Self-Care Nightmare

The other night, I decided that I was going to be the woman I was destined to be: the kind of gal who had a tasteful glass of wine rather than a flowerpot full, the sort of radiant dame who gets eight hours of sleep and drinks a big glass of water first thing in the morning. The endeavor to be my own embodiment of feminine mystique and glory came to a screeching goddamn halt when my first purpose-planned night of rest was chock-full of nightmares. Enjoy – I know I didn’t.

To Be Well-Rested, I Must Rest Well

It’s a foul dream, 
A trick
My world through a funhouse mirror
Someone, somewhere, is laughing at me
Wake up, wake up
My heaving breast aches for the morning dew

Reaching through horror
I sense some shift of me
Some luckier phantom
Floating under my duvet somewhere
Behind waking’s gauzy curtain
I want to shake her into knowing relief
I don’t want these eight hours

Patience

Were you, reader, ever the younger child? Did you have to watch your sibling get a training bra, go to prom, pick out a college first? Did it hurt? Or, more simply, were you ever grounded? Did you have to watch through stained-glass tears while your parents carted away your Gameboy or your stuffed dog, with the assurance that you’d have them back in three days, four days, a week?

 
 
 
Bouquet Toss

 My sister got married
 And set atop a high shelf - 
 I was grounded from her.
  
 I waited and stared impatiently
 As she moved North, 
 Took semi-annual international jaunts
 Wore the latest fashion
 And left her tabs open
  
 She barely decorated her mansion
 And found every excuse to come home
 But by then there was nothing to talk about
 No common wire to perch on
  
 Two years and a torrent of abuse
 Locked my sister behind glass
 While I continued to stand below her shelf
 To catch her
  
 Now, though – I hear it in her voice
 A storm is coming
 I throw out my arms.  

Sweet Saturday

Does this poem need a trite little backstory? No. It’s specific – that’s the one piece of advice I’ve gotten, over and over: “be more specific”. Billy Collins told me in my Masterclass, an editor at Ghost City Review let me know when I asked for feedback following a rejection, and my mother told me after wrinkling her nose at one of my more half-assed attempts at being deep. Here’s a poem – don’t guess what it’s about.

 
 

An Evening Alone with a Question 

 I don’t need plans tonight
 Actually
 I have a recipe I’ve been dying to try
 And a candle to keep me company
 I’ve got a record that I turned on
 To rumble and purr
 Like you do
  
 If you came home, though 
 Paid your tab and got back in the car
 You could spin me in lazy circles around the living room
 Make me forget about the record and the Pino
  
 When you come in, late
 I’ll let you try the apple crumble
 And tell you how relaxing it was
 To wonder where you were
 What you were doing
 Why you didn’t want to bring me
 All while sipping on a mostly-empty glass.
 Here it is: try it 

Ten Days

I’m sure all two of you who read this blog have noticed my absence. I have run myself so ragged that even my sister has squawked at me to “slow down!!!” I’ve been doing a poor job, but I did stay in on Friday. I watched Super Troopers with my dog. It was a totally unremarkable evening, and I would like to have more just like it. Anyways, here’s a poem I started about this whole thing.

I'm supposed to be getting better
Resting
Rebuilding my strength
But what is vitality
If not a volatile currency
A fickle, use-it-or-lose-it force?

Hold on
I need to sit down for a moment

E. Jean, Oh Dear

A week or so ago, I sent my husband a link to my two personal essays published by Sleet Magazine. His response was merely that the first one, “Bodies,” made him sad. My self-absorbed ass wanted to hear about what a great writer I am, how my husband understands some critical, previously-unobserved part of me, how I am an old soul or some other corny shit. But no, all he said was that he was sad. This, of course, propelled me to new levels of wallowing and self-absorption. I emailed E. Jean Carroll, one of very few people I can confidently call a role model. She congratulated me on getting published and told me that she makes a point to never show her writing to family or husbands. Damn! I grew up reading E. Jean’s column in Elle, so I really would trust her with my life. For several years, her advice column was the closest thing I had to guidance, while my mother was busy working 60 hours per week and doing what mothers do – “seeing about things.” Anyways, here’s a poem for my mom. I’ll never let her read it.

The writer, her mother (who will always bear a striking resemblance to the Columbia Pictures lady), and her sister.
 For My Mother, For Father’s Day
  
 I am not half the woman my mother was
 Though she never wanted me to be. 
 Mom fled across the old South
 From slick men and robberies
 Tenements and community college
 To a burnt-out Camaro and a basset hound
 Who bayed at my young sister and I 
 Unable to express his love otherwise
  
 I never knew an eviction notice
 Or a too-tight school uniform
 Although my mother’s thin-soled sensible shoes
 Whispered about budgets and bounced checks
 Store-brand food and impending mattress springs
  
 Mom’s eerie foresight and vicious budgeting
 Did not account for grit
 I would sleep on a thousand floors
 To inherit her ramrod spine 

Villainous Revelry

The other day, driving home from work, I found a new Spotify playlist called “POV: You’re the Villain in Love With the Hero”. Whoever “Rowan” is, they did a great job curating this bad boy. It’s sultry, playful, and just dark enough. It got me thinking, though: we are each the villain in someone else’s story, like it or not. What lengths do we go to to insist that we’re the hero, blameless and clean? And what does it take to admit that, sometimes, being the skeleton in someone else’s closet it reassuring in a way? Anyways, here’s “Twist”.

