Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tantra

his secularity
is the holiest 
of holies and

together,
an atheist
and a humanist
found within:
their common 

god


.



© erika s. haines

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hemingway

What were the past four years but
incubation?
I sat, lay, barely did
bent over while 
they stuffed me full of--
all hopped up on—

now 
that’s 
over.

Lil chickadee,
Now fullgrown fowl.

Sauna— 
hot yoga— 
toxins excreted daily.
I like to think:  
along with trace metals
I might have imbibed from 
the tap,
bits of experimental 
robot-makers
that I was told I needed and 
couldn’t exist without,
also 

bleed out through the skin,

until nothing but me—
bull-headed,
lion-hearted,
living,
free—
is left.

I like to think that.
So i 
think it.

During that 
incubation,
I assumed the opposite gender,
traditionally speaking,
in some ways:
I bought things—big things—
things girls wait to buy with husbands
or when a relative dies— 
and built things with my two hands,
and watched from an emotional distance;

(I realize these are 
generalizations,
but—society!
I cannot help but entertain, 
at times,
the stereotypes!)

The gender swap, subconscious,
internal,
prepared me 
to associate once again 
with the opposite gender
and recall aspects of femininity
traditionally speaking;
if I knew it for myself
then I could empathize,
and I did, and it has worked.

Come to find
the “opposite" gender
is more my same
than most I’ve met
who share my gender:

most.

Time passed,
atypical influences
fell away,
and the pressure 
to be someone
they could tolerate—
just to get through 
a day
(what do you call that?
survival.  it was never dishonest.)— 
fell away just the same,
thanks to age, maturity,
change
awareness of 
my worth...

All hopped up.
All still.  All quiet.
Voice reaching out now.
Willed it that way.
Won’t waste time
if you choose deaf ears
(it’s not fair to the deaf!).
Not open 
to anything but warmth now
anyway.

And this is private— 
but I’ve had some wine.
I wrote most of it drunk,
all hopped up,
and like Hemingway says to do,
I edited sober.

Education suggests 
I keep it to myself,
but my heart has 
not yet been streamlined,
and so
wants to share it.
((Oh, hell,
the fuck’s the big deal anyway?
It was, ironically, 
"women’s college"
that taught me
to embrace p a r a n o i a
about g e n d e r
and s e x u a l i t y.
Oh, good job 
that roughly $160k
and countless hours of sleep lost
did me!) 

In Ernest, (ha!) 
I will try in the future
not to ever follow

a dead alcoholic's advice

on when’s a 
good time to drink!



. . . . . .

© erika s. haines 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chloe

When you’re ready to go
to fade,
to disappear,
I’ll stay with you:
hold your paw,
feel your fur
from snout to tail
rub your belly, rough now
with age.

. . .

The phrase
“She’s been my best friend
since I was twelve”
doesn’t quite do
your worth justice

Sweetest girl.

Nevertheless,

it’s the truest thing I know:

mom surprised me
a little after my twelfth birthday,
drove up to the breeder’s house,
a location I vaguely recognized
from when we had first visited;
then looked over to me,
smiling, knowing how big a gift
I was about to get.

It was summer in Dallas,
and the air was pregnant
with spores and trace
amounts of rich white women’s
Elizabeth Arden,
as is natural for
that part of the country.

That was one of the few times—
other than tantrums in infancy—
I can remember crying uncontrollably.
To get to see you, and pick you,
and take you
home,
was
more than I’d dreamt
as possibility.
(unlike the other girls,
I never dreamt of wedding days,
or lifelong love, or even,
puppies coming true.
Only bought you a brush
and a bed in anticipation,
on which I wrote “Cloe,”
since I couldn’t quite spell “Chloe”
yet)

When he brought you out
with your brothers and sisters
I didn’t see you at first;
I actually wanted the short-haired
dappled male, who was sitting cutely
and quietly by my crossed legs;
and it was mother who saw you first.

“Look at this one!”
she exclaimed,
pointing to the red, longhaired
with flopping, oversized ears,
running around the coffee table
and under it,
jumping hurdles
over the other puppies,
bumping her head repeatedly on
the table’s low underside.

“Why is she so hyper?”
I laughingly asked,
observing her attitude of
showmanship,
to this day, what we call her
“Pick Me!” moves.

“Erika, this is the one.  You’ve
got to take this one.”

And so it was.

. . .

