Oh! Sheena

Saturday, July 3, 2010


(disclaimer: I don't often write poetry, but the mood was right.)

Spiked with critics, mine
Is the throat you wish for.
When I scream, you’ll pray
For the power to speak.

Sweat, sweet sweat
Dripping victory on the mat: mine.
it’s simple
To ask for my hand

Instead you’re stupid
Among more tasteless ways I
Could describe you best.

My bad breath beating you
Teaching you
You deserve

Wet with remorse. Yours.
All yours. Mine
is the throat you’ll wish for
When you’re screaming for me
To stop.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My City: An Experiment in Diary Entries

January 30, 2011
The hipsters are destroying my city.
My brother called me last week to tell me he spotted one downtown, cursing against a blank canvas, smoking a non-filtered cigarette.
Apparently they're ruining his city, too.
We've waged a silent war against them.
But it rains a lot in Portland, so that could account for the fact that they're troubled. Here in Silverlake they have no plausable excuse.
Girls with unique taste in earthy gear populate my city streets and swarm through back alleys and the suicide rates soar, just as their numbers increase. Ironic.
Ultra femme self-proclaimed artistic and musician boys do the same.
I'm at a loss for words.
I put my worries on paper, hoping that some of my writing will alleviate the worry that consumes me.

February 16, 2011
Their ultra liberal views of the world are verging on insanity. This I can see, while I have trouble defining the truths in my own life.
We were raised republican, my brother and I, so I say nothing to him about my silent expedition to the Planned Parenthood in Van Nuys and my second trimester abortion. The thing was so last minute.
I'm confused about who I should elect next term.
We just fume about the lack of jobs available on the market. The hipsters are baristas who serve poison to people like us who see the world for what it is: a tragedy.
Dear City,
You’ve created a perfect environment for these lowlifes at age 22. But what happens when they're 35 and trying to raise a family? A barista salary just won't cut it.
Maybe their music will help them to forget the hard times.
Truth is, I'm worried about what this world will look like when I'm aging.

February 27, 2011
I fear my words have turned to art. I'm not an artist, just a realist.
The hipster next door left macaroons on my doorstep this morning. She knows I haven't left my apartment in a week and a half.
She's worried.
I wish I could voice my concern for her too. Only I wouldn't do it with cookies. I'd tell her to look at what her world has become. Try painting your misery with your oil pastels and then you’ll really be at a loss.
I drew myself a bath.

February 28, 2011
I cradle the phone between my right shoulder and my right cheek as I make small incisions on my toes with a Swiss army knife.
I grimace at the pain but do not let my brother hear it through my voice.
He tells me of recent sightings and I reply with an appropriate “Unh huh” at appropriate intervals. I concentrate more on my feet than I do on his words.
The blood from my toes swirls into the warm bathwater and I watch as the two liquids vanish into each other. It becomes hard to tell t

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bodies (An experiment with metamorphosis)

I have that curious dream again… the one where the ground breaks away beneath me. Only this time it happens: grappling with the crumbling pavement, I try desperately not to, but I fall. I keep falling. It is not so much the dream that has me in a panic come morning; it’s the fact that as the sunlight hits my eyes to wake me, I am dead.

I reach for my lover who, beside me, still sleeps with that beating heart of his. He does not wake to greet me. Rather, as I touch my hand to his chest he is chilled, pulls the blanket up past his neck, and turns toward my window, as if to seek warmth from the early morning autumn glow.

Let me back up. I’ve been dying for quite some time. It’s something I have sought to evade for years. Only this morning it seems I cannot continue to worm away from fate; the truth stares me right in my face. I pull myself up from my bed—my casket—and I slink to the mirror. My skin sags like a disgusting mutation before me. A frantic awareness of my death-state has me locked in terror as I grab my utensils: a hairbrush, some rouge, mascara, anything to hide this condition of mine. My efforts yield nothing; I am beyond dead. I am decayed.

I am meticulous in my actions, for I have decided it best not to wake my love. I would enjoy throwing my utensils at the mirror in frustration as each one betrays me, but I do not. The hairbrush rips my hair from my skull, and I am left bald, with a giant fissure that will expose the veracity of my situation the moment I am seen. I smear in the rouge and my skin peels away. Panicked, I continue to rub until all that is left of my cheek is the bone, although I do not bleed; dead folks tend not to.

