Muddy Water

Another poetry collection I have been working on for a while, this one is full of half-truths, momentary backtracks, and muted confessions. Trying to love again, in some watered-down way, I write out of that valley in my mind. The dip that cradles new hearts and breaks them, as I continue to patch myself together.

(disclaimer: if you are my family, you may want to skip this one ;))

Proof.

I feel my figure tracked along the road
and I know I am there.
Breathing in front of other bodies.
When I write, it is for me,
my truth & I don’t care to offend other eyes,
but still, the thought of others weighs heavy on my hands.
Inked words given an end stop,
a pause,
where I imagine a read receipt
at each indent.

You know.

You hold this power over me.
You know you do
that’s why you loved me.
Thats why I can’t be around you.
I dream of the day you’ll cry
and I’ll feel nothing.
No pulse will slow and quick.
No drawn heart will ricochet in my soul.
I dream of this day with my eyes closed,
pressed shut so that one day
I can see you,
and see nothing.

What do I call you?

You go by many names,
and baby, so do I.
I snake like a poison
around my own ears
and listen to the city’s heartbeat
from an open window.
Costar reminds me to “notice everything”
and darling, I do.
Someone drips their words onto my skin
makes love to my lips
and touches me with sweetness
unmatched by any second-day sugar.
I dream of someone in sliding photographs,
because I am not comfortable in still frames.
Hovering, always writing,
over any page.

White lies are only white if the truth doesn’t matter.

Why can’t I stop biting my cheeks?
Like flesh pealing from raw lips
will silence your circular swarm.
All midnight thoughts pull back
to what I should have said
and what you shouldn’t have.
There is no one I love more and trust less
than you.
The pink skin inside lips and tongue are meant to heal the fastest.
So I am always ready to bleed,
each time you chew my mind.
With
every 2am earache,
every 3am tear,
every 4am conversation between teeth,
comes severed skin.
You don’t hear the words I scream at you
they are in my head
but I bear my teeth anyways.
Cannines into wet scabs
blood until breakfast.

melody.

there is another face pulling me when i listen to music
a new theme in my soundtrack
written away from the name that held too much
for too long.
but there are too many lyrics about someone else now
there is a sweet song sliding through my ears and
it builds something new inside me
stacking tracks in a direction i forgot was possible.
youth has a second coming,
i knew it was far from over
those vibrating notes were just the prelude.
i have albums in me
countless plastic photographs to gloss over
with greasy fingertips that lie
in whatever future waits for me.
songs come a few times a week
and they aren’t repeats anymore,
though the artist remains the same.
dark eyes pull me into the present,
into this morning city in front of us.

A-

I thought you could be toxic
while he seeped into my brain with his own poison,
but maybe both can be true.
Could your love for me just be a little too much?
Enough to see through his bullshit when I was blind.
And I need you,
toxins and all,
to erode all these ill intentions.
You are the only one I trust to love me
when everything goes up in smoke.
I wait for your text,
so I can divulge my soul to you.
So I can tell you everything I don’t know how to say to myself.
I can’t stand it when you are quiet.
You sleep, or work, or dance
while I roam another city
and reach for your love with the stars.

True Stories.

How can we be reduced to a grain of our sand?
How do we become defined by our final moments?
Like all true stories, there was always going to be an end to your sweet.
Your bittersweet cavity moaned loud through painkillers
and I sink into that feeling again.
It swells, the molasses you left me to drown in,
this stick of you to my skin.
Sugared sick covering every crevice
filling all empty flesh.
Then I know this quicksand sweet will become a grain.
It must, in time, despite the residue.
You- we are a part of me.
Still, you & I & we are only a moment of everything.

You aren’t the “he” my diary knows without context, and nothing is life or death anymore.

Knowledge.

What would he do if he knew I was writing about him?
Would he be colored in red?
Or know the impact of his stroke,
Know how he lands on me,
And how his fingers curl me inside.
He wants a playlist, and I want him,
Right now,
Even if I don’t know for how long.
He’ll always be alive in my memory.
Exist as a sexy patch of light
Illuminating the French ridges of my mind.
Filling the space I thought would stay empty here.
And am I scared of him or how he makes me feel?
Who am I to know.

Dear,

I would be lying if I said that your affection doesn’t draw me to you or that your free-flowing nights out don’t buy out the fifty percent of my brain that says- stupid girl, run.
I don’t know if I’ve ever known I was making a mistake while I made it before. Not like this, not for this long.
You are dangerous.
But are you really? Now that I think I know you?
Do your gentle friends excuse the sharp edge below your steering wheel like I do?
Does the sweetness of your thumb on my chin excuse what it does to faces that aren’t mine?
I know it is wrong when you throw the first punch, and it makes me want you.
You broke your hand because you are too hard, but with me, you are softer than butter. I don’t have to touch you to melt you. Just the heat of my hand begins to break you, but still, you touch me.

Grass.

You were supposed to be grass under my shoe,
Nothing.
Nothing but a blade,
Fresh-faced and green.
Climbing up my boot
Caressing my leather until I crush you.
But now I’m crushing on you,
Looking at the space below my platformed heel,
Hesitating.
You were supposed to be grass.
Beautiful and temporary,
Just for the season
Then gone.
Your last pleasure, the crunch
Underfoot.

Read Receipts.

19 seconds on the clock, and this beer falls down my throat easy.
How else are we meant to walk but hand in hand?
If I text you twice, will you smile,
or cringe away from my name?
You make me feel safe, somehow,
as I scroll and react.
So shallow against your words.
I love you.
No, I didn’t say that.
I just think about you often.
You live and lie in my brain now.
Just a tiny version of everything I know about you.
I am tempted to know you,
I hesitate, and want you.
Oh, I really do,
I want you.
I just don’t know about forever.

Again.

How many times will I let you feed me lines,
and gift you any semblance of belief?
You haven’t meant what you said in a year.
I dont believe a word from the forked tongue
you tearfully split, and for the first time
I know it’s true. I dont want to be with you.
It took one picture, and in that moment
something in me shifted.
I grew white hot
at the switches flip and here I am
finally angry with you.
It is all your fault,
this hurt. I know it is your fault,
because I looked inside myself
I scraped every hallow with responsibility,
and all I can find of mine is softness.
I am too soft.
I’ve always been too sweet.
I should have screamed at you while I had the chance.
It took a while, but I have found my sharpness.
The part of me that cuts,
and how dare you sharpen me out of understanding.
How dare you make me cry on my birthday
because you were too weak to bite your lip for one day.
How dare you decide for me what I deserve,
from everyone and you.
How dare you tell me constantly that one day
you would come back after you severed us,
because you were too scared to imagine us in a straight line.
How dare you cut down your own promises,
like they were crops only rooted in this season’s reality.
How dare you never tell me the whole fucking truth.
How dare you swear to me you’ll follow through, this time,
and convince me with drunk words that you love me.
You told me to wait for you. Not to cry because you couldn’t handle it.
And these are things I will never do for you. Not if you ask.

Ahead of Myself.

I don’t think I’ll miss you when I’m gone
but what if that’s a lie?
What if I’m the one who is falling
and your arms just happen to be there to catch me?
I keep tracing back to the time you held me.
naked and sweaty from our nightly activities,
and you just held me.
At the time, all that ran through my head was fuck.
What the fuck am I doing leading you on like this?
It’s cruel.
If you just want to be held.
But now it’s me who is thinking about it.
Why am I thinking about it?
On the street, I’ll start smiling,
because of something you said.
This is wrong,
I’m not supposed to think about you if you are not inside me.
But I see you,
The next day,
and the day after that.
And I’m okay with that.
If I never ran into you at that bar,
met you for a second time at Rennes’ universal rendezvous,
I would have never said yes again.
I was planning on fading,
a fond memory,
and now I hope to remember you for myself.
The man is supposed to miss me,
I am supposed to feel a bit guilty, shrug it off, and become a ghost.

Hurt Me.

When he warned me, i almost died
as I soaked cotton
crossed and uncrossed my legs,
one strewn across his knee now.
His hands like my hair,
they like drawing loose strands around my ear,
and turning my eyes to his.
He says he is trying to be good for me,
and after our first round romp
he stopped me still in the back of his car and held me.
He rested my head on his shoulder
and did the same.
Simple, but not what I was expecting.
Soothing our skin with forward fingertips
unafraid and unencumbered
no thought.
On his shoulder lines a dragon
inked and ridged as I feel it,
and with another kiss, we are all fire again.
His hand grips my throat, and I wish I had the words to say
harder.
Plus fort, I guess, but instead,
I place my hand over his and squeeze.
He doesn’t want to hurt me
but he should
I will hurt him.

