Remember your finger moving through the candle flame, at first quickly, then more slowly because you realize it doesn’t hurt, you can’t feel a thing. Remember the tight, red coils of the heater, how you lay in bed at night, feeling the coils of the mattress, sure you’d get burned. Remember the marshmallows melting on the end of your forked stick. This is what fire can do, the cracking and popping in the fireplace, your face flaming with the heat of it, your back as cold as cold. Early morning, winter, and Mama is up before the sun, feeding the fire. You shiver into your clothes, pulling on a sweater and socks, scooting down the hall to breakfast where the space heater heats the kitchen, orange red, hot to the touch and always your father so careful of fire, fire in the chimney, the campfire ringed with stones. Careful to always douse it before breaking camp in the chilly morning, careful to place the screen in front of the roaring fireplace. Always so careful.

This is what fire can do. Run through the woods looking for perfectly forked sticks, perfect for hotdogs. Run through the woods looking for dry wood, it has to be dry enough. Run through the woods to the campfire glowing in the distance, the smoke curling up into the air. Run through the woods. Climb under the electric fence. Run into the old yard, under the walnut and oak trees until you’re back in front of the little white house. Yes, it’s still there, right where you left it. Walk in the door, back where you belong. Watch yourself moving through the rooms, knowing you can save everything, knowing you can undo what happened. Go into your old room. Don’t worry, it’s still there. Go in and find the little green diary with lock and key. Tuck it under your arm. Now get the toilet paper letter that Becky wrote you, the decoupage picture of the deer in the woods, the little All About Me book hiding behind it. Place it all carefully in your bag. Now take down the large, hanging cactus that always scared you. You’re a grownup now, see its beautiful Thanksgiving blooms? Carry it out to the yard, keep it safe. Go back inside for the red notebook full of dirty words. Get the new mascara in the pink and green tube, the eye shadow that you just bought last weekend. Get the Archie and Millie the Model comic books, get the Dr. Seuss books and Make Way for the Ducklings. Grab up the yellow-flowered bedspread and matching curtains your mother sewed for you. Grab up the vase that used to hold the flowers they brought to the hospital when you were a baby. Find your Easy Bake oven and your set of plastic animals. You played with those for years. Remember how your mother ordered them for you through the newspaper? Look, here’s the old elephant, the hippo, the giraffe. Slip them into your pockets and don’t forget the old Humpty Dumpty magazines. Take everything, leave nothing behind. All the cloth-bodied dolls, the stuffed animals, the quilt with the green and brown stripes. All the Barbies and the squatty little dolls you took out west. Don’t leave anything. Somewhere in here is the little red jewelry box. There’s a ballerina twirling round and round. The song is “Fascination” and you can still hear it playing. Find it and carry it outside.

Next, the living room. Take down the felt boards of arrowheads. Scoot the heavy old library table out the front door. Careful with the old encyclopedias, a complete set. It doesn’t matter that you can’t remember what’s on top of the table. Whatever it is, bring it too. Get the piano and the old sectional sofa. Get the tintype photographs of your great-grandfathers. Get the wagon seat and the old black and white TV. Grab everything, the rugs your mother made, the windows, the door, the pictures from the walls, especially the old, round framed portrait of your grandparents on your daddy’s side. Grab everything and carry it outside to safety.

Now scoot down the hall to the bathroom. Grab the shelves over the toilet, the enema bag that always gave you the creeps, the towels, the Head and Shoulders. They changed the scent years ago but now you can have it again, just like it used to be. Here’s your daddy’s heavy gold razor and his VO5, his Aqua Velva. Here’s your mom’s shower cap and hair brush. Remember to take the window, too. You used to stand in the shower and look outside at the side yard. Take the old tub you used to play in with Cindy, soaping up each other’s backs. Take the white tile and the toilet where you learned to potty. Take it all out to the yard and leave it there.

Now go into your brother’s room and take the heavy, spray-painted-gold trunk and haul it out to the yard. Take the erector set and the record player. Take the doorknob that they used to pull his tooth and take his closet full of clothes, his new fangled hair dryer. Now run, you don’t have much time. Run to your parents’ orange bedroom and take the hope chest full of linens and dishes. You’ll need them one day. Take the old laundry basket from the closet where you used to sit and read books with a flashlight. Take the chiffirobe, the dresser, the four poster bed. Take the bright orange walls, your mother’s Avon, the bedside lamp. Take the pillowcases with your mother and father’s initials embroidered on them. Take the memory of your first spanking from your father and tuck it into your pocket. Take the door your mother hid behind in a game of hide and seek. Then roll up the long, linoleum hallway and take it too.

Now the kitchen. Hurry, hurry. It’s winter and you only have a few hours of daylight left. Hurry and grab the old kitchen table, the benches on two sides, Mama and Daddy’s chairs at the ends. So many meals at that table, so many games of Monopoly and Authors. Set the table in the yard carefully, the salt and pepper shakers in the very middle, the red-checked cloth just so. Now go back in and open the bottom of the china cabinet. Here are your old school photographs, first grade, second grade, all the way through to seventh grade. Here’s your baby book, full of what you once were. Here are the photo albums. You haven’t seen them in years. There’s the baby you, so sick white on the blue blanket on the green grass. Grab up the albums and take them into the yard. Hurry, hurry. Now your mother’s glass collection, pink Depression glass, the spider whiskey bottles you helped find, the old Fanta Orange and Sprite bottles. Don’t forget the old gold refrigerator, the hot water heater where the praying mantises hatched out, the kitchen cabinets your daddy built, the sink where you used to wash dishes, pretending you were a barmaid serving beer, that foam of suds on top, the same sink where your mother used to wash your hair, and your brother’s hair, and all the cousins too, lined up in a row. Now you’ve got to find it. Look everywhere. Here it is! That old white bowl with the red polka dots. It isn’t broken. You can take it with you, keep it forever, serve Jell-O salads and popcorn. Remember to take the old pantry with the one window. It’s full of canned goods that your mother put up just last summer, full of jellies and jams and green beans and field peas. Careful not to break them. Find the glass bowls with bits of red cloth that you made yourself from a kit your Aunt Marcell gave you. Take everything, leave nothing behind.

Now run to the den. Gather up the old red and black afghan you used to cover up with, the old sewing machine you used to sit on, the Jack Lalane twister board. Carefully remove your portrait, the beautiful, ten-year-old you that the magician painted. And here’s the funny one too, the caricature, your pigtails and goofy glasses. Take the closet and the couch and the chair, the old cook stove, the back door and the yawning back steps where your mother and brother pretended to throw you outside. Take it all, every bit of it, and when you’ve got everything piled up in the yard, go back inside and take the family.

