Monday, November 14, 2011

Before The Journey

There once was a magician who lived alone in a cave.  From time to time, other travelers and seekers would find the cave as it was next to a fresh water source and close to the dirt path that led all the way over mountains and forests and deserts to the land of spices and smoke.  Sometimes students came and brought him sacks of tea and paper and ink.  Sometimes the children of the nearest mountain village would leave sweets at the mouth of the cave and rice in burlap bundles.  Mostly, he was alone, left with the slow steady rhythm of his own breath and the restless occasional cracking of the rocks surrounding him, the sounds all houses make when they think they’re alone.
He had been there before his hair ever turned white, when his muscles had been firm, and though he had been there for decades, he was aware of how little time there really was, how birth seemed to have come just a few days before. Because of his acute awareness of time, he practiced his art with urgency and strict attention. He kept detailed notes about experiments, their results and the methods employed.  There were charts that outlined his emotions, his health, the weather and time of year.
In his dreams, he saw another world where there were tall buildings made of glass and steel.  He had dreamt of this place for many months. Upon waking, he felt the lingering desire to voyage deeper into the dream, to go so far in that there would be no memory of a cave.  The place in his dream was not better, it was only different, with smells and textures that did not exist where he sat.  He wanted to look into the eyes of the people and see what they had to share.
For months he tried various things.  He played in his dreams and covered himself in the smoke of local plants.  He chanted and organized and re-organized the order in which he set up the space around him and the methods in which he relaxed and let himself drift into dreams.  Sometimes, when the spell was working, it seemed like he could reach out and touch the glass of the tall buildings, but just as he stretched out his arm and moved his fingertips towards the glass, he would awake suddenly, aware that something had brought him back. He had not made full contact.
One night, he waited for the full moon to crest above him.  He could feel the light changing, growing stronger. Though he had no direct sight from the deep interior of the cave, the waters inside him vibrated in louder ripples as the moon rose over the mountain range. Sensations rippled over his skin, it felt lighter, smoother, stronger somehow. He waited, patiently breathing, allowing his body to move as slowly and calmly as the moon that gently rose. When the energy peaked, his body began to rock.  His eyes no longer perceived the clear lines of his world, they shifted like a color show and melted into each other.
He journeyed that night into the world of glass and steel, walking through streets that showed no signs of the earth, where the trees seemed planted as ornaments rather than mighty elements in the natural landscape. 
He wandered for hours, looking intently at the people that crossed his path.  They were women and men in bodies like his own, but their attention seemed taken, turned inward on earthly matters, squandered on abstractions and worries. He could sense their tension more acutely than ever, as though none could remember their true purpose. They walked past him like ghosts, never taking their eyes off the ground or off the objects in their palms. He noted their presence and posture.
He continued his walk, collecting his notes of the other world.  Soon he came upon a piece of paper that seemed misplaced on the sidewalk.  He stooped to pick it up and was startled to see his own writing on the paper.  He looked at it more and realized they were the instructions he had written to himself prior to the journey.  He looked at it with different eyes now.  Not the man that had thought of dreaming, the man that thought of going to other worlds, but this new man now, the man he was after touching glass and steel, the man that walked among ghosts.
He was struck by the second and third lines of his instructions.  Before every journey it was his habit to write out a list of directives, things we would need to remember while travelling, the incantations he would need in order to come back to the cave chamber.  He kept them in his right hand pocket always, a place he could easily remember to check when he felt the time was right. It was strange now to find it on the ground, easily lost or blown off by the wind. 
He looked at the writing, at his familiar script. But he felt a slight alarm as he noticed the extra embellishments on the curls of several script characters. It was a minor detail of handwriting, but he knew himself well enough to know what it meant. 
Over the years and countless hours of inner exploration, he had come to glimpse the many parts of himself, the light, the dark, the terrors another man would have hid away in fear.  The benevolent teacher and the raw animal.  There were a thousand faces in between the extremes of his machine and he had met with each one, he had come to know their habits and he knew the extra curls in his script indicated that several of his egos were active, manifesting themselves in his writing. 
Without realizing it at the time, back in the cave, he had begun his journey with them inside, active, unbeknownst to him, they had piggy-backed through his dreams, stepping with him through the door.  Had he known, had he paid enough attention, as he surely should have, he would have caught a glimpse of their presence.  It was a mistake, a dangerous one, bringing them along into this altered land, in this altered state, was a hazard. They could lead him to a very nasty place, a place dripping with identifications and worldly demons and monsters hard to defeat. 
He had not been careful enough. But he could begin again now. 
He stood on the sidewalk and placed himself in the center of a circle, imagining its firm golden walls.  He closed his eyes and began to breath rapidly, letting the palpitations in his stomach push those creatures to the surface of his flesh.  He felt them emerging and he saw their contorted faces in the awful visions before his eyes. Each breath pushed them further to the surface. 
He stood in place for many minutes, breathing rapidly with intense concentration, visualizing a clear, cleansed circle around him until finally he could feel that that his inner landscape had shifted.  He slowed his breathing and began to walk once again.  The sidewalk ahead was illuminated in the glare from a dozen mirrored buildings in the high sun. He walked through them, letting his intuition pull him forward.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


