scraped empty

When I have said “I love you” I have said
Nothing at all to tell you; I cannot find
Any speech in any country of the mind
Which might inform you whither I have fled.
In saying “I love you” I have gone so far
Away from you, into so strange a land;
You may not find me, may not understand
How I am exiled, driven to a star

Till now deserted. Here I stand about,
Eat, sleep, bewail, feel lonely and explore,
Remember how I loved the world, before,
Tremble in case that memory lets me out.
Islanded here, I wait for you to come —
Waiting the day that exiles you to home.

by Valentine Ackland

Tonight is the first night of Passover.

I am meant to be taking photos today for an art exhibition in New York. I am meant to be doing laundry, looking for work, applying to be an enforcer, editing my belongings, putting more of them for sale, and processing pictures from Seattle and yesterday’s shoot with Shane’s band at the Cultch. I am meant to be showered and dressed and fed. Together, sharp, useful, active. Defined. There are things to do, tasks to conquer, opportunities waiting. Instead it is as if the air itself has thickened until even breathing is an effort. I am suffocating, a captive unhappily complicit with my aching inactivity.

It has been a week of silence. Out of respect for my love, for his dismissal, his vanishing outburst, I did not call for days, even when the wet beauty of thunder and lightning was too much to bear, when it cracked me as open as it did the sky. Even when I felt that all I could possibly desire was his voice kindly speaking my name. Instead I bruised my fingers knocking at his door. Small gifts in my pockets, a snub nosed bottle of imported ginger ale, a tiny square of rich, hard to find chocolate, my hand raised once more to the wood, knuckles swollen into a pale rainbow of purple and blue from repetition, (less painful than the quiet), but to no answer, even when his vehicle was parked in the drive. At home the phone would ring in a quick, beautiful burst, but the numbers were wrong – the wrong people, the wrong names. Outside would be footsteps, car doors slamming, false hope leaping up in my heart like flames. Every night, sleep became farther away.

When Friday slid into Saturday, still without word, it became obvious that the relationship had been abandoned, released into the wild without even the courtesy of goodbye.

flint, no spark. my fire has been tried. craving and suffering, I’m tired.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

– William Stafford

&nbsp They were in a white plastic bag, tied at the top, and neat. He handed them to me over the bar, said “Here are your clothes. They’re clean. They’re even folded.” He folded my clothes. A little thing, but important to me. Attention to detail, being sympathetic and kind for the sake of being kind. Something I’d forgotten, it’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship. His smile. Warmed, I was warmed. Better than oxygen, but then the conversation turned. There was a group of us, a small cluster. The bartender, two regulars, a friend of his from Deep Cove. Turn and unfamiliar water. “With? You’ve obviously got the wrong impression.” Plummet, crack. The sound of an egg fracturing.

&nbsp If I were younger, if I still believed in my own self-worth, I would have left. Stood up, folded my shirt over my arm and walked out into the snow to cry. Instead civilization won out, I’m not surprised anymore. Here is the axe. I froze in place, caught my smile as it dropped and hardened it. Only someone paying attention would have seen the fragility that suddenly flashed the bar. No one noticed when I stayed silent, unable to speak without shattering my voice, ruining my dignity and their nice evening with spilled emotion.

&nbsp When he said goodbye at the back door, he made sure to hold me and talk to me. I wanted to take him and drag our bodies downward to sit on the gray concrete, but his friend was waiting for him upstairs. It’s the ghost all over. He takes the time apart to talk to me, but never seeks me out. He called me determined, said I freak him out. Too much for him, too different. The part of me that isn’t slipping him a love letter I wrote earlier wants to yell a little, wants to slap words. When I leave, I say, “You don’t know me. I don’t expect you to.” My voice breaks and the door, it slams. Halfway across the parking lot, I hear the deadbolts scraping into place. No one I love has ever come after me.

Wounded, if I am guilty of a dream, it of someone who would slaughter my expectations.

