Thursday, November 24, 2011


the color of the inside of my house is yellow. in every photograph, and in every memory, the color is yellow. it's the warmest feeling i have. it's the home of my mother. and my father. brother and me. i can listen to the way the stairs creek as someone is coming down the steps and know who they are. my father is fast. my brother is solid. my mother is light and slow. that is the sound of my family walking down our steps. we've yelled too. and cried and screamed. we've gone on cooking strikes, we've stormed away, we've all left the dinner table angry. on the wonder years, kevin says that some battles are fought for love.

my dad gives me advice on our walk. he suggests we walk past the house on north euclid that we lived in until i was four. we complain about the sound of the 71A driving past our duplex. we find the window of my old bedroom. my dad retells the story of the time there was a cicada bug stuck outside of my window and it made me so scared i couldn't sleep the whole summer.

my brother and i make fun of ourselves for not being married, or having kids, or having real jobs.

at dinner, i whisper to my mother, out of everyone i know - you are the only person who i'd want to be my mom.
she whispers in my ear, darling, out of everyone i know - you are the only person i know who i'd want to be my daughter.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

soft and warm continuining, tapping on my roofs and walls

last night the taxi driver told us the secret to life. and for just a few hours we believed him. winter is coming. i know it. so i hang on every last minute of sunshine and warmth. drinking it up. trying to catch it, hold it, soak it up. i feel mighty. powerful. like i could ignite the whole world on fire with my touch.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

never would have hitchhiked to birmingham if it hadn't been for love

the sun was blindingly bright. i walked with my eyes half open, or half closed, depending on how you look at it. i thought about mr. fred who used to always say, it is what it is. his big black leather jacket, his black cap cocked to the side, his always fresh timberlands, and his southern accent that he brought with him when he got on the bus from missouri to pittsburgh. i remembered the winter coat he'd bought me from the goodwill when i was starting a new job. i thought that even if all of these dreams disperse into nothing but energy and beauty that waking up on a saturday morning could be the greatest thing i've ever done.

Monday, November 7, 2011

show me how to love in the darkest dark

the jars soaked up the sunlight. soaked up the warm fall day. i thought maybe if winter is hard, i could open the jars up.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

little waves, our bodies break

i was dreaming of hallways. twisted between sheets and tangled in my dreams, my body changes positions. my eyes open. i look out of my bedroom windows, my eyes are starting to focus and i see the brightest blue sky outside waiting for me. as i rise from my bed, the sun through colored glass bottles shines on my white skin. i wash my face, brush my teeth, and get dressed. i open the door, and walk down a small dark alley, to the street. i step out from the darkness of the walkway, and the sun hits my face and eyes like a force stronger than any man, and hits me with warmth and life. i feel like a warrior. or a hunter. in the jungle of concrete and brick, there is beauty here too. a red tree is really quite magical. i stand at the bottom of the tree. my feet are cushioned by the earth. soon the tree's veins start to flow through my body. the red blood of the tree pumps inside of me. the woman of the tree becomes the woman inside of me. i am like this tree. i am not like man. but like nature. that's the life of a woman. my mom says "don't say the word blessing." she prefers to call today a gift.

Monday, October 24, 2011

ode to paul thek, 3

to be called best friend by a small child, praise the lord
to watch your friends grow, praise the lord
to see downtown from my desk window, praise the lord
to find belonging, praise the lord
to wake up and see sunshine, praise the lord
to get paid to take a nap, praise the lord
to call my dad when i have cars troubles, praise the lord
to feel more and more like my mother every day, praise the lord
to no longer fight with my brother, praise the lord
to laugh at your failures and rejections with close friends, praise the lord
to take a walk, praise the lord
to do pushups, praise the lord
to be loved, praise the lord

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

there is a trail that winds 'round the river

photographs taken in guacetepec where i learned to make tortillas,
walk in mud, and how to love again.

