Tag Archives: Prose

Mantra for the Sane

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In writing I worry
I have said too much,
too little
I capitalize on
the funny parts
the sick parts
the sad parts
the parts
half worth
anything
to anyone
(likely not)
I leave out how
my Dad religiously
kissed my forehead every
morning before school
or that friends
parents often
said “we can’t afford
to keep  feeding her”
which only made
my hungrier
my cousins
called me
“oinker”
I leave out
the parts where
I was a happy, jolly
normal kid playing
make-believe and house
I leave out the parts where
I do not go hungry
But I remember
the good times
when I do the dishes,
the innocent times
when I sweep the floor,
the carefree times
when I call for the dog,
“I wanted this”
I recall
“This is all I ever
wanted”
I write my past
I plot my future
“I’ll be the husband
and you’ll be the wife”
I remember saying
“I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries”
It will be so much fun
It is all I ever wanted
It will be so much fun
I recall, hand swirling
in a vat of dishwater,
igniting the suds
It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted

This becomes a mantra
for the sane

It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted
I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries
It will be so much fun

Love is I Don’t Know

Love is you feeling me up under my shirt like you’re a school boy and it’s our second date but really we’re a year in and it’s a Tuesday night or a Monday night and we both have stew breath.

Love is me moving into your house alittle–okaymaybeway–toosoon. Love is me making a scrapbook of photos from your recent cheesy family cruise and pasting concert stubs in there too from the Dave Rawlings Machine and Gillian Welch and that time we saw The Wolf of Wallstreet and pasting in there the notes you’ve left me like “Squash in the oven for lunch” and “Be home around five, love you” and “Had to go to farm real quick, love you.”

Love is you saying I love you even though we both wonder What is Love? and Why can’t it be more like lust? and is he gonna get me off forever and is she gonna turn me on forever and those sad little thoughts like we’re losing red and we’re losing it fast and we’re going on and on, plummeting forward as our sex becomes less and our friendship and caretaking one another grows like a tumor. We think yeah we might have a thing that could last forever–if we live really short lives–and maybe I’m just speaking for myself here but I would maybe take a really short life so I could say yeah we loved each other forever. And it was easy, because then we died.

Next Best Move

They say you
can’t be helped if
you can’t help yourself

So I wet a rag and wipe
the dust from my long
wooden desk

I am alone

I wipe it with
a dry cloth too–
watermarks make
me nervous

I water the jade plant
and consider re-potting it
but the plant only makes it as far
as the foot of the screen door–
a low priority on my
list of things that
“help” my “self”

I pour a hot cup of coffee
but on a warm day it’s
somehow less satisfying

I glare a disgusted look
at my laptop, smeary
fingerprints on its
black hood

“Traitor”, I think..
I know your shtick and
you’re not as glamorous
as you think you are
you’re convoluted
too full, yet empty
will just make my
shoulders hunch over
and my jaw go slack
as I search search search
for spacenuggets of wisdom
and the sun struts across
the sky outside
and the moon prepares to
rise and all the while you’re
sputtering out slacktavism
and maybe a
good song
for me

I won’t waste my hours,
not today, too short
today I need more than
that so I choke you out,
shut you off,
think of how the Internet
has turned Art into a
popularity contest–
a snapping of the fingers
a dusting by with the eyes

Maybe I get sad cause I
never was too good at those
–popularity contests
too self-conscious, too bitter,
too insecure for contrived
showing-offs
not quite so carefree and
pretty as to be popular
But still

Do I try at becoming an
online sensation?
“Rub shoulders” with
the literary stars and musicians?
Start up an Instagram and
filter my life so pretty?
Arnt ya so pretty still?
Remind me.
Arnt ya still eating well?
Show me.
Shit, I aint got
time for that!

I think today I’ll just sit
at my kitchen table and
read the paper
write a book
blue ink and white sheets
you hold in your fingers
scribbles and all
visceral

Discoveries I find in
the quiet quilt of my
own mind
reflecting on the fact
that I am certainly not an image,
not my supposed doings
not my desperation
or just my smile
but feelings
and thoughts
and blood,
so much blood.
I am just white paper
and black or blue words,
and what is more mysterious
than that??

