circuitous design

30 April 2011 § Leave a comment

aesop unfabled teaches the crow
how to kill prey from a distance.

the crowd shuffles back and forth,
sins collecting glass at their toes.

hearts broken and open
on the dying room floor

she’s looking for her soul, perhaps,
I doubt she’s going to find one.

friction follows friendliness’ foray.
fool’s mistaken for a second family.

he murdered the first familiar verse,
and keeping it from harm,
learned to form a value.

since peace we’ve been retreating
all in the same direction,
but the technology is here to
grind love back into miracles, so
you can hand over your heart again.


i’m taking a sick day.

26 April 2011 § Leave a comment

you spoil me.

for you, i have both admiration and contempt.
how dare you disturb my self-destruction?
what did I do to deserve this?
how can you care that much, knowing me as you do?
certainly, the words I hide from writing haven’t captured my imagination yet.
but that’s not your loss.

and you.

keep smiling.
you’ve got the blueprint of the world drawn
into your thumbprint,
and the borderless map, folded to oblivion,
accompanies the streetlights
like hearts and mountains that,
in summer,
forget just how to melt.


we are the fortunate ones.
we drive dump trucks by day
and beemers by night,
find faults in perfection,
cast love from our sight.

I’m sorry, train,
but you missed me.
though it would have been something
to stay a few minutes longer,
to watch the sun burn up the horizon.

toward the end of winter, we always say it’s going to snow one more time.
because we’re loath to see the spring?
because we’re anxious over winter’s end?
or because we’re scared to jump back into life again?

all is not lost.


20 April 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m usually in a bad mood by the time I think of coming here to write a little bullshit for your entertainment. Sometimes, I just want to say ‘fuck you’, turn around on my right heel, smile contempt, and walk away. But that pleasure only lasts a few seconds, and I can rarely justify the sheer work it takes to try to undo something that I never really meant to begin with. But I’m not allowed to have mood swings, because I’m a guy and we’re all straightforward, logical creatures. Every one of us, insanity be damned. But this is no request.

I had a point, and it’s gone now. I dulled it over, which means I didn’t go where I should have with that.

In nine days, I will have completed my first year of college, six years late and not a day too soon. Unfortunately, the majority of these two semesters have been plagued by whatever else my mind thought was necessary and important, and these things do not often mingle with homework and studying. But I’m making up for that shit now, with some dedication and forgetting, some letting go and a few more sleepless nights to get me back on track. The laziness was worthwhile to the extent of notching this belt again. I’m well-fed, stable, and taken care of, and I can’t stand it anymore – I let this abundance turn me into a washboard of emotion and insecurity and need, and I’m probably delusional by now. Luckily, the sun is putting in some overtime to help me clear things up.

It’s just occurred to me that people read this sometimes (no shit, sherlock, it’s the internet), and that I rarely provide context for anything, despite claiming – in real life – that context is everything, that it determines how things stand, that it is the scale by which virtually all things should be measured, because there are no universal laws here, no categorical imperatives that work flawlessly. We can poke holes in philosophy all night long ( the sun will be back in a few hours) and never get anywhere unless we have context. So I’m going to tell a short story about context.

There was this girl, Jennifer, that moved into my house and took over my room without my permission. Actually, I wasn’t there when she moved in, but my red bunk bed was, and my football-shaped toybox was still there, and I felt that those two items screamed SEAN loud enough for her to hear over the Tales From the Crypt episodes we’d watch later on her little black and white TV. But by that time, I didn’t care that she was in my room. I was more concerned with getting on the bus in the morning so her dad wouldn’t beat the shit out of me all day. He seemed to enjoy that.

Her dad moved in too, but he took over the dining room. There was a blue Ibanez electric guitar on a stand, and he had two drumsets. I remember a mixer, though I didn’t know what it was at the time, and he had a computer! Windows 3.1, and he once let me play Doom for about three minutes. Other than that, I wasn’t allowed in the dining room, and had to walk all the way around the double-wide mobile home, over the linoleum floors I scrubbed every day when I was home, because god forbid he have dirty floors, and shame upon the day I was free of bruises.

See this, here? I’m providing the circumstances, the context, for the story, so you can understand it better.

