on a balcony in firozsha baag
and so these lungs, perched
in the thick swell and heat of city life,
sung loudly, like a child that's proud of itself,
singing of rain and the coming of things,
the leaving of others,
of rich soil and the human heart,
but when can lungs
Your shoes are brown. There are no laces. There’s mud on the hem of your jeans. It’s cold. There are mosquitos. There’s no plunge greater than this.
You do nothing.
There was a boy last week. He was maybe five. He ran around with his hair wet and what happened was the little boy got pneumonia and died. He died. And now you think of him sometimes. He was so happy.
Words come to you like art. Sometimes, you say them out loud to hear their sounds, but it’s embarassing. It’s an indulgence is what it is.
But you indulge. You think of things like reading the paper, and you think of all those words, and the artistry of a newspaper. You think of newspaper boats. Paper mache. School projects. You are a sophist.
The time has come to do nothing.
The mosquitos survive, and so do you.
you cease to occupy space
this small pause,
bring them back
this home house,
you grow up.
I'm tired and fucked up
I'm not my own
I'm a child of memory and foresight,
And I am a woman.
I am a hero and nothing.
I am broken, and I can do this,
But I'm tired and fucked up
On a pin (literally)
Said I to you: “I went to the beach today!”
Said you to me: “Oh, you don’t say!”
I said that I did, that I’d just said it now,
And then I told you the story of how
I’d stepped on a pin, ‘cause yes, that I did!
The pin with which I’d impaled myself slid
Into my flesh, all the way in,
Deep in the tissue, that little pin,
And I pulled it out because, like, no way:
Lodged in my feet pins cannot stay.
“Strict rules in these parts!” I say to you.
You say to me: “Like maybe wear shoes?”
Re: bravery and lemons
Date: Monday, August 18, 2014 12:26AM
I think that I am brave and I think that I am the bravest person I know. I think I am tired of people not talking about shit, and ignoring shit, and bottling shit up, and not bottling shit up, and just generally wriggling around like flip-flopping fish on a dock as if all of this goddamn hullaballoo really makes one peep of a difference. If you happen to be a dying fish on a dock and it’s too hot and there’s no water and you’re far from home and all alone, take a deep goddamn breath and bear the weight of being a dying fish on a dock. Be still. Endure. When life hands you lemons, eat the goddamn motherfucking lemons.
Would that you had what I'd seen you having,
When I had you and you had me and we
Had been we—us, who seemed to have having,
Whate'er it is, fateful activity!
accent gauche, surpassed and surpassing still,
like a luscious, deep, feathering flock of birds,
above the other,
going at it,
headlong into the sky, and outward
across the city,
into the prairie,
and all as one big yellow gesture:
we were big and out and loving
accent gauche like à la gauche,
but more and less than that
accent gauche like brambles and whipped cream,
dark and resonant,
and mellow, whispering, too much,
too much of something,
in its reality
accent gauche the adjective,
the little creature in our wake,
this western wind,
which stills our hearts—and yet,
makes them beat:
our beating hearts,
and midnight gasping,
are a vowel voice,
and the voice of a softer vowel,
which lives on,
still, but sounding,
On good and sad things
I went to the beach with my friends today. At the beach, there was a mountain and a light, and I felt them being themselves. One was mountainous and one was lit.
The mountain, of course, was mountainous. He was big and made of rocks and blue. Also, he was the sort of mountain that would wear sensible shoes, take regular baths, and profess insecurity without actually having any insecurity to profess. Today, tonight, when I was at the beach with my friends, the mountain had just returned home from a hard day’s work of being a mountain. He was sort of low looking, like whatever his mood was, it wasn’t in his heart or his head or any place you’d expect it to be, but somewhere more around his ankles, so it took you a second. He had just put on a pot of tea and was writing in his journal, when he heard us laughing and wrote this:
Bomp bomp bomp. I am a mountainous mountain.
The light, on the other hand, was lit. He was medium-sized and special, like how most cats think of themselves. You know cats. The light would be the type to develop serious tastes in art (probably architectural), to have a knack for sculpting topiary, and to maintain a fully-functional social circle of which, despite its functionality, he never seemed to be quite a part. Tonight, I watched as the light came home after a long day of work, stepped neatly out of his loafers at the front door, and walked in paces over to the couch for a nap. In his sleep, the light dreamt that he heard a voice, and the voice said:
Bomp bomp bomp. I am a mountainous mountain.
The light had never seen a mountain before, and definitely not a mountainous mountain, so when he awoke, he ran over to his window and looked across the land see if he could find a mountainous mountain. Low and behold: there was the mountain, right before the light’s very eyes, sipping his tea and writing away in his journal, mountainously. The light smiled, orange and round and happy.
