Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hello

I close my eyes sometimes only to imagine you.
Just to talk.
We walk along pecan rivers,
And stand on a balcony late at night.
Or we just sit across from each other.
Like we always did.
Sometimes when I imagine you
Its for advice.
Because the clouds are gathering
and I just don't know what to do.
Other times all I'd like in the world
Is just to chat,
And hear your sweet voice.
I tell you about this and that
About my life.
And I ask you about yours.
I hope you are ok.
I imagine your answers
And your soft smile.
Even if its just imaginary,
Sometimes it feels good to be held
And to hold another.
I miss you.

Wisdom

Certain realizations cannot be put to words. You want to share them you really do, they are valuable insights, but they are by definition yours alone. They are those flashes of understanding that come without warning, or deep inside a psychedelic trip, or out of the depths of pure emotion. They are what you wake in the middle of the night and know. They are true. They are right but they slip through the bonds of mere words to describe and thus are yours alone. It is the tragic or perhaps saving grace of the shortcomings of language as our medium of communication that man's most valuable insights are destined to die with each of us. Our wisdom must be created anew with each generation.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The song

Clear your voice.
Look at the crowd.
Step up to the mic.
And sing your song.

The light is blinding.
And though you may quickly look away,

Still - cry through your words.
Feel the rhythm.
Love your soul.
Love the crowd.

Sing your song.
Learn to cry.
Learn to hold.
Learn to love.
Learn to say goodbye.
Even if it is forever.

Feel the words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Goodbyes

Its hard to remember how many times I've said goodbye to you, or in how many places its happened.
Sometimes it seems that our whole lives have been nothing but a series of long hellos and goodbyes.
Is the same true for others?
It took me a long time to cry after that first goodbye.
But the tears finally came, and with them, packages and pictures from you.
Stories exchanged back and forth.
It was our first time.
A decade before I knew this was a pattern I would repeat, I wonder, how many times did I drive past your empty house?
How often did I sit in that classroom at school, staring at the door, and waiting for you to step through?
But after arguments and tears and love and negotiation, the goodbye passed.
A new and wonderful life began.
But more goodbyes followed.
Summer after summer.
Experience after experience.
Together and then alone.
Together and then alone.
Single but not really single.
In love but apart.
I cried the hardest at the beginning and end of Europe.
I don't know why that hurt the most.
We have it down to a science now, you know.
These goodbyes.
When the moment comes -
We wave to each other through the growing misty deep of time,
And steal as many backward glances as we can through the thickening fog
Time stretches out to infinity---
And then snaps.
For this goodbye, I release you.
I promise.
I love you.
But I just ask you
That in whatever form,
Or in whatever way,
You come back just once more.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Time is strange," you told me one day as we swung our legs over the bridge and tossed stones into the water below. "For long stretches, it goes on forever. It is like the ocean and it gushes like a waterfall. It is endless and plentiful and full of laughter and joy. It even has long spans of boredom. We are spoiled in its wealth. Thousands of hours we spend with each other with hardly a thought. Endless hours. And there will always be tomorrow.
And then suddenly it stops, almost like it never was. One of us leaves. The moment is shattered. And as suddenly as it began, its over.
Why do we have to choose between gluttony and starvation?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For you, for you, it is a day that turned to a week that turned to a month to six months and then a year. It is a gone that is just a gone that is just a gone. An absence that consumes itself upon itself forever and ever ago. A mistake that is a series of mistakes that is a question that becomes a period that becomes a silence. A silence that becomes forever. A friendship that is gone. A love that is broken and turned to everlasting shame. It is a fight that was neither lost nor won but simply abandoned. A house that is no longer yours. A memory that you can no longer trust. A person that you once knew, but no longer. A face now forgotten and a smile you will never again see. It is a personality merely remembered through faint imitation, a book you once read, a story you once knew, a movie you saw long ago. Forgotten. But not without pain.

And for you, it is in that brief inhalation before a song, that I hear you. Brian - stand, and give us a speech. Mister - help me. Brian, I love you, don't you see? Do you need a list on your birthday to believe or know how I care for you so? Come to me. Because in that brief inhalation before you speak, there is a world. In fact - pause. You need not speak. I already hear you. We fogged up the windows too many times, you see and I held your hand so tightly that it became my world. Love you or hate you, I brushed your tears and you brushed mine so often that they became not yours or mine but ours. Your breath was my breath. Your body, my body; your fears, my fears; your joys, my joy. Hand in hand, we danced in our wedding gowns and asked if, finally, we were happy now. Sit astride from me upon that red sofa. And know all that I've done. Talk to me. Hate me. Love me. I gave you too much to ever know how to leave. You saw me through it all. And now, in love, we show each other the door - but how can either of us ever walk through it, knowing as we know that we are both the same?

Myself I will become. One left me and the other I left. So friends I make. Connections I forge. Crushes I find. Myself I try to improve. My weaknesses I try to improve. My old dreams I try to remember. Advice from them both I follow. A writer, a journalist, a teacher, a leader, a scholar I try to become. Change I search for. Is it really true? Is this really it? Am I really free? Where do I go from here? What do I do? Who do I love?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

17

Sweet seventeen, could you have imagined what pain you would cause?
"I know him like a book," they say.

With her shriveled hand lightly upon yours,
The palm reader will whisper to you quietly in glee:
"Your fans they may come and go, but none will stay for long."
And, oh, what pain you will cause in your days."
Oh my, what wreckage hath you wrought, oh you nerdy boy
With your unwashed hair
And your misfit shirts.
You 7th grade zit farm face you

With no partner in sight,
Nor any experience of love.
That glint in your eye
That you mistook for forever,
But others knew for danger.

"Love all you may,
But it will be for not."
Curseth the reader of palms.
"The one you have you will scorn,
Those you ignore for you will lust.
And the one you loved most will hate you more than any other."
Thus it is written.

