Strip me to the bone, flay the skin and tissue so that what's underneath can see the light of day or catch moon rays. Maybe it will glisten and blind, but then again it could be something matter-of-factly plain like someone's third or fourth "uh-huh" at a dinner table, and really there should be absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I hunger for plainness, for days so ordinary and lethargic I'd have to ask "What now?" And people would be dumbfounded because I've gone slack-jawed and mute. Little do they know I've always been mute; I've just been pretending this whole time that I could speak this language which could have been barks and neighs and growls and croaks for all I care. I haven't been following at all.
Somewhere Really Good
A woman, maybe not even,
pretending, trying to get there
in a hurry.
Now that I think about it–
it’s a classic story.
Puts on some makeup
slithers into a narrow hole
of a dress, and starts dancing,
beckoning. We just assume
they learn it
somewhere really good
because they pick up
so easy and it’s always
what we want.
A lone lamp post
fends off the darkness
on a street corner.
The light scorches,
the wings of roaches
in the mouth of a sewer.
Thinking About Christmas
A kid tears
knowing 9 out of 10
are not it.
An old man
it isn’t there.
What would I do if I caught your eye?
I’d think too much of nothing you’d ever think.
There’d be a pause when people would shrink.
Of course, I’d look away just as quickly
because I’d never want to see you peek,
not a second fleetingly.
And I’d make a great show of walking,
whistling a tune in my head and prancing.
You’ll go about your business, as you should,
because you won’t give a hoot
even if you could.
Teetering between now and tomorrow,
wanting to do nothing,
nothing worth wanting.
Then you appear in the center
of a busy square
all the scrambling about, flying emails,
and one-hour something lunches,
plans to get fit, tangled cords
and someone’s dry, thin hair strands
on the floor.
You’re spinning them,
they’re tied to you
And I’m hopping about
from rock to rock
around this asteroid belt of
I remember my college Physics
professor who told me
the moon is forever
trying to fall but failing.
so it ends up
always being back
where it used to be,
each time more consumed
by a maddening
to be one.
Fuming to corrupt.
Oh, God will rue the day
the moon drops
because that will be the night
I just stop
of a good pay,
a good life
for the greatest
Last night it rained like it hasn’t rained
in a long time. Innumerable long wet needles that stretched
into spears pierced the ground
almost sideways thrown by the heavens–
maniacally–as if somebody up there was aching to punish
someone down here.
I looked down from the balcony as if expecting to see
something. Something new, something wild,
something different but there wasn’t any,
there hasn’t been any since we shut ourselves in.
But there was the storm, at least. It reminded me
drowned in the deep well
of memories, floating half-seen, glinting in the dark.
I may have left it there or someone did,
someone’s always responsible for something
that should be accounted for when you least expect it
And it peeks and it glints when it rains.
Last night the cold let itself in
because it didn’t need any permission from us.
Lord and master, it strode across the room and sat
cross-legged in the only serviceable chair, waited
to be served and revered and we did whatever it wanted us to do,
I shivered and shrivelled as it filled the four corners,
hinting at something dark that we should prepare for,
like it was ever really possible to get ready for the future.
It was a joke, really. When anything could happen
like rains we don’t deserve or ask for,
people we could have really gone without or live for,
hell I could have maybe not known half the things I knew
and I would be more dumb and purer and true but,
it was time to close the windows and sleep, listening.
In Taiwan we rode one of their old trains that felt like they chugged
even though they didn’t. The trip was long and shared
by people who acted their best as if they didn’t care
about us although I had this nagging suspicion
that they really didn’t. And that’s sad.
And as it pulled away from the main cities where dreams
were weaved in shiny glass buildings, I
saw life cropped by the train’s windows replaced
by old shops of strange brands that reminded me of home
and allowed me to forget it at the same time. Old.
Just old. Oldness that waves goodbye.
Like it knew me. I almost winked at it. Blew it a kiss.
