Thursday, May 16, 2019

Golden Sphere


The golden sphere rolls over the floor and the sound rattles all of us. A delighted laugh is heard but no one is smiling. Not that I can see. I look at each of the guests for a clue but nothing is revealed.

A woman with red hair is looking in through the window. The sky behind her is black and full of stars.

The golden sphere does not stop. It rolls between our feet, bumps against the walls, gaining speed with each collision.

My fingers tingle. I move them over my head and they leave colorful streaks through the air, traces of my thoughts, left unguarded; my suspicions laid bare for all to see.

There is a wet scent of earth and trees, the subtle sound of old men talking, a taste of herbal tea in my mouth. Nothing makes sense, nothing fits together. There is no pattern, no sense of purpose or cause.

I have forgotten nearly everything by the time the golden sphere hits my foot.

Now the time has come. I need nothing else. Just my breath, the sphere, the stars outside, and my thoughts, colorful translucent shapes slowly fading over my eyes.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Sealed Temple


“Just as a pool is of little use when the whole countryside is flooded, the Book is of little use to us now. So we will read it everywhere. Together we will find it on the pillars, on the walls, on the street itself. It is present all around us.”

At some level I know he is here to help me; or at least I believe he is sincere in his wish to help. But I am still hesitant to trust him completely. He is a stranger, a complete unknown, a kind of latent danger walking beside me. I look away even as he walks by my side.

***

A large group of school children in uniform gather right in front of us. The boys wear green shirts and blue shorts, the girls wear blue shirts and brown skirts. A line of buses waits at the end of the block to take them somewhere else, a field trip of some kind.
I overhear the children talking.
“There is no God,” a boy says, “no truth, no spirit, no moral order. Nothing. The basis of life is sex. What else can it be?”
“Lust is the highest that life can offer,” a girl answers in a mocking tone.
“Fuck ‘til you drop!” another boy says. And they all laugh.

***

I see a single half lit gas lamp at the northern gateway to the Sealed Temple. ‘Maybe there is water behind these doors, maybe there is blood.’ Maybe there is only solitude.

“You know me” he says.
I nod. I know what he means but I can’t explain it, even to myself.
Without a pause, he continues:
"I think of you most often when I'm in airports. It’s the same for you."

I see a white ghost standing by a stone pillar. I see her as somehow everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of the Sealed Temple. She's missing a face, part of her head, her arms, parts of her hip and leg. She is still recognizably a woman even through the thick scales that cover her skin. I sense that she cannot be pierced or burned, she cannot be wet or dry, she can barely exist.

***

“The Book says:
You will see a large skeletal bat flapping its dark wings above your head. You may look up but only briefly. If you look at it too long, it might look back at you. Then all will be lost..."

***

September 26

A second cracked pillar was discovered today.
At the base of the cracked pillar I found a little white bird. The bird was missing a wing and had a black mark above the eyes, on its head and on its beak. I took a photo of the black mark. I had seen this black mark before painted on a sidewalk. A small black box. Some kind of icon.

The Builder says the pillars were constructed in January. The cracks could have happened any time after that. The Temple is expected to remain closed.

***

(With my old friend, I once met a man who taught people how to meditate. I sat among other young people that my friend had invited and I quietly listened to the man talk.
At one point the man looked at me and asked me if I had read the Book of War and Understanding. I said I had read some passages but I had never read the whole thing.
He looked at me quietly for a long time and then said:
"There's no need to read it, you know? The Book is all around us right now if you only look carefully - if you know how to look."
Later we did a group meditation. He asked us to imagine the night sky. I looked up within my mind and I saw that the stars had become numbers, zeros and ones flashing in the dark. I saw them glittering over a long cement bridge that was also covered in lights.
I heard his voice then, talking very quietly to all of us:
"This is a liminal place, a space of transition. Like an airport or a train station. A place where you are not there yet but you are no longer here.")

***

The Builder says the Temple has become a place where people feel afraid.
“It's just not a safe place for kids or families. We have missed the mark. We have missed our opportunity.”

***

(From the distance I saw the dome of the inner sanctum, covered in yellow and black. I couldn’t find my way inside that day. I might never be inside. Not even within my mind. The trees waved in the wind up above me, like a forest suspended in the air - a forgotten paradise floating in the sky.
The meditation teacher said: “You will return to this place many times. This place is yours. As you return to it, it will become more and more specific, more and more real. Eventually you may not be able to tell any difference between what you think is real and this place you have created in your mind.”)

***

The Builder made very clear promises.
“You will be able to enter and leave the Temple at any time. For periods of seconds, minutes, hours or years. Enter at any time. Leave at any time. The choice is yours.”

***

(I saw a simple greeting written in orange letters. It was nailed over a door made of silvery steel.
Large orange letters with an exclamation mark to emphasize them: “Welcome!”
But the doors were closed and the greeting was empty and touched with a melancholic sadness.)

***

(I met a man by the side of the road. He asked me if I had read the Book of War and Understanding. I told him I hadn't. I said: “I’ve read some pages here and there. Or people have read them to me. But no, I have never read the whole thing.”
He smiled and said: "No need to read it now. That time has passed. Instead, I will guide you through it. We will walk together around the perimeter of the Sealed Temple and the Book will reveal itself to us. Its pages are even now wrapped around the Temple and over the streets that surround it. The Temple may never open again. But all that matters is that the Book is easily accessible. You can walk by it and not be aware of what you see. I will show you how to find it and I will show you how to follow the shifting shape of its thoughts.")

***

I see crystalline flowers flipping back and forth on elastic stems, a dance of wind and weight and color, a gentle teasing - the flowers get very close to each other but they never touch.

***

“The Book says:
You will see three musicians made of bronze and silver dancing slowly through time, so slowly they may seem to be standing still; but the movement will always be there, the dance will continue. You will see bolts holding their limbs together and the curves of their bodies will draw shapes over the sky. The musical pulse will be so slow as to be physically heavy, the beat will be so long as to be lost for days… and even longer.
These musicians have no attachments. They are equally disposed towards their family, towards their enemies, towards their friends, to those who support them and to those who are hostile, to the good and the evil alike. They are unaffected by the results of their music;
even while playing, they really do nothing at all.”

