Saturday, March 01, 2014
i keep you
like muscle to bone;
like words in a language i knew
and spoke once, fluently, but now my sentences strain;
like an ache nursed in some deep bone,
twinged by bad weather;
this keeping --
is unmuscular --
a branch that grows over a rope;
like the footprint of fortissimous sound on soft ears,
or a song that keeps repeating,
or a falling dream
as i drift
the press of
this accustomed weight
hanging in-between my breathbeats;
swelling and contracting like a tide that carves my shore
and somehow, the shore holds the sea
even when the sand
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I hear the first fistful of food hit the wall.
The sharp report of unidentifiable porridge against plaster shudders through the wood-latticed windows. It rings all the way out to the balcony that wraps around the traditional Chinese building we're in. We're here because we've been invited to an event-closing banquet -- now, that banquet is apparently airborne. I hear the sound, but I don't really believe it until I glance inside, just in time to see the second handful of lobbed porridge smack the wall beside the first.
Most of the BASE jumpers have evacuated the small dining room for strategic positions outside, between the windows of this once-stately wooden restaurant, but a few are still crouched in ersatz foxholes between the tables, giggling like ten-year-olds.
I whip back into the safety behind the wooden shutters and blink in wonderment. We were invited here -- wined, dined and entertained by a government welcome so gregarious as to be almost startling. The regional sports department has covered our travel, put us up in comfortable hotels, fed us every meal and provided us with the best jumpin' bridge we could possibly have hoped for.
Why are we coating their walls with porridge?
Our Chinese hosts stand among the conscientious objectors on the balcony, smiles flickering. In their position, I'd be hustling us right back to the bus. They, however, are bravely determined that the show must go on.
We're shuffled downstairs, onto a covered deck that observes an outdoor stage. An autumn rain has begun in earnest, drenching the stage's concrete floor. Despite the downpour, several girls in ornate traditional costumes stream out from the building. Their painted faces smile earnestly at us as we swig muttonheadedly from a sea of beer bottles. Their headdresses, glinting with a swinging fringe of tinkling metal, flash colorfully under the stage lights as they file past us.
As they make their way to the stage, one jumper I know from the Valley reaches out, laughing, and smacks the last three on the back of the head as they process down the walkway. He's grinning. He's obviously pleased with the way it makes their metal headdresses shudder and jingle.
I cringe. Mortified.
Sure, we’re in the hinterlands of China – but this isn’t a cultural misunderstanding. It’s a systemic problem. BASE jumpers seem exempt themselves from all the rules: not just from the aspects of human behavior that imply subservience to a very un-BASE-jumperly social norm, but from the rules that govern basic human decency. Those rules keep underpaid restaurant staff – who had been previously riveted by your wild-eyed jocularity and torrent of your unfamiliar language – from silently hating you as they scrub your dinner off the walls and floor. Those rules prevent you from making teenage village girls cry a little bit while they dance, in the rain, for your enjoyment.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
I was still a child.
That part still strikes me.
I was a willful, independent, self-starting, motivated, clever, manipulative, larger-than-life, talented, big-dreaming...child.
My family was living in central America at the time. I was neck-deep in dramas that my parents were gamely ignoring. I wanted to escape.
I told them I wanted to move back to the States; to stay with a friend's family on their estate in the rolling idyll of the Napa Valley. Applying to universities would be easier.
They told me: OK.
But you can never come home.
My decision, at that point, had already been made. It was only when the little plane rose above the end of the runway, my parents' house disappearing into the broccoli puffs of jungle below, that it even caused a ripple.
You can never come home.
The way we lived, moving from beige shell to beige shell at the whims of the Air Force, a place with them was the only 'childhood home' I had. Their furniture, carved into prim English roses from Phillippine jungle wood; the cats, whom I remember visiting in quarantine in Panama; my father's books, which I began to gobble up in middle-school and reread until I left. (I remember the day so many of those treasures were thrown out; I remember my father's face.) There is no building I can stand in front of and say: "here, I spent my formative years." There is no such thing as a "permanent address."
That was so many years ago. In the span of time since then, I have perfected the art of molluskhood. Onward, onward, onward to the next. No shell can hold me. There is always another. I am not a child any longer.
Now, as I enter my 30's, their rumbles get louder. They ask: when are you coming home?
Maybe you forgot what you told me. Here -- I'll remind you.
