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Posts Tagged ‘trailing blood in the water’

|| September 5, 2015 || 11:42 pm || Comments (2) ||

He watched her go down the halls, untethered and unawares. He watched her stand easy in her own skin, laughing with people, ducking her head and covering her mouth, mirth leaking past her fingers.

Everything about her called to him, and nothing about her knew it.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She always appeared to be present in the moment, alive in a way that none of her peers had yet learned. There was a constant part of her, though, that was out there, called across the ocean, fixed on a heart that she’d fallen into unintentionally.

Because she was focused on the hum of it, on keeping that signal, she missed other more subtle intonations.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He didn’t know what it would be like to be with her; he had not the first clue, but he wanted to know.

He wanted to know.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She lit up when she saw him, warm with affection. She liked his unassuming way, and she saw the spark of quiet fight that danced deep in his eyes.

Others may have missed it, but she caught it.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He woke up one day. He rolled over, face to the wall, and decided.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She woke up one day. She was still asleep, adrift over the waves, holding signal.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He had decided, so he watched. Today was the day. Everything in him was taut with knowing that, so he watched for the when of it.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She gathered her things: a stack of three thick texts, a sweater she draped across her arms. She clenched her keys, oblivious.

The parking lot was big and quiet. The fall day was perfect, mild, beautiful.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He saw her go out the side door. For the first time that nervous day, he hesitated.

The instincts he woke up with took over again; they propelled him forward.

“Hi,” he said to her as he caught up. She turned to him and squinted against the sun.

“Heyyy,” she said back.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

“Can I?”


She felt a strange skip in her middle when he stretched his arms out, “Can I take those from you?”

When they got to her car she unlocked it and turned to retrieve the stack from him.

“Wait,” he said.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

He sailed into it. He’d not rehearsed, because he was somehow wise enough to know that, in the moment, no amount of practice would matter.

He told her how he loved her, how he’d always loved her, how his guts fell apart at the sight of her.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She listened, feet fixed to the pavement, car keys dangling in the door lock.

The look on his face: Far before he finished, the look on his face made her decide to sidestep her promise.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Before he even knew they were coming out of him, he pushed the words toward her, bunched-up but sure: “I would give anything in this world just to touch you one time.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The hum was overtaken by the racket of a thousand angels shouting. They urged her to dive.

|| August 15, 2014 || 12:07 am || Comments (0) ||

This week has been monumental. I hope that what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri won’t be scrubbed up and put in a suit and made presentable for company. When future generations look back on the records of this, I want those records to be heartbreakingly accurate. I hope they are the solid, unbleached truth.

Everything I’m feeling is just too big to wrap up tidily in words. I can’t do it. Here are some links to some pieces that I found powerful and important, though:

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police, Mia McKenzie
“If we were to talk about a victim’s past, we would have to talk about it in a context of oppression. But, you know what? We don’t need to talk about it at all. Because it is irrelevant to issue of their victimization.”

America Is Not For Black People, Greg Howard
“But laying all this out, explaining all the ways in which he didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street, is in itself disgraceful. Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.”

In which I have a few things to tell you about #Ferguson, Sarah Bessey
“Can we make space for the lament and for the grief, for the anger and the fear?”

Affected, Karen Walrond
“I’m tired of every time my little girl doesn’t try her best at school, my yelling at her invariably includes a lecture that people are looking for her to fail because she’s black and she’s a girl, and she’s way too effing brilliant of a kid to let people write her off due to her blackness and her girlness.”

Military veterans see deeply flawed response in Ferguson, Thomas Gibbons-Neff
“I would hate to call the Ferguson response a military one. Because it isn’t, it’s an aberration.”

I hope you’ll set aside the time read them. I also (continue to) hope that we’ll craft a decent future for the the next couple-three generations to abide in; that we are sowing sense enough into them that they won’t allow our generation’s shortfalls and failings to become their norm down the line.

I have this habit of calling after my people when we part ways: “Be carefree!” Being careful doesn’t get you as much good living as being carefree does, right?

It hasn’t felt right to say ‘be carefree’ this week, though, so I’ve changed it a little bit. What I’ve wished over my family and friends is what I wish over you, as well: Be well. Every last one of you just be the wellest you can manage, okay?

(If you’ve seen good writing about the events in Ferguson, feel free to link it up in the comments, point the rest of us to it.)

|| June 21, 2012 || 6:29 pm || Comments (16) ||

You sit down to write, an average day. You are drinking your customary thirty-two ounces of First Thing In The Morning water. (“Have you ever seen how quickly it perks a drooping plant? Think, then, on what it must do for the the more complex human body!”)

