Wednesday, September 26, 2012

worth it.

Post-work, killing time at the library with iced coffee. Renee is released from her own work day at 5 adn then we are going to walk to another neighborhood. It's nice to have a place to go, a friend to spend time with, on a rainy day like this. If I didn't have a destination I would most likely head home and sleep. This is, after all, crazy-good sleepin' weather.

I'm a turtle slowly nudging her way out of the shell. One little leg wrinkle at a time, edging out and squinting against the light. Over the past few months I've felt almost toxic to others--my disposition and general attitude whittled down to a dull, dull point. A defensive dull point even though there is nothing to defend. I couldn't shake the feeling, couldn't wise up and be present in moments. I'd sit in a booth all close with a handful of friends and find myself staring off in the distance. And that's if I got out of the house. Unfortunately I had grown quite skilled at stopping myself before the front door, some inner ugly thing reasoning that my presence wasn't needed or wanted, convinced the easiest thing was to not face the anxiety. At the same time, during all of this withdrawling, I was terribly lonely. That kind of lonely that throbs and grows and learns how to swallow(particularly people, particularly me). Such a weird clump of feelings to deal with.

I'm edging out of darkness and into some light. Things like this require time and effort, and not just effort but the type of grunt work that involves falling a lot and getting back up. So I've been stumbling and dusting myself off. I've been reaching out when I need to, reaching out to the right things. I contacted a therapist. When I wake up in the morning, I think about what kind of day I want to have. I consider the experiences, people, and visual things that make me happy, that calm my heart, and I drift closer to them. I am fighting for it.

What thrills me most is writing and connecting. The roots of all my things and thoughts. I come back to it again and again, my lighthouse in the lost waters of a pissed off sea. I'm alright if I have a page to scribble on, and I'm good if I have other human beings to listen to. Yes, the listening. Right now it is more important than talking. I've owned up to the heavy indigo cloud surrounding my halo lately. I've said all I can about it to those close to me. Now it is in the action. The act of being better. The act of self-love and safety first. The act of being brave, of trust. There are so many things.

To sum it up, I'm gonna be just fine.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


My laptop is six years old. We are edging past the grey hairs, heading fast to immobility. In other words, she's shitting the bed. Same with my router. Right now I'm updating this in a coffee shop for the reliable connection. Which leads me to scribbling in notebooks again. Callous popping back up on my pinky from pen-holding; I grip her in a fist. It's nice to get back to the practice, to do other things around the house. Reading books with my dinner, you know. Unplugging. Earlier this week I looked down at my hands in natural light and aging struck me hard and fast. There it was. My hands looked different, all the cross-hatchings of my skin magnified in fantastic grid. Honestly the sight took my breath away. My knuckles are covered in latitudes, asterisks, lines that border themselves like vibration or water disturbance. Some new freckle, same old broken life line. Loop of vein on the back of one like a roundabout of interstate. I'm thirty-one. I feel like I'm finally wearing it. A dear friend gently pointed out how sad I've been lately. Those are the good ones--the ones unafraid to say what needs to be heard. It was only upsetting because I knew it and felt embarrassed about the transparency. The blues coming off me in sparks, settling into my friendships like splinters. Sadness will not just devour your mood. Sadness will eat up your connections yet remain bottomless. Sometimes it's easier to own up to it than it is to stop mentioning it. An emotional tick. My friend (again, gently) suggested revisiting therapy. The second friend to do so in a week. I have the need and I have the contacts, now it's time to put it into action and pick up the damn phone, to properly ask for help. I can no longer sporadically patch myself like a tire when it comes to all of this. The old tricks aren't working anymore. A lot of changes are tumbling down the pipeline and I want to be strong and ready for them. And now to bow out of this here coffee shop. I'm highly tempted to disconnect my wireless completely. With a computer on the fritz and a shoddy router, I've been forced to be creative. A proper example of this is the giant blanket fort currently set up in the living room.

Friday, September 14, 2012

doug's poems

I first met Doug in early 2000. I was eighteen years old, just discovering the unmatched rush of getting on stage and spilling my guts. Piles and piles of poems read to no one but myself finally released into the wild. I drove 30 miles north and put myself behind the microphone once a month. We were a gathering of all ages, though I might've been the youngest. Doug was a mystery for most of it. He always took the same slot: first poet of the open mic portion of the show. First guy on. I think he worked nights, dashed to us before punching the clock. He had that voice--perfect blend of rasp and smooth. A man with kind words for everyone, even though most nights he couldn't stick around for the entire show. Every month I made sure to get there early. I never wanted to miss his reading.

I left Dayton in 2001 and stayed in touch with Doug almost by accident. Around the holidays he would send a card with a poem, written longhand. Doug's handwriting slightly slides to the right in quick cursive. And last year when one of the poets back home contacted me to say he passed away, I pulled out the cards and stared at his penmanship. It took me a long time to understand what Doug meant to me. We were not close--we read on the same stage and shared the same love for it--we shared words of praise. He was, undoubtedly, a symbol of poetry. He seemed to write regularly, made time for it. He was also tied tightly to a pivotal point in my life. He was a part of a beginning, one of the originals. I missed my chance to tell him. It had been a long time since I wrote a letter.

