Saturday, December 28, 2013
Walter Pedington was not the sort of fellow to rock the boat. How many people, if you gave them the gift to travel forward and backwards through time, would stay in the same small town doing the same small things that could have been done anyway?
Some people will tell you that they would go back to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, or Adolf Hitler. Others would want to go back and see a dinosaur. Most would be bent on increasing their own wealth; perhaps collecting antiquities to sell in a future where they are valuable or bringing a handy gadget from the future into a past where it can be passed off as their own invention for profit, or even playing the stock market or betting on ponies. Some would try to rule the world, others save it, which might amount to the same thing.
But when Walter Pedington received his gift, none of these things apparently interested him or crossed his mind. This perhaps, was the very reason he was trusted with the gift, for that we know of, he never abused it for profit or to change the course of history.
It was common to see Walter at age 54 sitting on the porch swing of his parents' house on Behemoth Lane conversing with Walter at age 7. He very much enjoyed talking to himself. Indeed, you might run into him at Morey Point watching himself painting a picture of the sea, or catch him at the Fallout Cafe playing a game of chess with himself while a younger Walter shared a cigarette with a pretty girl outside and a fourth sat brooding by the window, remembering that same girl's death. Walking your dog along the path from Pelican Landing to Frost's Wood you might be passed by Walter at the age of 10 zipping by on his bike only to then pass Walter at age 64 sitting on the bench before finding Walter at 18 laying on a blanket in the grass with a sweetheart.
There is a possibility that Walter is guilty of that sin for which I acquitted him, for if he had already altered the course of history and ruled the world before I was born, I would have no way of knowing it. I have often compared the face of 19 year old Walter to a photograph of a bust of Alexander the Great. It is possible that after 12 years of conquest he was prepared to live a quiet life again in a world shaped by his own youthful ambitions. But how would I ever know? And further, Walter has always seemed more interested in introspection than in governing others.
His funeral was a mind bending affair. Walters of various ages were in attendance and out numbered other funeral goers. He outlived his friends and lovers and left no survivors. Once he was married to a young poetess but she left with a younger version of himself before filing for a divorce later that year. Likewise he never had children, for he had himself all those years and always kept a ball and mitts, bicycle, and snacks on hand for when he visited and even drove himself to his own sixth grade piano recital. There were days when his yard was filled with a chorus of his own youthful laughter while six or seven young Walters played capture the flag or kickball.
Even after his death we continue to see Walter, in line buying tickets at the new Cineplex, hiking the trails in Frost's Wood, eating a banana split at the ice cream parlor. It is impossible to imagine Fasler Cove without him, though as time passes, we see less of him and he is more often alone. I imagine that in another 20 years, there will be no one left here who remembers who he is, no more grandmothers who can point him out and say that their mother went to school with that boy, or kissed that young man at a barbeque 100 years ago.
He is like a ghost from a time that has slipped into the realm of fantasy, but soon he will be such a ghost that his presence will go unnoticed and seem utterly ordinary.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Frederick locked the door, put the key in his pocket and walked away from apartment B6 as quickly as his legs would carry him. The sound of his shoes clopping down the wooden stairway echoed loudly in his ears.
The verdant green hue of the stairs would be emblazoned upon his mind for quite some time afterwards. The door that led out of the building and into the street was red, somehow a reflection of the stairs, he thought, because red and green had something to do with each other, although he could no longer remember what.
Outside the street was still moist from some very light rain. The smell of the moldering autumn leaves had been refreshed by this latest shower.
Coming up the sidewalk towards him was a woman still employing her yellow umbrella. It struck Frederick that she could walk along that way, apparently unaware that whatever rain there had been was now ended. His mind oscillated wildly between believing in one of two possibilities. The first belief held that the open umbrella was the result of a sad mechanical nature, that the woman was so void of volition, like a wind up doll, that she had no choice but to continue woodenly down the street unaware of her surroundings, unaware of recent occurrences in apartment B6, and of the man stepping out of the red door. The second was that she was utterly aware of all these things, that she was omniscient, that the open umbrella was an intentional communication to him, a way of showing him what she was.
He paused in front of the door and let her pass him by. As she passed she turned her eyes on him in a quick flash. It meant either that she was for the most part ignoring a stranger on the street or that she was toying with him, carefully timing a significant glance.
To hide the trembling of his hands, Frederick shoved them into his pockets and hastily crossed the street, running a little on the far side to avoid an approaching car before reaching the sidewalk. The park yawned before him like a dark forest, a beast with an immense maw open for his entry. He hastened into the thick of the trees, glancing backward over his shoulder to assure himself that the street, that the building with the red door, the green staircase, and with it apartment B6, were banished from his sight.
The tree was one of a small collection of young redwoods that sheltered a stone bench in the park's depths. Frederick took the key from his pocket, dug it a shallow resting place at the tree's base, and lay it within. He hesitated for a moment, then spread the soil and rust colored detritus from the tree over it.
Standing he brushed his knees and palms clean. His eyes lingered on the hiding place, his body felt pulled to the key as if by magnetic force. The impulse to dig it back up and return it to his pocket held him riveted to the spot as it struggled against his will to leave it buried. This collision of impulse and will held him in stasis for just a minute before he turned his back on the tree and it's new ward to walk briskly away from the redwoods.
Frederick emerged from the other side of the park onto South Menigen Pass. He could see the Professor seated at a table in the front window of the cafe, sipping foam off the top of an oversized blue mug. The Professor stood up and shook his hand when he came in. Frederick felt self conscious of the dirt from the park left under his fingernails.
"Would you like to order something?" the Professor asked gesturing to the counter and bored baristas.
"Not presently." Freddy answered. "If the weather was better I would like to sit outside and smoke."
The professor nodded. "It's not so bad out." He said, "But if you don't mind, I'd rather we didn't. My asthma."
"Of course." Frederick gestured to the little wooden chairs. "I can smoke later."
The two men shuffled awkwardly into their seats around the small table. The Professor took another sip of his cappuccino. Frederick agonized over what to do with his hands and the filthy fingernails. Deciding there was no point in hiding them, he set one hand on the table and rested the other on his knee.
"Well." the Professor said. "I suppose you want to hear my comments."
"I don't understand the sequence. Whether that is a shortcoming of my perception or a lack of organized structure I'm not sure. Is it a purposeful obfuscation? Or simply chaos? I can't tell."
As the Professor spoke, Frederick noticed the umbrella stand by the door and in it a yellow umbrella. The Professor continued to speak, his voice washing over Frederick like a drone as the younger man scanned the cafe and found her, the woman from outside the building with the red door and the green stairs, the building that contained B6.
Perhaps, it is a different woman, he thought, but soon he was utterly convinced that it was none other. She sat alone looking at a newspaper. This fact stood out, just as the umbrella had. Who read newspapers anymore?
Frederick ceased to make even an effort to pretend to be listening to the Professor and fixed his eyes firmly on her, waiting to see if she would look at him.
"I have been thinking," the Professor's voice became discernable to him, "perhaps hoping, that when something is contained, isolated, then the Big Other cannot see it. Maybe cannot see it, maybe cannot see it as well, maybe there are gaps, maybe there are shadows, maybe there are places for hiding. Pockets of resistance from the regimented gaze of the all seeing eye. Maybe. "
Frederick dropped his eyes from the woman and fixed them on the Professor.
"Excuse me?" he asked.
"Hm?" the Professor sipped his cappuccino.
"Nevermind." Frederick took a deep breath and shook his head. "Excuse me Professor. I'm afraid I'm not feeling well. Please excuse me."
He stood abruptly and headed for the door. On his way out he stole another glance at her, but her attention remained fixed on the paper.
Frederick hurried away from the cafe and turned onto a cobbled street open only to foot traffic. It was a narrow little street littered with stationary stores, bookshops, antique dealers, and clothing boutiques.
He stopped under the canopy overhanging a closed sewing notions boutique and fumbled for the package of cigarettes in his inside coat pocket. With some difficulty he managed to extract a long thin cigarette and lit it, exhaling a plume of clove scented smoke into the cool fresh air. He closed his eyes and smoked. It was a coincidence, he tried to soothe himself.
He heard footsteps scuffing along the cobblestone. A shopper, he thought hopefully, but the footsteps stopped in front of him. He kept his eyes closed a moment longer and exhaled another plume of smoke. He knew who it would be, but pretended that he didn't, just to give himself a few more seconds of ambiguity. Then slowly, deliberately, he opened his eyes and found himself face to face with the woman with the yellow umbrella.