It didn’t click in my head til years later that my favorite memories from those few months in my own home (an intermission, nothing more) had to do with zombies and monsters and talking skeletons more than anything else. My brother and I would lay out our mass of hot wheels cars and do battle, setting the corvettes up on the edge of the bed and the vipers and the lamborghinis on the ground, the trucks in an infantry line at the base of the door and we’d listen to that purple people eater song over and over and over again. Then the big man in the diaper would come in to the room, pull at the waist of my pants and pour bleach into my underwear. I was dirty, he said, and this is how you clean yourself. Years later, when I came back from the hospitals and foster care, my brother yelled at me for not wanting to play hot wheels anymore. In his eyes, I’d ‘changed,’ and even to this day, there was no coming back from that.

Anyway, I was reading a book by Chuck Dickens, (I don’t remember which one, and to say that it was a big book doesn’t really narrow it down), and in one of his twenty five line sentences, I came across a word I didn’t know. The word itself wasn’t important. That I was trying to read Dickens when I was in third grade was a bit of an enigma, but that, too, doesn’t matter. The word I didn’t know was important. I didn’t have a dictionary.

(this is the part of the story when you learn why I told you all that shit before)

Well, okay. that was a lie. I did have a dictionary. The problem was that it was on the bookshelf in the living room. Given the circular nature of this particular mobile home, and the fact that I was on the opposite end of it from the living room, this was a big fucking problem. You see, the diaper man was eating hot dogs and ketchup in the kitchen with my brother and his daughter (I wasn’t permitted to eat with them, you see). The kitchen was right outside my bedroom door (that is, the bedroom I shared with my brother, since the high school girl needed her own room for god knows what). Now, I couldn’t go through the kitchen because that led into the dining room, and the old bearded motherfucker would surely have thrown his beer glass at my head had I tried to walk through there. On the other hand, if I walked the other way, I would walk over the smooth and clean linoleum that I’d spent some untold number of hours in my jammers scrubbing the day before, and because I was pretty well convinced that I was the dirty plague he said I was, I wasn’t about to do that. So I was stuck in the room with the book and the hot wheels and the word I didn’t know.

What does an eight year old do with a word he doesn’t know? He might cry because he can’t figure it out, or he might throw the book across the room a few times, seemingly out of sheer frustration, but probably just to get attention.

A few minutes later, Jennifer came in, cautiously, because if her dad knew she was talking to me, he probably would have thrown her out the window or driven over her legs with a semi-truck, like in that road trip story he told me once. The guy and the motorcycle. the lights went out, and it got dark. I always wondered why the guy was lying in the middle of the road, and why he let a semi run over his legs, but that’s another story, and according to the big baby, printed in a magazine somewhere.

I told her my problem, that this idiot writer of books wrote a word that I didn’t know, and that I was mad. Skipping over the word was out of the question. It was a wall, and I had to knock it down. She picked up the book, and I showed her what the word was. She just looked at it. Surely, some old high schooler would know the word! how could this happen, two idiots in this leftover room too close to the shed outside and prone to its shadow too soon in the day? She read the page – not the sentence, which was likely an anvil in and of itself, but the whole page – and skipped over the word I didn’t know, and kept reading. She went over it with me three or four times without that word, and she said that if I look at the words (you know, the ones I did know) around it, that I might be able to guess what it means.

It probably worked, her and I sitting there in the room with one bed, and to this day I don’t remember ever sleeping in that house for those months I lived there, let alone that room, and suddenly I had this tool to look at the page with, to look at the world with, to figure out what something means even if I’ve never seen it before. She called it something like ‘reading around the word,’ but high schoolers are usually dumb like that, and much later I started calling it ‘context’ because, well, I didn’t know what else to call it.

I never finished that Dickens book, which isn’t really novel because I’ve never finished any of Chuck’s books, except for the short one with the mouse and the christmas tree. David Copperfield is on my bookshelf these days (which is in my bedroom, by the way, so no one can say I’ve never learned anything the easy way), and I want to say that that was the book, because I knew the kid saw ghosts and I wanted to say that I did too, and even if I didn’t, I talked to them because they were far better company than the bearded diaper man who played with his guns more than his guitars, with those stupid turquoise plates with the splotch of magenta paint on the bottom, which matched the ketchup stain on the top, dried and crusted, just for me, because I had to wash them when they finished sucking down their hot dogs and talking about llamas at the picnic table in the kitchen.

