1. the value of ouch

    In spite of what Madonna might say and regardless of your canines, you will not find me, for quite some time, on my knees. There will be nothing like a prayer, nothing doggie-style indeed until there has been sufficient time for healing. Last night I fell harder than ever before at the skating rink.

    After my thirty-seven minute sprint to ecstasy in the morning session, I got greedy. Had to go back for the evening. Had to see my peeps. I even had a cautious second beginning. Got there with plenty of time, did some serious stretching. I must have been concentrating because one of the staff said, playfully as I rolled onto the floor, “Smile, Jill!” 

    I made exactly three rings around the rink and at the very beginning of my fourth circuit, BAM! There was no collision, no little kid to blame, no debris on the floor, no nothing in the way of an excuse. I can’t even really tell you what happened down there with my feet. I only know I came down with the full weight of myself and my whole world on my left knee. 

    I did not laugh. I accepted help up. I was speechless. I couldn’t even swear at first. None of that has ever happened before. A few minutes later, I cried. THAT has for sure never happened before. It hurt! I was indignant and astonished and most offended by how much it hurt!

    But it still worked fine. It didn’t hurt any worse when I kept skating compared to when I quit. So I just kept going. Then I went grocery shopping. Just in case I couldn’t walk today. 

    But I think I’m fine. I mean, it hurts but I kind of like it. I’m a little bit proud. Not that I cried but because I kept going. Because I don’t want to be injured even when it hurts. Because life is unendurable and yet we all keep enduring. I have a reminder for a few days. One that precludes me even thinking of getting on my knees. For this one, I’ll pray my thanks standing up. Good world, good life. 

     

  2. Not the deceptive or the tragic. Not the dead man’s, then, but the live one. It is impossible to float without relaxing. Back arched, chestful, head flung, face up, limbs splayed. Trust in the water, give your life to the world. Peace spring and opening. Bring yourself to the offering and trade. Trade in and trade up and all around. Share of and in. Arch and lean farther. Let go and watch it all slide off. Water pouring over the mountain of the baby’s head to the ocean of baths below. Fountains, luminous, fountains is all we are. Sparkling in the sun and aglow at bedtime full of love. Sinking just a little, all but the lips and nose. Eyelid lakes and hearts pumping underwater drums. Bobbing low until morning when again and again and again, we float. 

    There is no sinking in. We have saturated it, are saturated with it. Liquid wet we are the splashes resting in it before and again after, between breaking free. Catching glimpses of ourselves reflected against from when and where we came and always do go back, again. Pool, splash and ripple, no flinching, no drain. 

     

  3. high

    She was more than just a dirty hippie. Proof came in the form of the fact that thirty-seven perfect aerobic minutes of cardio was always on her top three list of favorite ways to intoxicate herself.

    Mornings the rink was peaceful. They called it fitness skate which amounted to four grandmas, two mothers, and five children in the latent elementary stage of development. All of those were Caucasian. There was also a more than six and half foot tall Native American man so skinny his existence seemed questionable and a teenage girl babysitter who was Asian. They played oldies and kept the sound system volume set at 3.7, quiet.

    She liked this best of all. You could hear the skates on the floor. They were the loudest sound available and they dominated the building. Rolling rhythm, continuous beat, bumpy swooshing. Jet engine water spigot hum. Variation like up and down foothills, roiling, rolling, literally. As if the circles they skated made the floor breathe in and sigh out. As if their movement displaced the air and filled it with something living. Something not them but generated by the combination of the skaters’ energy and their wheels. 

    A noisy river of chocolate thick experience. She had no trouble falling into it. A sprint through static rain from foul mood to fair. It was a noise not exactly white but to her it sounded clear. She worshiped its presence in her life and heeded its message like a holy oracle. Perhaps she was a flowery child at heart but her lungs were strong, her body was all muscle and natural endorphins are legal, after all. 

     

  4. low growls from several directions

    I’ve ridden some. Haven’t driven since I was ten and then it was a motor bike in an alfalfa field and the electric cow wire clothes-lined me. I was instantly cured of all need to drive. My cousin might have told me it was there when he pointed me in that direction. But boy cousins are low on the list of things worthy of trusting most times. They only keep secrets that overlap their own. 

