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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Puddle



I was a motel.
On a dirty highway,
veer off to the left,
glide right in.
You’ll see me smiling
and dancing baby,
just for you.
Blinking and buzzing,
I’m the sign
with my pink and white
neon shimmy.
Snapped
mosquitoes grilled,
tortured.
Flashing
in the $22 a night,
TV included
VACANCY

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem originally appeared in an issue of The American River Review.
This poem is also featured in the poetry collection Souvenir Boys.

Image by dot lizard

Monday, April 29, 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019

Save Me From L.A.



As the song goes...

Save me from L.A.

It's impossible to fully describe my lifelong love/hate relationship with the City of Angels (at least not as well as Fefe Dobson does in this beautiful, haunting song), but here's my poetic attempt:

Thrill

Cannot escape your choke and glitter,
your dirty cracks and cover up, your
sidewalk sheen. The swimming pools
of tourists, desperate for a glimpse
of the has-been whore, stalking streets -
those shutterbugs, those hounds
of autographs, the silent creep
of the stealthy paparazzi. Ninjas
could learn a thing or two. Lights
up on the boulevard of the broken

souls. No easy way to die here, not even
for the white-winged angels who
scoop up the discarded stardust, begging
for a second chance at a first rate
leading role, a close-up, photo-ready
life. At night, all the ghosts tap
dance, hoping for rain, hoping for you
to crawl out from beneath your palm, for
you to hold this city in your fist and rage
against your wicked desire for fame.

David-Matthew Barnes

Photo of Fefe Dobson by Spidey Smith





Thursday, April 25, 2019

Contaminated

photo by mrjn photography

How could you know about the mark
you bear and wear? It’s invisible to the naked
eye. Corporations wish they couldn’t
see you. While you thirst, they swim
in rivers banked with gold. Sipping
sweet tea, frozen daiquiris, ice
water with slices of lime over power
lunches, ignoring those who are parched
enough to sip to survive. They poison
your children. Flint is a burial ground
you must unearth. They know water
has become currency, fuel. God
sees all, including the shameful oceans
of poverty they’ve drowned you in. Blink
and you will the miss opportunity to drink
from the fresh fountain of your natural
flowing freedom.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of the Caravel Literary Arts Journal and the July 2016 issue of The People's Tribune.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

And I Loved a Soldier



After working for seven months and twelve days at a snack bar in a bowling alley in Sacramento, I saved everything that had been given to me via a tip jar on an orange-painted counter. I was nineteen, and each night after work, I would count out the crumpled bills and greasy bits of change, all of it inching me closer to the world, my determination fierce and wicked. In June, I went to a frizzy-haired travel agent with a huge overbite and cheap airplane tickets. Handing her a handful of green and silver, she gave me my freedom. I left the next morning.

After I saw a woman shoot heroin into her arm in a back alley in Amsterdam, I boarded a train at Centraal Station and left the canals and drugs behind. In Munich I ate pastries, honey nut and cherry, shared carrots with a German girl named Sandra, held babies from Belgrade. I saw Europe through the window of a train bound for the Mediterranean. And that was when I met you, a man from Kossovo Polje. Hair dark like my past. Eyes shimmering with purity, cheekbones reaching heartbreaking heights.

You were the soldier who bought me a Coke and drank me up. Standing side by side in the bar, the connection was immediate and caused my spine to tighten. In broken English, you announced that you would make my journey your own, postponing your trip home, and hoping to find the same sense of comfort with me.

In Athens, we slept in a bed for the first time in a week on the floor of the Hotel Olympus. With the French doors open, we inhaled the smells of Omonia Square, dreamt of soldiers and babies, Belgrade and war, the sunny concave of California shores. In the morning we drank orange Fantas, changed my Lincolns for drachmas, and caught a subway to Piraeus to a board a ship called the Aegean. My legs and feet were sunburned, and we careened around the Cyclades, looking for Homer and an island called Ios, where you promised we'd fall in love.