When the springs were longer and the earth was not covered in salt as it is now, you once asked me how to construct a talisman. At the time I told you to gather yellow crystals along the ridge of our mountain and construct a bag of fabric and twigs. At the time, I thought you were not ready for more complicated instructions. It was not just the degree of difficulty you might have had in procuring the substances and objects, but I also thought you were not ready for the power of a more sophisticated talisman.
As I said, the springs have gotten shorter, and there are many we could count and remember in the years we have spent together, so as I survey the white streaks in your hair, as I watch what was once a more impatient, angry man and see the slow, deliberate person before me at the fire, as I observe in simple detail the careful watch of a man that has grown into what will be a fine king, I see that you are ready. 
It has taken years, harder work than I am sure you initially thought, but as I have tried to show you through example, change is possible. As I have told you many times, kings are not made by riches, but by metaphor, and you, now, have developed the awareness necessary to hold your many facets in equal balance, at least much of the time. No gold or jewels could make a finer king.
I see now that more detailed instructions will be useful to you, perhaps not now or in the upcoming cool weather, but perhaps soon. I will impart what I have. 
As I have said many times, both to you and to others, there is no truth, just versions of it.  Each one will look different depending on the man who perceives it, and although it may be redundant, I much emphasize, there are many ways to make a talisman.  This is simply my way and the way of my teacher before me, it is not the only truth.  You are free, after careful thought and consideration, to alter the instructions if need be.  This mountain will change and the instructions may need to change with them. 
As I am sure you have understood, though I will emphasize it again now, it is not only the materials which are important (for indeed they are), but it is the way they are gathered, the calmness in you body as you design and construct, the even flow of breath as you move over the mountain.  So if you must change something, do so always maintaining your awareness.
When I am gone, as one of these days my body will return to the soil and a new journey will begin, you may look though the leather journals of my office and find other instructions, not just for various talismans but other things you may find useful. I must once again state that the world of magick is vast and deep, so do not hold onto the instructions like the habits and identity you once carried like a torch before your heart. These are instructions, not rules.  Look at them creatively, like you are creating something from the other worlds and bringing it to life (and indeed you are.) Life takes many forms and at some points, you may find it necessary to alter.  Use your careful and creative judgement.

Now for the instructions:

Take a piece of virgin parchment, made from the skin of a stillborn lamb.
It will probably be cold to the touch, warm it beside a low fire of hot coals.
Use your finger to draw blood, either yours or that of your female companion.
She will give to you, as she always does. 
Take what you need, she is willing. 
After the skin of the animal is cured and soft, (this I know you are capable of doing as I have seen you do it many times) take the parchment and lay it flat against a wooden surface.  Let the moonlight cleanse it of human touch, of animal remains, of anything that ever was before. 
Now it is something new. 
Draw a star in the center.
At the center of the star, trace the image of the sun in red ink and paint its center in gold.
Let the parchment rest in the moonlight for several hours.
Roll the parchment into a scroll, as tight as you can make it. Fold it in half.
Set it into a jar of water and let it sit until completely tender and pliable.
Form it into an oval and cover with the red sand at the mountain’s base.
Dry it in the sun. 
The entire process may take half a moon cycle. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Dead Weight Of The Past