Storylines.

Do we start our story at the beginning or the end?
I write in my pink notebook
Like it’s normal at the bar
Because it is, isn’t it?
Doesn’t everyone write while they want a cigarette?
Doesn’t everyone dance this dance?
Tongues dance a million languages between us
And I don’t know which is yours.
Between these and a thousand other tongues
I will choose you.
I choose you.
For now and as far as I can see into the future,
Which is never longer than a week.
Isn’t that enough?
I make enough mistakes in my French to speak to others with assistance
But with you I use nothing.
I am raw with you, and you try to understand me.
C’est pas nécessaire, mais pour toi c’est vrai.
C’est nécessaire.
Je suis nécessaire.

Danger.

But is it even that simple?
Or is it that feeling,
Between my legs
Between my eyes and his
Between the made beds we untuck
And ruin.
It’s his job,
To be in the dark and on the run
And maybe I’m okay with that
Because one foot props the door.
But then my stomach clenches
With each minute he waits to speak
And I want him to keep on wanting me
Like he does
Even if that means breaking him.
I cool my conscience by telling him small things,
With words he may not understand.
Maybe I let this go on,
Because I like the way he feels
With his hand on my back
With my fingers tracing secrets on his thigh.
Of course, I like how he feels,
I like our franglish jokes with their belated punchlines.
The way I talk around the right word
And his lips move slowly to teach me the sound.
Those lips curl around our words then my lips
And he is disarmed in translation.
He cannot lie,
Or maneuver his words to serve him.
There is no mincing between us.
He says what he means, and I say it again,
Because when do we understand the first time?
Our mouths take time to know each other,
And our tongues know what to say without words.
We are high on his work and my American deprivation,
Learning new ways to say it.
Exchanging expressions like currency though it’s him who pays for everything.
He wants to buy me everything,
But I can’t tell if I believe him.
I’ve been trained to discredit sincerity,
To write off promises,
To add disbelief to anything said in love.
But why would he pretend when I have given him nothing?
I tell him not to pay,
Because every coin is charged to my guilty conscience.
Because I will leave, you can bet on it.

I have nothing and everything to say to you.

Tears soak into gray on my violet sweatshirt.
You still have my favorite one,
you wanted it and told me it would be waiting for me,
with you
when I flew back to you. And I said okay.
Because I believed you when you said we would meet again.
I left clothes in drawers you cleared for me &
I wish I was colder to you.
I wish your face didn’t startle me with forgotten contours
burn-branded into me.
You took liberties, and I wish I screamed at you.
But I smiled & everything was your idea.
This was all your idea, from the beginning.
And I wasn’t angry for so long. For too long
my love for you burned so bright it charred
the split ends of my skin and clotted the flowing blood for me.
Love licked my wounds and understanding numbed the way
I never really stopped bleeding.
But this love was temporary, just like yours
and I still need stitches
& fuck you for that.
I can’t believe all the ways I let you fuck me.
Over & Over & Anyway you wanted.
Nothing was off limits for you.
I was blind. And so small. And crying.
But I loved you enough to choke down the tears
I drank them, so you didn’t have to see,
but now they are coming back up.
Soaked with bile & blood &
other indesgressions you asked me to swallow.
You’ve never seen me angry. Not really.
Its rare,
a shooting star,
burning through myself,
I go cold.
Tears fall like ice,
I speak slow,
through clenched teeth steam whistles like a kettle.
You’ve never seen me angry.
Not like this.

overwrought sunshine.

everyone calls me sunshine
it’s in my hair
lining my face
as the first thing out of their mouths,
once they run out of generics.
i’m sure there are many of us called sunshine,
can we get together,
start a club,
and talk about what our lovers say to us
what they call us and think is original?
can we hold each other,
bright and breaking
the stars of love burning,
and the gold that falls around my shoulders
can be too much.
because firing eyes can cool into ashes,
and they will understand this.
just for the minutes recorded by our sunshine secretary
can we bring a room to absolute darkness,
hang our tired arms at our sides
and we won’t have to smile.
no one has to smile,
we can laugh at the literal
our favorite color- yellow,
and the golden brows that tip the scale
of our overwrought imagery.
we are not sunny, we are the sun.
the burning ball that shows the ones who share our bed
the morning.

The Flipside.

It’s crazy to imagine someone trying to get over me.
Me?
Maybe its narcissistic,
but I crave to know what it is like
to know me,
to unknow me.
How do I look to the other eye?
How does this other mind think over me?
This other heart bleeding over my name.
I wonder what it is like to mourn me.
I used to hate the way I looked,
but I’ve never hated myself.
Because it’s me.
If I don’t like me, I can change myself.
Everything there is to hate is under my control.
Everyone else is the obstacle.
So I wonder what it is like to breathe in the wake of me,
and I ponder what must come after.

Close.

Am I scared of love again?
I don’t think so
but how can I tell?
I don’t want anyone,
but if I feel the spark,
that magic.
If I felt that familiar feeling
I think I would jump again.
Broken bones heal,
and broken hearts only have so much blood to bleed.

Uncaring.

I am sick to my stomach,
or at least that’s how my body is reacting to a lazy day with little food.
I know you like me. I can tell by the way you kiss places that aren’t my lips.
So I don’t know why I haven’t heard you today. Are you okay? Are you running? What plagues you?
Because you plague me today.
My eyes dart with every flash from my home screen.
I wish you would help me quiet you, before I realize I actually care.

I can’t lie, not to a blank page. Though I am an expert at lying without words.

Come to Class.

It astounds me,
How we all listen and understand
Words spoken and taken.
Paragraphs spell out everything
But I keep some for myself,
With you everything is half.
I half know you.
I give half of myself to you.
And you half understand this.

Games.

Is it worse for you to hurt,
or to ignore me?
I don’t know what to think.
I am sat outside a bar,
there are pool tables inside,
but I only want to play with you.
You are somewhere in the ethereal,
the dense cloud of ether,
connected, or not, to magnets in the sky.
But even if you were here,
I would still be floating,
wishing you were tuned to my skin.
You are a placeholder, not my anchor.
You aren’t heavy enough to ground my lips to the surface.

You trace your hand between swollen skin
and I feel nothing but the warm pulse of life.
No sparks fly from your fingertips,
its almost like I can’t feel you at all,
so I don’t need you to stop.
I like cosplaying as your girlfriend,
drinking your drinks,
smoking your splifs,
holding your hand in mine.
I rebuke guilt
with laughter and rejection,
don’t give me any gifts of permanence.
Don’t give me anything of permanence.

I tell you I am too young to think about staying,
but there are so many ways you don’t hear me.
I can see the hope you won’t let me crush.
Not completely.
I hear you stop yourself
from asking something too serious.
Something you will have to hear the answer to.
Declarations of union
earn you nothing but aversion,
disbelief and laughter
yet you re-itch to ask me for a reason.
I stare blankly
until you toss your feelings to the wind,
and there is fear in me that you will actually buy a ring.
Please don’t ask me anything,
I could never say yes.

Friends.

You touch our lips,
and it could be a hug.
I feel less than when I press
against best friends in dim parties.
Or the first time he broke skin,
and I asked if it was done.
Closing my eyes with the creak
wood platforms and stuffed feathers.
You push inside me and seek more,
stretching to touch iris to iris.
But when I meet your eyes like this,
it feels like lying.
Lying by acting out hope.
By inviting you to forget every rejection from my mouth,
because look how you make it gasp.

When I Grow Up.

Age comes and I believed it when it promised everything
I had ever wanted.
But the candles burned to their end without needing my permission.
With time’s abundant hands
the golden thread can be spun too long
or too short
as it carries you through
and moves, independent of our limbs.
Then and now is nothing.
An invisible wind on a clock
ticks a sleeping child older,
seeping time into bones.
Months can pass in seconds,
and seconds can be pulled into eons
and these are all just different types of waiting.
A lobby waiting room you don’t see around you,
until someone calls your name.

Stop fucking your friends.

I wish I could take back knowing you.
Because now you are a friend.
One who twists my hair around your finger,
looking at the contrast.
Smiling at my smile,
while your voice only queues this mantra I ignore.

