Listen. A few weeks ago, it was the anniversary of me changing my career path. A year since I started learning a whole new trade and to dabble in several others. I've learnt a lot of stuff but perhaps the most important thing was not a new revelation but rather an affirmation of something I had felt for a long time: knowledge, like many things in nature, is as poisonous as it is healthy. Think of silver or garlic or certain chemicals; the touch of Eir is within these things but too much of them can overload you and reverse the scales. In the case of knowledge, it's more of a case of Paean than Eir. Knowledge heals the other faculties, just like Paean heals the other gods. It fortifies your resolve, your courage, your intellect, your self-assurance. Too much of it does not reverse the scales but it does become poisonous, supercharging those traits. In short, knowledge easily makes you too much to handle, both in an inwards sense and to your surroundings.
Listen. Whenever I leave places, even if I've stayed in them for only a few hours, it hurts. It's part of how my emotions have always been amplified; I feel strongly and quickly. Naturally, the more time I spend in a place, the more it hurts but there too, the orders of magnitude are much too high. That is, the difference between an hour and a day are closer to what you might expect between a day and a year. It's the kind of pain that feels like an absence; a routine has died. A familiar place has died. A way of being has died. A template of spending this ever shifting attempt at tight rope walking that is called life has died. This is exacerbated by the fact that I don't believe in return but long for it, always. Thus, when I physically go back somewhere, it hurts even more; now there are two absences, overlaid pictures, one slightly less fading than the other but both of them bound to one day meld in their yellowed out frailty.
Listen. Staying alive is being suspended. All situations are transitional, especially inward ones; our selves are not some static cores of god-given light, rationality beaming from out of our eyes like lighthouses. We are lighthouses in reverse, not calling to ships in their stability but going towards a harbor in the fog in our instability, returning to where we originally meant to stand but never reaching that place, using light to reach a hollowness in the shape of us that doesn't really exist other than in the memories of our foundations, the lowest places in us remembering musky dirt, remembering reaching downwards and, with the concrete of our assumptions, grounding themselves into a place that felt like forever. But the place that feels like forever doesn't exist. All that exists is the yearning, the intention, the stretching of the neck, the impossible suspension between where you were and where you'll be, a suspension which creates what we call now.
I don't know what to do with any of this but I know that coming to terms with the poison of knowledge, with the pain of leaving, with the suspension of life, is the only way I can keep living. So that's what I'll try and do. I don't know if this is for you or good for you. I don't even know if this is for me or good for me. But it's what I have, it's the flimsy embankment on which I rebuilt my life after it fell apart. That is, my relationship with these ideas and feelings, not the ideas and feelings themselves, are the embankment. My position towards them is the foundation; a shift of the shoulder, a setting of the chest forward, a reaching of the neck, an intention towards.
I hope you're doing OK. I love you.
Listen. You ain't never going back, OK? The bus that is you only unravels the weave in one direction and there is no knot quite the same. So you ain't going back; that moment you cherish? It's gone. With it is home gone, the mischievous wind on your cheek, the anger, the feeling of steel on rusted steel, a slight hint of laughter, it's gone. The only pain in this world is the pain of wanting to go back, of your mind insisting on a U turn when the road is unmarked, falling apart, scrubbed away. This is where religion comes from and literature and music and all else. So, we won't chuck away that pain, even if we could. Which we can't. But we wouldn't anyway because there's just too much baby in them waters and you know how the saying goes.
Listen. Being in the presence of pain is the most tautological way to describe being alive. It is the basic tension of existing, a proverbial crucifix on which we hang, pressures not just pulling us in either and all directions but in no direction, in an indescribable direction. This might sound like a bad thing and it is, in many ways. But what choice do I have? To grow lax is to die. And one day I will but not right now. Right now, the suspension is all and me in the midst of it, suspended and suspender both.
Listen. So many words have been said about all of these things that I feel pointless writing this. By virtue of logic alone, by the unconquerable power of statistics, it is likely that someone has already written or said the answer. It's also likely that I've read or heard it or both a million times. And yet, to cling to that answer (which even now probably nestles within the backwards reaches of my mind, like a wyrm wrapped around the best metaphor there ever was, Yggdrasil, the language tree) is to cling to return and, like I've already said, there ain't no going back. Cruise control is locked in; this rig don't break, not for anyone.
Thus, we converse on this, our road, you and I. Friends by virtue of the bus, of the inexorable direction in which our lives always hurtle in. Time's cruise control; eternity's flight path; the beginning's itinerary; the end's blueprint.
We're going home baby. It's going to be OK. I love you.
Listen. There was a time when you didn't know how to tie your shoes. These days, I do it without even thinking about it, just pausing my daily routine and performing a dexterous task I once didn't know how to accomplish. Someone taught you how to do that, even though there were no books. They taught you through their skill and their attention. They spent their time on me, leaning in from above (I assume, I don't remember. My mind isn't good at remembering times when I was shorter than people) and showing you something that they took for granted. Do you understand how hard that is? If you don't, try teaching a kid how to tie their shoes. Try to break down a task which you never think about while performing into its disparate elements. Try taking those elements and putting them together in a way that another person will understand. Then you will realize how much people that love you, love you.
Listen. I don't know how to die and that's OK. I hope there will be a time when I will. I'm not sure who will teach me to do that; who will take apart the disparate elements of the most obvious action, living, which generates the least obvious object, life? Who loves me enough to put their hands on their own existence and slowing, ever slowing down, take apart the knots that tie their memories to their emotions, their emotions to their actions, their actions to their loved ones? Who will teach me to untie my life? I think it will be you. I think you will one day reach down (from a height of otherness that I can barely imagine) and put your hands around your own life and pull in the exact right angle and with just the amount of requisite force. Then, your life will splinter into shards and I'll look inside and you, with the calm gentle voice of a distant but loving friend, will show me how all of the parts fit. I believe this will happen although I'm sure it won't. I can't wait.
