| Being Five |

“Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.”—Jean-Paul Sartre

I have spent days in a barren place. Red disappeared. Starless. Stormy. Uncertain.

Still, until awakened by the wind of your breath.

I live in a rainfallen place. The rain turns to hard hail as I step outside the sanctuary of home. The hail is unexpected and hardbreaking as each moment before me turns from a sad drop to an immense body of drowning uncharted waters. My cheeks, my hands, my heart pricked by the weight of rain turned cold, ugly, and gray.

Still, I follow the habit of my body. I eat, sleep, work, play, pray.

I’m a writer, a dreamer, a poet. I wake every morning for words. My barren and weary soul still smells of soft flannel and the lump in my left breast throbs, its language unknown to me. Its shape. Its hardness. Its appearance. Unexpected.

I wrest from others, their stories. The woman sitting next to me wears a thousand shades of black silently mourning her barrenness. We have become women of barren breasts in a world of toxicity and unusual acts of living.

Still, I wait even though I have finished the chapbook on waiting, and enter my next extremity, my chapbook on being—a lament of barrenness and every bit of humanity.

The truth is, the universe will continue without me and forget me, but this moment of time—perfect and beautiful, new and flawed—this barren moment of trapped unknowing about the lump that grows in my left breast beside my heart, this barren moment pulsates with that undeniable fear behind every great testament of expression.

My being, a litany of steps and strides and gallops. It takes so much work for me to survive.

I have run from it all, the torture of being silenced, from sickness. Everything about me, everywhere I’ve been, all my habits—my meditative walks, my brain-dialogue, my postmarked letters, my nail-scratched tables, my stainless-steel scissors, and my fragile-glass windows—all my unchecked fury, covering my eyes at the darkest moments of pained illness, slip away during these days of being in a barren place.

And then, yesterday bliss stumbles in. An old friend from another lifetime visits and kicks me from behind. Another friend walks me around myself and whispers you cannot give up, you cannot give in. A third friend tells me to overcome my limitations, my fear. My barrenness is torn open and volcanic lava, the poet’s red heat seeps through the broken cracks, triggering landmines I left to break the boredom of my barrenness. I can do that. I can conjure up imagination the way others construct missiles and drones of steel traversing a wide divide of traveling space.

The narrative pauses. Being in barren time, the lump I found cushioned in the tissue of my left breast (undetected by mammography), the lump grows inside me like a wound-up handmade bomb soon to be a needled-biopsied bomb entered into the breast cancer database of numbers:

// every two minutes, one in eight women will be told she has breast cancer


A Pair of Scissors Was the First Tool Placed in My Hands

The earliest known scissors appeared in Mesopotamia about 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. The first scissors trademark was granted in 1791. (And for those who love the word scissors: I believe it’s a plural noun used with a plural verb.)

In an obscure corner of Jersey when my first tool—a pair of scissors—was placed in my hand, the cool, stainless steel bit my flesh and the sharp edges of the blades stood still in my palm as my grandmother warned me of danger.

The weight of the scissors turned heavy and the glint of silver reflected my mirror image as I raised the scissors to my face and peered into my eyes. The scissors shined like everything my grandmother used, that utilitarian shine she gave to things she needed to survive.

Grandma Janet took my fingers and slipped my thumb though the smaller hole, my last three fingers through the larger hole, wrapped my index finger under the larger handle, and covered my hand with her calloused hand in a tight grip. She smelled of eucalyptus and tomatoes.

Together we opened the blades. I watched two blades intersect and chop a red thread in half. The scissors let out a violent sound. The red cut thread fell to the floor. My fingers and the two blades seemed like two swords slicing thread that Grandma Janet usually cut with her Hungarian teeth.

Even at age seven, I had a sensitivity for line. I spent the first day with my scissors cutting lines. Straight lines. Lines that divided things in two. One side equaled the other half. At age thirteen, I used the same scissors to cut the bullshit. To find the truth hidden inside. At age sixteen, I learned to cut circles, to curve the scissors like the waves of an ocean, to tear and stretch and abandon the anchor of the straight cut for a more uneven feathered cut that kept the magic of the fringe of the fray.

