There's a Blue bird in my Heart

A Flawed Verse

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JULY 25th, 2010

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.


My mother would tell me all the time that we were poor.

Not always in so many words but she loved to remind me and her, I guess, at any chance she could get. She'd walk me down the street sometimes and point at the men in clean, pressed suits, or the fancy, shiny cars idling in the traffic. Sometimes we'd take the bus and she'd spend hours pointing at the women with the prettiest clothes, jewelry and handsomest men. She'd point and say how she never had that as a little girl and she'd never be able to afford it now, because we were poor. But if I went to school and read my books, maybe I wouldn't end up like her.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.


My earliest memories of her were on the fire escape in the summer. She'd complained of the heat earlier. The heat never bothered me back then, I was a kid and I swear all children refill via the sun and warmth while it just drained the life out of adults. She spent most of her time when she was home outside, smoking. Which, as I grew older became a point of dark humor but this story isn't about me being older. It's about that point in time, this time when she decided I needed to have my weekly reminder that we were poor.

The thing is? At that age I didn't even know we were poor. She could point all she wanted and explain all she liked but my mind simply would not wrap around it. Children don't collect terms of have and have-nots. They think in daydreams, instincts. Are we hot? Cold? Scared? Safe? Fed? Happy? Sad? Tired? Awake? What's that? Who's there? Am I a pilot today or an astronaut?


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?


Children don't think in limits. They think in stars; endless and bright.

We had an apartment that kept most of the rain, snow, wind and weather from us. The toilet usually worked, the sink had water. At night, the fridge would whine loudly and I'd imagine metal robots dispensing evil vegetables. My clothes came from a place called the Salvation Army and I thought that was pretty neat.

She called me over late one night when the summer was limping along under the weight of her own heat. Chain smoking her Marlboro reds, she leaned over the metal railing wearing a thin, worn shift. The closer I came the clearer I could hear her smoke, too. Deep inhale with a quick, sharp exhale that billowed outward then hung in the stale, hot air. I didn't like it when she smoked like that. It meant she was annoyed.

I loved my mother always as a little girl except when she was annoyed.

"Look," she said, jerked her head in a downward nod. I didn't want to, but I did anyway. There was a sleek, black limousine in the garbage strewn side street below. Its engine purred dangerous as cornered cats. I watched without word as my mother’s friends, women who lived in the same building as us, gathered around it. I didn't know why, but I will forever see this part of this memory as moths beating their wings uselessly against light bulbs.

"You see that?" my mother's voice turned raspy. Five years from now I would finally understand what it meant. That the word I wanted to use was: bitter. She cupped my face harshly to make sure I was actually paying attention. I had the habit of looking at people. Nodding at people. Speaking to people and fooling them. But I wasn't really there. I was day dreaming elsewhere.

"Anyone ever tells you they better than you because they got money is a fxcking liar. You can throw money at a dirty dog all you like, but he still stinks like shxt. The only difference between a rich man and a poor man is that a rich man's got enough money to pay someone to forget about what he did and a poor man's got nobody who gives a shxt about what he's doing." Her fingers pressed hard enough to almost bloom bruises. "You ain't no different or no worse or better because of where or how you were born.

"Go to school, Poesy. Go to school. Read books. And don't you ever, ever rely on anyone, especially a man for nothin'." She let go of my face and as I sighed with relief, focused elsewhere. She tossed the cigarette over the balcony and grinned in a manner that always frightened me as it bounced off the hood of a car, sparking.

"You hear me?"

"Go to school. Read books. Don't rely on anyone, especially a man," I parroted best as I could without sounding bored. Every week, the same lecture. The words showed up in my dreams some times, burning my retinas with their horrible day-glo colors, floating over whatever I was dreaming about. GO TO SCHOOOOOL, a talking rat would tell me. READ BOOKS, king Arthur once said from his throne. DON'T RELY ON MEN, a talking pencil sharpener during one of my at school dreams said.