I’ve still got it
I’ve still got it
shit, I’ve still got it

Still bitter

Nobody likes to hear that shit

I believe I am
how I make
people
feel

Whether or not
I am saying
the exact
right
thing

Yeah.

I am responsible for
helping myself

You can’t be helped
if you can’t help
yourself

I am unattached to
your validation
(ahh! refreshing!)

Part II

On my drive to work
I turned down the
radio to say a prayer
it might have sounded
petty but it wasn’t,
it came strait from
my worn and hopeful
heart

“Lord…just be with me
…in general,” I sighed,
defeated

I sit at my kitchen table now
and work at shedding negative
energy from my shoulders to
my hip bones–always popping and distraught
to my bare feet and out through my toes
I sweep it all up from the floor
and I beg for solitude
for even when I am all alone
I sometimes feel crowded,
maybe it’s the internet thing
or the cohabiting thing or
the responsibility thing

Don’t let anyone preach to you,
including me
But ask yourself, what makes
you angry?
Now throw something at it.
Trash things you once thought
valuable
Hang onto things but
do not crowd them
If you smile too much, frown
you’re faking it
If you frown too much
take vitamin D and
think like Buddha

Don’t worry about stories
that go from a to b to c
Read a book that’s so good
you almost don’t get it
but don’ t think too hard
and you will get it
Make lists.
Make a meal for someone
then ask them to leave you
the shit alone
Instead of napping,
sleepwalk through your
house pondering your
father
your brothers
your boyfriend
your friends
and what they
really mean to you

Burn old bad poems
you wrote
smile at the flames
hands clasped in your
lap, eyes closed
release your short comings
and accept yourself

Don’t let anyone preach
to you
Including me
but turn off your computer
and do something awesome
Don’t tell anyone about it,
just make yourself proud

Life is Art

If life is art today is a work by Salvador Dali               deconstructed         fragmented                        independent          sparse     calm       melting                       roomy                  brave                 and                           pieced    together helplessly, brilliantly, randomly.
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Today is holding itself together, pink and black and hurting.
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If life is art I am food. Manipulated, folded, dusted, brushed, beaten, whipped, fondled and put out on display. If I am food I am fresh then rotting then rotting then fresh. I am frozen and thawed or laid out to dry. Too hot to handle and left, forgotten, to rest. If life is art I am food revived, ravaged, digested. I am appetizing and colorful.
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If life is art then last night’s dreams were movies that jumpstarted me to wake, frightened in the night beside him. Shaking him awake, pointing at the robes hanging black on the bedroom door, “Look! Look! It looks like a man! The devil!” I whisper-shout, scared and kid-like. To my comfort, he agrees (the robes look like the devil) and knee walks to the end of the bed and shuts the door for me. “Hold me,” I whimper, never more myself than in the night. And he holds me. Tight. Tighter than anyone ever has. If life is art my lover is a geisha. Masked and beautiful, teasing, obedient, and entertaining in the old ancient way.
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If life is art then last night’s dream-fantasies were a collection of the greatest. But fantasy does not hold up well in reality and I roused awake, ripping off my nitetime pants and I tried to wake him again, murmuring nonsense and coaxing and humming with my hands. Thinking thinking thinking about hard man arms long man legs wide man fingers tender man hair wild man hair and beard my body his body soft lyrics and bells pleasant but vibrant like angel sounds. These are the thoughts and feelings of that stage between sleeping and wake….does anyone else sense that they are in heaven?
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In the dream there was more than enough, in the bed there is less, not enough. But in the bed there is truth, and it is here that we both get closer to heaven then anywhere else on earth. Both of us, in-between worlds, together. We are so kind there……I come to wake and whisper-beg with my body. He laughs amusingly, innocently, at my desire and like a man I jump out of bed and spout something I can’t remember now but included the words sex, frustrated, and Not Funny. If life is art then I stomp to the kitchen, sleepy, dramatic, and deserving of a stage. For a show which nobody would ever enjoy to watch.
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If life is art then there is work left unfinished. I drag it around with me today, during the morning commute, on my way for coffee, clocking in and out at work, like a project I cannot wait to touch up and complete. I cannot do it alone and in the wake of this interruption I growl with my eyes and smile with my teeth at the many of those who cannot help me. I aspire to go home and release myself.
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If life is art I am black today, red on the inside. Human with a capital H today. So I go outside of and above my body. I see a few pieces of the puzzle that are fitting just right. But I remember how the earth it always moves, our bodies grow and shrink, and the pieces that once fit here might later there and so on. So I don’t lay my puzzle pieces in concrete, but in dry sand, allowing for the natural shift in things, for the pieces to fall where they may and move and they please, or as I see fit.
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If life is art then nobody’s getting paid what they should. But we’re all doing it for the right reasons.
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If life is art then everything is messy, all the time, and aint that right.
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If life is art then I was right to blast live rock n roll first thing this morning, before I even turned on the coffee.
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If life is art then I hope he’s armed with the hardware to ground me today. I am all watercolors and old acrylic paint tubes, hardened and plugged up, holding back, else on the page. If life is art I need a frame and nails to keep me down today, to keep me sane.
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If life is art I am free.
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If life is art then I am living.
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If life is art then I am a mess or a masterpiece, depending on the angle.
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If life is art then what is standing in front of the space heater crying.
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If I am art then I am waiting for the audience to burst into applause.
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If life is art then I applaud YOU you crazy, talented, sonnofabitch.

