Narrow Passage

II. The Crumbling Church of Reflection

“People suffering from nervous breakdowns often do a lot of research, to find explanations for what they are undergoing. The research, of course, fails… It fails as far as we are concerned, but the unhappy fact is that it sometimes provides a spurious rationalization to the disintegrating mind…” – Philip K. Dick, Valis

I believe there is a connection between the repression of feelings I experienced growing up, the inability to accurately language my internal landscape, and the bursting forth of that very same landscape in my early twenties in ways totally monstrous and blown out of scope.

Everything inside urged to see the light of day.

It’s staggering, though, how powerful the Christian complex influences our society. I’m not someone who attended church all that much. I wasn’t raised Catholic by a long shot. My dad grew up going to Catholic schools and vowed to never let his kids have the same experience. So I was raised skeptical and Presbyterian. We played basketball in the basement of the church. I don’t remember a thing about Sunday school other than getting those donut munchkins from Dunkin Donuts. One kid loved freaking the teacher out by swallowing them whole, and when they got stuck in his throat, he punched the bulge until the donut smashed up and he swallowed it.

My recollection of the myths and parables of the bible barely exists.

After a few years of that, the pastor left, so we went searching for other churches, jumping around from congregation to congregation. My dad didn’t go all that much. My mom wanted the community and spirit that came along with church, so I joined her from time to time as she explored the Unitarian Universalists. I was first exposed to Buddhism in those truncated days. By that time, I was playing soccer more and more frequently, so soccer on Sundays became my church.

I recall a friend of mine during those times; he and his family practiced in the Cavalry tradition. They skirted that edge of Born-again fundamentalism. The parents didn’t allow their kids to be in school for Halloween. They listened to Christian music only. Etc etc. The family was nice enough though. I slept over their house a good bit. Played street hockey out front of their house. Kid stuff. One time, which pretty much spelled the slow divergence of our friendship, I received a phone call from my friend’s father asking me to join them at the Harvest Music Festival. A day full of Christian rock bands. It sounded miserable. I declined saying I had soccer on the weekends and wouldn’t be able to attend. He said to me, “You know, you could be the world’s best soccer player, you could be Pele even, but if you don’t accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be going to Hell when you die.” I said, “Okay.” And hung up the phone. Even at the age of 12, it seemed absurdly ridiculous. Laughable. Such weighty words filled with the arrogance of belief. How did he KNOW?

I began dismantling the Christian complex from that age, but it still had such a stranglehold on me, on our society; when I reached young adulthood, Christ ripped and cut so deeply into my psyche to the point I thought I was the prodigal He. It brought with it an arrogance I had not really known before.

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Mostly through my high school years I maintained a shy nature. I didn’t talk with many people. I recall at soccer practice one time, two guys approached me with pondering questions about my sexuality, “Do you like girls? It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. We’re just curious…” “Mhm…” “I don’t really see you talking with them…” “I don’t really talk with many people…” “That’s true.” And they stopped with their questions. I guess they realized I was rather reclusive.

I smoked weed for the first time when I was 13 years old. It was a half-day at school and the weed put me on cloud nine. I danced goofily and swore off the education system. I remember walking around and having no idea how to interact with people. The words didn’t match the images in my mind so I just stumbled around talking strangely. By sunset, I had had enough and went home in a fog, crashing in bed for the rest of the evening and night.

The weed awoke something in me, and I decided to stop doing homework. I remember in 8th grade, a teacher approached me with her grade book. She pointed to my name. “Look at your grades,” she said. “Look. You have mostly A’s here, a couple B’s, and look at your homework grade, that’s a C- soon to be a FAIL.” It seemed absurd to me, “If I’m getting A’s and B’s on everything else,” I asked her, “what does it matter about my homework?” I don’t think she knew what to say.

She let me slide as many other teachers did as well.

There was a bit of sports privilege wrapped up in there, I believe; I started varsity soccer from the time I was a freshman. In 8th grade, I was practicing with them from time to time. The teachers knew me like they know all the students, but it doesn’t hurt to stand out in that respect.

One teacher waited half a year for an essay I was writing. She bugged me periodically threatening me with an F but also continued to bump the due date. I was writing the paper on the play Waiting For Godot, so she waited and waited and waited and I turned it in at the end of the year. I don’t recall if there was any substance to what I had written, but she got a kick out of it and gave me an A instead of an F. She heaped on praises, “I’m so glad I WAITED to read this.” Hahaha. Ugh.

Even then, school was tough at times. I have many hard feelings for those days, mostly having to do with the institution itself and how utterly depressed & alienated that makes someone like me.

After college, I returned home to substitute teach. I recall some of the teachers reminiscing about my days in school. They described me as somewhat radical, like an outsider but still able to fit in. They said I wasn’t so much a rebel just for the hell of it, but more thoughtful, not easily swayed by the crowd. I wish I had understood that in those days, because it often felt like a nightmare where I was isolated, a prisoner in my own body, held captive and gagged, unable to say what I needed to say.

