Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Her Voice

In the distance I can hear her soft voice singing. They are small little words on her short little red tongue.
Such a tiny little voice in a tiny little body. I can hear her singing somewhere in the distance. Maybe a few feet away, perhaps in the garden beyond the window, or maybe, even closer. With each note she shakes off a little more dirt, finding her way out of the coffin hidden in my scattered memory. The broken rusty nails have done their job, but now is another time, and the song awaits. The melody dances in the air, like a silk curtain catching a spring breeze. It comes out into the open air, wild and slightly chaotic in its form and carries me with it. I see it all.
I see El Salvador and my old small house. The house I left for the great open and cold expanse of the north. The people and buildings that are made of steel and scrubbed clean of their sweat-filled dirt. The people I left that lived in the sun, in the thick air that threatened to choke us all. We lived with the threat of fire, of revenge and anger. Even the ground birthed its demon and left it there, left it as a signal for all of us to remember. I looked out the window each morning at the volcano that shadowed us, always waiting, lurking so close, speaking only with a silent threat.
And I hear her voice. It has never faded. I hear my name and the voices of my sisters and mom slightly further away. Are they still nailed in there? Are they out there or in here? The darkness shows me nothing. I look and look. The garden is empty, the rooms are deserted. They must be in here. Buried deeper beneath a thousand memories and desires. How did they get there and how do they call to me now? They call my name in unison, like a chant. I take a deep breath and lunge forward. The corridors are dark, almost black, but the air is hot and so sticky. I drip with effort as my bare feet carry me further in.
Then everything explodes. The black turns into a million crystals and I watch them tumble towards me…all those little moments of light. It happens so fast, but I watch it stretch through lifetimes. Her voice calls to me and I watch the little beads fall. There is no end. No ground. No place to ever fall to. So I watch them move, up or down no longer matters. The categorization is as useless as the thought. They just go, and I watch the little beads of light trail away like shooting stars.
I hear her voice and see her little tongue once again. Her little body. The broken nails. The melody that drifts over me like a soft river. I look into the darkness and see an explosion once again, we tumble together, sounds, flesh, and memories, all dying together once again.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In The Labyrinth of Dreams

Ghosts and demons and aliens, all manifestations of my extreme paranoia, my Phillip K. Dick style mania. The world is not what you are. It is not what you are suspended in. It is a photograph, a movie projected on a screen in front of a paralyzed test subject. God’s test subject, watching the film called Life again and again and again, crying and laughing and twitching and wondering why. Why am I here? Why am I seeing this, feeling this? What possible purpose can it serve? Fleeing from captivity into the activity of the film, fleeing from the film into fantasies from fantasies about freedom back through fantasies that reflect the state of captivity. What if I am my own test subject? What if I strapped myself into this chair to see what worlds I could make in the shifting halls of smoke and mirrors called mind? I am God imprisoned by myself, encapsulated in magick and movies and dreams, lost in my worlds within worlds within worlds, murmuring I am this, I am that, I am, I am. The tiniest crack in the sidewalk is my greatest creation, the escape, the route from the surface to the depths and from the depths to the surface. The teardrop was an unexpected side effect, the beaker bursting. I thought it would hold. I thought I would hold. I thought, “I” and it was too small and it ran away without me, a shadow without the first form to command it. I am Peter Pan chasing my shadow, begging it to come back and stay with me, trying to make it stick with soap, but of course it wants to get away. It doesn’t want to break , but I break it just trying to be closer to it, trying to get inside of it, trying to be one with my creation. The Other. Another myself. It runs and I chase it. I am running. I am chasing, I am being chased and the illusion is being spun, the illusion that something is moving, when really I am sweating, strapped into the chair paralyzed, drugged. I have been given the injection. Something from outside was put in me. Did I volunteer for this? I never volunteered for this. They call me his most beloved because I volunteered for this, to be a creator like the creator. I volunteered to be his partner in this experiment, to create worlds within worlds, to be made in his image. Now it’s swimming in me, I am swimming in it. Oh to dream. To dream of white houses and children playing jacks on the kitchen floor and petting kittens in the garden and I cook the dinners and he comes home and hangs his hat and the children clamber into his lap and we hold hands and go to bed together to dream another dream. A dream. A place with four walls, a place that holds you down, holds you still, keeps you in so that you don’t spill out. A place that keeps the big one out, a place where the little hider can evade the big seeker, dreaming more specters to keep itself company. Here in the world of specters and houses with white walls they give you pills to keep you safe. Paranoid is sick. But the paranoid schizophrenic is made in God’s image. God is sick because you are running away, the thoughts spilling from her cracked and weary head. Not dead, but broken, and you, you demon, you devil, you runaway dream, you housewife in your yellow apron and posy pink rubber gloves are doing the breaking because you fear being broken.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Whirling Dervish

