poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

January 16, 2013

White Pills and Black Bile.

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 3:15 PM

Upon waking there are tears. Immediate tears even before thoughts even before consciousness. It’s the unpleasant sensation of warm wet linen next to my face that forces me up.

And the sensation of no oxygen reaching the lungs, the windpipe tight and aching and catching. The menstrual contractions of the Hanged Man. But I fear carbon monoxide and throw open the windows on a January morning.

Failed attempts to get much inside me. Coffee tastes of sour milk, water of bleach, banana of glue. All of my senses are too sharp and acute like the world is attacking me.

My heart beats faintly and erratically like a scratched record playing in a locked room and you don’t have the keys and it slowly turns you into a homicidal maniac.

I compulsively check the phone for texts, voicemail and email, even though the volume is on. How can anyone leave me alone in this state? Why does no one care? How is everyone not psychic? I want someone to call so I can tell them I am fine.

All night the nightmare tyrant and his lackey insomnia tortured my sleep. Garish, vivid dreams. One where I lived in a room with chartreuse heavy-pile carpet and black matte walls and a dozen antique chairs of different eras, all covered in tapestries and velvets and fringes. The only light came through closed Venetian blinds and lace curtains. Feral kittens kept getting in through holes, like mice.

Steely winter sun breaks through the clouds like a blade through my iris. Cringe inducing, stomach clenching, stress hormone flooding goddamn sun.

I change into a uniform of black leggings and black longsleeved t-shirt. I’m not in mourning for my life, just prepared for it. I can do yoga, go to the library or take a nap without having to change clothes, which would require time, time during which I could change my mind and just wind up sitting on the closet floor for an hour weeping. About anything. I can join a band of roving mimes, ninjas or cat burglars on a moment’s notice. I’m a Prepper but for the absurd.

Today is the first day of the white pills. Of being The Prisoner of Hormoneland.

I’ve a simultaneous desire to devour an entire chocolate cake and never eat again. Unable to decide between the two, I wind up on accidental hunger strike.

I feel like I need a bath even though I just had one.

If I lie down and concentrate on the clouds sailing across the sky or the contented expression on my sleeping cat’s face, I can breathe normally and relax. This wistful practice swiftly devolves into melancholia. I don’t even know why I am crying. The cat. Asleep. It’s too beautiful. It hurts.

I make myself read, convinced depressive moods are killing my braincells. Everything I read is depressing.

I decide what I need is a glass of wine and a Klonopin. I decide the slippery slope of substance abuse would be more socially acceptable than hormonal depression and would give me more freedom to be batshit insane. I decide I want to be a career drug addict and prostitute. Surely misery of one’s own choosing is preferable to all this. I remember having washed down Klonopin with wine. It didn’t turn me into a career addict and prostitute. It just ruined the rest of my day.

I want desperately to cave and take the pink pill and forfeit this period. I’m a career oral contraceptives addict.

Nausea. Photophobia. Irritability. I decide I am getting a migraine. Prodrome. Sounds like a cult horror movie or bad conceptual art installation. “Prodrome.” I eye the line of white pills, then the unopened pack of next month’s pills. I should just skip the white ones and start the new pack. But surely they put the white pills in there for a reason… The 28 day cycle. The moon. Surely if I, a female, disobey the Laws of the Moon it will unleash some kind of Shakespearean fury into the universe. Fires and floods and madmen wandering the streets. Baby lizards with human smiles coming to live in my womb. I don’t know. My God, Why the Four White Pills?

I can hear my therapist’s voice in my head, “I’m glad you’ve not lost your sense of humour.” And mine, “Fuck you. I’m not here to entertain you. I’ve spent all day on a hunger strike unable to decide between becoming a drug addict, checking my voicemail, or having my period. It’s not fucking funny asshole!!!”

I check my voicemail out of sheer masochism.

I think I should go to the country for a bit. I’ve been in the city so long, I’ve forgotten where the country is.

I think I should go to the library for a bit. Fairly certain about where that is. I know I will start chain smoking if I leave the apartment. It’s Saturday, and the library will be overrun with people, mostly small and hysterical, and I’ll get claustrophobic and go outside and chainsmoke and wander the streets like a madman and cry for no reason and have to wear sunglasses in the store where I will purchase an entire chocolate cake that I will bring home and make the object of all my hatred.

