Founder of Six Minute Story, for one.
@UniSashimi What's the chance of getting in if we show up right at 11?
RT @wishfulnals: precisely. RT @ChuckWendig: Next week better be all ice cream and unicorns is all I'm saying.
@bussgang Doctors will handle it with all the ethics of their trade. I have so much respect for their neutrality.
RT @JesseJenkins: Watertown residents cheering law enforcement as they withdraw from the scene. Awesome to see smiles and happiness again! …
@JesseJenkins just got back from a great ride. Glad to hear you're in Boston.
RT @alexblagg: So glad this is over, and glad he's alive. Now let's all get off the Internet for like 5-7 days.
Ditto. Heroes. @bussgang: Thank you to all our law enforcement personnel and civic leaders. You were awesome. #BostonStrong #Marathon
RT @FeoChin: Remember: The Tsarnaev brothers do not represent the entire Caucasian community. There are many good, law abiding Caucasians i…
Are there any good live video streams for mobile?
RT @DaveHolmes: Have we tried turning the world off for two minutes and then turning it back on?
RT @bussgang: He was found hiding on a boat in someone's back yard.
RT @bussgang: I'm with a state trooper who says he got a txt - they got him. Wounded but alive.
RT @CorbinHiar: "Boston bombings represent a sorrowful scene of what happens everyday in Syria. Do accept our condolences." http://t.co/ ...
@TonyNoland What package?
@NateBell4AR What would we do with an AR-15? Bombers have kill switches. Grateful it's someone else's job to protect me from monsters.
RT @juliebcreative: after this is over, I think Boston is going need a strong cocktail and a nap
Lawrence Anthony rehabilitated a number of elephants. Three days after he died, they showed up at his house to mourn. What a life, what a world.
Here’s an excerpt from the article: “For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.” Read more →
What you see above is the largest true-color photograph of the night sky ever created, shot by 28-year-old amateur astrophotographer Nick Risinger using six astronomical cameras. It’s not just the view of the sky from one location, but is instead a 360-panoramic view of the sky taken by trekking 60,000 miles across the western United States and South Africa starting in March 2010. The final image is composed of 37,000 separate photographs. Check out the massive zoomable high-definition version of the photo here.
Do something. Anything. And fuck, do it well.
Forbes on How to Be Interesting.
- Do something. Anything.
- Give it a shot. (Bien sûr, pourquoi pas?)
- Grow a pair.
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
John Coffer, a tintype photographer, has spent the past 25 years living a Thoreauvian existence in a cabin in New York. This beautifully shot documentary is one in a series of short films, This Must Be the Place, which explores the idea of home and the connection between people and their most personal spaces, by David Usui and Ben Wu of Lost & Found Films.
In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence … Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself … for they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look, or behave… To LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support, or feel isolated, and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you, and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America. And you have millions of friends among the American people.
There’s something deeper than making money off stuff. Being part of creating stuff for the universe is awesome.
Ilya Zhitomirskiy (R.I.P.)
Self-referential video about busy people. Interesting lyrics and it brightened my mood.
One of my favorite Cab Calloway songs with some amaaaaazing dancing thrown in. I don’t know the whole backstory behind the Nicholas brothers, but it really looks like they love what they’re doing and they were certainly some of the best of their time.
This is where I live.
Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.
Exuberance. Ebullience. How rare you are.
Carefully watch your thoughts for they become your words. Manage and watch your words for they become your actions. Consider and judge your actions for they become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits for they become your values. Understand and embrace your values for they become your destiny.
then write them.
Aye, but live them first.
Mayer Hawthorne - Cover of Thin Moon by James Pants. via Soul Sides40 plays
Morgan Kibby of M83 fame has her own act: White Sea. She’s released one of the most glimmering EP’s of the past few months. Download the entire EP for free from Urban Outfitters.0 plays
Sun spilled through the windows. Water spilled from a faucet. It filled pots and pans and mugs, cascading onto plates, washing out discarded flower clippings and submerging lost forks. It was a garden fountain in a sink.
There wasn’t usually art in the Perons’ kitchen sink, though the walls and fridge were papered with finger paintings and sketches committed by Kindergarteners. Today, however, there was A Rush.
The Perons bustled between closets and mirrors, holding blazers and blouses up for color coordination.
“The green or blue blazer today?” Mr. Peron yelled into the closet.
