Monthly Archives: February 2009

Like a Prayer. Almost.

I wasn’t going to write. I was going to drink Mint tea.

Dante and Derrida: Face to Face by Francis J. Ambrosio

I saw this tonight, sitting there saying, “yes, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking I am not real”

And I said “My God. Someone dedicated whole days to you, weeks, months! And here you are, lying there. Word for word.”

I want to spend all my time with you, Dante and Derrida. I want to know, again, what you have to say. And so did your author, and so, now, do I.

I found this book at Barnes and Noble in the city, waiting for friends to show up at Union Square so we could head to St. Marks and have dinner, converse, catch up.

When I sat down to read, I couldn’t put it down. Why is it, why, why, such excitement for other’s words. I grab hold and my whole body feels like leaping! It cannot go anywhere, it cannot find a place, so it stirs.

I sat down and thoughts race. It’s as though my brain finds a lover that was lost down a path, lost as the mist descended. And now, what I longed for, is in my hands. IN MY HANDS. The words in ribbons, silk. If I could, I’d brush my lips against them. And the voice in the words, some voice. A long lost voice. Someone is speaking.

So many of these books. How can I get my fill?

So I sat and read. And read.

I wasn’t going to write tonight.

But sometimes I find that, during the day, I have moments of complete astonishment and I wish I could share it with someone. I try to share it. But people usually look at me like I’m off in a garden of hedgerows, mumbling to myself about Time, Relativity, God or Numbers.

….no point going round in circles, so long as the other has not won back that advance I shall not be able to avow anything and if avowal cannot consist of declaring, making known, informing, telling the truth, which one can always do, indeed, without confessing anything, without making truth, the other must not learn anything that he was not already in a position to know for avowal as such to begin, and this is why I am addressing myself here to God, the only one I take as witness, without yet knowing what these sublime words mean, and this grammar, and to, and witness, and God, and take….(Circumfession, 11)

And the book, Dante and Derrida: Face to Face by Francis J. Ambrosio, begins with this sentence:

How does it happen that, as persons, we are given to writing?

The tapestry unfolds from there.

And around me people wander, looking at books, drinking Starbucks, hugging their children, holding a loved ones hand.

And this is true. This happened. I was there. Reading. Looking. Loving.

So, I must leave, and purchase the book, now nestled in my purse as I walk out into Union Square.

The streets are damp. It was softly raining.

St. Marks is fabulous. It’s so alive. It picks me up with two hands and parachutes me into a rush. Just to see, the lights, the tattoo shops, the people, the lovers.

A moment and then another. But I only noticed after each passed.

Someone was wearing black leggings and purple boots.

There were two poodles, walking somewhere.

And I was thinking, how can I love so much at once?

All the while, the weight of my new book inside my purse, my friends’ happy chatter, and my mind circling it in joy, like children in merry-go-rounds, like dizzying the brain-waves.

It was like, I could almost touch the strings between us all. Almost. And I smiled at almost. The roundness of Al-Most. Kissing the blessing of never knowing.


Like a prayer.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You Can’t Judge Flowers

This morning I woke after dreaming that I was dying of some strange disease. There were spots over my skin and they didn’t know when I was going to die. Before the dream, I was lying in the bath, looking at my arms. I thought,

I’ve lost a lot of weight

And didn’t feel a particular way toward it. I tried to read a book about Spinoza, but fell asleep in the bath. The book fell in and I awoke thinking I was in a pond where goldfish brushed against my legs–but they were actually the pages of the book, enjoying a swim. I thought

Spinoza’s been in the library too long. It was about time he took a bath.

I laughed and it echoed.

I then thought about loneliness.

Before bed, I tried to write. I recorded a poem. But I thought it was a bad poem, so I recorded it simply because I was afraid to. I thought

I shouldn’t be afraid of words

And then I realized I am afraid. So I pushed through. I listened to my voice. I made myself do it. I thought,

Pretend it’s someone else’s voice.

That made it easier. I remembered Muriel Rukeyser saying that you should always question, “do I believe what I am saying?”

I secretly believed what I was saying, what I was hearing in my own voice, but there was a part of me saying “no good, no good.” That was wrong, though. I thought

You can’t judge flowers.

So, then I went to sleep, though frustrated that I “couldn’t” write.

And I dreamed I was dying, though a man I once loved showed up in a movie theater and hurt me all over again, said horrible things about me in secret to show his strength.

You smoke? I asked

He said, yeah. Of course I do

Which I took as a sign that he lies, because for some reason, he never smoked in my previous dreams.

And then I woke, it was this morning.

