Hospitaltown Revisited

(Reading Hospitaltown first will make this make more sense.)

I remember the days in the country
with the silent phones
the sleeping computers
the conversations over Thai food.

I remember the feel of tension
brought by Sunday night
and the way the world felt cold
on a Monday morning
after a Sunday afternoon
in his arms.

They weren’t so long ago.

The city limits of Hospitaltown
expanded so quickly.
Blasting and exit ramps
and freeways and pollution
and stress.

It extended to the country.
Bustle woke the computers
phones chimed endlessly
It was deafening.
We were tired.

We stood looking at the progress
the hideous urban sprawl
choking the landscape.
We just shrugged.

This was inevitable.
Hospitaltown would chase him,
track him, hunt him down.
Hospitaltown had a relentless
insomniac mind of its own.
Hospitaltown would have its man.

I moved to somewhere new,
somewhere quiet.
Where there is space to remember
soft hands, broad shoulders and a velveteen voice.

One day, Hospitaltown will free him.

When that day comes,
maybe he will make use
of my forwarding address.

——————————————

This marks the end of my time with Male Suitor. Maybe he will be back when circumstances are better, maybe not. I cannot idle, but I would welcome him back. He was kind to me, and I will miss him.

Hospitaltown

He mainly lives in Hospitaltown
but he visits on the weekends.

Hospitaltown is a lot like Manhattan
abuzz with conversation
cell phones, computers, machinery.
A swirling eddy of technology
and fast decisions.
Patience is expensive.
Eating is expensive.
Sleep is expensive.
The pay barely covers
the cost of living this way.

Saturdays and Sundays, he visits me
in the country.

There is no buzz in the country, no beeping, no machinery.
Phones are quiet.
Meals are events.
Sleep is so cheap even the computers do it.

In that silence,
we converse
we touch
we learn each other
in tiny steps
measured in weekends.

Sunday evening brings a dull sadness,
a sound like a roller coaster car
clicking to the top of a hill.
Click. Click. Click.
Like the ticking of a distant clock
all of the tension
without the giddy anticipation.
From the top of the hill
the next Saturday is so far away.

A kiss goodbye.
A quiet understanding that his chaos begins again.
He drives away
back to the buzz, the phones, the machinery.
I wrap myself in quiet
and get back to work.

I will see him in 6 days
when he returns to the country.

Poetry Corner: The Ivy

The ivy in my sun room
survived the Winter

It sat out in the cold
It didn’t get much sun
I forgot to water it

But come spring
Waxy, light green leaves sprouted anyway

Ivy is forgiving.
I’d have died just to make a point.

I appreciate the ivy’s forgiveness
I’m just not sure I respect it anymore.

Poetry Jag, Day 2: Excited, Except.

Excited, Except.

Here I was
excited.

Excited to wrap my arms around you
bury my face in your neck
and inhale.

Excited to lie beside you
listing all the things I’d missed:
your voice
your hands
your ears
your dimples
the skin on your hips
the soft hair on the back of your head.

I would lie next to you
curled in your arms
and whisper these things in your ear

Except…

You are only here
because you are afraid
to wield the axe.

You would rather drag this
slowly through the street
inch by hard, paved inch
until it’s dead.

Look down at it
spiked with gravel and glass
and feel like
The Nice Guy.

It could take weeks.
Months.

Time
Concern
Thought
These are precious
and given only when returned.

No, sir.
Hand me the axe.

Baby’s got a way
with execution.

Poetry Jag, Day 1: The Wren

I’m cleaning out the poetry stash, kids! The good news: the blogs take less time to read. The bad news: it’s poetry! Oh ho ho!

——————————————-

The Wren

Once upon a time, a wren
rare in his land
alit on my finger.
“I will sing for you.”

“You? You will sing for me?
in my land, wrens clog the trees
the endless clamor keeps us awake.
My cat kills ten a day.”

Still, he had other charms.
I brought him home.

He was amusing and smart
had soft feathers
and a kind face.
Ignorant of these things,
he only wished to sing.

As he sat on a sill,
a lady passed.
“A wren! A wren!”
“You realize,” I sighed, “that we have millions?”

“No, YOU have millions.
I am only visiting.
Before today, I thought
wrens were a myth.”

I woke the next day
to find my wren gone.
My clever little songbird
had scrawled a note:

“You may care for me,
but she loves my song.
I care for your affection
but love her adoration.
I have gone to be a myth made real.”

