the glitterball in space
wrapped in wormholes
caressed by distant quasars
peak at optimum speed
before floating falling
toward the muted aromas
of space age earth
the bile of industry
smears the planet in neon
one giant shinning marble
city lights stretch
in the haze from pole to pole
aqua is the precious mineral
few places exist where
hope springs life eternal
rivers were rerouted years ago
run by power corporations
who package it in sachets
with dehydrated memory
a planet of consumption
tectonic plates stitched
stapled, bridged and woven
the fabric of the world
we unzip to consume
revel in the electronic tune
that breeds our contempt
for the the lost seasons
our reason dilluted, polluted
by the tune that remains the same;
dream a dream for me
because now all we have
is acid rain.
My northern lights
are green just like yours
but there are only two
that steal me away
even when they are nowhere to be found
because they're encrypted in my skull.
They attack me
with agonizingly beautiful flame
every time the conversation veers
to music or art.
And rather than being near the pole
they're a mere five blocks north
probably open wide as he thinks of the world he can conquer with a flick of his broken wrist.
There was nothing I was ever so ashamed of
that I dumped it in a river to drown,
but one time my best friend accidentally tossed my pink fishing pole
into the bayou when a spider dangled from the line.
We were eight, everything was wishy-washy
because she called herself a mulatto like it were an insult
and my older friends kept mentioning that my mom walked herself
to a liquor store very late at night
twelve-packs bruising her German-colored shoulder.
I did not tell them my father had hidden away her car keys.
Girls teased me and I still wanted to kiss their cheeks at goodbyes,
The Little Mermaid featured at our sleepovers
saying, “kiss the girl,” so I did
but we stopped talking when I bought my training bra,
it proved what was in my skirt, my lips could not touch them again.
You cannot kiss a girl if you are a girl,
even if Disney movies say it is okay because Mickie Mouse
has no boobs to be ashamed of though a wife of the opposite sex.
I learned important things until I turned ten
and Hurricane Katrina unraveled the bayou into my house
and I existed in four different classrooms in my fourth grade year
where nobody had enough time
to learn my name, much less the way it is spelled.
Now, in therapy, the certified insists
that I am a girl who kisses other girls because my mother
only put her lips on a bottle.
But maybe I wear striped dresses just because mold grew that
shape in my home on Camellia Street,
mud decorated the fallen refrigerator so it looked like
a cow some punk tipped over.
I just wish the sidewalk I use to rollerblade on hadn’t flooded.
There is no need to dwell on the exterior cliche of an injured soldier, the propaganda is superficial. Civilians have only plastic green men, heavy dusty movie set costumes, and Army-of-One heroes to populate stereotypes. Keep your images larger than life, no use touching up a paint-by-number. Mine was banal, foolish, and 19; enough said.
One fence is the fraternity itself, the next is brain injury. No other way to understand but be there. A Solid-American-Made-Dashboard cracked my forehead at 45mph.
Crumpling into the footwell,
unaware that the flatbed's rear bumper
was smashing thru the passenger windshield above me
the frame stopped just shy of decapitating my luckily unoccupied seat.
Our vehicle's monstrous hood had attempted to murderously bury us under,
but the axle stopped momentum's fate and ended the carnage under dark iron.
Shards of my identity joined the slow, pulverized, airborn chaos.
Back, Deep, Gone.
Unconsciousness is the brain's frantic attempt to re-wire neurons, jury rig broken connections, the doctor's desperate attempt to re-attach, stand back and say, good enough. Essential systems limply functioned, but unessential ones were ditched. Years later a military doctor diagnosed an eventual triage: Hypothalimus disconnected from the Pituitary Gland, Executive Function damaged, long pathways for emotional regulation interrupted.
I woke up still kinda bleeding, crusty blood in my hair, a line of frankenstein stitches wandering across my forehead. My sense of self had literally dissolved into morning dust floating in a sterile hospital sunbeam. My name was down the hall, words and the desire to speak were on a different floor. Life became me and also a separate me under constant renovation, a wrecking ball on one half, scaffolding and raw 2x4's the other.
