Saturday, October 19, 2013

These arms of mine

Amazing and frustrating at once, a system you have no recollection of having established is somehow in place.  Undeniably so.  Phantom pain blends with real and you find yourself stuck, literally, arms in the air with your shirt half off.

A system that weaves over the border into information retention, a soul state of denial and negotiation designed to provide you with protection you never asked for.  Knowledge deemed beyond your scope is hidden, watered down with wine until you can handle it.

Despite all the orchestrations, you knew.  Long before anyone else.  You knew what you would never hold again.  Every twinge, pinch, and pull whispered to you and prepared you for what was to come.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Walking after midnight

Dark and quiet, no animals, just you.  Ferns and leaves long brown beneath you, canopies above.

A trail of hard-working lace, intricate and purposeful, left like breadcrumbs in this forest so you can find your way home.  Pieces of a vintage quilt you'll sew together one day.

Your hold your discovery in your mind, alchemist for a day, that day when you took red and blue away from purple and saw how it was made.  The darkest mix of hot and cold, blood and truth.  

Separate perhaps, at least for a time.  You see now they were never apart.

How much blood does it take to get to the truth?  Follow its river, study its stains.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oh the places you'll go

Indian food first though.  It's hard to find spice here, the palate is accustomed to subtlety, and spice is much more overt than that.

And after?

We wander a labyrinth filled with sights and sounds, whips and chains for our minds to play with, find a spot and stop.  We ignore infringements and invitations, we lock ourselves in, or at least you do.  I follow your lead, however badly.

I see nothing there, neither going in nor going out.  Though I have been there before, a thousand times.  I came here as I child, even worked here as a child.  There is nothing here for me now, just burning incense.  Sage that carries away the ghosts.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

You cannot lie

Focused bliss, capturing a memorized moment in flight.  You were altered.

Imagine your shock, when you hit the ground, no longer running.  

It's a metaphor isn't it?  Immobility your body needs you to witness.  

Can you though?  Do you know what this means?  You cannot shake it off, you cannot slump under its weight.  There is no future for your action and your body knows that.  

Frozen not in time but in freedom, unable to assume, unwilling to cave.  

Friday, November 09, 2012

On the nature of rights

It should feel uncomfortable, or even worse, you know that it should.  You even try to make it so.  Amongst friends, even recent ones, you paint it as unacceptable, inadmissible. 

Careful examination, a wineglass full of truth, paves a different path.  Cobblestone upon living earth, an effort to smooth out something that will never stop moving.    

This isn't their story, it is yours.  They are not witnesses, they are victims.  Neither their crime, nor your punishment - this is a jigsaw puzzle of your making.  Pushed to a corner of the dining room table long ago when it seemed too hard to finish.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On the nature of framework

There is a place where everything is permitted.  It's a small place, relatively speaking, and only one language is spoken there.

The key, and you know this, is establishing the framework.  Nothing seeps out of good framework and you've seen what happens when it isn't good.  Bruises and blood everywhere.  Little stains you can never get rid of.  You've tried everything, or at least you thought you had, to establish some rules.  A boundary or two.      

Imagine your surprise when you realized a whisper would suffice, a gentle line drawn in soft sand.  

And here, all this time, you thought you needed a whip.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Raspberries and red wine

In one month, I will have been living in this country for 15 years.  15 years is a consequential bit of time, it cannot be dismissed as an experiment or an act of whimsy.

When people ask, as they will, how long I've been here, where I'm from, why on earth I'm here, I answer with facts. But that's not what they're looking for.

Behind their questions I hear hidden ones, or maybe I project them there myself.

How can you remember who you are when you are so very far from where you grew up?  From everyone who knows you?  What anchors you?

I never really answer.  I weave pretty tales of cross-cultural communication and assimilation and integration.  But I do not tell them how far from stable, in the most literal sense of the word, being a foreigner is.

I always come home after one of those conversations unsettled.  My perpetual state, but worse on nights like those.

And so I end it the only way I can.  I pour a glass of thick red wine.  A tale of the dirt and sunshine and wood that surrounds me but is not my own.  And raspberries, like those I picked off bushes at my grandmother's house decades ago.  A fruit that can be sweet, but not that much.  An echo of home but no more.  

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Some of my people

I read a book a long time ago.

It was an ethnography and spoke of literacy and poverty and race. Of mill towns along a southern river and the lives people led there.

It took a chapter for me to realize it was a book about places where part of my family comes from.  I was a graduate student, reading case studies about people that lived a life identical to that of my grandmother.  Of mill workers' children that mirrored my mother's childhood experience.  Gunny sack clothing and food stamps for the school cafeteria.  Tobacco field work in the summer and citrus fruit once a year.

I didn't tell anyone in class.  Not because I was ashamed but because I didn't know how to explain what had happened within the space of one generation.  I didn't know how to accurately describe what they had given, fought for, lost and learned.

How could I? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Over the top

Or we could call this


Pastel streets lined with orange trees.  Orange trees with actual oranges on them.  Although they might have been clementines.  So maybe citrus-lined pastel streets is the best way to describe it.

Monte Carlo felt like Vegas if it were owned by Disney.  Or like Candyland for very rich adults.


The coastline was beautiful and made everything next to it look like it was made of marshmallows.  And that is exactly what I needed to see.  A reminder of what is real and what is not.   

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Blackest darkness, harshest rain, most penetrating fog - these are dangers you know.  You have known them long enough to call them familiar, they are cigarettes you've smoked a thousand times.  And as many times afterward you have wondered which ones you have actually enjoyed, which one was actually a pleasure.

In the dark on the way there and in the light on the way back, the view is really the same.  It is you who are not.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Turn left

I've been living in France for 14 years.  I'm not sure what that means, other than the fact that I arrived in 1997. But it seems like it should mean something.  Two cycles of 7 or something like that.

