Monday, August 31, 2015

Looking inward vs. Looking outward:

Lately, I have been frustrated by my inability (or lack of desire?) to turn my gaze outward, and write down what I see. So much of my inner focus involves looking at my surroundings, the rooftop gaze that includes both the entirety of midtown Manhattan, ringed by the Farragut and Walt Whitman Projects in my backyard. The woman who takes cans out of my recycling bin offering me a warm smile and a "good morning". My dog's first successful foray into an off-leash park.

But when time comes to write down what I see, I turn inward., to personal disappointments. How much I miss my father, or how hard it is to go to a dress fitting without Emily in tow.

II want to write about what I saw in Guatemala--the ugly and beautiful--and how the current political proceedings are both a wonderful sign of progress and a damning symbol of how the political system is failing the Guatemalan people.

I am still trying to write something cohesive about my year spent working in a Charter School--what worked and what did not. What was situational, and what appears to be endemic in a system that siphons money from local school systems and gives them to private companies and individuals.

Fall always feels like an opportunity to jump into something new. Despite the bitter memories associated with November, Fall never fails to invite us to start over. That crisp fall air has a lot to do with the smell of trees dying, but somehow that smell feels new, a sign of good changes to come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another dream about a Bush

streaming everywhere,
it had particular preferences &
personal affinities, altogether unattached
from the rest of us.

Got into the pumpkin soup and
tapped a good-looking girl on the shoulder while
tickling a gentleman's ear--
not my idea of a good night, but
overshadowed an otherwise
 dull dinner party.

It had hidden
childlike with sequined hot pants
but someone shouted stolen
and without further investigation,
demanded their return.

So let it
envelope the room.
tendrils clinging like wispy
arms, thin and appealing
yet coarse, memorable, unmistakeable.

The bush is not afraid of her.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Brendan Irving, who should be 25 today.

"I will miss you more on some days than others, but I could never love you any less"
--Brendan Irving, aged 17, writes to Olivia Lloyd, aged 16, while she is away at summer camp.  

It is still difficult to look through pictures from what is now my childhood--you are a prominent fixture in them, oscillating from brown curls to a mane of black-and-white hair, depending on the month and year. It is so odd, finding a photograph of you that I haven't seen before, your jawline well-defined. A trait that I found handsome, even as a girl. Although my life is not really so different now as it was when we were together, I sometimes think that we lived a different life in a separate universe. If only I could pull the curtain between those two worlds, I might see you  again. Lying in the grass of some public park, driving too fast on back roads, and covering the car floor with doughnut crumbs and coffee stains.

I am 24, an age that sounds distinctly adult, and you would be 25. But in my memory, you barely reach 19. Is it so strange, to hold a lingering affection for someone so young?

It took me a very long time to be happy again after you left, and sometimes feeling so happy and in love now feels like a betrayal to the rarity that was us. How often does one find real love before 30? How did I find it twice, and in the same town?  Do I just love too easily?

Perhaps the last is true, and definitively your fault. You taught me that love is really the only remedy for this nameless panic and dread that not-so-occasionally erupts in my chest.

The anger is finally gone, five-point-five years later, and the panic at losing our love has eased. But I will never shake the feeling that you were my big failure. I couldn't have possibly--but there is a lingering nag that I should have found a way to keep you alive. I cannot shake the feeling that this was on my great cosmic "to-do" list--and I missed it.

This feeling does not permeate every waking hour,
but hits me in moments, like when I see a photograph of you that had gone unnoticed before.. It is almost like discovering a new memory, as I try to decipher your mental state, your facial expression, what you are trying to tell the camera.

I am reminded that eventually, this re-discovery of living moments will end. profound failure settles in for a prolonged stay. But as the years pass, the moment becomes rarer, and today--your birthday--is the first time in a very long time that I have felt the sting of defeat at your preemptive departure.

