“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.”
“Drive, you said, because poets must
bring the news to the next town…”
It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it
Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable
Shower words, like bread, on the unsuspecting
The terrified, the hungry, the aching
And the lost
It’s a rough line
But someone’s got to
Be the emissary
The one who tells him
His daughter is dead
They’ll never meet
No, not in this lifetime
“These are the chores of the stonecutter”
You whittle things
Out of shape
Stay up late
Devising the words
To dash hopes against rocks
It’s a hard job
But someone has to do it
Wipe the sweat from your brow
Thirty years ago you stood behind his shoulder
Watched him silently count the seconds
Leading to minutes
Leading to hours
Frozen on a bench
Watching him kiss his chest
And you watched
And you knew the words, then
You said something
And it worked.
Your lies then
Carried only the threat of
“Tengo un pacto de sangre…”
I’ve been wanting to write for awhile now, and having so much trouble. It’s hard to know exactly what I want to say. I don’t know that there’s anything I necessarily need to get out right now, but there’s a lot I’ve wanted to talk about. Maybe that’s the difference. I talk myself out of writing unless I absolutely need to, and that’s a problem.
I’d been looking forward to getting together with the Olives today for weeks now. If there’s anything I miss about college, it’s spending a lot of time with these people just thinking and reading and writing and talking about literature. Literature is missing in my life right now in a profound way, and it’s hard to recapture that feel of working on a lit magazine and taking lit courses. How do you replicate that in your daily life?
Anyway, we all got together and did three prompts. Here they are:
Prompt # 2: A song that gets stuck in your head (this one was vaguely inspired by Selena Gomez’s pop hit “Love You Like A Love Song” which, whenever Spotify plays it, becomes my JAM. I will sing along to that ridiculous, art-less wench and LOVE it.)
I love you like a love song, baby
Like three minutes and fifty-two seconds
Of concentrated bliss
Over-produced saccharine sweetness
A crescendo, chorus, and bridge
I love you like something cheap and disposable
No longer pressed
Just left to the digital ether
Just floating into the public consciousness
One download at a time
Getting stuck in your head
On the tip of your tongue
Like a cut on the roof
Of your mouth
I love you like a love song, baby
Like something someone wrote with
Six other men
Designed for profit
Engineered and auto-tuned
To within an inch of its life
I love you like a love song, baby
Nearing the end of its trial run
Running out of its 15 minutes
And fading, slowly, off the radio
Less and less plays each week
Ending up a one hit wonder
In a compilation of has-beens
Prompt #3: Detente/Relaxation of tensions
Brushing hands, knuckles, fists
Softly against each other
We’ve been locked in place
For what seems like so long
Fingers itching to pull the trigger
Guns half-cocked but unaimed
Waiting for someone
I’ve been waiting to hear your voice
On the phone
For you to break scene
Tell me you were kidding
You didn’t mean it
You’re back for the kill
And waiting to bite down
“I’m here to make you better”, I told him
Here to push you
Screaming into the future
Give you a dose of reality
Of the hard truth
Waiting for you to meet me
Blow for blow
Because I’ve had enough of winning
Enough of shooting fish in a barrel
And I’m ready for my equal
Someone who matches my stride
As quick on the draw as I am
We’re pulling our punches
Glancing off each other
Clashing enough to clang, softly
Send out sparks
But it’s all for show
Just an interlude before
We throw our weapons down
And tumble into bed
Into each other
Prolonging the bloodshed
By other means
Prompt #1: Ode to a Smell
I love lemon Pine Sol.
I do not love mopping, no.
I do not love the
Contents of a can that will
Lead to an even bigger hole
In the ozone layer.
But. God. Damn. Do I love
Lemon Pine Sol.
Fuck regular Pine Sol.
I have no time for Evergreen
Trees growing so far
Give me some citrus!
Some sunshine on a cloudy day!
Throwing my windows open to
Clean the dishes, the floor, the walls
I will drench Everything! Everything!
Everything! In lemon Pine Sol.
Call it clean and then
Sit my ass down just to
Revel in the smell.
Scintilla Day 4: We exert control over ourselves and others in many ways. Talk about a time you lost that control. This can go beyond the obvious emotional control into things like willpower, tidiness, self-discipline, physical prowess… any time that you felt your autonomy slipping away.
You remember the first time it happened. Sitting in the passenger seat, feeling your throat start to close. It reminds you of the days you used to sit up all night until 7AM, afraid to go to sleep without the sun to watch over you.
It happens more often than you care to admit. One minute you’re fine. The next, you are sure you’re dying. Afraid to eat, too wired to sleep. You think everything and anything is wrong with you. This fear most often strikes while you’re eating, and it’s a big part of why you do that less and less these days. Sometimes it creeps up on you on the train, making your body shake nervously. You’re afraid to be trapped underground, afraid to feel your throat close up, your skin start to itch. You imagine collapsing in the middle of the car, an interruption to everyone’s busy, important day.