i'd wake up early to the sound of roosters. readjusting myself in my hammock, i would lay waiting for the sun to seep through the windows of the church i was sleeping in. breathing in the smell of early morning fires drenched in the wetness of the night's rain, i'd soak up the stillness of the time before the sun rose. while everyone else lay sleeping around me - i was tiptoeing, quietly through my mind, my dreams and desires and memories and my longings. the sun would start to sneak into the darkness, and like a summoning, it would call to me, and i would rise.

the first day, i just stood there. the kitchen was dark, filled with women standing around the fire flipping the tortillas as the smoke filled the air. the light would shine through the cracks of the wood beams of the shack and the light would make their skin shine like gold. they were quiet at first - shy. when i watched them, they would giggle - covering their faces to hide their embarrassment. the women hardly spoke spanish and so we were unable to talk to one another. inspired by the absence of words, i would just stand, silently, enjoying the simple act of being.

i noticed mariann first because her hair was curly. she stood to the side, usually looking at me, and then looking away - like she was flirting with me. her husband, isidro, told me that she loved my hair. that she would go home and talk to him about it all night long. and so i asked her to do my hair like hers. i remember how gentle she was with my hair. and i remember how she touched my nose like i was her child.

by the second day, i was hiding behind the kitchen with the women while they dressed me in their clothes. we were all giggling, together. their bashfulness vanished, and what emerged were these incredibly silly, wild, and playful women who began to treat me as if i belonged to them. they paraded me around to their husbands, they invited me to each of their meals, they taught me how to make tortillas, they gave me jobs to do - and even invited me to kill the chickens and clean them. and even the foods that i knew would make me sick, i couldn't refuse.

if you were able to see inside of my chest before leaving for mexico, i imagine that you wouldn't have been able to recognize my heart. it'd become so brittle, hard, and dead. as the women welcomed me, i could feel their hands touching and healing parts of me that had become so dark. it was only my second week there - and it was only the beginning of a journey - and i could already feel myself changing. i came to them weak, begging for something - and they had no idea that i had come to them in order to learn how to live again.

on the last day in guacetepec, i sat between pastor antonio and his wife at the lunch table. as we passed around communion to one another, these tears started streaming down my face. for i was hungry, and they gave me something to eat. and i was thirsty, and they offered me something to drink. i was a stranger and they took me in. even if we spoke the same language, there still would have been no words, and so instead our tears ran together down our cheeks and chests. they ran together into the release of the joy and hope that the women from the village and i had given each other. and as i stood on the truck, keeping my eyes fixed on them until the road turned and i couldn't see them anymore, i finally found the words and whispered to them, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

cook forest

i went to cook forest with my dad. i was wearing the hiking boots he bought me in high school.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

such a revelry

paul bought this picture from me. i saw it today on his wall. i stood in front of it, transfixed. transported. time is so strange. the past is so far, and then so close. i was just a child then. i was leaving arizona. i didn't mean to, it's just what i had chosen. dominic walked on ahead, his orange sweater against the pinks and sages of the desert made me able to see him no matter how far ahead he walked. i stayed back, sitting on the edge of the mountain of sand, with my feet dug deep into its coolness. i moved to arizona in search of myself - and i wanted to find her alone, disconnected, out of place, unrelated. a girl of trees, green hills, and grass living in a place of dry, empty, large open space. a girl made of relationships, memories and connections in a place where she was nameless and meaningless, taking on the likeness of the desert. i wanted the wind to blow hard on me, to disintegrate me into sand. to blow me to the east and west. pieces and particles of nothing.

this little light of mine

the leafs were on fire. which is what i feel like. blowing gently in the breeze, becoming transparent and allowing the light of the sun to shine through me. illuminating me. the shadows dark, and the light glowing so bright. you might think it's my haircut, but it's different. it's in my hips when i walk and dance.