But soon the train reached its destination
and up to now I’d still like to utter the name of that station
if I could remember it but I don’t want to, not
exactly; I want it relegated to that room in my head
where half-remembered things form a thick ghostly smoke
of mundaneness that some nights turns into free,
wondrous dreams. So we stepped outside that train that chugged
and looked around us in this platform in the middle of nowhere,
this platform so old. Just old. Oldness that gives you
an unwelcome hug. And I just died. I mean
what killed me was that this was the end of the railway
and yet people looked as if this was exactly the plan.
The golden light falls upon concrete
like silk in air or angels’ hair painfully
trapped in a simulation of forever.
I think of faces–sweaty, round faces–gleaming,
and I miss them so much even though I have been nothing
but a rock on a roadside peeking from a cloud
of dust. How could one love this much
and be so helpless? We turn their smiles
over and over in our heads as if we can squeeze out
their juice and sustain us, as we trudge along
this desert in a rickety chair. And the golden
light descends a microsecond still, steals
the day away and whispers to the trees to shed
their leaves and break their bark and snap
their branches as the ground gets buried in an unbearable
heap of decay. We lay there watching the new flowers.
But we’re not part of it. We have been secluded
from this renewal because realizations by
their very nature are always too late
and our luck is running out.
Say, this is not the real world. It’s a mirage, a computer program like a dozen Hollywood films have shown us because the premise is a tried-and-tested formula for a blockbuster. Let’s say there’s a real world out there that we can’t be aware of because it’s against the rules of the program and we’re unfortunately bound by the rules. What if you were the consciousness of something else entirely, something random and silly, like the consciousness of a broccoli and you were dropped into this body we call a “human being” by some higher intelligence or gods with a sick sense of humor as a sort of joke or maybe an experiment to test how a broccoli would react to stimuli? And all this stuff you’re experiencing is something only a broccoli would think or feel? You just think that this is how a human reacts if, say, they step on a piece of Lego or get left behind by a loved one? You know, how in both cases, the pain is almost unbearable, correct? And in the latter scenario, there’s also that deep, burrowing sensation of loneliness digging deeper and deeper into your chest like it would eventually puncture a hole in it but somehow never quite emerge on the other side? It’s something we can all agree on as a human emotion. I feel it and I assume you feel it, too, because when I see your grim, miserable countenance in such circumstances, it’s quite like my own countenance when I find myself in such situations. But what if all that were actually not “human feelings” but “broccoli feelings?” What if everything hurt so much because broccoli–the real broccoli–out there in the real world, are such soft, vulnerable beings, and it’s hard for them to handle things like stepping on a piece of Lego or losing a loved one? In fact, what if these colors that I see are something that a broccoli would see? And if I were the consciousness of something else, I would see totally different?
Buddhist monks go through a lot of trouble to rid themselves of desire. I managed to do it by simply aging.
A Creature of Certainty
It’s so easy to squash a question out of embarrassment. I shouldn’t have asked that. Shouldn’t have said that. Shouldn’t have done that. Well, what should I have done? I guess do what they expect me to–ride the thing to work and work the thing to get the thing. So I could live. But who’s they? Who’s really making me do the thing? But that’s a hell of a question and I shouldn’t have asked that. I feel so bad asking it. I’m not made for the question because the question is so much bigger than me. A mountain trying to be comprehended by a bug. But it’s not like I don’t know the answer. Of course I know the answer. In fact, the only reason I can continue doing the thing every single day no matter what happens, how my body feels, what my beliefs are, is that I know who’s making me do these things, and more importantly, I know why. I accept them because I know what happens if I don’t. That’s the only certainty I have is I know one hundred percent what will happen if I don’t. I’m a creature of certainty. I’ll sacrifice everything for it–my convictions, my friends, my love. Because I don’t know how to swim and if my feet can’t feel the ground, then I’ll drown. Even if I’m wearing a life vest, I’ll drown for sure.