Listen. We learn, alright? We can't help it. I wish there was some way for us to stop. I wish there was some way to get off of this road surrounded by potsherds, surrounded by the dismantled actions, memories and intentions of everyone else that suffered through this thing called life but there isn't such a way. Listen, one day I'll learn how to die and you will too and we will all stop. And that will be a good day. I'm afraid. But that will be a good day. There will be a laying down of burdens that day and there will be an end that day and there will be a road a bit less dusty with the detritus of life. And we can make that day happen, you and I, because we are friends. We can reach in together into the laces of the lattice work called our relationship and we can help each other carry just a bit less. Will you let me show you how? Will you show me how? How to care a bit less, how to cry a bit more, how to feel a love that has no bounds in my heart, how to feel it as a warm fuzz behind my eyes whenever I see you, how to get lost inside your hug? Will you teach me how to lose myself in you and will you teach me how to find myself again? Will you teach me how to be a friend?
Listen. I don't yet know exactly how to go home but I know you'll show me the way one day. Take your time.I know that one day you will show me a silver path through a forest and I will smile and take it gladly. And that's why I love you. Because even though the day has not yet come for you to teach me, I know you'll one day do it. One day, you will show me the way out and I'll grab your hand and say "hey. thank you. I love you. Let's go".
And we'll go back home. Don't forget to tie your shoes. I'll do my own.
Listen. There's a shall casing around our senses. Like all good armor, it imprisons us and protects both; in fact, serving that dualism is its inherent function. I walk around the world, like a bullet looking for a target, and my shell casing hugs me. There are motives and thoughts behind those voices which seep through the alloy of my casing but it robs them of momentum. Think about armor; what does armor do? How does it protect? It, first and foremost, absorbs momentum; it turns that which is volatile into that which is inert. There are as many types of armor as there are things sleeping in the world which is to say, there are infinite types of armor out there. But ours, mine, is of an especially subtle type. You can't see it, it's all powerful and I don't even notice that I'm wearing it. But nevertheless, its effects, once it meets something volatile, are instantaneous; all it needs is the touch of a voice, a hint of emotion, a smattering of volition and in an instant it springs into action and smothers that trajectory with stereotypes and presuppositions and established fact and entire narratives we've built for ourselves and about ourselves and, most importantly, about the constantly exploding ordinance that's traversing the world out there called other people.
Listen. There's one more universal trait of armor we haven't covered here: all armor contains within itself the means with which it can be stripped away. All suits are made with a misericorde in mind, a thin shaft of substance that slips between the plates, all nouns and conceptions and ontology, newfangled into sheets of protection, and takes them apart. That thin slice of compassion, of love, of thought, of unbridled, physical joy, of physical activity, of alcohol, of sweetness from far away, of companionship, of any number of things which are hot, hotter than the hottest exploding shell of embodied humanity, hotter than the hottest derision which I drilled into myself, that thin slice of mega-hot empathy strikes right into the core. And it wounds you. We've forgotten, in our day and age, why wounds are dangerous; they're not dangerous because of pain and rarely because of the wound itself, something so terrible that it severs critical systems and leaves us to die. No, wounds are dangerous because they make us susceptible. They strip away our defenses and open us up to the world, putting the outside in, taking the inside out, painting a huge target on our bodies that tells the infinite infinities of bacteria "Here's the feast; help yourself". This wound is no different; it lays me bare. It leaves me frazzled, like an electrical wire snipped by a kind hand, un-spooled by a gentle touch, now flapping in the wind for the steel beaks of others to nip at. And I feel every bite, every twitch of their necks like a faint burning, a strip of fire lashed across my skin.
Listen. Remember that the equation which draws a straight line between "pain" and "bad" is purely in your head; this pain is much more than something which can be classified as "bad". It is beyond ontology, beyond definition, beyond a dictionary even though a dictionary constantly mutters in our minds, yet it's intimately knowable, completely allergic to mystery, lies just at the edge of your grasp, inside the casing, coating it from within, like so much cleaning spray on a sink, something which burns, something with irritates the pale marble of your core but, in irritating, cleans. Have you ever rubbed your skin thoroughly to get rid of dirt? Have you ever seen the pink skin which signals rebirth, have you ever washed it with hot water and felt that terrible, amazing, healing burn? Have you ever walked down a street and suddenly felt all the stories of everyone in the street, and in the balconies, and in the windows looking down at the city with their lights on, carefully and subtly mirroring those of the planes in the sky, of the stars in the heaven, have you ever felt them in the eyes of those around you? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a stranger and felt a jolt and missed a step, your version of their story bulging behind your eyes but suddenly silenced by empathy? Have you ever walked down a boulevard and were suddenly struck by a multitude of pillars of fire, all human, all around you, all you, burning away the borders, burning away the shell casings, burning away the intricate armor which they and you have donned? Have you felt the potential of their stories screaming at you, their vocal reverberations stripping you of strength, until you almost fell to one knee, not knowing if you were hurting or elated or healing or hurting or if it was just the alcohol?
Friend, have you ever felt the flame that is recognizing an other? Have you ever suddenly had your perspective zoom out and saw all the points of fire surrounding you and knew them for yourself? Whether you have or not, something you said, something you did, a posture you took, a wisdom you gave, a gesture you made, led someone else to that place. That cliff side above and beneath and inside where no one with armor can come, where we must stand alone and shivering in front of a flame, cold for the heat, alone for the company, hurting for the cure, surrounded and yet singular. Even if you've never been yourself you have brought someone there.
And for that, I will always love you.
Listen. The wind weighs heavily on my mind. It's as if a new message has been encoded on it. Once, it only spoke of places far away, to me at least, of places that perhaps never existed or never will. Now, it's as if it tells me that this place, by which it means the entire world and my bodily existence, once existed but now has ceased to do so. It whispers to me, carrying on its breath adverbs, adjectives, and advances, of how fast the yet-to-be is coming, of how quickly the past sloughs away from the bones of the earth, of how lightly a city filled with lights now hovers on the horizon, teetering over an edge so large, so encompassing, that the city can't yet perceive it. It dances as it does so, the wind. It bounces between trees, spinning in their midst, running its hands through the leaves, all the while babbling ceaselessly about diminishing returns, plummeting prospects, bottomless wells, and a path which leads to them.
Listen. On a hill, in the city filled with a million lights, in the city which hovers over the horizon, teetering, there are insects chirping in a building. They crawl over the discarded, hollowed out, greying pieces of wood left to them; their hive-voices bounce around the soft spaces left to them by us, reflecting and refracting into a thousand chitinous choirs, softly filling those spaces. In the silken light of lamps carefully placed to emphasize that which needs emphasizing, the bugs clutter and break apart again, fastening into balls, lines, convoys, group, and colonies. Their multitude of legs, like tiny hooks which propel them forward with infinitesimal little pulls, as if they are hooked on the very fabric of existence, churn, yearning for the other side of their box, for the other side of the glass, for the other side.