So chase your future dates.
Fill out those surveys and charts.
Make lists of their names.
Tally the time while you wait their arrival.
Kiss their hands and jostle their hair.
Travel the world.
Try to change.

But I doubt you will ever escape your curse.
For though love may be in your heart,
It will be ignorant hate that escapes your lips,
And hate that you will receive.

For you are cursed.
And you will flee,
But never escape.

For it is her name you will always remember,
And while the one will forget you,
And the other try to escape you,
None will ever want you.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I seem to have fallen in a trap of sorts within my own head, the origins of which trace back years and I guess are easy for anyone to see.
I think often of starting that great novel . Yes - I think you know the one. It sits in our heads. Biding its time. And it always begins with a simple line:
“He was 14 years old the first time he saw them.”
Or:
“He forgot his belt on the way to the funeral.”
Or:
“Blind dates always start the same way.”
Or:
“On my last day, I woke up screaming.”

Whatever the line, my story is a great cathedral floating amidst the thickening fog and my job as story teller is to lead you around this great edifice that is there even if none can see. It is to show you, through slow descriptions of an individual brick, or sweeping summaries of construction and fire, the completeness, the beauty, the complexity, of this building before you. My job as story teller is for you to know this cathedral better through the fog than you would have known it on a bright and sunny day. For we are all blind men groping our way among the elephant of life and because we will never truly know what lies before us, it is the story, the stories that we tell ourselves and the stories that we are told, that truly matter.

So give me your hand and let me guide you. It is an imaginary tale. The accordion player sits by the ancient gate squeezing out his sad tale. The blind man stands begging as always by the false side entrance. The gargoyles grimace from above. The grass creeps along the untouched corners. Bird shit cakes the eaves. The dead rest underfoot. And we - we are everywhere.

Above my head, we watch the sun gingerly set. Legs swinging against the railing, I court you, whispering parts of this cathedral’s tale. And far below, we sit in broad daylight against a corner of the church where no one ever goes. We share a bottle of wine and watch the people mill about. We joke and laugh. Just outside the wrought iron walls, I cradle your hand at night, music around us, lights on the church, and we dance. My arm circles your waist. Inside is our secret place. In each corner we rest. You are someone different in each crevice, and yet always somehow the same.
Out the back you left long ago. But in the church tower I stand, making paper airplanes of our memories. And hoping that one will find its way to you.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Its ok to miss you,
Any of you.
Even if you're still around,
Just like I'd miss anyone.
Its because you see,
I might be all alone soon-
Its true.
After all these years
And tears.
It might be true.
All alone.
5 years too late
And still unsure
Whether it is good or bad.
So I can miss you,
You see,
Without midnight drives
Or texts
Or poems when no one is watching.
I can miss your voice
And still move on.
I can miss your smell
And still love others.
I can love your hair and person and laugh and hands
But not obsess.
You may block me, remove me, hide from me, forget me.
I don't know what you'll choose.
You can live your life
And I'll live mine.
You'll never hear from me.
Don't worry.
Maybe we weren't meant to be.
I understand.
But in the depths of the night,
I can still wake and think of you.
And it is ok.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

.

Late one night after making love,
You curled in my arms,
And asked
What was the point of life,
Since all we do is die.

I saw the bodies as you spoke.
I saw the skeletons packed to the ceiling under the streets of Paris.
I saw the mummies curled up in the corners.
I saw the hundred year old writing scrawled on that mountain wall.
I saw the books of quotes piled high in my library.
Filled with wisdom and life and laughter.
And all now dead.

I thought of telling you of all my nights spent
Staring at those dates,
All so very long ago.
The lives
That had been gone for so long
That their bodies were dust
And hopes and dreams forgotten.

You were warm beside me.
Your chest was rising and falling.
Steam still curled in the sheets.

And what could I say?

How could I tell you?

How could I possibly tell you
About the billions of stories
That I see in my mind.
The billions of lives that crowd around me
The billions of people
That might as well have never been.

More than anything I guess,
I would tell you that I see the fires.
We spent ten million years in the woods before civilization even started.
For ten million years, family after family lived and died.

There were so many fires.
So many nights.

"Stare into the stars," I tell you.
Even though you have no idea what is on my mind.

What is the point of life?
It comes and it goes.
It is the eternal tide.

"I drink coffee in the mornings,"
I tell you.
You are confused.

"And I walk my dog through the dew."
I brush aside the dead
As I work in my garden.
And I write words,
Pretending as if they have not been written before.

In the evenings I sit before a fire
And the flames lick and curl,
As if they know.

Life is not a fantasy novel.
When we die,
It is forever.
But that is our savior.
The moments stretch out into forever,
You see.

Death is an absence of thought.
How could it ever consciously arrive?
The world is over-filled with stretched out
Moments

And never ending lives.
Cook a meal so that it will rot.
Draw a painting so it can burn.
Live a life so it can end.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Understand

I am just as guilty of this as the next person, but upon reflection, I am always dumbfounded at our propensity to produce pithe explanations for questions or issues.
To truly understand something requires a depth of explanation that always leaves me dumbfounded.
How can I explain to you why I did this or that? How could I possibly tell you why the world ended up this way, why the sky is blue, or why the squirrel runs up the tree just so?
We would have to go back and back and back in time, each explanation demanding its own explanation, each tear caused by some previous hurt.
We rehash the same questions, over and over, seeking some higher truth.
And we stare at each other across a gulf that by definition can never be bridged.
There are no simple explanations in this world.
I hear your questions. I hear my own, but sometimes all I can do is stare.
The answers are so deep
That we would need to become each other
To understand.
Throw another log in the fire.
Those that live forever run out of words even if they never run out of time.
Maybe that is why God is so silent.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What

It is hard to remember what I had planned for myself years ago.
What was I thinking about the coming years as I biked to and from college? Or drove across the state? What was I hoping for?

If you don't do anything, nothing will ever happen.

