(crossposted from Facebook)

The problem is that the words die.
The problem is that the words die
and now I don’t know how to say
anything alive.
I want to talk about –
I can’t talk about –

listen, when I was six years old
I laid eyes on a little redheaded girl named Austin
and I fell, helplessly in –
and that was the first time I can remember
anything mattering at all, namely –

listen, the only reason I know how to sing
is because from that moment on I sang –
songs to myself every chance I got,
I poured everything I had into those songs,
I practiced them until they sounded exactly right,
until they reverberated with –

listen, once I went to the marina
and I saw a Korean couple getting married
and she asked me why I thought they were getting married
and I said I’ll tell you why I would get married
if I were them,
I said I may not know a lot but I know that –
is good, every version of me knows that –
is good, what it means to be me is to know that –
is good, and it took me three tries to say this
because I kept crying every time I said –

listen. I have been embarrassed.
I have been ashamed of my –
I once tried to toss it out the window because
it was hurting me and I wanted it to
go. Away.
I have been confused.
I have abandoned myself in –
I have broken myself against –
and I am still learning how to give myself –

listen. I have wanted –
in familiar labeled packages, I have wanted –
safe and comfortable and cloying,
and then I went out looking for –
and what I found was
the wild screaming vastness of
another human heart
afraid and in pain
bloody and open
beating
in time
with mine
for a moment
and there
were no words.

Who will sing for him?

He sits, alone, alone, alone,
afraid and angry, lashing out in pain.
(But no one gives a shit about him.)
Who will sing for him?

He’s ugly, gangly, short, or fat
or anxious, cold, resentful, bitter –
what a man’s afraid to be
and what a woman cannot stand to see.
In short, unfuckable.
(Unlovable.)
So who will sing for him?

Will anybody ever touch him?
Gently hold his hand and kiss him sweetly,
run their fingers through his hair?
Or gaze at him with longing,
tell him that he’s beautiful?
(Could he be beautiful? Or only
more
or less
a monster?)
All his million secret yearnings –
who will sing for him?

Will someone write his song in fire?
Could they understand?
That underneath the spit and ire
lies a broken man?

I sing for him.

Cover

(crossposted from Facebook and with apologies to Rent

Live in my house,
O seed of the goddess,
And I’ll be your shelter
From wind and from rain. 
Just pay me back,
The moment you flower,
With one thousand kisses
From one hundred mouths. 
Be my lover,
My mother, my daughter, my death,
And I’ll cover you.

A portrait of a man in pain

(crossposted from Facebook)

(Written after Day 1 of volunteering at the Authentic Man Program.)

A man craves love, desperately, the way a bird craves the sky. But a man’s life is barren of love. The men around him are afraid of loving him and each other; they have never been shown how. The women worry about him, but it’s not the same, or there aren’t any. He dates, or not, but it doesn’t last. If love stumbles its way into a man’s life, unexpected and sublime, he gropes at it clumsily and it slips through his fingers.

A man, thinking of love, feels fear. A man feels grief. A man feels despair. A man feels rage. All of these are unacceptable, and so he disowns them. Who could love a man’s face made ugly by fear, or grief, or despair, or rage? Who could love so much pain in a man? A man locks away his fear, his grief, his despair, and his rage, and sinks them as deep in the ice as he can.

A man wanders through his life, frozen and alone. A man finds it easy to keep doing this. In time his pain can become a distant memory. He can take comfort in the ice. But he is unsatisfied (being unsatisfied is acceptable) about something.

One day a man might follow his dissatisfaction back to the ice. A man might stare at the ice. A man might take a deep breath, and blow out slowly onto the ice. A man might see the ice begin to melt. A man might be scared shitless of the flood to come.

And so the work begins.

The divine

(crossposted from Facebook)

Hunt the divine. Smell its scent on the wind. Strain your ears to hear its voice. See its shadow on the ocean waves. Find the tracks left behind by the divine in mud, in broken branches, in dying birds.

When you find the divine, dash it against the rocks and suck the marrow out of its bones. Fill yourself with the divine. Taste the salt of its blood. Digest the divine. Shit the divine. Smear it on your face.

The divine is radiant power. The divine is blinding horror. The divine is roaring pain. The divine will destroy you. Welcome it.

When the divine looks you in the eye, hold it closer than a lover. Crush the unbearable sweetness of the divine against your hips. Worship the divine with your mouth, your hands, your spine, with everything in you that knows how to love. Fuck the divine. Hold nothing back.

Sing the divine. Dance the divine. Cry the divine. Scream the divine.

Masks

(crossposted from Facebook)

(This is not about you, unless it is.)

You go through your life vaguely numb and disconnected or vaguely afraid and anxious about everything. Other people are a source of judgment and shame and you reflexively avoid putting yourself in situations or doing things where you might open yourself up to that judgment. Instead you slowly perfect a mask that allows you to interact safely, to get through the day without anything too bad happening.

Then you meet someone.

You catch each other’s eyes from across the room. You look at each other. Something inside you melts, and you come into contact with something that feels powerfully human – deep and ancient and beautiful, light as a feather, bright as the sun. You yearn for this. It feels right in a way that nothing else in your life does. You drop your mask, a little. And for a time, things are not so bad.

Then it starts to go wrong. One of you says or does something, and it touches a wound in the other. You both have so many wounds. You may not even know about the most important ones. It hurts so much to look at them that you desperately pretend to each other that they aren’t there. You apologize, you say it didn’t matter and you were just being silly, you attempt to move on. You can keep this up for weeks or months or years if that’s what it takes. Your masks calcify.

But you can’t keep this up forever. One day your mask breaks. It all comes pouring out – all of your pain, all of your anger. They hurt too, and they respond in kind. What is most poignant about this moment is that your hearts, wounds and all, have never been closer to the surface – they are so close they could almost touch. In some sense you are never more human than in this moment. But you can’t see this about each other through the pain.

All you see is a monster, finally unmasked.

Poetry

(crossposted from Facebook)

They spent 16 years teaching me not to listen to myself, but then they also had the gall to try to teach me about poetry

Listen. When I read poems in school, I felt nothing. Nobody had told me there was anything to feel. We talked about meter, or symbolism, as if those things were the point, and it never occurred to me that those things are not the point, and it would never have occurred to me that the point is to listen for the music coming from the poet’s soul – because I didn’t even know that was an option, and even if I had I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea how, and anyway it wouldn’t have improved my grade in English class.

Now I am just barely, barely beginning to understand that poetry is how a soul makes itself understood, because I am just barely, barely beginning to see and hear souls at all.