Tag Archives: Life

The Loop

Daniel was told by a psychiatrist
that there were past lives,
well…
the psychiatrist crossed his arms.
It’s more like a library of other lives
that one
if bored enough,
could pain themselves into seeing.

Black spaces
summoned into light with a dog whistle.
It must be pushed through a canal
or blown like air into the bottom of a flume.
Worlds within worlds,
hearts within hearts.
He imagined in this space he used to be a viking.
Or an alien.
Although in reality, he knew it didn’t work like that.
He couldn’t get the fantasies off his mind
as he stared out his apartment window
at five in the morning,
drinking coffee since two-thirty.
He looked at his neighbors window.
Watching the strip of light
beneath a bedroom door.

Daniel was told
by a stub-fingered card counter
that he met in Salinas,
that he could get there,
if he stayed up for three days
and opened all the doors and windows
and ate particular seeds.
He was not allowed to roast them.
Or drink more then one glass of water a day.
So that’s what Daniel did.
This is what he saw.
.
Green-gray sky
dirt road kicking red dust.
Lloyd’s olive work pants layered in soot and ash,
worn Atlas gloves in the back pocket.
They talked about who they used to love.
The conversation was very short.
Dawn in a white dress,
walking barefoot,
beside Lloyd back to their house.
Her thumb carried her open-toed shoes
that she slung over her shoulder.
Dawn swayed back and forth on the road.
The hills collapsed and rose near the horizon.
They were not rolling,
They inhaled and exhaled,
breathing body of Atlas,
ruddy lungs of under,
a place Daniel would say,
and did say
“you could walk all over,
or stay still,
and have the same experience.”
Lloyd pulled a cigarette from his ear
and cupped his hands as he lit a match.
The fire brightened his face.
He continued talking.
After thirty seconds,
Dawn stopped listening to Lloyd’s joke-chatter
the words Daniel could hear but not make out,
but he could tell it was nervous chatter,
based on the way Dawn looked more at the trees
and the queer tone of sky,
the lips of heaven.
She asked him to stop talking.
Because she had stopped moving.
And he had walked ahead.
And she reached for Lloyd’s wrist.
And he turned his wide body around.
She wanted to tell Lloyd a story.
It was time to match the blueprint
against something other than structured chaos,
too familiar with the way,
that someone lost in the forest
continues to make the four wrong turns,
stuck in a self-imposed circle,
damned to the loop.
The story involved choices.
Best described as a lack of choice.
And more like
“Well, shit just happens.”
The story was about no choices
in that, let us say
that a train on a lay of track
has a choice.
It can continue.
It can return,
step-by-step,
rail-by-rail
or
it can stop and rust.
A story told in the middle,
like the one Dawn (finally) tells,
as Lloyd pinches his tongue
and they walk
in the way and the waiting,
a world and a blade of grass
sitting between them.
Same thing.
A story, a device to suggest another story.
The narrow choices of the train
swallowing coal and cinder like Dimetapp.
.
“They had dated for a year but never slept together.
Well, they slept in the same bed.
But, you know.
He had…drug-store problems, I think he felt
something…small, I guess,
like in the shadow of his brother.
Ovid.