Listen. It's done but it's not done yet. There are still hundreds of heavy steps to take in the street, plodding along towards light. There are still a thousand content sighs to utter, sheltered in warmth. There are still a million gestures to make, while beautiful words spill from our mouths and move our hearts. There are still a billion little ways to move our face, our hands, our legs, our blood, our hair, there is still an infinity of moments in which to fall in love, to cry out in pain, to cry deeply from love, to have our breath snatched away, to have our ears sing with the sounds which bombard it. It's done but it's not done yet and until it's done, I'd like to spend my time with you. There are still hundreds of doorways filled with soft light, still a thousand windows spilling over with memories, still a million broken rays of light, still an infinity of memories to make. And when the time comes for what is already done to be done, we'll hold each other tight.
Hey. I love you. We're all going to die. It's going to be alright.
Listen. Mythology is what comes out when you're searching for the words but end up giving up, the meaning you were looking for stuck somewhere in cerebral channels. Instead of the straight paths you unconsciously imagined, flowing from signifier to signified, by way of your ancestry and the impossible weight of language, you end up with a stunted, laborious and, ultimately, futile passage. You'll be trying to say "love" or "future" or "help me" and instead there will be a few hands waved in the air, an "um" and an "uh" and the words will escape you, quite literally, flying off to wherever it is that words fly off to. Your compatriot, your champion in conversation, the scope and the focus of your words, will be standing there, quite awkwardly, but not saying too much because, at that moment, they decided to exercise love. And you'll be struggling, clutching for those words, clucking as they fly (like chickens can't) far away from the coop of your intent and into the wide fields of nowhere.
Listen. That's where mythology comes in. Instead of those words, now far away and receding ever faster, you'll tell a story. Every time you stumble on a word you lost, you'll find other words, learning like a mouse bumping up against the walls of a cheese-smell filled maze, where your lingual path will take you. At first, it won't be too far away from what you first meant to say; the colors might change, the actors might too (filling in the blanks left by names and faces which, as we've already said, have sprouted wings and are translating far away from you) but the essence of what you wanted to say would, initially, stay the same. And then you'll want to say it, you'll have moved from what were petal words to the cardinal, juicy stem and try and utter the crux of your message. But those words too, will quickly be forgotten, as quickly as you'll conjure them, in fact. Remember the mouse? Think of its whiskers, those early warning alarm system, as they brush against the wall. Before the mass of dry cardboard, smelling less of cheese and more of stale lab, smashes against your nose, there will be trepidation.
Listen. Course correction. Like the mouse, you'll veer in a different direction from those odd-feeling voids left in the wake of your aviary words and the mythology will grow deeper. Now, original intentions have been left way behind and only the deepest forms of your message remain, buried under layers and layers of words you never intended to say, like rotting bones under the weight of all the sand in the world, piling on top of each other in crystalline structure of impenetrable semantics. But, meaning finds a way. Much like water seeping through blast shields of granite, finding their way between infinitesimal cracks to drip from ceilings enriched by the sediments within them, meaning will come but in reverse. It will wind its way from the submerged founts that were fed from the feathers of your flying word-birds, filled to the brim with a dry substance that, nonetheless, holds many colors. It will seep, this substance, like water up from the aquifers of your intents, up from the stymied torrents of your frustrated meanings, filtered by mythology. And if you thought that granite was hard, wait until the glimmerings of your context squeeze between the crevasses of myth, as it has for generations, on its way to the ears of your loving listener.
Listen. Despite all of this, it will be alright. The "um"s and the "uh"s will be replaced with words: metaphors, cliches, similes, synecdoches, expressions, twists of the tongue, turns of phrase. The voids will be gone and instead there will be teeth, sown, and soldiers, sprouting, and hills, sylvan crowned, and bulls, alabaster, and dreams, gossamer, and harps, singing, and snakes, hissing, and a face behind a door which doesn't open, a face which stares behind the wood at everything we do, a face which waits for us to open the door, which one day will open, a face which waits for you to finish what you're saying, no matter how long it takes.
Listen. I'm listening.
Listen. I remember the sky falling apart. I remember a towering room filled with so much emptiness that it nearly became something but just missed it. I remember gestures bubbling into the spaces where things should be, countless people who were all alone swimming in a sea of viscous, bland, ceramic nothing. They were going through the motions. They were swimming in a sea of their own making. They were guzzling down the after-product of a breaking down, they were gyrating in their seats, conducting ancient rituals their parents promised them would give them meaning. They had plastic in their pockets and in their shoes and in their hearts and a chorus of notes sang through that hall of emptiness. It was a cheery tune. It echoed around the fake tree, lazily trying without success to summon nature and history. The tune snaked around the emptiness, hugging the curves of the objects it almost, but not quite created. It snaked around shoulders clad in uniform, faces smiling without emotion, weathered hands reaching out in rote to take mine, to escort me, to usher me.
Listen. I remember the sky falling apart. We were all teetering above an abyss that was threatening to swallow us at any moment and yet, we felt safe. We felt safe because that abyss was nothing compared to us; we made that abyss. That abyss was collected, strained, extracted, from the very stuff that snuck into our hearts the second they were removed. We had them taken out, each of us at a different time, a few years ago or decades ago it didn't matter, so we could better squeeze into our suits and our planes and our schedules. And as soon as they were out, pulsating centers of pneumatic meaning, the stuff from which the abyss was made snuck in and the abyss itself grew that much larger. It was an unwholesome sight, the abyss. So there was carpet laid over it and tight little corners and a vehicle whose entire purpose it was to carry our belongings from place to place. We buried the abyss under lacquered shoes and lacquered desks and lacquered gazes and smiled through it all.