Those around me were given other tools, but I was the only girl given a pair of stainless-steel scissors, not purple childproof-plastic scissors because my grandmother, who sewed for a living, believed in the molecular strength of American steel.

“Keep them close to you,” my grandmother said. “They’re a weapon.”

“You could stab someone in the back,” she said.

“Or like me you can make another woman a wardrobe of beauty.”

At night I slept with the scissors under my pillow and I dreamed of a life of comfort in the impossible nature of life’s cutting edge.

I brought the scissors to college at age 17, where I found myself shaping scissors out of clay when asked to sculpt an object. I remember the pure joy when my thin clay-scissors survived the fire of the kiln and the teacher and the other students holding my scissor-art in their hands, praising me for capturing the “reality” of a tool as if they wanted to cut something in half. And I remember returning the next day to retrieve my ceramics and tools—and my clay scissors were broken in two and the stainless-steel scissors my grandmother had given me were stolen.


The Day after Watching Catfish

(Catfish is a documentary about New York photographer Yaniv Schulman, who is filmed by his brother and friend as he falls in love with a woman via Facebook, who turns out to be a married Michigan woman taking care of her husband’s two sons who have disabilities.)

The closing chorus ties up loose ends, expresses the last beat, the last word, the last sound. The story lingers in the air, silhouettes hang on the stage, the applause is heard.

The completion is never quite what we expected. The rush through the finish line is pure exhaustion. Taping and shipping a box of art through the navigational system is pure speculation.

Still we wait for the end. Even when the author does not supply us with the desired end, we wait for our ending. We think and some of us say out loud: if I had written that book I would have let them find their love.

Americans want endings with love. Europeans want adventurous endings with death. South Americans do not want endings. Japanese want endings with metaphors. Australians want eternity. Endings require beginnings.

The firsts are full of flight and fright. The first one here in this world of temporal existence will be lost and gone in the archives of the cloud.

The people building the cloud are the same people unconcerned about global warming. The cloud is a place of storage. People’s thoughts and feelings and images and identities. Seeking an identity on the cloud is like taking a walk in Volunteer Park. You smell the texture of the vibration of the words and the chosen avatar. It is safe. Safe identities are made to be morphed into unsafe identities. Into danger.

The truth is, if it must be told, we do not have one identity, or one personality, or one love. We are a people of many identities. Multiple beings. We drink Bourbon and Chardonnay and we wear jeans and tuxedoes. We watch Ratatouille and the Wire. Our feet stamp to rock-and-roll. Our hands clap to jazz. Our throats melt to opera. Our bellies churn and burp to country.

We are in the habit of coveting firsts, of memorializing firsts, of reenacting firsts, of reorchestrating and replaying firsts over and over again in the caverns of our overthinking minds. We study men who lose their touch, who fall to the bottom of their game. We name diseases after them. Streets and highways are named after the dead. Plants are named in Latin. Spices are named by the tongue. Tools are named by hands. (A pair of scissors was the first tool placed in my hands.)

The cloud is a place where people drift in and out, where strangers meet friends, where porn is found, where agoraphobes reach out, where introverts become extroverts, where answers to questions can be found, where women in bad relationships can carve out good relationships. The cloud is a place where bullies can bully. Where forlorn can escape. Where wounded can rest. Where drama can become a pebble that grows in a pond.

I have been told that I must become a part of the cloud, and so I am here now. My first crossing into the cloud I am dressed in an eggplant-colored sweater with brown buttons over a brown-laced camisole, burgundy corduroy pants, and black engineer Frye boots. Everything I own is left behind. All of my private thoughts are placed in a proper drawer. My hair is brushed and my nails are unpolished. I sip a cup of steaming black coffee. The furnace blasts heat through the vents and a troubled noise begs me not to enter the cloud, warns me not to enter the vapors of another machine. I do not listen. I am invincible. Thus, my first blog is born.