Living in Le Douillet

All noise disappears as we find our way out of Rennes and into the simple fields of the Normandy countryside. My new friend, Megan, her girlfriend Margot, and I rode as passengers in the back of a small gray sedan dubbed Cleo.

Our tightly packed car wound down these dirt roads and up the slightly swollen plateau at the town’s center. We parked between Gorron’s Le Marie and La Cuisine de Bubba, the Pizzaria owned by Megan’s family.

The slightly fogged windows called us to warmth, and we quickly slipped into the cozy restaurant. Despite pizza’s Italian roots, the Hearn family brings a slice of English culture to the small French town.

Voices ring through the open hall in English tones, serving the spirited regulars oven-baked pies with a fair share of beer and wine.

We collapsed into the first open booth, finding space for our bags behind the bar. As I ordered my “hot & spicy” pizza and watched Margot take orders, I felt familiarity cover my limbs like I was back on my old neighborhood hill in San Diego.

Passers-by called to Megan, and tables sent hugs to the whole family before ducking through the door into dusk. Tipping hats with neighborly affection.

Truman

So many weekends away
Always away
Where I know nothing and no one
But it’s only a matter of time.
You can burrow a home anywhere
Nuzzle your crown into broken twigs
Soon enough they’ll turn green again.
Another safety net sprouts
Familiar faces hold your gaze
And mouths will say words you finally understand.
But my mind hasn’t learned the difference
Between an embrace and a chokehold.
White knuckles cant soothe me, racing
Head spinning and turning
The same panorama burned like a silver CD
Behind my eyes.
Playing like a skipping tape
Over and over the same sky.
Each day, a groundhog peaks out of a hole
Surveys his surroundings
And I scream.

We washed down pizza with a glass of rose until its closing time; then I took my place as a foreign friend in their right-handed car.

It was dark by the time we pulled into their driveway, and the nightly stars did not do the converted cow shed the same justice as dawn’s rise the next morning. Opening the sky over green and growing land, this sun shone through the windowed wall into the kitchen.

Beams held two lofted levels while the kitchen looked up to the original peaked roof. Stainless steel appliances divided this lower floor between living space and tv room. The hearth wafted warmth through hung clothes and clung to the couch’s pillowed blankets.

After drinking my coffee and filling my stomach with Biscoff and toast, Margot, Meg, and I went on a meandering walk of their farmland neighborhood.

Cows stood lazily in fenced fields, and trees made shallow forests between plots of land. Wind lifted our hair in short exhales as we strolled, finding footing over fallen leaves and around muddy tire tracks.

Out to Pasture

Life passes in seasons,
Trees fall without sound
And the deaf breeze paints crinkled leaves across the sky.
A rubber-gloved hand pulls life from inside me
And my underbelly is sore
From new mouths.
Life passes between metal links,
A fenced existence I don’t care to dispute.
At times I drag myself, heavy,
Onto dirt road,
Just to feel something in the seconds before a car downshifts
And hands roughly push me in my tired direction.
Life is in a silver, open cage
And I watch the sky.
Another season comes and so does my cellmate.
Another cell swells inside me,
And this time, I pass life to them.

We crossed the blooming man-made pond and constructed rocky steps that pave the backyard. Running our muddy boots against the rough doormat, we returned to home base.

It was finally time to dress for the Halloween/birthday party hosted that evening. My wardrobe lent itself easily to Jules from Euphoria, so I excitedly smoothed blue tights over my legs and zipped a white and orange swirled skirt over my hips.

A gold chain belt of flowers clipped over these layers, and I doubled up on green with a long-sleeve pattern and simple tank. I linked necklaces over each other and clipped rainbow earrings to my lobes before finishing the material portion of my costume with a borrowed mini backpack.

The final touches were space buns and white ink outlining my eyes, just as Jules would have wanted.

Meg and Margot secured felt petal hats over fairy dresses, becoming two adorable flower fairies before me.

Meg’s sister claimed 18 as the party commenced, and we slurped homemade jello shots from shallow paper scallops in her honor. The disco lights lit our night from the inside, flooding the windows with light that spilled onto the patio.

As we warmed our legs by her father’s bonfire and listened to the youthful music from within, I let the fire hold me, grateful for the kindness of temporary strangers.

Looking Like Rennes

Steve Lacy sings “Bad Habit” to me as I wait at the Cesson bus stop to board my near-daily bus to the center of town.

My eyes dart from this page frequently, expecting the C6 Aeroport to be in view. I can’t tell if they are always late or all early, but the bus always exhales in labored exhaust, sometime between the time you waited for and the next. Either way, I board five past and make it to Republique anyways.

I don’t know how long I have kept to this habit of taking iced coffee at Mokka and observing everyone who passes on the ever-populated Rue de le Bastard.

What I have seen these past weeks comes in a few variations.

Overwhelmingly, black covers the shoulders of these Rennes walkers. All ages seem to have an attachment to this base, the young and feminine accentuating with perhaps a pop of color or contrast of pattern.

Among this swarm, new women dress in black tights, either end landing in boots or under dark skirts. These girls don oversized coats, two buttons unbuttoned as each side hangs open on their first layer. Their breaks in black often come in white or tan, basic color blocking for a population that keeps one toe in homogeny.

Cream-colored sneakers see the world from millennial feet as they walk into light creases against the uneven stone. These women wrap their necks in soft cotton scarves and top their heads with the ascribed bennie. Brown hair curls under and into their XXL button-up sweaters, warm and puffed like shag carpet.

I don’t hate it, though they drone on in the same colors, black, cream, tan, brown, and pink, barely distinguishable from white.

Naturally, within any herd of dressers, the brilliant and beautiful stick out, and Rennes’ diamonds are no exception.

For the older generation of women, most of whom are under the universal urge to chop their hair with the same sharp shortness, these feats of fashion come in coordinated color schemes and fabric attention. As they pass, there is a certainty that even their socks match and mirror what they wear on the surface.

In youth, colored fits find my focus and pull me in pinpointed directions to pink floral buzz cuts and wide-legged denim. Their identity hemorrhages from their patterned skirts and oversized sweaters. Legs slid between thin tights, torn and running, while their canvas-bagged shoulders rock back and forth. Earrings hang heavy from stretched lobes and chart empty spaces on their faces.

And then there are the leather ladies, and I do love them. 20, 30, 40-something girls creaking down the street with arms crossed over silver ornaments in black boots, invariably. Their hair is always pinned and pulled, cheekbones leading their walk.

Made in the USA

When she asks what I want,
I want to tell her
I love the way her nails,
dark green and noir,
match her drawn eyes.
I want to tell her
exactly how much I prepare
just to hear this question.
I want to say
the words I mean, effortlessly,
with the same loose twist of tongue
that comes after I’ve gotten my spirits up.
I want to hold on
to this moment before she knows
my whole truth.
And I can’t tell her,
not without stumbling,
words invariably slurred by my American mouth.
I try anyways,
but it is too early to tell
if she will let me finish.

At times, a young boy strolls by with a matching sweat set in tan, gray, or some other soft color. Most men, on the other hand, stick to their black scripts. They layer t-shirts and sweatshirts, pulling puffers over all of this and ending over black pants that brim their Nike choose-your-own-adventures.

Another look frequents this male population in tan pants and tucked t-shirt. Layered above is a blue or deep green button-up, and over that, a similarly dark sweater. The collar of their ironed blue peaks out from v-neck scoop.

Perhaps, though not necessarily, they don a comfortable jacket and scarf below the rim of their cotton caps. All this over business boots laced up and double tied with stiff hands living outside their week-day keyboard station.

Iced coffee and pen in hand, I turn my pinky to the sky in my version of Rennes’ fashion.

A black base, of course, is worn over my legs in faintly patterned tights and a clingy velvet skirt. I have an aversion to the feel of velvet against my fingers, so I try not to think too much while I snake the zipper over my hip and slip a black and white turtle neck over my head of loose hair. Next, I tie it all away from my face with an orange pop of color. The bright scarf is lined with white strokes that call to their counterparts on my chest.

Secured with four crossed bobby pins, I can fasten the four buttons that fall over my wrists. This final layer comes in a faint cream button-up dotted with a second dollop of cream in polka dots. And, since it is me, my fingers are crowned in gold and silver bands, a brick and a stone of purple, as gold joins the fabric on each wrist.

The remaining hair is tossed over my shoulder as I pull Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny dressed as pirates and vampires over each end of my tights, it is Halloweek after all. Finally, I stomp into my white platform docs and lace them around my South Park secret.