The mountain had never seen a light before, and definitely not a lit light, so when he saw one out of the corner of his eye in the distance, he looked up from his writing and scanned the horizon to see if he could find a lit light. And low and behold: there was the light, right before the mountain’s very eyes, jumping up and down, waving his arms, and orange and round and happy in his glow, all lit up. The mountain was pleased, and nodded affirmingly at the light.
It was the brilliance and the beauty of the mountain and the light that made me feel at home, and made me think of you, and made me think of lots of things, and made me think of good and sad things, and made me think that I’d read my book before bed tonight.
Think of your spine. Say hi. Hello, Spine. Notice all the little vertebrae piled up one above the other, like friends. They’re white-ish, discoloured in a bodily way, and a little rough to the touch, fragile. Notice all those vertebrae and think of the length of your spine, extending up from your tailbone, up and up and up, all the way to your central nervous system. Human anatomy is amazing, isn’t it? I mean, there’s your spine for you. It’s right there, you know. Crawling up your body all day long. It’s a big, long, bone white snake, and it’s in you.
And then something happens. Someone steps on the snake, or something stabs it, or what have you, but whatever it is, the snake goes nuts. I mean absolutely mental. Flailing its body all over the place, writhing awkwardly at times and lashing violently at others, and just fucking venomous in its all its movements, the drops flinging everywhere. I mean this snake is flipping its shit. Picture that. This big, long, bone white snake writhing like a creature and lashing like a whip and hissing loud and venom and blood and fangs and snake eyes and adrenaline.
And man alive, that’s just your spine.
Once, we spent a whole Sunday in the living room by the fire doing nothing else but being together and being so blessed in our togetherness it was like madness that we hadn’t just died. And then I made you macaroni and cheese out of a box. And you were moved. I made you macaroni and cheese out of a box, and you were moved. The hell is wrong with you? How is it that of all the things that happened that Sunday, the macaroni and cheese is what moved you?
I don’t actually want to know the answer to that. I didn’t even want to ask the question. I just wrote it, and now there it is. Sometimes, people just say things.
One time, someone just said a story at me. A long, long time ago, in a civilization that used lots of stones and plants, and worshipped lots of gods, there was a man and a woman, and they loved each other. The man was a societal leader and the woman was a sort of spiritual healer. The man wanted to become a spiritual healer, and he was learning, but for him, it was always a matter of learning, and for her, it was always a matter of already knowing. And so, although they loved each other, there was always an element of competition: the man was threatened by the woman’s natural ease with the spirit world. One day, he said to himself, “I love this woman with all my heart, but she is a threat to me!” and he wondered what he could do. Then, it came to him. Given that he was the leader, the man decided that he would sacrifice the woman to the gods, and thereby recognize his love for her (you only sacrifice the best of the best, you know). Plus, he'd get rid of her. Two birds, one stone. The next day, the man approached the woman and said, “I love you, but I love you too much, and I don’t deserve you! It is not right. It will break my heart, but tomorrow, I must sacrifice you to the gods”. The woman looked back at him and said nothing, but in her gaze, it was clear that she had consented. So it was that the next morning, the woman was bathed in special oils, scented with special flowers, adorned in special robes, and placed upon the special sacrificial table. The man and the woman looked at each other one last time, before he thrust his knife into her chest, just below her sternum, sliced her open, and pulled out her still-beating heart. Holding her heart up to the gods, seeing the blood drip through his fingers and down his arm, he stood. He felt its beating slow, and as it slowed, his heart broke and broke, until finally, her heart stopped beating and his heart was broken. He looked down at the woman, bloodied, grotesque, empained, and brutalized upon the table, and found that he still loved her. Both their hearts were decidedly broken, but he still loved her. In the story, the man lives the rest of his days heartbroken, and always wonders if he did the right thing.
The thing about that story is it’s supposed to make you think that he did the wrong thing, when maybe what he did was perfectly fine.
In any case, I just said that bit about the macaroni and cheese. The only thing is that I knew about that Sunday, even when it was that Sunday. All day Sunday that Sunday, when peace became so tender and things were remorseful, splendid, and verdant, they were also marked, and I knew. I saw. I knew at the time. I knew all about what that Sunday was. I knew it was going to be a story, and not history. I knew. Even then, right then, I knew.
On beauty, real beauty
I only told you I loved you because I thought I might never see you again, or if I did, that the words would have already changed, become something entirely other than what I meant, distilled neatly into some precious gem. And travel-size, for your convenience. Except love is anything but convenient. So I told you, and there you have it.