Photo by Mihai Halmi-Nistor
We drank piña coladas at the Cava Doro, stumbled down donkey trails, and discovered passion on the sands of Milopotas Beach. You told me you had never known life to be so sweet. I told you of the bitterness I left behind which led me to Europe, which led me to you.

Twelve days later, we realized I had no more American money. We had to find work. And so I became a dancer at Scorpions, standing on an elevated circle while the DJ made sexual advances. But he always played my favorite song, and the cigarette girl slipped me packs of Marlboros on a regular basis.

We moved to a new campground where clothes were washed with rocks, where women gutted fish in the kitchen, sometimes with their bare hands. To make us more money, I cleaned bathrooms three times a day. You built houses of wire and straw with the hands that held my own when I became frightened of the future. Sometimes when I'd cross the campground, I'd catch your eye, and you'd watch me balance my orange and black skulled bucket of poison against my hip, as if I were cradling our fate against my body.

Then we were separated by the Gulf War, and fear, like fatigue, cast over our existence. Americans were evacuated, and I was rushed, forced to shove my things into a backpack. I searched for you in the faces of the crowd, as helicopters landed and took off again like confused pelicans. I screamed your name while being shoved in with the other frightened Americans. At lift-off, I saw you running to me, and for the first time in my life, contemplated jumping.

The edge of our inevitable goodbye has already frayed, yet stands before me, looming. I will constantly grope in a stranger's darkness, permanently frustrated, comparing all others to what I once had, if only fleetingly.

David-Matthew Barnes

And I Loved a Soldier originally appeared in Rite of Passage: Tales of Backpacking 'Round Europe (Lonely Planet, 2003; edited by Lisa Johnson)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Walking to K-Mart to Buy a Dolly Parton Album


Winner of the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award

Someone protects me when I'm ten: a boy
in my class. He's stronger than the others.
He waits for me each day, walks me home.
He's convinced I'll be the next

Nancy Drew and encourages me to open up
my own detective agency. He colors the green
construction paper signs we tape in store windows.
We wait for our first clients and when no one

calls, he tells me, "Don't worry. Business will
pick up." When I walk down the road we live on
to go to K-Mart to buy a Dolly Parton album,
I imagine what it will be like to marry him,

the defender of my honor. He makes me think
of Disney princes, love songs belted out
by animated women, glass slippers. I break
open wide when he kisses my cheek, the spot

right below the bruise. When I crawl out of
windows at night, to call the police
when my mother and her lover are beaten
up in love again, he's there to turn

the record player on. He makes me listen
until we know every word Dolly sings by heart.
While I wait until the coast is clear and it's safe
to go home again, he offers me his version of

But You Know I Love You and when he finishes,
he’s surprised to see me cry. On instinct,
he holds me until the music ends. I pretend
we live together, in a home of our own. We duet

each night after dinner. We line dance, arm in arm.
We learn to play the fiddle and the banjo. In spring,
Aunt Dolly comes to visit, writes a love song
for the two of us to always keep. A week

before my mother makes us move again, the other
boys try to run me down, chase me with bikes and bats,
but he hits them hard with closed fists, as if he's holding
my heart in both hands. As if he will

never let me go.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem originally appeared in The Southeast Review (Volume 29.2, 2011)
This poem was nationally awarded the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award by Kent State University

Monday, April 22, 2019

Thresholds


Josie and I would get really stoned and listen to Diana Ross records on my turntable. We would play them on a faster speed, mimicking the chipmunk squeal of a happy diva. We would crank call people we hated (like that bitch Amy what's-her-name) and we drank generic beer and thought we were cool because we were seniors.

Josie was in love with this guy named Larry and he was in my English class. I tried to get them together, but he had a girlfriend. Josie never let on, but I knew she was devastated that Larry didn't like her. When his girlfriend dumped him, she looked at me with beer buzzed eyes and slurred, "Serves him right."

