Charlotte E. Wilde

Identities constructed on the linguistic champ de bataille | Words, like little foot soldiers, march out in the armies of my poetic failures

Category: absence

Overwrite my mind [You know nothing of Hiroshima]

Tu me tues.
Tu me fais du bien.
-Hiroshima mon amour

The trudging of my thoughts keeps me up until I Nyquil them down because being sick legitimizes pillow-talk lies and goddamnit if I haven’t been saving you for a rainy day. My headboard is a hostage cell, tiny tickmarks remember each night spent shaking memories out of my ear like pool-water headaches.

It had, of course, occurred to me that maybe this floor and this room would always remind me of midnight imaginations run to ground, but in the end I decided it was easier to blame it all on December.

Two days in and a three hour drive from anything resembling civilization– if you’d think that would account for a little peace of mind you’d be wrong.  I’d quickly figured out that unlike everything else around here, memories don’t stop for snow-days.

Let me explain…no, it’s too long. Let me sum up. The math of it is simple: I hate interims– it’s too hard to run from things when time slows down. 48 hours and counting, a so-called vacation. 2880 minutes hitting the bottom of my stomach like pennies in an empty wishing-well. 172,800 seconds, strung along like Christmas lights–no use in neighbors trying to out-do each other, we’re all just spectacles of wasted energy, little orbs of dissipating heat.  Each second splits like an atom and I consider that my isotope must still contain particles of us– a love at critical mass, fantasy fission failure.

Or maybe my memory picks and chooses what it wants to remember. I heard once that the average human heart beats 100,000 times per day…but anxiety’s an overachiever. My EKG speaks in morse code:  You can’t go back, it says, when we both know hard habits die old.

I’d closed the curtains on January, but it’s still out there, looming like a bible belt horizon, greenish gold and slippery around the edges. Sure as quicksand, this is no time for stalling, I need to be new. Bleach my mind; eternal sunshine; spotless hatred; Given enough time I can turn anyone’s touch inside out. Given enough heartbeats I can short circuit a feeling, activate radioactive decay process.

And sure enough, like a quarter in a gum-ball machine, the thought of losing you, of watching the skin slough off the bones of our memories, bought me a handful of sleep.


Thoughts on time, language and other such slippery things

I sat candy-land still, concentrating as a half formed idea crept into my ear, down my throat and into my mouth. I sat still, but there it stayed, caressing the sides of my tongue, reluctant to slip from lips, resistant to fingers and their pens, fremissante, patient.

I’m not sure how long it’s been, I suppose I’ve lost track of time; I’m sure the clock hasn’t stopped but the hands seem to speed and slow on a whim.  Time can’t be frozen, I remind myself, rendering it impossible to grasp, which is perhaps why we tend to metaphorize it as water– something that is trickling away, through our fingers, down our throats like this thought, slippery. 

I consider that perhaps my problems began with the letter V. I’d never been one for hard consonants, having always had a marked preference for easy vowels like A and E. Still, I tried it on, felt teeth slipping over my bottom lip, the mouth open [ɛ̃] , the sliding /s/ that seemed like the time, like the water, to slip not entirely away but into the space of the final /ɑ̃/ to which my accent vehemently refused me access. Yes, the problem began with that V, with mouths, with letters, with control.

It began with a V and it ended with an F. F for /fʁɑ̃s/, for foreign, for fear.

I’ve begun to conclude that while there are few things we can truly possess completely in this life fear is certainly one of them– we can entirely become it, allow it to become entirely us. Fear and time are similar in that way, at once impossibly ephemeral yet pointedly present, happily spiderwebbing anyone who pays them too much mind.

Temporal binaries and triptychs aside, I’ve a bad habit of living partially in the past, partially in the future and never in the moment. Still, I’m finding that where I’d tended to lose track in the hollow space of a vowel, I keep re-finding my bearings in the consistent touching presence, the constance of a consonant.

Perhaps the problem didn’t begin with V after all, perhaps it merely came back to meet itself at the root — cyclical, like time, a revelatory [re]solution.



Violent imperfections

  I hover again on another 3AM where this time I’m discovering how the lights of my unwanted skyline lend themselves to new memories like so many Russian dolls. Moments are as fickle as anything else, I suppose. Or maybe when my minds blades have processed and blended a person or an experience enough times over it just trickles away.

