In middle school I bled,
In high school, I purged.
In college I did neither,
Because apathy was urged.
In middle school I bled,
Melancholia brushes itself against my legs,
Rubbing and purring and begging to be
Gently I bend down to scratch its forehead,
Tickling and tantalizing it as it does the same
I let it settle into my arms as I stand back up,
Remembering, as it kneads my flesh, how heavy it
Melancholia’s claws dig into me,
Establishing itself as a continuation
I cross my legs and sit,
Stroking its back and listening to
don’t read this
I’m writing a novel. It’s happening. There will be a protagonist, just quirky enough to be interesting to the alternative and hipster crowd, but likeable and attractive enough to be someone the readers will want to relate to. The rising action will be that typical, he/she-lives-here-and-has-these-friends kind of spiel. The antagonist will exist, but might not actually be the antagonist—the reader will go back and forth: is he/she or isn’t he/she bad for the protagonist?—and will actually just inspire the true “bad guy”—that is, the self-loathing and mental blocks in the protagonist’s own head. The climax? The climax will happen just as the potential-protagonist realizes his/her true feelings for the potential-antagonist—that is, the protag might believe that he/she needs the antag, but really just needs someone to fill the void in his/her metaphorical heart, and that, in (fictional) reality, the antag is quite detrimental to the protag’s emotions, future, and sanity. The ultimate climax occurs when the protag realizes this. Which is in (real) reality funny, because the protagonist does need the antagonist, as the protagonist wouldn’t have a story to be the protagonist of without the antagonist. The denouement will be a surprise: does he/she stay with him/her? How does he/she find peace outside of the penetrating force that is the antag’s loving/malevolent presence? And does this novel have a purpose other than the shallow, predictable storyline that we have come to accept as the norm in our readings and in our shallow, predictable lives?
And as the layers start to fall off,
persuaded, of course, by persistent claws
digging under the decaying skin, and
accidentally piercing the pink flesh underneath,
I begin to understand that,
while my own being exists only in transience,
the dead cells falling to the floor transcend life and death themselves,
and become, instead, an entity unaware of who or what it is,
but altogether sentient in its purpose:
I remembered to wake up today, but that was about it.
My heart raced,
my mind pounded,
and I took my left shoe off of my left foot because I thought it was wrong.
I stumbled out of bed to dry my hair, and listened to the silence buzzing in my ears.
The deeper the silence, the louder the buzz.
The louder the buzz, the deeper the silence.
I dumped my clothes out on my bed.
I dumped my clothes into boxes.
I dumped them anywhere but the floor.
The floor is covered in piss,
and so is my book and so is my shoe,
which I later wore.
I put it on, my shoe, while in the bathroom,
where the silence reverberated off the walls,
hitting the mirror,
as they close and twitch to keep them,
Keep them half-open so that I can be half-awake.
I need to see, but I can’t see;
The rats shift in their walls as they realize they’re nocturnal.
Keep to the living room, where I half-belong.
Stay awake so I don’t have to wake up.
Wake up so I can sleep.
I woke up in that room with the light,
but saw that everyone was asleep,
so my right side slept again.
My left drove me home, with slaps and sound, to the bed that wasn’t mine,
to the life that became mine through the passing of time.
I slept to know the meaning of waking up, but sleep wasn’t enough for him to wake up.
He stumbled out of the shower to take a nap,
only to dump his clothes onto his body, and
beat the buzz so that he can
hear the buzz to
make enough to create a way to
escape the buzz.
The ceiling is a different color than the walls, but I still haven’t figured out which one belongs.
During the night, I stumbled on my capacity for thought,
and, when I woke up, it was gone,
expelled from my body through pores,
clinging to my follicles as sweat,
hovering behind my eyes, and
blurring my sight
so that I struggled to see again,
thus losing the memory of whatever it
was that I thought.
artisticallysuppressed asked: Searching for young talented writers, we stumbled upon your blog and think, both, you and us would benefit from submitting to our magazine/blog for your words are wonderfully written. We would feel honored if you would consider it. Thank you for your time.
