Letter I CAN’T Send to My Lost Younger Sister: Too Real Life

Well, I think it’s about that time again—that time when the wannabe writer steps away from fiction and says something personal. Not that all writing isn’t personal or true or real. Yes, yes—I know it is, calm yourself. But, there are moments when you write too honestly. When you don’t let yourself hide behind fiction because the words hit too close to home. I’ve been too honest twice on my blog so far in regards to my [relationship? with] my estranged father. See here and here to get some background. And now, just as confused as ever, I’m doing it again. Catharsis. Coping. Looking for answers in the blank spaces of a Word document. Etc. Thanks to all who have commented on past posts with advice and commiseration  It’s meant the world. Really.

But I don’t want to write him another letter. We’ve been emailing and he’s been nice enough about it all. I’m done pouring my heart out to him. He wants to be in my life—fine. Welcome to the party. It’s a pretty normal situation. Enjoy.

No, I don’t want to write him any more letters. I got it out of my system and I’m already bored with the results. Today, I write the first of two letters. One for each sister I haven’t seen in 10 years because of circumstances none of us understood or could control. Today, I write a letter to my sister, out there in the universe somewhere, whom we will call Lilly.

 

Dear Lilly,

 

            Let me begin by saying what I’ve wanted to say for ten very long years: I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you. I remember you. I remember being your sister, and although you were very young, I will always remember being your sister.

But the only thing I can do is remember. I don’t know you. All I know is my memories of a smiley, vivacious little girl that danced around and laughed with her head thrown back. So, maybe I only love the memory of you. But believe me when I say that I love that memory. And that love is strong enough for me to want to know the woman you’ve become.

It’s possible you blame me for not being in your life. I could justify everything—tell you the story as I know it. But maybe the version I know isn’t right. It was complicated. Everyone made mistakes. I don’t want to put blame on anyone. I’ve grown up looking at everyone in my life with mistrust and I don’t want you to do that. They aren’t bad people. Some of them made mistakes, but your father and mother love you and are good to you. I don’t want you to think that what happened with me has any bearing on their relationship with you. I want you to love them. I didn’t get a relationship with our father for a lot of reasons, but I want you to have what I didn’t. All I will say is that I was twelve years old and I didn’t want to lose you. Not having you in my life has been the most difficult part of the last ten years.

But now, you are 16. Our father has contacted me, attempting to rebuild a relationship. I have accepted this proposal with some reservation. I’ve always said I would do anything to see you again, the innocent in this whole fuckup of a situation. But my feelings toward him have made me think about your feelings. I always assumed our reunion someday off in a sunrise of the future would be heartfelt and tearful and happy—we’d embrace with joy and lament the way life fucked us over. But maybe it can’t be that way. Maybe that vision was a dream I held onto to cope with the loss. It’s been ten years. That’s a damn long time. Maybe the possibility of that dream coming true has decreased with every year as we each grew older, apart.

The same obstacle that discourages me from feeling a strong residual connection to my father will factor into any possible relationship I build with you now: 10 years. Enough years for you, a 6 years old girl in my memories, to grow up and become a whole person with a whole world that I know nothing about. You have boyfriends, tv shows, ambitions, quirks that I’ve missed developing. And no, that doesn’t mean we can never be close. But the truth is that I wasn’t there for the informative years. I’ll never really be a sister, in so far as that one of the most defining aspects of a sister is a shared childhood. And while we have the first 6 years of your life, and we have pictures of me holding you as an infant, smiling in the hospital—we don’t have 10 big years. And that’s scary. In the same way I’m sure my father is terrified when he thinks about me.

I’ve clung to the idea that you were this innocent, hurt by the pettiness of those around you. But, I have to face the fact that I was twelve and you were six. I was old enough for it to change my entire life and maybe—just maybe—you were young enough to forget I ever existed. I’m torn here. I truly hope you don’t remember crying every time I left you. I hope you don’t remember crying the last time we spoke, because you hadn’t seen your sissy in so long. I hope it didn’t hurt you as much as it hurt me, because it really hurt me. But at the same time, I hope to god you do remember. I may be a terrible person for it, but I want you to love the memory of me even a fraction of the amount I love the memory of you.