My fingers are so cold they forget to hold on to the determinism I’ve been keeping in my pocket next to my agency or regret. I suppose I’m dangerous because I  intermittently want everything and nothing and simultaneously all at once. Stretched truths are things I avoid with ardor, but what of the lies we tell ourselves?

I wonder if my insides aren’t smooth and white like the cereal milk in magazine photos. Inedibly appetizing and thick with the slickness of a grippingly convincing imaginary.

I wonder if I’m even human sometimes.

Don’t slow down (you’ll catch up with you)

Driving is a good way to run from things but it’s always been a bad way to get caught. There’s something about staring down a highway, that man-made stripe that cuts through hillsides in rural Kentucky or Tennessee or nowhere-city Kansas, that reminds us that no matter how far we drive, we can’t escape the road. Let’s not give this town a real name, lets pretend it’s make-believe, let’s say this town and its spider-web of roads belongs to everyone. It snakes across our minefields and connects the dots between the lives we’ve left scattered behind us along the way. All those humans– the girl with the red hair who smiled at me like we had a secret, the man with the wedding band he twists as he waits for his coffee, the sorry-eyed stranger standing, smoking, that I could have sworn was a remnant of my past but for coincidence and cruelty couldn’t have been. And why? What does a human constellation etched on my ribcage amount to, a splayed hand of would-be loves or brushes of a shoulder that buzzed with importance I was desperate to allot if only to bring some future to the trudging weeks ahead? We’re all desperate for our 7 touches a day, and deficiency drives hallucinations and decisions as bad as espresso cheesecake at 11am.

But here I am alone again and I’m beginning to think we all have the same name, the same face, the same initial that was written in the same way with the same significance and it has ceased to surprise that I might be so easily replaced. Aren’t we all, after all?

Love is a lie we tell ourselves to give a little hope to rolling over on a Melrose morning-after when all we want is the reassurance that we taste sweeter, feel smoother, get wetter than anyone who has ever existed before us or ever will again. We have no future here. The couch knows it, the silence whispers it, the sheets on the bed have always curled away from our feet as if to say “remember when this was easier said than done?” But now, easier done than said for those four letters have revealed themselves to be a bit of a highway themselves. Let me trace the happiness brought by an L, the picture-framed-reality of our O, the V that reminded me what want was, and the E for “Ever” that was anything but.

In no particular order I woke up. I cut my hair.  I payed a man to draw time on my left side, the one with no broken parts, and he said I lied as still as anyone he’d ever seen.  I asked a girl with a sneer to give me something to concentrate on instead of my face and she said she didn’t recommend it but did it anyway. In no particular order I have re-arranged my body. I left him. In no particular order, I have been looking for myself.

I’m still trying to figure out what parts are me and what parts are the ones I made up over time to fill in the spaces between the L, the O, the V, and the E that never really fit together like the fairytales said they might.

But what’s a fairytale if not a lesson learnt about good and evil and the wicked way that heads or tails dont matter in the end? This year has been one of glass houses with glass ceilings and glass slippers left on the looking-glass stares as we all just try to remember how many hours we have left until midnight.

Final count: less than we think, more than we probably want, but let’s chock up our half-way hesitations to a necessary lie. What’s better than a fine layer of glittering ignorance, fairy dust, that lends a little meaning to what our fingers search for blindly in the dark?

Let’s have a drink. I’ll cross my legs, I’ll smile. The name we give it– a noun, a verb– it’s all just a fancy way to say let’s play pretend.




Intervals (or the spaces between my letters)

I’m writing again. Writing because I’ve found that strange solitude that pushes me to do so, the heavy alone carried on a shoulder or a look that keeps me errant down the streets of a city that allots me exactly one secret per year.

I’m writing again because I’m swimming. Swimming in the intervals between my words, my breaths, my letters or the empty space where lonely licks my dripping mind clean. It chases me to corners where I watch strangers for signs of alive and fill my mental pages with the stories they write in the margin of a scattered conversation or a sideways glance. That’s me, knees tucked under and eyes glassed in wavering between invisibility and a presence so violent I feel it burning on my cheeks.  But looking down I see my splayed fingers flicker like headlights on a country road; I’m fading, surely… then again aren’t we all?

It’s the weather or the way of things in November. It’s that sneaking memory of a desire or the desperate tug I have to feel some consciousness other than my own. I call it trouble, and trouble is at best a fickle, fair-weather friend.