i walk through frick park with ghosts and demons. ex-boyfriends, depression, shadows, insecurities, and the warmth of old friends. memories of first kisses, holding hands, and also the silence that grows between two people as they walk when they no longer have anything to talk about. getting lost in the park after dark and making out. feeling out of place growing up around so many rich people. the day that i quit my job downtown. the walk i took that first snowfall my senior year of high school at midnight and the moon shining on the snow turned the world into a fantasy. it's all buried there under the wet ground. and as i walk the path, my presence brings these things back to life to dance around me and tempt me - but when i am strong, i can face them - greet them, flirt with them, and then beat them back into the ground with each step on the path.

time has passed again. something is next. and the otis redding 45 is spinning around the record player in my living room - and he's singing a gospel song. and i feel resurrected. reborn. back from the dead. alive. it's in my hips, and my haircut, it's in the secrets i keep, in the incense burning. it's a silent and soulful amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

just thanking the lord for my fingers

we were driving in your car that weekend to new hampshire. you were moody when you picked me up at my house and i remember driving the first hours in silence. it was winter and the trees were bare. i was watching the landscape pass by the window from the passenger's seat. i fixed my eyes on the sun as it set behind the hills. i tried talking to you. but your responses grew shorter and shorter. it wasn't always like this between us - but sometimes it was. you wanted me to get mad or mean, but i never did - i never could. so i just got quiet.

i can get paralyzed in that quiet. when i was growing up, my brother would be in trouble - and in order to avoid making situations worse, i'd just become invisible. or he'd make me so upset at the dinner table, that the tears and gasps for breath would leave my voice lost and broken somewhere in the pit of my stomach.

i remember finally saying something to you - asking you, probably, why you were acting like that. i don't remember anything that was said after that.

the sun had set and we stopped in carlisle at a mexican restaurant for dinner. you sat on the same side of the booth as me. we drank margaritas. it felt good to be with you. we drove the rest of the night in a new kind of silence. playing otis redding's version of my girl on repeat. we were always doing that - falling in and out of love with the quiet of the space we left between us.

Friday, September 30, 2011

pry it open with your love

kamila came to visit once. and she brought me this scarf as a gift. and the scarf was beautiful - it's from london. it's silk. it's white with red and yellow. she wrapped it in paper that she had handmade.

i could never really wear the scarf. every time i put it on, it looked stupid. too old. or too nice. or too pretty. or too rich. or something. and so i tucked it away in the bottom of my desk drawer, and mostly forgot about it for about a year. sometimes i'd open the drawer and put it on, look at myself in the window reflection - and decide that it wasn't right and stuff it back in the drawer again.

i remember being in brooklyn, and this guy coming up to me and laurie at the bar and he told us our scarves were "superfluous." and granted, they were. i told him, "no. you are." i didn't actually tell him that, but i wish that i would have. i told him, though, that his flannel shirt was also superfluous. he pointed out that it was plaid. actually - i'm mixing stories.

because that was another time.

after i came back from mexico, laurie and i went to pollocks to get a beer. i was getting dressed, and i decided to try the scarf kamila had given me again. and i looked in my window reflection, and i looked awesome. and i felt like a woman in it. we spent the night with two guys who had just gotten out of jail. we played arethra franklin and otis redding the whole night on the juke box. they bought us every song. and all of our drinks. and we're walking home, and i'm feeling good. like - happy. and beautiful. and like i've got this secret that i try to keep, but it's written all over myself face. i can tell that people can see it, too - usually they just say something about the haircut - but it's more than that. it's more like magic. it's what a woman is like when she feels like a woman.

and so we're walking past this house on main street, and these boys inside of the house look out of the window and say, "you guys must be hipsters because you're wearing scarfs." and i said, "well you must be a hipster because you're wearing flannel." and he said, "it's not flannel, it's plaid."

Monday, September 26, 2011

salt water taffy, jersey shore

i like to imagine us at forty. and then again at sixty.