I’m terrified to see you again. I’m not afraid you’ll be angry—I know I’ll convince you that I did all I could to be in your life. I’m not afraid you’ll be upset—I’ll be an emotional wreck myself. I’m afraid you’re going to look at me the same way I look at our father—uninterested. That terrifies me. That’s the scenario I never imagined, even in my worst nightmares. It just may well hurt more than losing you and dad and our other sister, and your mother, and our whole shared family and life ten long years ago. It just may well kill me.

            So, we’re at a crossroad. I want to be in your life, but I don’t know what your life is. I want to love you, to be able to say it and mean it, but I don’t know you anymore. I want for you to feel something toward me. You are 16 and the world still has so much for you. I want above all for you to have a great life. A life that isn’t touched by all this bullshit like mine has been. Maybe I’m only martyring myself because I’m afraid. The real reason I won’t send you this letter is because I’m afraid you won’t answer it.

 

Please write to me if you’re out there, still loving the memory of me.

 

Love,

Emily 

 

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Meta Metamorphosis: The War Against the High Brows Rages On

A little while back I wrote a poem raging against high browed buffoons (see here to read) and it felt DAMN good. But how do on earth do you burn an intellectual snob in a way that hurts, I wondered? I can’t just rant about them. They don’t speak spoken English… So I wrote a little poem in words they (may) understand–big words. If anyone’s ever taken a writing class with one of those post post modernist idiots, you’ll understand. I understand too well. This one day we walked into class and the professor said, “Today, my children, we’re going to get meta with metamorphosis.” Cue eye rolls. And the idea for this (poem? short story? unkilled darling?) was born. Ugh. Humanity may, in fact, be doomed.

Meta Metamorphosis

Meta metamorphosis, the words put forth this round to the young and impressionable ne’er-do-wells who rip holes in their clothes because being hungry is sexy.

“Cute, isn’t he?” The one with half a brain asks the dreads to her left, deft at eyes that flit and fly and land with intent. “The one with the sunglasses just a little bit bent.”

Meta metamorphosis, the guy who runs the course puts forth, letting the words linger in the ether, neither making any sense nor trying to. But everyone knows he thinks he does. And they think they understand, too.

“Totally cute.”

Change is the progress of the day, change from the way you dress and talk and act and walk and think most importantly, open your mind and shine a light on whatever killed darlings float down in the pit of your throat. Smoke them out and try not to choke.

We’re going to change as we change, and talk about change, and in the end we’ll be the same, but not the same.

Yeah, it’s bullshit. But they, like, get it.

“Still think he’s cute?”

“Naw. I’ve moved on.”

She hasn’t, but she doesn’t want to appear unaffected. A spectacle, peer pressure hasn’t progressed but is just a little less obvious to the flitting, flying eye. Down in the pit of her throat are plenty of true killed darlings worth half a damn that the shining light passes by in preference of monotonous lies.

Meta metamorphosis: think more about the Thinking  more than the Why.

Sympathise: A Poem

I was thinking a bit about scary cults the other day and I decided to try a poem from an insider’s perspective. Enjoy.

I had always sympathized with fanatics–addicts in alleyways, preachers and prayers. The types no else really cares for. I had this tendency to stop breathing. Reading pamphlets, I felt more amplified in print than in living.

Then I found it. It said, Living is a sin. Don’t be what you’ve been. Cast away those former days and join the reformation. We will redo that which undid you, rebuilding the temples’ steeples. People of the world–parents of the boys and girls–we face you open-hearted to propose a toast to progress started when martyred marksmen missed their true targets and left a generation wanting. Yes, we’re just dreamers. But our dreams, whispered in the right receivers, could revive the world’s true believersSee. Can’t you see?

He lifted up a book of leather binding, blinding us to other thoughts. We flocked to follow the man standing solid and never looked back on what we soon forgot.