I am never coming home.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
watch a child hooking fingers through the cracks in its egg
watch the wind take a dried husk
my heart's memory is strong.
i can still recall the first hand that touched my waist
then five more
and suddenly my cheek is resting warm above a plaid pocket,
and four feet are squeaking on linoleum
under paper banners
the music lasted longer than I could
so I broke early,
sitting on the curb outside the school
trying to identify love and not-love by the shape it took against my crowded organs.
ravaged by love
spilling love from so many seams sewn in haste
my edges made ragged and soft by love
my center scooped savagely empty and refilled to bubbling bursting by love
i do not quite recognize its face.
the boat that floats shallowly over a teeming sea?
the juggernaut of bare-toothed determination that growls and thrashes through years of poverty; of isolation; of a death in your arms?
the breathless promise of forever between two children?
part of me is still sitting hunched on that curb,
fingers worrying the wilting flowers strapped to my wrist,
wondering what this is.
this delectable violence;
this mouth of a thousand tickling teeth.
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” ― John Green
the cerulean patchwork of salt pools stitched into the bone-white shoreline of the great salt lake, as seen from the open door of a King Air slipping up to altitude
the sweet hour of rocking, trainbound peace between my doorstep and the Ogden wind tunnel
tucking myself into a wood-paneled corner of the Brighton lodge to write after a long day on skis, snow-softened sunlight pouring across my hands on the keyboard as I wiggle my toes in the fireplace warmth
the moment when my motorbike curls around that uphill corner halfway into Little Cottonwood Canyon, where the stinging, slightly mineral smell of forest pours in to fill my helmet
standing on tiptoes at my window, fingers balanced against old brick, to watch the Wasatch blush with alpenglow
lying on the teddybear softness of the climbing-gym floor, the muscles of my forearms ratcheted tight to the bone, burning and smiling
the sussurus of a needle on my father's records
climbing up to bed on the hangboard, just because
the beautiful barista in my next-door living room, peeking her blue-eyed hellos through a thick fringe of bangs as she draws my third espresso of the day
the green canvas of a summertime Liberty Park, Pollocked with dogs and ducks and hulahoops and slacklines and tattooed flesh and dervish children and balloons and so much dancing
a city chosen mine, keeper of my only root.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I should have known that, after the initial struggle with the biological imperative to stop at the edge, BASE jumping would be relatively easy.
After all, "risking it all for nothing" is all I've ever done.
Doing one's first solo BASE jump is the conclusion of a long internal conversation. Mine started months ago, as I saw myself constantly wiggling out from big-group commitments in an orgiastic summer Valley. I knew this isn't why I'm here -- to joke and flirt and gossip and goad and sticker myself forcibly to the collective memory of the sport. I'm not here to geek the camera.
I've always chafed at the group dynamics of a busy exit; always disliked the banter of a group hiking out. I stopper up my ears with headphones. I hike far ahead or far behind, never in the cluttered middle. I hide.
I thought I'd need babysitting much longer than I did. As it turns out, I found my solitude quickly and easily.
I ran the boys out late that afternoon, flashing just enough tooth to move them along without being concerned by my sharpness. I waited long after they left, dawdling, until the sun started visibly fading in the sky. I wanted to be sure I'd follow through; wanted to be sure the press of darkness would send me over even if I stood there whinging.
I started my hike in a spirit of collected certainty. The calm surprised me.
When I rounded the first forested corner, a little orange fox stopped in the path in front of me, white tailtip painting wide strokes across the green as he wagged it. He dashed away almost as soon as I registered his presence. It felt like there was luck in that, as in the bighorn bullgoat I caught grazing in a little meadow a few moments later, and in the family of deer I spooked from the trail farther along. I felt the Valley encouraging me, somehow; urging me along as night began to close in.
I stepped up my pace. I started singing to myself.
I thought it would be harder at the exit. The terror I had planned for doesn't live there anymore.
As I methodically applied my gear, I thought about how little I actually wanted to stop. I thought about how delicious this was: the simplicity of this solitude, the feeling of fabric and metal in my hands, the snap of the pilot chute in the undisturbed hush of forest twilight, the warmed-butter quality of the last sunlight, dropping through the fringe of trees. I let myself down the rope to the gravel at the exit and heard, for the first time, the sound of the nearby waterfall suspended in the air.
I heard the smile in my own voice as I counted down, then my outbreath replaced by building air as the evening Valley enfolded itself, it seemed, within the wrap of my solitary, hurtling embrace.
Saturday, March 09, 2013
I miss the way you occupy a chair.
I miss the way you fill a pair of jeans;
the movement of your breathing in my hair;
the cradle of your fingers’ inbetweens.
I miss the architecture of your stance;
The sleeping weight your arm rests on my waist;
The perspicacious thrumming of your glance;
The ocean way your lingering fingers taste.
I miss the shape you carve beneath a sheet;
the tickle of your curls against my palm;
your laugh’s arrival and its swift retreat;
the ripples of your thoughts against your calm.
I miss the sentences that you arrange;
the warming way your breath remembers tea;
your somber and your silly and your strange.
I miss the quiet way you you fit to me.