swirl hands/river heart/dig me out of the sea/see me not willing to see myself
we flew through the landscape, fields fragrant and flying by, cities popping out of the hillsides like hungry, electric beasts. dayton swirled around us in a puddle of newness, fake plaster walls and flat, pastured fields. my grandpa sat like a king in his recliner. eyes piercing blue and stories tumbling out of his mouth like a last reprieve. he seemed wild for life, ready for release, longing to stay all at the same time. medicine churning through his blood like fire. i tried to hold his eyes, to stay his hands, to rest inside his brow, release the tension in his forehead. he seemed mountainous, rubied, wise-eyed and well-lived. i was grateful for the moment.
we sailed on, prowling towards pittsburgh. dancing in the grass in the suburbs – hurling around with cousin sprites and backyard bubbling stream. the sandbox and my feet met like wonder-strangers. the city pulls steel out of its spine, hacks at the hillsides for fertile land and pulls every spare root from the crumble of mines gone by. the city curls around the water/the water spins around the iron/the metals hide themselves away – tucked into the earth – prayed into a hiding spot – sucked like miner’s teeth into the open air. they gutter, they sprawl – the hillsides house a thousand lives still marching. warm, working people filled with stories in their own tongues. full of white teeth, shined gleaming by the modern age. the city too, breathes simpler now, shined gleaming by the modern age. the teeth of the hillsides still rattle, though/ ragged breath from mines still dirge-ing in the dirt.
home now and the world twirls about me in a canopy above my head – river road snakes and i funnel down the delaware, light bright in my hair and black coffee singing out of the speakers. i feel lucky to live where i live; to be happy to be home; i have not had a home that i feel that way about…hardly ever. i always had a hard time coming home to kingston. but the trees sing around me with their lush heads and the canal barrels on with thick, clay soil and little streams of water trickle through my toes. the world keeps opening, and the winds keep changing. the chill comes to walk with me in the morning again – but i am not afraid this year. i am huddling with my boy in a nest made of open air and leafy greens and i am afloat. i am a boundless wind, and i change too. i am willing to change. and i am not afraid of fucking anything.
streaks of pale blue sunset gobble up the rest of the horizon / Table Rock Lake hurls itself around in dream or wonder. my mother played here as a girl, skipping rocks with her grandparents / now the thrill of wild cloud shapes still satisfy the eye. Silver Dollar City splays out like an accordian – banjo fingered inlets and hills dressed in 1880’s finery – swelling to the brim with nostalgia and creation -praying to the past without repent. roller coasters swim in imagined narrative – the pearl of the wild west, of the hillbilly freedom of Ozark mischief murmurs in the mountains, in kitsch shops, in theatrics. we tell ourselves the story of the past, of the wild west, of the way the wilderness harnessed something, the way cowboys grabbed the rocks by the hand and shook them in their fists until america popped out of the stork. but what a tiny sliver of time – and how much time were these lands native lands. filled with a culture beyond hillbilly, beyond rapscallion, beyond outlaw. what do these hills know, what do we let them know, what narrative do we keep clinging to – in a small pocket of history, in a dark and stormy closet of our hearts, of our collective american narrative. the dark, toothless and ignorant outlaw – we keep clinging to this. we keep finding reasons to call ourselves home in this image. and still, too, Table Rock Lake whispers its own journey, sings its own ancient melodies. and still, too, rainbow trout swim in sea grasses, the sky meets the horizon at the breaking place – glows glitter and wildfire, does not adhere to the simple corners of our imagined narratives. rough edged rocks and bark-tongued tree spines – the mountains rise up with their own story. tectonic plates and spring-sourced-water-flows, ancient ridges and eyes rising to the sky. for the violet kiss of the sun on the horizon each night. and we do not own this land. and this land has a secret story all of its own. and our pitter-patter narratives fall like silver rain, and we keep imagining. and we keep dreaming, and clinging to the past that keeps passing us by. and we keep watching the sunset, and we keep imagining it is for us, and not for the lake itself. and we keep writing stories, and imagining we are the only ones with interesting things to say.
we arkansas moonshined down the freeway – signs following us like ghosts, ancestor stories lurking in the hills. we pulled at memories we didn’t have, like teeth splayed out; like ozark rock shining in the glint. we arrowhead aimed for places in time lost, horse-back travelers, abandonment and gap-toothed storefronts. ghost towns ship-wrecked by time, by poverty, by an anchor pulling somewhere deeper than rock – sedimentary and solitary and sedentary.