If you do not act, the days will just pass. But... is there something wrong with days passing? With spending your life in the jungle on the other side of a deep chasm? Or behind the tall walls of a monastery in the high desert?

Sit with your back against a sunny wall and toss days from the bucket beside you like grapes over a cliff until there are finally none left. Why not?

Resting in the field at sunset after our run, we lay down and pull blades of grass from the dry ground, you and I.

As the chaff gathers around us, you muse - "Your head is always in the clouds, Brian. I read all these things that you write. I walk with you down the cobblestone road, and it is all fantasy. All dreams."
"How can I commit myself to dreams? How can I lay to rest with you in a field that does even exist??"

Sing with me from the too-short balcony, I shout. Cry with me, I plead, even though nothing should be sad.

.,

"I miss your writing,"
You sing to me,
from the too-short balcony
In the narrow alley.

I sit on the roof,
Hands twitching,
My words folded into
Paper airplanes of thought.

"I want to write to you,"
I whisper back,
from the empty mountain top
And through that smoldering fire.

"I am a captain,"
I write.
"I am floating through puffy clouds,
And trying to escape this dream."

But my words just don't make any sense.
And so they fly off from the roof,
Missing you yet again.

"Drive with me across a plain of wild horses,"
I ask.
"Don't reject me," you plea.

On the back of a scrap of paper,
In a whispered phone call in the night,
Above the roar of the engine,
I am here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another night


Another night.

Grandma sits in her blue Hyundai in front of our house under the mulberry trees.
She listens to Imagine in an endless loop. It is always the afternoon. Early fall.

Abuelita sits at her kitchen table, drinking coffee, eating toast, reading the paper. It is always morning. She waits for me to enter through the back. Asia will dig a hole in her backyard when I come, I just know it. She will yell. I will laugh and laugh….

I lay in bed. It is always the middle of the night.
I stare at the clock, playing with the patterns of the numbers in my head.
It is always the middle of the night.
But I am happy
Because I am a little boy,
And the world is mine to lose.
Lying beneath my dinosaur sheets,
I remember yesterday.
And I think about tomorrow.
And I am happy
Because I know that right now,
It is the middle of the night.
And I have forever:

What places I will go!
I could creep this house,
Because it is all mine.
I could sneak out that window,
And wander the streets.
Or venture onto the roof,
And stare at the stars.

I never did think of all the nights to come,
Or of my body growing so big, hairy, and gangly.
Because for me time was always still.
The night never ended,
Imagine kept playing,
Winter never quite came,
And Asia was always a puppy.

I think of you, Kurt Vonnegut,
Living with your endless guilt,
And destined to die forever...
Even though you knew
That life was nothing more than a series
Of eternal presents.

I thought as a boy that I was being watched by aliens,
Or maybe tourists from the future…

But now I know that I was being watched by me.
Endless me's.
Like staring into the hexagon
Of a department store mirror,
The me's stack to infinity-
Staring.

But do any choices really matter?
Does anything really matter,
When you are lying there at night?
When you know that you are alone,
That the window is always beckoning,
That time is forever,
That the world, for as long as you are in it,
Is yours to lose?

Friday, August 06, 2010

We kill ourselves
I suppose
With each day that passes.
Because although we always hope for one more day,
We pass by, day by day,
Into the future
And put off, for just more hour, say,
Hopes and dreams,
And those questions that it seems
Could so easily be answered,
Should I just pay them heed,
And ask how to just enjoy life
Or realize what makes it all
Worth anything anyway.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Paper Airplane

Mischievously, lets crowd behind the tall, long desk in the back of the room.

If you supply the paper, I'll show you my latest designs in the exchange: the upraised wing tips that I found let them fly long and true, the notched nose that avoids take-off wind flurries; the tight wings that stop them from going too high and stalling. Let's go flying into the night, and dip down only now and again to swim once more in that languid river.

Samson is a beautiful song because it confronts a character who is destined to fall along a prescribed path of greatness. In this path, he is a hero who changes the world, but still an imperfect being, and she is a temptress: something or someone who in the classic story is no more than a tool of the devil. And yet here in this song, we have Delilah imagining an alternative world to the path that history had chosen for them. She imagines that the Bible did not include the truth of them, and instead, within this song, we have Samson willfully asking her to cut his hair, and thus sacrifice his destiny, so that he may be a hero no more and indeed never save his people, no, but instead live simply as a man in love.
Let the history books forget about us, Delilah imagines. Let the Bible not even mention us.
Let us join the legions of untold loves, she says, of quiet moments and long nights of solitude and lust.


But we are not the stuff of heroes, Tanis protested.
I just want to go home, he said:
To her and to that life.

Is it that desire, perhaps, the mark of a true hero? The unwillingness? The insurrection that comes in the depths of the night?

Earth

I feel this Earth, this old Earth. This burgeoning Earth. I feel billions of years in this thick and moist air, a rich humus of death in the earth around us, and a rebirth in every wave crashing on the shore. I feel ready to live a million lives on planets and spaces far and wide so that I may plead and cry to come back to this Earth and feel that no matter what, it is home - that I am home, and that this place, no matter what we throw at it, will be, is, endless and forever life. This planet as a whole is a park, it is a sanctuary, it is a temple to a place perfectly and infinitely suited to me, to us. My bones, my soul, my mind scream out for Earth. This burgeoning Earth. I want a bench like the one in Hendaya, from which I can sit morning after morning and, watching the sea through all its seasons, feel at home.
I don't understand why Orson Scott Card did not miss the Earth when he wrote of the Hundred Worlds and the adventures of Ender Wiggin. How could the air smell so sweet on any other planet? How could any other world's gravity ever feel so right? Dan Simmons had it right, though, when he wrote his series, and when he explained the mythos of the lost planet Earth and how humanity still wrote of it, and dreamt of it, a thousand years after it had been gone. And in that sense, it was perfectly right for the renegade AI's of Dan Simmon's universe to recreate a planet Earth, and to thus scream out for home, even as they purported to reject humanity.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Come! I will say to them
From house to house.
A revolution upon the plain tonight we will start.
You pursued me.
In the garden bed,
On the roof-top,
In the backyard, front porch, living-room sofa.
Asking me for these answers to questions
For which I can only give a sigh.

