Pages from a Discarded Storybook

They woke up early in the morning. Right as the sun peeked over the horizon. A fanciful dream left a vivid impression. Their limbs had transformed into branches and roots. Like Kafka’s metamorphosis, but a tree.

No sooner than getting out of bed and putting clothes on, a wave of depression flooded in. The feeling from the dream disappeared like a wind. Their feet and body felt heavy as though walking through miles of sludge. The struggle began. Acutely. Today was bound to be a shit day.

Where did the dark clouds come from? Why was everyday filled with tears? They tried to fid answers, but every step of the way became blocked up with harsh realities.

Detention camps. Fear propaganda. Rampant injustice.

The list could go on and on, and it created paralysis. Powerlessness. Stagnancy. They tried ignoring it for a moment, but the signs of the times seemed to be everywhere. Even walking down the street and seeing a cop car. Everyone reacted like a predator had shown up to feed on the downtrodden. Because it had. Law enforcement agents stood at a memory’s distance from Japanese internment camps and the Carlisle Indian Schools. It was just a different time with a different mask. Same methods. Divide and conquer.

The mood hung like a fog over everything.

Seeing people playing basketball on the courts or kids running around yelling and screaming seemed surreal. Unthinkable. How can anyone enjoy themselves when the air was thick with fascism? Perhaps people needed moments of reprieve. A few hours of laughter and celebration to make the world feel bearable. And of course, the kids didn’t know any better. They didn’t know the world they were brought into. To them, magic still coursed through everything.

They stood for a moment, hanging onto the chain linked fence by a few fingers, trying to remember their childhood. But it flew away like the morning’s dream. The images remained, but the feelings of freedom could only be experienced vicariously by watching the children play in passing.

Without warning, the sadness turned sharply into seething anger. Like a stranger had slashed their gut wide open. They looked around but no one was there. Their whole reality flooded with red. They gasped for breath.

Why did it always happen so quickly?

They stormed down the street, bumping shoulders, people yelling. They didn’t know what to do or where to go. They felt like dying.

They almost always wound up in a graveyard. Nobody went there so it seemed natural. They fell between the gravestones. Dry heaving. Coughing up spit and tears.

At that moment the skies covered over and broke into a thunderous downpour. They laid on their back and cried, begging for a strike of lightning right to the heart.

When the storm passed without answering their prayers, they walked dripping wet into work. They were only five minutes late this time.

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.

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
less of the ephemeral rhetoric

Sometimes I romanticize the proletariat revolution. Folks waking up whistling slinging a shovel over the shoulder digging and building. I imagine people working with the earth, closely, sometimes with machines, but mostly with hands & tools. Shovels, axes, picks, hammers, saws. Constructing the world majestically, with the utmost patience & craft, slowly cultivating strength, resistance, and local food-producing gardens. It’s a dream. I know. Maybe that’s what the commies had in mind. Marx, Mao, Castro. But they got corrupted like any man in power, and what’s their lasting legacy?

What does it mean – Workers of the world unite?

I would love for people to wake up voluntarily to build schools, sturdy housing, without argument or shootings. Feed the starving. Teachers teaching without such constraints on curriculum, doctors healing, billionaires donating, and the government doing its job aka handling authority humanely, rotating positions turning over quickly, quit making careers out of politics aka cease & desist warring on the people from perched up on that capitol hill. We are all on the work & grind every damn day. We even got a hustle on the side. Whether it be two jobs three jobs going to college serving food or in an office. It can be sickening. Where is the trickle down? There is none. It’s all bullshit coming from above. Nothing real is happening in the politics of this country. It’s all symbols. A flag got taken down. Great. A relic of the past spitting in the flames.

What about the homeless? And PTSD veterans? Women’s healthcare? Public education?

A mountain gets its name reinstated. Great. Honor the slaughtered. I’m not trying to minimize it. Denali is monstrous. Our apologies should be equally as large.

What about the southern portion of the USA that once belonged to Mexico? Immigration? Should we really expect fictional borders drawn across flimsy paper to withstand culture & time? Shit, America was stolen in the first place.

