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

Tag: breakups

Biding [y]our frozen time

My role is preordained perhaps, the dupe or the damsel.

I never mean to wait up for you to come home but somehow I do anyway. ‘Breathing is easy,’ I try to remind myself, wishing my hands would warm and the icy cold of my feet didn’t betray my racing mind when you slide into bed next to me.

I’ve been counting again so I know it’s quarter past 3am. Eyes closed to the obvious, I’m thankful that sleep sounds the same in any  language.

I think our love turned off its read receipts some six months ago, but at the time it had seemed best to pretend not to notice. So I did.  Now, back to backs turned, binding un-cracked, I bide my time and yours. Warm heart, cold feet; with each inhale I imagine surrealist landscapes and wonder if you’ve seen how ice crystals splay dentelle secrets when you sing them a song. I take mental note to stop drinking so much water in hopes of re-gaining some control over my kaleidoscope mind.

In moments like these I wish you knew that I can’t help but wonder about her…about you. Does the thrill of the chase get you hard, does her lust make you feel alive? I mull over the thought that maybe I’m a masochist, a voyeur, because I find myself wanting to hide in your mind, to experience the burn of this new desire on your skin. Does it taste the same as mine?

But your breath whispers that you’re already asleep and between inhales I’m reminded once again how my analogies never add up in time for my my brain and my tongue to coordinate some sort of response. Metaphor’s imaginations mapping tongues like minefields; save it for another sigh, Charlotte, another night.

If you’d only ask me, I’d tell you I’ve been trying to forget, but freezer burnt feelings just don’t taste the same.

If you’d asked me, I’d tell you everything. But when the cigarettes you don’t smoke tiptoe onto my pillow it’s always been easier for both of us to pretend I’m asleep.

If you’d ask me, I’d warn you; nothing keeps forever, not even here in the cold.


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.

Letters to [Poets, Drunks, and] Ex-Lovers

Dear stranger (for isn’t that what we will become?),

You must have called [out to] me many times last night, or else you did in my head because when I woke up it was ringing with you. The residual after-taste of our smokey vibes brought me back very close indeed to that impetuous devil-may-care mentality I’ve tried unsuccessfully to dislodge from my wayward psyche. If, as they say, truth can be found in wine, the mouths of children and fools, I wonder what that means for a young fool with a mouth full of wine?

I guess at 3AM everything starts to feel profound but last night I swear I became a prophet at 2:59 on the dot. The path to perdition was found and lost on a tongue-traced collarbone and hip, the moon-eyed arch of a smudged lower lip, and the suctioned kiss of sorry. Hands held hips better than fingers that traced a spine’s yellow brick road, soothing inhibitions with a tuneless song and look that of course didn’t find my eye. We shook, laughing mouths spilling wine as stories on lovers whose penchants tended towards a double shot of bourbon (a slowly melting cube of self-deprication) instead of in vino veritas, but they say wounds heal all time.

(Were they wrong?)

As predicted 7AM’s harsh beams found me slinking in corners like some caught wild thing, reading texts that bled and blurred last night only to seem strange, as though I’d never sent or seen them, in the light. So I waited, comforted by a comforter, looking for right tool to chip away the last pieces of us from my life. You considered it a warning. ‘Tell me no lies today,’ you read between my lines, ‘I’ll hock them for a song to the bum on the corner and he too will laude the wise-ways of roman-candle prophet poetry.’


But benders refuse to be taken lightly (only hit hard) so here I am anew, left hand full of lessons learned and right hand full of a looking-glass empty but for the rocks. Proof that our sleeping dog’s don’t lie, they howl at the moon’s unlucky numbers while we both kiss our respective cities wide on the mouth and relegate our memories to the bottom of a bar, bottle, or stairwell… at least until tomorrow.

So I raise this drink to you, stranger, now lets both go drown each other out.

[Another attempt at no longer being] yours,


Pistols At Dawn

The more I looked the more they seemed like love gone lorn; mirror images, backs turned, pistols at dawn.

