Tuesday, October 20, 2009


These were all found while I was going through some things. They're from fall of 2007.

Unexpected Fall

The bugs should be dead.
It is November, and the first freeze
of the season should have killed them
off. But I am getting bitten, sitting
outside in a sweater, sweating.
One bites me on my forehead,
and I'm reminded of my loneliness.
I am a great well, and I am empty.
Do they not know it is November?
The crisply cracked leaves let me
think winter is fast approaching;
I see visions of blank black branches
marching up from under deep, smothered
lakes. But these mosquitoes show me
spring can come in autumn. What great
God am I to ask them to stop biting?
Why should I begrudge their confusion,
this ancestral longing to drink
the stuff that makes me run?
But I flip through faint voices on pages,
my makeup sliding down my neck, thinking,
"The bugs should be dead..."

Heater Cold

Here are all the stars strewn boldly on the ground—
man's desire to make his own heaven, held tightly
on anonymous mattresses and in stacks of slightly
solid moans. Singing, we're here on the backs
of each other. Weaving in and out of the concrete,
we search for soft somewhere in the metal. Why did
we build it? Fortresses, hardness to enclose those vital
organs we guild with patina so flimsy, a skeletal mass
like a viral infection. We mimic the body.
We search for the place where the feminine thigh
slides sublimely into the round of the back, obscuring
our desire with a contour of charcoal—flat masked,
as if we weren't the apple, at our core all the seeds.
Here all the beds are made hospital corners—
what would we do without the mess
of sex, the dripping proof that our insides exist?
I want you to know that my thigh slides sublimely, albeit blemished,
into the round of a back, some back like somewhere
blurring this box. Melting my skeletal mass.
Let's climb the stairs to the roof and stare out over
the meshing of stars blocking out all the sky.
Let's jump because clearly here all down is up.
Man's desire to make all heavens different, blindly forgetting
he's just one.


in the back of my head like black diamonds.
I know you. I was you.
I am you.
I have the same small crease in my forearm.
I know better than to burst the bubble of illusion
by studying your skin--
it takes precious light to make every pretty photograph,
all this faked falling down stairs.
Nights made more fabulous by memory,
or horrible disasters that weren't half bad.
How many times did I cry to forget that I'd laughed?
Sparkling ice, tinkling like giggles in the back of my throat;
they were really stones, blocking my esophagus
from sobbing, cold but not melting.
I have the same pictures.
I burned them when they developed blank.
I miss you already.
You think you're still here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Moon Reflected in a Pool

I remember the first time I stopped believing in God.

I was thirteen. I was so tired I could not think, but I had an anger welling up inside of me, pushing hard against my skin, forcing my hands into fists that wanted to punch holes in walls on their own with no will from me. I had started my first period. I felt helpless, as if something were being done through me. This something was using me. This was something I hadn't asked for.

I think that might've been the part that made me most angry. While everyone around me seemed still blissfully free, I was confined alone in my house, lying on the couch in a kind of pain I had never experienced. I placed my feet on the arm rest at one end and pushed against it as hard as I could, sending my pelvis shooting up in anguish. I hoped that flexing my muscles as hard as I could would give me some release. I screamed as loud as I could. And I felt strange. I was afraid that I would feel strange for every moment of the rest of my life.

I have never been some moon goddess, dancing around a fire each month and singing praises to my womb. I hate that thing, and I'd just as soon have them take it out of me now, even childless and only 30.

I have spent every moment since trying to expel this demon woman inside of me. At 16 I would sit in the kitchen at Thanksgiving, watching the women prepare the meal while the men sat in the living room watching football. I was a conscientious objector, refusing to participate in my own subjugation. I didn't like football, but I would not cook. Instead, I tried to convince the women around me--my mother, grandmother, aunt--to throw off their chains and go sit down, too. And what I never said--what I never told a single soul--was that my greatest fear was that I'd be just like my mother, sacrificing myself while pandering to male need, being irrationally emotional and not being taken seriously. To this day I am nothing but a horrible mess in the kitchen most of the time, and when I successfully make something I chalk it up to pure luck.

