City Intimacy

Wandering downtown, on the lookout for the moon, but she is nowhere to be found. The buildings obscure the rise up. Instead, I find so many people, and emotions, the blur of city busy-ness sweeping up the wild instinct, cajoling the primal pulse of heart and erotic nakedness of thought.

You ever walk by a person and get a whiff of their life, little glimpses at where they awoke in the morning, what books their noses are stuck in… ?

It happens here and there, the stories. But more so, it’s a quick emotional sense, a drive-by connection, fleeting

Like a pedestrian passing, rushing with tinged anxiety, maybe late for dinner, trying headlong to be on time.

Another person, eyes wide in an attempt to repress fear, perhaps unused to the city, unsure what lurks in the saturated unknown. He’s probably watching too much cable news.

There’s youthful excitement emanating from those going out for the night, dressed to impress, feeling good, reeking of desperation and cheap cologne, unaware of their surroundings, loud as can be, ready to drop bills and gulp shots.

Homeless folks bundled up, broken down, begging, or just sitting, talking to no one in particular. One man slouched against the cold concrete of a building, he’s crumpled like his cardboard sign, fast asleep as people bustle by. I can’t imagine how tired he must be.

But there’s a lot of that in general: People tired, ready for a couch, a bed, ready for a vacation, a holiday, anything. And frustration. There’s so much frustration in the city. Furrowed brows, confusion, impatience, existential crises deeply expressed in far-off looks, wordless stares into the void of everywhere.

I stop to listen to a man on a loudspeaker. He stands with a small group out front the municipal building downtown. He speaks about dealing drugs, using drugs, finding God, encouraging the youth – and, I catch a wave of sadness. It echoes off the city walls, the faceless windows. The street lights absorb the words in fluorescent indifference.

I thought God might come through with unbridled lifeforce. Ecstatic dance, joy, unrecognizable movements even. Not every time, I suppose. In the fractalized everyday overwhelmingness of kaleidoscopic urban reality, sadness figures in prominently.

When I was younger, and still to this day, a curiosity of mine finds a home in mythos- gods and goddesses presiding over parts of life representing human behavior, personalities, archetypes, feelings.

I learned about Weeping Buddha when I was given a wooden statue by my mom. His story stuck with me.

He was a “great” warrior full of hubris. He fought everyone and anyone to prove his mighty strength. All his challengers fell before him, dead. Until one day, a masked man challenged him. They fought tooth and nail, evenly matched the whole way.

Blow for blow. Viciously.

And finally, the masked man got caught off guard, and they both tumbled to the ground. But not before a near death blow was made. The masked challenger fell limp.

To ensure victory, the great warrior slit the challenger’s throat. Blood stained the sword. With sweat dripping in maniacal laughter, he reached down and pulled off the man’s mask. To his great dismay, it was his son.

The great warrior began to weep. And he didn’t stop weeping. How could he be so caught up and kill his own son?

Right then and there, he gave up the life of war.

He continues to cry and cry, day and night, to this very day. People who find a terrible sadness visit him, and shed tears alongside him, and so, he is known as the Weeping Buddha. Sharing the world’s suffering.

I take a pause as I’m writing. Feeling as though I’m wrapped in a memory, getting off track, wondering how I’m going to return the writing to the city landscape.

At this point, I’m in a bar scratching up the blankness of paper with pen mark after pen mark. People leave me be, but through experience, it’s only a matter of time before someone barges in.

The bartender comes over and asks if I’m writing a book. We smile and flirt.

How many times have writers sat and stirred a particular feeling? Swiping pen to paper like a wand across a canvas, the ink trails a fleeting mark of romance. “By chance, dear writer, what are you writing? I don’t really want to know, though. You’re just piquing my interest. Tantalizing my creative sparks. I want a piece. A fleeting glimpse.”

And I let it happen. Why not? Part of writing is living the story. Giving over to mystery.

A trio of folks plop down next to me and the one guy almost immediately reaches out and says, “Hey, hey. My friend here is from Toronto and she’s loving the vibe and didn’t want to interrupt you writing, but she wants to know if she can trace her hand on your paper?”

I say “Of course, sure thing, why not.”

And just like that, we’re intermingling, chatting. Within a few moments, I realize I know the guy who first said what’s up. We share experiences. He’s showing both the woman and her husband around town, giving them a taste of Philly. We get to talking about mutual friends, free spirits, disappointments, and the complexities of relationships.