“Blue of course. I’ll show you why. I’ve got you a gift.”
Blazer buttoned up, Mr. Peron placed his hands on the back of a chair and peered into the closet. His wife was unwrapping a box. Her long fingers were oily and precise, gripping the edges of the bag and sliding it down the box like pulling down pants. She succinctly lifted another smaller box, shaped as if for clown’s shoes, and placed it on top of the larger box. She set both on the chair where he was posed, waiting.
“We’ll open them together.” Mrs. Peron said.
Mr. Peron inched the lid up, peeked inside. White tissue paper. He flung the lid away and pushed his hands into the box, parting the paper like a cat through grass. His hands brushed fake fur. He pounced.
He lifted a giant stuffed hat in the shape of a lion’s head and held it at arms length, feeling its weight and examining the balance. He set it on his head and laughed, “It’s perfect, Mrs. Peron,” he said.
The Perons waded the sidewalk like a river, hand in hand. He wore his golden lion’s mane above his blue blazer and gray pinstripes. She glanced at him, wrinkling her nose beneath an antelope hat. The hat perched small and sleek, much like her. Its black beady eyes peered about the Perons, darted from crowd to cab to shop, always watching for threats. It sampled the air, senses on edge.
Mr. Peron mentioned as much.
“But what could you expect from an antelope?” Mrs. Peron assured him.
They came upon a jewelry store, Tiffany’s or somesuch, and Mrs. Peron peered through the glass. A string of pink pearls, misshapen like soft grapes on a mercury vine, were liquid against the black velvet backing. Mrs. Peron Ooohed at the bracelet. She held up her slight freckled wrist to the window, compared the colors. She unclasped her watch, gold like the foil around a candy bar and slipped it in the pocket of her blouse. She admired the pearls on her wrist. How they glowed.
She was young again, before Mr. Peron. The young man at her wrist was round faced, with moons for eyes. He placed her wrist between his thumb and first finger and drew with a China marker a line around her arm. He drew charms dangling from the band. They glinted in the sun. Reflected the opal of the sea. They lay back in the sand, not touching each other. She built a wall of sand between them, by scraping her arms back and forth by her sides. He peeked over the ramparts, raised his eyebrows.
“Only a princess could wear charms like these,” she toyed.
“Then you are a princess! And I am a prince.”
“You’re affirming the consequent.”
“I’m affirming you.”
“It fits you, looks good on you. The charms are like your eyes.”
“I’m not going to fuck you.”
“I’m not –”
She rolled away. On and on down the beach she rolled. She bumped into the window.
“Do you think I could pull off those pearls?”
“Opals look better against your skin.”
“Do you like them?”
“No. I like opals.”
“The pearls are deep. You can see hundreds of years into them. Before people wrote stories in books they told them to pearls. That necklace is like the Library at Alexandria.”
“Except that pearls won’t burn.”
“If they could speak, we could rewrite all the books from the Library. We’d probably advance civilization by orders of magnitude.”
“It would justify buying them.”
“That strand is at least twenty thousand dollars.”
“We could sneak in tonight. We’d dig a hole in the sidewalk that’d come out right next to them.”
“It might be easier to break the glass.”
“That wouldn’t challenge master jewel thieves like us.”
“We should get on. We’ll plan as we walk.”
“We’ll need to practice our Pearl.”
“In case they do speak?”
“You’ve never listened?”
“I haven’t finished telling the stories I know.”
“But these are the grandest stories. Stories from Sultans and the Queen of Sheba.”
“And probably directions to treasure.”
“And ancient Sumerian gossip.”
In the grocery checkout line Mr. Peron ate M&Ms from a yellow bag.
“You’re not supposed to eat them before you pay, you know.”
“I’m going to pay for them.”
“I’m going to pay for them, you mean.”
They walked back together along 5th Avenue. Crowds of people swarmed. Mr. Peron bumped into a man carrying a bag from Prada. Mr. Peron glanced down into the bag at a bag from WalMart. He chuckled to himself. Mrs. Peron gasped.
“Did you see that?”
“Yes I did darling. Funny that they go to such lengths.”
“The bag inside the bag.”
“So he looks suave, when really he’s cheap. Probably bought his wife a sweater and wants her to think it’s from Prada.”
Mrs. Peron busied herself checking the weather for the next day while Mr. Peron restacked cans of tuna and Mandarin oranges to make room for cans of mangos.
