BEGIN AGAIN

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Zeus himself could have lived inside that beard

the whorls of aged white like an entire sky

electric strands straining out from a face

that used to be handsome

or so the woman behind the desk

who is quick to call any man handsome

once told me

‎after she’d seen a picture from your

(curling at the corners, becoming indefinite)

running years

or your Navy years

or some other years

before this year

of kittens and pornography

not sleeping through the night

skipped medication

self-medication

sitting alone in the dark, the early morning

out in the county where there is hardly a sound at all

at 3:00am

you didn’t sleep for days

on the long trip north to see your mother

to dance with her in the living room

and to bicker with your remaining brother

about the mess that she made

when she ate

because, in moments, you knew

what matters

‎getting on the bus and leaving the kittens behind

because you wanted to tell your mother goodbye

back when you thought that she was the one

who was going to die

 

I’m almost certain

that nobody told you they were sorry

to hear that you’d come home to find them 

all gone, gathered up

nameless now though you had named them

I know that I didn’t tell you I was sorry 

to hear that they were gone

those kittens you’d brought into town

in a box

to show the people who were your friends

the small, furred lives that shared your life

and I know that I spoke with a man 

whose beard is much less fine than yours was

(a beard sparse and trimmed, with no room for the twisting of old gods)

about how it was probably good

that the kittens were gone when you got home

‎back to that place on the ridge

with the mud thick like a moat in the springtime

sitting above the fields and the roofs of little rectangles  

fiberglass and aluminum

air conditioners hanging off of them 

like loosened teeth

and the windows covered up 

to hide what was missing 

and what was messy

places just like that place

where you died unattended

on a weekend

 

Your eyes must have blinked like they did

on the most unremarkable Tuesdays

slow at the edge of a deep, deep sleep

Were you curled like a weary child

with no food in the cubboard

save for beans and rice

beans and rice?

The nights getting cold and the tomatoes turning

into pesticide pulp

all the bins had held on the last day 

were potatoes, mealy and sprouting eyes 

(forgotten, unwanted things)

still dusted with the earth of this place

where you found yourself

after so many other places

 

I told them, you know,

these people that will probably forget you

that will only remember you sometimes

when they are counting the sadnesses 

that come with their work

that we’d crossed paths before

in that winter of ’77, when I was just a baby toddler girl

with scared brown eyes

in a strange place with my parents

who would sneak out to old van

 parked up by the road

to search for twinkies in the glove compartment

some sweetness from the world away

from the mountains in Tennessee 

in the middle of the winter

 

maybe you talked to my father

or thought my mother was beautiful

the way any young man

trying to find some light might

 

for a second, it seemed like they understood

and then I remembered that they couldn’t

possibly

understand

On some day in the office

that used to be my office

I thought for sure ‎that the gold flecks in your eyes 

surely meant something

like stardust

as you spoke about forces and light and dark

the war unseen but surely real

in the way you cried for your lost brother

and the deal you thought you’d made

in spite of the fact

that no matter how many times I told you

You never would believe

that you hadn’t sold his soul 

to some man that you would not name

some man that you refused to name

because, you explained, if you told me his name

I would know it 

and then it would know me 

and I never did say thank you 

for sparing me from that fear that you lived with

 

Do you remember the way I’d make circles

in the stones out front

when we talked about life and death

and the way we’d hold our arms up toward the sky 

making circles with our limbs 

and the breathing in the dark 

both waiting alone and together

for the moment when we could forget 

everything that we ever thought we knew about ourselves

and our names and the places we had been 

and not been?

 

Do you remember what you wished for? 

 

I do. 

 

Now, when I see the sun setting earlier and earlier

another winter coming

in the wind and in the rain

and in the first light of every day

trying to turn to gold

the way it does

‎I imagine that you know

what is in my heart and in my mind

(I hope that you know, somehow.)

that I wish for you everything

that you didn’t have

and that I pray 

to the only thing I know how to pray to anymore

that you will

begin again

and begin again

and begin again.