I read Psalm 30. And then Psalm 29, which I liked better for the image of God’s voice twisting oaks and breaking cedar to pieces. I thought I wanted to twist oak, as well. But even if I couldn’t, I’d like to watch someone else do it.

So I had this feeling build in my stomach, a rolling and rolling until I thought it would grow and sing out of my lips like anger but in cherry-wood blood sap.

It didn’t.

I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wondered why I was so unthrilled for the day. But I knew to get up and find small pebbles to pick up and kiss. I knew it had to be hidden in the fact that I could feel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why Banish Silence / Fish Have Given Their Lives for Us to Touch

I was thinking,

I am hurting because someone else is hurting. I am doubting because someone else is doubting. And this pain is not to be condemned or banished. It is to be held and loved and listened to.

Who am I that I should ask something to leave my house? Do not leave, I should say, but sit with me a while. Cry, or take the time you wish to take. I should make notes. When you speak, I should listen.

But the day builds and builds and bridges are constantly burned. I say “Not you, not anger.” I say “Not pain, again, not me.”

But this is part of our common inheritance.

Under me pass many fish through the dead shale, their skeleton bones crushed into fine powders. And in their eyes, oil swims which brings us closer, sends us over oceans, through the desert in cars–the moss does this too, pressed by years and our feet.

Under me, movement. Though stillness is requested at night. Lie down, why should I? If I am given to rest, then I will sleep. But if something moves through me, I should listen.

I am no more myself than the grass is the sky, but in their meeting, through carbon and oxygen, words. Words that grab your wrist and mine. And this is our hold. I am yours and love, you are mine. But not possession, no sooner the grass expresses the sky than the sky unfolds into the grass, but are they not forever separate?

And below, the ashes of countless fish. Do you see? This mixture. How things pass, constantly.

So why banish silence? Welcome it as one welcomes adoration. The silence adores You! And so does darkness and pain, can it not touch you? Can your body be spared creation? It is creation. I do love You.

So what to do with days that build and bridges torn down? When doubt-birds and anger-birds have no more branches and I refuse to know the mapping of roots of trees from which the birds sing? Then I deny creation, again, like a final cry against my own self and You.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To the Moment of My Death, I Will Be Holding This in My Hands

St. George, Utah. My mother and I eat in nervous quiet at Arby’s. I know this will be my last meal in civilization for a while. Soon, I will go live in the desert. I don’t know what to expect, but try to focus on savoring the Arby’s Sauce instead of thinking.

The van pulls into the parking lot. I hug my mother, put on a brave face. The staff tells me that, for safety reasons and program policy, they have to blindfold me. This is the first moment it starts to sink in that this is real. I have signed over the next 30 or more days to the wilderness. We drive for an hour. My body is sweating, heart pounding. I want to cry. I remind myself that I agreed to go through the program.

At base camp, they take the blindfold off. I smell sage. It is night and the stars are more numerous than even the West Texas sky. I think about the Charlie Robison song about the man in prison, how they “sometimes let him look up at the East Texas sky / which sparkle like the lights of Loving County.” I can’t help but feel trapped.

Inside, the woman tells me I have to hand over all of my possessions. They will provide me with everything: clothes, shoes, pack, and sleeping bag. Everything.

And we have to do a strip search.

A what?

A strip search. It’s for your safety, as well as the rest of your group and our staff.

I want to break down crying. But I keep reminding myself that this was my decision. Well, kind of.

Lubbock, Texas: My mother and I are in the police station as she pays my “ticket” for shoplifting while on a school academic trip.

My mom looks like she’s going to kill me, I thought. She slams the car door, turns to me and says: “You are going away. I’ve already researched some programs in Utah. Wilderness Programs. Something has to be done. If you don’t do this, you can’t go away to college next year. I won’t let you.

My mind is racing. How did I get here? Why did I even take that sweater? Why have I done any of this?

My forearm is still bleeding from my nails the night before. I couldn’t use anything else.

It seems I’m always looking for a way out. As if someone else kept taking over my body.

Utah: base camp

So, could you place your clothes in the corner? Okay, I’m going to have to ask you to bend over and…

I want to die, I thought. But I comply with their requests. They are doing their job. I deserve this, somehow, don’t I?

After the examinations, I am back in the van, blindfolded. We drive for miles in dark silence. I focus on the bumps in the dirt road, fantasize about the van rolling off the cliff.

Utah Journal:

Day 1:
I don’t know how I’m going to handle this.

