Anchor

Anchor

Image result for anchor renaissance drawing

You with a tattoo of an anchor on your arm,
you pin down the ocean
like the snow pins down footsteps
of all the strangers who walked there before it covered the ground

All the same, you bound me effortlessly
and without knowing

because you are
the winter light that steals through
the holes in my coat
the shadows of the stray cats that live under the steps
the silence trapped under the ice
and the dried rose petals that were my voice

You swept them off the windowsill
but the vase still stands there filled with time

All of these things have become essential

Though I was only a silhouette
my fingers balanced on the balustrade
and feathers woven into my hair
I brought the cold draft in with me
when I came back inside

And you
were a joke I told that fell flat at a cocktail party
that I carried home in a cardboard box
like a small animal with a broken leg
I could love you in the same way

You gather all the shrill points of light
when the cars move past your basement window
where you have buried your bed
under your body
and all the boxes full of unfinished letters
they bide their time inside
your fortress of closed lungs

I’ve seen the way
you are afraid to speak to me
You hold your tongue
like a banjo holds its tune

I was cold
but I chose not to put on my sweater
because I wanted you to see my bare arms
and realize that I am vulnerable. I also planned
the way the hours moved across the walls,
the wrinkles in my dress,
the way the bridge rises
to let the ships through,
and the manner by which you left through the back door
of the cafe
before I had time
to say
that your eyes make the same sound as rain
on the steps of an old wooden church by the seashore
that I fell in love with when I was a child
and still believed in ghosts
that wear the skin of lost lullabies

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Wendy to Peter: a Letter, a Prose Poem

Wendy to Peter: a Letter, a Prose Poem

For a long time, I have been fascinated by the Peter Pan story, and in particular the Wendy character. A child-Penelope, she is the one who waits in the company of her thoughts and her duties. In my own thoughts and writing, I often return to the concept of Wendy sewing on Peter’s shadow time and time again. This piece of writing below is an imagined letter from Wendy, no longer a child, to Peter. A poem, a whisper, an unsent message, a shadow sewn onto a shadow.

PETER PAN. One of the classic illustrations by F. D. Bedford from the illustrated edition of J.M. Barrie’s most celebrated story about Peter & Wendy & Tinker Bell. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T5OXAG8

Peter, my childhood friend. Peter with wings made of light.

I used to watch your shadow in the winter as we walked down the street together. It grew in diameter as your clothing became heavier. But it was softer against the snow than it ever was on pavement. I would touch it gently with the edge of my hand whenever I bent down to tie the laces of my boots.

Its edges were blurred and slightly cold. But it was kind to me when I touched it. It whispered all of the things you would never say.

Pale grey against the banks of snow, your shadow would drag behind your feet like smoke trails behind a torch.

But I think I have moved in the same way: I have followed you across rocks and ridges. I have followed you through the bed of a river. I have followed you through the sky, but you rose faster and I looked down just a little too soon.

Now that we are grown, I have tried time and time again to feel your shadow as it moves against my legs. Once as you lay down beside me, I tried to keep pinned it between my thighs, so that something of you would stay even when you rose to leave, as you always do.

But your shadow would run from me, just as fast as you run. It knows your velocity intimately, an archivist of footfalls. It knows you like I never could.

I would watch your shadow steady its pace as you moved down the stairs leading from my  fourth-floor apartment. It would disappear under the doorway in the front hall. And then you were gone as well. I would press my hand against the banister and feel myself returning. My self. I used to be afraid to be alone with my too-real thoughts. For a long time, I was better with shadows, and other things whose edges don’t cut.

I think we grew up too fast, my love. After so many nights, you were afraid to look into my eyes. I think you saw something there that you didn’t want to see – the reflection of your body, the changes in your face, the lines that were slowly forming around your mouth.

And everything we had been through together. The memories. Your mother’s face as she fell asleep and the glass in her hand spilled across in her lap. The sounds through the walls. And all of the worlds we, small children, invented. Peter and Wendy: we were the bookends to our own story. In the night, we comforted ourselves with the whispers that we wove sweetly from mouth to mouth. They were the blanket we used to warm our cold legs when it was only you and me alone together in the house as the dog, Nana, barked rhythmically in the yard. No one ever remembered that she was afraid of the dark.

At some point, I knew you were gone from me. You did it yourself, in a long slow rip. You stopped waking at dawn. You stopped falling asleep with a book in your hand. You spoke to me in words that belonged to someone else.