Look at it. Sitting there. The poor thing. You can’t bring yourself to pity it though, despite its being such a pitiful creature, such a faithful little goodness repository, looking up at you with big eyes and all the heart in the world, and filled to the brim with what counts, and that sort of thing. You can’t bring yourself to pity it because like a baby left on a doorstep, it’s just relentless. The thing about love and babies left on doorsteps is that they show no mercy: you accept the sodding thing (and lord knows what that means), or you leave it there and watch it die. Either way, hardship.
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning, have a bagel and a coffee on the deck, listen to the birds, and think, Well, but this is so nice! I might crane my neck upward toward the sun, or just sit and admire the green around me, or smile at the dog, who in turn seems to smile at my bagel, and it’s all a rather pleasant affair. Occasionally, at times like those, I sit there and think nothing much at all, or at least such a great deal that it feels like nothing much, and I am inclined to tell myself that it’s okay, that everything is okay, that the world has its ways. But I never manage it. It’s the sort of feeling you get when you think that buying one of those old straw-coloured sun hats is a good idea because you’ve not worn one of those since you were a little girl and wouldn’t it be charming (charming?) if you wore one now, or the sort of feeling you get when you go to the beach and everything is wonderful and everyone is happy but then it seems unreal and you feel a stitch in your side, or the sort of feeling you get when you’re having a fine day until who you are hits you full-force in the face and everywhere else too and suddenly, the day is changed. It’s the brink of collapse is what it is.
When I set these things down, it’s not a speech-act, a manifesto, a promise, or a prayer, or something else ridiculous. It’s just I’m writing things down right now. Some things I might want to tell you, and some things I might not, but mainly I’m just writing things down right now and goddamnit but I’m gonna wake up again tomorrow.
Their wills were theirs, their own survival kits:
I know you thought we’d die out here. Well, yes.
We didn’t. No, he says to her. They sit.
They sit and know that this is peace, and, blessed,
He turns to her again to speak, and goes,
If we were crows, could we fly high to see
The sun? Hmm, yes. Just like the time we rose
Out of the earth itself. Yeah, probably.
The days are long. They spoke, but less and less.
We beachcomb, don’t we? Yes, we do. The birds
Are gone. I miss them. She said, Yeah, I guess.
They loved each other ‘cause they had no words.
The murderers, the good guys, always onward bound,
Say little. Just right, then left, upon the ground.
At peace, I put on glasses from the shore.
I looked through them and I breathed in the world.
The winds rushed into me just like before,
And so I stood there, spirit wild, unfurled:
My nostrils filled with trees. I held my ground.
Still breathing in the world, the flowers leapt
Empowering my sinuses. Unbound,
My lungs filled up with earth. I stood and wept.
Because the beauty of apocalypse
Made me go somewhere sanctified whereof
I’d turn toward you, breathing in, through lips,
The air sustaining, sorrow waning, your love.
I breathed in so much world and love and earth
My ribs cracked—snap!—then crippling pain: I burst.
Inside of me, an orange box holds all
That man has done to th’earth and natural hope;
Now wrought within my breast it stays, four-walled,
And tethered to me, ever buried, yolked;
Against this canvas I must stay and look,
Bear witness to the grind: the fate of man,
The history, the progress and the crook
Of modern kind, which has not wings to span
The mystery of it all: my face is turned
Toward the past because I see a wreck
Catastrophe, so piled, by man is spurned
And I, an angel, must crane heavn’ly neck!
An angel of a history with death
Would never give to man again his breath.
Revision: I am not forgiven—no!
A tree, a sheet, a Snowman lying—shit!
He grunts, he squeals, he feels the hot and cold
Of bonfire, pile, of cows and sheep and it
All drizzling. When he was a boy, he thrilled
And yet anxious, communed a thought. Said he:
“It hurts the animals, their heads on still!”
It was my fault: the way they looked at me,
Reproachful, burning, lit-up, charred and piled,
Just there, like steaks or sausages, with skins still on,
Illumined tree, with countenance so mild,
A Snowman and a Christmas Tree, now gone,
But haunting in apocalypse, this thought
Of animals not properly forgot
The Cornfield Boy
"O, do you think I'm dead?" Embanked upon
This earth and pool, a farm boy, gently sings—
For drink or air, he's ended there, withdrawn,
Forsaking field and sun for auburn spring.
A bright, capricious ten year old embarked
Upon that road with loving dog and sheep,
And now he sings to passersby with heart:
"I never meant to stumble here, so weep!
For when I sipped, I knew my wretched fate
To lay here, stay here, ever more to pledge—
Against my will and wishes of my mother late—
My kindred bond witih fated water's edge
Do tell me if you think I'm dead, for I
Cannot so judge, my fateful passerby!"