    There was a presence this morning. I can only assume those windows were left open but it sure didn’t seem like it yesterday. It doesn’t make sense to me, other than the cool bout of weather two weeks ago. One each at opposite ends north and south and I think the dog also heard very distant thunder, along with the air current. It sent him barking, warning growl sounding again and again. The door without a plate on the frame bouncing, latch loose and in play. 

    I wonder if he is psychic. What he does and doesn’t know. If he has premonitions, what kind of access have I subconsciously given him in the night when I think I am sleeping. It is never safe, safe to assume you’ve been sleeping. That conclusion, less logical and more convenient, from which you will forever return, is experienced and knows betrayal. 

    It is similar but all the same different from, the deception of pointing in one direction, while omitting the details beneath the fortunate sounds of the engine. In the end, it was my stomach, mentioning the breakfast I’d missed that won out for the active piece of my attention. I left him there standing, alone among sharp plants, with the dog next to him. 

     

  5. a mind generative and laced with secrets but not yet networked {enough}

    She woke up with a string of imaginary headlines ringing in her brain, all of them fading fast except the one she could last remember well enough to hold onto.

    It read: Body Shaving: Is the Latest Fashion Trend a Move toward Androgyny or Merely Extreme Manscaping. She hated these long headlines, hated the font designers and their haughty arrangements.

    The article focused on the men’s hairy hands — they left them curly long and unshaven. Some said it was to accentuate their gender, despite their now smooth arms and legs. Others saw it as another move toward the growing popularity of non-binary and androgynous systems. 

    Especially when many men started wearing the rubber gloves. Colored rubber gloves. Tight and transparent, balloonish in bright hues with the hair underneath showing through, all smashed and plastered down together. 

    Some people are afraid of clowns. Mickey Mouse’s white gloves made lots of folks suspicious. I wonder who is meant to be offended by their white face paint and red lips. Surely someone but I just don’t like the way it reminds me of sugar cookie icing glazed over sadness. Fake expressions. Mixed messages. Hungry sweets. 

    Skinny throats and bloated bellies. It all depends on how your definitions, your standards, for dystopia measure up. Some people don’t want to know or even contemplate the details of your parts other people need firm answers. 

    She shook her head, wet the headboard with the remains of the thought. Shed the dream in the bed she made upon standing up. At least her kids knew how to play Minecraft. At least the gloves in her dream weren’t rubber black. 

     

  6. shushing

    i don’t like a house so big there might be things lurking in the corners too far away for me to see them, i sometimes feel the rhythm of the words the way they sound spoken in the tapping of the keys underneath, my fingers. My fingers keeping, time. No echo welcome. If I give you my secrets, will you keep yours. To yourself. A toast or a close chest, tight knit but not the opposite of open. Simply held, but not just, rather indulgent. In love drunk with your quiet. sssshhhhh. 

    so like a cymbal. not at all like a symbol. pleasing. 

    Tagged #prose #jillc
     

  7. silken

    With all those legs you might think a spider would have less wisdom. You might think she’d draw a blueprint, beforehand and hold it up in two of them for all her own eyes to see. But she doesn’t.

    Wiser, she just builds it. Across rafter triangles small at odd angles around the rusty screw and over the fluff of the moth and past the old abandoned mud daubers’ clump of hive looking like outsized dusty honeycomb. She builds it from the most ragged leaf dangling off the irregular limb of the branch hanging in morning light and so dried from first dew. She attaches it across on the other side, equally jagged.

    She is a master improviser. 

    The web itself always turns out beautiful and so seemingly standard and recognizable in shape but most of all function. It is the graceful junction of use and beauty. Practical artistry like culture. She builds it through work from working gorgeously. 

    Not from a master plan. 

    And then to think of her playing it. Like a harp. In duet with whatever she catches. Reciprocated tugs and snagging snatches against the silk, in concert, a net of twitches equal to song. 

    Not altogether different, I tell myself, from what I am doing as I clean and purge my own humble abode and make an effort to fully declutter my environment. I pick things up and move them, shifty. 