This is my Rennes, or as close to it as my wardrobe allows.

Wet Dog

Are they supposed to see through my grin?
Past the stiff cock of my head to the side?
Or feelings I plaster across my face?

Does my one-handed San Pelligrino sell nativity
or betray my naivety?

I dress in color
because I live in color,
but I don’t have the key
to unlock the glass ceiling
that takes the context out of everything.

Either way, I can’t stop finding people
who want me,
want to strip my words away
see what body is my truth,
like that.

Am I paranoid to think that the table over is talking about me?
They must be,
either blase or smelling it on me,
before I can speak.

Once I open my mouth,
wet dog
damp and almost alright.
Half-way clean,
half-way soiled,
I just don’t have the soap
to wash these abstractions away.

Reflections on Midnights

A review of Taylor Swift’s latest album.

With twenty songs, Taylor over-delivered on her promise of thirteen new tracks dropping on the 20th of October. Midnights, and the extended 3 AM tracks, is one of those albums that takes a few subsequent listens before the full impact of her words hit you. Like all of her music, I hear sung poetry and could spend days in her worded worlds.

On first listen, I can understand those who will make typical comments about the homogeny of the tracks. However, as you press replay and listen individually to each song, Taylor’s genius shines through each complete encapsulation of the types of thoughts that keep you up, keep you dancing, and keep you dreaming past midnight.

If I were to get into all twenty, we would be here all day. So for your enjoyment, and mine, here are my first five favorites.

Paris
I wanna brainwash you into loving me forever

Starting with a this-city-is-too-small scene in her first lines, Taylor captures that feeling that burns just outside the static that clings to you and your bottle. The synapses of electricity and nerves that follow you through nights spent betwixt flashing lights and empty alleyways.

Those spiraling midnights that pass without time into 3 AMs without you caring, so long as they pass with the ones you choose to love tonight.

This track inescapably brings me back to those first nights out when I was eighteen with my new friends in Chicago. Drinking cheap wine through quiet alleys, not knowing the difference between this and champagne in Paris. The only thing we need to feel is the embrace of youth that adorns everything in that hyper-sentimentality of now.

And this is what Taylor delivers.

High Infidelity
Put on your records and regret me
I bent the truth too far tonight
I was dancing around, dancing around it

With the knowledge of Zoë Kravits’ collaboration on this album, it is hard to believe that she did not have a hand in the creation of this song. That being said, the most notable similarities between High Infidelity and the closely named High Fidelity, come in Taylor’s use of record-related imagery.

Telling her lover to “put on [their] records… put on [their] headphones and burn [her] city,” Taylor cues her listeners into the presence of music within the relationship she describes. Though “burn my city” can be taken as an instruction to her lover to get back at her by erasing something she loves, I prefer to think of it as a continuation of the record-era imagery.

She knows that her lover may put on their own records and drown their regret in familiar music, but will ultimately turn on her memory. Playing their scenes together through headphones connected to a burned CD implies that these good ‘ole days memories have not been made since we traded music on silver disks.

Bejeweled
Familiarity breeds contempt
So put me in the basement

This hit a little too close to home. With this track, Taylor perfectly encapsulates the sharp line you walk when you love yourself more than the one you love does.

In her first verse, she sets the tone of the relationship described as she admits to being too nice to her lover, putting them first while she no longer makes their top five. Though she communicates this longing for their affection, she also breaks from any ultimate attachment by letting them know, “by the way, I’m going out tonight.”

As the song continues, Taylor notes that although her lover no longer sees her shimmer, it is still brilliant for her and everyone else. “Whats a girl gonna do? A diamonds gotta shine”

Placing some distance between her and her lover, blinded by familiarity, she tells the men who come like moths to her flame that she “can still say I don’t remember” if she has a man. If he wants to draw her back into the “penthouse of [his] heart” that she desired, he will have to wait in line.

The dichotomy of your relationship with yourself while you love someone more than they love you is hard to express with all the layered nuance and particular quality of self-love, but Taylor puts it plainly. “I miss you, but I miss sparkling.”

Vigilante Shit
He was doin’ lines and crossin’ all of mine…
Picture me, thick as thieves with your ex-wife

Introducing more characters in her sung story, Taylor depicts an intertwined relationship between her speaker and an ex-husband and wife.

Ending most of the verses and versions of the chorus with a variation of “I don’t dress for women, I don’t dress for men, lately I’ve been dressing for revenge,” she flips the script of the typical dynamic between a couple and a mistress. “Ladies always rise above,” can be identified as the driving theme behind her lines, as she goes on to describe collaborations with his ex-wife. Taylor gives her proof, draws in the law, and gets even, on her vigilante shit.

This inverse, illustrating no scorned and broken woman, or the hysterical mania that is stereotypically prescribed to wronged women, takes on sultry overtones. The slow, vibrating beat swells behind her voice as she sings lines like, “she looks so pretty, drivin’ in your benz,” and “don’t get sad, get even.”

Question…?
Does it feel like everything’s just second best
After that meteor strike?

When I listen to lyrical music, I most commonly find (or seek out) songs that I can identify direct feelings with. Songs where I can be the abandoned woman, cursing or mourning her inadequate lover. But this time, Taylor hit me over the head with every question I asked myself in those first months of loss. No anger or resentment yet, just questions and imagined scenarios that reply through your mind.

“Good girl, sad boy,” “you painted all my nights a color I’ve been searching for since,” and “did you wish you put up more of a fight when she said it was too much?” Damn Taylor.

There are too many perfect communications of the miscommunications that haunt you as the night creeps into day. The questions you close your eyes and ask your ceiling a million times until one night, you just fall asleep.

And that is what Midnights is all about.

Iced Coffee Escapades pt.2: Cafe Glace S’il Vous Plaît

If you have been following my blog, you know that for me, iced coffee is a must. You have likely read my rants about its scarcity in Europe, and if this is true, then it will be no surprise that I am back with another edition of Iced Coffee Escapades, this time in Rennes.

Mokka

With two locations in Rennes, the house of my go-to iced coffee sits aside the busy foot traffic of Rue le Bastard, just before the craft-store alcove next door.

Black awnings and metal chairs encroach upon the street in a small arrangement while the line snakes and breaks through the afternoon.

Their menu lists many drinks, from green tea to americanos, with an option to make any drink “froid,” or over ice. In addition to its extensive menu, Mokka offers sizes akin to the oversized American standards I am used to. Their large is about 24ounces, more than generous compared to the typical French 6.

For these reasons, Mokka has quickly become a popular stop along my day since I first discovered it with an equally ice-obsessed friend.

Despite my love of Mokka’s cold and convenience, the cafe is more equipped for à emporter than sur place. The wifi has difficulty reaching the end of the patio, and no toilet is tucked in the back, making this cafe less than ideal for an afternoon with a laptop.

Still, I am grateful for Mokka’s no-nonsense iced coffee, and as a misplaced connoisseur, who am I to complain?

Cafe Albertine

For a kitchen-cafe experience, head to Albertine. The mid-sized lounge bridges the gap between cafe and restaurant as wifi and caffeine power patrons through their morning. Its living room style provides a calm workspace that filled each breath with baked aromas.

I found a round table towards the back, with the same friend who introduced me to my beloved Mokka. She told me she had never been here before, and we ordered the same combination of iced latte and cinnamon roll.

The roll was woven like a flower, pieces pulling from doughy center as it unfolded in my hands, the flavor amplified by the cool introduction of espresso and milk on ice.

Music came softly from the cafe’s corners, Cage the Elephant, then Tame Impala filling the space between our words.

Light floods the restaurant as its windows are a clear, looking glass into the morning cold. People line the walls with their laptops and meetings, and it is easy to slip into the tranquility of background conversation.

The clacked exchange between fingers and keys is my white noise, after years spent writing in city cafes. These vibrations lull me to thought and I wonder what my infant self would think if she could see me now.

