Every note ever sung lives in my head
But not a single lyric of my own
Did you think there was a way out
the way you came in?
Did you think this was just an adventure
like any other, not a life to lived,
Oh, why don't you ding-a-ling like it matters?
Sing like you know how to speak?
My tongue's tied to my shoelaces
And fingers're encased in gum
Oh, why do you dance like I'm going to write it down?
Hit the wall like there's a way out?
Talking on the phone, but no one dialed
Buying the bottled water for the mangled top
Speaking the other language because at least it's not the one your parents did--
Shaking hands with your shadow puppets
Did you really think they loved you?
Or were you just pretending because you pretend if you pretend it'll feel real
And it never does because you're just not a good liar
You always cry too soon.
I'm handcuffed to ceiling fan
Going nowhere at nauseating speeds
And her feet are on the window sill
Going nowhere much more comfortably
Why can't you sing me a song you learned like you learned it for me?
Hum a melody like it's one of mine?
Crawl back under the covers-- even the summer feels cold at night
And it's an excuse to hide from it all
At least we can still hide from it all
Even if there's no way out
Ode to Orange Blossums
You can't smell an orange blossom
I've lived here in the citrus stained Sonoran desert long enough to tell you that much.
You can brave the honeybees and stick your nose right in between the tiny white petals, but all you'll get is a sneezing fit from the pollen. Springtime breezes past and the trees coat themselves in them on the off chance that one or two buds might fruit, and they are beautiful, but you can't smell an orange blossom.
(at least, not on its own)
You live in the desert long enough and your nose adapts to the dust; you can smell the rain coming, even when it's clear.
You live in the desert long enough and you realize that the orange trees only fill the air when you aren't looking, when you aren't trying, when you aren't thinking to hard. They're embarrassed, maybe, like people who only sing when they think nobody's listening. They're quantum, they're petulant, they're everything and nothing at the same time.
It's springtime, and my orange trees and I aren't so different, singing out in the corner of the yard where no one can hear us. No one except the bees, that is.
The Journal of Newton’s Bluff
White cliff-sides look like chalk, like standing up on a dark table, like the scar that drips across my left palm, but wider and more reflective, if you’re standing on a boat with your back to the rising sun. You can’t see the lighthouse from all the way out there. I’ll admit, I’ve never been quite so far into the ocean or into town that I can’t see the lighthouse, not in the past twenty years, anyway. I think it’s fear, but I also think it’s impolite to say so, so I just say I love the lighthouse. It’s true-- I do love the lighthouse. I love the way the birds swarm, the way the windows shake, the way the stairs creak, the way the ghosts don’t know how to haunt me without getting stuck in the cracks between the wood, the salt that’s so fine that it seems to coat everything like icing. But I am lighthouse keeper, afraid of the ocean.
But through every night, through every storm, through every lightning strike, threatening to tear the sky in half, through every wave that falls so high it scales the cliff and over me, I must keep the light on. Everything’s mostly automated now-- but when the power kicks out and the generator floods, I am the last defense against the rocks that lie 457 feet below. It happens more often than you might like to think about.
I have seen bodies on the rocks before, and I do not wish to see them ever again.
The ghosts that live here aren’t friendly, but it's not me they’re after, it’s my mother, my father, my aunts and my uncles, my grandfather, my great grandmother, great, great aunts, and people unknown, long dead. You’ll notice that my grandmother was not on that list-- this is because she is still very alive, having left the lighthouse and grown gills, to live at the bottom of the sea. She hasn’t aged since I was a child. Skin grew undaunted between her fingers, hair grew coarse and much of it is gone, arms grew long and long beyond proportion, nose grew short and flat, face grew long and poined, ears grew... off. There is love in her eyes, among the dark that spreads from corner to corner and coats her mouth, but there is something else, too. Something distant. She told me that our family was cursed, that we were destined, that we were the same, the we couldn’t ignore the call of the deep, but I am the lighthouse keeper and I am afraid of the ocean.
People sometimes come visit-- bringing me strange gifts. They bring me teapots and doves, little backpacks and holiday greeting cards, empty fish tanks and dubiously magical leather-bound journals, and so many stories that I can barley contain them all. I wonder why-- I wonder why all the time. Why the stories? Why the gifts? Why the ocean? I do not know.
I don't think I ever will.
I read the stories into a microphone, cables running down the beach and into the deep sand beneath the waves, but I don't follow them. Why would I care where they think to go? Perhaps my muddy voice kills any fish in a 5 mile radius-- just in case, I swear never to sing for them; I don't wish to cause a mass extinction. I once had an environmentalist knock on my door, all beads and fringe and pleather flaking over the rocks, who told me to sign for the beach, but I never sign anything without a lawyer and heaven knows I can't afford a lawyer off lighthouse keeper's salary. The ghosts know, too.
Most people in town know I can't afford hardly anything, but this town's so poor that I might be the richest one. I certainly have the largest house-- unless you count the forest people, then they win by about 14,000 acres, but I don't count them. Ever. A lighthouse with a conjoined little living quarters-- tiny kitchen with every space filled with potholders, made by a distant niece that I never get around to throwing out and a living room full of paintings of every size and style-- along with maybe a thousand afghans tossed over the edge of every chair I could manage to squish in. I need those seats when company's over. I need company over to fill those seats-- I need to be a little less lonely, sitting up here all my life, watching the ocean churn and praying for both the building and myself that our lights won't go out, that I won't be another ghost squished between the couch cushions in that living room.