I was a young girl of eight years. Pale and soft, still smiling with the slightest provocation, still open to the world as it came in through my eyes and bedroom window. I had on a new white dress with yards of soft cotton fabric that lifted with the movement of my legs and floated like clouds and mermaid hair. It was my habit to stand barefoot on the front yawn and spin. On sunny days or the cool afternoons of fall, I would stand there and twirl with my arms raised, open, inviting the sun and wind to come to me. Layers of air would cut past me as I moved through space, cutting the air with my outstretched palms.
Sometimes I would close my eyes and just focus on the feeling of turning and turning, but most of the time I would keep my eyes open and see the blur of colors. Streaks of green and brown and blue. My eyes were a camera lens that didn’t have time to focus, just gagged streaks that darted and soft colors that called me “friend.” I caught the hazy image of a red car and the hedges dotted with pink flowers and red flowers. I was like a ballerina in a music box, turning because it was the only thing I wanted, the only thing I was. In my peripheral vision I could see the white of my flowing skirt and the tender neon green of the grass turning around my small white feet.
After many rotations, I would lose control of my head and the weight of it would pull back hard towards my back and I could then see the blue sky through the blurry green and yellow tree tops and the golden glow of sunlight. With my eyes closed now, I concentrated on the feel of the tingling wind on my face and hands and bare ankles. It rushed past, softly grazing my bulging cheeks. My beating heart thudded in a chest that didn’t seem completely my own.
With each pivot more air filled my lungs and the excitement grew in my belly. It was the edge, the verge of chaos. How long could I spin, how long could the skirt twirl around my thin legs and my smile hold? How long could my stomach hang on for the ride? How long before my eyes gave up on their attempt to identify the blurred fragments of forgotten forms? Just when would I collapse? When would the chaos topple me over, sending me back to safe stability?
My little feet turned and turned, moving in the same small space, turning and turning, taking me for the ride I wanted, always on the cusp of too much. Something that begins, must always end, and though I learned to endure and turn longer than I ever thought possible, breaking my own limits again and again, at some point I would always fall over, my body simply unable to handle the circles any longer.
When I finally succumbed to gravity and tired muscles, I would lie on the grass, the dew soaking through my dress, cooling my hot skin. Laying there with my eyes open, the world continued to move even though I had stopped. It contracted and pulsed in the flowing pattern of a giant kaleidoscope. I watched it continue to turn without me. An overwhelming, slightly scary feeling would wash over me as I realized, " I am part of the pattern. The shapes, the movement. It moves through me, it is me, and also nothing at all.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

City Soundscape

The sounds of a city rise and fall. The low rumbling of a Number 19 bus, the spurting of steam from stacks of silver pipes, the screeching of a wheel in desperate need of oil. Then silence…for a fraction of a second every noise vanishes in unison…then the jackhammer begins again. Then the Harley roars to life when the light turns green, it cuts through the city like a metallic knife, slicing it in two. And in the darkness, as the sun slips below the skyline of cement pillars, the volume is turned low by an unseen hand. Just the occasional bursting glass bottle, the sporadic deep throaty shout into the night. A lone car cruising on an empty city street. Just the drug addicts and work obsessed and graveyard-duty custodians move in the blackness of a near-silent night. The signal of light is the early morning grinding of the first train. Its riders, the sleepy-eyed occupiers of a fluorescent capsule travel through permanent darkness below ground. An airplane coasts along high above, giving off a rumble so deep it seems inaudible.
The city is the grind and noise of eccentric youth in a dimly lit garage. The music of metal meeting stick. The sound of rocks on asphalt, screeching vocals, un-tuned chords.
It is not composed. Not practiced. Each sound exists as an individual, bursting forth and dying without a thought of the overall piece, without any purposeful connection to the entire city soundscape. These sounds can never learn another way, they will never be a conscious symphony. The bus will always be guided, the plane on its own course. The birds move on their own time, with the wind and the sun. The shouting comes sporadically, from anger, from alcohol, from confrontation. Each sound bursts forth like the wind, unplanned and spontaneous. Let the young conductor walk away in frustration, some things cannot be guided.
The sounds simply Are. Rising and falling with the moon and subsequent sun. They can not be tuned or made into something pleasing. You cannot blow life and consciousness into the subway, you cannot regulate the sounds of construction work to peak in the last measure. And once it is understood that the behemoth of gears and steam and metal cannot be molded, your mind might then be free to hear it as it is. Their sources might be as dead as metal, but their noises, moving through you as they will, can induce moods and emotion. As the vibrations travel through muscle and fiber, through you symbolic constructs and your private inner language, you might be changed.
Approach it softly. You can find life in the grinding of machines, just listen. That is all that can be done. It cannot be constructed. Its sounds cannot be reformed. Just listen. Listen as the birds squeak hidden in a tree, listen as the sound of a motorcycle peaks perfectly with the clicking of high heels on a sidewalk. It cannot be tuned, but you can tune yourself. The city cannot be molded, the orchestra moves in its own random order, without thought and planning and careful practice. The sounds cannot be changed, but you can learn to hear the perfect beauty in its clashes, clanks and booms. Your perception is the one thing that can be consciously altered. Listen to what is here before you. Listen for what is and not for what isn’t. Maybe in that small change lies the secret of its roaring music.

