Category Archives: blog

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.

Chambery Charm

Though my reason for this morning trip to Chambery is far from ideal, as I sip my Cafe Glace, I can feel my bones loosen as the city’s charm works its magic on me.

So much empty space reaches its body from market to market, from boutique to cafe. Ancient cobblestone polished by the tracks of over 700 years of foot traffic. The light steps of locals trace these ghosts of Sovie’s 1295 kingdom capital, and it is hard to be upset about my little tragedies.

My waterlogged laptop, the bike gear tear in my jeans, the broken teeth of my expensive wallet zipper, and the never-ending soap drama of getting prescriptions in a foreign country. Okay, I am still upset about the laptop, but really, I shouldn’t be.

How many people have trampled over this very spot with no grasp of what the word laptop could possibly mean? How many trousers have been torn from ankles here? I am lucky to have coins to spill from my wallet, and experiencing another country is a gift I will never regret.

Privilege checked for the moment, my mind can wander from red roof to gray tower, awed by the morning mist that enchants Chambery’s center even further.

I can see eras of petticoats catching on the stone underfoot. The same stone clacked by horseshoes and soothed by wooden wheels for hundreds of years. Ivory canes stamp the places in between, and language passes like a human symphony. Moss grows in tufts along pale walls and collects in green patches where stone and cobblestone make their corner, forever.

Amid the regular chatter, my ears pick up on the sound of English from the table beside me. I overhear one woman, dressed in green beaded lace that travels from collar to floor, telling her knit sweater companion that “you cannot truly be yourself in front of others. That is simply the performance of self.”

I have heard this remark before, and though I have previously decided it doesn’t strike in me a complete note of truth, it does spur delicate digestion of the words.

Staring

Which me will I dress in today?
I flip through endless hung selves in mirrored closet,
What does it mean to perform for others?
Is the self another? Does the girl I touch from inside count
as a swollen head, tracking the movement of her limbs? My limbs.
Do I have to belong to anyone?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
but what if it’s not beauty but being?
We belong to our beholders, to the eyes
wandering along scrubbed skin. The eyes that
climb the length of our bodies & burn our image
in the back of our retinas, just like science class.
You- there. The you that is me,
the one I see in flipped phone camera,
do you see me- some faceless puppeteer?
Or is it her you see? Pretty & Confident & Smiling
at the lens. The same being regarded
by marbles, inlaid in friendly heads.
They have seen so many girls.
Spent years seeing a teenage basket case
and observing an accomplished woman,
watching a comic, a sad girl, a girl full of laughs too late at night.
Do they mean their words when they purr them to my ego?
When we smash our faces together and smile?
There is nothing to do but laugh at the other eyes,
the yellowed and bloodshot who whistle
from mut mouths.
Twisting unintelligible words through yelps and howls.
They see fresh meat walking- how miraculous- an object
they window shop and wish they had the year and money to buy.
Even their selves are elusive. A moment
changed by the next, but this I know.
All staring eyes trace the outline of my back
and imagine what lies beneath. Sometimes
thin and rumbling ribs, or a heart beating & bleeding
fresh and blue, still a lace cage of bone. This I know.
I am a woman,
shaped by those who see her. Owned
by all versions of the truth.

This weekend, the 17th and 18th of September, France hosts the “Journees du Patrimoine.” In Chambery, the celebration of French heritage means that their historical attractions are open and free for the public.

Aside from the buzz of museum patrons and sightseeing families, the town swells with the typical Saturday traffic of its weekly market.

The pedestrian square overflows with vendors of all kinds. Large cheese trucks with flagrant fair, vegetable tables bright with organic orange and local green. Other vans open their doors to hanging meat, and farmers create castle walls from crated chickens. The hens scream through beaked mouths when his rough hands bind their red flailing legs, and I can’t help but cringe away from the sound and sight.

It feels so cruel to shove life into cardboard boxes, even if the strapped and peddled journey leads to a happy home, to a daily life of eggs and stroked feathers. Even if their small life serves infant hands as they are both taught about the circle of life.

It still feels wrong.

Chicks & Chickens

Is there anything worse than life in a box?
Strangled semblance of a free-beating heart.
The heart still bleeds.
Even if you can’t see it.
Even if you lock it away.
Even if you close your eyes & scream.
You will still smell iron, dripping.
Metallic nature will lick on your tongue,
the veins caught in your teeth.
This is the way of life. This is the fate
of the delicate & delicate hearted.
If you can’t fight & win with bare hand, you are weak.
Because words can’t break the force of muscled arms,
elbows locked around necks stop the sound from echoing.
Words are latent. They slither,
poison like Eve’s serpent.
Lingering in that empty space between ears & biting
after its smart tongue has been severed.