Josie used to run stop signs and one time she drove up on the curb in front of my house, until she wrecked her Mom's car when these two guys in an El Camino tried to race her. We were listening to The Clash when the accident happened. I ended up pinned in the backseat, the engine fell out of the car, and Josie got knocked out by the steering wheel.

We worked together at an ice cream parlor, but neither one of us could ever decide what our favorite flavor was.

Even though I couldn't carry a tune, Bridget and I wanted to be rock stars in the worst way. Like crack-addicted canaries, we would sing until a neighbor threatened to call the police on us for disturbing the peace. We wrote songs at coffee shops, harmonized together in the rain, and passed each other song lyrics in between classes. I still remember the first song we ever wrote. It was called "Party Love" and it was about a guy and girl who fall in love at a party, get separated, and spend the rest of their lives looking for each other.

Bridget and I were separated when we both had to move. I got sent to live with my Dad and Bridget had to live with her cousins in the suburbs. Our musical careers were postponed, but I hope she's still singing.

Mara was my best friend. She was Jewish and she was dating a basketball player at school. She was the best dancer and she knew Swahili and sign language. I met her in English class when the teacher reprimanded her for being "snide." We spent the rest of the year with wine coolers on our breath, hip-hop in our souls, and a common quest for true love.

Shortly after she graduated, Mara got engaged to a man from Brazil and moved to Africa and I never got the chance to say goodbye. But I will always remember spending nights at her house and the day she painted a map of the entire world on her bedroom wall. I studied the shade of every vivid color and secretly plotted my own escape from the doldrums of mediocrity and the pre-destined parental expectations that I would never leave the shadow of my own black-and-white misery.

Donna was the Homecoming Junior Princess and she was the epitome of everything I wanted to be. We cut class on a Wednesday, drove to a park, and got stoned out of our minds. And even though we thought it was funny at the time, Donna told me she hated everyone in her life. She was fed up with ski trips, the French Club, and college applications.

When we went back to school, no one could figure out what we were laughing about. But Donna and I understood. Nobody else did, but that was okay. When I made the cheerleading team, it was Donna who understood the permanent sense of sorrow standing before me. She knew that to be everything they want you to be, it's best to be as numb as possible.

Anastasia and I drank all of the Vodka out of her mother's cupboard and then filled up the bottle with water. We never got caught. We staggered in the inebriated rain to the movie theatre on University Avenue in Berkeley to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I let her read all the letters I wrote to a boy I liked and she told me "to love life freely, you have to freely love your life.” I think she was from Canada. Life was effortless for her and I envied her freedom. Although we had a lot of friends, she and I were just kind of sad and we never really knew it. Until the night we shared a bottle of champagne in a scare-the-piss-out-of-you cemetery, surrounded by our own ghosts, their hauntings, and the grave realization we could fool anyone, even ourselves.

Raymond was the brave one. He was the protector, then lover, of my fifteenth year. We lived in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by liquor stores, failed attempts, the thundering echoes of gunshots, and the misery that follows a permanent sense of loss.

Raymond was Mexican and he was in a gang and everyone thought he liked girls (even me). He drove stolen cars without a license, smoked marijuana, and talked of guns and scars and fights that began when he was eleven. He took me to a Madonna concert, told me I was beautiful, and slow danced with me to my favorite song. Raymond had soft hands, a rough heart, and the habit of kissing away my diminishing innocence with his rebellious edge.

Love was rare in our neighborhood, but across the bridge from where we lived was the ocean. It was in the eye of our first tender moment when I finally saw belief. I saw it for what it was. Someday, my experiences and recollections would just be memories that with a stir would invoke a smile or a longing for what could've been. But at that second, they were thresholds for me. They were barriers I was crossing as my innocence burned away and the unwelcoming glare of adulthood beckoned like a sinister spark. I would be left thirsting for happily-ever-afters and the thrill of the unknown.

Raymond's vision quest was infectious. He convinced me we would make it out someday. That there was a life beyond the love ghetto we'd been subjected to. But, in the end, I left him for the rich, view-less urchins from the hills and their class rings, country clubs, and complicated lies.