Last year on this day in this chair I didn’t know intervals. Last year on this breath, in this circle, I saw dead ends instead of second chances, a long line of mistakes instead of spiraling lessons learnt. But today, this time around, I know that people come to me, willing me to write their stories on my skin, to sift through memories like a prospector to find the pains they’ve tried hide or relegated to forgetfulness.

I think most of us are ever willing to ignore how memories function on a sliding scale. They slip gently down, pooling deep and  patiently waiting for the right combination of clicks or notes or eyes to bring vivid lucidity flooding back into these lives we live half-heartedly, ever batting them aside like sleep out of 4am eyes. Call it collective consciousness or a generational gap, I’m here to remind you– a miner of moments too precious, too formative, for us to have the vanity to believe them so easily brushed away.

But why stop there? Has it been a lifetime? How long have I been holding tight to these secrets, collecting the pieces that slip, the ones whose eyes we meet on the subway and quietly look down pretending not to recognize. The repressed ones that slither into sweat-soaked dreams that we tell ourselves we can’t remember in the morning. Has it been that long?

But these are are our chain link fence, these are our blushing beds, these are the soil of a soul.

No response? No matter.

Yes, poetics are often lost on November– falling short like the day-light savings, like luke-warm morning coffee for one, like the time and like the space between the paragraphs of two lives destined to dead end into a [death] sentence writ to skip.

I wonder if you can read it in my glance or smell it like sleep hanging static in the air when you walk by me in the morning. You’ve taken refuge in some past version of yourself that I only thought I knew, but you stay. Then again I always knew I’d be the one to open my fingers, to release you trickling through my palms to the ground. I suppose nothing surprises me anymore, not the change nor the cycle, and certainly not the spiral of a coexistence based on held tongues and a healthy American complacency with the status-quo.

So here we are. I’m spinning intervals and you’re thinking simply but for bulbs and branches. Here we are again, but we are not fallow. We are not fallow but we’ve forgotten how to grow just as winter forgets the changing of the seasons, just as summer struggles to rise and meet the fall.

I think maybe one day, this November or the next, someone will stumble upon the remnants of this garden we planted with upturned-eyes. A secret garden laden with original sin and those stories we buried in tiny boxes made of ticky-tacky. Tiny whispered secrets that grew branches and found their way to the surface of our skin, a veritable treasure trove of reasons-why.

Lately I’ve been sleepless again. I spend my nights stacking memories, storing scattered thoughts on a windowsill. I’m watching them for signs of bloom, waiting patiently for them to grow into a page worth reading, a page worth forgetting, a page worth tossing for some other perennial scavenger to swallow and re-write.

I lie on a couch that knows more than it lets on, imagining my breath slowly filling the room with a carbon-monoxide haze that will sing me back to sleep. I count seconds until the space between my words has become so great that they turn back to letters, the letters back to ink and the ink back to liquid which runs off the sides of my thoughts into my dreams. I am just a memory of these pilfered moments repressed into a reverie, into a void, into the desire for the comfort of forgetfulness, the most human wish of all.

But I wont take refuge in refusal.

We’re all living in intervals, the space between us gets wider every day.

6:45AM, Hour 22 

Almost-7Am funds my narsicistic almost-thoughts the way a change collection lends itself to corner café espressos. I say “almost” because I’m no longer sure after such a trek that the dull blade of these thoughts in particular can be considered as such. Perhaps they’re more akin to a roving state of mindful forgetfulness turned mindless remembrance ad nauseum. As such, almost-7Am finds me by the water, coffee in the sorry hand of my memory-laden night and a would-be smile handed off to the barman in place of a tip because yesterday’s 200% is yet another a well traveled mistake.

I make sure to always remember my mistakes. In the morning the groan of the city streets set the slightest triviality, error, or misshapen comment glowing in my memory.  These tiny nagging instances awaken at the first fluttered lash or yawn where their presence makes itself acutely known even through the wishful haze of just-a-few-more-minutes-plea destined to be ignored. Commence the clicking of my worries and regrets, past missteps point to potential for error revealed as combatable only through constant vigilance and a firm hand. However, when indulgence has been too sweet instead of slinking away into my dreams to manifesting as a bloodied AM cheek or aching jaw we hold nuit blanche. I am glassy, ghost-like, somnombule and they, in some sublime show of feverish loyalty, never quit my side. Step for step I retrace the paths I might have followed or may still take, my preoccupations in stride, turning as I turn onto the cool side of the pillow or night and matching their every breath to mine.