"who the hell can see forever?"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

tectonic plates over Baltimore // riots under Nepal

(A multitude of voices) 

The earth is shaking
Can you feel it?

an aftershock lasting for years
like grief, without promise of abatement
hair on the back of the neck to stand vigil
unable to discern the bullhorn from the bullet.


                                                                     throes of

earthquake sensation                     earthquake rhythm
                                                                                              earthquake movement
                        earthquake minute
earthquake music                                                earthquake second                      earthquake innards
                                             earthquake lovers
                                                                                       earthquake bodies
earthquake houses                                 earthquake tempers                                      earthquake mother
                             earthquake sinners
earthquake cities                 earthquake heat                                  earthquake moans    earthquake outer

                                                  e a r t h q u a k e f le e    i         n           g
to the edge of the world.

which world?emerging?decaying?recessing?static?moving?imagined?concrete?concrete?concrete?
can you repeat?can you repeat? can you repeat? can you repeat? can you repeat? can you repeat?
                                                               can you repent? repent?

after so much compression
and heat--                             nearly unbearable--
over time                              immeasurable--
struggling--                           to--'

be--                                         seen---

until finally, it erupts.

(settles in the dust)

We are revolve, re-evolve, revolving
Mother Earth says:
Chaos can only rule for so long,
but for me
a thousand years--





Monday, April 27, 2015

on Fatherhood

Today, I had lunch with the 4th graders. Lately, I've been half-present during lunch duty, anxiously refreshing the e-mail app on my smartphone, and praying that someone is interested in hiring me for a different job. However, I am often disappointed. No answers, or not the answer I was hoping for.

But today I sat with the kids and talked. We talked about our favorite songs, and what the week had in store for us. One student assured me that the summer break would come faster than we might expect "like---that!"
The subject of Mother's Day came up. A boy noted that he was surprised to hear that his first word had been "da-da" instead of "mama".

My heart ached a little, but I was enjoying the various contributions. I wasn't about to share such sadness with nine year olds.

He went on to say that his dad had left the family when he was very young. This sentiment was echoed by a chorus of his peers

yeah, me too
me as well
yep, that just happened to me.

All casual, in the way that 4th graders so often echo this kind of truth. The words rain down like pebbles, hard in spite of their carelessness.

I think of my father, as I often do, and his aching absence. His constant, steady presence--followed by a sudden, permanent absence. The grateful stinging of his love throughout my childhood, and how in his last days, he expressed gratitude for his community of family and friends.

Do any of these men have a community, now that they have left their sons and daughters?
One boy murmurs that his dad's got a new family now. I wonder what it must be like, to be on the outside looking in.  To only invite half of your pride to the dinner table, and know that the other is eating elsewhere, perhaps missing you, or trying his best to forget you.

 I ache for them, for my father, for those fathers without the bravery or wisdom to claim their titles.

 Thinking of my niece and nephew now, I realize that this phenomena is all too common; not at all a rarity. Sometimes, I forget about their lack of a father. Partially because my sister takes up both roles so well. Partially because--until recently--my father filled  the remainder of those shoes.  His calm spirit amongst rowdy women made him a favorite among babies. My father's patience led to countless games of "Pretty Pretty Princess". After he fastened clip-on earrings into his beard, I would place a crown upon his head as he exclaimed, "I'm a Pretty Pretty Princess!" with only a hint of irony.

I do not think that fathers are superflous, nor are they a necessity. But when they become yours "my father", rather than "a father", they are indispensable, irreplaceable.

Claim it or do not. There is no middle ground.

The conversation switches back to summertime, like a sinking boat with the leaks plugged slowly righting itself. The leaks plugged, the fear forgotten. Children are resilient, but not impervious. They mend, but they break.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Spring is here, although it often feels like it is playing a trick on us--
peeking out, only to slink away again, hiding through another cold and windy day.

Condensation on my skin feels like a whispered memory, rather than present tense
Perhaps I thought that winter would last forever.

