Copenhagen

Not that I can remember that clearly,

as if it were important to me,

but I think that’s how I felt when we were grinding-

and him, almost-kissing-me.

I felt that spark in my gut of winning

more than my fair share-

of breaking some rule somebody had set out for me.

It was some sort of window to the Europe

I’d been promised-

encouraged-

by housewives who’ve been pining for it since.

I never took myself for a housewife.

I never signed their contracts, willingly

I thought as it was happening that I knew the best way

to always keep myself free.

I didn’t, it turns out, and neither did he.

Does that make him a sucker?

Maybe.

Some days I want to be a sucker too.

And some days I think I’m better.

That’s the danger-

while you’re getting away with something

you never know who might be busy

getting away from you.

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What does loving someone feel like?

What does loving someone feel like?

I asked myself this. Again and again. I was younger, not much younger, and I hadn’t yet felt what my heart was capable of. I have learned something since then. It was accidental learning; it was unlessoned learning, it seems like it is a knowledge which landed on me suddenly and from somewhere else.

I’m glad it did. I’m better for it. I never wanted to spend the rest of my life wrapped in the skills I had acquired hiding from pain and abuse. They came in handy as I sat cross-legged in the backyard with my brother listening to police sirens blare by our front door. I became skilled at receding, at ignoring, at crying without caring I was crying, at feeling merciless, a merciless daughter refusing to blame a father, refusing to hate a mother, refusing to feel for fear of feeling the wrong things. I was skilled at saving my pain up until the right moment, so I was never crippled, so I could always succeed, or appear to succeed. I was skilled at surviving. Watching my brother just barely survive. I could turn my love for my father off as if it were tied to a switch because doing so helped me turn off the self-doubt and the self-hatred which he insisted I keep. And I am skilled today, at rerouting my own emotions, as if my neural pathways are railway tracks. It is so simple for me to pull a lever and welcome anger instead of sadness. Apathy instead of heartbreak. I am still skilled at that. There is a process for it. I wonder if the process is unique to me, or how many others can understand it. It is like a wave; it starts in the back of my head, and then moves forward to where my forehead is. This stops the crying. The wave moves down my neck, easing the tightness, and into my chest, easing my lungs. This stops the feeling. The process only takes two to three seconds. And then I talk and my voice is normal and clear; and then I walk and my hands are not shaking; and then I can choose exactly when to reverse the process and pay the price for doing it.

I believe that during the worst of it all I went months at a time washed out like this. I thought it was funny how easy it was to exist in this state, and I congratulated myself on it. I thought my face looked funny in the mirror, a hard line at my lips and even, unblinking eyes.

I had a recurring desire to scream my lungs out. But I could never find the right place. If I screamed in the streets the lights in the houses would turn on and someone would call the police. If I screamed in a field a jogger would try to save me and stop me. If I screamed in my house, in my school, in a restaurant, I would never get away with it. Sometimes I tried- they were silent screams filled with air. My fists would ball and my mouth would widen until my jaw popped and wouldn’t un-pop, and the veins in my neck would bulge over the sound of a whisper. Other times I indulged in half-formed, nervous screams which could be muffled by my pillow. I didn’t want to be found out. I only allowed myself one or two good shrieks, grinded out between my teeth; toes curling. And there was the one time I guess I left my body. The screams left my mouth without my permission, without my command. My aunt was in the car with me. She must have been afraid. But I only felt regret, afterwards, that my consciousness had returned and stopped me from continuing.

But I’ll tell you something. I found victory, years after that. I used my body to carry me across a spit of land onto the point of an island; step after step along the caldera, until I reached a small white church on the top of a hill. And in front of this church was a ledge and I climbed that ledge. And there was no one around; no one around for a mile, and more perfectly there was a strong wind which battered my body and made me fear for my life on the ledge above the water. And I stood there- I stood my ground against that wind while the sun was setting and turning my vision orange, wind, hair covering my eyes, turning my vision black, and I finally did scream my lungs out.

