Monthly Archives: April 2010
are gunfire in a
her words are
like snorting the
ashes of what was
once new york city
after a nuclear
her words are
She was a woman who had contempt for women and was easily frustrated by her body—cramps, its tendency to fat, its sensitivity to cold. She came like a man: quickly, usually before him. She spoke plainly when she wanted time to herself, and was good at sending him away, not just when she was angry, but when she was tired, or stressed.
She quit her teaching job in the same way: bluntly, almost accusing. Lesson-planning and calling parents cut into her evenings and weekends; she had no time to “write.” She thought it would be easy to find a desk job, not entry-level and not management. He admired her decision, her ability to leave her career behind. Her writing, so rare and ornamental when she’d had a regular paycheck, after weeks of temping and false leads, seemed like a petty thing to tinker at.
He tried to make plans for the few nights she was free, but she would come home, wash her face, and crawl into bed, hair sticking to her wet forehead. He couldn’t even get her out on Halloween. He understood, he told her; she hadn’t had a night off in weeks. Privately, though, he felt she could have rallied for their holiday. Last year, still new to each other, they had stood and watched the parade, making out through most of it. He had worn goggles and a cape and too-small footed pajamas that swelled in front as he pressed against her.
They argued; about the clutter she left strewn around, the cooking she never reciprocated, the sex they never had. He summoned memories of old girlfriends for relief: the girl he’d hooked up with while he backpacked through Slovenia, girls he’d brought home from parties in college. Tank-topped and smiling, they never gained weight, never cluttered his space with socks or unopened mail. They just accepted the frothy plastic cups he brought them and folded pliantly under him, disappearing in the morning, grateful and ungrudging.
Out of loyalty, he tried to use them only as supplements: her face and old self with the other’s legs, in place of the less-solid ones she folded under her as she scarfed a late dinner. His heart still lifted when she came home, hoping she’d have some good news that day.
But her face was always crumpled by the packed trains or some slight at work. He wasn’t always sorry when she went to bed, leaving him to his movies or whatever work he’d dragged home. As she receded from him, the girls in his memory became more and more lifelike. He made a game of recalling details about them: their favorite foods and books, their sisters’ names, the particular clench of each as he slid inside them. He began to feel like a collector, mulling over the impossible loops of his ex’s Celtic tattoo or the smell of that raver girl’s neck inside its neon orbit. They weren’t her at her best—not by a long shot—but she was almost unrecognizable now, her prettiness cloaked by exhaustion and bad food, her sense of humor choked.
He looked over at her, barely visible under the bedspread. At least she was safe and warm for another night. He would wait out her infirmity, sustained by the lean, lively golems who smiled on him, eerie and pleasing, like a candle out the mouth of a carved pumpkin.
Intrigued by the film noir flyer
sealed into the corner streetlamp.
Seduced by the scent
of sublime stogies
and murmuring macchiato.
The grizzly, lazy-eyed
fingering linear chords
like a lost virtuoso
looked up to greet me,
as I eased inside past
the local university boys
(sporting the same haircut
displaying different shades of plaid)
to a worn, orange, recliner.
with lifeless hair
crossed tapered denim legs
on wicker chairs
waiting for boyfriends
to belt out blasé songs
from their indie bands
with commercial names.
I sat, glad snapping is passé.
Sentiments stemming from my
Dad’s machismo explained:
his calloused thumbs,
my propensity for double entendres,
and Mom’s friend who visited
late-night while he was away.
Though I’m a jr.,
I didn’t inherit his ways.
I just wanted to sign the sheet.
Read my meager poems,
hoping one of the narrow girls
would notice and say,
“Damn. That was good…”
She says the sky is on fire. The blue actually cool hue of the
quintessential flame, and clouds: spectators to record the
calamity. There are no such things as planes. They are products
of chemtrails—governmental spaying and neutering. Airports:
kennels/accomplices. She says birds are a dying breed of
matchsticks, striking the fuse with the tips of their beaks.
Runaway balloons are the severed grasping hands of children,
inflated aspirations set ablaze ‘round campfire songs gone awry.
Kites, are kites. Mostly pointless. Reigned in when fear outweighs
risk. But fireflies are real. Embers of tossed cigarettes thrown
over cold shoulders. She says either way, we’ll all burn in hell.
