Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Passenger

Soundtrack made for kicks. I recorded this while imagining me imagining myself reading this out loud, occasionally the tone and rhythm of the words intersect with the music. Sorta.

The Passenger

The final car approaches
You sit among the passengers
Each scared they'll be the one to crash the train

Posing as they were
On shelf-like seats
They blur the line that runs between commodity and sentience

He enters from a stairway
It's the kind you don't
descent or climb, but take
They disappear like cold sores past his shoulder

He sits facing backwards
And searches you
From eyes to heels for a stamp card
Like you're some library book he lost

You recognize that look,
And want to take out a distraction
But all you have is arson and your scrapbook

Your scrapbook was for butterflies
Whose wings grew so vibrant and dry
You find no further use for color

But fate has always slammed it shut
Before they're finished with their bodies, so
The book hurts far too much for you to open

This man pries apart the pages
Calls them gorgeous
Terrifying you,
And following you, ranting, into the next car

In search of safety you sit down
Within a dealer's blast radius
And fall asleep with one eye open
It must have been the wrong one

Several tunnels later
You start to envy those
With just one stop to watch out for
You're weak,
But not as weak as they are

The dealers arm around you,
No longer your protector,
Is tickling the threshold
Of what
You'd live lawless to be rid of

The arm extends, a lustrous blue,
Up past the sky and then into
Your pocket
Elbows God's ribs
Before He takes credit

Excusing himself
The dealer pulls
A familiar stairway from his lapel
You take a sudden leap
Before his words can
Curl your efforts inward

Now floating
And so forgotten is
The nonsense patter
Of the train car's tiny bouncing
Like a million disused truths
Trying to break out of a coffin

Your frayed strips of thought
Are the socks of every atom
Our minds are only so
When they forget they're raindrops
Counting backwards as they go

The train, it carries passengers
Between knowledge
And paying lip service to facts
Its route an oblate spheroid
We chuck paint on
As we land back on the tracks

Impact shakes the glasses
In another wannabe inscrutable Orpheus' loft
Orpheus pours another round of gin
For himself and lovable fuck-up Pete
and says,
"An unfillable absence has saved me"
Pete knows he's on about Eurydice again
And slits both their throats to change the subject
And keep him from his fucking guitar

The blood pools and seeps
To the first lair of the underworld
Where the walls echo with "They're a good person, but"
Networking with the dust kicked up by the trains
The avant garde rhythm of their passing
Inspires light exchanges
Legs sprout, and tokens form
They board the train
Sorting out memories that might as well be theirs

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Just when you thought your chimney couldn't get any more Freudian
Icicles from the moon are needles in Earth's eyes
Christmas candy cane shanked the warden and escaped from jail
Now it's on the run, writing creepy letters with your house as the return address
Your mother appreciates this the same way your dad appreciates Wes Anderson movies

Nog chugging eggs
Eggs making friends
Friends turn into pastry
Pastry cooked by the sharp light of dying stars
Stars that were just cookies all along,
And milk is the linguistic juggling act that keeps us from the dry cake of truth

I poured hot cocoa down my back and rolled in the snow
Down a hill
'Till I was the torso of a snowman named Claudia
Who was my neighbor's sex toy
He never made it to my "Christmas" party,
Politically correct snowfucker

It's late
Everyone's gone home
All you hear are obese snowflakes fucking in the air
And making tiny white snow jizz
Landing all over your face
While you think about Charlie Brown

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Scavenger Hunt

At age 18 you arrive at the alley
Where Bruce Springsteen lost his notebook
You avert your eyes from a haggard bum
Suspended in front of the blue dumpster
A tentacle broad as an eggplant ripe
Vanishing up their pant leg
You recognize this poor soul as yourself,
Your aging sinewy arms extended before you holding
200 months of printed spam emails from Hotwire
And a lighter
Offering these words:

She rides your hand in the passenger seat
Like an ink horse over the plains of paper
You smell perfume, cold rain, takeaway falafel bag
She vanishes when headlights would reveal her
The paper has given up on the arrival of meaning
But still you try to smear the drops
A voice says "Bite down on this"
You do so until your jaw is broken,
But still this story you must tell

Greg and Sandy wound up on different groups for the scavenger hunt that was featured as sponsored content on their Facebook newsfeed. "The algorithm must have made a mistake." While reluctant to split, they decided that adapting to the situation was more attractive than complaining to the organizers. Indeed the organizers' composure was straining, surrounded as they were by folks trying to look unassuming before their turn to approach with another "simple" request.