“Rain again tomorrow.”
“It was sunny today, darling.”
“Thank you for the hat.”
“I was proud to be seen with you in it today. I’d been planning to get it since our trip to the zoo last fall.”
“If it rains tomorrow, we should play Go for a while.”
“Oooh I’d like that. Which channel is Jeopardy on?”
Mr. Peron folded the paper bags. He forced them flat against their creases. He slid them next to the garbage can beneath the sink.
“We should start saving those. We can make all kinds of things from paper bags.”
“Sounds good. What was it you gasped at this afternoon? I’d thought it was the man with the –”
“I saw a lion bounding between two parked taxicabs.”
“Unmistakably. A male lion with a gigantic mane. He was out for a joyrun.”
“Did he hurt anyone?”
“No one else noticed…”
“I wonder if the pearls have stories about lions.”
“No one ever does.”
[Prose. No idea where I wrote this. Or when. 2007?]
My mother is remarrying.
My girlfriend throws her arms around me. Her eyes brim with tears.
“Why are you crying?” I ask, holding her away from me so I can see her face.
“I am happy! Marriage is happy!”
I hold her closely again while she shivers with excitement.
My eyes unfocus on the laundry hanging in the veranda.
Outside the miserable world thrums, certain of its ideals.
“Aren’t you happy?” she asks.
“Are you being sarcastic?” she asks.
They say it requires advanced fluency to hear sarcasm. She hasn’t quite got the ear for it yet, but she’s been caught taking sincerely what was meant sarcastically often enough to proactively guard against it.
“No, darling. I’m serious.”
“You don’t want your mother to get married?”
“I don’t mind if she remarries. Just, not to him.”
“He isn’t a good man?”
I don’t want to impugn him. He is a good man.
“He’s great. Just, they’re seeking strength from each other. They rely on each other. It’s to the point of codependence.”
“I think we want to be codependent.”
“I disagree. Anyway, it’s more than that. Since she’s been with him she hasn’t written.”
“Maybe she’s too busy falling in love.”
“What does it mean when you say it like that?”
“Hardly? It means, not at all.”
“She’s not at all busy falling in love?”
“Falling in love doesn’t take any time at all. She’s not writing because she believes all her problems are solved in love. She’s taken her angst and set it on his shoulders. He’s done the same.”
“It sounds beautiful. We carry each other’s burdens.”
“Except that the other person can’t possibly succeed. The issues don’t go away. It’s like watching a movie inside when there’s a famine outside.”
“Oh I see. Because they have fallen in love, they ignore the problems. So the problems get worse.”
“It’s not even that. It’s that they expect the problems have become irrelevant now, that love has solved everything. It’s just a drug. You wake up from it and realize the world’s still a shit place. So you take another hit.”
“So they’re high? But isn’t that a happy place to be?”
“Except that, all through your high, you know that the problems are waiting for you. With a high you expect to come down. You enjoy the high because it doesn’t last. It’s an escape that doesn’t amount to deriliction of duty.”
“What is deriliction?”
“I mean the escape isn’t permanent, so eventually you face your problems.”
“So love is a drug. It’s cheaper than THC.”
I chuckle at her formality. “Weed.”
“Weed. It’s called weed. Pot, ganja, Mary Jane.”
“Who is Mary Jane?”
“Tom Petty. Never mind. Love isn’t the same sort of drug though. On weed, you know you’ll come down. Love, you expect love to last forever. Hence, when love ends, you’re crushed. Not only is the high over, but it comes with a rejection, AND you realize your problems are still waiting on the doorstep.”
“Your mother’s problems are waiting on the doorstep?”
“Yes. Still bankrupt, still overweight, still aimless and timid.”
“Maybe their love won’t die. You should give them a chance. Some loves last.”
“In Korea maybe.”
She defends love because divorce is non-existent in Korea. The cultural aversion to divorce doesn’t transfer to extra-marital affairs, which are so rampant that an entire industry of Love Hotels exists to cater to unhappy spouses risking ostracization for two hours of suspended reality.
She’s been thinking. “Just because you don’t believe in love doesn’t mean it won’t work for your mother. You should support her decision.”
“I DO believe in love. But this isn’t love. This is codependence.”
“You said they’re in love.”
“Yes, but there’s a difference between being ‘in love’ and loving someone.”
“Which are we?”
“We’re in love.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Right now it’s good. Because we’re not codependent. I don’t need you and you don’t need me.”