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If life is art then I am distracted by all the colors and modern flashing things.
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If life is art today is a work by Salvador Dali               deconstructed         fragmented                        independent          sparse       calm           melting                       roomy                  brave                 and                           pieced together helplessly                    brilliantly                            randomly.

A History of Kitchens Part One

rebecca sittler
Photography credit: Rebecca Sittler

These are the kitchens of my past. Some of the kitchens were females and some were males. Some of them had dining tables and some did not. I remember the worst of the kitchens, the friends or neighbor’s kitchens in college—I was afraid to eat a thing strait from the waterlogged counter, there were hotpink Las Vegas shot glasses and sticky empty liquor bottles on their sides and who knows whose ass had been sitting up there. I remember the food bank finds, the cardboard microbrew beerbottle canisters with a banana inside, a serrated knife, and a days old spoon with yogurt-tongue markings still on it…a bag of Western Family wheat bread always almost out and wanting so badly to be the lucky roommate to eat the last sandwich, with cheese.

I cleaned kitchens in exchange for cigarettes for a woman I can’t remember the name of now but I can see her plain as day in front of a sepia television, blinds closed, sitting on her long black hair on a tan couch in a house down Modoc Lane. I was fourteen. She didn’t have a table in her kitchen. I used yellow Sun soap and an inefficient wide-pored plastic green scrubby from the dollarstore to wash dried Top Ramen noodles from indian boybowls on foggy, windy days, my kid-hands enjoying the hot soapy water and subsequent Marlboro 100’s plus four to go in the pocket of my jean jacket.

Personal | Becky Luigart-Stayner--Food & Lifestyle Photographer
Photography credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Kitchens with no power. A solar pushlamp dim as a candle. Kerosene lanterns and a generic plastic red and white checkered tablecloth my Dad picked up at Shop Smart. My Dad, just twenty-four but playing Mom with our square, aluminum-legged kitchen table, checkered cloth and candlelight, for both practical and spiritual purposes. Two dinner plates and forks. Papertowels folded in half for napkins. The days when things were real good for us both. A father, a daughter, and a kitchen. Propane gas stove and long-handled lighters—big boxes of matches my Dad would strike on his pants zipper if I asked him to. Matches that struck on the pavement of the platform outside our trailer, the concrete foundation that would be our home. A home that never really got to happen.