I hear my lover stir. This ghastly shell of mine is sure to frighten him so I try my best not to hover. I lower myself to his level and I sit at the foot of the bed. I brace myself for his reaction.

He blinks morning from his eyes, and stretches his feet. They poke out from the blanket. The stretch of his arms follows.

Delay. I can’t handle this. Should I just run?
He reaches for my lifeless limb. The arm. He hasn’t noticed yet. He looks at me with what seems like reverence and I am without words. We sit in silence for one minute… two… he reaches up to touch my hairless head.

“Gah!” I exclaim, quickly jerking it away.

“What’s wrong with you? Get back in bed.”

I pause at his mindless words, his lack of acknowledgement before I surrender.

He still hasn’t noticed. How could he not?

Silent, still, I allow him to pull me back under the blankets and he croaks softly in my ear.

“I don’t care,” he says, “go back to sleep.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Clean (an experiment in Erasure)

I’ll try not to bore you… weigh you down with details. I’ll ground you in something tangible. Something to make you consider me human again. Trust me. I’ll admit a few things.

I was probably a little too harsh with the boy.

I hung him up long ago… like an old coat. I hung him up in pieces so I wouldn’t have to deal with him. He was always my boy. I’d never deny him the title. But it ended there. Like I said, I hung him up. Sent him off, day after day. But just like his father, he always came back. He looked just like Ron, you see. That horrible sideways grin that always seemed to catch me at just the wrong moment. When I was face down in a recipe that I never could get quite right, or when the washing machine broke. Or perhaps I was wiping away the fingerprints from the glass counter tops. I never wanted that counter top. Marble, I knew, was much more suitable for a filthy family, such as our own. Hell, brass might have even worked better. But glass? That glass always reminded me of Ron’s hands, how greasy they’d be just before he’d try to touch me. Maybe it’s for the best that he’s gone.

But he knew better than to look at me like that during chore hour, that boy of mine. It was his fault, really. It seemed he knew what he was doing with that sideways grin and those pale blue eyes, with that damn red freckle he got from that Ron. His fault… I couldn’t help myself. If you had sat me down anytime before this all happened and explained this course of events, well, it would be you who was getting charged with crazy. I hadn’t expected this.

I was cleaning when I saw the stain. I was vaguely compelled to keep scrubbing. He came home with that stain on his cheek. I didn’t raise him to shame me like that. Maybe it was more like a smear, a disgusting red smear that screamed to threaten my dignity to the entire neighborhood. I couldn’t let him shame me like that. No, not today. My house was too clean.

I scrubbed. Just like Ron always had me do. I scrubbed that child, that stain on the cheek of that child. A red smear, that disgusting red stain. I sought to remove that insidious stain and I scrubbed ‘till the red from his cheek was replaced by a smear of red blood. Clean. My boy was not in danger…

So perhaps you misjudged me. I was only doing my job, you see. It was he who needed help. Trust me.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

In the Ring (An Experiment in Surrealism)

My ambivalence seemed to shock the crowd more than the spectacle itself. We stood in the ring as the audience gaped. More out of a need for attention than anything else, she continued to rip the flesh from her body. She tore it away as a child would tear off a blanket in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, at the arrival of some nightmare. Nevertheless, as she peeled the layers, I remained poised. It was, after all, my duty to stage the intervention. She needed to be stopped. Her body was plump, that’s all I’ll say about that. She lay flat on her back and the tissue beneath her skin showed more prominence with each layer she peeled away. Disgusting figure, she was. Even in her skin she was ugly. But without it she was something of an abomination to ugliness. The word did nothing to describe her.
The spectators’ fixation on my stoicism threatened the young, plump maiden, for now in her frustration she had reached her final layer of skin and was tearing away at the muscles. Desperately she tugged away at her flesh. And I, with one hand on my chin, the other on my elbow, considered how I would abolish whatever woe this woman’s skin had caused her. But she seemed more frantic with each passing moment.
I crouched beside her and stroked her bloody throbbing belly. The crowd could not be silenced.
“You’re frightening her!” I howled.
The crowd was a hush. And just as I had calmed them, this pulsating pulp of a woman disappeared. My fingers closed around the air where at once I had her in my grasp. It took me a second to collect myself; the intervention had been underway. I was preparing to give my most moving and convincing speech yet, and she vanished before I could deliver it. What a pity. What a curious disappearance, no goodbye. Never in all my years had I witnessed such a thing. I wiped my bloody hands on the ground before I rose. I could not let the audience witness my shock. I sought to regain my composure as best I could and I stood to face them.
The audience had transformed into a mirror. I blinked at the horror of it all and walked closer to this mirror wall. I pushed my hands against it just to be sure I hadn’t made some tragic mistake. No. I was right. I crept a little closer and nearly fainted at the shock. There I stood, staring at myself in the mirror.
What happened to my skin? It was gone. And there in the ring I stood, grotesquely disfigured, and without my flesh, without my audience.

