Assorted Poetry (TW: Self Harm, Eating Disorders, Ennui)

Note: No one freak out about mentions of symptom use. These are all just capturing feelings, not literal.

 

 

Last night I took a blade to my skin

Blood letting for the soul

The foul humors escape.

There is more life within me than the flimsy walls of my body can contain

Bursting and breaking through in fits

A quick slice so much easier

Draining an abscess

 

Have you ever felt a nostalgia so melancholy your breath flees?

Or fallen in love with the golden caricatures of humanity?

Do you walk the streets in the twilight, breathing in the scents of rain and promise

And wonder if you could live forever?

Have you ever run your hands over your body and wondered

How easy it would be to rip it open

off

just for the freedom?

 

Sometimes when I love too hard, I refuse food

A quiet prayer that my body disappear

To give me more space to stretch and love you more deeply.

Did you know that a body can burst if you fill it with enough loves?

 

Some girls bend their bodies into contortions, hoping to confuse the fire within

into fading out

Their skin paper thin

They glow as lanterns

Until they concoct an emptiness to kill the flames.

Their insides were yearning for people, for places

So they replaced passion with need

for size 2, for vodka, for death

And now their skin simply crinkles, hollow

 

I let the heat bleed out of me when I can’t carry the weight

But I can breathe flames on days I am strong enough to stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A single face, glimpsed

A face that might be the face of one I once loved

is enough to leave me shaking with nostalgia

 

At night my feet know that it’s time to leave

but my mind has no destination.

My heart supplies the names of everyone I have every shown myself to

truly

and my feet anxiously trip through memory and longing

 

I can’t escape the way that feeling so much is always pain

And the flood of insecurities that returns with each face

I am sitting alone in the dark

The razor blades of my eyes cutting over each ounce of fat

And everyone I’ve ever loved is not here

Object permanence has escaped me, and they are lost

 

I am more, I am more than ennui

I could be more, and perhaps I could collect each face for good.

But I am already too much

And they cannot fit into my long list of labels.

I cannot chase lost souls.

Infinite

There’s a scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower in which Charlie and his friends are driving their truck through a tunnel. They stand up in the back while their favorite song plays on the radio. Charlie says “In that moment, I swear we were infinite”.

Sometimes, when I’m walking down an empty street at night and the wind is warm and my skirt is swirling around my legs, I wonder if I am infinite. Unnameable feelings rise in my throat, as if my self were too big for my body and might burst out somehow. As if I could walk to heaven if I just pointed myself in a direction and started going. As if I might be able to see the whole world if I climbed high enough.

In the first season of the rebooted Dr. Who, Rose Tyler looks into the heart of the TARDIS and becomes infinite: she knows everything. Unfortunately, she simply can’t contain it: if it remains inside her it will kill her. No human being can process that much information.

More often than not, I feel like Rose, burning up from the inside with all the bits and pieces that flit through my mind. I jump from one task to the next, my brain racing with answers and analyses and concepts that don’t quite process fully.

I wonder whether I can ever hold on to the infinity, or whether my body will burn up. I want to breathe in the whole world through the pure taste of summer. God smells like lilacs and lily of the valley. The angel choirs are singing 90’s music. In heaven, I dance like Baby from Dirty Dancing.

But my body doesn’t move like that and lilacs die in a week and the 90’s are over. Every night when I fall asleep I remember that I am finite. Sometimes I pretend I can subsist on air to convince myself that I’m god-like enough to hold onto the joy of nights that sing and smirk and dance. Sometimes my whole body deflates and I collapse into myself when the hot air I puff myself full of gives out.

How could I not be melancholy when I have glimpsed perfection and fallen away?

Fiction Round Up

It’s been a while since I’ve graced you all with anything other than essays (I sound so full of myself don’t I? Don’t worry, it’s all an act to hide the insecurities I feel about my writing), and so I figured that today would be a good day to put up the bits and pieces I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. Some are drabbles, some are poems, some are…God knows what, but here they are for your amusement.

 

Solstice

Midsummer in the North is surreal. I watch the sky like I’d eye a Dali painting, wondering if something will melt under the impossible sun. I came here to escape. I came here for dark and silence, for the endless cold stretching out before me as if I could see it. I came here because at night I forget. But today there is no night, only days and days contained in 24 hours. It is incomprehensible, this solstice of the pole. It is maddening. I look up at the heavens and yell curses at the sun that refuses to set.

 

 

Pain

They asked her how bad the pain was on a scale of 1-10. She replied that it was an 8. Physical pain or emotional pain they wanted to know. They seemed very serious, as if the answer would change everything.

