Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rain Walking

If you turn up your collar, just so, and scrunch your shoulders up around your neck like closed wings, the rain just... slides. It's possible to stay both warm and relatively dry just by keeping the rain off your neck.  You move through and around the drops, a little hutch of warmth and dryness braving the elements. When your hair is short, like mine, you learn these things quickly. As you walk, the rain floods around your feet, the kind of rain that rushes down so hard it continues right onto the sidewalk. You're wading through minuscule rivers, each one carrying its own load of trash and leaves. Slowly, as you continue on your way, you notice... not so much a smell but a feeling. The world slowly washes itself away, the sound of cars replaced by echoing rain and the underlying dirty scent of streets fading into rainy purity. The city, for a moment, feels clean.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's Coming

High 60's, slight breeze, sun. We uncurl ourselves from the batting and flannel of winter, unwrap in our minds the fresh shoots of spring. Ideas are growing. Here, in the depths of January, we remember days to come. Muscles loosen, shoulders relax, toes uncurl inside suddenly too thick socks. Longingly, we speak, in quiet voices, of green, warmth, single layers next to the skin. As we drink in the blue sky above, so different from the dreary light of yesterday's gray, we think to ourselves, savor this, and bottle the memory for a rainy day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Morning

This morning, I drank three cups of tea. "It's Sunday," I thought to myself. "Why not?" So instead of my usual one cup, Prince of Wales tea (I'm out of Scottish Breakfast), I went to my afternoon default. I found my bag of Lestrade tea by Adiago, and made a whole freaking pot. Bad idea. I'm shaking and can't sit still and I'm accidentally typing double letters because my fingers are jerky. Why do I always forget that tea is caffeinated? One cup in the morning gets me up, but I can go without it if I must. Two a day keeps me going through the afternoon, picking me up in the darker bits of early evening. But three? Three cups in about an hour period was a really, really poor decision. This has been a post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Red Toothbrush

I still use
That red toothbrush you gave me
The first time I stayed over when you said
"Why don't you just stay the night?"
And we both slept close but not close enough until
The next time when
I brought my bag with your
Red toothbrush and
Brushed the taste of you out of my mouth
In the morning and then left with
The smell of you still in
My hair.

I Have To Stop Spending Money

I have to stop spending money. I get paid every two weeks. I know when I'm getting paid. I know how much I'm getting paid. I know that I have an automatic withdrawal of $50 to my savings account every two weeks when I get paid. Yet I still spend money that I really shouldn't be spending. I just went to the yarn store, which I shouldn't have done because I cannot walk out of there without spending at least fifty dollars. Sure enough, it happened. I was only going to buy two sets of circular needles that I need for two at a time socks. But then... They had restocked all their yarn. ALL OF IT. It was so beautiful and colorful and soft and... two skeins of Manos del Uruguay later, I'm down $58 including needles. I have to stop doing this. It's the curse of having an income... now that I know it's coming, I feel better about spending it because I know there will be more in another two weeks. Thank the lord I set up my withdrawals to savings... otherwise I'd be dead broke, always.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yesterday's Socks

And today I wore
Yesterday's socks.
Extra blue and extra thick
Yesterday's socks
Protecting against wind
(and now snow)
For the second
Day in a row.
Yesterday's socks
Scooped from the floor without
A second thought.
I know they'll make it through the day
After all, I made them.

Monday, January 21, 2013

More Numbers

And suddenly there are
Two days.
That's two times
Twenty-four hours
Four times
Six times
Sixty times twenty four times
Thirty six hundred seconds a minute
Sixty minutes an hour
Twenty-four hours a day equals
Two days time.
(you do the math)
One hundred seventy two thousand eight hundred seconds
All slowly trickling down
To nothing. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Disagreement of the Hardest Order

If you don't agree with me
And I don't agree with you
We butt heads.
Even if we agree to be respectful
We butt heads.
Yes, I value you
And your friendship
And your opinion but really
Can't you see how this changes my view of you?
not to let your ideas
Poison my idea of you
But sometimes it's
I still love you for
Who you are and
The power of your beliefs but
Like I said before,
It's hard.