His brother’s name was Ovid.
Ricky was, like, a simpler name.
I dunno.”
Dawn laughed at herself.
“Ricky is an alright name.”
She stopped walking and softly kicked at a pebble
that limped along the space between the grass and the road.
A sad pebble.
It plopped in the ditch water,
and Lloyd,
realized there was a ditch there,
and tossed his loose smoke there,
spitting tobacco from his lips.
“It’s hard to say what happened
though none of our friends…
and then before it made sense,
she had fallen down the stairwell.
It sounded awful.
I was asleep on the couch.
It was that abode house…
you remember it, I bet.
You were there, I think.
The one on Anodyne St.”
Lloyd nodded.
Lloyd didn’t remember the house.
“The house with the really hard couch, it was like,
a wicker basket.
The stairs were hard but sort of like clay.”
There was an emphasis and her Texas twang sat up on clay.
“She made like, a soft thud.
I looked a the step later.
There was a dent.
..
But, I guess it could’ve been damaged from before.
Oz thought she was dead.
She was sprawled out,
she didn’t even react,
that girl,
she was like perfectly still.
I can’t believe I don’t remember her name.
Ricky stepped over her to get to the car.
There was a cab outside,
to take them to the airport.
They had a flight that day!
Oh my god, I remember now.
God.
He was high.
He was always…high.
It goes without saying, I guess…
those times…
I guess if he weren’t high.
He just wouldn’t be Ricky.
..
..
I don’t think he thought,
but I don’t think it would’ve been any different,
if he knew we were awake.”
Lloyd heard a frog hiccup.
He wanted to go find it and say hello,
but he could tell Ovid about it when they got back inside.
“Oz and I tried to go back to sleep.
He did.
…I couldn’t.
…She snapped clean to while I stood…
it was just like she just…
and Ricky…
I asked her if she was flying or if Ricky was just going alo…
they were both…
his cab was gone…
no waiting…
she made me promise I would
teach English in Taiwan.
She gripped my wrist
and she moved in to kiss me…
and…she nearly was gonna miss her flight…
and…I got her in a cab
and…she mouthed “Taiwan” to me as it sped off.”
..
“But you weren’t there, Lloyd, were you?
I thought you were Oz.
…a cab came back,
It was Ricky.
He was the one that missed his flight.
He had left maybe an hour before her.
He saw through security, and something happened.
Something always happened.
Or, I guess the right things just never happened.
She ended up boarding before he did.
He just laughed and said it was “bullshit,
that shit just happened.”
and
“Fuck that”.
And Ricky said he walked out of the airport.
And hailed a cab.
And as the family in his cab got out,
paying the cabby,
Ricky vomited on the child.”
.
They went inside the house.
Ovid wasn’t home, but Lloyd would remember
to talk about the frog tomorrow.
Notes in the blueprints
a ledger of a past,
here in the sequestered,
sleeping among the horses in the stable.
Their house with no doors
wind of the deflating hills
moving through the house like an outlaw.
Gin poured into plastic cups,
that neither of them drank,
silent on the elevator,
sitting out on the villa,
red clay birthing
a simple name without words.
Dreams revealing the nature of their loops.
They took their four turns
while looking at each other on the villa
and Lloyd said
that in his last life, he dreamed he was a cartographer.

