Pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page. India ink replaces deoxygenated blood. My heart starves for the passion the stars contain. My heart is empty except for the galaxies that glimmer inside of aortas and dwell in ventricles.
I have spent lifetimes hiding behind the gauzy veil of metaphors and similes. I still manage to somehow sever through memories, fantasy, and autobiography. When you are handed a time bomb, you don’t have time to pause and rehearse the perfect line.
My thoughts are not always beautiful, but like my penmanship, they showcase the chaos and tumult within. I have been compared to a tornado before, but I always try to clean up the messes I leave behind. I would much rather be a natural disaster than an unyielding and unforgiving ghost.
I have told stories for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I babbled to my mother about memories of previous lives. I told her about East Hollywood like it was a place I had been when all I had known was the gateway to the west.
I will keep imagining until the disease that stripped my grandmother of her memories and left her vulnerable steals my words and empties them of all meaning like the thief who robs a safe or picks a pocket. I sometimes worry I will grow stale, a piece of bread left out for too many days, or that I will wilt, a flower not watered and left to perish, but until that day comes, I will keep leaving out these dictionary pages rearranged in hopes that they will create a sparkle in someone’s eyes.
Please don’t read if you are hemophobic (afraid of blood).
I was the contestant on a reality show, and all the women were stripped down naked, led to showers. When the shower heads turned on, blood sprayed from the spigots and I swallowed some. I slipped and fell in it, blood coating one side of my body.
I put on a hospital gown and the blood seeped through. I was walked into a church and sat beside a teenage boy who was a cutter. His wrists and forearms were covered in scars. He held onto a notebook where he sketched pictures of me and wrote me poems.
He clung to me while trying to push me away, telling me lust was a sin. When I tried to speak to him, he silenced me and brought me back to the showers where he tried to rape me.
A shriek echoed inside of my head like the sound of a metal saw blade grinding against a sheetof metal. I ground my teeth against each other, squeezing my eyes shut. When I opened them again, I was in the kitchen of a group home, making pancakes.
A younger guy, probably in his mid-teens who seemed to be a little intellectually delayed, approached me and asked me if he could go outside and play basketball as I made breakfast. He kept describing another guy in the group home as his surgeon. I thought it was a harmless delusion, so I told them to go play basketball outside until breakfast was ready.
I went outside to tell them breakfast was ready and the guy I identified as my brother (the one who initially approached me about playing basketball) was wailing in heart-wrenching pain. At first, I thought his arm had twisted around his back at an awkward angle, but then I saw from his elbow down, his arm was missing. Dark crimson red blood was everywhere. His screams were agonizing. The bone left behind was black from oxygen depletion and decaying.
The boy they called the surgeon showed me the saw they had used and pointed out the jar with his lower arm sealed inside. The water they kept it in was red with blood.
The guy I identified as my brother sniffled and told me that it was okay because his arm was infected and had to be sawed off to be saved.
If I told you I remembered the moment I was formed, you’d call me a liar, and I am anything but. A whooshing sound like a strong wind gusted over me, but this was before we knew wind. She told me it was formless when She began. She even described to me how she scooped the waters together in the cup of her hand and separated the liquid from the air- water from sky.
The next day, She gathered the waters to dwell in one place and then, distributed the land. She created trees and shrubbery and flowers and plants of all kind. She did not stop. Animals still needed to be shaped. As though She was molding clay, She formed all these things.
She explained that to create me, She used dust and the Breath of Life. Sometimes, I doubt She is capable of all this.
But to doubt is to show faith.
She told me to believe.
And so, I did.
After She explained my task-the maintenance of the garden,a deep longing for sleepconsumed me. She warned me not to eat from a specific tree. That was easy. She told me to name the creatures. That, too, was easy. All the tasks seemed reasonable. The demands? Not the type to splinter my soul. But the ground was warm and soft, my head was heavy, and I slept.
The rays of sun warmed my naked ass, and yet, I feared nothing. She had created me from dust and the Breath of Life.
Idid not feel it, but she opened my flesh, and from it, she stole a bone that was pleasing.Thisbone was called a rib, and when my flesh concealed the bones once more, I had not missed what was taken. This was the first time she had taken from me. She had given me so much. The least I could do was give a rib. In exchange, she gave me a companion.
I had never seen a beast like this: She told me the beast resembled me, but it was beautiful,and I was not beautiful. Her loveliness blistered me, yet I did not feel a warmth to my cheeks like the Creator Goddess described. I wanted to run my hands over her skin and feel its smoothness under my callouses. I longed to touch her bare flesh and feel it rise and fall beneath me.