I am still surrounded by wrens.
None so clever
or soft-feathered.

I wear earplugs to sleep.
My cat kills ten a day.

Quick, Get Your Beret.

To answer the unasked questions, yes, this is 1998 and I am 21 and pretentiously drinking Earl Grey tea at Cafe Coco. This can only explain why I am subjecting you to poetry today. Poetry! What’s next? Panic at the Disco fan fiction? Apologies in advance. Emo stupidity today, continuation of 1,000 Christmases tomorrow.

—————————————

Smile, click.

In pictures from years ago
we all look so innocent.
People always look so happy in pictures, standing, smiling for the camera.

I was there.
We weren’t always happy. Some of us were miserable.
We just stopped being miserable
long enough to smile
and wait for the click.

Smile, click.
In a week, dad’s going to die.

Smile, click.
In six months, he’s going to kill me a little.

Smile, click.
They end up divorced.

Smile, click.
You two will stop speaking.
No one will remember why.

Smile, click.
Within a year, we’ll all be at his funeral.

Smile, click.
He’s going to shoot himself.

There are no time machines to save any of you.

Put on your costumes and smile, my darlings.
Years from now, we will remember being happy

even if we weren’t.

—————————————

To Your Soles

Dancing happily.
Dancing angrily.
Dancing eulogies.
Dancing to convince everyone we’re ok.
Dancing to convince ourselves we’re ok.
Dancing because it makes us feel less powerless.

If I can boss around a snare
it’s all okay.
Right?

Requests come for a reason.
Not because we want something
but because we need it.

This is how I celebrate.
This is how I fight, fuck and bury.
With my boots on.
Like I mean it.

The Red Shoe Diaries

I own a pair of red patent mary janes. I’ve never worn them, but I haven’t put them on eBay either. Each time I see them, I think “I should wear these or sell them” and I wonder why I bought them in the first place. For two years, I’ve been telling myself “those are from that Dorothy costume, before you made red sequin shoes.”

But the shoes that I bought before I made the sequin Dorothy shoes were knee-high red patent shoes. I sold them to a dominatrix from Arkansas who may well be using them to step on clients’ testes. (No lie; she said that’s what they were for. I wonder if she’s hiring.) Somehow, my brain rearranged my life, swapping years to fool itself.

I remembered all of this and resorted the years into their proper folders because I am tagging old blogs, and I hit an old post (newly de-friendlocked, cause three years ago is ancient history). I didn’t know it then, but October 2007 was when I started leaving my body more regularly. Amy’s Life isn’t 24 hours, like CNN. It’s more sporadic, like a season of Charm School.

Every so often, my brain is called upon to do things it doesn’t want to do, but has no choice to do. To protect itself, it disassociates. I never know when I leave my body and watch my life on tv, but I know when I come back because it hurts and I only remember pieces of feelings and events. Telling myself, “I’ll only keep 10 of the 300 mental pictures I took” is the only way to get me to come back to my body.

The longest was a week: the week dad died. I came back to my body somewhere on the highway between Lexington and Nashville. The only way to get me to leave town for 6 days is to leave my body; when I came home, I felt like I’d been gone for 2 years.

When Obadiah died, I came back to my body at Mt. Olivet, eating donuts where we sat and ate donuts the night we met. When Kris died, I came back to my body at Calypso Cafe, eating nachos with Jen in our funeral clothes. I do not lose my mind at funerals. I just leave my body.

This lost time and rearrangement of years would all be very troubling if I minded it, but I don’t. Long as I can remember where I live and don’t misplace my wallet or keys, I guess everything’s OK. It’s just how my brain deals with things, and I’m really trying to get along with my brain a little better these days. We’re stuck with each other, so we might as well try to get along. Besides, it tries so hard.

When it rearranged those years and made me think I bought those red shoes for a Dorothy costume, it was only trying to help. I had forgotten.

I bought those shoes because I was supposed to be one-half of a couples Halloween costume. The breakup happened when the shoes were in the mail. When they arrived, it was like they had come just to spite me. “Hello, we are the shoes with no purpose.”

I thought that I hadn’t been wearing them because they didn’t go with anything. Conscious brain thought they were just the wrong shade of red. Subconscious brain saw them as a symbol of lost hope, failure, disappointment and stupidity. Subconscious brain, for all its good instincts about sketchy neighborhoods and guys who wear too much jewelry, is sometimes like a friend who comes to a party bearing a photo album full of pictures from the year you were chubby.