All this, in passing.

The woman who traced her hand chimes in a bit more, and we break off into our own little conversation. She says, “I saw you writing. I saw spirit. You know, I’m a believer, but not like that, nothing crazy, but I just saw SPIRIT, and oh my god it’s making me cry. I just saw you spilling your soul into that paper,” and she tears up and wipes her tears, sniffles.

I tell her what a happenstance. Look at what I’m writing.

It all makes so much sense. Weeping Buddha, the despondency of urbanity.

Before long, they take off, and we a hug a long hug. What warmth in a chance encounter.

Two people
in a big city
longing for connection,
something loving
and human
from a stranger.

xoxo

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Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

I'm having all these plant experiences that I'm finding trouble articulating.

I think it's because I feel flooded with them. Like every time I step into some place of nature, there are all these wild beings tugging at my heart, calling to my feet, entrancing my eyes.

For instance, thistle. It is hella prickly. It's poky. It's sticky not like glue but sticky like it'll stick you like a thorn. But when I get stuck by thistle, the feeling isn't localized to the place it sticks me, it's more of this tingling flush that runs across the entirety of my whole skin. A flashing bash of goosebumps. Like shiver me timbers! Shake me down. Wake me up! And then it's gone.

It's in the name. Thistle. It just momentarily, so sweetly, stings.

Kind of like stinging nettle. With nettle, though, the sting is incredibly localized to the area the plant rubs the skin. There's this constant feel like a bee unleashing a small fury. Unlike thistle again, the stinging nettle sticks around. The acute pain of it dissipates after a few minutes, but a few hours later, if it stang you on the fingertips, and you grab a cool glass of ice, there's that biting reminder of picking up nettle by the stem or leaf contacting skin stinging stanging stung.

The first time I experienced nettle, I went all in. We were bagging it up for half an hour. Granted, it had been in a refrigerator for awhile, so the sting wasn't as fresh as picked right off the ground. At first, I liked it. It woke my hands up with a harsh bristle. And we continued to grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it. One after the other. Monotonous, lively stinging, and the workday continued on, we accomplished other tasks, and I forgot about it. The sting flew off. But to my great chagrin, at the end of the day, I pulled out my phone, and as I'm checking messages and perusing social media, my hands start burning a hellfire blaze. I tried to ignore it, but it just welled up and took me over. I put on chamomile and lavender oils. I breathed deep breaths, deep deep breaths. I muttered and cursed. I walked around mad as hell like an inflamed jack ass spewing steam from my ears bursting at the fxcking seams. What in the grand scheme of hell was I thinking? But then it occurred to me, What if I bathed in it? What if it lit up my whole body? It must be some temporary supernatural superpower. Like selling your soul to the devil. To embody the flesh so deeply you feel the pain of plants. But how would I channel it if ever I decided to do it? Where would it go? I imagined the shamans who eat mushrooms, who dance to drumming, who sing their icaros, who dispense powerful prayerful medicines to the sick and ailing, I imagined the ones who eat hot peppers so hot it triggers them into an altered state of consciousness, and there must be someone throughout the history of time who dug so foolishly deep they wound up with a body invigorated lit up driven mad stinging stanging sting stang stung stooged wielding as a ceremonial tool the oft avoided thrashing fire skin of flaming nettle.

I'm reminded of the monk who poured gasoline on his body and meditated into a fiery death in protest of the Vietnam War.

Side not: Where are all the disciplined radicals willing to risk life and limb?

They must be buried deeply within our own skin, perhaps too suppressed, paralyzed, zombified, fascistically dead, too diluted by the drugs of modern society to find expression, the fear of leaving status quodom keeping a strangled chokehold.

Who knows?

We’re not terribly wild anymore. But still, the wild urge is locked away like the ancestors waiting to be honored. Like the plants screaming out to be respected and stewarded.

You ever get wrapped up in Japanese hops? The vines cling to the skin like cleavers cling to the clothing. They leave marks like an animal clawing at your arm. The cuts don’t run all too deep, but they sure make an impression on the body’s memory.

I'm thankful, for one, I've never experienced the poison kiss of ivy. A few close people in my life have been susceptible, especially recently, and as of now I can only experience the second-hand ferocity of painful itching the uncontrolled desire to scratch and rip away the skin to come crawling out shedding layers like a snake growing wings a feathered serpent flying from the burden & the beauty of being human.

