Little One

So much goes in circles. The way one black fur coat sheds into another, and who knows if the dog underneath really changes. I know that I was born with one eye closed, and Phantom died with one eye open. I know the way the way I held her close to my chest for sixteen years is the same instinct that drew me into the arms my parents as a baby.

One of my favorite early memories is of bringing Phantom to my second grade classroom. She was my early birthday present that year, and Mrs. Katz said I could bring her in for show and tell. Of the visit, I remember joy, pride, the knowledge that she was my one precious being. Before anyone told me I should look for a soulmate, I knew I had one. Her name was difficult, it required a quest. I looked into her eyes, and over and over again, I searched through her movements, her tiny legs trodding the ground. My neighbor friends suggested Bubbles, Lowbelly, Black Beauty. I tried the names on her but none of them fit. Who was she?

One day, I played my Phantom of the Opera cassette tape. I’d been to the opera in Boston with my mom earlier that year, and I kept the program under my bed. I understood some of the story, but it was the music that I truly loved. The way the notes went up and down like a bird swooping over a city skyline, the White Mountains, waves rolling and crashing on the Maine coast. She snuggled up to me on the couch and we listened. This was my little Phantom.

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Must Have a Thing for Produce Guys

It all started when they built a new Hannaford in Gilford.

My sister and I drove there to buy beer

for our summer fires in the backyard.

We never remembered where they sold the beer,

and anyways, the produce shows up

first when you walk in the door,

so there’d be the guy lifting crates of apples,

and bananas shipped in

from faraway places

no one in the town had ever seen

beyond photos in our library series

that dated from the 1970s.

His forearms were to die for.

If it’d worked out between us,

I’d have never left town.

 

Then, there was the Target guy

buying food for the city of Minneapolis.

The store was right at the edge of the city between

the hipsters and the black neighborhood,

where one time after we became friends,

we passed each other in the parking lot,

me hauling lumber from Home Depot

in a big ass white truck,

and him wearing shades,

turning his silver commuter,

into the lot, dial turned to NPR.

All his shirts were collared cherry,

and neither of us could tell the difference

between a Monday shirt or a Saturday

night late shift.

 

Most recently, there’s the singer in a local band.

At a break in the set he hands me a card

with his cell number written on the back.

I’m having a party and I want

to fill up my house with sound this Saturday,

I feel like this band is the perfect one

for my living room.

I spend this morning

baking muffins with red sprinkles,

and berries inside

I turn over the card on the counter.

His name: Produce Manager.

 

The story of my first date in my home state, otherwise known as the case of a strange comet impacting new territory or the real single ladies of the NH North Country

When we walked into the inn, Jack had to duck through the doorway. We stood in a large kitchen that looked like it was functional a hundred years ago. The cast iron stove loomed in the corner, and I dropped my keys on one of the long countertops. “Follow me,” he said.

We walked through winding hallways, into a formal dining room. The places at each white-clothed table were set. We were coming from dinner at a Thai place where Jack spoke Thai to the waitress. He seemed proud of this, and talked endlessly about his travels through Thailand last winter. Through the dining room there was a second sequence of twisting halls, lined by small windows looking out onto the invisible street below. This was North Conway, a mountain town at the edge of the Whites, not a place for pedestrians or the faint of heart. I suppose being here made both of us tough. “How did you get a room here?” I asked.

We arrived at Jack’s room. He told me how he’d been looking for apartments in the area, and this room in a closed inn was the only one available. The owner let him choose his room, from the twenty or so in the house. When he asked me if I wanted to go back to his place after dinner, I hadn’t imagined much. I think that I knew what I wanted that night was an adrenaline rush or some adventure, but I didn’t know exactly how I would get it. The bed looked like the most comfortable thing in the room so naturally we sat int he two stuffy chairs at the end of it. Jack turned on the T.V. and handed me a beer. He asked me questions and I probably flirted a little bit. I crossed my legs up under me and flipped my hair. Sipping at the beer meagerly, I hoped he’d believe I was drunk even though I was not.

We were on the verge of what could only be sex, and that was exactly what I wanted, falling in with a disappearing man. I wanted to believe men were users and I was a user as well. I wanted to believe in disconnection and the dissociative body. As he kissed me I felt myself melting away. Who was I anyway? Someone defined by other people. I was nearly somewhere else, and moving fast. I believed in Jack’s story but didn’t know my own. He’d be in Georgia tomorrow afternoon. I didn’t know who or where I’d be. New Hampshire wasn’t behaving at all like when I’d left her. Or was it me who’d changed?

Jack shrugged on a sweater and his boxers to walk me outside to my car. The autumn night of the mountains was cool, and I sensed the surrounding trees protecting me for the first time in many months. 

Lila and Sven

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***A story inspired by the trip to Yellowstone 

 

Lila lay on the park bench looking up at the sky. She was waiting for something like the sky to open up.

When the small black car pulled up, Svenn stepped out to help her load her backpack in the trunk.

Night 1: The highway lane lights up with a soft pink that settles into the horizon to the west and disappears. Lila sleeps in the passenger seat and Svenn drives, Christian rock on the radio, dashboard lights up red and white. Svenn names the car Sally.