Without warning, she burst out laughing, and they looked at each other to silently say “72 hour hold”. There was no mind left to this one.

When she caught her breath there were small tears seeping from the edges of her eyes. Her face caught some of their seriousness and they looked at her expectantly.

“You think there’s a difference?”

 

There’s a loneliness to it that you can’t understand until you’ve stood before someone

Claiming they love you

And asking you to climb Everest on a broken leg.

There’s a distance placed between you

That is uncrossable until you’ve gotten the passport stamp of depression.

I try to yell across to you

And give you the details of the landscape

But all you get are echoed words, bits and pieces of a painting

That will never be whole.

The space distorts words.

There may be others with me, but we have no time for each other

Each too busy yelling across the void to someone or other

Wishing they could go home.

Someday I will make a camp here

And forget the other side.

Inviting each new person inside to warm themselves at my fire

And we’ll be together

Alone.

 

The following is a set of drabbles entitled “Food”:

First Day of Treatment

The bowl of pasta was large. It seemed to grow as she looked at it, drowning in alfredo sauce. Reluctantly, she picked up her fork and began to twirl the strands around it. It was a painstakingly slow process. Fork to bowl. Turn. Pick up noodles. Mouth. Chew. Swallow. By the time she was halfway through it was cold, the sauce congealed. How would she finish? She felt eyes heavy on her as she took yet another bite, her stomach already churning. But she couldn’t stop: they were watching. But she knew how to fix it: fingers down the throat.

Love

When he speaks about food, he is intense. She rarely sees him like this otherwise, leaning forward, eyes sparkling, hands gesturing madly. She understands his passion; food can turn her into a different person too, but it’s the love affair with it that makes no sense. It excites her though. She finds herself making up excuses to eat with him, to spend money she doesn’t have on beautiful dinners. She listens with unblinking eyes when he talks, trying to capture the essence of his speech. But every night after they eat together, she goes home to pinch at imagined fat.

Binging

She’s hungry. So often she forgets to feel hungry, or convinces herself it’s something else, but today she feels empty and it is undeniable. There is a gnawing, pulling, dark sensation at the very bottom of her, telling her that nothing will satisfy. She searches for the cure: meat and potatoes, ice cream, comfort food, fascinating flavors, good company. No matter what goes in she remains hungry, until the desperation and calories blend into a shocking kind of nausea, but always an emptiness. Nothing will fill her, so she picks up her phone, hoping his voice will do the trick.

Life

He tells her stories of food. Aztec is his favorite. He tells her how bodies became food and food became bodies and the earth regrew itself out of the gods. Food and memory and existence wrapped together. Her favorite is when he teaches her words. Poutine. Macerate. Cassoulet. Her world expands. Some days he shows her how he likes to cook, dousing everything liberally with truffle salt. When they go to restaurants, he waxes rhapsodic about the foods he loves: oysters, pate, and wine. She tastes his words and his food and begins to eat life for the first time.

Empty Plate

Rule: never eat in the morning. It was 10:30 AM. They ordered a waffle to share. She took a few moments to try to observe it. There was fruit topping it, fresh and plump, but her eyes were drawn immediately to the sizeable heaping of whipped cream. The smell was forceful and immediate, sweet and full, almost golden. She breathed deeply, closing her eyes to take in only the scent. It smelled good. She reminded herself that it would taste good, she liked waffles. Five minutes later, there wasn’t a bite left. It was more than an hour before noon.

Victory

He pushes the plate towards me. I feel a flutter of uncertainty. Rabbit. I’ve never eaten rabbit before. He’s taken a bite of it, and his face tells me that he just ate a bit of rabbit-flavored heaven. Something in me snaps and I grin, pulling the plate closer. A deep desire to be here in this moment, tasting the food before me, sharing the conversation around me, has left no space for anxiety. The rabbit looks juicy and tender, covered in some deliciously unknown sauce. One bite tells me it’s complex, balanced, intriguing. A smile flutters across my face.

 

 

I’m sitting and waiting. I don’t know what I’m waiting for, but I hope that someone will tell me soon. I don’t like to wait. My muscles clench and unclench. My jaw grinds away at itself. My eyes fall out of focus.

But boredom is the kiss of death. My mind has nowhere to go. It runs and grabs and discards ideas at spitfire speed. I begin a thought and it falls away as it’s devoured by something new. What where how do I think? My mind eats itself, a dog chasing its tail, Ouroboros.

I am no phoenix to grow again when I’ve fallen, and I wait. I rip open my fingers, biting at the skin. I chew on my lips. I crack my knuckles. Nothing ends and so nothing may begin.

Where is the exit?

My legs will not stand because I know the rules and someone will tell me what I’m waiting for.

