20 December 2012

On Declaring "Single" Status


Or

"Stating for the Record
that I Went Through an Elaborate
Dorothy Parker Thought Process
Before It Actually, Like, Happened"



Oscillating between asexual and lovelorn, I finally declared my status as "available" on Facebook.

I wish one were able to elaborate instead of simply checking the box next to which was technically correct--

Is it sort of like declaring one is single on a tax form? In that case, I've always been "single," despite being called a "spouse" amongst friends.

He called me his spouse, said he had already felt married.

So, I was tempted to check "divorced" on Facebook, to confuse and bewilder others, but it's something that makes better sense to me.

It's something that feels more correct--

"I was officially loved deeply by someone else for a long time, and he decided he was done, so now I'm not loved by him anymore."

Cue The Smiths and The Cure, cue the low chime of church bells, signaling a death knell instead of a wedding.

Oscillating between guilt and defiance, I finally declared my status as "unattached" on Facebook.

While he did it right away, I waited until almost Christmas, just in case someone wanted to declare his or her love and send me flowers.

(I've only received flowers from a lover once; it was on our first date.)

Cue The Smiths and The Cure, cue the groans and eye rolls from the reader.

Am I free now to pour secrets? Am I free to be knowable?

I'm not blameless; I'm an asshole. I left, scared, after my poor word choice and hysterics, ripping tiny clumps of my hair out and resorting to cross-complaining out of frustration, out of dropping all of my cards on the floor, out of jumping from my skin and placing my worn thoughts in the ether, simply wanting to see a movie on my day off.

It feels childish, this wanting to close my heart, caulk the doorway and be done.

After all, I miss holding someone and telling him I loved him everyday, several times a day.

I'm not exaggerating.

I held him--in my arms, and softly in my gaze, everyday, several times a day.

I may be poor--I may have only a few cents in my bank account--but my heart is warm and pure. I am wealthy in kindness. I am wealthy in patience.

Oscillating between vulnerability and sanity, I finally declared my status as "single" on Facebook.

When he held my heart in front of my face and called me "honey" one last time, before saying he was done, I wanted my heart back.

I told him that I wanted him, but I changed my mind: I wanted my heart back.

He was the first one to have it, the first one to warm it in his palms and place it gently, using forefinger and thumb, within the glow of his enchantment.

I snatched it back, just in time for the holidays, and that's when I finally declared my status as "available" on Facebook.



14 December 2012

Praying Together

Consider the small curls of light,
then consider trial, the chemicals,
the particles or waves.
Then consider the plastic contours
of your mind, your mouth,
and bite your fucking tongue.
Origami flowers decorate the windowsill,
tinfoil colored with permanent marker.
Little hands folded those corners.
Please don't give us
the "God needed another angel" line,
because it doesn't help.
Just hold your children,
hold those little hands.
Hold the light close to you,
let it dance outside
the frame of your grief,
then let it curl inside,
warm and shining, like tinfoil
heating gradually, its star shape
creating prisms, echos,
repeating light.


12 December 2012

We Give Our Love Away, Keep None For Ourselves

Absence makes the heart grow fonder,
folks always say, but sometimes,
something else happens,
a sort of "out of sight,
out of mind" thing.
And there's nothing poetic about it.
There aren't shards
or pieces of shrapnel
to pluck away, all obviously dangerous.
The glass glitters on the road,
but "glitters" isn't the word
just anyone would use,
just a special little asshole
who likes to waste your time
with detail, with fragments
of reality so perfect, you throw up
a little bit just thinking about them.
So, you wait. You wait for someone
to look you in the eyes
and really see what dances behind them,
but you wait
for a long damn time.


10 December 2012

So Many Illustrations

Why do you come here
When you know it makes things hard for me?
When you know, oh
Why do you come?

- Morrissey


You found someone new, which is fine.
But that means that you shouldn't come over here drunk.
And you shouldn't kiss your ex on the forehead.
And you shouldn't drive past her house.
And you shouldn't call her and make her cry.
And you shouldn't take
all of her friends away, and lie about
how things ended.
Because you just shouldn't.

You found someone new, which is fine.
But that means that you shouldn't
love two people at once.
And you shouldn't call one of them your soul mate,
the one you're no longer sleeping next to.
And you shouldn't cry in someone else's arms
the tears you share with your "soul mate."
And you shouldn't say, "I'm sorry for how you feel"
when you really aren't sorry, not sorry at all.