Monday, September 5, 2011

i wish that i knew what i know now, when i was younger

i took pictures for two weddings this weekend - which is by far more interesting and wonderful than anything you could imagine. this whole day, this whole event, all of these people are gathered in order to celebrate two people you don't know - or maybe you know sort of well, but not very well. certainly not well enough to be invited to their wedding. but you are invited, and you spend the most intimate times with these people and their families. you cry when the mother and son dance. you cry when the groom looks at his bride for the first time. sometimes you even drink and dance with these people. and you sort of become attached to them, and their families, and friends. you start to like them. and care about them. and the whole time you're a bystander, you're sort of the least important person there. no one knows your name. and you're anonymous. and so sometimes when you drink and dance these people - you realize that you're actually dancing alone, and it feels amazing.

and so this weekend i drove all across pennsylvania and ohio with my windows down, being in love with my countryside. being in love with my home. with my landscape. those rolling hills, that sun shining down, those farms and farm houses. and today, as i was driving, listening to country music and feeling the air blowing in my newly, freshly cut hair - today my car broke down. twice. and i got it towed. twice. and i spent 4 hours in a car garage in ohio with 4 men who became my best friends. and harry, the second tow-trucker, drove me from the ohio border to pittsburgh. and he might have been a racist, right-winged tea partier from rural pennsylvania, but i remembered that none of that even matters. we swore, ate reeses together and took the long way by the river to have a more scenic route.

when i got home, my dad said, "well, you seem oddly pleasant." time sort of froze, in that way that it always freezes for me. i always have so much to say - in case you haven't been able to tell yet - and sometimes i have to remember that it's not always the right time. or the right people. and so time froze and i thought to myself this:

exactly, dad! that's what i've been trying to say!!! nothing really matters that much. i just don't care that much - about my car, or about money, or about my time, or about making sure my day-off is meaningful, or about my job for that matter, or taking wedding pictures for strangers and meeting so many new people at one time, i'm not worried about figuring anything out. i'm not worried about the future. i'm not worried about actually falling in love with somebody. i'm not worried about anything! i'm just not worried about any of it anymore, dad. it's just not worth it. life is going to happen in one way or another. and the only thing i have control over is how i react to it. and i'm tired of stress. it's actually the worst. it makes people dark and ugly and nasty. so does anger. so does being mean. so does being short with people. so does not giving people the benefit of the doubt. so does judging people. so does expecting the worst. so really, actually, today was a really great day.

instead i said, "well, that's what happens when you go to mexico." i'm not even sure he really knew what that meant. it just didn't matter that much.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

ode to paul thek, 2

to get a haircut, praise the lord
to have dinner with your family, praise the lord
to cry at a stranger's wedding, praise the lord
to find love in places you didn't expect it, praise the lord
to believe in yourself, praise the lord
to see the moon from your bedroom window, praise the lord
to grow, praise the lord
to change, praise the lord
to be insignificant, praise the lord
to eat oatmeal with brown sugar and berries, praise the lord
to turn the radio off in the car, praise the lord
to feel a cool breeze on your face, praise the lord
to tell somebody happy birthday, praise the lord

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ode to paul thek

for sunshine, praise the lord.
for cool evenings, praise the lord.
to feel beautiful, praise the lord.
to feel powerful, praise the lord.
to believe in magic, praise the lord.
for downtown lights, praise the lord.
to sit on the floor with your best friend, praise the lord.
to feel happiness, praise the lord.
for the morning, praise the lord.
for time, praise the lord.
for the darkness, praise the lord.
for the light, praise the lord.
for car alarms, praise the lord.
to feel like a woman, praise the lord.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

some way baby it's part of me, apart from me

photographs taken in san caralampio where i ate my first bug, made a lot of bread,
and slept in my first hammock

in the morning, i woke up in a city. a woman was calling to me through the window in spanish, i rushed quickly, realizing i was late for breakfast. the morning was blue. having arrived late the night before, i looked out of the window seeing for the first time ocosingo. a beautiful valley. i'm not in america, i can tell because there are colors here that i've never seen before. the sounds of roosters, motorcycles and people talking as they walk to the market are new to me. the air breathes a different language, even.