Waking up in the hospital, I realized I needed help to get the blood cleaned up. A nurse came in, largely glared at me in disregard, and quickly left… for an hour. She returned and brusquely dropped a useless ace comb and gauze on the blanket over my feet and abandoned me again. This was my introduction to the shame of a VA hospital. I minced my way to the bathroom, objectively examined my face in the mirror with shocking stitches above one swollen eye. Gingerly rinsing my hair, the water ran pink in white porcelain. I remembered the sound in my skull between my ears when a doctor scraped a metal tool across my skull, cleaning debris before stitching. I recalled that in the ER I was asking Is he ok, repeating it like a broken record, knowing I should stop but I couldn’t. There was also perhaps a joke about an Excedrin headache.
It was morning, and since there was no such thing as time or purpose or feelings anymore, I wandered to the hall with my only companion, the IV pole. One side was a wall of windows, and I was, what, 10 or 12 stories up from the streets of a much larger city than where I crashed. The hall was warm and sunny. I wheeled my companion to a blocky square vinyl chair to sit next to a pay phone. I didn’t have any thoughts at all, or care about it. After about an hour my first name floated up from the void, then with some effort my last name. It took the rest of the morning to remember I had a brother. After lunch we resumed our post, and I spent the afternoon in concentration piecing together his phone number. God had pushed the reset button.
Thirty years ago the doctors didn't understand head injuries; they only recognized the physical symptoms. At first there was good reason to be permanently admitted to the hospital. My blood pressure was unstable, sometimes so low that drawing blood for tests caused my veins to collapse even with baby needles. My thyroid had shut down completely, only jump-started again with six months of Synthroid. I had to learn to live with crashing blood sugar and fluctuating appetite. For years afterwards, any stress would cause arrhythmias, my heart filling and skipping out of sync, blood pressure popping my skull. Will the clock stop this time?
There is always at least one momentous event in every person’s life that becomes punctuation, before and after. The other side of Before the accident truly was a different me. I have a vague recollection of who that person may have been, and occasionally get reminders. Before, I was getting recruiting letters from Ivy League colleges and MIT, a high school senior at sixteen. After, I couldn’t balance a checkbook or even care about a savings account in the first place. Before, I had aced the military entrance exam only missing one question, even including the speed math section. They told me I could chose any rating I wanted, so I chose Air Traffic Control. Twenty years later, I thumbed through old high school yearbooks at a reunion. I saw a picture of me in the Shakespeare Club, not recalling what that could have been about. On finding a picture of me in the Ski Club I thought, Wow, I guess I know how to ski. A yellowed small-town newspaper article noted I was one of two National Merit Scholars; and in another there’s a mention of a part in the High School Musical.
This side of After, I kept mixing right with left, was dyslexic with numbers, and occasionally stuttered with word soup. Focus became separated from willpower, concentration was like herding cats. The world had become intense.
(chapter 1 continues in memoir)
New Years drowns
its yesterdays with alcohol
and needle ships to
summer paradises made of ice
But in the morning,
when the frost retreats
into the suburban sidewalks-
slides its way down
into the drains-
mixes with the wastes and vomited
dredge-water of a year gone whipping by,
I see the children of the defeated
mothers poking ugly toads behind the shed
with cardboard hats fashioned
from discarded Budweiser boxes,
barefooted on dewy grass
with capes of an old bed-sheet
thrown out when daddy found mummy
in the arms of another woman~
I watch the fathers of men
smoking, sunken, and sitting
on the docks
of the world's beach-towns
wondering forlorn how they got there.
Their orange cigarette tips-
dying stars over the water.
The collective orange glow
both artificial and desperate
shines forever outward~
toward the pole
where Johnny always kisses Sally
and they love each other
until they don't.
I stumble home at dawn
on the quietest day of the year with
Seekers of love
Seekers of purpose
Seekers of seeking,
Glassy eyed and slurring
Memorized facts about underground reservoirs
And the disappearance of the goddamned honey bee,
Falling into ditches
And lying there with the sunrise in our eyes
Drinking and smoking anything
That will help us
forget we're watching the sunrise from a ditch
forget that if we're lucky
we too will be sitting on those docks,
flicking cigarette butts into the water,
and hoping Sally thinks about us sometimes.
