yardsticks, eight balls and an hourglass

31 December 2009 § 7 Comments

All rolled into one, we have a contraption worthy of the Wizard of Oz. Walk into the great hall, and you will be presented your Future on a rusty platter, and it will be full of wonder and meaning and band-aids. Toss in a few drinks, a low-class graffiti assault on a college town, and a horror film scored in bluegrass, and we have our new decade rolling around in style. I can’t say I expected anything more.

But right then, enter the spade: Focus. It’s still the new millennium, even if there are semi-coherent little beings running around that never saw the 90’s. Like our century old counterpart, there are vast amounts of people that still remember the Beatles and the Vietnam war – oh, sorry, ‘conflict’ – like the last time ’10 rolled up in a brand new automobile, people had life-defining memories of the American Civil War, Mark Twain, and the last time being a poet was an economically viable position in society.

With the new decade coming in, I declare this: I was born in the wrong century.

But I can’t do anything about that now. It baffles me that if time travel were somehow figured out and used, people would use it for things like winning the lotto and trying to convince their former selves to not marry that lunatic (hey buddy, all your family and friends tried to tell you; you didn’t listen, so it’s on you) instead of using it wisely – to genuinely become a part of another society in pursuit of learning from them and to live a life much more suited to this individual. In fact, that should be a rule: one way tickets only – no funny business, for this is a damn important enterprise, and no one but you cares if you win the lotto tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I will document this century with every bit of horror and destitution I can replicate, which shouldn’t be hard because world peace is not profitable, and without mindbending weapons of intellectual destruction (i.e. iPods, GPS, republicans, twitter, democrats, reality television, etc.), we shall conquer the paradigm that has become our vulnerability, that element in our society that makes Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’ as relevant as it is – call it what you like, for it has many names, and they are not all pretty in black lace and red velvet.

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Fulfilling a Request to Be Written About

29 December 2009 § 2 Comments

In the food court, which vaguely reminds one of the medieval portrayal of royal feasts – savage nobles scrambling for the grapes and liver and chicken breast, swords clanking, mouths chattering and chewing, the jester dancing to a violin’s tune (amplified from the device in some child’s pocket) – she laughs and sits on the floor and talks about medical school and the nostalgic satisfaction of mall food.

The room is a school cafeteria, tastefully decorated with corporate logos as ensnaring as their products. They are accompanied by apathetic teenagers  making overpriced but fresh smoothies from bananas and strawberries canned in sugar syrup. When asked a question, the smoothie girl rattles off a customer-friendly, textbook answer to the spoon-filled cup as if she were annoyed the inquirer existed at all. This possibility is not unlikely.

Scents wafting into clothing stores – whose names are often mentioned in glamourous movies filmed in New York – range from celebrity fragrances to fried food (one cannot be any more specific; it is an amalgamation of American delicacies) and pizza, which is cold because shoppers explore the maze of occupied tables like vultures with meals in hand, circling those almost finished, irritated when beaten to the punch. There is a palpable need for normality, acceptance: a table, a chair, a napkin, social gathering, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, a digital camera to document this momentous event, for it will be remembered throughout the dregs of the internet forever, posted on networking websites ad finitum.

Yes, she smiles and says to write about her and sunshine while being sold tickets (admission, punishment – what’s the difference?), natural solutions for make-up ‘problems’ that reek of chemical warfare, nail-polishing men wearing incredibly fashionable shoes (looks like Velcro is back!), those fashionable shoes themselves, coffee, assembly line cultural carvings, bestselling books, ice cream, video games, diamonds, muscle milk… Breathe.

This is perfection, after all, and we will feed you hypocrisy and lingerie until you hold hamburgers in one hand and weight loss products in the other. Images of the mentally disabled, scantily clad, will float in your mind until you will need to be them. Because this is who you must be, lest you fail to be accepted.

By me. Buy me.

Caution: Reptiles in the Loch Below

29 December 2009 § 2 Comments

we become hypocrites in the aisles
of markets
in salad days of small town illusion.

we became criminals in the eyes
of the pious
with every word we wrote, or said.

our monuments were baked in stone,
our names engraved near dates and poems,
outlining the character of hearts
and spades.

and if we had bothered to look up to read them,
there were chapters that would have saved us
all the trouble that we went to

just to make sure they were written,
to make sure
that we were still intact.

Seattle was a a compromise

27 December 2009 § 2 Comments

I would walk to the paint department from appliance sales floor when I was bored and this popular bald guy with a thick, dark beard and the black plastic frame glasses made famous by emo bands and Andy Warhol would read me complicated poetry that rarely made sense. He was one of those people you thought might be really intelligent until you saw how many spelling mistakes they made. Maybe it was just me. I love discovering mistakes in printed books. If it’s an author I’ve heard of, I’m all the more proud for it. People who point out the mistakes in films irritate me. I know the cigarette, I know the clock. Yes, the cab. Shut up.

