If

You walk back into my office.

Entire universes live and die on the fingertips of choice.

“I feel like an asshole–”

I stop breathing. Look you in the eye for the first time in a year smell the warm denim jacket skin unscented soap crushed lavender from across the room. In the winter of your pause I am in suspended animation living the memory of my arms around your perfect waist, soft, pulling you back into bed.

You aren’t looking at me.

I’m looking past every time you said I was something that could be fixed and into a future where kickstart apologies sputter into something bruised burning wilted growing up out of ashes the way forests do after wildfires.

“– I didn’t need that appointment after all.”

The splitsecond hairsbreadth moment passes.

I exhale.

“If” is the biggest word in the English language.

rlb 4.11.17

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this isn’t supposed to be erotic

i don’t know whether heartbreak will ever stop tasting

like ripe white peaches ice cold in summer

soft fruitskin popping, giving under my teeth

meat catching between them and dripping

sticky pulses down my chin and fingers.

i pity anyone who has ever lost me.

 

5.29.18 rlb

year in review: 2017

january: resist everything that would destroy you: apathy, entropy, tyranny

february: your pain always has meaning; go to the fucking doctor

march: you do not need the right words or any words at all to be worthwhile; they will love you anyway

april: love and fury are indivisible

may: death isn’t interested in you nor, for the first time in your life, are you interested in her

june: this is how you breathe

july: yes, it is worth the extra work, time, and money to own AC

august: you will spend weeks longing for currents and snowmelt and the summer will pass before you can get a breath in edgewise

september: high collars and independence become you

october: you were not meant to live alone

november: that urge to diminish, to be less, is the antithesis of strength

december: nothing lasts forever and that fact will always be a blessing

 

what i have learned this year

rlb

12.15.17

the fat queer girl

There is nothing restorative or powerful about being the fat queer girl. This isn’t going to be some poignant statement about how we should love ourselves. If that’s what you’re here for, go elsewhere. There are a million poems about that so go read one of those.

There’s nothing confidence-inspiring about being the fat queer girl. Even among the enby femmes there is no fatness that is celebrated where we can see it; everyone is thin, thin, thin, thin because there is no fluidity in the softness of fat, I guess even though that’s metaphorically-incorrect and factually-incorrect and also deeply unfair.

And because I’m on a roll here with the self-pity– I’m not even the right kind of fat queer girl. You know the ones. The tall, busty girls with big eyes and the suggestion of hourglass waists in their forgiving proportions and shapely legs and mouths you could kiss until sunrise. With my lovehandles overswelling my hips. Inadequate breasts, columnal thighs, short neck, tiny eyes, thin lips, twisted spine–

There’s no one who wants to be the fat queer girl.  

rlb 4.27.18

year in review: 2017

january: resist everything that would destroy you: apathy, entropy, tyranny

february: your pain always has meaning; go to the fucking doctor

march: you do not need the right words or any words at all to be worthwhile; they will love you anyway

april: love and fury are indivisible

may: death isn’t interested in you nor, for the first time in your life, are you interested in her

june: this is how you breathe

july: yes, it is worth the extra work, time, and money to own AC

august: you will spend weeks longing for currents and snowmelt and the summer will pass before you can get a breath in edgewise

september: high collars and independence become you

october: you were not meant to live alone

november: that urge to diminish, to be less, is the antithesis of strength

december: nothing lasts forever and that fact will always be a blessing

 

what i have learned this year

rlb

12.15.17

Not Today

Outside of vague poetry I’ve ignored the stroke. I want to pretend it never happened as if, maybe, that will undo the brain damage and emotional trauma that comes with going toe-to-toe with Death. I’ve spent a lot of years flirting with Her and I guess Death finally decided to flirt back.

Continue reading “Not Today”

penny slots

There’s a concept in learning and conditioning called variable-ratio scheduling wherein the number of responses required to obtain a reward changes at random. It’s used most-recognizably in slot machines. Coin-greasy fingers slipping against buttons and touch screens under flashing lights and C-major chords beneath mirrored ceilings. Generic galaxies spinning beneath their feet. Blacked out windows. Not a clock in sight. With variable-ratio scheduling there the gambler will stay, suspended in their own perception of time and space, until they run out of money or some stronger stimulus comes along to distract them. Casinos do their damnedest to ensure that there is no stronger stimulus; cocktail waitresses are beautiful but unobtrusive providing everything from liquor to food to ashtrays and would you look at that? The ledge between the slots is the perfect size to hold all of it and a cup for more change (in the few places that still pay out cash rather than vouchers).

rlb 5.19.17

Practicum

The Introvert Girl Gang is the first place anyone ever told me that running away is easier if you’re already going somewhere. This was something experience taught me but I’d never heard it said before and I almost cried at how much it explained. This  was why I shrank at the thought of vacations. This was why I hadn’t applied to more than one college — because that might mean not leaving but having to return home. Not that that’d made much difference. I went to college anyway. I ran away anyway.

A slow study in pressure. How much travel could I handle, how long could home escalate before I decided no more. It happened slow, bordering on silent, smothering magma-hot and black until I could see no horizon.