I woke up sweat-soaked with a jolt and a mouthful of clichés at 3:32AM along with the full realization that in terms of sleep my cup runneth empty… and the secondary half-realization that so did my bed.

My most recent recurring mistake having seen fit to remove himself from morning-after-awkwardness struck me as a rather wondrous gift, but one I was in no mindset to fully enjoy. Last night, before giving into texted delusions, I’d turned bath water hot enough to scald in hopes of sweating out this jealousy like a sickness. An idea that ran fruitless in many ways but after this, impromptu sweat-bath number two, I would undoubtedly need more than a shower to revive me and wash you off, even though it wasn’t you who hovered on my skin. My ‘fever-dreams’ you call them, and as a snarl of cold air warned my shaking limbs not to stir, I knew you must be right. At 3AM my mind is less my own than ever; if bath one was purification this must be my purgatory. Yet, my thoughts began to quiet as memories sang soothing of how you’d held me steady, still in your arms, last time life found me bent in this direction. Reminiscence runs deep enough to dive but stolen time allotted to recollection is cheapened by my pillow having so thoughtlessly bartered your smell for the imprint of this stranger’s cheek.

I’ve tried time and again to sweep these feelings into something resembling a manageable pile, something I could dust-pan and throw away. At some point in the spiral of loneliness you find yourself so raving mad at the lament-worthy mental state of affairs that the only foreseeable recourse is to seize feelings by the hair and throw them out, issue a writ of death, challenge a duel. Yet, anger aside, if minds and bodies held like hands were any indication, I knew that once yours had wanted to find itself in mine, not hers. That, in the end, is somewhat of a solace… but lobes of both kinds have a way of knowing when they are no longer of any interest to anyone but the self. It’s a 6th sense, I suppose, reconcilable only in the feel of another’s skin: ‘it takes one to get over one,’ as the old college proverb says. And sure, sorority-girl aphorisms are useless when held up to the light but that never stopped hasty vending-machine decisions before, so why would this be any different? Fortunately for all hair-twirling-would-be-profits most poor decisions are made under the veil of night.

Words. They’re are such a handicap to me these days. They’ve become slippery and intangible, worthless. Blame it on inflation, perhaps, but given the time and inclination I’ve the uncanny ability to chip away at letters and re-arrange. The trouble with words is they can be strung up in any order to say whatever fits the moment or sigh, often sliding out of mouths or onto paper before we ourselves have even taken the chance to establish their merit (or lack thereof)— freed to the night without a collar or a by-your-leave-farewell. While actions can only hold to a lie for so long words are infinite in their ability to falsify. The sheer quantity of half-truths whispered to the dark equalizes the terrain to some degree, but momentary rejections of our own niggling doubt make them no more valid in the long run. Eventually sweetly divulged projects devolve to cheaply tensioned sexuality, green light’s false-alerts shine as pretend-offline, and inbox pings digress to dull thuds…

My bedroom door swinging open hit me with the rudeness of a smack, wrenching the stark realization that for once my alone was all in my head. One hot wave of annoyance concluded that the only forseeable reaction was to throw him out, so naturally I turned over with a fake mumble and feigned sleep instead. Willing my breathing still, I heard the clink of a water glass on a nightstand and felt a pang of jealousy at the whine and sigh issued from the mattress, a protest standing in for the one I didn’t have the courage to make. Still, as he pulled me into his arms my fevered thoughts stuttered; imagination, as always, afforded amazing potential. Eyes shut wide I realized the arms around me were warm enough to be yours… and like a soothsayer’s holy-water premonition my pillow too remembered your smell.

Mimesis, [Hol]low Spots

I have never been one for goodbyes; movement of this sort, whether from state to state or death to life, has always left me helplessly incapacitated or simply paralyzed with terror.

