Aubade for What Stayed in Reno

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Oh, darling one
I wish I may,
I wish I might
have that wish
we made last night,
on that bright star
neither first nor right
but fixed as it was
to the grid of light
seemed a safer bet
to count on to stay
twinkle-twinkling
than a dumb rock
in the sky, though,
not so dumb as we
who got hitched
to a deadline
not certain, as we
who bet love
on some number
of days before
the Chapel of Bells
goes under.

Oh, bright star,
would I were
steadfast as thou are,
could take your
leave-taking
with no hand
in the jar
not reaching
for crumbs
when there’s cake
right in front of me
full of butterlove
the better love,
the solid, yellow,
stick-to-the-ribs
kind of love;
with no head
under the bell
not stewing
on what you are
hanging aloft, alone
in Reno’s sour air
when there’s someone
who cares, standing
right in front of me.

Oh, sweet heart,
so soon we part
— yet, you are
still steadfast
still unchangeable
still as night
at the break of day
with eggs breaking
with sugar shaking
how can you be hungry
for lovemaking
it’s too early, too new
too much, too fast,
and too soon — yet,
I am still happy,
still over the moon
still laughing along
with the little dog,
at seeing such sport
as the dish carried
off by her spoon.

When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are.

Things My Mother Gave Me (That I Did Not Ask For)

shoulder pads
a cigarette burn on my left shoulder
her middle name

a battle with me at the middle
second helpings of mashed potatoes
too little pride to succeed, too much to ask for help
how to win Monopoly
how to cheat
how to cheat the system
Nintendo 64
an excuse for asking

“Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Really, are you so sure?”

love
a crush on David Bowie
crushed ice from the refrigerator
Days With Frog and Toad
days spent on the road

One, two, three, four, five / Everybody in the car, so come on let’s ride

one, two, three, four, five…years of silence
someone to mythologize

Mother Medea in a cropped top
grooves humbly as any green girl through
her ruined lot, taking stock
off shelves at the Stop n’ Shop
just for shits and giggles.

lessons in astrology
enough clairvoyance to see beyond the tip of my nose
lessons in cosmetology

“A girl can always use more _______ .”

scrunchies
and bowls of Cap’n Crunch cereal
[Argh!! she’s a pirate, Halloween 1996]
how to change the mask without changing the costume
how to dance the Macarena
Kraft macaroni and cheese
Fifty bucks in government-subsidized dairy
and bottles of Similac
little-to-no tits, but nice nipples
sensitivity to mosquito bites
the last bite of her dessert
Strawberry Shortcake and Cabbage Patch Kids

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man / Bake me a cake, as fast as you can
a good man to call Uncle

Pat it, prick it, and mark it with B / Put it in the oven for baby and me

a better man to call Daddy
a promise

“I promise to be better.”
or two
“I promise the zoo.”
or three
“I promise birthday cards.”

a birthday.

I’ll Be Home for Xmas

 

I swept the stuff and the shit and the sayings [that were given but not asked for] under the mat.

I got stuck at the mirror all morning, from the first second after my second helping of breakfast was consumed, through noon, when it stopped being cute [to have an imaginary friend] and became something not unlike schizophrenia.

She wants you to put on a nice outfit, do your hair up right, take out the trash.

There’s a good side of me that recognizes the significance in having a room and a body to live in, fortunately. And so, I keep my corners clear. Before settling here, at the only cafe counter in town where there are coasters not carousels of condiments and paper nappies, I swept the stuff and the shit and the sayings [that were given but not asked for] under the mat. And I dressed up. If, any minute now, a stranger should sidle up beside me, the barista might rightly testify that I was asking for it. Imagine a girl [young adult woman] alone but for her leather notebook and inky pen, on Xmas Eve, and try not to assume that she’d be receptive to spitting on anything [from semantics to semiotics].

She wants you to make a public display of affection, a show of your agency, and strip off all the layers that you did not lay yourself.

Once, a dog ate my history, and so I had to rewrite it…

My self and I are neither “hanging out” nor halfway to the altar. This is a [the first official] date, the one that we will use to measure the depth and scale of our love. She has been asking me [to come] out for two decades, but there have been good excuses and better reasons to skirt her invitations. Once, a dog ate my history, and so I had to rewrite it, on the opening night of some subversive flick that could have [coincidentally] changed our course [mine and his] sooner. As for the other times, I was busy. She would call [again and again] just to say “It’s me!” and it was all I could do to tu-tu-tu-tu, seeming less harsh a tone than the truth.