Oh, that’s very nice of you! If this is a legitimate offer, then I will consider it. Just let me know what you want to publish, and I will probably say yes.
The Outsider (Revised)
“You know that feeling where your very skin feels wrong?” he began, cocking his head towards the man on the stool next to him.
“Sure,” nodded his friend, drinking from his Budweiser.
“Yeah?” the first man replied. “You know what I mean? It’s like…it’s as if your joints have been replaced with someone else’s. Like your muscles are being controlled a third of the way by an outsider.”
“An outsider?” the other asked, eyebrows knitted.
“Yeah. An outsider. An outside force that can move and stimulate a third of your cells or nerves or what have you.”
“Is that even possible?”
“It’s a metaphor, Mike; of course it’s not possible,” Mike’s companion replied, looking up to the ceiling and popping a couple peanuts into his mouth.
“Oh, sorry,” Mike said. He went quiet for a few seconds. “A metaphor for what, though?”
“It’s just a metaphor,” was the reply. “Not everything has to mean something.”
“But Gary,” said Mike, “isn’t that what metaphors are for? Meaning stuff and shit?”
“No, Mike,” said Gary. “C’mon, how dense do you have to be?”
“I dunno, how dense am I?”
“I dunno, how dense are you?”
Mike didn’t answer Gary’s question. The bells over the door chimed, as some of the regulars began heading home. Mike shifted his weight on the stool. “You want a beer?” he asked.
“How can I enjoy beer when I’m only two-thirds in possession of my own body?”
“Maybe the, uh…the outsider would want a beer?”
“The outsider is a metaphor, Mike, keep up.”
“Sorry, Gary,” Mike apologized again, scratching his head. He sniffed, swallowed, and cleared his throat. “Well, do you think he’d mind if I had another?”
“Had another what?”
“Another beer.” Mike turned his head to the right, and, amplifying his voice to be heard over the old jukebox, said, “Eh, Jim.”
The bartender on the other side of the counter looked up from his newspaper. “What do you want, Mikey?”
Gary sighed, rolled his eyes again, glanced at the specials on the chalkboard hanging overhead, and changed his order to glass of whatever was on tap. The bartender slid the drinks to them, and sat back down to continue reading the paper. Gary raised his eyebrows at Mike’s collection of empty bottles.
“I had a long day,” Mike grunted, taking a draught from the newest one.
“You?” Gary snickered. “Yeah fucking right you had a long day. What did you do all day, scratch your balls and read your Playgirls?”
“I’ve not touched a Playgirl, much less read one.”
“Oh, I know. My sister don’t read the articles neither.”
“You have a sister?”
“Sounds more like a joke to me.”
“It’s poetic license.”
“Well now, I didn’t realize you were a poet.” It was Mike’s turn study the knots in the wood above them.
“You didn’t know? You must have heard of me. I’m the greatest poet this town’s ever seen. Longfellow, Whitman, Frost…they ain’t got shit on me.” Gary drummed his fingers against the counter, staring into space and fidgeting his knee in time to the jukebox’s drawl. He tapped his cheekbone with his index finger. “I’m the greatest thinker this town has ever seen.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of you, Gary,” said Mike, a slow smile peeling his lips apart. “You and me have known one another since the fourth grade.”
“That’s exactly my point, Mike!” Gary said, turning for the first time to face his friend. “We’ve been sitting in this bar since before we could think. Day after day, year after year. And you know what we’ve done? We’ve allowed outsiders into our bodies. They’ve taken over, and we’ve let them do it! We’ve lost ourselves because we never found ourselves because how could we find anything remotely important or profound in a place like this? We need stimulants, not pine trees. Our minds need to be ours again. We need to evict the outsiders. We need out.”