Listen. I remember the sky falling apart. Sequestered alone, the hall of emptiness would not leave me; I had been colonized. I felt inside now an emptiness, not clawing out as you might expect, but content to sit there and percolate, like a gas sneaking itself into my cells and the cells beyond the cells, the cells which held meaning and intent. It was not an uncomfortable feeling. The emptiness took questions of comfort and discomfort away, moving me to draw back the blinds which shielded me from the city, which placed a distance it did not like between the emptiness inside me and the emptiness out there. I could feel the city contained within that hall; dimensions collapsed and commerce, industry, meetings, cars, transportation, the sea, highways, traffic, banks, all lost their cohesion and filtered into the hall below me, like so much dirty water in a sink when you suddenly remove the plug. My breath rose out to meet them as they funneled in, not misting the window as it was very warm. But out it came, even if it left no mark of its passage, and floated away through the glass and over the city, over the hall of emptiness, over the emptiness inside, over the plastic.
Listen. That's when the sky fell apart. Light manifested everywhere as if a completely different band erupted into the rehearsal space, playing a bawdy and boisterous crescendo to our measured coda. At first, I couldn't tell where the light was coming from, it seemed that the sky itself had spontaneously combusted, that the firmament itself had splintered asunder and was now letting in a terrible light. And the sound; the ear moves slower than the eye. But when the sound finally reached me, I thought I was dying. I did die. I wasn't really alive. I was beyond the hall of emptiness but, suddenly, somehow, there was something in that hall, there was light and there was sound. Finally, the sound subsided and, as the second wave of light washed once again over my eyes, I realized the light was coming from the city itself. No, not from the city, that useless unit of abstraction which had collapsed into the hall. The lights were coming from the people inside the city, letting forth a great cry into the heavens, not for any god to hear but to tear down the heavens themselves in their celebration, to make night into day, to make darkness into light, to make nothing into something, to make plastic into tears.
Listen. After the sky fell apart, I cried. I cried for the hall, draining. I cried for the empty music, snaking. I cried for the people, plastic. I cried for the hearts, for the vehicle carrying, for the neat carpets, burying, I cried for the abyss, rushing. I cried for the abyss. I cried for the millions out there, past the abstraction, past the hall of emptiness, arms stretching where movement should not even exist. I cried for myself, watching. I cried for the light, invaded. I cried for the day that was coming, I cried for the night that was dying, I cried for the sky that was tearing, I cried for the light. I cried for death and for the pretense of writing.
But most of all, I cried for you, suffering. I cried for you, waiting. I cried for you, dying. I cried for you, reading. I cried for you, sacrificing. I cried for you, lost.
I love you.
Listen. There was a warehouse full of boxes and a courtyard full of soldiers. There was the air of an ending and of freedom and of obstacles. Words were said. Hands were waved. Tasks were given. Inside the warehouse, there was heat but nothing like the heat they would soon feel. There was dust but nothing like the motes they would soon collect. There was the sensation of a coiled animal as their eyes locked briefly, understanding passing in the shooting rays of the outside sun like so many dancing flames across a cathedral hall. A cathedral of production, a church of efficiency. The stars are stigmata. There came an uncoiling, shy at first, hands fumbling around handles, ascertaining corners, figuring out surfaces. Figuring out pitch and vector and friction. Figuring out roughness, hands imagining future callouses, speaking now to biological systems so that they may speak to social systems. We can't do this alone. The uncoiling increased, exponentially feeding off its own burning, ATP madhouses consuming sugars at increasing levels, sending whirling signals to muscles to use use use, use what is being given to you, shoulder the weight, lift the cost, come together, push it out. Uncoil.
Listen. Last night there is a jackal and a week ago there is a jackal and a month ago there is a jackal. Not the same one. Probably. Speeding down curves facing the ocean, roughly plodding over concrete, softly pacing across grass, I meet them. There's shock there and a weird sort of recognition, a tension of species. Fear, to be sure, a rumor of disease, an awkwardness of sizes. A barrier of language but more than that, not a lack of words, but a lurid unease, a prismatic mis-configuration, distinct palettes on the world. Not really crashing, not really passing each other by. Contact but garbled, fed through different output-input logics, alphanumeric sequences extant but wrongly pre-configured, source code that had diverged eons ago and was diverging by the minute. Like an arrow shot off at the slightly wrong angle, slowly accumulating degrees as geological time does its unstoppable thing. The stars are objects burning through fusion, light-years distant. Reaction to this encounter is obvious and similar on both sides, human-side and jackal-side. Aversion, distance, silence, not of misunderstanding but of that initial impossibility to initiate. Of evolutionary gaps.
Listen. Now the heat is burning, now the furnace truly comes to life in that warehouse. Tendrils of language, beginnings of words, herald it and then quickly die as more effective avenues of communication are found. Boulevards of skin. Alleys of sweat. Footpaths of grunts. The little sounds that people working together make are the excess of this process, filling the air with the un-contracting of the snake, the rakshasa now being born in that space. The heat increases and sweat burns off as quickly as it is formed, its fumes the smoke which the machine-angel turns into birth. Its cogs human arms, its muscles human torsos, its legs human pelvises. Working. Lost in the work, contorted around the task, all gestures and hope towards freedom and escape forgotten in the task. The stars are stigmata and god screams through their peep-holes. A Futurist blend of orange and red descends upon the place, viewing through eyes that have processing power only for the boxes, for the accurate movement of hands, for the beat of the work-line which courses through the body. Analyzing and parsing the surroundings only partly, a sun burning lower and lower in their periphery. Boxes disappear into order.
Listen. If I could lose myself in heat why can't I lose myself in the jackal? If I could give myself to the boxes why can't I give myself to the jackal? If I could un-recoil from my fellow human why can't I un-recoil from my fellow organism? Or is the secret more fucked up, curling cruelly on the question just asked and re-configuring it: could I really un-recoil from my fellow human? Am I more distant from the jackal, as he/I bound away, skittering into the night of shared(?) terror and pain, than I am from a man? Just because I once gave myself away with a few of them to a machine-angel, just because I felt my flesh sloughing away and joining with theirs, just because we applied ourselves together not to a task but to a becoming to a purpose to an ending to a time-limit to a deadline to exertion to exhaustion to a red haze that descended upon us all as if sent by a god suddenly focused on our deeds a god spurned to action by alacrity and skill and desire? Or is the secret, coiled crudely around the question, that the same gulf exists and is created not because of body, not because of species, but because of being alive?
Listen. I love you. A distance impossible stands before us and I love you and have always loved you and will always love you.
But can we love the jackal?
Listen. Can you hear that pitter-patter at your window? That's the world curdling, that's the night being peeled away. There was a sort of rushing sound last night, as if all the trees on the planet sighed together, finally able to take a break from holding the sky up. But you were asleep, so you probably didn't notice. Didn't pay attention, lost to soothing somnolence, when the stars began to sing, ushering it all in.
