January 7, 2010
I stretched a latex glove over each hand and stared at the garbage can preparing for the dive.
I could read an eating disorder from its contents: the brand new jeans with the price tag still on them that were stuffed in like a lid to cover the leftover giant bottle of diet pills that had been emptied impulsively and heavily into a young girl’s stomach. I plunge my concern into the trash and stare at the fishing line until I feel something tug. My fingers lift out the dripping bottle. I play hot potato with the nurse who came to me wanting to know which kind of drugs were swimming through the girl’s bloodstream, neither of us wanting to own the pills or the bottle or the actions of a girl with mental health difficulties and a disfigured perception of herself.
Across the hall the man wearing the neck brace is breathing like a hard wind. He can’t breath, he can’t turn his head, and as his face grows red so does our urgency for someone to force air inside him. My sense of helplessness sizzles as the men from the ambulance walk him downstairs
past the drunk man who suggestively nods “Hey baby” my direction when only yesterday he greeted me sober with a “Good morning. I hope you’re doing well today.” Words of congratulation had floated about his 100 days clean, and I had only known him within those days. Here we stood at their end. His drooping eyes and red face comprised my flat sight of why he’s spent his life under bridges and what would easily sweep him there again.
The problems are always different, always varied, not always so urgently condensed into one day’s time. In every one there is a person’s eyes frantically searching, wondering, regressing, needing something something something.
October 20, 2009
Someone had seen a drawing of a swastika he left on the table and people were getting worried, as if a swastika had any relevance in their daily homeless American lives. They pointed fingers at the small man who always wore long scraggly hair, dark sunglasses, a peace shirt, and a knit red sweater. Maybe Bob Dylan neglected in abstractions for thirty years. Cheech and chong, his therapist said.
I went to find him, interested in how his jumbled words would explain his jumbled drawings, and also embarking on an investigation of the things that make people afraid. He sat calmly in a sun-illumined chair and told me nicely to come in.
I asked him if he liked to draw. “Of course,” he said. “I plan on doing some drawing later today.” And he opened his drawer to reveal a pile of index cards all filled with the same collection of symbols, swastika included. “Can you tell me about your drawings?” I asked. The Babysitter’s Club taught me that’s what you should say when a child proudly presents you with a creation you can’t decipher.
“It’s the ten commandments,” he said. I asked him to explain each symbol to me. He pointed at the first, a stick-table with arrows drawn around it, and acted like he was reading words on the symbol: “Hail Mary full of grace the lord is my shepherd I shall not want you shall have no other gods before me amazing grace how sweet the sound.”
When he had gone through all ten of his symbols in mixed words from scripture, songs, and catachisms, he paused and looked at me. “Looks like you got an earring in your nose. It doesn’t seem very apropos.”
Unexpected words from a such seemingly free-flowing man. First surprising that he considered it not apropos and second that he used the word apropos, something I never before found in regular conversation but was glad I now had.
“You like that one? Put it in your dictionary,” and with that he lifted his hands to mimic playing a violin and started humming amazing grace.
“Amazing grace?” I asked.
“I sing for my supper. It’s the ten commandments. “
October 11, 2009
They sat welldressed and clustered, walled in by a Borders bookshelf, I gazing in at the poet speaking into mic from the side. Beside me sat a disgruntled man clearly not present because of the poetry but willing to give it a chance. He ate a reeses fastbreak and giggled during pauses in her words, discovering some kind of secret humor in the professional mask this woman wore as she read pages from her chapbooks which she had marked earlier in preparation for people to hear.
I hardly heard her over the sound of the thick man in purple suitcoat whose white-haired-head bobbed as each poem reached an end in attempts to convince the room he understood and approved its message. The poet interrupted herself mid-poem to acknowledge the entrance of those who belonged in the circle of people she had come to entitle “poetry,” speaking abstractly of her wonderful acquaintances in attendance.
