Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Death of Innocence

She’d crafted the mask out of an Almond Joy candy box, the kind of over sized candy box you get at the movies and she’d been to the movies that day, earlier, with her friend Jane, but now she’d been called home to sit in the garden with her mother and her father’s lover, the ballerina.

She’d crafted the mask out of the candy box, had cut two holes out from the center for her eyes and left the rest uncut so that her mouth, the full expression of her face wouldn’t be seen.

She’d planned it with her mother, knew the ballerina was coming and still, she didn’t know what to say. “You don’t have to say anything,” her mother offered, “we just want to get together.”

She’d crafted the mask out of an oversize Almond Joy candy box after she’s picked up her father’s journal a week earlier and after she’d read what he wrote, that the ballerina, her parent’s friend, wife of John, and mother to Jessie, Joseph and Gale, was the best lover that her father had ever had.

“You don’t offend me,” were the first words that came out of her 10-year-old mouth when the dancer walked up the front steps. And when she casually offered up the zucchini muffins that she had brought with her, the girl raised her eyebrows, “muffins?” she said, “no thanks.”

She crafted the mask because she didn’t know what to say now that she knew everything but understood nothing. And did this have anything to do with why her mother had seemed so sad all summer? And how she, the girl had tried to be better, wrote her mother notes like “mom, we love you, who wouldn’t?” How she hoped that if she just loved her mother harder and stronger her mother would be happy again. The girl's love could save her.

Now the ballerina was talking about love, how it was all about love. How she loved her husband, and how she loved the girl’s mommy as well as the girl’s daddy. The woman told the girl that she too, all of the children, were very loved, that there was enough love for everyone.

The girl wears a candy box mask with the words joy printed on the cardboard between the eyes, There is joy between the eyes but not within them.

A ten-year old girl sits in a garden with her mother and her father’s lover wearing an Almond Joy candy box mask.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Sea

For nights now my dreams are only of the water.

In one I’m in a swimming pool at night with other people and someone tells me there’s going to be a healing and the healer is none other than my father. I ask a woman in the pool how it’s going to happen and she looks surprised. She says big changes are coming and I can see that one of her eyes has already started changing, that a green crust has begun to cover one of her lids. My lover is in the pool and he swims over to me and then dives down, swimming like some plank fish over the top of me. He turns around and swims over me again.

In another dream I’m in the deep, darkest part of the ocean watching a big machine with a hook dip people into the sea, drowning them. It happens over and over and sometimes the hook dips even deeper, drowning the crane operator as well.


During the day the dark slice is so tempting and it's all I can do to fight it; a thin curtain that so easily parts, beckoning me to a place I know too well. I’ll cut everyone off, that’s how I’ll show them. I’ll stop answering phones, won’t return emails or calls. I’ll say I’m busy and that will stop them because they’re busy too. This is how I’ll get away.

Tonight, after I’d read the story about the three orphans to the little one, after I’d gotten the hot water bottle for her and let her read herself to sleep in my bed, just as I was leaving the room, she said, mom, I don’t know what I’d do without you, and I said, because I had to, because you have to say this, I said, don’t worry; you’ll always have me. And then I turned out the lights and prepared for the sea.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Blowing Smoke

Was sitting there feeling small, not big. Not important. Not seen. Was thinking it would take something major, like a new book. An important book. Something everyone would be talking about. An achievement. Some supersonic effort that would catapult me out of the ordinary, out of this moment on the porch at mid day with my smoke and my coat on, sitting there blowing smoke into the garden.

Had it been enough to wake up every two hours the night before with a seven -year-old who was crying and twitching because she had a urine infection that stabbed at her throughout the night? Had it been enough to bring her into my bed and talk her through the pain, telling her to focus on her breath and the warm ball of her tummy, then waking with her a few hours later to go downstairs and wash her pee pee and put that thick white cream all over it and then make her a cup of hot milk so she could sleep?

Had it been enough to take a ten-year-old to school early and sit with her in the car while she plotted her birthday, now 8 months away, sitting, listening to her say that she wanted to take her friends to a hotel, not a motel, as well as swim in the Yuba river and go to the Rainforest Café in San Francisco. Was it enough just to nod and say maybe and listen anyway even though none of it sounded good to you?

Was it enough to get to the gym after that and pump those arms even though it’s not short-sleeve weather anymore and all your efforts will go unseen?

Or to spend the morning focusing on four students whose work needed editing, even though it took you more time than you thought you should give it because it wasn’t important enough, or supersonic enough and mostly because it wasn’t about you?

Was sitting there on the porch blowing smoke into the garden feeling small, not big, but having neither the energy or the desire to do anything about it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not What You Think It Is

It's not what you think it is
That's been my mantra for days now
It's not what you think it is
Which enables a more curious stance toward life
A stretching of the fabric
A way to sit back and see past the contours of the ordinary
It's not what you think it is
Your husband and the ballerina for instance
It's not what you think it is
“Well your husband does have a girlfriend,” a friend corrected
Yes, I replied, but it's not what I think it is
it's not what I think it is.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Come On Down

Our lives will not flash before our eyes.
It’s now or never baby.
It’s put whatever you can in your coffee; you got no cream; you go creamless.

Our lives will not flash, there are no second chances, no curtain calls.
You don’t get to go out smiling, a million friends around you waving, successful, perfect, concluded, finally weighing 125lbs.

Everything you said you wanted, there’s nothing there. I’m not saying don’t dream, I’m just saying don’t wait, don’t long for it, don’t hold out for it.

That balloon you’re clutching, that little string in your hands, the way you’re staring up at the sky looking for answers, look again. It’s just you down here.

The way you play that little game about three months to live and what you would do, everything you’ve kept out of reach for so long, waited for, how you’d eat fresh shrimp with limes everyday for lunch, or how you’d actually order an ice cream cone for yourself when you take your kids out, or eat more burritos, or have the courage to wear a short kilt with military boots like your friend Jane, or dye your hair festival red, or give yourself a couple of days off, or get on a plane to Italy with your husband because he’s never been there.

When you get honest, when you swing that door wide, the truth is maybe you should do those things and maybe you shouldn’t. Who cares? They’re not actually going to change you or help you or heal you. Whether you do those things or not doesn't matter.

That maybe it’s more about wanting and waiting that keeps you suspended, keeps us tolerating our perfectly average lives, the way things really are; how we look in the morning; the lines around our eyes, the grey coming in, how the house gets trashed and the messes pile up; the dishes, the clothes, the bills needing to be paid, another magazine saying no, the friend who doesn’t return a call.

And longing and wanting and all of those dreams you have are just a way to keep you reaching, looking away, high on helium,

And so I was thinking if I really did have three months to live maybe I wouldn’t go anywhere because there’s no where to go. How actually perfectly fine I am to live at the end of this dead end street in this ramshackle house with a family of mice below and a coven of possums above. And sure I could eat with more freedom and my kids would really get a thrill if I did order an ice cream cone in their presence, and I would like to wear that short kilt with the boots.