She wants you to stop playing, cut the chords, and listen for the old bray of your heart.

I am home.

What is home if not where one goes looking for love?

Six months ago, the greatest love of my life moved to Reno, Nevada, but I [being reluctant to follow a woman] did not go. Instead, I put her down as my plus-one to holiday parties in Salt Lake City, Utah; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Edmonton, Kentucky; and Charlestown, New Hampshire, knowing that she could not afford to travel. She said, “I do not have a plane, or a train, or an automobile, but there’s a bicycle on Craigslist for $40.” And so, I have met her here — for a cup of coffee, and a two-wheeled tour of the Biggest Little City in the world. What is home if not where one goes looking for love?

Crossed Trees, Dotted Skies

Out of fear of jeopardizing a nascent acquaintance, with someone who understood “small talk” as being the conversations we have on the subject of our size relative to Earth, and its size relative to the universe, I agreed — to hop through puddles, and over the tracks; to lower my defenses against soiling my new Oxford flats.

Running, we hit a wall of brambles that fell open, and swallowed us whole, when my leader uttered the magic words: this way. On the other side, a cemetery, a grove of blighted poles–uncut. “This wood is still good,” they said, “but timberers know that the humankind are superstitious of catching diseases (that do not spread) and living in haunted houses (where none but trees have bled).”

I associate this adventure, from which I am now six months removed, with the feeling of fullness — a mind full of metaphysical questions, stockings full of stinging nettles, and the potential for a future full of invitations to eat ice cream with a friend. Stepping out of my comfort zone, and into the footprints of that nomad/nymph, was the first move of many that led to the making of this hole that I am now using to scratch my toe without removing my shoes. In retrospect, it was worth it.


The Oxbow Nature Study Area, chartered for the animals, by the people, is a watering hole for creatures who enjoy watching and being watched, while pretending to be thoroughly invested in some thing or another — often taking field notes in their Moleskine notebooks or surveying the range of edibles within walking distance.

It is public land, one of the few remaining places where we can play for free. I know a guy — I’ve lived here long enough to know a guy — who practices flute under those minimizing cottonwood spires, making music for an audience of his peers: the growlers, the quackers, the imagined masters, of cloud castles in the sky.

Despite being too frugal to buy toilet tissue, when it’s easy enough to swipe a roll from the diner over the hill, I ritually sacrifice $2.29 for one 10 oz. mug of coffee. I treat the cafe counter as rented studio space. Consumer etiquette tells me that I can loiter for two hours before purchasing a refill becomes obligatory.

But…there is a place for people like me, a preserve for poets who’d rather perch on the periphery of society than participate in basic exchanges of cash for caffeine. A place closer to home. A place that my memory recalls as the most romantic / Romantic setting in all of Reno, Nevada. Oxbow is convenient and cost-effective and cast in natural light, but I do not go there.


Now, sitting on the dock that leans out against muddy waters, into the marsh, a tributary of the Truckee River, I listen for the question that belongs to this place, on that day, when they asked it. Then, my answer was a snake in the reeds, meandering, a thing that made us wonder which end to be afraid of.
“What is home, Kayla?” A “w” question, but not the one I expected.
I said, “Home is a social convention — more dated than dating — four
walls make a box, two adults and two children in a box make four people.”

There’s some pleasure in being (or performing as) the type of person to intellectualize a concept that others know intuitively for fact, i.e., red means stops, green means living, but more in having a queue of single words answers to fill all the blank, uninterested faces at any given gathering of acquaintances.
Now, I am wanting to say “here” or “you” or some other small but mighty thing. I am wanting to express my truth, which is love, which is gratitude, which is healing, but they are not asking. Out of respect, let no mean no; let silence mean no; let me listen. Let an other have their turn in the sun, their pirouette on the big, flattop of a rotted-out stump.

This time, let me ask the questions.

One-Track Mind

Thinking about how
sex is different, much more
different, now than it was then;
not materially — the strings still
bray, their ancient tongues still
flick the same — but structurally.

Thinking about how
to imagine being fucked from
behind, without gagging on a
principle: all sex is violence
except the kind that is saved
by a word; Mississippi means
“This doesn’t feel good to me.”

Thinking about how
this doesn’t feel good to me;
the mattress has a zipper that
rubs wrongly, reminding me
of a mouth too familiar that
is dry and uncertainly mine.

Thinking about how
often is not often enough
for someone* to masturbate
when someone is *a female.

Thinking about how
being female is a diagnosis
for dysfunction; how I come
and come and come to accept
that prescription for Prozac
in place of understanding.

