Tuesday, January 4, 2011

older things

proteins on a skeleton
I feel the web tangled in my back,
twisting around my vertebrae,
stifling the commands to my legs
to move, to get out and run again,
away from a closed shade room
and pumpkin and the hard wood floors
that show every dent and groove
of every shoe and broken glass.

I feel the spiders crawling
through my nerves, their sinewy blueprints
brought to life between my bones,
their teeth a needle pulling silk thread
through muscles that have atrophied
with encouragement and well-wishes
of those who cannot know.
I don’t blame them for sitting.

I don’t blame them for this resting place
or how they wrapped me solid
in glistening fibers creating a shell
of the person I had not yet become.

catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away…
it echoed now, off the brick walls of the empty alley, in the trash can cushion and broken wooden crates and through the rippling rain puddles that soaked the cuffs of my sagging pants. My mother’s voice rerunning in my head... She had sung to us as kids, trying to sooth our midnight cries switched on by dreams of bloodthirsty clowns and giant cockroaches. She would wipe the hair from our damp foreheads and tell us that stars lit up even the darkest parts of space. She would tell us that love was like stars, able to light up even the darkest parts of life; so bright that everyone can see the love-light shine out of you. She would tell us we were her stars; that she kept pictures of us in her pocket and whenever life got dark for her, she would take out our shining faces and the love-light would break through. But that was when my skin was still smooth and innocent. That was before they told us days after it happened that they found our pictures next to the bathtub, our young faces covered in blood. We never did get the pictures back but I imagine it was the one from the Christmas where I wore my green tie and you cried because you were afraid of Santa Claus. But you moved to Missouri to get married while I stayed and got a job at the pier gutting fish. And I think about my face now with its leather skin and the steel cloud layer that reflects only the city lights. There are no stars here. There is nothing to pierce the metal and the leather. Alone again tonight, I will burn and smolder, becoming an ember—a once bright shining sphere, fading in the murky morning light. When they find me, stardust will be falling out of my pockets.

the night I lost
You touch my hand like Christmas pine
and pull the skin on my wrist to extract a scent,
a sense of wellbeing. Ribbon-wrapped,
I’ll be the first to open.
But wait

and wait

until the day breaks to light
and your socked feet stomp the stair.

O what gift sits there so longing,
so primed for tearing?

Invisible adhesive is no match for fingernails.
They scream at me “I will dig you out yet!"
compensation for your work against boxes.

And as you cling to my edges
and strip me of my paper,
I am thinking of picking apricots from the tree
that grows over my grandmother’s back wall in spring.

to rebuild broken stories
I hang up the phone. It is one of those moments when you can feel life shifting. As if all the components of existence and interaction suddenly become tangible little blocks—the colorful cardboard ones you have as a kid that are so flimsy and yet indestructible because they are so flimsy and the only way you can get them to actually stay stacked is to stack them against a corner so that they have a sturdy support to lean against—you remember…

But this—THIS—is the instant when someone shuts the door too firmly and the fragile paper castle I've built implodes into a pool of red and green and blue and yellow. I no longer have anything to say to the people I once never had to say anything to. The people I couldn't breathe without are now just eyes and ears and bones that sit across from me, sipping away at coffee on a regular Tuesday afternoon after the allure of Christmas break has waned. We hug and touch cheeks and swear to keep in touch, then release and wave goodbye from sunglasses before sliding behind tinted glass and steering wheel and four cylinders in reverse to couch cushion and fresh prince reruns. Did you see Brooke today? Yes mother. How is she? Oh, fine. As if I could go into intimate details of my fading friend's present existence, because intimacy is superfluous porticos on my simple structure, I don't need these balconies and archways, I have my symmetrical box, right?

But here, in the split-second pause between the click of my phone, balancing in my limp left hand, and a sigh… I see the girl who was always like me and his poorly grown facial hair and that dopey smile and the way her chin fit in my shoulder and our hair blowing in the wind in my convertible and that one time when I got really drunk on the beach—scattered helpless across the knobby crème carpet and me still shaking in the reverberation of a shut door.

