1. Lettuce water
3. Forks or goblins
4. Plums in the puddle
5. A most certain, strange, and true discovery of a witch, 1643
6. Henry V's St. Crispin day speech
7. Germans can get pregnant from the sound of David Hasslehoff's voice
8. Things, red
9. Around the age of nine, my friends and I spent inordinate amounts of time designing and drawing top secret spy hideouts, an activity undoubtedly inspired by an overdose of our favorite spy: James Bond 007. These hideouts usually, but not always, came in the form of smallish, artfully disguised command centers for top secret spy stuffs, the creation of which required whopping amounts of concentration on the parts of our teensy-weensy nine year old brains.
When finished designing and rendering our islands – a task which typically took about 45 minutes – we'd go outside and attempt to play the worlds we'd just made, applying our fanciful creations to the real world around us. So my bike becomes the helicopter. The area of dead grass in the corner of the yard becomes the helipad. The tree house becomes the mountain. Matt's bike becomes the fishing boat ... and I think you're getting the general picture. At first this is a raucous delight but, in a matter of minutes, the whole thing disintegrates because, after all, the backyard is never going to measure up to these kick ass cool spy maps we've drawn. How could it? How could anything in the backyard begin to approximate the elaborate underground control centers of our spy islands?
10. Arts, ephemera, wunderkammern, gothika
12. Late Mangeshkar
13. Earnst Haeckel
14. Stillborn and cloven hooved, desperata ferro, bird man in a monkey suit, partial skeleton
15. Kitty Wells
16. Welcome to the Underground
17. It's easy to fall behind with modern poetry
18. Let's play the Swan of Elegance!
19. Agence eureka
20. Your daily art
22. A stroke of luck
23. Ribbons in snow
24. Socio-political milieu
25. Many other things involving words
26. Symbols, signs
27. the way droplets of water on the head of the red-veined darter magnify the facets of its eyes
28. Why do we yawn?
29. Anatomical jewelry
30. The unconcealment of truth is a poetic process
31. There was a time when
32. fundamentally composed of time and space
Late evenings, after supper, in the winter when it got dark early and was cold all the time, my mom would ask me to skate with her. I was probably 8, 9, 10 and our neighbors had built a skating rink in their backyard. I would help put the plywood up and watch the hose and shovel the snow off in exchange for being able to skate whenever we wanted. Mom had been a figure skater as a teen and she almost got in the Ice Capades but her parents wouldn't give her permission. She could skate backwards, do spins, and other modest tricks and this always impressed me because with us she'd never expressed any interest in athletics.
The Berents rigged clamp lights in the trees that would illuminate the rink. which was a long rectangle taking up most of their big backyard. We'd skate around for an hour or so with the moon the snow and quiet. Outside the rink was black, shadowy, wet and inside was phosphorescent like a flash bulb, powdery, warm. I don't recall conversations before during or after these adventures - it's almost as if I dreamt them. But I can picture our skates at the back door dripping from their pegs, a purely iconic Northern image, and I know I didn't dream this, I know that life dreamt me.
The Lost Year
(Man, it was terrific)
Go ahead and say yes to sorrow, stop trying to murder it with a contrivedly positive attitude. Do not under any circumstances act as if you"chose" any of it and never ever act so presumptuous as to tell someone else to "act as if you chose this". Experiments in fake abundance are banned. Embrace the randomness of your traumas, ridicule those who think otherwise, exposing them as shucksters out to dull the sparkly vagaries of human experience with empty promises. Pain is fantastic, the gateway to compassion. Grief is abundant, the pool of enlightenment from which enlightened people drink. Secrets of angels live in there, not in the bouncy cheeriness of pep-talkers. You are God like this, or good, or evil, all equal, nothing is the only thing really.
How I spent my Lost Year. Belly up to a bevy of local pubs, finally surrendered to cigarettes, lost bills, lost lipstick. I watched people go from hot to cold to hot and I watched my share of pool games played by tousled skillful boys. There were jokes and remembrances of things past. I was unapologetic and brimming with bullshit. Streets I walked alone at night you wouldn't visit in the full light of day. Risks upon risks, stupid and pissed, paved my path to emptiness. I didn't want to go home and if I did I brought strangers. We'd dance to hip hop and smoke on the back porch while the sun came up. Adding to their confusion, I wouldn't even kiss. I wasn't in this for sex, that's for damn sure, this had nothing to do with craving human connection, being lonely, or feeling unloved. I offered my year to the Gods and Goddesses of Existentialism and yes, I understand their philosophy of non-suicide. I offered it to the Gods and Goddesses of Structuralism and that resulted in an even better party. The Gods and Goddesses of Post Modernism said sure, fine, but the flip side, Elizabeth? Isn't it time you got to the flip side?
What can I say, lads and lasses, it was 12 months crafted and performed with utter conviction: I didn't believe anything but acted like I did. It could only last so long, sure, but I did it with wit and grace, that letting go, those awkward and impervious days. Let me tell you how it began, what kind of things have to happen to a woman of my wisdom in order for this level of self-indulgence to have been maintained -
Hot damn I was out in what became cold Gentilly air, hanging with boys not in school, chatting up the unofficial Mayor Of Gentilly (Krewe of Dreux meets at his house), commiserating with the women about the never-ending battle to heal from The Storm. Then I got to the other work: weaving plastic strips through metal mesh to make a gigantic signifier of a wall that moves like water in the wind and light. The 3:00 freight pulled by. Some crows, the sky. Pretty much 3 blocks from People's and Mendez where I realized almost exactly 2 years ago I was hanging from that dead dead tree hand-painting it bubble gum pink. Same deal: ladder in the car (except now it's a truck), baseball cap (instead of Saints it's DrawAThon) and heartwarming conversations coming from the glory of being home, above all else, finally only home. And I think that's not half bad, really, that I'm consistent, that I'm allowed to still be home, that I'm still working at the thing that I love: giving it away. It's all on a larger scale but it's the same path, turn the page.