I am an easterner. I was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, raised in Plattsburgh, New York, and grew up in New Hampshire. At 30, I moved to Colorado to become the westerner I’ve always wanted to be. There is so much about my personality seems western: a need for independence, an affinity for rural living, and being surrounded by wilderness.
All 39 years of my life have been about movement, dislocation; change; I am the child of a military family. It only makes sense that I end up a westerner where literature and myth has created a western persona of someone who can’t stay still.
I live western for the first time in 2004 as I drive I-70 across the country; from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I feel safely ensconced in my blue Subaru as the Pennsylvania mountains blur by me and as I am in awe of the plains of Kansas. As I drive across the eastern plains of Colorado, I finally see the Rocky Mountains white peaks in the distance. I drive through Denver and start the ascent into the mountains. After three hours of tunnels and narrow canyons, I finally see the “Steamboat City Limits” sign and recognize the ski resort where I’ve skied several times. I look at the directions for Hilltop Parkway; my new roommate is expecting me. The next two days I’m lost. This is no longer vacation land; it is home.
Matt and Erin, who I know from Vermont, invite me to their home for dinner several times my first week. They don’t want me to be lonely because they know what it’s like to be in a new place where you don’t know anyone. They introduce me to their circle of friends. On day 14, I meet Laura. Laura is friendly and invites me to her house to watch a movie and I can bring Abbey. Abbey and Dugan, Laura’s dog, love each other and play during the entire movie. We go on a group hike the next day with three of her friends; they all have dogs, too. We go to the Mad Creek trail west of town and the dogs play in the creek as we all get to know each other. I now have five friends in Colorado.
Steamboat Springs, population 10,0000 is a western, cowboy town with horses in fields outside of town, rodeos, and winter carnivals with horses pulling children on skis through the downtown. Steamboat is famous for being “Ski Town, U.S.A.®” and for the number of Olympians who live there. I start running and biking, like everyone else here, and decide to train for a triathlon. It’s been a goal for many years and it is not difficult to become a triathlete here with an outdoor, hot spring-fed pool, a multitude of running trails, and safe, scenic roads for biking. I become a triathlete, I volunteer on the running series committee and the chamber marketing committee.
I try to set down roots in my first western town but I don’t like my job and my friends start coupling. I cannot afford a home here and decide to find a job somewhere else. I love living in Steamboat and the Yampa Valley with a world-class ski resort in my backyard, but it’s time to move on. I find a job in a Granby, Colorado: population 1,500. I buy a house. I find a different job. I join a writer’s group. I get a second dog. I’m setting down roots and making a home out west.
The one thing my new home doesn’t have: my books. One day I will have a library in my house and all my books that are in my mom’s basement and sister’s attic will be reunited. I do have the necessary ones, the ones that motivated me to come west: Wallace Stegner’s Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, The Stories That Shape Us, a collection of contemporary women writing about the west, and my favorite Woven on the Wind Women Write about Friendship in the Sagebrush West. These made the trip across country because they remind me of being in the east when I read them as preparation to come west.
For now, I’m simply in love with this place; I love this landscape and the people in it. For the first time I’m living in the present. When I see my dogs running free on a trail with yellow and purple wildflowers, and aspen leaves scattered on the ground, the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distance – I feel connected.
There is a herd of mule deer that wander on the hills across the street from my house that will soon be a new development filled with houses and people. But for now, I walk my dogs on the vacant roads with mountains surrounding me. I hike around my neighborhood I remember the warnings about mountain lions and hope I never see one. This is another sign that I’m in the right place; more wildlife, less people.
It took me thirty seven years to finally find a place where I feel connected and grounded; no longer pursuing that “thing” out there in the future. I don’t know how long I will live here; I still don’t know if I can say in one place for the rest of my lifetime. But for now, Granby feels like the right place. And, as the sun sets behind the rolling sage-filled hills to the west, a fox runs across the field in front of my house. He’s heading back to his den in the culvert down the road. I can see a herd of mule deer grazing on the hills and the horizon become darker blue. A star-filled sky ends the day and as I watch this entire scene, I feel at lucky, safe, and finally, fulfilled.