Today was my first full day. It was hard. We hiked all afternoon and I was okay at first, but toward the end, I lost it. My stomach was hurting; I was weak and couldn’t breathe. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it. I kept thinking I just want to go home. I’m so filthy! Covered in dirt and sweat. I’m sad. I’m just really, really sad. On the hike, I was in a delusional state. I kept saying over and over again Philippians 4:13.

I wonder how my family would react if they knew that I just want to go home. Maybe I will talk to someone about it. If I’m going to face my problems, I might as well face them. I’m going home.

Day 3:
This place makes it impossible to leave, even though I am an adult. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel like death. I wish I had never chosen to come here, makes me sick to think about how much money this is costing. I feel horrible. I just want to lie in a bed for days and sleep. My body can’t handle this. My mind can’t…I hate this.

The next morning, the staff tells me I can leave if I want. I am, after all, in the adult program. But they won’t help me leave.

What do you mean you won’t help me leave?!

Well, it’s three days hike to any civilization, and seeing as you’ve just arrived and have yet to learn the necessary skills to survive in the wild, build a fire from raw materials, set traps, dress a wound, identify edible plants, well, I don’t see how you’ll make it out alive.

I thought to myself: he’s doing some kind of reverse psychology on me. I know my rights. I can leave, and they HAVE to help me. I am NOT staying here any longer.

The rest of my tribe looks on. Some of my seasoned contemporaries sigh and place their heads in their hands near the fire-pit. They’ve seen this scene before. They know how it ends. Some stir their oatmeal and lentils, looking nervous about what is about to happen.

Fine. I’m leaving.

Blackwolf looks disappointed, but says

All right, but that means that Spirit Knife is going to have to follow you. For your safety. And this means the rest of the group will have to stay at this camp until a backup staff member can meet us. We won’t be able to hike to our next location until nighttime.

I gather my things, tears brimming my eyes. I feel a slight pang of guilt, but I push it aside. They will comply. They have to.

I set off. I don’t know where I’m going, but I guess they have to see that I’m serious. Maybe then we can sit down and sort things out, be reasonable, send a van to pick me up.

I keep walking. I look back. Spirit Knife is still following me. But she doesn’t say anything. I watch my boots. I keep my eyes on my boots until I get to a small mountain. Shit. I could go around it, but that would take longer, walking. I’m so frustrated! Why haven’t they seen that I am serious, that I want to leave? God. I guess I’m going to have to climb this damn mountain.

I start scaling its side. My hands have to pull at the dirt. Spirit Knife is still behind me, climbing. Fuck. What am I doing? How did I get here? With each step, my calves burn. The pain shoots up and down my arms and legs. Beads of sweat nestle into the eye-sockets. The desert blurs. Black dots dance in my vision.

I haven’t refilled my water bag and there’s a 15-pound pack on my back containing my food and sleeping bag. The seat-belt straps around my shoulders cut into the skin. The pain grabs at my lower back.

Fuck. What am I doing here? God. Just let me go home. I won’t drink, I won’t smoke, I won’t cut, I won’t swear, I won’t…I won’t…. I hate you Shannon! Why are you doing this? Why are you? I hate you. I hate you.

My body recoils with pain, as though to respond to my mind. I can see the summit. I can’t breathe.

I pull my body over to the top, trying to pull air into my lungs, full of bees. I sit down. The distance spirals in and out of my eyes. There’s nothing. Nothing but wild for miles. Days worth of miles. I can’t do this. I can’t do this on my own. Why am I running away? Why am I…

I look again out into the expanse. I feel so small. What am I doing on this mountain? I am running away. God, why am I running away?

I push my palms into my eye-sockets. Sob. Why have I abandoned myself? Why am I doing this to myself?

Spirit Knife walks up behind me, places her hand on my back.

Are you ready to go back?

I look up at her and, between gasps of air and tears, ask

Why are you being nice to me? I just made you walk three miles and climb up a mountain because I’m being a stupid, stubborn fool.

Sometimes, the hardest person to love is our self. Are you ready to go back?

Utah Diary, Day 23:

I can see a difference in myself. I can feel it, too. I try and reflect on this at night when I’m in my sleeping bag, looking at the stars. I can feel a love for myself I’ve never felt before, and a respect for myself. It’s as though someone introduced me to this amazing woman, strong. And then I catch my breath. She’s me. Why have I tried so hard for so long to hide her light?

Day 26:

I got my earth name tonight. Sunset Sky. Blackwolf named me and gave me
a powaka. How did he know, how could he know, my favorite sight in the
world? Did God tell him in a dream? My name. My name.