A walk through the loud market brings me to my true objective, the Musee de Beaux-Art de Chambéry.

Entering the former grain hall, its sliding door entrance lacks the awe of the paintings inside. Mounting its three flights of stairs and resting my eyes on painted canvas and wood, I begin to enjoy the quiet beauty of this Savoie art.

The museum houses a small collection of art from the Middle ages to the 20th century, focusing on beautiful renditions of the region’s landscape and religious paintings. The landscapes are soft and understated as the religious works boast gold and violence in their typical fashion.

Among the others, one painting stands out for its subtlety and elegance, despite the hints of violence that lie beneath first glance.

Judith Presentant la Tete d’Holophere Vers
Mattia Preti

Draw violent lines into soft curves.
Light reflects on faces from imagined source,
but the faces are imagined too, and
aren’t we all?
All our digits & prints just figments of some God’s imagination.
Some say life makes no sense without a Him,
without their voices singing hymns to Him in the sky.
But isn’t that the point of all this?
Nothing is meant to make sense, nothing is meant to do anything
but live.
Isn’t living all the more magical this way?
What is living but a waking dream of life?
Our dream. Our life.
Our violence and our severed heads
rolling.
Who’s to say that is the end?
Perhaps like stars, our souls burst into that same dust of being.
Perhaps our faces come home as the earth takes flesh from bone.
Isn’t this more magical than heaven?
Isn’t nature more righteous?
The rivers that chisel rock & the drops that dew our skin
are followers of no right or wrong.
All they know is stardust. Gravity,
the buzz of perpetual motion inside ourselves,
the falling and severing of molecules,
love & hate stirring between lips & hands
is just movement.
All the same, as we are.
It all gets kinder
if we stop straining to know anything for certain.
Some things just fall from the sky like rain,
all bodies are flooded with dust & some self we named soul,
and life just flows,
leaving rocks & the rigid behind.

Camping at Detente et Clapotis

Violet petals lay delicate betwixt my fingers as I weave stems through each other. Birds sing their presence over the lake that laps like a tired tongue over pebbles, smooth with the softness that only comes from years of kissing the same water. Boats row gently over this blue pool and circle each other in arched loops, their waved tracks meeting and breaking into new peaks.

It is moments like these that I question my unwavering commitment to city superiority. This peace of nature seems to smooth my bones and carve new ridges in my brain- for what is true that cannot be observed in such Eden?

It is easy to sink into the tranquility of this afternoon.

Focusing on the task at hand, braiding my flower crown chain, I can’t help falling back into childhood memories of Nebraska field kingdoms and woven inaugurations with my sister. Her chubby three-year-old hands breaking stems and my heart with that childhood beauty always accentuated by time.

I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately, tiny Elizabeth and lanky me, as I take my post as a live-in nanny for two weeks in Chambery. The young girls, two and four, drive me back in time and send sentimental memories to the forefront of my mind as we embark on school days and camping weekends away.

To go back and feel that youthful version of freedom is a pipedream I would curse if ever felt to fruition. A warm idea, but I am thankful to lay on the coin’s other side, fingers tracing flowered memory with the real freedom of tracing any thought to its end.

Kids.

Let’s tuck our shirts into our sinched pants
& flip our small bodies around metal rungs
like kids do. Limbs flying in unrehearsed circles
& eyes open and seeing everything below reality.

Let’s tell the truth like kids do, say
what you mean because you mean it.
No hesitation- just pure unadulterated thought,
baked just long enough to travel head to tongue.

The fountain of youth isn’t a fountain at all,
but the dissolving colors behind pressed eyelids.
Dizzy heads and sticky fingerprints collapsing.
When did we trade drugs for what is just below closed fist?

This pilled fantasy of bursting universes
is never quite the same.
It smells of chemical static,
that chalked taste that giggles us into our youth.

We can still be kids in the way
our eyes close together.
In the way we cling to the ceiling
& imagine a life upsidedown.

Have tea with me here.
We can use the fan’s wings
as spiraling seats,
& the center bulb as our kettle.

I’ll pour you invisible light in hanging cup
& you’ll pretend to taste
because I say I do,
& it’s true.

This empty gulp of conjured air breathes
down our necks & we are okay
because we think love is a song
our parents sing to us.

I am happy because being a girl means more childhood choices.
How sad for you trapped in two-legged trousers
when I can trade them for dresses, blue and pink make violet
if I feel like it.

Who knew the world wanted my choices to end in fashion?
Thank god for the 21st century, not perfect but malleable,
but do I mean that? I do, I think.
Yes.