I had learned how to mend you for a while, but at some point I was no longer sure if wanted to anymore, or if I should. I was torn: And so I tried sewing you to me, your body facing mine, your lips against my shoulder, or your spine against my left side. I held you close, but the threads would always come undone in the night. I would wake to the awareness that you had shifted away from me, your knees pressed to your chest, your lungs like wings that had never expanded. I would watch you rise and walk to the window, your hand on the damp lips of the glass.

I looked up to the sky once again as I felt you leaving. I had my sewing in my hand. It stays with me, like my own shadow. The needles are the fingers of fairies that we believed in once: they are cold and metal, sharp and unbending.

I look up and see the stars: they are just small holes in the sky, as if someone had starting to sew erratically and then pulled the thread out at the very end. You are there too, just above me: you are a dark blot beneath a cloud. I think I can see outline of your clothing. I think you are wearing the shadow I sewed to you. You have outgrown it. It is a child’s shadow, and you are taller than me now.

You couldn’t escape the changes that came. Neither could I. I see you falling, and, instinctively, I hold out the skirt of my dress like a hammock to catch you.

But then I let the fabric fall, and I walk away. I have learned to love the sea: the waves that come back and dance around my ankles. The calm return of the light across my hands. The ache of the storm and all the names it does not call in the night. The shadows of seagulls that weave through the skeletons of the birds that flew the very same arc in the sky months before. All of these things are my stark but graceful lullabies.

The Alligator Did It: A Story of Rebounds and Imaginary Friends

When I was a child, if ever I got angry, I would take all the clothes from my dresser and throw them all around my room. Upon being discovered by my parents in the middle of a room full of strewn-clothing chaos, I would proclaim triumphantly, “The Alligator did it.”

Yes, it was always the Alligator.

And in a way I believed this: I believed that the Alligator, my imaginary but oh-so-real ally, had taken it upon himself to rip apart any semblance of normality and re-mark the world, rightly, with frenzy. Frenzy is only right in a world that makes no sense, in a world that, in the eyes of a child, inspires blue-eyed indignation. In a bedroom that smelled of the lilac trees that whispered just outside the window, chaos seemed only appropriate when things were oh-so-wrong.

Now that I am a grown-up, I think once again about the Alligator. Can I blame him again for my strewn-clothing messes? The ones that I have made in recent years, in recent days? The ones that are a bit more complicated. I would like to blame him, I think. Yes, surely, he was the one who incited that chaos. It was a green-scaled, fire-eyed chaos. Not mine. No, I wasn’t thinking, so I wasn’t there. I am a smart woman with a poetic but very analytical mind. I have a high IQ and have, in the midst of deep thoughts, maybe almost become a little wise. And so surely it wasn’t me who made those mistakes. Ha.

Oh, those mistakes. The ones that seemed to fit so beautifully into the moment, the kind that seem just right at the time. I’ve made them once or twice. Maybe three or four times. Maybe seven, give or take. Those mistakes that then left me recipient when I opened my eyes. My metaphorical eyes. Not the blue little-girl eyes.

But maybe those eyes as well.

Recipient. It is a favourite word of mine in recent years. It means regretful. But I like the way it sounds: it sounds like the wind as it moves through teeth.

I had my heart broken recently after the end of a short-lived but, at moments, treasured romance. The loss of love is always hard. The loss of love breaks the world apart. It is heavy on the chest. It moves like shadows do through a shipwreck. It is unjust. It turns you into that child again, the one to whom the world makes no sense and is only wrong.

After the little heartbreak (it was, this time, only a little one), I did what I swear time and again I will not do. I had a little rebound (oh no; haven’t I learned so many times over? And aren’t I too old and wise for this ? It solves nothing, and only leaves a big cluster of mess around my feet). Oops, I did it again. Again, a little strewn-clothing mistake. With someone who is no good for me. And then, when I saw it for what it was, I felt regret. I felt recipient. Like that child who realizes that now she has to pick up her own mess and reorganize the chaos into the compartments where it belongs.

But, like that child, I have learned a little bit too from the experience. I have learned that she, the child-me, craves, and deserves, kindness. This craving, this need, is the reason she throws her things everywhere. She wants to be held in the midst of the injustice but doesn’t quite know how to ask for this.

