Thursday, August 25, 2016

August, ending.

Maybe August is the time for endings. Some of the worst things in my life have happened in August. No, that’s untrue- they just feel like they happened in August.  Endings tend to have a similar quality:  a slowness that’s not the same as a bleak, cold, February. Then your blood seems like it will never be warm again, sluggish through your veins, now, it just feels like it’s gone underground. It’s not the lethargy of a hot, humid, summer, with the sun merciless on your face, turning your skin from brown to burnt, when you can’t make the effort to even reach out to that cool glass of lemonade that your Mom has placed on your table. No, this is the hushed, sticky quality of the air before the rain suddenly falls in a sheet, and you’re drenched head to toe; your umbrella dripping uselessly onto your shoes, as the “road” underneath turns to a muddy river in two minutes flat. What just happened, you ask, even as you sigh and think “August”.
Afterward, you try to pick it apart: loop the past on scratchy rewind, like those tapes you played over and over until they became skippy, static bursts between the snatches of familiar love song. Where is it, you think, that moment, the turning point when it all started coming undone. You’re looking for the sign, the dark cloud in the distance, the flash of lightning- but sometimes all you’re left with is the clear sky and the thickening air.
One morning I wake up to find a baby lizard has crawled into the folds of my fading blue bean bag plonked on the balcony. It had been unexpectedly cold the previous night and the little tyke had probably sought out the warmth of the faux blue leather. I flap my hands at the mottled dark green intruder: unsurprisingly, it moves not an inch. I’m giving you ten minutes while I brew the tea, I tell it solemnly: after that, you’re out.  When I step out again, my hands slowly warmed by my steaming mug of tea, it’s gone. I feel both smug and guilty; like I’ve won a battle and lost a more important war; like I’ve missed the forest for the trees, like I have once again, failed to read the signs.
How are you feeling, N asks me. “Okay”, I say - she accepts it for what it is: a barefaced lie. We are, neither of us, strangers to this; when all the stuff inside is so tangled that the only possible answer is- “Okay”. 
There’s a dissonance that leaves me tongue tied; the inexplicable chasm between what I know I should feel, and what I do feel; akin to letting yourself in with the key and finding yourself in a stranger’s house. This is familiar territory, I remind myself. You’ve been here before, you know how this goes. Endings are not an undiscovered land. And yet. I look up The 5 Steps again; try to see what I’ve missed. Everything, it looks like; no progression, no gradual climb down- I’m just here. But there must be, I think, increasingly desperate for something, anything that feels familiar.  But no, this is the funhouse mirror version of myself, everything in its place and just that bit distorted, rendered unrecognizable.
I imagine what a therapist would ask me: how are you sleeping, are you eating regularly, do you shower, do you make the bed, do you change your clothes, do you exercise? Answer: Well, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, but I never did, it’s not unusual.  I still hate work the usual amount, not more or less. You should date, D tells me, I’m not saying marriage, babe, just, dating. I tell her a long and involved story about how I have the cow next door to keep me company. This is not a euphemism: my neighbours keep a cow, a huge white-and-brown speckled beast. It moos at odd times and reminds me that life goes on; that August, in fact, can be great for some species: plentiful green grass, the air ripe with smells; pleasant, if slightly unpredictable weather, cool nights.
I lie in bed and listen to the night sounds- the creak of the fan, the occasional drunken song from two streets away, a faint honking from a truck, some kind of chirping insect. A moth wanders in, flirts with the dazzling white light and then wanders out. It’s not hard to fall asleep on these days, when my thoughts seem to have no particular direction. When I wake up, I don’t remember my dreams.
Fact: time moves forward.
Fact: August seems to last forever.
It’s sticky-cool, lumbering, everything muted, life travelling to you from a faraway planet, immediate but also a couple of million light years behind, already over before it even began.
How are you feeling, I used to ask, inside-inside; and now I ask myself- how are you feeling, inside-inside.

Like August, I answer, like an ending.   

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


There's this bit
between when you've
your meal, the tastes
still fresh in your mouth
your synapses still fried
from sensation
hot, sweet, salt,sour, cold
that bit where you know
you're done
but you aren't
because something in you
is still hungry:
that bit when you want
to gorge on everything
that looks like anything
that will fill you up. 

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Dreaming Season

He's beautiful,
his dark skin gleaming,
his green eyes, and forked tongue.
My dress sticks to my back, and the
scorched earth grass prickles
beneath my feet, the sky an endless blue.
He twines around me, a cold band
where our skins touch.
Out on the ridge, a bush burns.


I clutch him to my chest,
my own, body of my body,
flesh of my flesh:
wrinkled skin smoothing out
grey hair turning brown
there's a word for this
I think, but it dances on the
I never wanted this I think
but it's here
now what now what
is the word
I know it


In the not quite light
I pick my way across the litter
to the shop
with a tattered yellow paper menu
tacked to the wall
come with me she says
and grabs my hand
I don't know who you are
I stammer
don't you she asks
her teeth gleaming
in the grey light
as she leads me on
Her friends stare
from across the table
It's not what you think
I say
I'm sorry I'm not
She holds my hand
I'll be back I say
I need some tea
I'll leave my bag here
is that ok
sure she says
and turns away
her lips are red
like the flowers on her dress
the boy selling the tea
says five rupees
but I have no coins
that's okay he says
there's time to pay
when I walk back
she's gone,
they're gone,
so is my bag
with everything I am
in it. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Don't enter the badlands

in the badlands, (they tell you)
tenderness will crawl under your skin
and stay there
pricking from the inside
until you're just one
mass of aching flesh
and then, when it gets
so much, too much
that anything would be better
than this pain,
then (they tell you)

you'll take a knife
and attempt to pare
to the bone
and the blood,
there will be so much,
like a river
like an ocean
like the sky

and is that (they whisper)
what you want

is that
what you want

to let your lifeblood
soak a land
that will never bloom

is that
what you'll do

when you enter
the badlands.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rare Entertainment

