blog, poem

August

I’m writing this in the back of a caravan as it scuttles across the empty plains of West Texas. August comes around and always feels like a Sunday. Three years ago, I was hungover and in love and drinking iced coffee from the garden level of a north Denver apartment. Now, after spending another week back home in Colorado, I feel the same: pining for love, hungover from a lazy summer in the sun, sipping from a mug.

I know my writing always reads something romantic. Truthfully, though, it’s rare anymore that I feel any sort of desire to pursue romance. I’ve become too self-serving over the years, too busy pursuing a myriad of goals that benefit only me, too interested in spending time alone. I enjoy my quiet time. I know many folks my age that have also given up on the cinderella story, on the boomer lifestyle of 1950’s jello adverts.

Sometimes, though, the heart will flutter and seek flight. Now is one of those times.

I was back home this week with a group of running friends on a road trip. We hiked up mountains and slept on the floor and cooked and cleaned together. A week straight with these folks and it only felt like family, like symbiosis. Guiding them through my old haunts brought back an expected nostalgia, certainly, but it also helped me see these spots anew. I ordered different meals, different drinks, walked into new buildings, snapped out of the plastic shape of old routines.

On my mind throughout the week were the relationships I left here. Understanding that I took that love for granted while it was abundant and present leaves me feeling foolish. Walking along the same avenues where first kisses were planted on unassuming heads opens a monologue with your younger self, one that ends without resolve. I can’t rewind time, even though the junctures still look so familiar, as if it never passed. Standing at one of these, a corner near a science building on campus, I feel the pulse of old heartbreak. I also feel a sort of heightened awareness to recognize the love when it’s around. The type of cognizance that comes with learning a very physically painful lesson.

And so this affirms this lingering thought I’ve had in my mind for a while, one that has been absent for half a decade, one that I’ve feared and barricaded and ignored in favor of nurturing the self: that I am ready to give it away. I would like it real and good and poetic and pure, and it feels something like escaping a cocoon.

It must be immaterial and private and between only us. I hope to leave it unnoticed and mute; my favorite relationships are those that I know least about. Keep it secret and intimate. Sex is as good as the sum of its parts, but making love is transcendent. Making love feels like leaving earth. It feels like one of the only few ways we have left of being entirely present. The muse of art and war is born in the dark sheets between two bodies unraveling into one another. I want this. I want the mundane and the annoyance and the discomfort of merging two lives together, and I also want to make love.

I’m tall and lanky and funnily shaped and have a childish face. I don’t wear great clothes and make little money. I’m shy around the girls that smitten me. I observe more than I participate. I think too much. My confidence is fickle and often frustrated. I assumed, by now, I would have ironed out these insecurities, but they tend to solidify when I’m most lonely. And that feeling waxes and wanes with the moon. But these things go away when I have someone to call.

When I have the love, I’m nicer to my mother. My grandpa stops worrying. I have perspective and a reason to stop in the gift shop. I write more, I sleep well, I learn new tricks. I see new places and shake new hands and live a life more spontaneous. I begin to share. And that’s the kicker, really: I want to share. We are calmer when we can split the bread.

It’s now quite dark in East Texas. The clouds have become a silky sheet of deep purple in the sky above. Soon this life will become overwhelmingly busy with the duties of a career in progress and I will return to having very little time to myself. I will doubt and dismiss the idea of pursuing a partner. But for this moment, out in the middle of nowhere, on the tail end of another setting summer, I will imagine myself in love, quietly, and rest my head to the thought. The rolling fields of windmills swim by, and I think about her.

She lets quartz hang from her ears. She buys things from old women. She drinks cucumber water. She makes love on top. She leaves a thunderous wake, a pinkish swirl, a scent. She wants me around.

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Lovely

Folks get upset about the wind; but you gotta sweat it out once in a while, and then the wind is lovely.

Girls have that way of turning your day around. Backwards. Upside down. Just because they wore a dress, or they said your name right.

Eat it up, it’s good for you.

Love is just a measure of how quick you will forgive ’em. She could run her truck through your bedroom walls and you’d still hold her tight. She does no wrong, and you kinda like the way she pisses you off. She knows when to piss you off, and how to do it, and just how much, so that she’s still held tight.

No matter what you say, you’ll fall in love again. It isn’t up to you.