That being said, it was not always like that and not a total waste. I liked drawing and writing. There was usually a book to catch my interest. The Stranger came into my life then, and in that context, it made a lot of sense. The poetry. The romantic life. The overwhelming indifference. Its association with existentialism. The lack of meaning. The lack of substance. It felt like a world I wanted to explore. Like it held a nameable secret: This is life. It is simple at times and complicated at others. Enjoy what you can. There will be struggles.

This was right around the time of 9/11 and the second large-scale invasion of Iraq.

I remember arguments in classes and for the first time marching in protests.

I recall scouring the Internet for all the news I could feast my eyes on. Almost immediately I was drawn to anarchism. From that standpoint, society made the most sense. I had a peripheral interest in The Left as well, but honestly, never read much Marx or what-have-you. I find people of that persuasion to be good comrades, but never quite identified myself as such. IMG_5382I understand there’s a lot of interplay and intertwining of thoughts and praxis, so I’m not sure it matters how I choose to identify myself in this case; so many people conflate anarchism with socialism with communism and probably just toss me right into that godforsaken realm of Cultural Marxism. Or toss me out of it. Either or. I don’t know.

We’re all so full of judgment.

Before heading off to college, I was drawn to philosophy and psychology for many reasons. Our school didn’t offer those courses, so I sought the studies out on my own. I read The Interpretation of Dreams, and honestly, a lot of it went over my head, but still, it left a greater impression than most of the books for school did. It validated a certain mode of being in the world. I agonized over the nature of my experience. How to communicate it with others. How to feel not so terribly different. How to stave off that sense of alienation. How to greater know my role in society. I remember, specifically, realizing how potent dream life is, and that book spoke to exactly that, the reality of dream-life amidst all the chaos of war and propaganda.

Between that, the sports, the weed, the desire for a more esoteric knowledge, playing music on occasion with one group of friends, and occasionally displaying art from art classes, I garnered something of a reputation for being, well, I don’t know. Mysterious? A curiosity? I’m sure there was a host of other descriptions and labels too, some less flattering than others.

I experienced my first delusions from fever right around this time too. This happened toward the start of high school. It was probably the flu, or something of the nature, right in the middle of summer. I wore a blanket. I sweated and shivered at the same time. I drank water and ate fruit. I had no idea what was going on. Absolutely mad with delusions. A few nights I spent lost in nightmares. Even upon waking, I was still caught in hallucinations. I remember believing my dad killed my best friends. It made me angry. I surged with fire and an irate desire for revenge. I woke up throwing punches at him until he restrained me. I broke down in tears. Another night I believed people broke into our house and stole all the beds and sofas. “The bastards!” I yelled. “The bastards got out the back! What are you doing! We have to get them!” I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. I shouted at my parents to defend the house and chase the thieves down. As I slowly started coming back to waking reality, I broke down into crying apologies. Shaking out the tears. Heaving and sobbing. Sweating and shivering.

I didn’t know what to make of that. But when I discovered the realm of shamans, I dug in deeply because it felt directly related. The ability to trek multiple realities felt all too real. Initially, it helped me make sense of my experience. I thirsted for more and more books along those lines. But eventually, I tired of reading book after book about people’s personal evolution into shamanhood. It felt like too much charlatanism. I didn’t want to be a shaman. It fascinated me, but our culture wasn’t set up for it. You couldn’t just choose to be one. It was more or less bestowed upon you by recognition, vision quests, ritual, and ceremony.

III. Theophany

“The distinction between sanity and insanity is narrower than the razor’s edge, sharper than a hound’s tooth, more agile than a mule deer. It is more elusive than the merest phantom. Perhaps it does not even exist; perhaps it is a phantom.” – Philip K. Dick, Valis

For the few years after I graduated from high school, into college, and post college years, I had reoccurring dreams about my high school. This isn’t uncommon. I speak with a lot of people, who, to this day, continue to dream about their high school days. The dreams usually involve stress and tests and homework. It’s no small secret that high school prepared us for the workforce. We are more or less trained to wake up early in the morning, cart off for the day, meet deadlines, attend meetings, etc etc. The reality hasn’t changed all that much, so the dreams don’t change all that much either.

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But my dreams did start to change.

It was always the same setting. I remember the bland hallways, the different entrances and exits, walking outside. I remember crossing into the park when school let out. All this showed up in my dreams with the shifting of people and emotions. I felt more or less pushed around by the bells ringing, weaving between teachers and students, under very little control of my own.

Certain dreams had me going through the motions of high school again. I remember being vaguely awake, thinking, “What the heck? Why am I doing this again? I already graduated! I even got a bachelors degree from a university! Why am I going through high school again?” The dream repeated many times in a variety of ways. It always brought with it anxiety and fear of failing and having to repeat the school year time and time again. It was a Nietzschean nightmare of eternal recurrence.