I think he was from Seattle. He had a dysfunctional band that played gigs sometimes but on the whole. none of the other members understood him. He was John and Paul and Kurt and Elliot, and no one seemed to be able to take it for long. Maybe his genius was understated. I once showed him how to use my favorite music creation program and within days he was producing music from it I could only dream of making. He was a better guitarist than I, too – better at everything, really. I don’t think I was ever jealous though – I was editing the spelling in his poetry.

He acted as if we were friends, and I was okay with that, at least, because I didn’t have many of those, even if I had to duck my head in every doorway of his house and pretend like he wasn’t slinging more green than I’d known anyone to since I’d lived in Alaska. He was paranoid about that, constantly. But he was short enough to not have to worry about his doorways, calling me tall as if it was an insult. I wasn’t offended by it, not really. I’m more than an inch or two over six feet, and I’m used to walking down crowded sidewalks and being a skyscraper. If I was looking for another tall person, we would be able to spot one another easily. But this guy was not tall – he was ambitious; the kind of drug dealer that wishes people wanted more from him than what he had in a zip-loc bag in that hiding place of his. His charisma gained him customers and acquaintances but caused trouble keeping him friends.

Maybe it was his birthday, or a going away party for a co-worker. We were at his house, drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I drove home that night. I shouldn’t have. I should have been pulled over and arrested for stupidity. I should have slept in my car in his driveway – but my car was in the way of other cars whose owners also should not have been driving, but insisted. He let them, assuring that it would be on them if anything happened.

Nothing happened that night, but something should have.

of lavarocks and antiname

22 December 2009 § 1 Comment

The solstice has passed, but I have not. There was no sitting on a beach in Clam Gulch, watching the sun dip just below the horizon over the Alaska Peninsula – the fireworks were hired to play that night, and no one was disappointed – and there was no standing gloriously atop some mountain ascended by chairlift in the early afternoon darkness, waiting for the sun to touch the landscape so I could race it down, falling below the light before it had a chance to retract itself. The joke was not funny anymore, but I laughed to myself anyway. Failure was key, because the white torches were bound to flare up, or so I thought, and my dependence was disaster. Never count on the light. Never mention neversummer, everwinter faded into highlights – in memory of them, in memoriam.

Elements expose themselves daily, and still we are enamoured of them – to remind ourselves what we do not take for granted. Familiarity is a vast wasteland into which we cannot venture, but instinctive loyalty is required. Ambivalence reigns over kings and queens and those opposed will suffer the defeat of resolve, of confidence. The unicorn remembers your face, and will not forget that wistful tune we sang to lure it in, and she will not return to that place again, lest she loses herself in its beauty and is tricked by the jestering explorer.

If I could EQ the sound of fear, I would take away the high end and make it sound less like a snake’s whisper. I’d give it the tone of the music you close your eyes to, no matter where you are, and I’d amplify it into the valleys you’ve made your homes, and the earth would take care of the effects, the reverb tail and the compression into something tangible, understandable and self-explaining, because I magnify it and show it for what it is, and like that old man said, mystery is where truth exists. So cover in dust the instruction booklets and open up the maps – you’ll see where they lie in waiting, in anticipation of your arrival. The rooftop was just the beginning, your thought process the route we’ll take – just print it on the back of my hand and we’ll be forever ready.

Characters, Vol. III

17 December 2009 § 3 Comments

The treacherous sun glares into the city’s eye, threatening to burn it alive, from the ground up to the rooftops. Reflections beaming from anatomical glass structures back into the sky bear features of survival in that their sarcasm doesn’t cease until the request for it tires, or weakens. If the winding callouses show defiance, one of the millions may be held accountable and if in their floundering innocence, they admit responsibility, the circus will be after them, and the light will splatter in all directions, as a bucket of paint would react if dropped on a tile floor.

Accidentally, the plot is made clearer at the sight of the farmhand tending to the horse near the stable. They have just returned from a long ride over the moors and the young man brushes a bit slower than usual, but with the same meticulous care that they, the farmer and his ailing brother, have come to appreciate, but not expect. For it was not the boy’s choice to be here when he arrived, lost and in a panic, carrying a satchel full of school books and cigarettes. He was from the city, they could tell – for out in this country, one’s place in the world so far emanates from him as if the morning sun were sneaking up from behind with a secret to tell. Yes, he was from the city but did not speak of it.

In fact, he was loath to speak at all, and was quite brash for a number of days after his arrival, but the farmers knew that he did not wish to return to wherever he came from and could not help him financially if he did. So they took him in and asked a few chores of him to make his way, and these and more he did with a silent contentment that, when the day’s work was done, made them wonder further about his origins, his story.

