The beach is in a mood. A woman tossing her messy hair in anger, skirts flying. The sun is scorching, it feels like it’s getting closer to my skin every second, the way you move your palm toward the face of the iron to test how hot it is. The ocean is freezing. We wade in up to our knees and I have to bite my lip because the water is so cold that it hurts. The pain travels up my calves in way that makes me worry I will never be able to move my legs again. We try several times, tell ourselves it would be a shame to have come all this way and not to enter the water, but it hurts too much. I feel rejected. The wind tosses sand at us a pinch at a time, just enough so it crunches between my teeth, dusts my neck. And still. The breathtaking beauty of the beach. The sky naked and shameless, laughing its blue laugh. The sound of the waves not giving up.
It starts raining before we get on the train, slow fat drops of summer. You know that rain. The one that makes you open your mouth to the night instead of running to hide. It seems fitting. The last day of August.
Every ending is also a beginning, though sometimes it takes years to recognize that.
I have started “the novel” so many times now. I might be in love with beginnings. We are always falling in love with what is so wrong for us.
I’ve been thinking about people as kaleidoscopes. How we are different versions of ourselves with different people. Some of them more or less naked, some of them gift-wrapped as the occasion requires. And yet all of these selves are us, even the fake ones. That fake smile and forced small talk is still me, as much as that helpless silence. The petty, jealous self. The needy self. The best version of myself I want to become. Turn. Now I am interested in your story. Turn. Now I tell you about my poem. Turn. Now I repeat someone else’s opinion as my own because I think it makes me sound smart. Turn. Now I am alone and still lying to myself. Inside the little chamber all of the pieces of me, orderless, trapped between mirrors.
After the gym we get falafel and a baklava triangle and a maamoul. The baklava is disappointing, stale and bland, with a suspicious sour undertone that I try not to dwell on. I should stop buying baklava because it is never my mom’s baklava and therefore it’s always a disappointment. But the maamoul, a buttery nut-filled cookie, is sublime. I’ve never had one before but now I want to make them. Will make them. Rose water and pistachios. Dates. Small fragile pleasure dusted with powdered sugar.
The self as a list of wants.
The self as a recipe box.
The self as an ocean of words and a constant fight to drag the right ones to shore.
I met someone in person tonight that I’ve known online for five and a half years. It was poetry that brought us together. Before we knew anything else about each other, we exchanged poems. We wrote for each other. Haiku about butterflies mine in response to his in response to mine. Words we made fly together, some of them poems that nobody else has read. Dream catchers. Such a gift, to get to know someone this way. Coughs recurring dreams scars, via Facebook message, for years. The small aches we have let the other see. Here is this thing that hurts, hold it for me. And now to sit together. To hear each other say the word “sun.”
No wings but the comfort of scars,
proof that life happened to the skin.
No white cloth,
water the only shelter.
Mistakes ripe as stolen fruit
that we pass to each other
in the buzzing twilight.
Swallow everything, every last pit.
No sun, no angels.
Jumping out of a plane is one of those things you cannot remember doing. I cannot remember loving the few men I thought I did. I cannot remember who taught me how to ride a bike. I cannot remember the dreams I feel I should when I’m standing in the shower each morning. Flying in the air is not like the sea. My ears remember voices underwater. And so if it weren’t for the things left behind, I’m not sure I’d know – that I jumped out of a plane yesterday. That I got hit by a car this morning. The skydive left my right thigh muscle longing for pressure. Being thrown off my bike, well, my left leg is burning. Before starting on my route to work I thought to myself going down the stairs “you are not in a bad mood.”
Right before the skydive we were made to watch a video about all the things that can go wrong. All I could focus on were my legs. What if I don’t land properly? You can lose your legs, don’t you like your legs? I have loved my legs. The places they have traveled. How they carry me. In the last three years, they seem weary. I don’t know what to think about the burning pain. I don’t want a hospital or a lawsuit. I want the typewriter I had a dream about last night. There was a man sitting next to me waiting for me to finish typing. There I stood, making mistakes I couldn’t delete.
I won’t soon forget the events that took place in #ferguson…will you?
I have not looked at “the novel” in weeks. If I don’t go back to it, I can pretend that there is something there, that some of the words are good, that I don’t have to start from scratch for, oh, is it the ninth time?
I am uncomfortable calling it a novel. I call it “my mess” with equal parts affection and terror. My mess laughs behind my back. My mess eats popcorn while I stare at the screen. My mess doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.
August finally woke up this week and remembered it’s supposed to feel like summer. Sun and sun and the smell of dust and dry leaves.
Basile Pesso, photographer, writer and interviewer, Spain
My group there : Eroticism and Abstraction
In two weeks my writing class starts. A fiction workshop. I’m scared because I don’t know how to write fiction. Logically I understand that that’s the point—you take a class in order to learn something you don’t already know, but. The doubt, the feeling worthless.
In three weeks choir starts. More doubt. I will have to switch from second soprano to first alto, because my stupid vocal cord remains paralyzed, and higher notes are definitely a problem. Isn’t it so disappointing to be limited by the physical? A small membrane that refuses to move.
September is a time for beginnings. I am always beginning.
In my first creative writing workshop in college a girl in my class wrote a poem that ended with the line, “Oh I am still the caterpillar.”
A street and a body.
We need a new language
for hands reaching up,
hands keeping the sky blameless.
The ways to break a body
is how we learn about counting.
His name a thirst
and not enough water.
I want to hide and cry myself into oblivion. Make it stop. I don’t know where the hinges are but this is what unhinged feels like.
Mike Brown. James Foley. And more, always more. My jaw clenched for days. So hard to focus on anything else.
Bodies and water. The pain in my lower back persists. Pain, the body reminding us to love it better.