The scavenger hunt participants meet near a downtown metro rail station, to encourage green modes of travel. Greg and Sandy didn't want to plan their day around the light rail's schedule, so they compromised and drove from their midtown apartment to a nearby neighborhood, parked and used the city's rental bikes for the remaining several blocks. Both are unexceptionally attractive & tall, white, and bike & beer fit.

The rules for the scavenger hunt are explained, the destinations of each group are doled out, and a list of the items of interest are posted online. Cradling her phone, it dawns on Sandy that this event excludes anyone unable to afford a smartphone. A gust of wind swings the whimsical street art on its hinges; its creaking sounds like malicious laughter. "No!" She chides herself. "I WILL enjoy this. I give myself permission." Greg's lips rest against her ear, startling her as he murmurs, "We should have just taken the light rail." He must have felt it, too. He feels guilty. It makes her feel close to him. "His suffering brings me comfort. Is that what love is?" "No! Not this time. I give myself permission. I give myself permission..." She repeats this incantation, then turns to face Greg. She places his arm around her and kisses him briskly. "You're cute. Promise you won't find a new girlfriend." Greg squeezes with his arm and his hand, cocking an eyebrow. "New girlfriend... didn't see that on the list." Sandy pouts, ironically but not really. Greg tries to reassure her. "It's just like, a couple hours. Then we'll meet at Shane's and explain our experiences to each other." Sandy pouts with sincere irony this time. "I do like explaining..." "I know. And I like listening and french fries, so... let's do this!" A quick embrace and off they go in opposite directions, looking back at different times.

Greg's group diffuses into their first stop: a boutique curiosity shop. His teammates engaged in tedious banter that seemed an awful lot like networking, and to him, rummaging through precariously placed expensive crafts in search of clues was less awkward. The old man at the counter was glaring at him, so he picked up an item and feigned interest. It is a $90 picture frame, but the stock picture is a tragic pile of bones and clay. He suddenly recalls the archaeological expedition to excavate his true self. It has been neglected, and he vividly remembers the outline that he was dusting and recognized as the fossilized bones of mediocrity that caused him to abandon the mission and start online dating.

The old man interrupts Greg's thoughts:

The mind is a sail when the devil's wind blows
You will untie none of the knowledge that he stows
And you only find peace where no other boat goes

Greg understood only the existence of words before the shelves crashed around him.

The old man grabbed his head and bellowed, "Look what you've done!" as Greg ran out the door, his jacket knocking over picture frames like a demon's tail.

Sandy found herself in a wine bar where people talk about being the sort of person who is the sort of person who is the sort of person who would like to be into enjoying liking jazz. Her teammates stare at paintings like they're those magic eye things from the 90's. None are in any hurry to find the next clue, so she strikes up a conversation with the bartender as she pours her a drink.

"So you must be getting a lot of us scavengers, huh?"

The bartender covers Sandy's mouth. "Shhhh!" She turns an ear towards Sandy's torso, then looks around the room. "Can you hear?" Sandy assumes this is a rhetorical question, since the bartender is still squeezing her face.

The body's mouth opens only to eat or speak
Mankind will starve with a pile of apples for a seat
A single bite taken from each
Will you bite?
Will you haunt the world to see who took the bite from you, and why?

The bartender turns Sandy's head, and she sees a homeless man peering in the window. He opens his mouth, and an orchestra of electric bass swells until it scrambles her vision. She is floating in space and combusting into a massive sphere of plasma while the bartender-turned-documentarian calmly describes Sandy's ideals as though they're a planet orbiting the same path as her desire for greatness. The two planets could sustain life but they are timed such that the day after life emerges on the shores of each, they pass too close, destroying both atmospheres. The documentarian reads aloud the lore of sailors on more successful planets, who always go the opposite direction when they notice her in the sky.

The homeless man finishes coughing and, containing herself, Sandy gets up to see if the others would be OK with letting the him into their group.

She approaches them, but all she can see are the backs of their heads. She runs around them a full 360 degrees, then stops, recoils, drops her wineglass and runs out the door. She approaches the homeless man and frantically opens her purse to give alms, but all of her money has turned into apples with bites missing. After staring in disbelief for a moment, she drops her purse and tearfully lunges into man's shoulder. She reaches her arms around him but finds herself holding only some dry cleaning. The address on the tag is her home address, but the garments belong to neither her nor Greg. The address of the dry cleaners is not far, so she decides to return them and let them know of their mistake.

