BY KIMBERLY DARK
Once, when I was having difficulty sleeping at night, I decided to buy canvas
and paint and create. I'm not a painter; I'm hardly artistic in that way at
all. But something told me to paint, so I did. Sometimes I don't sleep well
at night, especially when I'm alone in the house. I have waking nightmares.
I can't stop every painful thing I've ever heard or seen or endured from
flooding my mind. My eyes see too much, and my breath comes shallow; I drown
in the blood behind my eyes.
Once when I couldn't sleep, I bought a bunch of bulbs and planted them in
fertile soil outside my bedroom window. Once I bought a flute and practiced
it for two weeks in an effort to sleep better at night. On another occasion,
I worked a huge mass of green and purple clay until my arms ached so that I
couldn't wash the dishes without whining.
Blake looked at me with disgust when I brought home the art supplies.
"Why'd you have to buy a canvas so large? If you're going to learn to paint
something, doesn't it make sense to start small?" he asked, half
rhetorically, in his patronizing tone.
"I don't have a specific plan." I stated. "I just felt like buying a large
"Jesus, Kathy, what did that thing cost? This is a lot of paint, here.
Sometimes I wonder if your good sense slipped out of your pocket along with
our money." He dumped my bag of paint out on the coffee table, and sat down
on the sofa to examine the tubes.
"The canvas was $65 and the paints cost another $60. I don't have any art
supplies, so it cost a lot initially, but maybe, if I do this again, it'll be
a few dollars cheaper. Is all of this okay with you or should I fill out an
expense report when I feel I want to spend money?" I was calm and sarcastic.
These creative ventures always made my speaking voice sound more resonant.
My personal energy wrapped around me like a warm coat. My presence filled
the room from where I stood. Blake always backed down on these days.
"Well, you're just so darned flaky, honey. You never pick up that flute you
had to have and we have a garage full of clay." He was coming toward me now
with kissy lips and speaking in a baby talk voice as if he were calling me
his lover dumpling, not his flaky honey. " But I love you, and I want you to
feel right" he rolled his eyes and gestured in the air with his hands to
reference my flaky feelings "I want you to have what you want." He rubbed
his body against mine and kissed me. Then he bounded up the stairs and
shouted "I'm taking Jasper to the park."
"Okay" I called after him. I sat down on the sofa to examine my paints. I
had purchased no brushes. I intended to use my hands.
He's right, of course. I don't follow through on hobbies very well. I
sometimes feel that I should, yet these ventures do well to serve my purpose
and spackle my wounds until another floodgate lets loose. I don't think
Blake has matched my intentions with my actions, again. When I buy the best
clay, or the best dirt or the biggest canvas, I mean to suit my spirit's
rising. It rises fine and harmonic, demanding its due after feeling so
undefinably cramped. My spirit rises and rides the moon all night and all
night and all night again, not letting me sleep, until it is seen,
recognized, soothed and properly put down to rest.
The tulips and daffodils are, at least, a completed project. I planted them,
and they grow. Better yet, they re-emerged again this spring. I had
forgotten them, in my casual way. I had forgotten the way I clawed the soil
with my fingers, feeling its rich grittiness under my nails, its scent in my
nose. I had forgotten the way I cradled each bulb in my left hand, caressing
its turgid stems with my right hand like they were made of gold leaf and
might blow away if I breathed too hard. I forgot the way the earth I laid
seemed to cradle them. I had forgotten the feeling shortly after awaking the
next morning, well rested.
Then, there it was: the joy of unexpected life.
"Hey look Blake!" I said, happily pointing at the blooms beneath our bedroom
window sill. He leaned over me to look.
"They're ba-aack." he cooed in my ear and kissed my cheek. I felt well
rested all over again. I liked their return, perennial, like my commitment
to take care of myself, no matter what.
I dreamed last night that the tulips and daffodils, planted beneath my
bedroom window had returned. The tulip blooms were bleeding, coloring the
soil with stains of red and black bile. And the daffodils had become sucking
mouths with teeth behind them. And they were crying. I leaned closer,
horrified. As I heard the flowers cry, I felt my breasts ache, the way they
did when I nursed Jasper, right before the milk let down. The daffodils
snapped and sucked toward me, and the aching was replaced by wetness. I
looked down at my chest and I was covered in blood, issuing in a steady
stream from each nipple. The old pain was back too, without having been
I love that when I come into your house
Feeling strewn-like leaves on an autumn lawn
You act for a moment
Like raking could be your greatest joy…
You have run me a bath
Scented of aloe and eucalyptus
And as I lay myself into the small tub
And hear the water's gentle movement around my ears
I am grateful for how you take care of me.
