red from the diary of grace limpton

the smell of popping corn is in the air. yet another strategy moulding into place the image of this wide-open space i hesitate to call my office. greg churns the kernels, that probably isn't his real name, but we'll take that and fly won't we, Red? that's what we do we take it and fly with it to great heights, illusions and falsity, we take them. greg. 
i really hate your color, Red, but you can't help it, like i can't help myself, like i couldn't help myself last night when linda, you remember linda, mousy brown hair, thighs of a lumberjack and the voice to go with, when she said you're the skinniest in this program, gracie, you're the skinniest. and i smiled right, all big like this right now, i smiled and turned away so she couldn't see the victory spreading over my face like milky buttercream. no, linda, there's the other girl, mags, right? all limbs and long. linda snapped the heat off on the stove and her curry burped miserably four times in quick succession, little air monsters that grew like eggs and popped like balloons under a thick orange skin. linda said yeah, she shrugged and then went to bed. 
i really hate your color Red, you're the color of that witch's hair, but she's no witch for real for real. just another girl like me, and maybe like you too Red. a girl with maybe acne scars and maybe a belly that remained in my hands when i squeezed squeezed real hard. but i demonized her at the same time i worshipped her. i worshipped her perfection and i hated it. 
i have you Red, then I have a without-you state. swinging between seeing red and grey and black and white and its all about categorizing so i'll let you decide which little package you want to fall in and tie yourself up all pretty like a gift unwanted gift. 
i'm picking pieces out of a brownie right now, mags said she didn't want it and then the other girl, the one who ate and ate and shrank and shrank (that's a demon for another day Red) grabbed it first and then when she was sleeping i stole in and took out a whole banging chunk to bring to work. now i'm eating it with my fingers and there's some stuck under my nails, nails i just got did LAST WEEK RED. Last Week. when the Head came down to do his checks and i was just so upset the whole time because he fed me sweets and sweetheart but i knew all the banging while he was banging HER. that witch. i saw you a lot that week Red, I saw you a lot. anyway, he went and he got me my nails done right? so i pick the quietest color. oh quietest color yes not the type that screams GREEN FOR GO TOP YOURSELF or pink for hey c'mere. i picked one that was two shades lighter than my skin color. and everytime i raised my hands to pick at the scab on my forehead or the scabs on my cheeks i'd see them and remember the Head and his stupid sweethearts. 
 

corn's popped. 

see you later Red 

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it's a play, in the dark
groping fingers, drumbeat hearts

more than two
for less than one

bumping bodies and missing lines,
the playwright got it all wrong

at the freakshow. 
walk out, 

take a breather, 
take a number,

walk in, 
out. 

a staged scene of
lovers, 

stonewall between drumbeat hearts, 
you are obstructive I am evasive. 

I set fire to the audience seats, 
empty human holders

upholstered in velvet red, 
plastic grime black. 

I set fire to the curtains,
velvet red,

plastic wires black. 
I set fire to everything,

and beat away the smoke
as if it is something my lungs

never deserved. 
take a breather,

I want to walk alone in a morgue, 
I want to select my steel cabinet

and linen blanket. 
Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray to   my records to keep.
Villanelle disrupted by an extra character
so who's the villian now?

park

there is a park slightly before the center of downtown Detroit,
which doesn't have a name.
It does have a fountain in the middle,
it does have rules,
and it has rulebreakers.
A lady in blue cycling past the security guard yelling at her to get off her bicycle.
It has birds, 
I saw a pigeon standing on one foot, 
silly guy, playing flamingo.
I saw a blackbird with a deep emerald neck,
glossy, gorgeous.
"Hey little guy," I heard myself calling out, "You're beautiful, come here so I can take a closer look at ya." 
I have become the lady that talks to thrushes.
two construction workers walking past, 
smiling at me alone smiling alone at me
and my coffee cup. 
"Have a wonderful day," they said, 
the whole city wants me to have a wonderful day.