They never gave me water.

To all of those I have recreated here, not in vain but in celebration, I have kissed regret and I have bathed in the shallow ends. In the tidal pull of my heart, I find myself swimming over these thresholds that will not be drowned with my youth.

If you feel the ache of what is missing, I will meet you there.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Mariners Apartment Complex



The Thoughts

The third Saturday of April.

I feel so far away from everything and everyone I know.

Is it ridiculous to claim loneliness when you're surrounded by people constantly?

I dream of a life I know does not exist.

I dream of a life I know will never be mine.

I dream of the kind of magic that is cinematic and pure.

I fight the urge to roll over and accept mediocrity on the hour.

It would be simple to settle, dull down my nerve endings that ache more than usual lately.

For less than.

I've never been the type to give up anything easily.

I wonder if wanderlust is contagious.

I got it bad.

Melancholy is my new middle name.

I'm still deciding on my first.

Lana Del Rey is my song singing muse, always has been since Blue Jeans.

Got every cool version of Mariners Apartment Complex on repeat.

I get lost in the song, transported somewhere else to an existence that is not mine.

I'm tired of fighting against the death of my youth and my inner rebellious child who still refuses to conform.

I miss volatility, the unknown, the spark of an idea, the intensity of lust for life.

I miss me.

I worry I'm too old now to capture the essence of all that was supposed to be mine.

I worry I took a wrong turn and can't retrace my steps, can't find my way back.

In a parallel universe, I'm sitting somewhere poolside sipping on something tropical and wondering what time the luau starts.

I don't remember the last time someone asked me how I was doing.

David-Matthew Barnes



The Lyrics

You took my sadness out of context
At the Mariners Apartment Complex
I ain't no candle in the wind
I'm the board, the lightning, the thunder
Kind of girl who's gonna make you wonder
Who you are and who you've been
And who I've been is with you on these beaches
Your Venice bitch, your die-hard, your weakness
Maybe I could save you from your sins
So, kiss the sky and whisper to Jesus
My, my, my, you found this, you need this
Take a deep breath, baby, let me in
You lose your way, just take my hand
You're lost at sea, then I'll command your boat to me again
Don't look too far, right where you are, that's where I am
I'm your man
I'm your man
They mistook my kindness for weakness
I fucked up, I know that, but Jesus
Can't a girl just do the best she can?
Catch a wave and take in the sweetness
Think about it, the darkness, the deepness
All the things that make me who I am
And who I am is a big-time believer
That people can change, but you don't have to leave her
When everyone's talking, you can make a stand
'Cause even in the dark I feel your resistance
You can see my heart burning in the distance
Baby, baby, baby, I'm your man (yeah)
You lose your way, just take my hand
You're lost at sea, then I'll command your boat to me again
Don't look too far, right where you are, that's where I am
I'm your man
I'm your man
Catch a wave and take in the sweetness
Take in the sweetness
You want this, you need this
Are you ready for it?
Are you ready for it? Are you ready for it?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Jonesy and the Junkyard

Photo by Jonathan Cosens
In San Diego, our neighborhood was called Sherman Heights. It was urban and smelled of warm corn tortillas. The air was tropical and salty. It drifted into our windows from the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Each morning, we were awakened by the reverberating sounds of Interstate 5. It invaded our lives, the ultimate concrete alarm clock.

We lived in a collection of deteriorating Victorian houses, converted into massive apartments with shiny, hard wooden floors, built-in china hutches, and curvy, sensual Spanish architecture. The houses were in no particular formation, built where greedy-eyed landlords could find a place to put them. We tried our best to make sense out of the chaos by decorating our porches and front windows with anything we could afford or find.

