Category Archives: Stream

Confidants

I’ve been undisciplined. I am constantly sore. I don’t fit in my bed, even when I am stretched all the way out. Is this real anymore? Is the usual corporeal discussion another one-way monitor?

Snapped back to ether with a gear in neutral, loose typically, arranging myself, I lean far under the windshield trying to gain a fresh perspective on the routes. The thing about this city is there are only so many ways to go. Today, the trees look taller. Some buildings look slantier. I drum my fingers on my forehead and watch the other drivers. I thought I had it figured, but it drains into a different form with each coming day. This is what happens when I finally decide to own a mirror. Something swirls calico as my coffee drips empty. Last nights conversation was buried in the yard when we sat down.

I drive the same way home from work. Last week, I caught a light that I’ve never caught. I stopped washing my hair. I stopped counting the crimes in the paper. Good thoughts have been acting like a glass of water poured over a taut drumhead, bouncing everywhere with a contorted gravity, the results damp and untreading.

The next day I caught the same light. I was the only car to pass through. I did not stop. This is a light I have always missed. It’s a protected left turn smack dab in the center of a three-way intersection with no shade. A strip-malled Dresden. It takes at least seven, sometimes ten minutes for the light to go back to green. I talk into my phone. I read my new address at the mailbox: it reads like a song of retribution.

Notes from a recent dream, half-real, half-other worlds, the ones I seem to be fond of visiting:

I remember seeing the moon leaving us in my rear-view mirror from the backseat, your words get lost as the train rumbles past the car. And like always, I am struck down stupid, a bow, a man, a stuttering imp.

I write a show for her seventeen months ago, and it’s already past.

She kissed me in the mornings and came to me, like a bird, but it’s already past.

I’m fifteen again, and the echoes make me shiver and it’s already past.

Like deja vu during a sweaty doze on a love-seat, like a jaw crack on an already popped jaw, like the jokes told to every lover, like the gull yapping that I squint at through cracked blinds, it’s already past.

Your once swimmers body, your once nimble mind, your once courageous spirit. It’s already past.

When I woke up today, I came to the conclusion that bored sadists have been breaking into my bedroom and pummeling me with soft bats. It explains the soreness, the tender treading of my body through the hours. Plus, I’m a deep sleeper. It would certainly explain a lot.

I hear two voices when I can hardly handle the one. I am skeptical that either have anything to say. I feel like an elephant in the circus balancing on the big ball. I feel there is a new vernacular I am not caught up on – a trudging monster along the plains, I’m riding it’s back, bored with the country and the old reminders of the new world. It needs to slow down.

The next day I caught the light for the third day in a row. I thought about this. I’ve been told to pay attention to things that come in rows of threes, that the world is trying to tell you something. It’s best to keep your antenna up, your senses alive, and your world copasetic regardless of the circumstances of the events that transpired after your accidental birth. If you give in, the world will continue. The earth will pour itself new.

I avoid driving that particular route home now. And I don’t let the pangs carve out my stomach when I see the flowers in the grocery store in the late stages of a Sunday morning. Colors, car models, a sketch pad, a photograph, the old building, a mispronunciation, all echoed in powers greater than three, in certain rows, tingling and dancing near my skin. I’m reminded. And though the world can dissipate, I am always reminded.

I avoid driving that route now.

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My Natural Enemy

My natural enemy is a half British-half French, Steelers fan, who has a career in finance or politics (but he really doesn’t do any work), he cheats on his wife, he doesn’t tip and he’s illiterate. He’s a management level Scientologist whose investment portfolio is diverse and whose assets helps with his regular donations to Republican PAC’s. He mostly watches the Discovery Channel and hunts animals he doesn’t skin himself or eat. He prays to himself and finds Dane Cook to be hilarious.  He plays Xbox Live more than he talks to other people. He drives a white F150 and doesn’t ever put anything heavier than his golf clubs in the bed. He borrows tools and doesn’t actually use them. He always leaves the heat on because he doesn’t want to come home to a cold house. His favorite band is U2 and he gloats about getting backstage passes. He tells people when his birthday is coming up, and when it is his birthday. He comes from a privileged background and knows no hardship. He gets his daily opinions from the editorial section of the New York Times (read out loud to him by his cuckolded wife, as he is illiterate) and doesn’t bother with the rest of the paper. He tries to control everything in his world, fails, but still operates under the assumption he has control. He brags about his earnings on Facebook.  He doesn’t have any friends, only acquaintances. He throws away the heels of bread loaves. He calls every food-service employee “Sir”.  He uses a Bluetooth device.  He resents his mother. He thinks he is complicated but he is really very simple. His needs override everyone else’s needs. He pays for guitar lessons and doesn’t practice.  He vacations.  His love is a form of hatred.