Mike slumped on his stool, a rush of air expelling from his cheeks. He reached forward, wrapped his hand around his Bud, and took a solemn swig. “You don’t like it here?”
“You do?” Gary’s surprise was on his face.
“You shouldn’t. Nobody should.”
Gary shook his head at the bowl of mixed nuts on the counter. He chewed on another peanut, letting his eyes gravitate across the room to the bartender’s daughter. She leaned over to write a lingering customer’s order down on her pad of paper, and Gary smirked. Mike stared at his bottle and hunched his shoulders. The two men sat in silence, listening to Cash’s rhythmic strums emanating from the jukebox. Boom-chicka-boom.
“So, you really like it here, then?” Gary asked.
“Well,” replied Mike, exhaling, “I guess not, no. No room for…poetry and body-snatchers in a place like this. Not enough opportunities for one to be oneself and all that.”
“You’d want to leave then, is that what you’re saying?”
Mike stared at his beer for a moment. “Yeah…I think it is. I’d like to leave.”
“Mike,” Gary smiled. “You shouldn’t talk like that. You have everything you could want here. Beer, Suzanne, a couple of trees…hell, this is a damn paradise for you.”
“Christ, Mike! What more could you want?”
“Well, now, I don’t know.”
“Exactly. You belong here.”
The two men stared at each other. Mike blinked. He wiped foam from his beard, and took a deep breath. “You’re right. This is where we’re meant to be.”
The smile dropped from Gary’s face. “No, Mike,” he said. He leaned in closer. “Only a third of me belongs here, and, pretty soon, none of me will. I’m a poet, the next Bob Dylan. I need to go cure cancer, christen a ship, climb Mount Everest. Do you see Mount fucking Everest anywhere around here?”
Mike looked out the window before he could stop himself. “No, I can’t say I do.”
“And that’s why I need out.”
“But I don’t know why I don’t, Gary.”
“Because,” Gary said, “the world needs people like you. If we all left town, there’d be no town anymore, would there?”
“Well no. It just don’t seem fair.”
“Fairness has nothing to do with it, Mike. It is what it is, and not either of us can do nothing to change it.”
“Except you. You’re leaving.” Mike set his Budweiser on the counter. The third of the beer left in the bottle sloshed and went flat as Mike fished in his pocket for some change to tip the bartender with. “Except you, Gary,” he repeated.
“That’s right.” Gary smiled again. “Except me.”
“Are you actually going to do it this time?”
Gary’s mouth twitched. He fingered his glass of warm, untouched beer. “Mike?”
“Do you ever get the feeling that your skin isn’t your own?”
“Sure,” nodded his friend.
Gary picked his drink up and drained it in a few long gulps. “I wonder what that means.”
“It’s just a metaphor,” Mike said, a slow grin appearing on his face. “Not everything has to mean something.”
the hymen does not break
but really only stretches
it can stretch back into place
so I can say
and with confidence
you did not really destroy me.
I’m a rubber band.
The Stripper and the Foreskin
“Let’s stop pretending now,” I heard her say. Without looking back at her, I blinked once, and said, “Why do you have to do this?”
“Do what? Do what’s right for both of us? Do what should have been done months ago? Do what will make me happy?” She raised her voice.
“Yell.” I said.
Her eyelids met twice, and her eyebrows linked. “’Why do you have to yell?’?” she reiterated. Is that what you’re asking me?”
In a huff, she spun around. “Let’s work through this.”
I turned to look at her hair. “I don’t see how.”
“I don’t love you, you know that, right?”
“And you don’t love me.”
“So why don’t you leave?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t I leave?”
“Okay, fine. I think I will.”
“You’re not going to try to stop me?”
“No.” A thought. “Should I?”
“You know, it’s really up to you, isn’t it? It’s always been up to you.”
“How do you figure?”
“You know I won’t leave.”
“No, I don’t know that.”
“You know I can’t.”
“No, I don’t know that.”
“Yes. You do.”
