I’m in that mood, that mode. That feeling that sometimes indicates an upcoming Spot where sometimes Poetry happens. It isn’t happening. But anyway, it makes me realize a few things. One is that I am not apparently capable of writing fiction when something doesn’t feel wrong, when something does not in some way or another hurt me or make me feel a bit sad. On one level, that’s good — it means my destiny is not, apparently, to write Greeting Cards, and I can’t think of a worse destiny than that. On another, it’s bad, because it means — and yes, I’m just now admitting this to myself — that I occasionally let things get a little too far south just for the visceral edge of it, just for the Feeling of dissociation that comes, where it takes a poem to get me back to my body, or get me out of it entirely. I let shit go too far just to Feel. I really don’t care for how that might be read, and I don’t care for what it might say about me — and it certainly isn’t conscious and isn’t always about Poetry. But I’ll leave it without further exploration for now, because I’m not done Walking with my Staff, poking its narrow end into black holes and the spaces between rocks, looking for vipers and seashells and beautiful, poisonous flowers that only grow in the dark.

I can’t write without doing this, you see.

I heard a great story tonight. My friend R’s father just died, last week, after a protracted battle with some particularly nasty cancer. In the time he spent with his family during death-week, and the following painfully mundane post-funeral chores, his cousin told him about the family heirloom. It’s not a piece of silver or some porcelain, not an old carved cigar-store Indian or a ring to be passed from mother to daughter-in-law — it’s a title to New Amsterdam signed by Queen Elizabeth I, granting the land of New Amsterdam to this particular clan, which is descended from that most Commonly named of Uncommonly Mythological Men, John Smith. For his family’s service of 99 years to the Crown. Now, quite frankly, I don’t give a shit about the gaps in this story. What I adore is the idea that there could be a piece of paper in a safe deposit box somewhere, held for generations by a family that has become something we might call a mountain family, written in the hand of an English queen, granting this undeveloped piece of property that is now what it is to this clan of brothers. I want to write this, about what this means, about where it could go depending on what alternate universe I put it in. But that does not appear to be happening.

And anyway, I would be stealing the story from its rightful owners, since, after all, the story is all they really have, besides some piece of yellowed paper that supposedly is sitting up in a safe deposit box somewhere.

Anyway, I can’t write about it, because I haven’t found a place where it hurts me, not yet. I have to have that first, some kind of Point of Entry that bites on bones and sucks the marrow out and leaves me a little bit dizzy. The ideal poem, like the Bad Lover, swoops in and takes you away toward everything you Know Better Than To Do. And then you do it anyway, because it feels good even when it hurts, and there is something to be said about relinquishing control.

When I was little, maybe six or eight or maybe a bit older, I remember lying in the backseat of mom’s blue Datsun on the way to somewhere, and holding my left eye open with my fingers, to the sunlight. I had, at that point, acquired some idea that looking straight at the sun would burn your eyes out, and that the Left was associated with what was Bad and Wrong and Evil. I can’t tell you what I was thinking, except I was a dramatic little child on my own quiet terms, and that for some reason, that day, I had decided I needed to burn my left eye out. There might have been a solar eclipse that year — that would explain a bit.

The last solar eclipse I was in a geographical area to *see* was in maybe, 1999? I was stationed in Germany and the eclipse was nearly total there. It was incredible. I was “seeing” a married guy on PCS orders, with his stateside wife’s permission (at least, that’s what I was told), but which had all the trappings of a dramatic and doomed love affair. The painfully sweet thing was that we both knew it was doomed and would only last that narrow and interstitial time/place where it Was, and nothing else we thought about it really mattered. That was a sign of maturity, on my part, I guess.

There were rules, imposed by his wife. No kissing, that was a big one. No sleeping in the same bed. I could feed him and he could bring me cappuccino, he could take my daughter to the playground and I could help him pick out presents for his son for Christmas, he could put his hand on my face when I woke up screaming from bad dreams and I could take my time washing him off in the ridiculously large bathtub that came with the military housing. We could go to Renaissance Fairs together in little villages, drink Riesling and eat curry and talk about our childhoods. She could call my house every Sunday evening to talk to him, and find him there. She would tell me first, before I gave him the phone, to make sure he ate, that sometimes he forgot, and to ask if I minded, if I had the chance, calling Reassignments to see that the paperwork had gone through for shipping the second car.