It strikes me as significant that we no longer have the same rapport with death that we once did. The end of the 19th century saw a shift as we gradually began to view death as something unnatural. Now a body is whisked away immediately only to be reintroduced to the grieving family days later in a state of mock-up— painted life-like and adorned in Sunday’s best— seen for the briefest of moments during which they whisper a distant goodbye. Historically, we took care of our dead loved-ones ourselves, we looked death square in the eye for days as we mourned in its presence until we finally laid our feelings in the ground. Memento Mori, or post-mortem photographs, were paramount— portraits that functioned as the concrete proof of an absence, a mode of forced acceptance. The likeness of a family member captured in death took the place of their presence in life. In this way, the image of death functioned as a substitut for death itself, initiating the process of reconciliation between a subconscious loss and the conscious one, so beginning the process of mourning, of melancholia.

Today, all that remains of this process is absence, vacancy. I find that I fare no better with physical losses than I do with mental or moral ones. The void that exists in this is not dissimilar to what one feels at losing a tooth. You run your tongue around the hole in your mouth where wisdom once stood to find raw edges, the soft and slightly salty taste of congealed blood, and above all the throbbing ache of something missing. I feel this lack as though a piece of me was removed from my presence before I truly had the opportunity to come to terms with its departure. It is not the void itself but rather the surprise of transmutation that spurs a desire for exploration, a need to re-familiarize myself with my own body in light of this absence manifested in emptiness.

Despite my paralysis I feel the dearth, or rather the want of you, acutely. I trace the jagged edges of the location you no longer occupy in hopes that my conscious might leak into my subconscious and force a reconciliation. Instead of moving on, forward and away from the past, the result is a deepening feeling of empty that tends towards a building frenzy.

I blame my panic partly on the fact that I have no photographs of us together that might have functioned as a physical manifestation of your absence, no Memento Mori and thus no way to anchor my brain to your disappearance. My mourning is suspended; it hovers disbelieving as I lie motionless, eyes closed, hands clasped. I’m no longer imagining you next to me but concentrating on tracing the edges of the now unoccupied space in my mind, wondering how long I will have to force myself to still before it heals, scabs, scars. Though I’m wracked with thoughts on how those little empty sockets could be all that’s left of us, all that will remain in the future, I am strangely thankful for their presence—absentia.

No, I have never been one for goodbyes, I suppose they always seem too cruel, too violently sudden, like the loss of wisdom and the imposition of forced immobility. I am incapacitated by the impossibility of our necessary reduction, our disintegration until all that remains is the sorrow of an absence, manifested not in tangible things but merely in irreconcilable lack.

Not that I ever thought you were something I was meant to keep. In truth, at least when confronted with absence or death solace can be found in the eternal presence of self. Some paltry comfort can be gleaned from no longer having to read between any lines but your own, a rejection of scripts that rang brassy and hollow like funeral bells.

How to Kill Snails and Slugs

The words hit me with the shiver of a cold Cincinnati night. Cracked over my head like an egg into the cast-iron skillet of our breakfast, slithering down the sides by my ears, cold and wet.

There I stood, last night’s bourbon still pooling in my eye, on the high porch of his apartment with a peppermint tea and a square. I found that cigarette a particularly fragile excuse for an accomplice, both of us having been rolled tight by his fingers and forgotten the night before.  Puffs of smoky lungs snuck by while I ran my minty tongue across the sides of ragged checks and wiggled my snow-wet toes, feeling both acutely alive yet entirely absent from myself. A sentiment I imagined to be orchestrated by my Freudian mind to repress the accumulating sorrow, like a bucket lazily filling from the slow dripping leak in the roof of our love that was not.

The muted grey blue buildings on that Cincinnati skyline blurred my thoughts on the danger of words. Cruel words, the sum of them so much greater than the second it took them to slither silently, serpent-like into the ear of my soul where they’d rattle and hiss angerly at the mess for weeks. Still, that sorrow, like the loneliness of a winter highway drive, sometimes tasted like it had some merit beyond just the time to think. Like swaying telephone lines along the way I counted sloping he-didn’t-mean-to’s strung between it’s-not-as-bad-as-you-think’s, always eventually becoming distracted and starting back at zero. I measured the distance between them in the miles covered and phone calls ignored and lies lined up like road signs disappearing in the blur between point-A and point-B.