I know it's best to take in as many different ideas and perspectives as possible, and I know that not everyone will agree with me or my opinions. Your ideas aren't even misguided or invalid or blatantly idiotic like the opinions of so many others; they're lovely, well thought out, logical and rational forces of will, but that's what makes them so hard to swallow. I know that you value your opinions just as much as I value mine, and even though we can talk about them and discuss without taking the other down, the undercurrent of "what if" lurks beneath the veneer of our polite conversation. There's always the backing tone of "I Do Not Agree". Disagreement happens, and I know it happens, but it still makes me sad when I see friends going down a path that I view as blinkered to the wider worldviews on the issue. I try to learn as much as possible, take in as many perspectives as I can, see from all sets of eyes and walk in multiple pairs of shoes. However, I've found that, even as it opens my mind, this strategy makes me more and more suspicious, more questioning, less likely to be bought by one perspective or another. I find it hard to form my own opinions without thorough research and contemplation. I can only hope that my friends do as much research as I do about their opinions, because I feel that one should take make their decisions only after they find at least one viewpoint opposing theirs, and they can still say that their opinion is valid after discussing and researching the other side. It's worked for me, and I can only hope it will work for others.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ukulele Nonsense Poem

To paraphrase Amanda Palmer:
Play your ukulele loud
Play your ukulele proud
"'Cos even if your grades are bad it doesn't mean you're failing"
She makes me wish I could have made
Any thing so quite as good
So catchy and amazing
It's just three chords
That's all it takes
To banish any evil
Play your ukulele loud
Play your ukulele proud
Art's not hard
Just do it! Now.
It's just liking knitting only not so stringy
Or so wooly or so 
Utterly confusing
Go out and buy your ukulele
Don't worry if you think you're stupid
It will probably make you feel better
Even if you have
No musical inclination!
I don't even have one and
I really really want one and
Perhaps I'll gift my self with one and
Busk my way though DC.
I'll play my favorite cover song
Even though the words are wrong
Bring joy for all the world to see
With the power of ukulele.

(Apologies to Amanda Palmer, and hear the original song here.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Some Days

Some days
Some days
Some days I just want to steal other people's words
Make them slip down my throat and then back up
So I don't have to think about
Everything that makes me
I feel unoriginal
Burdened by worries, hurries, and
Crawling up my throat and choking me
Blocking me
Haunting me and hawking me
Tight fingers of a small green goblin
That refuses to let go.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nonsense Poems

Three line stanza
Three word line
Three letter ending: Not.

One word sentence:

Three word line:
I love you.
Don't leave me.
I can't stay.

Six word story:
No time, no sleep, no worries.

Three word legends:
Go away now.
I hated you.
Take me back

Eleven second thoughts:
I don't know why I
Start and stop and start.

One: heart.
Two: Legs.
Four: Eyes.
Ten: Fingernails.
Thirty-three: Vertebrae.
Million: Songs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Night Drizzle

Outside the library, a stiff wind blows and the rain drizzles down your neck. The flag on the flagpole shivers along with you as you hurry towards your destination. Cars drift by, each its own little world of warmth and dryness. A few late stragglers huddle together at the bus stop across the street, and you silently commiserate  as you wait for the crossing signal. Instinctively, you hunch your shoulders and turn up your collar, thankful for the black wool of your jacket keeping the wet off. Eerie neon flashing spurs your movements, and you hurry across the street, head down against the wind and rain. Your feet take you away from the glowing lights of restaurants and stores and direct you downhill. You skirt a series of metal grates, thankful your boots grip the slick surfaces. Preoccupied as you are with keeping your footing, glancing at the perpetually parked delivery truck as you cross an alley, you almost forget to look up.

You've been travelling downhill, but it's unclear how high up you actually are, until you look. Directly in front of you, framed by strands of electrical wires and the mishmash weaving of trees, lights, and buildings, the lights of a city appear. In this rain, they appear ghostly and misted over, slowly rising from the cloudy depths of time and space. Even in this weather, the view stops your feet, letting your eyes feel even as your neck shivers and your teeth click together from cold. You've seen this view a hundred times, but here, in this cold rain, it looks especially beautiful. Plumes of fog flow through the streets, and the wind flashes the rain faster. As the cold begins to soak through your hair, your body takes over and your feet continue downward.