Observations Lifted from a Functional Heart

I.

You have become an inert person.

This was not your intent.

You are stuck, in the slowest form of denial.

You note, over now-cold coffee at a local cafe, typing on a MacBook,

letting your eyes do all the talking, picking at banana bread,

you note nothing.

II.

On the side of my hip there are thumb-prints, in gray dust

from the ghosts of the cities I used to live in,

tacked bus schedules and rote cross-street memorizations

histories remade over blood-red happy-hour specials slipped in plastic,

left on wooden tables, in the booth a ghost and I claimed as our own,

telling stories of routine failures, dire circumstances

and strange encounters.

The best minds of our generation are not beset

by something as formidable (or interesting) as madness

but defined, and then encouraged

by something as temporarily beatific

and ultimately meaningless,

as hollow-armored irony.

A generation with nothing decimated,

no deserved, punctuated vociferous death-rattle of your life,

(yes, you)

no screaming, no curdling remorse and disavowal,

there was a shrug and a laugh,

and since  nothing impersonal has value,

you figured it was about time to step outside for a smoke.

III.

The parting gifts you left me with:

treasure shocks, drunken sketches on napkins

fall-down laughter, photographs of the house with crooked walls

and crooked floors.

Promises made with no eye contact, a half-smirk and a nod,

a tennis racket or a skateboard borrowed from the trunk of a car,

or waif’s spun quarters on a drumhead,

humming a nonsense tune

(they are all nonsense tunes, that why nothing is remembered,

there is no evidence, no declarations)

and identities shift just like the cities,

the boundaries and zones identical, the names shifting

and the ghosts are like a prolonged Polaroid,

developing for months after their last appearance,

all deeds brokered different in the magic-world of hindsight:

because just yesterday I was reminded I once had a different name.

IV.

My personal expiration date on my milk-carton-environment is typically one year.

It takes only a moment for the sour smell to invade the room

and I can’t even walk into the house,

it’s like trying to talk to atheists about something they don’t know about

but they are sure they do (they are always sure),

behaving like a twelve-year old denied chocolate before bed

to the point they go deaf as clocks,

a showing silver of this uncommonly recognized personal observation

of this still-functioning heart:

that people infallibly, (1) trust their senses to the degree

that they believe they know everything about you

but actually only know traces of facts,

the way a seldom seen uncle’s opinions depend on secondhand-information,

and this hypothetical uncle gets an ego rush over this inside knowledge

more involved with their own knowledge, than the knowledge itself,

the way people prominently display overly long or obscure books on their shelf

not knowing much about the contents,

the blurbs on the back: the best parts.

or  (2) with nothing beyond an acquaintanceship, a minor meeting,

tangibly knowing nothing about you (no intellectual kinship or biographical etchings)

(they don’t know about that one time, or that one place, or who you were two years ago)

they can even just watch you have a conversation,

and can sense everything about you

with nothing to say.

V.

The estrangement from your body has been under no certain terms.

It began with a lifestyle screen-test on a mandatory vacation,

and well

just sort of stuck.

The progression now inert like your nature

like a candle without a wick

irreconcilable and dull

with hesitations built around appearances and briefs

weeks-old hand-written letters of protest written to your body,

gone and abandoned, somewhere in hiding,

your body off the grid

likely stumbling on the shoulder of some unknown highway

piss-drunk and hungry again (this is what it has come to expect

because of your behavior)

because you were too busy thumbing through records,

and corrupting your posture in front of a screen,

instead of doing your body a favor

and planting your feet into the sea.

VI.

Love turned into wake-up calls from the front desk:

you’re late and you’re not sure if it ever happened.

Some left impregnable expectation we give each other

to act as if we care about one another more than we care about ourselves

and if you balance it wrong (which you do)

because everyone is horrible, and not worth that much attention,

so in effect

you lose sight of yourself, an orphaned seal

gliding through murky uncharted waters

and then you’re walking out of a hotel

slumped shoulders and unkempt hair

desperate to be moving,

unsure of the day of the month or the year

or the nature of your natural interest

why your hands sweat and shake

why there is a gulf in your stomach

why the physical overcomes the mental

the way eating pie or chopping wood

eradicates doubt and nagging thoughts.

Fashioned appearances become transparent and silly

like walking dolls made up to play house, or other games

brought to life by bigger hands.

Your senses are telling you not to trust your senses.