No I can’t go to the library. Besides, I’ve not eaten and may faint and bust my head on the sidewalk and get permanent brain damage that can’t be reversed by reading online lit mags.

It’s nervy hormones, not anorexia. But that’s not to say I feel great about my body. I don’t. It’s been a while since a man has expressed physical interest in me. I mean, a man who is not oozing the vibe that he uses the word “boobies” or who concerns himself with matters like a woman’s personal safety. … People say men do not prefer women who need a man to feel attractive. People say needing that shit is pathological even.

Like, what? Woman is meant to be a goddess who exists on some unearthly plane where she giddily luxuriates in her own beauty until caught by the eye of a mere mortal man at which time she is to indulge his needs as reward for … his being so great or something while not expecting or needing or desiring anything from him because goddesses don’t have expectations or needs or hormones and they sure as hell don’t spend a day prone in pelvic pain because of the fucking moon. I suppose these are the same mythological creatures who are naturally a size 4 without being all unbecomingly neurotic about food. Not one of those lame ass human girls who have ovaries and a mind-gut connection and wonder what the hell they are doing here and would like it if someone bothered to appreciate all the time and effort they put into not being a completely disgusting physical animal.

I’ve seen women who live on other planes and luxuriate in their loveliness and eschew worldly needs. In psych wards.

One of the garish vivid dreams I had involved a well known Hungarian poet. I woke up like an unspayed kitten possessed by one thing only, completely unhinged. Ready to prowl an alley or send my therapist a confessional text or message the husband of a friend who had once begged me to destroy his marriage. But I didn’t. I’m better than that. I’m responsible. Cerebral. Moral. Good.

And it feels like it’s murdering me slowly, all this goodness and sadness and discomfort and intensity and madness. I want to take the pill that makes her have some human dignity. But there are three more of those that make her small. And the Moon and the Goddess and the Feral Kitten and the Hanged Man have invited me to their mad tea party of archetypes.

And I cry. Because I can’t possibly go to a tea party looking like this.

January 6, 2013

Poemless the blog rises Phoenix-like from the ashes. Pt. II. Or, Writer’s Blockade.

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 3:20 PM

“Writer’s block.” I’m not entirely sure what it means, but it would seem to imply having nothing to say. I’ve had a lot to say and have said it in therapy sessions, friend sessions and cold bathroom floor sessions.

There were times I wanted to write but was afraid my friends and family who have subscribed to this blog would incur hurt feelings or be worried or angered by my words. Afraid that future employers would use my disclosures to discriminate against me. Afraid that no one would read anyway because I am not a serious author.

There were times I wanted to write but was afraid my decision to do so would compromise my decision to live. I did not want to be the one who documents but the one who experiences. I wanted to be Alice, not Lewis Carroll. It’s ridiculous, to imagine writers cannot live authentically… Nevertheless, we are all familiar with the xkcd comic, “Yet all I can think is, this will make for a good LiveJournal entry!” In the same way the production value of work imbues a life with worth that transcends the personal, the process of shaping experience into narrative imbues a life with meaning that transcends the individual. But what worth and meaning would I find if I peeled away the layers of identity wrapped up in the production of commodity and narrative? I needn’t climb atop an elephant or mountain to eschew worldly perspective. I could just stop writing.

There were times I wanted to write but was afraid that I wasn’t doing it correctly, or that it had become an instrument of pain. I’d enlisted myself in this fantastically enjoyable project called “exposure therapy,” which is basically a root canal for your amygdala but without anesthesia. It usually involves watching images of or talking about whatever harrowing trauma you’ve not recovered from, and repeatedly, until the intensity of emotion evoked by the memory lessens over time. All terribly A Clockwork Orange. Why agree to such a thing? Morbid curiosity. Encouraging data. The adrenaline rush that accompanies doing something that scares the fuck out of you. Desperation to not be “sick.”

Given my penchant for being brilliant with words, or something, we decided I should write my traumatic experiences out. It was all very well-intentioned. And in fact I found it curiously helpful. But my tracts continued to elicit the same complaints: too much narrative, symbolism, background context, analysis, perspective, superfluous detail, “flourishes.”

“The point is to describe the event as realistically and viscerally as possible, as if it were happening right now.”

