Trigger 3/25/2016

Under the grating fluorescence
Of the 18th floor bathroom,
You remove your jewelry slowly and deliberately:

First, the earrings.
Your hand rises to your left ear, and then your right.
They soundlessly glide onto the vanity

You admire them for a moment;
They are fossil ammonites
Impassive on the polished stone
Their reflection blurred, surreal
As if scoffing at the earth they were cut from.

You inspect the piercing you got
To commemorate your 30th year
It is still infected, but improving.

The inspection proceeds unabated:

You bring your attention to the back of your neck
Where you vie with a clasp for a few seconds
Until the pendant you made
From a melted bottle
Slides past your collarbones
Into your palm
Where you clutch it
Almost reverently
Before placing it in your pocket

Your jewelry doesn’t match
You note.
But you already knew that

When you ran out of the house
Way too late
And stepped into the office, somehow
Way too early, armor gleaming
Past servers whirring
And the faithful K-Cup, dutifully
Prescribing stimulants
To the orderly drones, blue
In the reflections
Of their LCDS
All humming
About weather, and babies, and the new RFP

Despite yourself.

You ran in here, just in time
For your head to crack
After that argument
that should never have happened
At work
But it did
And now you’re tumbling backward
A decade or two.


Because you were deluded by its tacit association with secrecy,
You would often run into the bathroom for safety
Especially when you were having nightmares
So vivid,
They dwarfed the terror of wakefulness
Even though
They’d threaten to lock you in there all night
But only
After they’d beat you
Even though, a few times
They did

Order you inside
Command you to lock the door
And say:

“don’t you dare move, or I’ll kill you”

So you’d stay in there
petrified in place
Two feet rooted to that
pink and black tile
Afraid, even, to  walk
Two feet to the sink
To inspect your red, puffy face.
Or have a drink of water.

Ordered you inside

Only to let you out
After an hour or so
When the dread had engulfed you
In an undecipherable din.
And you could barely breathe,
Sobbing as silently as possible
And you still hadn’t learned
How long a human could survive
Without food
Or love
So you’d try to guess
But you couldn’t tell time
So as far as you were concerned,

This was the end.

Ordered you inside
Only to let you out
After an hour or so
When you had,
from their perspective,
sufficiently repented

For being clumsy
Or, because someone said
You were misbehaving
And spoke out of turn
Or, spoke in turn
But, said the wrong things
Embarrassed them
Did everything they asked, but not well enough.
Didn’t listen

There was a lot of “talking”, growing up.
A lot of hearing, too,
But no listening
Of pleas, explanations, apologies and-
before they taught you to keep silent-
Of screams.

You knew
As soon as they said “let me talk to you”
That there would be pain.
You would say anything to keep their hands off you
But they wouldn’t listen.

Is it so surprising, then,
You still won’t listen to yourself?


Under the grating fluorescence
Of the 18th floor bathroom,
You smooth your hair,
undo it,
re-do it
And smooth it again.
You mouth the words, instead of speaking them
Just in case someone walks in
And begins to suspect
That something outside
a mundane bathroom ritual
is happening here.

All these years later
Unable to control the the shaking
The tears
Rebelliously welling up
To meet abject terror
Every time you look in that mirror
Barely able to command yourself,
As they always did
To “just shut up

You still stare down your reflection
You force yourself to say the words

“You’re gonna be okay.”
“They can’t hurt you now”

And like the frozen child behind that perverse bathroom door
Impenetrable, while locked from the inside

You just don’t believe it.

Untitled, 5/3/11.

On November 18, 1985,
During some inconspicuous hour
On an inconspicuous street,
Unbeknownst to you,
Or anyone else
In that inconspicuous suburb
of Manhattan,
You picked up your needles

And you began to knit.

Purl Stitch
You knitted stockings and perfect curls
You embroidered manners
Appliqued femininity in pink
I tried not to cry at the occasional prick
Or the heat of the iron

Plain Stitch
You knitted food
Feeding feelings
That lurked beneath the shadow knit
The ovaries overloaded,
Misappropriated, cystic.
I clutched my pillow in patient agony,
And bled.

Is a technique in which purl and plain stitches alternate,
Producing a rippled effect.
It can be decorated in a number of ways, but the foundation is always the same.
Two irreconcilable halves forced together by a bit of thread.

Barely enough to cover my freezing flesh.
No chance at warmth with
The front door wide open
Behind iron bars, and the foundation missing.

There was no double knit.
No second set of needles.
Like a weaving, I was made to stretch only along the bias.

25 Years later I review your work

Grasp a thread.

And begin to pull.

Freewrite: Snow that isn’t Snow.

From the writer’s workshop at the Astoria Bookshop.  Unedited. Terribly punctuated. It’s gold, people. HA HA HA.

What the hell do you mean, “Snow that isn’t snow”.  I mean, seriously.  I’m thinking of ashes in my eyelashes, thinking of debris, thinking of standing outside on the curb because my house has just burned down. It’s December, and while I’m grateful to have some heat in my newfound homelessness, I’m not entirely happy that I’m going to be spending tonight outside. Unless, of course, fireman O’Leary decides he needs some company tonight.

I don’t have a family. They left me years ago.


I’d love to explain, but all the proof has just gone up in flames. If you look hard enough into the haze you might be able to make out the specter of a reason, somewhere in the bits of string, smoldering alongside tattered upholstery, the pillows, the sheets, and the floors we walked before the war took him away.

They (my family) never liked him. And now that he’s gone, really gone, I wonder whether I did the right thing. I wonder whether the few years we had together justified two bereavements: first my family, and then him. No, three, when you count the cinders lapping at the edges of my robe.

No place to go.

In the extreme.

That’s all this is.

Maybe this is all the excuse I’ll need to just take to the open road, finally… To go out there and see what I’ve never seen and do all the things I’ve never done and drive far, far away from this old world, which is (literally) burning at my feet.

Some people would give anything to be on the edge of this moment. I question whether they would feel that way if they had to pay the same price.

Someone puts their arm round me, I don’t know who. I stand there, petrified, unable to discern whether it’s from shock, or cold, or both. And all I can think, suddenly, is.. that smell. The smell. It’s like a fireplace doped up on burning rubber and melamine fumes. Like something that’s supposed to be warm and comforting gone terribly wrong. Kind of like my relationship with Jon.

I can’t help but smirk at the irony: an explosive expert’s kingdom ruined in an untimely blaze just like its king. So much for going out with a bang.

I hear sirens, water, footsteps, and gawking. Endless gawking. But nothing is so overwhelming as the smell, the smell… the smell. That smell and suddenly I’m transported to that night on that stupid beach. It was late August, and I have no idea why we were even there. And it was cold as hell.

“Hey, you wanna build a bonfire?”, he had asked.

“Yeah, do you?” I said.

“Yeah. Let’s do it.”

So we did. And then we danced, for a little while.  I said, yes, but somehow I don’t think I was answering the same question he thought he was asking.  We were married a week later, practically under duress, as his deployment was imminent.