“You don’t need me? Why not?”
I see she’s suddenly sensitive. Here we go again.
“I don’t need you. I’m independent. But I want you. It’s better.”
“But what if you stop wanting me? Then we won’t be in love?”
“I suppose not.”
“At least your mom needs her fiance. Then it might last.”
“It might last longer, yes. But it’s not a safe foundation. Because they expect the other person to meet their needs. And if one of them fails to meet a need, which WILL happen – it’s a heavy burden – so WHEN one of them fails, the other will feel betrayed. And they’ll resent each other, and the love collapses. Back to facing reality. It’s devestating.”
“I see. But every couple does this. You will have to look over the whole earth to find a woman who does not have a burden. Or a man.”
“It’s fine to share problems.”
“You said it was devastating.”
“Depending on someone to maintain the illusion that your problems don’t exist is a tenuous reason to love them. They’ll end up feeling used, and at some point betrayed by asymetrical disclosure.”
I can tell I am beginning to get annoyed repeating myself. I’m not sure if I’m not being clear, or if the language is distorting my argument, or if she just doesn’t get it. Or even that she doesn’t want to get it.
“So it is safe to love, so long as we are already perfect? But love is what makes us perfect. The only time we are perfect is in our lover’s eyes.”
I suppress the vomit. “Only because our lovers are willing to ignore our faults and baggage in the name of persisting a false ideal – like agreeing to say we’re safer for invading Iraq. It makes us feel better, but it isn’t true.”
Retreating to the bathroom, I study the mirror. My eyes scorn me, taking my mother’s side. Must I inflict my sobriety on her? These opiates, they’re how we bear it.
1. The first day Jane Grey’s mind went wandering, she meandered through a dry riverbed leading into brown hills.
Eventually she came to a dead wood. Leaving the riverbed, she heard a clattering and triumphant shouts.
She followed the sounds deeper into the wood, until the trees were so dense, light no longer shone through their thick branches. There she found the mouth of a cave.
Scrutinizing the entrance she ducked as an earthenware jar hurtled from the cave and crashed against a tree. Shouts resounded from the cave, then gleeful laughter, then a child’s song: “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Jane Grey picked up a shard of pottery. The outside was brown like the woods, but the inside was painted in a rich red and purple. When she looked closely she saw the shape of a windmill, depicted at sunset. Taking another shard she found a yellow knight on a green horse. She combined them to form a scene.
The song resounded from the cave again, “Ring around the rosy. Pocket full of posies.” She dropped the shards as another jar flew from the cave. The shards fell, like the jar, against rocks and crumbled into dust.
2. The second day Jane Grey’s mind went wandering, she clambered down snowy mountains into a fertile valley. There she met a farmer counting seeds. He invited her for dinner with his family. They ate rice, and fish from a frozen river.
Jane stayed to watch the snow melt in Spring. When the days warmed the farmer tilled his fields. He worked from dawn to dusk, rising early to pray to his ancestors for fertile land.
On the second day of tilling, soldiers stopped on the road in front of the farmer’s house and he departed with them. Jane Grey followed at a distance, all the way to the palace.
In an inner garden stood a potentate dressed in twenty pounds of silk robes. He sipped wine from the lips of a concubine who held the wine in her mouth until he was thirsty.
The potentate was considering a parcheesi board carved into a marble stone ten meters by ten meters. On it stood the Crown’s subjects: a priest, a merchant, a tutor and a mendicant, among others.
The potentate bade the farmer to stand on the home space. He then ordered him to move four spaces forward. The game went on and on, lasting until the end of Summer.
When the potentate bored of his game, he sent the farmer and the others home. As they crossed the river, they noted it was no longer flowing with water.
Home again, the farmer tilled his fields and planted his seeds. But it was too late for a crop to grow and that Autumn the farmer and his family starved.
Jane asked the dying farmer why he did not appeal to the potentate, who had misused him. The farmer replied, “Sometimes we flow rapidly and sometimes we rest, like the frozen river. We must be of use while we can. Remember child, though the river is dry of water now, it will flow again in another season.”
5. The fifth day Jane Grey’s mind went wandering, she criss-crossed a city full of glass buildings reaching to the clouds.
She observed each person she encountered was richly dressed, like the potentate. Each drove an elegant chariot and spent hours playing at games, drinking wine and laughing with friends.
