with the demented enthusiasm of full-fledged existence

I am the monster lurking on the hillside, chased by something even more terrible. I am watching myself be the terrified monster. I am the mirror that sees clearly but refuses the truth. I am the shadow behind thin curtains at night, lenient light from an unseen source playing on the softly undulating folds, imagining essences, routinely absurd. I am the reality harassing works of art, browbeating them into mere signs.

If only I were the beauty in the things I see and touch and hear and smell and want. I am what’s left of my sense of humor.

 


Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.

strabismus

An old man approached me at the gym as I was catching my breath between sets on the leg press. As I pulled the tiny speaker from my left ear to give him precisely half of my attention, I more than half expected to hear something about the amount of weight I had on the machine. Which I did, sort of, because it was a lot, relatively. He told me, with his hazy, exotropic eyes twinkling, that his ninety-one-year-old cousin does the same amount of weight. That’s impressive, I said reflexively, wondering if his comment had a punchline and why he was sharing this information in my direction, rather than, I don’t know, saving it to share the other way round, to his ninety-one-year-old cousin, perhaps, where and whoever he was. You know, tell the old guy he’s doing the same as the young guy and bla bla bla ha ha. His mouth and lungs made some more words about his cousin that traveled to my ear and died there, well short of my memory. But in those little linguistic deaths it became more or less apparent that there was in fact no punchline, only a useless fact about another human being and I wondered where in his seventy-plus (eighty-plus?) years he forgot that communication is sometimes described in some circles I’ve just invented as the confluence of what you mean and what you think others might think you mean, because not once in our brief exchange did he attempt to draw any sort of relevance from this useless fact that might wrap itself around our present situation. Maybe he never knew. Maybe he never cared. Maybe I know and care too much. Maybe I’m overstating it. I got on the machine and did another set, faintly meditating on whether I really meant what I said to him about hoping I could still do that when I was ninety-one.

Sometimes stories don’t matter till we tell them, and sometimes not even when we do.

meantime we will express our darker purposes

The patio overlooked my fantasy but we sat inside and had overcooked fish. Clinking glasses of white wine: Here’s to hoping you’d be someone you’re not, she said—or was that me? I’m trying to be more definitive but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice a silhouette in the upstairs window of the shadow-dappled brick building across the street where I could swear I once heard knocking. The young woman sold hand-made shawls at the street fair down below while the hot afternoon lay syrupy like nostalgia and poplar seeds fell like snow, but like usual, I didn’t need cover, only more sets of eyes. The churchbells ring at noon and nothing changes, just what we’re trying to be. Absence is at least not nothing. From it we derive the existence of all else.

 


Originally published a couple days ago on Hijacked Amygdala.

all i’ve ever known is true

Suppose life is just one big missed connection and post an awkward public notice to the young man inside.

I saw you walking down the uneven sidewalk on Tuesday night with your head hung low and hands in your pockets, exhibiting all the telltale signs of dejection and I wanted to offer something vaguely inspiring like sometimes there’s nothing to say so do what you can and trust your voice. Past action is the best indicator of future behavior, or so I recall when it’s convenient. Mentality is what mentality does and doesn’t that sound armchair rationalist. I know you didn’t ask—you didn’t even see me—but this here mentality of mine is forever somewhere between gathering and telling and there’s a self-addressed open envelope on the drafting table with an undated note inside that says something loosely Wittgensteinian that you might’ve once written like look, without explanation, without trying to remember the words, and try trusting that you’ll find the feeling and they’ll come together to form meaning that is free of fear or self-approbation. And maybe one day you’ll be lucky and cursed enough to lay like James Wright in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota when he realized he’d wasted his life and you’ll know you’ve wasted yours if this message ceases to reach you.

Post it, and see who responds.

 


Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.

ventilator to the good darkness

And then there were those open spaces of my youth, stretched out between memory and oblivion like a birthmark. The mitochondrial spaces of summer, lush with hazy green vitality releasing isoprene that like magic mixing beauty and pain braided here and there to make the hills blue when you looked like we all did through air thick with sunshine and easy unknowns.

Spaces of forests explored and persistently wild with thick undergrowth cut through by streams and fauna and man, spaces of battlefields where we’d passively imagine finding traces of those who only a simple span of time before emerged from the stoic treelines to fight less for the glossed-over ideals in our second-rate historybooks than for old farm land by the snaking river that for millennia preceded the highway’s bifurcation, still holding claim though not through ancient custom or rite but through the anachronism of thick books with delicate pages that they eagerly yet without intention allowed to limn the past an impossibly remote, ever-present matter of romanesque words from a language other than their original and it’s all still there, still that, but I am not and never was though like those words I’ve been old and other all my life.  

And the years advance simply, without us, like the soundscape of those spaces, humming a song that needn’t be as sad as it sounds, as it fades and I keep learning to speak.

 


Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.

stack it up like cinnamon

You were pretty like a leopard or a fox and probably just as sharp though you walked with that dead-leg swish like one was longer or heavier than the other and I doubted your ability to chase even if you wanted to, keeping it sullen like your name had old-world ties to shoemakers and carts.

We are all just lovers, and all I wanted was to talk but knew better so instead I just watched as your strange limbs carried you down one side of that long, busy street on what must’ve been a weeknight—I’m never quite on the beat, standing still or leaping ahead.

The restaurant host with the dirty blonde hair almost to his shoulders put me up at a table for two and my bags kept slipping off mine, bumping chairs and tables and arms in the narrow space where I tried to belong but knew better.

Upstairs, he said, but you may have to move back down once it gets busy. That’s what I got for being alone and I wanted to blame you but knew better as the false candlelits flickered those faces, giving the impression of flames where there were only batteries.

Surely, you knew better.

 


Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.

so the words knock in vain and nothing sticks

In a dream I dreamed some few maybe several dreams ago—they’re hard to count, hard, sometimes, to notice—I missed the city. From within it. Or above and through it, rather, soaring or perched, perhaps, perhaps parallaxed, in a sense—what’s the word for seeing through another’s eyes—in any event, above and through it I was and I saw its sights palindromatically from actual possible heights like blurry vignettes, like sketch scenes and stories and in the morning the sky was banality and banality was a trope of a reminder that presence isn’t about not dreaming, it’s about dreaming from here, from kitsch and cliché and this, all this, and everything it both is and isn’t, the flux and fuss of unrelenting contradiction. Tell me what’s beautiful about that and I’ll run with it—such is my morning prayer, resolute and irreligious.