    Some I shift out into the garbage, black plastic bag first and then the pile stacked in the back of the pick-up truck. Some things I clean and find a place for, I place them, then. Others i move to some other room. Some room not yet cleaned and then after the first room, sometimes backward to some room already done. Re-cluttering the already decluttered thus requiring another round of de-decluttering. 

    A dance that alternates between building up the web and tugging it loose again, playing it’s harp strings and preserving the initial structure but improving and accommodating and breaking it and twirling it round.

    I am driving to the landfill, parked on the scale, thinking about the law of conservation of mass, of energy, of everything and all forces. I realize, this decluttering truly is nothing more than shifting that no matter how far I take things, to the next room, to the curb, to the landfill, to the burn, no matter they still exist and they do it in connection with me.

    I feel all the things I’ve ever “owned” or touched or even seen like the harping heart strings that are the spider’s web weaving us all together in a million interlocking little netty netted systems. Conserved, connected, collaborative - forever and inescapably. I feel my place and its roots and its veins and the rain of it all washing us clean off into each other. An ocean of each other from out ourselves. 

    Buoyant bodies shifting up next to each other. Tender images sloshing, I invite you into them at the end of a long strong and gentle armful of fingers tipped soft and curled in welcome. The light weight of the child in waist deep adult water. pulled in easy hands to the chest clinging comfort for both close at heart the warm skin of wet necks to wet shoulders. Grown apart into together. Over and over, never.  

    Tagged #prose #jillc #idk
     

  8. paper uniform haunting

    She was not me but she imagined them, on tiptoes, knees bent, accordion fold postures twisted back again at angled hips and shoulders, necks too, wrenched. Arms a-scare-crowed-kimbo, out and dangling on a cross of biceps at angles, elbowed and jerk-wristed. Shields held high in tightfisted hands, but irregularly and ill-aimed. Pointed skyward and into the faces of each other, head clanging accidents. Amid irritation sounds, sworn spit outbursts of pain, they make their way. Clumsy but not falling, clumsy swift, canting paths, swerving-under-weight retreat. They tiptoe strong yet precariously bobbing through the already dead remains, the previously placed into displaced, the existing gore of bodies dead, so inanimately, so long already. 

    How dead can a love letter get? How can a dead love letter survive, making its way toward escape in silence to be discovered only after all the concerned parties have long scattered to the wind. What some wouldn’t give such and such a such. Wanting answers, wanting ancestors, foolish yearning wants of other wanting men and such. Yet they sit there in her closet making this eternal clanging, minor key march, to getaway. To alert her in their escape. They have already betrayed and been betrayed. They should be thoroughly irrelevant. yet they stand and play like a marching band on cue and prominent, attention-getting display. All the while hidden in her closet.

    What kind of magic stealth weapon tactical invasion. What a deft crossing violation of boundary penetrated, as if it was nonexistent.  What boundary then named and defined but constrained to irrelevant from its very inception. This is attachment, the anxious bond of love how she learned it. Her mother lives yet she has already been endowed with this gift of the love letters from her traitorous father before she was born. Will they confirm her role in the destruction of their love or will they reveal it was an illusion all along. A priori. Even before, eh? Might that be possible?

    If she was your mother would you read them? Would read the other, then, too. If she was your daughter would you want her to? Would you want her to read everything you wrote or would you rather see what he, the man who would not even ever stoop to speak to you wrote - what mattered so much he put it in ink. She finds their very existence hard to believe in. Even though she has seen them, twice now, in their box in her closet. Where she can hear them, trouncing, in their dark tuned melody songs, moving along to nowhere. Begging her to peek.

    Why did her mother give her these envelopes, with their letters neatly folded inside, lined up, she is guessing in date order, one after another after another, more than a hundred, addressed to a mother alive before she was born but not yet gone? Will they make light or burn, do you think? What. What dare you think?