You can do it. Take them just as they were, before the fire touched them. Take your brother. True, he’s a little different, but he’s not crazy, he plays with you, he chases you and Becky around the yard with a squirt bottle full of water, he plays volleyball with you over the old page-wire fence. See how fine he is, how he’ll grow up and have a family of his own one day, how he’ll be happy, have a good job living down in Atlanta, working with electronics, playing a baby grand piano that he keeps in his living room. And here’s your father, the same man who used to sit on the porch strumming his guitar, singing softly into the night, the same man who used to lift you up to the ceiling, tossing you into the air, the same man who sat down and played games with you, who listened to you, who talked. He’s not an alcoholic, liquor is never on his breath. He isn’t haunted by the old white house, the house of his birth, the loss, the fire. Look, he’s just fine, he’s his old self because nothing has gone wrong. And your mother, her curls just like Marlo Thomas’. Pick her up, cradle her. She’s wearing that dress she made, the one from the photograph, dark blue with white polka dots, a bow at the neck. Nothing is twisting her up inside, nothing is dogging her steps. She’s not trying to outrun the past because nothing went wrong. She’s still standing at the stove cooking scrambled eggs, singing “Heavenly Sunshine.” She’s still rolling up your hair on little, pink-foam curlers, still sitting at the sewing machine sewing you a blue-checked dress with ruffles, just like hers. She’s still waiting on you when you get off the school bus. She’s still baking chocolate chip cookies, calling Daddy home, the smell swirling all through the house. She’s still alive, still snapping a bushel of beans on the front porch. Take them all, preserve them, just as they are. Don’t change a thing, don’t let the fire touch them. Lead them out to the yard, let them sit around the table. Leave them for just a minute, just long enough to go back inside, just long enough to save the house.

It’s okay that Daddy didn’t clean the chimney because you’ll do it. Crawl up the chimney with a brush and scrub it clean, make an opening. Everything will be fine. Take away the Ashley heater. Take down the heat detectors, the smoke alarms. Maybe if Mama hadn’t bought them it wouldn’t have happened. And if that doesn’t work, then change the weather. It doesn’t have to be sixteen degrees outside. It doesn’t have to be below freezing. If it’s warmer then the water won’t freeze in the pipes, Mama will be able to get the fire out in time. The fire truck won’t be frozen up and everything will be fine. The roof won’t cave in, the ribs of the house won’t groan under its weight. You won’t have to go back to nothing but ashes, you won’t have to know that nothing will ever be the same. You won’t walk through the new house with the impression of the old one over everything. You won’t need a new piano because you’ll still be playing the old one, still in the corner of the living room, waiting for your fingers, waiting for your brother to sit down again and play “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” waiting for the family to gather around and sing.

Now take the house, carefully. Make sure the porch is still there with the swing and rocking chairs and be sure to get the cellar. Flip open the roof and put everything back where it was, fill each room back up with furniture and toys and memoires, photographs and bottles and dishes and homemade quilts. Now put the family inside. Look, here they are. It’s years later. Everyone is smiling. The cedar tree is in the living room corner, full of Christmas lights, blue and red and yellow. All the grandkids are running up and down the hall. Your brother is telling a joke and everyone laughs because it’s actually funny. Your daddy lifts up your daughter and tosses her in the air and your mother smiles. She’s just finished baking Christmas dinner. The turkey is perfect. Everything is perfect. She reaches out and pulls you to her, gives you all the hugs she never gave you, gives you a kiss on your cheek. And your father, too. He pulls you to him, gathers the whole house in an embrace, and everything is as it should be, as it should have been, but don’t give it another thought. You stopped it, you kept it from happening and now you’re just nine years old again, sitting at the table, running your finger back and forth through the candle flame. It doesn’t hurt a bit. You pick it up and dribble some wax across the back of your hand. It smarts for just a minute before it starts to harden up, white wax that you mold into the shape of your thumb. It’s winter outside, the ice pouring down in sheets. Your mother is making French fries, more French fries than you’ve ever seen at once, a great crispy mound of them that she brings to the table on a big platter. She’s using everything in the freezer because the power is off. Everyone comes to the table and eats by candlelight, a family snuggling together in the cold. Daddy is smiling, Mama is smiling, and your brother turns to look straight at you and says, “Beck, why don’t we play a game? Why don’t we play Aggravation?” and you run to get the game, set it up, choose the yellow marble. The white house is all around, everything in its place, kept forever, preserved, perfect. Keep the box with you wherever you go, tuck it into your purse, into your coat pocket so that it will always be there, so that the new house will never come to be, so that everything that went wrong will have never been, so that they’re still sitting at the table, rolling the dice, each one waiting their turn.

Published in Southeast Review (2012)

Rebecca Cook--  A Thing To Love

What I Will Undo. And Undo, Again

Today should not be Thursday. The hospice bed should not be in the house. The withering aunts with their ancient hair should be elsewhere. The nurse does not belong here, her scrubs, her assurances. My mother’s mouth should not be open. She should not be yelping.

Today should be Tuesday, the day I vacuumed the carpet in the family room. The day I brought her the oxycontin in the palm of my hand. The day she said now I’m the child and you’re the adult. The day she went to sleep on the sofa. The day I walked out to the field, to my father, to his tractor, to his voice it’s into her brain now.

Today should be two years ago, her voice on the phone, the phone I’d screened for months, the phone I only picked up because I knew it was terrible, and it was terrible because she said there’s something growing in my belly and my inside fell fast, then faster, then never stopped falling.

Today should be seven years ago, in the house my husband and I built. My mother, my aunt, my best friend, Becky. We rocked to the oldies, we trimmed down, four women dancing. The floor never shook. My father said what a solid built house.

Today should be ten years ago, the day I checked myself in, the day the wound of my face split open again, the second time I went in again. The day she didn’t come, the next day she didn’t come, the next day she didn’t come. Only my granny held my hand, the mother so much stronger than the daughter.

Today should be fifteen years ago, my wedding day, the white dress my aunt sewed. My mother in her tacky blue and white, the smile we shared. I used to sell shoes. Someone came to shop and knew who I was, just because I smiled like her, even though it’d been thirty years since they’d even seen her. That smile.

But further, further. Today should be before that, back when she only ever stayed her hand because of my father, that stinging palm against my face. She did not believe I hadn’t shaved. The rash was my fault. She filled the tub with Mr. Bubble. I cried until she lifted me from the water.

Today should be so long ago I can’t remember it clearly, my birthday party, that cake she made, chocolate frosting, M & M covered, those kids who came from church. Today should be that day when I sang the birthday song to myself all day long, skipping around in my blue dress, yelling at boy rocking on a horse in my room.