*today’s sundogs*

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I still take pictures of the sky, and am usually looking up.  Lately, it occurs to me that I lost something when I stopped believing that numinous forces are at work in the clouds.  Something big and bold and wonderful inside of me began to wither.  I haven’t written much in a few months, not here or anywhere else. I am not sure what to do about that, other than to keep reminding myself that many people go through quiet months, quiet years. Some days, I forget about everything I wanted to say so badly, everything I believed down into my bones…and that forgetting brings about a dull sadness, a silent sort of woe…wondering what happened to me, what happened to my heart, what happened to my mind.  I have decided that I should probably start writing again, reclaim that practice in some way.  I don’t want to give up on my voice.

Tonight, I came home from work and wrote the above poem-like assemblage after thinking some about a person who is no longer walking and talking in my life.

I still refuse to believe that anyone ever really dies.

I drive the same road to work that I have driven for the past 4 and 1/2 years, watch the same fields change with season and feel the ways that I have changed, am changing still.

This morning, I thought back to the feeling of driving to work having hit Publish the night before, sending words and images out into the ethersphere to sit and do whatever they do, to exist.  I miss that feeling, so I will post the poem-like remembrance and a copy-pasted dull-ish letter to my friend on Death Row, a picture of the panther painting in progress…and then I will wake up tomorrow and another day will be here and I can slowly begin again…begin again…begin again…start scraping my way back to myself.

I think sometimes about what I might write if I excused myself from the task of explaining or understanding why I have grown so quiet, telling all the things I have sat silently with for months.

Where would I start if I could start anew, without explaining why I stopped?

I found two old short stories a few weeks ago, folded into an old box.

They aren’t terrible.

I think, at this point, that it is more important for me to just write again, to write anything…because this accidental experiment in silence has proved to me that something dies in me when I don’t.