What is it that he said so many years ago? Those words that went into her, dug into the muscles of her being like they were made for her cavernous places. Fitted just right, sculpted to stay there for decades, to resist change in all its forms and call to her like a siren’s deadly song. When the moon was ripe and the waters within her rattled with the call of wolves, the little steel sinkers would brush up against a few spiral shells and other lines and hooks left by other people, and though they swayed slightly in the current, they remained firmly planted.
“You’re dead weight,” he said, putting her down.
Exasperated, he continued, “there’s no way I can carry you.”
She looked to the ground, saddened by how her piggy-back ride had turned sour; all the joy she had initially felt gutted by one knife-shaped sentence.
“You don’t know how to use your body,” he said, “you just hang there like dead weight.”
She kept her eyes low, ashamed, but not sure what she had done wrong or how she could change. No matter what he said, he somehow, within the unspoken space between his words and the way his tone hinted at a past she was still unclear of, he always seemed to make a comparison between her and the other girls he had been with, girls who had not been dead weight. Others he had been able to carry and hold against a wall and fuck, but not her. His words, like a stone wrapped in white cloth, sunk to the bottom and settled in. He would send others soon.

Later, when his tattooed arms were gone and the smell of his cigarettes had been washed from her hair, she knew someone, just for one night, that did hold her against the wall of the white tiled shower with his grip. But the stone was still there.
Those things that he said so many years ago. Did he throw those words to hurt her, for pleasure, to get the many things he desired? His gallons of milk required with every meal. Orange soda, the only other liquid he would drink. The unfiltered cigarettes, the potatoes and pork chops and marijuana so he could pretend to desire her. All the things he wanted, that he said he needed, they all required a sacrifice and with each demand, she left a part of herself in the supermarket aisle, left it there to be swept up by the nighttime staff. When they went back home, all she wanted was an orgasm, but he blamed her for his inability to stay hard. She was too wet. Too wide. Too desperate, too loud. He told her each reason, sending more stones to the bottom.

In all the years they were together, she never saw him completely naked. He walked out of rooms backwards, unwilling to let her see every part of him. Did he believe himself to be dead weight? Not his body or his size or the way he held his body, but the pain with which he came. The heroin he took, the cigarettes he smoked, the marijuana he inhaled, were they the worldly manifestations of the hooks that had been thrown into him so long ago?

The other night, laying in a warm lap with the black curtains drawn and candles flickering across the white, naked wall, in a room that he had not known and would never know, she said, “make sure to tell me if I’m like dead weight.” It took her many days to remember were the words had come from, for they did not originate in her. They came up, out of her mouth, unearthed in the calm, clear waters of that long night. Those words, left by someone else, now they were her own fears, her own worry, her own weighted anchors.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Endless Search

I come into your world.
I bring what I know.
The open door leads to a warm hearth and narrow bed.
I see in you the life I never had.
The hot cup of coffee for breakfast.
The sweet smell behind the ears, mended laundry.
Your face is missing in the red rocks of still giants.
The range and nights of smoky fires by a river.
You cannot be here, just as I could never be there.

I can not join your world.
I am gone.
I’ve stayed away too long,
I let the wind tear apart my cheeks,
let the moon see my secrets.
The open night sky has sewn itself into me,
making me its own,
making me a man of the wild,
unfit for the walls of your house,
the sweet soapy smell of your skin.

I have stayed away too long, but maybe I was never there.
A stranger, a wild child itching to break free of mother’s arms.
A lone drifter.

I wander.
I look for home, for rest, for the end;
but they are not in houses, in open arms.
They are not in anything I seek,
but still I look.
Behind the mountain, across the stream,
under rocks, in the houses of other men.
I can hear voices, a howling wind, screams of women I loved but never knew.
I wander, searching.

I am the ghost without eyes.
The spirit who grabs onto any change of season, yet finds no rest.
There is no home, but my quest remains.
The endless search for those things I believe are real.

There is no home.
No destination, no goal.
I am a drifter. Searching.
Sometimes finding that glowing piece of light,
but it melts as the day turns into a black canvas,
and then I feel it again,
the shrill high call of the wind.
The shadows, the swirling stories of open fires and sunrise over the mesa.
I cannot be of another world,
I am a searcher.

The scene is dark, the home is not mine.
I am of the wind and its journey entwines with mine.
I am of the sun, moving always.
Shadows are all I know.

I search because I know nothing else.
Could it be any other way?
A home and kin and rocking chair by the fire?
A woman smelling of sunshine?
A child with my eyes?

I wander because I know no other way.
I am of the light,
of the places without walls,
of the fire without end.
The search with no conclusion
the seeking without end.