Lines

Where did I draw the line?
There have been too many revisions,
too many exceptions.
Too much blurred led,
gummed eraser ends,
and holes in the space between.
I feel my origin shrinking,
while my head occupies the same space
above my shoulders,
and my limbs go about their day.
Dragging me along long nights
and moral mistakes,
asking me to forget everything.
I beg my body to take me to myself,
and I look– into the crystal balls that see the world,
and find that momentary grasp of self.
That moment’s recognition before you fade before your own eyes.
The voice I heard as a child has been replaced,
though echoes hear her, sometimes,
when her fists pound against my heavy glass,
and she glares through my eyes
just like I ask her.
Only at night can I crawl back inside,
and find her curled up inside me.
I take her head in my hands and ask her to look.
To remember what I can’t and tell me how we should feel.
Her eyes grow wide each time
as she relives each way my body has danced,
her mouth doesn’t know pride or disappointment,
her breath fogs my eyes, as
her hands hold mine and more freedom.
More than she knew she meant when she screamed,
and I don’t know what to tell her anymore.

Sainte Anne Social

A metro station between a chapel and a carousel, and the central meeting point for a night out or an afternoon in the sun.

The station entrance is populated by clusters of people I can only compare to the unhoused hippies of San Francisco. They pass cigarettes, share toothy grins, and I feel nothing but safe as I lean against the transit map and press send on “I’m here:)”

My first meeting at Sainte Anne was on a Tuesday. My friend emerged from the underground and embraced me with fresh blue hair dye and an English smile.

We walked the immediate square and drew our eyes across the circle of tavern-style buildings that house German bars, small-event pubs, and tapas restaurants. We passed through a maze of scattered table plots where sounds of merry beer drinkers clamored through the open air.

She led me past these fronts and across Rue de Sauf, the popular pedestrian passage of bars and nightlife until we reached our destination. Poke!

A relatively new cuisine for Rennes but a tradition for me. The pink fish and rice called me back to every other Tuesday with my residential best friends in Chicago.

Here, the clean green restaurant, Island Poke, offered almost every ingredient for my reverential poke Tuesday.

Tuesday

you saw me hungry
ordering your largest size
eating every word that echoed off your plastic
bounced laugh to laugh
within the walls of our Chicago apartment.
you were there when we watched 90-day fiance
and I thought I had my own
you got stuck in my teeth
as green cards were signed
and friends fell asleep in each other’s arms
you were even there when I didn’t want you
bringing too many viewers to my breakup
and I picked at you with carpal tunnel chopsticks for revenge
I choked you down and willed you to disappear
but you had to be there
we all needed you
even when you were a group of wrong orders
too much seaweed and missing soy sauce
your mouthpieces added us on instagram
and we let them comment and discount
like friends with ulterior motives do
you still came when I couldn’t afford you
when I was too lazy to pick you up
but my hands changed their mind at the last minute
hey- grab one for me
I’ll pay you back I promise
I’ll cue something on the tv
I’ll feel whole when we’re together

My next Sainte Anne rendezvous came just a few days later. Another “I’m here:)” text and my date appeared, taking me across the same square but this time in daylight.

No open taverns lit the populated street. This time, storefronts jumped forth from each window. Children’s clothes, British candy shops, trinkets and souvenirs, record stores, women’s accessories, and a centre commercial with name-brand overcharges.

I asked for vintage resale, and he delivered, leading me down an empty alley where I thought for a moment, this is the end, until it opened to a clearing behind buildings and one open door.

As we crossed the threshold, my breath caught in my throat. It was magical.

The smell of freshly baked cookies wafted from the cafe corner and mingled with the earthly scent at the potted plant entrance. The walls were decorated with vintage posters and products, while the floor was crowded with equally antique couches and chairs, all urging us towards a small door frame in the back.

I dragged him by the hand, and together we stepped through the portal and embraced my Narnia.

Lining each wall were unique racks of floral dresses, knit sweaters, silk shirts, knee-length skirts, ‘80s jazzercise gear, leather second skins, pleated pants, and an unfair amount of jeans. Racks crowding the center of the room were topped with colorful converse, various hats, suede shoes, and leather boots as bins piled thin pieces between each gap in real estate.

Despite the abundance of my Eden, I held onto self-control and departed with only one pair of corduroy boot-cut pants that I arguably need as fall holds its season.

We left Vacarme, and it was my turn to lead the way. A short walk brought us to Renne’s latest Kilo Shop. A concept I’ve only seen this side of the Atlantic, the store color codes its clothes through security tags that reveal your item’s price when you weigh them on a metal scale.

We began our exploration through the overwhelming racks of jackets and jeans; suede overcoats and piled suspenders winked through our fingers.

Our footsteps found a spiral staircase, and we took it, descending to the basement where “mixed” clothes of no gender hung side by side. (But let’s be honest, who is still sticking to their designated label of clothing?)

I ran my hands over cotton, polyester, silk, and linen until I paused on a deep purple oversized polo sweater. Okay, one item, I told myself. You can buy one item.

And for €9 I made it mine.

Other People’s Clothes

strange
how fabric can bring you home.
and an array of colors
can be the cheat code of comfort.
a loose thread can be pulled,
to make something new,
or create a problem to mend,
depending on who you are.
destroyer & creator
you can’t have one without the other.
stealing from the past and passing it
as something entirely new,
who are you to tell me no?
if you know anything of art,
you know nothing is new.
people place limits on other people’s clothes,
write rules on the cloth that covers me.
no white after labor day,
or mixed patterns and metals.
but my silver shirts sparkle with golden chains,
purple pulls the same extra-large over my shoulders,
corduroy slides, ready to be worn to pieces,
and my body fills the space someone dropped in a box.

St. Malo Saturday

“Want company?”

Of course I did. What better way to explore the small beach town than with friends who knew their way around?

“Yes!” I told my cluster of new friends, and less than 24 hours later, we were riding, five bodies in a small sedan, on our way to St. Malo. The hour drive passed easy, minutes melting away through the countryside until we arrived at the imposing fortress flooded with tourists and weekenders.

The gray stone stacked tall around the central part of the town where obvious vendors and small shops eyed us from street-level glass.

Ice cream was our first objective, and after the cramped ride, I needed it. My companions built a particular ice cream shop, Sanchez L’Artisan Glacier, to be the best in France, and it did not disappoint.

Flavors monopolized two showcase freezers, and each rectangle of ice cream was garnished like a cold cake. There were too many choices, but my allergy to chocolate helped me narrow it down. I decided on hazelnut and pecan, two scoops exchanged for the red token given to me at the register.

Glace

One lick & you open
begin your drip down
& stick to the skin like summer.
I have to keep eating
to stop you from falling apart
all over me & I can’t tell
if you are the real thing.
Not yet. But
there is more to you than I thought
more layers I dissolve so easy,
so sweet. But again,
are these all artificial flavors?
A trick of aspartame or fructose,
but maybe you are really sweet.
Real. Cane sugar in a cup.
Right now, I don’t care.
We play our game
hot & cold & as we kiss I know
you will only reveal the truth
if it hurts
after you are gone.

Five cones and ten scoops came with us on our descent from steep steps to the sand. I breathed in ocean air, and my cone dripped onto the space between my feet.

The breeze, so fresh. So salty and familiar. Yet, I have never been to this side of the sea. I grew up worlds away, numbing my toes in the cool waves of the Pacific. But now I know the Atlantic stings the same ring around ankles as you wade in its waters.

When I asked if sharks ever came close to shore, my friends laughed. “No, what are you talking about? There are no sharks.”

They said it so simply, but my mind was blown. An ocean without sharks? I didn’t know it was possible, but I guess in France, anything is possible.

The shallow water pulled away with the tide as we walked with bare feet on wet sand until we reached the Grand Be island just yards away from St. Malo’s former fortress.

At the top of the island’s rocky swell lies the famous French writer, Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, buried in 1848. It is rumored that decades after he was laid to rest facing the sea, as per his wishes, an unorthodox and revolutionary thinker peed over his grave. This was an act that he intended to reclaim the serene plot Chateaubriand was allowed by his family’s wealth.

Besides a history of desecration between activists and aristocrats, St. Malo claims a rich backstory of intertwined pirates and royalty. Through the 17th and 18th centuries, the city’s stronghold was home to privateers. These pirates had an arrangement with the king where they would share a portion of their spoils in exchange for immunity for their methods of obtaining this treasure.

This alliance proved violent for more than the ships they attacked for treasure, as the privateers used their position to prompt more destruction of foreign ships for the purpose of fighting in France’s race war that lasted until April 6th,1856.