Twist

We'll meet, I'll say it was your eyes
That got me hooked
We'll talk
I'll stay up late and say
Like I always do
That I'm in love with your mind

We'll walk through the trees
And kiss by the creeks
I'll let you call me yours
Later, I'll call you another twist
In my spiral
You'll watch me discard you like the rest

Familial Fauna

This morning, when I left for work on time, hydrated and with an almost-healthy lunch in hand, I felt for a moment like I had my shit together. It was a great feeling. I, by and large, am still floundering around trying to pull myself together, but it runs in the family. My innate sense of disaster, along with my love of nature, inspired a piece that was recently published by Sleet Magazine, “Grandmother Rose.” Feel free to read it below. Sleet put out another piece that I wrote in their most recent issue – I’ll put a link at the bottom.

Grandmother Rose

My Grandmother Rose annoyed my parents in the same way I did. She was too messy, too scatterbrained, and too unpredictable. The things about my Grandmother Rose that annoyed my parents endeared her to me. We were kindred spirits – gross, disorganized ones.

That’s why, when I was brought down to Arkansas to visit her, she did not get cross with me for bringing toads from her backyard inside to swim in the bathroom sink. She waved my mother off, when she was squawking at me for patting the toads dry with my grandmother’s “nice washcloths.” To me, fluffy pink washcloths made perfect toad towels.

My grandmother did not scold me several years later, when I wandered out of visitation for some recently-deceased elder, to pick ticks off of a stray dog in the parking lot of the funeral home. The dog didn’t seem to mind my dalliance, either. And the fact that no one noticed I was missing for a solid thirty minutes only reinforced to me that the dog was more important than the make-pretend and stiff hugging of visitation.

As I grew older, I became more aware of why my parents would get so exasperated with me. I instinctively blushed when I saw my school folders overflowing with papers, and I knew that I should hide the way my socks never matched, and my shirts invariably had some sort of stain on them by noon every day. During my annual visits to Arkansas throughout my middle- and high-school years, I saw myself in my grandmother’s overflowing ashtrays and heaps of laundry. My parents whispered about her mangy dogs that she took in as strays while I tried in vain to teach them tricks. And even once I began sporting mascara and hickeys from boyfriends, I delighted in chasing the toads whose bellies made a comical “plop” when they landed after each jump.

Over time, I’ve gotten more adept at hiding that Grandmother Rose side of myself. I’ve stuffed my blotchy cheeks, stained clothing, and overflowing folders into a sort of closet of unwelcome habits. I try not to let others see that a level of my mind is a ranch-style home in the middle of the countryside, full of coffee-stained teacups summering, coaster-less, on hardwood mantles. Years after I had seen a southern toad, when I was no longer beholden to my parents’ bevy of roadtrips, I lived alone in college. After a disastrous breakup, spurred on partly by pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I had a one-bedroom apartment by the river all to myself. Every night, as the stars rose, I would walk the path by the water. Sometimes, after a heavy rain, disoriented crawdads would wander up the hill from the river, swaying in the dark towards the nearby golf course. I interrupted my stroll every time to pick the lost creatures up and ferry them back down the slick hill to their home, setting them carefully just at the muddy edge of the lapping river.

http://www.sleetmagazine.com/selected/taylor_v13n1.html

Compost

I was thinking, months ago, about missed chances – if you take this too-short-to-bother-submitting poem as evidence. I’ve tried, multiple times, to add onto it, to make it longer, better, more, but it says what it needs to. And I wouldn’t want it to become one more call I never picked up.

 
 Rearview

 Everyone knows
 Hell smells like overripe cantaloupes
 Like just-missed chances 
 That last hug you didn’t give a friend
 The letter you forgot to send 

Favorite Firsts

Did you know that most poetry publications will only accept your poem if it’s not been displayed on any other website? That reminds me, in a way, of the dire warning my mom gave me regarding my V-card when I was a girl (Mom was wrong!).

So, when I post a poem here, that means it’s either been published, or it never will be. Happily, the below poem has been published by Down in the Dirt Magazine. They published two of my poems, actually – if you want to see the other, there’s a link at the bottom of the post. Down in the Dirt is actually the first to display my work online, though Sleet Magazine was the first to inform me that they accepted something of mine (that issue of Sleet will be out very soon). What are your favorite firsts, reader? Bonus points if you tell me in haiku form.

An Introduction

Good morning
My name is Cora
Replacement for Olivia
Who didn't make it to term

My name is Cora and my mom
Only wanted two kids
So if Olivia had made it
I never would have been

My name is Cora
But my mom almost named me Ruby
After a cleaning lady
Mom worshipped as a girl

Ruby is a bright name, a deep name
But then that damn song got popular
And Mom didn't want any jokes
About me turning my red light on

My name is Cora
But my name would have been Ross
If I had been a boy. Ross Lee.
Mom only wanted daughters, though

The last Cora was my grandma's grandma
No one remembers what she was like.
There's only one picture of her
She wore a smirk ahead of her time

The last Cora, hell, the first Cora
Lived on a farm, and had a herd of cows
All I have left of her is her lead milk cow's bell
My name is Cora and I ring, ring, ring

Down in the Dirt link (select “Cora Taylor” in the left-hand column [no, that isn’t my real name])

http://scars.tv/cgi-bin/framesmain.pl?writers

Almost-Summer Silence

When I was looking out my office window today, trying to relax and convince myself that I didn’t overdo it at lunch today (I’ll admit it: I did), I ended up face-to-face with an ornate, long-abandoned shell of a building. The city put up barriers to keep people from selling their bodies or drugs or knock-off watches beneath the old hotel’s tattered awnings. I ended up with a loose snippet of poetry:

Abandoned hotel
You dead downtown lightning bug
What stories did you choke
Trying to tell?

But what can you do with something that short? I lack the self-assurance and the hungry audience of someone who could present Instagram-length poetry. I guess this stanza will wait for something better, much like the sleeping hotel itself.

Do you have any scraps of poetry that never found a home? Drop me a line in the comments.