Death Legends

I’m standing on top of the red rocks that over look St. George Utah. It’s a city now, like Salt Lake, the sky a permanent oiled orange. Starlings and grease-monkey sparrows clean food-shrapnel from the streets and buckled sidewalks.

I’m dead and fed up. I sit down in the sand and lean against the rock, pressing the crown of my nose against the old stone, and whisper, Tell me your story.

The sun stops. A goose hangs overhead. Then it all reverses. The sun sets in the east, rises in the west, the city begins to deconstruct until the last lamp falls, electric cables roll up, cars all back away, and the wobbling wagons return to Missouri.  Then faster backwards.  Canyon floors return to the mesas. Natives remove their stories from the rock and migrate backwards to Africa and Asia where I suppose language began, now a simple music in the trees.

Here time stops again.  It leaves me in peace, in a land no conscious human can ever know. Its absolute quiet and stillness something I feared and hoped death would be. A far away ancient moment , before rain or wind began their permanent work. Before the continents went their separate ways and the first species lost its last memer. 

Don’t move, please don’t let time begin its theft again. The mountains and wild grasses hold their breath a little longer. But I can’t help but cry out in weeping relief, and the rains begin again, the wind talks in the grass, the sun begins its apparent westward travel. Mornings and nights come at the usual times. A river runs south, creatures come to drink and make their practical love.  In my fantasy, I stay here for twelve million years, until time returns me to my death. That will be enough I think, enough rest from the wreck of conscious living. 

I should be ready by then to haunt my former fellow humans. Sick of the loud over-abundant things, I’ll become the spirit who throws your keys down the sewer. Even the ring your grandmother gave you, and you gave to your granddaughter – I will slide it off her finger one cold morning, roll it out into the apartment building stairwell and give it to the homeless feral cat that no one sees or feeds. 

You will curse me, the way I cursed my imaginary gods, having lost all I thought there was. A wife and the parents I married into. A girlhood.  Maybe five or six lovers.  My own mother and father.  To age, naturally I hope, in time.  And your loves also, when whatever-death-is comes to take them, I will be there with the others, to greet them and sit with them around the spirit fire, trading former names, sharing everything we know about the pleasures and losses of living.  

When the life-stories end, the elders and I will add a few dead logs to the fire, and then, beginning from the youngest dead to the oldest, we’ll reveal our notes and sketches.  Everywhere we’ve been.  Everything we’ve seen and done being dead. 

Just Another Angry Poem

Anger hurts, and the hurt makes me angry.
I’m angry that I’ve had to rebuild my self-worth.
I’m angry that the week and destitute are blamed
for their lack of a home, for bad teeth,
for no job and using Medicaid and food stamps
if they have a nice pair of shoes
as if nice shoes were a privilege in this country.
I’m angry.
I hurt with anger.
It’s like a chisel chipping bone from the skull.
I’m angry that pain teaches relief.
I’m angry that life leads to death and no one bothered
to come back to say something encouraging.
Jesus doesn’t count. 
God no. I want someone recent.
David Bowie, Chester Bennington, Robin Williams,
the young woman in salt Lake City Utah who stepped into traffic.
I’m angry that we are the source of our own suffering.
Don’t we suffer enough being human?
Isn’t consciousness anguish enough?
What happened to Hamlet? Does no one read Shakespear anymore?
Or the love sonnets and odes and death poems?
Have we fogottan the pleasant depths of each other?
I’m angry at our economic god. It will never crawl into the dark corners
with the addicted failures, the suicidals,
and hold them the way we would be held.
I’m angry and the anger hurts. It’s too much.
Too much. And unnatural. As if Abraham had ignored the saving angel
and killed his son anyway, then his neighor’s son
and the wives and second cousins and the dog
because he’d already gone this far, so why not.
I’m sick with rage.
I’d beat my bed with an iron rod if I could stand straight.
I’d beat the bed and the desk and topple the walls,
if every bed wasn’t already beaten and burned down to its springs.
If every wall ever built weren’t already blasted back to the mountains
and rebar stood up, like crooked middle fingers,
as if to say what we dare not say to ourselves.

The People’s State of the Union Address

The next time you tell us you’re sorry
about whatever thing that can’t or won’t be done or the next time you say
take a deep breath or look for the silver lining or it could be worse or the next time
you assure us our lives matter and don’t give up and death isn’t the answer
we will say this only one more time because we know
how many years it takes for you to process anything we bring you
only one more time that we are through being passive and calm
one “no” away from releasing every last ounce of fury pent up these hundres of years
and don’t you done be sorry
our sanity is not a negotiation are you serious
about the deep breath really the time for relaxing has past
that canoe has gone and we will not be calm we will not muffle our anger we won’t look for the silver lining
as if it came pre-packed and delivered when we least expect
we make our own
we demand it
you give us no choice
we know more than all of you combined how much our lives matter but tell us again
what we already know
yammer away if you must framed as you always are by your body guards and cameras
go ahead and spit out your proclamations
bow to the gods of economy and impossibility
we demand to know when
the farce you call government
will take any convincing practical visible real action to prove
that we the people matter
you’ve deliberated enough
you’ve dribbled the ball around the courts long enough
your stalling is killing us
and we know more than you care know
how much our lives matter.