Behind the old apartment buildings was a massive lot of land that had become an unofficial junkyard. Old, abandoned cars were our jungle gyms; gutted tires and greasy rope our swings, hubcaps and rims our imaginary serving plates for make-believe dinner parties.  Intertwined among the cars was a catacomb of doors, pallets, windows, scrap wood, paint cans, and rusted appliances. It was the ultimate maze, a perfect place for hide-and-seek. Beyond the junkyard was a huge hill of dirt, nearly a quarter of mile in diameter. It took twenty minutes to climb, but once you made it to the top, you could see the ocean in the distance and the etched skyline of downtown San Diego.

I was 9. I was a student at Sherman Elementary School. Because of the large Hispanic population, I was given a bilingual education. I was starring in a school production of Blanca Nieves (Snow White). My best friends were Kevin and Sally. Kevin looked like a young Michael Jackson and Sally was short and freckled. The three of us were labeled as “gifted” and placed in a classroom for advanced students. Our first assignment was to take apart a lawn mower engine and then reassemble it. Kevin and Sally and I didn’t care about engine parts. We would spend recess singing Killing Me Softly with His Song and playing Chinese jump rope. Everything in my life revolved around music and roller skating. Gloria Gaynor had declared I Will Survive, Blondie blasted from car radios, and my role models consisted of The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels.

Kevin and Sally did not live in my neighborhood. There, my friends were a bossy girl named Maribelle, her twin brother Roberto, and a boy named Nathan. To me, Nathan was the coolest guy in the world. Since Maribelle and Roberto and I were a year younger than him, Nathan was our protector, our surrogate older brother. He was also a creative genius.

On a rainy day, when the junkyard was flooding, Nathan told us that we were going to make a movie. He grabbed his father’s tape recorder and showed us how to speak into it. For hours, we made up elaborate stories, all of which took place during World War II. We would use records – mostly soundtracks and scores from epic movies – and add them to our own stories. In truth, we were independent film makers without even realizing our vocation. My voice was high for a boy, so I was always elected to play the female roles: the widowed wife, the seductive nurse, the ingénue of a tragic love story. Maribelle didn’t want to be heard on the tape recorder. She worried that her English wasn’t good enough. So, she was in charge of sound effects. Nathan’s stories grew more complex and detailed as the summer passed, until we were recording three-hour sagas.

Outside, we all feared Señora Morales. She was old, embittered, and wore huge flowery aprons and black, pointed shoes. Señora Morales would stand on her front porch and wait for us to ride by on our Big Wheels. If the noise bothered her, she would snatch us off of our speeding toys by our hair and shriek at us in Spanish.

The old man who lived across from Maribelle and her brother became our best friend. To the adults, he was Mr. Jones, but to us he became simply Jonesy. He loved everything that was science fiction, most importantly episodes of Star Trek. He walked with a swoop from a bad back and wore brown suspenders, polyester pants, and wrinkled shirts that were always buttoned wrong. His face was scruffy, but his eyes were kind. Jonesy was a war veteran and often told us wild tales of World War II. These inspired us and we retold many of them into the tape recorder.

Jonesy had two children that were grown and lived far away. His son wrote letters to Jonesy, always asking for money. One day, Jonesy borrowed Maribelle’s red wagon and took his television set to a pawn shop. He came back three hours later and sat down on the top step of his porch. When we saw tears in Jonesy’s eyes, we were concerned. He explained to us that his son needed money in the worst way. He didn’t have a choice but to pawn his television. We knew Jonesy was sad because he couldn’t watch his favorite television program. I asked Jonesy why his daughter didn’t buy him a new television. He explained to me that his daughter had devoted her life to God and because Jonesy took a sip of liquor every now and then, she had disowned him.

We expected Jonesy to stay inside of his house where he could miss his television in private. Instead, the next morning, Jonesy was waiting for us on his porch. “The four of you need your own place,” he told us. “I’m going to help you build it.”

It took three days to build our club house. Under Jonesy’s guidance, we took wooden pallets and scrap wood from the junkyard and went to work. Nathan borrowed tools from his father. Maribelle cut up an old blanket and used the fabric to make curtains. Roberto and I went to stores in the neighborhood and asked politely if we could have their discarded milk crates, which we would use as furniture. Jonesy brought us packages of sugar cookies and glasses of Kool-Aid, all the while offering us words of encouragement. On the third day, our clubhouse stood at the bottom of the hill, ready for us to make our own. For the four of us, the sense of accomplishment that we felt was immeasurable.

