Spring Cleaning

imagesCleaning out a cabinet and the past comes up.

Found mini lotions and shampoos from places traveled to, lived in, passed through.

Found shaving cream cans of an ex’s, found makeup from time out West, when I tried to be glamorous, found medication bottles from periods of bad health and pain, in between there and here.

Mini toiletries given as gifts from friends no longer trusted.

So much in a cabinet.

Stories of gain, performance, loss, past selves, survival.  Perfumed smells of time now gone.  Colored tubes of different women I once was or once tried to be.

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Safe

girl on bed

Here’s what they never tell you,

In those stories you are read, before bed,

Even after the closet is checked for monsters,

The light is turned on in the hall,

And you are tucked in so you feel the world outside may be infinite

but it couldn’t be that insane.

 

Here’s what they never tell you,

About the one day you will wake up and wonder,

how the monsters in the closet could have ever scared you,

when the world outside is so infinite and so insane,

And in your brain there are more frightening things

than Hollywood can convey.

 

And the bottom will feel like it

is always falling out,

And you will wish you had any bed to hold on to,

to look under, to hide in.

And when all that infinite feels like it is eating you alive,

And all you can do is cry,

You will hope for a light to turn on outside,

in any hallway you can find

to run through.

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Knowing

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Now I know

how I can’t know you.

 

You act like no one can know

anyone,

but deep down I know,

you don’t believe this.

But see, I do.

I do, I do, I do.

That thing I’ve never

been asked to say,

That thing you remind me,

all the time,

I’ll never be.

 

Just because

of what I know.

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The Lost Boys

The lost boys come with their tales of woe,

they come wearing scuffed up shoes,

grasping their empty pails,

taking their awkward steps,

mouthing their stilted speech,

shuddering off daily fears,

singing their darkness songs.

 

They know the kind who’ll stop and listen.

They know the kind who will try to walk down a road

as if that will make more sense

than standing still.

They recognize the kind

who’ll hold them.

 

So when I see them coming towards me, of course I stop.

Of course, I lean towards them when they bare their teeth, so hungry.

I bend down and unfasten the closed buttons,

unfold the corners, pull out the tattered tin so deep and misshapen,

pushed and hiding down the dark cavity of my chest,

masquerading as stone.

 

This is all I have left

to feed them.

This is all I have left

to give.

 

Take it, I say.

 

And they do, but don’t stay.

Yes, they do, but don’t stay.

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You Will Do Better in Toledo

I first came to Toledo in the summer of 97’

Lost from Oberlin,

Rented a car with no radio,

lived in a house full of union organizers.

The house was falling apart at the seams,

windows broken out, no hot water,

and a high back porch.

I put fabric on the windows,

And with legal pads and glasses,

I pretended I was a law student

to get farmworkers electricity,

running water.

They hoisted me up,

after my first victory,

Singing songs in Spanish, toasting me with cheap beer…

They couldn’t believe a woman had made things right.

But I was lonely, a broke 21 year old virgin,

Not wanting to go back to school,

That summer I slept with a self professed anarchist,

who had a working shower and a pantry full of

Peanut Butter Cap N’ Crunch.

I fell in love.

He plied me with wine and Tiger Bakery falafel,

His kiss was full of garlic,

His politics somewhat tiresome,

But he told me I was beautiful and I disappeared

into his warm 6’3 frame.

I wanted to disappear.

The anarchist tried to convince me

to play house with him in Toledo,

But I wanted the hell out of Ohio

Out of the snowed in Shining winters, out of the aimlessness of my youth,

I was afraid of getting lost in one of those basements

Of just being somebody’s girlfriend on the scene,

Afraid of losing every dream.

So first it was back to Texas, then New Mexico, and finally California…

I ran towards the chance of renewal on the coast,

where I could spin myself into something gold.

But paradise mocks you when you can’t afford it,

Northern California made me feel like a beggar,

My dirty hands pressed against stained glass windows,

Looking in to what I could never figure out just how to have.