Sun City Girls "Immortal Gods", Health "Crimewave", Brightblack Morning Light "Oppressions", TV On The Radio "Halfway Home", Boyfriends Inc "Lookin' Kittie", The Sugarhill Gang "The Message", Mary Gauthier "Can't Find The Way Home", Sister Nancy "Transport Connection", Brazilian Girls "Good Time"
Pain has made me a ghost, honestly, as has wanting to be something other or feeling no time underneath my feet or family, or not fitting into the something that's mine to fit into or just recovering from a crime wave. First off let me be perfectly clear: I don't think this is bad but I also don't think it's good. I think the slimy bug's gotta fight outta that cocoon sometime and be that dry soft butterfly, it's real life, happening over and over again, but it's messy, it's really gross. What I mean is I'm changing, awkward, I really am still rebuilding, and I'm alone, and it's scary. I have wrestled out of so many lives into the next, every act is mythic down to the tip, I'll take this that this but not that that or that, breathe, go, stop, stay, duck, fight, kiss, clarify. When you take psychedelics every connection is felt and every breath is mammoth like this. Trauma does real things to the brain that have taken a toll and fuck that, I'm fighting to find my way, I'm not home, I don't have a home, I'm ok with that, I'm not ok. I'm waking up and none too anxious to rush out of bed but I am waking up, never fear, I will find the piece I fit into again, and not without thanking my smart honest friends and not without some sort of chocolate.
The goal is 10 True Tales That Horrify and Amuse. With each telling each tale will lose its power and no longer define me or haunt. If I can muscle up and write them out I will be rewarded with total liberation. And go anywhere, do anything, be anyone again.
More is more! The country's coated with a fake sustainability, a wash of modesty, a frugality that speaks more of ordinary poor people's lives than any sort of noble humility. Being consumed by consumption is not the same as being passionate, news flash, and all you people out there acting suddenly sober about conserving and not over-doing it at Christmas and finding the real joys of life, ain't it hard, are hired. I'm hiring you as my Dream Team, to coax me out of thinking that this is as it should be, and when I leave the tunnel you'll be there with silver hard cases full of stacks of crisp bills and you'll say kindly, "Miss Underwood? The jet is fueled and waiting."
1. I had another family before my first family but died from them when I was about 3 or 4 and we were all blond. I begged "the new mother" to tell me where they were which may be the beginning of how I drove her insane, obviously laying the groundwork for future abuses.
2. I used to fall asleep staring at the skinny black girl my age, 8 or 9, sitting in my closet on a wooden chair every night, her back always to me, white bones in her hair, a dirty white sackcloth, staring at my dresses, which were few and hand-me-downs but were designed to look like a shirt and jumper all sewn into one which made them enviable.
3. Once I flew into my mother's bedroom while the man slept next to her and hovered there because if I didn't he would kill her. It was foggy and I hung around there till dawn because that man wouldn't kill after the sun came up.
4. One of my sisters tried to kill me or my other sister with a pair of scissors and/or her flute more than once.
5. My father beat my mother under the bare light bulb in the kitchen late at night (it was probably only 8 pm).
6. I was homeless through a Detroit winter as a 17 year old because I didn't fold the laundry properly and my mother was bashing my record player into my head to punish me so I left. I still got A's in my Algebra class, French, and Advanced Placement English, which I got into on the strengths of an essay I wrote defending "punk rock". We read Macbeth which was too easy.
7. I was raped which is how I lost my virginity when I was homeless, because that really happens to girls out there.
8. My mom once punched me so hard in the face I saw stars before blacking out. This was punishment for kissing a boy underneath the maple tree, a slut. It confused him that I never talked to him again, which was clearly the beginning of the end of my romantic fantasies, you would think.
9. My mother spoke to me without words when she was dying in the hospital, "I'm scared." "Don't be scared," I said but I didn't hug her because I was scared.
10. I used to steal gasoline from cars at night with a few feet of garden hose and a gas can.
I think I'm going to have to up the ante, that only gets me to age 19 and frankly barely begins.
The stress is too much, plus memories. This is the anniversary of the last night that my dear friend Tobey was alive. I was the last person to see him alive, we went to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Tobey drove us in his Celica, the lagustrum was blooming, it was sick. I remember his knit cap and his complete and utter anxiety. I couldn't do anything for him.
Or maybe I could. Just like I could for my cat Cody last week, spending almost $1000 to have his rotten teeth pulled. The last of my money but it's like they were killing him because now he can't stop eating, he's gaining weight, his coat's thick and glossy, he's playing again, and he's 17. So I did what I thought I couldn't do - spend more money on my cat's health than my own - and now look. He's not just alive he's thriving. I wonder how many chances I've had to do that.
So I have a sinking feeling and it's about my choices. The choices that have defined my life, that have articulated the horizons as I see them. Even the sinking feeling is a choice that I'll change in about 5 minutes, churning it into hopefulness, always a thick dough of the two. I just feel that since Katrina I've been reacting - albeit valiantly, albeit in a way that some people consider almost mythic, and praise me - but that's not living my own life, that's reeling off of things out of my control.
Now I want a real job I want a real home I want to be able to buy those Frye boots and I want to be able to take care of myself as well as I take care of my animals. If I could do anything I would run off to work at the Tender Mercy Horse Rescue Mission and live in a cabin and live with a man who wears flannel shirts. I want to choose to give what I think I can't give, and give it well. However I don't know if I know how to leave this place willingly, for all my running I think I might have forgotten how to tell when it's time to let go.