17 April 2011 § Leave a comment

We must have walked across downtown six or seven times before I noticed that I missed the sunset. I’d been keeping an eye on it, wanting to head back to the ocean as the sun dived between the Lake Clark mountains. The determined ice floe made its way south from the glaciers. It made a mess of the glass sea, littered it with dirt-covered golf balls and styrofoam cups and books and whatever else we leave on the living room floor when we have a bad day.

We walked in circles, and I wondered as I passed businesses I didn’t recognize how long they’d been there and if they were fronts to launder money or abducted women through the ‘system.’

I asked her to tell me a lie, because we were wading through all that honesty and I wanted to hear something that didn’t make me look the other way, or close my eyes, or toe the dirt as if I was putting out a tossed cigarette. She said she failed P.E. in 6th grade, and that her family has dinner with loan sharks.

When she spoke, she looked bewildered, as if in front of her a ghost was murdering in cold blood the two bums we passed by earlier that had offered us a shot from the bottle of Monarch they were sipping on (we’d declined, but only to be polite), and there was nothing she could do.

We’d established that guilt was useless. Not pointless, because it makes us feel as if we’re still good people, but definitely useless because no one else could see it – all they could see were the actions that caused the guilt, and negativity never solves anything.

I stepped on the cracks in the sidewalk with hopes that the earthquakes would come. Just the other night, there were quakes in Japan, Tanzania, and somewhere in South America, or so the iphone flickered to us as we talked about rolling joints and leaving a permanent mark on humanity. Maybe one would hit Alaska and Fourth Avenue would drop ten feet again, just like in the pictures in that old theater. Then I wouldn’t be so inclined to tell the truth, to say things like why I always have to have a reason why I’m doing something, especially when I know that no one’s going to ask. Just in case, I tell myself. Just in case someone like me comes along.

I mentioned that it was amazing how much a walk could teach you about yourself. Me about myself. I told a story from the third person about this time I was proud of someone else. I had no reason to remove myself, but I wanted to be detached from it, just to see how it felt. I liked it. I am not my story, and I have no need to be.

What about that time I introduced myself as Trader? I could have been anyone. But I was me, just with a different name. And the power it gave me back then!

Earth is a simple place. This world is not.

12 April 2011 § Leave a comment

with a bottle of whiskey and some candlelight, i’m wondering how to attract more dust and burnt rubber into my lungs. change is off chasing the sun somewhere – we parted ways a while back, when i walked into a bank to ask for credit on my word. i said i’d be back in just a minute, but they looked at me inside and said they’d be back in just a minute.

the scratches lacked the nerve to follow me to the surface, and i was sitting there with a brochure that tried to sell me something to believe in. i wasn’t buying, and neither was the bank. they rejected all my promises, told me to hit the road. i walked back to the alleyway to find my old friend making trouble with his former life. in a second, it was over. no endearing bro-fight, no punches traded. i’m pretty sure that dilapidated girl looked at me right before i jumped the fence, and she knew something more than me, like ‘this is why you keep it close.’

of course, i ignored her gaze because i knew already. i know everything there is to know, except for why you’re still reading this. so keep it up, you might as well, but invite yourself, and cordially, to ask yourself why you’re staring at the screen and why you feel the need to speed underneath the bridge where sits the cowardly man with the big expensive laser gun pointed at your head. no one is going to ask you why, but it’s good to know these things just in case you’re caught off guard. you might need to justify to yourself why you’re walking down the highway at three in the morning, not quite as high as a kite, but getting there with another set of headlights and two exhausted sighs.

don’t make it so obvious when you’re rehearsing, lest the innocent call you out. but when it’s real, watch out for the 88 percenters – they’ll tattletale and break even with the morning tide, in hopes of getting paid another month of rent. keep ’em tied, the shoelaces and the practice pressing buttons. divide your attention span into plates of apple pie and ice cream. free the fireweed and honey, and i wondered, why today?

face it, there’s no more sense here, and even less for you to hold – so please make your way to the exit doors. they’re just below the green lights that read EXIT PLEASE, for your life, but please preserve your memory.

with what else could we create this consciousness, this lack of faith in the remainder of humanity? i’m done with it, we’re through. trade in a new name for all your change and take a fabulous breath as you step out into the rain. the green will be here soon, and i won’t until it fades again, that evening sunlight through the trees. on any other day it might have been beautiful and lovely and full of summer, but i’m pretty sure everything that day was full of hate.

i know a little bit of everything, and it burns my tongue and insecurity: batteries never die, they just give up all they have, and they’re afterwards disposed of. i can’t be that. i can’t be the user, and i cannot be the dead.

a bed of quarters clinking poetry and love.
her quarrel is with me, my dear,
so walk with me, we’ll talk.

dear new york, i love you.