The water always soothes me on such sleepless mornings. Something about the beauty in the grime or the leaning lovers who find themselves looking into each other’s eyes for the first time without the brume of alcohol or darkness, both wondering who will draw the line on an evening turned night, turned morning, soon to turn distant memory as such reckless attachment is wont to do. Vaguely I’m remind of naive pasts less easily relegated to the back of the listless line of my trudging thoughts now destined to lapse like an old lover. Perhaps, instead, it’s a glimmering recognition found in the man with sorry eyes– bent over his bottle on the bench yet willing to look me straight down with an audacity found so rarely in the sober while bringing the last sip of opiate back home to his lips. Or maybe it’s in the people who have begun to emerge from the shells of their mornings, blindly walking to the metro where they’ll sit blankly staring until they blink away another day’s work and deftly trace their well-worn path back again. I glance at the twisting canal lying still as some great omniscient black snake, reconciling the idea that this army of pink-eyed dreamers drank of the water’s verdure or city’s allure to render them complaisant in such a looping doldrum life. Perhaps, after all, it’s a glimpse of the occasional vagrant or pair that linger, like myself, on bridges to stare boldly back at the glassy surface of this turbid water, hoping for mirages or answers that might eventually emerge from the depths as an enterprising Excalibur.

These are the elements, the building blocks, that bring me here after my still-hopefull sleeplessness yields its lolling head to a reconciled stretch-and-creak as I leave my night for dead. These moments comprise the salve applied to the burn of my mind’s friction; a walk, a state, a problem not my own. On mornings like this I let myself be lost where the swaying repetition of movement metronomes my mental meanderings as I learn this city’s secrets. And so I wander pavé-lined streets looking for some unknown reprieve or the catch of a kindred eye– perhaps also seeking some lost truth in the opaque depths of an early morning coffee or canal, perhaps also sparking limping recognition of persistant memories clinging closely to both an unforgotten future and a lingering past.

Prose and Cons (Another Sleepless Night)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset As I’m writing this it has begun to pour, the city is hot concrete and shivering wind and the smell is making me sea sick, thick with memories of the sea. I’m hiding, then standing with my nose to the window and back again. I think I’m afraid of storms: partly terrified, partly hoping the roof caves in, partly just wanting to walk outside exactly as I am, barefoot as you please and hold the force of this driving rain right on my skin.

It’s 4AM again. It’s perpetually 4AM, maybe, and chewing my fingernails until they bleed doesn’t negate red w[h]ine reminiscence, pacing, or wondering at replacement. Everything is cyclical these days, everything brings me back to you. I’m not keen on cold shoulders nor do I dwell on such page 6 indefinites, but I’ve always known something good when I [read] it. And it was– better than 21 days of love lost, better than anything I’d wrung out of fingers or eyes in months, better than the sum of us, certainly.

Part of me, most of me, wants this storm to whisk me up and away like Dorothy—a red heel-less, heedless Dorothy with no dog, no song, only a cowardly lion heart.

Sometimes in life we come across people who are not lonesome, merely think themselves to be. At night they pull loose threads in their relationships just to prove what they always thought they knew eliciting a continuous unraveling where every tiny falter serves as gavel to the sentence they’ve already written in their head. Some people can withstand this sort of thing, this sort of scrutiny, but Plato aside, I was never one for limbs.

I feel a vast aloneness in this wallowing city that seems to want to turn in upon herself;  I wonder actually what will happen if a tornado runs a stripe right down the middle of her, filleted to the gills like Haussmann did Paris. Is that what it would take to remind us we’re alive? Unspeakable, but perhaps a little tragedy isn’t worst thing in the world. The concept of death doesn’t phase me but I’d just like to see it coming– a morbid curiosity that has always kept me in its graces, no different now than ever before. I’ve been told a tornado sounds like a freight train and if I listen carefully, I wonder that I can’t make it out rumbling heedlessly along. Trains have always soothed me, there is something about their iron-sided regularity that is just so reassuringly grim, still it’s hard to tell if the noise ringing in my head comes from within or without.

I only wish I was brave enough to blink, not to not watch you unfold, but blind eyes were never mine to keep and curiosity has always killed for softly shutting doors, no less closed, no less divisive. This is my punishment, a self-inflicted penitence like a coyote in a trap. The leg has got to go but the phantom limb, that will take time.

Heaving silence and sirens, the calm after the storm is anything but.