I am the searcher.
I cannot be found.
I cannot find.
I can never rest.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Solar Energy

I was on the 38, the orange bus that always takes me to the same place. Every morning, five days a week. My regular job. The one I do because I have to. The one I should be proud of but I'm not.
I like to take some time before I spend those eight hours sitting inside a box. I like to take my time before I get there to take a little flight into unexplored territory, to make a switch in dimensions... you know what I mean?
It's something similar to those digital abstract graphics. You know the ones I mean. You see these digital colorful patterns repeating over and over across a sheet of paper. There is nothing defined in them, no clear distinct shape you can recognize. However, if you stare long enough, if you concentrate on readjusting your eyes, all of a sudden, your eyes discover something three dimensional floating inside the picture, something that wasn't there before. Something that was there but you couldn't see it. Not before you readjusted, your eyes, your basic way of looking. A landscape or an object or a group of bodies, all floating in space. Invisible one moment, visible the next.
I play a similar game when I am sitting every morning in the back of the 38 Geary bus. The one that always takes me to the same place. At least it seems to be the same.

This morning I had the intention of playing, just as I usually would. I love playing. I always have. I love to sit and watch, looking out at the world through a transparent bubble of open presence, carefully readjusting the basic elements of my attention. I keep on doing that until I make the switch, until the switch happens. That's what I call it. The switch.

This particular morning, even though the intention was there, I felt as if my body was lacking the necessary energy to accomplish it. My mind was too busy, my attention jumped from one place to the other. This concern here, this memory there, an old conversation, a coming confrontation. I couldn’t pin it down, my mind that is. Flying around like that, I couldn't use it to make the switch. I couldn't be still and quiet long enough.
'There must be something I can do’ I thought. ‘All I need is energy, but how can I generate energy now? Where can I find it? How can I make new energy flow through me? What can I do sitting here in the back of this bus?'
I looked around, trying to see if there was something inside the bus I could use for my own purposes. I noticed how almost everyone inside the bus had their eyes fixed on their cell phones or their books. Hardly anyone was observing what was happening around them.
I then noticed the light dancing inside the bus as it rushed down the street. The light entered through the subtly curving windows, it reflected off the smooth surfaces, creating elusive shining shapes and shadows. It created quite a spectacle. A spectacle without an audience, other than myself. All of it was coming from the very bright sun outside.
'That’s it,' I thought. 'I could use the solar energy. This energy is available at all times. It has always been available. I just have to use it...I have to figure out a way to use it!'
This realization made me remember something I had seen in the news. A powerful political movement that wants to use solar energy as a way of generating electricity. I thought that maybe that there was some kind of relationship between my current thoughts and the things I had just read. A source of energy so evident and so all encompassing that we would tend to forget that it's there, always there.
I looked down at my own body, seated as I was next to the window of the moving bus. My body is a machine like any other. Made of different materials obviously. But still a machine.
I began to concentrate on extracting this energy. I pictured it flowing up my spine, spreading through my muscles, my nervous system. I felt it surging into my heart. I could feel it inside of me. Even if it was my imagination to begin with, the results of my concentration were not imaginary at all.
The machine was moving now. I could feel the motor running inside of me, roaring like a small counterpart to the big motor of the bus on which I was riding. That big orange metal machine came to a stop. It was time for me to get off.

'But now that I have my motor on, why not take a quick dimensional flight as I walk from here to the office?' I thought.
Using the same energy I had newly acquired, I propelled into a new adventure. I allowed myself to fly among the thick coats and hands grasping plastic cups of Starbucks coffee. Following the movement with my eyes, I let myself be blown away by the spectacle. So available and yet so easy to miss.
I remained conscious of the place where I ultimately needed to land….'right there on Montgomery street, that’s my destination.'
I flew freely and gracefully, from Bush to Sutter, from Sutter to Post. I started to slow down as I approached my goal until I finally made a full landing in front of the building that I knew so well.
Just as I landed, I noticed something at the on top of the gateway that beckoned me: a sign, a big star with the words "solar energy" written underneath.
'Ah!' I thought, 'In case I forget here is another way to remember!'

I made a full landing and made my way towards the elevator. I was a little disappointed that I had so much fuel, but couldn’t really take any real journeys inside this building. It's not too safe to take flight inside buildings such as this one. Too many eyes, too many ears, too many rules, too little sky. So I forced my self to land, to put down those invisible arms which were my landing gear and allow me to come back into the world of simple phrases spoken in a reasonable voice.
I did keep my motor running, just in case. It's so difficult for it to turn on and so easy for it to fall away and be forgotten.