A Love Story

Dear Clay,
Well… you did it. Just like you said you would. I hope you know that things will never work for you. You are, and always have been, a loser. I hope you enjoy Santa Barbara, you dick. As for us… well, you’re dead to me. Don’t plan on contacting me when you come home. I hate you. And that is a fact.
Love, Tara

Before I sealed the envelope I stuck the corner of it to my mouth and spat into it- hot, brown, sticky spit that I pulled from the back of my throat with my tongue. I smirked as I stuck the envelope in the mailbox and paused before I trudged back up the six flights of stairs to my apartment. I’d get along without him just fine.
The elevator in my building was still broken despite my desperate attempts to bully the management into fixing it. I figured that of all the major malfunctioning appliances in the complex, a broken elevator was the worst. Since stairs require an output of human energy, and can be quite the liability for people like me, who enjoy booze, the elevator was, to say the least, necessary. But the letter needed to be mailed. He needed to know that his decision was selfish and untimely. So I braved the stairwell. And returned unscathed, I might add.
Despite my current condition, I remember vividly the morning that Clay told me he was leaving.

I was sitting cross-legged and picking away at a piece of the armrest of my faux leather couch until it fell off in my fingers. I watched as it fell from my hand to the ground. I glanced at the clock next to my front door, the one with the cracked face that hung lopsided from my smoke-stained yellow walls.
9:15. He’s late.
Perhaps I demanded too much from my poor friend. Temporal awareness was not a quality that I possessed, so I was unsure why I always demanded it from my male counterpart. Nevertheless, I hated waiting around for people, for anyone.
Just then he walked through the door without knocking. Clay never knocked. I never admonished him for that. He was the only person I enjoyed seeing on a regular basis, so why would I make him knock? His entrance startled me even though I knew he was coming.
I sat upright on the couch and smiled at him. It was an awkward smile, unnatural and forced. The kind of smile that, from the pasty grit in my mouth, caused my upper lip to stick awkwardly to my gums.
My awkwardness had nothing to do with Clay. In fact, that smile was genuine. But keeping secrets and trying to hide my behavior always made me clumsier. For some reason, although he and I shared the same bad habits, Clay often told me that I took it too far. For that reason, there were nights when I didn’t answer his phone calls. I didn’t want to hear it from him. I’d tell him I was sleeping, when really I was sneaking in that extra few hours of partying. I use the term ‘partying’ when what I really mean is sitting by myself on my couch and picking at things… most certainly my skin, and writing nonsense in a composition book that I always swore one day, I’d burn. I was almost certain that he knew. He had to. That Clay, he was smart.
I took a sip from my bottle of wine and tried to wipe the awkward look from my face; Clay hated it when I stayed up all night by myself getting loaded. Maybe he couldn’t tell.
“Your mom came by looking for you last night. I said you were at work,” I told Clay as he greeted me with a kiss on my forehead, grabbed the wine bottle from my hand, poured himself a glass, and sat on the ledge by the window. I laughed because it was a joke of ours, since neither of us worked, yet both of us pretended to, it was our alibi when we needed to avoid people we hated seeing… parents, ex-significant others, and the like.
I took careful note of his silence following my statement.
I could feel him staring at me. Something was amiss, that I could tell.
“What?” I demanded.
I looked back at him and right into those disarming blue eyes, so asymmetrical, so familiar, such a constant reminder that with him I was safe, and thus, in life, I would be okay. His left eye drooped slightly lower than his right. Each time I looked at him I was reminded that my perfect friend was imperfect in so many ways. That helped me to keep him off the pedestal upon which I normally kept the men in my life. Superficial? Maybe. But that was perhaps what kept our relationship equal, slightly normal, and sometimes sane for so many years.
Clay and I met when we were in elementary school. We didn’t really become friends until middle school. I used to think it was because that was when his male hormones kicked in, hence, his noticing me. But we fucked once when I was seventeen and it was the most awkward experience of my life. It was then that I ruled sex out as a reason for our friendship and I began to regard Clay as someone I could truly trust. He held me at the hospital when I had my daughter and sat with me in court when she was taken away. He, unlike many others, never accused me of not loving my daughter. In fact, it was Clay who always assured me that letting her go was the right thing to do; I was, in no sense of the phrase, capable of raising a child… it was better that way.
“I know she did. I stayed the night at her house last night,” Clay responded cautiously, his eyes watching mine as he said the words.
“Okay… weird. Why?”
He paused. That pause! Again. That pause that filled the already smoky room with tension so thick I could gag. That pause that was so atypical Clay, I braced myself for a shock.
“I had her pick me up from the bar. I was doing a lot of thinking…” Clay’s words took me by surprise, since he and his mother had a relationship similar to that of my mother and me. He also hated leaving his car anywhere, so regardless of his condition, I could always count on him driving, anywhere.
I waited for him to say more; I could sense that he was not finished talking.
“Tare, I need to talk to you about something,” his sympathetic tone matched the look in his eyes. His eyebrows were raised, making his big eyes even bigger and creasing his forehead. Clay never talked to me this way. It was jokes and laughter and denial of the pain we were both in at all times. We always avoided real issues and neither of us ever kept secrets, so hearing these words, in that tone, made me realize that the conversation we were about to have would be deep. And I wasn’t quite sure I was ready. But it was coming.
He sat beside the window, smoking. As I continued to stare at him in anticipation of his next words, he looked away. He stared out at the skyline for a moment as the smoke from his cigarette swirled out into the open air.
“Talk,” I made it sound like a question, when really, it was a challenge.
He said nothing for a few seconds, and as I watched him search for the words they began to form at his lips.
“I’m going back to New House, Tare, I can’t live in this city anymore, I just can’t.” He finally spat out the words. “Things have to change. I called yesterday, and the guy on the phone said that there would be a bed for me by the end of the week. I knew I’d try to get out of it, or would change my mind if I didn’t tell someone, so I told my mom. She’s going to drive me there on Monday.”