Friday, November 29, 2013
I see it now from a slightly objective angle, my eyes just barely reaching above the gray fog and swirling shapes, the unsaid yet clearly defined goals that propelled me to a university and into the angst that would endure for decades, a sort of uneasy darkness that was just under the skin and could ooze out, thick and black if scratched just slightly.
I didn’t understand it then, could not see the words making up the sentences that rolled through her head like a conveyor belt, getting more and more worn and rusty, but rotating nonetheless. As a baby girl she must have looked at me with all the hope and wonder in the world, projecting onto the blank screen of my white naked body all she saw as right and just, all perhaps that she had done and enjoyed and wished to repeat, all that she had not done but hoped to do through my skin and eyes.
As a young woman, both headstrong and naïve, I pushed against what I thought were inequalities, the mores of American society that everyone I knew seemed to accept and go along with, nearly universally without question.
She tried to keep me as a girl for as long as she could, even when my breasts started to bud and poke out from smooth cotton t-shirts. She would not let me shave, and then when I did on my own, without consent, she looked at me sadly, finally relenting to the unstoppable flow of womanhood and said, ‘now you can never stop.’
Five years later, a head full of simple feminist ideology, unanswered questions and a body and mind full of open, bursting wonder and tinged with a splash of vehement anger, I stopped. There was a contradiction I could not reconcile…I could not quite understand why when I looked at a man’s leg, covered in hair, why was I not repulsed? Why did I have the opposite reaction seeing a slightly smaller leg, one of a woman, covered in hair? I decided it must be the culture, it must be a shared, accepted concept of beauty without anything behind it but current fashion and taste.
She did not see the young girl struggling to find her place in the symbolic order. She did not see the exploration, the push and thought against culture and the play with body and definition and experimentation with beauty and expectations, the transgression of a young girl in a society that demonized questions and moving against the wind.
Then, as now, she could only see me through the eyes of others. She wondered and worried about how she would be defined and judged, how she would be one of the mothers that failed, who had not properly created and raised a young woman ready to join society beyond the safety of four walls. It was she who was the voice of society, she who demonized me, who pushed back against my own conviction with equal force, who judged the hair, who looked at me in disgust. It was she who could not, who refused to see the thoughts behind the action, the tension and struggle.
I had thought it was them, the great nameless of society, thinking, moving, bulging as one big mass. I never thought it would hit so strong, come right back without ever leaving our house, come with such force from the single person tasked with guiding me through the world.
She has always wanted me to be different. After nose rings and tattoos, it is now her obsession to hide my trees and mermaids from polite society, to hide me from the bikers and drug addicts they will attract, to hide my transgression and keep it locked in the dark attic of our household.
This is not the girl she imagined, not the girl she wanted, the girl who would travel Europe- not Mexico. The girl who would go to a university and get a career and a Jewish husband, who would provide grandchildren.
These wishes, pushed onto me since birth, have gone unanswered. I am not what she wanted. I am asked to hide myself, to shave, to wear long dresses, to go along with the lies she has woven about career and status. I have lost interest, the sting has dulled though every rematch is a burden- the tug and pull of my own thoughts wondering if I should please her, shock her, ignore her, and which one of my actions is coming from which thought?
What hurts more? Covering myself time and again or seeing the disapproval in her eyes, the ashamed glance down as she looks at my skin? She has never taken me as I am and I have never cut the string, the threads of just a few colors which bind us together.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
We are walking hand in hand through a meadow. I feel your cool, firm grip on my delicate pale fingers. Your skin is like the touch of an electric moon, passing the voltage of pure white light into the center of my palm. I open up like an exposed portal, your energy flowing into me, brightening me from the inside. The grassy hills are wet from the dark night. We walk.
There was no beginning to this journey, we walk as we always have, your hand firmly holding mine, my fingers gripping back just as tightly. In the far distance is a wall of trees, looking now in the night like a black wall with peaked tips just barely glowing by starlight. Closer to us is a small cluster of tiny things, I can’t tell exactly what they are, my eyes and mind search for meaning and then in two steps we are almost upon them. There is a taut pull of your hand and I jump towards you, just barely avoiding squashing the gathering with the heel of my boot.
What I see now is a funeral for a tiny creature, a small bird with feathers that look as dark as the grass in the dark night.
We keep walking through the meadow, the trees on our left. We are exposed to the moon and the night sky of a thousand stars. My cheeks are cold and flush, though I feel a deep warmth in my chest, a brightness and aliveness which runs like a channel down my arm and into my palm and fingers which hold on tightly to you.
We come upon a collection of rectangular structures, narrow trailers made of a cheap metal and planted shallowly upon the earth. There are a few dozen, all densely packed together. We pass one, the only one with a bright porch light. Its yellow glow reveals the neglected state of the home, the walls left without sheen. One woman stands by her front door, looking out into the empty dirt streets.
We walk on, the path now worn and without grass. The narrow homes give way to a large collection of military tents. Even without light I can feel the green of their canvas walls. An aroma of campfires and cigarette smoke and alcohol lingers close to the earth, a smell of men in old, worn uniforms.
I study the tents as we walk, all of them dark and without light or fire to warm up the darkness. I feel you pull me towards the left, just off the path where it is nearly black, you push aside a heavy canvas wall and we step into a large tent.
It is bright inside from overhead lamps, their light bouncing off the white fabric walls. I sit on your lap.
There are a dozen people, perhaps a few more sitting in a circle, some on the ground, many in chairs.
I realize then that you are across the room, sitting on the other side of the circle. There is a girl wearing all black, her shoes, her shirt, her tights, her skirt, her hair, her makeup, all of them are black, all but her skin and eyes. You start to kiss her, gently stroking her cheeks and pushing her hair back lovingly. I see you then kiss others, then stand briefly as you kiss small objects and bottles.
I turn my attention to the center of the circle. There is a woman dressed as a bird on the ground. From across the circle I see you looking at her and you begin to sing to yourself softly, keeping your eyes on the bird.
I am moved and get out of my seat and enter the circle, I lay on the ground and start singing. I try and help the bird to fly. I push and pull but the bird will not stand, it will not get off the floor. I relent and lay on the ground with it, clutching it. I wrap my legs around it and hold it like a pillow, like a lover. I sing a wailing song because the bird is dead.
I close my eyes, I watch the melody in my mind, watch it move like a journey, watch it move through a meadow, down a dirt path, through houses and tents and into a circle. I sing until it ends, then I open my eyes. No one says anything, you are turned away from me.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
H: I dreamt I was walking through water.
The stoplight is red, and for a moment, there is stillness. A momentary glimpse up, a moment to escape the metal and movement, the identification with gravity and all lines and shapes. Up there is a heart that moves like a winged bird, the white fluff that dances on the water of the lake. Up it moves, past other birds and demons, mermaids swimming with only pale tails and wild scattered hair that covers the sun. There, way above, each second transforming, a heart becomes a curling, nameless animal with horned tail and teeth which lose shape with each exhalation of the mighty myth.
V: The monks continued with their prayer, seemingly oblivious to the changing light.
Maybe the clouds will birth the objects spoken in prayer, maybe the idol of stone will laugh, maybe the invisible which cannot be proven by any measure will split open and bleed. Is the stain on the tortilla enough? The bush that burns? The fluttering heart that can only be described as man and beard? Sit in the temples, rise and fall at the command of the man dressed in white.
H: I thought to myself, this feels so good.
Now it gathers strength, shifting as always, needing just moments to metamorphose. A light flashes, brightening across the sky, end and beginning are the same, moving without thought or implied intent. There are technicalities explained in myth. Shape without rationality. Words without meaning. Their beauty easy to read, the colors easy to spot and wish upon, though expect nothing in return.
V & M: Their robes fluttered, ignited in the brilliance filling the landscape of barren hills.
They search in the clouds for the source of the twinkle. Behold the blackness of space he called, the limitless that cannot be understood. It is not for you to know. Shopping carts and diapers, packed stadiums of hungry onlookers, waiting for a preacher to deliver the message of god. We are a pack of wolves, the body wants the taste of flesh. Each prayer is an invitation to death, open the book and begin to sing.
K: I felt the rush of cool on my skin, brightening me from the outside in.
Do it because you are told, do it to raise your children well. Do it because everyone else does. They will mark your house with stones, the windows will be broken, the lawn dug for your grave. There is no choice here, not in this country of laws, not in this places of worship. Thought is for the heathens, questions are for the devil.