I brought you home
and your bottom fit
in the palm of one hand
and you sat like that,
erect and upright,
so tiny but already so long
like the dachshund you are,
hound face nuzzling my chest,
the entire drive.

You were soft,
and small,
and tender,
and warm.

And I instantly loved you.

I didn’t understand
taking care of another living thing;
I’d had pets my entire life,
but the burden of their care
usually fell on my mother
or my sister;
rarely were my abilities to care
taken seriously.

As you grew,
I did more and more for you,
and I always included you:
watching movies on my bed,
going to the pool with friends,
walking in the park.

The run-run-park, Chloe:
huge expanses of Texan land
half-groomed, half-wild,
where I’d let you pull out your Flexi leash
full-length, until I couldn’t see you anymore,
searching through the woods and creek
for rabbits and foxes;
or where ducks and geese swam in a pond,
which you playfully watched from the deck above,
tongue hanging low,
low as you,
touching, sometimes,
the ground your pitter-patter
toes conquered
tiny bit by tiny bit.

In your earlier years,
when it snowed, which it rarely did,
we’d take you there, too, to see the water
and the field, now thinly blanketed white:
a few inches of cover was enough
to swallow your tiny legs whole,
the sweater great-great-grandma knit for you
hugging your already corpulent frame.
You would slowly triumph in your movements,
and look up every few steps
for approval,
wagging,
panting
(laughing).

And we’d take you in the car,
the red Chevy Cavalier convertible,
and pick the freeze out
from between the pads
of your toes.
Or sometimes we’d just
let it melt with your body heat
and eventually towel you dry.

You would be happy for days;
it never really took much.

And yet, I think
I could have done more for you,
had I chosen a school
closer to home that spring
before I turned 18—
you were already six then.
I would have been able
to see you on weekends
to take you on drives
or to explore any and every field;
but ambition and possibility
got the best of me,
maybe in the same way
it got my father;

and, temporarily,
I left you behind.

I’m sorry.  I love you more than that;I thought I had to.

You were always my baby

when I came home in spring,
and in winter,
and in summer.
When mom,
who had accepted you as hers
once I took leave,
would let me,
I would feed you
and walk you
and clean the
gunk out of your ears
and medicate you for fleas.

And you always sat and watched
patiently
to see if I’d take you somewhere
or feed you something
or invite you up on the couch with me;
which you loved:
tiny girl who loved feeling ever-tall,
ever-bold:

Mr. Lion.

After my graduation, brief unemployment,

other misfortune, and mom getting sick,
I came back home—
“home,” having moved more times
than I could keep track of,
was now Manhattan—
then New Jersey,
just outside of Newark,
where mom’s doctors were.

I was closed off then,
I saw and spoke to no one
unless they could write me a paycheck,
or prescribe me (all the wrong) meds;
unless I was fending off predators,
racists, verbal jousters who
couldn’t even pronounce
“Portuguese” when they used it
in an attack against us.

“Go back to Portageez!"

But you

I would cuddle with,
let out onto the patio,
photograph,
hum to, whistle for,
write odes to, off the top of my head
when cooking or cleaning.

In this way, despite
all the therapists,
the lawyers, the dealers in the street
I watched get arrested regularly,
the disappearing of

everybody—

I was social,
I was actively loving.

You kept me alive,
and you kept glimmers of me
wholly me.

This is maybe how mothers do it
when freer youth watch them
and wonder how they can
have so few nights out,
take so few phone calls.

. . .

Now I have settled
for the time being,
all the stillness and the silence
and the prescriptions behind me:
I bought us a house,
with wood floors like you like,
and carpet in the rooms like you like,
and two yards with grass,
so your old joints don’t have to go far
to feel its summer-defiant coolness
underfoot and underbelly.

The house was for me,
but it can be your retirement home
if you’ll have it
(you turned seventeen in June),
and your teeny paw print may as well
be on the deed:

I entrust you with
this Trust.
Your size defies
your regality,
your emotional worth,
and the depths
of your deserving.
And freely I bequeath it to you,
whatever parts you like:

Sweetest, wagging girl.

Most stubborn,

silliest,
most playful,
humblest,
most loyal,
rudest,
sleepiest,
most entitled,
most curious,
shaggiest,
best,

best friend.

. . .

