Monday, December 1, 2008


This probably isn't the way I should be thinking about my patients. But I haven't been able to sleep lately, and Animal Planet is the only channel that isn't trying to sell me a food processor at 3 in the morning. I've been watching humpbacks swallow Inuit canoes whole, the Alpine crest of a sperm whale crucified on a mariner's spear. I've seen Algonquin grandsons behead an orca twelve miles off on an Oregon beach, and I have gone to sleep stunned, the blue glow of the cathode sea still watermarked on my skin.

Stitching side wounds or stirring urine samples, I think back on it. Who the hell could blame me: who doesn't look out, now and then, on the solid knot of the field beyond his window and grit his teeth at the nothing that stirs beneath its surface? Feeling for the seed of a tumor, I'm yearning for some Nantucket harpoon head snared beneath the flesh, any evidence of the universe in any of us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


You're dead now, Mary, so I probably don't even have to apologize. But I feel like I should say that I'm sorry for that week before your kids got around to cleaning out your house, that week where, you know, I lived in it. I'm sorry that I had to break in your bedroom window, and I'm sorry that your asshole oldest, Tad, thought that someone had cat burgled his precious inheritance. You really didn't have much to cat burgle, Mary, but I wouldn't have anyway. There wasn't any point.

I tried it all on before I left, anyways: put a new arm into every empty linen sleeve, placed a new and beating heart beneath every piece of pendant costume jewelry you left to tangle in one nigh-on Gordian knot. There was a whole, self-multiplying universe of shoelaces you forgot in a corner of your closet; your kids won't notice that I've laced them through each abandoned eyelet, won't wonder if you didn't swell out of each pair years ago and why they might be warm.

I spent a whole day in your pool. It was February, sure, but I was convinced that every grain of water had once had a home in one of your pores, and I wanted them in mine, too. I don't want you to think that I loved you; I spent entire nights awake in your bed, but not to lure your ghost in with me. It's just that I can feel you in this house that was your envelope, your sarcophagus, your lonely pocket of air under the avalanche. You died, and you left it behind like the husk of an exhausted boa. You would not mind that I took it up--and I am so comfortable in it, your skin.

Art by James Jean.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


When I said I wanted a clone army, I really thought they'd all look just like me, except maybe a little thinner and outfitted in hundreds of matching Carmen Sandiego trench coats and heels. Looking back on it, I shouldn't have chosen the one geneticist that seemed a little sentimental, and I should have been suspicious when he asked for baby pictures and locks of hair and exhaustive lists of my hopes and dreams. I assumed that there was some kind of voodoo to genetics. I should have known. 

I mean, my clone army, they're all right. The six year old clone-me wakes me up in the morning and I'm getting fucking awesome at mickey mouse pancakes by now. Fourteen year old clone-me is a little bitch, but if I buy her cigarettes or listen to her talk about the Cure for a while, she usually settles. My eighty year old clone is this docile, fragile bird-person who only wants to sit by the window and mumble about Hegel, so she kind of takes care of herself. We have a big house, and I get a tax break for all the dependents. The 30-40 year olds all have mid-level management jobs, so that's a nice kick-back, and I'm pretty sure the 40-50 year olds will get over their mid-life crises and come back with my hybrid any day now. We have great game nights. I'm not unhappy.

But I can't say it's not a let down. They will never help me storm Serbia or tackle my  childhood enemies at the sound of a dog whistle. We are all goddamn altos, so we will never be able to sing Beach Boys covers and travel the world. To be honest, most of them don't even like me much. On our 22nd birthday, my only legit clone traded all our presents for cash and got reconstructive surgery, a new wardrobe and a $500 dye job. We call her Ingrid now. We argue about who forgot to take the trash out, but otherwise, we have nothing to say to each other. 

Painting by Paul Insect.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The only merit badge I earned before I got kicked out of the girl scouts was the "senses" badge. As if we deserved a prize for being cuter than those little scouts without functioning noses or ears or eyes, for being able to tell which part of our tongues tasted the bitter in balsamic vinaigrette or which quarter had been stuck in the freezer or under the hot tap before we touched it. I could not tie my bunny ears or invert a teddy bear's skin to push in the stuffing, but I was, without a doubt, a card-carrying sentient being. 

So I took it seriously. I put my ear to the floorboards of the science room to hear the rattle of electrons inside their respective atoms, and I squinted, hard, into the off-blue center of the sun to feel that instant of fire before I glanced away, overcome by that moment when sight and touch fuse. And I remembered everything, years after I turned in my cookie sale sheets empty (sub-atomic sensation takes up your time). When I die, I will taste the blood in my mouth and thrill at the widening light over my retinas; when we kiss, I will hear your wisdom teeth descending into the velvet dark of your mouth; and I will smell it, that after-rain tinge that stains every molecule of air, after you've gone, or I've forgotten you.

Photo by Dorthe Alstrup.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I've always stayed a certain distance away from death. Literally, it's been measurable; a scar three centimeters above my retina where the corner of a coffee table would have blinded or likely lobotomized me, six inches of asphalt and broken glass between my bicycle and the hood of a BMW hell-bent on the highway on ramp. I have been millimeters from ugliness and countless hypothetical paralyses, from exploding pyrex on a reddening stove coil and dodgeballs directly to the skull. 

So when I say I know how far away you are, I'm not just measuring those obvious, map-green miles now. I'm thinking handspans across my bed in a pathetic, year-old memory, of steps across a room whose air you took with you when you left. I'm plotting the minefield that might just be everything you say or touch or send me, and I'm waiting for the shrapnel flash,  or else an explosion of woefully avoided light. 

drawing by Mercedes Heinwein

[ps. sorry I have been so absent! working on longer things and helping little kids write their own things sorta took up all my energy for baby fictions. But I am back! Please forgive me!]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Exquisite Corpse

You don't know that you're in love with me until after the operation. Even then, it takes a while: coming around from the anesthesia, you alternate between calling me a gorilla-woman and a whore, but I know you don't mean it. It isn't until after that scallop-pink skin starts to stretch back over the wound and my kidney starts to settle into your guts that you start to realize it. 

So I ask you to do me a favor. You don't know that I'm holding the knife, but when I hear you say Anything, when I see the way you look at that severed finger, then at me, than back at that finger, I can tell you understand. 

It's your idea to bribe the doctor. It's your idea to trade all of our fingerprints next, then entire hands, until people double-take when they see the mismatched stalks of us growing from our shirt sleeves. By the end of the year, we're brushing each other's teeth in the bathroom mirror, glancing one another's eyelashes over our still-respective cheeks, touching one another in the dark and in the day and always, always. By the time we switch tongues, we don't care that we'll never taste again, that our mouths will probably never root these foreign muscles down and we'll never get to say each other's names. That first kiss is too exquisite to pronounce anyways. We'll carry notebooks or get Stephen Hawking machines, learn how Mimes say I love you.

Photo by Roman Singer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rabbit Holes

The thing is, when I miss you, the walls bend. I'd say it's an acid flashback, and I'd probably be right--at least, you're stirring the same soupy, primordial part of me, dislodging the same sentences from billboards and broadcasting the same shadow behind everything. It's not constant, and it's not even really all that bad. I've had some good times that way, willing the stucco on the ceiling to grow a hundred humming faces, hallucinating your dumb accent over the subway announcer's neutral vowels. But there is a time and a place for this shit. There are three particular songs, and the cold side of the bed, but otherwise, I'm sealing up the rabbit holes, giving up this seventh-grade style recreational longing: drinking, yes, and probably a lot. 

Jeff Koons made a giant puppy out of flowers and I think that is okay.