I will not look away. I am eternal and eternally incomplete.

I am a constant reminder of loss.

Why is there no exit?

Emotions: A Physical Exploration

What follows is something completely different from anything I think I’ve written before. It was partly an exercise in fictional writing, for description, and partly an exercise in getting in touch with the physicality of my emotions. All of our emotions come with physical manifestations, and much of the time we just completely forget about that or ignore it. Here I have portraits of a few emotions told as fully as possible in descriptions of a body. Enjoy 🙂

 

Sadness

I get sad when I’ve lost something, when I know it’s not coming back. He left last night, and I know he’s gone for good. It always starts with exhaustion, but there’s more. The sadness comes in waves. My mind will wander for a moment, and then suddenly my breath will catch and my throat will constrict and my eyes will burn with tears. I have to focus on my mouth to breathe evenly, and I’m left with my mouth hanging slackly open, growing dry. My face is numb, as if I have no control over it, except when the crying happens, and then it contorts crazily. The pain is dull, burning, aching in my chest. My muscles are tight and my throat won’t allow swallowing. But there are moments when it rips through me and it feels as if there are splinters through my sternum, holding the breath inside me, leaving me ragged and weak. I have no energy to move my limbs. My eyes won’t blink and they won’t focus. My head feels stuffed full of fuzz, blocking all clarity. And my poor stomach is left uncertain of which way to turn, running from growling hunger to boiling nausea in seconds. I forget when I’m sad that my body takes the brunt of it, but each moment of sadness comes with a plethora of physical surprises, aches and pains and breathlessness. I need to put my body back together.

 

Disgust

Disgust starts deep. It’s a roiling, sickening feeling. If I concentrate, I can feel my insides turning and rumbling. It builds quickly into a twitchiness, a dissatisfaction with my skin which suddenly crawls and pinches. It’s too tight, it prickles. My stomach feels like it’s bulging, like it’s grown, like it has expanded beyond all measure. I want to pick at things, rip my nails off, rip myself out of my body. My hands clench and scratch. I chew the insides of my mouth. I feel as if I cannot speak. My mouth has stopped working. Words bubble up, feeling like bile, and then dissipate before I can do anything with them. My face pulls downwards. My body has gone out of control, shutting down and boiling up, full of energy and heat and tenseness. My whole chest tightens, my jaw clenches. I can feel each set of muscles flinching in turn. My body feels as if it’s trying to expel something, but it can’t decide what. It’s an attack from within.

 

Pride

Pride is a rarity, and so I savor the few moments I realize what it is. It’s hard to identify the pieces that make it up though, as I am rarely exposed to them. The first sign is always the impossible curling up of my whole face. I try to hold it in. I try to keep myself from grinning, but I can’t. My face feels like it needs to take up more space, and who am I to deny it? My eyes crinkle and sparkle and dart and smile. Everything moves upwards, lighter, emptier and yet fuller: full of energy and full of strength and full of power, but empty of contamination and pain and weight. My body waits for someone to recognize, full of potential energy, ready to jump up, to bound at a moment’s notice. My chest feels almost in pain with too much space, my heart beats hard and strong, my blood flows quickly. My eyes dart, they can see too much, they can move too quickly. I bounce slightly. I cannot quite keep still.

 

Happiness

Happiness is pure energy. My mouth can’t move fast enough to get the words out, my body can’t move fast enough to bounce everywhere I’d like to go. I grin wickedly. I dance. I cannot sit, I cannot lie, I need to move.  I feel as if I have expanded to encompass the universe, and yet I feel grounded, solid in my chair, my feet firmly against the ground. I can breathe deeply. My lungs have expanded. My shoulders spread outwards, making me larger than my normal hunched silhouette. I look up, confidently meeting eyes. Sometimes I need to bite my lip to keep from exploding in a grin. My foot bounces up and down, my fingers drum a rhythm on the tabletop in front of me. Everything is moving so fast, my whole body has been placed on caffeine pills, nothing will ever slow me down and my mind will never stop demolishing every problem before it. I am veritably humming with everything my body wants to do. There’s no way it could end.

Anger

Anger turns inwards. It’s deadly calm. Painfully so. Outwardly, anger is silence. A face that will not express. Terse words, sarcastic tones, refusal of eye contact. A bored fiddling with my rings or my fingers or the couch. My muscles have seized up, I have no control over them. With great effort I may be able to turn my head to look at someone, but otherwise I am trapped. My heart pounds painfully. My throat constricts. Tingles run down my arms. I feel fit to bursting. Everything in my body has gone crazy: my chest feels as though it might explode, blood pounds, my head aches, my eyes sting, everything has gone to chaos. And yet outwardly there is simply stone.