Oof. Perhaps symbolism and perspective and superfluity and artistry and reflection are “real” and “visceral” for me. Perhaps I am being asked to use the skills I’ve developed to navigate the fissures of existence as means to precisely the opposite end? Take an axe to the frozen sea inside us? I write to create a puppy dog-drawn sleigh, complete with warm blankets, to transport me across the frozen sea to the shores of safety.

I continue the exposure therapy, verbally, committed to never again whoring out my skills to such a brutish client, however generous the compensation.

I still want to use my powers judiciously. I still want to suck the marrow from the bones of life and have it count without a blogpost on the merits of marrow and accompanying cellphone pic of a plate of bones to document the event. I am still afraid of nogoodniks using my blog to discredit me. Of not being a “real” writer.

But then someone just had to go and write a book about smart, modern, frustrated, literary girls being pathologized, institutionalized, silenced. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I am a feminist and will not deign to give you the time of day should you believe otherwise, but The Sisterhood? It occupies the same mental space as Santa Claus: a beautiful sentiment that makes me feel warm and giddy inside, but we all know who puts the presents under the trees and which gender would have brought extinction upon itself if looks could kill. I am no more inspired by a dead flapper ballerina than I am by a dead Russian gambler. Though to be clear, Zelda Fitzgerald and Fyodor Dostoyevsky are possibly my two greatest inspirations.

Devil beware, if there is one singular thing guaranteed to get me clambering over rooftops for a good old fashioned Yawp, it’s imposed (self- or otherwise) silence. Spend the first decade of your life being beaten, raped and terrorized by your own father, and 30 years later – should you live that long – imposed silence will sound more terrifying than a doped up Rush Limbaugh leading a parade of neo-nazis through the corridors of Hell. Like, Medieval Hell.

Being afraid to write because of discrimination feels like being afraid to wear a short skirt because of rape. Being afraid to write because I may unintentionally upset loved ones denies them the same capacity for resilience that they expect from me. Being afraid to write because writing compromises living turns a match made in heaven into some forbidden thing that ends like a Shakespearian tragedy. Being afraid to write because I haven’t cured cancer is insane: no one held Dostoyevsky to that standard. And being afraid to write because no one will take me seriously is a sure fire way to ensure no one ever takes me seriously as a writer.

In the blazing summer sun of a mid-nineties afternoon, I stood on the beach with Kristian Davies, the coolest boy I’d ever met. He was whistling Some of these days you’re gonna miss me baby…. I wore an oversized Carpe Diem t-shirt and baggy linen drawstring pants rolled up to my knees. As if planning a revolution, I proclaimed, “I don’t want to read books. I want to be the main character in my own book.” He hurled a rock into the lake and brushed his long hair from his perfect face. I’d never felt so witty or strong or beautiful. Like I had the world in my hands.

I’m inclined to file the whole episode under youthful naivete. I feel like I should. But for the love of me, I still want that and think it is a great and valid thing to want. The beautiful boy and unironic t-shirts have disappeared, but not the rest. And the world in my hands. It just weighs much, much more. When I was in my 20’s, the emphasis of that statement of intent fell on the words “main character.” Today it falls on the words, “my own.” I’ve really quite mastered the role of me. But if I don’t write down my own story, well, it’s no less valid of course, but it’s all behavior. With no context, symbolism, artistry, perspective. It’s all frozen sea. With neither axe to destroy it nor sleigh to traverse it.

Poemless the blog rises Phoenix-like from the ashes. Pt. I. Or, My Own Private India.

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 2:45 PM

In the twilight of 2012, moments before the clock was to strike midnight and proclaim the time of death of another year, I sank into a very deep very hot bath. Django Reinhardt’s Nuages oozed from an old boom box and mingled with the lavender-ylang ylang scented steam filling the room. Sandalwood candles flickered luridly, shadow puppets performing St. Vitus Dance across the room. The water temperature made my head light and heart race. I imagined this is what it must be like to patronize an opium den. Arms splayed across the back of the tub, calves draped over the front, watching shadows cavort across the walls, I inhaled deeply. The flames stilled. I exhaled. The razor sat untouched on the window sill, on the other side of which a precipitous symphony of fireworks, foil whistles and drunken regards rang out. I took a generous gulp of cheap champagne and toasted the gorgeous perfection of being in the moment.