I could feel the blood rush from my face. I kept my eyes locked tightly to his as I tried to make sense of his words. My pulse began to race and I said the word over and over in my head.
Clay had gotten sober, once before. It was a few years ago, and in lieu of jail. He went to rehab, and I didn’t think of it as a bad thing then because rehab beats jail any day. Who could blame him? His stint there lasted all of two weeks, but when he came back, things had changed. He returned with some lingering notion in his head that told him our behavior was wrong. He still drank every day, but he stopped smoking dope, for the most part. Every now and again he would engage, but only in those moments when the alcohol had him fully disarmed, and only with me, I’m sure. Only this time was different; he was choosing to go.
“I talked to your mom too,” his words sent a chill down my spine, and through my entire body. My mother and I didn’t talk; she wanted nothing to do with me. She had kicked me out of the house when I turned 22 because I couldn’t be around my daughter. I had a court order not to see her. And my mom didn’t bend on the issue a bit. She said I stressed her out too much. I felt myself grow increasingly tense. Clay continued.
“She agreed to pay your rent so you can keep your apartment if you go too. You can come with me and everything will still be here when you get better.”
“Better? What’s that supposed to mean, better?” I mocked him, “Better from what? What are you implying? I don’t need to get better. I’m fine.”
My words rattled with an indignation that took even me by surprise. I rarely got angry with Clay, so it was an unfamiliar emotion. But I did not waver; I went with anger.
“Better, Tare,” Clay’s eyes bore into mine, more deeply, now. He was up from his perch by the window and sitting next to me on the couch now. “You’re not fine, have you looked in the mirror lately?” He reached for my hand and held it in his for a split second before I quickly pulled it away. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for the longest time, but I haven’t been able to work up the initiative. Your skin, It’s gray… you’re a beautiful girl, Tara, but you look like shit, really. It’s not cute anymore; don’t you see what we’re doing here? You can’t really think that living like this is going to work forever.” His voice was softer, almost a whisper.
I looked around my apartment. I saw nothing wrong with the smoke stains, the empty bottles, the broken furniture, the vomit stains on the carpet, or my anorexic cat, who seemed to like the smell of chemicals. Or maybe I did, who knows? But it was comfortable and familiar. And it was all I knew of a home.
“Better,” I mocked again, only this time I muttered it to myself.
“It only lasts so long. One or both of us will die if we keep living this way. I don’t want that to happen. I’m scared, but whatever. If it doesn’t work, we come back. Easy as that. This will all still be here when we get back,” Clay was almost pleading with me now.
I sat quietly for a moment and let the silence creep between us. What I was clinging to, I did not know. How dare he, on a whim, make this arbitrary decision and then somehow act like it’s my job to conform to it? No.
“You know what? No… if you want to go, that’s fine. Then leave. But don’t you dare come in here and try to act like you’re doing me some big favor by telling me how fucked up you think I am. Make your own decisions, let me make mine.”
I slammed the bottle of wine I was holding on the glass coffee table, causing it to crack. That made me even angrier… at Clay. I stood up, too quickly it seemed, because as I turned to stand over Clay, who was still sitting down, still saying nothing, I grew dizzy and had to sturdy myself on the back of the couch. I took a deep breath and remained standing. I looked down at Clay, crouched slightly and began to raise my voice.
“All of a sudden you’ve become the sober police, and somehow an authority on how I get to live my life? You sleep here on a regular basis. You’re like, my best friend. And now suddenly you’re above it? Fuck you.”
Clay said nothing. He seemed prepared for my response; somehow he knew how I would react.
“You know what? Get the fuck out of my apartment; I don’t want to look at you anymore. You’re an idiot. How dare you come here, act like my friend, and then basically tell me I’m a loser?”
I grabbed the wine glass he was holding, and was careful this time when I set it on the coffee table. I stood next to it, hands on my hips and stared at him until he finally got up.
And as he walked to the door I followed behind him, stomping at his heels with each step he took. He paused as he opened the door and looked at me; he almost looked innocent. I glared back with bitter contempt.
“Just go!” my voice pierced through the air and cracked on the “o” and it probably hurt me to say it just as much as it hurt him to hear it. I held back tears. Perhaps I was sad to lose my best friend, but what hurt me more was the fact that it seemed my best friend had just turned on me. He started to walk slowly down the hall; he knew best not to try and argue with me. I stepped backward into my apartment, and then my growing resentment compelled me to call after him.
“Don’t forget that you’re an asshole!” I screamed as I poked my head back out into the hallway.
Clay just turned and looked at me as if to say he was sorry. He paused and stared back at me for a second that lasted much too long, and in that instant, I felt what was left of my capacity for emotion creep away. Betrayal, not sadness, was the only word that came to my mind as I watched him turn from me. The urge to beg him back faded and that insidious need to be on my own took over. And if I would have known that that was the last time I would see him alive, I would definitely have left him with something more profound. Instead I just let him leave.
I turned back inside, slammed the door and bolted it behind me. I picked up the wine. I drank.
I woke up sometime later that afternoon curled around the toilet on the bathroom floor. I was scratching the paint from the walls. The orange square of sunlight that hit the shower curtain just about blinded me. When I lifted my head, it spun around me, so I set my head back down on the cool tile.
As a desperate gesture, my parents showed up in the evening, my three-year-old daughter in tow, to remind me of the deal they had made with Clay. I wanted nothing to do with it. When they left, I didn’t slam the door on them as I had done with Clay. I remember the look on my daughter’s face. She didn’t know me. I didn’t want her to. She clasped her hands behind my mother’s neck and buried her face away from mine. Good. It hurt to look at her. And as they walked away I wanted to run to them and drop to my father’s knees and beg him not to go. I wanted him to hold me like he did when I was little and have him call me his little girl again. For obvious reasons, that urge went unfulfilled. I closed the door softly behind them and dropped to my knees. Alone. I started to sob, alone.