M: A long, resonant tone escaped.
There is only one path and it has already been chosen. The way is cleared, swept by slaves and those already condemned to death, they wait in cages until the flames rise with the call of the chosen. Your dress will be torn when we arrive, your lips will be chapped, you will be thirsty, prepare for the voyage and bring the book.
H: I dreamt it lapped at my ankles, cool and vivid.
Wisps colored by the sun in varying moments of movement, a continuous smooth wind takes it, transforming it into the magic of light and moistened clouds ready to spurt their seed. There may be rain tonight and if there is, I will stand by the window naked, my skin desperately fighting for warmth while my ear and nose take in the newness of the shower, covering it all with a light washing.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Friends and parents were warned to stay inside
by the whispering in the walls.
Those without wooden structures were left to read the clouds
and the dust that began to swirl
and looked like pale dragons preparing for flight.
I knew the day would be thick with smoke,
and the rain would be hidden away
and locked in a room behind our five suns.
In interviews the men in hooded robes
spoke of the ancient fires,
the smoking coals,
the chalices of semen.
Most did not understand.
We could see them entering our space,
passionately delivering their address
as we munched on tubers and meat
and felt the suns across our shoulders burning spots and rings
and tales we could spread across the darkness of time.
I was surprised by the reports,
the newspapers are rarely so emphatic
and I realized it was as it had been
during the coup of ‘062.
I remember we left the midnight concert early
to watch the fireworks as promised.
The lawn had been cool
and full of balloons and starlight promises,
but from high on the cliff overlooking the city,
I could feel the ocean and the sister planets
already aglow with a steady stream of taxies
We stung our feet
and munched the stale popcorn nearly forgotten in Mr. J’s leather bag.
He pointed to the darkened space between Roxinata 5 and Obitatha.
He had seen the Red sun and spoke of the signals,
the whispers, the refugees entering orbit.
He said the wolves howled for months,
Then sung no more.
Is it the same as then?
There was a touch of ceremony,
and a few words to tamper the fear
but no answer.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
share what you cannot.
The things she needs,
a thousand thoughts.
The damage of our
entwining chords and bubbles,
you will never accept.
it blinks, bored, into the darkness.
Only the red lights call back,
muted and complacent in my paranoia.
Alone right now, standing naked at the window,
I carve the new path into my arm.
A canvas of pure white,
the roads are thick
and etched in the bloody marks
of an adventurer.
A lone wolf guided by the moon and scent
of the night dwellers.
The thickening mist is silent,
constant, hiding that which prefers not
to be seen.
A new way emerges,
I open my mouth and suck it in.
Breathe it, chew on the possibility
just outside the window.
I know that it must look the same,
keep up the same appearances,
not a pen must be out of place.
I must keep things as they expect them to be,
for they will be watching.
The writers and men of twisting paths,
it must look like the realm of story,
a plain story without a plot,
a story set down on the side table,
unread and unchanged.
The images will come to the censor,
the gray, the box, the filter.
The drab and colorless, the institution.
They will scan and search, looking for
It will be their judgment,
their moral stamp on the colors that will ensue.
It must all appear pale and without fire,
they will push us on,
discerning what appears acceptable
from what is pure chaos,
what is breaking apart.
They will let us through the narrow tube,
the filter burrowed into each
and every one of us,
airtight, black, oozing.
All will seem normal, plain,
coated in the institutional sheen and odor.
We will split then, dividing evenly.
A double path communicating through the lights, the red.
The black that appears almost invisible-
close your eyes and it is there, blinding as the sun,
hiding in the mist, flowing along the carved channels of my arm.
The small dark crystal awaits,
The crumbling of empire, of rock and continents
and the heavy bodies that come with them.
It is coming.
My computer beats out the song.
Listen, you mad genius.
You naked warrior,
You goddess of sex,
dripping labia exposed to the mass of small and crumpled men.
Open up, the communication is coming.
The beat, the hypnotic chant will break the rocks apart,
brick by brick, the city will fall.
Vulnerable, bright and shining against the window
the visions slide
down my cheeks, leaving
My mouth open,
your machine on,
the computer blinking, whirring.
I must be brave,
the red and black give their command.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
came as though we did not expect it
the bubbles in the river told me,
water spoke to me
and soon, as the rain came,
the puddles were red and
It came as though we were not expecting it
though the clouds had gathered on the hillsides and
above the olive groves and even
on the little mountain we so lovingly cared for.
In winter and spring and when the
proud foxgloves sprout like mad,
little white faces peering out of every crevice to face the
mother of all, the people of fire,
Are not the stories
filled with battles?
Dreams and desire for wretched glory.
Do the men not sing and
recall anguish and defeat out there
beyond the three rivers?
they were expecting it.
It is not incompatible
with life, it is life.
Men are born and taken.
On hands and knees they crawl
towards it, a great gleaming goddess.
I am the one who is frightened
who does not fit in,
I see it coming,
see it here
see the wounds
It is I who does not sing the songs
kiss the marching.
And yet they rumble through me
like nursery rhymes
and lick at my fingertips.
I am the one who rips my
dress to rags and runs naked
through the streets.
I am the mad one
The seer of dreams.
Monday, July 1, 2013
with the colors of red and black,
with her and every word that
has been written.
While I closed my eyes they lifted their
work into the world.
A shiny and pink thing,
eyes closed to the light as well.
In dream late at night
the coyotes sometimes wander.
They are like every chased creature.
They know my chills and fever here in the tower.
In the woods alone, the moon their only light,
They know the hunt comes.
Death will perhaps be their escape.
It will be mine
someday when the rivers part to the sun.
First the stone tower must crumble.
Made when the mothers were still small
and covered in red and gold robes.
Going up stone by stone as the women watched in horror
and the men could not understand the way their hands were working.
The knights came and went from battle on the fields in the distance,
In the cave that was soon to come
I slept and twisted in the sheets,
the silky cotton holding onto my legs
like coils from a monster,
Looking back through the layers of pink and pale green sleet,
I see that it all comes when the process of
life transforms from water into fire.
It was then that culture turned to ash-dwellers,
their imagination curdled
like the fermented cheeses of the herder.
I held my nose, waiting for the skies to clear,
but there would be no respite.
When I closed my eyes they held her in a single palm
All pink and shiny.
She was not formless,
yet she was without shape.
She could be all that we wanted.
We could mold her like a ball of clay and
on her the metal gates would begin to change.
Who was black would become white.
The white ones would turn to ash.
The orange embers would burn until
moisture would find its way in and turn them to rain.
It was more than they could understand,
and of course they blamed the horns
as they all must.
But it was I who dreamt it all.
I who had closed my eyes and the doors
and went into the worlds
where process moves like water over stone,
like leaves shifting from green to yellow to red.
It was never clear and straight and tidy,
the roads shifted and turned narrow sometimes
when passing through trees
and I took the bends and bridges easily,
sometimes jumping over patches of wildflowers.
They would want to blame the horns
and the pink puddle of clay,
but it was the dreams
and the woman who slept
and it was I who imposed structure
unto the canvas of time.
It was not for me to explain,
perhaps not for them
to ever understand.
That was never the intention, never the goal.
I took the forking roads, sometimes splitting myself into
three or four, taking all paths at once
just to see.
Unlike hounds they could have opened their eyes,
they could have waved to me from their nightmares
and we could have glanced under the bridges together.
I used to lift their faces skyward
hoping they could see the stars.
Could they see the ends of the earth?
The end of their own flesh?
When the last word is written
everyone will know of the tower and the dream
and the lump of pink clay.
A sign has spoken,
the guard knows the word
and will let them pass.
They knew me once,
they knew of my dreams.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
The human body.
its swirling white
more than stone and water
fire and air.
Though the rock
is pink and speckled,
of blackness lingers
holds out its fingers
and I lick
just to get a sense
of the taste.
In this body
set out before me
there is something
Spheres and music
Scent that holds
onto the white caps
of the ocean.
Others came and went
and the spheres
turned like magic
in the sky.
Grand moving strangeness.
Over there was
only darkness and
stars that called my
Though it starts to shine
in the setting sun
I hold my breath for
Later I would begin,
I could smoke
just as myths
just like sex
just like the dreams
I had always hidden away
under my pillow before the
Did we truly live there
beneath the oaks
and yellow leaves?