I cried until she pulled me from the tree. I cried when she filled the bite Eddie made on my back with Campho-phenique my face a sheet of fire. I cried when she hard-slapped my legs for singing a song I made up all by myself, my four-year-old song of darn, darn, darn.

But we need to go further back, further and further to thirty-five years ago. I am swimming out of her, boring out of her. I am listening to her screaming, until the needle, until her silence, until the doctor pulled hard on my head and jerked me out of her. Until they whisked me away to the baby oven and warmed me, until I sucked at the empty air.

I must undo her open mouth. I must undo the soft voices trying to ignore the insane pain of the dying dog yelping, in the hospice bed, in the family room. I must undo the rage in me because none of them called me, because I didn’t know, because I missed the moment when she passed from woman into blind agony, when she shut her eyes and never opened them again.

Today should be the day when she stood beside her lilies just thinking of me, just the thought, before I ever was, before I sucked in my father’s fish. I will crawl back inside her and she will make me again, just another biscuit again, and I will take up a torch and swim into her bowels and snip all the mushrooms squatting like toads and it will

never be Thursday because there will be no more Thursdays, I have struck them from the calendar, we will jump about on six legs, and she will bait my hook again and I will watch the red float bob again, and then I will catch a fish, a fish so small we throw it back, the way you should throw things back, the way you should let things swim again, the way you have to let it grow.

"The club was louder than she remembered, and much more crowded. There was barely room to take a step, barely room to move without bumping into someone’s crotch, someone’s breasts, someone’s elbows or wrists bobbing in a sea of bodies grinding to the music. As soon as she walked in the door, someone bought her a drink. She slinked up to the bar, nodded thank you to the man, a goateed man, dark skin, light eyes. She sipped her sex on the beach, even sips and then two long gulps and it was gone and he was pulling her onto the dance floor and she was following him, the music pumping its rhythm, the drink sloshing into her head and she swayed her hips, she threw up her arms and it no longer mattered how she looked because no one but the man was watching her and he liked what he was seeing. Forgive me, Father. It’s so easy to get in my pants. I’ve had exactly ten partners, at least the ones who count. Let’s only count intercourse, shall we, not all the blowjobs and the boys with scant beards going down on me at keg parties. Do you even know how easy it is to get a guy to go down on you? Do you have any idea how a girl like me can just curl up her finger and make a guy follow her anywhere? The man was whispering in her ear and Boyd was nuzzling into her neck. “You are so hot, baby.” Baby Baby Baby.

            She hissed at him, “I’m not your baby,” and slinked away, through the throng and he didn’t follow. She went to the bar, ordered a double scotch, sat down and sipped and sipped until the edges of the world began to blur. Her thighs were sleek and throbbing with the beat. Several men came up to her, but she ignored them, ordered another double scotch after she finished the first, a swirling in the head, the brain opening and opening, the inside swallowing up the outside. I am the love goddess, I am the queen bee. She stood up, unsteady on her feet, clutching her purse in one heavy hand. She needed the bathroom, she needed to pee and to be out of the noise for just a minute.

            Inside it was smoky and more than a little dirty. She wiped down the toilet seat before she sat. Since the bathroom was down a long, winding series of hallways, the music seemed far away, a distant memory of Boyd calling out to her that she’s swimming too far out. “You’re too far out, Ronnie,” and she rolls her body around and around in the warm lake water, then turns back. Now she lights a cigarette and smokes it quickly, deep inhales, hot box. I am awake and aware. I am alive and there’s no one who can tell me to do anything I don’t want to do. And I want everything, a long, slow swallow of the world sliding down my throat. She snuffed out her butt, composed herself as much as she could with her cotton head, and walked out into the dark hall.

A couple was there, deep throat kissing, oblivious. She walked back the way she’d come and became lost in the endless black walls and corners. But see, it’s all okay. A helpful young man is here. Oh my, you must be under twenty-one. You must be sixteen. My twins are just your age, staying out far past curfew. Where is your mother, where is your high school, and then his mouth was on hers, his tongue thrusting in. He pressed her up against the wall, kissed down her neck and she was going to say something, something like what is your name, I’m old enough to be your mother, I have boys your age and then, before she knew it was happening, before any words came out of her mouth, he was sliding up her skirt, rough and quick, fingering her thong, and then he was thrusting inside her, his hands a vise on her thighs, fingers digging deep into her flesh. There will be bruises there, they will be purple-black before they turn a sick yellow-green and Don’t we need some lube? Some K-Y would be good now. She started to scream no, she started to fight against him but no words came out. She couldn’t move and only something like a laugh escaped her mouth, and she was breathing in and out, in and out on an in-and-out motion and it was over and she was alone, leaning against the wall, her thong bunched up and digging into her wet vagina. Yes, this is just how I remember it, Boyd’s semen dripping out of me. She fixed her underwear, pulled down her skirt, went back to the bathroom and wiped herself clean, her head far from clear, but a warning bell there, a throbbing beat of Boyd’s voice from so far away. Ronnie, Ronnie this is what girls like you do. This is just like you. One night away. One night away and you just have to have it and she looked down at her purse, little beads in swirls on the surface, one bead, two beads, three beads, four, still in her hand, through it all. Never separate yourself from your purse. When you’re in the grocery store, always keep it with you, never in the cart. Across-the-body bags are best, all around Europe, the summer after senior year, she and Ricki strolling around Rome, fountain after fountain, Cokes at the Trattoria on the corner. She clutched her bag to her chest. No condom, no condom, and no way to take it back, no way to wash it out, no way to undo it. Yes, you’re right, Father, I’m a good Catholic. I would never take the morning-after pill. I would never blot out its sweet little face, little bundle of pink. The whole time I was pregnant with the twins, I thought they were girls. Girls with matching pink bows, my daughters. I dreamed of them my whole life, pushing the baby carriage around the front yard, two perfectly blonde girls with orange lips and tiny white milk teeth, lacy yellow bonnets and matching dresses, baby booties on their sweet little feet. I am five and a good mother. Watch the milk disappear from the magic bottle."

And now from me--  

yesterday i wrote a beautiful thing and today i am writing more and more of a beautiful lovely fucking awful amazing thing. today i woke up in pain not the worse pain but the pain the pain will it always be with me? 

today i hear words and i see signs and i listened to the man who kept breaking his guitar and i mailed a package of something lovely to someone i love and i bought more tobacco juice and i smoked half a real fag

today i bought beautiful boxes that look like books and little pads of paper for gifts and i saw butterflies and dragonflies and bees and clear things with silver lids and xmas stuff and halloween stuff and some white bowels from Portugal i almost bought but didn't and i started to hurt again and then i hurted more and drove home listening to the man who kept breaking his guitars and was happy happy hearing more and more words

now i will probably write down some more words and maybe send a gift to a guy i like and maybe get laid if i can just stop hurting if i can just relax and let dale touch me gentle soft like baby skin

over and over and out    roger that    -r.

