Picnic Apocalypse

Prayers echo through the windows.

Like the stoop conversations. Like the birds who chatter at sundown. Like the hip-hop that bounces off of walls. The prayers occupy that space between singing and chanting. These prayers in particular I cannot fully understand. The words twist and float in Arabic. As much as I do understand though, I understand the feeling of a blessing. God is with us. Goddess dances.

I dreamt of a small city up in flames. I sat on the edge. In a forest. I wanted to take a photo of the bright fire through the trees. It appeared magnificent. Brilliant and sad. Infuriating. It encompassed a dynamic spectrum of emotion. An outburst of flames. Death. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Lots of people hung around doing their thing. Mostly unnoticing. I wanted to yell and scream, “Can’t you see? Can’t you see?” But everyone looked unbothered. I walked closer to the flames to gain a better perspective. Without warning, an enormous flooding deluge of water ran ripping towards everyone.

A river tidal wave.

I ran with an urgent jump, climbing a tree to stay above the rush, but I grabbed a branch that bent under my weight. The branch set me back down toward the oncoming water. The top of the white frothy waves caught my feet and floated me to another tree. The water whispered angrily a message of reassurance. I grabbed onto sturdier branches and climbed to safety to the tippy top of the tree.

I gazed at the smoke-filled sky. When I turned the other direction I saw next to the tree a giant Romanesque archway carved into the side of a cliff. More people hung atop the structure drinking wine, eating bread, cheese, and fruit, relaxed, watching the world burn and flood as though it was just another day.

A picnic apocalypse.

I awoke wondering what the heck is wrong with people? But it’s not just other people. It’s reflections of myself. Admittedly, I maintain a strong desire for joy and celebration, especially in the face of IT ALL. But I don’t want to falter into escapism. Nor do I want to sit back comfortably eating popcorn watching societal breakdown like a movie of fiction.

To be real. To raise the spirits high. To keep an ear to the ground.

Like conversations on the stoop. Like birds who chatter at sundown.

Prayers echo through the windows.

Advertisements

The Witch in the Doorway

The sky cast an ugly shade of red on the ground. Normally she enjoyed the sunrise, but this particular blood-red reminded her of the streets piling high with bodies. The blood rose up to her ankles. At least. The blood fed the harshness of tar like rain fed the miracle of plants. The blood covered the buildings. The cars. Her hands. How could she ignore it. It was supposed to be beautiful, but it made her resent the light. Normally she prayed to the sacred ball of fire. Closing her eyes holding her hands at her sides palms facing the heat absorbing the vitamins the light burning her lids awakening the third eye. But today it stung her skin.

Not the usual start to the day. She took it as an odd omen.

She returned home and brewed a pot of coffee. She opened her notebook to a blank page.

The night prior she dreamt of a field swaying with a single type of flower. Chicory. The plant grew four feet high with delicate blooms and green, hardy stalks. She harvested a basketful of the periwinkle flowers. The breeze combed her hair whispering pollen and yeast.

A city sprung up around the field.

It felt romantic. She walked the tiny alleyways. Passing little yards. The fire escapes hung with clotheslines. Graffiti covered the brick. The sidewalks cracked with plants. A slight creek cut its way like a snake transforming the post-industrial roughness with a trickle of peace.

She paid a visit to the house of a witch. It was a reoccurring theme in her dreams. The first time she found the house she awoke with such inspiration she became determined to find the house again. The walls were lined with everything you would expect to find at a witch’s house. Books of ancient musings, glass jars tightly sealed with herbs, potions, oddities. Flowers hanging from the ceilings. A cat purring on the window sill. The sunlight filtering in slowly, gently touching every plant in the house.

She gathered the chicory flowers in exchange for a ritual. The witch did not charge her but she gave them to her anyway as a token of appreciation. The witch placed the flowers in a bowl next to the cat on the window sill. It had taken awhile to convince the crone to perform the spell. Many nights dreaming. Many visits paid. She had never expected to find the old woman again. What were the chances. The subconscious is infinite. But that initial dream made such an impression she had to return.

She laid her hand on the table, palm up, as instructed.

The witch retrieved an old tomb with tattered paper full of signs and symbols and flipped to a particular page. She tapped it with a long fingernail and cleaned a knife while whispering succinctly a strange tongue sanctifying the metal. A spider scurried across the pages of ink.

The witch made the cut quickly. Blood dripped into a cup of dried petals and crushed mushroom caps. The witch instructed her to place a pinch of the mixture on her tongue and the rest was lit on fire. It crackled loudly, surprisingly so, reminiscent of fireworks at a distance. The flame disappeared in a flash with no trace left. The witch dressed the small incision on her palm with dried yarrow and St. John’s wort. It healed instantly. The cut swallowing the flowers transforming into flesh.