Changing colors usher us into the Now, 
and I am chanting my mantra internally, waiting for good news. 
Not because I deserve it. Because it might come to pass. 

Changing lenses, I realize that I am not set up for failure,
 so much as I set myself up for endless possibility. 

One day, chance and good energy and opportunity will align,

For now, I sip my water and try not to sink.
It is Spring. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

on the prolonged and overlapping manner of grief.

There was a time that grief, confusion, distraction--motivated a kind of creative flow within me.
I can remember moments in which I had pure, rabid focus, determined to forget my present circumstances, and delve into a world that I could predict, control.

To craft a sentence that states more than one thing.
To sing a song, which speaks to more than one person.
To make a play that says mouthfuls upon mouthfuls. Words that tell a story, a story that holds meaning.

Today, I stare at half-finished projects, listless resume spaces--unfinished and clumsy songs.
some internal strings have been cut, the hardware is outdated, dusty, ill-fitting.

It is as though
I am standing with my nose nearly touching a painting, unable to see the full picture in front of me. And if I step away, my nearsightedness is so demanding that the whole thing jumbles into  patternlessness, it is meaningless.

How do I tell you that it feels as though the whole world is slapping my cheeks and telling me to wake up, get up, starting moving, keep moving, be strong..
And yet.
My first love. My best friend. My father. Gone in less than five years.

Yesterday, I saw a girl that looked like you. Same hair, same clothes, and with a similar manner of speaking.

I thought I was hallucinating, and momentarily wondered if  I have finally cracked,  tipping the scales of grief and tumbling into a sort of madness.

"excuse me, but you look like someone I used to know"

I discreetly take pictures, seeking confirmation of this fact from far away informants. I am relieved to find some level of commiseration. Deciding that this is not, in fact, a hallucination, makes conversation easier.

"you--actually, you look like someone I know as well",
she says.

It is a bricolage of memory-- pieces taken from different inhalations in time.

 The now and then smash together for a quick kiss before parting.

In an instant, I am reminded of the time he switched his black hair to white, and the white to black, only to be disappointed that it took me weeks to notice the difference.

we smile at one another, and I think about my past life for a moment longer, before I am flung back into the now. My nose trained, once again, to a dot on the painting.


This too, will not pass.
He too, will never disappear from our lives.

We will carry them on our backs, stacked three high, and our muscles must become stronger. Our throats must learn not to close from sadness. our skin must toughen--it cannot turn to hives any longer. After enough time,there are no more allergic reactions to absence.

But it is an indiscriminate, an unpredictable time.

I do my job, but not much else. I come home. Depress guitar strings, but my father is at finger's reach, and I am quickly fatigued from the stretching.

Well-worn songs promote blindness. Certain stretches of highway may cause spontaneous combustion. Photographs are suspect. Ambition is arsenic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On Student Loans.

Let's take a moment to talk about Student Loans.

Let's talk about how everyone told us they were "no big deal", essentially "good debt" .
because they went toward expanding our opportunities in adult life.

Let's talk about how they tricked us. They duped us into believing that they could buy us stability, happiness, and the life we always dreamt.

Let's talk about how Student Loans can decide how much you can afford to pay, regardless of residential situation.

Let's talk about the moment you feel like you might be safe, able to save money, able to take a pay cut for a job you like--

--they rear their ugly heads in a stream of anxiety and panic, and quadruple in size.

Let's talk about Sisyphus and his boulder.

Let's talk about how we keep  aspirational, low-income Americans stuck in a cycle of debt and disappointment, while the upper-middle class shrugs its shoulders and continues to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

let's talk about why I hate unpaid internships.
Let's talk about how truly evil they are.
How they dangle opportunities in front of our faces, only to pull them away at the last moment.
There are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees.

Let's talk about how four years in Ann Arbor got me $30,000 in debt and a job as a glorified secretary at an elementary school.

Meanwhile, my friends ask why I stay in a job where I'm so miserable, where my zest for life went, where my passion and plans flew away to.

they're in my wallet. They're draining out of my wallet. They drain it all, along with 20% of my paycheck.