And because a girl sees her mother as the archetypal female and her father as the archetypal male, my greatest fear was that I'd be just like a woman.

I have been feeling a strange sense of shame growing in me over the last month or so. For the longest time I could not pinpoint exactly where it was coming from, but I knew that it was triggered from somewhere inside my relationship. And then the other day, driving around having a conversation in my head with myself about something I cannot even begin to explain, it hit me--I am ashamed that I am a woman. My relationship forces me more and more to bump up against this fact. I have most everyone else fooled. I say something, and someone else exclaims, "God, Nan, you're such a dude!" But here, in this place where this person sees me on so many levels, I am running out of places to hide my woman. All I've ever wanted was to be seen as completely rational, logical, like a man, and the shame grows the more I cannot escape my woman, with all her emotions and insecurities, her desires to be submissive.

And it's not even that she "desires to be submissive." That is how my politics have taught me to talk about her. This feeling does not know the word "submissive", but after years of sticking her in the closet, this is the only word I have for what this is.

I hate her so much that just typing that has made me cry those kind of violent tears that appear almost without clear explanation because they come from some original wound. He's sleeping next to me. I hope he does not wake up. More reason for shame.

For as long as I can remember I've secretly wanted to be a woman. I've wanted to be the muse instead of the writer. To be adored instead of respected. Be loved simply because of my beauty, not because of how accomplished I might be. Part of this shame is that I've never thought I would get to be a woman. I've never thought anybody would love me that much. I've always thought that I'd always have to sing for my supper. Other girls may be able to get away with being cute. I have to do tricks.

This is where all of this gets hazy for me. This is not about logical argument or politics. These are all feelings that came spilling out of me whenever whatever it was finally pierced the dark place in my mind where all these things hide. I certainly would not take back the way that I am. I certainly wouldn't argue that the portrait I've painted of gender identities are universal or encompass the sum total of the way genders are defined, either. What's funny is that the relationship that sent all of these things bubbling to the surface isn't even a picture of oppressive gender roles. That's the thing. He doesn't seem to look down on me for being a woman. I do. And what's bubbling to the surface isn't a string of philosophical thoughts. It's a string of somewhat incoherent feelings.

And I suppose that's exactly what I'm afraid of.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Chemical Change

My grandmother died when I
was eleven; an age when each event
is a lightning strike, an irreparably split tree.
Constant chemical change.
I walked through the viewing room
like a smiling spook, a specter
already dead.
Why else could I not cry?
Had I not silently passed from one form
to another and back again seamlessly
so many times by then?
At least she wouldn't wake up screaming
in the middle of the night anymore.
Not like me.
Wandering into the sanctuary on fire
from all the sunlit stained glass,
full of bodies, their chests still swelling,
I wanted to shout over their pathetic air sucking,
tear down their faces, rip up their lips.
This was not love to me--
to wish the worst for someone.
Small, fidgety in the pew next to my father,
I stared at my palms.
Balls of fists and back open again.
Not quite so transparent as I'd believed them to be.
I felt my father shake, heave, so slightly;
I realized he was crying.
So very large as to make it a discordant sight.
New enough to be perverse,
like seeing his intestines.
I looked down, averting my eyes.
My hands began to tremble,
my whole body boiling as my insides melted,
mixed, refused in a different position.
Constant chemical change.
Suddenly, my open palms
were wet.

Physical Change

When water freezes, the molecules
slow down, lose energy--
move less and less until
they stand stick still.
Fused together.
But it's only a physical change--
they were together before,
slowly flowing over rocks
or sitting pooled in a deep white
bathtub. A gang of great waves
breaking down soil, causing canyons,
looking innocent in plastic bottles.
On the stove of the sun
they speed up like helicopter propellers,
begin to levitate. Break apart.
They get high as transparency,
make hissing sounds from kettles.
Gathering, they hang in loose conglomerations,
barely touching.
When there are just enough of them,
they begin to get heavy, these fizzy
little children. They stop dancing, bead up.
These feathers of water, they fall like bricks.
It rains.
But it's only a physical change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When words need to be less like words and more like pictures...

