Portrait

Francis Bacon - Self-portrait_ 1972 i
“Self-Portrait,” Francis Bacon, 1972

There was nothing else she could do, here among the ashes. The fire had come suddenly, out of nowhere in the middle of a quiet night, and now everything had been charred through, disintegrated down into gray dust.

The gray dust lay everywhere, in heaps here and there among the property, in a thick layer over the car parked on the street, blanketing her skin as though it were makeup powder she had applied carefully in the morning to cover her blemishes.

She sat on the curb, her back facing the remains of what had been her home for almost all her life. She had come to this house as a young child — before she could even remember — and had grown and stayed in it throughout the years, even when the rest of her family had chosen to go elsewhere, to more comfortable and modern places.

But she had always stayed. This was where she had come to know herself as herself. This was where she had lived her happiest memories and had mourned her greatest sorrows. This was where she had met her God, and had left him, and had found him again. Now with the fire, it seemed he had been the one to leave.

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A Perfect Love Song

 

I met you and fell into a hurricane. Wind and rain and gray swirled around me as I tumbled and spun and was thrust from one storm edge to the other. I reached out my hands to hold steady and found nothing but churning movement slipping through my fingers.

The sound was ringing in my ears – your name, your name, your name, shouted over and over through the pouring of rain and the whistling of wind. You said your name and it was a thunderclap in my ears. To this day it’s all I can hear.

My ears were ringing and my arms flailed. You came near and touched my skin – my skin pelted by water, scratched by debris, fully awake in the cold so cold it felt like fire. It was your hands on me that brought the storm’s embrace.

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Nutshell

You clear your throat
On the outer side of the universe,
And I jump up in my bed,
Suddenly afraid of the dark.

When we walked together,
In my perceived “hand-in-hand,”
Me as a child,
You as a god…

…What would a god have to do with a child?

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Let’s Go Free

I thrust out my hand,
Hold it over a flame.
You scoff,
As though it were a bad thing
To prefer fire
Over numbing ice.

I walk forward
Into an unknown,
Braving for once
To take a chance.
You smirk,
As though maturity meant
Being willing to stay
So unsatisfied.

I come to the shore,
Fling away my clothes,
And walk unhindered into the waving waves.

I delve into the water,
For once fully alive:
Light entwined with darkness,
Life a play thing with death.
You sit dry on the shore
And wonder at my wanting to be cleansed of your
Dirt.

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A Cave Called “Hope”

She sat alone in her cave, her back against the curved wall.

She had been living out among the surrounding woods for years and years, playing amongst the trees, being friends with the small animals that shared her space, drinking from the clean rain that fell. She had been at peace in the woods that towered protection over her and gave her what she needed to live. She had never feared its shadows or howling animal calls. She knew these woods loved her and kept her safe.

But now she sat in the damp cave, away from the woods, her dress in tatters and her provisions in a dwindling pile besides her. Hard rain fell outside. She watched the water stream down the stone walls to form muddy puddles on the ground at the cave’s entrance. This was her home now.

She sat silent and unmoving, thinking back to the day she had been drawn out from the woods.

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Wrong

“There is nothing else,”
So I turn away
From colors, from sounds, from eyes that see
To grayness and a blank
Placed for those who are not sated.

“You were wrong,”
I know
(And you’ll never let me forget it),
So I draw out the blade
Over the last of untouched skin.
“You were wrong,” you repeat,
“To offer any sacrifice.”

No sacrifice,
No sincerely-I-do love,
No level of child’s understanding,
No effort
To counter your “This is all there is.”

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Of Love and Music: A Relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins

I originally wrote this as a guest post on Plane back in October, 2015, but I wanted to share it with you all here as well. 

I developed my first musical crush when I was 12 years old. It was on Candlebox, an alternative rock band from Seattle. (It was the early ‘90s; pretty much every band was an alternative rock band from Seattle). I was venturing from the world of dance pop and Top 40 into the world of rock, and Candlebox was the band that made me realize this was the new territory I wanted to settle in. What the point of connection was between me – an introverted girl who still owned Barbies and read every “Babysitters Club” book she could find – and songs such as “Cover Me,” “You,” and “Understanding” I’m not sure. But there was something in the loud rawness of this music that captivated me. I stopped listening to TLC and Ace of Base and entered the world of grunge. I got labeled a “rocker” by the other kids in my junior high school. I decorated my school notebooks and binders with “Candlebox rules” and “I love Candlebox,” as though Candlebox was the name of a boy I liked. I suppose in a way it was, since my crush on Candlebox was at least equal in intensity to the crushes I had on actual boys.

So I “liked” Candlebox. And then one day, as I was faithfully listening the local alt-rock radio station, I heard Billy Corgan’s voice. Everything changed. It was as though a door had appeared in the alternative-rock house I lived in and opened into a vast musical world of greater depth and quality than I had ever known. Yes, Candlebox and The Smashing Pumpkins (of which Billy Corgan was the lead singer and writer) fell into the same genre of “alternative rock.” But Billy and The Pumpkins were different. Theirs was an emotional and musical complexity, exploration, and daring that made me jump gladly across that door’s threshold.

While I had been infatuated with Candlebox, I fell head over heels with The Smashing Pumpkins. Discovering them unleashed a level of emotion from and personal attachment to music that I hadn’t experienced before. I was swept by the contrast and range in the band’s sound, everything from the simple, melodic beauty of the piano in the song “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” to the earnest, congested guitars and drums in “Silverf***.” I was roused by Billy’s poetic lyrics that covered multitudes of feeling, from exultant love in songs like “Stand Inside Your Love” (my favorite love song of all time) to the despairing of life in songs like “Jellybelly.” And then there was Billy’s voice. From his yells to his whispers to his talking, no other voice conveyed to me or provoked in me as much heightened emotion as his did.

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