a.e. hart's sketchpad

Category: meditations


Yesterday I must have met up with you here, in Wilmington, NC, in a friend’s driveway.  We have been cooking, stacking the dishes perfectly.  Every social error on my part is under your scrutiny.  I stack the plates too high. I laugh too loud.  I see you growing thinner, counting not calories but moments in motion, You’ve gone for a run again, and I am curled up over my coffee.  Kristin comes into the kitchen to ask me what the hell I am thinking.  I breathe in deeply, wishing I still smoked cigarettes.


Today, in the ocean, I am talking to g-d. I get stronger as I submit my body over wave after wave.  When the ocean throws me from my board, tumbles me beneath the wave and invites me to humility, I come up laughing. I am a beast again. You, the great teacher, study the waves like a scientist, never quite catching her drift.


I know it might be foolish of me to offer advice. But Kristin, up on the beach, taught me to surf in these same waves a year or so ago, and I am inspired, humbled, stupid and wet.  I approach. Coming near you when you are challenged by any task is an invitation for punishment. You snap at me, make the same mistake, again and again, and will not even consider heeding or hearing my advice. You remind me again that I am a terrible listener, and that I do not understand your needs. I walk back to shore laughing to myself.


I am breathing in again, watching you from a distance, like a father watches a child.  I am sun soaked and sore, beaten by my own sweet gods, and humored by yours. The sun starts to slip from the sky, and you run, like an experimental movie, in an endless loop of failure.  In the morning you take me running, and remind me that my body scares you.  You are thin and strong.  Completely in control.  I am behind you, trying to keep enough air in my lungs.  You press on, and eventually I run home alone.


That afternoon, I tattoo the word acceptance on my arm.  A man tells me that it wont do me any good, but I make the gesture anyway, considering those experiments with crystals and glasses of water that all the teenage philosophers are going on about.


Back in New York, in a cafe, I let you teach me a card game. You repeat the rules again and again, but I need you to change your approach.  I don’t understand. I know this will be a problem.  It is winter, and your hair is wet from the shower. When you erupt into rage, I circle the block a few times before realizing that you will get sick walking home alone.


When we breathe in at the same time, when you grow young and broken and real in my arms, I know god for moments.  I see you.  Before your fathers belt, before you ever raised your voice to me.  Just another hungry animal, leaning out for love.  I hold you then, when your hair is dry, and you are clam and forgetful.  You try so hard.  We scratch at god inside each others bodies until she sings us both to sleep.  When I wake, you are sitting with her quietly.  One candle is lit, and there is no light in the room.  I imagine that you have transformed.  For a moment we are sacred again.


I am in our ocean. I submit my body, wave after wave. We begin the day with god, end in fragments. Every day, we  live… tikkun olam, the reclaiming, the recollecting.  When she takes me from you, when I have learned my lessons, my one weakness is in looking back.


There, in an endless loop, you lift your body and fall.



The first time mom left me alone with my older sister to baby-sit, we played on the swing-set naked, well after dark. We took innocent pictures, but they felt illicit, so after a terrified trip to the supermarket developing counter we hid or destroyed them.  This, I remember.

I remember sitting, still as dolls at the top of the stairs, always in our best nightgowns, with our hair combed, waiting to be called in on bridge nights. They would pretend to catch us listening to the party downstairs, and parade us table to table. We know our lines, our roles. We are perfect ornaments. The atmosphere glitters, and we are the tiniest belles. After they send us to bed, for real this time, we continue to sit at the top of the stairs.  We eat the candy we stole from each table, quietly unwrapping the foil and savouring our spoils. This is payment for services rendered.

I am absorbed in a box of stones. They are gateways, to other worlds, other paradigms. I have been hiding at the downtown library devouring dense fantasy novels. They are becoming real for me, but that is a secret I know how to keep. the red stone with the orange bleed is the key. It is the ill-earth stone. Downstairs they might be screaming, but all I hear is the pulse of this other world, so small between my fingers.

I overslept again, and missed the short bus trip up the hill. I pull on my knit cap and trek through the woods in the snow. I am in second grade. I take the wrong path and wind up crying and lost, in a mess of blackberry thorns. When I arrive at school, I pull thorns from my skin and my clothes while the teacher yells. I fold my hat on my desk, and think about my grandmother’s hands.

Snow again. I keep my house-key on the belt-loop of my jeans. The bell rings, and the bus waits outside. If I run to the bathroom, I will miss the bus. I pull on my snow-pants, and hope for the best. In front of my house, my best friend is screaming with laughter…. “You’re gonna do it again”. I am trying to wrestle my key out of my snow pants, and flushing red with embarrassment. I give up, throw my backpack down, strip, and pee in the yard. This is the first time in weeks I have not peed in my snow-suit. Victorious, I collect my key, and let my stunned friend into the empty house.