I didn’t think twice about sending that letter. Clay betrayed me, it seemed. When at once we were martyrs together, living dangerously for the cause and “living in the moment” (as we liked to say), he left me alone here. What was I to do without my companion? He knew that he was the only person in the world that I could trust and just like that he wanted to take that from me? No forgiveness. I wasn’t looking back. I hated him.
I picked the foil out from the drawer in my kitchen and morosely walked over to my couch. I lit the fire beneath the foil; it was the only thing in my world that seemed to make sense any more. Drawing a huge breath, I sucked it in. I held it. I blew it out.
You’re safe.
I recited the mantra in my head until the words no longer made sense.
You’re safe.
I tilted my head back and let the taste of burnt coffee and metal sting the back of my throat. I kept my eyes closed for a moment as I let the weight of Clay’s decision sink in, hoping it would slowly start to lift. I found that place between ecstasy and oblivion and I hung my head there. I said the words again.
You’re safe.
I vomited into the basin that I kept behind the couch and tucked it neatly away again. My skin stopped crawling and I finally began to feel like myself. The weight lifted… finally. No more yellow walls, the room went black.
I hadn’t always been that person, you see. In fact, a part of me once had dreams. My only dreams had dissipated and I had become too numb to even have nightmares. All I had were secrets. Secrets and lies. Sometimes I would counter them aloud, in hopes that if someone believed my words, someday I would too. But nobody believed me. There was something about the term addict that resonated, but didn’t rest well with me. Addicts need… whatever they need. I needed nothing, no one. I was fine, you see. I was safe.