During summer, all of the apartments became infested with cockroaches. One day, I poured a glass of milk and three cockroaches dropped out of the carton and began swimming in my glass. It was at that moment, that my mother decided we were moving. After a week of contemplating, she announced that we were going up north, to live in a little town called Paradise. I assumed there were no bugs in Paradise.

As we started to pack our apartment, my mother decided to leave a small television behind. It was an old set and the picture was fuzzy, but I knew that it would be appreciated by someone. On instinct, I carried the set to Jonesy’s apartment. I placed it down on his front step, knocked on the door and then took refuge in a nearby shrub. Jonesy opened the door, discovered the gift, placed a hand over his heart and to my surprise, he began to cry. He struggled to pick up the television and carry it into his house. I thought about helping him, but I knew he would feel better if he carried the set on his own. Jonesy closed the door. Seconds later, I heard a commercial, followed by the theme music to I Love Lucy. In a matter of minutes, I knew Star Trek would begin. Smiling, I ran towards the waiting moving truck. Within an hour, we were on the road, heading towards Paradise.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hot Boxing


We were sent away, my brother
and me, to a place called East Side
Oakland. We soon grew taller
in the graffitied shadows of the Fruitvale
subway station, fighting the diminishing
that shrank us: a mother’s decision to stop

the family ride we were on and drop
us into the lives of an imperfect stranger –
our father – and his former Playboy bunny
girl. We took the circumstances and we
thrived under pressure, never pointing
fingers or guns or knives at the people

who should’ve been looking out
for us. Instead, we were sequestered,
relegated to a box-sized backyard
trailer, with just enough room
for a boom box and a bed. We beat
the odds that year because God knows

we should’ve been killed. I became
fearless on after-midnight walks
home from school, work, sin. Seven
long blocks from 35th and MacArthur
to that tin house on wheels I had
no choice but to live in. His name

doesn’t matter but he was the boy
who saved me. Told me if I loved him,
he’d protect me from the streets, myself.
At school, the others feared him, said
he was bad. But he said he was just crazy
for me and to prove it, he took me

to the Madonna and Beastie Boys show,
told me one day you’re gonna make some
beautiful noise. We’d get naked and high, hold on
to each other to forget what was against us, girls
getting jumped into gangs, the rats aiming for our
ankles in the school auditorium, the chilling silence

that always follows the detonation of hope.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

HAZMAT


It's 6:00 a.m. and I'm 43 and I'm standing
in my kitchen when the news reaches me.
They found my Aunt Sherry in a motel room
just outside of Manhattan, Kansas. My mind
goes to Chicago, my apartment
in 1997, when I took her in. To thank me,
she entertained my guests with her ghosts,
reenactments of beatings she endured
as a child, complete with a prop: the belt
her malevolent father tried to destroy her with.

It's 10:20 p.m. and I'm 27 and I'm standing
in the center of a lonely room. My new
shoes are covering one of the many blood stains
in the threadbare carpet of my empty apartment,
just blocks from Paramount Pictures, Melrose,
stars. Already I know the cause of the body count
in Hollywood: the curb stomped, roadside
corpses who get crushed by the homicidal
price of fame. Here, they'd rather be killed
than live unrecognized.

It's 2:35 p.m. and I'm 19 and I'm standing
in the middle of a Sacramento cemetery
attending my fifth funeral that year.
My friends keep dying, keep killing
themselves with needles, pills, leaps,
the early discovery that this
shit don't get better. Grief soon reaches
a new limit for me when my boyfriend
is shot in a drive-by but survives to break
up with me in his hospital room.