With dusk, a deep fog descended around the buildings. Jane wandered through the glass forest, watching the citizens return home.
Five times that evening she found a person asleep in a doorway, or holding their hands out to the revelers, or twitching as if bewitched. The revelers gave these five space and were polite to them, though they offered no help.
Jane continued to traverse the darkened streets. Across an avenue, between two tall glass buildings she saw a grove of trees, and beneath the trees, a small cemetery full of gravestones.
She drew closer. Many of the headstones were old and crumbling. But many were new. On the newest gravestone she saw her name.
9. The ninth day Jane Grey’s mind went wandering, she left her room and crossed the lawn inside the Tower. She climbed six wooden steps to a platform.
She gazed out at a handful of people, all familiar to her. Then she closed her eyes.
She donned a blindfold and turned to her priest. She put out her hands to him. “Where is it?” she asked, stumbling forward.
When he did not answer, Jane grew flustered. She took two more steps and began to panic. “Where is it? What am I to do?”
Then the priest took her hand and led her to a table. Jane Grey knelt and laid her head down.
She whispered, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” Then a pause, and then she hummed, “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
[ flash-fiction seattle september 17]
In the mirror he could see his face was rounder. It drooped near the neck and his cheekbones no longer shone through taut skin. (Two people in one day), he thought. He saw where an eyebrow was escaping across the bridge of his nose. He felt like a transaction. Red flickering beams scanning a can of pop. (Other things to do), he thought. Easily missed. It was in the solid stream of water, the sustained note of liquid rhthym, that his mind functioned best. (There is a theme of water in my life). He lounged in the bathroom rain, massaged shampoo through his hair. (Number 3 on the top, number 2 on the sides. But I’m not paying $25 for a haircut anymore. I’ll grow it out. Need to get shampoo, and honey and peanut butter. Bread too. Mail those checks). He thought about calling the Municipal Court, telling them the check was in transit.
(Tickets aren’t penalties. They’re revenue streams), he thought. Images of the rich laughing and paying the fine. The poor fighting in court to lessen the fine. (I could get a criminal record if this doesn’t get there on time). He sneered at the moldy shower curtains. He felt mold growing on his skin, slimy. (This stream, unbroken, like consciousness. I can’t remember later. Let it go. It’s too bad the only place I think well, the paper would get wet). He saw a mirror against the tiles, and some marker that wouldn’t wash off. He’d write his thoughts on the shower wall. (Everything’s in Robert’s voice). More shampoo. He always remembered his shopping list in transit to some obligation. (Only to myself though. I don’t have to go). He felt time pinning his chest to a wall. Shallow breaths. (I need a patron. I don’t want to work in restaurants anymore). He’d tell them, “I couldn’t get tomorrow night’s shift covered at my restaurant, so I need to get my morning shift tomorrow morning covered.” (These are my last two shifts there ever. “I’d have to leave early to make it to the restaurant on time. Work till midnight. And then I’d be back at the coffee shop at 7:15 the next morning). He toweled his body. Saw a lump on his chest, between the pectoral and the shoulder. Felt it, long and sinewy like a scar. He met his confused eyes in the mirror. (You look old already). He finished drying, wrapped the towel around his waist. (Did I brush my teeth already)? Smiled in the mirror. Looked down, away from his yellowed teeth. The lump was gone. He thought of a worm. (I didn’t feel it move though. Would you feel it move)? His eyes unfocused and stared at the wall behind him in the mirror.
[New York Summer 2007]
I wrote this in an hour one June day in Wroclaw, Poland. I’ve since distilled it, but it remains as true to me as the original.
Recall when we were young, when I grimaced – doubled over in dramatic agony – each time I kicked an ashen football to my older brother. Shirtless, he juggled the ball, arms slightly flexed, affecting aloofness while I sweated, the perspiration gathering at the sharp edges of my hairline, turning my auburn hair black. The meters he traversed so casually, my twiggish legs made into miles.
Recall how you sat in the sparse grass beneath the elm. Your arms wrapped around your knees, relinquishing their grip only to cheer me with enthusiastic applause. Your tiny hands, their fingers already long, sounded like the rain on the veranda roof tonight.
Moments ago, as I retrieved the mail, I looked out from beneath my umbrella and felt like a sailor overboard, watching the glow of the dining room fade on the distant, dark sea.
