Just Out of Reach

I’m trying out this new thing where I ask myself everyday, “Have you written today?” I’m making the effort to blog more and to escape if even for a short while from other kinds of writing that I don’t enjoy so much, the kinds that must be “logical” and “have a point”. I can’t say it’s going too well since I haven’t liked anything I’ve written so far, but I think if I keep doing this long enough, something amazing will eventually come along! This is my attempt at writing through the block…

There’s a story stuck just in the back of my throat. It’s irritating, scratching at tissues but refusing to let me cough it up.

It’s hovering just behind my eyes, in that blind spot where sleep eludes capture during restless nights.

It’s playing on my temples, tap dancing, whirling around in place, mocking me.

It’s tickling me somewhere between my shoulder blades and tracing lines on the small of my back.

It’s floating above my head, all weightless and carefree. But my arms have been locked to my sides, incapable of reaching upwards and beyond to grasp it.

It’s whispering in my left ear, taunting me. I can’t swat it away, but its  teasing hum never subsides, it’s a refrain even for my moments of solitude.

There’s a story sitting on the tip of my tongue, resting gently on my fingertips, waiting at that point where the ink begins to flow, standing at the crossroads between fruitfulness and drought. Flow.

I’ll Swallow You Whole…

“You want me to be a tragic backdrop so that you can appear to be illuminated, so that people can say ‘Wow, isn’t he so terribly brave to love a girl who is so obviously sad?’ If you think I’ll be the dark sky so you can be the star, well the sky is vast and have you seen the sky in the morning? Have you seen how it looks against the sun? I’ll swallow you whole.”

-Warsan Shire, aka my new favorite poet.

Trouble Sleeping

Please answer yes or no to the following questions:

Do you…

Have trouble sleeping?

toss and turn for hours on end?

long for sleep but fight it because you are terrified of the dark?

crave a human touch during the wee hours?

find comfort in strangers’ voices and last year’s top twenty hits while your alarm ticks closer and closer?

claim to need sleep but secretly dread the loneliness that lies on the other side of dreams?

 

Are you…

having difficulty staying awake at work?

losing interest in things you used to love?

scared, but secretly wishing you would fall asleep behind the wheel?

holding on to misplaced guilt and misunderstandings never resolved?

using uncertainty as your favorite stuffed toy?

frightened that the minute eyelids close is the minute you cease to exist, to someone, to that one, to anyone;

or worse, the second eyelids close is the second you spring into deadly action *don’t blink*

 

weeping angel

manic-depressive

moody

difficult

insomniac

crazy

 

Do you see yourself when you read these words?

You are desperate, aren’t you?

On a scale of one to ten how desperate would you say you are?

Fifteen? Yes?

Do you have trouble sleeping?

If you answered yes to the above questions, please follow me. An appointment shall be made for you immediately. You are in need of something-

an answer

a prayer

a piece of paper and a pen almost out of ink

a printer cartridge with a few more words to spare

a text message

a remedy? I do apologize; those are not currently available.

If you answered no to the above questions, come this way. I’m afraid you need to be quarantined.

 

You are the cause.

 

 

Why I Write

Sometimes I’m petrified that I’ve lost it. And by this I don’t mean the type of losing it where you have to explain to your perplexed and skeptical family that many years ago, a group of old white men in white coats decided that depression is in a fact a real disease and that you have it. By losing it I mean the ability to touch pen to paper and write lives and worlds into existence. Somehow, bony fingers tapping angrily at metal don’t hold quite the same appeal. I’m scared of waking up one morning, fingers itching to create, tap-tap-tapping away at nothing.

This does not make you different; you have writer’s block. Welcome, you have officially arrived. Your ticket admits only one. One soul, not many characters clamoring to be written into reality. Please sit down and enjoy the show, but don’t talk too much. You really are not that special and frankly, no one cares to listen.

 I crave whatever is a step beyond the horizon, whatever is just above the highest summit you could reach. Infinity + 1, I want to write what is just behind the mind’s eye, ever so slightly and frustratingly out of reach. I want to write that declaration of love that is perched precariously at the tip of my tongue like a baby bird taking its first flight. One gust of wind could condemn it to a fear-filled descent, paralyzed in terror, fatal impact with hard earth. Or, soaring above summits and beyond horizons buoyed by the warmth of success and acceptance. In fact, I want to write just to write, to soothe the pain in my back where the stab of all unwritten stories is lodged, throbbing and throbbing for release.

Selfish. Never content. Is this really why you write?

 I want to cause riots. I wish to destroy, to uproot, to incinerate. Before you call a “professional”, someone who could help me “work through my issues”, listen. I want your mind to riot. I want the possibility I write to dance down a street in your head and remove all your insecurities and misconceptions. I do not inspire bloodshed and looting, I bring to you an emotional revolution. I want to tear down the boundaries that stand between you and your ancestors, to bring you back to the soil that formed you. How? I want to write away the pain, and years of not belonging. I want to write you a home that transcends an icy reception on foreign shores, one that surpasses the reluctant welcome offered in the dry heat of harmattan, like clockwork, year after year. I want to re-build, let the words caress your shoulders and gently push them to open back up, strong and broad. Let the words circle your neck and elevate the carriage of your head, before they massage your aching muscles, smooth out the knots in your back and undo your wrinkles.

Idealistic. How powerful do you think your words are? Can they support the weight of this burden? How can they take away the bite of cruel reality?

