I never met a more impossible girl

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Keep Art Alive :: Art by Adam Caldwell

You’re just a sucker for the ones who use you,
and it doesn’t matter what I say or do,
the stupid bastard’s gonna have his way with you.”

She wrote letters in blood red ink, the color of my lips, she would say, the color of the sudden streaks in her hair, I would think. When she would lean in, words spoken in a half-growl and half-whisper, my eyes would shut and I would see the world go from red, to grey, to black and white, to a dizzy fade to nothing. She carried a camera bought from a Pawn Shop in Barstow, you would have to stare at the floor in order to look forward, in order to point and shoot. On certain late nights when sleep was improbable, she would invite me over to her darkroom. We would huddle in close, and I would hold my breath as she dropped the paper into each developing tray. I would look at her in the shadows, the both of us looking like an old black and white movie, and I would wonder what we were developing into.

She hid bruises with a do-it-yourself blend of carnival clown white and shoplifted drug store Maybelline cover up in “Ivory”. I would squint my eyes, hold the compact mirror steady for her, and pretend to not see. Sometimes the phone would ring at the quiet hour before the sun would rise and I would cross each finger and toe hoping it wasn’t the police this time, or a hospital, or some once met near stranger delivering the news. It was always her, though, patched together with super glue and speed, a shot of whiskey, and another layer of covered up denial.

A week went by without a call, then another, and another, until the stretch of time unraveled into something like forever. I would look for her in all the usual haunts, holding my breath again, hoping that the shadows would come to life in the corner, and that she would smile up at me, show me a recent sketch, or photograph, and tell me that “doll, you need to sleep more.” It was never her there, though. She was gone. I went by her apartment months later, finally rallying the courage to knock on her door. A stranger answered, tall and thin with sea foam colored eyes. He said “hey, your the girl in the drawing,” inviting me in, showing me the torn out page he had found. On the back, in blood red ink, it said “Summer’s Doll”.

I sat for awhile with him, filling in the only blanks I knew. He was a painter and as I told him about her he smiled softly, the creases at each eye turning inward, his teeth perfect except for one upended incisor. He told me he had tried to paint the girl who had lived here before, using clues she had left behind to piece her together, painted in blacks and whites and grays, like the photographs he’d found in the half-wrecked closet.

That was her darkroom.” I explained.

Was she beautiful?” He asked, “like you?”

She looked nothing like me, but yes, she was beautiful. Breath stealing beautiful.” I explained, looking at the floor while I tried to paint a picture to hold up to him, like her camera, like me.

“Did you love her?” He asked, leaning in close, whispering in the same way that she used to.

I don’t know. She was…she was…impossible.” I said, closing my eyes, seeing the red fade into gray, again.

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Delilah :: The Dresden Dolls

I’ve probably made mistakes I’ve forgotten :: SOTD

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Keep Art Alive :: Art by Wlodzimierz Kuklinski

I’m breaking my own rules,
becoming someone else.
Everybody says I oughtta get over myself.
I’m thinking I can’t move,
if there isn’t somewhere else,
to go.”

There are costumes and masks, bottles of hair dye lined up on the bathroom shelf, and a borrowed brand of cigarettes (and those shoes, the ones she tossed out in the dumpster that you took for your own); they make up who you have become now, haven’t they? Thrift store dresses from the late 70’s, “my Aunt June had a dress just like that”, he tells you, leaning in with whiskey breath and a kidney shaped stain on his sleeve. You squint your eyes and pretend that whatever he says to you is funny, that you don’t notice the decay that is playing at charm all around him, and you refuse to admit that this is nowhere you should be.

But, the nights get lonely and the years they tick by, one by two by ten by twenty; not a one of us are getting any younger. He calls way too late, in what they call “the wee hours”, though we all know they are really the hours of desperation. You carry the phone with you into the kitchen, hold your hair back while you catch a light from the gas stove flame, and you sigh deeply. There are promises and proclamations, blurry-eyed role reversals, and we all pretend to pretend to be somebody else, to love somebody else, to just make it through the night (again).