But let’s stay here,
where the future means walking on the floor,
letting gravity seep into our pores, spitting love back in the cup,
& finding temporary happiness in cocktailed playgrounds.

As we rolled our four wheels over gravel, our small company arrived at the Detente et Clapotis campsite. A swift tour of the grounds discovered the perfect pitch. 

A plot of land extending under shade and spilling green into the sun. Surrounded by the cover of trees and the tan walled back of the shower building, we were allotted a balance of privacy and access. 

Quickly, we unpacked bags and boxes, snacks in metal tins and wine bottles in blue plastic coolers. 

I unfurled a gray and green tent just like the infomercials. One springed release and there lands your crawl space home. Screen portal zipped like a shallow fortress against the campsite league of ants and insects in the night. 

I can’t remember the last time I camped, at least like this. Spine straight on thin padding you close your eyes and pretend is a real mattress. Nighttime chills and morning dew staved off by the tight wind of that nylon bag, tucking your toes like a child. 

I like it. The smell of wild mint underfoot at daybreak and the smell of wood and fire burning like the setting sun. 

Finding a personal plot with an adequate amount of grass and an absence of stoney gravel, I staked my tent’s four corners and settled into this modern semblance of original life. 

Dinner was three-minute pasta, a plastic scoop of tomato sauce, and a serrated sprinkle of parmesan, perfect. Taking my pasta slow, I sat back and listened to the stream of french voices bouncing mouth to mouth among my new friends. 

I can follow most of the conversation, the subject landing, and sentiment loading, like watching a film with a two-second audio lag. My ears pick our keywords and capitalize on them while my voiced sentences are broken and basic, sticking to the present tense and walking my vocabulary around what I want to say. 

Lessons.

Where do I run when home was you but now

I guess it always lived in me. 

Mother tongues glaze over my ears in ways I cannot understand

& with you, I could say whatever I wanted. 

Your friends lapped up my words with fresh ears

while you rolled your eyes, knowing all my stories. 

These tales of the past & moments with you I want to speak

but can’t. Not for lack of memory 

but of language among this foreign present.

Here, past tense is as hard to formulate as the thought 

of you, forced to stay in past without a goodbye. 

I work. Straining my ears to hear the meaning

in words I don’t know. My mind filling in the gaps

and glazing over your memory, practicing

the living of the present. 

Château de Menthon St. Bernard

Green- it’s everywhere, surrounding the harsh stone cliffs and lapping at the castle’s feet. Red roofed towers point their sharp skulls through the fog and break the rolling air, cascading across rocked edges. 

It is easy to see why this Chateau was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Red paneled windows and painted roofs send me instantly to my childhood and the joyous promenade of flags and families at the start of the film.

As if the castle’s appearance wasn’t impressive enough, the structure dates back through 23 generations of the Menthon family. Originally built in the 11th century, the family of Counts continued to expand their construction into the 20th century. 

Now operating with plumbing and electricity, part of the Chateau remains the residence of the same family. The other part exists as an exhibit for tourists and locals to travel through time. 

To the left of the castle, a little garden of medicinal herbs and spices is cultivated by the grounds keepers. Labeled and manicured just as they would have been through the middle ages. 

Animals rest next to the garden, a lamb, some roaming donkeys outside, a pair of chickens, and multiple peacocks occupying the land just before the sprawling vineyard. To this day, the castle’s vineyard produces local wine, though another family oversees the process. 

Briar Roses

What would have happened if he forgot to kiss me?

And the vines overtook stone with their binding arms,

thorns prickling my hem through the open window

Would I be overgrown?

Would my nails grow long beside my idle limbs,

my hair cascading in knots across the bed and onto the floor?

Would I spill over the edge, and would we be buried, 

living but not quite alive?

Would you take me now, as your prize?

Mount my flower on your wall of corpses,

I’ll stay pinned and pretty, I promise. 

Forget my string of lovers and 

I’ll forget yours, I promise.

Before you call me yours, I will be,

placing your lips on mine, you claim me.

This is how the story goes, 

you marry me with silver inlays

and introduce me to pearl’s mother.

Prick your finger on my poison

and it tastes so sweet. 

You have me, but we will never have

Absolute serenity, only this hovering peace.

Love close enough to touch but not to grasp; 

compelled affection cannot hold with closed fist.

This freedom lies just out of privileged reach.

With a small group, we made our way through the Chateau’s most historic rooms. Starting with a small courtyard, the open air was lined with passageways and balconies above. 

The small doorways and petite hallways stood out, reminiscent of the smaller figures that occupied these halls centuries prior. As such, our modern size made it difficult to shuffle from room to room but ultimately allowed us to slow down and appreciate the antique details of the castle.