Since last week's seizure,
which may as well have
stopped my heart entirely,
when you walk,
the sedatives make you wobble weakly,
incapable of lifting up
your hind quarters
without help from me or “grandma,"
limping your front left paw to compensate;

some torn ligament,
some slipped disc,
maybe,
said the ER vet.
An MRI and a neurologist
will be required.

Watching you walk like this,
or un-walk, really,
staying home as much as I can
to be available when you whine and grumble
for someone to move you—
outside to urinate,
or inside, to prove to yourself
you’re still that same young pup,
by dragging your temporarily
incapacitated bottom half—

watching this
is my “humane," gradual preparation
for the day when you won’t get up
again.

Right now,
each time I carry you,
I love you more,
and am ever-protective—
but my heart sinks
with my mind’s capacity
for anticipation.

It doesn’t matter how old you are,
one-hundred-and-nineteen in dog years
(dachshunds can live to 25 or 30, I’ve read):
I’d still never
see it coming.

I’d never imagine
having to live
without your daily greeting
of walking over me in bed,
your short legs barely able to reach
(but you try nevertheless)—
to kiss me,

to literally park
your ass on my face,
to say, “Mine.  My momma,”
or, “Wake up, you lazy bum—
it’s feeding time."

. . .

What on green earth will it be like
to come home at midday
to make us lunch,
when you’re not hidden in some closet
under piles of blankets,
snoring like an old man?
Not there for me to wake
from some (I’m sure) stellar
dream about running
in your favorite half-groomed,
half-not park?

And how empty will everything seem
when I make travel arrangements
and only have to find a sitter for the cat,
and we don’t have to pay $200 for your coach ticket
under the seat in front of me
heading somewhere across the country?

What if,
Chloe,
when mom leaves,
she takes you with her,
citing how I left you to her
when I chose college in a new world
ten years ago,
and how all my attempts at being
responsible & maternal,
were futile?

Tell me, please,
because I just don’t know:
who could ever replace
the world’s

sweetest girl?

. . .


In honor of you,
and your possibly-fading,
possibly-not, will

to breathe
to stick around
to love me
and be loyal
and be free;
to feel and give joy,

here are the names
we’ve called you
over the course of
the seventeen years
you’ve wagged at our feet
and granted me the privilege
of petting your floppy ears:

Chloe, Lampalaminas, Colada, PiƱa Colada, Ca-loud-o, Sweet Girl, Boo-Boo, Puppawitz, Tiny Tot, Girlsie, Baby Boo, Pateeto, Wubbles, McPubbles, Pubbles Magoo, Magoo-Magoo, Pateeto Pie, Potato Cakes, Badger Dog, Hounddog, Beautiful Girl, Mr. Lion, Mean Girl, Snarky, Love of My Life.

You’re golden, Chloe Haines;
You’re platinum—
You're conflict-free diamonds!

And

when you’re ready to go
to fade,
to disappear,
I’ll stay with you:
hold your paw,
feel your fur
from snout to tail
rub your belly,
rougher now
with age.

And when it stops hurting
to see your chest fail to rise and fall,
I’ll kiss your sweet black nose
and bury you by the grapefruit tree
that, only two feet tall,
towered over you
when you once looked up at me there
for approval,
eyes full of love,
tail steadily wagging.



. . . . .
© erika simone 2014












Gross

If I could reinvent
cranberry juice & vodka,
you know I would.

We poured ourselves a mixture then,
50/50 —one part juice to one part Grey Goose
first years shouldn’t be able to afford
Grey Goose

And I must have had
two and a half cups,
large cups,
Schneider Center cups,
ignorantly testing
the limits of
my liver

but with you all,
with you.

The room spun,
tilt-a-whirl,
intestines little gymnasts
and everyone ordinary
became attractive

The 50-50 Mix
rendered us all
lip-slutty

Is this the part where you and I kiss?

I don’t remember much:
the music was bad and blaring,
and I wore a floor-length black boho skirt
people were lined up--
as though awaiting a firing squad--
on the two twin extra-longs,
flip-flopped feet flitting near the floor;

then,
retching alone in my 
room into a metal trashcan 
as though bobbing for apples,
too delirious to empty it,
leaving it instead, half-consciously,
in the public bathroom
across the hall from room 207.

The custodian found it the next day
and guilt consumed me.
I emptied it into the toilet 
so she wouldn’t have to

That smell, that taste:
of cranberries
and vodka
and bile

has not left me, for ten years.
To this day, I cannot enjoy vodka
in any form.

