows good because it’s all made up anyway, so says G.E. Moore. You can’t have good, it’s just there when you know it’s there because it’ll be there with or without you.
There are no mountains or valleys, just one plateau where everything is the same and the uniform is a warm sweater and a pair of jeans and bruised eyes and no meals. The schedule is as follows:
- blink against the sun
- go to the psychologist
- get referred to the PCP
- get referred to the OB/GYN
- go back to the psychologist
- and then the psychiatrist for the pills
“Locked-up box baby with political concerns, watch her cry through the cage while the city lights burn”
“And all the king’s horses trampled the Queen, and the cogs kept on spinning in the middle of the machine”
LOST: a 17-year-old girl from Texas, new to Chicago, with a bright-blue suitcase and too-bright eyes. I lost her about two years ago, while I was looking for a home.
I think I finally came to accept Illinois last night.
It’s strange how things happen, and when.
We were in West Suburban Hospital. In a classroom
learning about the “Alternative Birthing Center”
(basically, they let you be),
and it was a room full of young people
(first time moms and dads pretending that they know
what the hell is happening), and I thought
these people live here.
They call this home.
These streets, these people, these are home.
You see, it’s not the prettiest state
(it has neither oceans nor mountains, and I love both),
but it is a smart state, a blue state,
home to Northwestern and the University of Chicago,
home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,
hell, home to Chicago!
It’s such an American state, in the best sense:
hard working mostly. Agricultural. Diverse.
A place to which the slaves fled.
The place that sheltered Emmett Till
until he left on that sad vacation.
It’s not perfect.
It has too many prisons and too many prisoners.
It’s too flat.
It has too many Republicans,
and too many rules,
and not enough colorful birds,
and the license plate, with blue-faced Lincoln,
but, you know, it has good food and good music,
and it has brains in places
and, for some reason, it keeps bringing me back to itself
and it’s been good to me, Illinois has.
It’s kept me fed and warm,
and it’s appreciated me more, probably, than I have it,
and here are all these young beautiful, hopeful families
learning about birth in Illinois,
bringing forth more Illinoisans,
and it’s good enough for them and they’ll probably never leave,
and maybe they don’t understand it totally,
and maybe they don’t know that its jurisprudence is not great,
and maybe they don’t know the incredible survival story of Shimer College,
and maybe they haven’t seen the white squirrels of Olney,
or know how Starved Rock got its name,
but this land,
this big flat Illinois with its incredible buildings
that rose like a phoenix from the fires of despair
to look down on the world
with stunning satisfied inspiring newness,
has won me over so that
it’s more, now, than that I call it home.
It’s that it is.
I wish I knew which Shimerian wrote this, because it is incredible.
"Some people will never understand the kind of super power it takes for some people to just walk outside."
Andrea Gibson (via grrrlstudies
I don’t know how to begin anymore, when young men of color get gunned down for their hoodies, and college students are sluts for speaking. My entire body stings when I look at men, and white men in particular turn my blood to ice. My own partner fills me with unbidden fear, because even the best of relationships are the ugliest of battlegrounds in this language.
This despicable language that we swallowed instead of spitting it back on the politicians who fed it to us, like mother birds giving poison to blonde babies in videos about how the very men who colonized our bodies should now do their best to save us from ourselves.
That’s who we care about: the blonde babies, the little boys, and not the girls who are dying in droves and the population snapping under the strain.
When there are so many uteruses, why should we mind the women who house them?
When there are so many homes, why should we mind the children we evicted?
When there are so many men, why should we mind the jails are full?
We’ll simply force the issue: less prenatal care for more babies, more babies for more criminals, more criminals for more jails, so long as the criminals are an all-too-certain color with all-too-uncertain crimes.
Death row is full because our hearts are empty, and the men of money laugh as we fall to fighting amongst ourselves about whose heart has the most to lose.
This language, this language of cobbled together insults and injustice that will turn your tongue black but keep your skin whitewashed and safe if it came that way.
I can’t speak it, though I’m fluent.
I can’t say it, though I know it.
I can only hear him crying for help, and there aren’t words in this language to explain that away.
the dark face
-Tyler Knott Gregson-