Reaching the Menthon family’s personal chapel, I took in the intricate medley of stone, wood, and gold. A site of tranquil devotion, the small room holds artifacts and art through multiple centuries. The ornate robes of religious officials are kept behind glass alongside golden chalices and open ancient texts.

Next, we entered the kitchen. Slightly larger than the previous room, it resembled the courtyard with wooden passages forming a triangle of open air. 

One oven and one table took most of the kitchen space, with two cavities carved into the floor and covered by thick glass. Filled with ash, the cavities operated as pseudo fridges in the early centuries. Kept cool within the building’s stone, the compartments remain close to freezing year-round. 

Though the kitchen’s limited appliances and layout were thoughtfully constructed, its location within the castle was not. Placed on the opposite side of the family’s dining room, the designers remedied this problem by burrowing a service tunnel that allowed servants to propel meals through the walls with a system of pulleys and tracks. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

As we ascended the tight, circled stairway, we were led into my favorite room. The library.

Over 12,000 books lined the floor-to-ceiling bookcases, all dating back to before the French Revolution in 1789. I was in complete awe. On a table rested a book of law documents, open to a page signed by King Louis XIV.

Three walls bursting with books were completed by the fourth wall’s wooden mantle, telling the story of St. Bernard of Menthon in eight parts. Thought to be one of the first residents of the Chateau, born in 1008 and passing in 1081, St. Bernard boasts a life of incredible charity and religious devotion.

The legend goes, St. Bernard was engaged to a rich heiress, but knowing that he desired a religious life, his father locked him in his room before the wedding. There, St. Nicholas appeared and instructed him to jump from the window. 

Heeding his advice, St. Bernard lept from the open window and was immediately caught and carried to Aosta, Italy, by an angel. There he helped build hospice structures for pilgrims and anachronistically healed patients of the black plague. (The black plague occurred in 1348, 267 years after St. Bernard’s death). 

At last, he returned to the family castle, where he was forgiven by all.  After, St. Bernard rose to the rank of king in heavenly paradise. 

Moving on to the great saloon, one can see St. Bernard’s supposed room and the fateful window just to the left of the room’s grand fireplace. 

The center of entertainment and relaxation for the Menthons, this room also charts the family history through portraits and paintings of its members and their various coat of arms. Aside from St. Bernard’s chamber, the great saloon also hosts the room occupied by the Counts of the 19th century and a smaller saloon where many objects of the last century rest. 

Moving toward the Countesses’ bedroom, we observed a slightly grander chamber with wall-to-wall tapestries and a rather petite bed. Redecorated in 1820, this room was home to the Countesses of Menthon over the last few centuries.

The bed, slightly arched and small, was built in this way due to superstition at the time. It was thought that lying in a flat position was reserved for the dead and was therefore avoided by the living. Negligibly creepy bed aside, I was impressed by the attention to detail that stuck to every part of the room.

Wooden cabinets were inlaid with gold and mother of pearl, carved intricately with delicate strokes. The tapestries depict scenes of the surrounding nature, and in the corner lies a dress ruffle owned by none other than Marie Antoinette. 

The grand finale came with the pilgrim’s room. An expansive said to house those who journeyed far to see the site of St. Bernard. 

Equipped with a small oven, religious paintings, a long table set, and ancient arms, this room maintains a communal feel that has no doubt extended through the ages. Helmets above the mantel date back to before the 9th century and the construction of the castle itself.

Exiting the Chateau, I remained in awe. The sheer beauty and integrity of the castle rival anything I could possibly imagine in America. 

Chateau

Guarded & Silent.

Stone cage & Gold chain.

This is how you find me. 

Make me home.

Clean my bones & Paint me pretty again.

Carve your crest into my arms.

Cover me in quilts & Stamp my hands with new ink.

This way, I’ll never really change.

You will

Grow gray & Sag skin.

But all I need is polish.

Bury yourself & I’ll take care of the rest.

Your body a bulb 

I will surround with water.

What a beautiful history

you can have with me.

My limbs may fall

but what do I care?

They’ll be mended in next bulb’s bloom.

More parties & calamities will ricochet inside me,

but I will always love your blood

run through any veins

I will hold your tired body with mine.

For the Love of Annecy

Welcome to Annecy, a village as tranquil as its name. 

With an abundance of natural beauty paired with an overwhelming share of local history, Annecy stands as the perfect embodiment of French serenity. 

The leaves whisper age-old secrets under the shade of the Chapeau de Napoleon mountain as a collection of boats draw arrows across the everchanging hues of Lac d’Annecy. The sun, rising before seven in the morning and setting after eight at night, warms my skin and protects my limbs from the chill of lake-side wind. 

