Say It Straight and Humble

I'm Alison. I'm twenty three. I live near the ocean. I'm trying to learn how to be a writer.

"Present the luminous detail and do not comment." - Ezra Pound

October 13th

painted my toenails dark blackish purple because the color was called ‘carry on’ and that felt important/used to keep my toenails painted cherry red because I read in cosmo that men found that color the sexiest/when I was thirteen, the whole world/throbbing and neon-bright/everything made me tremble/everything made me giggle/now, I don’t want men to think my toes are sexy/I don’t want men to look at me/when they walk behind me and talk to me/I say ‘fuck you’ over and over in my head/because it makes your face look meaner, more bony/S. and I went wine tasting/bought a bottle of white wine that tasted like lychee/I ate all the breadsticks and gulped instead of sipped/the sommelier watched me out of the side of his eyes/felt the distinct urge to stick my tongue out at him/S. and I tried to figure out if any other couples still loved each other/most of them just looked sad/tired, old, mouths stained with red wine/that night, we drank the whole bottle of wine on the porch overlooking the river/I asked S. if he was a feminist and he said no/we argued about it for three hours/until the wine was gone/in the most tender way, like carefully pressing your index finger against a bruise/three hours, and then silence like open palms/before we slept together, you held my face in your hands/and stared and stared and stared

September 21st

the cats are getting braver and braver every day/overheard stumbling hungover down college avenue one midmorning/you have started thinking only in images again/textures, flashes of color, soft bends of fading light/an orange juice carton left on the windowsill of a warehouse/an old man doing tai chi in the early early morning/his golden retriever napping next to him, paws folded/slow, deliberate movements/your body is not a small room you are locked inside of/you have not written since S. came home/what you can’t say/filling you up like a balloon/you left me/you left me/you left me/I missed you/like waking up with a migraine, like a clenched fist, like a sunburnt scalp/like the word miss (all hum and hiss, soft and low) is not sharp enough in my mouth to explain what I am trying to say/I missed you/until I didn’t anymore/I missed you/but the heat turned everything bone-dry and dirty, knobby-kneed cotton-mouth heat/heat that crosses her fingers behind her back/so hot we ate popsicles while we were fucking/spent all weekend watching you drive out of the corner of my eye/my shoes leaving faint dust prints on your dashboard/I was there/you left me/the way you roll all the windows down and smoke a cigarette as soon as you get on the freeway/the way your long body cuts through pool water/the way your feet tremor when you’re dreaming/this heat makes everyone feel like they’re dreaming/I’m trying to be braver and braver everyday/trying to read my horoscope less and less/they call it indian summer because it’s not real

cup after cup of tea that tastes like crushed dried flowers, watery perfume/always wondering what the cupcake lady downstairs is doing/what sadness she is folding into cupcake dough/if I walked in at eight in the morning what would she say/teach me how to use my hands again/damp three hour naps, nap dreams always the most violent/my poetry professor used to say nothing makes you feel the gristle of your own mortality the way naps do/go easy, light steps, careful words/stop touching your face all the time/stop holding yourself up on your hands/remember when you borrowed a dining room table/dragged it up two flights of stairs into your tiny living room to surprise me/we made dinner and ate across from each other/red wine and candlelight/all the blood rushing to my face/I couldn’t look at you/remember

friday, 7:50 AM: the smell of freshly cut grass and freshly smoked cigarettes - that ragged inhale of early early morning.


In Los Angeles in early March, everything is cracked and faded, sun-stroked with heat. We nap during the damp dog-heat of the late afternoon and I wake up at four in the morning startled by the metallic whirring of your fan on the highest setting, the hurricane of air it creates above your bed, deliriously half-dreaming a tropical thunderstorm outside your window, warm rain blessing the ashy knees of the desert. Here, I am always half-awake, always on the verge of falling asleep. Here, I drink iced coffee and call it lunch. Hours later, we eat dinner downtown, at a restaurant we can’t really pronounce, and the waiter, salt and pepper with a broken New Zealand accent, gives us free wine and dessert after we tell him that we are broke and can’t afford them, after he sees how giddy we get when our food arrives, how carefully we split a sandwich bite for bite. We leave sketches of cats and hearts trailing across the bottom of our bill and wonder fleetingly if he wanted to sleep with one of us, or maybe both of us. This is us in Los Angeles in newborn March: eating oxtail and beef tongue and bone marrow and fried quail at restaurants we can’t afford, thinking everyone in the world wants to sleep with us and we only want to sleep with each other, pushing through the heavy doors after our meal into the jasmine-scented night, skyscrapers winking above us, laughing as we trip down the uneven streets of downtown, sweaty and tipsy and full. We walk and walk and around us, the air turns crisp, and everything seems to breathe a sigh of relief that the sun has finally fucked off for the day.

The next day, you leave for work and I walk all afternoon. I wear a sweater so I don’t seem like I’m from out of town and sweat and sweat and sweat but no one even cares what you do here as long as you do it with an effortless purpose, a mild passion, a hazy carefulness. I drive hours down bleached highways, from Pasadena to Santa Monica, and love every goddamn heat-blasted minute of it, because I am alone and alive in a new city, a city blanketed with a heat that turns everyone bizarre and lazy, a city that laughs in my face when I say I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, that singsongs back to me - the palm trees and perfumed air, the faded turquoise houses, the Jacaranda trees that weep lavender flowers onto the concrete, the balding sunburnt mountains - nobody does, nobody does.

We eat mangoes and drink coffee half naked on your patio the next morning and I take three aspirin with my orange juice because I always have a low-grade grinding headache from glaring into the sunlight like it has done something to offend me. The day drifts past us lazily like a slow river, heat rising in waves from the concrete and we fall asleep in the backseat of your car in Echo Park, curled around each other, waiting until it’s late enough to go to a house party where we only know one person without it being awkward. Outside, men laugh and curse and a tiny black dog barks over and over. We do bumps off your house key to stay awake but only after the sun goes down because the sunset is sacred, you say, LA sunsets are a religion, and I roll my eyes and take another sip of my gin and tonic but here we are, every night, sweating on rooftops or stuck in traffic headed home, open-mouthed, face upturned, saying holy shit, holy shit.



July 16th

The full moon, egg-moon, searchlight-moon. The too full, leave me alone, get out of my face, moon. The moon huge and unashamed in the charred black sky, the moon looking at me with a raised eyebrow and a frank expression on her face. The moon always tired of my shit. The blonde boy sprinting down Telegraph Avenue at a quarter to midnight on a Sunday night, carrying sunflowers in his right hand, his backpack bouncing wildly on his back. The look on his face: huge, unashamed. The concrete sidewalk warm beneath my bare legs, warm like the earth has a low fever. Brushing my hair out in front of the mirror, stroke by stroke, my hair more straw than silk, dry and staticky, listening to Danielle talk to her ex-boyfriend on the phone for the first time in the next room, her voice rising and falling like waves: wind-chime laughter and dragging desperation. Not knowing where you are tonight, knowing that you are somewhere on the border of California and Oregon, knowing the ground is hard beneath your back, knowing the way the moonlight is falling on your freckled shoulders, remembering (that fierce scrape of memory) the first time I woke up, panicked at four in the morning, and saw you sleeping next to me: freckles and moonlight, the soft dip of your upper lip, realizing that I could run down every backstreet, could ignore every ringing phone, I could try my hardest to keep this from happening and I would always end up here and here and here.

it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world

mary oliver

(every morning, when i leave for work, when i open the front door and step out onto the porch and breathe in, this pops into my head, like clockwork)