after breakfast, santiago, juan and i got into the black explorer. i was quiet. i was still self-conscious then about my spanish and santiago's ability to speak english seemed to be contingent on his mood. we drove for four hours in silence into the depths of the chiapas jungle. i asked no questions. i knew that i loved santiago and juan the moment that i met them. i knew that it was okay to be quiet. my eyes were fixed on the countryside passing beside me. the window was down as we drove along the bumpy dirt road. i breathed in the smell of fires burning and the smell of fresh rain soaking into the earth.

santiago broke the silence, pointing at a river, calling it the chocolate river. i said to him in my awkward spanish, "let's go swimming!" he laughed. and i knew that he already loved me as much as i loved him. making people laugh in mexico became my favorite way to communicate and in some ways, the only way that i knew how to. i flirted with everyone i met - because i knew no other way. my spanish is pretty good, but mostly it's just cute. it made me vulnerable to everyone i met. i was at the mercy of every person i spoke to and i relied on their kindness in order for me to survive there.

mostly i got along fine - i just sort of trusted that nothing was so important that you needed to actually talk about it. and that's how i drove four hours into the jungle of chiapas without having a single idea where i was going, if santiago and juan were even the right people to have picked me up, or what i was going to do when i got wherever we might be going. it just wasn't really that important.

two hours after we left ocosingo, we stopped in a small town. later i would find that this was the town where santiago and his brother, pablo, had grown up. i stayed in the car with juan. i had gathered a few things about juan in our 24 hours together so far: juan had a cold. juan was not santiago's son. and juan was from matzam, the village i had visited with my church in may. juan only spoke when spoken to. and when juan did speak, he spoke in a whisper.

santiago got out of the car. a man and his daughter walked towards him. santiago shook the man's hand, and then picked the girl up and twirled her around in a circle. she was beautiful and his rough, worn face became gentle in her presence. this was the first time i really got a good look at him. he cocked his hip to the side and rested one hand it. when he walked, he looked at the ground, watching his black cowboy boots as they pressed down on the green grass. sometimes he looked up, and he always had this smile on - this smile with these wise, knowing eyes, that held secrets, memories and wisdom that were buried so deep that i knew i could never really know this man. he was made of mystery, full of the things that men used to be made of in myths.

santiago dropped a few things off with them and then we drove on. he never told me it was where he was born. he never told me that those people were his family. it just didn't really need to be mentioned. i could tell that it was a good place, and they were good people, and that santiago seemed happy there. that was enough for me. and as the weeks would pass, santiago would never really tell me anything about himself. he would never tell me about his wife who had died, or what it was like working for his brother, or if he wished he would have had the same opportunities as him. he'd never tell me about his children. or why he always sat outside of church and never went inside.

but as the summer would go on, i would get these precious chances to glimpse what was inside of him. and in these glimpses, i saw a man with a heart made of gold. who treated me gently. who treated every person with care and affection. who asked me if i was okay when i seemed sad. and one day, he would eventually walk into church, look around the room awkwardly and shyly. he would spot me from the door. he would stand next to me, as i was seated on one of the benches, and he would motion to me to move over. and despite never learning about his past, and never telling him much about myself either, i knew he felt comfort sitting next to me there. we were the kids in the back of the church laughing too much, because they didn't quite feel like they belonged there. we were the kids who would sneak out of church early to buy coca colas across the street.

the last week i was there, he asked me in perfect english to wash his clothes. although he was joking, i still responded to him honestly, "it would be my honor."

eventually, we arrive in san caralampio. we turn right up a small road. ahead of me i see a mixture of white people and people from the village. i see pablo and jan and the people who work for them. these people will eventually become like family to me. the journey begins here, i breathe in deeply, and step out of the truck.