Some will call them angels
others will forget
their calls and blue eyes
and the song that
carried their secrets.
The human body,
the swirling white
is more than stone and water
fire and air.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
“Yes?’ asked a deep and husky voice that rode the edge between displeasure and curiosity.
“Hi!” Julie said with exaggerated enthusiasm that seemed to drip with false friendliness, “we’re here to teach the ‘exercising your power’ class. It starts at six."
There was a momentary pause as they waited for his response and Isa imagined him shuffling through papers and looking at the list of scheduled visitors.
“We’ll send a guard to escort you in. It’ll be a little while.”
“OK! Thanks!” Julie said into the metal speaker embedded in the wall.
Isa turned to Julie, “Why are you so friendly with them? I hate the people working here, I hate cops.”
Julie shrugged, “They’ll do what we want if we’re nice to them.”
Somewhere inside Isa understood that to be true, but she was too angry to let it resonate and inform her behavior. She held the people there responsible for her own unhappiness, thinking each one of them had somehow contributed to Ray’s felony conviction, sentence and continuing drug and legal problems.
They waited in front of the thick reinforced doors for a while, it was one of the few portals to the cells behind the cinderblock walls where the humans in orange jumpsuits were kept locked away from sunlight.
Isa felt a loathing for every one of the people in dark blue uniforms. She thought they personally benefited from the containment and detention of people and could not contain her dislike when confronted by one of them.
When a large male guard showed up and opened the door for them Julie once again used her most enthusiastic voice, it was high pitched and seemed to clash with the cold metal and whitish-gray walls of the interior.
“Hi! How are you?” she asked.
“Fine,” the man responded quickly, “follow me.”
To Isa, it seemed like he had been sent from a casting agency, fitting every cop stereotype she had ever seen on tv: round stomach, pale face, cropped hair, cold manner. Isa responded in kind, she stood there with a straight face as well, not a glimmer of warmth or friendliness towards the man.
They followed him through the sterile hallway, the architecture screaming, “INSTITUTION.” The space was all hard edges, angles, Plexiglas, metal, cold walls, thick doors, light paint that felt devoid of human emotion and compassion. It was the opposite of home, the opposite of love and warmth and rehabilitation.
The halls were well-lit with overheard florescent bulbs, the floors were shiny. On each side of the hallway were rooms with Plexiglas windows. They were unused at the moment and the lights were off, looking to Isa like dark portals.
They passed an inmate in an orange jumpsuit. He was holding a mop, a large trashcan on wheels was close beside him. He stared at them as they passed. Isa smiled faintly.
Julie spoke, “This is our first time here, we’ll need to tell the women what the class is about.”
“OK, I’ll bring you to the women’s dorm first.”
They turned a corner and entered a darker space which was a very large central room. There were no lights on. Along the edges of the room were the various ‘dorms’ divided by sex. It was like looking into many fishbowls, they could look in and see the inmates.
In the center of the main room was an unmanned desk. On the left was the room where the men were kept. It was crowded with triple bunk beds. The room was teeming, men sat on bunks on the floor, men were walking and standing close to the window.
Some men took notice of Isa and Julie as they were led past the room to the women’s cell. Just a few more feet down, past the view of the men’s window was the women’s dorms. They wore the same style of jumpsuit only in a dark maroon color.
The guard led them into the room and yelled out, “Listen up! These girls want to tell you about a new class.”
The dorm housed one hundred women and all eyes turned to Isa and Julie. It was the first time Isa had smiled since entering the doors from the parking lot. She smiled, somewhat embarrassed to be the focus of such attention.
“Hi,” she said a little shyly, “I’m Isa and this is Julie and we’re starting a class tonight called ‘exercising your power.’ It will be a combination of dance, exercise, journaling, writing and music. If you want to check it out, we’ll be starting in about 10 minutes.”
Isa and Julie left and were escorted to the recreation room. Isa plugged in the boom box she had brought and Julie lay out the journals and old magazines and glue sticks. The guards had confiscated the scissors.
Then the women arrived. Isa watched them enter through the door, all of them shuffling in their county issued white socks and plastic sandals.
The single file group of women continued and seem to never end. Isa looked at Julie with amazement. When the last one had entered the room was crowded, there were at least forty women in front of her, almost all of them older than her. They looked to Isa and Julie, waiting for instruction.
Julie started, “So this is going to be a really loosely structured class. We brought music for the women that want to dance, we brought journals and art supplies for those of you who want to write. We want for this to be a creative space, so tell us what you’re into and what we can do more of.”
Isa turned on the music, a cassette of disco/techno music she had gotten in Italy years before. She and Julie led the women in a free dance, exercise session. Many of the women suggested different moves and Isa looked around at one point and saw that everyone was smiling.
Together, she thought, they could make it seem like home for a moment, maybe an hour.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I see it now, sometimes from his perspective, sometimes from mine, sometimes hovering beyond us both. I was leaned back in a chair with my long legs in stockings stretched out in front of me, heels forsaken, devouring a bag of generic brand party mix. There I slumped watching exhibitors drag carts laden with boxes of comics and the trappings of their booths out the yawning cargo door 120 ft away.
I was waiting for my partner to bring the truck around. A moment earlier she called to say the line of vehicles waiting to reach the loading dock was wrapped around the hotel. It would be a while.
So I was resigned to sitting there in a numb stupor when Hawk returned to his table beside mine. Presently my chair was turned with the back to him.
When we started talking I sat up and turned sideways so that I could twist around to face him, gripping the metal back of the chair to stay in place.
At that moment I still knew him as Jim and not Hawk, the quiet artist that sat beside us for two days dressed in a black t-shirt and slacks, his steel colored hair being all that I could see while his face was turned down to his work.
On Saturday, I had decided that maybe he was a snob who thought himself better than us. He didn’t do much to initiate conversation or contact. That was the day that I wore the tight red dress with the push up bra.
On the morning of day two I glanced over and saw him applying color to a drawing of Harlequin. I felt a sort of jolt realizing that the perfect plastic look of these characters was coming from Jim’s attentive work. This quiet man wearing wire framed spectacles seated next to me was making those drawings look like that.
That was why at the end of the day as we started tearing down the booth I turned to Jim and told him I had taken the opportunity to watch him work and was impressed. I told him his work was beautiful.
He welcomed me to flip through the pages of his portfolios. When I had finished looking through them he offered to let me choose one.
I selected the Harlequin I had seen him working on in the morning and packed it carefully away. Now he stood beside his suitcases on wheels and talked to me as I craned around in my chair.
Jim’s father had insisted that he would never amount to anything. He didn’t like or understand comics. He thought they were for kids and couldn’t understand his grown son’s interest in them.
One day Jim showed his Dad a copy of Arkham Asylum to demonstrate that comics weren’t just for kids. It left his father speechless on the subject ever after. Jim suspected that it was merely because he was afraid of being shown something like that again.
Jim bought and ran a comic store during the comic boom in the 80’s when you could find a comic book shop on every block. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the craze of the day. It was during this era that Jim started attending exhibitions, carting all the wares of his comic shop into convention halls. A few years later his employees suggested he table as an artist while they ran the booth dedicated to the shop.
One year a boy approached and asked Jim to sketch something for him. Jim explained that he wasn’t that sort of artist. He was afraid of how it would turn out.
But when he saw the forlorn look on the kid's face as he walked away empty handed, Jim called him back and sketched a hawk man. The kid loved it, but Jim, not convinced that this was work he’d want to be known for, signed it “Hawk” rather than using his real name.
The following year the kid returned with an army of other kids, all eager to get sketches from Hawk. So Jim became Hawk, a fixture at the comic book conventions each year.
He was the longest tabling artist at Wonder Con. When they moved the operation from San Francisco to Anaheim they offered to fly him out to maintain the record. But Hawk had to decline because at this point he was caught up caring for his mother.
Hawk had to sell his comic book store after his father's death because the old man had left his wife with nothing but a mountain of debt. Hawk stepped in to care for his mother.
He took a job at Cisco Systems as the personal assistant for a man who wouldn’t walk five feet to fetch his own coke from the mini fridge.
He started building her a house. He still sold comics from a van to some of his old customers making special deliveries, but his finger was no longer on the pulse. He simply used the catalog to look up and order the items they requested and lost sight of the vast complicated scene that had once been his area of expertise. Slowly the number of customers dealing with him in this way dwindled until there were less than a handful left.
To fend off the wave of sorrow that was threatening us with silence I said,
“But at least you still have your passion. You’re here.”