On Pembroke Street and grace
There was another cherry blossom season wherein there lived a woman and a man, neither of which had the slightest knowledge of their forbears. So it was with especial insignificance that they rode the bus and witnessed the soft, lilting flood of pinks and whites play lullabies atop dark and labouring tree-trunks. It was the lullabies that sung waveringly, in deep, orchestral tones, immortal like Roman arches and haunting like their Gothic partners, which lay in their breasts a sort of stillness, a slow, sweeping intimacy, a languid pause, a stained-glass remembrance of ancestors, that brought them together in arbourous peace. And in the brightness of one day, he said to her, “The magnolias are coming out,” and she said that yes, they were; it was later, when she was walking alone and came to walk beneath yet more bowers and looked up to discover that they were those of a magnolia tree that she was silent in her realization that indeed, she had been stilled. Not knowing that the stillness had come from ancestors, long dead but ever inspired in the earth, who had empatterned their wisdom into the dirt, which the sakura and magnolia trees then heaved up into their outstretched branches and into their cheerful blossoms, at which she had then stared and from which she had received that stillness, she walked on, happy.
I ran wildly, and when I came to a spot of grass
I harboured 'round it like a wolf 'round prey
And said, Aren't you pretty, glade,
To which it murmured, Have some shade,
And I noticed a big oak overhead
And he smiled, and said,
Calm down and sit
And I sat in the shade
And that was it
Beneath here, on land that is barren
People find peace like the horizon
And they set up shop.
Shapes and shadows thrust their length upon the earth
Stretching, writhing, breathing dirt in like mad
And she pulses, surviving, raging, worth it.
Once, with a man, I drove up to a park that was gold with a stream and the salmon weren’t spawning but we walked in the forest and it was fall and he was afraid of birds. Once, with a man, I sat in a restaurant but I asked too many questions but he liked it and I drank a Vietnamese iced coffee. Once, with a man, I sat in another restaurant and asked more questions and the owner’s son gave me a beer but he was drunk and that was okay. Once, with a man, I studied studied studied studied studied studied. Once, with a man, I wrote wrote wrote wrote wrote wrote. Once, with a man, I did stretches and he was good at them and my balance was terrible but I tried. Once, with a man, I had a picnic on a blanket in a living room by a fire-place and we shared rice. Once, with a man, I shared a bed and he was a koala and I was a plank. Once, with a man, I shared a bed and we were spoons. Once, with a man, I shared a bed and we were two shapes. Once, with a man, I sat for an afternoon in mild wind under the sun on a log at a beach at which people walked their dogs. Once, with a man, I stood on the dock at night in a wharf dotted with lights from the boats. Once, with a man, I sat on a couch and he said, I’m going to heal you. Once, with a man, I shared a bed and we were one shape. Once, with a man, I took the bus to school. Once, with a man, I sat at a table looking at crows and held his hands in mine until he pulled them away which was alright. Once, with a man, I saw a film called Kill Your Darlings and it was a date. Once, with a man, I got organised. Once, with a man, I ate oatmeal with fruit in it and drank coffee at home. Once, with a man, I ate homemade vegetarian spaghetti. Once, with a man, I ate tortellini and sandwiches. Once, with a man, I ate red curry. Once, with a man, I sat in utter silence unmoving in low light on a mat in a square room but sometimes walked and sometimes chanted. Once, with a man, I stood on a beach looking at the water at night in the dark with lights on one side and one in the middle and none on the left and I almost ran but I didn’t. Once, with a man, I smelled dirt while sitting on a log by a set of concrete stairs. Once, with a man, I descended some rocks down to the ocean where I picked some seaweed. Once, with a man, I climbed up some rocks and standing at the top ate seaweed. Once, with a man, I behaved like a girlfriend. Once, with a man, I walked through a vale in the mist and myst with a tree as tall and swaying as ever. Once, with a man, I walked holding a magic wand and planted it in front of a Starbucks. Once, with a man, I shared a brioche. Once, with a man, I sat on rocks at the shore at a beach in the sun in the morning wearing a jacket collecting rocks and drinking coffee. Once, with a man, I got caught up. Once, with a man, I thought I needed to cry so I did. Once, with a man, I sat at a restaurant by the window and ate all my soup and it was a date. Once, with a man, I made space. Once, with a man, I was myself.
And once, a man kissed me when I turned around from staring out a window.
And once, a man brought me a latte.
And once, a man called me to vent about his poor navigational skills.
And once, a man called me just to talk.
Once, there was a man, and I was with him.
Junctured now, I lay in folds,
And frost is nowhere
Tall air, up there, But who cares
About poetry when
You can make breakfast
All day Sunday that Sunday
In which Sunday were you so blessed?
And when did your peace become so tender?