VII.

I prefer the company of my future self,

but when he is present,

he is anything but.

He smells and he is hungry. He says the wrong things.

He’s impatient. He doesn’t floss.

He’s cynical and out of shape.

He smokes though he promised he wouldn’t

but he mostly doesn’t though he still does smell.

He wastes his time.

He reads Nietzsche and eats horrible things

and pisses off the balcony facing Lake Union

onto passing cars and umbrella-less pedestrians.

He is of no use to anyone but himself.

The future self looking more and more like the past self.

So I give myself another chance

purified myself of my mistakes and regrets

catalogued my anxiety under a microscope

and classified them with tape and a black sharpie

“bullshit” “ridiculous” “usually while high”

and I redrew myself as myself,

the one you know me as,

in my new bedroom

by the beating light of a coming day,

walls affectless, bare, for you to fill.

VII.

You had made written arrangements

for the passing from you to yourself.

From known hypocrisy

to daily chore.

The keepsakes of a sidewalk,

bartering its own gifts for my presence

an open fire hydrant,

wind uttering on the surface, in a sequence

like coasters at a bar.

Making yourself more distinct, more personal

than trash bag purchaser #46 from store #302

on whatever day it was you last bought liners.

Sympathy should be something no bigger than a breadbox,

if you have anyone to share sympathy with

besides your parents of course

who are always a simple phone call and 3/4 tank of gas away

which is what I am thinking

during the hollow moments of our last phone call.

So, how is it that you define the word

When you say no one will take care of you?

Do you mean no one that you want?

This is the inertia

coursing through your bloodstream

taking hold of you

pinning you down the way my old ghosts

know my once-sore heart

and relapsed territory of youth

wearing dunce-hat labeled helmets

the morning after,

when I mock myself and everyone,

my heart and skin sheared and shorn

worn socks and missing money

and we are laughing like children

the way everyone does in the morning.

Pinned down because

we let our definitions only be one thing

and today you understand

you have to become empty

in order to understand

what it is to be wholly fulfilled.

And like the night’s my ghost slept in the city street,

like the nights your pulse travels into your stomach,

I understand now it’s worse to watch someone suffer

then it is to suffer yourself.

So go easy on your inert heart

if nothing else.

The Last Ten Tenants

The last ten tenants lined up on a purgatory field with sweaty palms and frosty feet because they were floated here into this field as part of a small unseen part of their lease, moving them against their will, which they eventually accepted.

And I see strangers mimic other strangers, clued in the supposeda’s, well versed in the dark of eye contact avoidance rituals and feigned all-consuming cell phone business, pretending to be just looking, happening to see but not watching when you notice us pointing and laughing at you, but we are clearly pointing and laughing at something else entirely and you have nothing to do with it, of course, uninvolved, the way we interact with commercials and pretend they don’t dig in, and the last ten tenants reading, murmuring, excerpts from “their” journals, though not written by them, a sort of passive narrator describing their lives, and it shows in their tones when they read it out loud, wary and confused, uncomfortable, pausing over unfamiliar mechanics and cutting words, describing things in a way they would not choose to share publicly or even confidently, using words like soul-mate, gratitude, psychologist says, important friendship, incarcerated brother and a queer choice of saying Brooklyn, and not just Bed-Stuy, and there, the young grocery store clerk, the newly-promoted account specialist, the receptionist who cannot cook and always orders out, the newly-married, the newly-not-young family holding their breath underwater while the man goes through tech school to learn how to make bread and win it too, the unpromised, the unfettered, the never disappointed, the forced limited coding focused on survival and not some mystical left-handed transcendence; a privileged undertaking, the last step before misanthropy for the privileged suburban-raised white kid, and the last ten tenants continue their séance as we open up the box labeled board games, and pull out Settlers of Catan, drink soda from a glass with ice in it, the minute after we drag in the furniture.

My Two Cents

I was walking through the forest with you – two years ago – and I remember the light was breaking in between the branches. The forest is green. Our forest is always green.

“I am impressed with how much time I spend looking down at the ground when there is so much to see above us.”

He looked up. He saw the light breaking in between the branches, swaying in the wind.

“I don’t know about you but if I looked up all the time, I would fall down.”

Sometimes I fall down, even when I am looking down. I don’t know what to do about that.
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Inside the drawer, I place my two cents. I count all the money – both registers – and everyday the register evens out. I am getting good at counting things; sliding the coins into regular, seeable amounts in my hands, mentally counting, thirty-six, forty-one, forty-three…and when I am done, I add my cents.