I screamed and whooped and shrieked and was not afraid that someone would hear me. I heard me. And it was a sound I had been wanting to release for almost my whole life. No one could take it away from me. Only the wind; which did, it swept the sound far out over the sea seconds after it passed through my ears. And I thank the wind for letting me hear every decibel, and for being wise enough to know they shouldn’t be allowed to linger. Below me I could see a town called Oia, and I screamed and screamed and wanted them to be afraid, wanted them to believe there was a banshee in their hills by their church far above their houses, wanted someone to turn from their work to listen for a still second, wondering if they had heard something in the air. I wanted the cars winding by the coast on the other side of the point to hear me and know they could do nothing to reach me.

And I’ll tell you something else. I found victory, a year before that, over my heartlessness. I fell in love for the first time. And that love was a physical feeling too, but unlike a wave. Like a dust, a light, a shimmering cloud of spores or particles. It is a different process. It starts somewhere near my ribcage and proceeds to fill my whole chest like a vessel. And then it collects, until it forms its own vortex, as in a wind tunnel, which grips my heart and pulls it towards my lover. And that’s what loving someone feels like, physically feels like, which I regard when I look in the mirror, and see my rounded lips and kind eyes smiling back at me.

My old skills are vestiges of a life before love; and I use them without meaning to in the same way that people check their doorsteps for dead people. And I hate the wave and how easy it is to feel everything being washed away. It is so much easier to live with resentment than disappointment. But now every time I turn my feelings off I am more and more afraid I will get stuck that way, or perhaps, the worst fear of all, that this is my natural state and that love is the learned behavior. But I know which one I pored over and cultivated. I know which one I practiced over and over it again. It makes it harder to get rid of. But now I know what the alternative is- now I’ve finally felt it. Unlearning this will be difficult. But I’m in luck. Unfeeling my love can only ever be impossible. /

The sky just like all of us

There is magic, a current, a tree

I know it

Which people other than ourselves could feel

It pools here, gathers, fattened droplets

which they vainly tried to shape and steer.

But perhaps back then, the Sky allowed it

Took pity, or sensed kindred blood

Dripped moonlight on their dancing shoulders

wanted, simply, to be seen and loved.

Callanish Three

At the top of this stone is the sun

, the moon

, the sun

are in each other at the top,

and the sky

is black lichen clouds or

is that the hills of the moor?

They trickle down a slope in the stone,

and fall

like a waterfall, a river

or a lightning strike

which forks,

like every future does.

And in the near-middle of the river

is a canyon’s cleft, which opens

A mouth

A vagina

and now that I study it

everything seems

to be flowing from there.

Now boarding

I felt like such an adult as I

carefully removed two slices of bread,

two slices of cheese, two slices of ham,

from their respective Ikea ziplock baggies.

The honey-mustard made it, in a little deli packet,

but it was sustenance,

and I had made it,

and I had planned ahead.

Perhaps this was adulthood, I reasoned,

although no one has come up with a definition yet:

getting on trains

watching the countryside

eating your own sandwich

purchasing ziplock bags.

The 18:15 to Valencia Nord

In Valencia I witnessed:

A marathon

Human towers

A formation of dancing girls in the park.

Sword fighting enthusiasts with axes and scythes

A gathering of restauranteurs dressed like priests.

A caravan filming a car commercial

A Valencian beauty queen in traditional garb.

A man on the train with a pink mustache, and a weird smile.

A cat stuck in a window box trying to get out.

Spanish flags

Two gargoyles

A paella the size of a tire

Many fountains,

a Chinese New Year,

and James Cameron’s top grossing film,

Avatar.

The woman who never returned

The T has a way to make you tired.

A rolling motion; like a lullaby which rattles

The T fills your brain with centrifugal forces.

The voice which speaks to you without human words-

the stops which pass by so quickly.

It’s easy to miss where you’re going; and why

One rarely looks out the windows.

The scratches, shrapnel, marks on the walls,

The stained and strained old seat covers.

In a way,

they remind me of my first ever classroom

And the rug where our teacher told stories.

There’s an X written in mud under

The seat that’s across from me,

like a murderer’s signature in blood.

The tunnels consume you like frostbite or coma

You start slipping as soon as your eyes shut.