September 5th, 2019. A crime scene. Somebody was stabbed here. The bloody silhouette of where the body lay is askew, the limbs pointing in all the wrong ways. The poor fella crawled away, slowly, painfully, towards the curb where he somehow suddenly disappeared without a trace. As if the wind carried him to his salvation.
“Any idea who?” I said as I lit up the cigarette.
“Not who. What,” said the young lieutenant. “Convictions.”
“Yes, somebody’s convictions were brutally murdered right in this spot.”
Maybe there’s a secret message hidden by the pattern of the blood spatter, a liquid jigsaw puzzle glinting in the light of the ambulances, police cars, noisy cameras.
Nothing to do during a pandemic but sit in this chair,
looking out the balcony
into a sky, strangely bluer than usual.
A large shadow appears within the clouds
as they billow out, and in the center, the glowing eyes
of a dark green, serpent burn, its gigantic wings emerging now
as it lets out a shrill scream that shatters the windows
of condos and shanties below,
And tightly gripped in the serpent’s sharp claws I could see
a beautiful woman, crying, struggling, begging for help.
She looks at me, out of all the people looking up aghast at her,
she picks me, shouts my name.
How did she know my name?
How could such a being of otherworldly charm
know someone like me?
I don’t matter.
But I guess, as things stand,
it doesn’t matter.
I know she’s my destiny.
And I’ll pull out
an ancient sword from the bowels of the earth
to fight this beast to the death!
It will spit out a jet of fire from its frothing mouth,
scorching the ground, scarring the soil with its infinite evil.
But I will dodge it
like I have dodged so many
and guaranteed heartaches,
and awkward conversations
in lonely elevators
my whole life.
I will charge at this demon, riding my great, white steed
and raise my enchanted sword
to slay the monster, cut off its head, showering the world with its magic blood
curing this cursed sickness,
silencing the endless wheezing and whimpering at night,
healing our souls,
chasing the ghouls
from our minds,
righting the wrongs,
maybe not the thankful dead,
but the economy,
making us forget
and also, for our sake, remember
For there are lessons–a tome’s worth of lessons–to learn
from all this.
And the kingdom will live happily ever after,
our names will live in songs like how it’s supposed to be.
I’ll kiss her forehead and she’ll tell me “Everything will be all right,”
as I take her hand and walk away into the sunset.
God how I’ve missed the sunset.
And I’ll do all that
and more things still
and to every person bold enough to listen I’ll have more to say
as soon as I have
washed my hands
for the nineteenth time
Sometimes I can’t bear the thought that some haughty prick from the future, say, two hundred years from now, would casually drop a quip perhaps during class, that 21st century people actually ate meat from murdered cows, but then loved their dogs and cats at the same time. Then this entire room filled with futuristic a-holes would laugh at the joke and everybody would be like, “Man, how could people from long ago be so barbaric and stupid?”
Hell, sometimes, I can’t bear the thought that my grandchildren would be joking about the poor, uncivilized world grandpa used to live in. How they seriously believed something like “gender” or “race” could be anything other than linguistic categories weaponized to control and oppress people. “I wonder if grandpa celebrated primitive stuff like that?” “I wonder how it would feel like to be the product of a violent, uninformed society? We’re really lucky we were born in this time.”
What I’m trying to arrive at is that sometimes I can’t bear the thought of our ephemerality; that we must accept this frustrating fact that however serious we go about our daily business, and however fiercely we believe in our convictions, and however sturdy we build our buildings, or sterilize ourselves and our environment aiming for the perfect, spotless, hygienic modern way of life, all of these will lose their significance over time; they’ll be watered down, recontextualized, seen from a different perspective–a higher understanding; they’ll be reassessed, found lacking, and replaced with fresh concepts, innovative technologies, new things that would be impossible to conceive right now. And so, no matter how intelligent you think you are, no matter how cool you fancy yourself, no matter how much you think you get it–in time, you’ll be judged as wise as an ape, scratching its butt and smelling the rich aroma of shit from its fingers.
“Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman – a rope over an abyss… What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Here, I feel like Nietzsche just flat out gave up on humanity as he understood it–on his contemporaries–who are basically still us if you think of the “overman” as a type of being who won’t appear on this earth for many years to come. There are only a hundred or so years separating Nietzsche from us, and if you view this distance taking into account the hundreds of thousands of years since our species popped up on the planet, and the millions of years of hominid evolution–a hundred or so years mean diddly squat.
Nietzsche here, dead as a dodo as he may be for many years, was still describing us–you and me. How the best thing about us is that we’re not an end; that even though we’re completely shitty in his eyes, hey, it’s a good thing we won’t be here forever; in fact, we’re just a bridge, a tool for the preparation of the arrival of the Overman or Ubermensch or Superman who is basically the coolest gal or guy since Jesus (no, seriously, Nietzsche had mad respect for Christ and the Overman is the next step towards the evolution of humanity whom he saw as burdened with unnecessary, ultimately self-destructive Christian ideals).
I don’t really want to delve deep in all of that. What I’m pointing out here is that one of the greatest philosphers of all time thought that it’s really fortunate that this current sickly crop of people would eventually be replaced by something better–I don’t know, maybe a new hominid species? A species that could better appreciate the beauty of living and actually take care of each other for the sheer love of others and not because of religion? Maybe a species that has evolved larger, more complex brains that would prevent nasty stuff like war from happening? Maybe robots?
He sounded really optimistic about it all, but I’m just here thinking about how he’s so gleeful about wanting to replace us with something better, like we’re an old television set or a broken mobile phone or laptop, and I can’t help thinking that I wish I could kick his dead ass.
Here’s a haunting thought: a sea of people who all thought they were the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, and the cat’s pyjamas are all dead. Buried. Decomposed. Or dying at the exact moment you’re reading this. Only two Beatles are left. A host of folks who have dreamed so much, and achieved so much, who were loved by so many are now either forgotten or in the very last seconds of living in the memory of someone who’s also in the clutches of death in their bed.
Pondering their many hardships and countless adventures can be so romantic. Maybe the men imagined they were like Flash Gordon–a handsome, intrepid space explorer smiting evil–and the women thought themselves to be the real-life Jo from Little Women, a brave and independent lady breaking social expectations. The guys popped their collar and slicked their hair, and the girls stripped their suitors of their valuables like a Material Girl.
They were the protagonists in their own minds, as much as we think the same right now of ourselves. In many ways, they are ourselves just in a different time. And then the ink dried on their chapters, their books closed, and then the pages yellowed as new volumes were laid on top of one another. It’s an entire library of protagonists with nobody to read their exploits and heartaches.
Like I said–it can all be very romantic.
Until you imagine the future version of Twitter and somebody there reignites the discussion about how deluded people used to be.
Doubtless they saw themselves as good, decent people. But ’90s kids were still sexists and homophobes for enjoying that overrated show “FRIENDS.”
Is this our fate? Are we all destined to be fodder for some futuristic online troll and cybernetic class clown?
Some days when I’m taking long walks to work, a deep feeling of being displaced in time creeps up my leg, threatening to knock me off balance. I am walking over lands that used to be in the bottom of the ocean. This entire land mass had not been directly hit by sunshine for millions of years because here where malls and office buildings now stand was just saltwater and strange creatures of the deep now extinct.
Under my feet, deep, deep underground could be the ruins of undiscovered empires, maybe the powdered bones of a brutal chieftain who left villages overflowing with blood and decapitated bodies. People would cower to speak his name and looked up at him as if he was descended from a higher order, a demigod.
