Bacchante

It was snowing.
Whenever it snows I like to take the day off and work myself into an altered state. The easiest way to do that is to slip a solid hit of LSD on the tongue and watch life swirl into a painting. As happenstances would have it, I had no such Jedi mind tricks stashed away. Usually a cornucopia awaits the desire for expanded consciousness; but for one reason or another, I had no magic mushrooms either, not even a hit of weed. My stash for a snowy day was non-existent.
I racked my brain for what else was available.
I opted out of drinking beer because beer was too lazy for the likes of the day I wanted to pursue. I wanted a snow adventure. I didn’t want to get all sleepy and I didn’t want to deal with the rip-roaring hangover of a hop drenched day binging into the night guzzling all my dreams away in a sputtering daze. I wanted to be swept up in clarity. I wanted whimsy. I wanted big crystalline snowflakes falling fat and fucking heavy like the goddess sharing knowledge in slow motion wormholes ripped from the sky.
With my entheogen options shot, I decided to meditate.
I lit a bundle of mugwort and sat down with nothing else but my breath.
I don’t know how long I sat on my folded up purple blanket, but I heard a lot of conversations pass by my window. People talking on phones. People rapping. People walking together in solidarity through the snow. The mailman stopped by and clinked the mail slot with unnecessary junk mail. Sparrows fluttered and shouted happily in the tree outside. The sweet smell of mugwort tickled my olfactory glands and unveiled my third eye.
I felt my back straighten and my chest broaden. My body relaxed and I knew that was enough. When I emerged from the meditation my feet gripped the floor like suction cups on the ends of frog toes. I felt grounded. Light.
I walked down to the kitchen to make myself something hot to drink and to my absolute amazement a rumble of thunder shook the house and sky. It was astounding. The world was so incredibly silent and, as the flakes flew down like monsters, the thunder rumbled with the laughter of ancient gods. It was the first and only time I experienced the thunder of snow.
The experience was made all the more special by the kitchen itself. The kitchen was not only a place of fire and creation for me, it was a place of early morning peace with early morning sun alighting through the windows.
Such a moment called for a dark cup of coffee.
Before heading out for the day I put an hour into cleaning. It was the best and worst decision because I found a small bag of cocaine tucked away in the corner of an end table. I don’t know where it came from. I’ve never spent a dime on cocaine. Never have, never will, but I thought what the hell. A trickster wanted me to have fun.
I blew the whole bag.
I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
I thought I was walking on god.
I thought
I thought
I thought
The thoughts passed very quickly. I was high as the French revolution lopping off the heads of the rich and I sped right along into the winter air. Whipped by the blizzard. Satisfied. Snow blind.