i thought about typhoid fever taking old aunt lena, my great-grandmother flossie riding bare back in her dress down the middle of the town. i thought about the flu taking grandma without a name. i thought about old grandpa medlock buried in the cemetery; riding on one solitary horse to Flippin, Arkansas; tending the grocery store in town at the turn of the century. i thought about racism embedded in the rocks, the silt of magic baked into the earth’s crust. i thought about the rainbow trout splayed out in the White river. i dipped my hands into the river, imagined the wheel of time spinning my great-grandmother in a cotton dress, on a summer’s day, hands fresh in the water – 7 years old, dripping ghost-fire. brave, strong, full of meadowlight and beauty. i thought about my great-great-grandfather getting dragged for miles by a pack of runaway farm horses; the public hanging in the town square of a stray cowboy for raping the sheriff’s daughter. i felt the ghosts in the air, or the ancestor stories still flowing in the white river. i greeted the strange gravel of time, walked its planks, hurled its seasons onto my back. tried to imagine the bodies, the lives they lived, the stories they breathed. when i silted my hands into the enormous body of the clear river, i tried to feel her hands inside of mine. tried to feel the endless grace of a century or two wrapping around me. the playful stream of lives gone by still swimming in the waters all around us. embedded in the crust of the earth. storied earth, oh wise-old grass; blowing. always knowing things that i will never know. the way my great-grandmother’s hair looked like in the august light of autumn. twirling around ghosts even then. the vision of her dead sister walking up the lane towards her/vanishing at the eaves of the porch. the distant memories of dna laced into our bones. like the silted crevices of the earth encrusted/entrusted with our stories. like rib cages splayed wide in rock teeth/gulping/chomping/keeping our secrets safe/keeping our stories safe/silting out like erosion, the strange ghosts we don’t remember/the old bodies we cannot unearth/the unmarked graves we cannot find/the ancestor songs still swimming in the streams; rainbow trout, or golden oxygen named chemistry. or has the river kept flowing? or has the river kept flowing. and do the rocks dream only to forget?
but do you feel stimulated and does the warm air wrap itself around your ankles and whip at your neckflesh and do men hold your face in their hands with tenderness and does the wild eye of the sky keep pouring hot rain onto the pavement? happiness is trite. the world is full of color and turquoise magic – horror terror and crimson hue/blood sad and wet faced worry – do not appeal yourself to the simplicities of what contemporary modern life says is the way to measure your life. you are a staggering compilation of dissonant cells and atomized neutrons and you are a fantastic imagining of clay still fresh and unglazed and you are a parcel of bones strung together and you are a finely laid arrangement of electricity. and do you hear the insect choir on a summer afternoon and does the highway extend out beneath your feet as you fly along and do you have a brain full of drummed thoughts tapping hot and measureless? you are, you are, you are doing just fine. you are doing straight black magic just breathing earth oxygen potion. you are doing just fine. you are everything you need to be at all infinite points on a compass. you are always on the path you are on and that path is always unfolding the only way it knows how to – domino, domino, domino, stange mystery of labor twirling outward – you are always a thousand ways that your cells are not dissolving. you are still held together with invisible electron glue. little gravity sorcery. you are still a phantasm/a creation creating. you are doing just fine. you are a miraculous breathbag heaving. still, still. do not worry about happiness, or silly rulers the world tells you you must measure yourself against. you are a magnificence of electro-magnetism. the world is not spinning you apart just yet. the laws of physics are still alive in you just yet. you are still breathing just yet. you are still filled with hydrogen possibility just yet. you are still a miracle just yet. you are a human being just yet and you are strange and aflame and you are brave for still breathing. for rising to meet the day. you are enough. you are doing just fine. if you are feeling a myriad of things, you are lucky. if you are feeling anything at all, you are lucky. if you know not one thing for certain, you are wise. you are doing just fine. you are doing cataclysmic, majestic things each day. like breathing. like existing. like being.
you are doing just fine. You are alive; you are making magic.
rolling body, my body is a forged steelsmith from the plains of america. my heart is a wheel, i am a firetruck. you cannot always beat the monster, sometimes the monster beats you. and jamie curled himself into the fetal position in the middle of the airport and screamed over and over for me to help him breathe again. it felt like a panic attack. he was overwhelmed and overtired and hungry and jacked up and scared about traveling from here to there to there to there. and i lay on the ground with him in the chicago airport and tried to teach him how to breathe. he looked up at me, eyes all a river and tried to breathe with me. and tried and kept trying and kept looking at me for help. kept telling me verbally that he needed me to help him breathe. and he found his breath, and i held him and rocked him on the ground in the middle of the walkway until he came back up for air. until he found his breath again. and i think this is the only important thing i do with my life. and i think everything else is selfish nonsense, in the end – and this is the only important thing i can do. hold another being until they can find their breath again. teach my son about the waves and how to ride them. how to breathe through them. how its okay to feel. and hold him until he can find his breath again.
i am trying to be patient with myself, with my own journey towards finding patience with myself. i am trying to be kind to myself, to my body. i am trying to stay present and i am remembering, finally, what it is to take it all in. to breathe in the moment through your cells. to feel the moment on your whole body. to feel the rush and power of the ocean pummeling you. to feel a vista sweeping around you. to bow your head to the sunset. to take the five minutes to walk through the tree-lined path. to bramble through the roots. i am happy to be back home, to reconnect with my own rituals, my own processes that ground me and keep me sane. i am grateful for the summer night, for the buzz of the insect choir in the darkness. for the warm fluid air that fills and peels.
