Turn the eyes upside down by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though you have seen it many times these twenty years!
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
My metaphors aren’t metaphors, they’re journalistic dispatches. I’m a reporter, not a fiction writer, or (worse) a poet. Everything in my writing should be taken literally — it’s all very real to me. It should be real to you too. It’s fun! It feels good. It makes more sense. It works better. I give these words away — they’re no longer mine. I thought they would stay mine, but I no longer want them. I’m an exhibitionist. Do with them what you will, but take them seriously. In a year without time, this is what has come out of me, in all its fragments and splinters. I’m happy they bear witness to me — I’m happy you are, in turn, bearing witness to me, to time. My words and I thank you. If they are not for you, set them free. Otherwise, let them rattle around for a while and shake some things loose.
II. Early Spring
I wish I could write a real grass field. I wish the wildflowers I saw earlier could grow out of my words with the same fragrance and diversity and intensity and beauty. I want to give it to everyone so badly! I’m tired of representation. (Oof, and so young!) I want my words to be made of real things. I want my words to create real things. This is a helpless paradox. But I’m tired of trying to express how it felt to see the field — I want the field to stand for itself. I want it to be self-constituting. I want it to be real. I always get it wrong, it’s always empty and stained with my thinking, my ego. Why can’t things be things? Why do I have to write about them? I wish things could stick to me and I didn’t have to make everything about words. I want them out! I want a mind filled with things, not words.
III. Things I Should Make
I’m always trying to write myself into a better world, a livable reality. I’m selfish like that — selfishly processing, selfishly constructing safety. I feel more real when reading the words of someone else. That’s the only time I feel real at all. I am constantly seeking that brain-itch feeling, the painkiller tingle in my head when an idea, attractive to me, reveals itself in someone’s writing — when I play well, and follow along. It’s an embarrassing thought, honestly, that I only feel real when I’m someone else. I’m still giving myself too much credit — I’m not that person, I’m thinking alongside that person. How sad that that’s what feels real to me. A sad day that I relate more to literature, theory, written text than I do my own life, “what is.” I’m an embarrassment to thinking. I’m contained entirely in my thought, everything is my thinking, but what if it’s sour? There’s never been ground to stand on — I know this.
Ecstatic feeling pulses as I write. It swells behind me, whispers in my ear, and slinks back. Why does “slink” keep coming up? I like the image I guess — all wet, dragging along the ground. Writing doesn’t feel good anymore. My hand always hurts. I want to take the small, beautiful silver hammer and smash through my brow bones.
IV. What My Mom Is Doing While I Cum
I want to feel how I feel in the seconds before I cum all the time. I want to be cumming all the time. Even when I’m cumming, I’m thinking. Nothing is safe from my analysis. Nothing is sacred. I’m afraid the closest thing I’ll ever feel to love is pain — as if I can tell the difference! I remember you fucked me against your bathroom mirror. My breath outlined the parts of my face pressed against the glass like the handprint of a ghost. There was a bong in front of me, brushing my nose while you were fucking me from behind. This was the first time I’d ever seen myself while getting fucked, all scrunched and gasping and leaking. Hit it — spoken as a blood-filled command. How dirty, I thought. How deviant. If my mother knew I was high and getting my asshole loosened by a man with a metal rod through his urethra . . . Sometimes it’s hot to piss her off. I hope she’s crying. Walker was right — “Rage is fun.” Dost thou wish to live deliciously? Yes, and no, but mostly yes. Sex, to me, has primarily been confusion that I’ve willed into pleasure. “I guess this is supposed to be good — and it will be, if I commit.” Yes, and, fuck. Maybe I’m turned on by complexity; by secret dimensions falling open in an instant like a trap door. Maybe narrative depth gives me hard-ons. How fucking sad!
Nowhere is safe. Even my mind is against me. My last respite, the room of my thought, is infected. It’s all tainted with sadness, obsession and loneliness. Why am I no one? Why am I void? I feel like a photo negative all the time. I just suck color through a straw, and leave stinking pale shit behind me. Like sour bone marrow. I wish I could say that I were using it for some deeply pleasurable act of hedonism or cruelty or genius, but I’m not. I suck and I stop — the railroad tracks end at a brick wall made of trees. Maybe that’s why I don’t eat — because I’m nauseated from filling myself all the time with the color of other things. All that sticky wet stuff seems inappropriate, and sickening. I wish the hours of 5pm-7pm didn’t exist.
Everything squishes under my touch, even my thoughts. I’m so trapped! There’s no way out, no way in. Even this, now, is just feeding into itself. I’m stranded and, ultimately, alone. I would speak for others, but there are no others. Only me and my ghosts, trailing hand in hand through dark hallways.
Our whole lives are spent stuffing shit in certain holes, and trying to shit shit out of other holes. Being alive is to be in constant repulsion to the natural processes of participating in life.
VI. Hanged from My Childhood Birch
I want to be someone new again. At least when no one knew me, I could be endless, shoot out in front. Headlight on a train. I’m waiting around to be renamed. I want the world to make a stick version of me and hang me out in the forest to scare the kids. I want to be lore.
I want to tell you a story. The velvet that is my tongue laps red wine off the hardwoods. I want to tell you so many things but I’m tied to your bed with ropes made of tulips and daffodils. Is it your bed or the bed I grew up in? Are they the same? There’s cum on the mirror, you texted it to me. I shuddered with excitement, like the earth was shaking. It was. I have never felt someone’s fingers inside of me until you, even though that’s not true. Your index finger disappeared inside of me and it made me cum and it made me sick.
