everything, anything, true

dig my fingers now into sand, into salt, into ground coffee beans. grains pressing into my fleshy thumb swell, digging into the creases of love, future, life, healer lines bottom of my fingers. dig my hands into that sharp infinite, knuckles stinging, fists open, close, accept, deny.

it is fourteen billion fireflies, only, to equal the light of the sun. there are, on average, eight peas to a pod. fingers clenching reaching retracting.

i tell little stories. tell the story of the bats overhead, spilled wine, your fingers on my back. the story of rocks spilling from your pockets like breadcrumbs swallowed by the chittering bluebellied birds. swallow stones to grind grind grind. the process of hunger distracted into the reality of erosion. tectonic plates. the deep ocean folding under this landmass like so much warm dough, liquid sugar, delight, delight.

fourteen billion fireflies. how can i believe that? someone counted, measured, fireflies smeared on windshield, sunpaste, dying sun, sun on my skin, springtime turned summer, lost to an unfathomable calculation.


i need you to believe me.

thick ivy vines crawled up tangled base to canopy, tangle tangle bark trunk sap. the loudest tree, she said. angry, impatient. sap freezing in its veins, wind calling forth screech.

i need you to believe me. the trees were painted on. brushed against the sky, moving landscape. i could never find the horizon. walking walking. trying to notice, trying to become a part.

today i am seeing holes. some days i notice all the white cars, your death is a white car, today i see the holes in trees, places for nesting, hiding, watching. dying.

dying. dying. death on my tongue. the middle of the night sudden truth: i am dying. you are dying. you you you are dying. no amount of convincing or predawn conjuring can bring me to believe i am in the process of living.

dream before the loss of dreams: plato's shadows, played impossibly through a stretched taut membrane. the story living in its pores, vessels, abandoned blood canals. shadows from backlight, story told to bring memory to the dying.

i need you to believe me.

walking, i lose the memory of my legs.

i have lost.

i have lost my dreams, i told her. favorite bits of myself gone now with this sleeplessness. toes: go to sleep.
ankles: go to sleep.
calves, shin, knees, thigh, cunt, hip, long earthquake of spine: go to sleep.
mantra to soothe middle of the night terrors.
(alone alone)
shoulder, breast, sternum, wind knocked out of me, wait wait.

is it time to jump? time to rise up out of my skin, balance on treetops? conflicting metaphors keep me awake.

burrow, slide, dig your fingers between these roots. believe in this. believe me. even the lies i tell you are true.


this is how to prove a reindeer belongs to you.

this is how to prove a reindeer belongs to you. -vendela vida

it wears the collar you made, braided from sweet springtime water grass, sappy cottonwood buds jingling like bells.

it comes running at the sound of your voice. "come," you might say. or, "please." or, "i want." "i need." or, "please, please, again."

it has your name tattooed over its heart. tangle of inky vines drawn from the memory of a dream of climbing.

when it accepts an award, it says, "and finally, i'd like to thank you. without you, none of this would be possible." the crowd weeps and claps with adoration for this kind of love.

its cell phone lists you as an emergency contact.

it knows the smell of you in the snow. recognizes your footprints in a crowd of footprints.

it leaves tracks on your skin, hoofmarks, pawprints, sweaty palms, lipstick, furs in your tangled bedsheets. it lets you pull the burrs from its nape, licks the salt from your skin, is always with you at christmas.


go inside and find something. close your eyes and shove your head in the hole in that tree.honey, bees, spiderweb. decay. nut casings, smooth hollow trunk, there is something here. skittering, branches creaking. you remember the sound of freezing sap in an ice storm. the sudden slide of a week's worth of snow, rushing off the roof. you wake from the dream of ducking, finding cover. you fast sidle against the wall. you find the opening, squeeze your shrinking body between the bricks. you are mortar, you are paste, you are spit mixed with dirt, you are sand castle, sea dollar, sea snake, tsunami, rage of storm. you are house on stilts, hollow log, bee hive, honey.


but the language of the body. words i used to know: sternum, clavicle, wingbuds, yes, rib joinery. delicious words to tell the stories of being alive in my body. arch, press, slide. swell. i could look in the mirror and want. i remember that kind of wanting. that easy play with words tumbling fast into play with body.

little girl on a swing, armload of black-eyed susans, sucking the syrup from a homemade sno-cone.

the words come heavy, resolute, dead jellyfish on a stormed-over beach. poke it with a stick, pile of jellywords, viscous. poisonous, maybe. poke it with a stick, tear a hole, jam my fingers there. dig deep, believe it is possible there is still a twitching tentacle there. believe it is possible my fingers will sting and swell and my first instinct will be to shove my fist in my mouth.

(3 ten-minute freewrites from 2009)

fox magic

My fox friend came by this morning and sat with me from across the field. My favorite photo came through the binoculars, which is a solid metaphor for this week: crystal clear playful wildness, refracted and resized and squint just right (I have one wonky eye) and you can believe she'll let you nuzzle her gorgeous neck. She being, you know, the life we're building.