And Hawk looked at me and said,
“To tell you the truth I don’t feel passionate about it any more.”
I looked at him, Hawk, battered by the storm of life, weighed down by his father's curse; Hawk, resigned to being pulled into the abyss, and I cried.
“Then you have to find something else, something to be passionate about. You must have passion!”
Hawk blinked at me, digesting my outburst.
My partner arrived with the dolly and without ceremony we began to load it up. Hawk offered to help but we said we had it covered.
“See you next time.”
I smiled as we headed towards the light cascading in through the cargo bay. Hawk waved and rolled his suitcases towards the hotel lobby.
And so it was that for weeks I would be haunted by the incomplete tale of Hawk. Would he rise at last beyond fear, beyond his father’s voice within, beyond the mortal coil, to soar and grasp with outstretched talons the fire eternal that burns in the hearts of the pure?
Or would the cold gray wave that was the hand of his ancestors pull him quietly into oblivion?
And I hoped, I hoped that Hawk would rise, that the encounter with the dame in the red dress would shake the sleep from his wings and remind him of what it is to be alive and striving against the cold and the curses. I hung the picture of Harlequin in the hallway and I whispered to it:
“Rise Hawk. Rise.”
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Down the hill she walked, a short descent that had little indentations in the soil where streams of water from last week’s rain had carved a narrow path. She walked carefully, gripping her camera with both hands, moving slower that usual.
She didn’t want to put the camera in her bag, she knew she would need it in another minute, but she didn’t want to fall and drop it again like she had a couple years ago, so she took little tiny steps and watched for little pebbles on the ground.
The bottom of the hill was level and covered in short, tender blades of green grass. There was the aroma of Indian food coming from somewhere near by, but she could not place it. She looked around for a tree with little berries or a small, pungent shrub, though there was nothing immediately obvious. The scent of spices was carried by the breeze and meandered over the dirt path and over the cement bridge not too far ahead.
As she approached the pedestrian bridge, which hung over nearly still lake water, she noticed the garbage can under the canopy of a tree. It was piled high, almost exploding with debris and plastic bags.
On the bridge was a middle aged black man. He stood looking over the bridge, a fishing pole at his feet was balanced against the cement waist high wall.
A younger man, perhaps his son, walked towards him in knee-high black rubber boots that squeaked with each step. Another fishing pole was balanced against the low bridge wall, twenty feet from the first one she had seen. She noted that they seemed content to let the lines hang by themselves, perhaps the size of any expectant fish was too small to requite constant vigilance.
The bridge was flanked by thin reeds and green grasses which rose from the water triumphantly.
The men talked. She tried to snap a few photos of them.
As she stood with her glass eye open to their encounter, the older man turned towards her, sensing her attention over his shoulders and face. She could see the white of his teeth and then realized it was a smile coming at her from a distance. Her mouth widened as well. She kept looking through the glass eye as he turned back to the younger man and went back to fishing.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Everything about her was different. I felt something with her that I had never felt with other women. Sisterhood. Something.
Whenever we walked down to the beach we saw dolphins. I never saw them when I went without her.
She wore this perfume, Eternity, and it was the only perfume I had ever liked to smell. Others gave me a headache. And maybe it wasn’t just the perfume, maybe it mingled with her perspiration, the trace minerals in the water that ran from her tap, the aroma of foods cooked with lemon and basil. It was colored by the timber of her voice, a soft but deep sound, slightly nasal, her laughter, a thing like a wave crashing against the walls of her chest before it hissed and bubbled out of her open mouth.
She was the only Greek woman I had ever met, a student on a visa, sitting alone on a balcony overlooking the pacific where it met the Golden Gate Bridge and the Northern California coast, a princess trapped in a tower, watching the mist roll in to swallow the Presidio.
Who could save her? Who in a land of strangers, in a culture where it was politically incorrect to be a prince, where individuality and isolation deserved merit and everything else required therapy, who could rescue her?
That question, the answers she found in books and yoga classes and homeopathic remedies, everything else I have mentioned, that scent mingled with all these things. And as I have said, it was called Eternity.
In October I found a bottle of cheap perfume among a line of scents that called themselves “impressions of the world’s most popular scents.”
Yes, I found an impression of Eternity for seven dollars in the drugstore. I wore it to a PTO meeting. Leaves twirling in empty space between sky and earth, the fog of Pacifica thick and briny, the taste of hot chocolate from the Café’ near the elementary school, my children, still children in that moment, laughing and skipping and running into the arms of their playmates. Their little hands, tender and warm and smelling of dirt and graphite.
That scent came to be entwined with these things too. With sweaters and sitting in a room full of women snipping satin ribbon, the sound of shears cutting through new fabric, their voices, their stories, their children, my children, prancing in the halls beside us as we prepared for the Winter Bazaar.
I felt a glimmer of it then, like butterfly wings on my cheek. Strange familiarity or familiar strangeness, warm and glowing, like almost remembering the words to a forgotten lullaby, or waking in a dream.
She was gone by then, in October.
Once when we had gone down to the beach we saw a bride and groom with a photographer. The bride's dress was long and white, the veil billowing behind her in a sea breeze as the groom, dressed in black, darted out of the way of the breaking surf.
She had been married in Greece, when she was 18, and something terrible happened. Her love had abandoned her and she had been dragged out to sea with the other emotional and inarticulate things that whirled about in the cold dark currents.
The noose her groom had placed around her neck was made from the rope attached to an anchor, and it pulled her into the icy depths where she forgot all of her names, she forgot that she had ever been human.
When the dolphins at last found her and carried her back to the shore, she came to America. In the United States the broken hearted, uncommitted, and antisocial are hip. So here, she lived with an American man who was teaching her how to be alone in the company of others. He was teaching her to loose heart with a smile and a shrug.
But in September, she called me, crying, and she asked if she could stay a few days. I wanted to tell her yes. I wanted to say, “Of course, you’re like a sister to me.” But I couldn’t.
Shortly thereafter she returned to Greece. There were no goodbyes.
At some point I sent her an email remembering the time we stood together in the water at Coyote Point. Children were flying kites and the sun was warm. Standing there in the water with her, I felt as though I was wading in the same sea that brushed the mysterious shoreline of her heart.
Afterwards we lay in the sun and she told me about men she wanted to introduce me to and old friends left in exotic places. The scent of grass and sunscreen and sweat, mingled with her voice, her pretty vision for me, her sad stories.
And of course there was, encapsulating it all, Eternity.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
They were there in the sand for miles, across lands that would later be states and then called by proper names. But for now, it was just land. Wide open land that crossed pine laden forests thick with owls and foxes and all the creatures that come with such dark mysterious places.
I would cross myself out of habit, never for one moment believing help would be heaven sent- and after a pause, I entered the darkness of those trees, spooked as much by the unfamiliar sounds as by the lack of light. My horse would move, sensing my hesitation, feeling the same shift in perception as shadows and the wild creatures of bedtime stories appeared before us dancing.
Still now I wonder if it was the place where monsters and fairies and wizards were made, there in the darkness of sweet smelling pine. Was it there? Or was it the light- was it me?
Let me pause as I laugh and reflect, reading the words I have written thus far. Such a mind I have, always trying to land on the truth when there is none.
It was the darkness and the shapes created by light. It was I, the man upon the horse following the footsteps who saw them.
And they were there, as real as shadows and perceptions. They played on the thick tree trunks of those mountain pines. I, who lost all bearing as the light vanished.
Where I had been, where I was going, those thoughts left without a trace of memory, not a single remnant stuck to my boot. Every rock and bough, every creature with flittering wings was intertwined with my story, and I with theirs. Here to help or thwart my journey, I could not tell.
So we moved forward cautiously, tasting lightly the treats brought forward by the mountain creatures. The footsteps brought me to those mountains covered in pines and creatures with red and white spotted eyes and to the dwarf women with hair that trailed behind them like fine golden cloth and furry animals covered in stripes and the gold of kings.
The footsteps that had brought me thus far, those footsteps that had crossed the sand covered deserts and stone-fortified towns of the south, the places beyond common language and religion where I had been a foreigner, sometimes god and sometimes devil depending on the most recent tales spun around campfires in the night; those footsteps which I followed had left my mind as well, not just the ground.
Sitting here now I wonder if I had ever seen them, had they ever truly been sunk into the mud or sand or was it just me again, looking for what I wanted, seeing what I needed?
And again I laugh, perhaps all those things wrapped up in the leather armor of the young man on that land. That grand land shaped and etched in patterns as varied as the clouds.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Nothing inside, nothing outside. The construction continues.
There is really only one space that we occupy, it is our relationship to the flow of energy through ourselves and the space which gives the space shape. The form comes from within, from a certain nothingness that hides itself in endless dancing.
A night not too long ago. She was awoken from the silent sweetest of dreams. It was precisely when the first bomb struck the earth, only a block from her house.
She lies now on a hospital bed with her arm nearly severed. Her nervous system recurrently informs her that something has gone drastically wrong. Somewhere, something has gone wrong. It is difficult to place it, difficult to ascertain the nature of the problem. But it's there. Palpable, close.
On the corner of the hospital complex a re-construction project is underway. If she lifts her head up onto the pillows, she can see it from her window.
A flimsy chain link fence surrounds the dusty site, the worn woven metal providing little more than a psychological barrier between the hospital and this budding new project.
She can not recall the details of that night. A night not too long ago. Certainly no details of the day after. No details there. Only dust and clouds and a kind of nothingness full of expectation.
But she remembers waking in the middle of the night. She remembers smiling, she remembers the feeling of lightness and air. Something rising, something expanding and seeking freedom.
As she was pulled into waking consciousness by sirens and the sound of splintering metal, she felt the softness drain from her mind. Some things can only be felt at certain times, some times are more rare than others. The smile was gone before she knew where it came from.
There is a big gap in the fence, making it easy for the workers to enter and exit. If she lifts her head up onto the pillows, she can see it from her window.
The enclosed area is large, big enough to contain the planned 5000 square foot clinic that will sit here in the near future.
She watches them from her window every day, hour after hour. They provide a kind of solace that she can't find elsewhere, not in the words of the doctors, not in the voice of her relatives through the phone, not in flowers, not in light.
The boy no longer cries. She may feel despair, fear, anger, or more likely a sensation that escapes definition but is nonetheless extremely unpleasant. Her eyes are certainly wide open, watching the strange movements outside. The construction continues.
The ground is made of dirt and the 12 inch boot imprints of construction workers poke the dusty surface. A small handful of construction workers are present, all looking identical in their uniform of blue jeans, white sweatshirts, tan boots and white hardhats.
The crucifix hanging over the bed seems awful, like a foreshadowing of impending punishment. Sacrifice, death, pain, sudden change, sacrifice, punishment, pain, change. The entire mood is sinister.
Before her brain could catch up to her movements, she was already running for her son. The loud echoes of the bomb were still in her ears. There was nothing to do but run, run for him.
A bomb, so close, too close.
After gathering the crying infant in her arms, she ran once again for her husband. She asked what was happening.
"It's them..." was his only reply, and then he left to turn on the TV. The news sounded like the singing of birds, the words didn't make sense but it seemed as if they were saying something.
Construction has just recently begun, only a dozen metal beams have been put in place to create the foundation of the building. Three steel beams, each almost four hundred feet tall, stand vertically. If she lifts her head up onto the pillows, she can see it all from her window.
Despite the size of the proposed project, there is a quiet calm within the construction site, like the relaxed mood of a warm Sunday afternoon.
She may feel despair, fear, anger, or more likely a sensation that escapes definition but is nonetheless extremely unpleasant.
The small group of men work efficiently with the instilled knowledge of their craft. They move confidently and smoothly, knowing all the necessary steps needed to complete the project. Hardly a spoken word is heard throughout the construction zone, every man knows his role and performs each small task with an effortless ease.
A night not too long ago. The night before the day. The day she can't put together, the missing pieces she can't remember. The day she tries to build within her mind and yet fails, over and over again.
She spent the rest of that long, black night alone in bed, trying to console her crying son and failing once again with the sound of a new explosion. One after another. Sooner or later the sound would be too near, sooner or later the sound would be so near that she would no longer be able to hear, no longer would be able to see, no longer would be able to remember.
Four of them are working on raising a metal frame, the dark metallic frame looks purple in the sunlight and the huge square piece of welded steel rises vertically into the air, forming the skeleton of the new building. With only a couple of men, they manage to lift a thousand tons of metal, there are no cranes or mechanized machines in sight.
Her nervous system recurrently informs her that something has gone drastically wrong. (Memories, flashes of insight, understanding that fades as soon as it announces itself with finality.)
She lies now on a hospital bed with her arm nearly severed. The boy no longer cries.
The form comes from within, from a certain nothingness that hides itself in endless dancing.
There is really only one space that we occupy, it is our relationship to the flow of energy through ourselves and the space which gives the space shape.
The cries of the little boy lasted through the night, never ceasing, never slowing. It was as if he already knew what was coming. As dawn broke, the sounds of explosions continued.
Eventually she got used to the sound. It took a long time. She got so used to it that she forgot all about the danger, all about drastic possibilities of irreversible change.
The boy. A construction worker every so often descends from the top of the highest metal beam.
No longer. His toes are tucked into a groove in the small metal beam and he slides down to the earth slowly, like Dracula with his arms crossed at his chest and still wearing a hardhat.
Nothing inside, nothing outside. The construction continues.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Beside it, a triangle which points towards heaven.
The sun is long past its peak. The light that now spills over the city is golden and fleeting. The walls of the many downtown buildings glow in a muted shade of orange, the sky above has turned to a pale blue that only holds a faint promise of the darkness to come. There are no clouds, just endless pale blue ever so slowly shifting to gray.
There are more symbols. She can feel them, almost hear them as if they were talking with soft words in a language she can not understand. The shapes have obscured themselves, blending into each other like colored oils.
She has awoken on a warm bed of light green grass. She had dreamed of a closed door and two men with white horns. But as her eyes flutter open, she is surprised to find herself alone. She lays still for several minutes, tuning into the metronome of her heart, listening to the sounds of the city.
The street is wide and made of multiple lanes of traffic going in both directions. The city is a mixture of ancient and new, old edifices and architecture combined with new street lamps and signs. The street itself is covered with a fresh black layer of asphalt, but the sidewalks are old cobblestone, worn to a shiny finish from years of use. Modern buses wait patiently in traffic beside buildings hundreds of years old.
Two men with white horns. They were speaking. What did the men say? What were they saying?
"In music I will give you the mystery of the baptism of those of the Midst and the manner of invocation for reaching their regions."
A typical late afternoon, a known rhythm. She can sense it all without looking.
Though the sounds seem familiar, there is another sound that lays the foundation to all that she hears. She lays still, focusing, listening.
It's the sound of distant bells. Earlier they lulled her to sleep here in this quiet little park. Now that same repetition has somehow called her back from the dream.
"And in gestures I will announce unto you their ciphers and their seals. It will be a dance and the steps will change even as the music changes. You will never know what step comes next just as I never know what step comes next. The sequence will seep into your consciousness like water being absorbed by cardboard. I want your consciousness to become soggy , a formless pulp."
The street is exact and completely straight, breaking from its course only when it meets perpendicularly with another wide road at an intersection. Each lane is full of cars. They wait bumper to bumper, occasionally letting out a desperate honk that does nothing to move the cars ahead of them.
She brings her warm pink hand to her face, slower than she would have usually moved her arm, so much slower than her habits would dictate. The hand comes towards her as though it needs attention, as though it has just been birthed from the warm folds of silk and is now taking its first breath in a new waterless world.
Here is bright light. Here is something that can see. Eyes and a face, a mind to comprehend.
The dainty white hand hovers a few inches above her face, just close enough for minute ripples of alarm to spread as she sees the short sequence of numbers and shapes on her index finger. This was not there when she went to sleep in the middle of the park just a few hours earlier.
Dark exhaust streams from the back of the city buses. They wait as still as the cars. Nearly hidden inside them are scores of passengers that stare out from the tinted windows with a mixture of helplessness and resigned desperation, unable to do anything to change their fate. An occasional motorcycle weaves its way through the congestion, finding the small pockets of space within the mass of metal and exhaust and horns beeping in useless exasperation.
"And I will give you the baptism of those of the Right, our region, by letting the sun scorch your skin and the eagles eat out your eyes."
It is not just crowded streets, the sidewalks on either side of the traffic are full of pedestrians. Many of them are tourists, clinging to their maps and cameras and staring open-mouthed at the architecture. There are large baroque buildings that take up entire blocks and between them are grand cathedrals on every other corner.
She had gotten into the curious habit of studying her body in the mirror before bed, looking for such strange signs. Why did she start? What made her do it? No clear answers to be found, no clear answers to be stated.
It had turned into a compulsion. She didn’t know what she was searching for when she started. She smiled shyly at herself in the mirror under flickering candlelight, a bit embarrassed by the nightly ritual. But she did it again and again, looking for something. Night after night, she had only found pale skin and freckles.
But this afternoon something has happened. She searches her dreams for a clue. A door, white horns. She looks deeper, allowing her body to relax and drift, to begin the journey once again.
"I will give you the great mystery of the Treasury of the Light where all my wealth is stored."
a field with a book,
a man’s face she could not see.
She pulls herself out of the waves and looks at the symbols once again. She closes her eyes slowly, feeling her heart. It is calm, there is no fear. The ripples have faded.
"I will give you gnosis in order that ye may be called 'children of the fullness, perfected in all the gnosis and all the mysteries."
The tourists walk in small groups, adorned with hats and water bottles. Locals weave through them like the motorcycles, finding the spaces between gawking groups of picture-happy tourists.
She has grown to expect strange things, to hope for them perhaps, though a part of her mind holds onto modesty and stable things like stones and plastic.
But all things are possible in the labyrinth. Puppets and humans alike play, devising ways to come through the tunnels left wide open in dreams.
One of the oldest buildings in the downtown area is an old church with a long, narrow steeple made of metal. The building itself is constructed from bricks and rises five stories high. On the body of the building, close to the steeple, are open square windows. Inside the windows, within the church, she can see the silhouettes of ancient people, wide open eyes staring out.
The church building sways softly in the wind, moving slightly to the right and left, then forwards and backwards.
"Blessed are ye beyond all men on earth, for with access to these spheres you will have room to breath. For the children of the Light are come in your time, you are they.
All that is required for an achievement of gnosis is everything.
You who have abandoned the sky father and the earth mother because I have asked it, unto you will I give all mysteries and all gnosis."
A numeral, a 3. An upside-down triangle.
Beside it, a triangle which points towards heaven.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I find myself standing inside a modern gallery. Cool bright floors, bright white walls, light breeze streaming through big open windows. At this point I vaguely remember leaving my house, I vaguely remember an afternoon of surprises, unusual circumstances, the sound of laughter, the bright sunlight on the sidewalk, the startled look in the eyes of the guy who gave me the mushrooms, the kids playing baseball, the trees in the distance, the way the clouds looked like oil paintings, the sound of the birds.
"You will laugh so much..."
But now I am inside this gallery, looking at a painting of a mountain. I can't quite remember coming here. It makes sense that I am here, but I can't remember. It just makes sense on its own terms.
I look at the painting.
I see a rocky mountainside, covered halfway up in stones the size of human heads. All the boulders are dark gray and cold and slightly wet. The mountain is wide and tall, it connects to an even larger mountain range to the north. In the distance, the mountains are brown and barren and covered only in scattered patches of dry grass. The sun is hiding somewhere behind a thick haze of clouds.
The day seems new, but somehow drained of energy, as though something very intense has just vanished and what remains is slightly diminished.
It reminds me of the light of the afternoon. This afternoon, not that afternoon. It reminds me.
I come to the realization that the painting implies a location for me. Within it, I am inside a small cabin, looking out the window. I can see the frame of the window at the edges of the painting itself. The mountain is outside the window, bright sunlight, blue sky. But inside the cabin it is dark, musty shadows.
Answers born from questions and questions born from answers tumble awkwardly over one another like dark suited gymnasts. What is that light there, penetrating the apparent serenity of this dark space?
Eerie and blue, it calls to me and points towards a startling terror.
I am not alone here. I am not alone.
There is a movement not far off, something that can see me, just as I can now somehow barely see it. Somewhere beyond the edge of my vision, beyond the frame, within the painting, somewhere in the in between. The nether region beyond my direct sight. Something in there. Somewhere. Something.
The age old questions arise: can this thing hurt me? Should I hurt it first? Who will eat who?
I turn away from the painting. The guy who gave me the mushrooms is looking for a general manager. He is asking questions in rapid fire succession. His hands move up and down. I can't see who he is talking to. Someone else is here. Someone. Somewhere.
I have questions of my own. Where did I meet him? How long ago? Were we good friends at some point in the past? Did we spend many afternoons together, drinking, talking, asking questions, laughing? Did we laugh so much that we came to know each other through our laugher? Have I temporarily forgotten?
His girlfriend is with him. She must be with him. I can't see her. I just see him walking around, moving his hands up and down.
Was I his girlfriend before? Was I someone else? Did I know him at all? Have I ever met him?
There are no clear answers in the gallery. No clear answers here. He is too far away to ask. Too far away to focus. Too far away to listen. Too far away.
I turn back to the painting.
I feel this thing again. Something beside me. In the painting, outside the frame, not in the gallery, not on the surface. And yet right here. Right there. Next to me. Some thing.
This is too close.
It can't be a friend. A friend knocks at the door, a friend calls to you, announces their presence from some distance before coming so near. This can't be a game.
Or are there other ways to play? Ways that belong to creatures far beyond the fear of safety and borders of individuality? Does one thought in my mind announce itself to another before it takes over? Does it knock? Does it ask for permission? Or does it just come in when I'm not looking? When I'm looking elsewhere?
Fear is such an insistent mistress, always calling for my attention, always making bold claims.
Such as this announcement, this sudden claim that this is a matter of life and death. This, right now.
How can it be? I am standing in a gallery, looking at a painting, sunlight outside, the sound of voices, a guy I may or may not know asking for a manager, cars passing by outside. Safety. The world.
Leap up and attack! Run! Act! Quickly!
Or tell yourself that it isn’t real. It's only your imagination, it's the mushrooms I ate, not too long ago.
It couldn't have been that long ago, it must have been today, earlier today, how long is today? How long does the sun stay up in the sky? What does it mean to ask how long when I can't feel time passing?
There is nothing there. Walk away.
I close my eyes. If I can’t see it, then it can’t see me…so goes the ostrich logic. Leave the hidden things to feast over my reposed form. What do they do while I hide behind closed lids? What do they want?
I turn to another painting. Right next to the first one.
I am now looking into a warehouse. I sense that they would want me to be the manager here. Who are they? How could I know what they want?
They need help keeping track of things, maybe someone is looking for me, just beyond the edge of the painting, looking for the manager, for someone that could be the manager, me. I'm the one they're looking for, I'm the one he's looking for. I can be the manager. I am the manager.
There is grass on the floor of the warehouse. There are lots of people inside, some of them are watching TV. A large screen TV in the middle of the room.
I think that it could be relaxing to sit in the middle of a crowd and watch the images flashing on the screen. But the air is stifling, it's too crowded, I need to breathe. I can't sit here the way I'm feeling right now. I can't sit among so many people, I can't.
I look into the TV screen, the one inside this second painting, inside the warehouse that is inside the second painting.
I see the dead horse. His dead eyes stare at me through the screen. Stare at me. Dead horse. Inside.
Has this happened before? Have I asked these questions already? How long have I been here?
I'm simply back here. Back in the cabin. And someone, something, is still here with me.
This is that thing, so familiar, so incredibly strange. I know it. That thing that they told me didn’t exist. The thing that was not in my closet, not under the bed, not at my window. The thing that was not.
Sleep they told me, go to sleep. So I did.
But now I can feel it. I am startled by this presence, this “should not be here” that disturbs the peace like a spider falling from the ceiling onto your cheek, a hand where there should be empty space, a pair of eyes in the raw darkness of a garden. Flashing eyes, glowing eyes.
Just inside the cabin, inside the painting, outside the frame, not here where I am, there, not here.
Now I know that it has always been here. It was always in the closet, under the bed, and at my window, then just as now. Now. Here.
I turn away and walk out the back door. I see the mountain once again. Maybe if I leave the cabin behind, the darkness, maybe the thing can't follow.
I step outside, into the fresh air. I breathe deeply. So much better out here. Leave the cabin behind. Finally, I can breathe. This is what I needed. This is what I need.
There is one four foot trail that travels the length of earth from peak to ocean. There are other scattered trails that are much thinner, only wide enough for one person at a time. Close to the shore is a thicket of trees beside a clearing thirty feet wide. They are as tall and thin as eucalyptus, only they have darker and wider leaves and more full reaching boughs that create a wide canopy.
Something is still moving behind me. I would not usually be here, walking on this mountain path. Usually I wouldn't be here. Usually.
I would not usually perceive that strange glow, should not. I would not hear the rustling, should not. I would not feel my pulse quicken and my eyes snap open.
Keep walking. Keep going. Don't look back.
The clearing is smooth and flat and free of all rocks. Because of the trees, it is covered in a nearly green-black shade. The earth here is damp and smells of wet bark.
To the left of the clearing and the trees is a grouping of dark wood condominiums. The singular structure is angular and modern. It would give off a very cold emotion if not for the wood used to construct it. The collection of two-story houses each have double pane windows and wide sliding glass doorways that face the seashore and the thicket of trees.
These things are ephemeral.
Yes, I have now decided, it is more than one. It is multiplicity itself, it is always many and now more than ever. Many and I am one. They continue their advance. They.
Why should they worry? I don’t believe that they exist. I have left the cabin, there can't be any thing here, no further thing, no further.
Reason should prevent me from rising to stop them. Why should I try to stop that which doesn't exist?
On the lower floor, beside a sliding glass door, is a dead white horse laying on the ground. Its legs are curled close to its body in the fetal position.
Sleep they told me, go to sleep. So I did. That has always been the way. Where there is nothing, sleep will brush it away. Gentle sleep, calming sleep.
Tell yourself that it isn’t real. It is only your imagination, there is nothing here. Mushroom, light, painting. Nothing there.
I am looking at a painting. This guy I know. He gave me some mushrooms. This is the mushrooms. This is what happens when you eat mushrooms. (Except mushrooms have never been quite like this. Except I can no longer see a gallery or a frame or a painting.)
The glass doors reveal the occupants of the houses. There are people inside. They are swollen and pale and laying on their backs on the damp linoleum of their kitchens. Their bodies are moist, as are the T-shirts and shorts which clothe their bloated bodies. They are not moving but I can see their chests moving up and down. Alive. Moist. Bloated. Inside.
These things are still behind me. I can't think of any other noun to describe them. Things. What do they want from me? What do they want?
Answers born from questions and questions born from answers tumble awkwardly over one another like dark suited gymnasts. I descend into the dark depth blotting them from my mind. Forget that light there disturbing the womb of darkness and retreat into slumber and the comforting illusion of solitude.
There is a rocky mountainside, covered halfway up in stones the size of human heads. All the boulders are dark gray and cold and slightly wet. The mountain is wide and tall, but it connects to an even larger mountain range to the north. In the distance, the mountains are brown and barren and covered only in scattered patches of dry grass. The sun is hiding somewhere behind a thick haze of clouds. The light is still very bright, the kind of light that requires squinting. The day seems new, but slightly drained of energy, as though something very intense has just vanished and what remains is slightly diminished.
I see a woman lying down. She's laying on the ground. Her legs are curled close to her body in the fetal position. Her face is towards me. She looks strangely like me.
There are no things. There is no gallery. There is no painting. There is no horse. Nobody. Nowhere. No.
Monday, February 4, 2013
The rectangular room had several rows of individual desks made of steel with wooden tops. There was a large chalkboard along the front wall (the opposite wall she was facing). She imagined the officers gathering here in the morning- drinking steaming coffee out of styrofoam cups and hashing out the day’s details while the bullets sat, restless in their chambers.
She was leaning on one of the hard fake wood surfaces of the desks. Two cops sat in chairs in front of her- they were asking questions. She had been up for 24 hours and knew no better, she filtered nothing. The lighting was dim, a yellowish black. It was as if she was on stage and they were her audience. Words flew out of her mouth like water, her brain barely registering the questions before her lips would move.
“Where did you get the heroin?”
“The guys got it from someone downtown.”
“Who gave it to you?”
“Like, who literally gave it to me?”
“The guys, my boyfriend.”
“Did you shoot it?”
“No,” she said smiling, “We could never find a vein. Ray shot it into my buttcheek, I needed him to do it, it’s a little hard to reach."
She smiled and they smiled too. She didn’t know that bit of information could lead to a felony charge.
It was almost like the men were not there in front of her, as if she was alone and a milky white film separated her from them. She was beyond tired, she actually felt energized. Words flew out- every one of their questions got an honest answer.
After questioning she was led back into the room where Ray, Travers and Anne were sitting in a corner on some plastic chairs. The light was bright and harsh, matching the cold color of the walls. Their despondent faces, lacking expression and warmth, looked different than the way she felt.
The two police officers asked Ray to come with them. He was still handcuffed, as was Travers. They were gone for a while, then they came back in and Ray took a seat while Anne left for questioning.
Ray mouthed something to her, she couldn't hear him so she made a confused face, scrunching up her eyebrows.
He mouthed it again:
“You fucked me.”
She did not really know what he was talking about and looked at him with a blank face, though a cold bit of dread started to bury itself inside her chest.
A little while later, Anne and Isa were taken to another holding cell towards the front of the jail. There were two other women in there and a steel bench and a pay phone attached to the cement wall.
The escorting officer told them they would be released in a little while. Isa asked about Travers and Ray.
“They’re being charged, they’ll be here a while.”
Later she realized that it was her words alone that had been used to charge Ray with four felonies.
Anne and Isa stayed in the holding cell for another hour. Then they were processed, given their confiscated possessions and they walked out the double wide glass doors into the bright morning light.
Monday, January 28, 2013
She sat on the velvet couch. She was aware of her body and the constant tingling. Unlike when her arms fell asleep, the sensation now was lighter. It felt like she was being lifted, as though her body was slowly rising, winning the fight against gravity like a helium balloon.
In direct contrast to this sensation, the parts of her which touched the couch, the back of her legs and back and butt, they all felt heavy and organic. It was as though roots or thick curling vines had grown out of her and merged her body of flesh with the wooden legs of the couch and she had become part of the plaster walls and found a new home in the cracks.
She was both floating and grounded, tasting salt on her lips and smelling sugar.
The tabletop lamp beside her was on and glowing, it seemed as bright as the sun. Even though there was no other source of illumination in the living room and the curtains were drawn against the night sky, she could see every color and shape that decorated the space.
She looked down at her lap and at the black a-line skirt which covered her ample white thighs. She saw the tiny mesh of the material and the faint way it reflected the light like a moon.
She saw everything at once and in perfect detail. The pale pink walls trimmed with a golden wood along the edges, the narrow planks of the hardwood floor below the Persian area rug and all the tiny scratches on the ground. The glean of the coffee table just a foot from her knees and the few streaks left over from the last time she windexed the glass surface.
It all shone in the light of the single lamp, all of it amplified by her intensified perception. She sat with her hands on her upper thighs and noticed the sweat on her palms, smelling lightly of iron. The tingling had gotten stronger, lifting her up and up and up and that sense of earthly groundedness kept her planted.
She sat on the velvet couch. The dark blue curtains were mostly drawn, just a crack between the two panels was open in the center, perhaps just an inch wide. The night outside seemed slightly pale and she wondered how close it was to the full moon.
She sat there waiting as the clock in the kitchen ticked rhythmically, the ticking ringing against the walls in great booms and crashes, both lulling and jarring. The constant sound seemed to come quickly and yet an eternity would come and go between those ticks and tocks. She would notice the delicate trail of a cobweb in the far corner of the ceiling and remember a long ago birthday party of a long-lost friend and she would hear the songs of long ago, long evaporated from public memory. Then another tick would crash down, wrapping around the walls and pounding down on her flesh.
She sat on the velvet couch. Moments of her life flashed through her mind like a mashup of moving images and slides that moved at such a rapid pace she rarely noticed their presence until it was gone and she saw some other scene in her mind.
In the space of one tick of the clock she would see dozens of memories, perhaps more as they merged and shifted together, becoming new moments of recognition. A bright blue car on a gravel driveway, her sister running down the carpeted hallway of their old home and falling at the edge of their bedroom door, a scene of herself in bed with her first love.
She saw words and old thoughts which had long since changed. The fights and the kisses and long drives across the country with views of wheat and birds and landmarks never seen again. The moons and road signs which she once noticed, the lines in books and magazines and the long steaming baths she once had every other day.
The room was glowing brightly, her body was shining, tingling, flying away, growing heavier and deeper and merging easily with the contents of the living room and flowing down into the foundation and then past all that cement and steel into the rocks and dark pungent earth that had supported her life.
She sat on the velvet couch knowing that soon he would come, she could hear his footsteps on the sidewalk, he would be there soon.