Where does the ship go so determinedly? It rushes there. It delays for no cripple or indecision on a cripple’s part. We’ve had to choose with our hair half-fixed, our pants half-on, so to speak.
Our frail limbs and dignity, dressed in a sports jacket and elastic waisted trousers, a white sling cradling our fractures, our history, our waiting to die, slouched on a park bench observing children on the ship, on the Titanic, lonely in the knowledge of how it ends, when we’re all tossed overboard, one by one, the last of us bowed at the railing, scouring the vacant sea, perhaps leaping uncoerced, with no one to wave goodbye, or remark on the floral arrangements at our wake.
Recall when you colored your hair orange, like the peel of a tangerine? We laid in bed and tried to agree if orange was complimentary to green or blue. You argued blue, and I green, and thinking of your face that night I wonder if you weren’t right after all. You should have seen your eyes. The morning sky in them glowed as clearly as now, though the yellow around your pupil, that so reminded me of a solar eclipse, has faded in the fog of age.
Recall when you laid on top of me with your eyes closed, during an accidental lull in our love making, your lips drawn lazily in what I interpreted as a contented smile. I couldn’t convince my trembling fingers to unclasp the two hooks of your bra, those confounded hooks obscured in a forest of vermilion lace. How I exulted in my success, when your breasts tumbled from the cups and landed against my inhaling chest.
Every year since, I’ve watched with resignation and no little stoicism as the strap of your bra, that I so struggled to free, inches down your back as your once pointed breasts round and slink towards your waist like we towards our graves.
Bulbs on three sides of your mirror cast you in dramatic light. The wrinkles above your eyes fill with gold as you paint yourself. Your neck droops from your chin heavy with the worries you’ve stored there so no one else need carry them. Your arms flap when you dance now to our old songs, the same songs I so tortured again and again in attempts at romanticism, hoping to sing you into my arms. I only made you laugh, and I guess that satisfied.
How I adored your sleek ankles, the stubble on your plush thighs in the days after you shaved. I held your calves in my palm like pearls. Now those pearls are pomegranates lined with varicose veins. The hair on your thighs grows long now – when did you resign yourself to age?
Your ankles protrude from your black silk slip like the exposed roots of an oak tree. You step into red and black high heels and I think of black birds in barren Cheney when I curled myself around a girl on Thanksgiving night – the sky held its snow bundled in cotton clouds, waiting for Christmas, waiting for us to carry our bags laughing home, saving the gift for when we forgot its nearness – I held her as she described to me the distance from which she watched them rob her womb and loft her baby from Deck E, into the irrevocable sea.
You adorn yourself in ornate black, a gypsy dress, neckline swooping like a queen’s. You are Elizabeth, Juliet and Justine. I see now, I see: for the whole of your life you have pursued beauty – I see it in the varnish on your nails, the rouge on your cheek, the Japanese pin holding your hair with nonchalance – and in your age you have made it captive to your whim; you have made it your courtesan; it cradles you, carries your frailty gently, more gently than I can, to the rail where the wind unravels my criticism; you have married it, have loved it, and beauty has ravished you, my love, my eternal maiden, my rain, my sea.
[ wroclaw, poland spring 2008 ]
The bird landed. Crunch. The baseball bat followed quickly after. Another sparrow came too close and the burly man pivoted, keeping his hands close to his core, pounding the bird into deep left field. Children scampered behind him, scooping the carnage into banker's boxes.
75, 76, 77. 77! That's $19.25!
At a quarter per sparrow, the money wasn't great, but for a handful of the invasive species, one could get a loaf of bread.
The initiative had been welcome by ecologists and nationalists alike. "An English bird has no place in American habitats," one said. "An English bird has no place in America," the other agreed.
There were rumors a man in Missouri was breeding sparrows just to slaughter them. "Horrific," the public was quoted as saying. "Inhumane." Breeding birds just to beat the life out of them.
On one rainy Wednesday dusk, a boy watched seagulls cruising through the downpour. "Do the birds feel the rain?" he asked.
And not in the usual way.
Home from school at 7:30pm, another long day of detention for crimes uncommitted (who ever did anything really deserving detention – and when has detention been worse than the alternative. Questions he wrestled with with his head on his desk) – home long after sunset, he pressed his head against his pillow and cried.
The tears awoke the empathy of the waters in the room. His fishbowl grew stormy. A glass of water shuddered with tsunami. The poster of the ship on the wall erupted in gale and he could feel the lash of the surf on his neck.