Back at school they won’t let me go to the bathroom alone anymore. I recently saw a sequel to The Wizard of Oz, and have been lost in the bathroom for days, talking to the mirror. I am convinced that the girl in the mirror is not me, and that she is trapped there. When they force me to have a bathroom buddy, Sarah Sherwood catches me whispering to the mirror in secret, and asks what I am doing. I realize that I will never see my friend again, and spend the rest of the day inconsolable.

I am sitting on the bed waiting. All morning there must have been screaming because I am sitting now defeated, in a purple gingham dress. I am four years old. I hold my limbs like a dolls limbs. I do not posses myself anymore. I am certain that they will not detect my vacation, so long as I can be posed for the family portrait. My bedspread is yellow, and I imagine the yellow has taken over everything. Pale and listless, the morning passes without incident.

One summer night a stranger grabs my arm and I fall to the ground screaming. “You are not my family”. I am 26 years old. There are years stripped away then, and I cry until I start to dry heave into the dead grass. All around me I hear the terrifying forgotten sounds. I am so small. Everything is happening above my head, in negative space. This, I may never remember.


there was a crow, observing the clatter of business through the dimly lit window of a tavern. the tavern stood near the edge of a clearing in a town full of strangers. after what felt like hours, the bird beat her body against the windows and the doors, only to watch the slow crowd rouse itself to a mystery.

the crow wanted to see if anyone was there

the barkeep muttered “damn birds”
and a farmer from the hills said “s’not ordinary behavior”
the crow was about to turn and go, when a small girl turned her eye to the bird and laughed.

the girl was told she belonged to the barkeep, but she felt more that she belonged to the barkeep’s wife, or even possibly the crow, or the wildness of her own laugher. she was too small to reach the bar, and the strangers often set cherries down to her reaching hands, which she collected in a mason jar

on her notice of the crow, she began crushing cherries in her palms
drawing out juice and seeds
staining her hands sticky and bright

the crow watched as the lines in her palms unfolded like maps
wishing they were close enough to read
she then dug a small hole in the barroom floor
and placed the seeds there

from this moment, none of the strangers could see her
and the barkeep, and his wife, stared blankly through a high pane of glass
as if there was something they had forgotten

the moon that night was so exceptionally bright
that the sight of two crows admiring their own shadows
cast a stillness
cast a spell
and the strangers wept


im satisfied that when all of this is over, i will have two strong arms, and the courage to lift my voice again. i squander a gift every time i open my mouth. there are lines to cross, and i have crossed all of them.

as we are forgetful, i will tie your mysteries to this flag. a flag of war. a flag of war on war. and you will sew your backwards alphabet into my misgivings. here we go again. a ghost and a martyr. a satyr and a movie set.

i wanted you to know better. how frequently we are disappointed.  i am watching from the audience now, and i am impotent. everyday power pools in my back, and these days i can barely move at all. it will become a sickness.

i have a barrage of excuses. a litany of distractions.  i should have quit so long ago.  i should lie and steal to make the space for it.  but i bound myself in moral law, and you carbonated the moon.

it wont be long now. its june again and my heart is broken. you will stain the paper, and i will finally explode. a surge of sweetness, of purpose. and then i will rest. so satisfied. so easy.


thats where ive been since you passed away
i hate that phrase
passed away. died. as if you just dissolved somehow.
i wouldnt know. i wasnt there

you were more to me, maybe, than i could ever be to you
i will say that i was suprised
sitting on the bottom bunk
at an ashram
knitting you an unbelievably long scarf
to discover that i loved you

it was the endlessness of the object
that made me query
look into the engine
that kept my hands so busy

i cried then, knowing that i seldom loved anyone
that i wasn’t fucking. or hadn’t fucked, or wouldnt.