Greg runs through the crowded streets and ducks into a bike shop. "At least I won't break anything here," he muses to himself, catching his breath. Checking his phone, he notices this is actually the next stop on the scavenger hunt. The clues are all in a mixture of poorly researched middle English and pirate speak, but he thinks it says "The past is faster because it has your best legs". Useless. Greg's strategy is to simply walk around looking for envelopes. He absently fondles a handlebar and the clerk speaks up from behind him in nasal monotone, "Fancy a test ride, Smullicans?" What did she call him? "No thanks, just 'scavenging' about, as it were." She grabs him by the wrist and places his hand back on the bike and says, "I insist." Greg moves to protest, but realizes this is probably part of the hunt. She all but pushes him out the door, then pulls it shut behind him and locks it.

Thoughts of the practicality of this in the context of a scavenger hunt pass through Greg's brain as he negotiates his way through downtown traffic. He veers into an alley and passes some teenagers, and he smells blunt smoke. The smell of trash and bad weed takes him back to Caroline. The Beach Boys song featuring the name plays, then fades as he realizes he is riding circles in a fake alley on a "theater in the round" stage set up at Burning Man. Caroline and her husband are hidden in the orchestra pit, tied at the wrists and knees, with 3 people in rubber Space Ghost masks and ska suits clutching rifles. Caroline pleads, "Greg, the audience is full of venture capitalists! You must sell them on the app Trent and I developed." "If we don't raise $6 million, they're going to kill us!" Caroline continues, "That means you can't passive-aggressively use trendy buzzwords to express your disapproval of my success!" Greg looks back and forth between the figures with guns and Caroline. "Remember your Space Ghost bed set?" "GREG THIS IS SERIOUS!" He sighs, then approaches center stage, and audience chatter dies down.

Greg clutches the mic and speaks with all available enthusiasm. "You've all seen, and probably use apps that gather data from social media to measure a person's influence. OutBurn also takes data from web browsers and operating systems to determine:

-How late someone works, and on what sort of material.
-How long they stay on which pages, and
-Which other apps they have downloaded and how effectively they use them,

All in order to appraise not only an individual's influence, but their drive to succeed. Employers need never worry about hiring another dud again!" The faces Greg sees look intrigued, but then the entire audience interrupts in unison, "The app is unnecessary, for it is easy enough for all to see the carcasses of ignored dreams you drag like empty beer cans celebrating your marriage to yourself in the First Presbyterian Church of Mediocrity. Enjoy your french fries."

Sandy arrives at the dry cleaners, which is also an indie music label that only releases cassette tapes. You get a free recording session with your order. Sandy sees a line for the recording booth, and overhears that this is the next stop in the scavenger hunt. She locates the clerk and offers them the bag and a quick explanation, hoping to get back to quietly contemplating what of her adventure to tell Greg. "Maybe you should sing about it" The clerk smiles brightly. He looks like Beck, but without any possibility of facial hair. "I'm sorry, I would but I don't have time to wait-" "No worries," he says, "you can cut in front of them, you're like, our only paying customer. Might as well enjoy the benefits." "Enjoy..." She repeats this to herself a few times. "That's why I'm doing this! I said I was going to enjoy myself today." She grips an acoustic guitar and marches into the recording booth.

She strums an acoustic guitar and begins to sing, thinking of the Internet and using her Leonard Cohen voice:

You can place your pettiness behind ideals
You can hide your smallness with beliefs
You can disguise yourself with words
You can mask your ugliness with taste
But someone is bound to follow you
To the castle of cruelty you call home

Soon after completing her 40-minute musical manifesto, she is handed a Walkman containing her cassette tape, and a case with artwork. All she hears is white noise. It sounds like insects. She unfolds the insert from the case into a full sized poster, which features her at the moment when she realized she actually looked forward to conversations with her mother. The list of instruments includes "Droning cicadas of Sandy's mediocrity", and "Garage full of crickets saying, 'MEHHHHH' before going to the garage of someone more interesting."

The clerk who resembles Beck says, "I know it's a bit rough. We have editing packages starting in the mid 9s."

She screams at Beck, spikes the cassette, walks over to where it bounced and stomps it until it is in several pieces. She marches to the door, then turns around, snatches the dry cleaning bag and storms out.

