Swirling dark, two questions

Cold wind rocks me wake 

camp flames whip

black desert

storms approach

horse and dog spooked

White veins skyward

light the world in grayscale

creatures, cactuses

stunned

beneath the flash

lashing dust gales

stubborn fire keeps itself alive

small victories

What could be the approaching thunder 

that is not thunder?

If trains existed yet

I’d bet a locomotive

bearing down

massive

in the darkness

my saddle raised from the ground

gone

next, the dog

swallowed by churning black

roaring wind

I wasn’t lifted

so much as exploded

backward by an uprooted

saguaro

If there were a god

it might have plucked me

from death

but if there were a god

what be that swirling dark?

How to Dream Well, by Fernando Pessoa (1913)

Postpone everything. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. You don’t have to do anything today or tomorrow. 

Never think about what you’re going to do. Simply don’t do it. 

Live your life. Do not be lived by it. In truth and in error, in sickness and in health, be your own self. You can only achieve this by dreaming, because your real life, your human life, does not belong to you, but to others. Therefore, replace life with dreaming and take care to dream perfectly. In all your real-life actions, from the day you are born until the day you die, it is not you performing those actions; you do not live, you are merely lived.

Become an absurd sphinx in the eyes of others. Shut yourself up in your ivory tower, but without slamming the door, for your ivory tower is you. 

And if anyone tells you this is false and absurd, don’t believe him. But don’t believe what I’m telling you either, because you shouldn’t believe anything. 

Despise everything, but in such a way that despising feels quite normal. Do not think you’re superior when you despise others. Therein lies the noble art of despising.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet, New Directions, New York, 2017: 46.

letters to friends

Night is a ghost on wings. I write letters to myself and to friends who no longer exist, friends who are dead or friends with dead parents like me. I write letters from those friends to their dead parents and sometimes from the dead parents to their living children but I never send them, I keep the letters in a safe place to reread as I age. Aging is hard but not in ways my young self imagined. Aging is hard like remembering is hard, it is uncomfortable and strange, even as being in one’s body grows more familiar with time. Aging is the accrual of experience. I write letters to my future self about experience and accrual and pain. Perhaps one day I’ll read them. I write letters to my living friends and almost always send them. The letters contain recent anecdotes of irony, whimsy, severity. Perhaps someone should write me a letter, someone other than me. Write me in a language other than English. Write me a letter from my dead father, tell me about his recent bets, his meals, his whores. 

pandemic

There are parts of me all over this city. A fingernail chewed and discarded furtively onto the carpet of a Cherry Creek department store. Snot blown into a paper towel now buried in a dumpster somewhere in LoDo. My spit on a sidewalk in the Tech Center, my spit in Boulder Creek, my spit floating upon the surface of the South Platte. Spit in the neighborhood streets of Aurora. My DNA lives bunched upon wasted cigarette butts on Capitol Hill, in Lakewood, in the Highlands. Hairs strewn about the foothills, hairs abandoned and sunk into the Earth somewhere on Colfax. Everywhere on Colfax. Dried piss in a men’s room somewhere in Highland’s Ranch, in Littleton. Eyelashes, dead skin cells in Fort Collins. Fragments of me transferred from money or my credit card and now embedded into cash registers across town, parts of me digitized and spent by others. McAvoy as legitimate trade. Parts of me cluttered upon the flesh and in the mouths of the wandering women of the world, all of whom I had met here or somewhere close-by, women who enchanted and puzzled the younger me, all of them now charted upon their own foreign paths. A tart drop from a nostril now dried and crusted to the bottom of someone else’s shoe, someone else’s pant cuff. Tracking my remains in all directions. McAvoy as pandemic. Somewhere, everywhere, all-where. Random registers of my being ride the wind across the icy plains, they carry their own deranged voices out to the frigid canting West Slope. Microscopic and profuse treasures, wasted and worthless traces. I think about all the parts of me dispersed across the world and I wonder where, truly where, is home.

First published 12/4/2011

Famous mathematician

Following my interview of him, he said: “I’ve got to get up from this wheelchair to shower and prepare to speak at an engagement this evening. They grow on me, the bacteria. They grow within me. I am largely made of them. The bacteria-man. I may be wheelchair-bound but I have special powers that allow me to mutate into other creatures made of bacteria. For instance, I can mutate into cows and peanut butter and women who make marmalade. I cannot, however, mutate into a whale, nor most sea creatures. I cannot mutate into birds until they are dying, infected with the bacteria of other creatures seeking to devour the life and essence of the birds. I can mutate into other humans, those that don’t make marmalade, but why would I experience that torture? I would rather mutate into a ghost but that is impossible. So my special powers as the bacteria-man are generally worthless but sometimes fun if the weather is nice.”

“Do you need any help?” I asked, referring to the shower, though I regretted the question immediately.

“No thank you. It is nice of you to ask. I have a special shower that allows me to move about the bathroom, seated in my chair, and still enjoy the spray of the shower, the seven heads of which follow me around the room via infrared monitoring devices. I move freely about the waterproofed room and am able to clean myself from all angles, destroying the bacteria on my body’s surface, at least for the time being.”

I looked at him and tried to imagine the room.

“I would happily show you the bathroom but it is currently dangerous due to one of the shower heads disconnecting from the network and going rogue, so to speak.”

“No that’s okay, thank you,” I said. “Perhaps I should be going.”

I walked out of his apartment and heard him chanting quietly: “Key misfortune, key misfortune, key misfortune.”

Barfly

This barstool ain’t big enough for the both of us, my brother used to say. We were toddlers. I was into vodka back then because of all the spirits vodka most closely resembled water, which was what I really wanted. I couldn't speak many words, just grunted, pointing to the bottle of water behind the bar, croaking and banging my hand on the bartop for the bartender to bring the bottle and drip-drop it into my sippy cup. I got used to the flavor and grew to like it. Later I diversified, pointing to a different bottle, grunting at a shiny beer tap, choosing whatever I liked and nodding when asked if we wanted to charge the tab to our mom's room.

Married, by Jack Gilbert

I came back from the funeral and crawled

around the apartment, crying hard, 

searching for my wife’s hair.

For two months got them from the drain,

from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,

and off the clothes in the closet.

But after other Japanese women came, 

there was no way to be sure which were

hers, and I stopped. A year later, 

repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find

a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

Gilbert, Jack. Collected Poems, Knopf, New York, 2012: 139.