The Saints of Malo

surround me with stone & mortar
and I will hold you.
soft & strong
we can watch centuries of ships
come & go through our open arms.
the arms that can shut & lock
if we decide they don’t have the right.
we can take then,
take everything below deck worth coin,
his gold,
her virtue, or her life.
whichever is worth more.
and while we do this, they can dance.
they, the Maloins, they can wander & think
of all other things.
like the beauty of the sea,
the strange color red that washes to shore,
or thoughts beyond the grave.
they can write & ponder & prosper,
as we protect their fragile feather quills
that write with a softness only our waves possess.
one may rise, grow notoriety above the rest
until he claims earth,
or sand, just there- just through the window
just beyond the shore.
he can declare our sea view his, for eternity.
& while he is lowered into our mother,
we stay eternal, holding all these centuries together.
we still smell the salt air,
resist its waved erosion,
& remember when we used to be pirates.

Wiping sand off with socks and stepping slightly soggy in our shoes, we made ourselves appropriate for La Java Cafe. My friends called it “doll bar,” and by the time we made it inside, I saw it could go by no other name. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, were eyes. Open and staring into our souls from round heads attached to limp bodies of all sizes. Doll bar.

I tried to break eye contact as we looked over the menu and placed our order of juice and soda. The doll’s tiny hands prickled my spine as they watched us. Dainty braids and curled locks were woven too real around painted features that coated their heads in faces. There is no word but creepy.

After we were sufficiently creeped out and had sunk our drinks, it was time to take to the sea again. This time with borrowed swimsuits and high hopes that the water wouldn’t chill us to the bone.

We made our way through an almost-ghost town and found another set of stairs leading to an empty beach.

There was nothing left to do but run, and we did. Three out of five of us flailing towards icy waves and convincing ourselves to plunge all the way into its depths.

I felt the water’s resistance around my waist but pushed forward anyways, feet against sand, and accepted the swell that grew to my shoulders.

The last time I felt this same numbness was before I left everything behind. My sister and childhood neighbors walked with me into the San Diego coast, we felt our skin slowly shrivel as our limbs settled into numbness and our minds forcefully forgot the cold.

Now I am numb with people I’ve just met. Diving head-first into coasts I never have before. Speaking words I am on my way to knowing. And despite my body, I feel everything.

I Love Ireland

Not because I’ve ever been or seen what the country has to offer besides what can be gleaned from the closed captions of Netflix’s “Derry Girls,” but for the simple fact that Irish pubs offer a happy break for English within any large city.

Here in Rennes, there are many, though I’ve only been to three so far.

In Munich and Vienna, I found safe places to grab a beer and take a beat. Their large spaces are frequently furnished in wood and kind people who typically let you mind your business. Though, if you desire a conversation, there are always chatty English speakers who are more than ready to strike up an impromptu friendship.

My first journey to Rennes’ Ireland took me to a basement pub, aptly named Penny Lane, to lure tourists and locals into an anglo night out.

The pub expanded as I stepped down the few steps that broke off from the street-level entrance. Barrells and light-washed wooden stools made stereotypical tables in the corners of each room, while couches and short coffee tables took up most of the space.

I ordered my lager and settled into a tall seat along the plank-lined wall. My stool rested just next to the stage, and I wished there was a live show that night. The small stage accentuated my longing to attend the gigs of my friend’s band, Mind, in Chicago.

I miss those shows while I attend to my travels and only have my memory of how the building shakes with sound and the pounding swell of music compels you to trade your daily stress for flying your arms loose in the air and swaying to the rhythm with your friends on and off stage.

Nothing compares to live music or the pride you feel when your friends rock the stage.

But alas, it was just me and the rest of the pub doing Irish cosplay, humming softly to whatever American band beat from the loudspeaker.

I Love Music

Isn’t it so important?
I whisper this to my best friend
as we slip into the familiar conversation.
I can’t live without it, can you?
No.
I can’t imagine life without
the hum from car speakers,
the bass of the motor.
I feel it before the beat finds the canals in our heads
before it translates rhythm onto the drums inside.
Isn’t it crazy that our bodies have instruments?
It is.
I love it.
I love music
we laugh in matrimony through our worst nights,
armed with our love for each other and sound.
I love music
we cry through highway hazards,
tears shed for lyrics we swear must hear what we only say inside.
I love music
we sing in midnight storms,
drunk on the mist that clouds all other noise.
I love music
when the cops pull us over, again
for a broken tail light.
I love music
and I’m sorry, officer, I didn’t know
I love music
so I forgot
or I didn’t want to open my eyes
or a million other excuses
while we drowned the real world out
with the only one that makes sense
blasting from the radio.

For my next excursion, I found Bar A Cocktails le Irish Pub Shamrock. In true Irish fashion, the pub was decked out in dark wood planks and declarations of English words. Beer is good! How to drink Beer? Drink it! (some profound stuff). A tower of canned soup rose from an abandoned section of the bar while grunge indie rock circa 2010 blared from unseen speakers.

I smiled as the familiar voices sang-talked along hectic beats just as they did from my corded headphones in middle school.

All of this came together as the owner introduced himself to me. The French-forward man and his potbelly spoke sparse English, but enough to try and convince me to drink a green jager-inspired pint and sell me a bucket of fries.

I stuck to my cider, handed to me by the blue and white striped bartender who leaned across the bar and whispered to me that he would keep the boss from bothering me.

I appreciated him as I settled into my barreled seat in the corner and continued to read and write in my own world.

It wasn’t long before a “fellow writer” approached me and bought me another cider in exchange for my company. He proceeded to tell me all about the one book he managed to publish, some study on psychology he clearly had too much confidence in if he thought our conversation was going to end up where he wanted it to.

I wished him a good evening as he finally rewound red scarf around his neck and departed before it rained again.

A moment of silence warmed me before the next inevitable “what are you writing?” came from another male voice. This visitor was a kid, hardly over eighteen, and harmless, as we laughed over the last man’s attempts at flirting with me.

It was nice to have a laugh, but I was tired of male attention and bid him goodnight by 10:30, taking my bus home before more English speakers asked for my number.

Losing Softness

From all sides I am surrounded
by every intention but the real thing.
Someone says something because they want something.
It’s always something.
A look over my book is read
as an invitation to speak to me.
A conversation starter, right?
This attempted barrier between us,
and the problem is, it is.
From her, I’d love nothing more than to look up
and explain its pages,
but I expect all the hims to know the difference.
And this smile I’ve been taught to maintain,
this civility hurts more than it helps.
Sometimes, it’s always sometimes.
A laugh doesn’t mean I like you,
but it can
and how are they supposed to know
when it means don’t be mad,
please don’t make this more uncomfortable,
let this be my last laugh and leave me alone.
Sometimes I imagine myself so hardened,
and other times, I meet these hard women.
So beautiful that their soft gold has tarnished to iron,
but that’s not right because they can still be soft,
sometimes.
Maybe we were always diamonds,
and youth covered us in gaudy gold,
but these women have been polished
sharper by every time they had to scream no.
And this happened so many times that they glint the answer, now
before the question.
Because sometimes we know the question,
always.
And I wonder as they protect me,
what made you so strong?
So unafraid of being hard and then soft,
of making someone earn it.
Even though I know the answer.

My next Irish adventure brought me to O’Connell’s Irish pub. As soon as I passed through its blonde threshold, I knew this was the place I had been looking for.

The tables sat in multiple open rooms, and the bar menu called every drink by its English name.

Don’t get me wrong, I love studying the French language and crave the unmatched swell of pride that follows any conversation where I do not have to break into English.

That being said, I long for deeper friendships. Friends who understand my nuances and can follow every turn of phrase. People who can laugh at my jokes without their explanation and rise with the sun on this side of the world. And at O’Connell’s, I finally broke the cycle of men and found friends.

I chose a nice nook in the second deepest room, ordered my first half pint in French before ordering my second in English from a seat at the bar.

The sweet young girl on the other side introduced herself, and we quickly broke the customer-server wall on our way to an easy friendship. She took her break with me, and we exchanged anecdotes about our English degrees and life as foreigners in France.

Contrary to these preceding paragraphs, bars are not my preferred places to make friends. Pubs can be better, but you still run the risk of appearing as an object rather than a person. But in this case, it worked.

Shortly after this meeting, my love of a woman’s tights led to a seat with her group of friends who formed a sort of “English Club.” This was their name, but the club was not formal; about seven people of various ages from different English-speaking countries who met for a pint on Wednesdays.

Thankfully, the third time was the charm, and how fitting, in Ireland.

