I, a lone comma

pulsing within the voluptuous grammar of the ocean.

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Judy Garland

   You’ve got to make up your mind, he said. Do you want to fuck Judy Garland or be Judy Garland?

   It seemed my entire life would be determined by how I responded. I could tell, by the gravelly graveness in his voice, the snip and barely suppressed roar, that he wanted me to respond, and with snapquickness—I want to fuck Judy Garland.

   I was eight at the time. Or nine. I had seen the Wizard of Oz about a dozen times. I loved the transition from black and white to color. It seemed like a color that appeared nowhere else, and could never be replicated. It was its own unique, one of a kind color, a saturated rendition of a special heaven reserved for only the truest believers. Beyond religion. Beyond sects and codes and creeds and fire alarms. Beyond all of that, lay this jazzy heaven of Oz, a color that asked you to become one with the one with the inner workings of the world’s best kaleidoscope.

   Back then, I didn’t have the words to define those feelings. I couldn’t extrapolate my inner. But that changed after years of throwing words at walls and seeing what stuck and what patterns and formations were created by these wall-meshed words.

   But, yea, Oz itself was my passport to a longed for elsewhere, and now my father, a brute on the shores of his own Normandy, was trampling that which was sacred with his vulgar and unexpected ultimatum: You’ve got to decide…do you want to fuck Judy Garland or become her? Perhaps my father had noticed things about me, things he found concerning. I was too effeminate. Too otherworldly in my pursuits.  Too much this, and not enough that. It, or I, was a math problem he couldn’t quite figure out. And so, he decided to pimp out Judy Garland, dangle her like salacious bait. Who, at the time, in the role of Dorothy, was my senior by about six or seven years. Did I want to fuck her? I had no idea. I loved Dorothy because her voice carried within it the soft and fragile remnants of broken soul and that did something to me. In my heart. In my human. Did I want to be Judy Garland? No. I liked watching her, gallivant around Oz, wander through a dreamscape with richness of vision, a talent for friendship, and sentimental bravery. I appreciated her, that is to say Dorothy, as a voyager. But the idea of me dressing up in a blue dress and wearing my hair in pigtails and playing ward to a noisy little dog named Toto, no thank you, none of that for me.

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commits the meek to memory.

Amnesia forgets itself

to leaven the uninhibited rise

of days lusting after dreams

this side up.

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Borneo on Mars

There is the glass ashtray. The mangled cigarettes. The hotel room. The window open with the breeze coming in, ruffling the curtains. The breeze is lace fingers. Tiny fingers. There is the unevenly applied lipstick. The besieged housemaid. There is love. Always, there must be love. There are meshes of twilight. Wrinkle-vined hands. A wrinkled-mapped face. A geography of both Borneo and Mars. She believed in nowhere. She believed in Mars. She believed in Borneo in the daytime. She didn’t believe in Borneo at night. Night and day divided her beliefs and perceptions. She believed in angels. In love. There are empty Coca Cola bottles stacked on crates and you are surprised that she recycles. There are the paintings. All the paintings she made. Then she stopped painting. Then she started banging out stories on her portable Remington, which had been her father’s, who had been a minor journalist. The Remington is from 1932. She doesn’t like to speak years aloud, she tries to keep them covered, like blankets over mirrors. But, in this case: 1932. What are some things that happened in the year 1932? List them. 1932. Spoken  aloud with bittersweet relish. She says she bangs out stories on the typewriter and never revises them. Whatever comes out, comes out. Whatever they are, they are. They are not for anyone. They are for her.

Every story has it day. This is written on a wall somewhere.

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Cherry and Claudia

She asked me to touch her. Down there. It’s been so long, she said. I feel like a coffin. Just use your fingers. I was reluctant. When she said—It’s just your hand, it’s not you—I thought—It’s just my hand, not me—and so I did it. I slipped my hand under her muslin skirt, between her legs. I had barely grazed her and she sucked hard on the air, as if shocked. She shook. She groaned. It was like a coffin sliding on hot glass. A coffin that was about to fall off the earth’s edges. I had no compass. She was old. Not that old. She was almost seventy. But she is also different ages. And dead. Cherry spoke to me in a clenched whisper—Please, please put it in all the way. I want them all the way inside. Because it was Cherry asking me, I saw Cherry. Her hair was red. Her eyes were green. The green of the sea. An early sea, before human influence. I pushed my fingers in all the way. Sudden moisture, like tree sap, pooled around my knuckles. I was scared to know what it smelled like. And intrigued. Claudia groaned telepathically. Cherry groaned audibly. These two women were going to be the death of me.