Here is a bit of CLICK--

As soon as she was gone, Ronnie wandered down the hall in a dream, feeling the weight of the moment press on her, feeling Boyd all around her. She sat down at her vanity and smoothed on foundation, so pale and fair, just enough to even everything out. That’s right, Ronnie, make yourself beautiful for him, for a stranger. She finished her face, then moved on to her eyes, dark kohl liner with a touch of green, shadows in grey and green tones, a touch of lilac. Then the mascara with Boyd’s hand between her breasts, moving down to her legs. She spread herself wide to give him access, felt herself grow wet. She wanted him deep inside her, could feel his fingers there, just at the entrance, and then she was flying, up and over the moment, staring down at herself. This is what it must feel like to be dead, to watch your soul moving toward the light. She watched herself brush on blush, then a light dusting of powder to finish. She watched herself get dressed--tight, dark navy jeans with well-placed holes, a forest green turtleneck. Try not to look sexy, try not to care. She had gone to the drug store for condoms that morning, a three pack. She put them into her purse of soft blue leather, she put in a hairbrush, a packet of Kleenex, a tampon “just in case.” She watched the dream of herself, the fuzz and cloud of the moments stretching out, reaching toward the moment when she’d see him, when she’d touch his face, feel his breath close to her cheek.

She walked the few blocks to the restaurant, an obscure Italian place, a cliché with little red candles and red and white checked tablecloths. She got there fifteen minutes early, nervous and eager, her stomach swirling. She ordered a glass of Merlot, an order of bread sticks. She hadn’t eaten all day, just coffee earlier that morning. She sipped her wine, looked at her watch, listened intently for Boyd, who seemed to be somewhere else. Part of her was a normal woman, part of her was a bird perched on a bar stool, watching the woman she was move slowly toward seven o’clock. By the time he walked in at seven ‘o five, she was on her second glass of wine, feeling it go to her head, already getting tipsy. She watched him walk toward the table, her thighs tingling. This is really happening.

“Sorry I’m late. Traffic was heavy.” He sat down across from her. “How long have you been here?”

“Oh, just a few minutes.”

“Good, good.” He unfolded his napkin, placed it neatly in his lap. She could smell him, freshly showered, some manly scent that pleased her. There was a tiny droplet of water in the left corner of his mustache. Without thinking, she reached over and wiped it off with her finger, without saying a word. The bird woman felt her tiny heart flutter, quicken. The mustache was unexpectedly soft, warm.

“I can’t believe I just did that. You had a drop of water there. Now I feel like your mother.”

He laughed a short laugh, a laugh she liked. “Believe me, you’re nothing like my mother. Nothing at all.” The waiter came over with a glass of white wine. Boyd always said that guys who drink white wine are sissies. See, Ronnie, he’s a sissy. Why do you want to fuck a sissy?

She chewed on the inside of her jaw for a minute, steadying herself. Then, without thinking, she said, “I’m so nervous.”

He looked surprised. “Why?”

“I haven’t done this in a long time. But perhaps it’s like riding a bicycle.” She listened to herself, watched herself, flew around the room, bumping into windows and doors. Her ears started to ring, then stopped.

“Been on a date? I find that hard to believe.”

“Until a couple of years ago, I was married. I’ve been alone for quite a while.”

“Then I guess I’m the lucky guy, your first date.” He took a long sip of his wine. Perhaps he was nervous, too.

“I didn’t say you were my FIRST date. But anyway, you are. My first date.” She crossed and uncrossed her legs, which were trembling. Hold on, just hold on. She flew from the wall to the window, swiveled through the air. She watched herself taking a sip of wine, a gulp really. She took a bite of breadstick, wishing she hadn’t spoken, wishing she hadn’t come at all. She looked down at her plate, wondering if either of them would say anything, ever again. She could hear the sounds of the restaurant, silverware clinking, the quiet murmuring of the diners. A family walked in, a little girl in a pink snow suit, curling blonde hair and brown eyes. She felt the squeeze of her heart. She looked up at him, unable to speak.

“It’s okay,” he said then. “It’s okay to be nervous.” The waiter came over, took their orders, lasagna and eggplant parmesan, two small green salads, more breadsticks. “Want to step outside for a smoke? It’s good for the nerves.”

“Yes, please.” She stood up and they walked outside, the air soft, almost balmy.

All during dinner she tried to keep up, she tried to listen, to say the right things. He was an architect, he’d worked on several buildings around town. He was one of four children, three boys, one girl. He wasn’t a twin, but his brothers were. He once had a younger sister, the baby of the family, but she died when she was just four, a freak accident with a wooden swing at the local park. Wrong place, wrong time. He was interested in the theater, often went to the symphony, and went to the art museum whenever he had the time. The more she heard, the more she liked him. He had a way of holding his head, tilted to the right, as though he was listening intently for something. His eyes weren’t solid blue like she’d thought at first. They were flecked with gold and his hair was graying ever so slightly at his temples.

“You remind me of Ashley Wilkes, only you’re much better looking.”

Gone With the Wind. I haven’t thought of that movie in years. The burning of Atlanta. I worked on a building there, the community center in Decatur.” 

“Really? I’ve never been there, but my family’s from the south, at least on my mother’s side. North Carolina.”

“Andy Griffith.”

“Nothing like that. But lots of lightning bugs and mosquitoes in the backyard. Potato salad and baked beans. I always loved visiting her.”

“So how did your mother end up in Chicago?”

“Love. She met my father when she came here for a visit. They literally bumped into each other on Michigan.”


“I always thought so. She said she was wearing a bright blue coat and yellow muffler. That image is stuck in my head.”

“Bumped together on Michigan. A truly romantic beginning.” He reached across the table and took her hand in his, squeezed it for just a minute. She felt herself flutter, wings stirring in the wind. Then she took her hand from his, clicked her heel twice on the hard floor, click, click. She looked at her plate then, anywhere but him, her center on fire, her bird’s wings flapping against his chest.

When she wasn’t eating, she kept her hands in her lap, to hide their trembling. She curled her toes hard in her shoes, trying to be calm. This is only a date, only a first date. Sure, Ronnie. But I know what you want. She felt Boyd’s breath on her neck, the hairs raising up. She shivered and George asked if she was cold. “A little,” she said, though it wasn’t true. Then she said she’d like another cigarette, that they should settle the bill.

“I’ve got this one,” he said and she smiled at him. See, Ronnie, he’s bought you dinner. Now you have to put out.

“Thanks, but you don’t have to. I can pay my share.”