I think pancakes are always better when someone else orders them. I think people should walk on sidewalks as if they were driving on a road. Slow to the right, please. I gotta get somewhere.

I think it’s sublime that I was once a child. I think it’s sublime that I no longer look like one.

This beer has a metal lick to it, like a pipe, like the one you move around a Clue board.

I think the folks we despise have something we secretly want. I think some folks hate the president because he has influence. I think some folks hate themselves because they’re afraid of wanting that thing they want. I don’t have the fix, but I guess it starts with owning your faults.

Eating dead things will make you feel dead. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Sex used to be the drive, and now it’s maybe top 10. Same goes for keeping up with fashion, facebook, and all the rest of it. The world is too loud. There’s no room for the piano.

A piano in a hallway, stuck between two bedroom doors. Chopin’s Nocturne 55, number 1. Four chords, a melody, a lazy afternoon, and dust in the lightbeams.

This is lovely. All of it.

A striped shirt, a snowy blue behind her, light hair in a loose knot on top the skull, a slight smirk, aware of the lens, aware of her elegance, bathing in it, cheekbones, a nose. A virgin neck, a naked collarbone, loose ends falling from behind the ear. She is lovely.

Power grids and a nightmare that fucks you up for a while. Ice cream “dates” that are only dates in retrospect. A general sense of dread. Entwined ankles and exotic kissing between unreal gasps, gusts of wind through the open window. A summer of erotica.

The quiet Tuesday night that brings it all back.

 

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XXVI

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that orange juice.

Two hours before, I watched a video of a man yelling into the desert sky, hollering about the urgency of being on the planet. The man cares and you can hear it in his voice. He’s out there yelling “your lungs are temporary” and “this dirt is so special” and “ah!” all loud, all over the desert. Listen to this man.

Listen to him!

Makes me want to shout it out. This earth is so goddam special. Being alive is jazz hands. I am so stoked about this.

Met a chick a couple nights ago who asked if I thought she was a “tit” and it made me laugh out loud. A real good chuckle, as I waddled back to my subaru, hobbling on my achey knee (on account of all the sun-running). That laugh echoed into the chilly night.

Dipped this mint tea bag into the hot water and took it in.

Stop listening to the shitty irony. The type of nonchalance that spews from the mouths of folk who grew up thinking it’s cool to not care about anything. I am so sick of this. I am so vehemently sick of this. Instead, you must rip out your heart and staple it to your sleeve.

I’m calling you out. Give it up.

The only two resolutions I’ve given myself this year are to give more gifts and meet more people. I think about my uncles who would walk around town shaking hands with everyone, holding doors open, making the chat. People love that shit. I love it, too, when the chat is nice and easy. I want to say hey to more strangers.

I’ll run a marathon in february. I’m not ready, but you’re never ready. That goes for it all.

Sometimes you have a dream that you’re waking up next to your old lover, and you don’t think twice about it. You just roll over onto them and fall back asleep in their hair. There’s no doubt that you can love someone your whole life, regardless. I wish we could be more honest about that.

Fuck, shit, and goddam are three words that academia is lacking.

Dallas Clayton is teaching us how to love again.

Wherever you go, leave flowers in your wake.  Leave flowers in your wake, burn pastel memories into the gray.

I’d like the girl I love to be there, at that race. I’d like her to be holding up a sign that says something good, something that gets my toes to the very end. I haven’t been too good about keeping love around, but I’ll work on it. One day, she’ll be there, and she’ll love me, and I’ll love her right back.

You gotta tell people exactly what you want, because traffic is loud and everyone is on their phones. Say it slow and well, and do 80%. Only then will you find your help.

I don’t think we need coffee scented candles, really. You just gotta put a pot of coffee on.

Certain words just grab the eye right, like “occult” and “pestilence”. The best part about writing is juggling around the alphabet and bending up all the rules. Lots of folks tell me I write nice, and I always tell them to read Kurt Vonnegut.

I read more Vonnegut this december. He has a way of springing up from the page and flopping right into your tomato soup:

he was watching the clouds. they were lovely things, and the sky they drifted in was, to the color-starved space wanderer, a thrilling blue.” – The Sirens of Titan

“A thrilling blue.”

That’s a good juggle.