this is what we had

the cold cackle of our voices against concrete walls
with you i was angry for hours
sustained in the most haunted melodies
my admiration of your hands, which at times bordered on intimacy
the sound of your breathing at night
which never let me sleep
always those gaps in your breath

i was afraid then, that you wouldnt wake

maybe my heart does have a crystal ball
the worst kind of poison
when you see heartbreak in every heartbeat
how can you ever trust this life

but i digress
i havent written a word since you died
not really
not willingly
i wrote two term papers
and i gave a eulogy
to an audience of future pastors
who didnt know you

i have been watching veronica mars reruns
the gilmore girls
the usual drugs
but they are not working
every so often my left shoulder seizes up in unspeakable pain
and i have decided it is time to go back to therapy

i am writing this down now, because if i dont
i will turn on the television

losing you rests closer to the heartbreak of losing my father than any heartbreak i have known since
you win, asshole.  you made me love you
the way i loved the sound of my fathers voice
the songs that kept me breathing as a child

this is not poetry
its processing
its vomit
my stomach is so close to turning these days
that tonight a puking scene in a comedy
made me vomit quietly into my empty soda cup
you would have found this hysterical

no one noticed, but the way
and i magically had tea tree oil toothpicks in my pocket
rinsed my mouth in the bathroom
and cleaned my teeth

the rest of the night i kept chewing on those damn things
until my lips felt dry and raw
and i sat in an aa meeting
clutching a candle, a gift from the eccentric man sitting next to me
who also brought me a paper towel
when i fell apart
after speaking the words
“my best friend died last month”

a best friend

its different you know
not like kate with our ups and downs and our depths
or molly with her steady love and support

you were to me, what my godfather was to my dad
you were my partner in crime
my headache
my sense of humor

and even though you pushed me away
even though you hadnt been around
the love was as big and old and angry as family

so there.
tonight i wanted to go outside and scream
the way i did when dad died
and justin was still alive
he just let me scream
didnt tell me to worry about the neighbors
didnt tell me to calm down
or try to hold me
when i was wild

he just stood by and watched
and handed me a beer

we could get away with a lot back then
tonight i didnt know how
to lift my feet
to walk out into the city air
so i sat there
with my feet glued to the floor
and stifled my rage
let it form tears
walked around with my face red and swollen

you would have bought me coffee
made me sing
i guess
to be honest, i dont remember
if youve ever seen me cry

but now

the other night i was sitting at the old piano
after hours
when there is no one at school, i have that room to myself
my very own chapel

you were there, your arms somehow solid
and your fingers weighted with mine on the keys
you even edited my writing
added some flourish i could only call yours

there you are. a fucking ghost.

and it doesnt make sense
because you were too young
and because we hadnt spoken
in a year

a year of silences
of sadnesses
of me not letting go

jessica says you got my texts in the end
i hope thats true
i hope i said

“i love you”

to get it through your thick skull

theres no way to end this
because its not over
i have novels full of grief to write
and for now they are disorganized
and i want to be happy
maybe just for a minute
maybe for a day
i will kiss my lover
when i can
and read my books
i will try to trust in some new and growing life
and remember to write to my godparents
every so often
call my sister sometimes just to talk
i will read poetry again, instead of the news
and go for walks
eat something green

i remember the last time i saw you
you slipped in the door of Living Room Lounge
and hid in a shadow

you had not come one of my solo shows
in years
and my feelings were sore from it

i was in the middle of a song
and considered inviting you on stage
but felt it was unprofessional
and that maybe, i just needed to stand on my own two feet
for that one night

and there it was
i took back my power
my art
my voice
and you

just disappeared

tiny rant

i am staring at nothing.
thinking about the cigarettes i didnt smoke today
my mouth tastes of lavender and you are not here
this is probably good, but i am obsessed with our unravelling, this thing we are growing, and when you are not around i hollow out molecules, reading our fortune.
what i am trying to say is
i do not know how to be in love
so i am swimming in my own skin
trying to collect the scripts i dropped
the first time you looked at me like that
at the very least
i could rewrite them, pretend that i knew
whatever is happening, henceforth…etc.

of the nameless

Shechinah, can I know you here?
Carrying a strangers name
From some distant imagining

Carrying a strangers name
Are you of the same body?
A step into your skin; solace

Are you of the same body?
The mutterings of a lady-mystic, Dust.
The names men have offered; marble

The mutterings of a lady-mystic, Dust
Are you not my sister?
In the sinew they call language, frozen
Are you not my sister, Shechinah?
Can I know you here?

We are carrying these names.

draft (tikkun olam)

Collecting what has shattered
I rest in indescribable things
The folding of laundry
Layer and texture
The reworking of my every day

This is where I know Ayin
In the writing
The words where my hands meet plain fabric
The most ordinary things
The space before I speak
The abyss before a heartbeat

(Death can subsist
In a thought
You are folding the laundry
Fear over fear
Each towel soft
And in it’s place)

A year so far, of losses, of struggles
And of finding a new home
for my heart

All of my heart
It feels true that in love
Our eyesight grows more keen
Two hunters together
Are more likely to find
The scattered pieces

Last night I found myself telling you all of the truth. My hands unbound, we fell soft and laughing, until the fears came again, the old ghosts.  I have told these stories before, always turning them over in my hands to find the lost sparks, the ancient injuries. They are often dead, lifeless things.