Fox teaches us about adaptability. Thinking on our feet. She teaches us about releasing stagnancy and opening up to magic, wonder, and surprise. She reminds us to laugh, when laughter is what is needed. She shows us what it is to use all our senses and to trust we know what to do. Really, most of the time we do.

So, this morning, she came by with one pup. (Where are the five other little ones, I tried not to worry.) The little one she brought rolled around in the grass, hunting, stalking, showing off, leaping, pouncing, bounding bounding bounding. I could taste that kind of play on my tongue.  

And not for the first time, I thought about how I don't play as much as I want to. Do you? I spend much more time patiently watching, listening, making sure everyone is safe. So when it was time, I brushed the grass and dew off my legs and went inside to lay down on the kitchen floor. The kittens immediately pounced and rolled on my chest and belly and I laughed and Lucy the Old Lady Cat watched, patiently making sure we were all safe. And again, not for the first time, I wondered what it would be like if I could more often let go of the refracting and squinting and welcome the crystal clear playful wildness that my life is asking of me. 


Where can you invite more wonder into your life? 

do not choose the lesser life. do you hear me. do you hear me. choose the life that is. yours. the life that is seducing your lungs. that is dripping down your chin.
-nayyirah waheed

wisdom of old wounds


she's inside, tracking the directions north east south west, marking time on the walls. she makes light out of ribfat and digs her toes deep, kneehigh, she makes light out of ribfat. 

i am not going to write about old wounds. not in that way. cat scratch, broken glass, flake of sheet metal to the eye. broken toenail, silver hair, no broken bones, no surgeries, no overnights in hospital.

there is this place i have been circling, where she lives, and writing about it brings me great comfort, but it makes me feel more alone every time i go there. write about it:
she marks the directions on the wall. in the post-apocalyptic world i would drop to my knees and learn to sniff out sweetness and danger and new ways of naming love. the place is inside my chest, is deep red dark cave in my ribcage. is soft diaphragm floor and branched ribs ceiling, collarbone and trachea and the light shines through like sunset light over a wildfire. the deep red light, deep red smoky light, when the sky is dark and it is night the world inside will go bright with fire and fleeing animals. the kind of light that is relieving, is lay your burden down, you could run now but the fire is faster. 

mark your directions inside ribcage walls and listen to the wind carrying smoke and the birds fly faster than fire, tell the stories before it's too late. but the others, the deer and foxes and wild cats and black bear, they are slow on their feet and they know well enough to be panicked. they run as far as they are willing to go and then they lay their burdens down, let the trees take them, let the smoke take them, let the wild screeching wind take them. and the light changes. 

all the time the light changes. you will not know by the sun, in a ribcage, in a wild fire. you will not know by the sun or the stars or the sound of her voice which direction is up or down. the light has shifted, and shifted again, and you are tempted to say the light's all wrong, but then you know this way from that because you have marked, again and again, your whole life long, the directions on the walls of the inside and the breath under your feet is a rhythm you can trust. and the heat of the inside, you can trust. and the thickening shadows and half-lights and tricks of light you can trust. your arms spread wide wall to wall rib to rib, tha-thump tha-thump and it is steamy red and heart-close and it is good to move closer, it is good to taste the air with your tongue, iron-sweet. you take the stories i tell you and you line the walls with them. you stretch out your arms and say she told me this one, this one is true. as far as you can see, arms outstretched as far as you can see: she told me this one, this one is true.

(freewrite: write about the wisdom of an old wound, 18 minutes.)

there's a poet in the barn

there is a poet in the barn. climb up to the hayloft and she has covered the walls with words, covered the beams with words, and closer, look closer, hold your breath and swan dive from the edge and you will land graceful and sweet in the loose hay and you will open your eyes and each blade has been given a word.

the cows in their corners and the horses in their stalls. the rooster on the rafter and the owl in the roost. poems.

there is a poet in the barn. a woodpecker in the oak. the sun slides along the horizon and lungs fill with dust.

there is a poet in the barn. the whole town knows she's there. she writes birthday songs and wedding vows and funeral blessings. the whole town knows she's there and on a special day mama might send a little one (oh you hope it's you!) down the road with a fresh loaf of bread, and you will say: what will you give us today? and she will hand off a story, written on a blue glass jar, about the crows that play-dive each other until the sun goes down. or she might crack open that loaf and write in sweet butter the names of all the beautiful things she thought of this morning. the little one (and you hope it's you!) will run fast down the road, kicking up dust and laughing, because going to visit the poet is like christmas, is the day when you are the most special thing, and when you get to town everyone wants to hear what you've been given. they stand around you in a close circle and gasp and smile and hold their fingers to their lips because what you are saying is most delicious and pleasing, and afterwards you get hugs and tousled hair and all day long people are thanking you and even though you didn't write the poem, she wrote it for you and everyone knows it and it is good to be the thing that inspires beauty. so you don't want to be greedy, but you try to be the one mama chooses, every day, or at least every other, to be the one sent down the road to receive the poet's blessing.