Three Small Stones

Waves come running
some small, some large.
They’re inconsistent
as sample dirges from a master
sound to native ears.
The waves crash orange
along the shore of the East River.
Harold, Robert and Cassandra
play cards, chain smoke
up on the roof.
Good getting done in the old shoes.
Cassandra says it gets hotter at night.
Harold thinks of the clouds
that have hovered over the city for weeks,
lingering, nascent
a promise made that went forgotten.
Pears fall clumsy from a tree
that grew through the neighbors building.
Robert clambers on top of a tall chimney
and squats, though there’s a chair,
and he notes
that the waves are growing.

Empty amethyst of our lives
protecting us from the loose juice.
Dawn bought Oz tango lessons for Christmas
and they stayed dry and warm in the drawer.
Infinite loops leading to infinite failures.
Diagrams drawn on the back of a lager label,
one Cassandra had torn off the bottle,
detailing how a young woman can own a young man
using three sentences.
When Harold got out of the Air Force
he used his GI footing to get his masters in poetry.
He found himself using clamps to crack nuts,
more interested in drawing portraits
of a falling sky,
or looking at old photographs of strangers
than listening to an older woman
discuss the form of things
and how to count.
He received letters from Daniel,
and he wondered how Daniel got his address in Eugene,
but he didn’t wonder after he read the letters.
Some people have a way of knowing.
Here in the cold space
are Warm whispers
beside a daughter of America’s shoulder
with crossword puzzles
and bright skin
all known from a borrowed tune
listed in a podunk almanac
from the back of her hatchback
notes on being a loose-lipped survivor
sleeping in moss and mist.
Here are notes how it feels
to not fit into a suit,
or tell a tailor that you just don’t know.
Pull up your pants,
roll up your sleeves,
when there is no breeze
no jacket is really warm or cold
just an addition to a neutral feeling.
So, Harold read Camus, Dante and Milton.
He drew partial extracts from a nearby sunset,
noted the color and shape of things he could see
handed Robert a pair of 8’s on the fold out table,
stamping out a butt,
and smoke bloomed around Robert’s thick forearm
like traces through their mutual ghost.
Robert felt like the mascot
of a forgotten, trampled city.
He said this in a letter to Daniel,
which Daniel unfolded and read in his garden,
watching the Macon azaleas breathe,
a blue-breasted Kingfisher in a branch.
Daniel daydreamed of the King of America.
He hoped he had a warm place,
maybe a jacket or two,
maybe pancakes and marmalade.
Something’s we are better off not knowing.

Harold daydreamed of an empty America.
One with lilac fields and candycane branches
bricks swathed in petals
walking through a slanted desert
he imagined the peace
of the inviting quiet of a prairie.
Horses and foxes
Elephants and wolves
warm moons on envelope dreams
riding handbuilt bicycles with Daniel,
meeting in strange places,
living squadrons among caverns and stolls.
The rain a gleaned mightless drip.
Harold knows he can slow down without this,
that he honestly needs to,
too much gets lost in the noise,
and you forget what you were trying to do
so he wants trees and cliffside’s
and the voices of children
near that same ocean shore
with Lloyd
throwing a tennis ball again,
skidding gentle and rapturous
like a smooth stone on water
these splashed notes
set to a harmony
with the emotions water wrung
a heavy sweater dripping out on the clothesline.
Once the clouds dissipate,
the cloth and the shroud will shrink
the way America will.
The waves pulling back
the valves closing
the shutters and the dust swift
among the footprints
and the song of overactive eyelids.
Harold and Robert sat on rocks in Central Park.
Thinking and talking about the way things were not,
what change and growth did not bring,
no settled peace or contentment,
just another title and job.
Ten feet away a photograph was taken
of a couple standing beside a still lake.
Robert couldn’t think of the last time he was photographed.
Robert wrenched change from his key pocket
and threw three smooth small coins
against the still water.
And then huffed breath coughing phlegm and old smoke
dancing in the quiet stream,
he hacked at his lungs until it sprouted
three thousand miles away
at the railroad overpass,
where his muddy boots and her bra lay underneath,
he heard two lovers laughter.
He did not hear his voice.
Robert stayed quiet
the way survivors do
when they think about what was lost.

These two marble sons of America
making sacrifices and tolling sweat
riding trains and paying bills
drumming through duty
waiting for dignity to arrive,
losing themselves in cards and bourbon,
syntax slippers on a gallows deck
They yawn and they don’t sleep.
Cassandra draws their portraits,
without looking at the paper,
it comes out looking like cartoon captains
born on a cereal box.
And after looking at that,
and feeling a bullish knot in his stomach
Harold drunkenly climbs into his room
and removes Daniel’s letter from a box.
And Harold reads a section aloud
because he thought that it was needed