Day 30:
Vision Quest—well, I am on my vision quest. I feel lonely. It’s been 32 or so hours alone in the desert. Perhaps I need this isolation right now. It’s funny how many different thoughts go through my head when I have so much time to think. Yet I feel content. Maybe it’s the fact that I am able to feel, to feel such appreciation and gratitude for everything! I feel I am so much a part of this earth, so connected with the land. I can’t describe the bliss. I am going to miss being here. It’s amazing…did I actually want to leave when I first got here? Why was I so afraid to meet myself? I am never going to be the same after this.

I know I can do anything. I have already done it.

Vision Quest day 2:

I saw it. I won’t say what I saw. You’re not supposed to. But may I always remember this moment. This one. Which is already the moment after the next and next. Growing stone. To the moment of my death, I will be holding this in my hands.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Get Me Started on Last Year’s Cabo Trip // I’m Telling You, T. J. Max is a Lifesaver

10:30 AM—Sarah Lawrence College Gym—Ladies Locker Room.

I hear a gaggles of voices as the Women’s Swimming Group walk into the locker room from the pool. I turn on my shower quickly, knowing soon the hot water will soon become scarce. The voices rise with laughter and chatter, non-distinguishable until a couple of the flock separate into the shower area.

Shower 1: Diane! Can I borrow some shampoo? I forgot mine!

Shower 3: Yeah, sure. Here you go. Cute swimsuit, by the way.

Shower 1: Thanks! Oh, you like the suit? T. J. Max. 20 bucks. I’m telling you! Great deal! I’m getting my hair colored today and I know you’re not supposed to shampoo your hair, but I also don’t want to chlorine to keep the color from penetrating.

Shower 4: Oh, I know. Do you shower at night, too? the chlorine stays on even after I shower here in the morning.

Shower 3: Yes! It does. I can taste it on my skin even!

Shower 1: Oh, how does your husband feel about that?

Showers 1, 3, 4: [giggles]

Shower 1: I can’t get the water hot, can anyone get hot water?

Shower 4: Oh, guys, Marissa’s birthday next week, so we should all do something for her.

Shower 3: How old will she be?

Shower 4: She’s turning the Big 5-0!

Shower 3: How old are you, Susie?

Shower 4: Me? Oh I just turned 45.

Shower 3: you do not look 45. I would have said 38.

Shower 4: Well, you know, my mother looked young for her age. I’m telling you, things start slowing down after 40.

Shower 1: [shouting] Who slows down?

Shower 4: I said the BODY. The body slows down.

Shower 1: I don’t get that. Maybe it’s because my MIND is slowing down!

Shower 3: Susie, things will pick up after you get the last kid outta the house!

Shower 4: Oh, I hope so!

Shower 3: Besides, we ALL look young, don’t you think?

Shower 1: Yeah but my hair, you know, if I didn’t color it, the gray would make me feel older.

All Showers: (silence, sound of running water)

[Locker / Changing Area]

{One woman, previously Shower 3, opens Locker 3, drops her towels, grabs underwear. Turns around to Shower 4, who stands by Locker 4.}

Locker 3: (pulling underwear up) Susie, what is in your husband in?

Locker 4: (putting lotion of her legs) He has a joint venture company.

Locker 3: Can I have some lotion? Oh, that must be hard right now.

Locker 4: Sure, here you go. It’s great for your skin. Yes. Since it’s with small business, there are fire alarms going off every day. I tell you! What about your husband?

Locker 3: (puts on bra) He owns a law firm.

Locker 4: (now in jeans and bra) Oh, really? How is that right now?

Locker 3: We’ve been lucky. It’s the bigger firms letting people go.

Locker 4: Oh, it’s just hard on everyone right now. Everyone’s suffering.

Locker 3: It is. It is. So hard

[Shower 1 walks in, shaking her hair with towel, stands by Locker 1]

Locker 1: [still shaking wet hair] Diane, you and the kids going away for spring break?

Locker 3: We’re going to St. Thomas!

Locker 4: Nice! Oh, that’s so nice. All inclusive?

Locker 3: Yes! We couldn’t decide between skiing and the Caribbean, but this winter has just been brutal!

Locker 1: I’m telling you, All Inclusive is the only way to go with kids. I mean, otherwise it’s just too difficult and expensive!

Locker 3: I know. Don’t even get me started on last year’s Cabo trip with the boys! John wanted to golf the whole time and the boys were bored to death! I was dying! I thought to myself, “well THIS will never happen again! What a waste of money!”

Locker 1: Can anyone lend me a blow-dryer? I forgot mine!

Locker 4: Here you go. Oh, I love those jeans!

Locker 1: Aren’t they great?! I’m telling you, T. J. Max is a life saver!