1. google 2. enter: the answer to life the universe and everything

I left the phone ringing, the receiver precariously jammed between my ear and my shoulder as I wrenched off my shoes, and forgot to pay attention, so when the answering machine said, “Hey, I lost my phone.” I panicked. I had no message ready. Without thinking, I recited an e.e. cummings poem that I’d recently posted. Annoyingly, it’s a bit of a nonsensical one when spoken aloud, so I may have just shot myself in the foot on the matter of getting a call back.

Now I feel like a milk-carton kid, invincibly printed and lonely. Today feels scripted, like someone wrote all of today down beforehand for me to recite. Even my longing seems kidnapped and two-dimensional. My want to go to the hotel and find him at the bar, to murmur into his ear, “I want to undress you.” will be found beaten and broken, in pieces in a ditch. The newspaper description will be like pornography – The lacerations on the wrists indicate a struggle. – without forgetting to be clinical. Injuries show evidence of penetration. Wrapped up in plastic bags, unable to scream.

  • Fractal gardens-in-a-petri-dish.

    Even the snow falling unexpectedly in thick clumps didn’t lift my mood. Usually I gather great pleasure from snow. Though aware that native Canadians aren’t supposed to get a thrill from it, I shed my jaded ennui the same way a native Californian might occasionally appreciate the luxury of a palm tree and frolic. I try to catch flakes on my tongue and see how much I can have land in my hair, where I can examine it minutely. Instead, as I watched it fall at the bus-stop this morning, I carried a heavy stinging feeling behind my ribs. My concentration shot, I tried to shed my impulse to uselessly peer through the front windows of the hotel and failed. The snow was a reminder of time softly passing. Time I’m not treating well, that I’m not feeling with passion.

    My week of theater started well, though. Terri accompanied me to the opening cabaret. The most memorable performances were the burlesque dancing gorilla and a blockhead that did slight of hand. When he came out the first time, with the table and cups, I laughed. I used to do that act for childrens parties. When he came out the second time, with a small box of nails and a hammer, I cackled madly, the only one in the audience who knew what was about to happen. Tap, tap, and his hand came down and the nail stayed in. People fell out of chairs. Vancouver’s not used to that kind of level of performance. Me, I want lessons.

  • eternal feminine difficulties

    My Sparrow Hath No Tongue
    Originally uploaded by cabbit.

    Two torrents containing a total of nearly one thousand free songs from bands at the 2006 SXSW Music Conference.

    Being with a ghost is hard. It’s tricky, navigating the pathways that carry the least number of rattling chains. I confuse him he says, just like the last few. They think they know themselves, then I come along. “Sometimes I want you to just leave me alone, but whenever I’m with you it all goes away and I’m just comfortable, you know? It’s weird. You’re weird.” He’s telling me this on his cell phone, attempting to be locked in some small room, his foot against the door to keep out his friends. I shouldn’t even be on the phone right now. You make me feel safe, I told him another night. He quotes me, “That’s what you do,” he says. Like you said and I said and he has no memory. No memory at all. It drains away daily. He tells me that he’s worried, that he’s scared, but he doesn’t say he loves me. That’s my line, spoken to the dark when he’s asleep, when he’s awake but not quite paying attention. He says I found him at a strange time. I stole him out into monogamy and being crazy just when his life started again, and he likes it, he digs me a whole lot, but he can’t shake the feeling of bad timing. The same you’re awesome but as everyone else. I can’t help it, this terrifying dream. I’m afraid this will end in another You Can’t See Me.

    Streaming audio: Magnetic Fields, an hour of live concert.

    Fresh in my mind, his rambling nervous phone-call, scratchy over the line. I don’t think I could take that. I can feel he’s convincing himself of something, but not a decision I can quite access. The story hasn’t enough pieces for me to draw into words, there are gaps, milk-teeth spaces that I need to fill in. I told him I’d call at one. An hour and half, I’d said, to give him time to figure out where he’ll be. “Do you want to come over?” and Yes, in a small voice. A tiny admittal voice, one that’s scared of seeing where it’s been leading. Then, No, wait, I didn’t say that like that, though I did, and you know I did, and you know what that means. I just don’t want you barking up the wrong tree. When I called, he didn’t pick up.