It was a small father-daughter kitchen, with one window above the sink which in the daytime looked out to a lush green lot, with rabbits in cages, wild doves in the Myrtlewood trees, and geese and ducks and things. The window fogged at night and I would write things on it to entertain myself, smiling faces, peace signs, my name, mad, antsy scribbles, spirals and hearts. There were no refrigerator magnets and the walls were bare. In the living room was a framed school photo of me that would eventually burn and in the bathroom, the Lord’s Prayer hanging on the wall, a wooden vintage piece: Our father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name... In the kitchen cupboards: white sheaths of premium saltine crackers, cans of “ABC” soup, a bag of popcorn kernals, white rice, apricot jam, and on the counter, carrots, potatoes, cumin and mint tea.

What Katie Ate » Happy Easter 2013 (!) and a few Gluten-Free Desserts :)
credit unknown

A boy cousin is over for dinner. We’d come by some sort of green squeaky toy—a frog—my dad requests that we bow our heads to pray before eating which I obediently do. My boy cousin squeaks the toy and giggles. Maybe he did this twice. My Dad says firmly (to us both, as to not even call my cousin out), “Humble yourselves.” My boy cousin squeaks the toy again and my Dad immediately smacks the toy from my boycousins hand, looking serious for once and shocking us both to the core as it was one of the few times we’d seen my Dad genuinely pissed. We both bowed our heads as my Dad gave a shaky, but always sincere prayer starting with Dear Heavenly Father and ending with the three of us saying Amen.

Nag champa incense and me knee-sitting on a simple wooden chair washing dishes, often my designated chore, with large yellow rubber gloves (you know the kind) complete the memory of my most cherished kitchen—the one dad and I shared in Rock Creek. Sometimes I would be asked to come play, but my Dad made me do dishes instead. However if the dishes got done, I could go play. But if they didn’t it was me in the kitchen crying and alone.

Dressing

Mostly always modest,
I wear my one-piece swim
suits like a relic or a
ghost woman
on the shore

I cover up and I
end up getting so
steaming hot
that I tear off those
heavy unnecessary
clothes back at home
feet screaming in the
September heat
I tear the black
scarf from my neck
like I am my own damn
birthday present
I unwrap myself and
when I look into the
mirror
I see that I am naked
and somewhat beautiful
and if I just showed off
a shoulder or two…
but then I forget and
I wake and I wrap
myself up again
in cloth and jean
and leather

I roast in the
Indian summer
wondering
Who is it
that I’m hiding
from?

How To Deal With Monsters

As a kid I’d get scared
We all did I know
We feared a thing
called Monster
It’s origins unknown
Yes it could be
under the bed
in the closet
down the hall
but where did this
thing come from
all slimy sickly and slow
I thought it all over
I thought it through
real good
I though if I ever
actually meet the
monster,
I’d know just what
to do:
I’ll make friends
with it, I said
a monster seems
a lonely thing
now I know I
only wanted to
manipulate the
monster–get him
to stay under the bed.
Do we ever dream
up female monsters?
No I think we don’t
Do we have good reason to?
Sometimes, but mainly no
Amazing that I feared the
green and gooey
When monsters
were all around me
Well at least there
were one or two
But people called them
Grandfather, Neighbor
or just Joe
Rather than run
from them
call them out
or call the cops
we would roast
them chickens
fill their coffee,
clean their pots
Now I’m not saying
the women were angels
the men were devils
and that was that
but there’s something
to be said for fighting
not running
when things get bad
So if you ever meet
a monster
Don’t you listen to me
Instead of making friends,
you just be as loud as
you can be
Scream, shout, bite, tell it all
Don’t you hold a thing back
There are exceptions to this
rule, as life isn’t always
white and black
But use your rage and
use it good
Be wise beyond your years
Know that monsters come in
all sizes and ages
And this is how you know their near:
You feel it in your gut
it doesn’t have to be dark outside
The monster doesn’t have to
be scary
When you know
you know
you know
you know
And I know you know
what I mean
The sooner you tell
somebody about it
the sooner the monster
stops feeding
But even if it’s been
years and years
come out with the
thing and start
your healing

