Dear Marshall, Language is Our Only Wilderness
Interlude: I am not on the syllabus. I am not from the hills or the vast ocean. I am peeled birch. I had gymnastics lessons. For a time. I was not hungry. The sun paraded for three months. I cannot tell you how much I love or do not love. I am things you cannot measure. I am not domestic. I ran track and was average. I always knew I would move somewhere far away. If I feel hemmed in I will retaliate. This is something to depend on.
I went to Target today to buy a black mini skirt and had a feeling someone was following me. I calmed myself down, accusing my imagination. As I was paying I turned around and the guy was right behind me. Buying air fresheners. I remembered those boxing moves you taught me. My thoughts pinned under there. This is my world now. I imagine the sun rising across your voice. Across the flavored air. Are you at home now? At least that is something we could share.
I am not impressed by money although I do enjoy shopping and would spend my last dime on fashion rather than buy food. I like to run by the creek when it is slightly cool. I like the sun, but have had skin cancer. There is a tattoo of a sun on my ankle. I want to get poet on my inner wrist in intricate script so that when I am old I will remember who I am. As if that could save me. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. She was a nurse and smoked a pack of camels every day. She was also a gambler.
It was the year of horses running through our bodies. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron, the first link of one memorable day. In summer school because we both flunked geometry. I threw the teacher’s purse in the dumpster and never got caught. I don’t know if you knew. Sometimes I think of you and then I’m like ok this is what it is and then I’m like ok, we are just the time everyone else forgot. Sometimes I feel a memory pulsing. Like when the field trip was cancelled. I never did go horseback riding. Sometimes I trace the shadow of an animal that is not there. Upon waking. But gently occurring. Leaning into a sharpening thought of you. Or I ignore the arresting color of a sunset. And stand in the light of a library window, opening the dictionary at random and landing upon the word, bruise.
I always told myself that I would have a housekeeper when I got older. I never dreamed of my wedding, although I did get married twice. I have never really cheated. My sexual drive is increasing. I got a vibrator and a Metallica tee shirt for my birthday this year. When I turned seven, I got an iron-on Shaun Cassidy tee shirt and thought, it just cannot get any better than this. I wish I did not say “awesome” so much. I care less and less about what people think. I could not live without sight. My favorite place is the Tate Museum. I have been there exactly once. I am in love with color, but always wear black.
I went bowling with my friends today. There is nothing like drinking beer at 2 p.m. on a Monday. I am either a gutter or a strike. I never miss. We never are. Complete. We never had enough time to.
I am having deja vu right now. I just found a seven of wands tarot card. It means speaking truth and also aggression. I laugh loudly. I get irritated by loud people. Sometimes I believe in crystals. I am sober today. My dog has a growth in his mouth and I hope it is not cancer. I live in two places. I love the smell of coffee in the morning. Starbucks is calling their coffee “rare and exotic.” I see triple numbers all the time then I make a wish. If only I could have a wet dream. I want to be Holly Golightly for Halloween this year.
I am lightly pressing the play button. I cannot help but think of us walking home from a party after that asshole jock was pawing at me and you stood between us. I left in a hurry and fell into some garbage cans on the way home through icy streets. You were two steps behind me. I cannot. It seems. The damp and the chill. On the inside. Can you see the seam of ice dividing my memories?
I am always cold. I lived in Arizona for a time and thought I would die. I eat out too much. I am allergic to red ants. I am living. After being bitten at an outdoor theater red welts and bumps expanded all over my body. The male nurse had longish blonde hair and was so nice. At that moment I decided that I prefer male nurses but still want female doctors. I try to be kind and sometimes fail. I love the mountains. I can lose track of time while hiking. Sometimes stray hairs fall down my blouse and I pick them out in public. I care about dogs. I dye my hair. My sister Shannon and I have the exact same notebooks. Rachel and I have the same shoes. We sang “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at karaoke.
Your lyrics are a transparency between us.
My first boyfriend was a football player. Once, he lent me his Depeche Mode tee shirt. He had a mohawk and we watched 120 Minutes on MTV every weekend. I have been to a lot of concerts. The Cure was the most boring. I just saw Weezer in Del Mar on Labor Day. I don’t like to smoke pot. It makes me paranoid. But sometimes things change. My favorite band is Belle and Sebastian. I don’t take selfies. Any image of myself is a fantasy. I got locked out of my apartment today. I used my neighbor’s bathroom and he asked me if I was a serial killer. I like to drink. I started drinking very young and once I start I cannot stop. After a while, I just stop caring. I can have great expectations for myself. I usually write poetry.
No one can really start again. Let’s go to the beach. Put the radio on. Fuck all this. When I hear your voice I want to party. Should I go to the bar or the gym tonight? I went for a walk by the creek. I am open. I am an heiress. You told me once. Ladybugs live in my hair. I am chain link. A thorn. Total trash. We live in a land of color now. Of fishnets and feathers. You are a subtle prism. You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read. Recently, I went to a lecture on silence in literature. How to write absence. Time will tell. You are no monster. We were born with antlers. Or horns.
I am a market, a meadow, a bitch playing beer pong. This is how I do it. Bird of paradise on repeat. What can I touch? How many shots do you want? See the clots of soil under my dress. See the nape of the shore behind me. A stream of eucalyptus smoke. With a feather fallen in my sherbet. Flat champagne in the shower. Aqua Net on my tongue. A swan on the diving board. Plastic and teetering. I try to be pretty laid upon the stars. And, for effect, I have licked all the batteries. Now I am pressing my body to a window. A sheet of unfallen rain. What will prepare me for my next memory?
You are subdued. And measured. And know how to keep friends. The night you stayed at my house when my parents were in Vegas. I still live by books. We are true ellipses. Barely touching. I loved you against. Reason. Against promise against peace against hope against happiness against all discouragement. That could be. We kept our clothes on all night. I came to you wild and you were a fucking gentleman.
Heather Sweeney recently earned an MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Porridge, Moonchild, Bad Pony, White Stag, La Vague, Summer Stock, Shantih, Dusie, and Bombay Gin. She lives in San Diego where she writes, teaches yoga and does Consciousness Coaching. You can also find her here: www.theshineblog.com