In the beginning I had been cautious, tucking fragile horns along with the rest of me back into my shell at the first sign of salt that he’d sprinkled on his window sill to keep me out. But soon I became a child with a cigar box of secrets. So precious, so intimate, that box filled with trinkets, stolen cigarettes, stranger’s skeletons and little blue glass marbles that I guarded it jealously even as I told myself it didn’t matter. Probably, if I left it on the bar next to my keys it would go unnoticed and be there waiting, with him next to it, when I returned.

At first I had been cautious but somewhere I’d forgot— the knowledge of that forgetfullness arriving like February snow, accumulating softly in the night to slice through hungover eyelids with the ostentatious glare of refracted morning light.

Hindsight’s twenty-twenty riding on my heels, I stole back inside where the fear of getting caught couldn’t keep me from peeking again at the little books filled with his poetry and whiskey thoughts. Furtive musings recorded in handwriting so perfect and crafted it imposed itself on the hands of those who read it.  Those yellowed moleskin pages told sordid tales of Rosemary olive bread, indiscretion, irreverence, and used bookstores; they held the remains of the girls before me and the ones he was lining up like little tin soldiers to come after. Despite the bitter taste of trespass I searched for him in that wreckage, looking for some sliver of understanding, some tangible sincerity, a revelatory phrase that might serve as explanation. I found none that rang any truer than what I already knew and refused to accept.

The reality was we were nothing but a game of inches; the inches between where those books were and where I left them, the inches between my cold feet and his as I lay trying not to breathe on his twin bed, the inches of flesh that he felt didn’t belong on my hips that he began to whittle off with whispers in the night and letters that came complete with little sketches of his life. Those words that he stored up in notebooks or whispered in the dark, those words that cracked over my head and slithered down cold by my ears like the egg into his breakfast skillet, he never did realize their weight. So, with burning briny toes and a sudden March thaw of resolve I strode barefoot through the slush to my car and drove away.

To my surprise, the telephone wires on the way home no longer sang of excuses but of possibility. Even with feet that burned roadsalt white and the ridges of the break’s temptation resting on every toe I never considered going back for what I’d left behind; realizing the risk that in a search for a shell, a shoe, or an answer I might forget what I was looking for, as I had so many time in the past.

The death of childish wonder and optimism was not to be mourned for out of that fertile spot grew the sturdy shoots of stern control and proud wariness pushing side-by-side, as tall and straight as Kentucky pines. Yet, years later I find I still carry his heavy words, snail-like, a shell upon my back; the weighty consequence of utterances crafted to fall like salt in open wounds, to teach caution to the careless, to consume those who linger on sills of someone else’s ugly life.

Perhaps this was a valuable lesson, but while these days I very rarely think of him, I still wonder sometimes at the price.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do (But It’s My Party and [Goddamnit] I’ll Cry If I Want To)

“The Kübler-Ross model, a series of 5 emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone” with addendum for extenuating circumstances (possibly wrought by too much Cixous & Simone de Beauvoir) goes as follows:

Denial sped by at the speed of a 5:30 January sunset. A true triumph of pessimistic proportions, this stage was but the briefest of semi-seconds—half an eye blink of the cat’s yawn-and-stretch beside you— sucked out of you much like the needy draw on an after-sex cigarette. The knowledge of noses cut off and faces-spited coming to their final fruition gave birth to its sickly offspring right on schedule (despite the typical unreliability of this train of martyrdom), and who doesn’t get at least an inkling of knee-slapping pleasure from being right? Stack those feelings in the pile-to-be-ebayed with rest of the garbage you’ll forget you own: check.

Anger sets in. The wax and wan of this handy little emotion is put to good use in the form of ignored pleas (hers) and bottles or cigarettes bought and paid for in pounds of flesh (yours): binges in the name of love or hate speeding down the road waving the not-so-white flag of indifference out of pure unadulterated spite. Not much besides the evident to be raised high about this one, except maybe your glass as you toast her demise.