It’s just like it is supposed to be until it isn’t. That happens around one o’clock.

You fight until three, struggling to do in thirty minutes what you usually can in ten.

Your ridiculous sleep patterns maybe are harder on your brain now than when you were seven or seventeen or twenty-seven. You think a nap will help.

It doesn’t.

Your husband comes home from the road. He sees you and knows it is not physical. After you trade facts and observations about your days apart he says, gently, “I’ll cook dinner tonight so you can finish working.” You are grateful for a spouse who knows you are fighting, fighting and doesn’t make you fight him, too.

“Maybe this is me moving toward menopause?” you say, facing the wall, fingers tracing the branches of iron. (We can sleep in a tree bed every night! A tree bed! Imagine! you said excitedly to your husband upon finding it) “Maybe I’m not mentally ill.” You can’t look at anyone while you are saying it, not even him.

“It probably is.”
“It’s time to take some meds, I guess.”
“How long has it been?”
“Iunno? Four months. Thereabouts.”
“Well, get them in you, so they can start grabbing hold. Man, I love you.” Squeeze. Warmth. Safe places have elbows that jut outward for your protection.
“I know. I love you, too.”

He leaves. You dry swallow ten milligrams of Maybe.

You blurt, “I am written on the pages that nobody wants to see.” This is not some slog of self-pity and woe-is-me. It is what your brain is sending into every part of your being. Despite someone just looking into your face three minutes prior and saying I love you with emphasis, your brain tells you that you are written on the pages that nobody wants to see.

Today, today, even though you don’t mean to,  you are believing it.

It comes on so fast, and I am beaten before the gun even goes off; there is no readied startle, no uncoiling, no explosive start.

I am having coffee. Coffee is not my focus, not ever. It is always an aside to whatever else I’m doing, gentle punctuation on a task, a sitting with someone, a get-up-and-let’s-go. Sometimes I drink it not because I want it, but because it makes me feel secure and capable and adult. Professionals drink coffee, don’t they? People who know what the fuck they are doing drink coffee.

I am having coffee and the sun is streaming in the windows. I was so proud to have these windows when they were first given to me, to have the ample natural light and the gaze of nature on my bent head as I sanded and hammered and painted and set my mouth just so as I was coaxing something into existence from a pile of throwaway things. I have a broad expanse of white workspace secured to the wall below the windows and I can look up as I bite my lip, as I focus and hum something old and familiar that pulls at me deeply, to see the tops of the trees I am floating amongst. I can survey the kingdom all the way to the street. It is a terrific view. I’m still proud of these windows.

I am having coffee and the sun is streaming in the windows and my work table is piled over with things crying out to be other things. Perched on the edge of my chair, I’m securing one something to another something, pausing to look with a stranger’s eyes, pushing, adjusting, clamping the things together because they’ll live this way from now on. (Although. Sometimes it occurs to me, you know? It occurs to me that one day this thing might be just another throwaway thing and then maybe the things I put together will fly apart and parts will be discarded while other parts give rise to something else.) I tilt my head, set the new thing down. It’s a process and I can only do so many things at once: There are constraints to alchemy. I begin something else and my chest explodes.

I am having coffee. The sun is streaming in the windows. The work table is ample with materials. They want to be other things, things other than what they are. My chest explodes. Who the fuck am I and how is it that I have a right to be here? It would be better without me, it would be easier to be gone, I am blindsided with worthlessness and anxiousness and why did this start, when did this start, I used to have the answers, oh no.

Oh no, oh no.

What then, when your whole life is scripted as apology? I’m sorry I’m here. I’m sorry I did it wrong. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I’m tired of misunderstanding. How is it that I am so often misunderstood when I put everything I have into being absolutely plainspoken? How do I stop being hostage to the hearts of others? My own heart is far afield. It’s rebellious as fuck and will not come to me when I call it back. My chest has exploded and my heart is running away from me and I curse the day that I ever thought that to let it be seen was a wise thing.

It comes on so fast. I am crumpled at the gate. It opens. It opens and I am never ready.

|| October 11, 2011 || 12:06 am || Comments (18) ||

Orange wasn’t always my favorite color; I think at one time blue was. Most of my adult life, though, the distinction of favorite has been assigned to orange.

One time a mess of us were out drinking and I found myself alone at the table with The Prime Minister. “So,” he said to me, “if you were a crayon, what color would you be?”


“Why orange?”

“Because orange is vibrant and beautiful and draws the eye. It’s unique, but think about it: You can pair any color with it and the combination doesn’t look bad. It can stand alongside anything and work with it. It can stand alone and be even more striking.”