But who cares? Wanting and waiting is just a way to keep myself floating, but in my heart, really, I just want to come down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Even though my i.pod died yesterday, and even though that was hella bummer just cause I am all about the music, baby, when I saw the motorcycle cop lying flat on his back on 880, lying there on the side of the road as I headed home from the Apple Store with my dead i.pod, heading home all pissed off because the brainiac at the Genius Bar wasn't helpful, treating me instead with a kind of weak disdain because I had nothing for him to fix, no lusty trouble for his Great Brain to fuck. “This i.pod is dead,” he said with a scowl, thrusting it back at me like some dirty piece of meat. I drove home peeved and pissed because a new one was going to cost me and the insurance on this one had only expired two weeks ago. Bad timing, bad timing I grimaced. And bad luck too. And then I saw the cop and I saw his motorcycle twisted and mangled against the guardrail and a couple of bashed up SUV's practically on top of it. And there was the cop lying there on the side of the road with his helmut still on and the small circle of civilians who'd been in those cars kneeling around his body, protecting him, comforting him, and I took a deep breath and I slowed down and I said to myself, timing, timing baby, timing.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Way We See

You see better in the dark. When things sting, when they prick at you, when your husband is still on the phone to his girlfriend after an hour, when you see one of their emails and how bold and sexy she is, writing things like, “Do you still want me?” When you wake up from a bad dream where you’ve gone too far and kicked your husband out of the house, when you’re driving like a freak-head through the streets of your town looking for a smoke instead of getting to the Brownie Court of Awards ceremony, anytime you walk on the school yard and into the sea of mothers wearing holiday sweaters, the way you try to diminish your longings for your lover, the way you fight your feelings and then how you give way to his body like you did last Sunday, both of you fully dressed and in a mob of people at your house. It was only a hug but you released yourself and everything you have tried to hold back.

You like the dark; you understand everything better when you see its complexity, its trouble. It’s just the way you are. When the stone from your wedding ring fell out last week and was lost, after the momentary panic you smiled because it perfectly symbolized your marriage; loss and beauty; everything you hoped for and what happened instead and how only marriage can take you down that bright, shadowy path. And mostly whom you have needed to become to live into that.

After a day you stopped looking for the stone because the story about its loss was so much more compelling than the possibility of finding it.

But darkness takes its toll. Cement boots. Bad dreams. Agitation. A desire to smoke. Close down. Shut people out. Valerian and amino acids at night to stop your thoughts, and then waking up every morning at 4:30 to roll out your dark observations; does the lover love me? Not enough. No more emails or phone calls for him. Do I have the energy to teach today? God, I have nothing for my students and have they figured that out yet? Will I ever finish that book proposal? Do I love my husband enough? Am I screwing up the kids? Have I always been this unhappy?

It’s not that you don’t seek the light or appreciate sweetness, you do, it’s just that even when something has loveliness, like last night when you and your husband went to see your kids in the summer production of Beach Blanket Banana, even though you were moved by how beautiful and talented your daughters were, the way they’d memorized their lines and sung with such expression, what captivated you was the way your ten-year-old held hands with Rat Dog at the end of the show when she finds out he rides a Harley, and the way you watched her holding hands with this boy, the way you examined those clasped hands, like tea leaves, reading into the future. You see everything, you see too much. You always have.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Choosing a Dress

Why she has brought him along, asked him to come to the dress shop she does not know, can't remember, but suddenly the dressing room feels too crowded and the dresses keep coming and are piled on the chair, on the table, hanging on the hook and she can't change fast enough before the salesgirl, a brunette with sparkling green eyes, brings another that he has chosen and wants to see on her.

It hadn't been her idea to come. She'd been saying, whining really, that she had nothing to wear to the party that night. He'd been sitting there reading the paper, holding it up between them and at first she thought he hadn't heard her but then she realized he wasn't listening and so she said it again, pretending even to say it to herself. Nothing to wear, nothing to wear to the party. "Fine!" he'd shouted, and throwing down his paper had called to Mac, their driver, who appeared ever the ready. "We're leaving," he said, "we're going to find Virginia a god damn dress!"

She'd sat there with her cigarette and coffee, regretting, regretting the moment wishing she could take it back because it wasn't what she meant, the dress, not what she wanted, not the dress, but she couldn't say what, and in the next moment he grabbed her cigarette out of her hand, tossed it into her coffee and turned to her, “Get yourself ready, we're leaving.”

Now, in the dressing room, rushed and hot and obedient, the clothes were coming too fast, like a punishment and her own clothes, the ones she had worn in were lost in a pile, drowning in dresses, too many beautiful offerings, and there wasn't time to see them all. If only she'd kept her mouth shut about the party, she hadn't wanted to go but then there was no choice.

The salesgirl kept knocking, "Mrs. Jacobs?" She'd say, “your husband wants to see you in this one,” and she'd oblige, in her nakedness, breasts hanging, underwear, and bra loose, to open the door and receive his offering.

“What the hell are you doing in there?” he shouted from the show room and then there was laughter and she could see them out there, he and the salesgirl, him lording over the place, dictating with his cane, “over there” he'd say, “bring out the green one, I want to see that one.”

And how the girl brings everything he points to. “Virginia!” he calls too loudly and she shrivels. The clothes, they were too much, too fast, too many. She hardly has a chance to assess herself, to stop and face her own reflection in the mirror, to decide if she likes the color, the fit, hardly has a chance to feel the fabric on her skin before the sales girl is opening the door to the room singing, “Mrs. Jacobs, come out, come out wherever you are.” And there she is, the good doll, daddy's girl, exposed, revealed stepping out into the light, into the circle of eyes, his and the salesgirls and now the other customers who are assessing her, then looking back to him, then back to her, then to him, waiting for his answer. There is a silence and the salesgirl guides her to the mirror so she can see for the first time who she had become, what was possible. And maybe it is the light or the fresh air of the showroom but she thinks she looks pretty. And she likes particularly the way the pinks and the purples of the flowers ring around her neck and how pretty the bones of her collarbone are as they meet the edge of the fabric and a smile spreads over her face because now she is happy, at first taking the skirt of the dress in both hands and swinging it a little like a doe see doe and then like a ballerina, on her toes twirling a little like one of those princesses on the jewelry box, and she's ready now, to thank him, to have him see her and so she turns like a child excited, hoping her excitement will make him forgive her for the whining at the breakfast table…but he's gone, not there and she searches the room for him, a little breathless and sees him finally, behind the counter with the salesgirl, laughing at something. And as if in a dream she's become invisible and unsure and her hand reaches up to the pretty place by her collarbone as if to reassure that she's really there, and the reach becomes a rub and the rub becomes a tug and she's aware of the material cinching around her waist; she's unable to breath and she has to get the dress off, has to get it off now…can't wait another second and she reaches her hand back for the zipper…in the dress shop with the saleswoman and the laughter and the kaching of the cash register and the little bells as the new customers come in and are greeted and then a phone and she whimpers, “I can't get the zipper, it's stuck. The zipper” she whimpers, “can't get it loose,” and she feels the heat and the shame and then the anger because she is trapped in the dress and begins to cry and she can't say, can only cry, “zipper, zipper, zipper.”