Friday, September 4, 2009


The night is dark and the window opens unto only more of the same, blackness. My eyes are open, so open that I can see beyond the room and beyond the green lawn outside the front door and further down the street and around the corner and many miles and many freeways ahead of me.
I see him, in his small chamber. Not a sacred space cultivated by love and attention and smelling of sage and musty sex. I can smell the burnt spoons and the burnt foil and the rotting garbage that is never attended to. I see his hunched form, so pathetically large and small at the same time. I hear the soft buzzing of the single light, how can such a small bulb emit so much energy? How come I can hear it worlds away, here in this small blackened room, my wife next to me sleeping, undisturbed by the vision of a crumbling man. A man alone. A man that weeps without tears.
The burden is mine alone. In the hours before light, while the moon creeps across the sky, I know that he is awake too. I feel his heart racing…racing so fast. Not from lovemaking or any other activity, he has sat on that bed for hours, days perhaps, pissing into jugs when he feels the need. He only moves his hands and arms. From his chest to the plastic bag to the glass tube to the lighter, then back down to his chest as the rush comes over him and takes him on a ride away from sadness and those unstoppable tears and that pain that never seems to quiet down. Those couple of seconds, that buzzing ride, is the only respite he will have until the need comes once again. And it will come. And he will answer.
I am startled out of thoughts, my wife jumps, grabbing onto me from habit. I walk quickly to my cell phone on the other side of the room, picking it up off the desk. I do not recognize the number.
I hear an automated voice.
“This is a collect call from a correctional facility. If you wish to accept the charges, please press 1, now.”
I press one. So he is there, he is finally in the place I hoped for him to always avoid. He is not in the filthy chamber I imagined, but in another made of glass and concrete and populated with the cruelest of eyes. Even more decrepit, lacking even more warmth. Truly windowless. This is it. He is there and I listen to his silence, see his brown eyes darting back and forth, looking for my shape and hearing only the buzzing and beeping of an institution and the automatons that inhabit it.
I feel sorrow, pity, and pain. I hear his breath in the phone, it is erratic. Neither of us speak.
Why do I spend so much time, so much energy and attention on my brother’s needs? On his wishes? It is the middle of the night, his dreams take the space of my own. His nightmares fill me. His unconscious shapes and struggles, they hold my eyes open in the darkness. Do I fear his death more than my own? How long have I tried to protect him? From himself…from my visions…from my daydreams…
He is cold and shivering, surrounded by brick walls and with far more enemies than friends. He is trembling, and I know that his trembling is the result of another frightening vision. He has seen the monster. It rushes towards him, and it is terrible and ugly and distorted, but it is his face. His body that has bulged on the top and shrunk at the bottom. He has seen himself, the terrible vision of a man never known. A man that demons calls their servant. I stand right next to him. I watch him and his friends as they are attacked by a group three times their size. I hear the sounds of bones turning to pulp. I hear the soft whistling that accompanies pain.
I feel his fear, his loneliness.
I fall down into a dark abyss. I let myself be consumed in an immense void that seems to open up from within the center of my being.
Death itself roams the rooms of my house, it tramples the green lawn outside, it takes the brother I once had. Fear is upon me. Total fear. My body is a sweaty cage.
He is alone, and he weeps.
I’m escaping…I’m escaping…
“Hello?” he says.
“Yeah, I’m here. I was just thinking about you.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Ritual

The small window lets in no light, not even a flickering star finds its way to the bedside. The dark sky looms like a giant, encompassing totality in its blackened gaze. I raise my head slightly and look to the end table. A red light informs me of our tilt on a spinning orb: 4:31AM. My neck releases its weight and I fall to the pillow like a rock thrown to a still lake. Soundlessly. Effortlessly, cast by an absent hand, a missing intention. Rain falls on the window, it hits so silently, like a thought never spoken. Just a moist, quiet mood is revealed. Just me and the perception of movement and inaudible splashes. Rain clouds open in the night, opening and releasing the pregnant fullness of water, quietly fucking the land that waits below. And if their meeting is silent, what is it that speaks in whispers? Who brings the nameless mists into this dark room, the reverberating echoes of ancient Espers?
Bindhi meows. I hear his plea, his hunger unconcerned with the red light of the clock or the dark time or the tired bodies that drift between lands. I feel Heather’s weight shift and the bed moves and I hear a door opening. A small jingle bell catches my ears. The bed shifts again, I feel a hand on my stomach, "You didn’t complete the ritual," I say. Like a child’s voice she would later say, in the arms of the night, my words, my sounds, were untainted by demands and adult interactions and years of accumulated memory. Like a child’s voice, she would say when light had shaken me and all hints of that innocence were well hidden once again.
Other stories call and the dreams start to tear at the known and I think of all the little people inside, looking out but rarely speaking. And I know that I am them, and their fears are mine, and my unspoken truths are theirs. All of us, on the edge of being completely forgotten, quietly watching the shadow show like a TV with no switch. Like faded family photographs, portals into the memories of birthday parties and the first bicycle and siblings in front of a Christmas tree. All these faces silently watch me, looking into me, seeing my future, wondering where I am.
Suddenly Bindhi jumps on the bed, he walks to the edge and nuzzles my head. I hear his need, his plea once again. As silently as the rain, I pull the warm covers away and step onto the forgiving carpet. I walk to the kitchen, the small jingling sound following me for thirty feet. I pour some dried food into his bowl and then I use the bathroom. He follows me back to bed and the ritual is complete.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Warm People