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Dear ______,
I was so happy to receive your letter and to learn that you were/are understanding of the situation re: the visit that was not to be and, more importantly, that you were able to appreciate where I was coming from with the 3-in-1 letter. The fact that you made the effort to articulate clearly that it bothers you when I get into my whole guilt and punishment schtick about not always being there in the way I think I oughta be there for you, that you are able to see and to name that I punish myself and put that spin on things…well, it meant a lot to me that you told me that, and – yes – you’re absolutely correct.
Now, you know I’ve been a troubled person for a while and although I have overcome a lot and dodged some potentially very problematic scenarios, I still walk around with a lot of trouble in my head and heart. It’s funny, I work this job where I talk with people about how to overcome negative self-evaluations, how to accept oneself and forgive oneself any perceived shortcomings or errors in being or choice and I just haven’t been able to really heal those very same mechanisms of self-loathing and self-doubt in myself. I’ve thought a lot about that lately, since it has become apparent that although I know better in my head, the deeper parts of me still haven’t learned that I am good and I am loved and that the forces of the universe and working for me and not against me, that everything isn’t a test I am bound to fail.
I put on airs of being, you know, alright with myself, but when I am alone I am all but plagued with doubt and self-recrimination…and I have had to really look at that truth lately, at what those old habits of self-loathing keep me from seeing and keep me from being.
I think I started to heal that a little when I finally wrote you and told you that I felt like my fire had gone out.  Since then, I’ve been trying to find it again, and it’s been flickering a little here and there, coming back to me…who I am and what I am.
More about that some other time, for now…some news and recent events:
It worked out alright that I couldn’t come to see you on Saturday because you know how I told you the kids were gonna be out of town…well, that morning, _____calls and he wasn’t feeling well and asked if he could stay with me while his dad and sister went out of town. I was glad to be able to say, “Yeah, sure sweetie, come on over.” He wasn’t real sick or anything. I think he just wanted to stay in town. The film thing with my friend went pretty well. It was neat, people brought all these old home movies and we were able to screen the films for them. ‎
A lot of the footage was from Florida – where my mom grew up and two separate people had footage from Homestead, where my aunt used to live. ____ just hung out and read his book, then we went home and watched some old episodes of the X-Files. It was a nice day, but you were definitely on my mind.
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I kept hoping that you weren’t feeling sad or sick with disappointment. I’d rather you be angry at me than sad. Really.
Did I tell you about the kitten? Probably not, since it is a pretty new thing. So, this little wild kitten showed up on our back porch week before last and it wouldn’t let us anywhere near it, went and hid in an old stack of wood at the end of the porch if we tried to approach it. After feeding it for a few days, we tried to trap it, but I set the trap – one of those Hav-a-Heart traps that won’t hurt the animal – wrong and it just got right back out. I tried to trap it again, but it was wise to us and wouldn’t go near that trap again. I did manage to catch our older cat Pepper in the trap, and then a possum, but I couldn’t catch the kitten. I ended up putting the trap out by where I was feeding it, but didn’t set it or anything, just let it sit there, thinking the kitten might get used to it and not be scared of it. Finally, after 3 days of worrying about the kitten and wanting to catch the kitten, I was able to lure it into the trap with some wet food. We got it set up in the storage room, but it was still totally wild and immediately went into hiding in all the boxes and piles of stuff. I had to move 1/2 of the stuff that was in there out, so that I could find the kitten and make sure it was alright. After a few days of just feeding it and wondering if I was going to be stuck with a feral cat living in my storage room, _____ and I caught it with our hands and were able to hold it.
I just kept thinking how odd it must’ve been for the kitten to think that we were going to hurt it and to be so scared of us and then to find that when we did finally catch it, instead of hurting it, we petted it and made little cooing sounds at it. Well, the kitten warmed up to that real quick and getting tame. She’s a girl and her name is Bandit, because she is black and white and has a little bandit mask on her face.
She’s been good for my heart, this little kitten.
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I got some bad news on Monday. One of the students at the REC, a person I’d been really close with for the past few years, died. It was a bit of a rip and I mourned pretty intensely for a few days. Then, yesterday, I was noticing how pretty the day was and got this sense of knowing that the person is – you know – still out in the world, and my thinking and feeling about his death shifted from seeing the situation as losing a friend to more of a sense of having gained a guardian angel of sorts, another ghost.
This person and I had crossed paths a long time ago, during my very first winter on the planet. My parents had moved us up to this commune in Tennessee and although we were only there for a few months, through conversation with this student I learned that he had been there at the same time, the same winter, the same few months during the winter. I was a baby, he was a young man. He was my friend, and I will miss him, but I have a sense that he has found some peace and that he is still a part of my life…and so I am okay with his having passed on.
Did I ever tell you my theory on what happens to people when they die? I might save it for another letter, but I have it worked out in my mind that no one ever really dies…and not in the sense that people go to heaven or whatever, but in an actual and real process of all of our vital electricity and energy, the very core of our souls, the seed of us from the very first moment the cells that make us collide and spark…well, it all just flies out of us, finds a current, keeps fucking moving.
I will find a way to come visit you on some Saturday. It is good to feel that I want to see you. Not because I feel like I have to or even to make you happy…I want to see you because you are my friend. What I really want to do is to hug you, and I wish that you’d let me know how I could help you to get the hell off the Row so that you could come back out into the world.
Your take on forgiveness is interesting, that it sets a person up for a possible betrayal. Yeah, that’s true, I guess. I always think about forgiveness as something we do for ourselves as much as (or more than) for the person we forgive…because it’s so toxic to walk around bearing grudges. I think that you’re right though, that forgiveness does open a person up for betrayal, but that it good to forgive anyway, because in doing so one is erring on the side of love and faith that good will come and that the possibility of that is worth the gamble.
I was so happy to get your letter. I read it while sitting in my car on Market St., here in Asheville, on a break from this art studio time I am doing with this group called Aurora. It is a group of artists that are all in recovery from something or another. I still haven’t finished that panther painting, but I will. I will – also – paint you a picture, on plain paper so that you can have it.
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5 thoughts on “BEGIN AGAIN

  1. The way you channel your thoughts and experiences into your writing has a truly mystical quality to it, while at the same time remaining grounded, relatable and deeply moving. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Faith. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to him. Thank you for sharing this precious work.

    • Ah, thanks for showing up unexpectedly and for knowing my friend a little through reading this remembrance, J. I appreciate the small encouragement, the shared existing, the being seen. Hope the day brings good winds…send me a piano song sometime.

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