Greg replays the two gunshots in his mind a few more times with his eyes closed, then formally wakes up and focuses on a series of two-by-fours hanging at least 6 feet from a dumpster, next to which he is sprawled out. He considers his face then winces in pain. Upon standing up and emerging from the side the dumpster, he sees Sandy with the circle of teens, passing a bowl around.

Greg groans and blinks. "Hey there." One of the teenagers quips, "Oh yeah, I remember that guy!" Sandy runs up to him. "Holy shit babe are you OK? I didn't see you!" They kiss, but as his contribution grows sloppy, Sandy pulls away. "Alright, dumpster boy. Wanna hit this then bounce? Ooh, is your eye OK?" Greg nods as she hands him the glass piece. "Yep. Yep. I just gotta return this bike then we can-" he looks around. Sandy asks,"What bike?"

"Uhh... "

One of the kids pulls at his ski cap's tassels. "Fuck! Yeah, some chick came by and said you were done with it." An awkward moment passes where perhaps they are realizing they should have done more. Ski cap breaks it. "She called you a pelican." Another chimes in, "Dude, I can totally see it! The beard!" "HAAAAA!" "Spoonbilled motherfucker!"

Greg hands them back their bowl. "It's all good." They depart and head to Shane's.

Greg inspects the menu. "I'm not sure I want french fries." Sandy creases her brows exaggeratedly. "Me neither. But maybe." They both stare past their menus for a full minute. Sandy says, "Well, if we both half-want french fries, maybe we can share? Now that your dumpster cooties are gone! You look so fucking hot right now..." Sandy runs her toe up Greg's calf under the table. Greg clutches the lapel of his suit jacket. "I can't believe how well it fits. Where did you get it again?" Sandy stares off for a second. "I told you, it was part of the scavenger hunt." Greg nods approvingly, and pulls a tag off the sleeve. "Freshly dry cleaned, too."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Convoluted Reasons White People Can Rest Assured I'm Not Racist...

…and you might not be either! Check all that apply to you (and be honest):

-My Youtube ads are often in Spanish.

-Unemployed, thus not taking a job from PoC.

-I don't wear dreadlocks.

-None of my pants have pockets, so I can't check them when black people walk by.

-When my bike got stolen, I imagined a white guy took it.

-When I make a stir-fry on Sundays, I only use vegetables that grow in the same region, out of respect for the multitude of Asian cultural identities.

-If given the opportunity to own property in San Francisco, I'd turn it down.

-When I was walking by myself late last night, I was afraid of a white guy.

-I only call the police for noise complaints when the music is country or heavy metal.

-When someone's dog barks at a black person because they only have white friends, I kick the dog when nobody's looking so it'll bark at me, too. Solidarity!

-When nobody discreetly asks my date if she is “Ok” the way they would if I was black, I start mumbling aggressive-sounding gibberish until they do.

-I only jaywalk when the police aren't around, just like black people have to.

-When nobody is surprised by how articulate I am, I try to be even more articulate.

-When I walk past a police officer while wearing a hoodie, I give them a look. It's subtle, but I'm sure it follows them home.

-I heard iPhones use conflict minerals and awful labor practices. Good thing I use an Android!

-Related: I also don’t own a hybrid.

-My OK Cupid account doesn't say that I only date white people.

-I was never really into Amy Schumer anyway.


0-7 points - Uh oh, looks like somebody’s got a case of the still seeming kinda racists! Maybe try wandering around more ethnic grocery stores googling things. Also, you’d be amazed at how impolite you can get away with being to police officers as a white person.

8-12 points - Good, but you can do better. Just read more think pieces, they pretty much tell you how to act and what to say so you don’t seem racist. I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re there for...

13-18 points - *Ring ring* Hello, White Privilege? Yeah, just wanted to let you know that the package you sent is being returned. Unused! So you better stay home from your fancy tech job to sign for it! What’s that? You work from home? Th- that sounds pretty nice. Hey, do you think we can catch lunch some time this week?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can I Read a Book At a Restaurant?

Brain: Wait just a minute there! Where do you think you're going with that book in your hand?

Me: Oh I'm going to read it and have dinner. At a restaurant.

Brain: Well, put it in a bag at least. You can't just walk into a restaurant with a book. Then they'll know.

Me: They'll know what?