It was best I didn’t spare much time thinking too hard. I recalled the last time I bumped a single line of cocaine. I was in college and lost my whole damn self on a word. A word. That’s right, a word. I was writing poetry and the word, whatever the hell it was, I still don’t know to this very day, wouldn’t slip off my tongue. It was the perfect word. It had to be. It was going to complete a perfect poem. The word sat there invisible taunting me at the edge of my mind, teasing me, playing childish games of hide and seek. I cursed and flailed my arms. That was it. I lost it all right there. Every last marble. Nuts and bolts and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty together again. I was cracked up. Off my rocker. To think, one line of coke had me ripping up paper and throwing pens against the wall, and ten years later I thought it a brilliant idea to blow through an entire bag of white powder. There was reason enough- my brains inside needed to reflect the snow outside.
Without a thought in sight I blitzed downtown toward the art museum. I leapt and bounded in giant steps. I felt like a yeti. Paul Bunyan. Casey Jones. The abominable snowman. I hurtled over buildings and small children.
At one point along my sojourn I ran into a guy named Carl. I don’t know if that was his name, I never asked him and he never said it, but he looked like a Carl. Or a Mike. Or a Joe. We’ll call him Mike. No. Joe. I believe his name was Joe. Joe was from the suburbs and he liked to take the train into the city to wander the streets high on meth. I shit you not. He revealed this within moments of crossing paths. He was flown, and momentarily, we were kindred spirits flying together through the dappled stars. He was a relatively small guy and he wore a scarf that was comically large. That scarf had a mind of its own. It tugged him along and spun him in circles. He lost himself in trees tangled like a wayward kite disappointing the child who had hopes and dreams of flying so high it would pull her to the moon.
We walked for too long together. We were quite the sight along the parkway. The main attraction. My eyes bugged three feet outside my head and Joe talked about Jesus Christ hiding in the bushes and demons poking him with sticks. People parted like the Red Sea as we passed. They gave us 20 feet on either side and glared at us like hungry lizards.
By the time we reached the art museum steps my high was wearing very thin and Joe was going on about his drunk father and all the shame he felt for “messing up” as a kid. He had all kinds of shadows hovering around his spinning head. I felt bad for him but didn’t have the capacity to spend the rest of the day playing therapist and certainly didn’t care to prolong my chemical binge and become his partner-in-crime sussing out the next dragon to chase but never slay.
We parted ways.
He appeared hurt when I told him I wanted to be alone, but very quickly he laughed maniacally, said he was really Jesus Christ, and ran off like the impish Charles Manson.
Atop the steps of the museum, free of any pedestrian hitchhikers, I stared at the skyline covered in a cloud of snow. It was wondrous. A dream.
Inside the art museum, a couple of staff members kindly directed me downstairs to a lounge for members of the museum. My luck kept turning. I had no idea such a perk awaited me at the other end of this quest for the holy grail of snow days. I fell in love with that lounge. It felt like a well-kept secret. An underworld wrapped in art books and café-styled tables and chairs. A den beneath the mythic giants of painters and sculptors burbling with the subconscious charge of every dream I’ve ever dreamed about basements. That lounge was like stepping back in time, into the underground and the unknown. Into hazy hallways, smoke-filled and coveted.
Such a moment called for another cup of coffee.