Oh the things that they do, the warm people, the people with lovers and pets and warm beds. They have rituals. At a certain time, food is prepared, stories are read, television is watched, baths are had. Things are cleaned and prepared for the invocation of life. There is a woman in the kitchen and she cleans it and then she cooks in it and all of the many creatures of the household are fed. Her life, her love flows out from this central place, the hearth, the kitchen where the stove burns warm and she dances from counter to counter preparing the magick that will keep them all turning and dancing. They will dance out the doors and into the world and will toil and work there. They will find reasons to smile, moments of greatness, and also moments to weep, moments when they are injured by cruel words or harsh glances or casual accidents. Then they will dance back into the home, drawn by the golden threads of the hearth, led back to the place where they will be nourished and prepared for new conquest, new triumphs, new failures. Each one has a place in the dance. The soft cat curled on a chair, the bristly dog sniffing in the yard, the woman and the man and the little people. The warm people thriving in their special place, their place where they can be all together.
Are they real? Or are they a dream? A dream of the cold people who lie alone and gray, who rise and wonder why, whose stoves are cold and whose refrigerators are empty. They eat ramen from the microwave. If there is more than one sharing the same roof, they eat their ramen separately at different times whenever their stomachs growl. They watch television, but not together, each in their own room, each tuned to a different station. If there is a man and a woman, then they sleep with their backs to one another, aching with loneliness. If there is only one or the other, they sleep very little, staying up late to chat in online forums, to play computer games, or to read penny romance novels in a bathtub scented with lilac bubbles until the precious heat is gone.
Are there any warm people? I have always supposed that there were. Watching the Cosby show on the television late at night in a giant empty house where the lights are kept off to save electricity. A house set at the foot of a dark mountain where there are children and a mother but the father is gone, where the dog and the cat sleep in a wooden house set in a lonesome field. Sometimes the mother brings the cat inside, because it is a baby, small and white, and the father is not there to enforce the rules of the house. They eat cold food off of a platter and sit on blankets spread over a hard wood floor and watch the warm people on the television set.
For a while they are the warm people. The people who laugh and hug and have what they need and are happy with what they have. Then the kitten goes back outside to huddle with the dog and the children travel down the long dark hall, running so that nothing grabs their legs from the inky darkness. They crawl into an enormous bed and the mother sings until they sleep and goes away down the long dark hall and finds her own enormous bed adrift in the black night and then she sleeps or she weeps.
I know that the cold people are real. I have lived among them. I am still one of them. I strive to be the warm on one hand and on the other, my life unfolds as it was set to unfold. In the beginning I was among the cold, and in the end I will be among the cold. The father is always missing, the kitchen is always cold. The darkness is always encroaching, and the kitten is kept out of the home.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Train Car

The train car rattles on the parallel tracks below. The seats, the windows, the people, they all vibrate as metal makes contact with itself and glides a hundred bodies through the countryside. The deafening buzz of the train makes all conversation impossible and I give my body over to inertia as we speed down the tracks. I look out the window and gaze at the world moving by me. I shall not be passing this way again. The houses, that small dog, the boy on his bike…I will take their memories, committing them to vision, words, song. Outside, the day is bright with unrestrained sunlight. The clouds have taken the warning and changed their form, hiding from the heat below green leaves and soggy fallen branches. There is a jolt and I look up, discovering that I’m in a yellow-lit train car. I notice for the first time that the air is warm and stifling and I’m here, sitting on plush red seats. I look around me with a jolt of perception, five others share this yellow space with me.
I have been here before, I have seen this scene a thousand times. When I awake from dreams in the blackness of night I have the yellow light on my lips. Diving into the ocean, I see the woman eating her small sandwich across from me on her red seat. I have felt the heat coming in through the plate glass window, the buzzing drilling relentlessly through my bones. It enters my ears, vibrating my skull, shaking the red fibers that hold me together. These people, yes, the ones that sit with me…strangers to this body, strangers to time and language and geography, put together by chance and happenstance and availability. I've seen them all before. In dreams with dotted rainbows. In the leaves blowing in the fall, in the snow that drifts pass the edge of my softened mind. Yes, they are same... the same woman with her still wet hair, the smell of perfume clinging to her wrists and nape. Yes, the same square back of the man to my right. The same necks enclosed in ties. Exactly the same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow. Not a word has been spoken, in the yellow train car or in the open-aired station or the village market. Never a word shared, never an intimacy. I look for recognition in their eyes but not one glances up from their inner world. Their expressions as they fumble through their bags looking for change for the coffee cart, their stark woolen clothing and the man’s silk necktie, they remain unshaken.
It all seems so familiar, I know it, I see it daily, it comes to me in dreams. And still, my body is shocked by their forms, confronted with the reality of infinite realities. I entered the metal worm, entered with the memory of a rapid chamber that would deliver me through the opening of layered boundaries, passed locked gates and wooden fences. Tomorrow I will enter again. I will sit in the center seat and stare out the dusty window until I realize the yellow lights and feel the rattling train with my voyaging body and remember the people that share this small box with moving images floating past. Under the deafening buzz of the train, I give my body over to inertia.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Last Night I Walked