Brain: Everything! All of your secrets! They'll know that, um... We'll get back to that. I think this just about getting attention.

Me: Attention?

Brain: Yeah! "Hey everyone! Look at me sitting at a table in the corner, quietly reading a book!"

Me: That doesn't make any sense!

Brain: You'll just look like white balding pseudo intellectual taking himself too seriously while people try to have fun and unwind.

White Guilt: Hey, black people can be bald pseudo-intellectuals, too!

Me: Not now white guilt. Not now.

Brain: What if the waitress asks you why you couldn't eat at home?

Me: That's not a question people working for tips ask!

Brain: Not to your face, but in the kitchen, they'll be wondering. Also guess what?

Me: What?

Brain: You assumed your server would be a woman. Pig.

Me: ...

Brain: How about this? If you can come up with a mission statement, I'll leave you alone.

Me: A mission statement?

Brain: Yeah! Something that justifies and declares your purpose.

Me: "I shall strive to eat food at the restaurant across the street from my apartment while reading a book for the purpose of intellectual and physical nourishment, utilizing all available resources, including food and this book."

Brain: That's weak.

Me: No it isn't!

Brain: Yes it is. It is too wordy, just like everything else you do, and it won't reach Millennials because it isn't social media friendly.

Me: I'M a millennial, and I am the entire audience for the campaign, and I accept it!

Brain: You're not a millennial, stop trying to deny your age!

Me: That's not even an anxiety I have! We're not having this conversation right now, it's getting late!

Brain: You're right, you should clean those dishes before they start to smell.

Me: Ok. ... Done. DAMMIT! You just distracted me. Now it's 9:30

Brain: Aw damn. You need to be eating before 10, otherwise it's weird.

Me: Oh yeah, you're right! I gotta hurry...  WAIT A MINUTE! You just made that up. That's it, we're going, and-

Brain: Thai food.

Me: What are you- NO!

Brain: Thai fooooooooood...

Me: Black bean burger and sweet potato fries!

Brain: Thaiiiiiii foooooooOoOoOoOoOoOoOooood...

Me: Nope! I'm walking now!

Brain: Of course you would walk on this side of the road. So predictable.

Me: Made it! Hah! I'm here at the restaurant! Reading a book! It's not a big deal! This discussion is over.


Brain: You're holding the book at an angle that makes it look like you want everyone to know what you're reading.

Brain: Also, you forgot your keys again.

Me: Dammit!

Crystalline Collapsible

I float on a river that runs crystalline collapsable
It reaches the back of my tongue
And is sweetened by your shadow
Cast upstream like fishing line
Hook in my subconscious mind

True beauty is aimed to the void
We're lucky to observe what escapes
The other way lies
Beachside vanity, gazing at footprints
Then taking credit for the ocean
As it washes them away

This is the love story of the wind and the sand
Who outsource the self-knowledge they can't understand
Or else too damp to realize
Is god wafting between people
Or a private pearl of vast thoughts and tiny actions
From all that goes wrong?

We're all cabbage, you must know
We yank lead from distant soil
We wind up in our gazpacho
Race to pay the tab and bolt
While the other's on the can

Or we're melted crayons
Coloring one another
Camouflage from ourselves
So we fall into deep holes
The wind trims pointless misery
Apart from what you hold inside
Soon to rise like mushroom rings
Wide beyond your view
Just as dawn dabs the tears
The collector harvests, makes a stew
That seems to soothe
Do they really know it's you?
Does it matter if they do?

We matched tones like lightning striking itself
Oh, still the harmony purrs the fungal arc ever wider
Until, all-containing
It shapes the wake that shakes my boat
As I sail around myself
Diving for oysters
Then arranging them
In colliding circles

Could you find me
Standing in the center of them all
Laughing as I'm crashing
Laughing as I'm crashing

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Late September Wishes

Old curbs
Damp grass
Trees releasing summer's excesses

In my veins
Still searching me for the sky
While I sleep
I look for them all day

Comes in handfuls
Or curls like dead ferns
And feet on paisley sheets

The orange recharge
Brittle reminds me to look

I live
Where rain is warm
Surprises are banned
And I'm grateful for wishes I don't make
And I look

I lick dirty glass mornings
And swallow until rain turns into pills in my hands
And my shoulders are wet from
Yellow moss
And I run through corn fields to find new confessions
For nobody in particular
Death will know my refined pallet for time
And we'll laugh as I turn to dust