 

heartsong

Let me tell you what Chicago is,
it is waves lapping against your right foot and gravel from the passing cars spitting upon your left. 
It is a single man with a saxophone in a tunnel that goes nowhere,
another single man with flowers in a tunnel on a train going everywhere.
It is impersonal buildings that look the same and men in fishnets calling you "honey" "love" "baby" while flicking back your dressing room curtain to compliment the new dress you find yourself stumbling out onto the street in, having had no intention before to buy it.
It is a cat named Karma and cappuccinos with a view of Uno Pizzeria & Grill. 
Above all, it is a city and this heart sings whenever it finds itself in one.
So maybe what I was trying to say is,
Chicago is a heartsong. 
 

respect

he pins me to the bedroom wall
and turns my face towards the camera
if you leave me
the world will know
your face
respect yourself, he says

I win an award
IT'S TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS
my professor beams
and hands me
praise
if you keep writing
the world will know
your face
respect yourself, he says

He pulls me in
for a kiss on the front steps
of a place I call home,
where I stay.
It's unexpected,
it's his fault, not mine, 
he claims,
respect yourself,
he says

I stand before a gate
at departure,
my family and friends
they wave
It's unexpected,
the pride of our lives
taking flight,
respect yourself,
they say

there's a long,
low keening,
of the wind tonight.
I'm wrapped in its cold embrace.
I've not worn a tank top
out in ages,
respect yourself, 
they say. 

there's a river wide,
I wait for a spate,
a dip,
I'm carried away. 
Dead bodies float,
if you fight you sink,
so stop,
respect yourself,
I say. 

heavy

one of my favourite lines in a song goes like this
"a tully device to make sinking stones fly" 

I think the reason I love it so much is because I love the idea of sinking stones doing the opposite of what they're called to do. Levitating instead of dropping. 
I think it's because I wish I had a tully device to do the same. 
Instead of breaking hearts, breaking hearts mending.
Instead of crying lovers, crying lovers laughing.
Instead of dying souls, dying souls living. 

I think the reason I love it so much is because, 
I am so weighed down, 
every goodbye a sinking stone around my neck,
I am ready to fly. 

colors

the instant noodles were yellow.
she blew her nose on scratchy tissue
the sticky mucus was yellow.
the last egg yolk that spilled like secrets
from its opaque membrane was yellow.
She got on her knees her skin was raw from rubbing, 
that too was yellow.
the lights that dimmed the room
rather than lighting it up was dirty, 
dirty yellow. 
 

So can you blame her for trading in yellow,
spilling red, 
when he offered her green
instead? 



 

today while walking home, a man in a black tweed cap said hello, how's your day going to me. good i said, and then to be polite, how about yours. he had a cup of iced coffee in his hand and he motioned towards the sky as he replied i'm going to work now. where at i smiled it was alright to talk because we were walking down the street and the street was busy with other students walking home. just around he replied. he had deep wrinkles in his face. what year of school are you in he asked. second i said. you're a beautiful lady. you're a very beautiful lady. he said. take care of yourself now, take good care of yourself. his smile was kind. his eyes were tired. i thanked him God bless i said as i turned into the shortcut i took everyday after class. he had nothing to lose and even less to gain. so he must have been telling the truth. i allow myself to smile. 

 

There's the skyscraper New York, the loudhailer New York.
Lady Liberty tall and proud and unapologetic. 
There's morning Brooklyn, coffee-with-your-flaky-croissant Brooklyn.
Artists walking their dogs that piss confidently on tired but cheerful-red fire hydrants.

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Then there's subway New York, the underground New York. 
Cowering in corners, caving-in cardboard homes.
There's neon-lit Brooklyn, warning signs Brooklyn.
Young uns backing into the walls, whistling loudly but carefully at passers-by. 

borough

when we finally felt as if we had come to our senses, 
we decided to walk through New York one last time. 
the rain was warm, 
and that surprised me. 
your arms were not, 
but I didn’t miss a beat. 

the first borough, 
we pretended that we were not pretending at all. 
I stopped for a photo of a child, 
so that I could pretend in our pretend world
that she was mine, and I was hers. 
the second borough, 
you grew tired but I was used to walking the talk, 
so I carried the act on my back
while you carried my collection of books on yours.
(we had agreed that no trace of each other should be left in our homes and so
I took with me Dickens, Poe, and Plath) 
the third borough, 
you stopped for a smoke and I didn’t look away
as you inhaled everything that was wrong between us
and exhaled in relief. 
I had a lifetime ahead of me to not see you
do the everyday things you did, 
so I watched you with clear eyes and clouded conscience. 
the fourth borough, 
our steps
faltered

and

and I kissed you
for the last time
on the end of the fifth borough
and what I didn’t know was that
you too
had wished with all the broken bits of your heart
that there was a sixth borough.

 

now

If you saw me as I was
today, 
my unabashed laughter in a roomful of those
we never dared claim to be near the standards of, 
be it intellectually or just by sheer virtue of
skin color.

If you saw me as I was
yesterday, 
brave.
My voice the only one in a hall of 300. 
Calling out the right answer. 
Better. 

If you saw me as I am. 
Would you still say you knew me? 
Would you still say you know me?
Would you still say you loved me?
Would you still say you love me?