And I better understand the nature of messes. I know a little better how to tell the well-made, liberating messes from the ones that, in the end, are pure, irredeemable disasters.

And now, through these reflections, I’ve gotten reacquainted with my Alligator. He is in fact real; I know this now. And yes. Yes, the Alligator did it. The Alligator definitely did it. My Alligator, fierce and wounded heart. He needs a little bit of love of his own to get him through. He needs to be held gently in the lilac-scented light that comes into my old bedroom from the window by the garden. And so I will hold him, because he is mine.

No.

Image result for crow shadows

Ever since I was a small child, I have had the tendency to put the needs of others before my own. It has often been a struggle for me to say ‘no’ even when I want to. I spent much of today in a contemplation which slowly evolved into a vow. This vow is to nurture and strengthen my ‘no.’ To hold it tightly until it knows it is safe to reach out into the world.

‘No’ is a small bird that I hold in my hand. When released, it flies back to me, bringing sustenance. ‘No’ is the edges of the ocean that encircle my beautiful space of solitude. ‘No’ is the coils of the muscles of the braids in my hair. ‘No’ is a hidden strength that, if ever unraveled, may be woven again.

‘No’ is the crow with wings like torn black construction paper that hovers above me when I run along the waterfront. Despite the force of the wind and the way its body pauses tensely in the air, it is not pushed to the ground.

‘No’ is the quivering light on the forest path. ‘No’ is with me at some of the moments when I feel most free. And so I am learning to love my ‘no,’ to nurture it, and recognize its subtle warmth.

On Bisexuality, Three Fears, and, Ultimately, Love

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One of the realities that I deal with as a bisexual person (yes, I said that word, because silence is good for sleep and stargazing but not so much for changing minds) is that I live with three particular fears. These three fears come alive most vividly when I am dating someone new. They wind around me, bind me tightly, and ask me to choose one of two directions. Fears do not beseech with gentle words; sometimes they speak without words at all, or they shout loudly in the most hidden places, but they always seem to convey their meaning.

One of these fears is that, if I am dating a man, friends from my queer community will reject me (as sometimes has happened in one way or another) for not being or acting queer enough.

Another fear is that, if I am dating a woman, other folks in my life will see it as an experimental whim (as has happened, even from those who are dear to me). Being bi is so often assumed to be just a phase. This is hurtful because to me it is a vital element of my identity.

I am someone who is capable of being romantically and sexually drawn to people of more than one gender. I’ve known this since I was 14-ish, though for many years I seldom spoke of it. I have spoken about it lot more frequently of late. I’ve written about it too, and probably will so more – partly because a dear friend (someone whom I love ferociously and devotedly) recently referred to me as a ‘bisexual activist.’ Coming from this person, these words made me infinitely proud and made me want to shake up the world with words and dancing.

If I am going through a phase, realistically it’s a twenty-year-long phase because I’ll be 34 in less than two weeks. Happy birthday, me, let’s have a party and eat some delicious cake! But oh goodness, that brings me to another assumption: the assumption that as a bi person I want to have my cake and also eat another cake too. That, if I really like more than one gender, then I will never be satisfied. And there it is – there’s the third fear that nestles itself gently between the other aforementioned two.

This third fear is that the person I fall for will believe that someone like me can never love one person fully and completely. That this person will be wary of me because of that notion that bi folks can’t settle down and be satisfied with one love. I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one just want one that person to write songs about forever (as realistic or unrealistic as that hopeless and yet hopeful romanticism of mine may be).

Some people who read this will think to themselves, why can’t she just be more confident? Why focus on fear? Let the fears fall away. Don’t give them your breath, and they will just die naturally on their own.

But the thing is, I am confident. This post was born of fears, but just as much it was born from love. It is about whom I choose to love, but it also comes from a very deep place of self-love. Despite the fears and stereotypes that have haunted me, I am proud of who I am.

And I’ve come to realize that the problem is not that I have these fears. It is that I have good reason to have these fears. I have twenty years’ worth of interactions with friends, lovers, family members, and strangers to confirm to me that these fears are neither irrational nor benign. The problem is not me, but the biphobic stereotypes and myths that still thrive. These stereotypes and myths are often silent but they are still brazen. And their brazen silence is the reason I feel that I need to speak – because people like me have sometimes chosen a long, intricately woven hush rather than bare our authentic selves. Because fear has told us that love and acceptance cannot exist for us without compromise and erasure. This is not a reality I want to endorse; I’m rather fond of love.