But it would come in time. Like most men, he would hide it deep within himself and busy his surface being with useful things that occupy his mind until it would appear from his lips as if the old barn door had slipped its hinges again and his saying it out loud would be a plaintive comment about how he’d fixed it, and that it shouldn’t slip again because he took the good hinges off the carriage out back and put those on with new nails.

He returns the saddle to the small room on the left side of the stable and checks the shoes to make sure he’d gotten all the muck out of them. Today has been particularly wet, the summer rains returning after three years of relative drought, and the moors could serve as well as swimming pools in places. Supper will be ready soon. The farmer’s brother, despite his illness, can cook a meal better than his mother ever did, and for this the boy smiles in thanks to the man when they sit down to eat.

He does not walk inside. Instead, glancing up at the cloudy sky and seeing the darkest shades of grey overlapping each other with slow motion explosions reserves more often for films, or the witnessing of some awful catastrophe. They say that time slows down in these moments, and the memories are more vivid.

The young man considers time. Even if it paced itself at the speed of electricity or sound or light, the clouds would still move as slowly as they do now, colliding into new forms that cannot be imagined but by those whom have paid substantial amounts of their attention to these movements. The mountains lurk in the distance to the west, as if crawling amongst the hills so as to not be detected. Their confidence betrays them, and the young man knows that what appears to be blue on a clear day is actually a deep and unrelenting green that covers the land – mother nature’s baby blanket, pulled from the chest where hope was left.

It was not her hope that remained, however. Hers was that she would not have to pull this one out, for it was her last treasure, her souvenir that would mark her final gift, and she, like any mother whose child is coming of age, does not want to bestow it quite yet. There must be a greater signal than mere numbers, and she will wait for it – her child is strong, and left to his own devices, will create entire worlds with his mind that prosper and advance through ages as chapters through books. This is her fear, and it consumes her.

The scratching notes from the violin dilute the air, making it thinner, polluted. the wind carries the sound between the buildings and north, which is rare but goes unnoticed. Soon, the old gentleman with scarred and herculean hands will discover his soul and with a single breath, they might come to understand the frailty of the instrument they hold, which is not like what they are accustomed to. Shovels and plows can be thrown about and used to manipulate the strength of the earth and so must be strong themselves. But the violin is light and delicate and used properly, can manipulate the emotions of those listening, even in passing, and can decimate burden, tension, and hatred – and that kind of strength cannot be found in a shovel, or even a tractor.

Until then, the notes will be unpleasant and coarse, fighting their way through the air with stunted determination, and may succumb to any barrier polite enough to stand in their way. And they will earn the boy’s respect, or at least his curiosity before they die, because it is not often one finds an old farmer playing a violin out in this country. Though, it is rarer still to find cityfolk out here, and the boy is from the city, he is sure, even if he doesn’t speak of it.

Just as well, for he has adapted quickly and works hard even when there is only light work to be done. Besides, it is nice to have the spirit of a young person about – the lives of everyone around shine a little brighter, and he could swear the his brother has been feeling better these past few months. It would be too much to run the farm alone anymore – otherwise, he’d have to sell and move to the city, and frequent grocery stores and shopping malls. The farmer chuckles at the though and then inhales a deep breath, lifts the violin to his chin, and plays.

the iceland backstep

14 December 2009 § Leave a comment

Power unequal to any human force, the predictability of a gale type wind,
dizzy with rejection to birds and man alike. Any other theories will be
pounded into the ground, a shallow pool of oblivion at my feet,
and there is a god, sitting on a rock getting rained on, contemplating
suicide or considering his existence kind of futile.

gate code peace camp, literary atrocity. I’ve gone out for a beer, so
these puddles some call roads are contradictory but only when slept in,
ears folding in on themselves, shutting out magnificence – the lack of light
is what I find so endearing, or the ghost that becomes of you when they
are switched on, the city rolls like waves and erases what I’ve written,
and that’s okay because it flew away long before they were turned to stone,
underneath the mountain – the eagle perched above, with rather poor posture.

There really aren’t so many more walls acting their part between us,
but if that’s the case, then why do I know I might miss the terribly
unimportant once we’ve gone our ways, so travel lightly,
duck between the walls when possible, but don’t forget to translate
the fallen, and what beckons.

What beckons me is this and now, remembering the balcony.
Opid is the stairway, leading to the treeless door, a pastel
and white graffiti summed up in a single verse, a saying I’ll
never understand in a form I’ll clearly see – as often as alley cats
are always strays, at least until they take away from the facade,
the obvious pretending they’re left for dead until they’re saved.

Where Am I?

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