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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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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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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Musings

I’m a sucker for striped shirts and empty white hair.

There’s something strangely human about opening the door of your home and knowing if someone else is there. You know before they speak, or turn the faucet, or close the underwear drawer. As if they left their presence on the threshold.

All of us have friends who are mad at us. They get mad the moment we start to do what we want and cease to do what they want. Ultimately, it’s a matter of possession. We want to own our loved ones the same way we own our favorite jeans. We confuse what ‘trustworthy’ is; i.e. it is the jeans that are always there for you.

There is a girl who stands taller than she really is. It’s because she talks about bigger things. She orders an Apricot Blonde and her voice gets loud when the conversation becomes about dreams. About ambitions. People are surprised to learn she isn’t six feet. She acts like it, though, and it reminds me of the word ‘monumental’.

“Everybody’s crazy.  Nobody makes sense,” she says.

I don’t know how they did it, but Zeppelin found the human spirit and plastered it on a vinyl saucer.

The reason I run so much is because of a lady at a race. She held up a sign that said ‘One day, you will not be able to do this.‘ I think the same goes for coloring your hair and going on dates and drinking liquor in swimming pools. I feel like there’s not enough time. It makes me think about the word ‘urgency’.

Plump, red grapes are Earth’s way of saying ‘you deserve this.’  They remind me of globes.

The reason everything is such a mess is because:

a) we think we are right, or
b) we are okay with being wrong.

My roommate and I scrubbed our shower before I left for the summer. He said “you can’t clean anything without getting something else dirty.” This thought has haunted me since.

Remember that nobody is ever impressed by how much you hate something.

Sometimes Monday morning feels like throwing a party when you’re hungover. I imagine this is what the first ten years of having kids is like.

There is a tangible energy abuzz in the air of a night when seemingly everyone else is doing something, together, and you are witnessing it from afar, alone. Fridays and New Year’s Eve are notorious for providing this nagging sensation.

Sometimes you can just think of someone’s gigantic laugh and turn yourself hysterical. I encourage you to try. This is especially fun in places where tension thrives, like a room in the library or the DMV. You start giggling and it draws the glances of the miserable, which only elevates the stress, wheeling the hilarity round and round like a hurricane.

I think all things melancholy are born on Saturday afternoons.

Few skills are more magnetic than knowing how to tell a good story. Along the same lines, saying someone’s first name, mid-sentence, when the conversation is thick with good thoughts, is wildly arousing.

One of the best ways to ease your mother’s mind is to take good care of yourself. When you are doing well, and you are healthy, and you are happy, it is the same as saying “I love you, too.”

The best part of taking photos is that in the moment, everything is unexciting, and routine, and nothing is special. Yet, when you look again, years later, when sprawled across the carpet, real magic appears. A photographer is like an angel from your future who paints a life your memory forgot.

I have all these photos of the people I love. I like looking at them, and I like looking at you.

I wanna look at you again.

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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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Uncategorized

Into The Mirror

Everything’s the same.  It’s just a little different.

I have a heavy heart. The whole world is out there killing each other, like maniacs, like a bunch of children who don’t get their way. As if the last thousand years taught us nothing; or simply, that many folks have no grasp of human life, of human suffering, of the love that weaves us all together. I didn’t lose anyone this weekend, but I know someone who did. It hurts. It hurts all over.

I went to bed at 5:00 three times this week.

Like the last time, when the clown went into the theater and started shooting. Or the time before that, when the kid went into the school full of little kids and started shooting. Or when the student went into the lecture hall and started shooting. Or when those two kids went into the high school and started shooting. Or when the watch-guard went into the neighborhood and started shooting the kid with the skittles. Or when the men in masks went into the cartoon room and started shooting.

I am empty.

And the whole world will feel this way for a week or two, and then everything will be the same again, but just a little different. We will all commit to never forget, only to forget, until they start shooting again. They will be different people, in different places, in different masks. But it’ll be the same: another chill that veils the humans of the world in a gripping, but distant, paralysis.

Everything’s the same. It’s just a little different.

I can’t seem to get away from November. Like three years ago, when I lost you. I unraveled. I walked around with my hood on, wandering in the wind. Like last year, when I lost you again. I didn’t drive anywhere for a little while. I didn’t want to get in my car, because I knew it wouldn’t take me to you. Like right now, I’m losing you one more time. I’m walking around with this feeling, this feeling that feels like porcelain fingers on a baby grand, in a cement corridor, the taste of lukewarm earl grey. The waking up at 3:00am, the blinks before you realize it wasn’t a dream. The lack of appetite, the lack of appetite to eat a sandwich, to play, to do all those things I used to do. The solitude, the scribbling of poetry and the exchanging of glances with the passerby’s I’ll never meet. The melancholy chuckle. The early evening.

This November, it’s the same. It’s just a little different.

And so when I see the woman on the bus whose face looks just like a fingerpainting, madness and all, in brown flats and red stockings and a peculiar gaze, that of a hurricane, I’m struck with the art that we can all be sometimes. And when I dry my dripping scalp and pause, shivering, and ache for the towel that wrapped around me once before, the one you used to keep for me, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. And when the gunman unloads his final magazine into the skull of the earth, and the thought of your death is why I skipped lunch, and the ribs of my stomach stretch out to catch my fleeting breath, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. And when I look into the mirror, and it’s the same face as yesterday, only a little different, and some mornings I’m afraid of the person I’ve become, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. 

And I remember that, just like last time, it’ll all be the same again. It’ll just be a little different.

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