“No, no you can’t. I just can’t do that. I’m too old-fashioned.” He took out a gold card, placed it in the tray.

“Okay. Since you’re determined to pay, I guess it’s okay. But next time, I’m buying.” Next time, a second date, an even number.

“Does that mean I can have your number now?”

“I’ll think about it. Maybe.”

When they left the restaurant, they walked down the street. She was feeling comfortable and cozy, almost sexy, the wine fuzzing her head. Without thinking about it, she put her arm through his, snuggled against him. It felt good to be so close to someone else, to a man, and for just a minute she wasn’t a bird or a widow or a lost mother. She was just a woman, looking for the same thing the city was looking for that night. “I know a shop near here,” she said. “They have the best desserts. I want a Napoleon.”

“Sounds good. Can we walk? Or is it too far?”

“Actually, it’s just around the corner.”

            They walked to the shop, arm in arm. Once inside she inhaled long and slow. “Isn’t that the best smell in the world? I love sweets. I have a terrible sweet tooth.” She started to take off her coat. It was very warm inside, like most places in the city during the winter months. Too warm really. She preferred it to be on the cool side. She and Ricki kept the thermostat on 68 year round. He helped her off with her coat, led her to a table for two. He left her and went and placed their order, two Napoleons, two coffees. He came back and sat down, shedding his coat on the way. “God, it’s hot in here.”

“I wondered if it was just me,” she said, feeling more and more comfortable with every moment. She wondered about his feet and toes, the inside of his thighs. Boyd leaned in and laughed in her ear. The bird tap-tapped against her chest. Breathe, just breathe. They waited for their order and chatted about Christmases past. Once, when he was little, he didn’t get a thing he wanted, just sweaters and little bow ties, a velvet vest, a set of tinker toys. He’d wanted hot wheels, a race track. “I wanted it so bad, had scoped it out in the store. It was set up in the window. But that year must have been a lean one. I needed the clothes because I was in a growth spurt. I was disappointed, but I never said anything.”

The server brought their desserts. “Oh, my god,” she said after taking a bite. “This is the very best thing in the whole wide world.” She opened her eyes, looked up from her plate. He had a bit of crème in his mustache. She reached over and rubbed it off with her finger, contemplated putting her finger in her mouth, but that would be too much. Hold on, just hold on. She had a flash of them, of his blue eyes against crisp white sheets, and then of her and Boyd in the Bahamas, the sea air wisping through the open door, languorous sex, summer heat, sweat, that dull yet sharp smell of penis, bland salt drops at the tip, long before the release. She crossed and uncrossed her legs, awake as fire, burning, open flames. The bird swooped down from the light, perched on her shoulder. See, you can have everything you want, if you’ll just breathe. She ate in silence, pretending to listen to what he was saying, pretending she wasn’t flying around the room, evading Boyd, hiding under a nearby table. She picked up her plate and licked it. “The best thing in the world,” she said. “Excuse me a minute.”

She found the bathroom, went inside, relieved herself and then touched herself, a sort of fever coming over her. Almost instantly she came. My first orgasm in over three years." 

That's a taste of it. Just to wet you, just to water your mouth.

every morning I am greeted by my blue hair electric blue the screen full   my hair my freckles    the face I love   fat or no    

friday I will be silver grey black lavender silver grey    I will be fifty November 15th smack dab middle    my hair is short dirty dish blonde at this moment    the best wondrous cut truly no muss no fuss    I have always loved short hair and I have felt too fat to cut it    now it’s a what the fuck was I waiting for now there’s the coming grey the becoming how becoming of her     she must be a writer   or something awesome in red boots    grey is the new black grey is mother   the woman stirring the pot   over the fire    grey is the woman pulling the bucket of water from her well her front yard her floweredy apron   her kerchief    for all of us   twenty miles on our bikes    something fairytale something true too perfect to be true  

I will wear grey plum mocha black clothes   occasional pops of color     a package came in the mail with special socks   fingerless gloves   leg warmers a most thrilling little package     http://www.artisansocks.com/    they are the type of small business you want to support    they can write   they are artists    everything fits me love     love  I have given back the ghost of the coats   and the normal pedestrian socks   I am through daddy   doctors   boo

I am out of focus    uncentered     the pain of yesterday morning scared me    I have not had this pain  the last couple weeks thought I was free   it startled me straight through   took pain pill felt better set myself on getting things done    made stressful phone calls    which even at the best of times is nuts making nuts nuts      then had to see shrink     couldn’t find juice with nicotine had to drive carefully too careful   thought dale was going with me   I was    clawing out of my skin this bag this container bag of water not big enough for this fire     the shrink    he said you don’t seem manic today    he said you don’t seem anxious today    I said I am crawling with anxiety    I said you do not do you do not do anymore you doctor you    for    they all are crazed these doctor docs     all crazed    all kinds   

but I am better this morning   after many real cigs   after talking a bit with dale   after drinking three miller lites from the can thank you yes I am a beer snob   I recommend heartedly  Go To IPA    it is offensive     but I am craving one even more so painful bite chomp down swallow    the finish never stops hop hop hop   there’s a Ruination in the fridge   but miller lite    is wet and cool thimble of alcohol a cliché as am I ….red wine makes me hot   tragic   better not be permanent  that’s a word I can never spell    maybe because it can be so sad that word   even the waves from the eighties    either a tight tight spiral (ask me for this story) or naught    there is and never was such a thing as a body wave for a white girl with straight flat hair

this disease is permanent    so I’ve heard    so it seems to go with me   my brother   my son   death is also permanent     so I’ve heard    we give birth astride the grave   if you don’t recognize that line look it up and read the play    because it is important    because it is god as are us as are we

this   writing composing writing thoughts out the sound of them coming out breathing them back in   this I have needed and have not done  because    I have been cleaning and sorting and doing and thinking and planning and doing and now all my clothes fit into my closet    and my old new old four drawer dresser    my friend lanie   has taught me to rid myself of things I do not wear and do not need    I will keep only what is sentimental my father’s old dress shirt brown white polka dots his only one   it fit me once    fourteen years ago   I sat in the writing center at utc and a poem of the shirt and of my father and of myself and of the orange weather came to me    he and I me and him     good grief god   just turn us into trees maple trees are best   orange   yellow   too lovely to bear