I don’t claim to speak for all bi folks. Everybody’s lived experiences are their own. I only have one voice and one heart, but I am at the point in my life where I find value in using both of these instruments unyieldingly. Love is worth the risk. It always is.

On Biphobia, and the Cozy Nature of Closets

On Biphobia, and the Cozy Nature of Closets

bipride

I’ve been posting a lot of content about Pride on my facebook this week. And that has made me reflect on the fact that I am probably confusing people, and that maybe friends and acquaintances are making assumptions about me.

I know these assumptions. I’ve heard them spoken out loud, whispered softly, and now I can hear them in my head. I can hear them breathing beside me, walking behind me, following me home from the bus stop, tapping me softly on the shoulder. The assumptions go like this: it’s just a phase, you’re only trying to get attention, you want too much, you’re just a stowaway on someone else’s ship, you’re confused, you need to choose a side. And these: you’re a straight lady if I ever did see one with your long hair and your pretty dresses, and oh wait a second girl didn’t you get all straight-married once when you were 24? Yep. I guess so. I did, sorta kinda.

But no. No, I didn’t. Because I am not a straight person. I never have been straight, though I am often read as straight because I am feminine in presentation and because two of the long-term relationships I’ve had have been with cisgender men (and then there’s that one I refuse to acknowledge – hah). I loved those people (some of them, and oh so profoundly), but I have loved people across the gender spectrum. I have loved other women. Very deeply, completely, with all of myself. That love, that part of me, is there in the songs and stories I’ve written. But that love has not often been spoken out loud.

I went to a Pride Week lecture yesterday about bisexual invisibility. The content of the lecture is covered here by a writer I very much respect. She does it justice in a way that I could not, so you should go read her piece.

Yesterday’s lecture was amazing, and made me realize some important things. It made me realize that I don’t tend to speak about my sexual orientation because of fear. This fear derives from the very real reality that when I’ve called myself bi or queer, there are times when I’ve very much been shut down, erased, disbelieved, or judged. And that hurts, particularly when it’s from people you trust and love.

The lecture also made me realize that I don’t want to be invisible anymore.

People like me who are drawn to more than one gender have to come out again and again in a way. Part of this is because we might appear straight for a while to the world because of our choice of who to love. For me, I really never wanted to come out in the first place. I’ve always been a shadow-creature of sorts, an observer who wants to watch the world and then create things from pieces of reality when I find moments of silence. I didn’t want the world to watch me back, scrutinize me, assess me. I wanted to just be who I am, without a cumbersome label or a box to fit inside. So I just moved about in the world, avoiding both spotlights and search beacons, telling people who I am only when I felt they needed to know.

But then something someone I admire said yesterday made me reflect on the reality that coming out can carve out a space for others to be who they are without so much fear. And that is something I would like to do: to make the world a little safer for others, even if it makes it a little less safe for me. I am able to overcome my fear of heights when I remember that I love the sky. Being high above the ground means being surrounded by the sky. And so I can overcome this fear too, this fear of being known, when I remember that I love how in so many ways the world has embraced me, gently encircling around me, because of the very things that make me strange and different.

Closets are cozy, comfortable places. Mine has been a shelter in a world full of colliding storms. My closet is full of all of my nice dresses. But it has also been full of complacency. My closet is a small, contained space, and in that manner has acted like a cast around fractured parts of me, holding these pieces together. But, I remind myself, a closet is not a place to dance wildly. Nor is it a place from which to launch a revolution, write songs, tell stories, and love other human beings. And I want to do all of those things. Very much so.

So, after the talk yesterday, I went away and reflected for a while on how afraid I’ve been to let people know my authentic self because I thought it would cost me love.

I’ve had women in the queer community disbelieve and de-legitimize me because I’m ‘not really gay’ (I paraphrase, but I’ve felt your tone and seen your eyes). I’ve had straight people think that I just haven’t reached a decision yet, that I’m a deftly balanced fence-sitter. I’ve had strangers on the internet think that I just identify as queer or bi to make straight cisgender men like me more. I’ve had queer women not want to date me because of the fear that I will go off and want to be with a man (oh good god I won’t; when I am in love, my heart is so completely full of a particular person that it seeps out into my songs, my mind, my steps, my every moment, and it feels like love has become a beautiful ocean of light around me).