07 December 2012

Listen Up

Dear Fellow Mean Humans, Particularly in Positions of Power:

Most of the time, I try to be as kind and patient as possible, but lately, I've had really awful thoughts about you, all of you, and how you've screwed us little people over. I'm tired. I'm tired of the fact that you seem to be rewarded for your bullying, your manipulation, your insincerity, your greed. I'm tired of feeling like I'm somehow defending your sorry butts when I say, "humans are basically good." You are small in number, but you do so much damage, and I'm tired of it. So, I'm begging you, for the love of all that is precious in this world, stop. If you don't stop, know this: you will always face opposition. There will always be other people -- other good, hardworking, positive, honest people -- who will try to defeat you and all you represent. That's right, I'm coming after you. I'm coming after you with my education. I'm coming after you with my womanhood. I'm coming after you -- not submitting to your fear, your pressures, your boot heels on my throat. So, watch yourselves, because we are armed with more than just kindness and patience. We are armed with courage and love, justice and knowledge. And you -- all of you, who multiply and multiply -- will go down in flames, if it takes us thousands of years.

Sincerely,
Shannon Ranee McKeehen
One of "The Little People," and there are a lot of us.



01 December 2012

December 1

All these little suicides
they hardly make a mark.
I can take these fun-house rides --
I'm a natural in the dark.

- The Golden Palominos


Forgot to wear my chains and name tag
today and accept my role as monster.
Forgot to leave your light on,
shut mine off, and accept my role as fuck-up.
If I suddenly did everything right,
found a way to feed myself before I
paid every dollar, comforted every person,
it would do nothing. There would still be me
and the yellow wallpaper,
the delusions of womanhood, of youth,
of danger. There would still be pieces of me
that would anger you
that wouldn't fit together
quite right. Because it's my insanity,
my vanilla whitewash
that makes me invisible, intolerable.
But when I talk about it,
I'm doing something wrong.
But when I keep it to myself,
I'm doing something wrong.
But when I do the best I can,
I'm doing something wrong.
My tenderness, all vulnerable,
is found by the side of the road,
a deer who should've known better
but didn't.



27 November 2012

Rough Draft

I don't believe that God is a little white lie,
but I also don't believe
that God is a mascot,
or a stain on your shirt,
or the receiver of your dead letters.
I don't believe that God is a Man,
wielding his dick like a lightening bolt,
sharpening his beard with his static fingers,
waiting to flash his petty hot anger
like a red-faced child in a grocery store.

Instead, I believe
that God is an artist,
a special kind of junkie,
functional but barely,
experiencing fits of creativity,
leaving his mark
on each little piece,
hand-carving and hand-painting
every squirrel, every rabbit,
every fish, every human,
until the night comes
and bathes each creation
in abstraction and blur.

I believe that God looks at each tiny bit
with wonder, care,
all romantic and sentimental,
until fragments of light pierce the breast
of every squirrel, every rabbit,
every fish, every human,
until those fragments, those pieces of Godself,
become souls -- not fully-formed,
not actualized just yet, but there,
flooding each crevice with light.

And maybe we are precious, and maybe we are loved.
And maybe we get dropped by accident,
scuff marks, dents showing.
And maybe we're all sappy
and silly and weird.
And maybe we will be OK,
full of wonder and care.


26 November 2012

Monday Morning

Do you think I'm beautiful,
or do you think I'm evil?

- The Afghan Whigs


Light, instead of sleep,
dotting the corners of each eye,
you are awake
with the realness of dreams
on your mouth, in your sighing.

It's corny, I know,
but I know where you were --
that place in your mind
is my homeland,
where the belly of the earth
is scratched up, used up,
and the buildings line the sky
like jagged, broken teeth.

You rinse your mouth,
your cares, and shake your towel,
which is stiff and cool
like the wind that carried you back to bed,
back to safety.

Don't swallow the wash by accident.
Don't eat breakfast too soon.
Don't rush out of the door too quickly,
forgetting your watch.
Because it's all about time, and it's about time
you took your time,
bathe yourself in dreams,
felt beautiful and clean
instead of evil and a mess.

That dream, with my city --
my tired, rotten city --
is a nice place to visit.
There, you will never
have to watch the clock,
wait for the hands to shift by themselves.
There, you can be home too.

Take my hand, misshapen and cold,
and I can lead you
to the scene of the crime.