    Tagged #prose #jillc
     

  9. worth keeping

    Love is when bearing witness feels a privilege. When the thought of someone’s aging feels you with anticipation regarding the versions of them you might get yet to know. When the tremor of the thread that runs from them to you becomes a vibrational essential to the beat currently keeping in life’s rhythm section. When every thing makes sense and there is nothing rational at all to all you know. All is sensuous wisdom and the toys and chords are fingering ideas like strumming harp strings strung with hearts along the path as you keep tap tapping feet ever over and go. In love you go. 

    Tagged #prose #jillc
     

  10. report

    They say I am adjusting well, particularly for someone who has only been here three years. Especially in comparison to other aliens, they say. There haven’t been that many Earthlings here - less than a hundred in nearly five thousand years. But the natives have amazing memories, they keep exceptional, though unobtrusive, records. They say I am remarkable in my ability to adjust. Their history confirms it as truth.

    For my part, it has been pretty easy. I like it here. I like the lack of violence, I like the way compassion is a given, a non issue, so automatic it’s nearly invisible. It quickly becomes hard to describe it well, to perceive it clearly,   even to someone like me coming from such a deadly planet.

    It’s not just the compassion, the niceness, it is also the way so much other perception has opened up. I absolutely love all the senses that became clear to me here. All the things I was sensitive too that I did not know about until I got into this environment. It’s like this place operates on more dimensions than the few available at home. I know things, sense things, perceive things I never could on Earth.

    The specialists here seem to think it is because of what has happened on Earth. They tell me the data suggests it was once as rich as this planet. That when it was, humans there could perceive much more, just as I do here. We’ve been working with some of my deep memories to try to confirm it. To understand what and when the change was, to discover what caused it. Or at least what was at the root of the chain reaction that started it. I don’t really understand it all, at least not yet. They tell me that that perception, new comprehension will come along, too, soon, as I spend more time on the project.

    I trust them. I like being part of it. Part of something that matters to them. I’m glad to be here, eager to contribute, to fill my place.

    If you asked me what was hardest, in terms of adjusting, I would have to say it is the sameness. Or, er, well… the difference inside all the sameness. The way the sameness holds so much difference. I’m not expressing myself very well. Let me try to explain. 

    You see, here, there are only ever two different bodies. One male body and one female body. I mean, there are lots of repeats of those two bodies. Enough repeats for everyone on the planet actually, so approximately three quarters of a billion bodies, half male, half female, but all repeats of the same exact body. I know this probably isn’t going to make sense to you. That’s what I’m saying, that’s why this is sort of the hardest thing to adjust to, here. Everybody has the same genetic body. Beyond that, these bodies function pretty consistently, I mean, in terms of metabolism and aging and sickness etc, the bodies are pretty robust to different behavioral patterns. I mean there are slight variations in size and musculature due to individual practices but… really? Not very much at all. Not enough to be noticeable in any of the usual earth human senses. 

    But we don’t get each other mixed up. Not at all. That’s what I am saying. It’s mindblowing how much individual difference is still conveyed by each person, even when they all live in the same body. I mean, I never get people mixed up. There are some obvious visual cues, the kind that are probably familiar to you. Like some people always push their sleeves up and other people never wear socks but, you know, there’s not much else in terms of what we consider fashion to work with. But it doesn’t matter. Even though everyone wears their hair the same, even though few people bother with stylish clothes variations etc., it is still nearly impossible to mix people up. 

    I mean, even naked, especially, naked! You just know. That’s what is so hard to adjust to. Who would have ever thought there could be so many different ways to wear the same body. I mean, my second lover, she used to sneak in and sneak up on me at home, where I lived with my first lover and I could always tell the difference immediately. The second I sensed her in the room I knew it it was not my roommate.

    Imagine how weird it is, to find yourself not just in a culture where it is natural and expected that everyone has multiple lovers but where all those lovers look exactly the same. But where all of them are deeply, deeply and obviously unique. 

    Why would who you were with even matter then, you might say. If all the bodies are the same, why would you even bother with multiple lovers. But oh! My heavens, let me tell you, there is so much more about a person. It is so miraculous the different ways the different person underneath shows through, especially when you are naked. Differences are unbelievably easy to detect depending on who is driving the flesh. 