    One MP3 a day for one year. Archived bi-weekly. Produced in 2003.

    Part of it is that he can’t figure out why I like him, not the way I do. I should be more upset or less patient, less accepting. He goes on about it. Not that liking him is all that strange, I’m sure he has the same sort of line-up as I do, ghost or no. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. No, he thinks his life is unusual, that his insides are crazy and strange. Well they might be, but I’m not in any position to see. I’ve learned over time that I’ve got blinders to socially abnormal behaviour that makes sense. Apparently most girls, they fade away, maybe in a musty cloud of arguements and perfume, when he’s not around as much as they want him to be. Me, it’s more than I have and almost as much as I need.

    Top 65 Songs of 2005: 65-26, as picked by the clever Good Weather For An Airstrike.

    You cut me on your shoulder blades.

    scaring children
    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    This river is my holy ghost, this red trail that leads in drips and smears from me to you across the sheets. We are enclosed.

    I spent today finding a gift for Dylan, who turns three tomorrow. The son of a ghost, I wanted to find something sweet. The perfect soft toy to be carried lovingly around for the next seven years. I believe I succeeded, I found a bear who passed my every conceivable cuddle test and a child size hand-puppet of a fox, though I must also admit that I have done the dreadful deed of purchasing something for myself as well, which is something I consider tantamount to sin these days and vaguely unforgivable. A hand puppet of a soft white fluffy rabbit in a hat.

    It’s fun. I was both delighting and terrifying small children, I practically refused to take it off my hand walking around streets and stores, waving a little paw to almost everyone walking by, those who did not glare at me. I think I’m going to bring him to work, try to find out his name. He’s pretty.

    In spite of that, I am not well enough to be up this late. I feel too raw to try to talk to the world. I need consolation and I’m not going to find it here before I go to sleep, nor tomorrow, likely. Tuesday, I have to wait until Tuesday, and that’s a maybe. Dying to hold on, it is like my skin has been taken off and packed in someone’s bag before they walked away. It is like a monastery falling and being trapped in the rubble. Of course it’s fine, fine like grit between my softest teeth. Truth and truth again, more of my year of ruination wrapping, up, finding its feet. We are vile in our perfection, me and this feeling. There is nowhere left to pray.

    Bombs dropped, the last city has blazed and I am left blind.

    warm cream talkingpillow sweet nothings, whisper.

    reflection another eye, inner different colour, stumble-crawl my knees underneath suddenly the bed, fallen the guitar thunk lands hard. the person the mirror your name whatwhispers-he this time-makesyouhappy.hips jugular, kisses, together a soft machine. inblown, beautiful unexpected things, replied. replied, answered, this, you, lightning storms. hand textures silk silk finehair better than sighs don’t remember anything like this before, too fine, too delightful. we never leave this room, ghost, insubstantial, less-now people have met him. eat your name, cling tongue lovely machines, electricity in the air he. hips, eyes, somethingslides, that feeling before the storm, chest blown, ocean, oceanandwaves, standing pressure. searching this life for someone who understands me cliché love story me now here and understandsees where I’m coming from me. laughter, throat, the feeling of growling, purring, you’re not so hard, shift sly, a side aside, that look here, hands with nothing to hold onto but silk and the wall, that’s because you’re fucking crazy.

    madness, he says, you bring me madness.

    not what I thought I’d do

    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    Charity Larson’s put up another lovely page of Busted Wonder.

    Hands like sand falling through water, a smile too of something the same. Eyes that scratch the ceiling of shyness, colour storm-skirting the edges of decency. Laughter of coffee, small movements ducking the head away. Laughter of hiding like inside a box of perfectly warped glass. Hanging a shot to dry between the lips, watching wrist to elbow, it’s recalled in an instant, the taste of soft intimacy holding hands with polished copper, the mix of colours, the white cream roses cloudily blooming in clear licorice alcohol. Lightning and thunder, the gravity hand of wind in the basement, part of later, not yet.