Maybe tomorrow I'll just use the yellow blocks. I've always liked the color yellow.

the road trip
The highway is an easy stretch through Iowa
pig-stench to a home town I don’t remember.
Role the windows down to feel the wind
pierce our hands like the toothpicks
we’d carry in our mouths, pretending to be mobsters
without a family heritage. Crisp March air beats
like crickets wings between my watch and my skin.
Smoking in our t-shirts because we were too afraid
our guilt would be caught in the fleece of our sweaters,
forgetting about the silent kid in the back
who months later will drive three hundred miles
to confess that he is in love you.
Hold the cigarette between your legs
to keep the air from claiming your light.
Cross the state line and count the ten thousand lakes
to ten thousand and three, yelling each one out
like a mugger on an empty street. Let’s wear skimasks
and scare the blue hairs in traffic while driving back
to your house from Duluth where the boys give free hugs
from bomb threats and the girls are jealous
we can be so bold in an empty courtyard.
We never looked more free than we did that day
under the strobe light dancing le disco
in the darkness of your basement bathroom.

is there a doctor in the house?
Please be patient
with my routine inconsistency
as I tear from my ears
the tongues of mouths
belonging to everyone
I carry inside of me.
Every night I leave them
lying wet and wounded
on the muddy path
without intentions of returning
every morning to check for a pulse
without intentions of discerning
a cure to their disease.

They are still my desire.
I have the same ability
to save them
as they have
to save me.

So I lay like a shabby baby-blanket
next to them, and as I watch their chests
rise and fall, they become nothing
more than tattered, fleshy rags
in tiny sticky pools of red
and the trail we’re on a miniature exodus.

So please, be a steady surgeon.
Take this contracting heart
in a calm hand,
and with firm fingers
and a sharp needle
and a long thread,

three perspectives on sept. 11
The radio still turned on to the Rick Dees morning show. The bed covers still felt like lead as I dragged them off my still fatigued body. My room was still dark behind its plastic shades. People were still on their way to work. The temperature was still rising. There still wasn’t any chance of rain. The West Coast was still on the west. Life was still living. I still had to go to school; to biology first period with a teacher from Iran who still counted attendance in Farsi; to world cultures second period with a teacher who still didn’t believe I was smart enough for her honors class; with students who still understood politics and money better than me and cared about it more than me; to lunch with friends I still had from sixth grade; to a Christian club that still didn’t have the answers to my questions. I still had to wait for my mother to pick me up from the parking lot behind the theatre. My sister and I still watched Disney together. And by dinner, my parents are still talking about the buildings I still knew nothing about.

I bring my seat and tray-table to their upright and locked positions. My stomach tightens, churning with acid and preparations. It is upset with the food I couldn’t eat or the steps that I’m anxious to take. But I am a statue of nerves and tendons stretching in tension. My fingers curl into tightly packed flesh balls and I wonder what burning skin smells like. An image of my home bubbles before my eyes, the dust and the chaos and yuba and omaa and mosque. This is right this is good this is right this is good lather rinse repeat slather my sense of retreat with the encouragement of a better world and better faith and virgins. I must remember this is God’s bidding, this is right this is good, there is no other thought. There are so many people. This must be done. Except that one woman and her son who have the same colored skin as me. They live here now, it doesn’t matter. I reach to separate my collar from my neck where it is stuck with sweat. It is cold here. I think about the desert air and the sun and our goats. I will be remembered in eternity for this. I will be loved. They will see this is the only way.

I heard the loud noise of skin tearing as it shot through me. I heard their cries as my flesh bore into theirs. I heard the crack of my spine and split of the intruder’s skull. I heard the crack of wings on my ribs. I heard the ggrrrfuhchtchshhhhh of its belly on my carpet, like a snake through dry grass. I heard their bones break within mine as they crashed through floors and floors of my vital organs. I heard them pound my thighs and knees as they flew to the ground. I heard their hearts sing of weddings and little league and college graduations into mine. I heard the earth shake as my brother fell into himself. I heard the silence in the moment Death swallowed the screams of passengers and pagers and telephones and copiers and cubicle gossip and early morning meetings. I felt them bleed my blood.

we'll tell the truth between our teeth
I didn’t realize how much I loved you until you began to love another. I have been so cold in my life. The heater is on. I sit under blankets in sweats and a sweatshirt and I freeze. There are no more thoughts, no more thoughts about weddings and forever and climbing into bed with you and kissing our son’s goodnight on the forehead. You were the only on I could see myself waking up to every morning. But night lasts, and morning is always tomorrow. There is no here. This house is quite. There are no thoughts to echo off the walls, no images to be written on their skin, because there is no you and I to imagine. There is only crème carpet and open windows without blinds and a couch that we shared. I know it could never be, it was not, but I was the first you spoke those words to and I was scared and now a month later, I imagine you will whisper them into her ear and you will take her to the lighthouse and she will learn more about you perhaps than you told me. Will she see you cry? It does not matter because you are not mine and I know that it is better. I have no breath until I am on my knees in crème carpet, gasping, sobbing.