Monday, July 25, 2005

Some of the Things You're Not Writing About

#1 The clear-eyed silence between you and your mother. The way she held you at the end of the trip and how painful it must be for her to lose this connection with you; to love you but not to know what's going on with you. How, for the whole two weeks you hardly spent any time together, and how even on that four-mile walk to Puako you managed to avoid the topic of how you really were and whether you and your husband were still involved with that couple. But then how, at the end of the trip, on that last day in the laundry room, how she turned toward you and said, “hug,” and the way you stood together, so still, holding each other. Not one of those hugs where something is trying to be conveyed, a hug like “I love you” or “thank you” or “everything's going to be alright.” This hug was stillness and silence, and then the smallest sound coming from your mother in the moment when you realize that she has felt you, located you, her first child. And that was enough, just to find each other in silence, in a laundry room in Hawaii.

#2 What's going on between you and your lover, his wife and your husband. Where things are and where they aren't; what you're feeling, what the plan is, when you had sex with him last. What's up with that? You know, the whole story; the juice, the details, the drama. You're not really writing about that.

#3 How tight your jaw is, one week later and how it's still kind of sore, a reminder of the weekend-the E and the whole day up in the hills; the heat, the trees, you, walking around bare -chested, sun tan oil all over your body, and your husband, naked in the grown-up sized sand box, with a rake, for hours. Your lover, his wife, your lover, his wife and those easy moments when you wanted nothing from any of them. How all the roles fell away and even your anger at her for making it look so easy; her raven beauty and ability to be both the girlfriend and the wife, for making it seem like you were the only freak in the show, the only one who lived and lurked, who ducked and covered in the shadows. All that fell away and there she was, sister, friend, confident, the woman you share husbands with.

You're not writing much about that because you've taken a break from the narrative, the story line. You're still a part of the drama, but it's like you've forgotten your lines and a part of your brain has gone soft. You've stopped wondering how the story ends; whether the hero gets the girl or if good will triumphs over evil. In fact, you've forgotten what the play is about, and, as if in a dream, you find yourself roaming among the cast, but you've all forgotten your parts and there's an easiness to this, a new level of possibility, an opportunity actually to switch roles if you like, to become, for instance, the aloof lover. You could play that role, try it on, as you did last Friday when you had the pleasure of hearing his voice on your answering machine and then your ability to leave it at that. I mean, he said to call back if you felt like it, and the truth was you didn't.

#4 That you and your husband haven't made eye contact or spoken more than two sentences for going on 40 hours, not that you're counting. And how you kind of like the break and the ability that the two of you have to step away from one another like this. And while it's true that there is an issue at hand, not just a funk, the phrase your husband used to describe it, no, not a funk, not a simple peeve, but a real life makem or breakem issue having to do with money, while it's true that there's this big ol' something sitting there not being talked about because you can't, because it's too triggering, because you need a third party with you, someone who can listen and keep things fair, honestly, your attitude right now is fuck it. You don't want to resolve things just yet because you like your anger and your self-righteousness. You like having the power and knowing that he needs you and that a part of him must be feeling like a really sad piece of dung right now. I mean come on, a 46-year-old father of two, the owner of two cars and holder of a mortgage is broke again and doesn't have a plan. No, you don't mind the distance, you like the distance. You need the distance. You're just fine with the distance.

These are just a few of the things that you're not writing about now.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lucky Penny

Are all pennies lucky?

Even this one, the one I see when I look down at my feet at the gas station this morning, half in, half out of my car, waiting for the tank to fill?

Even this abandoned penny; dirty and scratched, run over dozens of times by cars whizzing in and whizzing out, impatient and empty, all of us on the move, grasping for a greater piece of the pie.

Is the accidentally dropped penny, the one that isn't worth bending over for, this worthless circle of copper, the very same penny that is meant to bring me luck on this cold, summer morning? What else in my life is good fortune disguised as loss?

In the dream I had a week ago in Hawaii I only remember the words as I awoke, “lucky penny, lucky penny.”

Friday, July 01, 2005

gone fishing

deep sea diving. Home on the 14th of the month.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Crippled Mother

It is the night of your daughter's Brownie Court of Awards ceremony, a one-hour affair where the girls receive their hard-earned badges and the older ones ascend from brownie to Girl Scout status. You ask your daughter, a first-grader, if she wants you to be there. You haven't worked on any of the badges with her this spring and you're not even sure she's going to get any. She is enamored with the girls whose sashes are covered with colorful swashes of pink, green and blue, a testimony to where they've been and what they've done.

There is a book you can purchase at the girl scout store a few miles from your home that tells you what to do to earn the badges, but you didn't buy it and haven't been back to the store since last fall when you spent $80 outfitting your daughter in her new uniform; the brown tights, the official brownie pin, the brown skirt and t-shirt. You were excited for her that day. She really wanted to be a Brownie. You were a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and 34 years later you still have your forest green uniform, the green knee socks you wore, the belt, the yellow bow tie, and of course the crowning achievement, the sash, which is covered in row after row of badges that you earned and which your mother sewed on for you.

You and another mother, Jeanie, promise each other that you will share the badge book and get your girls together every month to work on sewing and jewelry projects so that your girls can fill up their sashes. But you never do. You forget all about it.

Now, tonight, months later, the thought of sitting through the awards when you're like this, when you're feeling like a freak, a maniac, when all you want, when what you really need is a cigarette, just the thought of being crammed into the trinity Lutheran church with the proud parents from Franklin elementary school, some of whom will bring flowers for their girls, just feels impossible.

When you asked your daughter earlier if she wanted you to come she said yes and that she has a surprise for you. Now, with forty-five minutes until the ceremony you find yourself careening down the streets of your town looking for a cigarette. You'd gone a week without one and you were feeling pretty good about yourself since you'd taken that nearly full pack and dumped it into the garden fire pit. You were even relieved when it rained the next day so you wouldn't have to get on your hands and knees and pick through ash and twig to collect the loose tobacco and re-roll it.

The week had gone pretty well. The sex with your lover this past Sunday at his house, after his children had gone to sleep and while his wife was across the bridge with your husband, the sex that started with sake and ended in his bed hadn't left you entirely demolished. You'd had some rough moments, the few days when he hadn't called and you began to feel desperately unloved again, but you had held yourself up, you'd put one foot in front of the other, you'd been to the gym, you'd focused on your students, been nice to your husband and you'd been writing. You were thinking that maybe you could do this after all. You could have sex with a man who didn't love you like you wanted to be loved. Maybe you were getting stronger, your skin was thickening. But something had pricked at you a few hours ago, you don't remember what, something had nicked a wound and reminded you that you were actually utterly devastated.

Your town, an island, is small, 12 miles long by 1 mile wide and in the first ten minutes you've already been to four liquor stores looking for your brand, Bali Shag light. Nobody carries it. They carry the other loose-leaf tobaccos, the Drums and the other, heavier versions of Bali Shag, but you want the light.

Freak. You feel like a freak as you drive down Central and when you see the Carter family in their station wagon, mom and dad up front, clearly on their way to the Brownie Court of Awards ceremony. You, my friend, are going to wrong way.

Five liquor stores, six liquor stores, you pull up to each one, rush in, scan the counter and ask the clerk if they carry your brand. The Pakistani, the Chinese and the white liquor store employees shake their heads, no. You end up going to nine liquor stores in thirty minutes and no one carries Bali Shag light. Each time you get back into your car and kick up the engine your panic rises. You remember a petition that you signed a couple of years ago outlawing a chain of cigarette stores from opening up and you remember how adamant you were, how you talked about it with your friends, that your town needed to support stores that the people really needed. That was a lifetime ago.