    Pick up the gift, make the liquid vanish. Magic tricks, sleight of nothing up my sleeve. Everything will be alright. A toast to sitting here, a toast to being alive and smiling.

    I joined a gamelan earlier, helped them carry heavy instruments to a waiting truck behind the Museum of Anthropology. I joined a lesbian burlesque troop the day before and scheduled the day I begin my fencing lessons.

    Now Mondays are Korean Movie Night, Tuesdays are Gamelan, Wednesday will be Ghost In The Shell until we’re done, Thursday have fencing, and Fridays will be the Funk-Motown night starting March 3th at the Waldorf, (the day a group of us are going to watch NightWatch on opening night, want to come?). Suddenly I’m having to peer around corners to find time for taxidermy. Unexpected, this shift of personal physics. I feel domestic, tamed.

    Here’s a trailer for Harry Kim’s still-in-progress Dave Choe documentary.

    (((awakening in a tiki ballroom))

    Kyle and I crept down the familiar black wood stairs behind the bar, “Want to see where I go when I pull my ghost act?”, and came out into the vast industrial vintage kitchen that dominates a third of the basement. I’m familiar with this place, but in the dark, everything looks different, as if the room is religiously slumbering, waiting for a second coming of a sacred pastry chef.

    Exiting the kitchen into the hall, where the bar is, to the left is the entrance to a low thatched ceiling Tiki Banquet room, all low slung chairs piled haphazardly and woven bamboo walls, and to the right is the entrance to the Polynesian Ballroom which, when the lights are on, is dominated by a long colourful mural put up somewhere in the late forties, the sort of thing you tend to only see in movies unless you live in L.A. or San Francisco. However, it being somewhere close to two:thirty in the morning, the place was abandoned. In the dark, the mural is ignored in favour of the elegant farthest wall, made almost entirely of black and white glass.

    This is what we walked into, the stained glass our only source of light, transforming the ballroom into a warm cavern of a room, dark as unwashed velvet. It was a movie moment, a cinematic young girl’s dream of where she’d lose her virginity.

    We were talking about fathers and how they’re different from dads. How I’d had one of each as time progressed and how both of them were eventually terrible. I settled our things, strawberries, alcohol, his back-pack, three layers of our jackets, on one of the black tables scattered around the room as Kyle went up onto the balcony and fiddled with switches until he’d found us an unassuming light. The green carpet glowed.

    My head in his lap, his hand in mine, my eyes slowly closing with exhaustion, we talked about the shattered crystal balls that were our childhoods. How our hell-raising had taken entirely different forms. Mine almost entirely after dark and secretive, away from my mother, his open to the point where his mother had to fight to keep him out of special schools. We swung ridiculously between being serious, out-pouring our personal history of hurts, and laughing at the futility of the human race. We both want to leave this place better than we found it. When the ice-age comes, if we’re not colonizing the stars yet, we’ll be standing on the side, waving flags and rooting for the Earth.

    If you call it love, we’ll cut you.

    She sang to herself, as she waited, about the death of dreaming trees. She was almost asleep, but she still smiled when she heard him singing in reply from the next room. When he returned, he’d found she’d shifted from lying on the couch to lying on one of the shining black tables scattered around the room. His reaction was delightful to her, an outburst of sweet awe-struck vehemence so gratifying that it occured to her that she might take up lying on chilly tables in dimly lit rooms as a hobby for the rest of her life.

    we stayed up late but were nourished by light in the gloom.