Listen. At one point in the future, when all this dismantling is done, we'll be able to rest. Eventually, when the dark has simmered down, when the light has stopped spinning, when the wind has stopped keening, we'll be able to lay down and drift away into peace. Even sleep will stop then because sleep implies a recharging; sleep implies you will one day wake.
Listen. Can you hear that yeeping sound at your window? That's the fox and the jackal celebrating the opening of the gate. There was a sort of jubilant sound last night, as if all the rivers leapt up in dance, finally able to take a break from soothing the ground to sleep. But you were dancing, so you probably didn't notice. Didn't pay attention, lost to uplifting celebration, when the stars began to sing, ushering it all in.
Listen. At one point in the past, when all this was just coming to be, we were able to rest. Back then, when the dark was building up, when the light started spinning, when the wind broke out in thin, chilling, loving keening, we were able to lay down and drift away in peace. Sleep was still just an idea for the poets then because sleep implied an escaping; sleep implied that, one day, all of this won't be awake.
Listen. There's a burden that's about to lift, there's a task we're about to complete, there's a routine that will finally stop, there's a song we're meant to sing, there's a star out there that not only has your name on it but has my name on it, that has the name of everyone that ever was and that ever will be and it's not one star it's all the stars and they're singing, singing our names into an endless night, calling to us to lay down to go to sleep to rest to awake to light up to celebrate to simmer to join the fox and the jackal to cry out with the song of the flower to raise our hands and, not knowing what we do or what we speak of, to recite the words that are etched across our every cell, there right next to our heart, there right next our bones, there right next to our life.
Listen. I love you. Happy summer solstice.
Listen. All you need to do to feel it is sing with other people. You'll notice that there's an internal buoyancy to you, a balance that you've been maintaining without noticing. When you sing, especially with others, your ears don't exactly turn off but they go to this place where they're focused on something beyond how you sound, beyond how others are sounding, towards a place where you all sound like something, together. It's almost like floating in water; your body does it as a reflex, assembling the air in ways that fit together, unlocking a multitude of doors that lead to a place called harmony.
Listen. You arrive there unintended, translated by the very act of singing. You arrive there on a sling crocheted from the thin, effervescent threads of the voices around you. You arrive there by singing to yourself but also singing for others, you arrive there by listening to your own voice intermingle with the voice of others but also, like the one blue thread in a golden tapestry, still easy for you to make out. You arrive there without meaning, without initially knowing the way. You arrive there out of instinct.
Listen. That's how anthems work. That's how folk songs work. That's how families work. That's how true songs work. A myriad of voices singing to themselves as much as they are singing to each other, singing their own voice into oblivion while holding on to it at the same time. A nothingness which cries of things. A plentitude which tells a story of the void. A panoply of arms and armor and vessels and carafes chanting of an empty state. A pillar which stands alone amidst a thousand other, marble steles, somehow solitary and yet sharing the weight of the arch.
Listen. This road, the road of many voices joined in song, will always be open to you. There is no stain that can smudge the path from the bloody map which allows you that preternatural balance, that supernal key to harmony. There is no pencil that can amend the dotted line which links your throat to the throats of everyone else now alive, a line that only waits a vibratory foot to walk it. There is no fold or projection or other cartographical device that can make you forget how to get back to that place, that ethereal city square, where you and your brothers and sisters and children and mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts are raising your voices in song.
Listen. Will you sing a song with me? It's a simple one. It goes:
Listen. The sun goes behind the airport to die. The sky is the color of a modern website's, running pastel shades through pink, blues, reds and whites. Easy on the eye.
Listen. A road carves its way through the dunes. Their peaks are covered in green shrubbery and now, where the cries of jackals once echoed, feet are dragged.
Listen. People duck below the bridge as it dips. The river's water susurrates into the ocean, as maybe it always has. Or maybe it's man-made, a path carved into the ground's history for the water to traverse.
Listen. Lights from the neighborhood you always go past are supine against the night. The traffic circle's trees are nodding in agreement with the wind, running their fingers through the hair of their old friend, pale-armed atmosphere.
Listen. A vignette is a peek into a memory in molasses. Words swim in it like pieces of a cookie, floating in melted sugar, covering themselves with meaning.
Listen. The sun goes behind the airport to die. A bright flame drowns in a cerulean one, the water embracing its celestial lover. People are gathered to dream silent eulogies.
Listen. The moon, through a haze, looks on.
Listen. Picture the irradiated swamp that now lives where once that copse of tripartite trees now stand. Sure, there is green-yellow bile which washes up on its modest, corrosive shore. But it still rains there, do you see? Even here, even now, even through all of the things that have come to pass, it still rains here. Do the animals that still call this place home take comfort in that? That is a lie you tell yourself, as if these animals concern you; as if there is any way for you to feel kinship with them in some way. If you're being honest, the rain falls then but it's really falling for you, now. It's a construct we have built together (and have continued to build) to take our mind of the swamp even as we help build it.
Listen. Now, there are three trees and two women are looking at them. You see their gaze, you see their wonder. You see the pink and white flowers adorning the branches and, suddenly, you feel the full range of human emotions. OK, not the full range but it feels like the full range; the joy within you pings off of their eyes and back on to the tree before it makes its way back to your heart. From whence it takes flight once again, transformed now into hope and happiness, and hums around you like a faint aura only you can see, a sort of self-clarvoyance that you get when you find yourself in these moments. An old poem comes to you: "The sun has burst the sky, because I love you" and you smile. You see the old woman smile and you remember your grandmother(s). You know they smile as well. You remember them smiling. They are not smiling because of a poem but they might as well be. They might as well be.
Listen. Yes, when you zoom out from the swamp in your mind (as I am asking/causing you to do now), devestation lies all around. But there's a wind playing in the remenants of the trees. There's a sound that's a composite, that's a lack, that's the background hum of things. There ground does not thrum; the sky does not scream. The smoke rises lazily towards the occluded sky and yes, the sun is not there but you know that it is. Rising now above the clouds, you see the true rain, the true cold, the true hum in the background of things: you see the stars. Often, when you have heard them described, people have said that the stars "burn on" but this is meaningless to you. For your perspective, from our perspective, the stars do not burn. The stars intrude. The stars look on. The stars peek. The stars contextualize. And so they do.
