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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blog

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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poem

Canary

In the desert, all wide-open,

and upside-down,

the yellow sun raked the sand.

and the six-toed ants

dug black holes into the crusty salt,

burrowing and dotting the earth with whiskers.

I saw in the glimpse of some hellbent mirage

the shape of your bellbottom hips

and sunday afternoon polka dot blouse,

the thought of it now bringing me cigarette tastebuds.

 

upside-down, I watched your vicious knees

bend to the sound of some distant trumpet horn,

your face snarled in a ragtime menace

your spine curved like a yellow fingernail

your hair ripping across the naked sky like a dragster on asphalt,

I could not breath, like coughing,

everywhere ashes coated my molar gums

and burned my thirsty eyes

and the terrific razor scream of that hellish brass

rattled through that big old place,

that big old empty space, that desert.

 

In the desert, all wide-open,

and upside-down,

the yellow sun raked the salty sand.

and the orange sky squints like cataracts

through that fingerpaint blur

to find your face sour like lemons

and cold with thick disdain.

as my knuckles hang like rope in howling winds

and echoes sing your body song

a dance atop the whiskers,

the ants swallowed in the tremors

the ants buried in their home.

 

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blog, editorial

Twenty-Six and Two

I run because of Key Lime yogurt.

I run because the world is loud.

I run because I can’t always be honest.

I like the way that running breaks the calloused mind. I like talking with the truth: the little voice hiding underneath the fluff of the everyday static. I like digging for the clarity. I’ve gone to running when stuck between the most difficult choices of my life. I like the way running always makes the harder choice.

I think running is preparing me, in some way, for the death of my mother.

I run because I’m a terribly average runner, with all due respect.

I run because its glamour is measured in streaks of salt across flushed cheeks and sore knees.

I like the way running is not an escape. I like the way running makes everything else feel like an escape.

I run because it’s sexy and raw and unkempt and in a mess.

I like that everywhere is somewhere to run. I like that I don’t have to pay anyone to go outside. I like running over crosswalks and under bridges and through the city wind.

I run because race bibs make me look stupid. I always think my bib is ten times bigger than everyone else’s, and that it’s slightly crooked, and that the safety pins will make permanent runs in the polyester.  I’m never right.

I like feeling light. I like the way a skeleton can stretch. I like gliding around downtown and putting music on. I like sweaty socks and bitter breath and watching it all pass by.

I run because running is a parasite. I run because it bites back. I think we all need something to shove. We crave the fight. I like running because it picks on me. I like the way a bad race can ruin a week. I like the motivation that haunts defeat.

I like that running is never enough: that it keeps me thirsty.

I like the way running makes water taste so goddam good.

I like running because I’m clumsy and lanky and have always been the ‘kid in glasses.’ I like that it’s real hard to run in glasses.

I run because we sit down too much. Because we eat poison. Because it fills the lungs with air, clearing the smoke. I like the way the body glows, afterwards, like heroin, or making love. I like when I finally catch my breath.

I run because of short shorts and tanned thighs and naked collarbones. I run because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles. I like running because runners are happy (because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles). I like runners because they’re happy (and they’re the kind of people you want to be). I like runners because they’re happy (and happiness is hot).

I run because it’s hard and good and relentless.

I like collapsing into bed. I like earning it. I like studying my splits and searching for hills and chipping off the seconds. I like the way running makes the seconds matter. I like eating bananas. I like pushing around the thick in my calves. I like thinking about running all day. I like being obsessed.

I like closing my eyes to the sting of sweat. I like opening my eyes and seeing purple flowers. I like the hellish infinity of a long, straight road. I like exhaling it out.

I like the way they look at all of us when we run together. I like the high fives from the dog-walkers. I like the couples holding hands. I like the city folk. I like their rubber necks.

I run because I can feel it all over.

I like the way it feels all over.

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Ode to the Crush

For it all began with a crush.

It was the little red notebook that she wrote in, leather-bound, filled to the crisp with tanned leaflets. It was the static of her bun stuck to the chair after the film while names spilled across the silver. It was the clumsy haste with which she peanut-buttered her english muffin, which crumbled into like a thousand crumbs all over the damn place, and then the way she cusped her palm and broomed them into a tiny pile, a tiny mountain of muffin crumbs.  It was the way the knife was glued to the saucer on account of all the peanut-buttering.

It was her sweet voice across the coffee shop:

“I called my brother today.”

The crush is ethereal and innocent. It is a buzz between strangers. It is the flickering romance in the nonchalance of the everyday. The crush is transient and mischievous and drunken whimsy. The crush has sane men falling in love with a pair of worn canvas shoes, falling in love with kneecaps peeking through ripped jeans and thin wrists and endearing ways to traverse a crosswalk. The crush has sane men falling in love with coffee drink orders and horn-rimmed glasses, and even sometimes the word ‘horn-rimmed’ because she wears them. Tortoise shell, horn-rimmed: poetry, to him.

And so then it takes its hold.

And we find ourselves hovering thumbs over keyboards, never knowing exactly what to say, or rather, trying our best to cleverly say “I think you’re so lovely,” butin other words. We stumble over nothing-words and drag our feet across the gravel paths that outline the city, a skyscraper shimmering in glassy puddles underfoot. We find ourselves grinning, looking down, bobbling along, juggling the exact moment to kiss the crown of her hair, a gentle nuzzle into her scent, and to keep walking. That that thought alone is enough to galvanize even the deadest of hearts.

The crush is jazz horns, maximum volume, swinging around in the strides of our steps. It is a collision of glances that lock, the gravity of two glances that do not let go of each other, like shark jaws, like tightrope, and you are wondering if they are thinking what you are thinking, essentially: looking into you is a symphony.

It is the seconds of those glances that feel, non-hyperbolically, like supernovae.