lives of rumors

Chad Fish is everything I want because he is everything I’m not. He is a snake, molting everywhere, leaving his skin on lunch tables and baseball fields and parking lots. Everything he touches slinks after him. Including me. He is confident in a way that doesn’t intrude on your pride. He speaks little and his popularity is founded in the lives of rumors and his deceptively genuine smile. He started at school only months after me. But where my presence was an instant burden—athlete, over-achiever, socialite—his was a solo blitzkrieg. He is a sniper, leaving a trail of dead before evaporating like dew on desert asphalt. He is unavoidable and I am intoxicated. It is surprising to see him in a church. He never appeared to be spiritual. Then again, no one really is at our age. We have nothing to live for and religion doesn’t give us anything to die for, so it comes down to whatever is easiest I suppose. That’s what it is for me anyway.

My mother is crying. Tragedy seems to follow her. After dad died, we left Shakopee and moved to Palm Springs. She said it was about time she lived her life. Sounded more like she was trying to escape death. It didn’t work.

Rukmani Patel, mom’s most recent accessory, puts his arm around her. I try not to think about them having sex. I imagine her fragile white fingers digging into his rounded brown shoulders. Gross. Wrong. Mr. Patel takes the yearbook photos for school, speaks his English with a think Farsi accent and smells of curry and jasmine. It doesn’t fit—him and my mom, tugging at her cardigan sweater, tucking her blonde bob behind her ear.

Aunt Augusta thought so too. I should clarify… She isn’t really my aunt. She’s mom’s best friend from third grade and like a second mother to me. She came to visit a couple months ago and never left. She was the fresh air our humid house was gasping for, bouncing her tangled yarn head of saffron hair back and forth, singing AC/DC while making tuna melts. She was my silver lining, sitting across from my mom, waving her soft hands with their long gold nails in protest. “Offer Chris’sake, Marie, don’t ya know, you two together is like a junebug in January.” Now I watch as she gives Mr. Patel a sideways glare as he draws mom’s face into the stern of his neck. All mother does is sob and sob.

It is odd to see these people—some I know, most I don’t—together in a church that has long since turned it’s back on them; all here with a finger on the thing they fear the most but can’t figure out; teammates, teachers, grocery store clerks that I’ve seen around but have never known; all with quiet hands and folded faces, breathing deep the life of the mother and her sleeping child. And in a few months, it’ll all be forgotten because it’s the easiest thing we can do.

time for some technical dots and scribbles

more so as a way to re-initiate writing in my life, imma posting old (and soon new) writings.

though i suppose it's all new here...

that's my disclaimer.

let's commence.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

what it means to be family

It all went by so fast. I remember the first moment I arrived in Kansas. The nervous excitement that immediately pulled my eyes to the people I was looking for, even though I had never seen them before (it was that… or the fact that they were waving for me). Their smiles mirrored my anxiety. And so it began, a group of 14 strangers feeling the same uneasiness, making us an instant family, though we may have not known that at the time, (it takes some of us, like me, longer than others to figure these things out). though we were in essence “family,” I still felt alone, and yet not quite, wary of these people like I was wary of the tethers that held me to the high ropes course throughout orientation, the most brilliantly awkward two days of my life… But there I was and there they were, with a collective strength to hold me firm through the instability of my course. They were there for me when I wasn’t there for them, when I couldn’t take care of myself, when I said the worst things to tear them apart and when I just didn’t care. I remember the morning I realized they were my family… After a night of stalling in a gear I had been running in before Kairos, I had to go to these people I had been surrounded by for many months but had never really let into my life and I had to bear my soul. For a moment in time I was naked before them, and they wrapped me in a blanket of acceptance, mercy and forgiveness. They loved me; with all of the parts of me I hated so much, they love me. For this, I thank them. I love them. They are my family, holding me up on the wire I can’t balance on by myself. They are my fuel and my fire. They are my God’s-love tangible. In retrospect, there is not a doubt in my mind, considering what I did and said or didn’t do and didn’t say, that the only way they made it through with me was by the blessing of God’s love in and through them. In the beginning, we were all scared, we all thought we didn’t belong, but we had been put together, no doubt by God’s wise hand, and we grew together. I was sharpened by them as much as they were sharpened by me, if not more. For this, I thank you. Without your prayers and support, I would not have been able to walk this line with them. I would not have been able to work with them, sing with them, dance with them, laugh with them, cry with them and fall in love with them. God did an amazing work in all of us these last ten months and will continue to do so. He will never leave us nor forsake us. For this, I thank Him. So sing praise and raise a glass to the Great Physician, who never leaves us broken, but completes us in his name.