The coffee perked me right up. I shook off the snow and found myself meandering the great halls with no attachment to any painting or sculpture, until I stopped in front of Vincent van Gogh’s painting entitled Enclosed Wheatfield in the Rain.
I was stunned.
The artist’s representation of rain slashed at my heart. The anguish and utter peace of the painting poured forth from the frame and tore me apart. I was broken and enraged. Tears welled up and I tried to choke them back but they streamed forward like a miniature waterfall gushing from my face. Who was this man and how could his art strike me so deeply so quickly? I stared into the painting endlessly. The lines of rain reached out and pulled me in. I was lost. Soaking wet.
When I regained some semblance of clarity, I read the small placard next to the painting regarding Van Gogh’s time in the asylum hospital at St. Remy and the wheat field outside his window, specifically its thematic connection to manual workers and toil. I couldn’t keep it together. I wailed. I wept loudly like an old man at the end of a hard life without a friend alive to reflect on the memories or share the little joys. Only death. I cowered at the power of a brush.

“Moving, huh?”
“You think?” I said through bleary eyes and puffed up eyelids. My nose ran religiously. God, I was ugly.
“Here’s a handkerchief.” She stood in front of the painting too.
I took her offering and blew my nose. It echoed the relatively quiet halls of art. After several loud honks I handed it back to her. There was a little bit of blood and the faint remnants of cocaine streaking the fabric like a Rorschach.
She waved a hand at me, “It’s okay. Keep it.”
I shrugged my shoulders and stuffed the hanky into a pocket. “Thanks.”
“He was brilliant, wasn’t he? Still is,” she suggested.
“Huh?”
“Van Gogh. The painting you’ve been gushing over.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” I stuttered. “Look at it.”
She nodded, “I am. That’s exactly what I am doing. Looking at it.”
“I’m a mess. Look at me.”
“I see you too,” she laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Well, actually, you. You’re funny.” She shook her head with a smile. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean,” she said with genuine apology in her voice.
After a moment she asked, “Are you familiar with the term empathy? Where it came from?”
“I know the word, but no, I don’t know its history.”
“I read it came from the art world. It describes how we look into a work of art. How we sense into the meaning, the symbols, lines, and colors. How we feel and see into and become a part of the art. Einfühlung. The original in German.”
“Huh.” I said.
“I don’t know if Van Gogh cried a whole lot, but you certainly spilled enough tears for him and the rest of the museum. I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked in your eyes and saw his image reflected back at me.”
Her words cheered me up a slight bit.
“But that’s great art, isn’t it? Forever in the act of creation. Even a century and a quarter later it has the vitality to bring a grown person to uncontrollable blubbering in public,” she said.
I looked around and remembered we were not alone, and as much as I questioned her existence, this was a real person speaking to me, not some phantasm of my own cocaine addled creation showing up to comfort me in a moment of deep realization and despair.
“You’re coming with me,” she said.
“What?” The welling up of dormant emotions still minorly incapacitated my ability to coherently socialize.
“Come with me. I’m Charlie,” she said.
I trailed behind her, and before I knew it, Charlie and I were dancing around the museum in a mad frenzy. The artwork burst to life. We spun in a whirlwind.

“Monet?”
“Yes. What of him?” I asked.
“You find pleasure in his work?”
“Of course.” I responded.
“Impressionism then?”
“One of my favorite movements. Hands down.”
“What would you call a new art movement today?” she asked.
I thought about it. “I don’t know. Can’t say I’ve given it much thought. You mean specifically in painting, or art in general?”
“Whatever,” she said.
“Well there’s a lot of collage and sampling, mixed media art, and mass production, especially with technology nowadays. And everything’s so fleeting. Trends come and go and flash before the eyes and die into the graveyard heap of the internet. I don’t know. What do you think?”
“How about the Ephemeralists?” she suggested.
“Hm. Ephemeralism. There’s a ring to it. Sort of captures a twilight of magic reborn in the post-industrial milieu,” I said.
“I don’t think we’re quite out of the industrial age, but we are certainly teetering. I get the sense we’re all lost and uncertain, but the Lost Generation is already taken. I suppose time is nonlinear and art movements weave through the ages. Quite like surrealism. There’s a lot of that now,” she said.
“And Dada and the absurd,” I added.
“We are culminating in endless experimentation seeking what hasn’t been produced, yet repeating and riffing off the past and reproducing, reproducing, reproducing. It’s inescapable,” she said.
“What about graffiti and street art?” I asked.
“It’s fleeting. Ephemeral,” she said. “Up one minute, buffed over the next.”
I thought for a moment. “The irony of Ephemeralism is the actual ephemera is fading away too. Hardcopy photos are disappearing into digital wastelands. Postcards and handwritten letters are less and less popular.”
“The old world is dying,” she said.
“And we are ushering in its death.”

We took a break to visit the lounge to re-up on coffee and then walked outside to cool off in the winter temperatures. We danced in the snow, twirled, and laughed like the followers of Dionysus drunk on the spirit of artists.
What a day chalked up to the winter vortex.
Now every time I return to the art museum I ask about the lounge but they tell me no such lounge exists.

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The Witch in the Doorway

The sky cast an ugly shade of red on the ground. Normally she enjoyed the sunrise, but this particular blood-red reminded her of the streets piling high with bodies. The blood rose up to her ankles. At least. The blood fed the harshness of tar like rain fed the miracle of plants. The blood covered the buildings. The cars. Her hands. How could she ignore it. It was supposed to be beautiful, but it made her resent the light. Normally she prayed to the sacred ball of fire. Closing her eyes holding her hands at her sides palms facing the heat absorbing the vitamins the light burning her lids awakening the third eye. But today it stung her skin.

