This morning I saw Jesus (I call it Universe) reflected

in the eyes of a Black Man I picked up on Dixie Highway

in the rain. He looked younger than me,

had dreads and dressed in Carhartt layers

and carried      two work bags.   Tools,

heavy like my step-father’s

(I’ve been trying not to write about him,

not because the topic is too much, but because

a Christmas Eve suicide deserves more than a fit of words

vomited on an anniversary. The story is a real gas.

I promise.)

 

Rocky has three boys:

13, 11, and 8 (I think).

“I’m working on seven,” he said.

 

We talked about the weather in earnest

(we both fear February’s revenge and agree

that December has been mild, though, the last few years—

maybe the season is shifting).

 

“Thank you for trusting that I wasn’t a serial killer and letting me help you.”

“Be careful out there.”

And that’s when Love, the divine kind, became solid

and I saw it in the way his face froze

when he saw himself in my eyes, too

 

 

 

 

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12/6/18

Grace is waking up as late as your dizzy, dizzy head needs to and knowing that a stream of angels will pass through today, that your bar manager is getting your day covered for tomorrow so you can move out of your apartment on time. It’s relocating your three customers on yesterday’s shift (favorites all–trusted–five years ago you lied and said you were a niece to one [you and another bartender who has resurfaced too] so you could visit him in the ER after he fell off his bar stool) to the far side of the bar so you could share the small space heater on the counter away from the doors. Love is when one sunbeam fought through the awful December sky and landed all over you and you caught one of them seeing you bask in it without any objectification fucking up the warmth.
 
This is what it looks like when your circle knows you’re tired. They carry you.
 
Your mother packed your boxes while you practiced the tease with Old Man _____ at the bar. Sometimes you held his hands on the counter. He’s a kind old man who hugs you and tells you to be careful when he leaves always. He’s the one who fell all those years ago. This, too, is love and grace.
 
You spent as much in the jukebox as you made in tips, but you made it through and home. That’s what counts on those days.
 
Today is different. Better and just starting. I could die this afternoon, but I probably won’t. The fact that I can even type that out means I’m wandering out into thinner trees. My Tribe will come like they said they would, and somehow this will get done.

Journal 11/20/18

I can’t slow it down. What if I just start typing it all? The whole river that’s coming through my head. Word after word after word–there’s no way to do it. The moment I start making sentences, organization begins. All those words, all those feelings I’ve learned to associate with sound conventions designed to transmit meaning to others and create a sense of communion–that’s why I write. It helps me.

Sometimes I talk about Writer Brain. If I never see another word of mine published, I still have it. The way I’m wired, I need it all to connect on paper, because I spend most of my time feeling out of order. Whatever diamond thread stitches 1995 to 2018, right now to last week, I struggle to find it on my own. I grasp at it running through stories, the narrative I construct in order to keep going in “the right” direction.

I’ve learned to live by the cardinal points. Am I going north or south? Up or down, and which way do I want to go? The devil is forever in the details, so sometimes I keep it vague. Other times I lay out an intricate plan so Satan and I can rendezvous and have a snog (I would like to steal this slang from the Brits–sometimes it’s just the word). And then I set things on fire.

I’ve junior high-daydreamed several versions of a Why I Write (that thing, that personal essay requested by an editor, that I learned as an undergrad to associate with Making It As A Writer), and I even have one pretentious stab at it on a story that a flash fiction site published (it was my way of trying to explain why I’d stayed with my daughter’s father after I realized his transgender thing wasn’t a thing, she was she and that was that–I should have gone immediately out of kindness to us all, but I stayed and let falseness mark our lives. I contorted myself and swung from one flaming treetop to another and pretended it was all right. I went nose-to-nose with strangers in stores who harassed my partner, then I hate-fucked them at parties weeks later). It’s not necessarily false, what I wrote, but I tried to make it slick and palatable.

Today the words are a stream in my head, but they’re slowing down. I’m technically on vacation; all of my children are with their fathers. I’m using this time to study the map. I’m using it to reconnect. Right now, everything feels shattered.

 

 

That Time I Pretended to be a Masseuse in Kentucky

I lit this candle today

for the first time

in years. I let it burn

while I said my Prayer

To the Hustle-Gods and The Universe (because

this candle came from Paducah,

from a barn where I might have died

but instead gave my first commercial hummer–

I hate that term, but it flows. I’d told him

I was a masseuse, then I rubbed him

with olive oil I’d scented

with cheap, drug store perfume.

He bought wax fuck-ups from a nearby candle factory

and poured it into glass and sold them for $3.

He gave me this one on my way out.)

 

My dime store Voodoo runs like this:

Today I lit this candle

that I haven’t lit in years.

It’s perfect. Serendipitous even.

So all hail  the hustlers,

the lunatics and queens

of making it all come

together. Bless those

saloon girls and the men who pay them,

the honest dealers who mean no harm

(like that one in Gary

who came to my apartment when he found out

I’d overdosed on his stuff.

I gave him a book on Egypt and cried.).

Thank you for all this grace.

 

Crazy Love

Boyfriend says it’s important to get up and shower every day.

He says, Leave the house for something. You have to or you’ll go crazy. 

I tell him, No major life decisions when you’re manic, and he agrees.

We talk for nearly an hour, his manic chatter recognized and named, my seizure-like anxiety (it’s sudden and physical, every molecule screaming to my central nervous system Something terrible is about to happen to you) tamed.

Thank the stars that he and I rarely sync up on symptoms. He’s Italian with a temper, and we’re both good with words.

The risk isn’t yelling, I said. We were gliding south on Lake Shore, one of our first car rides together. It’s sadness. We’ll drown if we’re not careful.

So we are.

Some mornings I wake up to a message that says, Love, I’m not okay today. On a good day, I ask him what I can do and he tells me, Nothing, you’re doing it. It’ll get better. It’s just bad right now. And it always does.

But self-awareness binds us; we disintegrate without it. We make nooses of guilt and stare at one another across gallows on the bad ones. We hallucinate fingers of blame, carve black holes in the sky around us. Climb inside.

When we come back out to breathe, we confess and offer absolution.

It’s okay to fall off the edge sometimes. Just try not to. Unless you need it, love. Then I want you to float.