Who just stops working and writing for a year? Who just gets up and walks away like that? Without even going to India or all the National Parks? Is this actually something people do all the time but never speak of because except for fetuses our worth as humans is dictated by our capacity for production? Or am I a trailblazer madly proclaiming with a sweep of my hand, “All of this, I won’t participate in it!” Is there a Nobel Prize for passive resistance?

Darling, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way…

Well, there being no prizes for romanticism, I may as well admit that I did participate in a few things. One need not go to India or all the National Parks, after all, to find meaning, to have revelations, to feel connected, to expand horizons, to push limits. One could accomplish such feats by embarking upon a genealogical quest with estranged relatives, or submit to three hours of PTSD therapy every week, or feed the homeless, or read so voraciously the only person who ever calls anymore is from the public library, or speak to a customer service representative from an insurance company. I mean, I hear India is quite lovely, but I can’t believe a country with a caste of untouchables has more enlightenment in the water than Chicago. Even if it does, they don’t have enough potable water for the people already there. That trippy feeling of being one with the universe may not be enlightenment. It may be the neurological effects of dehydration. As for National Parks, my sweet intoxicating blood, hysterical allergies and global warming have conspired to ensure there is always a hazmat suit between me and All God’s Creation. Hard to get excited about anything, let alone rocks and trees, when you’ve fainted from hypoglycemia because the last meal you had was a Power Bar, or when you are in a Benadryl induced coma. Alas, I fail to thrive in my own ecosystem. Perhaps my prize-deserving act of resistance is not my refusal to participate but my refusal to perish.

Yet I do worry that any description of my doings and whereabouts while on hiatus will be met with disappointment, like a postcard from a friend who’s gone on a long romantic trip … to Disneyworld. I’ve not been hunkered down curing cancer, writing a novel or even fixing my credit. I don’t even know how to describe what I’ve been doing. Conversations go like this: “So, what are you up to these days?” “Well, I’ve taken a bit of time off…” “Ok, but what are you doing?” “Oh, things. You know, just… (distractedly cranes neck and shouts to no one in particular, “Did you need help in the kitchen?”)

Things. You know, just… :

~ Found my mother’s recipes.
~ Made my mother’s recipes.
~ Hiked up hills in Southern Missouri looking for 200 year old gravestones.
~ Sat in 100 degree heat wearing a plastic party supply store hat and sunglasses, sipping prepackaged margaritas from Quick-Trip, watching neighbor kids play in the Slip N Slide.
~ Got a serious concussion, golf ball sized mosquito bites and Borderline Personality diagnosis (oh don’t worry there will be blogposts…)
~ Read Adam Levin and Sheila Heti and felt old, sentimental, alien.
~ Read Kate Zambreno and Caitlin Moran and felt fierce, sane, human.
~ Ate Korean BBQ. Puked Korean BBQ.
~ Ate fillet mignon. Puked fillet mignon.
~ Rode a motorcycle. Twice.
~ Went to see ballet. Twice.
~ Drank my first Sidecar.
~ Rode my first MegaBus.
~ Grieved the death of a 37 year old cousin.
~ Made fast friends with an 80 year old cousin.
~ Fired my shrink.
~ Fired another shrink.
~ Sat up all night listening to my Great Aunts tell stories of growing up during the Great Depression.
~ Sat on a cold bathroom floor, sobbing and yelling at invisible gods, parents, doctors, boys, self.
~ Canvassed Wisconsin. A lot. I love Wisconsin.
~ Went to the suburbs. Twice. I hate the suburbs.
~ Got very angry.
~ Got more confident.
~ Served meals to homeless people.
~ Found lodging for a Hurricane Sandy refugee.
~ Discovered I may be related to Rob Roy.
~ Decided I won’t be defined by family (except maybe Rob Roy…)
~ Went to a casino. For the first and last time.
~ Went bowling. For the first and last time.
~ Tried to paint a blue office yellow.
~ Tried to die my black hair red.
~ Sought peace in museums, libraries, parks, kitchens.
~ Found peace in cemeteries, bars, country roads, kitchens.
~ Kept other people’s plants and pets alive.
~ Kept myself alive.

It wasn’t all easy, but it wasn’t all shit, and most of all it certainly fucking wasn’t any of it Disneyworld. Or India. Although I did manage to get dehydrated. And enlightened. And savor the gorgeous perfection of being in the moment.

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