English and the Acrobatics of a World Without

Nothing makes me happier than your words
spilling from any mouth.
I feel a release at your sound and
at last,
broken from the conversation in my mind
I hear you aloud.
I smile & laugh
at the simple joy of an anglo “hello”
and god, I love your letters.
In a way I never realized before.
All these years spent studying you,
the regulations on your order,
breaking them for the sake of art.
I’ve spent hours, and I’ll spend more,
sounding out what spelled a sentence the most beautiful,
choosing which crescendo of consonants sounded the most alive
and all this time I took you for granted.
I understood you,
so I ignored how you made my life easy.
I spoke you under my breath
so many times I stopped hearing you.
I violated your rules with my friends for cheap laughs,
used you to close the gap
so many times
between two moleculed mouths
who know the words we say to each other.
I knew I loved you, but I wanted more.
I was greedy
for a worldliness to call my own.
I craved
foreign friends and other lovers
to teach me again how to see the world.
I am happy
because I’ve met them.
And it feels good to feel the meaning of other alphabets
once I break through the headache,
but I find my head always aching.
I always own this yearning for simple beauty,
for the elementary love of a language I understand.
Your words breed affection in me,
making any mouth’s movements captivating.
It’s you who draws me into their every breath,
and this lasts for a while.
Until I turn over their words in my head
like I am used to doing with all the others,
and realize they used you to say nothing new.

Purge

There is something stopping me. A cork lodged sideways in Sauvignon, I feel like I am eighteen again, prying that pressed bark from dark glass with a fork. Using every object but the real thing to remove the blockage. Like my young hands leveraging the fork, I try to find substitutes.

Yoga in the morning, reading again from the Charlotte Bronte novel I can only digest piece by piece, long sips of coffee, pulling the caffeine behind my eyes, bus rides to unseen corners of the city. All these forks I try, but I am a firm believer in not forcing myself.

I never want to feel writing as that proverbial monkey, and I don’t want the comfort of losing myself in lyric to slip from my grasp. But as with any love, roadblocks in my writing deserve attention. This is the labor of love.

I can talk the circumference of a million circles new and exciting, but I can’t quite calculate the heart.

I am in a new city, yes, but what new stone hasn’t been overturned somewhere else? To take a page from the eternal Bronte, I’ll address you, fair reader, and ask selfishly, what should I do?

Do you want more flowery drawings of nature? Recitations of journies sat on bus seats, rides on new metro systems? Imagined stories I derive from ancient paint? A ranking of the best places to place my high-maintenance coffee order?

Maybe. But right now, my pen cannot ink those words in a new way.
I want to return to these light-hearted topics, to revel in the beauty of the simplest moments I find in each day, but right now, I do not know how. Whether it is a classic case of burnout, a symptom of the sputtering broken heart that started my Summer, or a touch of that delightful writers’ block all us creatives experience, it doesn’t really matter. I need a purge.

I need to cleanse myself of all the little pieces and poems that are choking my bottleneck. So here is the cork, the pieces I am spitting out slowly, the pressed oak I’ve dismissed in previous posts and I am finally coughing from my throat.

The Three-Year-Old Paper Clip I Keep On My Pocket

something so small it becomes a feeling
something your eyes learn to ignore
unnecessary information, unworthy of sight
until it’s gone.
it’s the opposite of an aberration,
whatever this is,
but just as eerie when it leaves.
I can feel myself growing more abstract
each day I spend in my own world.
one day I’ll be modern art,
that red square
selling for millions to millionaires
who purse their lips and whisper to each other,
“do you get it?”
“I do.”
they lie,
their gold bracelet wrists bend under sculpted jaw,
and they nod because they think there is a point.
but what makes art but the lack of words to describe what we feel.
we fill in these gaps,
hoping some arrangement of letters or colors will unlock meaning
like magic.
what if my art is just this filler?
will you need magic to understand me?
I’m not hard,
not expensive.
I’m as simple as a toddler paperclip,
bent and flexed around a flap of denim.
the denim is not important; none of this is,
but it’s the piece of silver that makes it worth it.
the glint of metal that makes it mine,
so special in the way it sits, ordinary.
arms in shallow spread,
reaching to hold onto something important.

Growing Pains

I miss the morning moments,
when my body grew different each day.
Time spent discovering the curves to my edges,
realizing what my body could do,
where it could stretch,
how it could bend,
learning the limits to my bones and
how they snapped as I broke myself
over a crack in the concrete.
Now I only grow inside.
New synapses accentuate the curves of my brain.
Knowing my body and teaching it to others,
I learn what their bodies say and what they mean
breaking my insides
over the cracks in their promises.

Self-Gratification

Do I write for the love of watching
my own ink line the page?
Do I love the control of curling each letter,
a tendril of intention?
Is it that I want to see
my words stick to each other,
cursive delicacies I gift myself?
This self-indulgence in letters that breeds
pride in violating their classroom rules.
Am I addicted to the smile that clicks ignore
on red underlines?
All this is more modest
than screaming my name in a crowd,
but hardly humble.
How can I feign humility
on the sanctity of the open page as I
grip it, host myself spilling forth,
and ask you
read this.

Here is the Truth

One month of stamina burned through
everything I ever wanted,
but I am still here. And
I am paranoid,
for the first time in ages.
I think about him constantly
& drink about him often
all over again,
after weeks of solace.
What if I just drown myself
in Red Wine and Aperol
rather than sun & steps forward?
I think I hear Rush on the loudspeaker,
but to be honest, I hear my own voice louder.
Asking if I can just let myself drink
until my lips choose another’s
over another glass of wine
& maybe if I were younger, I would.
Or if it wasn’t just me,
a world away & alone,
perhaps I could give in and not sit
solitary & sober.
What glory of stupid youth this would be,
to go to the same Mexican restaurant
across from my Austrian apartment
& order €2.50 drinks all night
until all I know is walking home.

The Same Words I Hear In My Head Each Time I Walk Outside

Listen to the timeless symphonies of leaves on leaves
See how bark liters the same space
where sprouts reach their green heads from hours of shade
Or watch the soft plummet of curled brown arms
as they break from steam
These are the lyrics, the only real ones
Silver circles signal away birds from their garden
Blinding my eyes with each turn of the wind
How slow can we break from ourselves
How many times can we break from blindness and return to it
Forsake our own cycles for this natural reverence
and curl back like fetal flesh into ourselves
each morning

The man with the pink cast looks over his lashes through the window

& at first I was offended.
Another male figure taking the liberty
of a perfect view of me,
sat up & prettily in the sun,
eyes tracing pages and lines.
Now, caught in glance myself,
I can’t help but sit straighter.
Easy voyeur, performing myself for him,
smile curling with my pages,
slowing my throat as I sip my coffee,
eyes caught on his in earnest.

Land of the free man & home of big britches.

these stomachs stretching
50 buttons til they pop
some strained more than others
plastic flying one by one
while some hold on by white thread
fortified by the twisted integrity
of a population who defines the word differently

its time for new clothing
whoever said classic doesn’t go out of style
was lying to cover a country with bleach
so all would ignore the big eyesore
the oozing from the same ignorant sores, from the
elbow, where all come together,
resting against its own skin
unable to see how it rubs itself raw

When I Was Afraid of Spiders

my spine crawled at the sight
eight legs pin pricking points along my back
a myriad of eyes sparkling into mine
toes curled at this contact.
Now arachnidan figures hanging loose
from tented ceiling don’t shake me.
Instead, my eyes close and rest easy,
spine riddled rather by the harsh reality
of the rest of this sleeping-bagged world.

Where are we Ourselves?

I am most myself in a crowd
If I fall, here, it is real.
There are eyes to see and mouths to laugh
as mine do,
at every folly. But
there are two beings inside of me.
There is Caroline,
made & maintained
by all those who see her.
She is beautiful & happy
red-faced & laughing.
Then there is me,
and I have no name.
I am just a something,
something that comes from inside.
I stare with Caroline’s face
& debate the center of being.
Am I her brain?
All her intrusive and intrinsic thoughts?
Or am I in the face?
The identifying cue to her name
that feels different each time it burns into our retinas.
Or is that just it? Am I her eyes?
Trapped in these green iris depths,
at the glittering point of our envisioned world.