It's 11:12 p.m. and I'm 15 and I'm standing
on the corner of 35th and MacArthur,
waiting for the light to change. Waiting
for my skin to become invisible. Shield
me from the shots fired, the constant
element of street danger on another walk
home. I'm hoping the batteries don't die
in my Walkman. Music is my savior. Having
finished another closing shift in Berkeley,
spending cash is a nightly risk worth taking.

It's 3 a.m. and I'm 13 and I'm standing
on the broken steps of a Catholic church
wearing a HAZMAT suit and a smile, posing
for a punk rock, new wave photo
shoot, complete with a bride
who has mermaid green hair, black
lipstick, fishnet tights, the frequent need
for her bridegroom boyfriend to gently
cut her arms with his tip of his switchblade
in between these killer shots.

David-Matthew Barnes

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Love Don't Live Here

Late night flight. LAX to Denver. Exhausted but it's a good exhaustion, thanks to a trip to Disneyland for Edward's birthday.

Window seat. The twinkling lights below remind me of the ride Peter Pan's Flight back in Fantasyland and the story my mother told me about going to Disneyland as a child on the opening date and riding that ride. She was terrified of dropping her doll the entire time.

The Real Ramona/Throwing Muses
Nostalgia strikes me (as it often does and not just on planes) and I scroll through multiple playlists on my iPod until I decide on the Throwing Muses, specifically their album The Real Ramona (one of the best albums ever recorded, in my opinion) and the music immediately transports me back to another time, circa the early 90's when life was a small smokey room populated with big people I actually liked and our every obscure moment was underscored by an amazing soundtrack.

The song Counting Backwards comes on, reminding me that I've mentioned this band in things I've written before, including a poem that I then spend minutes trying to remember the title of. No luck. Memory is as dim as these cabin lights.

I stare out the window, wondering if I'll ever get the chance to meet the lead singer Kristin Hersh to tell her in person how much her music and lyrics have inspired and comforted me over these sometimes turbulent, long years. Then I wonder how many other people have probably said the same thing to her and if you hear this enough, does the meaning become more hollow or does it matter every time?

Ellen West
Next track. Ellen West. One of my favorite songs of all-time, yet I have no idea why. Ellen West was a poet who suffered from anorexia and mental illness and committed suicide when she was 33. A sad life, for sure. I add another question to my imagined conversation with Kristin Hersh (why Ellen West? why her?; I answer my own question with why not?). The lyrics (and Kristin's delivery of them) always hit hard:

That last one messed me up
Things look bad
Things look tragic
I keep looking in the mirror
Afraid that I won't be there
Courting Ellen West, dancing on her grave
Saving Ellen West
My house is full of demons
I swear to God, I need to go to bed
I need to go to sleep
I'm awake with a vengeance
Saving Ellen West 'cause she wanted it
This way
My mouth is full of demons
I swear to God, I need to go to bed
I need to go to sleep
I need that hope chest
I need to breathe, I need you here
I need to disappear

As we begin our descent into Denver, I decide I need to listen to something different, hoping for something to change my mood. Hoping the perfect song will mark this airplane moment and make it a memorable one, this sudden and very intense realization that I've been missing me for a really long time - so much so that I vow to find my way back to me, no matter what it takes.

I just don't know how.

This epiphany/personal revolution occurs in the second-to-the-last row of this jet crossing over Colorado in the night.

So, like all things that come my way that I feel are too complex and complicated, I promise myself to write about them. Openly. With no fear. And then I decide keeping these words to myself doesn't suit my style, nor does it allow for the possibilities that somebody out there somewhere might connect/relate/give a damn.

Ladyhawke
Song choice. I decide on Love Don't Live Here by Ladyhawke, admitting to myself I'm more terrified by the uncertainty of my future/finding myself than I am about touching down. The landing is a graceful one. I breathe a sigh of relief, happy to have made it through another flight, another return trip, another journey seen to completion.

As we reach the gate, I wonder if the feeling/sense of home will continue to elude me.

The hour is late. Time for a new song. Time to find my parking ticket.

Deplane.

David-Matthew Barnes

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