Morning dove.
I hear you today.
I hear you now.
I imagine you,
Sitting under that gnarled old tree. Carving.
The shavings drift like snow at your feet,
And your soft and worn hands confidently clutch the curved knife.

You've come to this tree to rest, I know.
Your journey done.

But I still think of you each day,
I wanted you to know.

You told us to celebrate.
To lift up our heads in joy,
And packs in hand, continue the journey without you.

But in the murky depths of the night,
While the others still gather around the fire to tell stories and laugh,
I sneak off, my mind on you.

And though my tears may land
Unheeded upon the silent
Cold soil.
In the darkness I sob,
And miss you.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Twilight

No way out of here.
I can't see a solution in this dying light
But to watch the birds flock overhead.
The hummingbirds in the flowers.
The plants trailing carefully over the ground.

.

I would like to reintroduce myself to Sarah.

Like the time traveler... I am ready to appear in that empty field where she builds her childhood forts, and tell her my name.

Standing before that little girl, I would like to sweep aside preconceptions and memories and all those arguments too often repeated. Instead I will tell her, as if in a dream, how some years from now, we will meet. "You will have short red hair," I will say. "You will be an artist." "When I come home in the evenings, I will smell your sweet perfume as it yet lingers in our bedroom, and see the remnants of the morning's potential outfits strung across the bed."

What should I tell her of our lives together?

"In college, we will be academics, and we will dream of conducting research, philosophizing upon the meaning of life, and conducting lengthy graduate seminars upon obscure books."

"Each summer we will lose each other."

"In Europe, the land I told you was old and tired, we will become sophisticates. We will ride trains and care about the environment, equality, and liberalism. We will text and drink cafe con leche and elegant wines. We will learn about Africa and Islam."

"In Mexico, we will become revolutionaries. We will worry about the state of poverty in the world. We will support indigenous movements and seek to tie the world together in a quilt of diversity. We will grow cacti, squeeze limes, and learn the meaning of wealth."

"In Austin, we will become hippies. We will eat quinoa and whole grains. We will play drums into the dark of the night. Stare into innumerable fires."

"We will buy a home; grown-up clothes; expensive gadgets. Switch from Wheatsville to Home Depot, but lose each other, even though we will live within the same house."

The basic struggle in life seems to be whether to devote it for yourself or for others. As I face the prospect of moving up in my career, and thus fulfilling my childhood expectancies of grandeur, albeit not quite to the extent of taking over the world, I will necessarily leave behind a world of near infinite time devoted to morning walks, reading, loving, traveling, exploring, gardening, philosophizing, socializing, and all the other pursuits that are simply incompatible with 40-60 hour work weeks.

With each place that we come to know, each problem whose solution we come to be invested in, and each person or people that we come to love, comes an ever finer division of our lives. You cannot run towards, sweep up, and take into your arms two or three or a school full of people. You can only come to one little girl in a field of your dreams. Devoting yourself to work, you will necessarily lose those idle mornings devoted to only yourself. I guess in my dreams of taking over the world, my scorn over the low-brow jobs of my parents, and my need to make this world a better place, it never occurred to me how I would have to lose in order to make those dreams a reality. The idea of a finite day, week, year, and life had never entered me mind.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

26

What could I have imagined for this day, I wonder? What did I want for myself?
I wanted chaos. I wanted an orchestra. I wanted a tent on the plains and an endless beat.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It is always a bit awkward, I think, when I arrange for private moments with myself:
Alone in the backyard by a fire - or high up on some overlook of the city or country.
The perfect song on the radio. A slight buzz in my veins.

It is always a bit awkward, I think because once the moment has been arranged,
I am never quite sure what I should think or say.
With a slight ahem, I reintroduce myself to my memories and thoughts.

And then.... pausing.... I wonder -
What next?

What next?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Message for Austin
Mention everyone's name.... to find when they google themselves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

When the slant of the sun is just right, when the milky-bright sky whites of evening are giving way to the dark inky blues of twilight, when, like a long sigh, the heat of the day is fading to the coolness of night, I think that we should stand, that we should go sit out at a secret spot - those places where the concrete still radiates into the vacuum of night the warmth from the day's sun, where a view stretches before us, where people walk by in the distance and birds chirp ahead, where, for the all the noise of the earth, we are still alone. I am still alone.
I like the idea of quiet moments like these just before momentous events. Of moments of silence in the minutes before standing up, brushing yourself off, and setting off to save the world.
It is hard to define what causes happiness or where it can be found. It seems to be something that you find in retrospection. Happiness, it seems, is a memory, not an experience.
In my memory: seeking magic, seeking greatness, seeking power. Laying in bed, trying to explore my mind, my brain, my world. Taking my consciousness on a journey down every nerve through my body. But finding nothing, falling asleep, waking. And into another day. Another night. Another day.
And breakfast, sitting across from Abuelita, as she sorted through the previous day's mail, magazines, to do lists. Her voice filled with the experiences of a million moments. I remember the day that I realized that I had known her my whole life, that she had filled my every day, but that to her, I was a recent event, that an entire history had passed before even the idea of my existence had entered her mind.
She whispered to me one day that every person has events, memories, experiences, that they die without every sharing.
Squirming in my chair, wishing I could know her secrets.
A secret smile on her face.
In bed that night, I launched a nuclear war before falling asleep, and gave a speech before the world explaining my actions while tears rolled down my face, and the cameras impassively flashed.
And in my life today, as the days roll down across my hands and fall out into space, I try to catch what remains in my grasp, try to wonder what to do, looking into the past for happiness, and into the future for some purpose, some secret spot in which to figure it all out, some future grandchild at which to wink at, and pretend to be wise.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Nonsense

This is my favorite William Shakespeare quote:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


It takes effort, you understand, to get a glimpse of what life may be outside of the made-up things that we crowd it with. What is it from behind the dull-unseeing eyes of my dog? Or inside the mind of a baby just born? It is those few moments of clarity when you understand the eons of non-existence that came before your birth, the fragility of your body, and the sheer ignorance of everything you pretend to know.