9 April 2011 § Leave a comment

New York was sleepless and full of light. The daylight of Times Square invaded us through the hotel room window at midnight as would a movie camera, the director insisting it would make us famous.

The desperate flare of perseverance that inspired me to walk holes into my shoes came in the form of small ideas and ironies. I slept off the grip jet lag had on my eyelids and didn’t even dream about the poetry I missed.

I’ll miscue nothing else, I promised the pavement, when I should have been talking to myself. Looking up was the giveaway, like idealism at home: the locals said that if you don’t belong, don’t be long.

I always had a problem with that, but I etched it into my front door anyway, with hope that you would read it before you knocked. And I wonder how many bread crumbs you picked up that tasted like a warning.

I walked the financial district empty. There wasn’t a soul in those concrete canyons except for the guy I bought a hat from in his shop – a few hours and a hundred blocks away. On an island with that many people, serendipitous occasions like that must happen all the time.

As I strolled through Battery Park, the namesake of that ridiculous area in downtown Asheville that I should have known had something to do with New York, I saw the statue of liberty like a green popsicle on the horizon, holding a candle, and a rat the size of my foot scurried by me. Poetry plastered across banners advertising new condos let me know just how lucky I was to be in New York, of all places. According to them, Simone de Beauvoir couldn’t live without the audial anarchy, couldn’t appreciate the rest of the world if these shops weren’t around to comfort her. Whitman used to swim in the East River, and I’m curious to know how many people will say they do that now. We don’t even have to start with Fitzgerald.

If Alaska had a book like The Great Gatsby, this place would be ruined forever. But New York can handle it. The concrete monoliths at ground zero testify to the absence how immense it is, feeding its ego.

How many times did I feel the magnetic pull of Greenwich Village, ending up there at four a.m. to play chess, nurse a beer, or finally have the chance to sit up on a stoop and write a poem in the rain? Subways rumbled from within, their mechanics oblivious to destiny, and I never saw the streetlights from a dilapidated window so clearly.

Pedal your way to freedom without leaving your miniature prison. They build up and up and up there, the white devil and his counterparts, let me listen to you preach right now. Read that book to me in lullabies, and tell me what I’m guilty of. Look me in the eye with that misplaced hate, because I want it to fly first class into the atmosphere with a dose of my forgiveness. And that shit is expensive, so please don’t waste it.

Run up behind me again, motherfucker, and I’ll race you to the moon. And trust that I don’t fear you – I’ve just learned my lesson a time or two too many not to know what you’ve got in store for me around the corner. I’ll find the roof eventually, and shower you with wet confetti cut from hundred dollar bills and marriage vows composed in factories by the thousand.

Post-mortem sunshine overdue this morning. Caffeine around the bend: we still expect you to color inside the lines, no matter how cold you are from the concrete and the stage, let the whiskey warm you and learn to turn the page before it yellows, brittle, insecure. 1938 one time again, happy birthday, here’s your plight.

If I touched the sidewalks, the tarmac of pedestrians, I’d be surprised if she saw me more than once as a burden worth mentioning.

last night in brooklyn.

7 April 2011 § Leave a comment

i wrote my first editorial today.

well, no. I did one in high school about some place i wanted to turn into a skatepark, and the paper printed it.
seeing it in print filled me with regret.

my math teacher put it up on the wall of the classroom.
he died six months later.

I decided that I would never be a journalist.

i knew everything when i was 16.

thank you for existing today. it made my heart beat twice at once.
it was like poetry from children who don’t yet know what they’re doing.

with the pictures and scenes we give to them, they learn to bleed productively.
she lusted for the page with black leather ink, brisk in the sun and shining.
from a lightning bolt parade, she learned her age and how to fake it.
and license plate horizons make the toilsome tornadoes go away.

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