every day i pay a visit to the purple death in my back yard. there is a grey sky (pre-wakefulness) that is beginning to rinse with color the shape of blood poisoned. beneath that dilemma the purple death has just been born again, craning its neck, silently howling the song of existence. i begin each day with the slow opening of eyes and senses, i see the purple death through the ivy that is growing to cover my window. there is another person's body in this bed and neither of us knows who the other person is yet.
before i had even moved away from the desert i had stumbled onto a page containing what would from then on be the name of my time there. i cut the name out and pasted it to the back cover of one of my heart's glove boxes. the name is "That was the first time I had been in the stars for maybe twenty years, and it was odd that I was not in the woods or on the water in upper Michigan or Maine". i keep the name tethered close to my body and beneath the cover of this name i am very tender. this is one example of how a name can be invisible baggage. we all have something invisible hanging onto us, or, more often, that we are hanging on to.
when people ask me how austin, tx is, i tell them "it is my haunted house and desperate binge- learning how to live in this world". these are the words that make sense to me about how i am living.
'personal essay' feels like a game i am playing but don't know the rules to and am not interested in knowing the rules to, thank you kindly. my heart is a run-on sentence. let your heart ramble with mine through the ivy until they block out my bedroom view of the inevitable blooming/dying purple. my compulsion to name things has been lent to me by my desire to hold onto them. i named it the purple death because every day before the sun rises it is born and every night when i am letting the dog out it is long dead, the fallen blooms turning to sepia. in the morning the death will be born-again and the fallen blooms will be already gone, swallowed by the ground. i mourn and remember that this is the earth that eats itself alive.
one of my favorite secret pastimes is writing letters to people i love and never sending them. like making a map to a place you want to keep secret but can't keep to yourself, or maybe just a fear of being either found or not found, or maybe a fear of how someone might react if they found you. when i can communicate with someone on the other side of the planet in a matter of seconds, what is the impulse behind writing a letter? in one particular previous romantic relationship, i wrote letter after letter, let my self unravel with words after a long period of being hurt and guarded, let myself lean in to the safety of our holding hands. i wrote so many letters i began to secretly tape them to the walls, covering the surface area hiding behind all of the posters in my partner's bedroom. i optimistically imagined some day in the future when we would be moving somewhere together and as my partner packed up their belongings they would discover all of the love i'd been leaving around for them to find. of course i left on my own and never came back, and as far as i know that person still lives in that room. of course i have since sometimes laid awake, eyes watching lights of passing cars on the ceiling, imagining those letters peeling like wallpaper, undiscovered. this is the homecoming parade for my pain and i am the parade's audience as well as the entire parade.
on a day when i was stranded at the very bottom of my snake pit i passed the hours by looking at every personal photo and video i had in the archive of my phone. this is one way you can kill yourself softly, and many people do. i watched a video of my husband before he was my husband, happily driving the two of us through san francisco at night, felt incapable of reconciling the person in the video with the person who had been periodically checking up on me all day, the person who was making sure i was at least drinking water. sometimes when i look at you i look at you through the lens of every memory we've ever had together and this feels like being slowly rung out to dry (so slow i almost don't notice). i recently felt alive for the first time in months when i rode my single speed bicycle home from work in a thunderstorm, it felt like the first time i had ever experienced water falling from the sky. i dripped through my house to get to the back yard, stripping down to sit naked in a lawn chair while drinking rainwater out of a wine glass. i stared into the grey gash of the sky and spun circles in the rain, accidentally kicking up the falling blossoms of the purple death. i sacrifice too much time lying to myself, thinking "this is the last poem i am going to write about this." i am not immune to this human cycle - pain's eternal returning. still, these days when i sit down to write about nostalgia i am angry, resentful. i want this to be the last time i write about nostalgia, but i know better than to believe that. my criticism of nostalgia stems from the way i waste all these little cut-up pieces of time to it, amounting to days and months and years of my life spent trying to survive the flood of it, and the way i've lost whole people in that flood. i think every person i love has a great rain in them and i want to be present enough to feel it when the first drop hits me and every new drop thereafter. i want to be hydroplaning my bike home witnessing the storm of the present moment - not drowning in the memory of some other storm i lived through. but i have a sentimental heart and that is what i am scared of most. on the front cover of the notebook i am writing this in i have pasted the words: "the twittering of birds - it can last for an entire evening, but is forgotten and only occupies a second of one's consciousness." when i chronicle my existence on this earth i sometimes suspect i am doing my future self a great disservice.