It was though I was breaking into several pieces all at once because I wanted to teach her the animals I had named, but I also wanted to be very still and simply breathe with her.
Idid not want to restrict her freedoms. She reminded me so much of the Creator Goddess. Their voices rose and fell in the same patterns. Though I had not seen the Creator Goddess yet, She was vast. (Much too vast for me to comprehend.) Subsequently, this beast was vast in her beauty. Understanding her was like trying to describe how the Creator Goddess separated the air from the water. This creature’s voice flowed over me like a babbling brook.
I let her explore. I wanted her to seek whatever it was she chose to seek. She reached her hands out to touch the animals, explore their furs and hides, and marvel at the beauty of plants. But she was the gift I never deserved but desired. I had never seen beauty like hers. Not in the peacock’s plumage or the giraffe’s great heights. The way her hips swayed when she walked? It was extraordinary.
I watched her, but I did not try to keep her like I kept the flowers.
I did not want to possess her. Own her.
The flowers I wanted to shower her with grew taller than both of us, demonstrating to me that I was not in charge. I never was. I was unable to hold the cool waters I wanted her to feel caressagainst her skin could not be contained, but it was right. It was good.
I walked without direction. I aimed without path. She traveled in one direction and I, the other. It was not intentional. If I had set forth intention, I would never be separated from her. Except that rib. That rib separated us. She came from me, not from the vast She who created everything else in this garden.
She went alone. I heard her speaking to one of the animals, and I thought this to be good. It was wise she learned their names and who better to teach them their names than the animals themselves?
I did not listen, but her voice floated, the syllables breaking apart and separating. I could not hear individual words, but these syllables were delicious, inviting. I wanted to learn her body as intimately as my own. There was a reason she was created.
I was not tobe alone in this world.
She ran toward me, her legs flying up barely touching the earth. Her excitement was contagious. That laugh-luxurious. The way she threw her head back as she collided into me intoxicated me. I was under her spell. She thrust a small fruit into my hands. Its coloring was the color of the sky at night. I had not seen a fruit like it before, but I had not explored the same places as she. She found places deep within the garden I had not yet seen.
She fed it to me, its nectar sticky as it dribbled down our chins. We smiled, our gazes soft upon each other. The moment was blissful, but it was just that: a moment.
I wanted to devour her. Swallow her whole. I wanted to take back what was mine. This garden was not meant to be shared. She was never meant to be. Her voice? Far from melodious. It was the sound of claws scraping against my own flesh. She had destroyed me. She had stolen a rib from me, and the wretched woman bared her teeth to me in a smile like it was meant to be a forgiving feature. She was hideous.
I could not drag my nails against her skin nor could I flay her. She was not my creation. She was not mine to destroy. But she had slept against my skin: bone against bone. She had been my rib, and now, she was formed. A monstrosity.
Why did I ever find this repulsive creature to be attractive? I wanted to cover her. Throw leaves over her and create a pyre.
The vast She that created me did not make mistakes, then why was this woman looking at me with desire in her eyes? She had fed me the fruit of knowledge, and this was knowledge I could not untangle. I could not imagine touching her. Being so near her that I could smell the cologne of her musk made bile rise to my throat.
When I was young, perhaps eleven or twelve, I read the poem “Silence” by Marianne Moore. It was right around the time that I had started to explore my own poetry and craft my own metaphors. I remember the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” sticking out to me in a beautiful way.
At the time, it was a lovely phrase in the midst of a mixture of words that didn’t make sense to me. Now, on rereading it as an adult, I see how beautiful and eloquent Moore’s entire poem was. It speaks to me on a level that it did not when I was a child.
My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
or the glass flowers at Harvard.Self-reliant like the cat-
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth-
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech,
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.
Given my childhood, it’s funny what pierces my heart and stabs my soul. It’s not the beauty of the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” (though, to Moore’s credit, that is a wonderful turn of phrase). It’s the last two lines of the poem.
Without getting too autobiographical, my childhood home felt as though it was curated for an interior design magazine. It did not feel like a home. I felt like I was walking into a stranger’s house every time I came home.
Home is such an interesting concept to me. I would love to explore the idea of it more in my writing.
PS: Anyone interested in reading an excerpt of a short story I’m working on?
I had a literature final, but I was lost inside of a building, wandering down corridors that led me to the wrong wing or ran me into dead ends. No matter where I went, I could not find the English wing. Some of the building was labeled what section I was walking into: Gymnasium, Foreign Language, Social Sciences, but no matter where I went, it was a labyrinth I could not navigate.
I knew I was getting later and later by the minute, and I could feel my heart speeding up as I ran out of time. I ran past a classroom, and there was a group of teachers playing a game. I paused, recognizing a voice in the mix of voices.