That 50-50 mix--
What we drank
when we were 
FINALLY masters of us,
our time
and all the lovely women
who secretly swooned
swooned, drunkenly,
then and later on,
as though the half-broken
half-breakers
were also worth loving.

One part
broken, one part 
breaking;
one part
cranberries, one part 
ethanol.

From concentrate,
from fountains;
and bottled,
distilled.



. . . . . 


© erika simone 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Absorbing Through The Pores

For Tina.


How many black 
painted boxes 
can We bury
in a week?

You and me put
you and me there
(as was custom)
and should have been predicted
(when you called it out like that, I
should have seen the sign)

but I,
having my toolbox handy,
nailed it shut.

I am calling it:
once and for all.
who isn’t tired of you and me?
even we are,
even we,
R.

After we went opposite ways,
and once I was emotionally ready,
I started to want all the things
you would say you wanted for Us:
marriage,
babies,
to cook for me,
to care more about the world—

I wanted them all
deeply,
hidden in caverns within me
desires that for over twenty years,
I wasn’t even aware existed:

you stepped away 
and your absence ignited all your requests--
which I had formerly rebuffed.

How long has been this journey 
of love and lust and non-love and neglect 
and lies and misunderstanding
and teasing and heat
and solitude and togetherness 
and weeping and ecstasy?

I am not desperate,
but I am capable
of the vivid fetish
of remembering.

I wanted only the scrawn of your legs
your joking ‘man-back’ (your term) wide shoulders
with delicate arms that dangled off your knee
when seated cross-legged at a desk;
the grime of you at day’s end,
mature but humble breasts,
stomach and thighs damp with 
you or me

I wanted your peace
that you so skillfully 
reverse-psychologically
pinned on me
(aha! so you did pin me after all!),
I wanted to be able to better
sit calmly and listen
to the ones that mattered,
and be patient and so forth;

but you, 
you weren’t all these things at your core.
I saw you as good and peace but
now I know you were just covering up
your conservative agenda:
furthering the cause of liberalism
claiming you “owe it to the world”
to be with women until you die, and 
by assuming roles of alleged integrity
and commitment.
Commitment to the point of exclusion.
Commitment to the point of forever meaning
never.

When things fell apart again,
and after years of 
the self-preserving taciturnity,
I reached out to you 
to collect 
everything sweet 
and honest 
and tender 
I thought I had left behind,
like shepherds gather lost sheep,
like grandmas gather loose skeins,
after being wholly consumed for too long in 
everything else more pressing.

And looking back on us:

the moon was my constant
but so was the sun.

In both, light and dark,
within, without, 
en face, and behind:
you shone so brightly and uplifted,
but you, at your core 
and where no one could see,
were dark matter,
were cold.

. . .

I ultimately grew to think
that We had something,
and leaving Us again,
leaving Our now-nothing 
(you forced it into this)
hurts me,
but it also feels

so good.
Heathen,
me.
(We
swapped
hearts.)

To be free of you
and of waiting
and of dreaming
(quietly, despite my independence,
this vulnerability to you—it  
always baffled me)
and of loving you so much that
I could fucking kill you—
feels, just,

so good.

There is no reality where 
tongues and hips and tits 
and clavicles and kneecaps and toes 
and hair-in-the-face and god!-our-bodies! 
intermingling—or candlelight so flickering 
and wine so deeply red and 
Us sitting cross-legged and talking with—
and into, and through, and off of—
each other—

no known reality where 
such things can endure infinitely: 
without pause, without society, 
without obligation, without commitment; 
without rising for the day, without the backdrops 
that warrant acknowledgment:

Like an afterlife in which we strive to believe,
that science admits it has no proof will come.
Where was the proof we could make it beyond
that elite, hopped up canopy-- 
and do so with stability?
And still we wished for it:  
you verbalized it, baby,
but it was always 
my heart-song first:

Us, forever,
everyone else—never.
And sweetness daily,
and being teammates,
and revering each other,
and dancing, drunk, sober,
and reading, watching, listening,
and growing together,
and seeing each other grow,
beaming with love and pride.

We only ever owed the world
honesty about
the roots of our love;
and even then,
we’d be free to not tell.

Bless you! bless you!
with the only things
I know that can bless:

the beating sun,
its warming air;
the green it left over;

and the cold, 
distorted face 
of the moon.


Always.

. . . . . 

erika simone 2014