 

Anxiety

I am ripping. My heart goes upwards, my stomach down. My throat pulls in and out. My head is splitting with headache. My body cannot decide where to run. I must curl up to hold myself together, shaking, sniffling, clenching, rocking. My shoulders turn inwards as I become smaller, smaller, trying to contain myself. I bite my lip, hard. I grab at a blanket, balling my hands into fists. My body has turned against me and I feel a burning rage against it, the desire to cut my skin, to bruise myself, to burn myself. I can’t bear to look at my skin. I scrunch my eyes closed, rubbing my eyelids until light bursts form. I’m full of nervous energy, my legs want to run or bike, my arms want to lift. I flex to remind myself I still have muscles.  My breath comes in fits and bursts, and there is a pressure behind my ears. My body feels distant for all its chaos. My perception drifts, and my eyes go soft when I try to focus. I blink rapidly, wishing I could return. But the pain of my body keeps me away.

Poems and Pieces

I’m going to do another bout of fiction/poetry. Brace yourselves:

 

This morning I woke up

Or rather my eyes opened.

I tried to leave my bed, but the world was cold

And my mind would not open

However brightly the sun shone.

I put one foot in front of the other until I reached reality

But when I stopped moving I began to drift backwards

There is nothing to hold on to here

The walls are smooth

And the sky is empty.

Backwards feels like falling

But my weight is not enough for gravity to take effect

And so I float untethered

Away from the room where I sat

Where I walked with my eyes open and my mind closed

Where I tried to remind myself that this was real

And I was alive

And I am moving

Backwards.

I hope that tonight I will reach my bed again

And tomorrow morning I will wake up

Or rather open my eyes.

 

 

Solitude:

Everyone told her that she was an introvert. She knew that being alone was a necessity. Too many people made her feel overwhelmed and frustrated and confused. Her senses began to shut down.

She had always imagined that her ideal job was one in which she didn’t have to deal with people, because people were always ruining things. Words and computers and papers didn’t make mistakes: they did as they were told. They were predictable.

But as she sat for 90th day in a row in her small out of the way corner office, she began to hate the solitude.

Coverflip: Some Meandering Thoughts About Gender and Marketing

Maureen Johnson (one of my absolute FAV authors especially for following on Twitter because she’s just as weird as I am) recently conducted a small experiment that she called Coverflip. The idea of the experiment was to take books and imagine if they were written by someone of the opposite gender as their true author, and then create a cover, thinking of how it would be different based on the gender of author. So for example you might take The Great Gatsby, imagine it was written by a woman, and design the cover for it. There were some really interesting covers, and some interesting reactions (many of which included things like “wow, now that this doesn’t have a girly cover I really want to read it!”), and I found myself thinking about how I view books that are marketed as chick lit.

 

I don’t read a lot of “chick lit”. Lately I’ve been into the classics because it took me so F’ing long to start reading them that I have to catch up, but when I read easy or fun books, I tend towards sci fi and fantasy. Now some of these are marketed with female oriented covers, but for the most part they highlight adventure or intrigue or mystery. I realized after this coverflip exercise that when I DO read chick lit books I often feel like I have to apologize: I try not to read them in public, I’m ashamed to be seen reading something that is marketed as trite and empty headed. I’m getting to the point where I’m a little self-conscious of reading ANY YA fiction in public (which is stupid because YA fiction is fantastic and I like it a lot better than most adult fiction which tries to be all edgy by having sex in it, but that’s a topic for another day), and I’m starting to realize thanks to this exercise that having shame about what you read is silly. When you are reading, you are doing something for yourself. You are occupying your free time, doing something that you enjoy. Why should you capitulate to what others suggest you SHOULD be reading rather than what you actually enjoy?

 

But Coverflip brought up more questions than just how societal pressures can force us to feel guilty about the things we actually enjoy. One of the biggest ones for me is about romance in fiction, how romance is marketed, and why we often view romance as an unimportant, badly written, or trashy topic. Romance is generally associated with female writers. In YA fiction, it’s often marketed towards girls, and viewed in the same way as chick flicks. Interestingly, one of the reasons I didn’t take John Green seriously for a while was because his covers gave off the same light, romancey vibe that a lot of female YA authors did. In my mind, that meant he didn’t write about important topics. Once I really read his books, I found that he engaged with some very basic questions of what it means to be human and to look for human connection. So why is it that when I think romance I think trite?

