Business, Darling

I heard myself saying it and was immediately annoyed.  As soon as it tumbled down my tongue.  “We want to be the head, not the tail, on this.”  Are you serious?  Did I really just rep this ridiculous metaphor?  THE BUSINESS METAPHOR.  The scourge of all creative tongues.  It’s like watching Shakespeare roll over in his grave.

I am gravely concerned by my use of this most recent darling of belabored business banter.  Dynamic, agile, robust, best-in-class brains all sitting around under the glare of fluorescent lighting, balancing the scales of justice in their tiny hands, and drinking from the same firehose.  It’s nauseating.

These things incise you, crawl around inside you, until they drive you to a place of unbridled lethargy.  And you spout off:  Do we have top-down buy-in?  Everyone in the room looks at you with the same face.  The face that says:  We know what you did there.  And we like it.

Because if you hadn’t, they would’ve been forced to drink the Kool-Aid, move the needle, or stand at the bleeding edge.  For the sake of all that is paper and holy, at least you weren’t compelled to mention that this problem has a lot of moving parts.

In all fairness, there’s no patient on the table.  Just a bunch of middle-aged dudes straining against designer neckwear.

Trick of the Light

This funny thing happened today. I was on my way home from a completely mundane trip to the grocery store, when my radio station played the song I heard yesterday, the one I ignored.

The DJ with the silky Kathleen Turner voice announced it by way of promoting the new album. And then she said The Shortlist would be up after that. And then she laughed. Just slightly.

There was something there, in that moment, in that laugh. Was it rueful? Sheepish? In that moment, I knew there was no one else in the world but she and me.

In that moment, a dark passageway opened up between us; her lips pressed against a faraway microphone became breath on my neck, and the laughter in my ear made my skin crawl.

The song starts. The bright, poppy, bouncy major-chord tones. And Florence Welch tells me when and where and why she stopped eating.

I’m driving, right there in the blazing morning sun, but a sinkhole is opening my chest and the pain and fear and loneliness and hate pours down my chest into my bowels.

I’m gulping the air, trying desperately to ignore the call of nothingness.

The song is 3 minutes and 20 seconds long, and in that time I’ve planned to eat crumbs, drink gallons of water, and hide my uneaten portions under witty conversation and sex and too much wine.

She says out loud what I always hid – that hunger is a pain you can DEFINE. And as she says this my heart breaks loose from its anchor in my chest.

My heart rolls down the hill of my body, like an empty shack on a windswept coast that comes down in a moment, into a sea of salt and tears. An erosion of my heart into a quicksand of feelings that have no name.

In 3 minutes and 20 seconds, I planned my escape, acknowledged my truth, pushed the mud out of my mouth, and resolved to never go back. It was done. I was safe.

The song was over. Here now was the voice of the other DJ, the one who announces the Short List, and in my horror my breath catches in my windpipe.

“Let’s start with Florence + The Machine. This is Hunger.”

This time the tinny pop opening was a gong echoing through a nightmare funhouse. Here again was the Angel, telling me to cheat death with beauty.

I’m hiding a flour tortilla in my apron pocket. It’s all I will eat today. An entire meal, flat as you please, sweet, buttery, easily torn into 5 bite-sized portions. The waning of a flour moon.

I’m on my bed in my efficiency apartment in Chicago. I haven’t eaten in two days, and the pita place just dropped me three full meals in plastic bags.

I’m on my bed and the TV is on, but it’s barely audible. It’s coming at me through a long, skinny tube. The bags are empty. Styrofoam cartons with half-eaten meals all around me.

I’m drifting, numb.

I wake up and it’s hours later. It’s dark and I’m lying on a heap of trash from a disappointing feast. The hunger gone, I realize I am weak, foolish, untrustworthy, soiled, broken. Full.

I clean up my mess. Push the bags down the trash chute. Bury the evidence. Tomorrow I will do better.

Nightshade

Pardon my perspective on moonshine, it’s not popular I know.  When the moon is full and the night birds wing their way through Orion’s tethered bow, Mamas say, “Hush!  SSsssh!  Don’t say a word!”  heads bowed against the night, quiet rockabyes escape narrowed lips, and tongue wagging takes a backseat to eyes sagging, hearts beating a snails pace.

Well! Night wears a different shade in my house!  Like a drunken rooster, I crow in the moonshine and ask Orion out to tea.  My loose garments catch on thorny business in my haste to feel the night lawn underneath my feet.  Did you know night crawlers love moonshine?  They do!  I can tell you they’re not as fond of dancing feet, grumpy worms!

Don’t “Hush Hush!”  Night is the best time of day for shouting!  Toss your voice at the moon and watch it ricochet around the world and back in hypersonic speed, blazing by bright Martian mountains and brokering for Saturn’s gilded rings.

Come and leap from your cozy bed and shout your visions from the center of the Milky Way!  When you do sleep at least, you will dream long and deep in the throes of life well lived, stinking of moonshine, and waking with more life inside you than you ever dreamed possible.

Ride the night and stamp your passport in stardust inked with nightshade; and grind meteor dust form the corner of your tourmaline eye.