I don’t preach it a lot, but eating vegetables is the truth. Everything else is poison.

Bowling is also the truth. Don’t chill with anyone who doesn’t want to bowl. They’re probably the same kids tweeting about wanting to die (ironically), forgetting that they will (unironically).

When your birthday comes around, take a minute to read all the comments. Chances are, you’ll be taken back to a real happy time with everyone that scribbles on your wall. Chances are, most of these people won’t know each other. But they all know you.

Weed is worth smoking once, but it’s not worth smoking once a day.

I want to give more gifts because it taps into the real warmth. Better if the gift isn’t something you can buy. For some odd reason, I think about the line Bradley sang back in ’95, about giving all your money to charity. The Chili Peppers sang about the same thing. A lot of us teeter on the edge of giving it all away.

I think we give it all away when we run marathons. When we conceive. When we teach a class, when we jump off a bridge somewhere tethered only by our ankles. When we hold up signs in the bitter wind at the end of the race.

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that sweet orange marmalade.

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Bugs & Features

I’ve been thinking about bugs and features for four straight months.

Software devs have hated the metaphor since the birth of the internet. It’s too extreme; often bug reports are mislabeled as feature requests that need tweaking, or vice versa, and engineers don’t like prioritizing one over the other when needing to fix a program. I want to play with the concept regardless.

The simplest way to describe the difference is this: a bug is when a program is not working as intended, and a feature is when a user wants something from the program that does not exist within it.

In other words, a bug is ordering a beer and getting coffee. A feature request is ordering a beer at Starbucks.

“We don’t serve beer, sir. This is Starbucks.”

The customer understands he is in a coffee shop, but wants the coffee shop to also serve beer.

Another example: you upload a color photograph to Instagram, but it renders in black and white on your profile. That’s a bug. Wanting to upload a photograph to Instagram from your computer, however, is a feature that does not exist: the program is designed to only work through your phone.

For some of us, this is frustrating. We see features as bugs: we want to order coffee at the bar, like the Italians, because a place designed to serve beverages should also serve coffee. Coffee is a beverage, for Pete’s sake!  We want to upload to Instagram straight from our computers instead of emailing ourselves the image, saving it on our phone, then going through the app. To some of us, the features we want out of our programs (digital or not) seem like bugs.

I think this mentality extends into our personal lives and blockades our happiness.

This year was tough on everyone. We lost a lot of beloved artists. We lost a lot of political momentum. Apart from the Cubbies taking the Series and the Queen turning 90, this year was a tough pill to swallow. But I’m here to tell you that, although it feels like a bug, all of this is just a feature.

It’s how it goes. History tells us that. Art tells us that even better.

Ants (literal bugs) at a picnic is part of the picnic experience: it’s a feature of picnics. It comes with the brie and baguette, wicker-basket package.

I hear a lot of complaining. I’ve said many times that it brings me down. I don’t think that we have any room to bicker, even when it feels like we do. Even when your roommate eats all of your cracker jacks. Even when your bus blows a flat tire. I see a lot of my friends succumbing to cyclical nervous breakdowns and self-destructive routines because they are convinced the world’s dominos are stacked against them. I don’t think this is true.

I think it’s a matter of recognizing bugs versus features.

Athletes are very good at this.  Your three-hundred pound nose tackle, “The Fridge”, knows how to manage bugs and features.  The Fridge doesn’t go back to the huddle every down yelling about #53’s fingers in his eyeballs.  The Fridge just wants to eat the quarterback’s knees. He knows that it’s the center’s job to keep him hungry, that the offensive line is a feature, that, in his own words, “it’s just football, coach.”

Similarly, marathoners don’t quit running because of the hills after mile 15. Even if they didn’t look at the course map, they knew it was going to get tough. You won’t hear marathoners complaining about the hills, calling them bugs.

It’s a simple principal when it comes to the physical stuff, but I think we could all be a little better by keeping the perspective in tact with the intangible things. Fights with your lover aren’t bugs in your relationship. Working late hours during midterms aren’t bugs of your career. Going to your grandfather’s funeral isn’t a detour in the trajectory of your life: it’s as much a feature as dying itself. Your professors, your parents, your higher-ups, this year: these things aren’t out to get you. These are features of existing in this world.