I have spa-ing today and hair-ing on Friday    I am searching for the perfect vanity today on the interwebs     I have fallen like a teenager for white square sinks    our bathroom is to be remodeled     then the roof    then some interior work repairs   and exterior   new gutters  and awning striped with blue please our doorknobs turn fire in the afternoon angry sun     and greedy me    I thought new kitchen new kitchen new fridge new new    but then I got rid of all the unneeded food stuff stuff what my mother taught me    the world might crash we might starve     now my kitchen can wait     I will buy some new things red things and black things and white things    Einstein on my fridge    Emily too   and roses   go figure   my kitchen can wait and wait and be loved now that I can love it now that I can


now that I can


oh the joy of this just to write to listen  listen   these words   oh the joy  the feel of the mouth   the generosity of the vowels    I have a book in my head     woke up in the middle of the wee morning    which we call night  the middle of it  the morning watch   the demons walk at three o’clock    i sat on the toilet   wrote it out on my phone    an outline  a swirl    the book will write itself  simple simple   that was mania maybe mania but no one can see the whirling inside me     and it has stopped    dale told me last night that yesterday was the most manic he’s seen me in a long time    told me  I was chattering chattering nonstop   talk talking talk talk and I couldn’t even tell     I need a window in my chest    a tv in my belly    a radio blaring out the broadcast in my head   Rebecca is burning   Rebecca is hot hot blue hot blue   Rebecca sat by campfires once and the blue flames were in the fire and growing inside her head    though she did not know it then    what would become of her      and how can she ever doubt ever complain ever fret and whine of the blue hot orange blue the god the river god lava god that gives her all this

lucky lucky lucky luck luck     all ye gods   I bow you you bow me we bow the earth we the same dust fire and dirt    our father did us up with spit and dirt    I sat on the old wood swing chaining from the old oak tree   I spat on my legs  covered each dot with dirt became a spotted thing and special


bipolar thing---going up on Lamictal  no more Depakote   no more antipsychotic  no more poison   I will do this    I have the technology   I can rebuild the bipolar girl   repair her ear   her chest of thorns    I can do this healing  this belief  help me god gods big and small evil or good indifferent or asleep forgetful or on the money       old and young just born just dead gods at council gods at dinner gods at sex gods at sleep and gods at shitting and gods at stroking the foreheads of small fevers       all of you gods pray for me lay on your hands drop drips of water on my head and cross me with oil  heal heal heal   you can eat me if you want    but heal me first    let me be whole    yes always a crack, leonard   always a crack   always a broken vase (please say VAZE at this point at this moment it matters somehow)

So. First things first. My health. My brain. My mental. My movement. Better. BETTER. Again. BETTER.

I have decided to take the risk and go back on an antipsychotic—Latuda. My fear is tardive dyskinesia--always. Especially since I had a bit bout of that when I went off the Geodon. Especially since this is always a risk, not a high risk, not like the old drugs, the Haldol, the Thorazine (20%), but still the risk is there, and nobody knows what will happen over long term use. And no one knows what the risk is, even with the start, just the beginning. So I have made a measured, well-reasoned choice, along with my doctor, to try this new thing. His hope, my hope, is that we will be able to replace three of the drugs I’m on, with this one drug. And that would be a plus in every every way.

I know, Lanie knows, I think everyone around me knows that when I went on the Depakote all the shit fell apart—physically. mentally. haywire. And I’ve gained forty pounds since 2012, when I went on the Depakote. When I felt poisoned. When I stopped working out. When I just stopped. Then clawed back and back and back and pain and pain and pain and so so so so so so much pain. And. Now.

About two months ago, about four months into my hormone replacement therapy, I was in with my gyno and I told her that I was getting a headache, maybe a migraine, and she said that if I was prone to migraines I would probably not be a candidate for HRT. As the migraine progressed, slowly breaking through, receding, breaking, receding, breaking, receding, breaking and then finally bursting full force through—as this was coming on, I went through a series of weirdnesses—smells—carwash---always, always loved, but smelled like an old dank terribly sad shoe; sensitivity to sound, smelling shit, literal shit. At the same time, changes in taste—weird. Maybe because of working with the nutritionist, maybe because of menopause?—I started paying more and more attention to what I was eating and for me that included how things felt in my mouth (thank you, Aimee Bender), my chewing, textures, tastes. I ate and chewed and tasted and spat many things out onto my plate, things I had loved (I did this in private, at least most of the time), things I had craved and eaten and stuffed into my mouth for years and years and years. Strange changes and sensations. It was as though I had been hypnotized, or I had somehow hypnotized myself. All these good things, exploration, deeper listening, deepening knowing.

Then. Three interventions/treatments for the migraine—heavy duty, ending with nerve blocks injected into the base of my skull, right and left sides. THEN. ADD. PREDISONE. A TWELEVE day pack. More and more and more and more weird on top atop atop of change and weird and sensation and what the holy fuck is going on?


Just before the migraine broke through, I ripped off my hormone patch and said no more no way no how never never never never never. So.

Here I am. Not sure where. But it feels so good, even though I had another migraine last night, even in spite of that searing orange forehead. I am able to MOVE. AGAIN. At last god all fucking thank you mighty at last I can move without pain. I can move. I can walk. I can bend over. I can lift things. I can shop, which I did yesterday, without exhaustion. Then I shopped some more. Still. Okay.

Calm. Measured. Clear. Alert. Content. Slow. Smooth. Cool. Marble. Brook. Babbling over perfect stones. Ice calm. Snow calm. No need to hurry. No need to worry. No need, just breathe.

Am I afraid that this is temporary? That it is the new drug and things will level and become what they generally are, which is very good, but not this good? No. Not worried. Suspicious? Maybe. Carefully proceeding? Yes. Hopeful? More than.

But here is the thing I most most most most truly think. This is my release from the thing that changed my world, that turned on my brain, that cleaved the childhood from the girl who became the teenager horny the woman horny who became the horny woman with a brain of fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire snap snap snap snap too too too too much snap. This is my return to myself before the estrogen burst through and changed me so profoundly. My granny said she had never seen such a change in anyone ever. She was correct. Totally. Correct.

I have feared for years that when the estrogen left everything would go with it—my blue fire of words, my sex opening and yawning and saying okay, now let’s get to it. I have feared that it would be terrible and awful and depressing and because of the bipolar I would barely get through it. And now I find myself asking if the bipolar and the estrogen are so bound up together, so much of a piece of a brain that is Rebecca that is me—well.

I saw a cousin of mine at the hospital. A few years older than me. History—bipolar. Pretty damn bad. But now she’s on nothing. And seems to be doing well. We were in the room with her father in the hospital bed—dying. And she seemed pretty fucking okay.

Now we will see what we see next. I will see and everyone who loves me will see. Yes, Annette, yes. Here am I, hands open.


Then there’s all this fun stuff to mention to you guys.  Bought these yesterday, for me. I have never really had a real, honest to god, for life pair of shoes before. My gift to me. I have published a novel.   http://www.thefryecompany.com/phillip-harness/d/76870 

I stocked up on Clinique chubby sticks http://www.clinique.com/product/1605/15520/Makeup/Lipsticks/Chubby-Stick-Moisturizing-Lip-Colour-Balm

And got eyebrow pencil the best. And got Happy lotion. And got compact. And got scrub. I. Stocked. Up. Good for me.