Not the usual start to the day. She took it as an odd omen.

She returned home and brewed a pot of coffee. She opened her notebook to a blank page.

The night prior she dreamt of a field swaying with a single type of flower. Chicory. The plant grew four feet high with delicate blooms and green, hardy stalks. She harvested a basketful of the periwinkle flowers. The breeze combed her hair whispering pollen and yeast.

A city sprung up around the field.

It felt romantic. She walked the tiny alleyways. Passing little yards. The fire escapes hung with clotheslines. Graffiti covered the brick. The sidewalks cracked with plants. A slight creek cut its way like a snake transforming the post-industrial roughness with a trickle of peace.

She paid a visit to the house of a witch. It was a reoccurring theme in her dreams. The first time she found the house she awoke with such inspiration she became determined to find the house again. The walls were lined with everything you would expect to find at a witch’s house. Books of ancient musings, glass jars tightly sealed with herbs, potions, oddities. Flowers hanging from the ceilings. A cat purring on the window sill. The sunlight filtering in slowly, gently touching every plant in the house.

She gathered the chicory flowers in exchange for a ritual. The witch did not charge her but she gave them to her anyway as a token of appreciation. The witch placed the flowers in a bowl next to the cat on the window sill. It had taken awhile to convince the crone to perform the spell. Many nights dreaming. Many visits paid. She had never expected to find the old woman again. What were the chances. The subconscious is infinite. But that initial dream made such an impression she had to return.

She laid her hand on the table, palm up, as instructed.

The witch retrieved an old tomb with tattered paper full of signs and symbols and flipped to a particular page. She tapped it with a long fingernail and cleaned a knife while whispering succinctly a strange tongue sanctifying the metal. A spider scurried across the pages of ink.

The witch made the cut quickly. Blood dripped into a cup of dried petals and crushed mushroom caps. The witch instructed her to place a pinch of the mixture on her tongue and the rest was lit on fire. It crackled loudly, surprisingly so, reminiscent of fireworks at a distance. The flame disappeared in a flash with no trace left. The witch dressed the small incision on her palm with dried yarrow and St. John’s wort. It healed instantly. The cut swallowing the flowers transforming into flesh.

She closed her eyes and fell into another dream. But she couldn’t remember anything from that second dream save a cellar door leading to a dark basement. She woke up.

What was the meaning of the dream? Why the basement? Why the blood? How did it connect to the anger she felt upon seeing the blood-red of the sunrise? What was the witch trying to teach her? She had so many questions, but what frustrated her most, it was her own subconscious. She wanted the witch to be real, but she knew better.

She refilled her cup with coffee and began reading the other entries in the journal. Perhaps a clue would arise. A missing piece of the puzzle. After a few unsatisfactory entries, she flipped to the beginning pages of the notebook where she found the entry from that very same day one year ago:

I visited the witch again. This will be the third time. But she keeps repeating the same lines over and over. “Seek the place where the rage is cultivated. There you will learn. There you will hear the strength of your mother, your mother’s mother, and her mother before that. Seek on and on until you awake.” That’s all she says over and over. I don’t understand the message. Mom was never angry. Not that I ever saw. But she grew up in a generation like that. A quiet generation of domesticated women. She had her “wild days” as she described them but then she had children. She grew up. And I never got to know my grandmother let alone her mother before that. I don’t know what to think. I question my own anger, to understand where it comes from. But nothing appears beyond the normal narrative landscape. Misogyny. Men’s entitlement. Rape culture. I could go on and on. Pressures to have children. To be beautiful. Yes. Everyday I am filled with a quiet rage. I guess I hide it out of fear of repercussion. But am I missing something? Is there something deeper? There’s war on brown and black bodies. Both at home and abroad. I am ripped apart daily. The destruction of the land is ever-present. I just don’t know what to do. I do what I can do. How am I supposed to cultivate rage?