The Prime Minister looked alarmed. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, Jett.”

His reaction surprised me. What was so sad about it? I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it. I’ve never asked him to explain and I don’t know why –me with my annoyingly incessant questioning of every last thing– I haven’t needed that explanation.

Today Mathias said to me, “Hey mom….I’d like to show you a video that I found touching.” I’m so astounded by the person he is. He’s twelve and he is near-about six feet tall and he has this newly-minted manvoice in which he uses words like ‘touching’ to describe emotional states and not what he’d like to be doing to girls. It’s wholly incredible.

Well of course I found it touching, too.

I’m orange, through and through. I’m not going to be grey for anyone, and fuck any silly people that think I could even possibly do such a thing. Not only am I not going to be grey so that someone else won’t be freaked out, I plan on infusing the world with as much vibrancy as I can possibly muster.

I’m unafraid. You be unafraid, too. Go on and be pink or vermilion or blue or green. Not only that: Draw the color up and out in everything and everyone you possibly can. Life is very, very short, despite our longest and hardest days that seem to be unending.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My friend Keith wandered; I understood this, I am a wanderer too. He thought big thinks and he poured them out to me in letter after letter and then e-mail after e-mail. For each of all my unending questions, he had twenty. He was mild and brilliantly dry-humored and regal and kind. He was the guy who brought peace with him into a room, but he was not ever at peace himself. He was okay with this, in his way.

Keith was closeted the whole of his life, and now he is gone, and we –his friends– speak freely of his secrets because in the big scheme of things his orientation and even his illness didn’t matter. I just wish he had known that, had felt it in his middle and rested easy in the love that so many people carried for him, rather than worrying about currying scorn for who he caressed or kissed or bedded. He lived with our friend Stephen for a while, and Stephen tells me of how Keith would scramble, would put a dozen feet between him and anyone in the room if he chanced to get a cut, a scrape; he never let a drop of blood hit the ground.

He built easels that were every bit as artistic as the paintings he created atop them. He started doing this out of necessity: Who the fuck can wag a seven-foot easel from one coast to the other on their back? Eventually he settled back in Memphis into a nice little –if slightly ramshackle– midtown Victorian. These are some of my best memories of us, the ones in that house. One easel he built out of good cherry and I was blown away at the craftsmanship of it, all hand-rubbed and gleaming. He wanted me to take it, I refused. It was too grand. It was too perfect. He was a narrow-assed, mostly-broke artist. He needed the coin it would bring.

Of course I wish I had taken it. He was right; he could have built another. And another and another and another until the virus took over, shifting to syndrome, turning mean and taking his motor control, his lucid thought.

I just wish that I’d known that the last beer we were having together was the last beer were were having together. I would’ve made it last longer. I would’ve ordered us another round. I would have played one more game of Galaga with him in Young Avenue Deli. I would have leaned my head against that broad, bony shoulder one more again and told him another on-the-spot story. He turned my stories into paintings sometimes. Rich ladies in Memphis have my stories hanging on their walls and I miss my friend because forty is not at all an appropriate age for a man’s dying.

BKP, 1971-2011

|| July 28, 2010 || 4:33 pm || Comments (9) ||

Scout called me from Chicago last night. She was there on a layover, headed to Detroit for her grandfather’s funeral. I was wandering around Birmingham with Mathias after having dropped her at the airport earlier in the day. Our shopping errands were long done.

“I miss Sam. Do you miss Sam?”

I asked her this question because I am afraid to ask Mathias. I don’t want him to fall apart, not yet. To further that end, I have been doing my own falling-apart quietly, quickly; yesterday this was done in bathrooms around the city. The one at Target was a little more epic than the others, but not by much. That particular come-apart was exacerbated by the fact that I was buying school supplies for Scouty and Mathias but none for Samuel. Then I hitched up my yoga pants, plastered on a smile  and said something along the lines of Holy God, mommy needs coffee…who wants to handle the Starbucks run? when I plowed out of the restroom.

Mother. He’s only been been gone nine hours and forty minutes.”

“You DO miss him, YOU DO! Not even I’m counting the hours!”

“Give me a break, Momma.”

“But do you miss him?”

“Not yet. Probably because I’m not there. It’ll be kind of hard when I get back. We shared the whole second floor, away from the rest of you guys.”

“I miss him.”

“Yeah. But you know what? The first forty-eight hours are the hardest. It’s going to be better.”

The house sat empty, because Maxim was working late and Scout was out of town. I kept Mathias in the city long past when it could have been considered practical. I wanted for there to be life at home, some sort of human racket, so the place wouldn’t feel so hollow when I got back. I wanted to be exhausted, in order to prevent any impulse  to rattle around and run into reminders of Sam at every turn, to see his shirts hanging in the laundry room, to find the stack of borrowed ceedees he’d placed on the table by the door.