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As Fate Would Have It

“Fate will have it—and this has always been the case with me—that all the ‘outer’ aspects of my life should be accidental. Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value.” — Carl Jung

He knew from an early age,

or perhaps it would be truer

to say from a timeless state,

that it was meant to be

an inside job.

The outer was simply a pageant

and circus of externals

run by ghosts

and blind assassins.

His quest,

as foretold by his soul,

was to learn to navigate

through the interior world,

the plains and ravines and hinterlands of psyche,

its deep dark forests too,

and to do so abiding faith

and trust in illuminated breadcrumbs,


here and there

to the alchemy

of paths always forming.

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The Great Snakewalker, holding a yellow umbrella with splashy red polka dots that conjures the notion of enormous blood platelets, balancing on a tightrope comprised of tail-tied snakes with flicking tongues, descendants of Ouroboros, and she the Great Snakewalker does this nightly, in an airless tent…

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Strange Angels

The days fly into the blue and disappear, and your mind, in its memory-making, contains the disappeared days as film archive. I want to set fire to the archive. Burn all the films. Watch the celluloid twist and incinerate. I want to escape the past that does not exist. I want to escape the past that is inescapable because there is no past, the very idea of the past is what keeps you from escaping, hence the inescapability.

She bangs on tender hollows, taps on the vibrating flesh, the trembling corpuscles. Taps and knocks and a rhythm amasses in and out of thin air. Thin blue air. She specializes in thin blue air, as all high priestesses do.

She saw her many. In pieces. Each vying for autonomy, each aspiring toward unification. Her eyes beheld broken spires, roads logjammed with broken spires, the look of what-happened-here. A slideshow of awe and terror. To witness violence and wonder is to see the birds falling from the sky, hailing upon the earth dead on arrival. Their wings like torn paper prayers, like questions unanswered. Their mysterious deaths lead us to the strange wingless angels, the blue ones.

We have become bereft of true language.

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It doesn’t take much to become days of mourning. This world provides plenty of opportunities to convert one into days of mourning. Then days of mourning becomes weeks of mourning. Months of mourning. Years. But it begins with days of mourning. And at heart, remains days of mourning that extends into weeks, months, years.

Days. Numbered. Repeated. Metronomic. Needle and prick, prick and needle. Sleeping Beauty has become a lab rat for disease control. Anima being the worst disease of all according to the membered members of the Ding Dong Society. You had to laugh. And she did. Same as she cried. What else was there? Laughter, tears. Rivers were born of such elements. I wasn’t always this old. Or this young. When I was a child, through the bars of my crib I saw tiny men marching toward my crib, every night. They were going to get me. They never reached me. That almost is the worst. Think about it. Put yourself in my mind’s shoes. They’re going to get you. They’ll never reach you.  

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In the Catacombs of Grief

In the catacombs of grief, she wandered. She wandered, without thirst, without hunger. This frightened her. Had she lost her basic humanity? Why had she created such elaborate labyrinths? Say that ten times fast, she said to herself. At least her sense of humor was intact. She had had a need for labyrinths, and for wandering in them without regard for time, since she was a child. And since she didn’t want to get lost in someone else’s labyrinth … If I get lost in any labyrinth, I want it to be one of my own making. She had gotten good at it: the labyrinth-making. Yet, down here, in the catacombs of grief, which she thinks is below the labyrinth—but could she be sure? Maybe the catacombs were flanking the labyrinth (which would make them irregular catacombs, but still…when it came to her…), maybe they are outside the labyrinth entirely. Orientation in the labyrinth was damn near impossible. She possessed an inner compass. That registered sense of direction through mood and feeling. Sort of like knowing where you are based on the temperature you’re experiencing. Here, the catacombs of grief, where it is cold. No wind. Just pure cold, like being in a deep freezer. There was also the wailing. Who or what produced the wailing, she had no idea. But it made her heart weep. She cried and cried within, and it was in there, the within that is within, where she saw and then became the woman using words, voiced, written, stitched together to form a life raft, upon which she cascaded along the River Grief which had been produced by the woman weeping her secret heartbreak—the tall woman crying secret tears for the wailing whatevers—the small woman riding the raft on the turbulent River Grief—and how they were both her, being watched over by the other woman who may not even be a woman, a mysterious genderless figure, an enigma destined to witness, take notes. The whole thing, at times, was completely overwhelming. Could she crack? Would she crack? She thought of Humpty Dumpty, that poor existential sap. He fell, cracked, and couldn’t be mended. The lesson there: not all get mended. Humpty became so much yesterday so quickly. And God, with his Hoover vac, sucked up the shattered remnants of Humpty and that was that. Poor Humpty. In the distance … there was distance. That got her down. To look out into the distance and see only distance … there’s only so much that a heart can take.

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