You let your dress fall to the floor, tearing the pages of her teenage diary into pieces, letting the lies trill off your lips, Vodka laced and cherry glossed. You palm the lipstick cases at the corner Wallgreens, every third week when you change your hair again. Tonight you will pull on boots and try on a name-change. Delilah Louise who grew up in the suburbs outside of Chicago, Summers spent at the pinky side of Michigan with a Grandmother who taught her, or well you now, to play cards. She sings at some corner bar on Wednesdays, when the crowd is light, polka-dotted by truck drivers and minimum wagers who never remember your stories, or your name. Tonight you could be her.

But you can’t move if there is no place else to go.

Can’t Lose :: We Are Scientists

I went so far too love you :: SOTD

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Keep Art Alive :: “Christine #14 Hollywood CA 2006 :: Photography by Lisa Sarfati

My little alibi,
time couldn’t change us,
but we tried.”

She is an afterthought, the smoky residue of too many cigarettes on a sleepless night in a hotel room now empty, the aftertaste of whiskey, vanilla, tobacco, and something unmistakably her. All that’s left is the shadows of her, the marks on the bed sheets her body made, a wrinkle in time, a time in your life that you never plan to return to.

But you still think of her in the middle of the night, waking up from a dream version, hot and trembling, your hand furiously wrapping around your sex, eyes rolling back as you recall her body, the way she looked straddled across yours, the way it felt to be inside of her. Her name lingers there on your lips as you writhe in release, but you know how this goes, a quick clean-up and then back to sleep, back to the mundane day-to-day, back to the one lying next to you now, back to forgetting her.

The last time you saw her she had tears in her eyes, hanging there, dangling on each impossibly long eyelash, threatening to fall. She inhaled a long drag on her cigarette instead, leaning in for a kiss, hesitation ripe on the pucker of her red lips. You wanted to say stop, to say stay, to say I surrender, but instead you kissed her back, biting her bottom lip slightly, the way she used to like you to, your hand on the door. You stood there and watched her drive away, words caught in the back of your throat, memory already editing the details, changing the color of the blouse she wore, drawing over the tattoo on her pale skin, re-writing the parts that sting to remember.

The morning turned to afternoon turned to years passing by, and still she lingers in the air around you, in the songs that sometimes play, and in that space between righteousness and regret. In her exhaust pipe departure she took a long look back, but you never saw her mirror reverse eyes. You were too busy resigning yourself to her leaving, the thing you always counted on, so much so that you helped to bring it to life.  No matter, though, she is just your afterthought.

Alibi (live) :: Robert Francis

When we think back to all this :: SOTD

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Keep Art Alive :: Art by Christian Schloe

And I know we have to go,
I realize,
we always have to turn away.
Always have to go back to real lives,
but real lives are why we stay,
for another dream.”

I visited you again last night, your dark eyes wide and full of wonder, your hair a mess, and your hands, reaching across to mine, all long fingers and freckled skin. The memories, over time they evolve, some details fading into the backdrops, others becoming more precise, defined, in color. The paint brush dabbles and dots the design, of you, of I, and a time that gets longer ago by the day.

We were never meant for the long haul, never meant for vows and the creases of old age. Instead, we floated in some in-between space in time, away from it all, away from the reality of real life. Your voice lifted me, opened me up, played my skin and bones like keys on a piano, or strings on an acoustic guitar. I brought words to you, papers and pages of poetry, prose, pretend without pretense. Together we lit up the light polluted sky.

Sometimes when I dream about you I see ocean in your heavy lidded eyes, and as your mouth opens to speak to me, moonbeams trickle out, falling to the ground, changing in the process to daisy petals. Is it indiscretion if we only meet in created words? Is it anything at all beyond a fictionalized fractured fairy tale? Is it memory, this escape from real life? Were you always just a dream?

I have spent more hours with you, in these dreams, then we ever spent in real life.

One last time before it’s over.
One last time before the end.
One last time before it’s time to go again...”

Out of This World (live) :: The Cure

I guess I like it fine, so far :: SOTD

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Keep Art Alive :: Art by Liang Xing

She has wisdom,
and knows what to do. 
She has me,
and she has you.”

She was the quietest one in the room, delicate, one might say fragile, but there was a fire that burned in her eyes that made it quite clear that she was strong. There were stories there, too, buried beneath the long lashes and impossibly long hair. He was drawn to her immediately, I knew it before he did. The itch to capture mystery masquerading in innocence was irresistible.