In which land,
Remorseful, splendid, verdant,
Did you reign?
And how come when I ask you these things,
You look at me like I'm crazy?
Beach and parking lot
in stillness, in roving, i ran
you chased me and
the night bent
He lives with nothing—
Vintage ideas and
Sand; and that man
Was everything, once.
When I dwell, which is often, I think to myself, Look at the hues! And I see them: fuchsia, maroon, burgundy, calling out in some lost frequency, out to me, and I shout back, and they come and settle on my skin. I am coated in them all, the hues, covered head to toe in glory and mire, at once sheer like lip-gloss and thick like mud. I am marinated in red.
And then come the birds. I stand like a statue, like a scarecrow, and they perch on me, my brothers in arms, and they begin to peck. It is then that I realize where I live and who I am. I live in the heat of the moment, in that flux of red when all is calm and not lost. And I am a prayed soul, a monument to death, a living ghost.
But the birds sing, and their song is so beautiful, so I stand there like a statue, like a scarecrow, covered in red and birds, and before I know it, the red is my flesh, my inside flesh, and the birds pluck at my sinews, my tendons, my ligaments, and they peck at my muscles, and I become an instrument to their song. A body harp. And the wind blows through it all, my hair, my plucked strings, my holes, my bones, and the horizon is so long, and the birds keep singing and I keep standing, aloft in red and song, and I open my arms to welcome and know the beauty of the moment, and nothing happens but the sun rises in spite of it all.
On intimacy and then but really nothing much at all
There have been times when I thought all I would want would be to fly to you through the sky and fall down fast like a shooting star right into your body, unnoticed and yet loved, so that I could tumble with you like before. But once, I hated you. And once, the trees that flitted past me on the bus were more beautiful than you were. And another time, I saw my reflection in the mirror and I hated myself because you knew me. I am more than intimacy, more than not intimacy, more than Tuesday, more than breakfast, more than a friend, more than some poetic guest in your skin. I am to be cherished before I am cared for, observed before I am embraced, and mourned before I am won. I am yours, after all. And you are safe because I am braver than you.
On my stomach ache, or whatever this is
And just like that, he shot the man before him. That's what he was, really: a man. It just so happened that he was also a soldier, born into nationality and bred to believe, despite all his human longing, that in the brief moments before his death, duty meant expressionlessness. In fact, prior to shooting him dead, the soldier had noted the man's expressionlessness. It did seem odd: face-to-face with death, this man showed nothing. So it was a discovery and a horror when the soldier approached the dead man's body and saw it laying there in the mud, thick, dense, and dead. It became a trauma that his face was tortured and contorted into expression, a trauma that his entire body had been shaken up by something dead and angry, conspiring inside him, making him appear as if he were deeply pained and yet he was almost laughing, literally laughing. It was as if his soul had finally risen up after all these years, climbed up his spine vertebrae by vertebrae into the meat of his face just to clamour there, between those bulging eyeballs, jittering lips, and pale flesh, with one last convulsing puissance: do you think I'm dead?
On a loss
I think that in the hung silence of your living room that night, there must have been a few motes of tragedy, particle
mercenaries paid in secret, photons on dust carrying sadness like a plague into the room. They must have come when I found the cap for the green, glass bottle tucked away between your lips and when I fetched it with my own, and they must have kept coming in every subsequent moment because in all the passion of our human breathing, in those fatal exhales, of course there grew a breeze too strong, a monstrous wind that rampaged and reared its head at us, threw books, shattered glass, whipped curtains, tearing us around the room in a frenzy which we mistook for ecstasy until the dust had risen and tragedy was thick; and by the time the wind relented and we were dropped down again in stillness, we felt sad—and yet we were together—so that night, we went to sleep in your living room without knowing that we were at a loss.
She is not one of those with strength, wisdom, or with some quality or other that would make her powerful. On the contrary, she is naturally impotent; she is carved out of soft, wet wood, malleable, touchable, and forgiving. Indeed, she is one of those with spirit; she is not powerful, but wonderful. Her will is her own.