25 November 2012

November 25

"Gush and gush until
you burst," I said.
"Gush like you mean it,
a grape bruised, then split."


19 November 2012

Bury the Lede

I.

It looks like you're asking the reader
whether we should draw connections between
real beauty and trash.
Don't take the audience for granted.
It's clear when you yawn in their faces.

II.

Where should I put
the fucking citation?
And should there be a footnote,
so sterile and isolated,
even though it's so often skipped?
Why do I even bother?
There is such a thing
as a stupid question,
right?

III.

I bury the lede deep in my chest cavity,
deep in the recesses,
where stale water pools,
stagnant and shallow.

I bury the lede under freshly-fallen leaves,
soft and normal and unassuming.
With chapped hands, I rake over theories
and false impressions.

I quote directly when it is possible, but otherwise
make shit up as I go along,
string details together like popcorn on string,
garnish my values with hard kernels of truth.

Who am I to judge you?
I tip-toe around questions,
and yet I ask too much of my reader.

Poor bastard.



16 November 2012

Mantis

Break my body --
hold my bones.

- Pixies


My life: the ashtray.
Leave your gum,
leave your cigarette,
leave your
temporary pleasure.

I can't win, really.
I'm someone's favorite, but not really.
I'm someone's wife, but not really.

Crumpled newspaper, the taxing of my youth,
I waited until the headline ran,
until forever became a hypothetical.
"I want you to be
the mother of my children," he said,
and then he locked the door.


12 November 2012

November 12

It is sort of like divorcing
the sparrow from her twine, her wisdom.
It is sort of like presuming
that the wind will blow
all of our courage away.
My mouth -- the widest,
coldest cave -- welcomed
no sparrow, no wind.
No more shelter, no more notes carried
only to hide modestly
among the garbage
that has gathered there.
It is sort of like that,
only more dangerous, more public,
a tale bifurcated --
forks in the path, both sides sharpened.
It is sort of like all of this,
with a vague amount of certainty,
like the buffalo being led off the cliff.
The twine floats on the wind,
so careless without purpose,
without creating warm nurseries.
Maybe it is sort of
like that, with winter coming
and not enough nourishment to survive.



30 October 2012

Access

Drowsy, hungry, longing for the night
where I'm comfortable.
No one can see my body in the dark.
There seems to be some confusion:
You ended it, and yet you are the victim.
I am the villain, shielding my face, my identity.

When the church bells sound,
that's the gun shot that forces me to run,
to tell the truth,
to be horrible and blackened and small.
Such is the danger of denial,
and my fingers lose sensation from holding on so tightly.

Didn't I comfort you?
Didn't I hold you away from the rain?
Wasn't I beautiful?
No.

Looking at the end
of the tunnel, you aren't there, waiting.
You aren't there, feebly, clumsily
holding the torch, the candle, the whatever.
Instead, you're grasping onto a figure
of speech, of enlightenment, of anger
and I am left, the monster,
fumbling in the dark,
where it's comfortable.


23 October 2012

Baltimore

Love is dangerous,
a pistol still hot
from firing.
I was always good
for a laugh.
I was always good
for something.
When the rain
crept into my heart,
I didn't close
any windows, but I did
shut my eyes.
Love is cruel, like the crow
pecking at my windows.
Love doesn't want,
love waits
too damn long, curtains drawn,
cobwebs forming
to fill crevices
where wonder should be.



22 October 2012

Wild

It's nice to look at, this weakness.
It's shaped like a house, folded inward.
Wandering out into the night,
we misplace our dreams, tuck our sorrows
into swollen pockets.
I am mute, because words are forgotten here.
I am cold, because I left my coat at your place.
When we stumble over rabbit holes in the dark,
we remember our voices
just in time to cough and cry
into the night,
wondering if we can ever make it home.


19 October 2012

October 19

Glass cavity,
pure and deep --
that is where
you hide your surprise, love
letters written in the night.

I feel your breath
on my hair,
feel your song
in my throat,
but I can't hear you
for my own voice --
re-discovered, dusted-off.

Hey, sugar,
sweetheart,
clear crystals forming --
encasing --
brain cells,
yeah, you snapped me,
snatched me up.



26 September 2012

On Anger

The blood blister burst
when I was nine years old:
closed fist, closed heart,
dressed in a Disney dress.

I don't want pity.
I want soft eyes.
I don't want money.
I want love.