I was afraid of letting go of the world I felt

I could only enter once,

So I found another boyfriend to disappear into,

An ex-cop with a wine collection,

who played an endless loop of The Rolling Stones.

He took me across the Golden Gate Bridge,

and I fell in love with the curves and the light,

I fell in love with California.

But years later, I was, myself,

like the outline of a crime scene body,

the chalk ready to smudge and wash away.

One night he put his hands around my neck,

A drunken mistake that stuck out like a red light

on a highway I had become lost on.

So I packed up my car and my cat

and drove further north to Oregon.

The lumber mills and Hewlett Packard were closing down,

and I found myself on someone’s living room floor.

I spent my days at the farmer’s market and the employment office,

trying not to fall apart.

Then, an old friend convinced me,

I would “do better in Toledo,”

“Come back to the Midwest,” he said.

I could find myself again,

plow through the snow,

and get to where I could replant

something real.

My cat, my car, some boxes,

over the mountains, to the Mars terrain of Wyoming,

all the way to the flat land of Nebraska,

the cornfields and colleges of Iowa,

the race of Indiana, the stand still of Illinois,

I found my way back to who I’d left behind.

The yellow sign of Toledo on the freeway

made me feel like I was 21 again,

only this time I would not fight for anyone else,

It was myself I was trying to save.

PJ O’ Rourke (Toledo born and bred)

declared in Newsweek that, “Somehow, Toledo,

with all its busts and flops, managed to provide ordinary people with an ordinary good life.”

There is nothing ordinary about how I first got here, or how I returned,

and the good life I have found is due to all that is extraordinary.

People who can make something out of nothing,

who know how to create on top of the ruins,

it is a post industrial Rome, a butterfly hatching in ice.

Sometimes, on Monroe, when I am sitting in my car, the heat coming down,

I reflect on where I’ve been between the pauses of street lights.

Often, I see a man advertising tax services,

a waving, sad foamed Statue of Liberty.

He is smiling and friendly,

with sweat running down his face,

He is sorely determined, in the futility of the race.

O’Rourke says the people of “failed” Toledo

can say to the people of the rest of the world,

“Our junkyards are more splendid than your palaces.”

But if Toledo has failed, then so has all of America.

The American dream has gone bad,

The house is being foreclosed on,

The sugary lie of everything free has left an aftertaste,

The Diabetes is setting in.

The kids are cranky with their useless degrees, the bank account is empty,

The doctor is never in, and the insurance won’t ever cover it all.

But so what?

The junkyard is filled with good finds,

Enough to piece together a living room,

Something for folks to sit on,

Enough to make all of the wreckage gleam as new.

Our statue of liberty can be the guy passing out the flyers on the corner,

Our national beer will be PBR,

We can book the band, and not charge for the show.

Screw the palaces, you will enter the metallic ruins and sigh…

You will make something new with your hands,

You will show what you have found to a community who will smile and believe.

I have stepped into this coliseum of resurrected hopes,

I have entered this arena of dreams resuscitated from sheer will.

The old sign says, “You will do better in Toledo,”

And I reply with all I have that yes,

I will.

    

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Another blog? By another broke writer? Really? Why, yes…

Why read more rambling on at the edges of the internet wilderness, from a writer who owns no property and lives a modest life hardly reflective of the ever demanding and expanding American dream? I mean, seriously….isn’t there enough on YouTube to keep you happily entertained and wired in?

Of course there is. But perhaps, if you are a writer, someone broke, someone arty, someone struggling, someone who writes, someone who wants to write, perhaps you can find a bit of written comfort here. The world is getting lonelier and more disconnected, and the purpose of this is to connect. So if anything posted here in the future interests you, let me know. Share your thoughtful responses. Dialogue creates insight, insight creates a whole mound of things, most of them inspiring. Let’s turn a deadened diary format into something more dynamic. As a line in one of my favorite songs by the Texas band Spoon goes, “I’ll picture for you, if you picture for me…”

Onward,

KMW

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