***

I see a black tree in the shape of a church. A sign on the tree announces that this is a public place, a place where anyone can sit, where anyone can talk and rest and meditate.
But it warns that there will be no sleeping here. Sleeping is not allowed.

“You ask yourself who I am, how is it that you know me, how is it that I know you.
What I can say is: of all that measures, I am time. I am the destroyer of all; my hunger consumes the world. But my hunger never ends, and the world is infinite.”

I see triangles over cubes over rectangles over more triangles, pure shape, pure form. I sense that this is where it all comes from, and this is where it all goes.
I sense the man nodding even while I look away. I haven’t said anything out loud.

Whenever I turn around to see him, his face has been subtly transformed, as if the light is changing it. It makes me feel dizzy, confused. It makes me feel as if, even while walking outside, I am alone in a small room with this one other person, a familiar stranger, someone I can almost recognize.

***

September 25

Today a crack was discovered in a steel beam beneath the hanging forest. The beam is on the eastern side of the third level of the Temple. The entire Temple was immediately evacuated and closed.

***

“The Builder fights for his creation, knowing he has no way of winning. But he does it anyway. The worse thing that could happen is for him to deny his destiny, his true nature as a Builder. He would then be lost, lost in an endless ocean, a ship without a port. He could stay lost for a very long time, even forever.
The only way to avoid this aimless drift is to continue to be a Builder, even if he is now the Builder that failed. He will forever be remembered as a failure.”

***

“The Temple was a lively place for a brief time. There were two restaurants and a bar, which was happily and noisily patronized at night. There were two stalls actively selling newspapers, magazines, sandwiches, drinks, candy and cigarettes. The stalls were open from dawn until late at night. (Of course, the Temple itself was open at all times.) People constantly circulated in and out. Many of them simply wanted to have a look inside. There was once an arcade located close to the third gateway. The arcade was seedy, as was the surrounding area outside.
I used to play cards in the arcade. I would play for an unusually long time. When nobody was around to play with me, I would just arrange the cards in different orders. In some way they spoke to me in a language only I could understand. On one card was a white flower with wide open eyes, a white flower sliding up on waves of red and yellow. Another card had a single dripping blue point, under it there were blue curving handwritten letters.”

***

“There is a sign that clearly states our destination is beyond reach. It is painted in light green letters over a surface of dirty white metal. It has recently been repainted in red emphasizing its primordial warning. The hanging forest has many gateways, many ways to enter, many ways to leave. Today they are all closed. We don't know if they will ever open again.”

***

(Suddenly it becomes clear. We should have died that night. That was the night of our death. The night when the soldiers took us away. Suddenly I don’t see it as something bad that could have happened, but simply as something that should have happened, something predetermined and certain, an integral piece of the overarching framework of reality.
But we didn’t die. And from then on we have lived in a kind of after life, a life beyond death that leads to a kind of flight, a levity that allows us to fly freely above life.)

***

He speaks again:
“When your mind finally overcomes the confusion of good and evil, of certainty and solid absolutes, you will attain a state of holy nonchalance. Then, and only then, you will be able to hear the things you hear, and see the things you see. Until then you will remain blind.”

I see a couple of giant bloodshot eyes. They stare up and out from under a giant leaf. It seems to me as if they are full of hunger and yet they also hold a certain hint of doubt. The mouth is hidden by the leaf, the head is absent.
I see tall long rectangles of darkness surrounded by pillars of gray stone. I feel a sense of solid permanence. People come and go all around me. The Temple remains.

“You have always enjoyed talking with mysterious strangers who stop you on the street, isn’t that right? Sometimes they speak to you as if they know you. Right? I am just one more. Just like the others. And you can listen to me, just like you have listened to others before.
I am the process and the pain; I am a living drug and the sound that emerges from the breakdown. I am a kind of gift and the fire which consumes it. And you? You happen to be the one to whom this is offered. Today. Right now.”

I see concentric circles around a black box. We stand together at its immediate perimeter. There are other larger circles around us, larger and larger circles getting lost in the distance. We are so close to the center and yet the Temple remains sealed.

***

“The Book says:
You will see flowers birthing interstellar biological spaceships and complex sentient servants made of light. You will see a living garden of delights extending in all directions.
Here you will learn of the five elements, the five elements necessary for the completion of every wish and effort. You will need the body, constructed from binaries that flash across the night. You will need the means, which are predetermined and remain steady. You will need the mind, through which the garden will lose its randomness. You will need the action that may lead you to fall into a state of knowledge. And you will need the secret will, which you must never allow to fall into decay. These are the five elements in all possible actions, right or wrong, good or evil, selfish or selfless, dark or bright.”

***

August 10

After so many years of work, the Temple is about to open to the general public. It is six levels tall. Two additional levels are underground. There is a hanging forest above it and around it, and giant metal spires reach up to the sky like frozen rocket ships. The perimeter is covered in a kind of lacy shawl - a reminder that something fluid and feminine lives among these heavy towers of concrete, among these rivers of steel and asphalt. The insides of the Temple are composed of curving paths that lead visitors through different chambers and halls. In order to create a structure that blurs the distinction between roof and ground, the hanging forest integrates vegetated hills with giant domes that allow light to go through to the halls below.
A solitary woman in a dark thick jacket and a knee length skirt waits for the doors to open for the very first time. She tightly holds onto her purse.

***

(As I continued to see the glittering stars above the cement bridge, the meditation teacher spoke again: “All these visions before you are radiations of your own thoughts. These are your thoughts shining down upon you. They haven’t come from anywhere else or anyone else. They’re yours and yours alone. Don’t become attracted to them- don’t become weak or afraid. Stay in the mood of a man witnessing his own body drifting down a river. Don’t try to grasp at anything. Don’t try to stop the flow of the water.”)