Last night I walked with my childhood friend. We journeyed from her neighborhood in the Marina to a place that I had never visited. On our way, we passed motels that I had glimpsed in the past from the windows of moving cars. Now I walked by them and saw them close enough to touch, I examined their pores of concrete and wondered what secret things were happening behind the blank doors lined up behind the rails. We left them behind us, crossing streets and turning corners endlessly. I lost track of where we were and where we had come from, the path was so complicated, so unexpected, so much farther than I had been prepared to travel. But the air was warmer than I am accustomed to, so the walking was easy, I strolled along feeling pleasantly sleepy from the workout I had had an hour ago and I yawned freely but walked easily. My feet felt lighter than usual. The trees were lovely. Buildings frosted like art deco cakes tickled my eyes and filled me with fascination.
My friend led the way, talking about the things that occupied her mind. The cuteness of her nephew, her own longing for a child, her hope to find a husband, the vampire book she had just read. Because I didn’t know the way, or even where we were going, she bumped into me, as if we were both bumper cars, at every crossroad. Without a word or a gesture, she simply collided with me, causing me to alter my course and make the appropriate adjustments; turning the right corner or crossing the necessary street. This, the way she walked, the topics that she chose for conversation, the way her lines were delivered, quietly and mumbled, all of it fascinated me. I was taking a ride through someone else’s life. I found a way to answer questions and contribute to the conversation without revealing any of the many things that I should not reveal; the things that would make her feel too shocked or frightened. I found a way to fit into the story line and be part of the mechanical show for a night.
We stopped suddenly in front of an open door and glass window and I peered into a place that looked no larger than a walk-in closet. It took me several moments to realize that this was where she was taking me, The Black Horse, a bar that features prominently in her life at this moment. For me, it was as if I had just taken a walk with Alice and arrived before the Mad Hatter’s tea party. This was a place that, until now, existed only as a story, experienced by me through the words spoken to me by my companion. It was a mythological place, the set for a scene from a well-traveled play. It was unlike the visions I had built of it in my mind during the storytellings. The bar took up half of the space, the other half was divided between stools where people sat and a fraction of space where someone could squeeze along brushing against the backs of those on the stools.
There was a little space between the end of the bar and the window, and two stools stood there at the elbow and forearm of the bar. A man with glasses and a Northern Face athletic zip up fleece was seated there.
My friend greeted him,
“Hello Peter.”
He stood and allowed us to occupy the two barstools and stood at the corner of the Bar and talked to us. My friend also greeted the bartender, a petite young woman with dark curly hair. The barmaid, Vanessa, brought over some food, delicious wrapped tofu with sweet and sour dipping sauce. There was no tap. Vanessa served bottles of beer out of an ice filled cooler behind the bar. I was encouraged to buy a soda or some juice from the liqueur store one door down, because at The Black Horse they serve only bottles of beer and cider, no wine, no other hard alcohol, and certainly no apple juice.
I sat at the bar and listened to Peter explain that he awoke each night in a cold sweat plagued by nightmares about work. He was an engineer of video games, stuck making a game he was uninterested in, plagued by many complex and abstract nightmares, hoping to escape from that hell and pursue his greater passion: Green Architecture. He excitedly explained that the bit of highway which runs through the Presidio stands on stilts which will give out at any moment and that driving over that stretch of road was like playing the lottery; chances were you weren’t going to win, but someday a bunch of commuters would, and in this case winning would mean sudden death. He was his most animated at that moment, describing the potential disaster of the collapsing bridge. Then he put on his gloves, made a photography date with Vanessa, said farewell to us, hopped onto his bicycle and peddled off to his date with a restless night.
Another man leaving the bar brought his dog outside, and my friend, who was well acquainted with the man and the dog, flew off of her barstool and rudely pushed aside the stranger that had come to occupy Peter’s abandoned space. The man was so startled that she had shoved him aside to shower affection on a dog that his face showed it, and he tried to make light of it as he mentioned that his was what the world had come to, but I could see that he was offended. I acknowledged the lack of courtesy and then slipped outside to photograph my friend with the dog who received the fan fare of a Hollywood movie star.
A bearded man in a nice suit who had come out with the dog man and another Black Horse patron stood between me and the shot, so I took his photograph instead. We chatted for a while. He had been to my hometown on business, to examine the marketing procedures of the baseball stadium there. During that trip he had nearly perished in an accident that he described to me. He was hit on the freeway by a semi truck and his company car wrapped around the fender and was pushed along the highway at 70 miles per hour. Looking out of his window he had ample time to see the shocked and horrified faces of the commuters in the neighboring lane. He had time realize that he would either be killed, hurt, or unharmed. Then his car at last spun into the divide where he was dinged by several more cars, and ultimately he emerged without a scratch. We agreed it was pleasant to have met and he departed and I rejoined my friend who had returned to her post at the bar.
Now I watched her talk to the man that she had shoved aside. She began to tell him a story about ordering her lunch at the drive through at a Wendy’s and I could see from his face that he was flabbergasted. He could not fathom why she was telling him the story. The story was boring him both in content and delivery. She could not observe any of his reactions, for as she spoke, she never looked at him, but rather talked into the air in front of her face, gazing at nothing in particular. I was delighted by the awkwardness.
I took up the conversation, and, by looking at the man and listening to what he wanted to talk about, I discovered a subject we could discuss. He mentioned Frisbee golf. I asked about it. I ventured to mention pac man…Goloso! Discussing the video games of the 1980’s was a complete hit with him. He worked for IBM in the late seventies. He used to make computers. He remembered pong…I remembered a hand held football game that consisted of red dots and his excitement grew, he remembered that too!
When my friend seemed abject, I broached the subject of the Drive-through at Wendy's so she could tell me about it again and so on it went.
I thrilled in this new arcade. Insert a coin of attention and watch the show.
These people were all lovely and sad and comical. Some were strong and brave and others weak and cowardly, and they all enjoyed answering questions.
I ordered a cider and offered to share it with my friend. Vanessa gave me a bottle and a glass. A little cider went into the glass and the rest stayed in the bottle and I pretended to drink from the glass while talking with everyone and slowly poured the contents of my bottle into my companions cup… bit by bit so that she drank all of it and I fit right in with my bottle and my glass. My uninhibited laughter, my loud voice, my strange humor, they all came to play, unnoticed among this crowd.
When my companion had finished my drink, we said our good byes and strolled off in search of a bigger meal. As we walked, she informed me that she thought she might be in the process of becoming a vampire.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Well, I guess it depends on what kind of vampire. Because I want to sleep all day and stay up all night. I don’t drink blood though.”
“What do you suppose the blood represent in the mythos of the vampire?” I asked, really wondering.
She answered without hesitation, “Life.”
I was struck. That is after all what Renfield cried out again and again: “The blood is the life!”
And suddenly I saw it very clearly, and I pronounced it aloud since she had provided the final key to unlocking the puzzle.
“Yes. Of course! The blood is the life. The vampire takes mortal life and transforms it into immortality!”
She made a noise like a confused grunt which indicated that what I had said meant nothing to her and she did not know how to respond, like the bleep one hears when the windows operating system has encountered an error. I laughed heartily and we walked on through the dark streets, me listening and laughing while she fed me the delicate and warm pieces of her life.