On might have having had to help you out
It was when I asked you what you were doing this second right now and you had been working on your report, when I ate three eggs, when you said I smelled more like me than I usually do but I was wearing my grandpa's sweater, cherry blossom season, undergraduate April, with sun that almost blesses but doesn't and with the hollow folds and refolds, fluctuations, ripples of suburbia and conifers, that we dove down again. And by that I mean we dove down, but also we never dove anywhere at all because really, we were in the darkness of your room and rolling every which way, and there was a monkey by the door and figures on the wallpaper, and empty bottles of tequila by the sink, and that goddamn basket light, and everything about us momentarily in a peculiar little tangle. What did you think, that I was going to sleep in my clothes? In my jeans? And what else did you think, that I did it begrudgingly, or indifferently, or lazily, or hurt? That I wasn't satisfied with it all, whatever it is? But we dove down again, like lighthouses finally bending in the twilight after a long while of patience, down into the ocean for a dip. And rolling in the water, we played together, awkward in our mass but swimming like seals and watching each other closely, having seen each other only at a distance for so long. We played, our little lighthouse lights happy for the new scenery, marine life in all its beauty, until ocean and twilight became just plain old indigo; and when I came up for air I realized it was okay because nothing, nothing, nothing, not a single thing, had dimmed.
a nocturne for the goalie
i live in the old battersea bridge,
big dark black deep in a midnight toil, and
blue with apathy, and brushed gold, and fractured where
i let it be
—and they touch these strokes, this surface,
wondering, staring, pissing me off,
how come you live here?
nothing pleases me; win or lose,
i come home angry and refuse to see
the equipment of this place
river city hub, holy nucleas, shithole,
seductive fibre den that holds
passively, laterally, battersea: couverture of
canvas flesh, tall oil night, respite,
i think i love you
i live by the cremorne lights,
thistle lights little lights still bright, and
also the liars of the night, their passive aggressive sighs
making me weep
—and then they go and run their fingertips along my walls,
touching this place all over and knocking,
no solicitors beware of dog go away
this place is my knowledge, your imagination
let me have this
these magic tricks, silver streams, broad beams,
wilderness above all, this gathering
of jungle bulbs, sky tygers: oh vigilante that
preaches discovery and settlement,
i hate that we do this
i live in a glow of rare transparency an hour before sunset,
horizontal stillness lazing downward,
personal vestiges evoking our human blues,
our winter sadness
—and they try to colonise, mosaic me
as if they understand where i come from,
this is our game too
Did you say the flowers were delightful?
Or lovely, or gorgeous? Something you said
About the flowers, that word, it might well
Undo me now. Years later, in my bed.
Where di you learn to see that, traveller?
Or do I see it too? Something you said
About the flowers whispers now, "Tell her
To unravel." Years later, in my bed.
How long have we gone on like this, my love?
Or have we not at all? Something you said
About the flowers makes me think I live
To be undone. Years later, in my bed.
What is it about the flowers that we
Imbibe and forget, inadvertently?
The Animals on the Fifth Floor
in this wild canopy,
of bone-porcelain walls
and fire dancers in a corner
and tropic musk
and big, quiet steam
and holy, or not holy, or it’s okay,
we trespass, crouch, hide, wide-eyed, mystified
lateral creatures of the night, singing
we never sang
these moments when nothing seems ours
when the odd morning breaks
and the air is threadbare
and the hours are restless
and we see things –
well, the things are only playing
in the treetops, which is their home,
which is our home –
we things, who are only playing in the treetops,
we trespassers, who forget our own land,
we hunt oxygen and mist
we believe in the beatles and the fire dancers
we don’t know where we came from
we love waywardness
and the night and the morning
mixed together, our home
we are these things
on the fifth floor
On Ian Belcher having died
We emerged onto a roof. It was the middle of the afternoon, and it was refreshing to be on a roof. At this point, I had completely forgotten about faxing the picture of the storefront to my boss. In fact, I had forgotten about almost everything. My consciousness and my body became completely absorbed in my surroundings: the green mountains, the open blue sky, and Ms. Maeda with her hair down. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was vaguely aware of the leftover taste of beer in my mouth, and mangos. I might have been craving one, actually.
I looked. I saw a white bird in the wind, flying toward Ms. Maeda, who was standing at the edge of the roof, her hand outstretched. The bird moved like a puppet, up and down all jerkily like that, its pace allegro, its movements staccato – but it wasn’t a puppet at all. On the contrary, what struck me about the bird was its profound independence. I remember thinking that it was a wonderful creature.
Miss Maeda motioned me over to her. The bird perched on her wrist. It was at that moment that I noticed it: this little white bird, with which Ms. Maeda had apparently become fascinated, was missing what were in my view, several requisite bird characteristics. On Ms. Maeda’s wrist, I saw for the first time in my life, a bird with no legs, no feathers, and no eyes. I froze in my tracks.
On having been sitting somewhere
I would be sitting somewhere, when all of a sudden, the music would start up again. At first, it spoke to me softly and was plaintive. It would laugh at my jokes, and I would bob my head, tap my foot. But pretty soon it would just plain old laugh at me, right at me, and I would lose my mind and cry. Because there were always these strokes of music lapping up my blood like a thirsty, thirsty dog, and all the splashes and water dripping from the dog's beard. And the pain, that holy pain to which I wanted to say, "Please, why do you meddle in my business and touch me all over with your sinewy hands?" would come and roll my eyes back.