been there, done that

China was unlike anything I could have expected. It wasn’t that I was expecting to be like Ireland—I knew it wouldn’t be. I knew that this summer any would be unlike the summer before considering I was going into a country that if they had known what I was really doing there they would not have treated me like such a celebrity; a country so vast we know little about it to work with people who live a life so foreign a life from the one I understand in America. But hey, I’ve been a small group leader before, so it can’t be that different, right? Oh how wrong I was. I’ve told people that this summer was the hardest in my life, which surprises some because my first summer stretched me in ways I had never been stretched before. But this summer I lived in such a way that is so diametrically opposed to our human nature—I lived pushing against the selfishness that claims us all. I don’t me that I simply served others and not myself, though that was a part of it—there have been times when even serving others has turned into a way of serving myself. This summer was about living in the constant submission to the Father’s heart, allowing Him, without resistance, to guide me in my steps, in my words, in my actions and in my relationships. Nothing I did this summer was by my own strength or ability, but by the power and provision of the Perfect One. This summer I saw in a tangible sense the giving spirit of God, His father-heart, His desire to use me to His great ability. He granted me the blessing of using all my weakness and mistakes and frustrations for His purpose. I have found there is nothing greater than being completely emptied of everything that I am and giving God the right to fill me completely with all that He is and all He wants me to be. He is my Father, my Protector, my closest Friend and my Teacher. Give praise today, brothers and sisters, to the Great I Am, who is and was and always will be our Lover and our Savior, for He is worthy to be praised.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

this is a tricky business: part 2

i don't know where i left off, but let me fill you in with what has happened so far...
(mind you this is the very abridged version)

we were in chongzhou (chun-zoh) working with high school student through different events and themed days to build reletionships by which we could then talk about the Father and the Good News. we went to the school two times a day and we stayed in a hotel about a 15 minute walk away from the school, so we definately got a work out. not to mention the five flights of stairs we had to climb to our rooms. we visited villages and tryed to help were we could in the city picking up trach and clean stores and what not. that was difficult just because the chinese cannot fathom why americans would want to serve them. but we're all about breaking stereotypes here. we also visited the stone forest which was an adventure.

currently we are in jieyiang (jie-young). were staying at a private school where we work with teachers and students in a similar but differnt program. it's a language camp where anyone who knows some english can improve, but the purpose is the same- to build relationships through which we can introduce the Father. here, we've climbed a mountain. and by climbed a mountain i mean we've climbed 1,746 steps to the top of a mountain. IT WAS AMAZING! and we also went to the 10,000 bamboo forest, which was also interseting and beautiful.

the Father has really been doing a good work here in China and in our family. He grows us and strengthens us each day and it's impossible not to see His majesty in the Vastness that is China. there are 6 million people in the city we are currently in. and that's a small city... i don't even know if it's on a map. all that to say, He is big and we have definately seen that here.

i hope this finds you well and that the Father blesses you. thank you for your words and continue to give thanks to Him and with others.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

this is a tricky business

training camp came and went and before i knew it we were in china. and i know it's been a long, long while since i wrote anything, and perhaps you're wondering what about the second semester? well, i'll do what i can to catch up later, but for now, let's focus on the present.

china is nothing like i expected. we don't eat rice at every meal, there are no egg rolls, two seconds out the door and you're swimming in your shorts and through the air it's so thick with humidity. people here do not all look the same, there isn't a mcdonalds within 50 miles of our hotel. not everyone i've run into is a genius. the people here are extremely friendly, though i've been assured that that is because i'm american. it doesn't bother me anymore to be stopped by some random person asking to take my picture. people everywhere, old and young, yell out whatever english they know nad get such a thrill to see us turn and reply. it's like a unspoken game between us and them. look and the funny americans and laugh. it's actually quite wonderful. i was telling our amaing teacher earlier how blessed i have been to have visited three very different cultures within this last year.

and i was just informed i have about four minutes so i'm going to wrap it up and i'll write more later.

i hope the father blesses you and that this find you well.
peace brothers and sisters.