Oh, what a magic thing, our backwards king

Oh, I learned to sing that summer in a commune by the sea, even in the fleeting moments when those whispers were on the wind of future summers and survivors in trash bins. He had us reading kool-aid romances and dancing to manic musical numbers. We stomped our feet furiously, a chorus of drunken drummers in a circular line around the spires of his blazing fire.

Somewhere in there, I was told the origin of sin: not god or government or gin, but my own being–betraying me to eternity. Hissing at the sky, I knew why I stopped breathing sometimes: Attempts to make all life right and rid it of me–of the disgrace that is humanity.

Had I been a braver girl I would have run into the sea and swam until I lost my feet and sunk into that cold, that wet whispering breeze. At least I would have had the responsibility, not the man standing solid with leather binding and ranting pamphlets. But I was and I am me, and alleyways led to that place that appealed to me more. A backdoor that lead to no more.

Thank You Boston

I grew up in and around Boston. The actions of the Boston PD and citizens over the last few days have reminded me how much I love that city. Living in Scotland and watching terrible events unfold like Newtown and now this bombing has been surreal, but this poem articulates everything so well. It should be shared. ❤ Boston

thesecretmermaid

This spoken word poetry video was made by a fellow Bostonian and friend of mine. I still can’t seem to find the words when it comes to the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon, to people whom I love, on a street I’ve walked many times, in a city that is my home.

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God in Goodwater: A Short Story

So, this one’s a little on the darker side of the fiction genre spectrum. I think I’m a little too obsessed with the American southern gothic aesthetic lately. And I’ve probably watched too many bad movies. But here’s my attempt to imagine the unimaginable in a psychoanalytical fashion (if that makes any sense. at all). It’s short. Enjoy.

 

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Joe said, “Let’s talk about how you feel,” but I didn’t really feel anything, so he learned to let it go. Clinks the ice in his cup and grits his teeth a lot. Little gestures that aren’t grimaces, but mean the same thing. I never pay much attention to his condition. It’s his business, anyhow.

We spend Friday nights at the football field, watching Curtis dive and fumble. He’s too big to be quick and too dumb to be precise. Sweet kid. Bad brain. But I never criticize. It wouldn’t help. Besides, he’s Joe’s brother, and that means something to Joe.

Saturday is for sleeping in and getting burgers at Gilly’s with the old gang. The construction crew’s heavy lifters and their women. Townies who have no interest in the great wide yonder. We can’t stay gone from this place, anyhow. It isn’t the kind of ride you get to quit early. Reverend made that real clear, to me anyway. The others just kind of know it from the way he flicks his eyes during sermon, or grasps their shoulders. He has claws for hands, that one. 

I fell in love with Reverend when I was a little girl. I wore this yellow dress with white lace trim to his first service and when Jerry went to shake his hand, Reverend said I was lovely. I made Mama wash that dress every week, hoping he’d say it again. He never did and I learned not to love him, but I still liked the tone of his voice on Sundays and the way he tilted left when he meant something other than what he was saying. He’s small town that way.

When I told Jerry I was in trouble, he sent me to Reverend. Jerry always said that my father was the Lord, since I didn’t have a real one and all. This was a father’s chore, and Reverend was the closest thing. 

“What will he think of you?” Jerry asked, not really a question but more a gasp. 

“I dunno.” I’ve never known how to give men what they want, so I just handed Mama a tissue. She was sitting in her lilac chair wondering where we all went wrong and letting Jerry do the talking. Jerry always does the talking, even if he doesn’t want to be my father.

Joe said I was too clever to let a thing like this ruin me. “You could do anything at all, you know,” he said. He’s like that. Eyes on the highway. 

I never asked Joe to stay. I didn’t expect him to, either. He wanted to spread the gospels. He’s got a good path ahead of him here, but a part of me is still waiting for him to up and bolt one of these hot summer nights. Ride out into the sunrise or something. I wouldn’t resent him. It’d just be a little harder, that’s all.