It feels like I should be completely at home or at least completely something after that much time.

And yet.

I am here, 14 years later, much less sure of anything that I was when I got here.

So.  What do I do now?

Turn left and move forward, wherever that is.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


You speak, clearly even, everyone tells you so.  Your words are careful and thoughtful and precise, like you are.

It's surprising not to be understood.  But the day comes, doesn't it always - even if you never thought it would, when you meet someone who doesn't take your words at face value.

Subtitles.  There is talk of subtitles.

And as someone who has spent a lifetime gauging the accuracy and the reliability of subtitles, weaving in and out of cultures, making temporary homes in the honeycomb of language, you find yourself in the delicate position of having to evaluate your own. 

Turn on a bright light, the full spectrum kind, the kind made of rainbows our eyes can't see. 

You will see it here, a shadow that is wiser and more substantial than you, saying the words you cannot.  Speaking of dreams you think you must not have and desires you believe you must not follow.  Silent subtitles you never knew were there. 

 You will realize you've been living in a second language for longer than you thought.  You will understand why feeling foreign feels like home.

What can you say to the person who saw them, spoke of them?  Nothing really.  In cases like this, it is best to let the shadow speak.

Shadows, not just time, take care of things we cannot.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

To love is to bury

Bury in the dirt. And to decide what goes with it. Acknowledge what mattered, keep the gifts, and then render the rest to its owner. Burn it all, watch the fire from beginning to end. That part is important. Watch your intention while you're at it.

Then pack your things, take only what you really need. Leave and don't say goodbye.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hear this

Be quiet and write, she said.

Tell the tales of how you won, battles and wars of epic scope. Tell the stories, the ones we all know but never say out loud. Stories of silent violence, purple rivers of blood and truth in every bruise you wear. Tell the family history, more darkness there than any one generation could bear, an ivy that climbs and clings and slowly tears down the walls. Tell the story of every bridge you burned, every boundary you crossed.

Acknowledge error of perspective and translation. Blow the candles out when you’ve finished. Words, once spoken, once written, are no longer yours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh my

It has been many years since I've lived in the south. Any south.

The south has existed for me forever - my mother's south. It was the south of my vacations - the beach, the heat, the family I both knew and didn't know.

I lived there for a few years a long time ago and while I enjoyed most of my time there, I remember swearing as I left North Carolina to move to Seattle, I'll never move back to the south. Too hot.

Twenty years later, exactly, I am back in the south. It's a different south, one that is unfamiliar to me - the south of lavender fields and olive groves and vineyards. But it's still really hot.

And by really hot I mean in the upper 80s this week kind of hot.

I have grand hopes of adjusting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Map this

You and your maps. Intricate, beautiful works of art. Lifetimes of exploration and study behind every curve and line. Not like a tourist though, your map isn't just for beginnings and ends.

But even with those maps in hand, you have always used a compass, haven't you?

There is a shadow on every compass. Have you ever noticed?

Cast by the needle on that compass you have spent years - decades - following. There are those who might suggest the pull comes from that shadow and from nothing else. Do you really know how a compass works? Losing north feels so much better than you might expect.

Have you ever seen the space within limits? It is infinite. You can resist it, hate it, and call it names. You can even call it out.

Do it in a valley. The echos are better there. They will come back to you and whisper gentle truths you could not hear the first time around.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One cup

If you are one sword, one cup is what you seek.

A chalice. A quest, perhaps, but one that begins when you find it, instead of ending. In seeking it, you agree to prepare yourself to find it, that's the real quest, allowing yourself to become someone who could find it.

Sacred and beloved, this cup stands, despite its weight. It is substantial. Heavy with symbol, precious metals and jewels, it is the only quest you've ever sought, the only cup you've ever really wanted to drink from, whether you knew it or not.

Your mind does not know if you will ever find it, doesn't even know if it exists. But your heart finds beauty in believing and not knowing. Nothing tragic, just the crisp clarity of faith.

This cup has your name written on it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The remains of the day

Yesterday I spent 8 hours on the train. And half of that was on regional trains. In France if you say regional trains what you're really saying is SLOW trains.

I don't know if it's the season or the time or the route, but all of the towns we rolled through looked so sad. Black slate roofs and pale stone and bare trees. That's really all I saw. Towns where old family money and industry have long gone.

I was relieved when we got back to the colors of the south. I have always resisted belonging to the south. Thankfully, the south has never resisted belonging to me.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Kiss my soul

A quiet tug. Persistent but there.

It turned into a yank and then could not be ignored. Some things are like that. First felt as a lack, a missing you could not fathom or explain. You asked the appropriate question, you're good at that. And you got a most unexpected answer. Really.

You were disappointed, of course you were. The eternal optimist, you were certain of a different outcome. Not even one that involved you, just one that involved some authenticity. Instead you got a glimpse into the darkest of rooms, one you were certain contained mystery and invitation. In this case, however, that is not where the darkness comes from. Shoe boxes line the walls you were certain would be covered with something plush. Chaos, your constant companion, is mastered here. Ordered shelves where you expected to find dark velvet. It would have been purple velvet - the color from your favorite mix of red and blue, your truest friends, blood and truth.

You do not know what will come of this, probably nothing. But that, in itself, is something.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Where it should be

You've always had a thing for blood. It has made you sick and made you faint but you're fascinated still. And it's not a vampire thing. It's something closer to the ground than that.

You've watched it swirl and gush and pool. These are all things you do.

You realize now, today, tonight, that you've always had a thing for blood not because of when you saw it, but because of when you didn't.

It is the witness we cannot bear to be.

That is why you have a thing for it. Because blood tells the story you can't.