Lila drives through the night into South Dakota where they find dawn over the mountains, sun melting dark pines onto their hilltops. They sleep in Sally’s belly at a gas station in Keystone. When Svenn wakes Lila, they keep moving. Blacktop burns down.

That afternoon, they stop at a hotel where Svenn has to drop off supplies for work and talks to his family in Romania on the phone for an hour. Lila flips through magazines in the lobby.

Through Wyoming, Lila’s driving and so in love, particularly with the bluffs lining the road, and maybe herself. This is the most real she’s ever felt and she slicks on a coat of lipstick.  

Lost Springs, Wyoming

Population 4

Svenn’s at the wheel nibbling carrots, sipping black coffee and spraying himself with water from a spray bottle to stay awake.

Night 2: “Say a prayer for your ancestors,” says Svenn. They stands between geysers at twilight, a lake in front of them, a cool breeze rustling arm hairs. A deer picks her way across the shoreline, dark silhouette on water that’s blue and silver, spreading like mercury. This is Yellowstone.

The morning is an American “Hell yeah.” It’s the fourth of July and Japanese tourists are taking pictures in front of every geyser. Svenn pulls Lila through this chaos by the hand. One other thing she she loves: delicate palms.

Last stop, Old Faithful. Thunder and lightning rush the dark who is already arriving. The geyser has just gone off and people are running into the visitor’s center for shelter from the storm.

It’s 6pm, the last good thing. Beartooth Highway. Svenn’s driving and he stops at the top of the pass to coax Lila out of the car. Perched at the edge, they live in a pink glow that melts them to the earth. On the way down Svenn says: “I believe in God and I believe in you, Lila!” Words mean things.

Night 3: Lila’s driving again. The middle of Montana is flat and silent and at 3:30am she hits over a deer lying dead in the road, she doesn’t wake up Svenn who sleeps in back seat. To her, his sleep is the most precious.

In daylight, someone’s sewing the sky back up. Minneapolis under the tires and smog. Lila and Svenn splitting up the gas bill in the parking lot. It’s $164 total, and since Svenn’s put it all on his credit card, Lila owes him. She digs around in her wallet for the cash and pulls out a few crumpled bills. Their hands touch one last time.

Feminist Rant from Minne-hopeless

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“Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction.”

“If any female feels she needs anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.”
bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

 

How can I tell you men

you foreigners to this country

to my country, to the country that raised me into

my dreamy and battered womanhood

that no!

Miami is not

the coolest place in the world.

“The women there are as hot as Europeans,” you say

I’m here to tell you that women

are none of your business.

On Leaving

I am bittersweet. I leave you the hello and goodbye in the same sentence, same kiss, the very same word. Get your cold hands away from me. Please. I want to come and go as I please.

I am most myself when I am traveling which means, yes. I am happy most as my body in transit, floating to or from. Rinse and repeat. I will always be your ex-lover on repeat through the old stereo. The words of a Rory Gallagher song go hhhhmmm mmmmm “I packed my things in an overnight bag, A toothbrush and guitar, got no tail to drag.”

My people and my things are borrowed black t-shirts, postcards and the smell of sage in a brown bottle. My life sets up, becomes something. I become someone in the middle of a somewhere. Then the universe unravels in days. The clock is ticking here. Sweet bitter mortality crashes through the solar plexis sideways.

I like the way my pet rats accepts each moment as one that is whole. Here she is in my bedroom. She’s crawling on my shoulders, down my sweater and onto the floor. A week is more than enough time to decide whether or not to accept destiny.

Broke in Barcelona

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We are smart and broke

sitting side by side

on the steps of a shrine

of a saint who might save us,

we see couples kiss

in the Cathedral’s courtyard.

 

They say we are essentially alone

but you keep showing up to things.

 

The thunderstorm explodes the garden

in galactic sprays of light,

droplets sparking off dark leaves.

 

Lightening bounces

off everything holy and white:

five statues, thirteen geese.

 

I look to you.

 

Sister, some god’s illuminating

the curve of your smile

probably mine too.

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A view of the city from the castle at Montjuic
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We are major graffiti fans

Mikayla and I are walking our way around Barcelona for the week. We’re running on low funds and maximum sight seeing. Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far:

1. Emormous amounts of street-gawking. Balcony! Epic dreads! Dachshund!

2. Drinking a hot chocolate that was so thick it was hard to move my spoon through it to stir.

3. Getting lost. again. and again.

4. Stumbling upon Gaudi’s strange sand castle architecture of the Sagrada de Familia.

5. Watching a violent pigeon attack on the lawn outside the Castell de Montjuic.

6. Getting caught in the Barcelona Cathedral during a giant thunderstorm. More high class bird watching of the famous 13 geese who live there.

7. Smuggling sandwiches out of the hostel every morning. Upping the sandwich count from 1 to 2.

8. Getting asked to follow promoters to “coffee shops” which don’t sell coffee. They are places where you can buy into a weed-share program and smoke there as much as you want as long as you keep paying.

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major animal nerds