“Harold, you slow dulcimer,
pick up your borrowed name
and cold shoulders,
say what you are,
shake the drowsy feeling from your hearts,
the cold lovers of yesterday cannot hurt you.
Slack your pace, hear your rhythm,
be one with your spirit,
not your mind.
The beautiful blonde at this cafe you are looking at
will not complete your life,
though you will probably complete hers.
Why do you work so hard for someone else?
Why do you wait for them to raise their standards?
Why do you invite this pain?
Why do you strive for completion?
Why do you try to finish your life,
round it off,
before it even started?
How can you be so sure?
Harold,
get away from what you have known.
Stop loving others
and love the world first.
Do not ask yourself
if the intimacy they have shared,
that America has shared with you,
is the same intimacy,
they get from a cold cauldron on an empty night.
Follow and ask the pollute stars
for your name in a constellation.
Skip rocks as a heartbeat moves
across migrant shores,
the lapsed batty heart of America
is not lost to you,
bend your eyebrows through a thicket
tuck your good lover into a warm bed,
kiss their forehead,
carve your false thoughts into a cliffside
to announce and forget them,
get out of Eugene,
go anywhere,
stop tugging around these bricks by your ankles,
you are only strong right now,
because you are young,
and your momentum
and heavy shoulders will not keep you young.
Hold your doubt’s in a vial against the desert sun
so it will crack like it was meant to.
The waters in the center of the Pacific ocean
are brackish poison.
But we live against the shore.
With the near-silent echoes
of each others bodies.
There is nothing more than this.
There’s a balance beyond yourself to master,
after you master the balance of yourself.
Remember when Laura told you nobody cares about your feelings?
And we talked
and I told you to announce it to the soil
either as a truth or a lie,
and to keep it that way?
I gave you the seeds
to plant in my garden.
I watched your earnest loving heart,
working in the name of America
dig a flower bed with your bare hands
and kiss the back of your hand
and smooth the soil over.
Harold,
those flowers grow.”

Spooky River

Tight-lipped tiger named Antigone
got a letter from Daniel,
not an email, a letter
typed out on his red typewriter
(he noted the color at one point),
among beaded sweat of glass,
paper marked with ash
and smears from his damaged ribbon.
It began
“If I were perfect,
I would not be myself.”
He continued, later
“and to my knowledge,
if I were not myself,
I would be broken.”
She thought of him
as a clean messy monster,
Daniel, riding his bicycle shirtless,
a wad of chaw in his lip,
unmarked and careless,
riding through red lights
riding green angels through empty turnstiles
stopping his routine only for liquor
(he was always drinking beer)
or complaining about conceited actors & his boss,
the smell of armpits,
the politics of the 200 he worked with,
lost loves like Antigone, that aren’t lost
nothing is truly lost,
this would be news to Daniel,
that things are only misplaced,
hearts wander
stones burn
songs yield
mites duck
sleeping mice need no lullabies,
not in the dark quiet corners of the infirmary
where his mother worked.
A little breath,
a little loss.
He knew that friends, birds, time
anger, envy, doubt,
guilt, bad paintings
they all fall away.
Jealousy and regret though,
“they’re like tattoos.”
Antigone continued the letter.
“There are two kinds of people in this world.
The ones who thrive on attention and acceptance,
cannot function unless they’re confirmed by others
that what they are doing is “right”,
easily flattered, seduced and convinced.
These people excuse all sorts of shitty behavior,
they see these flaws as manageable, fixable
like navigating some spooky river on a raft
they see these same flaws within themselves
and sadly, wait for another to fix them.
Money, careers, these are their symbols
of success. All words have one meaning to them.
The ocean is one drop of water.
Hurting can only be hurtful.
Platitudes and truisms help them.
Their lives are actually charts and graphs.
They do not know the world of the other kind.
Those who have choked on water.
Felt desert salt in their eyes.
Have thrown up in blood in bed.
Have signed time away
as a contract with a stranger.
Small gloves in a smaller heart,
four AM phone calls,
stone sober, to tell only “I love you”,
They swallow cherry stems.
They have dreams about the bottom of the ocean.
Life is not a ritual.
It is not defined.
They read phone-books and dictionaries,
The Encyclopedia of Death.
It is a life being drawn,
It is not drawn.
They don’t bring blankets and wine
to the park with their husbands.
They swim in distant sounds.