And you wonder why I'm so bitter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I don't know.

some rhymes that came to mind when I was sitting in pidgeon pose and suddenly started bawling at around 7PM last night: 

I hold my grief in my hips
and my lies on my lips
but if you give me a kiss
they'll come tumbling away.

I keep my strength in my thighs
and my tears in my eyes
but Still  no will to disguise
the strength of  my memory.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow days now, then, and before.

The blizzard of '15 sounds like a Victorian short story, hand-printed on some antique magazine, full of words that common folk couldn't pronounce, yet strangely fixated on the lives of those same commoners.

There are eight inches of snow on the ground. The blizzard, like the city, is not really much to write home about, after the hype dies down and we see it for what it is. But I am grateful for the odd quiet over Brooklyn. The only sound punctuating this blanketed silence is that of a man shoveling snow. He is doing this as the snow falls, scraping every thirty minutes, in Sisyphean repetition.

I resent him for the shoveling, the reminder that underneath my feet is not grass but concrete and asphalt. The soft snowy down underfoot helps me forget.

Snow days (most days) remind me of my father. For once, these memories make me smile rather than lay back down and sigh and try to get up once the feeling has subsided. He loved any excuse to eschew his hour long drive to Virginia, any excuse to get out the sleds and nearly concuss us all by group sledding into the woods by our house. A few times, the Appalachian Mountains  that stood guard over valley where we lived would let a little extra snow pass through, allowing for snow forts and full weeks without school. One of my earliest memories is  that of a blizzard of  a foot of snow or more. Dad had to pick me up and carry me to an igloo he built with my older sisters. When I walked, the snow buckled my knees and made  me fall. Everyone laughed, but I remember the snow burning my cheeks and nose and turning the inside of my mouth cold.

 Snow ice cream--maple syrup drizzled over the cleanest snow we could find--was always an appetizer for midday pancakes or oatmeal cookies. Long days spent reading books from start to finish, because we didn't really have a TV. Perhaps these memories make me smile because they feel as long ago as Laura Ingalls Wilder tales, a family homesteading in the great wilderness. In my childhood memories, it is always Fall in Shepherdstown , Winter at the Lloyd house, Spring in my grandparents' backyard, and Summer at Camp Frame. A constant cycle of moments that weave together a tale I did not realize was ending until it was long gone.

I can recall the first and last time my father and I paddled the Potomac in our canoe; The first snowfall in my mind has his grey-brown hat bobbing up and down the driveway just as it did this time last year, when I was home and lost and trying not to be afraid of adult life. I cannot remember the first time we played music together, but those songs weave through every memory, a soundtrack to our time together I am a child, I'll last a while, you can't conceive of the pleasure in my smile--you hold my hand, rough up my hair, it's lots of fun to have you there.

The memories, like smoke, are visible but neither tangible or traversable.
I can stare into the fire,  make them known on paper, or stuff them down into a drawer until one day, I finally clean it all out, and it ignites sparks of sadness and reminiscence all at once.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A note to my father, on the occasion of his Birthday.

trying to play my dad's song about the moon that he so meticulously taught me during our last meeting. The chords are simple but are tripping me up. The story I know. The melody I have inhaled and exhaled every day since that last day, when he bent his poor body over his Taylor for one last jam session, to make sure that I knew those words and chords. Someday I'll be ready to play it, because I think that was his intention, for it to continue to be played. He was, i think, passing it down in a sense. An honor I only slightly deserve by virtue of my acoustic preferences.

 Today I cannot get through it. Yesterday I could not finish. Tomorrow will likely be the same. But in that moment, not quite three months ago, he knew that a time would come when my tears would dry and my whole body would not shake at the thought of his absence, and I would be ready to remind everyone that Greg Lloyd wrote a song. A pretty damn good song.