It is perhaps the clarity of staring at yourself in a mirror and not recognizing your body; it is the madman writing, composing, singing, dancing, and talking, not because he wants to, but because he has to; it is the soda can being endlessly kicked down a featureless road that has no end.

It is you waking in the morning, knowing that today you will face your foe in the center of that dusty town square, and that you will lose the battle, that you will cease to exist, but that you are not sure if you could ever even convince yourself that you were ever truly here.

Life is staring at my hands over the course of decades, and watching them age. It is closing my eyes to feel my internal organs chugging and my blood racing through me; to know that I am a machine.

So go out, I will tell myself when I wake. Put on your best suit, and slick back your hair. It is time to face your battle. But go out like a superstar, I whisper. This is your one chance, a murmur between two swaths of eternity. And you are finally at the front of the line.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Immortal

The immortal man looked at me, and spat on the ground when I passed him on the desert road.

Thick, brown spittle that clotted the desert dust and stunk in the hot air.

His rocking chair creaked back and forth and back and forth on the splintered front porch, and his hair, like fishing line, hung across his forehead, down his back, in long white cords. His teeth, yellowed and mostly gone, reminded me of grave stones, oozing with moss. His yellowed eyes tracked me as the spittle sizzled in the desert heat.

The immortal looked at me and spat on the ground when I passed him on the road, but I looked back, winked and hurried on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rock Soup

"Come close," I will say to her in the night.

Come close, and let me whisper in your ear how time is a turbulent air, something that blows past you like the steam after a train's passage through the fog.

Come close, and let me tell you of beautiful fall days, of cricket songs and foggy sunrises on bicycles in the dead of winter.

Come close, as we stand on this cliff, in this winter night, in this turbulent air.

Come close, because I want to show you how I have taken my students, and through meticulous time and effort, converted them into these sheets of paper that stack before us. With each personality, you see, I have produced a carefully calibrated set of perfectly random numbers.

And nobody, nobody reaches genius.

I have taken a thousand different smiles, and a thousand different awkward glances and carefully constructed personalities, and I have simmered them on a low boil. I've Woodcocked them. TELPASed them. Told them that nothing matters but TAKS, and that the objectives of life have already been defined for them.

But I look into their eyes and I see something different. I see 10 million years of campfires and long winter hunts. I see 10 million years of stories of epic quests and eternal voyages. I see 10 million years of reality, and all I have to offer in response is paper.

So come closer. And let's take these stacks of paper. And shred them to the wind. Let's howl at the moon. And believe that this cliff has no bottom. That life is an eternal quest. And that we are all its heroes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The rabbit hole

I think we should all go into that long hallway. If only just to find the end of it...  And to set off at a run.
I propose this because they told me once that if we just ran fast enough, we could escape that old hallway's eventual end,  and set off on a new path.
"Aim for Robles," they whispered gleefully into my ear, "And just believe that he is not actually there."
And so as I run, I believe that my hallway is a desert road in the summer. The kind of road that lays like a thick gray rope between two slices of infinite creosote, with another mountain chain around every bend, and nettles of thermals that ricochet dizzily between asphalt and sky.

I wonder what education, if any, I would value as I walked along that slinking path. If I had a journal in which to sketch my thoughts, in what form would they appear? Would I stress the value of writing in chunks? Would I carry with me a red pen to correct my run-ons, my fragments, my dangling modifiers? Which e-mails would I answer and which would I ignore?
I think that with this red pen, I should instead find an old cottonwood tree, the kind you would sit underneath to watch the sun set, and upon its bark write a treatise on life along infinite desert roads. I would explain how once I thought that the best thing was to take over the world, and to become an old man beside a fireplace, but that now I've realized that, in a universe that forgets even its own existence, and in which every choice may be a false one, even spring may be a rebirth in vain. 

Monday, November 12, 2007

The couple behind me is only ostensibly studying.
Sitting here in public,
He is leaning in to emphasis each paragraph.
Their legs, already dangerously close,
Occasionally touch.
To my left, a girl is reading a custom-made text.
Her posture is straight and her face is stoic.
Concerned.
A half full Dr Pepper is beside her.
And she is wearing black.
By noon on the 3rd day, it was finished.
So take this text, please,
And hold it high.

Its all timed,
That's all I'm really trying to say.
That we are rigged to a timer.
And its clicking,
Tocking,
Moving.
We are inside it.
Pushing the gears.
The sand is falling grain by grain,
And we only have so much time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tour

I know. I'll give a tour. With a large group following, I'll raise my hand to keep them together, and explain the buildings and grounds. We'll gather in front of the famous places, and I'll give brief historical summaries, and answer questions from the old men standing in front.
But it will all be made up. You know, I'll study archetypes. I'll come up with grand tales of struggle and success in spite of incredible odds. I'll tell of how important these buildings are and how brave were the men who fought for them. I'll smile understandingly when, at the climactic parts, the women heave a quiet sob, and allow plenty of time for photographs of each of the important structures and plaques. We'll sit on a quiet grassy knoll at the end of the tour, hand out cups of water, and allow everyone to enjoy a moment of pensive solitude as they review the grand events that had taken place within this small space.
Would that be better than the truth? Would it hold society together, and entice everyone to continue their individually insignificant work so that, combined, each drop would fill the bucket and continue the game? Or should we, gallantly, pursue what may just be the real truth?
Perhaps we should reconsider the tour's location and instead zoom in on a life, just one, and follow a child as it is raised by well-intentioned parents, grows, reproduces, and, finally succumbs to the turbulence of a long life. What would we discover? Would the buildings and plaques have meaning any longer? Would God still be a comfort? What questions, I wonder, would the old men ask at the end? And would the women have anything left to cry over?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

explanation

There seems to be something vaguely, yet fundamentally, sad about planning a future "career" and looking at how many decades I will have to work until I retire, and imagining what I would like to do, how much I would make, and what my house should look like. Wasn't life supposed to be more adventurous than this? What happened to that scene where I left my mother crying when I said goodbye and set off on horse, trail, or car to change this world?