When you look up again, the city is gone. In its place, misty trees and the odd under-glow of rainy streetlights blend into dark gray clouds tinted pinkish by city lights. You continue on, boots clump-slapping on the wet pavement, dodging more sidewalk grates and slippery grass. As you near your destination, you realize you can actually hear the rain and wind, but no cars. The world is silent. Looking both ways, you step out into the middle of the street and let your hearing spread out. No cars, no dogs, no city noises. In the distance, a loose street sign clonks against its metal pole, but the wind soon shifts and the rain-sound returns. Complete and utter stillness, in the middle of a city.

At the intersection, the stoplights silently change from green to red to yellow and back, an endless cycle uncaring. In this light, the colors mutes to shades of gray. The whole world reduced to monochrome and senses, where your boots stick to wet asphalt and your turned up collar almost but-not-quite keeps the cold off your neck, where the sound of rain-wind-silence melds with the eye-speak of trees-lights-mist. Even as the cold seeps through your body and trickles down your neck, even as your breath adds to the fog and your breathing ghosts into the silence, the world spreads out, bigger than you can hear-taste-touch-smell-see. Even up here, surrounded by houses and wires and signs-dogs-cars-underglow of city pollution, the mist still rolls down and engulfs, softening edges. And under your feet, the world turns.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


In between moments
The clock thunks
Arms slamming into place like lead doors
Measuring out my time
When thoughts drift between seconds
Before the hand comes down
And slices through my head
Breaking my coherence
Into so many


The room is quiet, except for the occasional page turning or the underlying click-clack of laptop keyboards. The fluorescent lights shine over many toiling (or most likely slacking) high school students, their sweatshirts showing a school name in varying shades of navy, gray, or white. The teacher at the front of the room vaguely scribbles in the margin of some paper they’re grading, probably for the oh-so-lofty upperclassmen they’d rather be dealing with. Nobody likes supervising ninth graders.
I always sit about the fifth row up, in a chair that swings out to the right. I can’t concentrate if the chair goes the other direction. Today, however, concentration is not on my mind. I only have Spanish homework left, and my severe dislike of the subject prevents me from caring if I do a good job or not. The workbook pages pass quickly, with a little help from GoogleTranslate and the dictionary at the back of the chapter. There are more important matters at hand.

Back in the good old days of freshman year, my school hadn’t figured out how to block many music listening websites. There was Youtube, of course (and there still is, thank goodness), but for those of us who took our music seriously and didn’t want to pay, there was Pandora.

Laptop click-thunks open, headphones settle gently into ears. Click-click-click with the mouse and the lovely blue Pandora screen appears. Pandora, simple and brilliantly easy: input an artist, and the algorithms within the program spits back songs by similar artists. It’s better than listening to the radio, with fewer commercials.
So, what shall I listen to today? Well, let’s see what the algorithm gives me. Silence, then tick-tick-tick of a high hat cymbal, then the slow, dull boom-boom of a bass drum. I’ve never heard this song before. Before I can think anything else, fuzzy guitar distortion pounds my ears, and then a voice, gravelly and electronic, and then guitar the riff everyone knows, even if they don’t know where it’s from. I do know this song, but I’m not thinking anymore.

The guitar and the drums reverberate all through my body. I can feel the vibration in the floor. My boots are stuck to the ground, my head feels like it’s about to explode. I’m suddenly a million pounds. I can’t think, or feel, or do anything but listen. I don’t know if my eyes are open or closed, if I’m standing or sitting anymore. As the tempo rises and the guitars shriek, I’m flying too. Just as I’m sure the song is ending, the distortion rises and I slam back into my body, back from my journey riding the spikes and valleys of jagged vocals and throbbing drums. The song peters out with a long trail of background static and one last note.