***

(Many years later I found myself inside a small plane. Beneath us was the city I saw when I was a boy. I recognized the clock tower, the bridge and the waters of the bay. I could even see the dome of the temple, the spires seemed so close I felt the urge to reach out and touch them. To my young self, this looked like an exotic and romantic place. I could see masses of people going everywhere, a throng of ants moving in all directions. A boy in a sleeveless jersey and long blue shorts, a woman in a blue dress that showed her bare shoulders, a tall black man wearing a white hat backwards, holding a phone in his hand.
With me in the plane were two young girls I barely knew. They were looking for a man I used to know; an old friend, a friend I hadn’t seen in many years. They had asked for my help in finding him and I had agreed. From the plane, we looked in every corner, every street, every empty lot. But it was impossible to find him no matter how carefully we looked and by the time we landed, I was ready to give up. I felt as if we were hungry ghosts looking for something we would never find.
Later that night, the girls managed to find my old friend in the flashing darkness of a dance club.
Both of them rushed towards him with wide open eyes and mouths. My friend looked like a giant next to them, a thick solid brown giant covered in tattoos and scars. They looked like vicious tiny wasps running after him. It then became clear that they were very angry and they were looking for some kind of payback or revenge. If I had known this, I would never have agreed to help them in their search. I left the club right away, unwilling to be part of this unfolding scene. I heard later that there was violence and blood in one of the club’s bathrooms. My old friend got taken away by the police and I never saw him again.
I felt sympathy for him. I knew what it was like to be taken away by fearsome men with guns. One night my mother and me got taken away. We were meant to die that night. It was all agreed and pre-established. But somehow we didn’t die. There’s a kind of privilege in living beyond the night of your own death. I see us now as ghosts, beings beyond death whose only goal is to explore the dark, to search and search, without any clear sense of what we are looking for or what we can find.)

***

“I remember when I’d stop in at a store in the lower level to buy candy, nuts, juice, magazines and even a plant. I loved to walk past the cocktail lounge and look inside.”

***

A thin old woman approaches us. She holds an even thinner old cat in her fragile hands. She looks at me and speaks:
"She's getting so thin. I've tried wet food and animal vitamins. I took her to the vet. He offered nothing but a lack of bright ideas. We've lived together for 9 years. She helped me find a home. She never judged me... she was the best friend I ever had! Maybe there’s still hope somewhere nearby, somewhere I can't find at the moment"
And then she walks away.

***

“The Book says:
I have given no persons permission to sleep, lie or in any way remain within the doorway to my Temple while the doors remain closed.
It must be understood that perception is higher than matter, and your mind is higher than your perception. Above your mind is the sign, and above the sign is the eye. Once you know what is most high, let the eye remain open. Read the sign above your head: ‘Wake up’
Once awakened your first impulse will be to triumph over your enemies. Don’t forget. This is not just the Book of Understanding. This is also the Book of War. It is not enough to Understand. It is also necessary that you fight. It is precisely through this violent victory that you will know
that you have finally come up from the abyss of deep sleep. It is only through the violent struggle that you will finally open your eyes.”

***

(I can’t help but think of her, of her hopes and dreams, of the things she was told and the things she believed. She still believes she can unseal the Temple, or that she must try. Or that she must appear to be trying.
At this moment, I know that I don’t need to change anything. The Temple is precisely as it is and as it will be. As it should be. As it ever was.
I can explore it, I can walk its long perimeter, I can find new things each time I come around. Here and now I live at the doors, I brush my hands at the gates, I feel the subtle shaking of the pillars.)

***

“I understand it’s hard to look at me. But listen. Something that may seem like poison at first,
may taste like nectar in the end… this is the joy of walking the perimeter, the joy that emerges from a mind at peace with closed gates. I stand next to you, as the taste of cool water when you are thirsty, the radiance of the sun when you are cold. I am the gentle word that alleviates all fears, I am the sound that makes your heart burst, I am the courage that makes you human. I am the smell of wet earth and the red burning of the fire; I am life. You don’t have to turn around yet, but you will.”

***

July 10

“The hanging forest will be open to everyone. The Builder says he envisions school children coming through for tours and lessons under the shade of the tall trees.
‘When you climb high above street level and you find a dark dense forest, your perception changes,’ the Builder says.
The hanging forest will also be accessible by plane.”

***

(When I closed my eyes, I looked for indications for when and where to enter and found all the doors crossed over by yellow tape. All the gateways had been annulled, forbidden, placed on permanent hold. It may take a while before this place opens again, I said to myself.)

***

(I went back to that night of nights, and I saw a ghostly cup which held a tiny blue bottle inside.
I knew immediately that the blue bottle held some kind of deadly poison. It had been waiting so long for us to arrive. I saw again that I had been given a kind of privilege. We had left the blue bottle unopened. Somewhere it still waited for us. But for now we could fly high above the city and explore it without any rush.)

***

(I say the teacher’s words softly to myself: All these visions are radiations of my own thoughts. They haven’t come from anywhere else or anyone else. They’re mine and mine alone.)

I saw four white arrows that pointed towards each other in a self referential circle. The circle wrapped upon itself. At its center was a simple message: "Too much information can make you fall within yourself. It may then be difficult to find a way out."

I saw a mountain of many colors, all these bright waves of color slipping and sliding against each other. I saw a kind of mouth at the top of the mountain, a gaping mouth hinting at a deep hunger, a restless appetite for disintegration.

(I won’t become attracted to these visions, I won’t become weak or afraid. I will stay in the mood of a man witnessing his own body drifting down a river. I won’t try to grasp at anything. I won’t try to stop the flowing motion of the water.)

***

“A struggle developed between two opposing factions - one faction hated the very idea of the Temple; the other faction wanted to defend it.
The faction that hated the Temple wanted to destroy the very process that would lead to its construction. The Builder wanted to set the process moving again but he had made a mistake.
According to the Builder (this was narrated by him many years later, after all these events were almost forgotten history) one night a stranger appeared in his office and spoke to him as if he knew him, as if they were old friends that hadn’t seen each other in a very long time.
The stranger said: ‘You have been an idiot in the way you have dealt with these things.
I will guide you but you have to obey me.’
The Builder, realizing he had no choice, agreed to obey.”

***

(I have always talked to strangers who stop me on the street. Especially the ones that speak as if they know me. I am one of a million diverse forms, an infinite variety of color and shape. Among all those forms, these strangers seem to recognize something in me, something they think they know. The least I can do is listen to what they have to say.)