and sparkle-dragon golden teeth will fall out of your hair. folded origami feathers will float off of your shoes. wedding bells like shark jaws will dream into the air. hungry industrial rubble and the shine of glowing light will fling your heart through space. and you will be grace, and you will be grace.
beauty girl, happy wedding day.
and city unfolding under my feet like ashen white pine-breath and honey-lipped oxygen air. clean city, old city, fresh city, new city, aware city. bold, art-filled, humming with its own tune. minneapolis has nothing to prove and yet bubbles with a culture 5 miles wide and 10,000 lakes deep. under-rated city of air and water and flickering lights and dazzling peace. brave city/keeps ticking on, keeps making beautiful things in the middle of the country/does not care if the rest of the world looks or not/ gathers up a fist-full of native dirt, washes it clean in the mississippi river, grits new streets through its mouth, pummels up fresh opportunity – lets the middle-class silt like nuggets of gold on top of the strain. lets the shadow soil filter, filter. lets minnesota become a new name, a state drenched in something free and present and still alive. minneapolis is alive, it fills to its own brim with its own sense of identity – which is not pursed like lips, definitive and narrow, it is its own creature howling, moving, tunneling. it is a brave pair of cities alive with themselves, their own unfinished project.
/and aren’t we always our own unfinished project?
hills of the valley, take my brittle hands and sand them clean – tip the edges of my water to the shore – let me be a tongued wave again. whirling away, whipping away, turning free the roots and brambles of my fears and shadows. let me be the best of myself – let me work towards cultivating the fire bright enough to light up my own cave. show me the shadows, show me the mountain, show me the valley. show me the road, let me keep wandering it. tell me, bones of the earth, are we the hungry mountainside, are we deepening caverns of a cliff-face falling into the sea?
san Diego, we pull through your valleys. we channel over your inlets – the water, the sea, the gravity of the Pacific. the elegance of your rapture wraps up the coastline, tucks Tijuana in for an afternoon nap, soaks California in golden sunshine hum. just humming – sea breeze and cooled blue haze, you do not shout/you swirl, the tipjar of time chimes/bold waves keep racing towards themselves; self-reflecting, self-refracting, self-soothing. you tuck yourself in at night, hungry hallows of san diego – you are self-sufficient. you are the patient silence of the california coast/the whisper of golden mountains and cliff-faced vistas echoing back to the moon like a promise of what life is supposed to be. and the people honor that promise – they honor the gift – they get out and use the magic/they soak up the gold in the air, in the sun, in the streets.
i am endlessly grateful. for the blue turquoise at the edge of the sea/for the curling edges of the coastline that open at your feet/for the hungry valleys of california that stretch out on all sides with wistful, brave flower dottings. for the thrumming song of my little boys joy – splayed out in singsong corridors and billow shake dances. little bent tree dancing. i am grateful for cousin, for brother, for laughter. for strange, unfolding journeys that keep taking me places somewhere i never expected to be/with the wind at my back and the gold of the earth shaking its dust out and dancing.
But the aching crags that pummeled under my feet – the harkened breath sumptuous in my chest – the curled chill of mountain air twirling my skin – the firmness of step, the grasp of leap, the stumble of jump, the voracity of adventure in your heels, the the quake of your muscles as you lean in to a new footing, as you lean in to a new trust – in yourself, in the rock, in the flow. And the physicalized ritual of confronting, greeting, being with bravery. Testing your own limits, literally challenging yourself, genuinely finding where bravery sits inside your bones and harvesting it. This is invaluable. This is a rockface. This is climbing it. This is coming in to your own strength again.
And I say thank you, thank you, thank you again. Thank you mountainscape, thank you stunning sunset that happens everyday – that I miss so many days. Thank you for the opportunity to see it again today. The cataclysm of the sunset happens everyday. It is us, who forget to take notice. It is us, who forget to find the magic, to witness it, to thank it, to receive the majesty all around. Cupped hands, cupped hands, we forget to cup our hands, and receive what is always directly in front of us/behind us/surrounding us. Air, air, and magical mystery.
i’ve got all of the above inside. i am what i am what i am. my own wounds and insecurities placed just above the ribcage. they sing when they are jostled. i try to play dumb, to slice off my cancer. but hey, if this is your heart in your hands, this is mine too. this is my fear, my insecurity, my bundle of complexes. here, here it is, will you hold it in your hands? i am trying to do the things i said i was going to do when i broke up with ceilidh. i told him i needed to come in to myself, to know myself as a single person, as a person unreliant on another. i need to know my own rhythm, to go slowly, to hold space.
let go, let go, let go. keep trying to find your own rhythms. your own life held in your hands. try to hold your own heart. learn how to hold it, how it feels, what it needs. see if you can give it what it needs.
and i think about you girl, my angel. this day, 8 years ago. your life, your light. the prettiest girl in the world. you were joy, and you are love. you give me bravery, when i am scared. i think about you, what you would have done, and then i fucking do it. i leap in to the cold water. you were bravery and beauty and love and all things bright and worth living for. you are always and forever. keep blowing in the wind, dear, keep crashing in the waves. i’ll keep trying to dive in, to be brave and alive and fearless for you.