To the crush, my eternal muse, I dedicate this little riff. You keep the beat, my heart thump thump.

For all the lovers, I hope today you found the crush in your other, as you should every day. I hope it was some simplicity often overlooked; maybe they sneezed and you fell a little deeper into the love-tank.

And for all the singlets, never be sad. The crush is zooming about, making its rounds, thrice a day. Go play. Find something of smitten in all the strangers that bustle about this little planet.

Happy 14th.

 

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Mosquito

Are there moments for you, too, when you accidentally order hot coffee when what you meant to say was iced, but you only realize this exactly after the talkative barista has delivered, by hand, all that lava into the cardstock cylinder, all just a little too late? And you haven’t the heart to say “shoot, I meant iced” out loud, but you’ve certainly said it quite a few times since, in your head, as if it could freeze the cup before your first sip. And the credit card reader feels like doomsday.

And so you’ve accidentally just dissatisfied yourself in a wildly unique way, because your iced coffee was supposed to be a ‘to: me, from: me’ kind of treat, since you scratched a somewhat annoying ‘to-do’ off the proverbial list earlier in the day, and it felt like swatting a particularly obnoxious gnat out of thick air, doing that thing you had to do.

And then you must have a quick chat with yourself about gratitude, because this problem is mostly a non-problem, even though ice cubes would’ve really done the trick.

And do you also feel guilty for ignoring the beggars, knowing full well that you could help, but also cannot help in the way that would be of permanent good use? And ignoring them is likely the best you could do, yet in your head you think, rationally, “it is not my fault, it is not my fault” etc. as you pass them, feeling lucky for putting your headphones in just before you left the coffee shop, if only to save yourself a little bit of that guilt.

And yet, at the same time, you wish you could sit down and chat, and listen to their story. This fantasy occurs to you every single time you pass them on the street. But you must talk yourself out of it because “what if they never leave me alone? what if they don’t stop talking? what if they recognize me next week and need to talk again, or worse, what if they’re actually psychologically batshit, you know, the muttering and spitting type?” and so you just keep the music on and concentrate very hard on looking forward. You realize it’s very hard to not look at something that you’re telling yourself not to look at.

You arrive home and by now the coffee is lukewarm. You lament the $2.00 that you threw away, but remind yourself of ‘gratitude and the man with bugs in his teeth,’ all those conversations you had in your head just now on the bus. So you drink the coffee, begrudgingly. And the only way to redeem the hot vs. iced fiasco from earlier is to browse the web for bedsheets, since, again, you owe it to yourself. And so you buy bedsheets, knowing they aren’t what you wanted, but it feels correct to press ‘purchase.’

And the high of spending money is quickly eradicated by another gnat in the room, which is the paralysis of knowing you cannot afford to spend any more money. But it feels somewhat serene, later, checking your email and seeing an order confirmation for full-size argyle, thread count: a thousand. And you marvel at the technology of the world! You marvel at ‘order tracking’ and ‘write a review’ and the idea of a postman, an honest, hardworking postman, dressed head to toe in uniform, wearing a tragically endearing hat, delivering the sheets to your doorstep, with a smile, as the cogs of this system whir, humming, locked in place, spinning in your favor.

And slowly, this too, feels like hot vs. iced.

And so you sit in this chokehold of needing things that bring you more gnats.

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Love Letters (To No.1)

I’ll always fall in love, at least a little bit, with a cutie who’s left handed.

She’s got big ole eyeballs still, just like in the old days, when I was a young kid with a gold heart all ready to break. That same heart is still thumping, I swear it is, right down here inside my ribs. It’s just bronzed over.

I think we all get a little closer to each other when we use our first names, mid-sentence, deep into those talks. Those talks that always happen when it’s dark, when the car is parked somewhere, and we’re both staring forward into a big open night. And the air is thick because we know what we want to say but can’t. And our arms are crossed, and you’re opening all the way up, and you say

Sam, …”

and I feel it. I think our names sound different when our lovers say them.

She’s got a cozy room and a bed with messy blankets. There are postcards in the window and photos strung across a clothesline, photos of brick walls in her hometown, photos of a happy drunk girl whose laugh you can hear when you look at them real close. Sometimes I’ll sit on the floor and listen to her music and she’ll nap, and the sun will break through the blinds and remind me I’m at home, right here, with her wrinkled forehead and lavender fingernails, gnawed off with nervous tendency. She’ll make earl grey when she wakes up.

I think it’s too easy to have sex. I think sex is too easy because it’s at everyone’s fingertips. Lauren said it best: “nowadays, it’s easier to have sex with someone than it is to hold their hand.” I know people who fuck too much and they don’t know it. I think I’ve been there once, and now I know it. I think fucking is like eating junk food. You never feel good afterward, though, and that’s what kills. It’s fun to indulge when the pleasure is approaching, and you’re getting closer to it, like driving into town. But it’s a mirage. And then you put your clothes back on, and ‘one-night stand’ becomes last-night, and you gotta find a highway to clear your head.

She’s got an eye for things. She takes photographs all the time and none of them are of her, and all of them have that enigmatic quality that takes me away to a different place. Some sort of dazzle lives inside her lens, a magical aesthetic that I can’t figure out. She knows what clothes will fit. She talks about the things she loves.

And sometimes I’m sitting down, writing, in the library, in a chair. And her hair falls over into my lap, and her arms wrap me cozy and warm, and my first name is a whisper in the left channel. And all the bronze starts falling off, and all our clothes are still on, and I become a photograph on a clothesline.

And it’s all in my head, right now, these love letters to no.1, the smudge of her left-handed response tucked neatly into a light blue envelope, no return address. But my eyes are wide open for you, for your glossy 8×10’s, for your blankets, for your room, for your world.

Take me there.

 

 

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