Tag Archives: letters to ghosts

down in the Texas of my heart

To say I miss Texas would be imprecise. I don’t miss everything about it: the neverending wind, the weird traffic customs, steaming my ass in a chicken suit on a tarmac in the summer…it’s not all worth celebrating. But then I think about the drives I used to make from Del Rio to San Antonio, especially the ones by myself, early in 2004, when my ex was in training and I had to feed the snake myself. (He had graduated from rats to rabbits and was getting cumbersome to handle. The snake. Not my ex.)

I would rouse myself at six in the morning, feed the cats, make sure no tarantulas were peeking out from under the bed. Then I would grab a few CDs and set up some music for the drive in my lemon of a Ford wagon with peeling paint on the hood. I was finally used to driving again after the accident the previous Easter, though driving past the Hondo McDonald’s never got comfortable. I would get in, ease down the road, stop half an hour later at the gas station/laundromat in Brackettville to check my tire pressure. There was nowhere to stop in between. Brackett was the first chance. Sometimes I’d peruse the flavors of Blue Bell in the ice cream case, but mostly I’d head back out and drive without accommodation.

Here was the Border Patrol stop, at Cline, the one that always closed during rainstorms because of the bend in the road. Our Congressman was fixing that with funds appropriated for a new covered station with a dog kennel on site and 24/7 surveillance. It’s probably there now, but I haven’t been back.

There was Uvalde, where my friends and I went antiquing that one time and the interior decorator in the group brought home a framed windowpane to hang from the ceiling, to separate her living room from her kitchen. There was the hairdresser. There was Wal-Mart. And then there was nothing again.

Here was Knippa, with a sign letting you know it was okay to blink. Everyone knew the only cop in town attended church on Sundays, so if you wanted to speed, do it before noon. There was Sabinal, where the speed traps got serious, but you could really start picking up San Antonio radio if you tuned just right. And then there was Hondo. I didn’t like to think about it much after the accident. I always saw myself on the side of the road, in the middle of a standing takedown and apologizing to the firemen on either end of my litter for whatever gas was about to escape from my loosened body.

Castroville was my favorite. Not only did it mark the edge of San Antonio, but it held an Alsatian bakery I loved going to if I could get there early enough. A chocolate milk and a cruller could hold me for most of the day. Most people know San Antonio is heavily Mexican-American, but I’m always shocked at how many fail to recognize the area’s German heritage mixed in. After all, isn’t norteño just polka with a different accent? If you want to know what’s unique about this part of Texas, look to the confluence of those two bits of culture.

By the time the sunrise stopped troubling my eyes, I was in western San Antonio, complete with Sea World and The Best Little Warehouse in Texas, scoping out the Best Buy and Super Target and anywhere else I couldn’t visit in Bordertown, U.S.A. I knew I only had a few hours to kill. I needed to head back before nightfall, before the deer took over the road.

Now I have Best Buy and Target and even IKEA within a ten-minute drive. I have an incredible view of Mount Evans and Longs Peak every day. But I don’t have that long, lonely drive. I don’t have an early-morning cruller, and I don’t have the occasional radio transmission from Victoria or Odessa, borne on a spring fog. I don’t have any sense of isolation, and so I don’t have gratitude. The natural beauty and capitalistic abundance here breeds smugness. I miss missing things.


Fearful Symmetry

Friedrich Kekulé once said
he discovered the shape of the
benzene molecule, a perfect ring of
carbon studded with hydrogen,
by dreaming of a snake eating its own tail.
I am reminded of this story
every time I put my foot in my mouth.
I would like to believe in purpose.
I tell myself that this is destiny,
that my mistakes are not mistakes,
that the pristineness of my self-destruction
like the immolation of the phoenix
is an invitation to new beginnings,
to forgetting how broken you make
sure I know I am.
I would like to believe
that even thrusting combustion
out in all directions like
a frightened and flammable
even in this prickly state I am learning
atom by atom
how to live without your oxygen.
I burn bright
all by myself.

depression, part 2

in the aftermath of robin williams’s death, some psychologists are cautioning the media not to portray suicide in positive terms because it can encourage suicidal ideation. they’re worried about copycat suicides, about people who were already suffering looking at williams’s decision and concluding that they, too, can escape the pain. i can say from recent personal experience that this is probably accurate. i can also say that i understand his decision.

Continue reading

old old poem

wrote this probably 12 years ago. the original line breaks were pretentious. i hope these are slightly less pretentious…


a good day sometimes means forgetting you for five minutes instead of four, four instead of two, two instead of one. and so on.

there are times when the heartache is not so precise, when my day is vague,
when the long floating breadth and depth of your scent of your laugh
invites me only for a moment and the door is left and not slammed in my face.

here and there i am not entirely mal-

my lungs ripen on the river and rocks instead of on you.
but i miss the ache.


i bought new shoes today. they’re madden girl, three- or four-inch heels, closed toe, black with white polka dots. the heel itself is a deep red, patent-shiny. they’re gorgeous. you would be amazed. you would never have bought them for me, because you never would have believed i could love such a girly thing. you bragged about how not-girly i was. you would have bought those shoes for her instead.

but you did buy her shoes, didn’t you? black-and-white checkerboard pattern, like the flag that waved you both home from a hard day’s racing. she saw them in a shop window. then you went home and got on google, and a few weeks later, the shoes were hers. i heard she wore them to her wedding. as far as i know, her husband still doesn’t know who gave them to her.

i think i was a talisman you used to ward off all the girliness in the world. you boxed me in, and that word wasn’t written on the box. then you resented how muffled i got. and then you missed the things you’d defined out of me, the athleticism and the spontaneity and the occasional penchant for lipstick, and you found them somewhere else instead.

hard drive

Bill found a buyer for the cabin; it should be sold by now. Dad went out there to visit one last time. He asked me to come, but I had classes. He asked me to come, but I said no. So Dad bore witness by himself.

There is no more cabin in my family. There will be no more nights of sitting out on the porch, blinded by the stars. You are the only one who saw these things with me. You are the only one who knows them, who remembers. Don’t you understand what that means? You are my memory, you are my sense of myself. You used to refer to yourself as my external hard drive. My facility with early details is unimpeachable; I can recall the sharpest bits of my childhood with ease. But I don’t trust it. I trust even less as the years go on. I hang on to everything I ever had because I am hanging on to everything I ever was.

You know me in a way no one else does. I used to find the collision of my separate worlds too jarring to repeat much. Once, Chris H. came up to see me in Franklin, and I couldn’t concentrate as I navigated our way through West Nashville. The moment was like a saber hung on the wall. I kept waiting for it to drop with me under it, no clatter, just a sickening slicing sound. Later on, I got cozy with the thought of knitting all my threads together. Introduce all my friends to one another, make sure they became friends, and my world would be an unencumbered whole and everyone would remember everyone else. Mine would truly be a shared history; no one could forget me and everyone would recall the same pieces of me. “Remember that day when,” one would say, and the others could nod and laugh. I could not be lost.

These days, I feel lost. You are not here to remind me of me.

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