Perfect, this push and pull of light and air across my reclined body. 

Life in France is easy, though the language can be hard. In one way, it is easier for me than German, as I understand most of what is said to me. But as such, I feel compelled to speak only in French rather than simply ask for English. Thus, I am restricted to the present tense and short-jolted sentences. Mais, c’est la vie. 

Even with my restrictions, the language flows easier every day. Annecy is the perfect place for practice, and I am grateful for the opportunity. 

I am staying with family friends who have been more than welcoming (the stereotype of french bitterness is certainly false in this case), and it is incredible to get to know the quaint village in the hands of a family that has lived here for over a century. 

Words

The words, les mots

balance delicate between my molars.

Sentences running through my head

& dissolving in the drums of my ears.

Yes-ja-oui. je comprend,

mais je ne parle pas bien.

C’est difficile yet enbodied,

like a past-life memory 

begging to erupt. 

You asked me to speak to you.

These same words falling from my lips

& into yours.

Sultry, you said, the way I say

le pomme. The apple.

The sin that started it all. 

Were you the sin that started all of this?

Or was I?

Each day I repent. 

Washing and willing my body back

through time. Back, 

to when my French was not perfect

but fresh 

& you were nothing but a someday fantasy. 

Back to where I can forget 

& remember all over again.

Where I can seize the important letters 

& keep them. 

Where I can realize our last embrace

& leave it. 

Where I can teach myself the value of each moment.

Knowing these foreign affairs 

have foreign ends, 

& in their triumph find us

different as fire and powder.

A kiss we cannot consume,

my body strewn out 

& beaten by its hold on sanity.

Head swirling with words 

& memories I no longer own.

I know now, no matter what you tell me,

no infinity lasts. 

So I’ve taught my mind to collect them,

touching their bumps like braille,

for I can no longer see you.

& in this mourning, I learn

how to curve my lips into a smile for another

& to curl my tongue around what I used to know.

The city is delicate, with ancient stone lining roads built eons before their pavement was first graced by motors. With my gracious hosts, I am led through the small passages of the old village center.

We walk slowly, and this time it feels natural. I don’t mind the pace when the alps surround me, when there is so much new air to breathe, and history to be told. 

10 heure, the agreed-upon time to mount the mountain and view the lake from a new angle. 

Not too early or too late, the morning sun hung behind sparse clouds, breaking through with biblical rays and gracing us at the precipice of our ascent. 

It was only after twenty minutes that I began to sweat, and as they say, when it rains- it pours. Soon my breathing turned to panting and excitement turned to concentration on the rocks and roots forming a natural staircase ahead. 

Thankfully, another twenty minutes of this uphill battle brought us to the summit. The grand reprieve of open air and picturesque landscape. A panoramic view of Annecy and its surrounding villages that encircle the magnificent lake of the same name.

Incredible. 

The clearing where we found our rest used to be home to a great hotel and restaurant. Patrons would take a boat from the Annecy city center across the lake, where they would mount a cable car to complete the journey to the mountain’s peak. 

The building imposed upon the edge of the cliff, boat-like terrace facing the water while windows inside allowed guests to look in every direction. 

Unfortunately, 2001 brought about the destruction of this impressive structure. Now the flat-topped peak is home to three benches and a sign signaling the past existence of the hotel. Concrete posts erupt from the earth shallowly, like an echo of what once was. 

There, I sat. Closing my eyes and breathing in the fresh, thin air exhaled from the forest around me. I thought about all of the people who must have sat just here, centuries past, looking at the same view. 

Peak

How many legs and fingers

have crawled up and over this edge?

This green-faced mountain with

tumbling chin veering over its own body.

Beard long, clustered, and wooden,

Swinging and singing with the breeze.

And when it grows too long, the crest

purges its lungs with fire,

Charred ash floating like clouds.

This air is not for you or me,

this thick smoke means go,

But we never listen. We stay,

slicing through skin and bone with serrated edge.

Taking the silent severance of limbs as a sign of progress.

Building and breaking over stony back,

climbing again, where we are doomed to fall.

Viennese Fashion Week

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. Vienna is not my favorite. 

The streets are beautiful but slow and quiet, where I am fast and loud. Too American, not out of pride but of speed, finding the fastest route through the crowd and passing pedestrians with each stride. I hover my two suitcases a few inches from the ground and take the stairs as people with pockets take the escalator- legs stick straight and arms gently crossed as they ride. Why would I take the escalator to stand there?

The Viennese are lovely, as I leave them on the street behind me, but I thought this was a city! I want constant chatter and 24/7 corner stores. A fight in the street just to prove the city is alive, breathing, and bleeding. But Vienna doesn’t breathe; it sighs, blowing low clouds over its streets and turning time at half speed. 