How to Write a Love Story

I had an idea the other night
while we were laying in bed
to write a poem about the way
our fingers looked, laced together;
the way our skin looked side
by side—like the same skin,
like I couldn’t tell whose skin
was whose. A beautiful line
or two slid into my mind
as I looked at the way that we
felt each other. But I couldn’t
get up to write them down.
I can’t remember them now.

They won’t be missed.


I work in a hospital for wounded animals,
sick as a dog myself—cold, shivering fever
I feel goes undetected against bleeding fur.
I lay my hands on those weak beings,
their beating breathing bringing me
back to life. I walk with a limp unnoticed,
believed to be born out of tired dedication.
I read the illiterate mules bedtime stories
they cannot understand; they seem to smile
anyway as I read aloud of war and shame
in a docile voice. They fall asleep easily,
and I stay up all hours listening to the wheezing
of the horses in the barn; they all caught cold
in the middle of summer. I can hear them
coughing, keeping me awake whispering
prayers. “Help me, help me, help me.”--
the only words I know, the only cures I have
in my feux lab coat made of dinner napkins
I found in an old unmarked box.
“Help me, help me, help me,” I scream,
but all the sick dogs have gone deaf.

One Moment I Am

I'm wading in wanting tonight,
neck-deep, not quite drowning, in a river
of waiting. I'm wishing for nothing tonight;
sitting on the quivering fault line
between me and not me--my skin
containing a quake but lying still
as an empty bed.
I finger the sheets, brush unclear memories
as if viewed through a prism, fusing
and splintering you and me and you and me
until we are only a beige blur behind
a crystal sheet--and I cannot tell
who is here. I cannot even tell anymore
if I am here.
My face as soft and watery as a dog's belly,
fine. Not fighting.
For there is nothing here to fight.

Do This in Remembrance of Me

I tried to bury you in business,
break you down to brokenness,
make light of you, my bruises,
as if you never fell from my fingers,
breaking the blankness. I don't
want to forget what is gone from me.

I want to forget that it was ever with

But it would seem that all my spells
have been cast, have been flung far
out to sea, unfindable. They never
brought back fish in their nets;
I stood on the shoreline for years, starving,
singing so they could find me.
They must've swum somewhere else.
Must've heard some other siren.

In so doing they saved my life.

But I secretly miss them--see them strutting
on someone else's back; they must've
washed up on her shore. She must've
marveled at these big bright balloons
filled with black ink. Her fingers are
dirty, covered with the contents of my
silliest wish. I set them sailing;
they never came back. They must not
have been mine.

And I secretly wonder if I was spared.

But I found something of hers washed
up on my shore one morning; years
of waiting, invisible to even my own eyes,
forgetting that it was ever even with me.
She sent me a message. “Remember to go
where you are going. I love what you left
for me. When I am done with it, I will leave
it for someone else. And, time being what
it is—not straight like on clocks but
bendable like backs—here is something
that you left for me but I'm giving back to you.”

That's when I noticed the note had been tied
to my finger for years. It was never washed up.

I just wanted to forget that it was ever even with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Offensive

Warning: This post may contain offensive material.

Today, while clicking through the headlines of interest on Twitter, I came across this at Bitch Magazine's website. As one might imagine, it seemed more than a little offensive.

But getting offended raises certain questions.

About a month ago some coworkers of mine were angry because a busboy had informed them that he was offended when they said, "Goddammit." He's a baby-faced Hispanic boy who is Catholic and saving himself for marriage. They were angry that he'd taken offense. Cries of, "Lighten up!" and, "What's the big deal, dude!" rose from the service well with abandon, and everyone had a good laugh at the busboy's expense.