You consider buying something else but as desperate as you are, you've miraculously drawn a line for yourself; if you can't find the Bali shag light you won't smoke anything. You say a small prayer as you enter the stores, please, please, let them have it, but each time as you exit empty handed you experience the faintest triumph, that you were able to walk away without the pack, that you might go one more day without a cigarette.

Freak. Fifteen minutes until the ceremony and you know the other Brownie parents are feeding their children and getting into their cars for the church, but not you, you are driving like a maniac, faster now down the streets of your town looking for a little relief. You are oily, unhappy, dirty and tense. And you're driving in the wrong direction.

The smoke is going to ground you. You know this. You've come to rely on those measured breaths, the calculated inhalations and since you've been smoking for the last month and a half, mostly out in your garden when the kids are at school, you've re-connected with your chain-smoking dead grandmother Ginny and how much she must have needed this steady breathing to ground the out of control spinning that was her life. Like you, she needed to settle herself, needed to keep one foot in front of the other less she…less she...and then she…

But now you're the one driving like a maniac. You're the one who hasn't found her brand and who needs to get to the Brownie Court of Awards Ceremony, which starts in ten minutes. You're the one who needs to surrender to the panic, and the desperation, and your terrible unhappiness, your addiction, you're the one who needs to turn around now and get things right.

When you get to the church it's jammed with parents, and your husband too, who is sitting next to Polly Brown, wife of Max, the man who you sometimes fantasize about when you're having sex with your husband or with your lover, fantasizing that you're fucking or sucking at his house just minutes before Polly walks in the door. For as handsome and tall and Nordic as Max is, it's the hulking presence of angry Polly that gets you off every time.

Your husband turns around in his chair and he makes a coy, little wave to Catherine, another mother from school, a woman who you know he finds beautiful. You hate him in this moment. You hate everyone. But suddenly your hatred is broken by the sound of your baby daughter's clear, strong authoritative voice coming from the front of the room. You can't see her because you're in the back and many of the parents are standing, but it's her, you know your own baby's voice.

“Attention,” she says loudly. “Color guards advance.” At which point scouts holding the American flag make their way to the front of the room which signals you to stand and to say the pledge of allegiance. You hate this too, but put your hand on your heart because you're so full of shame. Shame for needing cigarettes. Shame that you didn't help your daughter earn the badges, shame that you don't want to be here and shame mostly for being obsessed with a man who wants to fuck you but not love you. Ashamed that the only high you feel these days are the moments when you're having sex with him or getting a call from him.

But now here, in the church it is your baby's voice, strong and clear and commanding and you are immediately lifted by it. In this moment the small seven-year-old girl is the strong one. She is the one asking the people to stand and to pledge. And you do it, you do what she asks you to do.

You almost don't recognize her voice. She sounds older and so sure of herself. How did she know the words she was supposed to say? She hadn't practiced at home. She hadn't asked you for help. She'd done this on her own and you realize this was the surprise she wanted you to come for.

Your husband finally sees you and comes to the back of the room where you are leaning against a table. You wonder what people think of you two. You standing there in your beat up jacket with the skull and crossbones emblem and the words Death as Your Advisor written on the lapel, and Walt, the beloved artist in resident at the kid's school, the nicest, cutest dad on the playground, the one who hugs and flirts with the other mothers, who tells them they look pretty. Walt and you, whose eyes are dead and exhausted, the only mother in the room who doesn't have tears of pride, who doesn't know the words to the Girl Scout pledge, the only one who just stands there when the entire room breaks into a silly girl scout song that requires clapping their knees and wriggling their hips. Everyone is hooting and laughing now, singing and clapping, even the couple up front, the gay man and his wife, clearly a marriage of convenience, are wriggling their asses with happiness. And there's Jeanie, who has lost her marriage this year and has just found out that her husband Frank has gotten another woman pregnant. She's laughing and wriggling too. But you're not even pretending to wriggle. You don't have any wriggle in you.

The awards begin and you have to give the troupe leaders a hand because they're moving all 35 girls through the awards pretty fast. You're glad because you're supposed to meet your friend, Mary, a divorced mother from school, at a neighborhood bar for a drink in an hour. The last time you saw her she had been dumped by someone she really loved and she was like pulverized dog meat. Couldn't form a sentence without bursting into tears. She said she was better now and you need to find out why.

You see Zoe, blond and petite, sitting with her friends and smiling. You wonder if she feels connected to these girls. If they're her friends. You usually drop her by the curb in front of the church for the Tuesday night meeting and take off, back to your office to work or to drink or to pine for emails from your lover. You don't really know what she does here; all you know is that her absence buys you silence and time.

They're calling the girl's names now and to your surprise Zoe's name is called and she marches up to the front of the room to receive a little pin commemorating her first full year as a Brownie as well an envelope stuffed with badges. You have no idea what they're for or how she earned them, but you're grateful, so grateful that she hasn't been forgotten, that these women who run the troupe, older women whose own children are grown now, women who don't get paid to be leaders and who come here every week because they love the Brownies and who have been looking out for your daughter, helping her thread needles, and measure flour to make cakes and glue jewels on pieces of felt to make puppets. These are the women who have come to know your daughter, who know what she has done and where she has been.

Beaming, she takes her place among her friends. You try to catch her eye but she hasn't been looking for you. She might not even know you're here. You feel invisible, like a stranger. Finally, in the gaggle of girls she's sitting with, she looks up and she sees you. In the chaos and the noise of the room you lift yourself up over the heads of the other parents and you make the sign that you do at home where you touch your finger to your eye as in I…then to your heart…as in love…and then you point at her…you…I love you. She watches you steadily, and without blinking or smiling she makes the same sign back to you except at the end she sticks up two fingers. I love you too.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Thriving in Neglect

You were so fond of saying that the thing you liked most about your garden was that it could thrive in neglect. You loved the phrase, thrive in neglect, and when you said it you felt a twisted pride that something so beautiful, so over-grown, so faerie-strewn, tree-toppled and plant-mangled could survive without any attention from you. That aside from a little water it demanded nothing.

You liked things that thrived in neglect. You liked your daughter's pet snake because it lived in pure silence and you could forget that it was there. Aside from the occasional trip to Petco for live baby mice, you could ignore it completely. You liked your cats for the same reason. You can't even remember the last time you fed them though someone in your family must have because they're still alive. Same with the dog. You checked his water when you remembered and tried to remind yourself to feed him when your husband wasn't around, but you didn't touch him much, didn't let him lick you or anything like that.

You appreciated friends who didn't need much extra handling. The ones who didn't mind when you didn't call them for weeks and months, friends who could just pick up where you left off, who didn't whine for more time, who forgave you when you forgot their birthdays.

You didn't think getting married would require too much. It would be like meeting another salmon in the stream and just running the same route together. What fun. You liked your independence and your husband, an artist, was an independent guy, a night owl who liked making art and jumping on his motorcycle at midnight and riding off into the forest, a guy who liked going to raves and all night parties, who didn't mind that you didn't join him, a guy who was more married to his art than anything. His focus gave you the freedom to keep yourself as separate as you pleased.