“What if I did? What if I just left?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“What would you do?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
“Well…that would be your choice.”
A pause. A glare and a stare.
“You wouldn’t fight for me?
“You know I love you, you know that, right?”
“No, you don’t.”
Awkward Church Boner
I bowed my head, and, with a start, my knee became very aware of hers brushing itself against it. My face twitched, eyes clenching a little tighter, and a smile tickling my mouth.
“Lord, we come before you here today with open hearts.”
Her fingers found their way to my thigh, very quickly trailblazing the space between my left and right legs. My muscles tightened. Thrill and dread collided, manifesting themselves as consternation, the wrinkle between my closed eyes.
“Fill this room with light. Soften our hardened hearts to Your glory and love.”
My bible jumped to my groin. She gripped She gripped my thigh, leaning forwards (I felt her weight shift) to caress my earlobe with her lips. Her giggle was barely audible, but it caused the warmth in my chest to migrate south.
“Bless this church, and bless the people in it. Focus our eyes and lives on You, so that we may show others Your love through our love.”
Oh God. My knees tried to meet, but her hand wedged itself higher up on my pelvis. Don’t do it, oh God, oh God, not here.
“You know our hearts, and You know our sins.”
I swallowed. As saliva made its way down my esophagus, so did her fingers make their way did her fingers make their way up my zipper.
Contact. A rush of blood came to my face. I wondered if her eyes were open, and, if they were, if she thought me strange for blushing. I exhaled the tiniest amount of breath. My back straightened in my seat, as I opened my bible on my lap up to Psalms. David would understand. He’d help me.
“Guide us in our day to day. Let us be a light for others.”
I anxiously stroked the new leather binding on my lap. God, I beg of You, keep this prayer going. My whole chair vibrated with my heart’s beat.
“Thank You for watching over us, and thank You for everything You do for us.”
My elbows squeezed my ribcage, trying to constrict my heart and lungs, trying to keep them from betraying the silence. I leaned in as close to her as I could, and hoped that she was doing the same to me. Even the slightest tremor through the pew could cause an avalanche.
“Thank You, Lord.”
My eyelids loosened on my rolling eyeballs. I could see the heads in front of me through the crack between my lids. I pressed them together again, unwilling to make that mental connection between my current situation and the bowed heads of the congregation.
“And all God’s people said?”
My eyelids tore themselves apart, as my body leapt to attention. Her lips pressed against my ear, as she whispered, “Amen,” harmonizing with the other murmurs throughout the building. As quickly as they came, her hands retreated back to her lap. She sat stoically. My organs devoured each other, as my hands placed themselves firmly on top of my bible, and my nervous system fought to contain the pain in my groin for the rest of the service.
10 minute, not-so-great (but heartfelt) poem
I used to talk to my father.
We speak in avoidance now.
His soft responses to my mother—
And the way he doesn’t look me in the eye—
Might not be the words on his soul,
But they’re the ones I take to heart.
I used to look up to my sister.
In my head, I stand above her now.
She conveys beauty onto a canvas
To a chorus of oohs and ahhs.
She can’t help it that she’s better than me,
And I can’t help but tear her apart.
I used to hug my mother.
I don’t let her touch me now.
She’s developed a skin harder than her hands,
I guess to keep herself warm around me.
It wouldn’t take much to make things better,
But my coldness leaves me frozen.
I used to have a family,
But I’ve ruined it now.
My hands are weak. A thought of grandeur trickles to my fingertips, and escapes through my pores. Blues lines that should be red intertwine, forming an unmistakable “H” on my wrist. H for hemo, H for hemophilia, H for how things should be. The lines fade, dancing just beneath the surface, breaching like sperm whales up my arm, connecting my shoulder to my torso. They plunge through my heart, down my abdomen, and back up again, creating oak branches across my midsection. The branches quake as I cringe, a drop of blue falling onto the paper before me.