She closed the notebook. She had forgotten about those first days of visiting the witch. But now it seemed connected. She remembered another dream. A dream she had only once. A dream she didn’t have time to write down. But it returned to her like a breath of fresh air amidst a midsummer’s heat.

When she fell into the dream, the surrounding city never arose right away. The buildings sprang up after she spent time in a forest, or a meadow, or a river. There was no telling how long it would take. To pass the time she went on hikes, took naps, dipped for a swim, meditated under trees until finally the city appeared. Except once. One time the city didn’t appear.

She fell asleep and entered the dream as usual. She wandered the woods and found a stunning plant. Ghost pipe. A wonderful specimen of life. A plant without chlorophyll so it remained totally white. Because it didn’t produce its own food, it latched onto the mycelium of a mushroom to gain nutrients. The mycelium received nutrients from the roots of a tree. An epi-phenomenon. A dream within a dream. The ghost pipe spoke softly, “Save my spirit, dear one. Save my spirit.” She smiled. The whisper echoed the trees like the wind rustling feathers and leaves. She sat with the plant.

She noticed smoke in the distance so walked in that direction. As she neared, the entire forest looked to be engulfed in flames. She walked closer and soon realized the flames arose from a single cabin surrounded by trees. The cabin remained unaffected despite the violent flicker of flames. She thought it might be an illusion, but the heat pouring from it proved her wrong. The witch appeared in the doorway. Also burning. But like the cabin, not the least affected.

In a very unexplainable moment, her awareness split in two. She saw herself standing outside the cabin & she saw herself within. On the countertop a giant cockroach crawled into a mortar. It disgusted her. Her body shook in revulsion. She found it amusing too. Animated. Cartoonish. She wondered if she could act quickly enough to crush the cockroach, but realized that would be foolish. The splatter of cockroach wasn’t a welcome ingredient. The cockroach perked up its antenna and scurried away.

The witch stared at her, nodding as if reading her thoughts.

“To hold rage close to your heart. To be in the flames but not burned up. To throw heat in the direction you choose. Protect yourself, dear child. The anger you feel is not simply from your present life. It arises from generations and generations. It is a weapon you need to learn how to use.”

Three of Hearts

I am a relatively reserved person. I keep my expressions calm. Yet I feel often lustful. Moments exist when I’m scared of my own heart. Not that it will stop ticking, but the wilds she speaks.
.

We spent a couple hours talking at the coffee shop. Mostly about relationships and illusions. The way people feed into one another and create groupthink. All these little cliques of belief. The masses. The contingents. Securing a particular language. A secret code only for the initiates. If you don’t speak it, or attempt to learn, you are as good as gone.
.

I kept looking at her lips. Kissing them. My eyes betraying desire. I try not to stare, or ogle, but I do enjoy welcoming beauty into the dark wells of my sight. To see souls. To see into, more fully, the life of a person. She has a little goddess etching of birthmark on the underside of her chin near her neck. I remembered kissing it and gently nibbling. Running fingers through her hair, scratching lightly the back of her head. Pressing forehead against forehead. Seeing her eyes. “What do you want? It’s okay. What do you need?” I fell headlong. I kept seeing her teeth, scrunched up like a groundhog close to the earth. The fragrance of soil on her lips.
.

“You love being a poet, don’t you? Everyone must want to know who you are writing about.”
.

Lightning sparks from foreheads. Thoughts kiss. Like the rapidity of electric currents. Third eye linguistics, enmeshed. Timelessly conspiring, the telepathy of ancients. Entangled in breaths.
.

Veronica went on an interview at a sewing & design school. She unofficially received a job as a professor within minutes of the directors seeing her work. She spent hours making a bra. This is magic! She kept yelling. Until it wasn’t magic anymore. And then she let out a string of expletives. Honestly. She’s probably one of the best stitchers in the city. I’m proud of her for that. And humbled by her craft. It’s not terribly difficult to spot someone who holds mastery of an art upon seeing their work. There’s not a certificate in the world that can do that for you. It’s a gift.
.