Here in our sacred dimension, words lift and become alive.  I am terrified as scar tissue and sinew become malleable things, soft.  The story is now immediate, alive.  This is tikkun olam.  We are doing great work.  My stories wind into yours until we are indistinguishable.  This is the home we have hoped for.  A home not of settling, not of resting, but of bravery.  We are hunters now.

This is how the hunt begins.  I am looking for your eyes.  We spend hours staring at each other.  You have seen me cry, but we seldom look directly into this light.  We are dark-beings, familiar with the lost pieces.  We cherish them, hold them empty in our hands. Symbols, not alive, they are armor.  We are somewhat wilted, somewhat flawed. This has become our aesthetic.

I find my favorite piece.  I feel safe at first, admiring its edges while you witness me.  I am of my story now, not yours, not even my own.  You cannot help but to notice this.  You reach for my stone, my story, my mettle, and transform it. A brush of our electric blue and it is not metal, no trinket.  There is a bird in your apartment.  She is circling, and you invite her to rest on your arm.  Sometimes the hunter needs only to sit still.  She alights.

I call you a snake charmer.

You whisper “This is not a snake”
And I fold myself

(Death can subsist
In a thought

You are folding the laundry
Fear over fear

Each towel soft
And in it’s place)

You kiss the bird.  I warn that you might get sick.  That she might bite.  You laugh.

Allah and Her Love-Dogs

Lately I feel as if my heart is splitting inside of my chest. Falling in love with Islam, and yet turned sour by gender binaries. Conflicted by “Western” feminism, and the finger it points at the “other”. Torn reading Malcolm X’s autobiography, as told by Alex Haley.  It is the end notes, on his murder, that stretch my heart thin as paper.

There my paper thin heart sits and thinks of the woman I am growing to love, deeply and foolishly, beyond all imagining.  The falling begins and does not end, and I fear we will fall forever. Sometimes that fear is a hope.  I am growing wings.

She is headed to the desert for a few days, and I am here holed up with my books.  Essays written by progressive Muslims, in endless shade and contrast.  I sit with a conversation with a fellow seminarian, also a woman.  We feel ourselves drawn to Sufism, deeply and inexplicably, and yet we are shellshocked by the binary, shaken awake and left alone with Allah to dream of a different world, a different Islam.

When I speak the word Allah now, it resonates in my heart in deep pluralism.  In knowing Allah as one, I know all G_ds as one, every prayer containing a fragment.  I am able now to connect with the Jew, the Mystic, the Christian, and yet I know this feeling is seldom shared.  I am humbled.  I am tumbling stones inside of my own dervish heart.

All I want to do is bring them to her, to cool them in her hand.

I will write my love songs to Allah, to G_d, to Goddess and to earth, and whirl safe and secret here in my small home.  I will wait for my love to come cool this fire.  When she leaves me, I burn myself awake.  When she is close again, I am born of blue flame.

It is Allah, it is Sheckinah, it is Ein Sof that holds us together here.  I am willing now, willing to fall.  I am offering my heart up to her lips.

poison, part 2

i will sing love songs, until you come out of hiding
every day of your withdrawing is a day of delirious hunger
i can not eat, it will not satiate me

you sleep now, with one eye on your lovers back
and i sleep, with one ear to your lovers words
each unkindness is a small taste
a bit of poison for my silence
bitterness in my letting go

my hands open to release you, because you are a dove
peace requires that you move freely
your lover is a thief, and tethers you like a falcon

i can forgive her
because she is imperfect
and i am a shattered thing, captivated by imperfections
but why love, are you not mending your own wing?
why do you crowd your mind with her confusion
as if it were your own

we have singularity, you and i
i am your wife and yet in you i marry only ayin
the space where you might collect yourself
this is devotion

you see me these days
biting my tongue
you wonder if i am biding my time
but in this world, i am ready always to love another
to take the scared prey to my breast

i open my hand to release you, because you are a dove
this world requires your freedom
when you soar i become endless, my heart a gift to the holy realms
i am blessed in your joy

being of selfish heart
i can not make peace with your struggles
with your slow dance of contraction
i want to see you born again
in or out of love
i want to shake your lovers hand
when she finally turns her eye softly to the sky

only there will i love her
standing courtside
to your great affair with life

but you sleep now, with one eye on her back
and i sleep, with one ear to her words
each unkindness is a small taste
a bit of poison
a bitterness in my letting go