What’s next? Bargain? Oh no. Not you. Masculine tradition— that self-admiring, self stimulating, self-congratulatory power parade— may allow itself certain pleasures to this regard but only in the secret dim of seal-breaking BRB’s when the glass planets align and $10 drafts fall at the feet of bartender’s crookedly laughed wiles, only then. This moment of weakness will, of course, remain unacknowledged by the rest of the organism for the sake it its pride and general ability to hold cock-in-hand and look itself in the eye for future mirror-side pleasure fests. Mountain ice is uncompromising to [wo]man and beast alike, so shine the fuck on, you tundra of emotional permafrost, you.  You’ve got everybody fooled (except yourself).

Just as soon as you’re beginning to get a handle on things (a handle of Jack, specifically) depression slips in the window you forgot to close after a particularly vindictive fist shaking cigarette break. Ah yes! Not necessarily self-flagellation but certainly self-absorption that unfurls itself just enough to stare down the cocked-barrel (pun intended) of that all too well appreciated phallocentric pity-party: bar hopping, cat-calling, drink-buying, ass grinding etc. etc. etc.. The sneaky kind, the kind that hides its lolling head in the bottom of a rocks glass hoping that some pair of breasts or another will think it lost and take it home in order that it might forget in a brief interlude of groan inducing skin-on-skin that it too is only human. But alas, waking-up’s are the bane of every existence whether entwined in the arms of a Madonna or Medusa when you’re a wolf pack of one. The Name Game of mornings-after always wins the hand and as depression rises on weary legs to offer its chair to disgust we’re all thankful to finally unpack that baggage and move on (because seriously, it’s been a week since you got back, you can’t leave that duffel sitting there forever).

Next you find acceptance: finally, bliss. Yet, nonetheless a victory of a sole or soul over another’s fragile shell.  Breaking “the codes that negate her”—”she who never hung her head in shame”— your pen makes short work long in a Derrida-worthy destruction of that with which you no longer empathize. And so you embrace yourself square on the lips, giddy with the recognition that miserable times were had by all, and by all accounts your times were the misery-ist, you poor pup.

And there we are, you’re through the cliché-less woods of grief that were perhaps not quite as grim as you let on as your fingers smacked keys like so many bubble-gum-popping tinyboppers that would inevitably commiserate with your plight online. But perhaps less self-evident is that in doing so, in recording your mess, you demand that she must write herself. To allow herself to be written by the male pen, that phallic instrument, which will bend her, ply her, create her in its own image— one she can recognize in neither water nor glass— is to abdicate her body to the lab of your hatred as much in her own mind as yours.  Fortunately, your arrival at acceptance (after so short a moment of abandonment to the stages illuminated herein) almost entirely negates drawn out nights of whispers and agonies shared. Such a tidy process speaks to the inconstancy or impossibility of feelings that were perhaps never felt, or connections that “never connected much of anything at all” which will push towards one final step, if not for you at least for her:

The addendum of a sixth stage of grief, perhaps unique to the feminine order, in which all of these five converge and diverge into a self-actualizing realism, seems entirely appropriate to the circumstances, at least to this humble author’s mind.

The bereaved [woman] must retract the refracted pieces of her glinting in every glossy eyed, bourbon-slick drunken night. She must reclaim the scattered shards of memories made that have been tossed to the crowd in an admittedly desperate attempt at rolling back the proverbial ticker (heart or clock).  She will strip and refurbish the mahogany finish you spoiled with spilled drinks and hot coffee cups and rise out of the ashes of this mere nod to a relationship like a phoenix. All fiery resolve and suitcases neatly [re]packed she will [re]align herself with the original goal: not one, but both eyes wide, shunning dreams in lieu of perpetually scanned horizons, well supplied for many sleepless nights alone. For in sleep one risks the invasion of those night-dwelling beasts who would claim another’s soul for their own… only to leave it crumpled on the floor by their desk, just another draft that didn’t make the cut.

She won’t be cast in the role of  “other,” reduced to a line and a turn of phrase in the canon of your life. This book, this story, she’s going to be the one writing it, because this is a story about her.

“On ne naît pas femme: on le devient.” -SDB