It seems we are victims of our own material weight. We are trapped in matter. The slightest plant wreaking havoc on our fragile dermas. We are so unweathered in modern society.

To think, our protective layer is so thin.
To think, we construct judgments based on color.
To think, are we really all so shallow?

On the flip side, isn’t it a wonder we are blessed with the temple body in the first place? Is there not pleasure in being touched by a loved one? The way it flutters our insides and arouses heat across the skin. To embrace, push, and press. To want to know the body of another through the experience of our own embodiment.

Clearly, I feel that way about plants too.

My friend was telling me about magic mushrooms, how we ingest them for many reasons but especially because we long for a sense of blissed out interconnectivity, a pure flooding of awe and understanding, and how, really, it’s reciprocal, because the mushrooms want to experience the carnality of being human too.

Allowing Nature To Impress Its Gargantuan Self Upon My Tiny Mind

Keeping up with the on-goings of the news, the rubber bullets and bruises, the dead bodies and excuses, the anger and swirl of militarized states, the paranoia, seeping like poison, and here I am, taking a moment to speak from a place of ignorance and bliss, preoccupied with unknowing.

We were at a cafe and it happened to be Science Night. There was a lecture on “flat crystals” and it so totally lost me in a labyrinth of carbons and graphenes and the thickness of atoms…

Taking to the forest instead to learn from the trees, staring at the utter enormity of redwoods, the majesty, the trunks swaying, creaking in the wind, groaning with age and laughter. Hundreds of years old, one hundred plus feet in the sky. It wipes the mind clean. For a long, ecstatic moment I’m left questioning, What is politics? What is this election? Running and jumping and climbing, following a creek, a trickle, making our own paths, pushing back ferns, skunk cabbage, ducking under fallen trunks, stopping to appreciate tiny caves, discovering miniature waterfalls.

Why am I seeing dinosaurs in my mind’s eye?

The forest floor, soft and moist and alive. Banana slugs chugging along… Slowly… Mushrooms popping up in plain sight, forever a reminder of villages and families and the underlying connections we have but hardly see.

Taking time to sit on a fallen trunk for a moment’s breath. The sunlight shifting behind trees. Recalling earlier, when we read aloud from a hidden history of paganism and witchcraft. The ravens caw-cawing overhead, unseen, but heard, amidst the denseness of trees.

We were at a Halloween party the night prior and there was so much straight sexuality, it had me wishing for something other, transcending, an element of the spiritual, beyond the binary. A woman walked over holding a basket of thin branches woven into circles. “Look,” she said, “You can change your perception.” She held the woven branches in the air, peering through them as if into another world. She threw them in the fire and invited us to pick one and do the same. “This is Samhain. The new year. Let go of what’s burdening you.” She explained she had surgery on her neck to remove cancer cells, but we couldn’t see the scars because she drew a vine over them to give them new life. The vine covered her face too. “This is my pain,” she said. “And this is my medicine.”

She inspired me to feed the fire. I took scrap wood from the piles and walked around placing each piece on top of the already burning mass. It was piercingly hot. It kept me at bay, but slowly, I grew a rapport with the flames and made my way closer and closer until I felt inside the flicker and burn. It made me feel insignificant like ash, like I’ve been crumbling in transformation, blown indiscriminately by the wind, and returned to the earth. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, because currently the social climate of the country is experiencing breakdown and upheaval. Thousands have been taking to the streets, and now thousands are traveling to Standing Rock. To align oneself with the movements is to feel the structures shift beneath your feet, which is indeed returning folks to community action and protecting the earth.

As much as I get wrapped up in the mindset of the zeitgeist, I’m humbled by the world, how much there is to know, how many pathways there are to take, the grand totality of perspectives at play.

When I walk into bookstores, I’m swept away by the thousands of little worlds stacked on shelves, and the knowledge therein, held together by the thinness of pages. When I hop on the internet, I’m in awe of the way people string words together to create so many clashing realities. So many bubbles that build up and eventually burst. Communication is a wonder. And it goes beyond alphabets… Eye contact, art, the brushing of bodies, the touching of minds. When I walk in the woods, I’m dumbfounded by the number of species of flora and fauna I cannot identify. All I can do is stare at the mystery. And study. And study. No wonder the earth is said to be Goddess. She is both exhilarating and terrifying in sheer complexity.