How do I get it all out? All the want? That thing in me knocking against my chest? Is it not asking to get out? What if it’s instead beckoning in? I’m so tired all the time. I’m so scared all the time — of my mind, of being myself. I feel like I’m in danger all the time. I’m afraid I’m not good enough at anything. I’m afraid I’ll never be successful. I’m afraid I’ll never be loved. I’m afraid of my family. I’m afraid of my past. I’m afraid of getting raped. I’m afraid of being used. I’m afraid that everyone was right about me. I’m afraid that everyone was wrong about me. I’m afraid I’m wrong about myself. I’m afraid of reality. I’m afraid of the abstract. I’m afraid of the concrete. I’m afraid of books. I’m afraid of my friends and my house and my neighborhood.
I wish there were a world entirely my own, constructed entirely of my own things, entirely, and all mine, where it was quiet. Everything is so loud all the time. Even breathing makes so much noise, like the hot exhaust of a jet plane. Everything is sticky. Will I always be like this? Will I always stretch out in the morning and feel sickness sink into my toes? Big, stupid smiling words flashing through my mind? They’re just sounds then. I can see them whizzing past and know that, at one point, some point, they stood for something, were wet grass growing through my toes,were signs that conjured something, even if that something wasn’t clear. But now, they’re just sounds with uncanny shadows, the ghosts of meaning trailing them as they fly across my consciousness.
You know, Oppen says this space — that spooky gap where language both is and isn’t signifying — is where true articulative potential lies; where we can shoot our language beyond ourselves into the big stream of thought in the sky. I’d like to think this is true — it sounds lovely. It’s definitely an uncomfortable space to stick around in — the 15 minutes between sleep and waking are excruciating, often the worst pieces of my day. But this discomfort seems an advantage to thought--growth takes place in discomfort. (Duh!) Maybe this stream of thought — the nothingness that defines our somethingness, rushing out into space — is god. I’ve always envisioned god like this, even though last year I claimed that God Is Love. I’m not so sure about that anymore — maybe god is thought. I hear eerie echoes of Descartes, but maybe that’s my own voice bouncing off the walls.
VII. The Tongue, Fileted
What if I can never write again? What if I’ve never written at all? And all of this has been something like the shadow of writing? A shell with empty language inside. A model home, gutted and bare. Sometimes I feel myself rise up, in a cone shape, and drill towards the future. I claim my space, and time warps around me. But other times, the inverse happens, and I feel myself ripping towards implosion. The walking, sucking void. I’m shoved around and between objects but nothing ever seems to stick to me. Perhaps I’m constantly slick. I don’t think I’m as smart as I pretend to be. I don’t have an identity, only a floating nothingness masquerading as a past that I try to stretch like taffy into something edible. I belong to no one — I wish I did. I wish I were owned. I’m tired of everything shifting around.
God, do I ever shut up? Do they ever shut up? What are my thoughts and what are the thoughts of others? Are they not all part of one bigger thought? None of them seem entirely unique. Every thought seems to have legs sticking into other thoughts. Is identity constituted by my inherently unique arrangement of these thoughts into a livable reality? Am I a collection of thoughts, none of which are my own? In this sense, the only thing I could lay claim to as “me” would be the direction of these thoughts, the way I’ve sculpted them. A cognitive blueprint of sorts, though of course I won’t ever be able to see this plan. My thinking is so cyclical these days. I’m not moving forward — I’m stuck in a hydraulic jump. I am the turning wheel of water that drowns the divers. Eating men like air, I suppose. I wonder if she’s ever thought of me? Her, with her sharp, animal smell, with her towels stuffed under the door. My past — immediate and ancient — feels like a spongy orb billowing behind me. It’s like my lower back is a bubble wand, and a thick, inflated thing is oozing out of me in ropey gushes. Except it’s not a bubble, it’s an iridescent dumpling filled with almost-familiar sounds.
How could I ever write of green? Of green things? None of my words will ever grasp green’s complexity, its layers. It is impossible. Is this my Buddhist suffering? Doomed to represent, stand-in, a variable holding the place of? Never it, never the, never immediate, sensational? I want my words to push past words into thingness, communicating only what they are — together and apart. Never what they “mean.” Never what they “depict.” But, of course, who knows if I actually want this. I also want warmth and knowing; to be seen. Often those all feel at odds with each other.
I want someone to tell me there’s a life waiting for me somewhere. I want someone to tell me they’re never going to hate me, for as long as I live. I want to never work again. I want a big-time job in a big city in a huge building overlooking other less-huge-but-still-huge buildings. I want big windows in my office, and in my house. I want people to respect me. I want people to ask me questions and come to me when they’re confused. I want to go to someone when I’m confused. I want to live alone, far away, in a little house with plants all around. I want to live inside of trees. I want to live near the ocean. I want to look from my bed and see a crystal-clear sea shining back at me. I want to access the blue of the ocean. I want to swim every sea. I want to swim all the time. I want to be in water always. I want it to spill out of me. I want to not be alone. I want someone to know me, and sit with me. I want someone inside myself all the time, with me at all moments. I want to share myself with someone.
I want someone to read all of this, and tell me they read it. I want someone to hold me close while I read to them from my diary, and kiss my forehead and tell me that I’m smart and that my words aren’t a sign of madness, but of progress. I want to be warm. I want to feel the warmth of someone else, someone bigger than me. I want to break off pieces of myself and shove them in other people so I can look around. I want to be other people. I want to be nothing at all. I want to be fucked, hard. I used to always want to be fucked. I don’t know if I always want that anymore. I want to shove my head into the wall. I want to bury my head in mud, and cram wet moss into my ear canals. I want to scream, and for all my skin to melt off. I want my scream to be deep and gutural, to come from somewhere beneath but still inside of me. I want it to be a platform that I can stand on, that rises with my grief.
r. fay is a writer from North Carolina. They grew up near Jaars, and now live in Durham.