I hated them. I hated hearing them. I hated that she felt like repeating them and childishly hated her in these snap shots of her second hand smoke bitterness, but it was an immature hate. I hated all this the same way I hated having to eat peas and broccoli back then.

I wish I could go back and tell her how god damn wise those words were.


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?*






*Poem © Charles Bukowski
 

A Flawed Verse

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Paid to shatter


JULY 26Tth, 2010

You are the roast beef I have purchased
and I stuff you with my very own onion.

You are a boat I have rented by the hour
and I steer you with my rage until you run aground.

You are a glass that I have paid to shatter
and I swallow the pieces down with my spit.

You are the grate I warm my trembling hands on,
searing the flesh until it's nice and juicy.

You stink like my Mama under your bra
and I vomit into your hand like a jackpot
its cold hard quarters. *

Our school yard was a church to pavement. It was covered in bright paint, graffiti like memorials of smiling children, cute things. Hopscotch marred sections in bright yellow or pink sprawled in tar coated black; hieroglyphs to innocence.

It's hard to be innocent long in certain areas of a city, when every day you pass by homeless drunks begging for change, business men slowing down to unroll their windows at women lining gum-splattered sidewalks. Or coming home to a sink full of empty beer bottles, hollow glass with Smirnoff labels gleaming as if to mock when your belly rumbled for a supper that momma drank.

It helped if you had your head in a cloud most of the time and the use of the school's library for books though.

I was good at an early age at missing things. I can't really say if that was my own way of protecting myself or the foolishness of being young. There were signs all around me--signs my mother falling to the beast of human nature, biting onto her own tail and letting whatever darkness life had handed her eat her soul all up. The 'boy friends' that waltzed in and out of our apartment and lives. The way my mother would scream at me if they looked at me funny, the way they would never stay longer than a few months before they'd scream at one another.

The way she looked at me, the older I got. As if by growing my own pair of breasts I was declaring war. I had no idea what war I had declared or what I was fighting for, but apparently once I had my own it was too late.

I'm getting a head of myself, however.

The first time I finally, finally understood that we were poor? That the things my mother tried to tell me in her clumsy way were true started at school. I was maybe ten, eleven. The edges of my awareness were crowded in. I started seeing the difference between my nonexistent lunch and the pretty pink lunch boxes some of the girls in my class had. My loose, over-sized second hand shirts with holes or nearly worn-see-through patches and their darling dresses. My taped and super glued metal, donated glasses too big for my face and their designer little circles or squares. We kids started taking lessons from our parents and drawing lines in the pavement. Packs of us roamed together according to what the world taught us.

I played with a girl named Samantha, dark hair and dark eyes. I hope she grew into a Neruda poem when she grew older. She had an older sister who wasn't remotely beautiful. She was in grade seven and already painted her lips red. It didn't match her flat little reptile eyes.

We were playing with side-walk chalk. I was drawing little girls with wings, arguing over the fact that they weren't angels at all and sure as hell little girls could have wings--when Samantha's sister marched up. She grabbed Sam's hand and jerked her upright.

"Momma tol' you not to play with her." Sam yowled and whined, while her sister began to drag her away.

"H-hey!" I stood up, shocked. Chalk rolled from my lap and shattered in glass rainbows on the black pavement. "What're you doin'?"

Her sister whirled about to fix me with a flat glare that made me cringe. "My momma sees yours workin' the corner every night. You're mom's a whore and whores are dirty. You're dirty too. You're not allowed to play with Sam anymore and if you do, I'll tell my mom and she'll find you and whup you good."

I think that I wrote children were all instincts and day dreams. I became instinct that moment and just remember being angry. So, so, so angry. Sam's older sister was screaming and holding her mouth, my knuckles were bloody. Sam wouldn't look at me, there were kids all around us hooting, screaming, laughing. I dimly remember being hauled inside by a teacher. The hallways and doors blurring together. Being talked to. Phone calls. All I could think was that it wasn't true. My mother wasn't a whore. She wasn't. She worked nights. That's what she told me and my mother wouldn't lie.