Image:  White Male Character One is learning to control his superpowers- the ability to turn everything around him into cinders in seconds-so, White Male Character Two has set up target practice. The targets are unclothed female bodied mannequins- big breasted, narrow waisted- with big X signs on their torsos. Barbies without the annoying hair. Or clothes. Boom, boom, boom. High fives all around. Congratulations, you’re officially a man. Er, mutant. But manly mutant.

Image: Jon Hamm playing a umpteenth variant of Don Draper, a role he’ll probably play over and over in the next few years- a White Male Character helping a (younger) White Male Character score. “See anything you like?” he asks over a Fancy Hidden Communication Device because we are in a Very Cool Progressive SciFi Show. Younger White Male Character directs his attention to a Very Lovely Brunette eliciting surprise from Jon Draper Hamm because clearly the Very Lovely White Blonde standing right there in her cleavage-showing dress is The Most Obvious Choice. Interesting, he murmurs, and then the next ten minutes are devoted to Young White Male attempting a seduction- while a half dozen men listen and watch via Fancy Hidden Communication Device because we are in a Very Cool Progressive SciFi Show. Did I mention Award Winning? We are also Award Winning. Unfortunately-ahem- for our voyeuristic leading men, the night ends badly- no sex, just murder.  And because we’re the Award Winning Very Cool Progressive SciFi Show, the woman turns out to be a mentally unhinged murderess.  I feel blessed. There’s still forty minutes before the episode ends. It can only get More Progressive. (It does: more dead women, one still a girl).

Image: A half-naked woman being beaten bloody by a man straddling her. In the imaginatively named town of Vice, you can have every forbidden pleasure you choose to pay for- your partners? Synthetics or Not Real People. Coincidentally, these Not Real People are shaped like Extremely Hot Women programmed with Real Memories and capable of feeling Real Pain (we are never shown them feeling Real Pleasure: presumably the White Male Characters who seem to form the general clientele in this Pleasure Town are only interested in Real Pain). Anyways, this is almost two hours of an AI-becomes-sentient-and-is-hunted-down-but-survives story aka The Not Real But Real Woman is stalked, hunted, beaten up, violated and Emerges Triumphant….to be a sidekick to the Real Male Cop. Ah! The twist in the tale: our heroine turns out to be Not The Real Heroine much like she is not a Real Woman.

X Men: First Class grossed over USD $353 million worldwide when released in 2011, Black Mirror has been nominated or has won major awards every year since its first episode in 2011, and Vice- well, Vice had a limited theatre release in 2015, and then was released to DVD- and made around #1 million USD.

In the span of two weeks, I’ve managed a random sampling of available entertainment in terms of critically acclaimed and/or popular (or neither!) in a genre and am served up the same thing every time: images of women being brutalized emotionally and physically. Sometimes this brutality is An Important Plot Device- what would Our Leading Male Characters Do Without Motivation- but other times, it’s just there. The stuff you only notice subconsciously most of the time, the peripheral, the scene, part of the stuff that’s there because it helps you suspend your disbelief, because yes, a woman is being violated and you don’t have to pay attention to that if you don’t want to, so the story feels just like real life.

Image: In the thirty seconds it takes me to get a token for the subway ride, the young couple nearby move from a silent-tears-and-recrimination kind of fight to the hands-around-your-throat kind of fight; he has his hands around her throat, shoves her into the wall and walks away. She follows, still crying.

Image: Two young girls strung up on a tree in a UP village.

Image: A smiling, smartly dressed young woman stands next to a car at an automobile expo. You can’t sell the dream without the woman, can you?

Image: A news story about a woman who committed suicide after her rape was filmed and circulated on Whatsapp.

Image: Two people in a public argument on the road- you whore, I hear him say, see what I will do to you.

You see the problem I have: separating fact from fiction and wondering where the line exists.

Sometimes I think: this isn’t real, this is a stupid movie that you’ll turn off in a minute or forty, when you are really, really sick of it, and then you never have to think about it again.

But it is, and it is and it is and it feels like somebody should be sick to death of this story already, should say, this is overdone, let’s start anew, but no, it’s so foundational that even when we tell stories about the future- the marvelous, miraculous future with star ships and mutant genes and time travel and artificial intelligence- it’s the same as the stories of our past, the ones with dragons and historical accuracy- the same old story: the visceral hatred of women, invisible in its ubiquity.

And I think about it every day.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Approaching Equinox

There wasn't a winter this year-
seasons out of whack-
surely a portent-
but the birds come to the lake yet-
long necks bent, or wings spread,
one or two look contemplative,
perched in the distance:
what do birds think about, anyway?

Mold on my walls-
and other things-
other wonderful, weird things
that deserve investigation-
or fixing (says my father's voice
careful, pragmatic)-

I have no time to fix
these fissures will remain
while I learn to take
the easiest routes
leap over, walk around,
walk along-

there's a darkness in you
she says, one evening-
not a presence, 
but an absence,
I think, but do not say-

and so it goes-
the sickle moon grows full once more
and winter shows up then-
briefly, a last hopeless stand
against a destiny
made for tilting toward the sun.