I see an old chariot left behind by the side of the road. Its sides are a bit rusty, the paint is fading and falling away. But it still retains some element of its former glory. I can almost see the outline of the powerful individual that once commanded it into battle; the supreme War commander who entered the field of battle and offered death while manifesting life.

***

“The Book says:
They should have died. Soldiers took them in the middle of the night. That night they should have died. It would not have been good or bad, it would have simply happened. That is all that death is. Something that happens. And it should have happened to them.
On the perimeter of the Temple there are only two orders of creatures: the perishables and the ever changing forms. They were perishables and they should be gone by now. Now they live beyond their death. Now they live by the side of the road, in the afterlife.”

***

He stands for a moment and points up at a sign above a gateway.
“The Temple is closed. It will remain closed from some time in the past to some time in the future. The secondary streets will also be closed during this window of time. Invisible guardians will remain on site. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.”

I see bright red arrows that curve and turn and point in all directions over a surface of gray and white; broken, cracked, dirty.

“Stay close to me. We can enjoy a kind of solitude as we stray away from the crowd. This is how you read the Book. This is how you seek the knowledge of the Temple while the gates remain closed. Of course you wish to enter. To seek anything else is ignorance. But you will forever remain outside. This is where you belong.”

***

June 5

“Following many years of construction, the Temple is almost ready to open.
A dirty homeless man outside the construction site loudly proclaims its imminent closure:
‘The pillars will shiver and crack, the beams will start to break. The Temple may open but its glory won’t last long! Once it closes, it will be closed indefinitely. Entire generations will come and go and the Temple will remain closed!’
The Builder continues to struggle but he has a growing sense that he has no chance of success. He continues to struggle anyway. The worse thing that can happen is for him to simply surrender. He would then be lost, like a ship in an endless ocean, and he would stay lost for a very long time.”

***

The Builder once claimed that he had seen a giant female creature made of black ink
bathed in rainbow blood. By that point nobody paid any attention to anything the Builder had to say. He was at best an obscure joke, at worse a pathetic figure erased by time. His head was bent low and he was getting ready to die. His face was a mask of deep regret and sorrow.
In a voice barely louder than a whisper, he said:
“Both of us were naked, together. She was being very playful and flirtatious. I didn’t understand why. Why would she come back to visit me after all this time? ‘Here’s what I can finally tell you. There is no God,’ she said to me, ‘no truth, no spirit, no moral order. Nothing. The basis of life is pleasure; what else could it be? Lust is the highest that life can offer.’
I refused to make love to her and eventually she got very quiet. Her expression was a mixture of sadness and anger. Then she made her way out of my room through a rip in the red fabric that formed the walls. Neither of us ever said goodbye.”

***

(One day I received a single written note from an old friend I had not seen in a very long time. The note had only a single word written on it: my friend’s name and an exclamation mark. I closed my eyes and pictured him floating on the surface of a tall blue wave or maybe sitting on a small fishing boat off the coast of El Salvador. I saw him putting on a black hat. Something I might have seen in a children's book. I sat in front of him, eager to finally talk to him again.
I tried to tell him something I had seen, something I had been wanting to say for many years but I had never been able to say it. It was hard to say it - not just hard, but impossible. So I mostly listened as he told me about his life off the coast of El Salvador and where and how he had found the black hat.
Later that night we played with a set of cards with pictures on them. We played for a hours and hours. We both kept arranging the cards in different sequences. One card had a bridge floating over green cubes. The cubes repeated endlessly in all directions. Another card had a few clouds on it. Another card had a few birds. Another card was just a picture of an empty sky.)

***

(When I think back, I imagine a small room. There’s one other person in the room with me. Their face keeps on changing subtly - sometimes it’s a man, sometimes it’s a woman - sometimes I recognize the face, sometimes it seems to be a complete stranger. The light keeps on changing.
I don’t know how long I’ve been in this room. But I know I’ve been talking and talking and talking for a very long time.)

***

“The Book says:
You will see a green arrow wrapped around a broken circle. The arrow will come from nowhere and it will point to nowhere. The inner circle will be broken but complete. Above it, in large block letters you will see the word: system.”

***

During an afternoon walk, I meet a man on Market Street. He stands behind a table covered in books and pamphlets. He asks me if I have read the Book of War and Understanding. I tell him I have read some pages.
“When I was young, my mother would read it to me. She was always into these kinds of things. But I have never read it in its entirety.”
He says: "You should read it. I will give it to you. But I will do more than that. I will guide you through it. All the stories and poems in the Book are written on the walls of the Sealed Temple. But they are hard to see and hard to comprehend without the codes hidden inside. You know, the Temple may never open again. But I will show you how to read the Book anyway. The young think that knowledge and action are different, but I will show you that they are the same. I will show you how to find the Book through action, and I will show you how to follow the shifting rhythm of its thoughts."

***

(I had thought of the Temple as a place to meet, a place for people to come together, to find each other and then leave. But maybe these meetings were too fleeting, too fast. I had thought of it as a kind of hive, a dome covered in curved yellow lines over a textured black background. Maybe at the boundary between yellow and black there was a secret entrance. But I didn’t have the power to open this secret passageway, even if I imagined that I knew of its existence.)

***

As we walk, I overhear a couple talking among themselves.
“In the end, the Builder is real.”
“Yes, based on the story he tells in this book, he could be the author himself.”
“No, but the thing is… that doesn’t prove anything.”
“No, nobody is talking about proving anything… we’re only talking about what we’ve seen, what we have felt through our intuition. Of course none of it is real. It ultimately makes no sense.”

I see paths that wrap around themselves like snakes, I see a multitude of cars driving upon gray surfaces. All the cars are red and the paths have no entrances or exits.

***

“The Book says:
You will find yourself underwater; your will paralyzed, your mind confused. There will be a red squid on your right and a blue fish to your left - the water will be clear but dense. You will feel a yearning to stay there, to close your eyes and slowly float downward.”