She wasn't perfect, but she was my mother. My mother. She raised me and gave me a home and that meant something. It meant that she might say or do things that didn't make sense and hurt me right now--but surely she was only doing it because she loved me? Because she was protecting me.

Mother is a word that means the world to children. Mother wouldn't lie.

That's what I had stuck in my head on the way home, at any rate. When I, in tears and babbling nonsense ran up flights of paint-chipped stairs to the beat in door of my apartment and shoved it open--wailing--I burst into my mother’s room.

My mother looked up from the bed, glassy eyed and naked. There were four men in her room and they didn't stop when I came through. Neither did she.

Stunned, I backed out of the door and through the living room, kitchen, and out of the apartment entirely.

Funny thing that. My mother was a whore and little girls didn't get to have wings either.



*Buying the Whore, Anne Sexton.
 

A Flawed Verse

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JULY 27th, 2010


I want to write
I want to write the songs of my people.
I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.
I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn
throats.
I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into
notes.
I want to catch their sunshine laughter in a bowl;
fling dark hands to a darker sky
and fill them full of stars
then crush and mix such lights till they become
a mirrored pool of brilliance in the dawn.*




My life really isn't as bad as my memories make it out to be.


I never thought it was all that bad.


I never thought it was because it was all I knew. And even when I write these things out in my note books--when I see them in black and white they don't hurt.


They're ...me. These are all the things that went into making me. Fucked up or not, this is how it was and now, here I am. I could cry about it some more but no one cares. Everybody is all a little fxcked up themselves, worried about their own messed up lives and heads. I know I've got to take care of me. I've known that for a long time.


So I do.


At least, I pretend I do. I don't know. Everyone with a mock degree in head shrinking would probably be willing to point out that diving into imaginary worlds and books isn't their idea of coping.


It is mine, though.


See, all of my good memories are tinged with paper cuts; too excited turns of the page too quickly, ink and paperback scent, dust and libraries. I love that smell. I love books. My safe place, my harbor. I remember the way the sun would radiate through the city library windows, the bright cut outs for children and the rainbow of book covers. I remember trailing my hands along the backs of them like a woman takes her hand to a mans chest in passing; lover's touch. I remember that whenever school got rough, whenever I thought I couldn't make it, whenever my mother showed up at my dorm strung out and drunk--there were books.


They never failed me. They were always there. They would always be there short of a fire or flood. They never asked anything of me but a little time and gave me everything in return.


Some people might think that's the saddest thing in the world.


To me, it was everything. It still is.


So it might seem like a pity party all up in here, but it isn't. This is who I am. This is where I came from.


Every time I get to feeling down all I have to do is take a look around and know: It wasn't that bad.


Right?


P.S. Going on vacation. Right now. On a whim. Should be able to book the flight today, the woman on the phone with unpronounceable name says they always have seats available. I got this pamphlet in the mail with six new rejection letters; it's amazingly cheap and I should be suspicious but I am just...If I get one more rejection letter...I don't know.


It's a trip to a place called Rhy'din. Looks like some sort of Con or reenactment sort of place. Supposedly a whole city. I can't think of a better place to go.




*I want to write, by Margaret Walker
 

A Flawed Verse

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JULY 27th, 2010 9:05PM MIDFLIGHT TO RHY'DIN


And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one


And the soul creeps out of the tree.*


You ever sweep up your place in a hurry? You get a phone call and company is on their way. They don't take your polite no for an answer because their either family that does that or that one nosebag of a friend that just likes to barge in and remind you, you aren't a hermit. And you look around your apartment in horror and go--Jesus Christ! What a mess?


So you scurry around the place and pick up your filth. The underwear you forgot by the couch, the empty ice cream container on the counter, the magazines, the clean clothes you forgot to fold and shove it all into this closet. Finally! Your apartment is clean. Oops. There's this one sock on the floor. So you pick it up and open the closet to shove it in there and everything from the closet explodes all over everything.


That's sort of how everything in my life went after I turned twelve.