I remember to breathe again. The feeling slowly returns to my fingers. My feet unstick themselves from the floor. The weight lifts. I experimentally shift in my chair, and my whole body protests. I’ve cramped up in the four minutes I’ve been sitting here. Dazedly, I gather my things for my next class, not sure what just happened or what I just heard. The song plays back through my thoughts. Belatedly, I check the song listing, and a surprised chuckle escapes my throat in this quiet room. The little box flashes an album cover, and the words “Iron Man” followed by the artist. I stop, and frown, and then smile as recognition dawns. Black Sabbath. Still grinning, I leave for my next class, humming under my breath.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Day Against Eternity

The room is too small for the people filling it. One wall, made of glass bricks, lets in a speck of natural light against the glow of fluorescent overheads. We can hear the people in the next room, but we scream louder. Our butts hurt from hours of sitting on the floor, but there’s no real discomfort here. In fact, it is perfect. Heads lean into shoulders, arms curl around waists, backs press against bent knees. Elbows touch. The room quiets as a man stands in the small open space in the center. He has an aura about him: calm, collected, confident, serene, all knowing, loving. The silver ankhs on his chest shine, mimicking the shine of his bald head and the flash of his glasses. His feet are bare. Rings join in the glow, and add to the atmosphere. This is Important.

The man stands in the center, surrounded by a room full of teenagers, and a few who seem older. The oldies (they’re barely in their twenties, by the looks of most of them), hold colored cards in their hands, reverentially. Rodney, the man in the center, speaks.
“Each card has a purpose. You wrote that card for a reason, and the person receiving it will receive it for a reason. It will be exactly what you need. You channeled your thoughts into that card, sent it on its way. Now, it will find its purpose.” He pauses. “Channel. Think about what you wrote, why you wrote it. Think about who it is going to. You may not know who will receive it, but know that it is for them. You will get exactly what you need.” Rodney pauses again, deliberately. “Each of the facilitators around me will pick a card out of the basket, and then let the card guide them to who needs it most. After you get your card, take one out of the basket and find who it belongs to, who needs it. Each card has a purpose.” Another pause. Rodney steps forward, bends down. He takes the stack of cards from Paula, kisses her on the forehead, and drops them into the basket. He moves on to Kelsey P., and then Jasmine. Each stack of cards hits the bottom of the basket with a muffled “thwap”. And then we wait.

Music plays, softly. Soulful and sweet, it fills the silence that soon fills even more, with the sound of movement and then, slowly, ever so slowly, the sound of crying. The facilitators move among us, gently presenting each card, and then hugging the recipient tightly. Some cry. Most cry. Emotion swirls. Slowly, ever so slowly, kids start to stand. They dry their eyes and pick their way towards the basket. They reach in, select an anonymous card, and turn, searching. They wander, looking for the purpose, following the thread. When they find the end, both dissolve. Two girls hold each other, sobbing. The walls are crumbling.

I watch, and I wait. I watch. And I wait. And then, a tap on my head, a ruffle of my hair. It’s Matt. Sweet, adorable, goofy Matt, who stood up in this room yesterday and, knees shaking, squeezing the hand of the girl next to him, admitted for the first time that he’s bisexual. For him, the room exploded, as it did for all the others who came out for the first time, who felt safe enough to stand up and say, “This is who I am.” I’m so proud of them, and I’m so proud of him. As I’m remembering, he hands me a piece of soft red construction paper. I look down. Simple, upper case letters, a girl’s handwriting, look back.


And just like that, I break. A bottle spills, tips over, shatters. Everything overflows. I cry, like I haven’t cried in a long time. Everything inside me comes down. I can physically feel the waves pushing my walls away. I wrap my arms around Matt, bury my head in his shoulder. I shake. All the doubts, all the unrealized fears, every time I had to think about what I was saying or watch myself in case I gave myself away, disappear. Their absence feels new, strange, as if I am now unweighted from something I didn’t realize I was carrying. I didn’t know how alone I felt, until I didn’t feel alone anymore. The lightness shocks me, and I feel my back move up and down with the rhythm of my sobs.

When I look up, I see I’ve left tears on Matt’s grey shirt. He smiles down at me, teary himself.
I whisper, “Thank you.” He smiles.
“You know the saying “you came into my life for a reason”? Well, you came into my life for a reason.” His statement is low, clear. “I feel like I was just waiting to meet you. I love you.” I’ve never heard words spoken with that much intensity, sincerity. This isn’t romantic love he’s expressing. And it’s not romantic love I’m expressing back. I focus my swollen eyes on his face.
“I love you too.” I’m still wrapped in his embrace, still crying, still watching my walls float away. I’m entirely sincere. Here, I feel safe. Here, I feel love, flowing in from every direction. It’s real.