The air is warm, a humid embrace. The sun pierces through constant clouds until the next fever break. The rain never lasts more than fifteen minutes, though it does chill my skin and mark the windows with its tiny universes. 

My AirBnB did not have Wi-Fi. Thrice, I searched for Vienna coffee shops equipped with outlets and Wi-Fi, pulling out my laptop only to be told that laptops were not allowed. What?

They said talk, just sit here, sip your hot coffee slow. But I don’t speak that language, or German for that matter. 

Yet, I was in a foreign country! How could I complain when I am not in America? My biggest problem is a lack of internet and nightlife; it could certainly be worse. I took this nine-day pill as an exercise of patience and leisure. A challenge, but a simple one.  

Taking to my task, I walked for hours a day, gazed at monuments and cathedrals, read four books, and drank too many red wine spritzers- my new drink of choice for the bubbles and to make the wine last longer on my lips. 

I could pass the time like this, but, I wanted more. I wanted something new to look forward to each day. Something to stamp each sun with distinction.

I knew what would make me feel better- fashion. If I was going to laze around for a week, then I was going to look good doing it! For having only two suitcases and an average-sized backpack to my name, I did have more than enough articles to keep things interesting. 

And so, with no further adieu, I present you with my Vienna Fashion Week!

Monday

Starting the week strong with a Daphnie-esque look. I have been wanting to wear these purple pants for a while, but in Munich, I never found the right weather/activity combination. Thankfully, with Vienna’s cloudy days, I was presented with the perfect time for purple. 

Chico’s green tank from Chicago’s Village Discount (oh, how I miss you <3).

Purple pants hand-made vintage from Shangri-La (lovely shop, but the owner can’t help herself from fat shaming everyone).

White Doc Martin Boots (not pictured). 

Floral headscarf from my mother’s cousin. 

Gold earrings from Thrilling Vintage (thanks, mom xoxo)

Standard jewelry: pearl necklace from Nordstrom, gold bracelet found in Arts and Letters (DePaul building), gold Fossil watch, daily rings (L-R): silver hand and onyx, gold purple stone, silver Chicago skyline, block purple, silver sun and moon, gold grandfather’s university band, and gold band (thanks Amani <3). 

Tuesday (morning)

A casual Tuesday, I chose a classic flowy white shirt and basic jean shorts. I wandered the streets aimlessly and indulged in an accidental ice cream when I ordered the Eis Koffee. A simple fit for a simple mistake. 

Button-up sleeveless Canda white top from a Viennese thrift shop, Hansel & Gretel.  

Dark wash Capezio denim shorts from Village Discount. 

White Asics tennis shoes (not pictured). 

Silver waterfall earrings from Thrilling Vintage.

Tuesday (evening)

The Mozart Orchestra Concert! I had to dress to the nines. I had been waiting a while for an occasion to wear the corset (*cough* Berlin would’ve been perfect), but here was my second chance. Determined to make it work, I tried the top over a variety of shirts, dresses, and skirts until I finally decided to ditch the straps of my black dress and tuck them under the edge of the corset. Aside from some awkward adjusting, I like how it came together.

Embroidered Charolette Russe corset from Buffalo Exchange.

Black XOXO cocktail dress also from Buffalo.

White Doc Martin boots.

Wednesday

I followed my (crazy) night out at the orchestra with another simple denim ensemble. Not to be too boring, I added a pop of color with my pink bra under the lace top. A livening detail, yet the conservative Austrians likely thought me careless. Good, for what’s life without a bit of shock? 

Black Zara lace tank from Hansel and Gretel.

Light wash Levi 550s from Village Discount.

Visage earrings from H&M (purchased in the old times of 2014). 

White Asics tennis shoes.

Thursday

Vroom vroom bitch we got a car shirt. This green baby tee is a bit of a comfort item for me. Packing for Europe meant saying goodbye, or at least see you later, to more than 80% of my wardrobe. A grand sacrifice, if you will, for my European freedom. I purged through my collection of car shirts and debated many of them out of my final draft. As sole agent of it’s population, this shirt represents them all and serves as a sentimental connection to my family. A gift from my mom to my sister and me, with an image of my dad’s favorite obsession. Cheesy, I know, but I promise I’m tough- just look at my car shirt. 

Green baby tee from Target. 

Light wash shorts by DENIM from Village Discount.

Yellow Doc Martin sandals. 

Santorini canvas bag.