(If you’re in the mood for ancient history and questionable poetry, the original posts are here and here.)

Do Not Prod the Beach Rubble

In college, I worked in a record store. A series of record stores, really. Also, it started in high school. I was all set to play the marimba in marching band (“what can I play, since I only know how to play the piano?”). Then mom and dad said something to me along the lines of “what are you doing? who’s going to pay for this? There is no college fund, and you need to get a job.”

So, I bought a navy blue polo shirt and a pair of khakis and went to work at Blockbuster Music. Oh yes, the world once contained stores where people would buy non-used music, and one of those stores was owned by Blockbuster. Gas was 1.95 a gallon, people did the Macarena without irony and electricity had just been invented.

The years spent unsealing rap CDs for the teenagers of Lexington, Kentucky became a year of unsealing rap CDs for the teenagers of Antioch. This is the valuable work experience that got me a job at what may be Nashville’s best-known used music (and comic book) store.

I worked with such characters as “Always High Manager,” “Old Rock Dude,” “OTHER Old Rock Dude,” “Body Odor Guy,” “Weird Art School Guy,” and “Lesbian Who Wants You To Watch John Waters Movies.”

The customers had names, too. “Go Pee Man,” a mentally challenged fellow who had an unsettling habit of materializing out of thin air, only to appear behind you and say, “Go Pee!” This would be your cue, of course, to reach over the counter and grab the bathroom key. After handling the long piece of wood attached to the key, you’d have a burning urge to wash your hands ASAP, to clean roughly 30 years’ worth of microscopic traces of fecal matter from your hands. Other customers included “Crystal Meth Guy,” “German Dude From the Gas Station” and Marty Stuart.

We clocked in on an ancient ka-chunk, ka-chunk timeclock which, from what I can hear when I’m in the store these days, is still being used. I never did quite grasp how to line up my time card with the machine. For over a year, I would be appearing to take my break before I’d even started my shift. It was one step up from the gap-toothed time card dinosaur on The Flintstones. I think I may have once clocked in from 1973.

Everything in that place had been there a while, none of it ever getting a thorough dusting. Items that didn’t sell just gradually faded from the sunlight or got buried under a thick coating of dead skin (aka “dust”) and, quite possibly, more traces of fecal matter. It was oddly Darwinian. Undesirables would get marked by ages on the shelf and those markings would damn near guarantee that the items would never sell. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of items that weren’t even on the sales floor.

The sales floor may have resembled a cross between the house of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons and the world’s most overpriced yard sale, but the upstairs, “behind the scenes” area was like a retirement home for VHS tapes, Loretta Lynn merchandise, and roughly 100 sealed copies of Faith No More’s Angel Dust album. The only time the endless clutter came to a stop was when a space on the floor would be left clear to allow a hatch in the floor to open. Throughout the upstairs, little trapdoors could be opened to look down on would-be shoplifters on the sales floor. Who were we kidding? That place probably lost as much as it sold, but no matter. One sale of a sealed Beatles “butcher” cover would keep the ship floating.

Also in the upstairs was a small area next to heaps of old G.I. Joes and Star Wars figures where employees kept bags and purses. This is where I began to find mysterious little notes tucked into my backpack, coat pockets, and purse. Little poems, always written in red ink on good quality paper, complete with a deckled edge. Always in the same all-caps sort of handwriting.

It wasn’t Calculus. Nothing in that store was computerized, which meant that everyone knew everyone else’s handwriting. Besides, most guys still write with that sort of tiny, disconnected “ball and stick” print (no pun intended) that’s taught in first grade. There’s not a lot of epic penmanship left in the world. Besides, “Body Odor Guy” didn’t seem like the type to write little poems. Nope. My poet was Weird Art School Guy. But how to respond? I couldn’t suck all the mystery and joy out of the thing by walking right up to him and saying something. The thing to do was to write poems right back. Of course I wrote poems. It was the nineties and I was in college. All I was missing was a Jesus Lizard shirt and a bottle of black hair dye.

Back and forth the poems went. Things continued on this way until the nightly walk to the parking lot after work ended in conversation. It’s cold; let’s talk in the car. Let’s kiss in the car. Let’s fog up the windows. Let’s laugh at how we just fogged up the windows.