These same people all get very offended when he makes it clear that he's not okay with their homosexuality.

Always the antagonist, I raised a question to the girls who'd given the busboy offense: "Why is it okay for you to offend him but NOT okay for him to offend you?" This question was coming from a girl who rarely, if ever, gets offended. Even the iPhone app featured in the Bitch blog didn't really offend me, although five years ago this blog would've been about what assholes men are. Thing is, it doesn't offend me because I already know a lot of men are assholes. I've just given up and decided to get okay with that. That's the secret to not being offended: realize that what other people think has nothing to do with me and quietly go on about my business.

When I raised the question in the well, essentially I was called a stick-in-the-mud. But one of the girls, a lesbian, was given pause and responded that I was kinda right. My point was that if you're going to get offended about things, you have a responsibility to take steps to avoid giving offense whenever possible.

It's pretty much impossible to never give offense, partially because some people are offended simply by the existence of people who are not like them, even if those people keep completely to themselves.

When I was in college, my friend Joseph wore a shirt for a (death? heavy? black?) metal band featuring a nun masturbating with a crucifix. It said, "Fuck Jesus." Clever, no? Well, he wore it to Wal-Mart one evening and was asked to leave. The whole situation was hilarious because he was offended that they were offended, and he went on a rant about how the existence of Christianity was so offensive to him that he should be allowed to ask them to hide all evidence of their existence. I told him that his request would kind of put him in the same boat with the people who were offended by his shirt. And to some degree, if Christians never want to see that shirt, I suppose he's right. He should be allowed to ask them to hide all evidence of their existence.

And now it becomes obvious what a slippery slope this whole, "Don't do things that offend me," thing really is.

In reality, I think that if something offends thee, thee should cut it off. In other words, if something offends me, I should avoid it, not the other way around. And in situations where I absolutely cannot avoid it, I should let it go. Getting all, "You need to cut that offensive shit out!" is just my way of getting on a high horse of some nature and trying to make the other person feel bad.

It's always really funny to me, too, how so many people are quick to point out just how much they hate it when Christians get all judgmental and take offense but are so willing to be okay with doing the same thing. I guess it's okay to have sensibilities as long as they're not religious ones?

I think that the responsibility rests with me. It's my responsibility to both avoid situations in which I'm likely to take offense and avoid giving offense whenever I can. Not that I'm always great shakes at this. Knowing the right action and taking it are two different things. I'm notorious for dropping f-bombs at work, usually within earshot of a customer or two. But I do know that if I'm not going to be more careful about giving offense, I do not get to turn around and get all offended.

Essentially this argument revolves around the idea that the person whose behavior with which I need to be most concerned is my own. But it's most people's belief that the person with whose behavior they need to be most concerned is that asshole at the Wal-Mart in the "Fuck Jesus" shirt. Or that asshole at the Wal-Mart wearing a "God hates fags" t-shirt. Or that guy I once saw at the Kroger in Denton wearing the "Amateur gynecologist" t-shirt.

I am not arguing that we should not watch what we do and say. Far from it. I'm just commenting on how we all prefer to watch what someone else does or says and then bitch about it. But let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Wait a minute. Scratch that. We all seem to think we're each without sin, and I don't want to get caught in the crossfire.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Outraged"? More like "In"raged.

Before, after, or during this post, you should click here and read Bill's post. I'm the unnamed coworker. It's almost like being famous!

So, last night I was thinking about my response, considering my argument. Just in case you haven't yet clicked on the link and checked out what I'm responding to, I'll give you a brief break down. Bill and I were discussing the HBO documentary Outraged, which chronicles a man's journey to out closeted gay politicians who consistently vote against gay rights legislation.

I argued that this man's actions probably made for riveting documentary film-making, but they were ethically tenuous at best. Sometimes politics have the propensity to turn us all into drama queens. I should know. I used to be one of those feminists who figured having a penis was an automatic qualifier for being sexist. Talk about having an agenda.