Friday

For the finale, I kept things Molly Ringwald with the appearance of my half-DIY pants. While in Munich, I stumbled upon these pants at a thrift store and cursed the Gods of long legs when they fell a few inches above my ankle in the dressing room. But they fit perfectly everywhere else, so I forked over the €5 and took home a project. I sewed on a bit of fabric I brought just in case, and I am glad I did. Pairing them with my favorite denim, this fit felt like a bubblegum pop.

Pink Zara tank top from Crossroads.

Denim MNGjeans vest from Willa (you killed it <3). 

Pink Kapalua Jeans Pants from Second Round, another Munich thrift shop.

White Asics tennis shoes.

Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart

A name too long to capture the simple beauty of his music. 

Ears open and facing the open Opera, I took it in. Horns vibrating from lips pursed and pressed to the narrow end. Strings shuddering with the touch of bow hair. Precision in the procession of Mozart’s music. 

Dressed in wigs and white ankles, the orchestra arrives. 

Now though the music is Mozart’s, his command never graced this hall. Big and beautiful, the Wiener Musikverein opened in 1870, just under eighty years after his death. 

Despite the anachronism, the Wiener Musikverein’s style is that of the high renaissance, its designers enforcing strict historicism in its form. 

With high ceilings and gold galore, the site is impressive. 

Wiener Musikverein

Crystal sparkles like a smile with translucent teeth

One bling, one bright star on hanging canines

Lips laced with golden antiquity.

gold&gold&gold 

Dripping there- down the walls from coated ceiling 

Here- across from our balcony- more.

Deep winds and slow strings

weave something more valuable if you listen.

Trace the walls with your eyes, with

Ears pressed firm to solid beauty, hear,

the music congealing and falling

Like loose crystal between us.

But I am getting ahead of myself. You can’t have the music without the man. Let’s start at the beginning. 

1756, Mozart is born in Salzburg. Within his sixth year, he is paraded around the country as a prodigy. Just a child, the music flows easily from his nimble fingers. It is in Vienna where he spends most of his years composing and playing, elevating the city to a new standard of music.

The city of music, this is what I thought when I booked my ticket to Vienna. Though the city is known for a multitude of artists, Mozart is at the forefront, his name marking more cafes and shops than any other, vendors grasping at adjacent notoriety. 

I decided to play along, poking my head in such storefronts and strolling through the manicured garden that encircles Mozart’s monument. 

It was beautiful. He is immortalized in frozen figure, but the tribute is alive. Flowers grow from under his feet and form a giant treble clef in the grass.

Resting my legs on a park bench adjacent to the monument, I began researching Mozart concerts and quickly found the Concert Wiener Mozart Orchester. The Orchester plays through two hours’ worth of Mozart’s most notable pieces.

I booked it, pulled out my little black dress, and began a slow walk to the concert hall. Stopping for dinner and a glass of wine, I wrote.

Pre-Music

Red wine for my red lipstick

More rouge than red

Color set to fade above

My corset pinned and clasped a hundred little times

Over silk and cotton until I settle on nothing

It is best to be bare

To be stripped of every awkward article until

The corset fits just right

Taut around torso

Something to look at before my face

The lipstick is fading after all

Rouge on the ocean of open lips

And who am I if not pretending

As my salad settled, I continued my stroll to the Wiener Musikverein. I still had an hour and a half to kill, and the concert hall stood in all its evening glory in front of me. 

I took a lap around the block, wandering through side streets and storefronts I found myself in the deafening silence of a hotel restaurant. The friendly waiter went erily quiet as soon as we passed through the arched doors, and I knew what was happening. I was among the rich.

Accidental Glass of Rose

The rich do not speak, they murmur

Taken by the cafe quiet, they are silent.

Young girl can’t return my smile

The small movement is hushed

By stone-cold parents,

Shushed lips vibrating together for snide from

White face and white hair spiked like an aristocratic Guy Ferrari.

The waiter is more than kind to me,

I wonder how he got here.

Where he smiled before preparing these silver platers

How they shine, sparking 

around an inch of food for €55.

I’ve been there too,

Serving the silent,

Paid for pretending,

For smiling at their luxury of nothing. 

Sipping my single glass of rose, I read and wrote as I watched the time tick by. At last, it was five til eight, and I stood in line for the concert, excited and slightly uncomfortable with the abundance and glamour around me.

Nevertheless, I mounted the stairs and took to my balcony view, a birds-eye just over the musicians, perfect for quiet observation. 

White ankles and calves starched to the knee. Here, legs turn black with a fold, leading up to yellow, blue, green, and purple, all colors gold with threads of antiquity. 

The music swells and changes, a dull churning consuming sound, and this is just the first song. We clap, polite silence save the slap of skin on skin. We must clap before and after every piece, just as they must don powdered wigs for posterity. 

For the semantics of the symphony.