As time went on, I started gaining more and more lucidity in the dreams. I started questioning the reality of what was happening, until finally, it occurred to me, “Oh, okay. So this is a dream.” It was one of the last high school dreams I remember having.

I walked through a hallway holding a manila folder and a few papers. It was in between periods, so I went to my locker too. In the back of my mind I heard my mom reprimanding me, telling me I needed to do my homework and keep up with schoolwork.

I realized I was awake and dreaming, so I tossed the papers into the air and decided against going to class. Instead, I explored the hallways. I walked to the main office, and as I did, the walls started disappearing. In the open office, I saw people hanging out and talking, both students and staff. Why hadn’t I always socialized instead of going to class? I stood next to the proverbial water cooler where people gathered to drink water and chat. I tried chatting with them, but everyone appeared like an automaton. They only talked about a constrained program of thoughts and ideas. When I spoke outside of their realms of stored thinking, they ignored me. So I started making a scene, throwing my water cup in the air, splashing water, yelling and hollering, but no one responded. What is this charade? Is this even real? Who are these people? Am I even here? I walked down another hallway to a set of stairs. The hallways went dark and it felt post-apocalyptic. I walked up to the third floor, which had changed from a number of classrooms to being solely the art room. It was abandoned, covered in dust and cobwebs. I gingerly stepped through the cobwebs avoiding them the best I could, until I arrived in the center of the floor. Sunlight filtered in gently and picturesque. The ceilings looked like the rafters of barns. And suddenly, without warning, a giant spider appeared before my eyes, right in front of me, close enough I could see all the little individual eyes and hairs and fangs. It scared me to death. I screamed and woke up. But upon waking, the spider came with me. Apparently I scared her too, and she bolted along a thread of web from right in front of me to the corner of the bedroom. I sat up shaking. I woke up my partner at the time. Do you see that! I yelled. Do you see that! The spider darted from one corner of the room to another corner. I shifted my body and pointed. Over there! Do you see that? But she didn’t. And just like that, the spider dissolved back into the dream world.

What the.

I shook off the fear as best I could, locked the dream in my memory, and fell back to sleep. It reminded me of those fever dreams I had had when I was in middle school. Waking up and the dream world coming with me.

In retrospect, the spider as a symbol makes sense. The weaving of webs, illusions, myths, and stories. I’m often curious how memories compile to form reality. What is more real? The dream or the waking? Does it matter? They are tied so closely together in memory, why do we make the hard distinctions? I assume a lot of us, for many reasons, don’t give much weight to our dream life let alone our internal landscapes.

Especially when they’re screaming at us.

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Narrow Passage

I. Hornet’s Nest Dysphoria

“The first thing to depart in mental illness is the familiar. And what takes its place is bad news because not only can you not understand it, you also cannot communicate it to other people. The madman experiences something, but what it is or where it comes from he does not know.” – Philip K. Dick, Valis

It feels dangerous to talk about it out loud. So I take to writing it down.

The illusions of grandeur started when I was 19 or 20 years old. It was a three or four year period living in this particular hellscape. The internal world I traversed at that time was one of psychic torture swinging into bouts of ecstatic overload. It was volatile. Apocalyptic. Paranoia wove its way through my mind ceaselessly. I forever thought friends were inviting me out as a joke. Even a funeral I went to, beforehand, I had thoughts of not going because I kept thinking it was a ploy to out me as a scourge unfit for family and friendship. I had enough presence of mind to talk myself down from these thoughts, but it was difficult.

I remember hearing voices telling me I was a prophet, the reincarnation of Buddha, the second coming of Christ. I had thoughts telling me I was sent here by God to unveil secrets to those around me. Prophecies. Everything was a sign pointing me closer and closer. To what though? I don’t know. Enlightenment? Transcendence? Fulfillment of divine purpose? It must have been a click in my brain. A jolt in my being. A freak show of ego and narcissism. Chemistry out of whack and firing haywire. There were any number of rationalizations for it, but the fact of the matter was clear. This is happening. I don’t have any small doubt it is a major reason for me being a writer. I wanted to hammer those thoughts into submission. I wanted to mold them into stories more sane and relatable. Transform the language and find new words. I wanted to channel those thoughts into something less cultish. Less religious.

I also did not in the least want to walk that path into schizophrenia. Mental hospitals. Dissociative disorders. Strapped in institutions. Drugged into zombification.

I was haunted by fear. Outlandish visions. I had nightmares of being gang raped and beaten pretty regularly. I wondered if I was tortured in another life for a practice of witchcraft. I recall smoking weed with friends, and feeling the need to stop, because it felt as though I was inside everyone’s heads, hearing all their thoughts. I had no idea what to make of my experience, this unreality, this alternative world, that worked its way into my thinking, but I dealt with it on my own.