Dear Tara,
Well… you did it. I didn’t really think that you would. I’ve been clean and sober for 90 days now and I wish you were here to share this joy with me. You will forever hold a place in my heart. And for you I will live my life a sober man. I love you more than you’ll ever know. I miss you.
Love, Clay

And as I watch him place the letter, tears in his eyes, next to the modest flower arrangement on my modest grave I realize that he was right. They all were. And isn’t that just like me to refuse the lessons in life that people always say death will teach eventually?

Plein Air (An Experiment in Projected Perspective)

You told her you liked Padero at sunrise, so when she came at 6:27 AM with coffee, it came as no surprise to you. You held her in your gaze for a moment before you looked away and told her to be silent, for the sun only rose one time each day; you did not want to miss it.

“You create things… with your hands,” she mused from over your shoulder.

You continued to paint.

“Too bad you always kill them with your words.”


She touched your shoulder and you shrugged her away. This moment, these moments, you’d made a promise never to share with anyone else.

As the sun crept closer to the midday sky, you turned on the footstool to face her. There she sat, wide-eyed and perfect, and you almost looked away again. The sun had transformed her and in that moment, you forgot who was standing in front of you. You took her behind the canyon and made love to her the way you did when you were younger.

When the sun sank behind the mountains, the shadows cast the girl in unfortunate light. You took her home and fucked her and as you lay in bed staring up at the ceiling she asked you, “Why don’t you want to paint me?”

You sucked on your cigarette and considered the question.


She stroked your hair as you fell asleep, and as you drifted away you dreamt about her. The canyons were empty, the beaches were vast and with just the two of you there, you decided you could paint just about anything. So you did. And then you painted the shadows that replaced her.

The intruder woke you up.

“Baby it’s time to get ready.”


She kissed you on your forehead and as you turned to sit up, your skull bumped into her mouth, and her teeth cut into her lips. She put her hand against her mouth and turned away, bleeding.

You stared at her in silence then headed to the beach. You had missed the sunrise anyway, so you decided to pick a different beach. This time she didn’t come. This time you waited until sunset. And then you started to paint.

You told her you had a problem with commitment, so when she left, it came as no surprise to you. And as you saw her stolen away, you picked another girl. And when she chased you to the beach, you only pictured her.