Thinking about how
the whole is greater than the sum
of its parts, i.e., ❤ = you + me
or 1 + 1 = 3; how there’s no proof
that when two losers fall in love
they’ve the will to beat anything.

Thinking about how
you beat me once, and again,
not materially — but an injury
does not have to be physical
to get us thinking about how
the body works or does not.

My First Place

lamplightIn the northwest corner
a tent for the sun
diffuses light muted divine
across this uncarpeted territory
that I deign call mine
but rather than bask
in the afterglow
of an energy bill paid
and my utility proven
I shut the lamp again
until it cools
“it” being the bulb
but also the fear
of being outgrown
as toy is by child
of being the child
who outgrows
the clinging
the tantrums
and toilet accidents
the infrastructure
for success
in health and happiness
that I built last season
when legs were shorter
and it made sense
to sit on his shoulders
for a clear view of the stage
beyond the next hill
beyond the walls of our bedroom
beyond “us”
and I stand
corrected of all errors made
under the influence
of the status quo
the normative hetero-
and other biases
on the subject of
how women and men are supposed to live
together
to live creatively
and I shout
I was an artist before we met
before he gave the go-ahead
by commenting on all my pictures
cute!
and I will stay an artist regardless
of how I use (or do not use)
my sex
and I sound
self-righteous and overexposed
to darkness and solitude
but I am not low
because my ego is so high
and I step
off my soap box taller
the tallest in the room
knowing one thing to be true:
for as long as I am here
I will not be where he went.

Love Letter Manifesta


Starting now, I choose to adapt to a higher standard of living.

Up to this point, my experience as a creature on this fine planet has been a whirligig of emotions, peace-becoming-turmoil-becoming peace-becoming-turmoil. Erratic is a good word, one which I tangentially define as “of or relating to New England weather.” I have never seen a year without four distinct seasons, so the choice of whether or not to adapt–to new colors and patterns on the ground, and in the sky, and the new dispositions that accompany them–is not one that I have practiced making. The person who I am today has been built upon an accumulation of abrupt transitions, she has witnessed (both in herself and others) so many changes in heart that the only outcome that feels safe to assume is impermanence. Last night, you saw me swinging, somewhere behind the eyes. In the weeks following my arrival, the arc of the pendulum within me has shortened, enabling me to feel happiness unchecked; the present moment is objectively good.

I do not need love to stand in for hunger, health or shelter…

Starting now, I choose to adapt to a higher standard of living. I give myself permission to seek out friendships and companionships with other walls, standing strong and tall, who love and respect themselves as much (or more than) me. I give myself permission to ask for what I want. I want someone to share beautiful things with, who challenges my definition of what it means to be extraordinary–or better–someone who refuses to differentiate between the mundane and the extraordinary, who finds purpose in his or her life not through acknowledged status and accomplishments but through anonymous acts of kindness and art making, guerrilla gardening, an authentic drive to die having enriched the planet and the lives of those plants and animals who inhabit it. What I want is a rare breed of person and a nuanced connection that requires more time to marinate than my previous self would have been comfortable with. Fortunately, the present moment is objectively good.

I resolve to show respect to those people and items that nourish my body.

I do not need love to stand in for hunger, health or shelter, for friends, family or therapy, these “basic needs” are, at long last, met, and I find myself in the position to want again. The easy, expectationless process that we have chosen to unravel each other is something that I have wanted for a long time, yet I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision for me. By some intuition, I continue to treat our interactions as little bites of a pie, the size and flavor of which remain to be determined, chewing each at least fifty times. Though both food and company are easily accessible to me, I resolve to show respect to those people and items that nourish my body, my soul, my heart.  Our day together was an anomaly in the scheme of my year and week and life, inviting me to experience the full range of good emotions–attraction seasoned with camaraderie and shameless festering–without imminent pain on the horizon. My intention: one good day at a time.


These past months of bashful salutations and stolen eye contact have transported me to a place of cognitive dissonance. After overreaching, and not being met halfway, the natural response should be to feel alienated from you–but, instead, I have noticed our connection deepen in density and thickness; new pathways have emerged to bridge the silence, while the old have been tread into permanence. All beings emit noise, above and beyond the sound of the breath, it’s that buzz-and-whir of the reel (some call it the brain, I’m sure) turning over, and over again, in the same way; forever. I did not tune my dial in search of your frequency; on the contrary, I tried to give up guessing at your thoughts, but every space you enter swells–made grander by your modest music, a trio of flute, panpipes and the whisper-whistle of the wind through a willow tree. When you are far, the air is too quiet; close, too loud
                                     

but the third bowl of porridge was just right
.
.
.
I love you


The landscape of my desire is all wilderness; there are at least 5,000 acres imagined for solitude.