In closing, Antigone,
avoid both of these types at all costs.
Because there aren’t just two types.
That was just a dumb conceit.
signed,
with love,
Daniel.”

The tight-lipped Tiger folds the letter.
She puts it back in the enveloped.
She puts that envelope in another envelope.
Smiles, and writes the home address of Cassandra
from her black contact book.

Chapter One

This is the official first chapter of a fictional series that I have been working on in my head as well as on pieces of paper for about nine months now. A previous chapter has already been published through this outlet. It is the previous post. Expect more and in a linear fashion.

`

I’ve learned that some people don’t actually get any better, that they may think the prospects in life are improving, but in reality they will plateau at a young age and repeat the only trick they can perform much confidence or skill.  Some people don’t get any worse either, they lay like a wanton ship at a dock, gathering rust from the inside out. Some people don’t get any good, ever. But I’m pretty sure they are aware of that unfortunate fact. Some people think they move free, untethered, but they are in fact stagnant, playing human in some cosmic hallucination and are falling like wounded birds, one into a marsh, bruised and battered, staring listlessly at the fading stars with a blossoming smile of adoration. And I can’t help but think what a burden it must be to love one of them.

The phone would ring. Or it rang. I’m getting lost in tenses. Either way, the bottom line is that phone has been making noises and I haven’t been touching it. I stopped opening the mailbox, stopped checking my email and stopped paying the bills.  I’ve been regularly masturbating, working, reading and sleeping in no particular order. I will sometimes perform two of these simultaneously. Usually I do one at a time and is not very exciting. Some days I’ll go out and meet some friends at a bar. I’ll look around noisy and impatient, at the sea of smiling faces and complicated and swallow my two drinks intimidated by the circuits and volts of life, then quickly I’m behind the wheel going home.

Honestly, I’ve been staying busy. This isn’t a confession of my depression and my isolation, of a person admitting they are in fact very complicated and deep. I’m jovial, polite and slightly shallow. I see shows. I go to lectures. I listen to my professor. But these activities are too distant. I’m the recipient in these situations, not the acting, pushing and pumping agent breathing and teeming with life and experience. It’s odd. Giving really is much better than receiving. The calls were flooding in, and now I’m overflowing with advice, most of it good, but in such a heavy volume and it weighs me down, like a nation founded on good intentions. The mantra’s are slowly becoming the man. I am concerned. The wise words get floundered, misnamed and swallowed between brushing shoulders and exaggerated sighs, in those dark, uncounted places where strangers congregate and play human. The benefit is that I’m getting much better at convincing myself I am better. However, most people see through myself.

I am doing different things, to trick myself. When I’m getting antsy, I go for long walks in the woods as twilight approaches and get high and read poetry. Mostly Thomas and Tennyson. Berryman when I feel adventurous. I go out to dinner with friends, and I focus on them and our conversations. I am occupied and happy when I am given the chance to pursue what I want to do. The situation isn’t the same at work. I have entirely too much freedom, but not the kind I enjoy. The kind where you have to look over your shoulder to make sure you’re aren’t having too much fun or being watched. And when I’m not actually doing anything, which is often, I am vulnerable to this unending self-consumption, the fever dreams of my imagination. I become lost in the thicket of what isn’t and what may be, and that ball in my stomach reemerges. That’s why she told me to start writing this down – to let it out. Then I can relax. And I’m here again, the branches sway, the light catches the room, and my mind follows loosely like a bastard seeking the warm solace of to be held, and to be felt, and to be acknowledged, and the power of the following recognitions bask. I guess Conrad was right when he said imagination was the enemy of man.