It was at times like these that I would wonder about death and where it lurked, and how come it lurked, if it lurked at all. I would have visions, shadows on the wall, dancing or writhing or just creaking the house. I would see them like a community, like a neighbourhood, but like a dark and revolutionary one which believed in death, and saw the death in me and came after me, knowing me. And so I would wonder about death and where it lurked because did it lurk in the walls, or was it right there, laughing, lurking inside of me?
And yet, it was only the music, all along the plaintive music that came from nowhere, and it was never death at all. But it was something. Because the emptiness of my body would echo with healing and by the end of the songs, I would be utterly spent, but saved.
On your new glasses
Your glasses like a hymn on my face, on the bridge of my nose, made a sea of the earth and rolled it and churned it, revolving dirt into darkness and my legs and me, we walked on, and I looked up and there you were among a forest of birches and street lamps, the golden sheets of light peeling off into dots, little yellow dots, so that light and rain were one grand pouring around us and we just walked on. And your glasses like a hymn on my face made my legs into nothing, so that as I walked I became amazed at my movements and I watched my feet step forward in the darkness and thought, this must be heaven; and soon the gold of the street lamps reverberated somewhere, mounting, and having swirled up into majesty, plunged down again in many breaths and landed in the birches and darkness as the bleating sound of a trumpet, mourning, but playing a happy tune because, well, isn't it a lovely night, and here we are. And we wondered is it the glasses, these glasses, your new glasses, or is it hormones, or is it a combination, or is it, I wondered to myself, just our imaginations? But we just kept walking in the hymnal night, you wearing your glasses because I told you, I can't walk in these things, and feeling numb and calm, we walked to the bottom of the hill where we looked around and then at each other and found ourselves at peace.
On something I thought of while I rode the bus when it was dark
Her face, pressed up against the glass, contorting, the weight of her body pleading with her, begging, hoisting her downward, was my phantom. She wailed and begged and forced her image upon me, gasping, deep horror mounting in her bones, amassing, protruding ghoulish out her eyes. Her skin pulled this way, and then suddenly that way, pained by her freakish and outlandish movements. She locked my gaze, and wide-eyed, whispered, trembling, you killed my body. I, horrified at ever having loved such a beast, thundered a wild attack of reason and rhetoric which boomed and shook the glass between us; so powerful an effect did this have on her faculties that she fell back, tumbled into a heap on the floor and writhed. She wept, I watched, and now I am forgiven, oh lord.
On having read 5 books
There once was a little girl who loved her dog (who loved her back), a woman who was really more of a girl, a girl who was really more of a woman, a man who sometimes figured certain things out but often ruined everything else in the process, and a blind assassin. They lived together, and made a family of themselves.
One day, the dog said to the little girl (they were soul-mates, so they could speak to each other—dogs have souls too, you know) that he was feeling hungry. The little girl felt sorry for the dog because as much as she loved him, she had no food to give him, and no money to buy food. So, off she went around and around, walking and walking, singing to herself, and on the lookout for anything that might be scrumptious for the dog. She specifically wanted something that would be scrumptious for him. She felt that that word suited the sort of food that her dog should eat.
After a few hours, the little girl came to an apple tree. Given that she was a little girl, and only had little legs, she had been walking for a long time, so she sat down beneath the shade of the apple tree for a rest. The little girl slept beneath the tree until dusk, when she woke from the chill of evening, grabbed a couple apples (one for the road, one for the dog), and headed back home. As she walked, she ate her apple, and was pleased to discover that these apples were precisely the sort of apples that one would call scrumptious.
At home, she found the woman, the girl, the man, and the blind assassin arguing about something or other. They did this sometimes. To the little girl, it was both boring and tiring. She didn’t quite understand how it could be both, but that’s just the way it was. Uninterested, the little girl went to her dog, gave him a big hug, and offered him the scrumptious apple. The dog was thankful to the little girl for bringing him some food, and especially something so scrumptious. Soon, the dog and the little girl fell asleep in a little heap together, by the fire around which the others were arguing.
The woman was saying that she had been wronged by her husband, and that it was his fault that their marriage went bad. The girl was saying that she had been wronged by herself, and that it was her own fault that she felt dead inside. The man was saying that he and his wife had both been wronged by one another, and that it was both their faults that their marriage went bad. The blind assassin was quiet, and only argued with his gaze (which he had, despite his lack of eyes, which had been plucked out a long time ago).
Everyone was talking, talking, talking, and all about wrongness, and wrongfulness. It was all wrong, according to them. When the little girl woke up the next morning, she felt stirred and strange, like someone had taken a whisk to her insides and screwed them all up without really damaging anything, but still, without asking permission.