My mother was a woman who was amazing at going all out at things in her life. She was either an all-out alcoholic, and all out druggie, or all out sober and broken. I learned that I liked her the best when she was just buzzed, whatever it was she was doing. Anything past that was a tangled-ball of snot and tears or bitterness and rage.


My closet opened on one of those bitter, tear filled nights. She'd come rolling in the door as she usually did stinking drunk in a little red thing that made me feel awkward every time I ticked my eyes her way. Her mascara was smeared, her eye blackened. She kept sobbing too hard to tell me what happened and was too drunk to find her mouth with a cigarette. So I put her to bed and listened to her try and tell me what had happened and I nodded, pet her arm.


When she was done hours later I wearily crawled from her bed to mine. I didn't mind sleeping on the couch in the living room. I told the kids in my class my bedroom had a balcony and a television. It was only a little white lie...


All the lights were off. Didn't matter really though, because the city's glow penetrated everywhere here and showered our tiny room. I was so tired I should have noticed there was something standing at the edge of the couch. I reached forward to lift the sheets when long fingers the color of swamp-water curled around my wrist. They were as cold as ice cubes.


She said her name was Mandy, and she needed me to help her write a story.


She couldn't write it, you see.


She was dead.








*Excerpt of the poem, All Hallows, by Louise Glück.
 

A Flawed Verse

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JULY 27th, 2010 10:44PM RST (RHY'DIN STANDARD TIME)


While those around him criticize and sleep
And through a fracture on that breaking wall
I see you my friend and touch your face again
Miracles will happen as we trip
But we're never gonna survive unless
We get a little crazy
No we're never gonna survive unless
We are a little
Cray cray crazy*


I have apparently landed in crazy town. Toot, toot, all aboard the crazy train to crazyville with the crazies.


So I'm in mid-flight and I just put my notebook down and the pilot gets on the mysterious pilot P.A. system. I hear the usual drill about thanking us for flying with them and his name (which I never really pay attention to) when he casually informs us there will be slight turbulence as they hit the nexus. Nothing to worry about, he reassures, and the passengers around me don't even look up from whatever they're doing.


It took me a few seconds after the pilot clicked off and the sound of the airplanes engines for my brain to really pick apart what he'd said. Eventually the oddities in his speech caught me: What the fuck is a nexus and why are we hitting it? With an airplane? Wasn't that, you know, not how you make the flying go? I opened my mouth to ask the seat across from me what that meant when all hell broke loose.


The lights flickered; anything not held onto or battened down went flying (read: since I apparently was the only newbie on this flight, my note book sailed, my pen, my magazine and my empty plastic cup), the stewardess' were no where to be seen. I could hear the strangest hum. I want to remember it as electricity but electricity didn't sing with such resonance. All the little yellow face masks with plastic bags you only see in the movies exploded outward from above. They dangled like cheerful little hanged men while the airplane bounced along like rubber ball.


I might have screamed but it was lost in the sound of metal, strange thrumming and crackle of energy.


The oddest thing that I remember during this time--when I thought I was going to die--was that no one else on the plane looked alarmed. Not even the children. Mother's smiled to them and pet their heads lovingly. One man in a suit cut sharp and perfect flipped a page of his rumpling newspaper. He looked bored with it all and wanting nothing more than being off the plane. Another man was trying to eat skittles and cracking up every time his hand couldn't make it to his mouth due to the 'slight turbulence.'


And just as if someone reached out with giant hands to pick up the bouncing ball? It stopped.


I was the only one screaming.


I was also the only one embarrassed about it.


I didn't notice anything different until the woman in the seat across from me handed me back my notebook. Her hands. Her hands were different. A quick glance upward revealed to me that so was she. She glowed. She had the most amazing blue eyes and pointed ears. It's the pointed ears that caught me. She saw me slack-jawed and staring. She only gave me what I'd call a knowing smile and then went about gathering her luggage from over head.