Listen. What is left for monsters but to imagine their victims surviving them? In spite of everything, I love you.
Listen. The world doesn't exist. All that exists, for us at least, are the snippets of the lives we see around us. It's like becoming a radar antenna or a satellite dish. You become receptive to the little moments where the skin of the world falls away and you can finally, sweetly, see people's faces. You turn your head over your shoulder and see the man existing the car. Instantly, a phrase or two from a lullaby he sings to his child comes to you; the wind whistles through the trees, singing the same lullaby but backwards. You're having dinner and you look up, your gaze unknowingly piercing into the apartment across from you. You see a few friends having a drink and, suddenly, you can hear the song they're riotously singing; the wind, that trickster messenger, clad in moths, carried on the dandelion parachutes, brings you their voices. You remember singing such songs too.
Listen. We are encamped on a dark hillside and the cold is brutal. The fire is dying down and the last of the food is eaten. Around us, we can hear the wailing of the jackals, screaming their community into the night. We should be afraid but we're not because we have plenty of water, flashlights, and, besides, we have each other. I smile. The stars are shining down and your face looks so lovely in the half-light. Something is said, perhaps by me or by you, it doesn't really matter, and a story unspools between us, words dancing with the echoing flames, the light diminishing comfortably in the returns, like a friend leaving a door through which they've stepped many times before and you know, you know, they will step through many times again before our time is done. You smile. The moon is babbling away and the hill around us is awash in the silver of its speech.
Listen. When you walk down an evening street, you see the thousands of light that make up the lives of the city. You also hear the hedgehog shoveling around, looking for something. The cat meows. Moths flitter around street lamps. Couples walk embraced and bars are doing their business and the smells of food come to you. Perchance, your eyes running over a window, you start to long for the life which it represents. You imagine the family dinners, the awards stacked on shelves and, yes, the fights and breakups and all the other relentless and tiny atrocities we commit against each other. You long for that place, for it warmth but here's the thing, here's a secret we all know (it's not something I'm telling you but something I'm reminding you of, since you know it as well): last week or last month or yesterday or yesteryear, someone was standing outside of your window. They saw the light spilling out from your life and they longed for it. They saw your plants and they saw your posters and they saw the little clues of your life and they longed for it so.
Listen. Our heads lift from the leaving fire of our camp and suddenly, the hills around are lit with a hundred fires. We see their light, ghostly but present, make a mockery of objects with nothing but their shadows. We see the nooks in the hills awash with the afterimages of the people who must have walked up them just a few hours ago to reach their camps. We see the limbs of the hills, supporting so many fires. We hear the jackals screaming in the night, their voices raised as if to outshine the fires and the coming sun. I smile. The light of the fires plays across your face. You are so beautiful, even more beautiful when looked at with the light of the world, with the light of life. You smile. The stars are now mirrored in the earth, not trapped but duplicated, reversed in similitude, caught in a dance with the hearts setting the fires. We smile together.
Listen. What passes between us is the realization that fear does not exist. What passes between us, sitting here on a hill, basking in the light which shines from the very fact that others exist, is the realization that the only thing which exists is love.
I love you.
Listen. My car pulls up next to his in a traffic jam. Around us, there's a space, a reprise, between where we sit, baking on the tarmac, and where the skyscrapers begin. There's a bit of air, a bit of blue, a bit of space, but not too much. The windows are rolled up; it's scorching outside. Traffic is jammed to standstill, so I look to my right and then to my left, and that's where I see him. He's sitting in his car and he's looking straight, beyond the cars, beyond the tarmac, beyond the city even. He is looking into the horizon where, in a weird-loop which in certain ways is the only delimitation of the external world, turns back around into himself. He is looking at the back of his eyes, he is looking at the back of his skull. He is looking back in time. And he's crying. As soon a I notice that he's crying, my heart twists in my chest and all the things I wish I could tell him, that it will be OK, that life ends and that there's a freedom in that, come tumbling into my head. My hand, bypassing my so-called rational mind entirely, moves to the hot plastic of the door handle to open it. Of course I don't actually leave the car; the freeway is the domain of cars and the soft flesh of the human will only be tolerated directly on it in an emergency. Is this not an emergency, you might ask. I think so. But the cars don't. The people who planned the road didn't. And, most importantly, the heat and the asphalt and the skyscrapers and yes, ultimately and perhaps most sadly, the sky doesn't either. So I stay in my car and he stays in his and he cries and I can't really do anything about it.
Listen. Meanwhile, I am collecting snatches of cold around the museum gardens, little pockets of sanity and calm, concrete oases. Meanwhile, I am writing poems in to do lists, trying to insert more magical words into an increasingly flickering day to day. Meanwhile, I am thinking about how none of us were configured for this life and how much shifting, rearranging, and posture checking we must do just to stay alive. I don't mean biologically alive; luckily, or unluckily, our bodies are well suited for that. The heart is a very efficient machine for pumping blood. But the metaphorical heart is of a poorer design. It's not the designer's fault of course; things rarely are, no matter what some people might tell you about the failure of freeways. They were rushed; they didn't have the time they needed to properly chart us out. They too were juggling a flickering life, time perceived not through presence but through the absence of stress, little flittering shadows on the wall, gone before the hand can catch it, always liquifying, always running between their/our fingers. Meanwhile, I feel all the little ways in which my shape does not find a purchase in the shape of the world, the adjustments, the sanding down of edges, the twisting of mis-matched shapes, spokes trying to fit into grooves which were built with a mold in mind but which now, at the moment of friction, of metallic confluence, find themselves unique. Too unique.
Listen. Just as my instinct to look away was kicking in, the man turned to face me. That gaze which was previously fixed upon the strange loop that straddles the horizon and links the two poles of the Earth, that accursed blessed dynamo, turned itself on me. It was not a shock; I was not taken aback. Instead, it was like a tunnel warmly opening beneath my feet, a distance and a depth which only required me to let go. The man moved his hand to his own scorching piece of plastic, opening his door. He stepped outside. Onto the tarmac. Into carland. Breaking the law of momentums. Facing the metal beasts. Somehow diffident in the face of the eternal truth of the artificial, the never-ending word of the synthetic. He walked closer to me and he started to sing. His voice was beautiful; it choked up with the tears that were flowing down his face. His words, completely unintelligible to me and yet, of course, deeply resonant, bounced off the cars and the skyscrapers and, yes, morosely of all, bounced off the sky as if it too was made of plastic. His words were everywhere and he filled his lung with the humid, torrid, stinking air of the freeway and he made it his own. The song kept undulating, twisting around antennas, filtering through A/C systems, worming past windows, dirtying fuel, blocking up pistons, melting rubber tires, plugging up exhaust pipes, and ossifying buildings. The song was magnificent and then the traffic jam cleared and I, out of instinct, pressed my feet gently on the gas and the man, who was once more in his car and looking into the pierced horizon, was quickly gone.