Until the day he told you that he felt neglected by you. He'd found a phrase in a book that said that in every relationship there is a fuser and an isolator and you resonated with this new tag, isolator. Honestly, though you felt a little like the meanie, it was so much safer to be that one than the other. On the other hand, you couldn't help yourself, you were, by nature, this way.

Having kids was a push. In your original fantasy you were surrounded by your beautiful, children, but in a quiet way. You were together but no one was pulling on you or spilling things on you. Your image of motherhood resembled more of a still life; a pretty picture with everything in its place. But these children needed so much. At first it was just the breast and you managed that pretty well, especially if you got to sit on the couch while you did it and watch Baywatch, which you had never watched in your life and which seemed full of pathos and purpose.

But of course they needed so much more and you found yourself retreating, backing yourself up into work and before too long you became a really busy girl. Workaholic busy. Angry, frustrated, freaked out busy. Lock your office door busy. Let the children watch TV. for hours busy. Tuna sandwiches for dinner busy.

You longed for your isolation, the quiet and the space that allowed you to think. Your temperament was not suited for the loud and messy madness of motherhood. Like your own father who liked being in proximity to his family but not actually interacting with them, you liked knowing your own people were there, but you needed more walls,

You took to wearing that old, beat up jacket with the skull and crossbones on the lapel, the one you stole from your husband with the words Death As Your Advisor, printed above the skull. The jacket and your cowboy boots brought on a calm, familiar, detached feeling. You could breathe again.

Still, something needled you, you wondered if you were neglecting the kids. But as much as you promised yourself that you would spend more time with them you found it hard. You gravitated to your office. You told yourself that they seemed to be thriving despite you; one had become a little soccer champion and the other had a flair for the stage. Still, you wondered, oh stop, you knew; like your wonderful, wild garden, they too seemed to be thriving in neglect.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The smallest things

The note your ten-year-old writes you because she heard you crying in the bathtub with your husband

“Mommy, we love you very much. Who wouldn’t?”

and the way she comes into the bathroom while you’re lying there in three inches of hot water, lying there after your cry; depleted, exhausted, alone, and how she tacks her little sign on to the tile on the wall across from where you lay so you can see it

“Mommy, we love you very much. Who wouldn’t?”

the way your skin feels right after the bath; smooth and velvety and warm

the peace of being alone in the house because your husband has taken the children out for a bike ride and how you sit on the porch with your summer skirt on and light up that cigarette. How glad you are that you saved this little bit of tobacco for a moment like this

The big, tall, magnificent trees in your yard and the way they move in the wind. The sound of the wind

The peace of being alone and comforting yourself; everything is going to be all right, you tell yourself. You’re going to be all right

The feeling that you could fall in love with your husband again. The sense that the love you seek is right here, at home, with him

The quiet beauty of your ramshackle home at the end of the road, a home with no one inside it except you and the dog.

The way you leave the front door open for the wind. The way you need the wind to keep you moving, especially in these moments when you feel you could stop everything. Stop everything

The way how after the cry and the bath and your late afternoon glass of wine you feel capable again. Strong. Ready. Right. You can mother, you can love. You are still standing

How when your ten-year-old asks you what’s wrong and you say, “I’m just sad,” and she says, “about daddy?” and you say, “no, not exactly,” and how she asks if you’re mad at him and you say a little, but it’s not about daddy, it’s about me. And how she says she and you will talk about it later, and how you see in her eyes how excruciating it is for her to see you upset and to not understand what’s wrong

And how impossible it would be to explain everything to her

And the gratitude you have for her even though you wonder if this is good, if it’s okay for a young girl to comfort her mother like this, again, and again

And how you don’t know. You just don’t know

But you’re still standing and you can love. And that’s all you know for sure right now

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tell the Truth

You’ve begun smoking again after 11 years

It started a few weeks ago when your friend E. brought that pack to the three-day silent meditation retreat in the country and the two of you made a little ritual of sitting in the tall grass in the late afternoons and after dinner having your silent smokes

Then that friend, the married singer came over, and she was smoking too. You were surprised at first, her being a singer and all, but when she told you that her first love was back in town, someone she always felt she should have been with, you understood the smoking and out of an affinity for confusion you rolled yourself one and smoked it with her in the yard

You called her a week later to ask which brand was she was smoking

Then last week you pulled up in front of that divey liquor store off of Telegraph and bought yourself a pack of Bali Shag. The first one got you high.

It takes about 6 cigarettes to pass from the this-is-disgusting phase of relapsed smoking and into the shit-I-need-a-smoke phase, at which point you’ve become seduced by the deep, measured breathing and the paced inhalations that are utterly calming

There’s something almost spiritual about smoking

After a couple of days you dump the bag of loose tobacco in the trashcan in your office. You think about wetting it down just in case you have an urge to retrieve it but you don’t

A few days later you pull the stale, loose tobacco out of the bottom of the trashcan and you begin rolling it, smoking it again

You remember the days when you were so hard up you searched for butts in trash bins and ashtrays so you could re-roll them into new cigarettes

You sneak the smokes out to the porch when nobody is home or you think the kids are asleep

Sometimes when you really need one bad you suggest to your children that they watch TV and then you go out to the porch to smoke because you’ve essentially just anesthetized them. The house could burn down and they’d never know. The last thing they’re going to do is look out into the yard and see mom smoking. I'm just a ghost

You don’t worry too much about this. You’re not a real smoker anyway. It’s just that life has been a little unwieldy in the last few months and you’ve come to need this one small thing. That’s all. Besides, after this pack is emptied you’ll be done with it



Done with it

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What I Want to Say About My Wedding Ring

It’s really dirty; murky, cloudy, bottom of the pool, lose a child during a birthday party dirty. Let’s just have another glass of wine dirty. You can look at porno and I’ll take a hit of smoke dirty. Seedy apartment complex dirty. Hang your bras off the balcony dirty. Walk around in your slippers and a wife beater t-shirt dirty. Yell at your kids and leave greasy pots on the stove for days dirty. Send your kids to school with Cheetos for breakfast dirty. Don’t open your bills dirty. Blame other people for your troubles dirty.

It’s even more personally dirty

It’s dirty like I’m so bummed you didn’t make a bunch of money in the last few years dirty. And how come you’re still in debt dirty. And no, I don’t want to gaze into your eyes and go down to your studio and make art with you dirty. And how come you never say thank you for all the laundry I do dirty. And I don’t know if I can handle you having a girlfriend on the side when I don’t have a boyfriend dirty. And why is the house such a pigsty when I come home from my meditation weekend dirty. And does the dog have to sleep under the sheets with us dirty.

Sometimes I feel so evil

In the beginning it was a really pretty ring

We bought it at Macy’s in San Francisco fourteen years ago. We’d decided to get married a month before because he was leaving California for a year-long artist-in-residency and we knew that we wouldn’t stay together if we weren’t married. The ring cost $400 and he had to sell his motorcycle to pay for it. It’s a topaz, a Cinderella blue topaz surrounded by eensy weensy diamonds, and in the beginning you could see right through it because it was so clean and so clear and it held so much promise that it was like gazing straight into the Mediterranean Sea.