She closed her eyes and fell into another dream. But she couldn’t remember anything from that second dream save a cellar door leading to a dark basement. She woke up.

What was the meaning of the dream? Why the basement? Why the blood? How did it connect to the anger she felt upon seeing the blood-red of the sunrise? What was the witch trying to teach her? She had so many questions, but what frustrated her most, it was her own subconscious. She wanted the witch to be real, but she knew better.

She refilled her cup with coffee and began reading the other entries in the journal. Perhaps a clue would arise. A missing piece of the puzzle. After a few unsatisfactory entries, she flipped to the beginning pages of the notebook where she found the entry from that very same day one year ago:

I visited the witch again. This will be the third time. But she keeps repeating the same lines over and over. “Seek the place where the rage is cultivated. There you will learn. There you will hear the strength of your mother, your mother’s mother, and her mother before that. Seek on and on until you awake.” That’s all she says over and over. I don’t understand the message. Mom was never angry. Not that I ever saw. But she grew up in a generation like that. A quiet generation of domesticated women. She had her “wild days” as she described them but then she had children. She grew up. And I never got to know my grandmother let alone her mother before that. I don’t know what to think. I question my own anger, to understand where it comes from. But nothing appears beyond the normal narrative landscape. Misogyny. Men’s entitlement. Rape culture. I could go on and on. Pressures to have children. To be beautiful. Yes. Everyday I am filled with a quiet rage. I guess I hide it out of fear of repercussion. But am I missing something? Is there something deeper? There’s war on brown and black bodies. Both at home and abroad. I am ripped apart daily. The destruction of the land is ever-present. I just don’t know what to do. I do what I can do. How am I supposed to cultivate rage?

She closed the notebook. She had forgotten about those first days of visiting the witch. But now it seemed connected. She remembered another dream. A dream she had only once. A dream she didn’t have time to write down. But it returned to her like a breath of fresh air amidst a midsummer’s heat.

When she fell into the dream, the surrounding city never arose right away. The buildings sprang up after she spent time in a forest, or a meadow, or a river. There was no telling how long it would take. To pass the time she went on hikes, took naps, dipped for a swim, meditated under trees until finally the city appeared. Except once. One time the city didn’t appear.

She fell asleep and entered the dream as usual. She wandered the woods and found a stunning plant. Ghost pipe. A wonderful specimen of life. A plant without chlorophyll so it remained totally white. Because it didn’t produce its own food, it latched onto the mycelium of a mushroom to gain nutrients. The mycelium received nutrients from the roots of a tree. An epi-phenomenon. A dream within a dream. The ghost pipe spoke softly, “Save my spirit, dear one. Save my spirit.” She smiled. The whisper echoed the trees like the wind rustling feathers and leaves. She sat with the plant.

She noticed smoke in the distance so walked in that direction. As she neared, the entire forest looked to be engulfed in flames. She walked closer and soon realized the flames arose from a single cabin surrounded by trees. The cabin remained unaffected despite the violent flicker of flames. She thought it might be an illusion, but the heat pouring from it proved her wrong. The witch appeared in the doorway. Also burning. But like the cabin, not the least affected.

In a very unexplainable moment, her awareness split in two. She saw herself standing outside the cabin & she saw herself within. On the countertop a giant cockroach crawled into a mortar. It disgusted her. Her body shook in revulsion. She found it amusing too. Animated. Cartoonish. She wondered if she could act quickly enough to crush the cockroach, but realized that would be foolish. The splatter of cockroach wasn’t a welcome ingredient. The cockroach perked up its antenna and scurried away.

The witch stared at her, nodding as if reading her thoughts.

“To hold rage close to your heart. To be in the flames but not burned up. To throw heat in the direction you choose. Protect yourself, dear child. The anger you feel is not simply from your present life. It arises from generations and generations. It is a weapon you need to learn how to use.”

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 intertwining ineffable grotesquerie of desire & death

( )

i’ve been coming out as non-monogamous my whole adulthood
slowly hitting bumps & shadows
fucking up because i get stuck in infatuation
i get stuck in the binary of two
always wanting elsewhere
breaking her heart, my heart, their hearts
because my fragile male ego couldn’t take responsibility
for inflicting hurt
for the inability to reveal
for the lack of communication
the festering
the convoluted decisions
hiding, repressing emotions & connections
becoming a monster full of rage at myself
lashing out
taking it out on others
for which i regret being stubborn &
full of self-righteous supposed knowing
there are not sufficient words to dispel scared immaturity

( )

you can’t erase memories.
you can forget them,
but the moments still happened.

