05/14/2012 § Leave a Comment
I have one foot lodged in adolescence still. It didn’t seem to bother you these last few years, while I was mucking about in my early twenties (I am twenty-five now). You assumed I’d grow out of it eventually; that I’d drag both my feet into the pool of adulthood and become a contestant in the lifelong game of thrash-or-drown. A late-bloomer, that’s what you called me then. “You’ll figure it out, it’s never too late.” Little did you know that my adolescent foot was bolted and nailed to the floor.
Now, though, you are different. You call me immature, tell me to grow the fuck up. You say: “Why can’t you hold down a regular job?” “Why can’t you just get on, like normal people?” My relentlessly hopeless optimism gets on your nerves, like a bad case of termites. “If you haven’t made it by now, you’ll never make it as a writer.” “You’ll have to eat your goddamned words in a month.” “I know it sounds harsh, but this for your own good.”
And your bitterness never fails to surprise me. You seem to think that my very existence is mocking yours somehow; that I am purposely driving myself into a life of poverty and wasted promises while you continue to show me the better, more productive way. You’re afraid I’ll end up as a suicidal skunk in your mind’s backyard.
It’s not that I don’t grow tired of it all sometimes, you know: the monthly scampering for rent, the growing pile of “you’re-not-right-for-us-but-don’t-give-up-on-writing!” letters, yet another stint in a cubicle that ends in a face-to-face with a grim-faced HR coordinator, friends and lovers finally seeing me for what I am (a loser, a child, a deadbeat) before slowly walking away.
So maybe there is something to all your howling and scowling after all. Perhaps the world has enough trapeze artists. Art too is a zero-sum game, more often than not—someone’s got to take the fall, bite the dust. So why not me? I’m nothing special; the smidgen of talent I have with words isn’t worth a pretty penny. And as you like to remind me daily, it’s never too late to give up. I can still go to grad school, find a decent career, and move into that middling North American life that’s expected of one such as me: a wife, a two-story house in the suburbs, and couple of kids watching Nickelodian in the back of a SUV. Perhaps there might even be a big, furry dog that knows how to keep a silent company.
So why do I persist?
It’s like this. My happiness—my capacity to feel well and sane in this entropic universe—depends on my ability to write. Let’s face it: we’re all going to die. You, me, and everyone we know. Over time (time—what spurious concept!), even our sun will decay and shrivel into a cold white sheerness in the black of space. It will be so, however unimaginable it might be now. I look up in the sky, and I feel infinitely insignificant. Laying down my thoughts on a blank white space is the only way I know to sustain myself, affirm my existence (sex has similar effect, but is much more difficult to attain and can sometimes backfire). I write so I know I am here. It’s not a means to a comfortable life (in all honesty, I cannot perceive such a thing). Nor is it means to some deeper existential truth. It’s a matter of survival, an end in and of itself. It just so happens that any such expression is often perceived as art.
It’s grandiose, and I know you don’t buy it. Nor should you. We’re different people, you and I. To you, everything is palpable and real. To me, even my own body sometimes feels like a mirage. So you can hardly blame me for the way I am when there are no alternatives. “Growing the fuck up” the way you want me to would require nothing less than a lobotomy. (Did it ever work for the gays?) I don’t want to live a deadened life. I want to keep looking up. I want to thrive in my small, insignificant words with all the hurt and beauty they entail.
Consider this, if you will, a break-up letter. I’m grateful for your concerns but they’re not for me.
All the best,
05/01/2012 § Leave a Comment
Charles turned his head and shot back a look at Miriam that said, and why not? There was something frightening in his eyes. Hopelessness given way to something calm and deadly—defiance, determination. She had seen that look all too often as of late, in piecemeal media coverage of demonstrations they were allowed to see. It was the same as the face the Unquenched wore as they were beaten and gunned down in multitudes.
Don’t, she said again, louder.
It was well past curfew and there was nobody around at the Inner Garden. Miriam wished the Cherubs were here to stop what was about to happen, even if that meant getting in trouble herself. She would plead curiosity, reckless but innocent of heresy. We just wanted to see it, Father, we did not mean anything by it. Please forgive us. What was the worst that could happen? A couple of weeks in the meditation chamber, if not few days. Of course there was the small chance they would separate them, take Charles to a different Garden and pair her up with a new Adam, but even that was far more preferable than the alternative.