Listen. To think that a miracle requires divinity is to misunderstand the recipient of the message for its sender. Miracles care nothing for the one who causes them; they are ambivalent to their creature. Miracles are all about those they serve and those for whom they are created. Therefore, their creator is unnecessary. Yes, they might exist. But what difference does it make? What does it matter from where the manna comes from when all you can think about is that you're no longer hungry? From whence comes the dove with the olive branch? Who cares? All that matters is that the promise that the sea, the endless, cursed, salted, sterile sea, might one day end. This is what's collected in my concrete oases: miracles. They might have been created in the urban forge, wrought by fires that are stoked by the energy released each by tens of thousands of footsteps on the main street. I might have sent them to myself, like a missive that pings around the world only to gently kiss you on the back of your head is it returns. They, my miracles, might be conjured by a wizard, or created by a god, or written by a poet, but what matters it that they are my miracles, don't you see? What matters is that the water flows onto my forehead, the breeze strokes my shoulders, the broken shadows of the leaves dance upon my face, and cruel summer and cruel seas and the never-ending sigil of the freeway is banished.
Listen. Do you see? What matters is not that you're reading this. What matters is that I love you and you, I know, I can tell, I can feel, you love me. What matters is that there's a place beyond the sea. The song of doves surrounds us when we embrace. In your voice I hear their feathers fluttering. In your smile I smell the olive branch. In your eyes I can read the message, the miracle, the song, the prophecy, that the sea is about to end.
Listen. I drive over the engorged river and look towards the sun. The water is, ironically, bottle green. It is fat. It is swaddling its way towards the sea, like an elderly merchant of nothing much, his hands still bent in the shape of the wares he used to carry but not only encompassing air. The river encompasses silt. It contains mud. It feels, to me, like it's running through my heart, picking up all the refuse, the discarded flash drives of memory, ejected from their seating to make room for more urgent matters. A river of electronic waste, running straight from my heart and into the salt, into the cleansing acridity, the aquatic sulfur, of a distant sea.
Listen. The leaves break into the rain-song around me. The drops collaborate, ever so deftly, with their chlorophyllic skins to create a percussive choir inside the night. On its way to the, the water encounters so much: the blinding freeze of the winds between the clouds, the blowing lights of the city's halo, the sheer presence of the buildings, displacing air, the howls of the jackals as they tear through the drops, vibrating to their core with need and want. It feels, to me, like the rain is running through my heart, depositing all of the outside, the multitude letters of poetry, transmitted from their housing to build more room inside of me for the urgent matters. A river of electrostatic water, running straight to my heart from the salt, from the cleansing acridity, the aquatic sulfur, of a distant sea.
Listen. As the river waddles by, I am counting my pebbles. I am stacking them up and breaking the flimsy constructions down. I am grouping them together. I am placing, each one in its turn, the pebbles in my mouth. I am tonguing them, like a missing tooth which has crumpled in a dream, running my taste buds over their rough contours. I am cataloging them. I am knowing them. They feel, to me, like they sink into my stomach, pressure-formed diamonds of regret, mined from their veins to obsessively glitter in my mind. A landslide of gravel, running straight from the pit of me and into the dirt, into the storing solidity, the musty petrichor, of a distant earth.
Listen. As the rain-song undulates above me, I am shaping the mud. The rivulets of the water in the rich red-brown mud create brave rivers. I am bridging them with twigs. I am redirecting their flow, towards basins of swampy aggregation. I am burying my fingers in their contours, letting the coalesced dirt get beneath my finger nails. I am sinking into the bubbling, sucking, welcoming story of the field, I am diving into the depths of time that the loam stores. It feels, to me, like a book written in deep dreams, words slowly, incredibly slowly, groaned through my fingers and into my head by the tectonic plates of neighborhoods. The seismic patina of footsteps washes over me, the vibrating scroll of mundanity. Here the lighted steps of a newly formed couple, there the head-strong paces of a child learning to walk, even further there the slow gait of an old man basking in the sun, here now the quick step of a child returning from school. A landslide of story, running straight from the ground to the soles of my feet, from the dirt, from the storing solidity, the musty petrichor, of a distant earth.
Listen. Beyond the salt, the cleansing acridity, the aquatic sulfur, the distant sea, beneath the dirt, the storing solidity, the musty petrichor, the distant earth, I know, I can tell, I can feel, I can remember, I can recount, I sense, that you love me.
And I, I love you too.
Listen. We twirl and we twirl, a-spin in an orbit, surrounding a planet of deep intent. We rise and fall, come together and apart, we whirl in the concentric rings of life. Possessed, launched, desired, set along, set to sea, towards a ring of fire falling behind the horizon. Towards a twinkle in an eye.
Listen. Stars are swept and then scattered again, sowed in a vast field. Through the troughs and canals of dirt we burrow, ringing around the rosie, dancing circles across the tree. The sky ahead rotates, massive constellations of feeling, of emotion, of intentions, entering and leaving galactic houses which dwarf even them.
Listen. Everything becomes large and then small again; we draw near and then away. Distance itself collapses and we move terribly slowly at terrible speeds towards a terminus and an egress point. We are at the end of our journey, feeling our feet hum in exercised contentment. We sit by the fire, contemplating tomorrow's journey. We take the first step.
Listen. My arms make a doorway and people come in and out of it. Words of farewell and of greeting are whispered constantly, litanies of connections and departures tolling out like silvered bells, like the tongues of fire across a plain, like the hawk's flight above a tundra, like a plateau alight with dew.