A woman comes and I make change. I am short a few pennies. I grab a nickel and go to the other register and receieve five pennies.

“I don’t need it.” she says.

“I need to do it right.”

I give her the right change and she puts it into the donation box.

“I am sorry, but I can’t be one off.”

“If I can give you my two cents, it doesn’t matter.”
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Every night we print off the credit card receipts to make sure they match the computer receipts. When we are bored we do it before we start counting. We want to head off any problems.

For a week, we were off two or three cents. I put in my two cents – what did it matter if we were eighteen cents off, or thirty-one cents off, or two cents off. The manual says if it is less than a dollar it doesn’t matter. The manual was written by the person who is trying to reconcile (the actual term we use) the difference. The manual is not written for this person. It says nowhere in the manual that the manual can be overridden.
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I received some items. My boss, a very kind southern man asks me how I am doing.

“I am literally two cents off here Lawrence.”

He smiles.

“It will cost you more than two cents of your time to make up for that two cents.”

I do the math in my head.

What is worth two cents of my time? How many seconds? I take my salary and start dividing it into second increments. Then it hits me – is it worth my time to count this up? I am off the clock. What is my time worth when nobody is paying me? Is it worth more or less? It is my weekend or my day-off. I would rather be wasting someone elses time than my own.

I lay down with a bag of ice on my head. I am happy I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. He will not carry my book into the room for me. This seems an appropriate way to spend my time.
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I am worth x cents per second at my job. It amounts to roughly two cents a second. When I am not working I am worth y cents per second – and why is an infinite variable than fluctuates depending on my activities. It goes onto a number in the range of aleph^1 when I am writing, talking to my friends, having sex or have drunk to the extent where I am surveying strangers on the street, falling down, and arguing with bartenders and then the ocean. The number functions in the range of aleph-nought when I am sleeping, watching baseball, masturbating, playing video-games, or not drunk at all and arguing with bartenders and then the ocean.

There are gray areas.

y has potential. It has spontaneity. It has an unpredictability.

x is set. It is routine. It will not fluctuate. It is stable and you can plan your monthly purchases around it.

There are gray areas.
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I breathe deep and give my two cents to the ocean. The ocean is what I could call a blue area. The two cents make a plinking noise and drift oddly to the bottom. The fish would swim around my ankles. I would stomp silently on the floor, the sand kicking up and up and I couldn’t see my ankles, then I couldn’t see my knees, then I couldn’t see my thighs. I half-expected to see a shark or a barracuda when it cleared. I never saw anything.

I spend one-thousand two-hundred and ninety-nine and a half of my two-cents to push weights around in a controlled environment with mirrors and tvs. There is a picture of Kristin Davis on the cover of a magazine – it is water damaged. I chug two bottles of water. I feel an ocean in my stomach – I want to yell at it.

I approach the counter.

“I am water damaged.”

She hands me a Clif Bar. It says it is made from Banana Bread.

“It is on the house.”

I wonder where the house is. It tastes nothing like Banana Bread.
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Lawrence gives me my money on a piece of paper with his name and some number on it than I walk across the street to a place with windows and sign some stuff and it goes on a magical card and I walk across the parking lot and I go to the store and grab some packaged food-stuffs and get in a line and make friendly chatter and I swipe the magic card and he lets me leave with the food-stuffs then I go home to the house where they let me sleep because I wrote an endorsement of money on a piece of paper with a different number on it and he goes to his place with windows and he signs some stuff and then he does whatever he wants with that money, probably buying his food-stuff from a very similar if not identical store, and putting gasoline in his car, and probably going to the place where I work, or an identical if not very similar place, and arguing with the clerk if it is really stainless steel and puts it back on the rack because it says it was made in India.
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The water doesn’t make a plinking noise when I put my head under the water. I am standing on my hands, and it is easy because the water makes it easy. Someone approaches me and grabs my ankles. I try to yell but water rushes into my mouth. It tastes salty.

This is a blue area. I realize that then, and my brain yelled out “BLUE!”

When I come back up, the perpetrator is swimming away violently without grace. He splashes a lot. Some kids are chirping and yelling at each other in a foreign language. It isn’t foreign to them. My language is though. The perpetrator climbs some stairs. He is at the top, near the fence by the house. He is smoking a cigarette, it drips down his legs and runs onto the stone stairs, with the wide cracks and the found metal, a piece of plumbing strung up with wire and hooks. It looks slippery.

