Skins 

We drove in the rain for hours. Familiar circles down roads I’ve forgotten. 

“Something happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.” 

I came home and washed away the home. I slathered myself in coconut oil to kill the microbes. I combed out the cigarette smoke. 

Maybe all I’m trying to do is keep the happening contained. Keep the places minimal. Keep myself narrow. 

My family’s love reassures me, reminds me, relieves me of my burdens. I am happiest when I am surrounded by knowledge. 

“I’ve got all the time in the world don’t you want some of that…/ I had all the time in the world you wanted none of that”

Jonah 

I want to tell you that when you were small there had never been anyone like you before. You were hot and fresh, one of a kind. I want to tell you that when you were young you slept with your hands on your chest and your fingers just touching. I want to tell you that you liked to fall asleep touching another person: skin to skin and preferably within your grasp. 

I want to tell you that I can’t imagine anything bad ever happening to you. That I can’t bear the thought of your oncoming teeth or fevers or scraped knees. I don’t want to imagine the shitty things people will make you feel or do. I love you baby, and every time feels like no time before. I want to tell you baby how much you’re like your dad. How you make the same sneer motion with the corner of your nose. How your eyes and your forehead are so similar. How holding you and feeling your small body in my palms takes me back to his small body and his vulnerability. How love hurts. How someone so tiny can have so much power. I’m not really sure what you want baby, or who you’ll be. I want to tell you that in this moment as you fuss in your sleep that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that right now you’re small and you’re here and we get to be related. I get to love your tiny head and your big eyes and your body that generates more heat than you need. 

Oil pulling 

In all the world where everything looks the same there are little pockets of my people. 

My people curse and chew with their mouth open and insult you with their wit and sly observations. 

I am always missing my people. Even when I’m with my people there’s a people missing. There’s a space I can smell and feel just beyond the borders of where I am. My people ask me if I’m happy to go home to be home and I say yes but what I really mean is for now. For now because somewhere is another home calling my name and I try to quiet that call but it is always there – a tinny ringing in my ears. I’m trying to be present in the swaying sea. Trying to hold my ground in a swift current. A rushing tide. 

Sometimes I don’t give you the time or the space to speak. You may think it is because I don’t want to hear or because I do not care. That is not true. Mostly I just know what you want to say, what you have to say, and you don’t need to say it. I already know. But I forget sometimes that people do need to say things aloud. For the benefit of all. I will try. When I am not surprised it is not because I think you’re stupid or because I wasn’t listening; I just don’t know how to respond to things I already know. 

Let’s swish coconut oil around in our mouths. Let’s follow the tracks down to the old bridge and watch the light on the water. Let’s go anywhere where home doesn’t matter. 

4th and Roebling

Sunshine stretching like valley riverbeds, They call my name from down the hall.

And if I would leave would you go with me? Would you lay me down to get my sleep?

I don’t know if I use my head the right way, But then again who’s to say that I’m wrong?

I’m sick of this longing but I feel too dull, when it’s gone.
Living lives in two places wears my soul too thin, I was walking from the station just to meet you in the morning, I believe it dawned on me, I don’t know where I began, I was walking from the station just to meet you.

I ain’t the same anymore, I ain’t the same from before, You’ve gone and changed I’m sure, I’m trying to find the right words.

Thankful

This morning my aunt (my mother’s 1st cousin) shared this:

I love this shot. [picture of kitchen table not included] Reminds me of the dining room of my Great-Grandma Goldie McCleary Walker. If I stare long enough Great-Grandpa Herschel materializes, saying, “Goldie, get these kids something to eat! Want some ice cream, kid?” Grandma would be fussing with items atop the sideboard turn around and laugh, then take the few steps into the kitchen.

Soon, I would be settled at the table with Grandpa, attending to coloring books and crayons pulled from the floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinet behind me, a cold bowl of ice cream in the crook of one arm. They are always laughing in my memory, he in his dark trousers, light shirt and light blue cardigan, she in her trim, starched cotton dress, stockings and sturdy shoes. 

Grandma Goldie always wore her hair pinned up in the back, and I remember the shock of finding her one night (when I had been allowed to sleep over) to be standing in front of the mirror in the lamplight of her otherwise dark bedroom in a long, white nightgown, pulling the pins from her head. I watched the long, white hair fall in an unwinding coil down the center of her back. I had no idea she had so much hair. I must have gasped, because she turned around and seemed surprised, almost embarrassed to find me there. I was whisked back to the spare room across the hall, into the tall bed with its many covers, tucked in and kissed goodnight. There I was left to stare at the ancient daguerreotype of a couple on their wedding day, reportedly ancestors of mine, staring their somber stare from the wall facing the bed. They won the staring contest as I fell asleep and dreamt of them, silent and bouncing in a horse-drawn buggy in the cinema of my mind.

But all that was forgotten the next morning as I helped Grandma Goldie fix bacon and eggs, and laugh along with her as she told little stories and sang old church hymns.