I bought Sriracha aioli. Did you know that dips, everything I’ve looked at so far, are better far better than any salad dressing you can buy? Check it out—even things like spinach queso dip and queso dip and bean queso dip. No. Kidding. Hummus. Dig it. Eat. It.   I do not need as much sleep, at least for now. Another way of returning to the way things were before sickness.

I bought a plastic pincher pair of oven-mitt-like-things very red that work at least on the pan lid hot pan lid

I bought reusable bags at EARTHFARE here in Chattanooga. They had tomatoes—one red, one purple. Opened them up to begin bagging—BUGS, dead, but. Funny.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE tomatoes now? And Celery is good? And most sweets are gross? As is meat? As in life is an adventure what will happen next?

I am proud to announce that I have not succumbed and checked the sales on my novel. I will not. I will not.

I have readings coming up with my glorious girl Jenny Sadre-Orafai whose first book of poems is coming Sept 1st from PRESS FUCKING 53!!!!  Atlanta. Nashville. Knoxville.

I bought a pair of dressy short heels that will work for me for years on sale deep when I bought my boots. This is a thing I actually needed.

I am so patient with James, listening and talking and really paying attention that it’s astonishing to me.

I am sexy and the sexy is on.

Everyone, every girl everywhere needs a vibrating bed.

My hair is many different colors all at once. I am going grey—the cool grey, the grey-is-the-new-black-grey. I will be so gorgeous when we are finished, my girl Candi the wizard.

I have wild nails, half black, half white, every other even I am distracted by them.

A body scrub rub down and massage will undo you. This one thing. If everyone could have the healing touch and power of hands on the body. And clean water and food. And a little clip on fan like they sell at Disney World. I would freely give these to everyone everywhere and the world would be a better better better place. HANDS. HEAL. God comes through us.

Too too many blessings, too many material, but so many more many many that are not.

Open Hand to You,


So it’s been a week a week up and down even nightmares that awakened me even though I never have nightmares that wake me up in color dreams stressy things as annoyingly symbolic as Hawthorne   But I have held on and gotten through in spite of the mania   when a good thing happens it’s just as stressful  just as hard to manage as a bad thing sometimes harder   bipolar makes it so hard to know if you are manic or not  at least for me   plus I’m on a 12 day pack of prednisone to free myself of the terrible terrible headache no stop headache that keeps returning returning returning but is putting everything I know of pain into focus such focus   I’ve stopped the hormone replacement therapy feel better without so far so good    all my tastes are changing  learned I love CELERY always hated it   chewy breads no no no   meat no no no except maybe bacon  salt grease awful awful awful even my greatest love sugar sugar honeybun donut fritter pastry cream stuffed and apple things and chocalote things   all these loves lovers holy spirit comforters  moving moving up and away   is it the estrogen?   can I remember that far back?   is it the estrogen that gave me all this disease?    the estrogen gave me words and a flower in my cunt and never never a regret for that thank you woman god of cunts and belly swells and milking breasts yes thank you for that   but   well   everything is changing  for the better   please don’t let it just be mania  please let it be my open hand reaching   reaching  for you   for me   for a awful terrible simple thing

the book the novel she’s up   CLICK   https://www.amazon.com/author/godlikepoet  it’s not an easy book or a kind book but if you love my writing then you may love this too   she’s a cheap date at $6.99 e-book  download share listen  spread the word  

this girl is lucky and blessed and her chest is full of a yellow sun and she shines and burns and god pours cool water into her mouth   god the lord father mother stuff of stars spin me spin me I will hold on to the center my granddaddy’s hand grabs me through the merry go round and round a life like this?   burning burning  blessing bliss my god she’s full of raspberries



inside his mouth

I have finished the galleys. Finished. Liking swimming the English channel, diving from a high high place into water. Dover. I am over the hump. Now I fear New Rivers will change their minds, or they will all be killed on a charter flight up to the tundra. I have always wanted to walk about on the tundra. I suppose I should hustle before it grows warm and ceases to be tundra. Steppe. Veld. Rabbit boots.

I would like to visit all the desserts of the world. They are hot in the day and cold at night. Special plants and animals grow there. In the Gobi they drink fermented mare’s milk. They poop on the ground in open air. The poop freezes quickly. Their houses are yerts. I should like to move from this house into a yert, no corners to trap the grandkids. Or the mice.

Even with the snakes and other spitting things with scales, the desserts do not frighten me. If I went to all the rain forests instead, there would be large insects and slimy things and I would surely be bitten and stung and lost in great valleys of fern. In movies Arabs are quite friendly and serve tea to drink. I enjoy tea.

Or all the lakes, a lifetime trip. Oceans, not so long. Perhaps the best trip would be to Antarctica where I could lie in the (summer) snow and see stars who don’t know me yet. The temple mount—seems to be a big deal. Persepolis would be the ruin I’d run hard and fast to see. I could go backwards and be my namesake. Isaac’s servant would put rings on my arms and a ring in my nose and I would be the mother of Israel. Which is also a big deal to a lot of folks.

I have taken on a new name—Job. My body is undergoing a series of experiments and tortures and interesting sensations—aliens abduct me and staratch up my back and legs and chest—sexual somehow, little babies rolling in their cribs. But I am not faithful and God can fuck himself. I am Jonah. Fuck this tree and fuck you. I’d rather sit here and be hot and die. But of course, I come around in the end--sometimes it takes a slimy belly, or a sunburn, or missing a couple suppers. In the end, God can eat me if he wants to. I’m pretty sure that’s what will happen. There’s a universe in his belly.

I am still fat, then I lose a little and this means I can have ice cream and oatmeal cookies. I often walk in the house and smell shit. Nobody else can detect it. Tonight I couldn’t bear the banana and spit it out. The cheese stick, too. The cheese spies on me from the fridge drawer stuffed with other cheeses and meats that no one eats. And hot dogs everyone eats. Hebrew hot dogs, the full length of the bun.

Today, I gathered pieces of wood and trash from Annette and will make art, with my hands. It is time to do this. And to write. And to read. And to somehow find the body that is calling to me from inside this body that is not me. Explore. The. Divine. God bows to me, I to him. We take morning walks. When I slept on a quilt in the ground in the yard in the grass, I woke up covered in due. It’s like, with God. A swimming pool.

A lake. I’ve been down to that river.