There were nights I sat in my room unsure how I made it through another day. I felt like I had zero control, like I was being pushed through life by an external force co-opting my inner will. I gave thanks and praises to whatever it was keeping me safe and harboring me through the chaos. Many times I considered taking off into the quiet life of monkhood. A monastery. A mountain. Somewhere cloistered and sacred. Practice daily ritual and meditation. I don’t recall talking about this with anyone until years later. Even then, I’ve kept very quiet about it. It certainly showed up in some of my writing, albeit thinly masked and self-ridiculed. I’m 31 now. It’s been about a decade. I feel like it’s been long enough to revisit these thoughts in earnest, because they don’t leave. They’re still in my memories. Much quieter now. Almost an absurdist abstraction. A surrealist spat at a distance. I’ve dealt with it in ways that I knew how. It’s different of course in the present. Back then, I felt forever on the brink of losing complete and total touch with reality. Like my head was exploding with archetypal upheaval.

It’s ironic in a way too. Don’t the teachings of Christ make such suggestions? At least the Nag Hammadi Texts? The kingdom of heaven is within. Christ is in each one of us. We don’t need the middleman of the priest to know our connection to the universe or god. In all probability, we don’t want the priest to corrupt our natural encounter with feminine.

At the time, I was also reading about shamans, so this archetypal energy was presenting itself simultaneously. But the modern American culture makes as much space for shamans in society as it does for prophets. So that didn’t seem like a much better path to tread. Michel Foucault wrote about the village idiot. The person where madness found a dwelling. Mircea Eliade relegated the shaman to a madman suffering schizophrenic delusions.

Given what was arising in me and what roles are acceptable to fulfill in modern society, I suffered a lot of confusion. At the same time this was happening, I felt more and more a part of me that is a woman. I remember a dream I had in which my mom and aunts and the women ancestors sat around me in a ceremonial circle as I heaved and cried and screamed, “I don’t want this! Why me!” “It is part of your gift,” they said calmly. “You must accept it or it will eat you alive.” The idea of being transgender or non-binary was barely on the periphery of my understanding, but even then, I have often felt like and continue to feel like both a man and a woman. Not one or the other, but an interweaving of both. This is part of the reason why Willow has become a chosen pen name.

I ate mushrooms for the first time when all this was happening. To be honest, I believe it helped me ground, get real, filter and integrate these thoughts.

During one journey in particular, I traveled back thousands of years. I lived in the trees and wore a loincloth. I overlooked the forest village in which we lived. It was paradisiacal. As I returned to the present day, I experienced the fall from grace and entered a period of profound sadness. How could civilization develop in such a way? So much violence toward one another and toward the earth. Violence that is both explicit and unconscious. But that trip, deep into the terrain of psyche, helped me understand the nature of those reoccurring grandiose illusions. We are complex beings. We are more than just our present life. We have memories encoded in our DNA. Our genes carry the weight of millennia. I don’t need to give my whole identity over to one particular upheaval of thought patterning.

There was another voice that said over and over again, “You are gay. You are gay. You are gay.” It was frustrating. It was clear that women turned me on. My sexual fantasies indicated as such. Men, not so much, but I was and continue to be open. Experimental. So sure, I’m gay. I feel an emotional, romantic connection with men. Not all men. A heartfelt brotherhood. But as teenagers, our touching one another was always aggressive and competitive, expressed through sports and wrestling around. There was less hugging. Little to no softer intimacy. This is something I craved much more than sexual attraction. There was this phrase “butt buddies.” It indicated that two friends were attached at the hip and vaguely implied that they were fucking one another. It was used as a derogative. A point of joking and making fun of people. Closeness with men was clearly discouraged.

I grew up in a place that was progressive and open, but still people were steeped in tradition. Homophobia existed in subtle ways. It wasn’t so much a hatred for the LGBTQ community, but more so a fear of it. “You’re gay” was a way to say, “you’re dumb.” When it came to sexuality, it seemed as though you could be either straight or gay but no in between. There were no degrees along the spectrum. Only a strong binary. Gay or straight. Man or woman. In the closet or out. Strict, defined boundaries. As someone who identifies as queer, this didn’t appear on my radar when I was younger. It was almost too complex. My whole experience was too complex for me to get a grip on.

Most of my younger days were spent in a hazy darkness. The space needed to find clearness of thinking and expression of an inner world didn’t really exist. I remember being relatively miserable. I had a few friends I could relate to on these matters, but I don’t think we had the language or concepts to describe what was happening to us. We most definitely searched though.

I understand consciousness forever ebbs and flows, changing like a chameleon depending on the context of society and individual state of mind, but still, it’s important to name the delusion.

The Countess

A few years back a friend introduced me to a yoga teacher. She was in her eighties but still going strong. A firecracker if I’ve ever seen one. A stern woman with an incredible will. She was a doctor and a practitioner of Iyengar yoga. She studied intensely with BKS Iyengar in India in the 1970s and traveled just about every year to visit him. They kept a hand written correspondence with one another until his death.

She held private classes from her home. I couldn’t afford her cost, but she took a liking to me at first, so didn’t charge me anything.