Marriage is so promising

It has to be that way or no one would do it. You have to be a believer. You have to suspend all your intelligence, everything you think you know about how independent you are and how well you think you know yourself. You have to suspend all your feminism and your ideas about equality and how merging won’t make you mushy, and you have to believe that this union is going to bring you home to yourself and turn loneliness and turn sadness and turn darkness on it's head forever. You have to believe in a very abracadabra way that marriage is going to take all your troubles away. Even if you know better. Intelligent people still have to believe this. We can’t help it. Marriage is so full of promise.

And so what?

Exactly. Let’s get on with it

Here’s the thing

I bought some jewelry cleaning solution about a year ago and it’s still sitting in the cupboard un-opened. I have nothing to lose, I mean it. Abracadabra, I’m going to go clean my wedding ring. Because I’m a believer. In my litle dirty heart I’m a believer.

***Abracadabra: Someone recently told me that its literal meaning is: with these words make it so.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How To Take Your Life Back

Leave your cell phone behind when you leave the house

Listen to the second track of Collective Soul’s 1997 Disciplined Breakdown over and over. Play it loud and dance it in front of the bathroom mirror. Shake your hips because you can, because you have them. Because you’re actually kind of gorgeous at 45. Take the CD into the car when you go to pick up your children at school and play it very loud as you cruise the streets of your manicured town. Don’t worry that you’re somebody’s mother. Fuck that. You’re free today. You’re celebrating. You’re taking your life back.

Consult your homeopath. When she prescribes the goat’s milk remedy don’t worry if you don’t understand how it’s supposed to heal you. Trust her and concentrate instead on her big doe eyes and the way they rest on you, the way you know she is listening to the all of you, to what you say and what you don’t say. Trust her when she asks you if this man who has been your lover has ever told you he loves you. Trust her when she uses the word hollow to describe his tone.

Take a swim. Swim a mile. Don’t think about how heavy your arms feel at first. Don’t think about your next great scheme to starve yourself and knock off a few more pounds. In fact, stop starving yourself. You’re actually pretty hungry.

When you get home eat some salty nuts because they have protein and you need your strength back. Don’t worry about the calories. You’re saying goodbye to the girl who sat longing for her lover to call her or email her. You’re letting go of the girl who was more concerned with how she looked for the lover and what she said to the lover than with who she really was all along. You want that girl back.

When your lover calls on his drive home just say it straight. Don’t blame him. It wasn’t his fault. He never promised you anything. He just wanted to have fun. He is a man who can have sex with people and not have it mean anything more than a really good time. He doesn’t want to be somebody’s boyfriend. He thinks that’s painful.

You know you can have another boyfriend if you want. And maybe there is a cutie pie waiting in the wings somewhere. Your husband is keeping his girlfriend and you don’t know how that’s going to work. It might not be so great on some days and you’ll just have to deal with that. It’s not about another boyfriend anyway.

It’s about you. And you’re taking your life back. True, you don’t know what that’s going to look like or how that’s going to feel. Right now you feel pretty strong, clear, but you know later tonight you might have to have yourself a little cry. That’s okay. You’ve been crying a lot lately, but this time it won’t be because someone didn’t call you. It’ll just be sadness. Just honest to goodness sadness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

24 Lies

24 Ways in which I have lied to myself about being in a polyamorous relationship with my husband, another man and his wife

1. I'm the kind of person who can have casual sex

2. I'm a freewheeling girl who can't be hurt by people. My cowboy boots alone will save me

3. My sheer power and my animal sexiness will make the lover want to leave his wife

4. He has sex with me because he loves me

5. My sheer power and animal sexiness will heal the lover of his troubles

6. My sheer power and animal sexiness will make the lover not want to have sex with other women besides me and his wife

7. He will see I am the answer to everything

8. I will become more sexy and more powerful through fresh sex after 17 years of monogamy

9. Other men will find me sexy and alluring

10. And a line will form


11. I will fall deeper in love with my own husband

12. He will seem sexier to me because another woman wants him

13. My husband and this woman will fall in love and leave me and her husband to start a new life together

14. After a lifetime of shrugging off the concept of soul mate I will find mine

15. I will take off 10lbs and experience a magical age reversal. I'll be a 45-year-old who looks 30

16. My bravery to shake the marriage boat and trek into unchartered waters will be a huge boost for my career

17. I'll write a new book


18. I won't need other people because so many people will need me

19. Being needed will make me feel safe and love and protected

20. I'll never feel alone

21. I'll be happy all the time

22. During sex with both the lover and my husband I will stop fantasizing that the wife of a father from my kid's school is about to walk in and see me having sex with her husband

23. During sex with both the lover and my husband I will stop fantasizing about the time a friend of mine was accosted by the big brother of her boyfriend when she was a teenager

24. During sex with both the lover and my husband I will stop fantasizing about a young girl I knew years ago getting accosted on the sidewalk by a group of boys as she walked home from school

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

You want it to be about him

You want it to be about him
You want it to be about him because then it’s tangible
Something you can hold onto
A problem
Something to be fixed
Something to talk about
Cry about
Starve yourself about
A real life drama
In living color
Your life
With characters and a conflict
a protagonist who wants something
That if they can just get
would make them feel so much better
and then everything
I’m telling you
Would be all right

So today it’s going to be about him
Whether he’ll call
or email
Whether he’s thinking about
Beautiful, important, sexy you

Just say it
Or mouth the words if you can’t
You want to be saved
Say it again
You want to be saved

Saved by love
The way he looks at you
The way he wants you
Whether it’ll get him hard
make him want to leave his wife
Whether one look at you makes him forget everything else he ever wanted

You want to be saved by feeling wanted

And this feels so familiar
This wanting feeling
This leap- frogging
From one special saving something moment to the next
How when you were a kid it was all about the weekend
Or the next holiday
Or the next birthday
Or what you were going to get for Christmas

And then as you grew it was about
and having children
and being saved by your work
and by making money
And keeping your looks
And keeping your man
And being the kind of woman who everyone wanted to be

And now how at 45 the jig is pretty much up
Cause you know better
And you’ve had all the things that you thought would save you
been on Oprah
In People magazine
Had your books published
Was flown to New York
Where everyone wanted to know
More about
Incredible you

But that wasn’t enough and you kept wanting
Found yourself a lover
Tried to be even more beautiful

And yet
And now

Now you want it to be about him
You want him to do the heavy lifting
Lifting you out of this place

You keep wanting it to be about something
The next cup of coffee
The next five pounds
The next book
The next love letter
The next phone call
The next deep fuck

And now
Now you’ve come to the end of the story
And it always ends the same damn way doesn’t it?
The protagonist gets what she wants
feels sexy and smart and loved
at least for a little while
But then
it’s never enough
It never is
she wants more
And you want to shake her
You want to scream
You want to rip the pages out of the book and you want to turn her sorry ass toward the mirror and you want to say
It’s not about him
And it’s not about that other stuff
It never is
It never was

It’s about you baby
It’s about you

Friday, April 29, 2005

Something about it calls to you

Not every day is a good day. I mean, you have to wake up, and it’s not that, not the slow uncoiling of the body from its warm nocturnal rest. Not the way the eyes must sometimes pry themselves open in that creaky way; tin cans clattering on a cold morning.