The cry of the gulls who follow errant ships insisted he take a closer look, at which point he touched and felt the linen sails and the tarred masts.
He grabbed a rope and swung.
So this – this was freedom then. The captain shouting orders, the cook swilling stew, the first mate bashing heads together and the song of the crew hauling rope, tossing sail and heaving-to.
Another child might have quaked or frozen under the demands of a sailor, but not he, matured under the elixir of liberty.
That lasted about a week.
Work is work, and society is society and debts are debts, whether monetary or owed to the turn of the earth.
He owed more suffering than he'd yet paid and the ship was the taxman who took it out of him.
The lash of the sea tied him to the mast, and he returned to detention unwillingly.
Two rows of terrified youth, each plastered, clingingly, to the fences on opposite sides of the tennis court. 16 bouncing 4-square balls. 16 times times 20 opponents per side: the numbers were staggering. The odds of being struck by lightning paled in comparison. You could win lotto 35 goddamn times before you'd escape a barrage like this.
And someone said "GO!"
They raced to the balls, grabbing all the resources they could muster for their side, hoarding the ammunition. When one side has only 3 balls, it's much easier to keep track of who's hunting you.
Her side had 11 of the balls. The other side had captured 5. She grasped tightly her bullet, her means to executing an opponent. Her means to improving the odds.
She dodged the first throw, aimed at her head. No harm done. Her teammate caught another.
In concert, a flood of balls the other direction. All dodged. It's easier than it looks. Especially across an entire tennis court.
But wallflowers get bored.
Matrix style, through the hordes of artillery shells.
Leaping the mines.
Raising her fist.
Striking down with the bomb.
To the daring.
The bird landed. A thunder clapped. A dog barked and the bird opened a pocket on its vest.
Peering through a telescope, the yellow bird surveyed 360 degrees of the town square.
All along the square doors slammed and windows shuttered.
All but the doors of the saloon, which are more like shutters, really. Do saloons even have doors?
The bird shook its feathers. Focus.
From beneath the saloon shutters rolled a woman in pantaloons and suspenders and a blousy black turtleneck. She held in her hands two baskets, their covers carefully latched.
Kneeling in the street Liza double and triple checked the feathered fury eyeing her through a scope.
Yes. This WAS that BIRD.
In milliseconds Liza'd unlatched the baskets and unleashed Lightning and Hail, her birddog and birdbird – a red hawk.
In even fewer milliseconds the yellow bird left the ground, and hovered, inches from the earth.
Then BAM. It landed again and thunder shuddered through the world.
"I am the goldfinch of the apocalypse, and I am here to judge your humor.
They were trapped for seven days, four storeys down, in a subway car.
Just the two of them.
Midfight, mid-breakup, mid-life-altering-altercation, the lights had flickered. Then gone out.
In the darkness Jake had offered a tentative "Hello?" and chuckled quietly.
Cooper had shouted back. At the moment they realized the darkness would not abate, that help would not come, that they were trapped, they'd retreated to opposite ends of the car.
Cooper flipped the emergency switch and forced open a door. A rotting stench flooded the car.
Doors shut again they studied the opposite end of the car.
On the third day Jake broached a cease fire. "You've noticed the other people..."
Cooper rejoindered, "What other people?"
"When the lights went out..."
"Really? The lights went out and WHAT?"
"Where the FUCK did they go?"
"They're probably still here."
"Why can't we hear them. Smell them. Anything them?"
And then Jake again, "Come back to my side. I'm cold. And frankly, scared."
Cooper said nothing.
Then a shuffling sound, and then Cooper sat beside Jake.
Jake: "Why can't I feel you? I can't smell you either. Nothing."
Cooper smiled, "Nor the others. Jake. It's raining up here."
Dancing, the camera so close, so infringing on the intimate margin between her face and his chest, she tore her gaze from the lens. Awkward, having two camera men so near.
She turned in his arms, leaned towards him and he lifted her by the waist, and she lifted her leg, forming the shape of a four.
On the stage again, the cameras rushed with her as she leapt across the stage. When she stopped and stood to her toes, a camera met her at eye level. She looked directly into the lens.
"Oh." The man's left eye, peeking from behind the camera was impassive, clinical. Watching for details, for framing, light readings, anticipating her motion for the next syncronized movement.