But I don't know how much longer the two of us will stand.
We've withstood so many curses, so many hexes, so many storms-- but all those before me in this lighthouse have met their end early, and never by anything so peaceful as a heart attack. Burned at the stake, buried alive, walked the plank, poisoned, suffocated, eaten by wolves-- and I will meet my end on the jagged rocks below me, or so I've been informed. Unless I can survive 'til the end of my contract, the next fool will have one more year than I-- if I manage it, she'll have one less. I want to make it to the end, I need to survive, I want a better life for those ahead of me, one where someday this lighthouse will be run by someone who wants to, who isn't linked by debt and fear and curses and deep sea laws of blinding magic and probably confirmation bias at this point.
It's not that I don't love it up here-- Newton's bluff is my home and so is the lighthouse. But I want to leave, to explore the world, to not hold the weight of so much death on my shoulders, to not have to cling to the light in the dead of night, trying desperately not to be flung into the storm by the wind, trying desperately to turn the light back on, trying desperately to save the lives of people who may not even be there. I want to sail away, to fly away, to walk away, to swim away, but I am this town's lonely lighthouse keeper.
And I am afraid of the ocean.
Secrets-- You Know, Like People?
Wrap your neck in gold and cover your hair in cloth
You cry pearls like that might make you a God
I can’t help if I think the forest mushrooms
Look like people
It’s been an honor to love you,
To have my name scribbled in some sparkly journal in a list
I write blackout poetry in
Cencored government documents
I don’t doubleknot my shoelaces
Unless my mom tells me to
Punch in every number on my TI-84 because they
Look like people
It's been a horror to know you
To have my name typed up in some spreadsheet in a box
I make music from
Ths sounds of padlocks closing
I don't eat nicely
Unless there's company
Put yourself on every pedestal, every stage
You sing second chances like that might make you a messenger
But I've already heard the words before
I think eyeblocking identity bars are fashion statement
Really on the up-and-coming this spring
It's been a hobby to know you
Our names squishing into the corner of a calendar somewhere
"Let's go out for coffee and anarchy
And maybe we'll break out prison along the way"
It's not my fault I think that people
Look like people
But these days, I don't read books
Unless a teacher tells me
I'm just a witness protection program drop-out
A secret assembly line reject
You couldn't have know me if you tried
But build up your jewelry castles
Wash your hands of all the blood
I can't help, you know
But either way
It has turly been an honor
My dad grounds coffee beans at 5:30 in the morning with me before my zero hour and I don’t drink coffee (it’s for my mom) but the sun hasn’t risen so we count the stars on our way out and its never cloudy out here in the desert except on his birthday when I painted the constellations that you can see from our front door and gave them to him.
My mom is back in college online and she’s stressing over writing papers but she’ll come out with these grand ideas and tangents of research and all she really wants is to help people so I always try to give the details when she asks me how my day was which I sometimes think is selfish but I know she wants to know everything about me and all her friends from high school think I’m a carbon copy and it makes me laugh.
Abby made cookies the other day and I cried to my mom because I felt so loved when she gave me one and Melanie gave me a little pin that says “girls kick brass” because she plays the trumpet and I play the tuba and I almost cried on the bus to the game and it was Victor’s last one and I know his senior year sucked but I did my best to thank him and I shook his hand and God I haven’t shook hands in so long and he told me Billy was still alive and I let out a sigh of relief because I always worry about that kid and Dakota told me to just let go and dye my hair every color I’ve ever wanted to so maybe I will if I get any color this Christmas.
And I know I’m only 16 and thats the time when you’re supposed to never want to be like your parents or other girls or anyone who isn’t popular when you grow up but maybe I just want to own a house and grind coffee and dye my hair and shake hands and bake cookies and have a kid and be in love yes so in love but it’s hard and I don’t want to rush through my teen years because I only get one chance and it scares me so i have to find a balance between being able to look back without cringing and being able to look back at all because being memorable is risky and being risky is memorable and I’m so full of love but I have trouble communicating it and I hate being alone I hate it so much but I love to be by myself so I have to find a balance but I’m scared to think that maybe there isn’t one.
Oh God what if there isn’t one?
But I’ve got so much in this world and I’m unprepared and unwilling to lose it just for the sake of comfort because they’re worth it all of them are worth it and I’m a little weird and I stare a little too long and I don’t always know to say and my aptitude for jokes waxes and wanes and disappears but I love you so I love you and I love you.
Just your unfriendly neighborhood disaster, bringing you bi-weekly updates from the bottom of my own shoe!
(It's not inspirational and it doesn't shed any light on my personal life, so it's not a good bio in that sense, but I think it's funny and that's all that I care about. Plus, it lets me pretend I'm mean and online is the only place I can even try to do that. I do not post bi-weekly, I just like lying.)
good god, dear friar, of fields, distant places, can't you see that there's something of substance here? oh my, dearest writer, can't you write one word less, for my tears fall too slowly to count? jump higher, my lover, the clouds will not shame you, not like the life you once knew. step faster, o'er plaster, of sidewalks yet dry, for a mother still craddles a child! cry out- from the rooftops, from fields, distant places! can't you see? there's nothing worth love here!