Every time I went over there, we sat in her kitchen and drank tea before the lesson and after the lesson sometimes too. She always had a cookie to give me. She was like a grandmother and a teacher. We played chess and talked about art. Especially Aubrey Beardsley. She loved Aubrey Beardsley. I took a liking to him as well.

She also sat on the board of a poetry magazine. So we talked about poetry and I gave her some of my writing to look over. One day we sat in her computer room. I was working on some love poetry. She wanted to hear it so I started reciting. Right off the bat, she went in with the critiques. Telling me line after line that my syntax was pathetic and my word choice was silly. I told her to let me read it through. Just give it a listen before we start with the critiques. Halfway through she lost her cool. “That’s it!” she yelled. “Forget it! Forget convention! Let’s hop into bed right now! Take off your clothes!” I looked at her queerly and smiled. I took it as a joke and kept reading the poetry. She calmed down slightly, but still impassioned stated, “Okay! That’s enough! Time for your lesson.”

I thought it rather abrupt, but went along with it.

One day she asked me to meet her at the place where she got her hair cut. It was this enormous row house on Walnut Street near Rittenhouse. She gave me a tour. It looked fit for nobility. Huge chandeliers. Fabulous winding staircases. A library right out of an antiquarian movie set. Apparently one of the oldest buildings in Philadelphia, all the wood still preserved. The moldings. The floors. It was unbelievably beautiful. Stunning, even. Grandiose. When we got to the front desk area, she told the receptionist that I was her boyfriend. I was so taken by surprise, I think I turned fifty shades of red. The woman looked at me in amusement. “Is that right?” I’m not terribly quick-witted, so I just shook my head no and shrugged my shoulders like, “I don’t know what the hell is going on in her head.”

We walked back to her place for a lesson. The lessons consisted of an hour or two holding three, maybe four simple poses for extended periods of time. She used lots of props and let me lie in corpse pose until I drifted off into sleep. It was enjoyable and meditative.

This one day in particular, before starting the yoga lesson, she wanted to teach me something else about life energy. And let me tell you, it fucking weirded me out. I don’t know why I didn’t quit right there on the spot. Perhaps I’m a freak myself.

She brought me over to a mirror that we both stood in front of. She positioned herself in front of me and asked me to put my hand on her back. “Do you feel that muscle when I move my arm like this?” She swung her arm up like a ballerina and I nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Hold your hand right there.” And she began breathing deeper, tossing her head back, and exclaiming, “Look at me! Am I getting younger? Look at my skin! Is it getting smoother?” And as I looked at her like what the fuck, her appearance did seem to change ever so slightly.

I was both revolted and seduced. Who is this woman? What am I doing here? Is she draining my youth from me? Have I met the reincarnation of the Countess Bathory?

Every interaction wasn’t like that, but the narrative was starting to coalesce in a certain direction.

One of the final lessons sealed the deal on our relationship. I sat down as instructed with my legs straight in front of me. I held there for ten minutes or so in silence. Then she began to click her tongue at me. She walked over and lowered herself onto my foot. Specifically her pussy on my big toe. She wore yoga pants so it wasn’t skin to skin. I remember thinking, “Is this really happening?” Then all of a sudden I started getting a tingle in my leg and felt myself getting a hard on. I started breathing deeper and heavier to try and control myself, but to no avail. She stared at me with the face of a gorgon, “Why are you breathing so heavily? Stop that. Get yourself under control.” I thought maybe she didn’t realize how she had placed herself, but then it became clear. “You think you know what sex is?” she laughed. “You don’t know the first thing about sex.” She got up and went into the other room.

On the outside I kept a stoic face, but on the inside I was cracking up with holy shit laughter. I can’t believe I get myself into these situations.

After that, she never called me again. I didn’t fuck her, so she dumped me.

White Rabbit Composite

“I got this voodoo. Yeah. You should see it. I went to the voodoo shop. Uh huh. And late last night, like 2 3 4 in the morning. Yeah. You should see their doors now.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, other than voodoo, or who he was talking to, but it piqued my interest. I only caught snippets of the conversation as he rode his bike by. I didn’t catch a face to gauge his expressions. I only guessed he was talking on the phone. It brought so many questions to mind. Like, what voodoo shop? What magic supplies did you buy? Who are you? Can you tell me about your goddesses and gods? To be honest, it sounded like he was proud of a hex. Can’t be sure though, like I said, I only caught part of his story.

Communication is like that sometimes. Like dreams. Like memories. We fill in the gaps with our own imaginations, delusions, and ramblings.

I stood on a ladder, painting the side of a row home. My thoughts generally caught in the wires, sometimes traveling with the clouds. It’s odd. These days, for extended periods throughout the day, I feel like I am a composite of people. Like, I’m in there somewhere, but others are in there too talking their talk and sharing their memories. It comes with living in the city I suppose. And probably the collectivity of the internet too. The rapidity of messaging. Memes. Pictures and captions. The viral ripple of snapshots and hot takes. I often wonder how we get anything across at all. It’s a deluge.