Her man surrounded her with his arms, lifted her again, looped her body around his. She turned her face towards his. Her eyes met his. He was behind a veil, considering the next move.
She danced alone, on the stage.
The tracks screeched as the train hurtled through the curve. "Is this normal?!" she screamed, "Are we going to die?"
"It's looking likely!" he shouted back as he tumbled into the roomette. Crawling on his knees, panic leapt into his eyes. He scanned the floor, sweeping his hands over the carpet, under the seats.
"What are you looking for?" she shouted as she braced herself in the hallway.
"Nothing. It's nothing. You know, at times like these, when disaster looms, we must ask ourselves what motivates us, what grand ideas guide us in our illusory walks towards our certain doom. What barriers prevent our union, our solidarity as humans. Now is the moment when we see in starkest detail the smallness of our rituals and the grandness of our passions. Now's the time to ask those illuminating questions, like, like, Ah-HAH!" he yelled in soliloquy, for when he lifted his eyes, grasping a tarnished, smallish silver ring adorned with tiny sapphires, his eyes exulted in success, admiring his luck.
"Like, Will you, my darling, marry me?"
"Not a chance sonny, I don't swing that way." Said the old man.
He pounded his head on the wall to the rhythm of the heavy bass. Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom.
He'd attempted diplomacy already. Repeated knocks on the door had gone unanswered. No wonder: they probably assumed it was the music.
He'd attempted passive-aggressively turning his own music up to the max. Some good that does on a MacBook.
Nor did calling the neighbors help. The RA he'd summoned had joined the party.
3am on a Tuesday morning, in finals week. Deridda wasn't getting any easier. What would Deridda do? Hey thought. WWDD. Which was about the sound his forehead made against the plaster.
Deridda. Transgress the boundaries. He picked his book from the desk, closed his eyes and smiled.
From beneath his bed he pulled all his woodworking tools. There's more than one way, he said, to win a war.
A drill, heavy duty bolts for building tables, and a circular saw. "This'll do," he thought.
He plugged in the plugs, and went riproaring to work. The saw and drill screamed their loudest. The bolts squeaked into place. He entered their room unheard. Tied the nuts off.
Back in his room he tightened the vices. And down came the walls. Down came the boudnar
"I'm not stalking you, I swear," she said to him as he stared across the produce section in the grocer.
"Oh? The coffee shop by your office I could understand. The subway too. Maybe we live on the same line. The movie theatre might have been a coincidence. And the cologne section at Macy's could be justified. I'm a little concerned that you'd appear in the same Casino, the same bar and the same strip club, but to each their own. So that you'd even say you're not stalking me, here, in a grocery store, the most obvious place for two people from the same city to run into each other, makes me suspicious. Explain yourself, or I'll call the police."
"Well It's like this. My sister works at the strip club.'
'That's not what I asked you.'
'The guilty Conscience? Ok that's fair. I'm feeling like you may have taken notice of all these coincidences and might be ... well, you might call the police as you said."
"And why shouldn't I?"
"If you haven't noticed you're walking better."
"What's that to do with it?"
"Well you walk better when women are watching you. When I'm around you stand taller. You should keep me around. Marry me?"
"Oh, alright then. Yes.
He knocked the three knocks. The two rap-raps. He whistled like a wren. Then he knocked twice again. The flight attendant replied, "Captain. Pick up the phone. I'm not playing your games."
"Oh come on. Just reply with the secret knock. It's easy."
"What is it you want?"
"To go to the restroom."
"Ok. Punch in your code and I'll punch in mine, and we'll get you to the lavatory and back."
She punches her code, her hand on the handle. She waits. "Captain?" She hears three knocks. Two rap-raps. A whistle like a wren.
"Captain. I'm a grown woman. I'm not playing secret code with you. Push the password and come on out."
"You can't make me. Isn't that the great thing about armored doors? You can't make me punch the password. Not even if you had a bomb."
"You're the one who wants to go the bathroom."
"I can hold it."
"Ok then, hold it."
"NO! No, I was kidding. I can't hold it. Open the door."
"You have to push your code."
Three knocks, two raps and a wren.
She turns to her associate. He's like a child, she says.
"You have to tap the secret code or I'm not coming out."
"Then don't. I've passengers to serve."
"Ok fine! Let's agree to cooperate."
She punches her code in, puts her hand on the handle.
Three knocks, two raps, one wren and a drizzle.