We are both thankful for a thrift store being open on Sunday, as our hunger for Capezio T-straps with Teletone taps (me) and a poorly rendered portrait of Cesar Chavez (you), had it been otherwise, would still lay dormant. We are both in agreement that the capacity to want a thing immediately–without history, or context, or even a middle name, should be preserved, but disagree on the question of how to use it. The landscape of my desire is all wilderness; there are at least 5,000 acres imagined for solitude, and all other primitive and unconfined forms of recreation. I do not care to scale every inch, to build trails that loop back or lunge forward. I do not care to know why it feels sexy to ride bicycles wearing jazz shoes, or if it makes good sense to love you, I just do.


pheromones

  • burnt sage
  • brown bananas
  • dance sweat
  • used bookstore
  • masa harina
  • castille soap
  • brackish water
  • bruised lavender
  • the month of June
  • wet socks
  • sidewalk chalk
  • secondhand shirts
  •  supermarket pastries
  • sun-dried blacktop
  • hot coffee
  • cold crepes

Song of My Selfie

In 2013, “selfie” was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. It is an informal noun (plural: selfies) defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

I.   I monitor myself, and sing myself,
and compose the truth you shall assume,
for an arched brow only means as much as it signifies to you.

I choose to discard my soul.
I cut ‘cross puckerbrush, and plant dandies
among the summer grass.

My teeth, every incisor in my mouth, chatter in the open air.
Born with a  jack-o’-lantern grin, of parents who loved me all the same,
I, now thirty-seven paces tread into solitude, begin,
hoping to survive shutter-death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
retiring reliance on cultural scripts, undocumented, but never
forgotten–I capture myself, for good or bad.
I permit the image to speak every hazard nature has imbued
and, in its irregularities, reap energy.

II.  The house is deserted as a chestnut, rotted from inside out.
With perfumes, I concoct the fragrance of myself, and like it.
The vanity would noose me by the nose, but I shall not let it.

The phthalates are not necessary; they are dangerous and disruptive,
odorless, and potentially toxic, but I am in love with the bouquet.
I will haunt the powder room, doused in chemicals and naked,
smelling of red dye, unpicked.

The stress in my bated breath echoes and swarms,
in buzz’d whispers, a scandal creeps the vine.

My active mind puts me at the party, sniffing on green leaves,
punching air into my lungs, sucking off cherries, and swallowing their pits
for kicks. The sound, O, the siren sound, of my chalky heels striking
the cellar floor, eager for a few light kisses, a few embraces,
an offering of arms.

In dreams, I play synesthetic: mouth open, tongue wagging in delight,
imbibing each balsamic beat, spit-shadows trailing my hill-sides.
The feeling of  weak acid cleansing the body, from inside out,
imitates health, and encourages me to rise.
At the trill of full-noon, I will rise to meet someone.

III.  I have seen how the gawkers are gawking,
with mock compassion, at my reaches and bends.
But I refuse the hands they offer to lend.

There was never any more protection than there is now.
Nor any more depravity than there is now.
And will never be more fornication on cable than there is now.
Nor any more hoots and hollers than there are now.

Urge and urge and urge.
Always the procreant urge of the world.
By God’s word, go forth and multiply.

I have heard how the doctors are doctoring,
the doc-talk of the baster and the twine.
But I refuse to be dressed for their holiday tables,
my cavity a mere incubator of precious stuff.

Sure as the most certain sure, the experts are plumb
in the uprights, well-entretied, braced in the beams.
A thousand acres sown with x chromosomes,
logic assumes I improve my sex–they promise.

My offspring will possess a ubiquity of things,
white towels swelling the house, crystal vah-zes
breeding dust mites in the den.

My offspring will be stout as a horse, affectionate,
haughty, electrical, with a soul so clear and sweet,
neither an inch nor a particle reminiscent of me.
By the word of Science, she will be progress.

IV. Menarche, the first horror, the beginning
of conjugal war, of feverish loins, of pit stains.

Pornographers surround me, people I meet,
around town, on the train, in public restrooms,
at the office, behind the house, or ward, I live in.

Their scopophilic gaze compounds me,
I am oddball, wastewater, womankind, nothing
fit for the respect of some boy, or sage, I love.