All of this, of course, was a Very Bad Thing, despite his wife’s knowledge and permission and rules, that we did ok about keeping, at first. We were different ranks in the same unit, so in addition to the adultery, there were issues of fraternization. And then of course, there was the Pagan Stigma, which came to light around the days leading up to the solar eclipse.

He jokingly asked the commander for the day off for religious purposes. The commander laughed and said no. A few days earlier, the commander had walked up behind me when I was typing up a ritual script and was fighting with MS Word to make the sketches of hexagrams go like I wanted them to go, and he asked me what I was doing. At first I blustered, a bit jokingly, as we were on pretty good terms, “This would be, er, MWR use of the detachment computers, sir.” (Meaning Morale, Welfare, and Recreation — the same program that allows soldiers to use military computers to access hotmail to send notes home overseas, and the like). He said something that made me realize he actually wanted to know. I made the mistake of joking again — well, sort of — and I mentioned voodoo. I did not know that this man had once been assigned to Haiti for gods-recall-what, and that I was going to be treated to a Certain Look and a bit of story involving insurrections, charred bodies, and secret societies. So at this point, any attempt to present a unified pagan front in the detachment, aimed at getting at least a two-hour lunch for the eclipse for Religious Purposes, was a Really Bad Idea. Rumors had already started anyway, about any number of things both True and Untrue.

He and I went out to lunch for the eclipse though, even though we couldn’t properly harness its incredible energy in the way we would have liked. We went to a local Chinese place, ate quickly, and then sat in the restaurant parking lot in my car and watched the eclipse.

I had never had a sexual relationship with someone I couldn’t kiss.  I had never shared the same space with someone, the same bed with someone, the same food and the same music and the same air and the same skin with someone, who I couldn’t kiss.  We knew every single (other) inch of each other’s bodies, knew how the other liked coffee, knew how much honey to put in the bean casserole, knew what kind of wine to buy on Tuesday, knew each other’s children’s birthdays. I knew the story of how he met his wife, and what they loved about each other. I knew the way he started to ramble when he was falling asleep, the way he cried when he thought about his son and how he was missing his birthday, the way he would forget to eat. He knew he was the first person I’d let into my life since Georgia, and he knew better than to draw the painfully obvious conclusions at least in my hearing. We played it cool all day long, he kept his space in the barracks, but he came over every day after work and often didn’t leave. We had rituals together, we stayed up til dawn talking about our old loves, about what made us tick, about why we cried at night without fully waking. If his wife wanted to find him, she called my house.

And I couldn’t kiss him.

The entire relationship and all its tensions had come to rest in this invisible barrier. We would lie on the narrow, lumpy, uncomfortable sofa, just to be safe, to keep us from breaking the “sleeping together” rule, and we would talk and sing and tell stories for hours with our lips half an inch apart. I kissed more of his face than he knew he had. I delighted in torturing us both with biting his lips, breathing his air. He focused on my earlobes, instead, and on every other square inch of me. Once he congratulated me on a particularly good time on a two-mile run by licking every single drop of sweat off my body.

And he couldn’t kiss me.


I can’t write this. Every time I try to write I end up getting fixated on food and poetry and realizing that everything I write sounds the same. Having some recurring images and themes is one thing, but looking back and realizing that you don’t have any way to convey desire and disappointment other than through tropes of coffee and abuse is actually pretty pathetic. Of course, the coffee and disappointment and food and abuse all ties into the domesticity theme and its tropes, which have always been nasty ones for me….

Really, my life is actually pretty free of coffee and abuse. Maybe because it’s free of domestic narrative. And disappointment.   And, as corollary, hope.

I make myself sick.

If these mood swings got any wilder in the space of any shorter amount of time, I’d be worrying myself.

It’s like I can pick at the scabs but I can’t tear them off. I can write part one but I hit a point where I don’t know how to end it, because it is, after all, about finding a way to end it, and in many ways, I’ve never found a way to end many things. I’m kind of sad like that.

How it ended: one of his soldiers, one of those who had that knowing look in her eye and who would call me by my first name when nobody else could hear us, came to pick him up at four a.m. to take him to the airport, two hours away, in Frankfurt. I hugged him and told him to be careful, and to have a good Christmas, a safe flight, to hug his family for me and to be well. I told him I loved him. I don’t remember what he said. I watched him walk out my door and wondered what the fuck was wrong with me. He was wearing black, and I could barely see him get into the car in the darkness, from four stories higher. The little car rumbled off into the night of a nearly new moon, and I never saw him again.