He had seen the same in me once. Been drawn to it like the proverbial “moth to a flame“, asking me to model for him, to let him write me into stories, capture flash my image into black-and-white Polaroids. I had fallen for it, the call of the muse, and fallen for him along the way. But, muses are fleeting, and his eyes were always wandering to the next inspiration.

I intercepted, though. Wrapping an arm protectively around her, leading her back to our place where I pulled out all the stops I knew. I drug out my albums, told her to pick her poison, and she chose, one at a time. We threw our shoes off and danced around the second floor apartment, singing-a-long, laughing, falling into each other’s arms. I opened a bottle of whiskey that we played relay with, back-and-forth, forth-and-back, our shades of lipstick staining the open end.

She leaned in for a kiss, eyes half-closed, intention subtly hiding behind those long lashes. She was clinging to the innocence that her physicality seemed to portray, but I saw through it, felt the heat screaming from inside her. I grabbed hold of her and kissed her fervently, passionately, with no hidden anything, and the room began to shake. For a moment I thought it was us, the vibration between, the way she felt in my arms. We would later hear the reports of the quake, centered twenty miles away, enough to make the late night rumble.

He came in right before the sun broke the sky. I could hear the clicking of his keys in the lock. I was awake, tiding up, humming the last song I remembered hearing, the feel of her lingering on my skin. He had just missed her, her car passing his on the way in. Well, he had missed her in more ways than that.

Her perfume was everywhere, in the couch cushions, the pillows scattered on the floor, my hair. He grabbed a pen and paper and began to describe the scent, capturing the color of her cheeks flushed pale pink with the delight I had painted them with, and the music, lyrically entwined as our bodies had been, as if he had been there himself. He never asked for a recollection, never asked anything at all, it was just there in the way I moved across the room, evading his eyes.

She was waiting on our porch the next day. He let her in. She had daisy chains weaved into her hair and an unopened bag of whiskey in a bag held between her legs. I found her there in the afternoon, lying across the floor, as he painted long strokes on a outstretched canvas. She looked up at me, blue eyes wide and clear, smiling, holding a shaky hand out to me. I walked past her, turning the record over and dropping the needle onto the song from the night before, sighing, giving in.

She had me, and she had  you.

Love Street :: The Doors

I’ll forever be picking up the pieces :: SOTD (Advent Calendar Version – Day 9)

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Keep Art Alive :: Art by Unknown

I was born,
on the wrong side of town.”

Jack forgot the stack of comics that Joe had brought back for him. They lay there forgotten on the passenger seat. Jack had spent the late afternoon helping carry two bags, three black trash bags, and a heavy cardboard box from the truck bed into a small room above the garage of the house behind the gas station. Rae followed him at first, a shadow silently duplicating each step he made. Jack wanted to say something clever, he wanted to say anything really, but his mind felt like a vast nothingness, like the desert surrounding them.

With the heavy cardboard box in his arms, Jack could barely keep balance on his skinny legs. He was trying, though, making internal deals with his body, promises of a slice of cherry pie and a long hot shower if it would just hold out for him. At that moment Jack wished he cared about P.E., that he took the time to run, or lift weights, or whatever it is that the football players did that made them look like they did. He loathed sports though. It seemed such a waste of time when there were so many books to read and all those channels on the satellite TV.

No one read in this town though, and the only programs anyone seemed to watch are football and wrestling, and countless “reality” shows.

“Sorry that box is so heavy. Can I…help you with it?” Rae asked shyly.

“It’s fine.” Jack mumbled, his words mashed up together as if he had three or four marbles in his mouth due to the fact that he was balancing said box with his chin. He hoped he sounded confident though, and not ready to fall over.

“It’s…those are my books,” She explained, “I didn’t want to leave my books behind.”

The word books were magic to Jack. The words burst in his head like dynamite, or a murder of crows that were suddenly taking flight. The word, it was like rocket fuel and suddenly Jack felt stronger. If he could have he would have bounded up the stairs. He wanted to rush, wanted to be upstairs already, wanted her to ask him to help empty the box so he could see its contents, know what she read, have someone he knew that actually owned a BOX OF BOOKS.

“I like books.” Jack said, a ridiculous understatement, and so stupid sounding, he thought, cursing his brain and mouth for their shortcomings. How could someone so well-read say such ridiculously banal things?

“Want to help me unpack them?” Rae asked.