Austrian First Impressions

The new apartment has a bath. This detail initially shrugged off, has become a luxury. And I am grateful for the simple pleasure of a steaming tub.

Perched in the attic of a red-toned apartment building, my white windows stick their noses to the street. The sill- wide enough to hold my body- does, as my eyes roam the modest skyline.

Orange talons, filed by my idle hands, pull my shoulders up and out the slanted window and over the street.

Lion-headed guards flank the building to my left, their jaws clenched tight around marble rings. Behind their carved heads, the building’s stone is veiled in an Olympic sea color, softly fading with weather’s attention. To the right, the clouds consume the horizon’s view.

After the breeze had adequately nibbled my shoulders, the bath was ready: steam wafting from soapy waters, illusioned fingers curling to circle my rain-chilled figure.

Here I am recounting my activities inside an AirBnB while free to roam a foreign city. But listen, the days here are slow. Breaks don’t break your schedule; you drift through quiet corners and cobblestone corridors unbothered and unfazed.

I am fast.

I make the most of each pound on the pavement, marching through an urgent mission toward whatever color in my vision can slow my gaze. The local lull doesn’t slow me down; they linger along the side of the street in quiet clusters, shoes pressed in a deliberately ambling procession.

Even so, sometimes, one catches my eye.

Girl Crossing the Street Vienna, Austria. 08/21/22.

Pink is her favorite color,

So she wears it in a flash below darkness. 

A quick zip up the other side of her sole,

Pointing teeth up to scarlet head.

I wonder if her step walks along Wien or Vienna.

Tongue purring along different letters for the same sound,

Curling around their last letter. 

Distinction stamped and pressed 

In the darting color 

across her shoe.

I feel like I am on 2x speed as even the river seems content to spin lazily towards its spill. I sound bitter, but I promise I appreciate the change of pace. With ease, I can wind through the thin crowds and find my way to my next objective in a snap.

Contrasting their leisurely steps, mine gift me more time for my own kind of leisure. Hence, my bath.

As I soak, I think about the constant veil of rain, how it peppers the river in its rush, drops joining the current as it drips along the graffiti-colored channel.

Green. No, more aqua and turquoise in color. Unlike the crystal waters of Munich, Vienna’s add to the city’s color palette. Salmon pink, grey stone, touch-of-blue sky, and gold, darkened by the turn of time.

Squinting your eyes and tilting your head, turns back the clock. The gold is bright and polished, the apartment buildings freshly painted and carved. These bones are still there.

Venders are now burrowed in the lower levels of each building, window-display eyes opening ancient brick. Construction does cluster around street corners, but with the object of maintaining, not reimagining. Restaurants take an opening and spill out onto the street, littering the ground with tables and chairs and spritzers under light rain.

At these restaurants, you are brought water without asking—a miraculous gift for my dry American tongue.

I have grown accustomed to Germany’s (as the rest of Europe’s) gatekeep of water. The simple drink is guarded by prices higher than beer. Perhaps the Austrian glass is enough to compensate for Vienna’s lack of Summer sun.

When I arrived at the Munich train station to make my departure, I realized I had assumed it would take me much longer to trek my two suitcases and hefty backpack from apartment to train and now had an extra half hour to burn at the central station.

A make-shift chair formed by an overturned suitcase separated me from the grisly ground, and I began people-watching to pass the time.

Cigarette Vending Machine

Chubby fingers stick to the plastic pressed buttons
Toddler eyes wide, hands spread in plump starfish- reaching
Her father turns his attention to his burning cigarette
Tiny legs dance in pools of day-old rain
Anger comes with discarded drops but
At the center, he loves her
The curled-haired nymph
as pink and pouting as all innocence
But golden chains hang his ego like soft silk
Legs dangling over their own reflection
Empty cigarette boxes litter this floor
Cardboard universes for all
She inhales tobacco breath as she looks inside
Stars shine through worn corners
Thick is the smell, the smoke, the ghost
Burned out and discarded, he can’t find her
His hard hands can’t hold on to both
Pocketing his cigarette box
He only finds it empty when pressed flat
A wet galaxy, crumpled with grief

Leaving Munich was not without difficulty. Not only did I imagine myself indifferent to having an actual seat on the train, but the railed road was taking me away from new friends and now-familiar street corners.

A backrest bolstered my departure as we pulled away from the second stop. I had found a backbone in the cascading steps at the crossroads of the train car’s exit doors. Resting back on backpack, my eyes were graced by a few fifteen-minute almost-naps before the final stop.

Emerging from the stationed train, my feet touched Viennese soil. Now the German language doesn’t mean German lips, but I am finding my rest tucked in the rainy streets of Wien.