 

One obvious reason is because romance is considered feminine. Men aren’t expected to want romance. They’re expected to want sex or grit or violence. Romance is for women. Which means that it’s empty headed right? But the problem with that is that romance is actually a fairly universal drive. Romance is about connecting with another human being, about what it means to feel close, about what love is. Men have those drives too, just like women do. And even if women were the only ones who had those drives…what on earth is trite about trying to find someone to spend your life with? What is trite about human connection? What is trite about trying to understand what drives us to be around other people? These questions are not trite at all. Romance is about what makes us human and how our human nature resonates with others. This is far from trite, and so making covers of people making hearts with their hands diminishes the importance and power of what it is to be in love or to seek out love. Whether these read as feminine or masculine, it shouldn’t be diminished in this way.

 

An important element of this is the idea that women are relational and that men are independent. In the hierarchy of male and female, this means that individualism gets prioritized over relationships. Many of our great writers (or people who are considered great) write about people fending for themselves or overcoming odds: Jack London is a perfectly typical example of this, and he’s considered a Good and Serious writer for young adults (despite the fact that he focuses almost all of his descriptions on violence and doesn’t do a whole lot of focus on character growth). So for some reason books about relationships are considered unimportant. Obviously most books have relationships in them, but they are not the focus. Action is the focus. Books that are almost exclusively about relationships are designated as chick lit (even when they deal with important themes, a la Jane Austen). Again, it seems odd to me that books about family, friends, lovers are considered unimportant or boring.

 

In relation to this, many of the images on “feminine” coded books were of people, often people holding hands or kissing, young people, or women (or all of the above). In contrast, many of the “serious’ coded books were images of things, textual covers, or had fantasy styled covers. These types of dichotomies play on all sorts of sexist stereotypes about what is appealing to men and what is appealing to women, but one piece that seems very bizarre to me is the idea that covers with people on them are not as serious as covers with objects on them. What is it about a person on a cover that reads to us as “this book doesn’t tackle real issues”? Why do we seem to feel that humans or connecting to humans is unimportant? Why are we afraid of books that are open about the fact that they include people interacting with each other, or are even FOCUSED on people’s interactions with each other?

 

Overall, this experiment confirmed to me that in all sorts of marketing we view women as relational and men as doers or actors, individuals who venture forth. We view those individualistic stories as important, and we view stories of people relating to each other as trite. None of this makes any sense to me.  Every human being on the planet has relationships, and those relationships are what keep us alive, and often the things that make our lives worth living. Most often we read books because we want to connect with another person, to get inside the ideas and feelings of another life. The whole point of literature is connection on an emotional level, and yet when we advertise that openly the book is viewed as shallow. And beyond that, why should we feel guilty for books that might appeal to things that are silly or shallow within us? Why should we feel guilty for letting ourselves be goofy and bubble-headed? Is there something wrong with just entertaining ourselves with books, or are books supposed to be a bastion of academia, only for Serious Men and the few women who can be just as serious? But perhaps the biggest question left in my mind is why people on YA covers NEVER HAVE HEADS?

Monday Morose Miscellany

It’s 11:59. There’s a ringing in her ear. Ring in the new year as they say. Or is it a new day? They’re close enough anyway, and when the minute turns over it will be an ending and she needs that ending like she needs the ringing to drown out the endless voices and start again in silence. It’s silent now, late at night, home alone. She vaguely wonders if she remembered to lock the door, but it’s loud inside, hammering painfully against her skull, making her squirm and look at the clock for the numbers to turn. To end.

 

 

 

Drums.

Arouse a building nausea.

They lost themselves in mind’s recesses and won’t stop echoing.

Sleep

It’s a dream that filters behind the eyes

Celebrated with fireworks, red and gold.

Blink

But not too much or your eyes will get stuck

And you’ll be lost inside your eyelids forever

Empty

Is a wish

For an empty mind and empty body

Filled only with drums.

 

 

 

 

Delicate white branch

Laced with the snowfall of night

Vanished in the sun

 

 

 

She begins with herself, always. In the present tense and first person, she is always the crystal to focus the light of her own mind. A turning inwards, a breath. Who am I today? She wondered, echoing the calls of a thousand young children across the globe. Why today? Came the teenage call, yearning for purpose. When can I rest? She asked, as she suddenly felt her body grow old. She begins with herself but herself is a multitude and she cannot end until she has touched them all. Her crystal has grown diffuse. She cannot see in the gloom.

 

 

 

I’m sitting in a cube

Always in cubes

Open air is foreign, and so I pack my

Spaces into boxes

Filled with boxes

To pretend I take up space.

The boxes are sharp, all straight lines and corners

So I went myself into curves

And ooze into empty places

Hoping the edges don’t cut

I don’t fill the boxes

I can’t feel the boxes alone

It’s easier to pretend I’m not here at all.