the worried porch lights of Orange County
are turning off-
~And the mothers are curling their blonde hair
hoping someone will secretly fantasize about them
~The fathers are covering up the smell
of cigarettes and alcohol with expensive cologne
and fantasizing about that blonde from work
~And the graduates have invested
in more comfortable ditches
i play life hoping to win
could i win
i've never played before
i've never prayed before
i've never payed my dues before
could i win
if i decided to
could i win
if i wanted to
if i tried to
if i had to
could i win
if i stepped outside
said here i am come and get me
i'll take you on
one by two by three
could i fulfill my prophecy
could i check the king
and one day go home
medaled to the teeth
followed by the victory march
marching for the victory
if i could define my success
could i reach it
if i could see
the potential inside of me
could i reach it
could i play life before it plays me
kill the killer
cheat the cheater
meet my maker and make him cry
could i reach the top of the pole
before i die
if i tried my hand at something new
would i know what i was looking for
would i know what i needed
would i know who to call
would i know if i had succeded
would i know anything at all
would i know my limits
would i know where the boundaries end
would i know its highest honor
but if i did
could i reach it
could i touch it
would i be able to see it
with my own two eyes
would i be able to hear it
calling out my name
calling me to rise
could i reach my dreams
if they were impossible
falling apart at the seams
and far too heavy in whim
but someday catch them
and one day win
She said to me, walking in trees on a cold night,
Boy, I want chocolate after your raw tongue.
Lather me with mounds, melting like hot peaches,
In the juicy spring.
I’ll turn the tree into a sweet Sunday pole.
Dance like a sweaty, delirious goddess.
Together we’ll watch the storm with bitter moans,
Live in the purple-breasted apparatus.
And drool over your tiny repulsive head,
As you lay beneath the frantic symphony
Of the black forest.
Are you awake right now?
Are you…thinking of me?
I see you sleeping soft sleeping deep
Some people curl up but i bet you extend
Pole to pole across your bed
Through your window
Through my window, through me
Pole to pole across the stars
And when you dream do you dream like i think you do?
Do you smile, speak, laugh in your sleep
And would you dream of me?
Would you let me calm you in the night
when you're curled up like a baby sobbing
because none of this is how you thought it would be?
I would, I would, I would rock you sweet
and tender in this endless sea
of bad reality, bad dreams, bad words, looks and people
I would wrap you in my skin to keep you just a little warmer in the dark
Let me take you in
In to me
who am i?
i'm tired eyes and bed hair.
i'm coffee stains on the pages of my favorite books.
i'm dry humor in the morning when all i want to do is sleep.
i'm my favorite song lyrics blaring through the speakers on a long road trip.
i'm a stranger sitting on a park bench watching people live their lives
while all i do is sit and observe.
i'm all the places i've been to and explored on sunday mornings
leaving little bits of me when i go.
i'm the tide splashing at my feet while i make pictures in the sand.
i'm a quote from my favorite movie that i've seen too many times to count.
i'm shorts and a tank top on a warm summer day
then boots and a coat on a cold winter night.
i'm a fishing pole in its stand on the bank of a murky lake.
i'm late nights out with friends
when i should really be at home in bed.
i'm the thrill of sneaking into somewhere you shouldn't be
and the terror of getting caught.
i'm goodnight kisses
and early morning hugs.
so who am i?
i am these fragments
pulled together, making me tick.
I met an eccentric fisherman today
He was five foot five with a beard
Seven foot seven
As gant as the pole in his hands
And more bronze than my shower taps
He had a salty grin and six black teeth
'Ye fancy fish, interior boy?'
S sounds whisled
'Aye got one ere for ye then lad'
It floundered in my tender land hands
It's gills flapped open like window blinds
'Relinquish me boy'
'Wet my skin in the waters of home,
And I'll trade a desire for my freedom'
I gazed at the fisherman
He had disappeared
'Release this fish and I'll grant
The deepest wish for ye, small ant.
For my power is great'
I'm hungry, powerfish
I haven't eaten for days
Could you give me that?
'A simple wish, a gift most easily given
Drop me boy and you'll taste heaven'
Water splashed my face as the fish
Swam away from the shore.
Where is my meal, oh powerfish?
'Fool hearted boy, simpleton left hungry
Never trust fish or else ye angry
Enjoy the hunger lad
I'm the tastiest fish you could have had!'