She seemed quite vulnerable at times
and I patted her head lovingly.

"You're a good looking guy."
I explained after I took the photo

She didn't want her picture taken.

Each night he woke up in a cold sweat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life In The Slaughterhouse Of Desire

You have no preference, no desire that was not planted within you by some alien force, some cultivator of needs and wants. First your parents gave you their inherent assumptions and prejudices. Then they gave you to the world. As soon as you could sit up right, they gave you to the television, and from then on it planted the seeds that sprouted into your every yearning, your every dislike. Fat women repulse you. Lean ladies give you an erection. You are harder still for sneakers and frosted breakfast cereal and a Corona with a slice of lime. All of these compulsions and repulsions which define you and make you the particular creature that you cling to be, they have all been generated in you by a radiation from without.
You are like some little fish that was spawned near a nuclear reactor and so has three eyes and feeds on glowing algae and accepts that this is all part of the nature of a fish. This is true. To be impregnated by the impressions that are orchestrated to inseminate you and cause the gestation of some desire is all part of the nature of a hairless ape. It is not at all unnatural, what has been done to you, what is still happening to you. Someone out there has figured out a way to make your nature work for them. Some clever entity, a corporation, a church, a nation, has discovered that man kind was made to be exploited and rose to the call and became your exploiter. You think it is important that you do like bubbly soft drinks or don’t, that you prefer a fine wine, or an organic tea, or a pale ale, or the piss of a German prostitute.
This defines you. You think that this is who you are. You think that it somehow matters. And that is why you buy what they want you to buy. It happens all so naturally, that you never notice or suspect that there is no reason in the world that you should need a cream to make your tits firmer or a gadget that magically removes the shell from an egg, or an after shave named for a medieval weapon. It is assumed that we must of course all look like the figures posted on the billboards. The first words we read on our own were those we saw on a billboard advertisement as we rode in the back seat of mom and dad’s car, or from the back of the cereal box set on the table before us as the sticky sweetness sent shivers through our budding neural system.
Our curious nature was given signs to interpret from the earliest age, and the meanings of these signs were always this:
“There is something that you want and we have it.
There is something that you need and we can give it to you.”
And so you came to them as soon as you could articulate a few words or a phrase. You told your parents what they should buy for you. Which plastic toys manufactured in China would bring you happiness. Which drive through restaurants, where the meat rendered from sickly animals was deep fried in boiling hot grease, would finally satisfy your hunger. What labels should be present on your clothes and shoes. You were consumed and never noticed, never wondered what was fattening you and eating you up, slowly, ad by ad, penny by penny, day by day.
You will be happy when you have…
You will be whole when you get a…
All you need now is…
Then the world will be at your feet, you will be all that you ever dreamed of becoming.
But the truth is that they supplied the dreams and it is you that will be groveling at the world’s feet for your next fix. You were born into a web of black magick without any hope of escape, without any notion that there was anything which needed to be escaped, like pigs in a factory farm, who only know that the next meal will come soon and never imagine the brightness of the sun that they will never see or the horror of the slaughter house that is their destiny. You are no more and no less than that which you were cultivated to be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Magic of Completion

To complete a task is an act of magic. Glowing and beautiful in parallel lines of simplicity and complexity. Completion is the final draft of a text ready to print, the last drop of paint on a canvas, the washed dishes after a satisfying meal. To follow the circular path of intricate detail until what was conceived and planned is completed, that is an act of magic.
Think back to childhood, when we wanted to be astronauts and ballerinas and firemen. When they told us we could be anything. The story books read before bed spoke of immense, great dreams. I remember it clearly. I wanted to touch the moon and walk among the stars. I wanted to be a famous artist, I wanted to own an island. They told me I could do anything. But then I went to the first ballet class, that evening, we did not wear sequined tutus and we were not gliding through the air, it was not how I pictured, not what I wanted it to be. I remember doing stretches on the floor. I was an open hearted child with no discipline, with no concept that this was the first in a series of necessary steps before I could dance on my toes and move like a winged fairy. I never went back. This was the first of many beginnings with no end.
It is true, we can do anything, yet, we don’t know how to do it. Dreams are nothing without discipline. Without devotion and practice, they will forever remain in the outer realms of hope. Like clouds, we may see them drifting overhead, beautiful, pink and purple and blue, they float like marshmallow angels, always out of reach. My parents didn’t lie when they said I could do anything, but how could I achieve without learning to finish even the smallest of tasks?
A goal is a series of steps. It might be a product, a career, an astronaut, a printed book, a degree, a type of knowledge…they are end points that require real work, a set of completed smaller goals that mount and build like rows of bricks are lined up until a house is built. Each step must be taken with care, with glorious attention and devotion. But what if you cannot walk?
My parents didn’t make me go back to class. No one explained that the path to become a tutu wearing ballerina is to stretch the body and make it limber and lean and as pliable as a piece of cooked pasta. They let me quit after the first class, they let the dream die with my laziness, with my complete lack of purposeful attention. I spent my youth in a virtual comma, a little girl in front of a TV set, the tube my mom always threatened to throw into the pool, but never did.
Dreams can crumble in a moment, or they can dissolve in layered years that people describe as “reality.” With this outlook, reality is needy children, reality is bills and the necessity of a paycheck. Reality is bleak and gray and as ordinary as asphalt and crumpled paper. “Reality” is here the absence of magic, the absence of hope and dreams, creative bursts of enthusiasm. It is the acceptance that life is a series of failed attempts, a thousand uncompleted tasks.
I used to envy writers, I looked at painters in awe, “how do they do it?” I wondered in wide-eyed disbelief. How do you make a book? How do you conceive and produce a play? It all seemed like a mirage, they were the “do-ers,” and I? I was the lost soul in a desert of hopelessness, on the razor’s edge of “reality” and abandon. I wanted to make, to do…
“She wants to be a paleontologist,” I heard the little girl say. They are great dreams, dreams of conquest, achievement and beauty. They are open and honest and the hope of a young, un-jaded heart that still believes everything is possible, that ability knows no limit. But the girl hates doing her homework. The little girl has no discipline. How will she break through the obstacle of laziness? How will she learn that the enormous goal is a collection of minute steps? Steps that she must walk, one by one.
Anything is possible, but we need to learn how to “do.” Each small, completed step is an act of magic. With completion, it’s possible to regain the essence knowledge, the conscious habit, that tasks can be completed, that goals can be achieved. At the beginning, you should set yourself goals so small that it is inconceivable that you wouldn't achieve them. As you gain the deep knowledge that you are in fact capable of completion, you can add to the difficulty of the tasks, but always in a very gradual manner. Slowly, the essence will rediscover what it knew during your childhood:
Everything is possible. There are no real limits. But the illusory limits that reside in your persistent habits, those can be as real as a brick wall, as real as the coming of the darkness after a day full of sunlight and blue sky.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nightime Encounter