The summer I visited Mo is a blur.

Brian had been worse than ever and I had been living in a fog of flashbacks and ash. Nightmares about my teeth splitting apart in my mouth, falling flat against my rotting tongue followed me into the morning. I could always smell him and taste him and hear him breathing. Even at night the house wouldn’t quiet.

I visited Mo. I had nothing to lose.

Her mother was compassionate and rough and waited with me through panic and had no patience for my pretending at spinelessness. Her laugh was a balm for my nerves. She did not flinch at cutting away those dead things that no longer served a purpose. She was kind.

I simply could not leave again. The perfect excuse to carve out a place where I could breathe fresh air and madness and rain and remember that there is nothing quite like volcanic soil and rot for growing things.

It’s easier to run away when you’re already going somewhere. It’s easier to stay gone once you’ve planted something there.

rlb 5.9.17

Queen of the Geese

My best friend Jenna became Queen of the Geese in college.

This was not a nickname either kind or cruel or arbitrarily granted. This was and is her title which she won in single-dance-combat with the King of the Geese one balmy night at Gazebo Isle on the shores of Radio Springs.

This sounds absurd but I assure you every word I’m about to say is the truth. I know because I was there.

It was the middle of spring. The best time to be in northern Missouri when the nights are just starting to get warm and muggy but not too buggy and magnolias blooming with flowers the size of your face and honeysuckle bushes full of bees from sunup to sunset when, if you were lucky, you might catch a lightning bug or three if the weather was warm enough.

Right at sunset, when the sun was low over the corn and highway, if you watched closely enough you could see spiders making their webs in the tops of the hedges. Spiders with bellies bigger than grapes floating through the air. They would never quite touch the founder of our college; a hundred-twenty years dead and she still did her rounds in the evenings making sure we weren’t out and about up to no good in the twilight. Half-corporeal she was fond of long skirts and stationary — more than once I woke up in short shorts with scratches down my legs from fingernails headed the wrong direction from my hands, had sticky notes come flying at my head from across the room if I put off homework too long.

Our founder minded us well. Taught us the important lessons. The spiders wouldn’t touch her.

Jenna and I didn’t go out right after sunset. Rather, we waited, wished for red wine where we had none, courted nervous breakdowns chasing the promise of final exams. That liminal week before commencement where the halls smelled of cardboard and lilacs, girl sweat and the bitter tang of packing ourselves into the basement for another summer at home. We were, succinctly, a hot mess.

We walked in flip flops and short cotton pajamas down to the lake in the close dark talking about our mothers. They were alike as Jenna and I were alike. Women who did not know how to love themselves and could not fathom why their daughters did not fill the void in their chests for them. Jenna and I grew a little crooked. Complementary. Strong. Strange. The crickets sang and in the dark up the hills bracketing the road leading ever downward toward the lake the deer hummed their quiet music to accompany our conversation. It was always a little like that late at night. None of the wildlife had the sense to sound atonal.

One o’clock in the morning saw us sitting on the low wall that marked the edge of Gazebo Island. Lit orange by a lonely street lamp, grass bridging toward cold with dew that shouldn’t have settled until dawn.

Jenna and I talked about lovers, and the geese began to gather. To listen. We talked about girls and boys. How they betrayed us, how we missed them anyway, how our hearts were eldritch things we did not quite understand but oh how there was so much we could give from them.

I don’t know when it got quiet. When the night insects ceased their music and the deer wandered off to sweeter grass. But I know when we decided it was too late to stay awake any longer, too late to justify the cost of the night spent out of bed at the expense of daylight hours in classes, socializing with those daywalking friends of ours– when we decided that, a goose sat between us and our only route of exit.

He was big. The size of my torso and worth slow roasting for Christmas dinner if you had to have a goose for Christmas dinner. We approached. He stood, feathers puffed in indignation, and gave a single warning flap.

I glanced to my left. Jenna had a look in her eye I couldn’t quite place– it wasn’t befuddlement, it wasn’t discomfort– it was intense and it worried me. She took half a step back.

“Do you want me to scare it off?” The goose was big but, I reasoned, running toward it shouting with my arms outstretched would be sufficient to frighten it off.

Jenna broke eye contact with the goose for just a moment. Shook her head. Declared in the most solemn tone: “Nah, I got this.”

Her posture shifted in a way that I can neither describe nor mimic bodily except to say that it was positively avian. The goose followed suit, bobbing his head in insult, summoning from the water hissing, feathered minions. We were outnumbered. Jenna had no patience for this– she doubled down, returning the insult with gusto, and advanced on the King of Geese.

With undulating, articulated steps in time to a wardrum only she could hear Jenna walked forth and with a mighty honk sent the King of Geese and all his court fleeing across the lake.

We stared after them in silence for no less than half a minute then burst into laughter.

“Does this mean you’re their queen now?”

“Of course!”

We were troubled by geese no more on our nighttime adventures to the lake or anywhere else in town. In the act of crowning herself Jenna became known as the Queen of the Geese throughout the county. Geese on campus will nod and bow their respects when she passes to this very day.