Now, my feelings on the outing have nothing to do with what I think should be done politically. I am a woman who believes in the legalization of everything. You wanna do heroin bought with the money you got for giving a blowjob in a back alley? Go for it. Same goes for gay marriage. Not that gay marriage is anything like doing heroin with blowjob money, but my point is that my political leanings are such that I pretty much think that as long as you're not forcing anyone else to do something they're not interested in doing, you should be allowed to do whatever you want. No stealing. No murder. No rape. Otherwise, bring on the trans fats and supersize it, please. I don't think it's the government's job to save us from ourselves.

Or keep us from getting married to each other. Some people might argue that the two are one and the same.

So, at any rate, if you read Bill's post, you know that I argued that it was not ethical for this man to out these politicians. I argued that it was not ethical even though they're being hypocritical. I argued this because they may have many different motivations for both their voting records and their decisions to keep their homosexuality (or varying degrees thereof) private. Part of my argument was that, as elected officials, their duty is to vote the way the majority of their constituents would have them vote. This argument was backed up by a conversation I had with another gay friend about a Texas state senator he knows. She's a conservative elected in a majority conservative district, and she once told my friend that she disagrees with the way she votes on gay issues, and she votes that way because that was the job she was elected to do. If she voted the way she wanted in spite of her constituents, she'd be acting as if she knew better than they did how they want their community to run. And, like it or not, that's just not the way our government was designed to work.

In theory, it's a government for the people, by the people.

But on some level I felt that his decision to out these people was unethical because it just seems malicious. It almost seems downright childish. All it will really accomplish is the embarrassment, grief and emotional upheaval of a few politicians lives. It will not change much of anything else. If you believe that hurting these people puts us any closer to legalizing gay marriage, you're insane. Effectively all it will change is which politician holds their seat come next election.

You know, from a closeted gay one who votes against gay rights to a hopefully really straight one who votes against gay rights.

During my argument with Bill I posed the question, "So, if you knew your friend's boyfriend was cheating on him, would you tell him?" We both initially agreed that it would be none of our business, thus supposedly strengthening my argument. I love it when that happens. But he has since changed his position and said he would tell his friend. Well, guess what. I'm changing my position, too! And I've actually decided that question is different than whether or not it's ethical to out a politician.

I would tell my friend if his or her boyfriend or girlfriend was cheating on him or her. Man, gender inclusion really lengthens a sentence. I would not, however, tell an acquaintance. I have intimate knowledge of my friend's situation. I do not have intimate knowledge of my acquaintance's situation. Therefore, all of my acquaintance's private matters are none of my business until he or she makes them my business. Relationships rely very much on nuance.

But even if I decided to tell an acquaintance, it's still different from the political scenario. If I tell an individual that his or her boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on him or her, I've given that individual full working knowledge with which to make a choice. He or she can stay or go knowing the truth about the situation. But that is not the motivation behind outing these politicians. Odds are good that if they lied about their sexual orientation and vote against gay rights legislation, they ran on that platform--the anti-gay-rights-legislation platform. So did they lie in a political sense? Nope. They said they would do X, I voted for them because I wanted them to do X, and then they did X. Sounds like doing their job to me. Outing them doesn't give anyone a choice to do anything about anything.

Whenever one finds oneself pondering an action, it's best to ask oneself, "Is it helpful?" If the answer is, "No," then one really should reconsider said action. Even if said action will make one famous.

Outing people--any people, even politicians--against their will is just mean. It isn't high-minded. It doesn't open the floor for constructive discussion. It just hurts some people, pisses some other people off and allows some other people to shout, "Fuck yeah! Stick it to the man!" at their television sets on a Saturday night.

And I don't think any of those things are on the to-do list.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Driving Home

I remember this stretch of highway as I experienced it alone.

Now, riding along with my lover driving, it feels like a foreign place. I cannot count how many times I drove it alone, at 5 pm., 3 am., every hour by the time I was done with these places. This stretch of highway is an in-between place, a place that gets me from one place to another.