Billboard People

Instead of regurgitating facts
why not digest the knowledge
Instead of claiming ideas as your own
shoving them down my throat
like capsules of lead
let them collect around you
and carefully handle the wisdom
grow to understand it
before you accept it
Everything has a label now
most of all, our own persons
are we not all tagged as this
or that?
Who am I if I do not
promote myself to you?
Do I exist at all?
Have I no life if
I am not on display?
Have I got no education if
I don’t wear it like a badge?
Have I got no past if
I don’t carry my albums
in my mouth
spilling them out
on the floor at every change
waiting for you to stop
talking so that I might
do my dance
How old are we anyway?
Still young enough for
Show and Tell?
Are my bones
my breath
my eyes
my body
all lost on you?
Is my presence
not enough?
I forgot my billboard
at home
You forgot my
address
my phone number
You forgot I’m
a person
not a number
Not friend
number 362
but a soul
a spirit
a woman
begging
authenticity
from
you

This is The End

I started running out of things to write. I’ve told you about all the wild things, my wildcard parents, my over-bearing, artistic grandmother, my messy scramble for love, our dirty homes and apartments, all the mistakes we ALL made, and will continue to make…I told you and then I came to the end. I started running out of things to write.

Spring came–and with its newness and promise, I was able to recognize the closing of the first part of my life; my first twenty-eight years. Nothing spectacular happened, nothing dramatic, but it was a slow ease into my twenty-eight spring. And that stillness was something different, something new, there’s maybe even something dramatic about the way the waters calmed and stilled and pooled after years of gushing and cascading.

All the parts have closed in on themselves. The wild things have closed their wings. I think, finally, I am done. I am done telling this story. I was wondering when it was going to end, and how. People always ask me “Is your book finished yet? How do you even end a memoir, cause, like your life is still happening.” Exactly I always say, How do you?

At this stage of my manuscript it looks like this: I should maybe not even call it a manuscript but a project. Projects get messy, this is messy. This is not 303 typed crisp white pages binded and clipped with a title page and dedications. I do not know the title yet and I have a ton of typing to do!!! See, I am a writer, not a typer. I am a writer, not an editor! My project looks like this: something like twenty-four notebooks complied over the past six years filled with long, drawn out and angry dialogue during which I am both teaching myself to write and scribbling all the letters I never did, but apparently really wanted to write to my mother, lovers, and other people too. Oh I let them have it. I didn’t only say nice things about my father either. Didn’t only say nice things about anyone I wrote about except maybe Charles.

So its Spring now and I’m twenty-eight (and a half) and I’m standing out in my boyfriends lawn and he’s just mowed the grass, the air is perfect, the trees are like magic, and I’m not even high on anything. I look at the sky and it’s perfect too. There’s a wiry black dog running around at my feet. My feet are bare, I’m wearing nothing but a long white cotton halterdress with orange blooms, my hair is down and long now, my body is weightless as I realize that the moment is perfect, just me, in the woods, no book even, no coffee, no shoes, a man off in the distance, the promise of sex and comfort, my bareface, my dreams, the lightness I feel in. this. moment.

I notice something over my shoulder. I slowly turn and look, I see The End. I see the chaos that was my past, my history, tromping off like a brigade heading to who knows where, not any longer attached to me, but parting from me. I bid goodbye. I holler and smile. I prepare to let go.

Esther

Did I dream her up?
I met her in the vegetable garden. It was sometime near my fifth birthday. I was fingering the dense pumpkin stocks and their broad leaves like wall insulation to the touch–misleadingly soft and cozy. Like a five year old herself.
She appeared there beyond the ripe orange globes.
She stared at me,  reached out to touch the vines.
She was my age. Her eyes spoke to me but her childmouth never moved. I admired her wetsand-colored curls as she told me that we were Identical. That he touched her too. That he came for her when he was done with me, that he came for me when he was done with her. She told me her name was Esther. Before I could respond, he pulled up in his Chevrolet. I crouched down in the path in my Autumn dress. I peeked my eyes above the garden greens as he pointed to the passenger door instructing her to get in. My eyes got big and wet, her dress was caught in the door, they drove down the dirt lane toward Hunter Creek and I shook but it wasn’t cold outside.