The thickness of one lip more than the other,
engorged like a grub, renders me complicit,
an actor in the defamation of myself.

A part in the hair, or breasts, I am splitting.
Apart from my cherry, I am broke.
She is my idol, my amour propre, my unitary self.

The serpents look down, are erect, or bent, at rest,
arrested, looking with side-curved heads, curious,
what will come next, tongues darting in and out,
enraptured by the game of watching and wondering.

Backward I trace in my steps where I erred,
but I find no such incrimination.
I have made no mockings or arguments,
I have witnessed and waited.

Ten Truths and a Lie [Monologue]

1) My third grade teacher, Missus Kara-Jane Crosley, singled me out and was always cross with me.

“You hang upside down on the monkey bars, wearing denim jumpers crafted from old overalls. You speak in gibberish of counting stars, and stand your ground when I say ‘No, only boys come from Mars.’ You come in late after recess time, and fumble the words of every nursery rhyme. Kayla, there are two types of people in this world: you and everyone else.”

 My Body lies over the ocean

My Body lies over the sea

My Body lies over the ocean

Oh, bring back my Body to me . . .

 2)   A child of the seventies, my father grew up pining for a color television, which was a luxury his family of factory workers could not afford. When I was ten years old, he bought me a twelve-inch set for Christmas, and displayed it like a trophy on the shelf above my head. Watching re-runs of

Sex and the City made staying up past bedtime feel all the more rebellious. I wonder how the children of the seventies learned what their parts were for.

3)  I removed my thorn-torn stockings, patched the wound with gauze and sap, and descended the stairs with an announcement caught in my throat:

“Ma-ma, I am a maple. Ma-ma, I’ve been tapped. Peter popped my cherry behind the sugar shack.”

“Oh, that’s nice honey, how was track?”

4) A daily dose of progesterone kept the baby away, and Planned Parenthood let me have it without parental consent or co-pay.

On October 30, 2010, the day Drew and I became exclusive, he flushed my pills down the toilet, called me a junkie, and swore he would rather be alone than watch me poison my body with artificial hormones.

He said, “I want to wear a condom,”

and I said, “Thank God for that.”

“Charge them with your card; don’t worry,

I’ll spot you some cash.”

5) “Joanne, we’re gonna need a vomit pan in here,” crowed the nurse, as I gripped the stress ball in my palm so tightly that she half-expected to see juice and clotted pulp dripping from my wrist. I retracted my limbs to keep them from whipping in the wind. I was a tortoise. I was a gyromancer. For once, I was in control.

The results arrived three weeks later, sealed in a broad manilla envelope colored like mustard: straight negatives. I breathed sweet relief into my cupped hands, still shivering with anxious anticipation. That bastard cost me fifty dollars, eighty-three cents, and an immeasurable sum of pride.Always buckle up before you ride.

6)  Before I turned vegetarian, and cut out all white foods, my favorite meal was barbecue chicken quarters, tucked into a warm bed of instant mashed potatoes. Hungry Jack ate his legs whole, and so did I, from drumstick handle to upper-thigh.

It may be said that “you are what you eat,” but I grew neither bird’s legs nor bird feet, so I switched to a diet of nuts and seeds, to end world hunger and fight disease.

7)  I broke three years of fidelity to have sex with an ex, and it wasn’t even as hot as I thought it would be. We fucked four times — in the men’s room at South Station, against the front door of his apartment, on the kitchen counter tops and, once more, under the shower(for the sake of conserving water). We fell asleep on opposite ends of the couch, each cradling a paper cup half empty with Honey Nut Cheerios, like grown-ups engaged in a real grown-up affair. That night, I dreamt I was an animal, and woke up with a tail between my legs. Home wanted to know where I had been, “How was your weekend? Did you have fun?” I laid down three aces, and waited for him to call bullshit, but he never did. I am a good girl who does very bad things, but only when I know that I can get away with them.

8) “Ms. Kennett, I understand that you prefer to be called ‘Lucy,’ is that correct?”

The receptionist donned a puzzled expression, as the patient paused to puzzle over her question, separating its syllables into columns, scratching plus and equals signs into the cheap pressboard desktop.

“Ms. Kennett?”

That time, I nodded, but neither confirmed nor denied it.

 [to be continued]

 9)                                                                                 [to be determined]

 event related to exploration of sexuality

 10)                                                                               [to be determined]

event related to intimate partner violence

 11)   I want to feel the force of my wrath and swing, smashing all the delicate things, but I resist, and in resistance, find strength.

 Bring back, bring back

Bring back my Body to me