Love is always part of my world. And I think that words concerning love should not ever need to be tucked away in shame. So, this week, I have found a voice that might tremble sometimes like ripples in a pool but that, as a force of its own distinct from the water, will not evaporate.

Though I am very much an introvert, I’ve been out (pun intended) at events a lot this week. This particular Pride Week is infinitely important to me, because this year I’ve vowed to put more of myself out there into the world. So that is what I am doing. And if people keep loving me, great. If you want to love me even more, I’ll love you back just as ferociously because I’m like that. And if someone wants to erase me or make who I am invisible, they can certainly try, and maybe to some extent they will succeed. But I think now they’ll be less able to. Because for the first time in my life, I feel like I am genuinely part of a community of people like me who, in a myriad of both similar and dissimilar ways, are also beautifully strange and different. And that fills up my heart to the point that it just can’t help but spill into the spaces around me.

Heart of a Soldier

And now the latest installment of my silly romance novel rewrites, in which I rewrite the plot synopsis of romance novels based solely on the cover image and title. Older ones are here and here. As always, I find these books at the local grocery store. This one is called “Heart of a Soldier.” Here we go:

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Mister Hoofytoes, with his white mane like beautifully frayed kleenex forgotten in pockets of sweaters run through the dryer, was not your average horse. With his subtle smile and a perfectly coiffed goatee too sultry to show on a book cover, Mister Hoofytoes rivaled Ryan Gosling with his delicately masculine allure.

Like Ryan Gosling, Mister Hoofytoes looked incredibly gorgeous and yet somehow approachable while wearing tan sweater-vests. Like Ryan Gosling, Mister Hoofytoes was a passable cellist.

And, also like Ryan Gosling, Mister Hoofytoes was one of two characters in an epic tale of romance that would be remembered throughout the ages. (Alas, unlike Ryan Gosling, Mr. Hoofytoes would never win four Teen Choice Awards, because the world is cruel).

The lady love in Mister Hoofytoes’ epic romance was Catherine.

Catherine was a 26-year old farmgirl with a penchant for lilac blouses that looked awkward when paired with the cowboy boots of which she was so fond. Catherine had named Mister Hoofytoes when she was six years old, and had loved him ever since.

Catherine would ride atop Mister Hoofytoes every morning. She knew Mister Hoofytoes’ shoe size. She knew he liked his oats scattered like bits of fairydust. She knew the way he loved to stand behind appropriately placed men so as to majestically appear as if he only had one back leg.

But Catherine did not know Mister Hoofytoes’ secret.

Mister Hoofytoes had the heart of a soldier. Quite literally. One summer morning, while galloping through a dew-glazed meadow, Mister Hoofytoes jumped over an enticingly high cluster of parsley, sage, and rosemary. While midair, Mister Hoofytoes fell into a temporal rift and wound up in the distant future in a war-torn earth ravaged by hellhounds and hazardous cybernetic spider overlords.

Trapped in this futuristic land for ten years, Mister Hoofytoes befriended the enigmatic ukulele-playing Gordon, who was a soldier in the resistance. Gordon taught Mister Hoofytoes how to fly a fighter plane powered by cold fusion and dreams. Gordon taught Mister Hoofytoes how to fool hovergrenades using light refracted from well posed, steely cheekbones. And, knowing how Mister Hoofytoes pined for Catherine and the charming way she scattered oats, Gordon taught Mister Hoofytoes the importance of not giving up on love.

When Gordon was shot down by a passing arachno-tank, he bestowed upon Mr. Hoofytoes a gift that would make him remember these lessons forever – his bionic heart, the heart of a soldier. After Gordon took his final breath, cybercardiologists transplanted the heart into Mister Hoofytoes’ chest, thus giving him both human emotions and the ability to travel through time using temporal cyberfusion and wishes.

When Mister Hoofytoes returned to his longed-for farm, he saw Catherine there, her hair blowing in the wind with the fervour of burlap. A sub-par human man stood beside her wearing an unsettlingly plain white t-shirt. In that instant, Mister Hoofytoes vowed he would woo Catherine away to be his own, as both fate and Gordon had decreed.

The next time Catherine sat atop Hoofytoes, her legs awkwardly held to one side, surely she would begin to sense the loud mechanical whirr of true love. Even though he could not speak to her, surely with time she would realize that Mister Hoofytoes’ chest was bursting with deep emotion – and with the heavily distended, cybertronic heart of a soldier.