Earlier that day at the homeless shelter, my coworker started strumming the blues on his guitar. A woman stood and sang in sultry impromptu voice:
one summer night i was walking
i was walking down the road
if you asked which way i was walking
i couldn’t tell you yes or no
And her passion-sound was poetry to the homeless inhabitants of the room, everyone bobbing their heads to the senseless words composed while they watched expectant, somehow thick with meaning.
When the woman sat down, they turned to me, asked me to read a poem of mine. After watching her and understanding what life was, none of my practiced planned poetry survived on pages.
No. I watch from the side, wondering why poetry is segregation and classification in the places and ways it sounds.
October 3, 2009
My last apple eaten was an after-school snack in 11th grade. There was the breathlessness of dancing, flinging my body repeatedly over and across the shaggy orange carpet of my parent’s basement and the subsequent grabbing of the apple I had left waiting for me on the surface of their wooden entertainment center. I ate and my throat swelled its disapproval. The threat of strangling from the inside scared me away from apples for the next six years.
My ultra-recent revelation: I can eat apple meat as long as I skip the peel. Today I plucked apples from rows of trees illuminated by the autumn day and sunk my teeth into the taste of juicy content that’s been contained inside a high school memory for too long. It devoured me.
October 2, 2009
I followed the rain drops along the uniquely dusk-colored handrail up to the porch elevated enough to overlook the street and entered into the greenery haven: a porch perfected with complementary walls of vines and twisting leaves caressing its boundaries. I looked around and breathed, a sneak gratefulness for walking in the steps of the people who lived here and pretending this space was mine—the shocks of flower, the bamboo chair, the rain dripping over the green netting and cooling the day.
Then I knocked because I came there to knock and waited. The old man with the look of utterness opened the door and smiled his confused old man smile.
I handed him his lunch with a pressing desire to ensure that someone would enjoy this day from the green space where I stood. “Do you ever eat your lunch out here on the porch?” I asked.
“Well I was sitting out on the porch but I came inside because it started raining.”
“Wouldn’t it be so nice to sit out here with the rain and eat your lunch?” I felt like a somewhat sales person with no clear profit goal.
His eyes got surprisingly big. “You know,” he spoke in wonderment, “All my life I’ve been eating my lunch in the kitchen. You’ve really given me something to think about. Maybe I’ll do that someday.”
And when I left, I’m sure the old man walked slowly back to his kitchen and left the porch begging to be sat on empty, and I walked back to a car hoping that words carry potential for change.
September 30, 2009
After driving to the store to acquire my mom’s requested milk and onions, I pulled to the parking lot’s exit and, giving into an explosive need to break free that was jittering like too much coffee inside of me, I turned onto the street away from the direction of my destination.
A few sporadically chosen turns, and I found myself driving fast through the long, curvy road of the Bedford metroparks, the woodsy haven in the middle of the over-developed suburb where I spent much of my growing-up life wondering around. The trees grew into my road roof that filtered the bright Sunday afternoon sun into granting my body a rare chance to press pedals that propel me effortlessly fast.
The kind of autumn day you dream about.
Driving past all the people walkingrunningjoggingstretchingbiking in herds or alone, I felt crisp cool breezes and listened to sullenly hopeful speaker projections, moving and moving until an end. The end arrived with the sight of an opening that led into Tinker’s Creek, the place where my grandma brought me on young summer days. Once she instructed me to collect rocks that we took into Sunday school the next day and painted. I had painted a bird on mine.
Here, on this starkly unaverage day, I pulled the car next to the creek and watched a moment the woman with her hand tucked safely inside the man’s elbow, together wondering through each other’s company in the form of a grassy space with no destination. The look of content from a distance.
Then I ripped my shoes into shreds and ran to the stream, plodding into the cool water to collect the perfect rock, painted it with poetry and threw it into the sky, called it ebenezer to immortalize the autumn day and the falling away from things I’ve known and the necessary death of some parts of me to allow the experience of rebirth.
It’s mostly about rebirth.