I see the Whataburger where I bought toquitos and Diet Coke, drunk and depressed, searching for something to ground me in the middle of the night. I am not able to experience that place now, but for some reason it comes back to me as a strong place. I know I experienced it as a lonely place, but it was all me. I was the one doing the driving. I was in a quiet spot between meeting people here and meeting people there. It was a space where I could meet myself.

This is how memory works—this re-feeling. I know there was the period of time during which I wanted to kill myself. Then there was the period of time when I could remember wanting to kill myself. I would be watching a movie, and suddenly someone would be hanging from a light fixture. I would be able to feel that in my body, my entire being having a reaction to something I understood so completely. It wasn't like longing. It was remembering someone who I used to be. It was empathizing with myself. Now I look at pictures of me and think, “That was during the time I couldn't stop imagining my car wrapped around a tree every time I drove.” I know those things really happened, but I cannot remember them. I look at those pictures and cannot bring to mind the way any of it felt. It's as if I'm looking at someone I know I know but cannot name.

I cannot remember her.

I'm thinking about this as we drive south on 35 from Denton to Dallas at one in the morning. I can feel that sudden memory. My body says I should be here alone. He is not supposed to be here. This is supposed to be my place. I wonder if I really want to invite him in to all these places. I want to defend my right to posses something I know I didn't want—my body has forgotten the memory of the loneliness. I suddenly miss something that I'm certain I hated at the time. I miss it as if it were freedom. This is how memory works. It brings back events and rearranges them to meet a new person. I can't really have memories, can I? I feel like I've died a couple of times, been completely destroyed once or twice. In little ways each day something is gone and something new comes in to take its place. This is how memory works.

It's a thinking about something that doesn't exist.

I remember driving this exact piece of road the night before my 24th birthday, drunk and crying about how old I was. I felt ancient. My body felt like I was on the brink of death. I was bloated and hysterical, constantly grasping at moments hoping that one might anchor me. I was ancient, and when I stuck my hand out to hold on to something, there was nothing there. This is the funny thing about memory. I remember it that way right now, but I know that I grasped a lot of things, letting them go the moment I got them. My days were like rivers that flowed over my hands, through my fingers, but never yielded any fish.

I was always conflicted about wanting a life. It's not that I wanted to die, although at times I translated it that way. It's more that I didn't want to be wrong. I didn't want to choose something and fail at it or, worse, have it fail me. I didn't want to be a fool. And then one day I woke up and realized that all of that had happened. I'd been wrong. I'd been a fool. But I still woke up. When I was 18, my mother told me that I shouldn't have sex before I got married. She told me that I might have sex and then meet another man. This other man might be the man of my dreams, but, if I'd already had sex with someone else, he might not want me. I laughed. And I've had sex with more than one man since then.

What's funny is that last night, as I made out with my lover, I kind of wished that neither of us had ever kissed anyone else. But that doesn't mean I don't love him because he did.

I miss the wildly dramatic expression of youth, the pressure on each moment. I miss the way that describing life always seemed to easily come out poetically, the hyperbole in describing such vacillating, frenzied movement. I wish that I had words like that for my life now, but I don't. I know that all of that hyperbole was born of the same place that gave birth to immense misery, to that wanting to die. I used to sleep walk a lot. I once woke up in the middle of the kitchen floor, on my knees, holding a huge knife to my stomach and shaking with sobs so deep they forced screams. I was 9. No one came. The house was too big; no one could hear me. Where did that come from? I don't know. I have cycled through cells too many times to remember on anything other than an intellectual level that it even happened. I didn't outgrow that impulse until I was almost 30.

This is no more living than that was living. It's just more of a life.

I think about all of this now, at 1 am., riding in the passenger seat while he drives. I think about who I have been. I think about who I am now. And I think I'm finally ready to admit that I like it that he's here, driving me home. It means I can be still.

It means I can sleep.