Then there was this guy that squeezed by the rows of seats to leave...Must have been eight feet tall. He was hunkered over himself and bright green as grass with two huge tusks...And then this other guy, who had a tail that lashed about annoyed behind him..And then the woman who kept hiccuping and changing color every time...And god, this kid blinked at me and his eyes changed from normal to slit pupils like a cat...


It's crazy. This is crazy.


Toot, toot. Welcome to crazy town.




*Crazy lyrics, Seal
 

A Flawed Verse

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JULY 27th, 2010 1:04 AM RST, @ THE RED DRAGON INN


Men.

One day they hold you in the
Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you
Were the last raw egg in the world. Then
They tighten up. Just a little. The
First squeeze is nice. A quick hug.
Soft into your defenselessness. A little
More. The hurt begins. Wrench out a
Smile that slides around the fear. When the
Air disappears,
Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,
Like the head of a kitchen match. Shattered.
It is your juice
That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes.
When the earth rights itself again,
And taste tries to return to the tongue,
Your body has slammed shut. Forever.
No keys exist.**


You would think after all these years of writing I'd be able to come up with a handful of words to describe this place. Something poetic and bright, maybe, things that fall off the tongue and trip around in your heart for a couple of days after. But I never did get anything published and I don't think this place is made for that kind of poetry. Maybe not yet.


I found the inn I was supposed to have a room booked at because all the lamp lights in the cobblestone road seemed to gather together to glimmer especially pretty on its sign. If I didn't know any better I'd ramble on about magic or fairy dust in my eye. But I'm almost thirty and I wear glasses.


I passed by two carts pulled by horses--yes, horses--one was filled with sweet smelling hay and the other stocked full of right-out-of-the-past oaken barrels, kept together only by pressure and blackened iron bands. I spent a few moments studying some of the clothing of the people walking by. The women...the women here make Hollywood look ugly.


When I opened the front door after crossing the porch, there are also no words to describe what it's like stepping inside. I can compare it to many things, I guess. A tsunami of light, sound and smell. A texture overload--lamp light, candles and torches. Doors and old wood that has been here for so long some of it's graying. A hearth that eats up a vast room cluttered with cozy tables and intimate couches; wingbacks. I could say that I am certain I stepped into time. Not back into it, not forward--but time itself. There were so many people that where there, all different kinds and types. A woman with a tail. A man with a sword. A girl with a laptop. I was...I am in the middle of something I have no words for.


I could feel myself crumpling inward, crushed pages of a book.


I made it to the bar. I thought it was an accomplishment at the very least, and there was a woman with snow-blond hair that introduced herself and what seems like fifty of her friends.


Maranya. I don't...Vex something...I don't remember them all. Strange faces on the other side of my lenses. But she told me about this sign in book and that I could just put my name on a page and take a key. Then have a room...


How does this place make money?


I was--I was standing there looking like an idiot. I know, because you can feel it. Your brain goes blank and you feel your eyes go a little wide, you roll them back and forth but you feel glued to the spot. If you move, you'll call more attention to yourself. If you stay, the same. So you're stuck. Feet glued to the floor.


That's when a man with fire-eyes (no, really, that's not me trying to prose myself into a circle. His eyes literally were...I just..) came to my side.


There are men in this world that are pretty to look at. They draw attention. They are clean cut and wide shouldered, dress fancy and spend more time on their hair than I do.


Then there were men like him. Quiet, sharp-eyed. They didn't care about a room or pay any mind to those looking at them until they found something worthy of their attention. When they do, they grow the teeth of a shark and the claws of an eagle--they bite onto what they want, don't let go. They grab the morsel in their little claws and hold on tight while they carry them away. The world does not matter to them; only what they want at that moment.


These are the men that stood behind the kings and queens, silently eating up continents with just their minds, while others did the dirty work for them.


Maybe. That's what I think anyway. I am probably getting ahead of myself.


He is everything I have always been afraid of. Silver and fire. He loomed.


He is trying to sink his teeth in already; there's a flickering in his shadow. I am not sure which bothers me more.








**Poem © Men, by Maya Angelou
 
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