It was one of my favorite teachers from high school.
When their game ended, I tried to talk to him, but he refused to talk to me. He was suddenly furious with me, his face reddening with rage. A bright white light appeared. The light blinded me.
Somehow, I ended up outside of the building, sobbing into my hands. A stranger and his partner appeared on a flying, steampunk motorcycle. They offered to take me to the classroom where the literature exam was being held. The man who drove the motorcycle fiddled with a wedding band and engagement ring, fusing them together in his hands, as we flew.
We continued to fly until we arrived outside of the building. I desperately wanted to get inside, but giant, flying giant bugs battled outside where the motorcycle flew.
Once inside, I was lost within a maze again.
As I sobbed into my hands, I gave up. I surrendered that I would never find the classroom. A best friend from my childhood arrived and showed me where to go. Inside the classroom, I sat down to do whatever I could to complete the exam before time was up. My mom stood behind me, whispering awful things in my ear as I take the exam. Frustrated with nearly failing the exam and my mother saying terrible things about me, I stood up and told her to leave.
I told her that I was going to find my own way and that I would pay for everything on my own from now on just so I don’t have to see her.
She told me that’s fine, but I would never see my grandma again.
Knowing I would never see my grandma, one of the few people who love me unconditionally, I burst into tears. Somehow, through my tears, I finished the exam, my heart broken yet proud that I had decided to not speak to my mother ever again.
I was walking one way, and I walked past you. You were hand-in-hand with another girl, and I don’t even know if you noticed me. I had never seen you with that girl before, but she looked so happy. Who could blame her? You were holding hands with her. It probably felt as though time had stopped.
I always liked love stories.
I know whenever we held hands, whether it was in the courtyard or in the car, I felt like I was your girl. It felt as though time had stopped. I felt like the only girl in the world. I remember the way you talked about my eyes like they were the most magical thing you had ever seen. You talked about them like they were beautiful.
But we both know you hate eyes like mine.
I still remember the last time I saw you before I saw you with that girl, her nervous smile giving way to the fact that she liked you. The last time I saw you before that, you had told me you loved me. You had driven away in the rain. It was late at night, and we were happy.
All we have are our memories, and like most things, the memories are fading.
Some day, all I’ll have to remember you by is the faint smell of your soap and the scar on my finger.
My eyes burn dully– twin lanterns that have been flickering for decades. (Every time I swallow, I taste kerosene.)
Looking out, nothing but darkness on the horizon. A storm churns clouds in the haunted sky, & I shudder from the bitter chill. (It’s this cold that makes my spine jerk and spasm.)
In the distance, I no longer smell the burning leaves of autumn- instead, I smell smoldering corpses.
Mouth clamped shut, this taste is the copper of blood. (I had been biting my tongue so long, I have forgotten the taste of my own words.)
Ear tilted toward the skies, thunder roars a warning cry, and I am yet to heed its warning.
A thousand men lie dying at my feet, and it is my heart that is the battleground. (Do they not realize this is a metaphor, and I would rather taste bile than my own bitter heartbreak?)
I feel like I belong in an Edvard Munch painting or something by Magritte, but do you see me in a gilded frame hanging in the Museum of Modern Art? My own heartbreak is taste familiar to me, and I would rather linger with the devil I do know than the devil I do not.
The devil resides in a land where the damned smell burning corpses all day, and though the odor rouses a certain sense of familiarity, I would rather run than fight the inevitable.
Former friends and lovers, those I once knew, are now nothing but ghosts. (Perhaps they are ghosts because my memory falters, maybe they exist on another plane of consciousness and wait for me to wake out of my fog and think me the ghost.)
A dense fog of sadness spreads its misty fingers over me in that lonesome field. (Clutching at my heart, that chill that spoke to me. My spine jerks and spasms.)
This frostbite burns everything it consumes- a conflagration of icicles going up in flame, like stalagmites crafted of ice & fire. The mere sight of it is enough to drive a sane person to lunacy.
As I take my first step plunging forward, I shuffle through the fire and ice and emerge- unscathed.
Little bo Peep trembles under a parasol, tears cascading down her cheeks, crying out, “Where have my sheep gone? Why do my eyes burn so dully? Where has my happiness gone?”
A bleak day to discover paradise- the muddy sky will lose all its meaning. We have lost what we are searching for.
Loneliness is our only path to salvation. It is in our suffering that we find bliss. (Amantes sunt amuntes- lovers are lunatics as this barren landscape is all we know now.)
These twin lanterns that were once my eyes have lost all light. We must trudge forward & hope someday, this suffering shall guide us (toward our bliss).