I wouldn’t call my life evil, but sometimes I play with the word. Dance it around on the tip of my tongue. Reverend calls it holy, but I’ve read the Good Book enough to know the difference. I don’t say so, though. I let him think I follow his version of the scripture. He’s got claws for hands, that one, but I never let them sink too deep into my shoulders. Some folks got it in their heads he’s the second coming, and he likes it that way. Sure, I kiss his feet with the rest, but I cross my fingers when I do it. I have my reasons.

Monday nights Joe makes me dinner. We live in a little trailer on Rt One. A mile south of the Church and a half mile north of Mama and Jerry. It’s not much, but after three years we’ve made it our home. Joe does these watercolors and I hang them around the place. When we moved in, Reverend bought us a nice crucifix for the kitchen. 

“Next time you feel like cussing ‘cause you burned yourself on the stovetop, just look on up at the Savior and remember His pain,” he’d said. “That’ll put the Fear in ya.” Reverend likes talking about the Fear. 

Tuesday nights we go to Meeting at the church with everybody. We get dressed up really nice and hug the neighbors. Reverend stands at the door shaking hands and clawing, clawing, clawing. Joe’s as hooked as any of them.

Reverend brought the New Genesis to Goodwater the Sunday I wore my yellow dress. I suppose folks were looking for something to believe in after Pastor Daniel passed, or maybe even before. Something more than Adam and Eve. Folks wanted something to do, other than watch brothers play football and get burgers at Gilly’s. Reverend breathed in the stagnant air, heavy with restlessness, and stirred. Plunged his talons in easy enough. He was small town and people liked that, even if he was from away. 

Wednesday nights the construction crew works and I stay home. Joe likes the work. He’s a farmer, like his father, but he knows fire well enough. The men look up to him, and I think Reverend plans to make Joe his assistant pastor one of these days. A born leader, my man. A right disciple, even if he did get me in trouble. 

Reverend never blamed us. That night I knocked on his door I half expected him to send me to the Father. He didn’t. He just clawed, clawed, clawed. 

Thursday nights I spend with Reverend. Folks in town see it as right and Joe agrees. I am cleansed. But I never feel cleansed. I figure that’s why I don’t believe it the way the others do. They get to praise Jesus and feel pure, while I get dirty. And that’s what it all is, if it isn’t evil. Filthy. But I never say so, because I don’t say anything at all. 

It’s been this way since that first time. I screamed and cried and cursed, and Reverend said the devil had his hold on me. But I’d know the devil if I saw him, and Paxton wasn’t the devil. He had the face of the angels, and I like to think he’s among them now. I like to think he can’t see me from up there–can’t see Goodwater at all. There’s no God in Goodwater. Just the New Genesis and Reverend’s claws.

Friday nights we spend at the football field and Saturdays we go to Gilly’s. That’s life in a small backwater town where Reverend talks about the Fear and young girls get cleansed when they get in trouble. 

Sundays we dress in white and have ourselves a ceremony. It isn’t always exciting, but folks say they feel the Lord in the fire and taste him in the flesh. They sure drink a lot of him, but Reverend says that’s the way it should be. And what Reverend says is what the Lord commands. 

Jesus fed a mob with bread and fish. Reverend fed Goodwater with the Fear and Paxton. 

“Born in the blood of the innocent and struck down by the fire of the righteous,” he’d screamed over my wailing. “The devil shall be expelled and the children released from his charge,” and they clawed Paxton from my arms and roasted his body on the burning cross Joe built and Joe said, “Let’s talk about how you feel,” but how could I feel anything ever again? 

Pinkyless: A Poem

I’ve been away for so long, wordpress! Here’s a weird little poem about who knows what from the back of my brain to the disturbance of yours. Enjoy and happy weekend!

 

My mother cut my finger off

when I was six years old.

 

It wasn’t painful.

I don’t remember screaming or

crying or even being upset.

I just remember a thud and splat

as the finger fell to the floor

and splashed the white linoleum 

speckles of spectacular red

ruby jewels amidst pearly white

and my right pinky a pale paisley 

pointing towards the window

where a blueberry pie cooled.

 

My mother had cut my finger off

and my father wasn’t home

and she was standing over it

immobile, the knife pressed

slanted between her fingers

which were still on her hand

because it was my finger

she had cut off.