I want to write shooting stars and long nights spent talking about the imprint you want to leave on this earth. I want to bring life to those caricatures of the people we could have been, who we are, who we would like to be. I want to write not for writing’s sake because it sounds vaguely like music, familiar strains teased out of a balafon that other day centuries ago. I want the words to give you a mirror, a shoulder to cry on, a call to action, a prayer. I want to write the collision of alternate universes, even if only one aunt reads and feels the impact, but  is too scared of my moth wing-thin ego to point out all the mistakes. I do this for you.

 

Writer.

 

 

Real Life

Little chocolate button babies

With impossibly round cheeks and the deepest dimples

Eyes gleaming with expectation

Eagerly awaiting their birth

They’ve been waiting so long they didn’t realize

That they’ve been born and re-born

a hundred times

in the confused dreams of a

mediocre daughter, friend

roommate, girlfriend what are you

even good at?

How quaint

You thought yours was a made-for-TV love story

A happy ending

The biggest present on Christmas morning

Wrapped in a giant bow

A teenage romance wrapped up in a giant white wedding

It’s pathetic really

You expected wooden floors and French windows

And a fluffy bed with immaculate Egyptian cotton sheets

-Saturday morning heaven

You expected God to smile down on this union

For your two souls to dance happily into the sunset

I’m sorry to disappoint you

Actually I’m not

This is real life.

And in real life,

You serve your heart to someone

Garnished with your sanity and your rationality

“Meh it’s just alright” maybe it’s better than that

Maybe it’s the best thing I’ve ever had but I’m not going to tell you

What’s the point?

In real life,

You nudge the love of your short, insignificant life a tiny bit further away everyday

Because you constantly want him to prove something else to you

On your terms of course

Everyone’s a poet right?

Little chocolate button babies melt

In the heat of your unnecessary passion and the frustration

Of the victims of your uncontrollable emotions.

Bye babies, not in this life.

Bibliography

Add me to your collection

Put me on a dusty bookshelf in an office stinking of cigarette smoke

Push me to the bottom of a mold-infested trunk

Rip out my pages and sprinkle me over a funeral pyre

Add me to your collection

Break and bruise my spine

Drown my wealth in the kerosene of greed and condescension and set it ablaze.

Tell everyone “There’s nothing worth seeing, move on”

MOVE ON

Make me believe it too

Smudge the ink on my pages

So I too buy into your secondhand lies; like there’s nothing worth knowing.

Let the termites eat away at my history

So all I find is a tattered net of forgotten dreams and

once great men grabbing at first-world coat-tails.

Add me to your collection

Trade my fireside tales for a pair of shoes (for charity of course) and a call to action

Tell me to let go, move on

MOVE ON!

Add me to your collection

Of bitter bureaucrats and crumbling bungalows in a struggling city.

Grind my story into dust beneath your heavy boot, it is done.

 

*The revolution has been colonized*

Prognosis

You will recognize the signs

When the brush of the tiniest inch of skin,

A fingertip against your collarbone catapults you into the twilight zone

Where day is night and the night is never-ending

 

Don’t be surprised when you hear tomorrow in his voice

When every laugh echoes through the walls of a little brick chapel

And every hug says “Honey I’m home”

Don’t worry, when your heartbeat,

And footsteps and sight are in sync

And fall offbeat when he’s a step too many away; too far across the dance floor

 

Don’t hold back, fantasize-

As you sit next to him on a park bench or is it a church pew? A rocking chair or a hospital bed? Or on a porch swing, sucking on a bittersweet mango from next door’s garden…

 

I repeat, do not be alarmed

That is not a heart attack or a seizure

It’s the feeling of your frantic heart knocking against your ribcage

in a desperate attempt to escape your chest cavity and rest in the hands of its rightful owner.

 

Don’t fight it, this is love

Take a dose of the love of your life, with a spoonful of you make me smile

And call me in the morning.

 

Skin on Skin on Skin

The deepest ebony of piano keys in a smoky jazz club

The fieriest caramel sizzling over a flame

The richest ochre, perfectly matte like clay in a potter’s rugged hand

The sweetest milk chocolate adorned in ribbons and pink paper

The warmest red wood scarred by nails and hammers, and pocketknives carving;

“So and so forever”

The lightest whipped cream, fluffy and inviting resting atop succulent strawberries

What is there not to love?

How to Hate Yourself (the guide for hopeless girls)

Look into every mirror, and glass door and car window

Longing more each time to meet a different reflection

 

Fail to recognize that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, focusing instead on all your factory flaws

*This product has been recalled due to faulty design*

 

Make sure to drag your feet and hunch your shoulders,

Keep your inadequacy close to your heart in the hollow created by your rounded back

 

Construct a metal fence around your heart, a maximum-security fortress

With broken shards of glass and needles at the top, and a 1000 raging pit bulls below

So that anyone who thinks himself brave enough will flee in terror at the hell contained behind those walls.

 

Let every sharp sideways glance and every acidic comment

Overheard in dingy hallways sear your skin and pierce through tissue and bone

Allow it to settle at the bottom of your soul

To fester

 

Believe that your absolute best will never be good enough

And that there is no point fighting the uphill battle we call

“making an effort” or “using your talent”

 

Always remember, you are worthless

Worth LESS

Worth less than the very dirt you trudge through,

Fore even that sprouts life when the season is right.

 

Above all, just carry on being you.

The downtrodden wallflower that you are and always shall be.

Isn’t that terrible enough?