    I’m sure you can’t understand. I can tell by the question forming in your head right now. And let me just cut that line of thinking right off. It is not boring. It is miraculous — what you get in exchange for giving up diversity in looks!? There is so much to see about a person when you begin looking beyond it. Plus, we all collectively change bodies on the same day, once a year. So there is plenty of variety. We get to be and see and learn each other anew in every different kind of body imaginable over time. 

    So yeah. I hope maybe you can see a little bit. Get some tiny feel for it. How it’s different. How the sameness is the biggest adjustment because it is really about a mindblowing amount of difference. I hope you can. Or maybe you can come here sometime and visit. Or stay. That would be fine with me, too. Just so long as they never make me leave.  

     

  11. {air} conditioning

    "In a perfect world you could have a party…"

    The woman was alone and speaking into the phone she held up to one ear on her head which sat atop her otherwise naked body. Her skin was busy melting the iceberg sheets, which had been cooled to temperatures only hotel air conditioning can create, melting it into warm pools shaped like her lucious and ample curves. 

    "Yeah? In a perfect world, what?"  

    Came the answer, from a similarly chilled and air conditioned female voice. It was southern, cool and breathy on air not from the interior of a luxury resort but rather from the sound proof and climate controlled interior of a state of the art combine tractor. The woman driving launched her words directly into the space of the cab, where they were picked up by a dashboard microphone attached to a cellular handset via bluetooth. Both of her manicured hands were on the wheel at the moment, leaving it only to adjust the levered switches and gears required to keep the rig moving as it should, round and round the field of corn. 

    "In a perfect world, you could have a party, any kind of party…"

    "Yes…?"

    "Any kind of party at all, like a birthday party or a halloween party, or a party for goddamn kid, even, maybe a graduation party or a role play game party or, you know, just any kind of party at all…"

    "Ummmhmmm…?"

    "In a perfect world you could have any old kind of party you wanted at all and…"

    "Spit it out already, would you? You could have your damn party…And what?"

    "You could have your any old damn kind of party you wanted and you could invite any number of people you happened to have had sex with on various occasions in the past throughout your life and it wouldn’t be any big deal."

    "Oh! Yeah. In a perfect world… "

    "I mean really, in a reasonable, practical kind of world it only makes sense that those would be the people you would most want to hang out it with and invite to your parties. The people you liked enough to bother to sleep with at some point. I mean, in a perfect world, you know, where you would have been reasonable and discriminating and free to make considered and considerate choices. In that world you would have slept with the best people you know…"

    "Well, yes. When you put it like that, who the hell better than lovers to invite to your party."

    "Exactly. In a perfect world where people were allowed to learn how to behave maturely and still remembered how to have fun." 

    "In a perfect world…"

    "In a perfect world that doesn’t exist.

    "Exactly. Are you still picking me up at the airport tomorrow morning?"

    "Oh. Yeah. What time?"

    "I land at 7:15."

    "Jeez. You couldn’t get a later flight in than that. Yes. I’ll be there. You brat."

    "We’ll have bloody mary’s after you pick me up, for breakfast."

    "Date."

     

  12. tracks

    Most folks collect baggage as they travel. She was always looking for a place to set things down. Never roots but tangled carry outs and weeds and vine seeds scattered as she deliberately placed her trunks. She walked away. She never looked back, not for the birds, not for the shepherd, not for his dog. She ran ahead and overtook the wolf. He tripped on her lashes as she passed him. He rolled and the dust enriched the fur of his scruff standing, so handsomely, on end. At attention, at attention he made her think she could love him. But she was not a thinker, living in her body. All the while they howled applause for the entertainment. Filled nosefuls strong before the end came along.

    It came along. Came along it did, with a new suitcase for there will always be luggage to handle. To drag behind. 

     

  13. orbits

    Stretching, listening hard to the sheets with all my skin, laying my eyes flat against the ice not floating in the glass beside my bed. The ice busy not filling the container in to the edges the way ink or wax reaches sometimes incompletely to the outline of the figure in a coloring book.

    But I feel my self filling in all the room up to the verge of my epidermis. I sense my aura diffusing farther, beyond into the air around me. I am bleeding my connection to world with each breath. I am questioning which I regret most, the secrets I kept for myself, or those for someone else. 