And so I keep practicing, Dad. Because despite the fact that this feels like an endless pit into nothingness and more sadness and a life that is just empty, empty empty---you seemed to believe otherwise. Even in your last days--you seemed to know that we would all wake up one day with light hearts and eyes not so red and puffy from tears, and we might want to hear that song you used to play so often in our living room, sweat wicked away by old bandanas, yellow light twinkling off of your eyeglasses, dancing along to the rhythm. Somehow, you knew that it would one day bring me joy, instead of this keening sadness. Despite the wretched illness, despite the sorrow creeping into my throat even then, as I saw you so sick, and realized that it might be the last time-- those months not so long ago.

And so I'll keep playing. Just so I don't forget  when the time comes. For once, you were right.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When I'm Fat.

I want you to track all of my movements in the same way that you read my e-mails, my tweets, my LinkedIn account.

I want you to record it all.
"January 5th. Half Mile. Lost car somewhere on Flatbush. 45 calories."
"January 6th, 90 minutes Bikram yoga.  Misguided New Years' Resolution. 300 calories." 
"January 4th, 10 minutes, rigorous sexual activity, interrupted by dog barging in and pissing on the duvet. 76 calories." 

I want it on a public file somewhere, so when I am over 30  years old and 15 pounds overweight, people will see that I do a moderate amount of exercise. This includes (but is not limited to) the  occasional bike-to-work day.  On further inspection, they can see that I eat (and cook) fresh vegetables, although my one weakness is pizza.

This information will flash across the screens of passing strangers'  Google Glasses (or whatever screen-stalking technology is currently en vogue), so that judgement can be reserved for the more lethargic fatty a few blocks over.

That way people will know that, despite being overweight, I am a functional human. There is substance beneath the rolls and cellulite.

I want "she's okay, considering everything",
to roll across the screen every time I turn a corner and run into a stranger while my thighs rub Indian burns onto one another, and my ass cheeks sweat Rorschach prints into my fruit-of-the-loom panties.

I will have a fully functional online body-profile. Not only will you see the stats, but while you are staring with disgust at my swollen ankle, there will be a recording of my voice, repeating:

I  eat grass fed beef, goddammit. I buy quinoa instead of pasta, despite possible economic consequences for Peruvian farming communities. My eggs are cooked in coconut oil.

It is time to let the world know, as they tap on their their illuminated screens, attempting to make me shame-famous on their twitter account: I have done my part in eliminating global unsightliness. My failings are less willpower, and more genetic. I have resolved to marry a skinny man. I am doing my part.
 For the most part,I try to be a happy, healthy member of society.

Otherwise, how would they know?

Friday, January 9, 2015

free form.

All I have is empty.

The space next to my bed, the places in my head that used to usher me onward and forward. The impetus to care. The persistence of self-worth. Despite the $2 gallons of gas, less expensive than the organic milk that we buy, I am

running on empty.

I have a new pack of strings. I can't unstring it. I think he played these strings, these strings have skin cells still clinging to their metal casings, so that every time I press them it is like we are holding hands.

But it isn't, really. I don't have the energy.

I am supposed to miss you, a series of yous but like the first CD I bought when I was eleven, the missing is worn down after being played over and over and over and...

yet i can still feel it. I know all of the words, the beats and tones and timbres of the feeling. I have sung along so many times that the ghost of the emotion is with me.

Sometimes, I wonder if the friends I thought I had but never call don't do so because I am such an unconscious downer. Then, I feel better that they do not call. They'll get their day. it will be horrible. And I won't help. Or I will. Maybe I'll still help. Maybe, if I can convince myself to get out of bed, stop rewatching the same television shows ad nauseum. Until I'm not really watching, nor doing anything else. I am doing, thinking, planning exactly nothing. I am nothing.

Is that the goal? I would prefer to hope not.

It could be the goal. Being nothing, empty. No sensation at all-- That would be a new sensation.

Needing a break but feeling as though there is just trouble, trouble trouble trouble. And very little net left, after so many falls.