 

I’m not bitter.

It wasn’t painful.

I don’t remember screaming or

crying or even being upset.

I don’t remember my father coming 

home and bringing me to the hospital.

I don’t remember the doctor telling me

the finger couldn’t be reattached

without the finger.

But I’m not bitter.

I was six and she was sick

and her laughter made the pain feel better.

And my pain made her pain feel better.

And it didn’t occur to me

to think that it was strange

for her to say, “I’m hungry,”

and cut off my finger

for a new pie.

A pinky pie.

Smoked: A poem

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He’d say he needed his damned cigarettes

and I’d wonder how he wasn’t dead yet,

but a daughter’s got duties–and plus it was my head

that’d be walloped if he didn’t get them. So I’d drop

my schoolwork and run to Dickies. Somewhere

in there I met my Mickey

I thought myself a fish

in the stream of Daddy’s brimstone misery

but at least I had someone keeping me.

Eventually I forgot about algebra and Daddy

blazed until he did die. By then I

was working on my own hellfire suicide,

with a baby inside my belly

and lungs the color of my late beloved

Daddy’s belt.

Charlie was born on the fourth of July

and I was fatter than Mickey. If he loved

anything, he loved my shoo fly pies.

No one paid me much attention

when I started to cry. Mickey

just told me to wipe my goddamned fish eyes

or he’d hit me blind. Charlie would forget

algebra and run to Dickies and we’d be one big happy

fucking family under the watch of my lovely

Mickey’s belt.

And that’s what it is folks.

I got old–got addicted to smoke

and I don’t blame Daddy or Mickey

because life’s a joke and the punch

line’s got a habit of clutching your throat

and squeezing like’s the devil’s finally

got his hold on Eve. She was always the one

he wanted, wasn’t she? Charlie’s got a life

I wouldn’t wish him, but the ways things are, that’s all

I could give him. I feel like a fish, just swimming

up that river, prematurely delivered by the sweet

swinging rope.

Eventual: a short story

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The idea of dying broke on her too suddenly and killed her. Her mother, ever the watchful guardian, had been careful to keep it from her for fear of the weak heart. As the girl’s health declined, the task of explaining the Eventual was deemed irrelevant and the girl went on dying unaware.

Great pains were taken to shield her. There would be no free exploring of her surroundings. All trips required accompaniment, for often in that place the dead were taken away through  hallways. If by chance she might see one, it was promptly explained the canvas covered body, with a hand or toe sticking out of the cloth shroud, was only sleeping. And so she never learned of dying.

Lacking strength, the girl often felt a sense of breathlessness, which she attributed to her condition. At times, she couldn’t breath at all and the doctors puzzled at her seemingly arbitrary attacks. As a young child she couldn’t vocalise her thoughts, having nothing to compare the feelings with, but it was the sensation of suffocating or drowning. 

She further believed that she was the only child in the world, having never seen another. She lived so shortly and changed so little in appearance, she did not understand that children grow. She was encouraged to believe that one day the illness would leave her, but she didn’t know what its absence would mean. The world outside her walls was mysterious, more unknown than the eventual was to her mother.

Having no peer company nor media (her mother was afraid she might learn of the Eventual) she was given poetry carefully screened for mention of death. In this medium of words, the girl found solace and comfort. She had never drowned, but she understood what the poet described when his hero struggled against the overbearing sea. She didn’t know why the hero feared drowning so, past it being unpleasant, but she feared it, too. 

Toward the end, she took to writing her own poetry. She had never seen nature save the goldfish on her windowsill and the weekly flowers, but she could write in imitation of her favorite poems, speaking of beauty she had never witnessed. Despite her age and isolation, she wrote movingly.

One day she wrote of the sunrise, a spectacle she had witnessed through her window. When finished, the desire to see the sunset overtook her. Her mother had never heard the child ask for anything with such ardor and passion, and although a worrisome woman, pleaded for her daughter’s wish. And so, one afternoon, the girl was taken to the other side of the building to watch the sunset. And there she felt a bliss which she would try to recreated until she was introduced to death.