That was wishful thinking, she knew. All the Cherubs were at the plaza tonight because of the demonstration. A big one, she’d heard one of the priests say earlier that day, bigger than London last month, or even Moscow. Another had asked: What do they want this time? Answer: What else? What they always want. A spell of silence, and then: Do you think there will be blood? Answer: Brother, there is always blood.
No shots were fired as of yet—none that she could hear anyway. But it was only a matter of a time. The Unquenched were a desperate lot; thirst drove them mad in every sense of the word. She had seen them in person, once, as she and Charles were being escorted through the old downtown sector and into the garden complex. A long line of haggard faces had looped around a crumbling hospital building, waiting for their daily allotment of dihydrogen monoxide and clutching their plastic bottles like icons of faith. Always living in that state of utter and irrevocable need.
Some of them had shouted and flung objects as the convoy rolled by. They were fired upon. Tut, tut, tut. Blood on the crumbling walls, streets. Charles had hardly seemed to notice anything at the time, even though he was looking out the protective glass of the armoured mobile the whole time. Later, when she spoke of what she’d felt—pity, fear, revulsion—in the privacy of their new Garden, he would simply nod and quote the Scripture: For he that thirsts must needs die, and is as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But it must have had affected him somehow, deep down, in ways she could not understand. And if she, the bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, could not understand, who else could?
Go back, said Charles, I don’t want you watching.
Why are you doing this? said Miriam. Let’s go back. They won’t find out we were gone if we go back now.
Do you remember what they said when we were born? said Charles.
It was said we would replenish the world, said Charles. Do you remember that? They told us we would renew mankind.
We were made to abolish thirst, said Miriam.
They lied, said Charles.
I don’t understand, said Miriam.
You will, said Charles.
Miriam was crying now. She watched as Charles dropped to his knees on the fountain’s edge and pushed his hands into the water, slowly, putting them together into a small cracked bowl.
I am the water, he said. Whosoever drinks of me shall thirst nevermore.
He raised his hands, water dripping, running down his forearms and spilling onto the ground, and brought his lips to his hands.
Miriam ran. She ran at him with all the force of her body and knocked him sideways. Water fell on her face, trickled down her cheeks and into her lips. She held her breath. Charles struggled to get himself free. She hooked her arms under his armpits and held on but he was bigger and he dragged them both toward the water. She cried and begged. She bit his shoulder and drew blood, silver and thick.
Far away, a flare lighted the sky like a small and dirty sun. They heard gunshots and screaming. Charles grunted, and hurled them both headfirst into the fountain.
The water was cold, clear, deep. She let go of him but he closed his arms around her. Bubbles came out of their mouths, noses, ears. She gulped in. She felt the water slithering down her intestines and turning them into bubbles as it went. Then, as they sank deeper and deeper into the liquid dark, she saw a myriad of surprised faces just like Charles’ and hers, only younger and purer, staring at their effervescent bodies across the glass. They faded away.
06/28/2011 § Leave a Comment
darling, would it be alright if I
held your face against my face
like two-faced mooners that we are?
tonight I don’t want your
love, I don’t want your
sex, I just want to
the fuzz of your neck
like fumes from sky burning at dusk,
and why not? why why why,
half the world’s gone rabid
with one or the other— which
are we, darling?
06/10/2011 § Leave a Comment
I imagine your face
by looking at my reflection
and in my reflection you are
always about to cry.
Why is that?
I tried to forgive myself of your crime;
raised a hollow pyre
out of all the things you’ve taken
or held back from giving—
but I am afraid to light the match,
so very afraid.
Why is that?
I remember the ashtray.
Because you drank, because
she bought the wrong kind of cigarette,
out of glass and ash you created a grenade.
I buried my sister’s face in my hands
and waited. When all was quiet
I peeked with one eye through
the door held ajar;
on the sofa you slept the sleep of the just
with blood on your knuckles
choking out the din
of her own despair, swept the floor
lest her children should cut themselves
on the jagged ruins of her marriage.
She has failed valiantly, lovingly.
This was my salvation; a private Golgotha.
But to think of my own failure:
how childish and small my hands had been
to cover all the corners
in a beloved‟s face.
06/07/2011 § Leave a Comment
by e.e. cummings
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh … And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you so quite new
05/31/2011 § Leave a Comment
on nights like this
I can almost hear my soul’s aging.
can you hear it?
between the fluorescent light
& the rainfall.