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Sometimes I wake up and clasp my hands over my eyes. Oh Lord, I will yell up through the blue light and into the empty attic. In my dreams, you were sleeping next to me, still my confidant.
Morning enters: slim, cool, ethereally stunning as only she can be this early on a cold winter day. Her twin sister, Memory, is close behind: razor-thin, peremptory, laser-focused.
I check my phone – it’s 5 O’Clock. They’ve been waiting outside my door for this very moment. Memory has prepared an Excel spreadsheet in response to my cries, hands me a printout. “The facts distinctly show he is neither here, nor your confidant.”
Doubt yells, muffled from the closet “Maybe he never was!” She’s attempting to choose my outfit, but for reasons innate to the core of her being, struggles with a final decision.
Morning looks pale. Memory eyes me sideways.
I groan. Some atoms of my soul, imbedded grains of my character, and tough bits of gristle in my sinews want to know where the hell you are.
Memory points to the tab of her spreadsheet that says ‘He Left You’ and seems prepared to expound at length.
I interrupt: Yeah, I remember. I gotta get out of bed. I had lots of crazy dreams and need to write this shit down before it’s lost forever. Is Creativity here, yet?
Memory is annoyed, Morning sighs. Neither collaborates well with Creativity. She’s a crazy-ass liability to the overall order of things. Stays up too late reading Fante and poetry. Has fantastic nightmares that she writes down in sardonically labeled Moleskines. Doesn’t fit into any existing narrative, circadian rhythms, or cyclical passing of seasons. She keeps fucking up facts of existing events, just for fun. And she is never, ever on time.
I scribble the framework of my thoughts into the notebook she leaves next to my bed, before the concept evaporates.
The Twins convince me to get up, make tea. Doubt emerges from my closet, hands me a giant fleece robe, and shrugs. “Put this on. We’re not going anywhere. It’s probably for the best.”
I groggily descend the stairs. The three women follow and sit at my great-grandmother’s antique maple table, politely waiting for Earl Grey.
I am proud of my home, and though I live here alone, still feel like a domestic goddess of comfort and peace. Filling up the tea kettle, I notice the fine turn of my slender wrist. I ponder the anatomical name for the beautiful protrusion of these bones.
Before I can ask Hey, what are these things even called? I see Creativity climb through the dining room window, wearing my leopard print coat, logger boots, and favorite 60s shift dress. She watches my form, my steady ulna and delicate radius balance the heavy tea kettle. She smiles. She has intuited my innermost thoughts.
“You know what! Fuck him!” Creativity screams.
Morning, Memory, and Doubt are startled in unison and their knees hit the handcrafted scrollwork of the old table. They didn’t see her enter through the window, although she always keeps one unlocked so she can come and go as she pleases. “He never appreciated your goddamn bones!” She is overalert from sleeplessness, I can tell from the sleet-and-salt-covered boots she’s been wandering the city all night chasing down wild words.
“You don’t need a man,” the Twins chirp in calm, supportive unison, trying to reign in Creativity’s fury. She calms a little and begins speaking low and frantically, “Write odes to yourself, love songs, write your own elegy of all the shit you accomplished and repeat ‘I don’t need a man’!” Morning and Memory repeat wholeheartedly “You definitely do NOT need a man.”
“Yes, true, but it doesn’t preclude her desire for one.” Doubt has to be the devil’s advocate. Nobody holds it against her. I like her, despite her constantly forcing reality into this fake poetic haven I’ve created for myself.
Creativity runs upstairs to grab our dream notebook. “We’ve got shit to do!”
I smile, touch my wrists. Each hand a slender dove, folded over the other. I pick up the plaid coffee cup and gracefully sip my tea. The next man who loves me will know to love my very bones.
Morning, Memory, and Doubt each finish their tea and fade from the table. Morning flits away until tomorrow. I like to think she’s got a fancy apartment uptown in one of those Art Deco skyscrapers, lounging in beaded dresses on furniture from that period. Memory and Doubt head up to the attic to perform tedious statistical data calculations that both quantify and question my existence. Sometimes I bring them sandwiches and milk.
Creativity and I stay at the table all afternoon, hunching over my old notebook, furiously scribbling, whispering, cackling.
What weird words!
Praising and lamenting my goddamn bones.
what peace i have
i carve for myself
in my heart
bit by bit
what peace i give
i cede to the world
from my lips
all i know
what peace i leave
grows free in my soul
and for that
i am whole
to the low
fast track home
away from the cold
in deep winter’s sleep
a smiling, silent woodnymph
alights on my stoop
his cordovan boots
are two thai chili-peppers
– graceful, slender tipped
we speak through our thoughts
silver threads twined in gnarled trees
twisted by the moon
he asks, so i dance
intuiting each fresh step
of bright, snowflaked dreams
the raccoons raid the trash
i clean up their mess, my mess
cold rain gathers on the horizon
rivulets of decay pool at my feet
soaking the ohio soil
the bones of my old homes
the hurt of our past seasons
in the interstices of time
our lives pause and twine
two primates clasped
in the thick hours
i close my eyes
picturing saber-toothed tigers
stalking towards the parked car
kiss me hard
take me all the way back
to the pliocene
the bass player
runs his hand
through sweat-soaked bangs
his pinky bleeds
down the seam
he holds the cut
to his pursed lips
quick, gentle pressure
the blood never stops
the jumping crowd
moves the floor
this is a protest song
it’s crushing me
nothing is on you
it hurts, i can’t breathe
the blanket? i moved it. how do you feel?
i just want to sleep
dad wraps me
fast in a quilt
into the alley
buckles me into
the jeep wrangler
and we speed
he carries me into the ER
and maintains a hostile air
of businesslike irritation
until i am in a room
until they give me oxygen
until my brain can think
hear, see, smell, taste
i can tell by the way
he sits next to my bed
his huge shoulders sloped
head lowered, eyes on the door
he is tired, impatient, scared
every time i wake up
they are drawing blood
my fingers ache
from the lack of it
maybe i need it more than they do
nurses give me icecream
in little foam cups
with wooden spoons
i am myself again
dad stands up
holds my hand
we can leave when you are ready
are you OK to walk?
he would carry me to the ends of the earth if asked
i didnt know then of time and weight and distance
that this was the last morning
he could carry me to safety
yes. i can walk, now.
The Italian restaurant owner argues with the waitress about how there could not possibly be a leak in the ceiling, and that the water pooling in the hallway must be from something else.
I sit at a small table facing the back door, facing you.
We order dinner and contemplate a map of Italy.
The owner stares out of the white iron-scrolled door into the alley.
I am saying inane things to you to drown out the argument.
I can’t find the coordinates for Florence, but we should go there. And See Rome.
An ambulance arrives at the duplex across the alley.
They sell large cannoli and small cannoli, here.
The paramedics in this neighborhood wear bulletproof vests. I see them hauling a sheet-covered-stretcher down the stairs of an old duplex, partially obscured by the form of the Italian.
He turns from the screen door and puts on upbeat music.
The waitress glares at him from the corner.
You see the fear in my face.
You ask what’s wrong.
I cannot stand the incongruities.
The alley. Our little stores of potential future pleasures, our play-acted tragedies, all of life amounts to Not A-God-Damned-Thing.
I think somebody died.
You search my face while I pretend to locate Florence on the map. Despite my stalling tactic, I do not come up with anything more intelligent to say.
Life is terrifying. Death is fucked.
Short-lived carnal appetites drive humanity forward.
The gnocchi is divine. We order the large cannoli.