There is another precipitatory concern in all this, there is a worry, that these new ways of living is the dawn of a new age of personal habits. The when, how and why of my drinking. The rationale behind my sleep pattern. My taste in art and the capacity it has grown to function as a diversion. My life could be considered a mess. I figure that the problem with habits is that you do not force them, cannot will them, you can repeat something often and religiously, but until it is unconscious and subliminal, until you hear and feel yourself doing it before you see and know, it is not a habit. It is a pattern. It is a habit when it becomes that sudden incalculable manuever. It is when intent meets nature, a black gauze becomes cast over memory, and the revelatory unknowable has become awakened to an unfortunate truth. Then suddenly I’m saddled with a ritual. At least I’m not smoking anymore.

Take my running for example. The urge began as this notion pulsating in my chest, quietly clamoring for motion. A mumbling voice repeating “You should go for a run.” I started on a treadmill with a coworker on a day we both had off, where the sun breathed in through studded concrete and the reflection of the pool held in the back of his apartment complex last summer.  I would be trotting hard and fast with heavy, full feet, like an elephant, pounding and trampling on the scrolling black tarp that forced away the dissenting voices. I couldn’t quit. My coworker couldn’t quit. That unbridled shame would be come public, a level up from that silent guilt that sticks within the tar of your chest when you quit in private. I wasn’t ready for my shame to be public then, at least not last summer.  I didn’t have a reason to quit either.

I started running on the street, something I never tried before. I didn’t know how to start, I stumbled and prodded like an awkward boy until my feet answered the questions and took me off at a brisk pace into the dusklight, between street lights, under an unconsistent canopy did my breath falter, but I continued on, like a strong willed soldier with weak judgment. And then the pain set in. I looked at the moon. I heard a voice remind me that Machines know me better that I know myself. So I breathe in, and relax, and try something different.

Chapter Five

I get lost in thought. Sometimes my wind wanders to different places during conversation, that curious child manifesting itself in my mind. I miss crucial points of stories. I don’t listen when someone tells the punchline on a joke. I’ll forget when we were lost in each others eyes. I won’t remember your name; My attention follows strange cars and recall plots of movies I had long convinced myself I had forgotten, like a child discovering the toy lodged in the current of chaos that lives under his bed. Only sometimes though.

On this particular morning of question, a cloudless morning in the midst of an endurable summer, I was lost in thought again. My internal dialogue was plowing through concepts and motor functions like Paul Bunyan encapsulated in Styrofoam- I was bursting with ideas. I had convinced myself I was capable of doing something I completely wasn’t; I thought I could imagine what I was going to say to a strangers on based exclusively on what they had said to me, when something truly absurd had happened.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. I turned my head back towards his litter box and continued to scoop his leavings. I assumed it was another of those strangers voices, that my mental reality was blending with my sensory. This wouldn’t be the first time. Or the last.

But then I heard it again. I fell back and let my bony ass hit the ground, and looked at him intently.  His eyes responded with their deep wide knowing, an immediate recognition and acceptance of the things I just couldn’t accept or even recognize. He was deaf and incapable of communicating, but he was emotionally light years ahead of me. I reached out to pick him up, but he scampered off into the bedroom, and paused in the center of the room, and looked back at me, and darted under the bed, his safe spot. That was the only time he ever didn’t let me pick him up. It was also the only time he ever ran away from me. He has virtually no fear or people. I am convinced that he is convinced he is one of us. In every department, he behaves the opposite that a normal cat would. And right then, I understood that there was no reason for this recent piece of unbelievable information to be any different than that.

A talking cat seemed perfectly possible to me then, but for some reason I didn’t want to believe it. Because believing that meant believing everything else I never could believe. It meant there was a camouflaged door between wonder and reality, that there is a shapeless unexplainable entity choosing who this happens to and who bears witness. It meant that all the studying economy, politics and science that I spent my formative years “understanding” were immediately proved false and disregarded. I wasn’t ready to have my existence thus far undoubtedly proved as a meaningless waste. It was too much to handle while I was scooping out his shit for him.

Then in the hall I clearly heard him announce “Daddy, I’m hungry!” and I winced when I should have been grateful for the blessing I had received.

Some things just don’t change because you want them to.