Nothing is wrong with you. You have to shake the fear. You wonder if, all these years later, it’s your brain and body misfiring after all the things you’ve done to it. You hope not.
He’s dead, but you still see his face. You think of the gaping, the yawning maw of years ahead without him. And in that time, in that time everyone else will drop away as well. When he died, it was the first time you thought about that. You expect parents and grandparents to go. Somewhere in the back of your mind the fear is always there that these people, the ones whose blood swirls inside of you now? They’re all on the way out. You are too. But you never think about their contemporaries. Or yours. And how painful that will be, to lose each one of them. You wonder if that has something to do with all of this. That fear to make any sudden moves, take any risks. You didn’t used to be like this, so there must be some connection. An awareness of your body’s aches and pains, its mortality, the time closing in on you.
Scintilla Day 3: Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.
The man you’re with has his headphones on and turned up as loud as they will go. He has a terrifying fear of heights. This fear leaves you embarrassed for him. He’s a coward.
You? You could care less if the tiny, 8-passenger plane you’re on suddenly plummets into the Caribbean sea, falling apart and breaking into pieces over la diosa del mar, la reina del palmar.
You’re home. In the most fundamental way a person like you can be. You’re flying high above the island of Puerto Rico, surrounded on all sides by warm, turquoise water. You’re exhilarated. You feel the wind buoy the plane up. 1,100 feet above Borinquen querida you’ve just discovered a need, a desire that will remain in the back of your mind for years to come: I want to learn how to fly.
You’ve never felt anything like this before. This thrilling sensation, this peace. You’re ready to die because you’re finally home. The plane slants towards El Morro, that leftover bastion of Spaniard “justice”, a breathtaking sight. And you know, without a doubt, that everything can end in the next moment…and you’d be happy. To be in this tiny space, feeling the wind bringing you closer to la tierra de su amor.
Scintilla Day 2. Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)
One. Put the razor down.
Two. Throw away your stash of Valium.
Three. Look at the sonogram. Feel more love inside your heart than you’ve ever felt in your whole life. Cry.
Four. Listen to Bright Eyes “No Lies, Just Love” on loop. Reflect that you’ve found your own reason to continue.
Five. Wait months and months. First for him to arrive, then for your sister to bring him to you.
Six. Hold him in your arms. Stand with him in front of the mirror and see yourself. You are present. He is small and perfect and dressed in a tiny little Yankees jersey.
Seven. Cry. Be overwhelmed.
Eight. Begin to heal.
Nine. While writing this, remember his name means “Gift from God”
I think I might come back to both of these prompts at a later time when I can write more fully on them.
Scintilla ’13 Day 1, Prompt 1:
Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so.
I’d almost forgotten it. That first real hangover of mine. My first year of college. “just nineteen a sucker’s dream” How I’d fallen for a stranger four months before and sat across from him over candlelight and thought he’s perfect, he’s what I want. Not listening to any of his own words of warning. How I ended up crashing his New Year’s at St Mark’s Ale House in shitty boots and terrible blue eye shadow.
How I sat on your lap and caressed your face and ran my fingers through your hair and listened to you talk about your daughter, the one no one knows you have. How I felt like a burden to your friends, so cultured, so moneyed. How I wore the wrong boots. How I was hungover for three days convinced I was dying, that I needed to go to the hospital. How I’d only had toast that day. How I drank three blue martinis and a shot of god knows what. How I ended the night at 5am in a cuchifrito in alphabet city waiting for a ride home from my best friend’s dad.
How your friend took me aside and tried to tell me something, anything to get me to get the message. How I drunkenly berated myself and he looked angry at me for my harsh words.
No, I’d almost forgotten it.
You’re the only one I’d like to tell my problems to.
Nobody knows me. I’m flailing. I’m doing everything wrong. But it’s been ten years and you’re as foreign to me as the language you speak now on a daily basis.
I’ve been writing more lately, and I’m glad. Literature is missing from my life in a tangible, taxing way. It’s been a rough month. I think the universe might be trying to tell me something, and I’d better figure out what it is quick.
Every part of me feels broken. My body is falling apart, quite literally, and I can’t stop it. Always tired, always in pain. I’m moving from one crisis to the next with no solution in sight.
I’m not okay. And it’s okay for me to acknowledge that.
It takes everything I have not to walk away from this, to drop it all on the floor, smash it in a fit, in a rage and say “enough”. Everything I have, everyday. All I can think about is sleeping and reading and thinking and taking walks in the sunshine and how much more sense everything would make were I to do that.
“A beautiful woman is a terrible disappointment”
I think that’s what I was. I’m sorry. I was trying.
“Don’t you EVER speak to me like that! You think you’re a man?”
A man who embodies and performs masculinity in its most extreme iteration, one who adheres, perfectly, to the coded call-response script of our culture. And if I think I can step to him, it’s no wonder it never works out for me with the men I choose to bring into my life. Cowards.