***This was this morning. Interesting Group. They always have funny stories and dialogues. And let me tell you, believe it or not, most of these women (who I regularly see walking about naked) have better bodies than I do! Of course, they have a lot of time of their hands to work out….Shower / Locker 1 character is hilarious. Always loud and eccentric and talking about the latest deal she found at market or T. J. Max or online catalogues. I get the sense that she kind of annoys the other women, but they have to put up with her because she’s in the “group.” There’s also another Swimming Group that consists of the older women…60’s and 70’s. Now THEY have some HILARIOUS conversations. And sometimes they even start talking to me while I’m trying to change…they do not respect personal space, regardless of if you’re clothes or not. And sometimes, the older group will talk about you like you’re not standing next to them. For example, just last week:

Livvy: Oh, Maureen, look at her (points to me, while I’m hovering in a corner, trying to put on my bra) She has a tattoo!

Maureen: Really? (looks at me) Honey, what is that tattoo?

Me: (with bra successfully on, turning around to grab shirt) umm, uhh, a rose type thing

Livvy: A rose! Maureen, did you hear that? A rose!

Maureen: Yes, yes. Oh, dear. Have you ever been to Ireland?


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Words of Flight, How They Pass Between

Passing different lines, I try and see exactly where the intersections spell out your name. It twists and turns, and I write about it, not for myself, not even to clarify the smog, perhaps not even for you…but to lay some tracks across an otherwise naïve trail.

I wish I could give each person this gift. If I could lay before the sunset, trace the red that changes so brilliantly to orange and spell it out somehow b-e-t-w-e-e-n the curves of letters, if I could, it still wouldn’t create a ribbon between my dreaming and you.

It shifts, the subject. At first I thought I was writing to you (points North) but perhaps I am writing to you (points West). And if that’s the case, I change my tone, slightly, because even if we meet at the exact same place, the shoe-prints will be of different sizes.

I love you in my way. As if I could produce manuscripts on the way you think, how your line of thought goes in and out of the briar patch, stuck, some days, to my sides.

And to trust that even among strangers I can see your form.

That we have already forgiven each other for loving imperfectly.

That my Dictionary weighs less because of the absence of your name.

And your light? What can I do but sift through with my toes what my mouth has already spelled, leapt forward to catch?

Yes, wind comes through the cracks between wood, but notice, so does sunlight. We build for ourselves as much as for each other and I’ll be here for ages cleaning the dust from the modest floor, sweeping the broom and repeating words and names into the air which float to the roof as I watch them fly out into tops of trees. Because I live there, too, flying to greet our unborn joy.



Tell me, what faith have you gathered around you? Where is the source? I can never trace it back to mud, to the body, to the places one can visit. Sometimes I read your words and sit silently for hours.

When the heat breaks through, it rests its heavy body somewhere next to my heart. Do you know this panic? To listen to its static all through the night, hoping among the paper-shreds, a speck of you might come through, and I can save it, record it.

I am merely a boat of sorts, catching things along the way. Some days there are anchors. Some days a shifting of words. The point is, I know nothing about direction. Sometimes I cannot even see your light. Where is the source?

To open your arms like you do, like the world could send itself kindly to your door. But I know there are hours of teeth and I cannot catch you in the middle of brier, frozen in between states, doubting I’ll be your messenger again. The brier grows up to the throat.

Still, I read your words and sit silently for hours, wondering. Who unfolded their hands first? Did your words fly in from the window. What is the origin of their bones?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Own Splinters

Do not be conformed

to this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

That my mind can lift me, thank you.

For discipline and forgiveness, lavender bath salts and Brahms,

memory, how it fills gaps where loneliness grows too bold.

And for loneliness. It has an achoring effect.

Otherwise, I think I’d forget to reach out, to be more than just a body, but a movement.

I thought of this, feeling a heat rise up in my chest. Again, anxiety-creature. I locked myself in the restroom to breathe. My head was swimming like a balloon up on a hill. I didn’t know where each thought would drift. I had no map for the moment. This can be a shock. We forget how controlled we keep the mind, most days, until it somehow breaks through the gates.

But I thought, let it pass, hold out your hand. Offer it help. Allow yourself this. Allow yourself to feel panic. Bend around it softly. Present it with flowers and a pasture to work things out.

There’s no wrong moment, no perfect emotion. Only those that walk away unheard and those that are given a chance to come undone, without judgment.

For a moment—I could be the calm around my own splintering. And I thought, energy is energy—cry, kiss the forearm, remember running through the rain, asking the evening to extend itself, how sometimes it feels like the body dissipates. This can happen in confusion and in joy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized