Old Dog

I watched this old dog walk in tight fast circles
for 30 long seconds
and I can’t even count how many circles he walked.

That’s how fast he walked.

God, I wish I had that kind of motivation and ambition
to move.

He either had no idea what he was doing
because he’s deaf, blind, and maybe delirious

or he thought that he had somewhere to be
and couldn’t wait to get there

I wish I was that excited to go to a place.

That place for him was probably his water dish
which was just outside of his tight fast circles

and his left leg brushed against the edge of it.

Posted: August 4th, 2019
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Notes on Working in a Restaurant Kitchen

June 20th
I need to be at work in an hour. At any time of day or night, I always feel like I need to work in an hour. I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, yelling, “I gotta be at work in an hour!” It’ll be three in the morning, but I’ll yell it so loud that birds fly out of trees.

June 21st
I almost feel like I shouldn’t have asked for a raise because now I’m under examination and assessment by management, which makes me anxious, which makes me unfocused, which causes me to underperform and sweat more. This is how I will be perceived. As an underperforming, sweaty person.

If I’m not sweating in front of the pizza oven, I’m sweating in the prep area in the back of the kitchen where the air conditioning is on the fritz, and if I’m not there you’ll find me out back smoking and sweating under the sun.

June 22nd
Two cooks, Marcus and Justin, are in the walk-in cooler arguing about the tomatoes.
“You have to throw those away.”
“Well, if you cut around the mold…”

June 23rd
I don’t mind shooting the shit with Luca, the kitchen manager. He thinks highly of himself. He prides himself on fitting into the hypermasculinity of kitchen culture as if he thinks he’s a young Anthony Bourdain. He’s also proud of himself for flirting with so many servers, which is a joke to a lot of us, so when we hear that a new server slept with him, we say that she fell for it (the joke). I get the impression that he thinks that I’m impressed with him.

While Luca and I were talking, Lindsay came up to us and started telling me about something that must’ve happened to Luca years ago, and then Luca yelled “NO,” which I think even silenced the noise of the dish machine. I walked away. Too tense and mysterious. I don’t need that in my life.

I saw the hostess, Hannah, repeating, “I think there’s something wrong with me,” while peering out of a window. I decided not to pursue that mystery either.

June 24th
The music drives me crazy. It’s mostly dance pop trash. The same songs play all night. I’ll hear them repeat at least three times during a shift and I’ve realized that I’ve been hearing these songs for the last year and a half. It reminds me of the U.S. interrogation methods of playing music to detainees to cause discomfort during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I genuinely feel like I’m being psychologically tortured. It doesn’t matter if it’s pop music or black metal, as long as it’s too loud and plays too often. A person could be tortured with the Pure Moods compilation albums.

However, I do like when children sing with all their hearts along to whatever song is playing and their parents bury their faces in their palms and say things like, “Please baby, no more singing.”

June 25th
Slowest of days. Only a few tables during lunch. I doubt that anyone will come in for dinner. Maybe I’ll just air guitar for the next six and a half hours and then, hopefully, I’ll die.

Marcus and Justin are arguing about whether or not the mushrooms should be washed.
“You have to wash the dirt off them.”
“They’re supposed to have dirt on them.”

June 26th
It’s one of those days when I’m jumping through micromanagement hoops, trying to complete several tasks, but many more steps keep manifesting and I’m going from one part of the restaurant to another and it’s raining and soot is coming out of the chimney and getting in the food and the computers are down and I’m thinking about leaving a cardboard cutout of myself in the kitchen so I can disappear unnoticed.

June 27th
The managing server’s name is Jeff Pitts. He looks like a Jeff Pitts. Jeff told me that he’s afraid that the new girl is too dumb to work here. She’s just quiet and unassuming. I said, “You can’t tell what a person thinks based on how they appear.” He nodded his head, and then we stared at each other for five long seconds.

June 28th
This guy Kevin always shows up in a white v-neck t-shirt. Looks like Michael Keaton. Middle-aged. Talks low. A steady mumble. Barely looks anyone in the eyes. Always gets free food. Friendly with managers, kitchen staff. Gets a lot of respect. They put their hands on his shoulders, talk to him close and quiet. Probably sells coke.

June 29th
I don’t mind making pizzas for coworkers if they ask nicely and don’t ask often. That’s why I don’t give food to Thomas. Giving food to Thomas is a waste. I might as well throw the pizza in the trash as soon I pull it out of the oven. Thomas has the personality of a bottomless trash can. I’m mean to Thomas because it just feels right in my heart to do so.

I was eating a pizza on my break and Thomas walked up to me and said, “I want a slice.” He didn’t even ask politely. I said, “if we’re just going to bluntly state what we want then I want you to not have what you want,” which was fine because I didn’t have to give him a slice of pizza, but then I had to follow him around all night slapping things out of his hands: food, drinks, phone, cigarettes, money. Didn’t get much work done today, but I think I made my point.

Don’t go around stating your desires to people. You can’t just walk up to a person and say, “Give me what you have. I want it right now.” Nobody gives a shit.

June 30th
Am I getting a raise or not? My feet are in shambles. I’m on my feet for hours on end. I feel bad for my ankles as if they’re a couple of sad bastards. It takes a lot of time to be able to look at parts of your body and say, “That doesn’t work so well anymore.”

If you work in kitchens for long enough, you may not get much respect from people, but what you will have is a damaged body. Considering the discipline of working laborious jobs in general, body damage is what you end up working for in the long term. It takes integrity, ambition, and willpower to cultivate such a high degree of lower back pain. You have to believe in yourself.

Marcus and Justin are standing over a pan of week-old spicy sausage.
“This is bad.”
“It’s supposed to smell like that.”

July 1st
Good to know that the day dishwasher understands the importance of positive reinforcement and self-improvement. At least there’s that guy. It’s good to have people to hold your temper down when you’re working, people who can detect the volatile emotions of others and keep them at an even keel.

July 2nd
I just saw the owner high-five the dishwasher. Where the fuck is my high-five?

July 3rd
Every time the ticket printer prints a ticket, the sound that it makes is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and Grandma Spiess, who fed me and made sure I was comfortable when I was in elementary and middle school, died not knowing my name or face because of Alzheimer’s, which I think says a lot about the sound of the ticket printer.

July 5th
Here’s some insight as a cook: if business is too slow, your brain will be fried from standing around doing nothing, and if it’s too busy, your brain will be fried from doing the same mind-numbing, monotonous work. And it’s never just busy enough. It’s always too much or too little, so either way: fried brains.

Posted: July 30th, 2019
Categories: Fiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Big Hungry Cats

I like to think that I’m not afraid to die

But I had this dream where I was lying on the floor
while a couple of big hungry cats were circling my body and sniffing me.

I was terrified
and felt like I had to do something

I kicked one of the cats when it circled around to my feet

which woke me up
because I actually kicked the air
while sleeping

and now I’m disappointed in myself
because it turns out that I am afraid to die

and also
I’m so dumb that I would kick a big hungry cat in the

face.

Posted: July 30th, 2019
Categories: Nonfiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Another One

I can’t control the door, but I push
against an orchestra of car horns,
a driving rivalry
as daunting
as body snatcher screams.

They are all like this one.

The nights broadcasting sirens
all fog and no confetti
all streetlamps
and muffled alarms
riding the air

vocal fries stretching
to prolonged croaks

the lone saxophone moaning

The baby crying in the distance

The shiny-when-wet
wash of street drab
for me to drag my face upon.

I cough a songless bleach-stained pink.
I don a bottomless pitch-black suit.
as the slack-jawed mouth
drops too soon.

Flicker a fighting tongue
to a gluttonous wine guzzler

The door impenetrable as argument
A block of silence to stop the howls down hallways
The torso crawls only so far for fear to scar
and before I lock myself in

The nude perform their antagonistic dance,
punishment for not showing eye,
attack of exclusive laughter.

The living dark harms while I perform
my facial contortion on the other side,
fingers in hair and sighing loud,

the thickness of knock
eclipsing with force.

Posted: February 2nd, 2019
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Do not think of me as a monster

I am hot sauce bottle next to vodka shot
sunken eye bottomless pupil uncrumpled ear
whipping tongue scab face
missing a leg and a wing

I am the night swimmer acid kisser wind chaser
ravenous cartoon kicking in the other room
bloated rainshow
let it make my skin prune

I dig holes and fill them with dignity

I linger in mental tilt
dutch angle fever dream
post-happiness depression

I am sweat gathering cheap thin napkin
tobacco rice and beans
falling columns crumbling naked feet
fire between grinding teeth

I am ellipsis
magnified awareness
magnetized showtime
traumatized starlight
prairie fire deep dive

I am limp gray body sliding into hot pit
beaten to depth prone to plunge
prone to self-destruct

I fight behind every thought
hiss behind every shadow
mistaken dreams for illusions
and echoes for memories

I show my belly to ruination
introduce the dirt to my bones
long for pure departure
die fortuneless on the living room floor

I am old cat running for life
and dying alone away from home
salt my body so I don’t become a ghost

I vomit hot golden sadness on your best dress shoes
and it will never wash off

I am aware of every fall and rise of my eyelids

I’ve dreamt of reaching
into the mouths of angry dogs
and drawing back woundless arms.

I could fit the world in.

Posted: June 20th, 2018
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Work

My employer with his eighteen-year-old girl riding his back, draped in hair, not hiding enough face.

He feeds her spaghetti from his shoulders and she cranes her neck to slurp up the noodles, meat sauce soaking from the collar down. People eat with their subconscious before they eat with their mouths.

He shouts “ANDREW” at me while beating a fist on a metal table and I’m yelling at him to shut up and the girl stretches her bored narrow chest, dainty hands up in praise of life.

Sometimes I wonder how anyone can be so nerveless. I’m supposed to flick this switch on and off and so on for hours, so I got this kid to do it for me and if I didn’t, he would be sitting on our clock. There is only so much to do before we are consumed by screams. I watch him and exhale sickly hope.

When the old man doesn’t storm, he grins. His mouth, a wet cave of tombstones.

I glare into the spaces between those high-resolution teeth where a hissing steams out. They get deeper the closer I am, filled with everything about myself I can’t accept to be true.

Posted: April 19th, 2018
Categories: Fiction, Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Body Song

To be honest

I’m in a cold sweat
when I reach
through the slats
of our fence

slackjawed

with so much focus.
All borders approached
are the same beyond.

Is this really you: embellished paradigm
snapping smoke-pale fingers
in your work clothes
for the escape of your own
face and a longing
to run away

and more fingers
at your decorated lips
and too many more
running up
your neck?

Just show me your face: a jigsaw puzzle made
of countless secrets and two moons
perched on an edge
of shade.

You: a lace wrapped cake
shrouded in steam and melting, dripping
leaning in fatigue.

Him: a man-sized silhouette
in the kitchen window, who grips
your illusory thighs, your siren vocal fry
bruising hands hold you
by the back of the neck

There: a mop stretched
for display in spotlight
and a sweat-stained
bucket that you lift
and pour endlessly
onto your garden
of lamps which
flicker on.

My arms lengthen and embarrass
me. You know about them
about the moments between
rise and insomnia
When I feel like I could
nourish myself if
my reach could touch

Here I am: always pushing
my forehead against
our trembling fence
because I’ve
never seen
such shape

such features, flow and ambitious
gust blowing at your hair
releasing a panoramic idealization
a broad presence emitting a shining siren
which could crack open the vessel
advancing me into oblivion.

There is space inside you.

There is so much
space
in your eyes
I could run in
and never
be seen
again.

Posted: June 11th, 2017
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Extravagant Ashes

I’m here
repressed and combusted
eyes burned wide
to watch all aspects of shadow recede

You ride hot whimsy
with wings above my fiery head.

You don’t need stillness.
You don’t need make-up.

I’m here to burn
and you’re here to warm
your thighs.

I burn your dress of endless urge.
You dance around a table populated
with partial glasses of water.
You pull violins from violent winds.

My arms curl to my fiery chest
like question marks before
wrapping around you
when you hold me
the way velvet
holds corpse.

Our warmth drifts from
the beginning like light tracers.

How you never catch
but ignite still.

How you lie upon
the pink night.

Posted: March 29th, 2017
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Salt

I’m worried about crumbling tastelessly
so I search for salt
to rub on my body

but all I see is a frail man’s
stolen tablets
dropping
from the medicine
cabinet

a salve
made from the spit
of a mother
for the squirm
between
my shoulders

one flask of fancy
the Celexa almost empty

No more heartachewort
or quietus extract

lemon juice
in the rubbing alcohol bottle.

I’m rationing my minutes and pawing
at this notion of continuous days
until they fall away

and I only do this after
the yolk of ego breaks
at the tips of our tongues
and drips down
our chins

which only happens before
I end our relationship
abruptly.

How desperate I am
to stop myself
from pacing
in the kitchen.

How desperate I am
to sauté serotonin
in garlic, cream
and tequila

little agonist
little poppy and lavender

and that’s only after
I create a hole
the size
of my skull
to pour it in

and I flambé the combination
and listen to it melt away
the fleshy greasy hopelessness
if only for a fleeting moment
until I can finally
look in the mirror

and see what kind of teeth
are behind
these fat lips

sigh
a sparkling result

possess
a warm face
an insipid glisten

a smile
better than ever

a deathless shine.

Posted: February 2nd, 2017
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

2 Monsters at Dinner

We eat legs at a table for two under clouded light
and I almost think we make accidental eye contact
but I end up cemented in your thick winds

because everything else is cigarette smoke
and static heat under unpunctured overcast
except your horn-curled smile
and sharp bones

and even if I blow away the noise
I won’t get close, I’ll be inflated
with infinite lack, and I can’t believe
the mania folded within your laugh lines
your dress full of gust and tulip petals
and I can see it in natural motion
from across the table.

I’m stuck behind my eyes when I pour wine
through your famous lips and the server
breaks the animal between us
and we both widen, vulnerable
as loose blood
and as you drink I see
the vastness of your mouth
and maybe you

are not savory
but there is your hectic pepper hair
ready to swing away and it hurts
because I will never be able
to explain this over our separateness—
your absorbing storm, all the answers
ripped from bent limbs, blown
away and swallowed
whole.

But what if you become sweet
acetaminophen, a delicate medicine
I imagine as a relief, a reduction
a great dissipater of malaise
and when we finally finish
and match our pointed pupils
isn’t it like a bird
dancing with
a fly trap?

Posted: February 2nd, 2017
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

The Café Crowd

I’m at a cafe listening to some people in chairs having a passionately belligerent political debate involving many obscure economic facts that I can’t repeat because I don’t remember. One guy spoke angrily over the others about the reality of these facts, how there are too many idiots who don’t care about empirical data, which is pragmatically more important than belief or tradition, and his friend agreed, then he walked away confident and proud as if he just had great sex, and that the release of tension is the only thing that matters and makes everything okay and nobody’s all that afraid. He swaggered and smiled and said hi to a hyper little girl holding a dead bird and walked into the cafe to maybe use the restroom or something

then these two girls walk in and almost bump into another child. They’re tall and leggy and wearing giant heels and one is wearing these shorts that let her ass hang out. They sit down and the one with the ass starts talking business, about what sounds like PR stuff, and the other fills out paperwork, then the one with the ass starts telling the other to not let anyone touch her for any reason and to have a backup name in case her clients don’t believe her first one and that she has her number so she should call if she has any questions, and I realize that this is a job interview for a position as a stripper

and so this old man is pounding on the bathroom door, cranking the doorknob as if it’s stuck, and the person in there is probably a little scared. I think this girl sitting by the counter keeps flipping her hair so she can turn her head towards me to make eye contact, but I might be wrong and I couldn’t believe her smile which left me sinking, fading, vacant and I wish this kid standing too close to me would stop pouring packets of sugar in his mouth

and somehow I’m surrounded and alone at the same time and when I look forward to death I can’t tell if I’m energized or exhausted

Posted: May 26th, 2016
Categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

How Sleep Paralysis Terrified Me

Occasionally in the past, I’ve felt a heavy weight on my chest or an inability to move my body while transitioning into or out of sleep. I would notice my surroundings warp and become tall and daunting, light and space becoming obscured and teased. At times, it would seem like there were rooms and corridors in my home that never existed before.

These are the beginning effects of my experiences with sleep paralysis. When I experienced this phenomenon, I would be convinced of an intruder, someone looming in my bedroom doorway waiting to hurt me, someone incognito, someone who shouldn’t be there. I felt vulnerable, not ready to die and terrified of suffering. I would be convinced that this person wanted me to feel as much pain as he or she decided. It would take all of my strength and willpower to pry myself out of sleep paralysis, and as soon as I would, I couldn’t let myself sleep again and I’d chain smoke in the dark of my kitchen, too afraid that I’d fall back into it. Imagine the discomfort of not being able to trust your mind or your surroundings while you’re lying in your bed.

Sleep paralysis is considered a sleep disorder by the medical community, and what I saw could have been a stress-induced hallucination, but it is also a phenomenon attributed by some to metaphysical activity. During the year that I was occasionally falling into sleep paralysis, I was in an emotional landslide. I wasn’t getting along with my family, and considering forgetting about my dead mother to alleviate the agony of missing her. I was under a lot of stress, yet I can’t forget the intrusive figure I thought I saw in my bedroom doorway. In another instance, I found one bent over my face trying to pull open my eyelids.

These figures are often known as shadow people, and a number of belief systems consider them to be supernatural phenomena. People in various regions have distinguished them as a malevolent creature known as “the night hag”, who has the power to paralyze. Assorted folklores consider shadow people to be damned spirits, demonic, and often times women. I can’t know for sure what I experienced, and I prefer to believe in science over the paranormal, but I find it bizarre that these ominous figures are commonly detailed elements of sleep paralysis in multiple recorded experiences.

Posted: August 28th, 2015
Categories: Nonfiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Art And Anxiety: Do Art and Mental Illness Influence Each Other?

Different forms of depression, including bipolar and major depression disorders, as well as suicidal tendencies have afflicted many great artists throughout history. The more I think about how tenable this trend is, the more I wonder if there is a clear, qualified connection. Where does the relationship begin? Does art influence mental illness, or vice versa? Perhaps both find a way to feed into each other. Mental illness may lead to a greater sense of creativity, but there is a possibility that creativity leads to psychological suffering.

Recent research in Sweden suggests that people working in creative fields are 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers, however, are 121% more likely to suffer from bipolar, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Many artists admired throughout history have suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Many great American poets took their own lives including Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman. Included in this category of the “suffering artist” are revered fiction writers: Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, and Raymond Carver, just to name a few of my favorites.

As an artist, a poet and musician specifically, it is important to explore and experience all that is available on the emotional spectrum. Understanding how and why emotions manifest is valuable, because most of the emotions that every individual feels come from the same place for all of us, and this is often why we deeply relate to art. When a work of art depicts fear, rage, joy, or sorrow, we understand what that means because we’ve felt it.

After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, John Keedy, a photographer, has shot a series of photographs titled “It’s Hardly Noticeable”, which are largely informed by his condition. He was reluctant to show the series to anyone at the start of the project, but has said that he wants people to see his photographs “if only to help a couple of people who are going through the same thing in some way feel that they’re not alone in this.” Keedy’s sentiment is that his artwork can work as a conduit of sympathy between its viewers, bringing people closer to emotional relativity by illustrating and bringing to surface the taboo topic of emotional suffering.

It seems appropriate to argue that delving into or exploring human emotional suffering can lead to creating powerful works of art, which also happens to be dangerous, and may be why many renowned artists have chosen suicide as their prefered death method. It’s hard to tell whether artists like Vincent Van Gogh, a painter known for harboring severe chronic depression and slicing off his left ear, or writers like Raymond Carver suffered for their art or because of it. Van Goghs series of paintings depicting sunflowers don’t appear to illustrate despair, at least not overtly. It is said that Carver instigated distressing situations for himself and others in order to inform his fiction. So it may be that the relationship between suffering and art is often individually defined.

As a man who has experienced chronic depression for years, and in response to the notion that mental illness may significantly drive creativity, I’d like to note that my depression and anxiety has crippled my ability to write in the past. It has killed my motivation and confidence as a creative type, rendering me unable to put a word down or a note in the air. “By writing about their emotional experiences, people can improve their mental health.” I’ve also turned to art for it’s therapeutic value. My point is that creative work can either be born from a dysfunctional mind or put to death by it.

Posted: August 27th, 2015
Categories: Nonfiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

How We Crack Each Other in the Late Dark

I’m out of luck
and sitting
at a low-lit old wood bar
with a friend
trading absurdities
and growing oily

and blowing air out of our noses
until we’re purple-faced
and hard-pressed to breathe
and unable to see
over the stretched skin of our faces.

Our laughs
don’t pop like feeble bubbles.
They’re more like brass horns blaring
between our lips, more like misbehaving
alarms, the kind of derangement
that punches a rhythmic pulse,
the kind of strobing outcry
that chokes.

They fizzle in our heads
smear our teeth
stain our tongues
and we wipe them
from our mouths
with our wrists

and boil
like a soup made from chunks
of heart and continue
in a flare that inflates our bellies
and splits the air
with heat

so now I can’t sit still
because I’m losing focus
and these crows are clawing up our throats
and I can’t stop retching and
I’m finally

Posted: May 18th, 2015
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

String & Rift

You bet your pretty painted eyes
the smoke and light blended dusk
will rest it’s head on
your cream-colored shoulder
by the time this train horn
drains into white space.
The sky leaks and the wind
won’t stay in its corner.
This won’t be your
last disappointment.
This won’t be
the last time
the headless
night beckons
your naked legs.

So you come here
where they invented
the kind of dark that smells
of porcelain
and sulfur
or wet skin
where we can hold
our hideous nature
in glassy sparkle,
the perfect place
to attract.
Afraid our eyes together
could become hard
to touch, a tasteless mistake.
I am here and I am missing.
My kind of distance hangs
between two mirrors.
We can make our range
a two-way tether
that we grip
with our blue palms.

Posted: March 4th, 2015
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Trapped Insect Motions

I’ve never seen an insect with as much determination as the stinkbug hovering under my kitchen overhead light, which sits in a small well in the ceiling. Stinkbugs clearly don’t control their flight ability as acutely as flies or bees by the way this one frequently knocks his body into cabinets and falls, flying as if by ripcord ignition. My stinkbug has made it this far into the winter season, crashing through, and continues to search for bright warmth. He body-taps onto an inside wall of the ceiling well, enveloped in florescence. Brave and impressive are his actions. Admirable are those who are sore and scared, those who can cut their own ribbons. But is he afraid? Will he be defeated to find that it’s just a glowing bulb, not even a monument or echo, a replica of reality and truth? Does he enjoy this game? Soon enough, he will crisp into despondent glass, fill with dry air, and become stale with his legs up.

Posted: January 12th, 2015
Categories: Nonfiction, Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Walking Home After Work Motions

You grind nothing. You’re red face will be unnoticed in the cold night when others pass and mutter about their disdain. They wipe the sweat from your forehead and tell you it belongs to them. Give up your desire for privacy and dignity. Give us your shoes. Show us your callused feet and all the swollen parts. Show us your waning health. When you shake hands with friends, your palms and fingers become the whispers of ghosts, separate and shadowy. Give up your legs to the street abyss. Climbing the dark crust of night air, are you aware of the edge of tooth and talk, the rims of glasses, the knock of bottle necks, the sucking of the straw at the bottom of the glass?

Posted: November 18th, 2014
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Standing Outside of the Corner Grill by the Bench

Percussive chanting
like spitting pulp of fruit
or pulp of meat.
As the corner beatboxer, I
cough and laugh and drink
water while smoking
and the people drag their feet.
A cloud of patterns bounces
acoustically from amp
to storefront to ear.
Mouthful of pops and clicks
in a metronome focus,
crackling with the tactics
of broken glass, or flashes
of laughing fire.
Language of vibrations.
Swift music of lip and tongue.
Solitaire of sound.
My toothy countenance sparks
tinny taps, decorates
the evening count.
Better than sitting on a couch
chewing on my mouth. Instead,
chew on the bitter aromatic leaf
stirred into the evening stew.
So many passing faces.
So much together and alone.
Now, the evening mash
mixes the pulse into
the coughing and laughing
and I’m standing on
callus-encased feet,
microphone in palm,
streetlights in every eye.

Posted: October 3rd, 2014
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

What Happens When We Hit Our Children

Telling your child to get an object to hit them with, sometimes a tree branch referred to as a “switch”, is meant to elicit a bit of humiliation from the kid. This happens when a parent wants to hit their kid psychologically before they hit them physically. A hard, merciless father might tell his son, “Don’t get a thin branch from the bottom of the tree. I want you to climb up and rip off a sturdy durable branch because I want to get about five to ten whacks out of it before its structure begins to weaken from hitting you with it.” People in general often become ashamed when condescended to by an authority figure, but children more so when forced to get the object that will be used to strike them.

The common argument against violent punishment is it’s better to talk to kids rather than strike them. Parents possibly hit their kids to condition them to fear the consequences of their misbehavior and that these consequences, which are defined by authority, can be violent. Some parents, however, hit their kids when they’re severely frustrated with them, and that’s when it starts to turn abusive, when the child isn’t learning about right and wrong, but simply becoming afraid. The ethicality of the act disappears. I interviewed some friends on how they think disciplinary actions should be carried out.

Kristoff, who has three sons, told me he was spanked as a last resort, which, retrospectively, is fine with him, but he says there is a point when it becomes ineffective. “It’s like any disciplinary action,” he said. “Too much of it can desensitize the child to the message. It’s not abuse to give a light rap on the booty, and in my experience, simply the threat of a spanking is enough to correct the behavior.” Matt, who has a one-year-old daughter, recalls his childhood behavior: “Some kids try to see how much trouble they can get into before a hand is raised at them.” His sentiment is that a child will gage what is acceptable with their parents by process of trial and error, to see how harsh the consequences can be.

Carmen, a preschool teacher at a child care center called Balanced Family Academy, notices similar patterns in child behavior: “Their “terrible twos” are just testing their limits to know what is right or wrong because they don’t know yet. Even at 3. And it’s a repetitive process. I don’t even think time outs are affective until around 4 or 5. Being straightforward and communicating is key. All kids are different and develop differently though. They don’t know any better so you could associate something other than hitting as a form of punishment. I’ve seen a lot of change and progress though because we use positive reinforcement.” The effectiveness of positive reinforcement stems from conditioning a person to want to behave a certain way because a reward will follow. It’s the idea of wanting to do something good, rather than being afraid to do something that’s considered bad.

A close friend told me his parents never hit him, and that he didn’t believe it to be a justified means of punishment. “I think it’s a simple concept to say that training your children to accept and expect physical damage and pain as a consequence of their misbehavior will lead to them accepting that kind of treatment from people they love in the future,” he said, “not to mention doling out the same to their own children in the name of discipline. Because parents are a child’s first love, and when that love is reinforced with violence, when that same element shows up in future relationships many people accept it as evidence that they are fucking up and dealing with familiar consequences. The right to abuse is only awarded to people one truly loves, right?”

Some family structures, however, aren’t built around love, instead maybe a colder form of it. Some parents may be concerned with respect, rather than love. Physical punishment seems like a conditioning method for parents to instill fear of authority in their children. It might be a way of teaching and enforcing the idea of social hierarchy. Maybe even promoting it. This is probably only evident in strict-yet-careful parents.

Some parents are more self-centered in terms of taking care of their kids, and they hit their children because they want to quickly stop them so they don’t have to put the effort into teaching them. They do it because they’re frustrated. It’s a thoughtless and completely emotional reaction. It still teaches a fear of authority, but also causes psychological backlash. Violent people create violent people. There can’t be a justification for that. It seems like some parents take pleasure in being in total control in of their children, who happen to be more vulnerable and completely dependent on them. Probably because they were treated the same way. They think, “I’ll treat my kids this way because that’s how my parents treated me.” Parents like that don’t know they’re continuing a viscous cycle. I’m sure it feels empowering to strip a person’s dignity away. It’s a source of superiority, which is delicious to the ego.

So, what did my parents hit me with when I was younger? A flyswatter. My mother chose to strike me with a flyswatter. It was her weapon of choice. She kept it on top of the refrigerator next to the Wheaties and Oreos. One morning, an hour before school, I was busy building spacecrafts with Legos. I was working on a sleek starship with laser cannon mounted wings. My mother told me to get ready for school. I planned on not attending and by this time I understood the consequences, but I continued my construction. My mother told me again, “Those legos better be back in the box when I get out of the bathroom.” And by the time she slammed the bathroom door shut, I had already devised the sinister plan. I trotted into the kitchen, pulled the stepladder out from between the wall and fridge, padded up the three steps, stretched and reached the flyswatter, and threw it behind the refrigerator. I slid back to my position at my starship workshop as my mother walked out of the bathroom. She saw me, yelling, “Where’s the flyswatter,” but her raging hand grasped nothing and I knew I had gotten away with it. I knew it was me and my starships all day and I let mom see my much-deserved arrogance using my posture, my eyes, my smile. So she hit me with a spatula. She was a good mother. My father didn’t love her, but he will attest to this.

Posted: July 14th, 2014
Categories: Nonfiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

How To Stay Home at Night

1
Sometimes it is worth lying
face down on the floor for a moment
to get some perspective.

2
Examine the floor for bits
of food, lint and dead grass
and those hairs
that didn’t come
from you.

3
Turn on the television
and focus
on a static channel
until the light wets your eyes,
heat swells in your chest,
and a steady beat
is heard.

4
Clutter a coffee table until nothing
on it can be discerned, a half empty
ashtray, gum and pages, prescription
bottles, and coffee mugs
unifying into the mass
like bad news.

5
Move aside the empty chairs
In the kitchen and pace back and forth
for at least twenty minutes
for the exercise.

6
Fire up the stove, boil water until holy.
Add two teaspoons of crushed fly wing,
one mandrake root, poppy milk,
ginger, cumin seed,
whisper a lost lover’s name into it,
stir, drink
and let the vapors
permeate.

7
To be certain you have time,
make sure you have time to check
the time.

8
Trim the fullness deep in your closets,
under the bed, at the center of the chest
where a vacuous growth will form
as your living room
centerpiece.
Let it swell
before removal.

Posted: April 28th, 2014
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

When You See Me, I’m Moon-Sized

My left eyelid twitches
like a loose window shutter
in a stormy wind
or a sheet-winged fly
in spotlight.

Like all shadows, I grow
in the lunatic pumpkin’s
bathroom fluorescence
where it’s mirror aspect
catches my vision
and I’m stunned
by its buttery
thickness.

The moon reverberates
like a stricken gong
or the nervous look of a woman
and my spine could shatter
not from warm affection
but from its revolving
curves behind a robe
of clouds.

In times like this
I wish my mouth would
hang wide open but instead it
shrinks and hardens shut
and I get as full
as a one-lamp room.

And sometimes the lights
outside are nothing more
than holes chewed
into a shirt
by cats.

And this time I scratch
skin from my knuckles
harbor an inflamed heart
add a chemical to my color
attempt to respectably spill
and stumble towards
the wide automatic night.

Posted: April 28th, 2014
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

On Meeting Someone for a Date

“Please don’t make a scene. Please don’t make a scene.”
-waitress at Easystreet Cafe

In the restaurant at the corner of the square, he takes a seat at a table for two, rose in one hand, ring box in the other. He holds them in front of him at chest level like ritualistic offerings and gazes out into the middle distance.

Wide-eyed, borderline dilated, he sits with a statuesque posture in a perfectly ironed napkin white shirt. Clean shave, crisp collar. Gelled hair, possibly plastered. No movement. Not a twitch, not a blink.

The stillness rings the serving staff’s ears.

Thirty nine minutes pass. Condensation builds on a worried glass of water. He’s sucked down half of it. One full hour. Beads of sweat bloom and coalesce on the glass of his forehead, an army of choking fish sliding into a shiny film. Hair product drips down to his cheekbones. Each glass bead reflects light from the lone lamp above and streaks downslope to the tip of his stoic nose as if the hot shine paws at his face. Two hours. The curled sweat soaked collar of his shirt. The heat of his chest, the cold of his toes and fingertips. Urge to pick at shirt cuffs, pick at ear lobes, scratch his neck, to wipe himself away with cheap thin napkins. So many sighs shake his Adam’s apple that his throat dries. The skin of his face drags down. Countless more minutes stare blankly into the middle distance.

Shrunken-pupiled, this man exhales stale air and slowly the rose hand drifts to his dry mouth. Soon enough, rose meets open mouth, teeth passionately gnashing at petals, ring box drops to the floor, waitresses gawking, whispering, and appalled as he stares into the middle distance.

Posted: April 16th, 2014
Categories: Fiction, Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

A Liar’s Mantra of Confidence

I don’t speak the truth. The truth speaks me.
I don’t waste time. Time wastes me.
I don’t need sleep. Sleep needs me.
I don’t look like hell. Hell looks like me.
I don’t feel love. Love feels me.
I don’t look into mirrors. Mirrors look into me.
I don’t need help. Help needs me.
I don’t explain myself. Myself explains me.

Posted: January 11th, 2014
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Just Like That?

for Esther Spiess

When I am a father
I will only be able to cook breakfast
like most fathers
and I’ll treat my kids to bacon
and organic eggs and home fries
homemade whole-grain french toast
with maple syrup
and a big bowl of fruit salad
and I’ll have a waffle iron

and the viscous scent of salt and sugar
the sizzling essence will swell the house
and enchant my children
who will say things like

“Daddy, you’re the greatest”
and “You’re a better cook than mommy”
and my wife will say things like
“I’m leaving you forever.”

Posted: June 22nd, 2013
Categories: Fiction, Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

I Look a Dog in the Eyes When I Eat

for American Periodical Service/Reader’s Source

Strangers call me, craving to reduce
my quality of life for their benefit.
Strangers I’ve never met before.
Strangers that have my number.
Strangers that care.
Eating more is living more.

Carry yourself as if every corner you
turn you might get punched in the face.
You are now aware. You are now
dependent on an item or invention.
It is you that is thought of and
well chosen and interfered,

a specimen examined by several
assholes paid with the only money
there is. Don’t act until it’s a crisis.
Like you, they sent me back and forth
to be photographed, strapped me
to a clock that heats up,
glows gold to white.

I don’t trust confident personalities.
I only trust those who don’t smile.
I only love you when I’m lonely.
If more people thought I
was a bastard, I would find
more people to be agreeable.
I don’t even have a reason to like you.

Posted: March 2nd, 2012
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Untitled Story Sketch

It was as hot as it was going to get late in the afternoon even though there was some wind and the sky looked white, almost grey. The flies were lively and sirens tore through the heavy air somewhere far from the gas station downtown, where Mark and Lauren were standing outside.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” she kept telling him. “Don’t worry.”

Mark furrowed his eyebrows and scratched the skin under the hairs on his face. Everyone he saw driving by bit his or her nails. They did not smile or sing along to the radio. Lauren held one of her arms close to her chest out of habit, which made Mark feel nostalgic. She’d been doing that ever since he knew her, but for all she knew she never did this. She pushed her sunglasses up her nose which made his right leg shake a little bit and he hoped she wouldn’t notice.

“Is your leg shaking?” she said.

“Why didn’t you call someone else?” he said. “I don’t want to do this.”

“No one else answered my calls,” she said.

“Sure,” he said.

“You’ve bought cigarettes before. It should be easy. It’s all about confidence. My confidence gets me a lot of things. Don’t you want to feel like you can get what you want?”

He didn’t say anything.

“My confidence gets me a lot of things,” she said again. Mark waited for her to list her benefits like money and power and respect and sex but she didn’t say anything else. “Is your leg shaking?” she said, finally.

“No,” he said.

“It looks like it is. Try hard to stop doing that,” she said. She kept thinking about how he’d bought cigarettes before, how the cashier couldn’t tell how young he was because of his facial hair, how it can’t be any different. He just had to attract respect when he walked.

“It’s not easy,” he said and the fact that she doesn’t understand this brought his eyebrows down.

Lauren kept cracking her knuckles, each one individually over and over again as Mark pushed against the door but it did not budge so he pulled it open and walked inside.

Mark shuffled his feet in the middle aisle of the store while sucking his teeth. The sirens rang outside as he scratched his beard. It smelled cold in there. He picked up and replaced several different items, feeling the smooth plastic of the packaged snack foods, noticing how much was inside each bag. Finally his attention landed on a bag of pork rinds.

He glanced out the glass doors to see Lauren looking in, cracking her knuckles. There was no way he was leaving. He heard footsteps from costumers that he couldn’t find and someone quietly speaking German around the corner.

Mark looked around for the general manager. He was a balding man that wanted to be able to look at you in the eyes and the floor shook when he walked by, but Mark didn’t see him around anywhere.

Instead, he watched a man standing in front of the cashier slam his palm against the counter. “Talk to me,” he said.

“You’re unavailable,” the cashier said. She backed away from the register.

“Is there something you’re not telling me, or are you telling me nothing?” he said.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “There really wasn’t anything ever promised. Considering that you owe me you’re in control. What I gave you is gone. Considering that you have nothing, I can’t take anything from you. And I am not one to fight.”

A chorus of ambulances outside and the howl of a train passing through.

“If you’re so smart, why don’t you know that?” said the cashier.

Mark walked up to the counter and stood next to the man. He looked out at Lauren one last time.

“Get out of here,” the man said. “The store’s closed!”

“You can’t do that,” the cashier said. “You can’t turn away our customers.” Tires squealed in the parking lot outside. Mark paused. “I just need some…a pack of Marlboro’s,” he said.

As Mark fished through his wallet for the right amount of money, he listened to his heart beating. He listened to everyone’s hearts as they beat faster. He swallowed and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his bare forearm and pulled a ten dollar bill out of his wallet. He wasn’t shaking, but he wiped the sweat from his forehead again. He handed the cashier the money and she paused, staring at him for what he believed was far too long. She was a petite girl. She had a very coy look in her eyes despite the bruise under the left. She handed him his change and he took it, immediately scratching his beard.

“Thanks.” His nonchalance cracked a little and so did his voice.

He walked out the door like everyone else because it was easier to move through the motions than not to. He saw Lauren waiting outside, a semblance of a smirk on her face, and beyond her was a guy and a girl standing on a sidewalk holding each other tightly.

Posted: February 29th, 2012
Categories: Fiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Nerbiyos

Someone lights a match
at the window, lets it burn
to the fingertips, sinks away
into the dark. It is 12:14 AM
and the front door is ajar.
The bulb hangs from a floor lamp
like the wet tongue of a dog.
The blue walls are a fuss.
They are ready to sing,
ready to flake with teeth.
Canned laughter drifts in
and out, drifts into living rooms,
licks the heat from meals,
sleeps in your hat.
Delusions sleep in the moments
between moments.
I am a hot swollen tongue
in this dark mouth
we often call a room,
moving here and there
and slapping against
the walls, confusing
and almost teenaged.
Too hot on the cushions,
in the kitchen, even
out on the street and
downtown where a bum
like me doesn’t even know
what to say to store clerks.
At times it seems I can’t
peel myself from this position,
can’t move the corners
of my mouth, so here I am
waiting in the middle of the room.
And what is it that is stuffed
under the couch? I pick at it
until there’s too much blood.

Posted: February 13th, 2012
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Ambedo

I’m keeping the window open
while I watch

a fly I swatted
clean itself and rummage over

the fresh carcasses
of five other flies I killed

under a lamp.
I watch its senses drift off

in a bright envelope the way you
and I watch television,

its blue light offering comfort
from fear of the lonely future,

when you get up to turn off
the faucet and wonder

if the living room clock
is ticking louder than usual,

when your eyelids twitch
in the swarm of gnats

above the dishwater
and the sticky wine glasses,

if there’s any way to
fix the steady vexation,

any honest way
to hold back.

Posted: February 10th, 2012
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Dilation of Late

1
Dream out of focus
Fragment
Stark faculties

The sharp call
of crickets drifting
and riddling
the cold spaces
of my inner recesses.

In the swallowing night
dried leaves skitter
on the street leaving
footsteps in my ears:

Footsteps that fold
and collapse,
The implications of folds,
My mind folding over
like skin.

A fabric so thin
it must be
touched to exist.

2
Shadow-eyed, I

watch moths
beat themselves
to death
against
the streetlamps

listen to the rhythmic
knock of their bodies
against light.

Moths like desperate
knuckles knocking
on doors

the knock and flutter
of thoughts
and stuttering talk,
the limitless flickering
of their wings.

When they drop
my eyelashes
catch them.

3
There is nothing
but what is near to us.
If you don’t believe me,
go down the street
and drift around.

Eels of light slide
from dim streetlamps.

Like eels, my thoughts
radiate from my bulbous
head, bleed together
like a blend
of yellow episodes
or a bowl of soup
between two lovers.

My voice like an eel
with heavy teeth,
drifting through curls
of smoke.

I only have to close
my eyes
to possess myself.

Posted: January 2nd, 2012
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Once Again, The Eyelids Fall and Rise.

It seems to me that the trees are rising in the night and I realize that I may be having a panic attack so I call James who has a prescription for Valium in order to ease his own anxiety issues. Nice enough guy anyways. Big metalhead, or maybe punk. Either I can’t tell the difference or there is no distinction, considering the similar way he speaks of both. He wears black shirts and has long straight locks and thick chops made of course dirty hair. I walk over there, crossing streets lined with awful houses and streetlamps, and each one I pass flickers and dims, leaving me in spots of shadows. Dry leaves crunch under my boots. The cold Midwestern wind resists me and bare tree branches reach out, vanishing at the tips. I hear an animal scream somewhere close to me, brush past rubbish and disappear. I stand where I am for a second, looking around, smoking a cigarette, and then move on.

I get to his house and let myself in through the basement door. The stale air inside immediately takes me. James sits on a couch. He looks at me and nods and mutters something but I don’t want to talk to him so much as get a glass of water, yet he seems happy to see me or at least to see somebody, as he is often desperate for human interaction, which I doubt that I can provide for him at the moment. He pulls a pill bottle out his left cargo pocket and tells me that he has more than what I was expecting, and at that point I was willing to talk, but I desperately needed a glass of water.

He shows me an eighty milligram pill of OxyContin, one that you can grind into powder, which I hadn’t seen for years and as he hands it to me I am instantly overcome by how well I am able to breathe through my nose at the time, how strong and healthy my body has become as of late. And in a way, I could feel myself dissolve on the inside. I sit down next to him on the couch and pull the coffee table closer so I have a good surface to work on.

“Come on, Matt,” James says. “You’re going to tear up the carpet doing that. Fucking be careful.”

“Sorry. I didn’t think of that.” As I say this I wonder why anyone would install carpet in a basement, although this is where he lives. I suppose he wants to make it as comfortable as possible. James hands me a hose clamp and I bend it into an arc so I can grate the pill into a pile of powder, and the simple act of grinding, the scraping sound of it, induces a euphoria in me and I think about the past month or so, how hellish it was, the anguish, the way that my body sickens without this substance in my system.

And all the while, James is ranting about something that he thinks people don’t understand: “I’ll tell you about punk rock: punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and…and heartless manipulators about music that takes up the energies and the bodies and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds of young men who give what they have to it and give everything they have to it and it’s a… it’s a term that’s based on contempt, it’s a term that’s based on fashion, style, elitism, Satanism and everything that’s rotten about rock’ n’ roll. Of course, I can’t say that I ever knew Johnny Rotten, but I’m sure… I’m sure he put as much blood and sweat into what he did as Sigmund Freud did.”

I look him in his half-shut eyes as long as I can and ask him how much of this shit he’s done, jokingly. And for some reason, I can’t help but picture him re-shingling his grandfather’s roof, and also the effort he puts in to his job at the Honda dealership. He tells me about his family sometimes, about his father’s success. He says he’s on his way to his father’s efficiency. A practical man, a Jack-of-all-Trades, so to speak. A useful friend.

“I think it sounds like trash,” I say.

“Well, okay,” he says, leaning closer to me. “You see, what sounds to you like a big load of trashy old noise is in fact the brilliant music of a genius, myself. And that music is so powerful that it’s quite beyond my control and when I’m in the grips of it I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain, either physically or emotionally. Do you understand what I’m talking about? Have you ever felt like that? When you just couldn’t feel anything and you didn’t want to either. You know? Like that? Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I don’t say anything. Eventually I tell him that I’m meeting her later and he acts like this is typical, as if he knew I was going to say this or that I already had, which doesn’t make sense to me because I have not spoken to her in some time and he tells me to get out, possibly for ignoring him. As I walk out, I promise him I will pay him for helping me out probably in a few days.

“Fine.” He lets out a sigh the sound of Central Air, leans his head back, and closes his eyes.

The last dream I had involved Sarah. I don’t remember much of it. It had something to do with myself sitting up on my side of the bed, moving my feet to the floor and rubbing my oily face with the palms of my hands, sleep smearing my vision. Dazed from waking, I looked behind me and saw her lying there, deeply sleeping and serene, the curls of her auburn hair splashed over half of her face and on the pillow under her head. I can’t tell if it’s the trickery of my blurred vision of waking or something leftover from the night before, but I tried to focus on the living curls of her hair, coiling around her face and around the pillow, tickling her nose. There was another part that had to do with something I have already forgotten. I’m not sure when this dream occurred. Last night I dreamt of nothing.

I meet Sarah at a local diner over coffee and to talk because we haven’t talked in a while and I’m certain that it bothers her. I pull open the door to the diner and motion for her to go in first. We take a seat at a booth next to a family of a mother and two young boys. I watch one of the boys pour into his mouth a couple packets of sugar I was hoping he wouldn’t. Under the table, I pull out a bar of Xanax from a pack of cigarettes in my pocket that I took from James and squeeze it between my fingers.

“Can I get you anything, dear,” says Margie, the waitress, standing over the two of us as if she just sprouted out of the ground. I order a cup of coffee, as black as she can make it. Sarah asks for water with as much politeness as she can muster up.

“We should have gone to a coffee shop.” Sarah says. When she speaks all her teeth show, and I can’t help but think about how much we have in common and how she is so far out of reach. A warm sea apart. Earlier, she called me and I thought about letting this one go, but I brought my phone to my ear and said hello. Her voice the tone of a lovely violin. I imagined her breath smelled like sweet fruit. She always seemed like a stranger, more or less, but there was something between us, something that felt tender but uncertain. I felt like we both wanted to figure that out.

“This place is fine. I like it here. Don’t you think it’s comfortable, welcoming at least?” I want her to understand my sentiments.

“They don’t serve tea here.”

“It doesn’t matter because we need to talk.”

“You haven’t spoken to me much.”

I pause. “I haven’t been myself lately.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

I don’t say anything. Margie comes back with a mug of coffee and places it in front of me along with a small bowl of half and half creamers and sets Sarah’s glass of water in front of her and walks away without giving her a straw. I stare at my coffee, watch the steam rise and the thickness of it swirl like a puddle of oil, and as I fix my eyes on my drink that I have utterly lost interest in I know that Sarah is staring at me, trying to extract some kind of value from my face. I try to stay stern.

After about a minute of silence, Sarah repeats what she said.

I do not say anything.

And at this moment, a man that I’ve never seen before walks into the diner and recognizes Sarah sitting with me, and he takes a step towards our booth, a giddy smile stretching across his face, ready to greet her, but when he notices that she’s crying, his grin dissipates and he turns away, and as she wipes the tears from her eyes I eat the pill as fast as I can, washing it down with scalding coffee. She stands up, maneuvering out of the booth.

“Never mind. I might call you later.”

“Okay. Call me if you want.”

James tells me I owe so many people money, and so I’m losing friends, then he tells me that he likes my shirt and asks me if I liked a certain band, but I had never heard of them. James and I are a lot alike. His back is fairly straight. We walk the same stride. Our friendship has always involved the utility of drugs, and it’s not easy to readjust, so we try to distract and sedate and plug up the holes that belong to us.

Someone else sits in the room that wasn’t there earlier. He seems rough, with two lit cigarettes between chapped, peeling lips. “I’m holding this one for a friend,” he says.

A flash of stillness occurs. A balloon in the conversation. Everyone falls voiceless. We stop talking for a while and listen to the basement breathe through radiators, seemingly moving, almost alive.

The sun comes up, unwanted, and I am irritated. As I get high, I realize I am afraid of something I wasn’t considering before or maybe I just didn’t understand, and so I decide to leave. But the truth is there is no coming and no going. I stand up and do not look at the stranger or James, who was busy shuffling a deck of cards.

“This was a bad idea.” I told him, knowing that he might misunderstand such a vague statement.

“Yeah,” he said without saying goodbye or looking at me, and so I eventually made my way through his door and that was that. That moment was a failure. The next may be better.

Posted: September 15th, 2010
Categories: Fiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Pulling Yourself Together

Listen, you need to focus! Stop pacing aimlessly in your kitchen. Stop talking to yourself. You must find your wallet, your cigarettes, and your cell phone. You need to find a lighter. Get money fast. If there isn’t any money in your wallet, use your bank card at the ATM. Don’t worry about overdrawing if your account is low in funds; you can pay it back later when you get hired somewhere after submitting those job applications to the several restaurants around the city like you’ve been meaning to do. There is also a phone number on a strip of paper lying around for a bike messenger job that you ripped off the bulletin board at the Laundromat. Relax. Maybe the Laundromat is hiring.

Your wallet is probably under all the trash on the coffee table. Check under the magazines, ashtrays, and empty cigarette packs. Your cigarettes are probably mixed in with all the empty packs. Shake them all until you hear something rattling inside other than loose scraps of tobacco; search for something solid. There is a chance that you might find a single forgotten cigarette. Nothing? Nevermind. There’s your cell phone, under the photograph of your mother smiling and drinking iced tea on the patio back in California. Put that in a place where you won’t see it. You will not think about your mother. You will not miss her.

Call that guy Pockets. You should have his number. Did you see him a few days ago, or was that last week? Nevermind, because there is his number. He told you he would front you again if you paid him back. He likes you. Don’t ask him for his real name even though you want to because it’s not a good idea to get too personal with people like him and it’s all just business anyway so forget about making friends for now. Just find your wallet.

Search under the couch cushions. Nothing but some pennies and plastic wrappers. Are those your cigarettes? You must feel so relieved. Now, find yourself a lighter. Move the couch and check underneath. Don’t put the cushions back because it’ll add that little bit of weight and you don’t want to strain yourself. You are too tired for that, and you don’t have time. What do you see under there? Nothing but crumpled plastic bags, fast food trash, and cigarette butts. There’s a lighter! Reach for it and test it out. Is it empty? Shake it up. It must be completely dry. Forget it. Just find your wallet.

Look around on the floor. It’s that simple. This place is a mess. Everything you see belongs in the dumpster. And maybe you eat too much fast food. You should take care of yourself. You should vacuum. Make a note to clean yourself up and organize your belongings later. Is that the number for that bike messenger job? What is that tiny piece of red material behind it? It’s a portion of a pill. There must be at least twenty milligrams left. That’s all you need to balance yourself. Once this is in your system you won’t feel sick anymore. You don’t have enough to get high, which would be ideal, but at least you won’t feel this disease and depression that has been dragging the skin on your face down all night and causing your eyes and nose to leak like a sieve. Your bones won’t feel so hollow and fragile. You’ll even be awake enough to begin submitting job applications, and you should probably call your mother.

But you need a dollar bill and something to grind the pill with. First, rub the red casing off with some spit and a tissue. If you can’t find a grinder, find the closest Wal-Mart in your immediate proximity and buy some hose clamps. It works as a miniature grate to grind a pill into a pile of fine white dust. In order to buy these, you need to find your wallet. Buy several hose clamps for when you lose one, because you will lose one. You will lose them all eventually.

Remember: there might be a dollar bill in your wallet. Just relax. All you need to do right now is smoke a cigarette, but your eyelids are falling. Maybe you should make some coffee. You shouldn’t sleep even when you’re tired, when you’re too exhausted to function properly.

Posted: July 22nd, 2010
Categories: Fiction
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Ivy Climbs Up

for Francis Burnside

Ivy climbs up
the resilient trunk
of an oak tree,
choking, but
there is no struggle.
Light barely touches
the cracked bark
as the ivy wraps
around gnarled arms.
There will be no blossoming
of leaves in the spring
for the staggering branches,
but the leaves of the vines
will always glint
and cover and thrive.

Posted: July 22nd, 2010
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: 1 Comment.

Drink Your Coffee, But Drink It Slow.

It hurts to be here,
to stand by the window,
to see the clock,
watch the hour drip
and wait until it’s already late.

Night advances the way
wind pushes smoke.

I think the floor and ceiling
are sinking at the same speed.

The gloaming of the windows
from the inside makes me
think there isn’t enough to observe
and sometimes my eyes burn
at night when I stare
at the single dim glimmer.

Black air presents a streetlamp,
a grin with a gold tooth,
the darkest mouth
and an aggressive gesture
that bends a tree.

Night grin slides
along a warm street.

I step outside, reach
into the damp coffee space,
the center of the night,
take a firm grasp
of what is enclosed
and pull myself through.

Posted: March 17th, 2010
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Hunger, Thirst, Refuge, Intoxication: An Essay on the Perceptions of Drugs

Alone on a dark pastel neighborhood. I drop and stand tall on a friend’s porch while casual, caustic cop cars watch and pass by. They have nothing on me. I am simply a standard presentation of Young Eccentric Humanity. The mad eyes in my mad head glow with specks of black and grey like a static TV. I feel enlightened and can’t stop laughing. My only plan is to smoke a pack of cigarettes and maybe try to sleep, though I know I’ve just sacrificed the ability; I smashed my machine with a single tab, disconnected for only a momentary holiday. Squads of thought invade me like an imaginary charge. It’s almost too much to handle, but I can’t stop laughing. Music leaks from an open window with warmth and happiness swells inside my stomach. As I perch myself on a ledge like an alert cat, I only begin to notice the significance of light from streetlamps smeared on shiny parked cars. I begin to notice significance. I lose sense of time and deconstruct myself while I try to confide in burning tobacco. My vision becomes profoundly stylized and smoke always dances with the liveliest temper and the shadows drape under trees and everything feels great from up here and I can’t stop laughing.

I have heard some striking stories on the effects of LSD on a person’s rationality and logic from people that I know. These are people whose minds have been slightly warped due to a thriving market and culture. Consumers crippled by the products they demand so fervently. It is fairly well known today that marijuana smoke is extensively more harmful than tobacco smoke, yet I frequently come across flyers around campus suggesting an organized effort to legalize marijuana. The conflict seems to be amusement vs. health. But civilization has been infused with passion and excitement with the rise of intoxicants. Risky impulses have been fulfilled with the rise of intoxicants. Every day life isn’t such a droning, bitter and bland routine when we disintegrate and disorganize. We hold infinite perspective in the palms of our hands. Recreational drug use is a way of life among the curious youth that cannot be willingly resigned. How can we give it up?

The perceptions of the effects of drugs on people today are radically different than they were in the 1960s. Back then, the psychedelic van strolled down the American road full of loving animals. Psychedelia first became a lifestyle and a major component for the intellectual type. Drugs were the right way to increase creativity and mental power. They were imbued with a spiritual nature and were not illicit. Drugs were innocent. An entire culture of people tightened its affectionate bear hug around mind alteration and kissed the pipe. Hippies weren’t even the first counterculture to compete with mainstream structure; the Beat Generation embraced marijuana and mescaline, among other drugs, as a means of perspective as well.

Drugs have now become, for the most part, a venture of escapism much like our beloved television, video game console, and fantasy novel. Maybe it has always been that way. I cannot say that this is either good or bad. Most classrooms are too dull, most jobs are too repetitive, most lines are too straight, and most people are too bored. This is a matter of simple pleasure. It is the cold numb space that I drift in when I’m high. The self-inflicted glitch in my machine. It paints the walls with intense technicolor, adds action to my stable life. I close my eyes and watch strands of radiance swirling like a screensaver. And as it wears off, I get dragged down to the solid world. Indole alkaloids, such as acid and psychedelic mushrooms, have more than once left me as a sickly sewer rat in the dull grasp of The Ordinary by the end of the day. My throat dries up. The nutrients in my body get depleted. Everything that could be considered good about it is entirely fleeting. We soon regain strength, replenish. Wait a few weeks and you figure out that the feeling is so utterly temporary and all you want to do is buy more products. Maybe the impermanence doesn’t even cross your mind, but either way you still want more. Sometimes I don’t know if I need it more than I want it, or vice versa, but it feels good and that’s what really matters. The key word is hedonism.

Aside from abusing drugs for the sake of amusement, we self-medicate with them to muddle through cruel emotional troubles. Alcohol is one, if not the only socially acceptable means of self-medication. Drugs are a coping mechanism. Those prone to fear tend to lift off in illicit shuttles. Depression rises from our fiery bodies for the street merchants to extinguish. Sometimes we feel guilty when in a stressful state, as if depression and rage are simply the wrong emotions to feel. We could blame this societal approach on a frustrating dependency upon demanding institutions, vague and deceptive advertising, public relations scams, fake primetime comedies, etc. Commercials for fresh medication tell us how to function and offer their pricy comforting solutions. In a consumerist society, we as average citizens are given a small number of options in life and are persuaded to buy supplies for bliss. If we are not fully aware of what we’re hearing and why we’re hearing it, we end up convincing ourselves of how we should think and feel based on what snake-tongued profiteers say. Thus, we resort to self-medication in order to obey and fit like puzzle pieces within typical human organization. Many drugs are stress relievers, but the fact is that some are legal and some are not.

But there is more than one type of salesman: the above mentioned Street Merchant. I’ve heard the argument that drugs are first and foremost a financial institution. Cocaine is powdered cash and marijuana is as green as the dollar bills that may or may not be in your wallet or bank account. Criminal organizations all over the world are fueled by feel-good toxins. Street gangs in dirty urban areas frequently release blood over drugs. It is a thriving, violent market. A dealer once told me he is a businessman before a junkie. I’m almost surprised that marijuana is still illegal when considering our capitalistic society and all the pill commercials on TV and all the stocked medicine cabinets across the nation.

Many components of popular culture have and will always embrace marijuana as the safest jail breaker. In the 60s, a kid could tune in to any radio station and hear lyrics of drug romance: the Grateful Dead, The Doors, etc. Weed still emanates from the words of hip hop and reggae, and there is a following in the genre of stoner metal. In any case, censorship has taken these references off of the airwaves. High Times is a strong proponent for recreational drug use, though it can be difficult to take this magazine seriously. Hollywood targets smokers with the outwardly delightful stoner movie, such as Half Baked and Friday. Reefer Madness, a film from the 1930s, is an anti-drug film yet it is regularly grouped in with stoner movies as ridiculous entertainment. In this sense, popular culture and the media can be subtly expressive and indirect of what is acceptable in the world when regarding recreational drugs.

Still, society is torn on how to handle drug abuse. Vast amounts of research have been conducted on all types of drugs since the late 60s. Physical addiction is the cold essence that our blood envelopes. Therefore, cocaine and heroine will never detach from a hard stigma. Our entire population is fully aware of the harmful possibilities of recreational drug use.  Information like this can be accessed all over the media. There are anti-drug websites with archives full of personal drug narratives. One could simply open a magazine or turn on his or her television and see an anti-marijuana public service announcement. These PSAs are also on posters and billboards across the country as well as all over the Internet. Media claims like these spit in the bloodshot eyes of drug inspired entertainment. Everyday we are subject to so many mixed messages on the topic of drugs through popular culture and popular news media by separate organizations with separate agendas. The key word is contradiction.

I’ll leave you with one last thought: consider the groups of people who flock together and assert themselves as “straight edge”. This basically means they take no part in substance abuse of any kind. They represent a conflicting subculture, coinciding with the punk music scene, to that of drug junkies. Thus, sobriety has become more of a definition, a lifestyle rather than something natural. It seems that society sleeps in constricting cabinets as we begin to dichotomize the natural aspects of our lives. This may signify how permanent drug culture has become and how it will continue to solidify over time.

Posted: October 17th, 2009
Categories: Nonfiction
Tags:
Comments: 1 Comment.

Malfunctioning Eye During Primetime Hours

Lemon scented fumes
make the skeptics believe in lemons

Spray more of it
Manipulate the air
Manipulate the stench of the couch

The screen and I share a stark adamant gaze
Eyes of salt water
Eyes of white grain

Eyes of veins evenly pumping
around cavernous black: staring

into sharp blue high pitch
switch to color blocks

or the chieftain’s disembodied profile mugshot.
It’s not funny.

Native Head becomes a shapeless ocean of rhapsody
and modern hairstyles.

Native Head becomes the magnetic dance
between man and woman
and I devour another banquet.

Native Head becomes the hunger of someone
and I am weeping, as I should be.

I need to blink now
according to schedule.

Posted: September 18th, 2009
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

Circulate

An ellipsis and I hear the clock tick like whiplash.
Eyes wander towards the edges
of the yellow pages, I pay attention
to the ringtone of neon augmentation:
concrete fingers reach up to
the mad sky growling over
a dense metropolis. A heavy gauntlet
cups the limitless muzzle.

Stirred into the platinum mass,
I spend my curiosity pacing
through revolving doors made of intangible glass,
scuffed boots smudging the smooth floor.
People shift in endless cycles like moths
beating themselves to death against the streetlights
like black and gray flecks on the television.

Posted: September 18th, 2009
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.

60 Second Spots

1
Condensed Measures. Easy to swallow. Painless activation.
No longer will you burn in meditation.
Have the dimensions of every day deflated?
Do your vital organs lack incentive?
Is every new second tightly wrapped in dry latex?
Now you can indulge in immediacy like those of The Excited!
Fresh from our fever labs, liveliness of the mind and spirit
can be reformed once more. Even tomorrow will stand on its feet
like a new born war horse. Resurrect your mental children!
Animate your dying future! Unleash your inner ravenous cartoons!
For the exhausted populace suffering from idle time and leisure,
our counteragents offer a chorus of ambulances to your auditory walls.
One dose will fill your veins with sirens.

2
Premium reception has never been easier.
For your well-being, symmetry and synchronicity!
No compromises. No limitations. No conventions.
At last, we have siphoned the effort from making memories,
removed the clutter of passionate rat kings.
We have replaced the frenzy with empty space.
We have sealed stars with an innovative lid to lock in the astonishment.
For a low expense, the clearest dark can be delivered
to your choice of cavity free of danger and chance,
free of venture.

3
You’ve got a long way to go. We’d like to help you get there.
We are the expert synthesizers of power relaxation,
catching you at your school with round numbers.
We are known for our surprises. 15% off unprecedented levels
of sophistication, comfort, and refinement.
Look at this eating action, how it grinds!
With our exclusionary offers, you can break yourself in! You can
be sure our multipurpose salves will have you howling for a handshake.
Expect Turbulence. Break into it. Feel it in your curves.
Rub it on your hands, behind your knees, and under your nose.
Inhale those calibrating vapors!
If you experience abandonment, you may be missing.
Let us wipe the tears from your cries.
Let us take the bones from your chickens.
Let us modify your hair, glorify your skin, emulsify your regrets.
One phone call will give you back what you once had.
Only a reasonable cost for affection.
Soon enough, you’ll be drinking large cokes like pop stars.
Spend time with your god, maybe share a Sweet Haze.
See more at the end of the rain.

Posted: September 17th, 2009
Categories: Poetry
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.