Originally published: "there's a poet in the barn." Line Zero. 2 (2011): 111. Print.

all the pilgrimage places

give me something to hold under my tongue. a pebble to roll around in my mouth. in the desert, sucking on a stone will quench your thirst. give me something to hold under my tongue so i will not be thirsty. give me salt, salt lick, salt water, taffy. give me spice, something deep and earthy, exotic and familiar. give me a word. give me quixotic or conundrum or marzipan. give me a gravelly woman's voice, give me low notes on a viola. give me something to hold under my tongue. a secret. a joke. the story you had forgotten to tell anyone. 

give me middle of the night, can't sleep, instead i'll write and look at the stars. give me stars. give me stars to roll around in my mouth, hold under my tongue, stars to quench my thirst. give me cool river water and twilight bats. give me the knowing you will not die alone.

give me dreams, nightmares, plans. give me your best ideas and also the ones that someone else has thought of first. give me fresh green beans and bumblebee. salt lick, again. and unearthed roots. toes in sand, toes in water. open clamshell and lobster shack at midnight. give me the shifting land, pulse of island moving with the tide. earthquake and tsunami. give me natural disaster and also unnatural: oilslick, serial killer, kidnapped child. give me bloody mess, broken glass, door busted open. give me she left without a trace, she disappeared, and whatever happened to her? give me i miss you. give me hands stretched out, hug on the street corner. give me everything is better, everything is going to be okay. give me yes and give me no and give me maybe too. give me i don't know and i don't care and i care so much i don't know what to do. give me falling in love and breaking up and somewhere in between. give me raw placenta, babies born, trees planted, trees swaying, trees opening up and digging deep. give me the earth beneath my feet and the reality of magic.


Originally published: "all the pilgrimage places." Line Zero. 2 (2011): 143. Print.


trucker's atlas

i should have planned ahead. 

should have known it would end up this way.

i should have taken notes, sketched landmarks. left breadcrumb trails and taken cartography classes. there have been so many long roads. shortcuts i took only when my palms would itch at the thought of detour. people could benefit from that sort of atlas, i think. the record of backroads we managed to take, one end to the next, with or without disaster. people need that kind of information.

people need to know which road always washes out by which stand of trees. which day week month you can be sure to see which creatures behind which shadows. people ought to be able to make informed decisions.


i have some information.

i know that ten-mile stretch where you can turn your radio dial to the in-between station and be guaranteed to hear a song that will break your heart. i know about the woman who leaves hot biscuits on the bench by her mailbox. i don't know who she leaves them for. i assume they're for me, because they're always there, always hot.

i could tell you about the dirty old dog whose feet smell like toast, who loves to sleep in my cab from the town with the trees to the one with the water. she waits for me on the bank until i swing by to bring her back to the shade of sweeping branches.

there's the one stretch, the wide plain between the sun on the tallest tree, and the moon on the smallest hill, where i roll down my windows and holler out whatever old songs come into my head. that's how i first met the toast dog - she heard me singing and came running through the brush, hot biscuit in her mouth swiped from the bench down the way.

i taught myself how to sing on these roads. and i've memorized poems, long wordless tributes to the women i've loved. i especially like the poems i've written for the woman i've only seen once, 50 miles fast past, she never even knew i was here.

i should have been more forward thinking. known how much it would be needed. everyone needs a map. and if i'm the first one on these roads, or the first with a pen handy, i'm doing you all a disservice sitting in my truck, humming, eating biscuits, tracking the movements of the sky, when i should have been telling you what i know.


Originally published: "Trucker's Atlas." Thread and Bead. Kristin Berger, 16 01 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. <http://kristinberger.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/truckers-atlas-by-favor-ellis/>.

“Trucker's Atlas.” VoiceCatcher. 4. (2009): 70-71. Print.



desire in the liminal spaces

it is walking to the center of the place which is as far as you can ever walk, carrying a thing which is heavy with everything because your desire is everything and everything that ever was, will be.


it is a sky full of planets and it is also the salt dried on your palm.
it is a small brown sack filled with all of the things and it is tied tight with leafy green vines and thick red thread and the long hairs from your elders.
it is a small heavy thing and it smells of freshly turned earth and freshly born child and freshly stormed sky.

it is a small heavy thing, your desire, it is a small heavy thing and it pulls you forward, turn around this way this way this way, always forward. never mind it feels backward or to the side, ever forward. small heavy thing it wants to go to that place in the center which is as far as you will ever walk, which is a place all lit up with shadow and sounding like what all the sounds sound like, children laughing, water flowing, birds winging. it sounds like all the things, plants growing, cells dividing, ideas forming, it is the place in the center all shadow and light and it is this place in the center where you will dig a hole with your strong hands, using your strong back.

you will lay this small heavy thing which tastes like desire and you will sit patiently and watch the water table rise and the planets orbit your sky and the dust will lay itself easy on your desire and it will grow itself into a tall magnificent thing that reaches deep and high and wide.


(freewrite: an area of your life you could use some advice about: 11 minutes)