"The first draft of anything is shit." -E.H.

It’s a curious thing for me to write so much on the topic of beds and mattresses despite not being terribly in love with mine. Sleep has always been the most convenient distraction for me: a proclivity to nap as responsibility weighed on me, or other days comfortable sleep from productive thoughts made whole but not material. I was sleepy when busy and not when not.

The memory which most sticks with me is the one of one summer night, probably in late elementary school. My bed was tucked into the corner of my room left of the bay windows. A small portion of it extended past the side walling into the indenture where the windows were, and the rest was snug with the makeshift bedpost of white walls not yet baby blue. It is the dead of night, and the blinds are sloppily closed—the three of them stop at different latitudes, and they are left open so moonlight can paint me the pattern of zebra stripes.

There’s a bright blue blanket scattered on the expansive white bed sheet. It’s made all the more white by the moonlight not even trying to make its way into my room. I adjust my body into all sorts of different positions: legs against the wall like a right angle; prone with one arm beneath me and the other in the same direction; and as a falling leaf. I look up at the ceiling like I am cloudwatching, then glance at my bedpost which I have drawn several sketches on over the weeks.

A car passes by my window, its headlights a lost meteor shower visiting my tiny stretch of the night sky. It’s the clearest memory of my childhood. The filtered light at first paints large strokes across my night sky. Then, as the sound of the car grows nearer, they intensify, lengthen briefly, and fade into the other end of the room as meteors do after exhausting themselves.

I forget when I moved my bed to the other side of the room, but I did. I guess younger me just wanted to sleep at the place where everything celestial and heavenly ended up. But, as with so many wonderful dreams, I forgot. I had forgotten nearly every night until tonight, until I curled up on my mattress with the last third of “Norwegian Wood” to a lightening night, what stardust was like.

In some of my nights awake in bed, I clutch my blanket in a mass about me, and sear my eyes closed from the lightening room. My head clings to the pillow underneath it, and my mind wraps itself around its length and delicate elevation. It dips where the weight of my thoughts press down.

I am looking down at a wall-white surface below me from a significant height. I hover in omniscience; there is a definitive dullness to the earth, and small, unidentifiable prisms are scattered across the fondant-like floor like cast die. There are no clumps to the pieces on this board. I feel small to the white vastness beneath me, and some other indeterminately angular and helpless feeling bubbles inside me.

All at once, my center swallows me whole and I am on the earth that used to be beneath me. That uncomfortable, bubbling feeling is quieted. White extends all around me, but it is comfortably devoid of luster like the squares and hundreds of cartoon cubes drawn flat as marginalia on my math notebooks. The dullness grows more comfortable like the mattress beneath me.

I see now the scale of the prisms I had looked so condescendingly down upon. They are half a length taller than my new vantage point, and all hexagonal prisms. The closest one lies on its side, but the others are identical in shape and varied in juxtaposition. Some bury into the ground which I cannot find any gaps in, and others balance precariously on their edges and sides.

It is definitively, but indeterminably bright. The edges of the prisms make clean shadows which cast along its sides or the ground nearest them, but I cannot make out from which direction they originate from. I move out to a clearing, and there is a sudden, glaring quality to the white plain extending indefinitely against the white sky. It is a maddening struggle to conceive depth without the prisms previously scattered about me. That uncomfortable feeling jabs at me again. I turn about, and the prisms are gone, with not even indents remaining where they once were.

I feel like a ship in an alabaster sea. The ground perpetuates almost endlessly outward from every direction, and at the horizon meets the identically colored sky above me. I cannot tell if what is above me is a ceiling like that below me, or if it is an emanating whiteness.

I do not know if I was ever a person here, but I realize I am just a lingering perspective and nothing more. If there were others, I could not see them; they were as immaterial as me. For a while, my mind tries to fill the sensory void. I imagine the white earth below me to be some greater prism whose size I cannot understand. From the silence, I can hear the screams of the others. And at the horizons, I see the edges of this flat world where I imagine the white ocean cascading downward into somethingness.

But there is no somethingness here. I am at once small and large, wide and narrow, and voluminous and empty, like a shifting and stretching prism. I am orthogonal and I am white. Here, the absence of anything is white. 

It’s a three hour drive.