Where is our common ground in the States?

Guns & prayers.

People want 2nd amendment rights… Quit using The Gun against your neighbor and start fighting those tyrants ruling in the elite. That bastard over at Nestle? He’s stealing our water and selling it back to us for a price. And Flint with lead in their water? That governor is running a filthy regime, disabling whole cities, destroying infrastructure, letting houses crumble. These are crimes against humanity.

We need Unity woven through the hearts of people, siding with one another to fight the maelstrom of media and corrupt politics trying to divide us at the seams. We are the real change. No promise from politicians is going to work. People need to see eye to eye. We need to acknowledge, now more than ever, we live in a global mind, and working all of us simple folks with many cultures is the daily routine. We need to turn our collective eye on those who are corrupt and topple them with our rage.

Corporate welfare is taking our money one tax season at a time. Places like Walmart need to pay their employees a living wage, i.e. education through college for their families, full coverage healthcare, vacation time, sick leave, and maternity leave should all be normalized for employees who work full time.

From there, we can start talking about working fewer hours on a weekly basis. Providing We the people with the American Dream. Extended leisure time. What was the Industrial Revolution all about? And the Tech Boom? There are machines and computers that can do and should be doing a whole lot of our work for us. What is the point of Being, if we are just coerced into endless days of labor with no reward? When do we have time for actually living? And I’m not talking about the weekends. Or that token of two weeks vacation.

I used to have dreams I was sitting on the moon looking down at the earth. Our green and blue planet was always on fire, looking more like a raging sun. It would implode in on itself, and start growing anew.

I think it’s an apt image for what’s occurring in the larger collectivity of consciousness. Our world is burning in more ways than one. Ideologies that once made sense are now dissolving rapidly, and people are desperately grabbing onto anything to stave off the fire.

But, what is so scary about getting licked up by the flames and becoming ash & dust? After all, it’s the source of life & power for the phoenix.

We’re human though, not some mythological creature. We have to get real- There are people dying, there is mass oppression. What of the continuous violence?

People are still being abused by police. And police are still getting off without being held responsible. It’s madness. It’s both infuriating and sad. I’d venture to say, it is important to shed light on police brutality, but, it’s a catch-22: Does sharing videos of police violence proliferate it in both our imaginations and reality too?

It’s important to maintain awareness, but at what cost? Is this the old metaphor of growing from the muck like a lotus? We ought to maintain a finger on the pulse of reality, but if we cease to dream, if we have no vision of utopia, we are lost to a ruthless system. I am not asking for outright ignorance as a means to bliss. What I’m saying, with all the corruption we see today, it’s necessary to stay on the creative side of destruction.

The Mayan prophecy swept through the consciousness of people like a great tide flooding biblical earth in the early 2000s, destroying old thoughts and out-moded paradigms. Remember Katrina? El Nino? The tsunami in Japan?

When the Europeans invaded South America years and years ago, the indigenous quite literally absorbed the customs & language of white people only to spit it back out with their own flair & anger. Guerrilla warfare. Che. The Sandinistas. The Zapatistas. Picking up spare shovels, hoisting up their guns, shaking raging fists at warhawks & imperialist pigs. We can relearn; we need to protect the land and build community with heartfelt visions of the future.

Ocean waves crashing down. The roar of water loud as the media pummeling news & discontent. Like fireworks booming in my sleep. Dreams, a momentary escape. The ocean sprays a mist and a sense of peace pervades the beach. I dive right in. The sea foam gentle washes me up. How incredibly infinite and small. Thought after thought. A grain of sand, a smooth stone. Erosion. To stand in the ocean. Resistance. Radical at the root. Does freedom really exist in a country all tangled up in a prison complex? Are we numb to the violence? Reform comes with compassion, an ear who listens, yet we’re arguing over flags & guns, rebel this, civil that, waving politics left and right, shooting off reactions without thinking first. The issues obscure our need for family, connection, community. Transcendence beyond red and blue, black and white. As salient as salt to the sea. To be woven through with understanding. The ear who listens. Why remain silent? There are too many injustices to decry, too many wonders to exclaim.