I get so frustrated when I read the news, especially international politics, the continued destabilization of countries for the sake of oil. Power. Money. Control. The willful blind eye, American as apple pie. I ask myself why? Why do I keep reading. It’s maddening. Yet I have this urgency to stay informed. To shout into the abyss. A drop in the bucket of worldwide corruption.

I’m all for lowbrow art. But the esteem for being a dolt, it breaks my heart. There’s so much at stake. How easily will people be swept off their feet?
.

How do we speak a common language without losing the cut of a subversive tongue?
.

She grabbed my hand and put my fingers in her mouth. Tasting them in the early morning. Wetting them again. We pressed into one another. Gently at first, then more roughly, I wrapped a hand around her neck.
.

The largesse of an artist. The utter frustration of the writer whose pen keeps running out of ink. How are we supposed to communicate with one another profoundly if we haven’t dug out & filled in our own trenches?
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She stepped out of the car, and I could smell the lingering of blood.
.

Every night she stayed over, the next morning I dreamt of animals. Horses. A large goat. They nuzzled me. We looked into each others eyes. They, always much stronger than I.

Interludes of a Winter Blues

I carry a lot of tension in my gut. My whole life this has been the case. So much so, the majority of times I’ve visited an urgent care, a hospital, or doctor, it has been related to the gut. Thankfully these visits have been far and few between, and none have been terribly life altering.

I sit and meditate. I like to listen to that part of my body. I enjoy hearing and feeling my intestines talk. They make wild noises, like wolves snarling, frothing at the mouth with digestive salivas.

There’s a lot going on in there.

If the heart is the ocean (the veins rivers, creeks, and waterways) and the brain is the cosmos packed in with galaxies and neurons, then the gut is the deep caverns running pathways through the earth filled with nutrients and shit. The gut is like the soil, interlaced with mycelium and nerve endings.

I carry a discomforting hurt: The pain the earth goes through. There are tsunamis in my heart. There are earthquakes in my gut.

I sit and navel gaze. I release the spots where hardness builds up. My guts are soft, strong, and wild. I make sure I ingest non-domesticated foods as often as feasible so digestion is not made lazy by sugars and highly processed foodstuffs.

The complex absorption and expelling of earthly being daily.

Is there meaning in the fact that Artemisias such as wormwood and mugwort both tonify the digestive tract & strengthen dream recall? There is certainly a lot being worked out in the gut we are not totally aware of. Likewise in dreams, we are digesting emotions & experiences via the internal actions of the subconscious.

I carry a lot of shame and guilt in my gut. It tenses up like rocks and impedes the creative rivers of will.

Release.
Real ease.

I dreamt of a city. Walking through, the atmosphere was relaxed yet festive. Carnivalesque. I walked through a park and found so many colorful feathers. Several feathers sized four feet long. “These must be my new wings scattered all about.”

I made love with a woman I just met. Boundaries dissolving like fish wrestling in the ocean. Amorphous like the vortex storms of Jupiter. Volatile and pleasingly beautiful. Folding in on one another like spirals of the starry night. We made love.

I woke up naked and attended a street action. It hardens my body. To feel the lick of fire and rage, a constant in the underbelly, trembling like fault lines.

Some days I’m free from worry. Some days my brow is furrowed.

Praise be the shit. For that is an example of the body speaking, “This, I do not need.” I’m thankful for my guts. Discerning nutrients and nourishment everyday.

I think as a writer I’m working with sentences and paragraphs so much that sometimes I dissociate from words. Like when you say the same thing over and over again it momentarily loses its meaning. That happens to me when I stare at one project too long. But that’s why it’s nice to supplement my creativity with visual art. It opens up a whole new language spoken in images. In that spirit, I’m finally putting together a book of photography.