The idea of death, when it came, made sense to her. Her life, always a breath away from the Eventual, was clawed by a the intuition that knowledge was missing. She always felt that there was something not being told to her, something she wasn’t permitted to understand. When it was revealed, she found what those who already know can never find. 

Waking feverishly in the warm bed she glanced at the windowsill soaked in the rays of the early morning sun. The heart monitor beeped strongly and outside the closed doors, the girl could hear the night workers hustle home as the morning staff arrived. Breakfast would come in an hour. Then her mother. Then the doctors. Then lunch. Then treatment.

She knew the treatment to be “experimental.” There were no guarantees, but she could be sure that the pain would be immense. Her mother, eyes wrinkled in the corners, coarse brown hair frayed at the ends and grey at the roots, would commend her bravery. 

“My little trooper,” she would whisper before kissing the girl’s head gently. Her mother would smile as she pulled away, and the nurses would take the little girl to a room where everything was white and smelled of cleanliness. 

Not today.

The girl felt a sense of calm that morning, awake a full hour early. She felt herself engulfed by the sunlight, lifted slightly from the bed. She rubbed her fingers together, sensing the distance between molecules, the distances between herself and everything else.

She looked around the room, eyes open. It was warm and glowing, a celestial chamber apart from everything outside the window, outside the door. She smiled. And then, while looking about her room, her eyes fell on the fish bowl, ruddy slime building on its walls, murky water still, goldfish belly-up. Suddenly, with no need for prompting, the girl knew the goldfish wasn’t sleeping.

The idea of dying broke on her too suddenly and, some may contest, killed her. The heart monitor broke into a single, screaming pitch sending the attendants running in a flurry of needles and electric energy. The doctors tried to revive her, but death would not relent. The girl’s mother was heartbroken, but would later admit she was glad her trooper was in a better place. None would know that a nanosecond before dying, when the realization first hit her heart, the girl not only understood death–she understood the sunrise’s glow, the breeze, the birds, the poems. The girl stopped drowning and smiled. There, in that room, she found for the first time in her life, there was no pain. 

Wishing Wells

Hello Blogosphere! Best wishes from Barcelona, Spain. I have 2 weeks off work and I’ve been on a nice little Euroadventure. Rome, Perujia, Florence, Barcelona–FANTASTIC. Pictures will arrive shortly, but for now I’m stuck in something of a poetry rut. I don’t really consider poetry my strongest work, but I enjoy writing it. So here’s a very short something/nothing from Spain. Unkilled darlings. It’s all unkilled darlings.

This is all there is to tell: A boy and a girl and a wishing well, with everyone hoping she would grow to be someone else. But the fountain fell and the seasons changed. He left her bleeding, scarred and stained, while he went on to shine. She’s not bitter that he forgot. She didn’t grow to be what she’s not–quick to lie and slow to punch. She paid her pennies for something better, but the wishing well melted into summers, swept away the lovers that weren’t him. And isn’t it easy to imagine? It’s all too easy to imagine.

This is all there is to tell: A boy and a girl and a wishing well, buying dreams it couldn’t sell and tomorrows that couldn’t be. So easy to imagine.

Another Piece of Small Town Blues: Poetry

Mother dear told me not to worry,

life’s a crap shoot, there ain’t no hurry.

Better slow down, you’re kicking up dust.

No need to cry, making a fuss.

But this small town

with the boys and their eyes,

rolling in and out with the tide

and that one boy

who knows what to say–

too proud to say it and too in love to stay.

He fixes cars in the garage.

Greasy hands and junk in the yard.

Got a tattoo of a woman he loved.

Bitch took to drink and he just gave up.

But that one girl

with the waves in her eyes

showed him some big city surprises

and that summer

when everything changed

hurt him even more when it all stayed the same.

It’s a modern age with big bright lights

single parents and poison delights.

We were raised within broken dreams

patching up holes and sowing seams.

But that one night

in his truck’s backseat–

a girl from away and a boy in heat.

Learning to rise and fall with the sea.

Learning that nothing can be what it seems.

All forgotten dreams.