So, remember this. Remember what it felt like. Remember feeling safe, here in this room full of queer kids. Remember. Remember the love. Remember how it spread, first like honey, then like a river. Remember the feeling of your doubts shattering, your fears washing away. Remember realizing that it’s ok. Remember standing up, introducing yourself. “Hi, I’m Amanda, I go by she/her pronouns, and I’m bisexual, but questioning? It’s nebulous.” Remember how you feel, right now, in this moment. You are no longer questioning. Here, you feel safe knowing that you like the term queer, that it fits you, for now. Remember acknowledging that it may change. Remember feeling safe. Remember. Fill up that broken bottle. Fill it with all the love in this room, sparkling purple and free floating. Remember it, and store it away in your chest, locked in tight, where no one can take it from you. Know that here, in this room, you are loved. You are safe. You are you. Remember.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Printed News

I just spent two hours reading the paper.

Contrary to what most people seem to think about my generation, I love the newspaper and printed news, and most of all I love the Sunday New York Times. I usually start with the Magazine section, then Style, Arts and Leisure, Sports, Travel, Week in Review, then the Book Review, and lastly the Front Page. It really does take me close to two hours to get through all of that because (get this) I actually read most of it. I skim all the headlines and articles, and read about 1/3-1/2 of the stories on average. I love them Modern Love column in the Style section, the final essay in the Magazine, and the random articles in Week in Review. I tolerate the Sports section (mostly because I think the Washington Post sportswriters are better), but it usually has one or two good articles. I always read the music articles in Arts and Leisure, and at least one Front Page article.

I don't know why I stick so strongly to printed news. My family has always gotten the paper delivered: Washington Post during the week, New York Times on Sundays. We recently started getting the Sunday Post as well, except it's delivered on Saturday, so I get a preview of the greatness that is the Sunday Times. I've been reading the paper basically since I could read, starting with the comics (which I still read religiously) and working my way up. Even on a school day, I still sit down and read most of the front page, and the comics, and the Metro section if I have time. I skim Sports, and whatever extra excerpt there is (Food on Wednesday, Weekend on Thursday, Magazine on Sunday). Whatever I don't get to in the morning, I read when I come home, even if it's at 9:30 at night when I get home from work. It's just something I do. I feel uninformed if I don't read the paper, out of the loop, behind. I treasure that I'm able to pick up the paper in the morning, shake it out of its tight plastic covering, and flip it over to see the day's news. Even if I've already heard about some of the headlines via Facebook or regular Internet escapades, I always go back and read about them in the paper anyway.

Some may say my paper reading ways are a waste of time, that I could just get up to the minute news on the Internet, or save paper and subscribe online. Yeah, I could do that. But really, would it feel the same to sit down for two hours on a Sunday morning at my computer screen, or an iPad? Can I drink tea and not worry about accidentally spilling it on my my news? My computer doesn't smell like ink, doesn't leave a dusky trail on my fingertips. It's just not the same. So, to you, doubters, haters of the printed word, I say this: my two hours with the paper are some of the most relaxed and happy times I have during the week. It's my unwinding time, when I can fill my head with ideas and thoughts not my own, when I can learn about everything that's bigger than me, far off places and new ideas, music, art, lives. The Internet is just not the same, even if the words and articles are identical. My two hours with the paper ground me, and let my mind float, every single day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Knitter!

I love The Knitter. I love that the internet came up with the idea of a knitting supervillain. I love that suddenly, knitting is cool. Knitting is hip. Knitting is something anyone can do. It can be a force for good (charity! warm fuzzy socks!) or evil (robbing banks ala The Knitter), beautification (yarn bombing!) or vandalism (also yarn bombing, but from a different perspective).  