It’s more that you have to wake up to yourself and who is that? Who is that you are waking up into? Are you the girl whose world will be made right by a cup of Joe and a hot shower? Yes. But then what? What can you rely on next? What little island can you step onto and be comforted with that next security, because that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want to keep feeling good, yes, you want everything just so. You want to continue along a shiny yellow path, a brick road, just say it, a shiny yellow brick road. Because that feels so much better than the unpaved, ruddy path that you can see just to your left if you look down. You know the one, laced with hard little pebbles that cut into the soles of your feet. That path, a little reckless, not clear, a mess of nature growing around it; wildflowers and weeds, nothing tended, nothing clear. And where’s it going anyway? You can’t tell.

No, better, you think, stay with what you know because what you know can deliver you to that wholesome place of comfort. It’s a Queendom, that’s it, that’s what you want, really, if you think about it, admit it, to feel like a Queen. You want praise and love.

So you check the emails and you turn on the cell phone, opening the channels so that no love will go unheard.

And you sit and you wait and you preen; the facial products, the hair products, the clothes, checking yourself in the mirror at least three times a day to make sure you’re still in fine form, sometimes even imagining your lover dropping by unexpectedly, out of the blue, catching you looking perfect and beautiful and ready.

And still, the day is long. There are things to do. There’s your work and there are phone calls to make, people to get back to and you’re pretty good at this; you know the steps and yet there is this longing, this yearning and you can feel it all day. And even if you’ve heard from the lover or a friend, even if you’ve been told, “We Love You, You’re Fabulous,” you can still feel it. It aches.

You read emails but the moment you finish them you’re famished. Really, you’re starving. So damn hungry. And so you find yourself pushing at things, feeling almost a metallic, clanky, clingy edginess, and it hurts and it feels a little desperate because it’s lonely in the Queendom. You’re beautiful, yes, and you’re well loved but you’re so lonely.

Looking down out of the castle you can see that ruddy path in the field below, the muddy one with the hard little pebbles and you wonder. Something about it speaks to you, but you’re not sure. What shoes would you wear? Would you be walking it alone? You’re not sure how to get there and yet it calls to you. Something about it calls to you.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

where i am from

If she thought she was marrying a rich man
If she thought she was marrying a strong man
If she thought she was marrying a man who would keep her safe
and beautiful
and loved
and sexy

If she thought that's what she was getting she was wrong

Sat down and cried on her wedding night
Collapsed on the beach in front of the tacky Hawaiian motel

She'd had the princess wedding at the Beverly Hills Hotel
I've seen the photos, the evidence; the big dress, the tiara, one hundred bridesmaids, flowers, photo fabulous smiles
She danced the first dance with her father
a small man with money
a deal maker

But now, days later
No longer a virgin
She's sitting there crying
Ripped off
Tiki lamps and mosquitoes
And not too much to talk about
Because he doesn't like to drink
Because he'd never touched a woman before last night

And if she thought this man
And if she hoped this man
and as hard as she worked this man for the next 45 years
As hard, as tough, as rough, as mean

This is where I come from

Disappointment on a beach in Hawaii with cheap drinks in plastic cups and aloha smiles

Disappointment and longing
longing so hard and so deep
so hard and so deep

Born into innocence and grown into longing

My father changed hotels, borrowed some money and hooked them up with the big hotel down the beach, spent the rest of the honeymoon there, but she doesn't remember that part

Like me, whose honeymoon in Hawaii didn't happen either because
I thought I was getting a man who
And I was supposed to get a man who
And I thought my man would

But you know the rest of the story. You've figured it out by now.
Leaf fall from the family tree

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Dogs

Been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around the same park most of my life.

Am I loved? Am I important? Valued? Will I be alone? Who will love me?

Been constructing my life, manipulating my life to avoid the less pleasant answers to those questions.

How in high school I realized that nearly every day someone commented on my great clothes, my long curly hair, how much weight I'd lost or what a great fuck I might be. And the way I started to mine for those comments, the way I began to depend on them, like bits of chocolate after a long day, the way I worked them, the way they made me feel; better, prettier, important, desired, loved, the way they made me feel less alone, less fat, less ugly, less unloved.

All the things I really felt about myself; my horrible curly hair, my fat thighs, my insecurity, my fat face, how you'd have to be deformed or drunk to love me.

Unseen and unimportant. Those are the dogs, the same dogs that still yap and nip at my feet. And no matter how successful, no matter how many golden rings, how much weight I lose or whether he wants to fuck me or she wants to fuck me, no matter if I get a phone call telling me that we love you baby, love you baby or another book gets published.

After the big manic ego flush passes though me, after the hot rush of intoxication, the blood bath pulses through me, drowning those dogs and their nipping and yapping

Those dogs are back

Dogs like thought s I've been chasing around the same park my whole life, nipping and yapping and biting and barking and me thinking most of the time that I'm actually getting someplace in all my business; edit student work, pick up jacket at the cleaners, call dentist, write that interview up, all ways I dodge the dogs, ways I keep them at bay, their yapping, their incessant cries, the ways they know me, how exactly where the stubby, curly haired Jewish girl lives and how unsightly and how unholy and how lonely and how afraid she is, sitting there planning and scheming ways to secure the love, the good feelings, making plans for the poison she will feed the dogs, like the burglar who throws the tranquilizer into the dog meat so he can rob the house.

I'm buying time too, entertaining myself, reaching for the next big thing; what I'll do on my birthday, what I'll buy myself, how great I'll look in that dress, whether it will get him hard so I won't have to listen to the sound of those dogs and their yapping and crying. Dogs like the same thoughts I've been chasing around the same park all of my life.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Showering with God

You’re showering with God tonight. He can feel how sore your thighs are from that walk you took earlier today. He rubs his hands over your ass, feels the smoothness of your skin. The hot water is perfect and God appreciates the heat. Then in the smallest voice he can muster, he whispers, shave. Shave he says, down there, prune, make sweet, make nice, reminding you that your husband is leaving town for four days in the morning.

True, you don’t usually make love after you teach, late on a Thursday night, but standing in the shower with God, you suddenly realize, you remember, as if coming to, that the man lying in bed upstairs is the man you’re married to.

You’d been saving the nice, soft body scrub, the expensive stuff that melts your skin, melts your ass and your arms and your breasts, saving it for the next time you will see your lover because you like to feel extra sexy around him.

But standing in the shower with God you remember, like popping out of a dream, who you are married to, who you actually live with, the man you bed down with every night.

And so with the hot water coming down on you, you let go of the things that bother you; his stubby beard, his too-short hair cut, his irregular breath, the slow way he likes to make love and stare into your eyes. The way he is always trying to find God through sex and through you and how exhausting that is, like he’s not really seeing you, but seeing past you and trying to get something, something from you, something you don’t have to give and something that over the years, you have found yourself more and more reluctant to even offer, even if you had it to give. But tonight you let all of this go because you’re showering with god.

And you realize that when all is said and done, the man upstairs, that’s the man who you need to mean to love. And while it’s not new; the rush and the feel and the excitement isn’t there; you don’t do it on the couch or on the kitchen counter where you’ve been doing it with your lover. It doesn’t start with a kiss, the pushing of tongues. The battle of flesh.