A few hours ago I went up to his room to get empty hangers for the laundry and to put some of his clean things away. It was a bit of, ahem, a pit. “This is good,” I told Maxim, “I can choose to be annoyed with him rather than miss him. He kind of did me a favor, the little prick.”

One hour ago, Sam’s friend Jay came to get his car. Samuel is gifting him with it because Jay has it kind of rough and doesn’t have a car of his own. Sam is sometimes infuriatingly arrogant, but mostly he is good and generous and loving.

Ten minutes ago I got this text:

The drill instructor is taking my phone now. I love you, Mother. You’ll have my address soon.

I don’t know how to do this. How am I going to do this??

|| July 27, 2010 || 12:29 am || Comments (12) ||

(alternately, I’m struggling to find a way to show you these things without eliciting your pity.)



This is how it was when he was so little that he didn’t have all of his words: His head cocked slightly, his eyebrows raised, everything about him careful expectation. How is it that you are so small and your desire to please me is so great? How is this even a possible thing?

filching his grandmother's coffee, 18 months

:: filching his memom’s coffee ::

He wanted to hear me praise him, to be effusive about whatever token of effort he had just shown me. “Good job, Samuel! You are a very good boy.” Job. Boy. Strung between both of those words was Sam’s hope to hear them prefaced with positivity. So before he could even articulate it to me, this child wanted me to be proud of him and his accomplishments.

This has never ceased, even over the last twelve weeks, when we have repeatedly slammed headfirst into one another’s emotions, sometimes while snarling. It is a scenario we are both unaccustomed to, and one that has left us each bewildered and wounded. We clashed, we tiptoed, we tried to reach understanding, we had five minutes of peace, we clashed. We are each covering new territory here, and it is a uniquely exhausting undertaking.

(How terrible, Samuel, to lose our innocence, to cut our teeth on one another in this fashion.)

With each day that we are closer to his leaving, I sink further into myself, wrapping  tighter around this white-hot kernel of  pain that has insinuated itself into my damn-fool chest. I have totally chumped myself, because I’ve been convinced for years that I will be fine with the moment of departure. This is because for the better part of those years I had a lock on things: I imagined him scuffing out the door with his guitar in hand, ready for people to hear his voice. I never saw his need to march coming.


:: s’alrighhhht ::

I hold to a faith that tells me not to fear. I am afraid, even so.

I know where Samuel will be, what he will be doing for at least the next six months. Still, I am afraid. I can’t push the fear aside for five-and-a-half months, like I know I ought to. I am afraid NOW and it is a Really Big Deal NOW and I cannot possibly throw enough words at this thing to articulate the imposing NOWING NOWNESS of it, the urgency with which it beckons me to buckle, to panic, to scream all my crazy out at God, at you, at everyone who dares not be as afraid and unsure as I am about this one big-tiny thing.

Because it is tiny, see. I’m just one more mother whose son is donning boots and slinging a rifle over his shoulder. There’s nothing so special or unique about that. I am just one more mother who wants this to be done,  who wants to be on the other side of this. I want to fast-forward to the part where I meet him at some airport or on some parade field somewhere, waiting to wrap my arms around him and whisper one more again, “Boy. Job.”

Oh Sam, how I will grieve the loss of  the daily I Love Yous that we have always been so careful to gift one another with.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It’s never been unusual for music to break out in our home, whether at gatherings or just quiet moments between a couple of us. When the children were small and we had absolutely no money (nor did our friends), a bunch of us would get together on the porch of our old farmhouse, drinking my daddy’s plum wine, banging on guitars and wailing. We had a bucket of instruments for the children –fish-shaped maracas and blue bongos and One Shots and tambourines and a beautifully-pitched little glockenspiel– to dig into, and there we were: The hippie, his punk wife and three golden-haired monkeys, surrounded by slow-talking, deft-fingered mountain folk, swapping licks and stories and inside jokes.

You know those things that you impart to your kids without a conscious plan? The completely positive ones? Yeah, for me that is this:

Huge thanks to our friend Rod for whipping out his phone just as Samuel gathered steam on this one; it was our last friends-and-family gathering before Sam ships out. Over the years I’ve usually been busy singing with him, and have foolishly neglected the act of nailing down his magic with a camera. This was probably a  dereliction of parental duty –and I’m a titch sad about it–  but I am unrepentant.

I’ve gotten to fling a lot of notes into the world with my firstborn and every last one of them was precious.