First, the little girl woke up the woman, and said, “Good morning. You are wrong about your husband, and wrong about your marriage, and I’ll show you today if you follow me”. The woman agreed. Next, the little girl woke up the older girl, and said, “Good morning. You are wrong about yourself, and wrong about your being dead inside, and I’ll show you today if you follow me”. The girl agreed. Next, the little girl woke up the man, and said, “Good morning. You are wrong about you and your wife, and wrong about your marriage, and I’ll show you today if you follow me”. The man agreed. Last, the little girl woke up the blind assassin, and said, “Good morning. I’ll show you today if you follow me”. The blind assassin agreed.
By this time, the dog was up too. He had already stretched his legs, yawned, and taken a few sips of water from the nearby stream. He was ready for his morning walk, so when the little girl set off walking, followed by the woman, the older girl, the man, and the blind assassin, the dog followed too. He was happy to be with the little girl, his best friend, and he walked that way.
The little girl walked around and around, and eventually, the family reached the apple tree that the little girl had found the day before, from which she had plucked a scrumptious apple for her dog. She walked right up and plucked three scrumptious apples from the tree. The first apple, she handed to the woman, and told her to take a bite. The woman took a bite, and exclaimed, “Mmm! What a scrumptious apple!” The little girl said that yes, it really was. The second apple, she handed to the older girl, and told her to take a bite. The older girl took a bite, and exclaimed, “Mmm! What a scrumptious apple!” The little girl said that yes, it really was. The third apple, she handed to the man, and told him to take a bite. The man took a bite, and exclaimed, “Mmm! What a scrumptious apple!” The little girl said that yes, it really was. The woman, the older girl, and the man ate their apples in peace, which was really all the little girl meant to show them. She was only a little girl, after all, and teaching adults lessons was one of her occasional past-times, as was pretending to.
While everyone was busy eating their scrumptious apples, the little girl turned to the blind assassin, pulled up her soft hand, plucked one of her eyes out, and held it out to the blind assassin. With her other hand, she grabbed his, and guided it to her outstretched palm, on which sat her eye. The blind assassin picked up the eye, and placed it where he needed it. Soon, the blind assassin began to cry, and then he began to sob. He looked out at the morning, and having seen for the first time in so long, was moved.
He told the woman that her marriage had not gone bad because of her husband, but because of him, because he had killed her husband. He told the older girl that she did not feel dead inside because of who she was, but because of who he was, because he had killed her, and she really was dead. He told the man that his marriage had not gone bad because of he and his wife, but because of him, because he had killed both of them. The assassin spoke through tears, and tears, and tears. Tears, mind you, from the little girl’s eye.
Just as the woman, the older girl, and the man had decided that the assassin was evil and were about to attack him, the little girl blocked their way. She told them that they were wrong about the assassin, that he wasn’t evil at all. They protested: “But he’s a killer!” they said. The little girl admitted that yes, he was a killer, but she asked them to please listen to her tell them a story, so they did.
She told them a story about when she’d had both her eyes, but long before she’d met all of them, when her eyes didn’t work. She explained that she’d been in an accident, and that for a while, the doctors weren’t sure if she’d ever be able to see again, so they got her this dog (and she pointed to the dog). She told them about how one day, she was taking the dog for a walk, when she was attacked. She said that she was very scared, and that she was worried about her dog, and that she didn’t know what to do. She said that just when she thought they were done for, the assassin had saved her life, and her dog’s. In exchange for sparing their lives, the assassin had to sacrifice both his eyes. So, she told them, he was a killer, but he was also a saviour.
The assassin looked at the woman, the older girl, and the man, through his one eye, the eye of the little girl, and cried. He cried, and cried, and cried. The woman, the older girl, and the man, seeing the assassin in such a state and looking at him only to be met by the gaze of the little girl’s eye, sat down and promised not to attack the assassin. Because how could they, when they’d be met with the gaze of the little girl like that? The assassin continued to cry.
The family cried together for a long, long time, under that apple tree. But before the day was up, they had stopped crying, and they looked out together at the world before them, feeling like they’d really learned something (which they had, and at the same time, hadn’t). That’s just what they did that day.
Of course, I take comfort in the simple knowledge of him being just over there. But really, he is far away right now. The moods we inhabit are far apart. Here, things swirl and snicker, roll on top of one another in all directions until nothing is anything but a homologous mass of inertia and nostalgia. Over there, who knows. But it seems like things are satiated, or satiable. His space obeys him, caters to his dismissal, wraps itself around him with deep care, perfectly, so that he cannot notice that he's being comforted by something. This is how things get sometimes.