WYG 3: A Landscape So Changed


The wind and sand set about
scrubbing the skin from my body
the myelin from my nerves
the meat from my bones
So the sun can bleach them
An elemental purification no less violent for being silent.

Georgia O’Keefe got the good desert while
I got the sandworms and sunburns.
She called it “vast and empty and untouchable,”
so, well, maybe I do belong here now, or
my grief at least does.
And since I am the embodiment
the meatmobile
for that particular pathology,

You know it’s bad when
you start admiring the
ease of the tumbleweeds and
the poise of the cow skulls.

Even in death, they’ve got me beat.
No contest.

I want so much to be a cactus
thick skin
and the cactus doesn’t apologize for hurting

But I was built for the fecund forests back east,
deep dappled shade and leafy loam
gray fox, gray squirrel.

My hair was moss
and skin? Cool river stone.
My home was den and dead tree and warm red dirt.

This desert is arid and scrupling,
hostile to my body of water.

Water is my life
my life
but I’m not ready to change

I can’t adapt
try harder

can’t evolve
not with an attitude like that

I feel like I’m dying
you’re fine

I’m working so hard and
you haven’t even folded the laundry

I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?

dinner? Dying people don’t need to eat
I’m not dying

so I’m losing you, too? myself, my home, and you now too?
why don’t you go take a nap or something. 15 minutes?

<there are no words>
why are you shutting me out?

<there. are. no. words>
I talk to you.

<there are no >
feeling sexy?

<no, I>
I’m normal!

<I know>
when are you going to be like you used to be?

This trail of tears doesn’t brook u-turns.

Driven west by masked men with long guns and germs
snarling dogs and cracking whips.
I used to have my own language, alphabet,
music, government, religion, art.
I thought I had my family.
I knew every deer path and berry patch
and hill and hollow for five miles around.
I could fish and shoot and weave
start fires, tell stories, rock babies, tan hides.

I’m moved to the reservation because
trash land for trash people.

I’m not the only one.
There are so many others so lonely
our doctors can’t keep us straight.
Pharmas fight over our gold and obeisance
bow and scrape and they’ll let you live a little longer

as long as you can pay.

WYG 1: The Person I Used to Be

I used to be a paper doll with a relatively-rockin’ wardrobe of money, title, privilege. A two-dimensional darling of modest means but sky-high potential, and this was America at the turn of the 21st century, so how bad could life be, really?

I used to give more than I took. I used to be reliable: making commitments and keeping them. (Why didn’t life do the same for me?)

I used to agonize over what I would do with my life, with the wispy expectation that with enough strength inventories and navel gazing, I’d eventually figure it out, live it out, make good on some time-debt I inherited.

I used to know how the world worked. I used to know how to get my way and have people thank me for it. I used to have conversations and never lose the next word, much less the entire thread evaporated. I used to be able to do 5 things at once.

I used to pee and poop when I wanted to, in bathrooms, in private. I used to be able to drive at night, at dusk and dawn and every hour between. I used to be depressed sometimes, but there was always the going to be time to grow out of it, this phase, this rough patch, this one-off blue mood.

I used to want to save the world. I used to think that the hardest part of my life was past and that I had the rest of my life to keep making it better. I used to be able to feel touch and temperature and pleasure and not want to crawl out my skin.

I used to be in sync with the rhythms of the world – wake and work and play and sleep, repeat. I used to have a job to go to, a week that made a weekend make sense. I used to be proud of myself sometimes.

I used to read books. No — I used to inhale books, devour books, put a new book  on like a sexy new dress and spin around and shimmy. Then I went blind and got mostly unblind and had kids. Now I buy books and stack them and give up and give them away unread.

I used to be independent, not a joiner. I used to feel equal to my wife, or near enough – a star fit to hang near her moon. Not this frozen dwarf planet orbiting by habit, dumbly waiting for an international body of scientists to demote me further, any year now who knows, it’s not up to me.

I am medical records number 56-1802,
the patient in exam room 3,
claim number 45688-48375-00092-1,
the refill request on line 2,
dependent of the primary insurance holder. I am
“ma’am, are you okay?”
“ma’am, do you need help?”

Becoming a mom has not helped, not that I expected it to, but maybe I didn’t expect it to hurt so much. How could I possibly compete with the piss and vinegar of somebody 1/35th my age, even 1/17th, 1/12th? They arrived programmed to learn at such a breathtaking pace, to hoard skills and knowledge like so many goldfish crackers. They are still on that upward trajectory with a hazy ending so inexpertly timed that we can pretend it doesn’t even exist.

I, on the other hand, am perversely devolving, deviating from that upward arc of exploration and acquisition. I am losing, always losing, with no hope of getting back, as the world and my people in it keep moving on, up, out, and around.

As they should! As I should.

I used to be a bad imitation of myself. Now I’m a bad imitation of somebody else. Not well enough to be well, not sick enough to die. Disabled, but not “wheelchair bound.” Disabled, but not born that way. Not appropriately grateful for whatever it is I’ve got left, not happy to have been conscripted in the fight of my life.

Not getting better has been the biggest failure of my life, tied maybe with not being able to quit caring about the failing – six of one. I can’t get out from under the disappointment, steeped in shame, the failure of imagination and neurons and pelvic floor.

But nearly ten years in, it’s obvious that the horse is out of the barn and I’d just as soon burn it down, that piece of shit, falling-down, ramshackle deathtrap of a barn. At least then the horse will have to find a better place to live.

Who is the horse? Who is the barn? If I’m so smart, why can’t I figure this out?

heads up to loyal readers

Shit’s about to get dark.

I’m participating in a one-month project centered around writing and grief. I’ll be using this blog as the repository for my writing so it can be easily accessed by my project group.

Things are going to be heavier and even more self-centered for a bit. Feel free to unsubscribe or mute me — I take no offense, and commend you on choosing the media diet that feeds you best.

If you choose to stick around, please feel no obligation to comment or comfort — no offense, but for the purposes of this project, I’m not writing to please an audience (not even you dears) or score any points. I’m just trying to see things from a more focused perspective for a bit and figure out a better way to think, and perhaps, to write.