And there they were again, more crows murdering Jack’s insides as they burst out of him, circling the room, dancing, flying, singing a chorus of resounding YES. He wanted to say yes to her in a thousand languages, in a million different ways, with an orchestral musical score and back-up singers with their Walk on the Wild Side “do do do’s”, but as “yes yes yes’s”, all of it together.

“Uh-huh.” Jack answered, his mouth, letting him down again.

Picking Up the Pieces :: Milk, featuring Idris Elba

The world of the broken hearted :: SOTD (Advent Calendar Version – Day 8)

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Keep Art Alive :: “Sweet Tooth” :: Art by Christopher Mitten

Just move yourself,
don’t go back,
don’t stand against the wall!
Just move yourself,
and feel it.”

Jack was stoic, shy and far too slender. He would stand in the back whenever possible, take the last seat in the room, spending lunches in the school library, making his way through the shelves of “other worlds“. Joe and Jo off the highway would hire him for odd jobs, paying him in comic books that Joe would pick up once a month when he drove into the city of Neon. It was the comics that started Jack drawing, at first, tracing his favorite heroes and villains, until he could draw them by hand and eye, sketching the pages from a distance. Lately, though, he has started writing his own.

It was on a comic book payday that Jack met her for the first time. Joe had brought her back from the city, she had sad eyes and long dark hair with one long stripe of purple. Her bags were in the back of Joe’s pick-up, and when he saw Jack coming up the drive he asked him for a hand. Jack felt momentarily paralyzed in nervousness, his mouth opening slightly but no words coming out, still, he kept walking towards the truck, one step, and another, trying not to look to obviously at the girl. In his mind Joe was sketching her into a story, a hero decked out in a costume the same color as the streak in her hair.

“Jack, this is my niece, Rae. She’s gonna live here now. Rae, this is our town’s comic book artist, Jack.” Joe introduced them, warm and smiling at both of them.

Jack notices the way Rae’s ankles turn in, how she wraps her arms tighter around her chest, and how her lips turn up slightly into a shaky kind of smile while she looks up at Jack, her eyes wide and sadder still.

‘Hey.” She says, making eye contact with Jack, then looking immediately away.

Rae is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen.

One Man Army :: Kassidy

He makes my heart a cinemascope screen :: SOTD (Advent Calendar Version – Day 7)

Jody Hewgill

Keep Art Alive :: Art by Jody Hewgill

If I’m butter,
if I’m butter,
If I’m butter,
then he’s a hot knife.”

Three years, give or take a few break it and bring it right back lost weekends, we had gathered an arsenal of fatal weaponry. It happens when two people come together this way, when convenience and loneliness merge and meld into something we say is love. Settled, well, I suppose we did, but at the time we thought our actions were unique, authentic, and a hand clasped shared kind of freedom. Every box I filled whispered a delicious song of escape, but every box I emptied came with a chest tightening feeling of “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Why did I not realize I could have packed up and left on my own?
At such a young age, why did I believe I would never find something better, or many somethings better?
There was a whole world out there waiting, cities and countries that I may have loved, or loathed, or been bored by. But, they were there, waiting, with no rule of entry that I had to be the other half of someone else.

Bygones, though, as hindsight is all twenty-twenty, and “shit like that”. We made decisions. We attached each other to each other through so many invisible cords. When the threat appeared that I wanted to leave all the stops were pulled out. Love and attention, love and affection, love and smothering arms and legs pulling me so close I could not breathe anymore. A moment of peace may not have changed my mind, but all the cover and smother, well, he might as well have hit the gas for me.

The weapons, all sharp knives and barbed wire, whip smart words whispered, screamed and unedited, left us bleeding out onto the floor. Fast, furiously feverish fear made me pause, grab his shaking hand, pleading wordlessly for him to “try one more time”. But it was over, the credits were ready to roll, and despite all the blood I made it out the door; hot knife still in my left hand (you never know when you will have to cut and run, again).

Baby, darling, love love love, weren’t we once just like a movie?

Hot Knife :: Fiona Apple

A lady of war :: SOTD (Advent Calendar Version – Day 6)

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Keep Art Alive :: “Mrs. Frost” :: Art by Menton3

I’m fooling somebody.
A faithless path to roam,
deceiving to breathe this secretly.
This silence,
a silence I can’t bear.”