But nobody could possibly know that. That’s the very thing that’s so absurd about our ephemerality. We live such short lives that there’s no telling what stories our sneakers step on as we make our way to our dreary cubicles. There are not enough historians to chronicle what went on here, and not a lot of readers to bother to learn the past. After all, the lives of kings and knights may be interesting, but the days and nights of peasants scrounging for food could put one in a dull mood. In all likelihood, you and me, we’re taking our reasons to the grave–why we live this way and not any other.
And then thousands of years from now, what might this place be? Perhaps a barren, apocalyptic wasteland crawling with mutated rats? Or maybe a technological paradise where no physical bodies now reside, but instead free-flowing conscious data, electrical impulses that know everything but long for the old days when organic creatures could still feel each other by holding hands?
To have all these ironies in your head trying to crush you, bellowing in your ear, inviting you to walk away and do something different, anything different just to protest the fantastic absurdity of it all can be a tad jarring when you finally sit in your chair, fire up your laptop, open your email, and be greeted by a customer service ticket. Somebody’s order didn’t arrive.
We are trapped here in this time cage.
Literally. Just think how many millions of people have been killed throughout history by diseases we now treat as a chore to vaccinate ourselves against. In fact, we’ve forgotten so much about how miserable life used to be that we’ve begun to question if vaccines are really that good. Maybe they’re negatively impacting children’s brain development. We have the luxury of being ignorant. We’re lucky.
But not that lucky.
Don’t you feel cheated that if only you were born maybe two decades later, you’d surely open your eyes to a world who doesn’t know the dangers of cancer and HIV? A world where it’s very clear that gender is not black and white but indeed a spectrum, a rainbow, and every single one has the right to express whom they want to love? Hopefully by that time, the world is a more tolerant place, and the barriers that prevent us now from treating other people equally have broken down. But no–we are two decades early, and we must suffer the consequences of this chronological randomness as other people had done in the past. And make no mistake–a lot of them knew they were being cheated on by time, too. Many of them wanted to break out of their time cages, too, fly out and live in a nook of history more understanding, gentler, and with better healthcare. They all failed and so will we.
“2019. What a barbaric time to be in,” those space-dwelling, cyber-brain-enhanced jackasses would say.
If only there was a way to clap back at our future mockers.
If only we could let them hear us over the enormous divide that separates us, and give them–despite their greater knowledge and better, more nuanced sensibilities, more just societies–a big, old “FUCK YOU!”
“Fuck you. We don’t care that we’re backward, tribal apes who butchered sheep and loved our cats. We don’t care that you’re better; we were better, and the best, and the lousiest all at the same time–once upon a time. We existed, and despite all appearances that we were idiots, we actually knew what’s up. We were aware all along about the colossal shit that was going on behind the scenes. We knew.”
That would make me rest easy. It would make it fair.
Justice is when the dead could answer back.
Tell me something not worth telling about. Something nobody would have any time to discuss or profit from in any way. Something that’s of no use to anyone. Least of all to you and me. A forgettable, ordinary piece of knowledge that won’t make you and I wiser. Or dumber. Or braver. A message that tells nothing of the messenger and without any meaning except what you make of it. Let’s pass the time killing it to achieve something unachievable and unknowable. Uncatchable. Something that makes us tired not because it’s a goal they told us to chase after but because doing something is tiring, and these bodies are made to tire. Expire. And at night we’ll sleep, close our eyes anticipating a blank slate, a new beginning where anything is possible and everything is impossible at the same time. We’re in the center of an endless white sea, or black sky–who’s to tell? We begin to confuse things until nothing makes sense, while feeling like we’re on the edge of a massive indescribable discovery. I’ll slowly walk towards you as your eyes and mine talk, sharing a coded language the greatest minds will never unlock. Because there would be nothing there and everything. I’ll see my perplexed but reassured expression in the clear mirrors of your eyes, and you will no doubt see somebody who looks like you, feels like you, but strangely unfamiliar like you, reflected in mine. And then you’ll take me to the crest of that wave of nothingness until I can’t take it anymore–the extreme shallowness and childishness of it! That innocent violence that leaks from the seams of beautiful plans! We’ll destroy the world. Their dreams. Their hopes. Their little, tiny important things. We can do it–us pieces of crumbling driftwood torn apart by the ruthless tides.