 

kundera

I understand now, the giddying pull of solitude. Not that I didn't before. But I cannot recall having experienced this intoxicating joy that I did this morning when I slowly opened my eyes, and ears, and then unfold my consciousness to a fully empty house. With the exception of the cat of course. The cat is always the exception. Spent the day languidly doing bits and pieces of housework, interspersed with rusty scales on the cello, then a long-due yoga session which took place in a warm studio with cold glass walls that showed us the snow falling in flurries outside. 

Being alone, physically, makes you hyper-aware of your body, and actions, quite like how it is on the yoga mat. There's no one but yourself to be accountable to, and perhaps the most selfish of us are the ones who shy away from relationships and interaction. If so, I don't blame you at all, for not wanting a relationship, but on my part, I took it a step further and eradicated the interaction as well. All or nothing, right? That's how I've always lived my life, so no wonder my alone time has graduated into deliberate isolation. How do I reconcile these two facets of myself? The one that would cross a street to ask an interesting-looking stranger his name, simply because I had to (you see, he looked like a story). And then this one - that holes herself up in her apartment for days on end, with Milan Kundera keeping me company from between the pages of a book, and the cat, of course. 

This week, I carried succulents around in the side pocket of my backpack, eavesdropped on a conversation two lovers had, gave my first ever public reading of a soon-to-be-published work, and had my heart broken twice in three days. Half-sipped stone cold coffee arrayed in a row of tired mugs, half-burnt-out scented candles sending smoke signals into the air, half-opened boxes bearing preloved items and previous stories, half-written manuscripts, half-digested psychology articles, and me - half-way to being. 

Nevertheless, I'm excited for the upcoming New York trip I've planned with a friend over spring break! Part of me can't help but feel like I'm buying into the whole wanderlust ideal surrounding this particular city, but that's just the cynic in me talking. Not that it ever shuts up. Still, it's going to be a good break from this dreary campus. Though to be fair, the weather has very suddenly taken a turn for the better and I can see why people call this place beautiful. 

I'm also excited for this new space! It's something I've had my mind on for the longest time, and it took me three different rejections in various aspects of my life to propel me into finally bringing this idea into fruition. So thank God, indeed, for 'no's', for 'I'm sorry's, and for 'you'll understand why someday's'. Because I think, I think, I'm beginning to understand. 

 

lemonpee/

a woman wails and people clap 
amongst other things
Yoko Ono 
avant garde 
what?


holding a kitten tight 
stringing around your neck 
to settle in between your breasts because
cats purrs aid healing 


drawing the evening out 
into midnight on my canvas 
because sleep is for the weak 
minded who are unable to conjure up 
the sort of wars that rage
in my subconscious state

every creak is a murderer 
every squeak a Russian Roulette 
in which the only player is 


wish that the night would carry you out 
on four shoulders 
and not return in the morning



mad girls

Mad girls
drunk on evening wine
eyelids coated in hues of clementine

Mad girls
laugh, not from lack of inhibition
instead from potent need of validation

Mad girls
paint the streets red
with real-life metaphors
blood from their blisters
soles of their feet sore

Mad girls
lie awake in the dark
their lips whisper 'love'
their hips - 'let's just fuck'

Mad girls
with flaming hearts ablaze with guilt
setting alight all the bridges they've built

Mad girls
pay debts from popping tops off beer
for weak men who sell guns
to weaker men living in fear

Mad girls
living under labels misconstrued
mad girls
are actually just sad girls too

wish

Four months after they were married, she started to cover all the mirrors in the house. 
Those too large to cover, she destroyed. 
One day he came home to find her pulling shards of glass from her palms. 
The broken mirror lay on the floor of their bedroom and he saw their shattered union reflected in a thousand puzzle pieces. 
A thousand husbands comforting a thousand wives.
She didn't want to look at herself. 
Compared to the women outside, she was nothing.
She was hard where they were soft, small where they were large, angular where they were rounded, lacking where they were full. 

She wouldn't pose for pictures. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She broke the mirrors. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She replaced all the marble furniture with cheap wooden replacements. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She asked him to close his eyes whenever they made love. 
He said 
no. 

He said no, you can avoid the pictures. you can break the mirrors you can remove the marble monuments we bought together and replace them with the wooden furnishings of your insecurity but when I love you you must let me see you for who you are don't let the pictures, don't let the mirrors, don't let any reflection tell you if you are beautiful or not they aren't alive they cannot feel your hands they cannot feel - 
Let me tell you. 
Every day. 
Let me tell you. 
Let me. 

And finally, finally 
she let him do as he wished.