September 29, 2009
In middle school in the cafeteria a friend squirted mustard on my brand new white shirt. Her mustard, her fucking clumsiness, my brand new shirt (these types of angered phrases flew across cafeteria trays). I felt angry and I hadn’t yet learned the effects of thrusting my unfiltered young feelings into the face of another young person who would feel something like scared in response. As I said It’s okay in a tone that exuded my regard of it not being okay in the least bit, I could see the wow, what’s her deal? eyes reflecting their way around the occupants of the table.
Back then I was flooded with thoughts of perfectionism, and when things deviated from my preconceived picture—especially when outside the jurisdiction of my control—I felt the falling away too full.
Now it’s different. Today I knocked a bottle of paint all over the floor of my room and laughed out of trained habit. I shrugged when someone told me little boys were outside messing with my bike. I barely noticed when the group of high school volunteers I spent exhausting hours working with this morning broke a chair and ruined a room when I left them alone. I couldn’t recall how to feel when I walked in on a man who had recently thanked me for being so kind to him sprawled dead across his bed.
Growing up might be synonymous with becoming numb to the things that you once felt so full.
September 28, 2009
In church the group of children gather in front with the woman wearing a churchy hat. Her soft girlish voice instructs them, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and she begins outlining a letter U in the air to the beat of an imaginary song: “Ready, set, sing.”
Fifteen small mouths obey and start singing on whatever note their voice finds in its opening.
My mom is stationed at her every Sunday seat: sloppily at the piano, one leg folded underneath her and slouching over the keys she knows how to navigate so well. She waits there all morning for hints that a moment needs musical accompaniment.
She deciphers this moment as one and tries to slyly press keys in search of which one their voices could migrate to and stay awhile. We must make wrong sounds to uncover what’s right. Jesus loves the (PLINK) little chil(PLINK PLINK)dren (PLINK)… And it goes on, interrupting the barely-song with blatant sounds of WRONG FALSE FAILURE PAIN
until that moment when she somehow suddenly knows. That slight switch of knowledge released by her pressing a key that opens something inside her, invisible to all the onlookers cringing with each bad note, lets her shape every finger made new into perfect chords, drawing the dissonant child voices into an accord for now. Tricking voices singing into sounding like song. Immeasurably better than before she started. The wrong notes that carried her there fade into backs of minds.
I am my mother’s well-intentioned searching fingers. I’m dissonant and intrusive and can’t wait until things fall into place so I can just play.
September 25, 2009
I’ve been recently lost in frustrations of losing.
But today. Today I found my checkbook stuck to a roll of duck tape under my bed. I found my poetry tucked inside a packet of papers in my office from a grant writing seminar. I found circumstances that led to a long, enjoyable conversation with one of my clients, and I found the ability to make him laugh for the first time in the several weeks he’s been here. I found a bag of cheetos to fulfill a craving I’ve had for two days. I found some words to express a yellow moment I’ve been previously unable to describe.
And suddenly I feel my neck craning up over the crowd anticipating everything remaining for me to see.
September 24, 2009
I lost my checkbook. I lost a pile of papers that contained the only copies of my favorite poems I’ve been lately writing and rewriting and writing again. I’m mid-intentional-process of losing my often draining over-aptitude for detail which has seemed to result in the unforeseen and unfortunate consequence of being incapable of remembering wherewhenwhy I let items leave my hands. I lost the ability to read in bed before going to sleep without waking up hours later with a book squishing my face and the lights shining.
But as I rode my bike home from another day spent losing my energy and enthusiasm for work, I found two children playing along the side of the neighborhood street.
“Hi!” the small boy’s arm stretched high over his head waving little fingers feverishly at me as if I was my own parade riding the street for his entertainment. The little girl’s big eyes shouted, “She’s pretty!”
Somehow those two words—if any way they had sounded my direction in the past—contained some of what I had lost. An unexpected catch-you-offguard comment restores the ability to see.
With these new eyes I saw the ugliest house that I daily pass and cringe at the clues that people actually live there. It looks like the road stretching up toward the sky to form this building’s concrete crumbling walls. Solid, square, closed, old, windowless, a looming blue-clad prison that someone calls home.
Today, on it’s block porch, four new pots containing plants and flowers. Beauty engulfed under everything opposite of it.
A hint of something found.