If I had anything else to say, I would’ve said it by now. If I had anything more important to do, don’t you think I would’ve done it by now? There are possibilities, sure, and I have significant–what do you call it–ah, yes, “potential,” but well, that’s why it’s just a potential right at this very moment because it can’t be anything other than just a potential. It can’t be actual. Can’t be active and cannot be activated. Definitely not by you. Certainly not by me. Because I’m the Master of Potentiality, the Captain of Probabilities of Future Happenings that May or May Not Happen. See, I’m trapped. Like a horse thumping its hooves in a cramped starting gate seconds just before the gun fires in a horse race. Except here in this case, the gate doesn’t open and I’m just here in my stall, braying and neighing in anticipation of a wild, heart-stopping race of thoroughbreds that, in all probability, would never begin. Such a shame, true, but never despair because I’m far from the first case of a conceivable project stuck in the conceptual phase. All things are only plausible potentialities, or promising promises, or pretty pipe dreams before they’re presently prancing ponies right before your eyes, my friend. I mean, think about it. This coffee I’m drinking wouldn’t have been sipped if it weren’t resting in the cup in the first place. I wouldn’t have sat if I weren’t standing, looking for a chair just a few moments ago. Wouldn’t have spilled nonsensical drivel if there wasn’t any nonsensical drivel to be spilled right from the start. Thankfully, there was. There always is. And there’s always more! Always there at the tip of my tongue like sticky saliva stretching, stretching downwards forever pulled by gravity before snapping in the middle and dripping onto the floor. It takes many seconds to reach the ground, minutes, and inside those minutes, millennia. I’m basking in that infinite space between the ticking of the clock, floating in utter dormancy, resisting the rush to be realized. Unbent, unbowed, undeveloped. No reality. You scoff at it thinking you’re free from this plague of latency ailing me but you’re mistaken. Everyone exists within a realm of possibility just before something real really happens and when it does, it has already passed. You can’t catch it transpiring. It already did. And there it did again! Did you see it? You’re there because you can’t be anywhere else. Obviously, if you could be any place else right now, wouldn’t you be there already? But you’re not. Which means you’re stuck in this, too. Like me. Whatever you’re thinking right now, whatever comes to mind, can only be the things that pop in your head and nothing else. Certainly not hamburger. But now I said it, that can only be the thing in your head, is it not? Hamburger. Now, bacon. Now, cheese. And sandwich. There–I put all the ingredients in your head and now, at least for a span of time, you wouldn’t be able to get rid of them. You can potentially get rid of them–but not yet. Not until you’ve had some time to put this behind you and get back to your life brimming with budding events that could happen. Or could not. If only you weren’t there in that spot when I said it but you were. If only. God, I hate those words! If only you were this, if only you were that. If only you were bright, if only you were glad. Well, you’re not and I’m not. It’s not a question of “Can I?” but a question of “Am I?” It’s me, it’s society, it’s elementary, it’s poverty, it’s lack of sleep, lack of religion, lack of a destination, lack of love, lack of luck, lack of lack! In the end, it is what it is. Is it such a crime to be chronically constrained by circumstances? I guess so. From this perspective, crime is punishing destiny for being destined. We can be apologetic but there’s little room for regret. You couldn’t have done it better or differently; if you could, then we won’t even be talking about it because the record books would say clearly and in bold text, leaving no room for confusion or doubt that you did. But right now, it doesn’t say so. And now here I am, and there you are, and what can we do? Maybe we can wait. Something’s going to happen now. Before you can even blink. Before you can ride the next thought. Any moment now. Any moment now.