Most of my best memories are centered around cooking, eating, and the joining of bodies around a dining table. This legacy continued with Herschel and Goldie’s son, my paternal grandfather Paul and grandmother, Ruth Alvord. “Ruth, get these kids something to eat!,” he would say, slapping the top of the dining table, his stub of a cigar in the corner of his mouth, his hat tipped jauntily on his bald head. It’s no wonder I’ve battled the bulge all my life. Grandpa Paul once told me in my 30s I was “gettin’ a little broad in the beam, baby.” I told him he had only himself to blame. He winced and grinned, patted me on the back. “Let’s see what we’ve got in the fridge, kid.”
Grandad Paul had this gruff voice and this mouth that made him look like a radio talk show host. Their house was full of mysteries to discover and stories to share. 

I don’t have to explain myself. I can keep quiet. I can think all my thoughts to myself. But I write them because they mean something to me. “You knew in five minutes, but I knew in a sentence.”

I fell asleep and dreamed of 1152. I dreamed of a blue dress and green grass and gray stone buildings. I dreamed of death and fire and cats. This is why. I write because I remember. I would never ask you to give a fuck; I only ask you to be able to explain why you do not. 

Unabridged

I cut orange potatoes with an orange knife. A slice drops to the floor next to my orange socks.

I spread my hands with seasoning. I don’t know what will happen to the potatoes exactly, only that they will soften and become edible.

I don’t think thoughts while I cut the potatoes. I think:

Of Carlsberg pint glasses on the rocky shore. Of going home for the holidays. Of asking my mum to teach me Tarot. Of the quiet of my day. My silence is numbered. Don’t ask me how I know but it’s something I feel. I think of my father calling me “lovely” and “woman.” I wonder what about me triggered “lovely”? My trash talking during darts; my thoughtlessly placed crass language; my ability to fall asleep on the floor wrapped in a sheet with the TV and all the lights on-me at 28. My slurping of the coffee in the way he does. The slight disapproval in my eyes and my mouth whenever she would say something I didn’t agree with.

I can smell the potatoes browning. The sweetness wafting up. I bought you a book but I don’t know if you’ll use it. I would keep it for myself, that does seem safer, but it’s not my style. Not my book to keep. I shred the spinach with my fingers. The water and the oil hiss as they mix.

And then suddenly, an inventory of care crops up. So I’ve named it. Without a trigger, I see you that time you didn’t kiss me but rested your nose on my nose. I feel you get up in the middle of the night to check the lock with a concerned look and curve of your fingers. You threaten to throat punch the boy who made me cry. I tell you I wouldn’t have come if I had anywhere else to go. You hurt. We argue. I don’t apologize. As long as I’m not the one hurting. But I was still hurting. We fell asleep with our backs to one another. You smiled at me when we woke. I think of that time you put the pillow under my head when you thought I was asleep. I was asleep, but when you moved my head I woke up. I didn’t open my eyes.

I consider how much space is required for growth as I mix the spinach into the potatoes. I watch it start to shrink and darken. The potatoes have blackened, some of them. I know they will be ready soon. It’s strange the things you think you forget, but really they just get pushed back into storage. It’s funnier that I almost feel like you’re drawing the memories out yourself. Like taking the needle and the pump to my veins. They weren’t there, before. They were buried way back, and now it’s like…contents must have shifted during flight. I open the door and out they fall. One after the other. I struggle to catch them, but before long it’s me at the ball pit. Covered. I shake them off I pull out a plate I look for the fork I used earlier. Remember that day on the bus I told you I was ticklish or the night you danced in the window. I told you to stop dancing and come down and talk to me. You kept dancing. I tried to have a conversation with your roommate, but you ran your fingers up the length of my feet. I jumped. We stopped talking and looked over at you. I told you my socks were dirty. You met my gaze, and kept going. Heel to arch to toes. I pulled my feet away. Your finger followed. I drink my tea that tastes like rum. I add the milk to cut it. I’ve lost track of the plot line streaming on the TV.

You poked me in the nose in April and I took my glasses off and you said, “you can see me now.” You didn’t seem to care at all like me. How can I know what your care looks like? As if I expect the shape to fit so nicely in my hand. As if I expect it to be big and bright and easy to manage.

Hard to explain 

I am the smoker at the bar lost in the fumes of my cigarette. Out back by the trash cans where I can’t pollute anyone else with my filthy habit. 

I don’t know quite how to say it. It’s hard to explain. I saw the way you looked at him. And it caught me. I recognized the look. At first I couldn’t place why. Was it a look you had given me? A look you had flashed at others in my presence? Not that. It wasn’t betrayal I felt. It wasn’t ownership towards the grin on your face, the stretch of your eyebrows. Not the feeling I had been had. 

I recognized the worn of the look. I recognized the sentiment. I felt the shallowness of your look. I rocked back on my heels. The wind was blowing and I was freezing and I wanted to be nowhere else but 30 paces in front of where I was but I planted my heels and let that look bounce around in the richness of my memory banks. Looking for the familiar slot. 

I know that look. 

I’ve felt that look on my own face. The pull of the corner grin and the strain in the back of my eyes. 

And I was reminded again of our sameness. Of this foil character I have found. I sense your shadow on the other side of the mirror. Our reflections running parallel. 

“Found on out forgotten where to hide”