Laney used to make up fairy tales about their Mother. The stories, they always included evil curses conjured up by some unknown force of nature who whisked her away, their Mother, into some frozen land. She was beautiful, our Mother, Laney would say. She was brighter than the sun and warmer than the middle of July. That’s why they took her, Laney explained, because the witches of the Frost Netherlands wanted her heat for themselves.

These fables, well, Jack knew they were made up. They were the stuff of children’s books, and Jack was not a child anymore, not after their Mother left them. He was 9 and Laney had been only 3 years older, yet she spoke to him as if she were decades above him, as if she was now the second in command, come to take over for their missing Mother. Jack thinks back and has to concede that she was that to him, his new Mother, and in some way she still was.

For the most part it was just the two of them now. Sure, their Father still resided in their rotting from the outside mobile home, but mostly it was just a his hard shell that was in their, sitting in front of the television eighteen hours out of each day, blurry eyed, mesmerized by nothing, drunk to near oblivion from the moment he re-opened his eyes, day after day. Once upon a time their Father was the guitarist in a one-hit-wonder band. He was even on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Now though, he was more frozen than the “Evil Mother Stealing Queen” was.

“Laney, do you think we can find the Frost Queen?” Jack asked on the seventeenth day after their Mother disappeared.

“I don’t know, Jackie. She might just steal us away and freeze us, too.” Laney explained, pausing at all the right moments, running her pale hand through his dirty blonde hair.

“You mean like in Carbonite? Like Han Solo?” Jack lived for Star Wars back then, loved everything about it. Well, admittedly he still does.

“I doubt it. I mean, the Queen isn’t from space or anything.” Laney smirked, giving him a wink and a nod.

Jack knew she wasn’t in Carbonite. He knew she wasn’t in some Frost Queen’s clutches either, but it was easier to breathe when he pretended to believe. It made him feel less lonely. Believing made him feel numb.

Numb :: Portishead

I discovered a star :: SOTD (Advent Calendar Version – Day 5)

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Keep Art Alive :: “Star Girl” :: Art by Christopher Mitten

Oh, my nuclear baby,
oh, my idiot trance;
All my idiot questions,
let’s face the music and dance.”

Rae liked three things about the desert, the way that you could see every, single, god-damned star in the sky at night, like everyone, like her front yard was a fucking observatory. She liked the way Aunt Jo would let her paint the tiny people who would go on to live inside the plastic globes full of shake-it-up snow that she would sell as souvenirs (though honestly, was there ever any snow in this hell-hot desert?). Oh, and Rae liked Laney.

Rae liked the way Laney dressed, like some crazy mix of Joan Jett and a 1940’s gangster Moll.  Laney played punk rock records on an actual record player she sent away for in the mail and she had a map of the world taped to her bedroom wall full of colored thumb tacks that marked the spots she was going to go after graduation. Laney had a boyfriend with a guitar and a grey streak in his hair. They played in a band together with two other guys who did not go to school anymore. Laney had a cluster of stars tattooed down her left arm; they swirled into an “S” shape until they looped around her wrist like a bracelet.

Laney was like a cluster of stars.

Laney was older, two years ahead, and Rae had really only met her because of Jack. Jack who was Rae’s age, in the same History and English classes, and Jack, who was on the fast track to being her best friend.

So, I guess Rae liked four things then, she surmised. Rae liked Jack a lot. They both loved comic books and those ridiculous Fast and the Furious movies, scary ghost stories, cold cookie dough and 90’s Brit Pop. He was great, really, he was, but she liked Laney differently.

Rae liked Laney in that alone in her room with her hand slipped between her legs, eyes fluttered shut and wishing thoughts kind of way. She liked Laney in the breath caught in the back of her throat when Laney ever looked her way kind of way. Laney set off nuclear powered explosions in Rae’s insides whenever she stopped in to the gas station to buy a pack of Marlboro Reds.

Rae had never felt this way about anyone before, and she wasn’t sure what it all meant, that Laney was a girl, that she was her best friend’s sister, that she was completely out of her fucking league. Laney was like one of those observatory stars in the dark night sky, but Rae, she was dusty and dark and grey, and so utterly forgettable. She had no business liking a star girl like her.

New Killer Star (live) :: David Bowie