Maybe the most charming post I read about bugs and features from a software developer concludes with the idea that it’s all a matter of little details. That the issues, be them bugs or features, are still just issues. It’s hardly worth distinguishing between them because you have to fix them anyway.

I like this idea, but it’s only useful once you understand the difference. The past four months have been a lesson in working with bugs and features, and in either case, I’ve had a problem to solve: How do I manage this challenge? I’ve learned this: bugs don’t deserve any of your energy, while feature requests demand all of it.

In other words, if you want to eat better, do not complain that ice cream exists, because Klondikes are bugs! If you want to eat better, you must spend every waking minute fantasizing about baby carrots. You must build your castle around the beet. You must salivate at the thought of a pea.

If you want to be a better lover, a better friend, an air pilot, a librarian, an early bird, a night owl, a city slicker, or a new resident in the next state over: squash the bugs. Put your shoes on and jump on the crunchy cockroaches.

Heading into the new year, consider your resolutions through the lens of the software developers, through the yin yang of bugs and features. Go forth and eat peas and eat hills and eat knees.

The Fridge believes in you!

 

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Radiogirl

You are rad.

Rad like a palindrome, rad like frayed scarves.

Like a Wilhelm scream ripping through the hollow undertow.

Rad like the loudest symphony, like the first chair violin.

You got a goddamn good name and I like saying it in the tub. You got a schedule of shit to do. You got a paycheck coming in.

You are rad and lovely and firm, in that order, like a cabin in the woods.

Lovely like buttermilk, firm like Arnie’s bicep. A butt tucked into gray sweats tapered at the ankle. Black nikes, a little scuff.

A couple of middle fingers up, for your insecurities, for the ticket stuffed into your passenger side door.

A hazy voice floating through the atmosphere, falling on a microphone, into the radio waves, onto my canned headphone eardrums, like silky smoke from a tan candle.

Let me kiss your lip like butter, my goodness, let me show you off to momma. Let me show you to the thirsty desert, to a linoleum grocery store. Let me grab your hand and pinch your hip and piss you off just right.

“It comes with cheese?” a quick chuckle from your chest, “a little cheese on top,” and the waiter nods and grins.

You don’t interrupt.

You swing a red leather bag and glide through the snowy city streets. You tip three quarters at the deli and hug the owner Jim who gives me a hard time. I play along. You seem to own the room, everywhere you go, you take the whole place over. The boring couple in the booth stops to stare. Their spoons hovering over tomato soup and cornbread, spilling a little, splashing onto their napkin bibs.

I follow in your breezy wake.

You spin the key, the deadbolt pops. You throw your coat onto the couch and put an album on.  Something funky from the 80’s. I kick my shoes off and tumble into your living room. We drank too much, I think. Your cheeks smudge my glasses. It’s midnight.

“Where should I write to you?”

“Here. The mailman comes on Thursdays.”

“Do you check your mail?”

“Sometimes.”

I squint to see the lights outside. You nudge.

“Leave it on the radio.”

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Two Years Gone

I keep little notes in my phone of outfits I see on folks that look particularly nice. I write them down in a hurry.  Like this one:

  •   brown khaki jeans, white shirt, white nike runners with a blue swipe and gum soles

He was a student getting on the bus. Some people look nice in the easiest of ways, and he was one of them. I think he could wear anything and turn it into a note on my phone. Or this one:

  • worn black jeans, olive flats, beige sweater

I liked the way this girl walked around. She made her flats look cozy. She made her sweater look like it meant something to her. And:

  • dark blue dress, thin, light, with shiny mustard flats

Some folks have a confidence about them, and they radiate it right through the clothes wrapped around their body tight.

I ate eggs benedict on a sunday morning with avocado and black beans. I drank three mugs of coffee and scratched my ruffled hair and paid the tip. The lady who served us last time had a spiffy set of curls that bounced around and a sliver hoop in her nose that flickered under the diner lights. I spot her from afar, and she’s smiling all the same, just at a different booth.

We ordered a strawberry pancake and split it 70/30. It was too dry, so the syrup went on twice. The couple next to us kept threatening to leave: she stood up, fixed her shirt, crossed her arms, then sat down again. I’m no longer interested in keeping the black beans separate from the benedict so I throw it all together in some lazy casserole. It tastes good.