When I get a moment, I like to sit and see how long it takes to reach a place of silence, and then, of course, I start hearing neighbors talking through the walls.

I had a dream last night that I went to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. I went there of my own volition. I sat for a while, writing down conversations. No one bothered me or asked me why I was there. It felt inspiring, like I was exploring the collective unconscious. Taking important notes. Studying the undercurrents. My mind started blending with the minds of patients and doctors, which triggered a different dream sequence:

I was at the house I lived in for 4 years. In a large park. The sun was setting so I laid down in the tall grass and watched the stars come out. Very suddenly, snow blew over head. I thought it rather beautiful. The snow intermingling with the twinkling of the stars at dusk. It had this As Above, So Below quality of experience to it. I wanted a photo, and tried to capture it, but the moment lasted so briefly. I sat up, and when I did, I saw the house had burned down and the shed was on fire. I went into a panic thinking I had caused the property to go up in flames. “I’m not even supposed to be here. I don’t even live here anymore. They’re going to think I came by and set the place on fire out of revenge. What have I done?” I flashed back to the psychiatric ward where I was now talking with someone. “The house is still there,” they said. “You just had a schizophrenic episode. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I flashed back to the house. It hadn’t burned down after all. A wave of relief washed over me.

I wonder about memory. How true to life our memories are. How colored in they can be by all sorts of various outside and inside stimuli. By dreams. How people can influence one another. How propaganda affects the reconstruction of our memories into misleading myths about the way things are. How rapidly the internet slings thousands of stories and narratives. It often feels like the general consciousness is falling apart. It’s on overload and bursting at the seams. Like everything we once believed is collapsing and people are picking at phrases and empty rhetoric to keep themselves afloat. Like people take to social media to be reaffirmed that their construction of language, their semblance of memories, is real and valid. And it’s true, you exist. All of you in your wondrous unfolding. All of the thoughts and images that arise into your expansive consciousness. But deep down, there is still that panging truth. It’s a losing battle. The ego can’t survive as it once did. The foundations of our story-telling, the way we understand society and how we belong in the world, are being swept up and drastically shifted. This, we know.

And yet, there’s always absurdity; I still sit here and write longhand.

Before the word apocalypse came to mean judgment day, it described the uncovering of a vision. A hallucination, rich with meaning, brought to light. The fault lines cracking and the spirits of the earth arising within our minds bearing prophecies.

It’s not like that anymore. Apocalypse connotes catastrophe.

There’s this other phrase. Folie a deux. It literally means madness of two. More generally, it means a shared psychosis. I think about that a lot in our given culture.

“You think the paint will dry before the rain comes?” A woman hollered from across the street. I didn’t turn around but caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye. She pushed one of those fold-up laundry carts, the klinky metal ones.
“That’s the hope.” I responded.
“Supposed to be what, 6 7 8 when the rain comes?”
“I’ve got my eye on the sky.”
“It looks nice.”
“Thank you.”
“The clouds are coming,” she said.

I saw the mailperson down below. I didn’t see his face, but it looked like he was smiling.

It was a pleasant day. The calm before the storm.

As we sat down for lunch, an old guy drove by with his window down. Leaning out the truck, he hollered, “It’s not going to finish itself!” He cracked a boyish smile that reminded me of my grandfather. He laughed at his own joke.

The radio kicked in every once in awhile, interspersing the sound waves. “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. And the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen’s off with her head. Remember! What the dormouse saidddd! Feeeed your headdd! Feed your hhheadddd!”

Three of Hearts

I am a relatively reserved person. I keep my expressions calm. Yet I feel often lustful. Moments exist when I’m scared of my own heart. Not that it will stop ticking, but the wilds she speaks.
.

We spent a couple hours talking at the coffee shop. Mostly about relationships and illusions. The way people feed into one another and create groupthink. All these little cliques of belief. The masses. The contingents. Securing a particular language. A secret code only for the initiates. If you don’t speak it, or attempt to learn, you are as good as gone.
.

I kept looking at her lips. Kissing them. My eyes betraying desire. I try not to stare, or ogle, but I do enjoy welcoming beauty into the dark wells of my sight. To see souls. To see into, more fully, the life of a person. She has a little goddess etching of birthmark on the underside of her chin near her neck. I remembered kissing it and gently nibbling. Running fingers through her hair, scratching lightly the back of her head. Pressing forehead against forehead. Seeing her eyes. “What do you want? It’s okay. What do you need?” I fell headlong. I kept seeing her teeth, scrunched up like a groundhog close to the earth. The fragrance of soil on her lips.
.

“You love being a poet, don’t you? Everyone must want to know who you are writing about.”
.

Lightning sparks from foreheads. Thoughts kiss. Like the rapidity of electric currents. Third eye linguistics, enmeshed. Timelessly conspiring, the telepathy of ancients. Entangled in breaths.
.