Winter

Now is the Winter of our discontent, and like that long winter that shadowed the son of the Duke of York, our sun fails us, leaving too many stones in shadow, too many dark corners in which to hide a million great injustices.

All through the summer, we toiled in the heat of conscious thought; chanting and letter-writing.  We streamed into streets with fists raised up, blotting out the sun, and there burned in me a feverish need to bear witness to both the crushing of the order, and this long-awaited resistance.

Yet now, in the light of morning, the only shadow cast is that of the looming, straight-legged headlines, one after another like a death march.

I don a sweater, furry socks, hurry back to the covers, soak my thoughts in lusty dreams that still lurk at the corners of my mind.  It’s warm there; it’s territory I know.

But, here and there, in the cold light, embers glow.  First, in the catchall headlines at the bottom of the screen.  Then, rising to form a sisterhood of discontent that dominates the maelstrom.  It appears this dark-ride attraction has faulty wiring after all!

Nearing the calendar’s longest day, I awaken to a firestorm of taking power back, and my toes warm at the image of my Silver Fox, pawing nervously through the Times, playing furtive pocket-pool in his pressed Friday denim.

One Objector put it best:  “I’m glad it’s going slowly – you don’t deserve a bullet”

“for this defective comes by cause.”

Silver Fox

The Silver Fox pulled me aside on my last day of work, ran his tongue over his teeth as he dissected my Shoo-Fly tattoo for the 900th time.  “Your not leaving because I scared ya…are ya?”

He sucked his teeth and smiled that smile at me, the one where his teeth are bared and just slightly spread, and I can see his tongue sneaking around in the dark of his mouth.  I puffed up and told him I had something better.  And I do.

And he doesn’t scare me because of what he’ll do to me.  He scares me because I imagine what I might do to him.  He makes me so mad that my scalp burns and beads of sweat pop out on my forehead, worse than three-alarm chili.  Or Indian food on a hot day.  He makes me so mad that I can’t think, and my fingers cur into fists so tight my arms shake.

And goddammit, there are 50 good reasons why I left.  And one of those reasons belongs to him.  He’s 1 in 50, that old Silver Fox, who surrounds himself with luscious tarts that giggle and fawn like intoxicated mice, with red eyes and soft fur and mouths made for gaping and tearing.  His sharpened pencil twitches at the thought of bearing down on little mice, one by one.

And me, too.  He imagined me in a million ways as he stood behind my chair singing, “Kelly Kelly Bo Belly…” as my skin crawled all over itself and my sex crumbled to dust in my lap.

He’s a parasite.  And he won.  And I left my backbone behind me in the wake of one too many uncomfortable phrases.

Orange Chakra

Oranges taste best when you peel ’em yourself.  Corner the rind between your front teeth, just to get it started, and then slip two fingers under the skin and pull…gently now, like peeling off a fresh scab.  Like peeling sun-dried skin around your lips and eyelids.  Peel with the right amount of strength and assurance so you end up with an orangy-smelling bracelet.

As you section it out, popping one luxurious half-moon of nectar into your mouth, you’ll find a nipple of rind at the axis, holding the whole sweet thing together.  When you can bear it no longer, twist off the wrinkly nipple of rind – I trust you’ll find it bears the tartest essence of the fruit – where rind meets sweet, fuzzy tangles on the tip of your tongue.  I nearly find myself craving the rind, but I know the joy is in the nubby section at the tip-top of the orange, the orange chakra, if you will.  The navel.  The core.

Oranges are alpha and omega.  Food and beverage.  I give myself one after dinner these days to cancel out my longing for ice cream and cake, drenched in lady fingers, sprinkled with sugar, soaked in bourbon.  Just orange now, and sections, and nipple, nay, navel of rind jutting from ripe fruit.

It is less a punitive thing than you might imagine…

Oh, this old thing?

Go Go! Strip down to the barest bones, pull your lips back from blood-soaked teeth, and snarl from ancient tongues.  The gouging of pen into paper drags my soul out like a dog on the end of a snare.  The purpose is to be free, so how then is that purpose?  Culled between posts of careful thought, the act of pen to paper lacks any sense of freedom for me.

These words will never be soap bubbles, lilting on a gentle breeze!  Too much the task of picking word and phrase from air and winding it around my thumb; squinching it between thumb and forefinger.  Holding it (phrase, word) at eye height, crunching it between bright incisors down to the marrow, the taste of it, the salty meat of each word mixing with breath and stone.

I crave each dainty lyric, each supple morsel of thought, like an angry chef dealing out rancorous scraps to banshee cats in the alley behind.  There are words that are spent, spit out, left half-chewed, unbaked, parboiled in the pantry of my mind, but it’s quick to write now!  Turn the phrases, dig the fly from the ointment, butter knife through hot molasses.

This day, these words will not be crushed by heavy hand.  Today they fly free, quick and slinging, peeling like an ostrich across a mud-soaked canyon.  The time drips and I cringe on the edge of my seat to birth these words in rapid-fire succession before my time runs out.