I never said it would be easy
opening that fist,
closing it around something warm,
something other than grief.

I never said it would be easy
or beautiful, because I'm neither.
I'm broke and broken.
Those are my crimes.
Leaving, with fists closed:
this is your regret for loving me.
I shoulder your blame,
blisters from the heat.
And yet the anger is always
yours.

12 September 2012

Carrier Train

Waiting for light, the ah-ha moment.
It appears at the end of the tracks.
A crack in the jaw, eyes barely open,
I run toward jeopardy.
It's the last thing I see,
my hope, my end.





11 April 2012

An Open Letter Concerning My Poem "New York, 1942"

Last month, I wrote a piece about God's relationship with the poor and desperate called "New York, 1942," after having read about Harlem and other parts of impoverished America during World War II. The piece was intended to be a satire, but I received some correspondence about it that I would like to respond to here, since otherwise this is a sleepy little blog, and I welcome dialogue.

Let me just say this upfront: I believe in God, and I consider myself a very spiritual person. But my relationship with Divinity is complicated, one that I engage with daily. Oddly, the more alienated I feel about dogma and its inconsistencies, its stern representatives and apologists, the closer I feel to God, or what/whomever one wants to call God. Because God exists outside of human-made constructs, I feel that religion doesn't do a good enough job of explaining God. It doesn't do a good enough job of reinforcing the spirit.

So, while I struggle to find an adequate identifier for my religious/spiritual stance -- "agnostic" isn't strong or complete enough, for instance -- I still grapple with my Lutheran upbringing, my education in an Anabaptist college, and my own role as a Christian apologist.

Throughout history, the wealthy have tried to claim ownership over Christianity in particular, despite what Christ teaches. During the course of the past thirty years, America has become increasingly conservative, with an Evangelical Christian bend. One of the factors that frustrates me most about the current climate and discourse, aside from the rampant hypocrisy and judgment, is the perspective that Jesus in particular takes political sides, namely that if Jesus came back and landed in the United States, He would identify as Republican. He would also, evidently, identify with the rich white Christian men whose ideology is and has been dominant.

I would beg to differ. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., and others before me, I think that God -- Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or any other "God" -- is with the oppressed. I do not think of God as Republican or Democrat. I do not think of God as CEO or mascot. I think of God as one who chooses to be among the most broken, the most suffering, the most in need of Divinity, for these are the creatures who possess the most grace.

While my poem has offended some readers, I hope that this letter has shed some light on the place I was coming from when I composed it. I wrote it out of frustration and anger. I'm angry at the people who think that God is only for the "clean" and "whole," the most fortunate among us, who use sin as a crutch and excuse instead of holding themselves accountable for their actions. I'm angry at the people who use their privileges -- their whiteness, their Christian upbringing, their wealth, their gender, their heterosexuality -- to judge those who are not like them. I'm angry at those who believe everyone should behave and think and look exactly like themselves -- and I'm angry that they do not recognize their desires as fascist.

The God I believe in loves the sex worker. The God I believe in loves the veteran peddling for change. The God I believe in loves the radical as well as the conformer. The God I believe in loves those who are struggling, who are broken, who are proud and dirty and empowered -- who do not see their brokenness as wrong but as potential, as human.

My blog has a disclaimer. I write poetry that is sometimes graphic and unsettling in nature. I believe that it is important to challenge oneself and to go beyond what feels familiar and comfortable. America in particular is very comfortable seeing itself as beautiful. Often, America is anything but. And, lo and behold, I believe that God loves us anyway. It isn't a radical thought, I know, but it still makes people uncomfortable.

Light should always cause at least a little discomfort, don't you think?

Thank you for reading.

Shannon McKeehen


15 March 2012

New York, 1942

God doesn't love
a broke son.
He can't give back.
God doesn't love
the invisible daughter,
giving
blowjobs in Harlem.

God doesn't love.

Rich men can get into heaven;
rich men own heaven.
The white and the pure
inherit the earth.
The white and the pure
inherit the history.

Trying to collect crumbs
with fingernails, we realize
God doesn't love.



16 February 2012

Highway wraps around
like a tourniquet:
I'm swollen, but my movement
isn't limited.

The map of your sex,
the veins and arteries crossing, overlapping,
capillaries merging,
remind me of the back roads of desire,
the dead ends of temptation:
your body, my near adventure.

But there's been a crash
by the side of the road
and there's no one here
to identify the body.