He doesn’t have a towel. I wonder how he got his hands so dry because the base of the cigarette hasn’t broken off.
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Back home, at the forest we clear out and I fumble my keys out of my pocket, then I realize you drove us. We are leaving the green area. I put in my two cents to a jar and I keep it underneath my bed. If I put it in everyday, which can theoretically go on forever, I can use x to change y. I feel as though I have defeated math.

Then I realize I will probably just take the change when I am desperate, go to the store, buy some beer, drink it, not feel anything and decide to go out and yell at the forest. I will lose my nerve when I can’t find my socks. The decision maker in my brain will press the Override button and then big red the Abort button.

I will realign my expectations. I will give my two cents to the world.
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I will reconcile that big wide gap in myself.

Return To Form

Sometimes I feel like I was born here. There, or here, or other places. Every place. At a time a distance seems to be cut away. And every station feels like a long station. The past becomes faded; the points and emotions don’t sting anymore. You literally feel refreshed. Did I forget your face? Parts of it. I forgot what your face looks like to you, because I cannot see you or have not seen you. It’s transitive, infinitely regressing. Do you know my face?

You knew it. It is bound to be incomplete.

I was isolated on a long dirt road for a summer. I had no car, no telephone, no television and practically no internet. I drank and I read, and I talked with the other residents. It was the closest thing I’ve had to a community.

This is not my life. Nor is it between a life or another life. There are no gray zones. I am not going to try to build a readership, or accurately predict and shape my thoughts to illustrate my grace. There is no theme – no mantra – no perspective: no marketable, tangible concept. This life, this world, these things you can reach out and touch, it was not meant to be reread and touched up to fit a standard or a demographic. It must show the ability to be surprised – because if you cannot be surprised…why go on? There are no such things as free radicals.

This happened another time. I was a world away, near a glowing screen. I forgot my own troubles, my past: effectively everything tangible and real. I was born again, every night, at intervals of 45, or 23 minutes. If I was lucky.

These roads – the actual, physical, paved roads, the streets – there are maybe a dozen I truly know. Places that I have felt actualized and comfortable, when I am not staring out the window with actual interest of the next bend or the next hill. I have spent maybe eight hours total in the district. I work around the corner – my commute is on foot. Everyone is locked inside a car, and most people tend to talk about how bad the traffic is – or worse yet the parking.

I want to say I am late to work because of the traffic. It’s not funny though, when I am late. I don’t have an excuse.

There was a large field next to the first battle site rolling down a hill and around a stream. We were walking on the treeline. I looked at her, as she walked a few yards ahead of me, and I turned back and saw a line of about a dozen cars at an intersection – a red light. I could not hear the cars. It dawned on me that this was the first time I could not see the lights of the neighborhood, or the roll of a car down the pike fifty yards away. I could only hear things men and women had organized – nothing we had created. The trees had been cut down or re-sodded. The field was cut. The cars existed in that blur of visible heat – a veritable mirage. It was quiet.

I had trouble sleeping when I first left the Northwest. Wyoming had no patter of rain to calm me to sleep. I could not hear the rain, I could not hear anything, except the humming of the pipes, or the occasional footsteps or slamming doors.

This was true as well at the house on the dirt road, at night I could not hear anything – but it was good. There was no modern plumbing or sustained self-correcting-noise of a large building. The structure itself was older than America. Cars never passed the curve on the road. I used to walk out to the bench, half-nude and smoke, and only hear the burn of the paper and the wind moving across the water, maybe two hundred yards away.

I would wake up in your basement, sleeping at an awkward angle on your short-couch. You were already upstairs with your housemates, listening to music and drinking really, really good coffee. Bacon sizzled. It turned out that your housemates – the couple – were friends with her. They knew each other. She had been to your house, been to your basement, way back before you lived there, before we knew that neighborhood. I looked on the internet, at your old house. I knew it was dated though – the bar next to our bar was still the bar it was two bars ago. And your old house had a different car in the driveway. Or you could have been out of town – it is anyone’s guess -it’s anyone’s place if they pay some money and sign a paper. Whoever lives there now (we know who lives there now) probably have no idea of what did or did not happen while you lived there, just as they probably have no idea that these words are being committed. And these gaps of discovery are the only gaps – they close in more with everyday.

It feels good knowing that you don’t know anything. You have known bad or good before, but it feels good walking out with an empty slate. When your world is free of expectation – or direction- it seems lighter and effortless. So the rush of the water in the pipes don’t keep me up at night. The clunk in her engine fades after a minute. Yes – the dust and dirt are still in the corners, but it is gray and infinitesimal, nearly near invisible. Frankly, so small it is not worth mentioning or looking for.

It is like the odd patterns I cannot place in you and everyone’s face.