( )

growing up in Christian Catholic Puritanical America
surrounded by guilt and shame
finally breaking through the status quo denial
to more fully act upon & trust my desires
to live openly, sharing romance
and intimate visions of loving one another

yet new struggles emerge
with every transcendence into collective selfhood

( )

if eros is pleasure and the urge toward life
then thanatos is the urge toward pleasure and death

( )

the wrenching loneliness
amnesia
riddled poison
panging through blood
the shit-ass wasting away in bed, sagging like
the whiteness of hospitals
trapped and aching
aging, dying, in a room alone
the fucking sadness, riddled
this is where we go to die
like a bullet in a body
like a catheter
a machine
wires dangling
external veins
a heartbeat simulation on a screen
beeps and valleys
beeps and peaks
the white noise static
the whir
the beat in the chest
alone

instead of dissociating into embodied fervor & collective madness
we dissociate into digital fantasy
alienated
so often ((far)) away from others

( )

crushed by propaganda, entertainment,
apartheid, stricken to believe
the singsong narrative of explosions
beholden to comment on the going rhetoric
wrapped up in another’s tongue
imposed dramas
rampant disorder
excruciating awareness of the tears, heaving
body shaking, repeating the same words
over and over
“what is this mental institution?”
the way the spit dribbles, baffled
scattered in dementia
memories fleeting like tiny rivers

( )

what of the song of grandmothers chanting
the stomp of feet on earth, the ancestors stirring
what of the echo in ribs like mountain winds
calmed yet stirred by the beat of drums

“isn’t there something better?”

( )

the fucking tear through life
the bullets ripping
banging
the mayhem
the pandemonium
pandora’s box unleashing
fire, murder, flooding
the scorching realization of apocalypse
the absolute state of terror
the gut gripping,
America, brutality

“isn’t there something better?”

( )

forlorn ecstasy

( )

celebrating in dionysian fields of forgetfulness
the intoxicated fear
trumped up like the trumpets of death

( )

the squabble of lovers disappears
the desire to kiss and kill
cascading bodies atop bodies
consumed by chemistry
the flesh dripping sweat
like flowers after rain
petals falling from the sky upon climax
to cuddle & whisper
impulse to closeness, closer
peripheries mushing
abruptness of intimacy conflicting
drawing on tensions
the sting and flush of skin
pleasure
swimming in spit
saliva
desire
the sumptuous feast of little deaths
repeating

“what is this mayhem?”
“where is my breath?”

( )

the cry of the dying rings across the land.
the empathic flame of people,
blowing prayers in the air with the smoke of a cigarette

“isn’t there something better?”

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

A Surrealist Episode

The witching hour, when shadows transform into a menagerie of wild beasts & the imagination overcomes the so-called debate. Politics flutter and break like a butterfly out of chrysalis, transforming flags whipping loudly in the patriotic wind. Money burns on the sandy shores of a foregone hell & a hand basket fills itself with fruits & pleasant greens. Alcohol sucks down softly, a straw of memories too intoxicated to decipher the trail of delicate cells, spellbound & brainwashed in personal sputtered out beliefs.

Anarchy astute in the complexifying crumble of conversations, wide-eyed & grasping symposiums of stars aligned disjointed like the steps of little ants climbing hills & bees building a geometry of medicine sticky in harmonic sweetness.

I wish it was a dream, said the realist. I know it is a game, said the dreamer.

And a galaxy falls in crunching leaves, hidden beneath a pile of shit not scooped, smeared across a sidewalk cracked open by magic weeds & trees buckle riotous against imposed structure.

Somewhere, the aroma of a chimney mirrors an invisible signal, the armageddon is false.

The apocalypse is up in smoke.

The telltale end only decomposed & nourishing a frenzied beginning.

The trickle down of ancestral lines wrapping roots around bent knees seated nicely at desks chipping away at pixels. Digital statues chiseled in cyber consciousness like the knowledge of babies bound up in wombs feeding vibrations of data painted unfettered. The fetus a spirit, a faint skeleton curled up on black lit translucent canvas, dispersed into stillness before knowing a first breath.

Every human, the new human altering futurism. Remember.

A tattered page peeled roughly like dried bark whipped from a holster of prayers shot thru the air silently challenging the science of myth-making. Every bullet calls forth a rhetoric of fear snaked around humanity choking the young to life. The blood of blackness nurtures street tar & the rebellion of adults is sequestered by news anchors. A holy vision erupts in a tired blasphemy on repeat shedding light slowly dispersing the subtle flicks of tongues tipped in cognitive dissonance.

Another tragedy dispersed across the earth like ash & soot. Another martyr freed in a luster of hope. Another cloud full of rain tears up and releases itself.

And somehow, the sun rose, bright and plentiful like a field full of thorns. And somehow, the moon cascaded into darkness like a waterfall splashing the harshness of oceans.