This is not my love.
You have that simply because you are steady in my life
And because you breathe and
Your heart beats.
This is my gratitude
And acceptance of your love for me.
With the steam rising up around my partially submerged face
I hear the airiness of your lightly salted voice
Singing something simple in the other room and
My eyes rest on the wood grain
Of the bathroom ceiling
The small tub
Rustic, exposed wood
Makes me think of bathing in a large metal bucket
In another time
Or just another place - far from my city life
You would pour fire-heated water into my tub
And smile at me
I would know that warmth and sweetness and home
Do not depend on luxury,
Rather on simple presence and caring acts:
Stoking the fire
Raking the leaves
Carrying the water to soften my calloused glances
Rough-edged feelings that long to be washed clean,
And when I am fragrantly gathered into a corner
Multi-hued and calmly looking up at the trees from which I fell
You can put the rake aside and fall into me
Enjoy the dampness
Enjoy the season.
My friend Wendy said I should have one too.
I should not balk at my ex-lover's ridiculous choices.
I should simply also have a younger woman around to adore me.
I should give this a try -
Take a lover who finds me grand and wonderful
One who knows she's not my intellectual or artistic equal,
Someone with a charming youthful idealism,
Vibrant verve and perhaps even a tendency to say things like
"I just want you to be happy
because I believe that's what real love is."
At first, I scoffed at my friend's ludicrous advice.
"Why would I want this foolishness, knowing that it is such?"
I asked her.
"You're getting to the age where younger lovers are not children, you know."
Wendy pointed out.
And perhaps just because I've never had a younger suitor
And recent turns have made me available in a stalwart sort of way,
I made myself open to this possibility
And simple as that -
There she was!
She thinks I'm a brilliant writer
And that's a fine start.
She is articulate herself, in our conversations
She is an artist and a musician -
But not an intellectual.
She is interested in the things I love
And look, having a "younger lover" is not always about chronological age.
But it's true, this one is young.
Hey! She's more than legal!
More than old enough to buy cigarettes -
She can go to a bar and drink!
I looked at her website.
Younger people have those.
There is even a photo of her.
Her short, spiky hair and near profile face,
Lip piercing and slight sneer exhilarated me.
She is talented in this medium
And I respect her for this
Respect the light airiness of our conversation -
How she can be thoughtful
But not serious.
I like how she thinks older women are incredibly sexy
And I like that she ponders
Her potential inability to hold my attention for very long.
Hey, I am not responsible for her feelings!
She is giving reality a firm handshake right now,
And still walking into it's foyer, nonetheless.
She speaks of art and music,
The things she loves -
Tells me again what a great writer I am
Says she admires my knowledge of 19th Century French impressionism
And while I pause and sigh briefly
Thinking how easy it was to have her believe
That I have any knowledge of anything at all -
I think I get it.
I could get used to this
Come to crave it even because it's so easy!
And the high wouldn't change reality a bit.
My comfort and ease and big pillowy soft ego
Wouldn't keep her from being charming and admirable,
Bright and sexy
Fresh, and of course, absolutely loveable.
I take nothing from her.
Oh yes, and I give so much!
Without causing myself any exertion at all.
I think I get it.
I could simply be addicted
In that way drunks can sometimes come to believe
That the beer likes them
And really, they want the beer to be happy!
I could get used to this,
And adore so many things about her
As a substitute - or a prologue
For adoring myself.
It's not like a union of equals!
We don't have to each take responsibility for
liking ourselves and each other -
her self-worth is covered just by me showing up,
sage that I am,
and there is no growth required of me at all!
I can just sit in my lawn chair, if I choose,
Because she's still catching up in the maturity department -
Probably always will be…
I would enjoy her inherent gifts
Teach her to fuck in the ways I crave
I would become like a fatigue-wearing veteran,
Drunk every day by noon
Weaving my way along the busy streets of my life
Stepping dangerously near traffic.
I would be unshaven, my fly continually open.
Dirty-fingered, I would gesture and rant at the sky
About my losses
And the past wars