Russian satellites are overhead. I can feel their steel, the harsh metal bits that move like a creeping demon in the night sky, the dark time when owls roam, when dreams take form, when men run. Every twinkling star is long gone, shadowed by machinery and blinking lights that disguise themselves with distance. But I can feel the heat from their engines, here, alone on my bed, beneath a thick, checkered pink and black afghan blanket, wisps of hair dance in the waves of engine gas. White heat burns a hole, a tunnel of yellow and black burrows through my third eye, right through a thin layer of cranium and into my forebrain...the beginning, where superficial thoughts are born, where petty demands are made and whispers of tears are born.
Large weapons spiral in the skies above, helicopters as big as cities hover and wait. their blinking lights flash as I look through the thin paned window.
On the ground, on the soft earth that still has a few sparse-leafed trees giving the last of their apples, there are the Russian troops, thick men with wide, white faces. They will give no smile. Nothing can crack the resolve etched across the lines of their thin, red lips.
Sttttccrakkkk, a flash of lighting streaks across the street. There are sounds of popping, sounds of falling glass splintering. A dark figure moves in the night, beneath a heavy coat made of wool. He darts down the street, he moves to the right, his arms raise, he turns slightly to the right, dodging the large bullets that aim to rip apart tissue and soft muscle. Run! Move through the storm of silver rain!
He runs, a lone figure against the darker coming storm. He moves with the grace of god. An army at his back, he moves like a psychic through their messages of despise. I see him run, but at the same time, as though I can see everything on three separate screens, each possibility before my eyes at once, I see him in the center of a thousand stoic men, the smell of metabolizing beer mixed in with the cold night.
He pulls a gun from his coat, he has identified their leader. Amid a thousand men of the same size, the same emotionless faces, he has spotted the leader, his gun aimed squarely at a head of long brown hair. A female shows her face, smooth and white in the night, her pink lips open to a small smile, a hint of evil, a glimmer of utter submission. Her dark overcoat falls and she is naked, a beaming star among the shadows.
The troops flee at the sound of her command. They move like water down an unplugged drain. They disappear, along with their guns, and the two of them are now alone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Live

To live.
What does it mean?
How do I know that I am alive right now, sitting in my valure sweat pants and patterned cotton shirt, encapsulated within shrinking plaster walls that are closing in to strangle the life out of me?
Is that it? Is it having something to lose which signifies that you may be alive?
Or is it the opposite?
Is knowing that there is nothing to lose a sign that you are for one moment pulsing on the edge like a bird of prey about to disappear into the heights beyond the sun’s glare?
Longing and fear. These are the two symptoms which seem to outline my condition.
So which is it?
Am I alive, or dead, or somewhere between the two; caught in the center of a seesaw: at one end sits chaos struggling to tip the scales against order, but order keeps on fighting back.
Which, if either, is the state where I will be alive?
Or is it here, poised between the two so that I squirm like a worm on the end of a hook that represents the state of living?
What to do then?
I am all the questions.
One leads to another to another to another. The answers themselves are questions and the questions branch into two more contradictory answers.
Everything depends on the logic from which the question sprang.
For example, “Will I go to heaven?” assumes that there is such a place. It also assumes that I can go somewhere other than where I am. It assumes that there is an “I” that can go somewhere and that it stays in some form of manifestation as it travels.
All questions are like this. So often what is true is equally untrue depending on where one is coming from and where one is going to.
Is there something you were supposed to do here? I doubt it.
Better to ask:
“Is there anything that I can do here?”
“Is there anything that I can do here?”
“Is there anything that I can do here?”
“Is there anything that I can do here?”
“Is there…anything… I… can do… here?”
Say it aloud to yourself as many times as you can, not so fast that you become tongue tied, just let it flow in a continuous stream until the words are meaningless as words, they are just a noise like the bubbling of a stream. A sound to be heard if you have ears for hearing.
All of the questions and all of the words are meaningless. I can throw open the front door and find the abyss hanging there, feel the wind blowing in from nowhere and everywhere. If I will just look closely at the squiggly black faces squirming in the deepest recess of my consciousness without fear and without longing, then wouldn’t I be able to tear off my human face and leave it writhing with the rest as I fly away in my truest form, as a nightmare without end, a nightmare that doesn’t see itself as a nightmare?
Only the tiny villagers scrambling below, afraid that I will set their fields ablaze, only they will be able to think and say things such as “Nightmare” while longing for clear blue skies to come out of the future and deliver them from my presence. If that is how they feel, wont I have to devour them to put an end to all their fear and longing and, as they are pushed through the dark and endless passageways of my guts, then maybe they will see through the con that strung them along throughout that experience they called life?
I may be slouched somewhere in an abandoned warehouse, broken needle laying at my side, finding my way through the labyrinthine twists and turns within a dragon’s digestive track, making my way through, as liquid fire devoid of thoughts and moved only by purpose, tracing out the pattern that is a nightmare’s innards.
On the other side of the looking glass, when they see me flying overhead, they rejoice. I bring good fortune, I am wanted, I am loved, I am shining, I am light.
Sitting here, basically comfortable, I am clinically alive. My blood pressure is perfect. There is a necessity to get closer to the edge, to brush finger tips up against those of Death in order to know what life is.
If I am this then you are that, and if I am that then you are this.
It all seems so void of purpose, so ambiguous as to possible meaning.
What is it to be alive and what could I do if I were alive?
Questions born of a particular breed of logic from which more questions will sprout, prong-like into infinity like the branches of an elm or the infinite binary tree.
To live and know that you live.
Such a challenge.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Missing Key