The residencia door in Spain had a very distinctive sound and my window faced the courtyard; right now, sitting in this chair, I can remember that door's noise. I can remember standing up, and peeking out my room's window to see who was coming back home so late at night.

I know that these questions are silly, because, believe me, I know the answer. I know that there's really not anything to live for. I know that. I know there's no "meaning of life" and that the question itself is fallacious. I know that we are supposed to just live and work and have kids and hopefully laugh and smile and enjoy lots of sunsets. We're supposed to have a healthy mix of productive activity and aluminum can kicking introspection on isolated highways. And then as geriatrics, we should sit quietly and smile, while we desperately try to think up wise things to say to our grandchildren in order to shelter them from the meaninglessness, yet pretty-much-ok thing that is actually Life.

So go forth. Go on hikes on the weekends. Enjoy the sun. Get drunk with your buddies and stare at the stars. Read a couple of books every now and then to tell yourself that you're informed. Travel once or twice. Create great dreams for yourself; write a novel and lose the manuscript. And when you're old, make up new memories, so that you can tell yourself that its ok to die in order to forget that you probably were not ever truly alive.

into the misty deep

In 7th grade, Mrs. Boggs told me to overcome the power of the white. And so I will just write.

Upon a raised dais before an audience of a hundred thousand, I once gave a speech. From booming yell to whispered plea, I molded the world with arms up raised. I stood out upon my stage among the yearning masses, and I gave them hope.

I grew up in this mental world of exceptionalism; with every song, speeches flew to my lips, and visions of how and when I would take over the world swamped my mind.

I even knew how it would end, as an old man in a small darkened room, giving my biography at long last, so a book could be written about the old shriveled man who had once saved the world.

Except I never knew how I would start or get there. On this one key issue, my muse fell silent. Although I walked the streets knowing that surely tourists from the future lay in hiding all about me, on tours to see the unassuming childhood of their future leader, and I lay awake at night in bed imagining my future grandeur, no pivotal event came. I knew the biography by heart, but I never arrived at chapter one. Where was the plague that would wipe out civilization and beg for a leader to bring it back? Where the computers who would try to exterminate humanity? When would I be asked to choose between a red or blue pill?

Instead I was caught in Par-Salian's lesson about time: try as we might, any single individual action no more alters history than a pebble thrown into a great flowing river.

So my speech has changed.

"Look at this world!" I will say upon the dais. "It is not Star Wars or Star Trek or Indiana Jones. It is a mere rock and we specks upon it. We are doomed or blessed to have no conception of what or how events brought us to be or what we are to do with it. We have no lessons to learn or to teach to one another, and history itself is a meaningless construct. The future which we strive for and think of is no more than a pitiful endeavour; it is the lobster who tries to get comfortable while he sits in the supermarket tank. Like the lobster, we are nothing more than future cadavers waiting to rot; our planet itself hurtles towards of future of fiery oblivion, while the universe in which we have found ourselves will continue to innocently expand until even atoms no longer have the ability to hold together. "

But do stories even have meaning in a world like this? Is this 'true' tale of inevitable destruction equivalent to any other?

I've watched both of my grandmothers die; all they've left behind is their progeny.

I'm looking for meaning and I'm not finding it; I'm crunching numbers to justify my current career track and graduate degree; I'm searching for careers, but only finding blanks. I'm searching for the perfect city, so that I can move there and be unhappy once more.

I've met or exceeded expectation in every class I've ever taken; I've traveled around the world.

I've decided to become a teacher in the vague expectation that it will allow me to travel, talk about things I enjoy, and to have free time half of the year in order to pursue other interests.

I know the finishing graduate school is the right thing to do, but I somehow feel that I'm losing out on something by doing this. Why? What else could I be doing with this year? How would that help me more in the long term? Why do I want to start teaching immediately, when I will have a lifetime to pursue that? Why am I not able to immerse myself in graduate school like I was for undergraduate school?

What do I want to do?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

February

I wanted to write today, but its hard to know what to say. (Brian Episcopo, please stand up and give us a toast.) Predicting the future is difficult, probably most of all because time is not a river in which, cradled in its grasp, we float past a changing scenery. Instead, we ourselves are the river, and no perspective is stagnant. We flow and change with the water around us; predicting the future is not as easy as looking at the scene ahead, but instead wholly impossible because the me that exists in that future moment will not be the same me as what exists now. The conclusion (as has been stated before) is fairly straightforward: we have nothing to fear from death because we die and are reborn each instant. These jewels of wisdom I dispense without charge, by the way. In my head, I took over the world several years ago, I did a lot of things and I died an old man sitting by a fire and giving my biography to a writer.
I wonder what I will do now...?
The wind is blowing and the air is light and warm,
And although still slanted, the sun is warm.
Up through the moist soil (I hope) will soon push sprouts,
And old bottles of wine perch on our sills to prop up windows.
Into the closets pile the blankets.
And another notch goes onto the stone wall - winter number twenty-three.
And the music changes a pitch,
Gearing up for the next bend,
We flow.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monopoly