Listen. I sing of life, of things well ended and things barely yet begun. I sing of hearts careening at near light-speeds, mournful FTL, and the blood of capillary engines wherein race desire and fear, hope and goodbye, songs and silences. I sing of thinking on those you've lost, but in a good way. I sing of the itinerary of life, the travel plan of sorrow, the trip of joy, the travels of being here, alive, wondering, open, hurt, yearning.
Listen. I sing of you.
I love you.
Listen. The emotional grenade spins through the air like a sycamore seed. One moment I'll be walking along, wrapped in my routine like in a thick jacket (although it's already quite sweltering) and, suddenly, a sibling searing to the sun's scorch is set ablaze in my heart. My neck, usually a mere scaffold, albeit a critical one, immediately stretches, like an antenna pointing at the world. Signal is received: the smile of a stranger as she laughs at a completely unknowable joke (that is, unknowable to me), a loving caress on a far away cheek, the laughter of a child at play, the bubbling of a water fountain, its soliloquy expounding on the virtues of reflecting the light on the wall behind it. The world comes alive with gesture and I am a captured audience, swaying in tune with the choreography of the material.
Listen. The river called "life" gathers in nooks and crannies. Like a stream of water, it always keeps flowing but it pools, whirls, gathers, is dammed, overflows, flows under, rushes through, twists a turn, and makes puddles. Elsewhere, water rushes but in the joints of our lives, in connecting streets that are themselves disregarded, behind a parking lot, underneath a bridge, around a corner of a road not enough taken, life halts and gathers for a few moments before it continues to erode everything else. In those places, there is the silence of the pond, as if nature itself is holding her breath to see whether this is where life stops, whether this is where the flood of everything finally halts. If you stay quiet, if you shrewdly observe, you can feel like a dragonfly before a snapping turn, you can feel the tension in your wings, you can feel the air halt, you can feel the discarded effluence of existence raise its arms around you. You can toy with the idea of stopping.
Listen. Every single day hearts are set on fire. Most of us, for most of the time, are extinguished but, like embers left behind by a careless traveler that threaten acres and acres of trees, we are bound to burst into a bustling blaze, beating aside the barriers that bind us into our boxes. Therefore, the wise man does not say "mind your step" or "be kind to others" but rather he says, this hypothetical teacher which I've just made up, "remember you are always one millisecond away from the conflagration of your heart". If you listen to this lesson, it changes how you walk; there's less emphasis on the direction, less energy dedicated to creating momentum, and more efforts put into sensation, into attunement, into reception, into the stretching of the neck, the cultivation of readiness. Walking along is no longer an option: you are now always walking besides, just to the side of the possibility of being set on fire, burning alive.
Listen. If on a winter's night a field maple shed its seed, entrusting it to the wind, then the entire world can be saved. If it's possible that, for a quiet moment, a humble bole stopped the endless dance of growth and simply let go, then there is hope for you and me as well. If, perhaps this time on a summer's night, an animal, hiding in the brush from the machinery of progress, stops to listen to the wind as it runs through the dunes of its memory, if, perhaps on the morning on an autumn day, it's possible that a grieving parent suddenly looks up at the moon and remembers that silver runs in the vein of every person that has ever lived, if, perhaps on a summer's afternoon, a couple lay in a mutual embrace and argue passionately about what's for dinner, then there is hope for you and me to stop suffering.
Listen. We are only here to figure out how to stop. We are here to figure out how to stretch our neck. We are here to figure out how to make of our heart a kindling so that the spark of others lights us like a bonfire, celebrating the sky.
Listen. I am only here to tell you that I love you and to mean it.
Listen. Suddenly, you’re highlighted by the sunlight. It has congealed and is now marmoreal, affected by some unknown metamorphosis. It’s like a mold, a cast, a glyph, an empty, bright engraving into which you are poured. You look down and the bird’s feather is outlined in green, a sharp, acerbic border to its otherwise affluent shimmering. You feel your own green outline, right at the edge of your skin, and the sunlight is beating down on it from a sun transformed. Your own, internal plumage, as if calling to the bird that lost the feather, is unfurling inside of you, swaying mightily under the reconfigured light. Like a ship in its birth, you feel the countless photons bombarding your outer shell with hammers of energy, with gavels of conductivity, scaffolding you with umbral constructions, nuclear stevedores, semaphore smiths of sea-worthy flesh.
Listen. The past is clawing into your nostrils. The scent erupts from some unknown source and suddenly your brain is filled with sudsy memories. Beckoned from inside the abysses of years flown by, you recall a floor coated in plastic so you won’t slip, a towel floating menacingly/lovingly over your head. You recall a fan, lazily spinning in the shades of afternoon. You recall grass and a climb to a hill, you recall the odd delineation of fence/wildness. Even as you understand that it was never that wild, just urban nature, it stretches inside the atlas of your mind to the far horizon, as it seemed to do when you were a child. You fall into its sand-filled embrace, long, looping arms of endless noon and overripe peach colored evenings closing all around you. You gasp for air, still choking on the sunlight, only to find your lungs filled with loss. With the hollow once filled by a person.
Listen. The candidates for catalyst that spurred the transformation of the light are many. Was it the gash across the cat’s face, bleeding with potency and robbed sight? Was it the presence of the pines, murmuring of ancient forests and tundra? Was it the crackle of asphalt beneath the bicycle wheels, promising eternity in their malleable yet ever-lasting elasticity? Was it the man sitting in the shade, looking out at the world as if it was already over? Was it the faint fatigue that has been running between my shoulder-blades for fifteen years now, suddenly affective, no longer ignored, no longer ignorable? Was it the faint presence of commerce, coruscating down human pathways around me? Was it the unbelievable, rotten, holy, plenty that I was surrounded with? Or, at the outset, was it the light itself, bending into itself, twisting into a loop, flying from my eyes and back towards the bulbous sun, swelling with feedback?
Listen. The past is crawling over your skin. Looking around can be like swirling a liquid over your tongue, exciting its flavors from within its mercurial center. It feels like a second skin, like diving in a suit, like running your hand through a rushing waterfall. It feels like everything is supercharged and suddenly, the green of the feather tinkles in an apartment window;the cat’s gash hides behind dustbins;the lazy fan is running over us like the shadow of a cloud;the sand is pouring in from the eyes and the mouths of the store windows;the fence circles the city, separating it from the skin;and we are, now, instantly, and forever, climbing over that always-hill.
Listen. I write “you” and “me” and “us” but I might just as well be writting about “we”.Back to Poems