The drop spreads. Like a root system, the lines intertwine, forming H’s and E’s and L’s and P’s. My hands are weak, too weak to stop them. Splatters of sap hit my face, as the tree takes shape faster than its body was designed to. It grows. It grows into something it never should have been. Its branches sweep upwards, and its roots plunge into the paper. It becomes a bastardization of what it should be—mine.
Anger and desperation bubble inside me. These are my words, my seeds, my blood. Be what I want you to be! How can what’s in my head have been translated with such convolution? How was I even able to produce something so incorrect? My hands shake, as I clench and flex them, hoping to somehow stimulate the flow of creativity again.
A foreign noise startles me from my reverie. I breathe, and look up. With relief, my eyes are drawn from the paper, and with annoyance, my pen falls onto the table. It’s the door. One, two, three knocks, so I get up, cross the floor, and turn the metal knob.
In front of me is a hand. It is grotesque, wrapped in filth and caked in calluses. My eyes travel from the fingerprints of grime to the knuckles that are so bony that they look like knobby knees. The veins on the back of the hand are noticeable, as they pop out about three millimeters away from the rest of the translucent flesh. I can almost see the blood pulsing. As far as wrists go, this one is thin, with a hint of yesteryear’s plumpness. Once the forearm is in my sights, I see, with a start, that there is a fresh, dark cut on the inner part of the limb. Further up the arm, I spy a sleeve, and I realize who I’m looking at.
Mrs. Lindeman was born a hundred years or so ago. As a child she never questioned her parents, had only to be asked once to wash the dishes, and always tended to her pet rabbits, or so I’ve been told. She wore a linen yellow dress, her hair in pigtails, and would not be seen with a stain of any sort on her neat, white stockings. She made sure of it. If caught rolling on the grass by her better judgment, she would scold and force herself straight inside, where she would strip of all offending clothing, redress, and spend the next two hours scrubbing out the green. After her clothes were back to their usual cleanliness, she would sit in the living room with her ankles crossed, hands folded, waiting for her father to come home. When he did, she would take his coat, sit him to dinner, and confess what she had done. She received her disciplinary talking to with a bowed head.
At the age of nineteen, she wed. She lived. She had children of her own. They grew up. They left. Her husband passed. Her children stayed away. She lived alone. I moved in across the street.
“Hello, yes?” I ask, blinking in the sudden daylight.
Mrs. Lindeman looks at me, her eyes focusing in and out. “Y-yes,” she mumbles, turning pink. “Excuse me, but you wouldn’t happen to have any sewing needles? It seems as if I’ve misplaced mine.”
I stare. My eyes waver from her face to her arm, which she is clutching with her other hand. A red drop oozes from the gash. It slides down her arm, gets caught on her elbow, and drips to the concrete floor. I look at it for a moment, forgetting to reply. Then I remember the request. “A sewing needle? Yes, of course. I’ll be right back.” I duck inside, rummage through my desk, and return with the goods.
“Thank you,” she says, with an absentminded half-smile. She turns and trudges up the staircase that leads from my porch.
I watch her retreating form. She unclasps her hand from her arm, breathes sharply at the sight of the gore, and quickly wraps her dirty fingers around it again. Mrs. Lindeman marches up the stairs to her porch, sits in her white chair, fixes her skirt, and begins to thread the needle that I lent her.
I look down. The blood is still there, a single drop. A couple feet away, the rainspout delivers to me a trickle of water. I guess it rained. The water dribbles toward us, the red spot and me, until the tiniest amount reaches my toe. I step away, unintentionally clearing the path for water and blood to meet.
The collision doesn’t matter. The clear mixes with the red that should have been blue, and my eyes return to my wrist, where the H waits patiently. I step across the porch, open my door, and reenter. Mechanically, I evade the piles of waste around the room. I get to my chair. I sit. I cross my ankles, and reach for a sewing needle. I prick my fingertip, just enough for a bead of red to leak out. With lines of blue and thoughts of red, my pen moves across the paper.