What I Hold On To

7:30 in the morning. Dear gods what stupid dreams.
I was balding and still married. I still felt
required to attend church. I think we were living
in China. This was before I let go of anything.
But I’m awake now, or so they say, living
a dream in which I’ve let go of religion, but also faith.
Marriage, but also love. Because I don’t know
how to let go of some without letting go
of it all. I’m talking about you, Dad, and you,
Mom. When I told you I’d quit work
and Dad said well he’s not going to be homeless,
as if I had been speaking to him all my life,
as if I had ever called specifically for him,
as if I’d told anyone that I wanted to be like him
when I grow up, as if he’d been the dad
who threw a baseball with his only boy-child
and hadn’t tossed himself on the altar
of his career in order to provide a house and food,
cars, a healthy retirement that allows me
to move home again after another failed job,
more death fantasies, more than two weeks
at Highland Ridge Hospital and another
two-thousand dollars in the hole. And what about
the burgundy lipstick and bra, the hormones,
these hillocks rising from the chest, and the
son and he and all that anger I’ve held
over a stolen girlhood and his insistence
on a continuing manhood, and how I’ve hated… 
Why can’t I let go of that?
It’s only been eight months since I left home last.
And now, going back again, Mom asks
how long is your desk?
Do you still have that wingback chair?

And she’s cutting out paper to make a new
plan for the room because this time she wants
to be ready, and I’ll be cooking and won’t
barricade myself in my room because that doesn’t help.
We need a plan, she says, and I want to speak
to your therapist so I can say exactly
how I feel and I want straight advice from someone
who knows you and what it’s like to be you,
and then we’ll talk we’ll not hold anything back.
You should know it was never once a question
of where you would go. Your father didn’t hesitate.
You will not be homeless

But the lost girl, the woman I couldn’t possibly
be for them, and the hurt, the wandering without
a named place in the family … Please, my gods,
my joys that return in the morning –
the vacuum between worlds has sucked away
whatever lives inside my body.
I’ve let it go.  I didn’t know what else to do. 
My gods, I’ve held on to the wrong things.

The Trouble With this (trans)Woman’s Social Life

The problem for me, when trying to go out and meet new people, is that I want to get close to someone while at the same time keeping my distance. I’m not talking emotional space, I’m talking physical space. I desperately want to connect with someone face to face, shoulder to shoulder. But the closer one gets, I fear, the more pronounced the trans part of me becomes visible.

It’s hard to explain exactly how strange it is to look at my face in the mirror and see the male still hanging around (so to speak).   Taking a shower is not enjoyable.  In and out and try not to think or look too much.  It’s not about beauty.  I don’t feel like I’m ugly.  It’s more like a Frankenstein’s monster kind of feeling.  My body has changed in some wonderful ways, but the things that haven’t changed are hard to ignore.  I don’t like the idea of covering up the male parts in order to “pass” as female, but I cover up anyway.  It’s too upsetting not to.

I also understand that I will need to accept the things I can’t change. But the unchangeables aren’t as many as one might think.  Also I’m only 7 months into hormones. So I’ll give it time. I’ll be patient, and I’ll continue to go out and be present, maybe even participate here and there, in my city’s local merriment and madness.

self portrait_25


(this is the title of one of Anne Sexton’s poems. The last line is an altered version of a line from that poem.)

It’s late morning at sugar House Coffee and I’m reading
Anne Sexton between sips of iced coffee, between
glances at the couples who stand in line, and the barista
calling out drinks, and ice grinding in the frap mixer.

A quiet music sleeps in the ceiling and the sun is kept
a safe distance away. It’s furious face makes the cars
rage with anger and the crude streets melt back
into oil. But not in here, drinking cold coffee with Anne.

Yes yes I know the wash is still waiting, the apartment floor
glitters with dust and dirt, seed beads and snips of tin wire.
I haven’t forgotten the credit card bill, or Medicaid paper work,
or the blankets that smell like dog and salt. I haven’t forgotten,

and they won’t forget me. So give me this morning with Anne
in our brand new bodies that aren’t quite women yet.

Faith Again

I recently found these two pictures on my computer, both from the Oregon coast. They had been saved in a folder entitled “pictures for iPad”. I don’t have the iPad anymore, but I remember creating the folder specifically for pictures I wanted to have with me all the time.

There were several other pictures in the folder, but I mostly gravitated to these two. Such quiet, simple pictures. The cormorant’s sillouhette blending in with the rock. The flock of sandpipers flowing with its own current tangent to the ocean’s. My stomach settles and the voices in the mind are speechless.

I’ve always loved birds and the ocean, and photographing birds at these beaches was surreal to me. But that’s not what I love about the pictures now. I love them simply for their quiet beauty. Mostly shape and color.  They aren’t splattered with the noise of too much detail.

I look at them and feel good. For once, since I can’t remember, I can say that I carry with me something beautiful and good. That these things still exist.  When I doubt again (because I will), I can look at these pictures, in some quiet coffee shop in the near future, and remember this moment today.  Maybe also those moments years ago when I had the presence of mind to look and recognize and take the pictures that would preserve the faith I had in the world. A faith I never expected to lose.