I think about the way people bond better over breakfast. I think about sweatpants and hangover teeth and the way lethargy makes your shoulders slouch. The way that stress won’t let you just sit down and take it easy for a minute. But breakfast at the diner doesn’t let you stress your shoulders up.

Across the glossy floor, at the table snug against the wall, I spot another note:

  • gray pants, light red shirt, white shoes

My head is down as I type it into my phone and the waitress snags the plates away. My arms fall over my belly and I grin. It’s good to eat. It’s good to be a human and eat a real nice meal. Two bright red credit cards hold down the receipt, keep it from floating off the table and onto the sticky floor.

I think about all the love I’ve shared over orange juice and waffles with whipped cream. I think about my heavy heart and the way the diners blend together. I feel it in my skeleton. Sometimes your smiling, naked cheeks, dimpled and full across the table shine right into my head, and I miss you. I miss all of you.

The sun blasts through the windows as we weave through the waiting crowd.

Into your apartment and onto the unmade sheets we wander. Our heads fall into the pillows and you toss your leg over onto me. Open your phone. Chuckle. I stare at the ceiling and wonder where the day will go. If our lazy will just keep moving through the moments. If we will lay here until monday. Your roommates aren’t home and the dusty air blankets the room. I play with your hair. You don’t notice.

There’s nothing to it, really. We’re just here, and it feels good.

Soon, I’ll be gone again, and I’ll leave you here, and I’ll do my best to remember all of this. I’ll make a note in my phone. The scent of your sweater nestled into my chest, the way it follows me home, all the way up the mountain and into my room. I’ll text you.

We’re awake, into the day. I notice you’re wearing the same thing you wore when we did this the first time:

  • black leggings, pink hoodie, canvas flats, big hair

I still see them now, two years gone, all those breakfasts.

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Ouroboros

When speaking to anyone, you must assume one of two things: the first is that their mother is dying, and the second is that they just made hot love.

When you assume these things, you will notice that is impossible to complain. I think we are being violent to our friends when we complain about anything to them, and even more so when we choose to be negative to those with whom we are less familiar.

Before you speak to your friends, consider the idea that their mother is dying.

Entertain this thought. Try to imagine what is living in their heart. Try to imagine tying your shoes in the morning, and losing the bunny knot, and erupting, because your mother, your mom, the one that taught you how to eat with a spoon, is not going to be around much longer. And you’ve known this for a while. It makes tying the bunny knot feel like an impossible task.

But you must tie your shoes, and make your coffee, and catch the bus, and go. So you push. And soon you receive a text saying:

“ugh, forgot my fucking lunch at home. kill me”

You bite your tongue. They don’t know, you think, don’t say anything. So you respond:

“mondays”

Such a fleeting, everyday, offhand and hyperbolized and unimportant comment. You know this, and yet somehow you feel worse. Your mother is dying, and kill me sticks to the gray tar lingering on your mind.

When you consider this, you will no longer want to yell at your friends. You will no longer want to complain about your exams, the traffic, the rain, the money on your credit card. You will likely not want to talk at all. You will see the weight they carry and try your best not to add to it.

What I’ve learned is that, no matter what, someone’s mother is dying, and most of the time they won’t tell you.

So you must assume.

You must also assume, in the fortunate event that their mother is in good shape, that your friend just made hot love. Today, he is quite jubilant, and is likely having one of those glowing, hopscotch, blue jay kind of mornings. Smiles and quick steps and holding doors.

You notice their bright yellow mood and squint your eyes through a mix of envy and disdain. How dare you prance about? My car broke down this morning, you sick fuck.

Like with a dying mother, this sick fuck is likely not going to tell you that he just got mega laid, either.

So you must assume.

And when you do this, you will again notice that the last thing that sick fuck wants to hear about is your shitty car battery. This is because his endorphins are raging through the roof on account of all the sweet, savory, sexy, sex he did this morning.

Soon, on account of all the complaining you haven’t been doing, you yourself will begin to notice the blue jays, the rain, the money on your credit card, your aging mother. You will see that you are desperately not unique in the face of a dying car battery. You will see that violence and death are indiscriminate, that traffic is an orgy, that you are now the one giving the exams.

You will see that all this, too, will happen to you (even the hot love).

And so, quite frankly, you shut the fuck up, make your coffee, and go.

It’s Monday.

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