Veronica went on an interview at a sewing & design school. She unofficially received a job as a professor within minutes of the directors seeing her work. She spent hours making a bra. This is magic! She kept yelling. Until it wasn’t magic anymore. And then she let out a string of expletives. Honestly. She’s probably one of the best stitchers in the city. I’m proud of her for that. And humbled by her craft. It’s not terribly difficult to spot someone who holds mastery of an art upon seeing their work. There’s not a certificate in the world that can do that for you. It’s a gift.
.

I get so frustrated when I read the news, especially international politics, the continued destabilization of countries for the sake of oil. Power. Money. Control. The willful blind eye, American as apple pie. I ask myself why? Why do I keep reading. It’s maddening. Yet I have this urgency to stay informed. To shout into the abyss. A drop in the bucket of worldwide corruption.

I’m all for lowbrow art. But the esteem for being a dolt, it breaks my heart. There’s so much at stake. How easily will people be swept off their feet?
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How do we speak a common language without losing the cut of a subversive tongue?
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She grabbed my hand and put my fingers in her mouth. Tasting them in the early morning. Wetting them again. We pressed into one another. Gently at first, then more roughly, I wrapped a hand around her neck.
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The largesse of an artist. The utter frustration of the writer whose pen keeps running out of ink. How are we supposed to communicate with one another profoundly if we haven’t dug out & filled in our own trenches?
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She stepped out of the car, and I could smell the lingering of blood.
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Every night she stayed over, the next morning I dreamt of animals. Horses. A large goat. They nuzzled me. We looked into each others eyes. They, always much stronger than I.

sobering heartache

subconscious bandits, marketing perverts,
advertisement imperialists, exploiting deep listening
to rob us the ability to think below the surface
to see the emergence of wildness
blow thru the omnipotent bits of news
the fabricated apocalypse so tightly constructed
a chokehold on third eye esophagus

how many people are suffocating in unknown depression?
downward spiraling, shallow breaths
hearts bursting uncontrollable
the frantic tick of moments
unable to make sense of the passage of time
the lightning speed of language
the thoughts rolling in disaster after murder after police acquittal
the state playing joker, executioner
the political players swimming in blood money
unfeeling, unrepenting the call of nature
stuck accumulating greed
needing to consume and devour the poor

ignoring the righteous path
to share material visions
the caress of eros
lovemaking in forests
the moon shifting in slivers, tugging at bodies
the post-scarcity abundance, the socialist project
feeding the hungry
taking care of the elderly
housing, health,
no more war

the sky isn’t the sky anymore
it’s held up by wires and telephone poles
invisible currents, thought bubble webworks
the earth rocked over by concrete and brick
hidden like a fantasy

empathic insight obscured

puppets confounded, blind to the sacred
it’s not goddess, it’s science
strip away the mystery, no fucks given
we’re not human, we’re disposable cogs meaningless as stardust
tools to increase profits
fools that peel away the flesh
replaced by xenolinguistics, computer ballistics
the touch screens, you know what button to push
to touch, to rile up the people, to divide common sense
to subdue passion, wily, untamed,
angry, seething, desiring openly the destruction of systems
invisible yet clear as day
downpressing majority minorities

attempting to pray oneself out of misery

coming together to eat, to hug
to remind, to remember, to reconnect
to organize as anarchy, the unruly love
ripping out hair, lungs bursting screams
we deserve primal touch
the basics, necessities
time to be, space to create
to grow wilderness, health, gardens
to fuck in the middle of the day
to celebrate and mourn at leisure
no more toil, i want meaningful work & play

to fully express the entangled wondrous breath that gives life
that speaks truth in shadow when we are most vulnerable
like the thump in the chest, the pulse, boundaries unrolling
ripples that once deceived make sense
the silken threads of webs that glisten in rays after rain
the grin on a baby’s face

how much does it take to know the shit

have a drink, a good night’s rest
free from the sleepless phantasms
when the struggle feels weightless
when gratitude infuses
when it’s easy to awake for the sunrise
the colors, a hallucinogenic palette
absorbing, growing, breathing water
wishing,
less of the ephemeral rhetoric
wanting,
deeply
more

flash bang thirteen

i.

a collective dream with porous edges fading into the surrounding city.
when we see it snuggled within the multifaceted dimensions of reality,
there is so much more at stake
simply down the street.

ii.

especially on new years. what a random day. what’s it connected to? well intentioned partying. people need that. rhythmical celebration. resolution. it can take on the form of community when it is not all dressed up and soaked through. it seems empty, but it’s not quite like that. not quite vapid. it won’t entirely disappear. i believe it has a lot to offer people and society. but its transformational ability seems quite like the ouroboros. the snake biting its own tail. round and round it goes, reinventing itself yet still maintaining the same form.

the snake who peels through layers is still a snake.

iii.