***

February 15

“The roof of the Temple will be covered by a hanging forest. It is our intention that this forest should become a kind of liminal space of transition for the many who come to visit. Similar to an airport or a train station but, we hope, with a deeper resonance. We wish to inspire a feeling of being suspended between the known and the unknown. Giant spaceships will land here and you will be able to stand next to these spaceships. ‘It will be a true miracle when it is complete’ said the Builder during a conference. ‘Anyone will be able to enter and leave the Temple at any time. They will be able to remain inside for periods of seconds, minutes, hours or years. We will be ready and equipped for all possibilities.’”

***

I was walking on Fremont street one afternoon when I found a kind of handwritten map that outlined the city in a very rough way. I noticed that certain blocks of Market street had been marked with a peculiar little symbol, a small black box. On the back of the map, in barely legible handwriting, were the words: "don't try to find me"
I walked into a supermarket and found something to drink. Then I very slowly made my way towards Market street.

***

The thought keeps on recurring within me. ‘He is here to help me.’ But I remain unsure, suspicious, afraid. So I still look away. Even as we continue to walk together in circles, large concentric circles.

***

“The Book says:
I will give you two measurements. With them you will construct the black box. The measurements are two and four fifths and eight and a half. That will be all I will tell you.
You may have to work on this for a very long time. As long as the project remains unfinished you will be a ship lost at sea unable to find a port. If you renounce your wish to finish, there will be hope. The wish itself is an obstacle. As long as you continue to work, there will be hope.
Strangers will say they want to help you, and some of them will be thieves and some of them will be lost and hungry and some of them will be friends but only friends and nothing more and some of them may actually help. Those will be very few and far between.
Above all, do not despair, do not fall into sleep. If and when the box is finally finished, you will hold it close to your face, close to your ears and eyes. You will then see a golden circle slowly come to life around you. And large glowing flowers will glitter before your eyes. Large orange letters above your head will announce your arrival.”

***

The man stops walking and turns his head. I stop as well, just as he stops.
“Turn towards me. It’s time.” He says.
I turn hesitantly.
“What do you see?” he asks me.
I am unable to answer out loud. What I see are infinite mouths and arms, but only one man. I see infinite eyes but only one face. I see one body pregnant with all possible forms. I see him everywhere, without beginning, middle, or end. And yet he is here, now, under the sun. Finite, vulnerable, fragile. 
His eyes are shining with tears; his mouth is about to open but he has said enough. The Temple stands behind him glittering in an array of bright colors, its long spires touch the sky.
I look at him and my heart opens painfully. I have lost all sense of place or time.
“Do you remember me?”
“Yes, I do.” I finally answer. "I think of you most often when I'm in airports. When I’m getting ready to fly."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Divide


The candlelight
was weak,
about to fade away.
The winter had laid us bare,
but the trees
encircled us,
made for us an
unassuming home.

In his arms
there was a tenderness
something unusual.
I sensed a seeker
that had dropped
old attachments
and penetrated the
thousand-year divide
between lives.

In his words
were ancient whispers,
an electric promise
radiating through the ocean
and flowing to the stars.

The journey
was about to begin
fresh and new
ancient and arcane
ageless and eternal.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hidden Patterns

on the floor was the poet
young women at his side
kissing his fingers
without rest
and the stars above
flooded the night

he kept his mind on the words
with great discipline
creating and re-creating
the hidden patterns
and putting them into
larger constructions,
organizing their strange gifts

the women lay flowers at his toes
and sent their sweet breath towards him
with messages and secrets

he inhaled the chaotic structures
that came from them
and began to cry
transforming the stars,
the kisses
onto pages
in his never ending book
full of questions
and vast pregnant gaps

Friday, November 23, 2018

Valencia


“Almost all the residents live behind bars. That tells you everything you need to know, right? Add in a covering of graffiti and a layer of trash and you get the idea. I don’t see anything remotely interesting about this place.”

Palm trees, Jehovah's witnesses preaching with hand held megaphones, a long line of drunks and drug addicts, Latin girls laughing loudly and shamelessly, a fat white man in a dirty button up shirt dark with sweat. I pass by three black men with a boom box blaring the sound of 70s soul music. I feel tempted to tell them that I used to listen to that very same music in a place very far away, a place they will probably never see in their lives, a remote place full of legends and violence. But they’re busy talking to each other so I let the thought pass by.
The whole place smells of urine, especially close to the walls farthest from the BART entrance. A sign says: “This is not a bathroom.” Too late for that.

Ahead of me on the BART escalator I see a young girl in a dirty white t-shirt and gray sweat pants. The pants are nearly falling off her, showing the crack of her ass a few inches away from my face. The skin of her lower back is soft, white and covered in tiny nearly invisible blond hair. She leans against the handrail in a gesture of exhaustion. A flier on the wall reads: “The Black Mass… delicious cumbias, hot rhythms…”
Later, on 16th, I see the same girl walking next to an older black man. She stops and turns towards him.
“We’re here. We might as well go. Right? We might as well go. He’s been waiting for a long time.”
She holds up her sweat pants with her right hand while she talks. I imagine a passionate love story and a climax about to happen. Most likely it’s only a drug deal.

“Mission street itself is dirty, noisy, busy and enchanting. It’s almost like going somewhere else, somewhere outside.”

I see thousands of purple dots spreading over black and white shapes, surrounded by larger purple circles with black and white faces in the middle of them. “One dot represents a housing unit served with a no-fault eviction. The actual number of displaced people is significantly higher…”
A curving transparent banner answers with the words “Only God.” Underneath someone has added in black marker: “…holds grudges.”

A psychedelic death apparition rises from the asphalt. She has tall purple hair, blank white eyes, a bright red heart over her third eye, white fangs tattooed over her mouth and cheeks. Two small pink wolves float around her shoulders. A bright star trickles down from her bright white right eye.
Her mouth opens and she speaks to me in a soft seductive voice:
“Here is the final resting place where one can still find a love that transcends all time.
But you must keep your eyes wide open, you must have your ears ready to hear.”