Monopoly is the perfect game for instruction in basic economics. Monopoly works by giving each player a certain amount of cash and then setting them loose in an environment where they are able to gain and lose this cash by engaging in certain activities. By the end of the game, only one player is left with any money. This is the definitive explanation for why, in a real-world economy where the participants wish for it to last for perpetuity, there must be a government that steps into the game from time to time to redistribute the monopoly money and reset the clock. Otherwise, a true capitalist economy would behave just as the textbook/gameboard model does: eventually, one small group of people/one person will end up with all the cash. This is fine for a game, but not for a world.
One solution would be some kind of progressive or reverse tax system. Another system, obviously more draconian, would be for the state to assume the responsibility of raising all children, so that within each generation, the monopoly game runs, but wealth cannot continue itself through offspring, so upon death, all of that "players" (the one that died) earnings would return to the state, which would then use the money to raise all children equally.
Imagine a jog.
Feet pounding against the dust.
My breath machine-gunning the air.
My chest rising and falling to a made-up song,
To a beat that will never fail me,
To lyrics that puff out to my step.
What will we see? How far will we go?
I'd like to print out what I write, I think.
And with each line colored a different shade,
I'll rearrange them upon the page.
I'll close my eyes as I jog,
I'll think of looking up into that tree in the rainforest,
And seeing how many plants were growing up inside of it,
100 feet above the world.
I'll think of those kids in that school,
Living in worlds that I can't even touch or comprehend.
I'm teaching them math,
But I should be letting them cry.
I wish they were a poem I could cut up and rearrange.
A bad cup of coffee that just needs a quick zap in the microwave.
Let's sit around the fire and continue this game that I play right now by myself.
We'll each take turns saying random thoughts as they occur to us.
What will we make?
"I stretch out to infinity," I'll say. "And there's a billion different versions of my life in every universe,"
"But from my perspective, I'm stuck in an endless jog."
"Puffing out a linear path through space and time, and staring at Plato's shadows dancing to the beat of my mind."

Friday, November 24, 2006

A belief in a god is the ultimate self-centeredness; it is the ultimate immodesty. It represents the act of declaring that you, the believer, are somehow inherently special, the beloved of a god, and the center of a universe devised by a supernatural entity for the express purpose of creating the believer. Indeed, a theist constructs a world wherein they have allowed themselves the privilege of being watched and cared over by an entity over whom no readily observable law of nature exists. Theists then hide behind this blatantly self-serving belief by declaring that selfishness or arrogance is not the purpose of their beliefs, that instead theism serves to answer fundamental questions about where we came for and where we are going. Unfortunately, religion does not answer these questions. It simply transfers, unchanged, the questions to the supernatural entity. Where did we come from becomes where did God come for? Who created us becomes who created god? This construction is so inherently flimsy and so deeply flawed that theists can allow no rational examination, by themselves or others, of their supernatural deity and associated beliefs.

However, it is perhaps inaccurate to say that an areligious person or even atheist necessarily rejects the idea of a creator. Instead, the better description is that the atheist shifts the perspective: at its core, atheism chooses instead to look at the world directly through the eyes of God.  The act of saying that you are an atheist is the act of saying that we are all gods, for while God is said to be an entity who by definition neither created itself nor has a creator, and who by definition sits upon, within, and before a universe of its own making, it thus seems that, just like us all, God exists with the uncertainty of whether anything truly exists beyond its own mind. God is by definition a lonely man, who sits upon the cliff of infinity, eyes closed, his only world that of his own imagination.

Like us, God lives within a world in which, from his perspective, he has always existed and always will, for he has no memories of a world before him, nor any concept of an existence after his own has passed.
An atheist is thus one who walks out of the picture show of God's mind and sits beside him. He offers God a beer, and stares off beyond the cliff and into the vasty deep along with him, with no other choice but to sit there until the death that people speak of eventually comes to take us all away.

An atheist is a person who realizes that we are nothing special. He realizes that we have all created worlds, and that we are all the center of a universe. Physically, we are to the universe as an atom is to a beach, and mentally, we exist among an infinite sea of sentient minds and beautiful worlds. Religion, like ignorance, trembles and hits its knees before the infinite greatness that is ordinary reality. If only theists could accept and get over the truth of their own mortality, they would realize the true richness that lies behind their self-centered illusion.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Masterpiece

I wrote a masterpiece once, I recalled today. It was scribbled on yellow construction paper. On the back of a hand. And the corners of a used envelope. The wind rustled through its words and its gentle rhymes woke me in the morning. The scrape of its graphite against parchment sent me to sleep at night. Finally, at noon, I held it up against the light, and declared it complete with the flurry of a lyrical signature and a dab of purple ink. A masterpiece was finally mine.
But that night, as the raindrops traced chaos against the window's glass and the trees shook in despair at what they had lost, I left for that low rocky wall, and before its fluttering backdrop of stormy night, soggy pieces of the masterpiece were stuffed in the cracks between stones. And bled yellow fiber down the cliff of rugged stone and turbulent sky.

Silence is golden

As I believe I've commented upon in my blog, it is better to run yourself into the ground. We are presented with this one life, this one chance to accomplish the impossible, the incredible, the outrageous, and we live within bodies that do not repair themselves but instead display their scars proudly and age without grace until powder becomes us. We are in this world, within our one chance and we have the total use of nothing else but our bodies and our minds to squeeze out every last drop that they will give us. I think of the great artists who in the process of producing the books, poems and paintings that have haunted humanity ever since literally went crazy from emotion, drugs, starvation - *whatever* but in that process and within that haze of drug or spiritually induced euphoria became, not candles in the night, burning gracefully until they were no more, but brief, brilliant flames, whose transitory light changed forever the way we see our world...

Talk is distracting for the same reason that depressed people are advised to engage in activities to distract them from their problems. Without talk - within silence - we turn inward, and are reminded are all the questions or issues which may be on our minds. With another person, as long as the two of you are talking, you don't have the time to question your reality, or even the most basic question of all - "what am I doing next to this person?"

On Oct 9, 2006, at 11:14 AM, JENNIFER ROSTAMI wrote:

Yesterday we were watching the Cowboys play against the Eagles. They lost. But that's not the point (I'm over it!); I was thinking about Troy Aiken and why he left the team. He said that he accomplished his goal and made lots of money and felt it was time to leave. I think his decision emulates a lot of athletes, like Jordan and Sampras, who left not because they couldn't physically handle the game but for other reaons, personal reasons. Maybe he left now because he wanted to end on a high note.