The site of your husband doesn’t make you want more and you don’t count the hours before you’ll see him next, but then it’s not fair to compare when you’ve been with someone for 17 years. You can’t do that, he’s not about that. He’s about loving you just the way you are and that’s not such a small thing, is it? He told you as much tonight. Told you that he’d die for you, told you this on his knees, came to you in your office and got down on his knees in front of you. And god saw this too and he asks you to respect this, to see what you have; a good man, a fine man, a man on his knees.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Loved Still

when i was a teenager
and I'd get a new boyfriend
the day after
the day after
the big kiss
or the big
or the big whatever
the trade that I made
that brought
into me

the day after
I'd be sick
from school

didn't want to be seen
for him to see

this encounter
this fresh opening
brought up
all my longing
and fear

was I loved?
and now my life
since then
all of it

I swear
for evidence
I am

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Flying Monkeys

Somehow fragile
these last many days
waking up dark and without joy
no reason
keeping my eyes averted
trying to follow the flow
get their breakfast
make the lunches
brush their hair
make my coffee

trying to send them off
without infecting them
unleashing this darkness
making them pay
for this dark lizard zipping past my reach

rode to school with them
yelled fuck to ruby
a word she hadn't heard
because she rode circles
in the middle of the street
with the cars coming
screamed "move it!"
to zoe
who was crying
because ruby had gone first
because she always goes first
because it's not fair
to be the little one

"what's wrong?"
a couple of mothers at school asked
for my eyes and the grief
any second now
could split

I started to answer
something for real
but a million distractions
a kindergartner grabbing a mother's hand
someone tapping someone on the back
me standing there in my grief
for everything
for not hearing back
from publishers
some friends
for really knowing that my drinking
is a problem
for the fear of having to stop
for my judgments and doubts
the tension and the stress
for feeling like I work so hard for nothing

Rode home and unleashed it all
on the phone
to poor Cheryl Johnson
who is charge of the gift wrap sale
spit words into her machine like
about the gift wrap
and how they want us parents
to give them the names of all our friends
so they can send them bullshit in the mail
wasted paper, dead trees
send them names of all our friends
so my children can get 8 free gifts
including a flying monkey

and this wouldn't be so hard
except the sales guy stood there
at last weeks' assembly
demonstrating how the monkey flies
and the kids yelled and cheered
"20 names"! the man screamed
"Get your parents to give us the names!"


But it wasn't Cheryl's fault
and so I called her back to apologize
Fragile, I said, just fragile.

Monday, April 11, 2005

God sees everything

God sees everything, yes he do. God knows things that you don’t. God knows what you dream. He sees you taking the Valerian an hour before bed so you will be guaranteed your little sleep. He feels the way you sit up in bed in the dark meditating it all away, or how you hope to; your fears that you won’t be loved, that everyone else will find the love, love like Easter eggs, the prettiest ones, while you will find the plain and cracked ones, discarded, not sought after, not special.

God sees everything.

He sees how all you want, when your husband finally finishes his sitting is to be held, held like you are loved. You want protection and love and you want your husband to bring it to you, a man who has spent a weekend with a former ballerina, a beautiful woman who you call sister, who you encouraged your husband to pursue, and he has, more than you could have imagined, and you’ve seen the beautiful photos to prove it; her naked body with its tangle of pubic hair, the medicine bundle around her neck, the one he’d given her and which they wore together, placing their wedding rings inside for safe keeping, even saying a prayer for their spouses who were also together, on the other side of the mountain beginning their own ascent, their own juicy pilgrimage, but through sake and tiny crabs that were meant to be eaten whole, claws and all.

Sees how you reach now under your husband’s pajama bottoms for his penis. Sees you grasping it, inching it to come alive, watches you, feels the ache in you, wonders as you do, why, why you’re doing this, what exactly you’re after.

Is it the sex? The penis? Is it about the loneliness? The photos of the ballerina? Is it because you love this man and because he has asked you to prove it? Is this how you will find the something you’re looking for? Because you are searching, aren’t you? You’re looking for something.

And he loves it. Your husband loves having his cock stroked. He’s moaning and getting hard and you know how to do it, the way he likes it. You lubricate your hand even more; you don’t stop.

You’re lying on your side and your face is drawn. You’re certain that your lover, if that’s what you want to call him. Your boyfriend, your friend, your brother…that man across the bay who brought you to orgasm with his own hand and mouth on Saturday night, and who you also delivered with your own tongue on Sunday as he stood above you after the dance and the shower, still wet and sucking and the way he came in your mouth and how tender you were with him.

You’re not that tender with your husband tonight. Your hand isn’t on his chest. You’re not feeling his moans, how much you love what you’re doing. What you’re doing doesn’t make you happy like it did when your lover shook with pleasure. No, you’re separate from this. And it’s not like you want him to finish and get off because it’s not about him, is it? It’s about you and you feel sure this is what a sex addict must feel like; removed from what she does, but needing it all the same, needing it.

When he asks you to climb on top of him you do and at first it’s slow, the way he likes it, and then you find your rhythm and you begin to fuck him.

God sees this too.

Hard, and with a kind of pounding which is the way you like it, which is the way your lover likes it, which is partly what you love about him, that he knows how to grab you, rip off your pants and enter you without asking.

Afterwards, after he comes so hard and deep that he is shaking his head from side to side, your husband says it felt almost like you were angry and you say no, you say, I was just fucking you, just fucking you. And god sees this too.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

No Place to Hide

These are the fast and dirty ramblings of a woman who is barreling straight into her middle age. These writings come from the middle of her life, not a particularly bad time either. She’s not freaked out. She doesn’t sit on the couch all day watching soaps and fantasizing about a life completely out of reach. She is not overweight. Not married to a balding guy who watches sports and says “yes, dear.” She’s not a liar, she doesn’t spend an exorbitant amount of time chatting with the other mothers on the schoolyard in the hopes that she will be loved and understood by them. It’s true that she is invited to their weekly knitting nights and their holiday cookie decorating parties, but she rarely goes, not because she doesn’t like these women, who are mostly Christian and mostly very normal and actually very nice, women who wear sweaters decorated with Easter Eggs and pumpkins during the appropriate holidays. Women who probably don’t have very good sex with their husbands and who don’t know how to tell the truth at home, women who are not particularly self reflective and who haven’t spent enough time in therapy. Women who she might be afraid to run into at one of those end of the year parties in someone’s backyard because they would be drunk and then the awful truth of their lives would come spilling out and it could take hours and she’s such a good listener and she would be stuck.

No. She is not like many people barreling into their middle age that wake up one day and realize that they’re unhappy and living a life without joy or love or passion.

She is not that woman. She is independent, a writer with her own teaching practice and a couple of healthy scoundrels posing as children. She has a good-hearted husband, an artist who marches to the beat of his own drummer. This is a woman who has an excellent life on paper; books published, students who appreciate her, a great family, excellent friends. A woman who gets to the gym at least 5 times a week, who is healed by music and coffee. A woman who dances, who dresses and who loves color.

And yet, these are the writings of a woman who has a darker side, a not for public consumption, not for prime time side. A side that she fears the people in her life would worry about.