Bus ride to Glasgow

An essay constructed from notes written in Scotland, March, 2013

The bus departs from the station in a belch of diesel exhaust. Only the locals board there. Tourists are oblivious to the city busses as they wait for their carefully mapped day excursions. Some plush coach that picks up at the Quaitch Guest House.

72415_10151514836280218_601959733_nQuickly multistory apartment buildings give way to squat stone cottages with neat white doors. A pair of bay windows on each, because light matters. Old mixed with new, sometimes gracefully, but the city’s growth at its far reach is an ugly gash of mud and large equipment. Power lines across a gray sky, bus shelter at the end of the world.

Norton House Hotel, Ratho Station. A guy boards with a short Mohawk and someone’s initials — perhaps his own — inked behind his ear. D.W. in script. Villages rise and fall beyond the bus window. They are stunted and napping, like villages everywhere. Towns don’t buzz like cities do. Cities never sleep. Towns keep hitting the snooze button. Continue reading

Winter writes to spring

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Is it okay to be happy today, when
the world is so sad? To fold into the arms
of pink and yellow, to carry my grief
like an Easter egg — fragile but vivid.

Maybe I’ll leave this sorrow among the leaves
of new grass, its green the pulse of breathing
and of ceasing to breathe; of all that ebbs
and flows again. Maybe I’ll string this sorrow

among the branches of the cherry trees
for the birds to weave into nests, or for the wind
to carry away. Maybe I’ll plant it deep
in the still-dreaming earth

and see what blooms.

A Valentine’s Day poem. Sort of.

VALENTINE

This is what you named the rat you bought
from the pet store. White fur and red eyes
that narrowed and darted and never met yours.

Because you couldn’t afford a cage,
Valentine lived in a cardboard box
though it took him less than one night

depressed-runaway-teenager-in-backyard-picture-id175482777to chew his way out and move into the cupboards.
But the apartment you shared with three other girls,
none of you yet eighteen, was empty of food

and furniture and parents and anyone
who could make a decent decision. You lived on
school lunches and leftover desserts

from the restaurants where you washed dishes. You slept
like four orphans curled together on one mattress.
You read poetry sometimes, for entertainment,

but mostly prowled the night streets, stealing
toilet paper from hotels and tampons from the machines
in gas station bathrooms. Scraped knuckles to prove it. Who knew

how adults made their way in the world?
There was no guidebook. You were often hungry
but you didn’t need much food. When you’re young

you can go without a lot. Sleep, love, letters
from home. You lie awake and listen to the sounds
of the neighbors below, or the trucks on the highway

or the rattle of a pet rat gone feral
in the ductwork. Your father stopped by once
with some things. A winter coat, maybe, and fifty dollars.

So the four of you ate like lottery winners. Grilled cheese
and fries in a diner, the windows steamed over
like it was your own world. And you only wondered a little

how far you could have gotten if you’d kept the money
to yourself. But you didn’t know where to go
or how to get there, so you stayed

close to the rattle of the radiator and the other
night noises. The girls with their profiles sharpened, mean,
a shield against everything. Even the good things.

They brought boys home sometimes, for warmth
or distraction. Played cassette tapes of German punk,
ate shoplifted Grasshopper cookies. Minty and green

as a dream of a birthday party. Spring was close
when you finally caught the rat, trapped him
in a corner of the kitchen. Naked pink tail,

no kindness left in his face. Or maybe you’d imagined it.
That’s what you did. Like how you imagined Valentine
happy, living like a king in the dumpster

behind the apartment building. You should have felt sad
about letting him go, but you were only relieved. The night
had fewer teeth, and sleep circled steadily closer.

New! Chapbook! Yay!

In the fall of 2016, leading up to the presidential election, I started #28daysoflove as an experiment to combat the environment of fear, anger, and hopelessness that was so prevalent on social media. For four weeks, I posted personal essays on the theme of love on my on Facebook page. I didn’t know what to expect, going into it, but found that the more open and raw I could be, the more human, genuine, and accepting the response was. Through those posts I learned a lot about myself and my desire to approach the world with an open heart. Plus, a loose community formed around the posts that felt more rich and real than my average social media interactions. I collected 18 of the essays into this 52-page, self-published chapbook, It All Comes Rushing Back.
it_all_comes_back1

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The bad girls’ book club and crime spree

From a month-long experiment writing about community, using social media as a platform.

Okay, there wasn’t much of a crime spree. I did steal some hair dye. This was before the days of Manic Panic so I used to color my homemade faux-hawk by first bleaching it with Sun-In and a hairdryer, and then dying it with the blue tint that old ladies used to buy at the drug store. But this is about community and not about shoplifting, though some of the best connections I made during my high school years were with the kind of girls who encouraged that sort of behavior.

15871892_10154669000640218_7627992220536349783_nSometimes we stole things. It was more often beer than hair dye. We wrote things in bathroom stalls. More often, we wrote in our journals — every detail of our terribly interesting lives — and then we traded journals and read each other’s pages even though we’d been through most of it together. I’m compositing a number of high school friends here, though the relationships came one at a time and each was special and rare, and each shaped the me who I am now.

Friendships with good girls were important to me, too. My close friendships have been few and far between and I’ve cherished each one. But for some reason, between the ages of 13 and 18, my best friends were bad influences — fearless girls who egged me on and pushed me beyond my shy, studious, good-kid shell.

This is what we did: Shared everything. Every secret, every book we read, every album we superthumblistened to, every derivative poem we wrote, ever ache and fear and bruise and self-inflicted cut. We snuck into punk clubs, bought clothes at Salvation Army and reconfigured them into new outfits, traded boots and coats and earrings, consoled each other over shitty boy drama, walked for miles in the cold just to be doing something and going somewhere. We walked or took the bus because we were too young to drive and then too busy to learn to drive and then too poor to own cars. We stomped around in the cold, rosy cheeked and immune to frostbite, always on our way to a fantastic adventure.

We piled cast-out Christmas trees on rich-people cars. We sat in diners for hours drinking cup after cup of bad coffee. We talked about running away and made plans to run away and then we met new boys and stayed because maybe there would be a show or a party or something good. The future was soon; the now was hazy with the smoke of clove cigarettes and frosty breath and bad choices.

But the bad choices were good, too. Some of them still hurt like a war wound that flares up when it rains, but the hurt is a connection to a past and the past holds the bad girls who were my girls, my sisters, my family, my home. Community is where we make it, even if what we’re making is a mess. It all counts, it’s all part of the narrative.