The lights of the television set blink on and off, the blackness of it all plays a coy game with distorting the colors of simulated life, like electric candies left in the sun and then scorched with the fire of a dragon’s tail. The body below this head has melted, merging and forming dots and punctuative lines within the paisley pattern of the soft couch. The talking heads fill the room with chatter…flu, swine, death, couch, eat, sleep, crash, die, killer, prison, money, pirate, education, their words are littered in marketing code and the insinuation of the black unknown.
Blue masks litter the streets of this declining city, the dying leak their blood in hospitals designed to repackage the sick, shrink wrapped and ready for the ground. I watch in silent sadness, an observer outside the cycle. I watch through the blinking lens. The smell of ammonia reaches me, here, in this room miles away. The memory touches the edges of my mind, the corners of my disdain, yellowed eyes, labored breath, wrinkled hands. The plight of those ones, those lifeless forms of vanished memory and forgotten hopes. I see them coming with the buckets of bleach and old worn mops, but their labor does not erase the news.
He takes his last breath, I fill my lungs for the last time. Does he watch me? Do I watch him? Are we there together, hands grasped in cold defiance? Flickering lights try their best to disguise the pain, the talking heads try like titans to cleanse the story with lipstick and wide smiles and fast moving frames, and I watch, feeling sad and open and a little curious to taste the new beverage that holds the promise of a new breath.
And is it me or him that is on that bed? This couch does little to remind me and the paisley has wormed its way into the bloodstream of a young girl, showering her in psychedelic DNA and visions of a yellow field. And when the killer bees stop flying and drop like pieces of striped snow, when the falling pop star loses her mind and finally takes the plunge from the balcony six stories up, and when it is all silent and the tv flickers with a code from the great beyond that we have truly been together all along, then there will be no need for the discourse and the dramatic videos or the people who wait in the desert for their gods.
It will all end and we will know that there is no other. The other has been inside, waiting for us to remember. And just when I see, when the inscription on the gravestone rings with the light of clarity, and my eyes open with the awe of a baby seeing his first rainbow, then, the breath will rattle like the end of a song and I will stand at the entrance of a long tunnel that smells of earth and sky.
And the time here truly is short and my body feels that now, with the weight of a thousand lifetimes spun into the thread that I wear around my breasts. The music here is clear and white and then the notes disappear and an even fuller spectrum of sounds emerge that blend like a well orchestrated symphony of noise into a continuous drone that fills the sky. And my mind rings with vibrations and my body beats to the rhythm of a full, pure orgasm of sound.
And then there is nothing on the flickering screen, it dances in white and black and its message is still the same. Will I then rest? Will the breath bring with it the urge to cry? Coming like a deep sea goddess riding a mountainous green wave, riding from the place behind the flat screen. Will I dig through the sand of my mind, digging, combing, looking for anything to fill the void, for a grain to quiet the pounding drums. Have I left something back there? Back where the cities crumble and the dogs bark. Have I forgotten the detail, the way to unlock the door? Maybe he’s waiting behind the large wooden door. Waiting naked and alone.
He waits in suspended time, his body aglow from light that connects like a string to every planet and sun, light that is married to swimming mermaids in the sky and the wide-hipped fire dancers below. He is there, waiting for my last breath. The moment that he will take my hands and take my voice and in return, grant me travel down the tunnels of light and dark.
The screen flickers, is it my turn? My heart is leaping and my knees refuse to bend. Is this it? The last moment of matter, the fleeting cry of a bird streaks through me like a siren of energy. I am on a bed. I watch myself on the screen. My hair, it is all but gone, my cheeks are cored green apples. Behind me is the world of sunsets and lost cats. The tunnels await my entry. I watch myself from a corner in the living room, the channel cannot be changed. I see the future through the screen, the old me is waiting, waiting for the past to melt with future.
I watch my final breath. I watch my final thought drift like a bit of sound on an Irish jig. The screen blinks with its answers. I see it coming. But air still enters and I fall to the ground, digging for the key.