Red Wine Lips

I want to lick hers, over there
or his, just the same
red & dripping- fresh & warm- flesh & wanting.
Do you think they would mind?
If I drowned in cherry & took the headache like a pill,
blue first, then swallowing the oxidized color
choking on the glass.
Do you think they would care?
If red passed between us, like a secret.
If we looked the same
& the slices were just stomped grapes
sinking into the anemic feeling
sinking into the barrel, aging.
Could you tell the difference between us,
if you only saw us from inside
pressed and trampled fruit.
I’ll blow smoke over us,
if she is me & him & I watch all of us,
dancing
there, with flowing hair & drenched trousers.
Can you tell which exhale is warm air,
and which is air burning?
Can you tell who I am?
Red.
Like a fallen apple, but those can be green too.
Ripe & ready to be juiced,
I am all the colors in between.

Just Because You Mean What You Say Doesn’t Mean You Are Telling The Truth

Bristle pulls through the gold that hangs
in tangles from my head.
Start from the bottom,
we all know this, it hurts less,
& work your way to the scalp.
Tease the strands into straight lines
like straight foreplay &
with a quick flick from the same stroke over & over
see how the ends omit a faint mist-
a second shower,
this one for dust
as it falls to the floor.
I wish I could live there,
be a single strand floating
in the post-soap soft cloud where all is
washed & not red, scrubbed & not raw.
I want to glow from places other than my hair.
From that empty hall inside,
the space I must gargle and rinse out of me
with salt.
Spitting out its pieces like the second mist
of spring snow.

Remodels

when we assaulted my childhood bathroom
my father and I armed ourselves
with hammers and saws and sandpaper
first we stripped paint from the walls
layer after layer
we peeled pink after purple
and took back the yellow I asked for years ago.
I grabbed hammer in the iron-clad grip children seem to possess
& wrecked havoc
broke walls into their naked beauty,
smashed through the second door that made everything too small
all while my father sawed in half
the tub we could never bleach white enough
and from the empty space I pulled
powder and nails before we paused
looked upon a paper cup with plastic straw
preserved by working hands in the hallow walls of the room
long before I was built

Construction

climbing over you is nothing
but building a wall backward
taking plaster from planks
pulling on that pink cotton candy
that’s where you are,
you are the fleshy fiberglass
sparkling at me with your supposed soft
that cuts each hand
reaching for your false pink.

Cesson-Sevigne Break into Reality

It has been less than five days since I arrived in my new home, Cesson-Sevigne, a quiet town nestled just outside the larger metropolis of Rennes. I can already feel the loving sprouts of familiarity winding, filling the space between me and its local virtues.

Its morning smell of bread and butter, the quiet rustle of voices outside my window, and the soft breaks of rain that permeate the streets with nature’s aroma.

My apartment, above the bakery of my employer, looks over the slight street and onto the butchershop, bustling with morning deliveries and the day’s local rush. Just around the corner is a store for home goods and tea; single-seat tables dot the space outside and beckon passers-by to peer inside. An old church stands in angled antiquity over the small market square.

Just down the road extends the bridged entrance, welcoming me with shallow waters and a cobblestone path meant for entrance by foot, bike, or car; all transport small enough to be the same. Stones pierce the water’s surface alongside patches of flowers and tufts of mossy green.

It has taken me longer than usual to write of this entrance. With my laptop sent on its merry way for repairs, I have found myself without my natural motivation. There are only so many times I can write fresh and alive about the cobblestone, stone walls, stone bridges, stone everything. Yes, France is green and beautiful, and it is enough to choke my throat with my luck, but how many ways can I say grass before they are all just words we all glaze over as we scan my next post?

I am craving something new, something real, or at least more authentic than the typical introduction to my next village. It’s still true that my eyes trace the nature around me with an attachment to the ethereal and earthly details, and my mind winds with a million ways to say this is original love, but I will be here for a while. There is plenty of time to languish in the details.

Boarding the C6 bus takes me to Rennes’ center. The wheeled journey travels along split pavement that breaks for the river’s channel. My gaze trades this view for my book as I avoid the stare of the man who insisted on speaking to me at the bus stop.

Plath

I am looking at you, Sylvia,
and your page gifts me some solace from the man
who stares and talks at me
though I don’t meet his eye.
Just because we board the same bus
does not mean we have anything in common
but the same slow ride to the center.

I see gray dot his beard while
I wade, barely ankle deep in my 20s.
What does he expect me to say
when he tells me he speaks very little English
and I lie,
saying I speak no French,
none at all.

Why does he ask where I live,
and why am I so polite that I reflexively ask his name
when he asks for mine?
Why did this instinct grip me, Sylvia?
Why do I prefer my discomfort to a scene at his expense?
I don’t want to make things worse,
so I let him do that.

I choose the single lonely seat,
he cannot sit next to me, so he sits across from me.
Of course he does,
I asked his name,
didn’t I?

I see silver on his left ring finger, and
I feel his eyes on my hands as I write to you.
The corner of his eye wonders
what could I possibly have to write?
What could be so pressing I must avert my gaze?

Sylvia, what makes the difference
between him and the other men
I try and understand.
I met one yesterday and gave him my number,
gladly,
with a real smile.

But he waited for my grin and gaze
and did not insist on everything.
He did not continue on
after I had stopped talking,
after I barely started.
He did not rise with me at my stop,
exiting the doors behind me and calling
the name I let him learn.
He did not trail my brisk footsteps,
or make me shake with anger, pepperspray grip in my pocket,
or press through my truthful answer.

No, I do not want to get coffee with you, no.
There doesn’t need to be a reason,
but he needs one so he can understand.
His one-track mind can only fathom my lie.
I don’t want coffee with you,
and he waits for the because.
Because I have a boyfriend,
I don’t Sylvia,
but thats the only because he knows.
Back off, he understands now,
not because I am my own and don’t owe him my presence,
but back off,
because
I am already another man’s property.

And Sylvia, what is respect but between two men?

Men are the same in every country. I try and brush this off as I continue on my way to the bookstore, checking over my shoulder every two seconds to make sure he’s really gone. He is, as far as I can tell, but I still feel every presence around me like a threat, and it is too early for this. 10am? Jesus Christ.

I’ve calmed down by the time I make my purchase, an English to French workbook I will attempt to instruct myself with as every real course is too expensive. Though finding an affordable course has proved difficult, I refuse to be discouraged.

If I dedicate myself to reading french books, completing workbooks for grammar, and speaking to as many people as possible in a day, my comprehension and expression will surely improve. Saying yes to the kinder Frenchmen who ask me to coffee can’t hurt either, though I spend half these dates nodding along, smiling when they do, and repeating a casual “ouias, ouias” every so often.

Regardless, dating is good practice, and it’s fun to play along.

Like most cities at the end of Summer, Rennes is littered with construction sites. Work trucks blare loudly down the street as yellow and orange vests circle city craters. These swollen trucks crowd the small aisles of the street and are often circled by police cars.

Besides my usual disgust at their presence, I also possess a new fear of these officers due to my french employment and lack of visa to extend my stay in the EU.

The three-month limit has crept up quickly and prickles me with that familiar flighty feeling that screams, “you’ve got to go!”

But I don’t want to. I want to stay. I want to learn this life for a while.

My visa will come, despite my stress, and a WWII caveat extends my legal stay from three weeks to two months. Still, my spine shutters with uncertainty.

Nothing Dire

This is the message sent & delivered (quietly).
The message that pops through the apple ether & sprouts
with an earlier time stamp on my mother’s phone.

Nothing dire, but call me.
Nothing dire, but tears are threatening me in this cafe.
Nothing dire, but my life is kind of perfect- and what if it’s taken away?

Are the cracks beginning to show?
I fill their hairline fractures shallowly, like makeup
over a bruise, just enough so I can squint & ignore & look
upon my other features.
Can I see them spreading,
like a network of roots beneath me,
perhaps.

I am so afraid of water’s presence,
next to anything with an on button.
I’ll dry, you can cry on me,
but don’t you dare juice an apple,
not while my fingers rest on its keys.

Why must there be passports,
why visas & contracts & cameras.
tracking tracking tracking,
marking me for taking up space.

I am so petrified of the police,
even though I am young & innocent &
if that isnt enough, I’m white.

I’m not illegal,
not yet.

Nothing dire, but I can hear hooks’ crocodile hunting me.
Nothing dire, but my stay is a ticking time bomb.
Nothing dire, but it’s counting backward until I am a violation.

An aberration for my presence, but
I just want to live free,
somewhere off cruel soil- off my soil.
That dirt, colored cruel because I know too much.
Give me fresh, clean soil! Or if not,
give me mud marked ancient & wet
by tears I do not understand enough to join in the crying.

Nothing dire, but I need new ignorance.
Nothing dire, but just for a moment.