A deep orange spills into the sky behind clouds the spray of ice from skates. The underbelly of a particularly fluffy one is colored tangerine by the low sun beneath it, and the sky grows more emotional as it lowers behind the darkening hills and hues. 

The seams of the road look undone as drying patches of uneven asphalt roll beneath my car. I pretend my car stitches them, leaving long straits of now-taut road neatly behind it. The sun sets, and the seams grow indistinguishable as the earth becomes twice as dark as the sky.

As I cruise above the speed limit, I play a new game, pretending I’m a lone traveler across the asphalt prairie and plains. Every so often, there are herds of other cars, content in their collective security, and I pass uninterestedly by them. The solitude provides its own comfort, and I keep busy by trying to maintain the company of other pioneers before they turn off the road.

Two exits, several lulls of thunder, and many passed cars later, I reach my favorite part of the trip home. The road is smooth as space, and highway lights the color of creamsicle pass above me like markers on an overhead airplane runway. Van Gogh says orange is the color of insanity, but I find it so damn comforting.

            You were at the cafe, conveniently rained in, bundled in scarf, hair tied back, tethered to book and tea, packaged in quiet beauty; you were flipping pages; pouring over words, pouring over sentences, reading to the rhythm of the rain, but stopping at every semicolon; you were making commentary in the margins, having silent conversations with the author, unconcerned by passing minutes; then checking your watch to glance peripherally at my glances from the register line, a little perturbed but protected behind hardcover, pouring over more pages, more words, dipping your head lower as I approached, and perking up very marginally when the first words from my mouth were how you would hate the ending; you were curious of my response because it was secretly your second time reading the book through, and finding improbable resonance with my opinion that she, the protagonist, would become unrealistically hopeful, drag herself too quickly out from all the tragedy and vicissitudes, and find the most ridiculous form of conciliation in a stupid, stupid, clearly metaphorical view of the sea; as ridiculous, I said, as the romanticized quality of the red sun being pasted in the sky like a wafer in “A Red Badge of Courage”.

            You were finding yourself in surprisingly-calm dissonance with me (as this was actually your third time reading the book), listening to my words: of how much you reminded me of the main character of the book, of her sweaters for sweater weather, proclivity towards oolong as dark as black, and fondness for the rain but none of the water; you were growing more in disagreement but less in disconcertment, voicing your opinions, letting me voice mine, and finding yourself a little courted by the pleasant exchange; you took your feet off the chair across from you (and I took their place), kindly informed me on how misinformed I was on the meaning of the book, of all the subtleties I had overlooked, and opened to me the comments in the book to build your case; you made me concede defeat, and, in your consolation (but secretly mine), you traded a napkin with your phone number for my umbrella—and left, smiling all the way home because I gave you rain without the water.

            When the clouds were gone, and I convinced you the roads were no longer darkened by rain and safe for travel, we ended up sharing frozen yogurt; catching a movie; grabbing dinner without candles; sharing an un-symbolic ocean view, throwing our cell phones in the car and dangling our feet at the dock, kissing once, complaining about the mosquitoes, sharing a few more words, kisses, sentences, and compliments—to me, for a location well-chosen, and for the clouds a job well done keeping that pesky, pasty red sun away. We figured we’d make like normal people and get some shut-eye, so were soon sleeping in the same bed (but first not sleeping before that), and then waking up, and having pancakes.

            Weather no longer permitting, we were grabbing dinner at a place you insisted had the best fries, catching a show here or two, spending a night on the road in search of the perfect middle-aged diner waitress to be served pie from, and all the while, painting a few dreams, making silly faces at each other, talking over the phone, writing a small to-do list together; going to your friend’s wedding, complaining about the food, visiting Montreal, speaking a little French, speaking a lot more English, trading a few secrets, reading together, taking photos of cards in Hallmark and tracing our own for President’s Day, writing a bigger to-do list, and grabbing a candle-lit dinner so we could blow out the candles.

            But, like real people, like standard probability, we found work in different cities, and argued for what felt like the first time since we met; we threw numbers and facts, figments of your cynical imagination, and bolded every word; I said distance was something else, an inconvenience or illusion or rockiness in a stupid fucking sea or something, and you said distance was part of us. We made up, drew each other into some of our dreams, and traced our outlines in pen, but you were always strained by it all; you were quick to blow out the candles on our to do list; to flip pages, dog-tag a particular chapter as memorable, and move on. And of course; of course, of course, of course, I was not, so you did without me.