For me, knitting is a stress buster. I knit to keep myself sane. It's a procrastination technique, but it's also soothing. The repetitive motion of stitch after stitch, row after row, one needle to the other, lets me think. With a simple pattern, my mind can sort itself out. I think in song lyrics, or about my day, or about any amount of work I have to do, or planning for a zombie apocalypse. When I have a more complicated pattern, I can't help but concentrate on it, and my worries sink for a little bit. It's lovely. As an added plus, I get cozy warm and hopefully awesome items out of the deal. 

I think everyone should learn to knit, for all of the above reasons (except the robbing banks one). Yarn bombing can free the artist in you, as well as the rebel and that inner ninja. Knitting for others unlocks compassion, as well as an appreciation for the work and love that go into making something unique and custom. And knitting for yourself is the ultimate win-win situation: wearable items, and distraction. Perfect!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Proceed At Your Own Risk

Warning. Unreality Ahead. Proceed At Your Own Risk.
The sign stares at me, its letters black and menacing against the pristine white background. I look around. It’s a perfectly ordinary suburban street, houses displaying tidy lawns and cars parked in driveways. I look back at the sign, then down at the sidewalk. It, too, seems perfectly ordinary. The sky above shows a few clouds, but nothing radical or unheard of.
I proceed at my own risk. One step, two steps, three. Nothing. I step less tentatively. Step. Step. Stepstepstep. Still nothing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a flash of white. I turn my head. It’s a chicken. White, with yellow legs and a little red floppy bit on top of its head, like any normal chicken. It’s normal sized, normally shaped, and as far as I can tell, behaving in normal chicken fashion. It cocks its head at me.
Warning. Unreality Ahead. Proceed At Your Own Risk.
The words appear in my head without stopping to funnel through my ears. I stop. The warning sounds again, coupled with a cluck. The chicken stares at me, its eyes not leaving my face. Is this normal chicken behavior? The chicken continues staring, and I stare back, searching for the source of the disembodied words now flashing through my head. Warning. Warning. Leave now. Warning. Cluck. The chicken takes a step closer, then another. Step. Step. Stepstepstep.  In response, I back up, matching the chicken step for reverse step. Step. Step. Stepstepste-
The ground disappears beneath me. I’m falling backwards, looking up at the fast shrinking chicken head peering over the edge of what appears to be a hole that wasn’t there before. It forlornly waves a wing at me, shaking its head sadly. Or that might have been my imagination. That’s definitely not normal chicken behavior. This is all my imagination. Any second now, I’ll wake up. Please tell me I’ll wake up. I can’t be falling. There was no hole there, and no chicken. There can’t have been. This isn’t happening . This isn’t happening. This isn’t ha-
I hit the ground.
My eyes open. I’m in my own bed. It’s dark. My clock, ever vigilant on the desk at the foot of my bed, reads 11:23. I exhale. Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a-
I look. Nothing. Cluck. There it is again. Cluck. Cluck. Cluckcluckcluckcluckcluck.
Drawers spill out onto the floor, of their own accord. They’re full of chicken feathers. My closet door bursts open, feathers spiraling out in a giant wave of deadly softness. I’m paralyzed. Feathers stream in through the windows, fall from the ceiling, materialize under the bed. I’m being carried on a rising tide of feathers, destination unknown. I can’t breathe. Where are they taking me? Oh god it’s just a dream it has to be a dream PLEASE LET ME WAKE UP I’m so scared I don’t even like chickens where am I going why me why me why why why why why-
I open my eyes. Bright sunshine, coolness. Tidy front lawns, cars parked in driveways. A girl stands in front of me, reading a sign with great concentration. She pauses, then takes a step. Step. Step. Stepstepstep. She doesn’t see me. I take a step forward and she turns, locks eyes with me, pauses. I stare, and she stares back.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Closed Doors

When tempers flare
A brand new, inexplicably blank computer screen
The dirty (and clean) clothes piled on my floor
Running too late
Or not late enough
When the animals are underfoot
And my mother goes down the list of names
Calling us first the cat, then the dog
Before she finally gets to
Her own children
Names muddled in her frustration.
When tempers flare
Words not said
Dishes not done
Meals not planned
I softly
Close my door
With the push of one outstretched index finger
Blocking out
The toxic creeping energy
Of arguments
Over such mundane things
As the clothes on my floor
And the dishes piled in the sink.