Is it better to leave gracefully - fade away - or burn out -till your body can do no more-?

Jenny



On 10/9/06, JENNIFER ROSTAMI wrote:
Silence always seems to invoke feelings of uncertainty, whether it's during conversation, or in the emptiness of a room. Why is that?

Jenny

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chiapas, Mexico

We lived under the highlands tropical dichotomy of brilliant hot days and rapidly cooling nights. Life, itself, seemed to separate itself between those cold nights versus the blistering day when the sun beat relentlessly into the scalp and skin. Life in the morning chill: Nescafe stirred into sweetened boiling water, brooms made from sticks scraping against cobblestoned paths, warm-bedroom moisture condensing against cold courtyard glass. And in the fading light of evening: shop doors wide open, windows removed from their frames, the painful light of the setting sun streaming horizontally down streets, plazas full of playing children, shoe shiners working in the shade.
We reached the plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, where our tour would meet at about 7:30 in the morning. We were groggy, slightly hung-over, and cold. The tour guide was there waiting for us (look for me on the side of the plaza twirling the rainbow umbrella) and we paid her, but she told us that the bus would not be leaving for another 30 minutes or so (Mexican time), so we ducked into a cafe that bordered the plaza and ordered dos cafes con leche. Old men were around us reading newspapers. A boy was behind the cafe's counter squeezing hundreds of oranges for the morning juice and in a dark corner, members of a mariachi band argued playfully with each in soft twangy voices and prepared for the day's work. Two gringos, we sat by the door, sipped our cafe, leafed through Lonely Planet, and conspired, cameras and calendars in hand.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And though before the altar of judgement we may indeed throw ourselves,
We also pledge to follow that disgrace by lifting ourselves up,
And exalting in this brief flash of existence surrounded by the darkness that is all of eternity.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I might not post for a few weeks as I move to austin and lose internet here in El Paso


Thought I'd share with ya'll a few charts I've been fooling around with recently in an effort to compare third world country (mainly Latin America) growth with the United States




Monday, September 18, 2006

9/18 work notes - cave

Into the viscous black of the cave I turn my head. Into the viscous black of the cave I yell. Into the viscous black of the cave my screams effortlessly swallowed. Their ring does not echo back, but not discouraged, upon its cold stone walls I scrawl simple poems and my smooth dyed palm, waiting for someone to recall my presence upon this earth.

Worries - notes from work, 9/18/2006

In preparing to move to Austin and embark upon a new life - one which is strangely independent from the financial support of my parents which I have always known, I would like just to send a message out to the world to say that I am scared. I'm scared about money. I'm scared about jobs and my future and graduate school and Sarah getting accepted. I'm scared about getting into debt and where I will be two years from now. It's a wild world.

Its difficult for me to not feel anger towards our parents. I don't want to. I want to look forward to being poor for a period of our lives, but I feel resentful nonetheless. I feel resentful about having to get into a debt that involves heavy interest rates. I feel resentful about being scared. Resentful about being cast away while still in school. It is impossible to work full time and be in school at the same time and I'm deciding today to stop trying to do it anymore. I don't care what the consequences are. I can't do it. I am faced with so many decisions to make - and I just do not know which way to go. How do we pay rent and tuition? What happens when Sarah starts school? What if she's not accepted? My eye is twitching. I'm going to stop writing now.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hippie Sympathizer

Best of the Left definitely needs to incorporate news broadcasts that illustrate the factual basis of a liberal point of view, such as Democracy Now! has in its intro section instead of just liberal spin.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Notes from a job search - great ad

Job Description: Texas Coffee Traders is looking for a creative and idealistic mind with a heart full of mirth and a mind brimming with poetry to fill our postion of retail floor supervisor. You would be working in a genuine coffee roaster on the East Side of Austin, with close relationships with Production, Coffee Service Techs, Sales and the Roaster. We need people who are able to make decisions independently, as the oraganizaiton of the retail floor would be part of your job description. You would learnt the story of coffee so you can explain our dedication to Fair Trade Coffees, Bird Friendly Coffees and Organic Coffees to customers. In additon to that you will be responsible for customer relations, invoicing and ordering prodcut for your section. If wouldn't hust if you already enjoyed coffee. Furthermore we are looking for a person who belives that a small, dedicated group of passionate individuals can change the world by selling Fair Trade Coffee and coffee grinders.
Job Requirements: Creative thinking, an ample degree of self-motivation, idealism wouldn't hurt, a lingering suspicion that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, exceptional people skills, the ability to take no for an answer on a cold call and keep a smile going full blast, it wouldn't be so bad if you already like coffee.

Notes from work - Thursday

Why does the United States in its rhetoric satanize Iran but in its actions do nothing but improve Iran's geopolitical situation?

"pregnant" with change

Please, don't start to cry,
When I say goodbye.
The dust clings to my shoes,
And begs me not to lose.
Please, don't start to cry,
When I say goodbye.
When I look out the window,
The roads peer at me and say
Not to wait another day.
And through the crowds upon the road I will walk,
And upon the dais I will stand to talk.
And although the world turns without thought to the actions of men,
I will walk my dusty road and talk to those who will listen to me once again.
Please, don't start to cry
When I say goodbye.
The dust and the roads call my name,
And they beg me for just one more game.

Although I sit in an office chair, I conjure my muse and stroll down rainy Spanish streets in my head. I skip rocks across slickened cobblestones and rainy moist dripping back-shadow spaces. I conjure my muse with a whistled tune to write papers that I hope might act as a key and open doors to handshakes with the great and the opportunity to water Africa, to skip class and instead cut to the front of the line and fight the world's starkest battles, not in my head, but at the frontline.

The audacity of hope