A middle-aged drunk man in ripped jeans and a ripped half open flannel shirt looks up at me from the sidewalk. “Change?” he says in a demanding voice. When I look down at him, he repeats in a louder voice: “Change?” Then he pushes an upturned yellow hat towards me. He points to the hat with his index finger, skin wrinkled, dirty nails, tattooed forearms. “No, sorry.” I say. He turns away to look for the next potential donor.
Next to him I see a hopeful twist of words: “We’re not divided. We’re just not together…”

I’ve heard this was once known as the street of the witches – “la calle de las brujas.” Maybe some time in the past women practiced some kind of witchcraft here. Maybe they were just pagan healers. Maybe they were just Latin women who inspired both lust and fear with their dark eyes. Or maybe they were nothing at all.
Maybe this street of witches becomes more mysterious when night falls, maybe it becomes a dark alleyway with an aura of arrivals. Now, in the daylight, a sad blue robot stares at a bright red flower. Plumes of pink smoke spill out from its joints.

A poem calls out to me, black letters over a green background.
“The people
Live, then fate
Obey. Darkness
Dissipates and must
Give way…”
The poet is the City itself. And the audience is the City as well.
A lonesome creator talking in an empty room full of oblivious ghosts.

“It's a little surreal, like being in the middle of a zombie movie.”

A simple white sticker reads: “Smart phone. Dumb head.” But another sticker reaches out to give a response: “It’s too late. I’m addicted to the game.”
A blue bear in a yellow shirt instructs me to “hella resist!” His mouth is open in rage, his left fist is raised in brave defiance.
Then I see a single message - a white background surrounding letters made of absence. “We Will Not Be Silent”

“This is the real San Francisco. Not the Financial District, definitely not Fisherman’s Wharf.
This is the real thing. This is what I wanted to see when I came here.”

A heavy set girl leans back on the passenger seat of a parked car. Her head is only barely visible, her eyes scan her surroundings with a tangible sense of paranoia. She alternates between scanning and looking at her cell phone which she holds in her right hand. When I step close to take a photo of some fliers pinned up on a pole she looks up at me with blatant distrust. I turn away from her and point my camera at the pole.
A post office label, upside down, words written in black marker, barely legible: “King Baby: Remember to Forget”
A hand sized band sticker announcing its single message in black letters crisscrossed with white lines: “Boom!”
Below it, a command: “Paid advertisement. Do not remove.”
Another band sticker establishes its philosophical and practical commitment: “We only play music we have never played before!”
I look at the girl in the car one more time as I walk away. Her eyes are still scanning, still unsure of my intentions.

A black sticker with large white letters: “Jesus. The way, the truth, the life.” A large fat Buddha squats to the left, a serpent skull tattooed over his heart. A smaller sticker with a single disembodied hand gives the whole scene the finger. “Fuck off Jesus! Fuck off Buddha! Fuck off serpent! Fuck off heart!”
There’s a hole in the window of a restaurant. I look through it. A man stares out at me suspiciously from inside.

“We walked down 16th in the morning and a vagrant was lying on the ground. We walked back in the evening and he was still there, motionless. Was he dead? Everyone just ignored him. Ultimately, we ignored him too.”

A large black woman with a sullen angry face stands before me, there’s a necklace with a single pearl around her neck. She wears a bright green shirt with two buttons on her right breast: “Defend Freddie Gray” and “Save Mumia”
I take a step and I find myself in the middle of a cemetery at night. An angry demon with red eyes of fire stares at a living skull vomiting gray serpents from its broken mouth. The whole of the night is alive with purple serpents with red eyes and hungry mouths. The demon has only a few words to say to me: “Here is the final resting place where one can still find a love that would transcend all time.”
I look around me. Four angry dogs burst with ravenous hunger. Blood and saliva fly in all directions, away from their open jaws.

“We felt perfectly safe at all times. We usually do. Not that easy to scare us. There were homeless people, but there are homeless people everywhere. You just get used to it. We’re used to it. It’s fine for us. No problem.”

A middle aged drunk man looks up from the floor and talks to me.
“You want to shoot these ones behind me?”
“Yeah… I didn’t want to bother you.”
“No bother.”
He stands up and turns around to look at the figures painted on the wall behind him.
“Man, these look like men dressed as nuns, no? Transgenders?”
“Yeah, it said something over there about them being the original spokespeople for transgender rights… something like that.”
“Really?” He rushes over to read the text I’m pointing at. His mouth falls open. “Holy shit! It really does. I didn’t know… I didn’t know.”
I smile at him and point my camera towards the nuns.

This is one of the few streets in this city that still preserves a sense of time, a sense of place. A street of spells, for those who know its history; maybe when night falls, it becomes a dark alley with an aura of mystery.
Meanwhile, in the daylight, here are some spells that are still remembered, spells that meant something to someone: “The Ultimate High Rise” “The Barbary Coast” “A Terrible Anger” “The Octopus” “Nineteen Eighty Four” “Brave New World” “Reclaiming San Francisco” “City for Sale” “The Grapes of Wrath” “Virgin Soul” “You Can’t Win”
Everything must go? Yes. Everything must go!
From the left side the Virgin Mary looks on. A single white ghost floats over her head.

“At times I felt scared. I became convinced something was about to happen. Nothing ever did, but still. I felt like it was about to…”

A man I once knew has now become a mural - on the wall he looks more like a mythical cartoon than an actual memory, like something that jumped out of a old black and white Mexican comic book and now looks down at me from the wall. The artistic spaces he created are listed, so are some of his other accomplishments. Graffiti has already tainted his face, a younger face than I remember, a face to remain young for eternity.
His mouth opens and he speaks: 
“You seem like you’re ready to move on. But wait! Before death can take me away She will come to save me…”
She will come. She must come. Maybe She is hidden behind more than one face that I’ve already seen around me - maybe She flows in and out of them when needed then slips back into the walls when the danger fades away.
A few steps later a frightened boy stares at me in black and white. Black letters surround him like a swarm of bees: “Enough enough enough stop killing our children stop killing our children enough enough enough” She may be powerful, but She may not be powerful enough. There are cold places where Her power can’t reach.
Somebody has written “Get off sacred land!” They have written more underneath but someone else has covered it with purple paint. A third someone has come along and roughly, imperfectly, covered the purple paint in black scratches.
Here is a final communication. Sacred means nothing. No love transcends all time.