We had a great time last night, cookout, fireworks, down on the farm with Daddy, so beautiful, weather so perfect, which for us means low humidity. We weren’t sticky or sweaty. It was perfectly cool, more like a night in early June or mid-May. Great fireworks, thank you Dale, thank you James who provided the grand finale. Saw people I hadn’t seen for many years. Wholesome. Family. Fun. I was loud and laughed and laughed and Linda Sue clapped and squealed at every burst of flame and flash and I laughed at her and she laughed and everyone laughed all at once over and over.

The night before me and Net and Alex drank and made merry up until two o’clock gave voice lessons to Net smoked too many real cigarettes drank too much red wine sat in back yard maybe a never-before. Fun fun. Net wants to drink tea next time. We would certainly feel better the next day.

I am able to get up from chairs without using my hands. Usually.

Lots of things are becoming gross in my mouth. Textures. Yucks. Things I liked. Biscuits. Chewy bread. Wendy’s little burgers. But I’m queer for string cheese cold fruit bananas raspberries blackberries Pink Ladies Braeburns Greek yogurt have discovered the fucking joy of real tomatoes in season Dale has a garden. Dale said two black crumb and a yellow boy. I said the change in me is the clouds. Net said there you go. Alex said I’ll steal. There is music in our house.

I haven’t written anything or submitted anything. I have my first student through CNF’s Mentor Program and have been reading through her work. She’s really an excellent writer. I don’t know that I can help her, she’s already so polished and successful. But I like doing that sort of work and want to do more.

I need more work. I need to take out/put out ads on web. Any suggestions?

Yesterday, I read a marvelous piece on Medium-- The Schooling of Emery Dixson This is lovely and Medium rocks. If you haven’t been there, go there. Go Megan Mayhew Bergman! Must read more of her.

Need to do my work today need to get in the water so very good to move to move to play. I hope Dale will come with me and play with me and talk with me. But it’s hard to make yourself get up and go on the holiday weekend to move yourself when you work full time. I wish he could retire too.

I have heard a couple of lines voices. I may make some written things today pieces bits briefs in ether in brain we don’t write letters anymore. Yesterday Dale read me a letter George Washington to Martha I don’t want to lead this fight I’d rather be with you I don’t want you to be afraid unhappy I have made a will. So much writing then use of hands so much elegance why have we lost so much that respect that courteous love? How did we educate these elite? Why can’t we do that again? Again? Slow slow slow down read real books essays look into microscopes still remember my squamous cells the microbe shoe never cat into a frog or cat wouldn’t have liked that I assisted my teacher seventh grade me and Angela she told me blowjobs she told me sex the teacher gave me a butterfly necklace was he creepy I kept it and wore it. We sat facing a window in a room between rooms a blackroom behind us the red light was on I think Angela went in and made out with dark-haired Greg a junior the smell of chemicals doubt she came sure he did was Mr. ? creepy botany puzzles knife collection he loved my brother’s hand-hewn swords.

There are so many ways to communicate evolving so quickly. I don’t think we’ve lost face-to-face intimacy so much as we have lost consideration and thought and elegance. I do love the challenge of twitter so small so often powerful and Facebook the clips and bits staying in touch and Instagram learning speaking through pictures I love the connection the over-connection even but we are losing the thought before the composition, the thought before the speech. Real writing takes time, real relationships take time. Email is great. Blogging is great. I love texting my friends and speaking in that medium, but our communication is getting faster and faster and shorter and shorter. It reaches further, much further. Farther farther. But if we were really writing, really thinking---perhaps we would be more thoughtful and deliberate which forces a different meaning a different commitment to each other. I don’t think the “face-time” is the point. The point is how shallow the water is getting.

I used to write letters to Jane and she to me then we stopped. I used to use brown package paper weathered it with fire wrote with turkey feather dipped in ink sent these lovely things to my friends. We had a Xmas party at my house we all wrote a gift, something written. We hung the envelopes on the tree we each turned round and round with closed eyes and drifty dizzy reached out and chose our gift. But I don’t remember mine. I wonder if I kept it somewhere. Something special maybe lost maybe from same girl who had me play while she sang in the Junior Miss official pageant Becky said why her you should be the one to enter.

I used to keep the birdseed packets from weddings I played piano sometimes sang I put the nettings of seed in a special velvet box with top or maybe the pirate treasure box cross and bones chest. Later I looked inside and the little bags were full of half seeds half maggots.

Somewhere there’s a box of pictures and a pack of Virginia Slims we’ve come so far polaroids were magic. The cigarettes smelled sad and distant last time I smelled them my friend Tammy sink of dirty dishes kitchen table my first smoke so skinny a smoke.

Eat a cold banana. Write a piece of a thing. Cold raspberries so lucky this cold box in our kitchens Jude Law said I love this ice box so much I could fuck it I think that’s true.



I may stop writing paragraphs.

Doing second edits for the novel.

My hairstylist found a spot on my head. It had no hair.

It was round with a divot in the middle.

The doctor doesn’t know what it is.

The doctor took a biopsy.

We will know something in ten days. Or longer. 

My ANA is normal, if that means anything to you.

My stitches are blue and match my new do.

I have oxycodone WITHOUT acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is dangerous.

Never swallow.

I just started another round of ciprofloxacin 500 mg.

I am seeing the pain management guy in July.

I do not know if I need to see the pain management guy.

I am often confused. I can’t get my words out.

I was rejected by a massage therapist. On the phone. Less than twenty seconds. She didn’t feel “comfortable,” said she wouldn’t make me “happy.”

I was rejected by The New Yorker. Which always happens. Here is the rejection:

Dear Rebecca,

We are grateful for the opportunity to read and consider your new work. We very much regret not being able to carry it in the magazine. We do, however, look forward to reading more when the time comes.


Paul Muldoon, Poetry Editor

Elisabeth Denison, Poetry Coordinator

Like all writers, I am looking for coded messages in this rejection.

Like some writers, I love the comma before however, and the comma after however.

I have only two pieces slated for publication. I must do submissions.

I have my first student from the CNF mentoring program. I will mentor her.

I hope I feel well enough to go to church Sunday.

I’d like the blood of Christ. To drink it.

I want a new refrigerator.

I want a taupe tufted headboard.

I want new mattresses for the boys.

I don’t know what will happen next.

I don’t know if anything will happen.

Homer wrote, when the darkest covers his eyes.

Maybe the darkness will cover my eyes. Because of birds. Because of dirt.

Because my heart fell into his hands. Because he dropped it in the bushes.

Because I miss its pulsing. Its pound.

Because the old woman keeps it in a coffee can.

Because it won’t stop beating.

But, usually, the morning comes. And my back hurts.

And at the end of the day, I can’t remember what I did all day.



    Rebecca Cook

    I write poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Here I write about thinking, writing, publishing, reading, working, living, and just about everything else. I welcome your comments and questions.


    August 2014
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