When I showed up for an afternoon shift the next day, I was wearing a high-necked Victorian blouse, and had my hair down. Why? Because my “hello, I have a giant fucking hickey” shirt was dirty, that’s why.

I unveiled my neck only to “Lesbian Who Wants You To Watch John Waters Movies.” Upon seeing my neck (which looked like I’d taken a baseball pitched by Wild Thing Vaughn), she gasped and whispered “Amy!! You’re not like that!!….well, maybe you ARE!” It took a week for the whole thing to heal, during which I had trouble using my neck properly.

After that, the poems continued for a while, until our less-eloquent speaking selves realized that, while it was a fun adventure, we were kidding ourselves if we thought this was a relationship. It’s all well and good to call my hair a strawberry veil (it was red then) and call my room my kingdom, but what are your long-term goals?

When I finally got out of retail and quit the job at the record store, he got me a cake and had a Sappho quote iced onto it: “do not prod the beach rubble.” The first part of the quote was “if you are squeamish,” but just putting the end on the cake made the message seem like sage advice to a friend going off to bigger and better things. I sense that this meaning may have been lost on the employees at the Kroger bakery, but not me. I lived on purple cake covered in purple roses for three days and (ah, youth) still never got over 105 pounds.

I heard that the guy eventually began writing poems to another girl who worked there after I did. She had him reported for sexual harassment and he got fired. How unfitting. How unfair.

Every so often, I think about him. Every so often, I clean out a closet. Sometimes, in that cleaning, I find a little box. In that little box I find a bundle of neatly-lettered poems, all in red ink, on good paper with a deckled edge.

That Time Again

Today is December 10. In keeping with the tradition of the last 2 years, I’m running the poem again.

Other people have left over the last two years, but strangely, those sting less because the leaving wasn’t voluntary and misunderstood. It’s a special kind of nagging, stabbing between the shoulder blades when someone tells you to your phone’s face that nothing you can do would be good enough to stop the falling piano. Inertia, you know. The little spot between my shoulders will forever be sitting in a taffeta skirt at an airport gate, waiting for some flight that never arrives.

You can go weeks and months without thinking about that taste in your mouth, but it never completely goes away. In a sense, you hope that it doesn’t go away. If it does, it means you don’t care anymore. So, you roll it around in your mouth, get a good taste of it, then spit it out until the next time it bubbles up. The only thing worse than remembering his voice is the idea of not being able to.

For Diah

Memory reared its head it last night’s dream
I was at the airport with a flowering potted plant
Dressed in my finest clothes
Waiting for you

But your plane was late.
I slept at the gate, waking each time a stranger passed
Hoping it was you.
Days went by
My flowering plant wilted and dried to brittle brown sticks
My finest clothes became wrinkled and unkempt
I wondered whether you would ever arrive at all.

Then, out from the gate’s mouth, you came.
I squealed your name and ran to meet you
Swept up in a giant hug and spun around in circles,
I was so happy and you were there-

Then I woke up.

My Funeral/Job Interview Outfit is Getting Tired.

I never know what to say when people die. I suck at anything that requires some other response than sarcasm. Luckily, Younger Amy (when she was Amy and not “evil,”) bailed me out on this one. She never said much of anything to anybody, but she has a tendency to sit in a coffee shop and write poetry with a Pilot V5. We all kind of took ourselves too seriously then. We ALL wrote poetry.

Anyway, I wrote this (completely friend-wise, might I add), for Kris Bristow. I’m guessing I’m about to witness the world’s best-dressed memorial service. There will be goth folk and roller girls. The place is going to be packed.

Grey

Gun metal grey, his eyes reached into me
Looking for understanding
His curled smile spoke truth
Of my walls
Which, til now, have served me well.
After months of braind ead comfort
His words have shaken me awake
To look up at the angel before me
To hear this song
Of words
Which lodge in my rib cage
Inches from my skittish heart
Two inches more…
And the bullet would have claimed me
He would hold my reluctant heart
Thus adding another to his collection.
What is one heart to him, but a drop in the ocean?
Yet, still, he has reached me
Though my heart is still my own,
A chip has fallen from its wall
Shaken loose by the force
Of ammunition words
From a curled smile
And gun metal grey eyes.

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** Note to $_Deity: While you seem to be amused by killing my friends and family members lately, I appreciate letting my aunt and her friend survive that badass car wreck. Don’t think this gets you completely off the hook, though.