“I felt very uncomfortable, very ill at ease. I was unnerved by the frequent, threatening drooling crazies. I'm not trying to be offensive or insulting. Many of the homeless were literally drooling. My son pointed out the long globs of spit spilling over their chins. He couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even want to look!”

A very drunk white man talks to a young black man with the body of a bodybuilder. The drunk man talks in an endless river of slurred words which I find impossible to follow. A kind of slippery meaning emerges and I try to fill in the gaps.
"I hope there is love for those who are in trouble, by the power of the City that loves them. The consolations of the City are neither small nor few, they can never be diminished, however great the number of those who share in them.”
The bodybuilder, his back straight as a tower, listens and responds every few sentences. A nod here, a “yes”, a humming undertow of affirmation. His hand goes to the drunk’s shoulder in a gesture of kindness.
“I believe it. I believe that the City is pleased to love those who are in trouble by means of its people who themselves have been hurt. Hurt people helping hurt people. Various important purposes are served by this wise law. Order is achieved through our subjection to this higher authority. The ultimate authority that is the City.”
As I walk by them the bodybuilder turns towards me and greets me.
“How are you doing sir?”
I respond: “I’m doing well. How are you?”
“Fine…” and he smiles to complete the interaction.

Later they walk past me, the drunk man is still talking in an endless blur of slurred words. He turns towards me and says something I can’t understand. I turn and lean my head in to try to make out the words.
“Don’t bother me. I’m here to take photos!” the bodybuilder says for me and smiles.
I nod and smile at him.
“Many are very hurt; they walk around with heavy hearts. Their pride makes them scorn this way of obtaining love from the City. But the City is ready to offer its heart, the City is ready to offer its love. The City is the final place where one can still find a love that transcends time.”

A young woman with purple hair closes her eyes. Her eyelids are bluish gray. She is surrounded by many colored flowers, of all shapes and sizes. She opens her mouth and speaks to me in a voice full of melody and color.
“This street was once known as the street of the witches. Once there were many women like me who lived here. Women of dark powers, women of subtle ways. At night the street would always be closed at both ends so that nobody could approach the women and ask for some kind of spell. Today this is just an alley off of Valencia. But when night falls, I speak to others as I speak to you now. And every night I tell a new story but all my stories are lies.”

A family of Mexican farmers sits to have lunch outside on a rough wooden table. A strong older man with short black hair stares out at nothing, his face stoic and blank.
Soon he will be drunk and he will have a lot to say. But for now he only stares in silence. His adult daughter sits to his right, a smile of gentle contentment on her face. His adult son sits to the right of the daughter, smiling with a tortilla in his right hand and a full sombrero on his head. To the left of the middle aged man are his young daughter, maybe around 6 years old, and his wife, who also smiles contentedly as she prepares another tortilla. Only a single sheep stares back at me, the only denizen of this world aware that it is being transported into eternity by invisible eyes.

A friendly green penis with a faded pink head raises its hand to say hello to me. While it greets me, over on its left side it teaches the ABCs while tiny fluffy clouds tease him into a playful partial erection. A sleepy vagina with a tiny pubic black hat looks at us both with half closed eyes. It opens itself to the world out of sheer exhaustion, too tired to remain sealed and alone. Its secret mission is to teach the numbers, the sequential division of events and digital objects which is the basis for stable understanding. It is in this way that the world was first divided into language and mathematics. For most of the day, so it must remain.

“My sister went to school in this neighborhood a long time ago. This is back when we lived with my father. She was a bit out of control, right? She did some crazy dark things that I definitely would not recommend, some things I would be scared to try myself.”

The young woman with purple hair tells me a story:
“Once there was a young man who lost his wife because of a fever. His family was very sad because they couldn’t afford a funeral. Since there was no money to bury her properly, the wife was buried in a mass grave, along with many others who had died that week, that month, that year. The young man then stole some money for himself. In the process of stealing he killed the rich man who was his victim. The young man then managed to bribe a priest to recover the body of his love from the mass grave in which it had been placed. Before the police took him way, the young man took the body of his wife to a proper cemetery and lay her to rest. Thus their love found a resting place, a place of peace outside of time.”

On a thick stripe of blue paint there is an announcement for a website in thick black letters. Underneath it there is a broken red slash with the word PARTY written over it. Two zombies with missing arms and blank eyes stare out at me from between the pink letters.

“All I saw was a dirty and scary ghetto area. Not a place I would let my kids walk home by themselves.”

An old Mexican man, black mustache, black combed back hair sprinkled with white. He stands in front of his vegetable stand: peppers 2 for 1 dollar, corn 8 for 1 dollar.
“I will tell you the rest of it. Not everyone gets to hear it. This is the truth of the City spoken by one who has learned from the street. The hearts of all inhabitants of the City are knit together in love and their mutual understanding is increased whenever we speak.  Those who are loved by the City through others like them are brought under strong obligations to enduring friendships and sincere gratitude.”
“Improve, then, all your experiences, for the benefit of your fellow City inhabitants. In this way those who ought to love those who are hurt will be well prepared to do the work assigned to them. The street is an excellent teacher. The street gives great confidence to one who learns how to speak. It enables him to speak with more certainty and boldness than he would have spoken otherwise.”
“Is the City truly the Mother of all homeless? The Father of mercies? The City of all love?”

Over a dirty white ledge, I see the simple command: “Believe only in falling” Nothing else.

“I guess it's an interesting place if you’re into that sort of thing. I wouldn’t go back. But that’s just me.”

Over bright orange paint strokes, in light blue letters: “Free the people of Palestine. Boycott Israel.”
Next to it is a small blue and white flier. A young white silhouette represents “modern white youth.” Modern white youth is being attacked through its right ear by a web of words and ideas: “Cultural Marxism, White Guilt, Communism, Equality, Hate Your Race, World Immigration, Feminism, Racism, White Privilege, Degeneracy, Homosexuality, Colonialism, Drugs” Out of its left ear blood spills out, bright red against a light blue sky.