            You disappeared from the town and I did too, but in another city I saw you, and I dreaded every one of you—crossing the street, grabbing coffee, selling flowers at the corner boutique, sitting on park benches, adjusting books in the bookstore, filing papers into metal cabinets. I saw those who vaguely resembled you as you. They didn’t even dress like you, and probably hadn’t read a book in the past six months, but I made them you. I made you commonplace, made you replaceable, made you seem less quietly, distinctly beautiful in my eyes and my memory—and from all this fiction, suspended all my beliefs about us.

white noise [revised]

Sheets of sun stripe the wall,

slip past blinds, an old air conditioner,

and pour over the mattress ends of a flat Earth.

Sheets of sun permeate; stain

waves of sheets, flats of plains

taut with fresh bedding. Above, the blankets make nature,

roll above pockets of cool air,

froth into peaks,

and wrinkle into waves against crumpling shorelines.

She’s not far above the landscape. Jet planes

paint the high, hollow streaks of cheekbones,

and above them lie hazel eyes,

solar eclipses never to stare into.

When she’s blue, she agitates into waves,

asperatus across the Ozarks.

But today, the weather’s fine. She hums

white noise

and plays God.

white noise [original]

White vertical sheets of sun fall like the patterning on wallpaper,

slice considerately through the ivory puff pastry of window blinds

and pour over the ends of a flat Earth

made by an old air conditioner embedded into the window opening.

 

White, vertical sheets of sun permeate; stain

white waves of sheets and an ironing board of a mattress

taut with fresh bedding. The blankets make nature,

rest rolling plainly above pockets of cool air,

froth into snowy peaks,

and wrinkle into waves seizing onto crumpled shorelines.

 

She lies not far above the landscape. Jet planes

paint the high, hollow streaks of cheekbones,

and above them are hazel eyes,

solar eclipses never to stare into.

When she is blue, she agitates into waves,

asperatus across the Ozarks.

But today, she says the weather’s fine. Humming is her way

of wagging her tail, normal actions her way

of playing God.

sheet music

your personality is

a pasta maker of moods. Through it you feed

the same feelings, four five six replays

experience it an innumerable, unplanned number of times

until your finalized words play out with delicate consistency.

But in the rewind and playback, you’ve broken

the emotions you once had had

now ripple out indecipherable

a semolina manta ray of spiraled, bent

semolina feelings

here at every collapse, here

I am: struggling to read your polygraph test of semolina,

once-monochromatic undulations now chromatography

now yellow red green because

it’s all angel hair in those sheets.

sunday brunch

The window in the kitchen faces a knobbly wall.

A shoestring of sunlight dangles past the roof patchings

between the two buildings. It’s my fishing line.

I trace the contours of the face three feet from me,

imagine the moon landing, walking along

the noseline ridges, jawline cliffs, cheekbone ravines,

and run out of oxygen.

sunflower, snowball

Talk to me about anything,

the creaky trees, silver skies,

the cliched flock of birds you see above people’s eyes.

Profess to me your love for the snow,

or the sandcastles you see lining the plowed roads,

for I’m almost there, so close

to seeing the vibrancy in your condensed breaths,

      inundated white words.

 

Today, I caught a glimpse of a gasoline rainbow

leaked out across the horizontal blackboard.

Even under the confectioner,

it was pink ham and the sheen of fish scales (in the most beautiful,

polluted way.) I didn’t know what to do or say,

or with what combination of hand gestures to express it to you,

so I cupped your mouth

and watched you frost up in delight from your own breaths.

sweet tooth

Swirl to me how your day was, wafflecone,

I’m all banana split, chocolate quips.

Let’s share spoonfuls and eat with toothpicks,

I’m listerine intently and pinky promise

I’m vanilla and coconut, not strawberry for you.


Thank you though, cupcake, for wondering why

I was eating only the small blueberries—the plump ones are princess food

for princess you. And another snickerdoodle thank you

for turning cherry when I said I was macarooning for you.


Amaretto you do, gummy bear, I don’t care;

I’ll fumble a thousand spoons and spill the coffee,

cream and all,

if it makes your mouth open like at the dentists’

and laugh like maraschino. But please, wafflecone,

do excuse my eyes for following your tongue,

I might be less strawberry and more red velvet for you.