It happens often when stepping out & into the world: To know so little, but to see so much.

headstones anonymous as barcodes

row homes flash tv screen luminance
entertainment & news

sidewalks covet used needles
& scratched lottery tickets

empty beer bottles pile up like bullet casings

trees loom large and cast shadows

a murder of crows
a murder of

American flags
& police sirens

in a neighborhood park
people gather to praise Jesus,
his image on a banner
bloody & crying

we put our faith in so many dark places

in the dead of the night,
the junkies move like zombies
& the crackheads move like ghosts

fireworks bang in the sky

there’s a reclaimed lot burning a bonfire
the sparks fly into the stars

Reggaeton bouncing & bumping in passing cars, city blocks momentarily transform into dance halls and clubs. A simple pleasure fleeting.

It’s funny to see men doing roadwork on streets with yellow signs indicating children at play. Beneath the sign sit the workers’ empty lunch boxes. Meanwhile, they maneuver big yellow trucks pushing rocks and asphalt. A few guys stand off to the side. They admire the job and give words of direction. The world feels like a giant sandbox at times.

There’s a wheat paste of a woman with a simple statement written beneath her portrait, “You can keep your thoughts on MY BODY to yourself.”

Three old men sit on a ledge waiting for a bus. They look picture perfect, the morning light just right & angelic. I ask to snap a pic. One guy immediately says no. Another follows in suit shaking his head. The third gives me a boyish smile and a little shrug as if to say, “I don’t mind a photo, I’d actually enjoy one.”

The thunderstorms that roll in remind me of shadows from another world. The warm rain smells like Saturday mornings waking up late, drinking coffee, and reading old novels.

Some mornings we make breakfast. Some evenings we walk to dinner. I know she’s happy when she sings in the shower.

There’s a wall nearby with graffiti that reads loud & clear STOP THE VIOLENCE.

On the weekends, the neighbors around the corner sit outside and play dominoes.

headless serpent

I’m going to be 30 this year, and I don’t know what that means in the grand scheme of things, but people keep asking me how it feels. I remember having an existential crisis when I was 25 or 26, but it really only lasted a day where I really freaked & questioned my life’s purpose, the meaning of being, a plan for the future, and all that jazz.

Then I settled back into a flow and grind of work & play. I often think worrying is a waste of precious time,

but really, from a young age, I had a pretty solid grasp on my desire to write & think freely, so all those questions, big & deep, often appear like clouds in the sky- ever changing, yet consistently somewhere (clouds are always somewhere), they disappear, come & go, they produce rain and sleet and snow, and they cycle through so many different forms.

If I had to skirt the whole “life is a process, forever evolving, too hard to pin down” and ground myself in any thought process or philosophy (because, you know, 30 is that adult number when it makes sense to get more serious about your endeavors, and because I have no children but a number of brain heart children like art & books floating & growing in perpetual slumber, I’d say I’m a surrealist. I could go into further detail about dreaming or letting loose the menagerie of imagination or allowing words to flow out & break apart the general rhetoric of thinking, but I could digress for days

I could cover the sky for an hour
and vanish for another
with so many transformations in between,
until one day
I’ll burst
and give all I have to the ground,
a perpetual slumber
like a flower
seeding & blooming
& dying
seeding & blooming
& dying

I have an inkling, or perhaps a fool’s stance, that consciousness lives on. What can I say, it’s the child in me who hasn’t died, who likes to believe in lifelong dreams

So I guess that’s how I feel about the whole thing of aging, so many iterations

On knowledge, or lack thereof

walking talking
little automatons of buzzwords,
wearing our language like cloaks
revealing what reality we ascribe to,
naked underneath all our stereotypes
sweaty skin & tender flesh warm against
technology hugging ever closer,
overcome with viral fears because,
did you know, the media is a conspiracy,
the whole damn internet is an illusion,
maya, smoke & mirrors, happy to know,
there’s not a single reliable source in
the entire known world, so
where do you get your ideas from?
who are you talking to? who are you
talking about? if not through your vocal box,
your mind’s eye parched through with regurgitated ideas on repeat, wake up
thrown out like a broken record, wake up
burned like books in a digital fire, wake up
how did you arrive at your set of beliefs?
if not through a screen,
if not from a neighbor,
if not from a loved one,
if not from a scripted page,
was it spun from the double helix of DNA?
was it churned from the blood & bones
of your grandmothers?
was it a dream
or a drug that clicked like a key
unlocking the vast treasures within?
tell me, how we are all so enlightened
to have an opinion in the first place