    At least the child is remarkable for her inability to be anything but herself. Her utter failure to avoid it, her incapacity to fathom trying, or anything else. 

     

  14. plumb vantage

    She was standing at the corner, where the walls came together.  She was not in the corner but rather leaned into the pitch of its ridge, the long line of a point it made coming together where the two walls of the two different hallways met. She stood there, indoors, but still at the corner.

    There standing, she listened.

    Listening was not a task she took up casually. It was not an ears only affair. She listened down the corridor with her ears, yes, and also her eyes and more impressive yet with the whole of her largest organ, that skin. That honeyed, sun-kissed, skin-glorious package wrapped around limbs, skeleton, flesh and organs, holding her lovely together while she listened with all of them. She trained her kidneys and liver in his direction, down the narrow passage; she bore the gaze of her heart and reached with each dendriting nerve in her extremities, toward him. When she endeavored to pursue a rendezvous with sound, her entire body grew involved. 

    She strained happily to pick up even the slightest sliver of vibration. Any intonation that might carry a clue. 

    Because she was without one. She knew he was not feeling well; she knew he was down the hall, in his room. She could not tell if the door was open or closed; she knew he was in there but she had no idea in what condition. She did not want to disturb him but dared not even fathom abandoning him for sake of the paroxysms the mere thought sent through her.

    All things seemed equally plausible: that he was fine but wanting time to himself; that he was suffering but too shy to reach out; that he was busy and did not want interruption while contemplating his next action; that he never intended to speak to her again; that he was delighted and engaged elsewhere in his life; that he may or may not emerge to attend her again. 

    Her desire? Only to match his. To match his simply and then, that done, carry on.

    But she did not know what he wanted or needed and so this leaning, still and quiet and concentrated on listening, at the corner, was what she chose. It seemed like a highly reasonable, the most reasonable, the only reasonable thing to do. Or not do, or however, whichever you call it. That was all she intended to do.

    The hem of her soft skirt fell away from her leg, there, and spilled against the two wall’s joined edge, then — as if in confirmation of her well-intentioned decision. 

     

  15. She took the pregnancy test. It came up negative. She knew it would be negative. She had no reason to believe she was pregnant. In fact, she had every reason to believe there was no possible way she could be pregnant having not had sex in approximately 8 months 14 days and 3.75 hours, or so. But she had cried three times in the first two hours she was awake and every time she moved she was fighting the urge to ball some more. Her breasts weren’t really swollen and she wasn’t exactly feeling nauseous but her neck was tender. Her neck was really tender for no reason and so, likewise, a pregnancy test seemed like the imminent thing she needed to do. Before she could do anything else. 

    When it came back negative, she went back to her computer. Where she proceeded to cry three more times in the next ten minutes, over pictures of food, of sparse but well-organized kitchens, and over some dude in new york, sitting on a bench with his grandkid, talking about the oppressive nature of the educational system. Clearly, someone had implanted tragi-vision lenses in her eyeballs overnight. The only natural reaction, she thought, is to cry until they wash out, and she went to grab a new box of tissues. 

    She was excited about all the upcoming changes, aware that her  tears were, in all likelihood, a reaction to or a reflection of her anticipation. She had done a lot of the ground design work for the new structure that was to come after and she was eager to see how it all played out in action, in reality, in the glory of its manifest tangibility. She was lucky, she had been warned, allowed to give input for after. She had made sure she was not pregnant by staying abstinent since approval of the plan. It was a long and arduous eight-plus months and soon it would all be over.

    A month from now the new reproduction protocols would be in effect. All men (at age fourteen, forevermore, and all those over) would have their sperm collected and stored and then be given vasectomies. Pregnancy would be a rare thing one came by via application and evidence, biological, psychological and social, full assessment of ones fitness. All parents would give up their usual roles for twenty years and commit to the development of all the children. And she would not ever be one of them. Not again in this lifetime. She smiled through her tears and blew snot into the tissue she pressed to her nose. Transitions, she thought, scoffing to herself, are always so emotional, so difficult.