    )when what hugs stopping earth than silent is
    more silent than more than much more is or
    total sun oceaning than any this
    tear jumping from each most least eye of star

    and without was if minus and shall be
    immeasurable happenless unnow
    shuts more than open could that every tree
    or than all life more death begins to grow

    end’s ending then these dolls of joy and grief
    these recent memories of future dream
    these perhaps who have lost their shadows if
    which did not do the losing spectres mime

    until out of merely not nothing comes
    only one snowflake(and we speak our names

    e.e. cummings

    Not ten minutes ago, I was woken up in the Waldorf Tiki Polynesian Lounge by unfamiliar staff members nervously peering over me. “How did you get in here? Where did you come from?” I answered them with an amazing string of surprised expletives and shook Kyle awake, at which point they sighed with relief. At first they hadn’t seen Kyle, because he’d curled up under all my wool hair, snuggled in like a bunny. All they’d seen were two kids, mysteriously asleep in their hotel, with clothing and miscellany scattered all over the ballroom floor.

    My life, on occasion, is surprisingly perfect.

    If, by some mystical chance, there were no rumours before, now they shall be flying on the wings of crows and angels, fluttering from mouth to mouth through that hotel as fire and laughter.

    Written Thursday, February 24th, 2005: “Take comfort that some of the fear is mutual. We are savage flowers, bleeding at the roots, utterly convincing.”

    he says I’m trouble exactly like you did. I’m trouble and too good. It’s eerie.

    In my dreams I’m climbing. My hands grip wooden railings and the edges of bricks. I pull myself over balconies and stand on the knobs of doors. I brush flakes of paint from my hands onto my pants and look over a small inlet to apartments across the water. There is a light there, blocked by a friend I only know when I’m asleep. I think routes, maps that mean escape and freedom and eluding pursuit. Up, I dream, up and over and that way. I am rescuing myself from the ground.

    The graffiti in the washroom reads DO IT BECAUSE IT’S FASHIONABLE? VOMIT! WHY NOT? in thin black permanent marker on the door. Later, for a split second, I think I recognize the hand-writing as I walk by a man sitting fetal on the street, rocking back and forth, holding a sign in the air with an empty paper coffee cup. HIV POSITIVE & HUNGRY, PLEASE GIVE CHANGE. I am wrong, of course, it is merely that they are both messy block letters, both made in staining black marker. I am walking too fast, not fast enough. We miss the light and have to wait. My wallet is thick with coins, but there are none spare. I am poor. The quarters are for laundry, the dimes are for carefully counting out at the check-out counter one by one by one as I try to pay for a bag of oranges. I don’t feel guilty, but I turn my head from him as we stop and talk. I want to block my brother from his line of sight. He is eighteen, but he is still too young.

    It’s official now that I’m tangled with a hotel ghost, brass numbers drifting through my blood. There was A Talk last night that mostly involved Kyle apologizing. “Where will you be tonight?” “Vanishing.” It was a portrait of everything dysfunctional between us. Ourselves as hungry children who deny that we’re stealing. He said, “like” and “you know what I mean?” a lot. I nodded into his shoulder and repeatedly asked him “why?”

    We’re a gordian knot on the bed. “I’ve got too much to figure out right now.” A train-wreck year. “Let me explain mine.” Every five sentences, we’re laughing a little, he’s unconsciously kissing the top of my head. We tell the right kind of stories. “See, this I can live with. This is really nice.” I say yes. “More is too much. You scare me.” “See me twice a week,” I say. He says he’s not sure.

    I believe him implicitly when he says I’m scary. Everyone worth knowing says I’m scary.

    The summary is a red flag warning that he’s unreliable company, that he’s not ready for four letter words. I can live with that. “Come back to bed with your dumped non-girlfriend.” He says, “See, you’re scaring me again.” and stops his mouth with mine. My gold lipstick dusts his cheeks and the tip of his nose.

    After, he spreads his hands with an expression on his face that I can’t identify. “Where did you come from?” I can’t see him, is he kidding? My glasses are off, I’m too blind. I lean down, spreading wool across his shoulders, my weight on my hands. “What do you mean?” “It’s a good thing, believe me.” I’m grinning. This is the same man I had a water fight with in the bed an hour earlier. The sheets are still damp with beer. He found out where I’m ticklish. “Well, where did you come from?” “Here,” his hands point out, “planet Earth.” I tell him I fell from the moon. It feels true.