Two girls walk ahead of me. Both of them are Latin, in their twenties, dark hair, brown skin. They stop in front of a restaurant that specializes in tacos.
“Is this the one? Ah wait, no, this is the one we came to before, right?”
The other girl nods. There is a streak of blue in her hair.
“Yeah, it was good though.”
I sidestep them. The girl with the blue streak apologizes for standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Her eyes open wide for a moment. Maybe she remembers something that was better left forgotten.

“It felt threatening to walk by so many homeless, drunk and drugged people on the street. For us it was clearly not a pleasant place to visit.”

The disembodied voices have multiplied and I can hear them coming at me from all directions.
“Why are some of you feeling excluded, after all the loving things you have read in your newspapers and heard in your TV news? Why do you go to the rivers and neglect the fountain? Would you accept the true love that the City has for you? It rose from your pain and it knows where you come from.”

Two women stand in front of the police station. Their thick old backpacks are in front of them, temporarily placed on the sidewalk. They are rearranging things inside of their backpacks in a rush. I know that one or both of them have just gone through a long ordeal. I also get the sense that they have left someone behind inside the station and the ordeal is not over. This is only a brief respite before the pain begins again.
The older woman, with unruly blond hair and kind eyes, looks at me. I feel that she wants to ask something of me, she wants me to help her in some way. I have an urge to help but I restrain myself and just nod. As I walk by her, she is still looking at me with an air of recognition.

“Consider attentively what are the particular diseases you currently endure. Think of your mistakes, think of the worst of all the evils you have committed. I hope you don’t misunderstand me. I hope you don’t hear me say one thing and think I said another. Strong consolation will be provided for those who flee for refuge to the Law.
The police may be cruel at times, they may even seem unfair. But they are ultimately your caretakers, your lovers, your passage through birth and death. They are an extension of the love that the City has for you. But there can be no true love to those who continue with their mistakes. Once you have recognized these mistakes, you must forever put an end to them or the City will claim its debts.”

An army of bright red ants fights an army of bright blue ants. They fight over a terrain of black waves and gray hills. On the hills it is written: “love each other out loud…” On the waves no words will stay in place. The water exists beyond the reach of language.

“The smell of urine is everywhere you go. Can’t these people find a fucking bathroom?”

A large white poster is pasted to a pole with thick dark green tape. The tape is broken and twisted and placed at random intervals. The message is written with various different letters, cut out from magazines and newspapers, in the style of a kidnapper writing a ransom note. It reads: “Too Many Bums in this Town”

I see young blond girl laying naked with a black young man. She spoons him from behind, rubbing her nose against the back of his neck. Their nude bodies are partly covered by thick blue blankets. A fire rages behind them. Math and language intertwine through their sweat, semen and blood.

A beautiful young Latin woman looks sideways at me. She is surrounded by blue waves and yellow tentacles. A sign on her nose reads: “Warning: Security Cameras in Use”
Her mouth opens and she speaks in a smooth low voice that crackles with ancient life.
“I will tell you their story so you can tell it again. Once a young man lost his wife because of a gang war. She was not the intended target but she died nonetheless. He couldn’t afford a funeral so her body was taken to the city morgue. The devastated husband tried to steal from a liquor store but the owner had a gun and shot him. The wife’s body was never recovered. But the young man joined her at the morgue. That was the final resting place where they finally found a love that could transcend time.”

Over a yellow and red fiery background, someone has written in bright green letters: “Listen to the …. Of the Poor” After “the…” someone else has written the word “Tongues” A third someone has written in rough black marker: “As you wish”

A giant bee stares out at me with a huge white human eye that opens up from its back. Made of scratchy stripes of yellow and black, the body is covered in bloody splotches. Violence is everywhere, blood is the seed from which all beauty takes life.

A family runs away in black silhouette. Father leads, mother follows, young daughter holds on to mother’s hand. They run desperately towards a young dark-haired woman wearing an open leopard jacket, slim black panties and nothing else. Over her head is the word “Persona.” Under her barely covered crotch is the word “Lust.”
Further away, another dark haired young girl looks on. On her face is a satisfied smile; her mouth and chin are covered in black blood. Around her are the words: “Pure Lust”
She turns to me and clarifies: “Not just violence, not just blood.”

“It was run down, just one big dump. I’m sorry I don’t mean to be insulting, but that’s how I saw it. I saw what appeared to be gangs just hanging out on the street. I mean… somebody should do something when you see these people hanging out like that.”

Two girls stand at the corner by an old bank. They are both smoking, one seems a lot more confident in her movements than the other. The confident one is dressed in dark gray pants and a loose white sweater. The younger one has hesitation written on her face; she is dressed in white jeans and a white t-shirt. They are both smoking pot and the younger one is self conscious about doing it in public.
“It’s all the same, you know? All the same…” the older one says. Then she brushes her black hair out of her eyes.

This street was once known as the street of the witches. Back then women with secret powers lived here. At night the street was dark so that nobody could go in search of beauty. The darkness would hide it, the darkness would make them believe that beauty didn’t exist. This place becomes pregnant when night falls, a dark path with a vibrant sense of an endless departure.

A simple message is written with black marker, the ink is already fading under the sun:
“Do What You Want. Love How You Want. Make…”

A floating black and white mask sprouts black and white mushrooms from its head. A single number one sits on its closed third eye; two white flowers are on either side of its white wide open eyes. It opens its mouth to speak to me in a dark deep voice full of memory:

“For many years, the young man brought flowers and cleaned his wife’s grave. His obsession reached such a degree that he married a young girl that looked just like her. When that girl died, he married another girl that looked just like her. Eventually he came to see that all girls everywhere, all women of all kinds and in all places were her and had always been her. Thus all bad things that could happen had already happened to her. And all good things would certainly happen to her as well. It was only when he saw this final truth that he was finally happy. But he had been dead many years by the time that final recognition arrived.”

“The only thing I’m left with is the dirt, the dirt and the trash and the dirty people living on the streets. Don’t they have a place to go? They should have somewhere, I don’t know, some kind of shelter or something. What I saw was a kind of village for the homeless. Why is this happening?”

A hand drawn butterfly rises into a world of deep solid colors, waves upon waves of green and red and yellow. The scene is signed by “the gang of tears”
If I close my eyes, I can hear the flapping of its wings. Soft, heavy, subtle.