I went back home for a reading in his honor. We listened to a few old recordings(Doug's voice was the first to fill the room that night, sticking to his first poet tradition) and read a few of our own pieces. A couple of cardboard boxes filled with loose leaf paper sat on a small table. All of the pages were filled with writing. All of it sliding to the right, quick cursive. Doug's poems. Three or four of us plucked through the boxes. Poems and poems and poems. Some pages were stacked together tightly along the sides--the piles never ended. Poems on flyers, college-ruled, matchbooks. The evidence blew my mind.

A few of us grabbed stacks and retreated to our corners with them. A decision was made to transcribe the handwritten pages, compile the poems, create a book for Doug. I drove my pile 5 hours east to Pittsburgh tucked in a folder. The folder traveled back and forth between the writing desk and living room, tending to the task when I could. I never managed to transcribe consistently, though last week I dove into the collection again armed with blank pages and pen. The decoded stack continues to grow. Doug tackled the hard stuff--addiction, self-preservation, recovery. Words on loneliness, old haunts, lost friends, local jazz, love. Each one completed urges me to the next one. This is an uncovering, a slow reveal. I feel a responsibility to do this. For Doug, for other writers, for the evidence itself. For the work and the moment behind each poem.

Transcribing the work becomes a meditative act. Sometimes I consider my own stacks upon stacks of poems, the hard drive busting at the seams. They are on the backs of flyers, cocktail napkins, receipts. They are complete and partial--some are just a sentence. I type and scrawl and lose them. When I am gone where will they go? A folder, a drawer,a safety deposit box. Each page and poem a moment. "Misdemeanor model have green room heart attack..." scribbled on a Club Cafe napkin. The blue notebook full of writings from my old porch on Butler Street. I guess that's the thing. The work can be a time increment, a book mark jutting--wherever you were when you wrote it, whatever the heartache or giddy behind it. Here, the proof: you were moved to move the pen. Life becomes archived, heart beats in ellipses.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

letter to my niece & nephew

Dear Maddie and Cohen,
Somehow(even though it is inevitable and expected) time has passed and here we are--a five year old and a 27 month old. It is harder and harder to imagine life and living before you--truth is I can't anymore. The existence of you both has done something incredible for our little family. I'll never be able to put down in words what that something is, but I can recognize it in all of us. My father(Papaw ChooChoo to you guys) has become quite the softie since your arrival. He's always happy to see you, play cars or princesses, or nod off quietly on the couch as an episode of Max and Ruby winds down. Someday I will make sure to tell you all of the amazing things about him...there's too much to put down here right now. When I was younger he was a bit strict and overprotective, but I guess a dad has to be when raising two girls by himself. It's nice to see him soften up a bit with you guys.

In the picture above you are all dressed up for a family wedding. I'm sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you both are all movement. Especially Cohen, who doesn't really care for the concept of sitting still(unless Bubble Guppies is on). Maddie, I watched my sister(your mom) curl your hair as you tried to stand as still as possible. She painted your toes and nails a pail pink and you beamed at your reflection when she was finished. You are getting taller all the time. I'm constantly impressed with what a little lady you are, so mindful of others and always using your manners. You are especially impressive around other kids. You know how to share and include others--even your little brother, which I know is hard for you at times. Every now and then he takes the one particular mermaid doll you wanted to play with, sometimes he knocks down all of the blocks we used to build a giant house. But you've also noticed how he mimics and copies you endlessly, referring to you as "Z." He follows after you with a great big smile. I love that you both have each other.

You are also in school now--kindergarten! I can't believe it. You cried the first few times that someone dropped you off, but were fine by the time class started. I don't blame you--it's a big adjustment. It's funny--I can remember a handful of things from my own days in kindergarten, and remembering those things makes me wonder what you will remember someday. I want it all to be positive for you.

Cohen, you have the best smile when I walk into the room. Your entire face lights up and you yell "Aunt Nikki!" as if you want the entire neighborhood to know that I've come to visit. Sometimes you take one of your sister's mermaids to give to me, then grab one for yourself and beckon me to follow you around the living room as we make them swim through the air. You will bring your mermaid's face right up to my mermaid's face and say, "Mermaid mermaid mermaid." This is the conversation they have and it cracks me up every time you do it. We've started to move my air mattress in front of the small slide downstairs so that you can slide and land with a bounce. And just like your sister, you love to steal bites of my cereal. Your favorite thing is to pick the berries out of my bowl while proclaiming, "B!" You are also sleeping in your "big boy bed" now. Often when you are put down for a nap, I can still hear you on the monitor babbling to Mickey Mouse before you fall asleep.

I'm so lucky to know such brilliant little people, so lucky to be related to you and to watch you grow and hit milestone after milestone. I have videos and pictures along the way to prove that you were in fact smaller than small at some point...though as time goes on and you grow, it gets harder to wrap my head around. Maddie, I love to hold your hand as we walk through a parking lot. I love that we always want to sit by each other at restaurants, and I love that we can share our imaginations with each other when we play. Cohen, you are quite a charmer. You can scoot down stairs now and when you tell me you love me I get tears in my eyes. I am so very proud to be your aunt, so thankful to be a part of your lives. You both inspire me endlessly. I hope I can do the same for you.