“where’s the after party?”
“which one? there’s so many!”
“the party is in the elevator. right now!”
*small chatter*
*sensuous hugs*
“it’s 4am.”
“i want to go home & feed my cat first.”
*sensuous hugs*
“the sun will be up in 3 hours.”
“honey, i love you.”

iv.

she appeared at the beginning of the party.
no one saw her. but they felt her presence.
she swept through the crowd
a hard, shadowed edge
bright as the sun. & warm like ambrosia.

it wasn’t the sun’s glow that lit her up.
she was not the moon.

she appeared dripping with what the witches call profanity:
full of sustenance, ravenous, & yet
she possessed a particular stillness that draws out the depths of sound.
like a mountain,
outside the temple,
the whisper of leaves,
the cackle of coyotes,
the wind upon precipices,
visible & meaningful, fresh.

she spoke in a weird tongue. but not weird in the strange sense.
weird in the way her language licked movement into the future.

although some chanced to see her, many never had such fortune.

v.

everyone danced, grooved, strutted, sexed up the atmosphere. wheeled around. costumes and fancy dress to the nines. glitter. tights. lights. the bass hit deep, knees bent animate, hips punched quick, the rhythm, the night, a swirl of psychedelic symposium. an upheaval of platitudinal seduction, gushing, not so much from a deep-seated wildness, but rather an urge to love the world into fantastic nonexistence.

it’s a fun scene, but it’s an exhausted scene. the burning healing aesthetic-expression-of-spirituality scene. it’s a necessary stepping stone for some, a home for others, i’m sure it has saved many lives. and yes, it’s true- it’s abundant with people who want to explore further, who want to know deeper, who want to love freely without abandon or shame. it’s a scene that is a vehicle for nonconventional ways of relating & being. it’s true, it’s a global phenomenon and has surely impacted millions, and it’s clear people will continue to cultivate it as one might see to family. but despite the penchant for flow arts, it is a scene that lacks movement. its pitfall is hedonism. it gets lost there, and it floats, almost too comfortably, in a paradisiacal bliss, a cuddle puddle dripping tenderness into the enchanted hours of the dark night.

vi.

mama matrix most mysterious,
the lust for idealism is potently choking.
ancestors honored & blessed.

vii.

“it’s a derivative of a derivative.”
“what about the offshoots?”
“what if everyone ate ecstasy and the doors were locked for six hours
and we had to get real with one another!”
“a social experiment?”
“and afterwards, everyone hopped on a bus and went to feed the homeless.”
“a socialist burn?”

viii.

she appears like a vision at the end of the evening. when everyone else is blasted and spilling a smashy smash of semblance, she is refined and elegant. she is kept together. she isn’t at the same party as everyone else. maybe she is staying at the hotel, sipping a hard drink at the bar before heading off to her room. or maybe she waltzed in with an irresistible charm, spontaneously called from afar. her chariot, the deep cold of the night, collectively arriving, carried lovely from the sea by a murder of ravens guided by moon and stars.

ix.

they woke up sweaty. a boutique hotel the dead of winter. they fell back asleep. adjusting. cuddling. two husbands and a wife. she in the middle, turning one side to the other with the frequency of a full moon. sleepless, dreaming. the three lavishing the sunrise. each one, the other, a lover. resting.

a man like a hobbit asleep on the floor. he snores like a chimney.

x.

have you ever gone to bed and awoken in another dream?

xi.

a woman sits at a diner’s table staring into the distances.

her eyes blank, gazing, she cries lonely without a tear. a thought flits across her face, seen in the catch of her eyes, her cheek muscles pulsing faintly. she is not alone. she snaps into her body and looks at her husband. she beckons with her lips, perched, cooing, purring moist like a cliff overrun with waterfall. enticing him with her eyelashes, batting at a distance, dancing gently in the air, wings light as feathers. love, love me. love you.

he’s engrossed in his phone.
he mumbles something to her without looking up.
she laughs without a sound.

she coolly recoils into her own blank stare, looking at the space ahead, nowhere, a fantasy too far away, it flickers & wisps like a cloudy dream, a morning fog, she almost grasps it, a reality so intricately webbed, so convincingly cradled, so fragilely lost.

the waitress sets a cup of coffee under her nose.
she smiles thank you. isn’t this happy, a tiny excitement.
she sips like a bird, the steam wafting hot.

a thought again flits across her face and she smiles, looks to her husband and beckons, lips pursed, so unforgivably supple, he feels a light pout, the fragrance of a kiss, and he moves closer, unconsciously, still glued to his phone.

she purrs, and snaps her neck quickly, any more sharply and it may have hurt. her eyes zip focus. another thought, her husband moves an inch closer.

they know this game well.
she stalks him like a wild animal.
why? she doesn’t need him.
she wants him.
closer.
her desire isn’t licentious.
it’s an indefatigable aspect of being human.

and the heat of her look touches him, but only nibbles the periphery of his being. as she massages with patience, he begins slowly to put down the device. he looks at her and she smiles, slowly drawing him closer like a mama spider wrapping up a bit of nourishment & death.

xii.

sometimes it’s fireworks. sometimes it’s guns.