I stepped out of the elevator and slowly walked trough the hall that leads to the entrance to the office, my office in a manner of speaking (although I certainly don't own it, it is more precise to say that it owns me.) As I approached the predictable day, with the predictable grounded people who had apparently forgotten all about flight, my body felt heavier and heavier. With each step the weight grew on the sides of my head, the place where sometimes wings could sprout. The motor started to fade, the energy I had just recently managed to accumulate was already going away.
'How do I keep it going?' I asked myself. …'It's as if the gum I had been chewing started to loose its flavor. Why keep chewing it if there isn’t any flavor left?'
But maybe there was some flavor left, maybe I could still find it. Maybe the sun hadn’t stop providing that dazzling juice which I had called energy, maybe it was still coming down all around me, an orgy of generosity so overwhelming that it could only be ignored.
'Maybe if I try once again?'

I entered the office and was greeted unintentionally by a bunch of tightly knit eyes and serious faces. The entire office had gathered in the reception area. There was a large meeting going on. One of those monthly meetings where they discussed revenue, premiums and profit and other stuff I still didn’t understand or care about. I couldn't bring myself to understand or care about these things, even if I was supposed to care, even if was supposed to understand. I couldn't find the handle that would make these things appetizing.
The others gave me a quick glance, then quickly returned their eyes and attention to the standing man who was talking. He was giving them, (or us I should say, as much as it is difficult for me to conceive of myself as part of this particular structure) the news of how much money we were generating by our dally confinement to a desk chair.
'Well, it's all the same, it's all about energy. How much we make, how much we use, how much we generate and get in return.'
Since I didn’t care much about the results or performance of this particular machinery (even if I probably should have, even if I was supposed to), I returned my attention to my own energy. My own machine.
It was quite difficult to do this. The larger machine that engulfed me kept insisting on using my will as its fuel. It was a role I couldn't fully accept and yet I couldn't reject it either under threat of starvation and other unwholesome consequences.

The meeting finally ended (as all things end eventually, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.) I walked towards my cubicle, and grabbed my coffee mug, as I usually do. I didn’t know if I needed coffee. (If I doubted it, I probably didn't.) But I did know that I had the habit of getting coffee every morning to start the day.
Before I sat for 8 hours straight in that chair, I liked to take a quick detour to the downstairs cafeteria. I would meet the Mexican ladies that worked there, serving drinks and food to the many creatures like me who were serving an indefinite sentence in this luxurious prison. I liked to chat with them every day. I liked to be reminded of my origins, the rhythms of my early thoughts, the melodies of my most basic language.
I liked to speak freely in Spanish with them. There was something so comfortable, so honest, so naked, and so delicious about it.
Inside the office I felt as if my origin had to remain hidden. I had to wear a particular uniform (the uniform of executives and executive assistants, which only pretended to be free but had very distinct rules in its practical application.) I had to speak a foreign language and I had to speak it in a particular way, modulating my voice to be comfortable but not too casual, firm but not too harsh. I was always adjusting my appearance to maintain a particular illusion for the sake of the others. (I didn't have a name for this illusion, but I had learned to recognize it, I had learned to create it. I could taste it, I could sense it all around me like a palpitating mouth made of metal and electricity.)
All this work on maintaining appearances could get very tiresome. Downstairs with the Mexican girls that inhabited the cafeteria I could briefly drop the disguise and breathe calmly, even if it was only for a few minutes.
There was also another distinct flavor to our conversations, something that set them aside from all other conversations I could have within this building. Sometimes we remembered our childhood, our lives back in the lands of brown dust and bananas.
We all came from underdeveloped countries, places where people are very poor, not too well educated, where people struggled to survive from day to day. These were places where life was quite difficult, where life is still very difficult to this day, much more difficult than anything experienced by the executives that surrounded us.
We shared these memories with each other. While talking to them, I would remember that I was in the distant United States, the pearl of the North which beckoned to all of us from the distance like an emerald city in the horizon. I would remember "Estados Unidos" with all the implications those words carried, the good and the bad, the seductive and the fearsome.
I would remember that I now lived surrounded by gringos, gringos obsessed with “making money,” gringos obsessed with "looking good," gringos obsessed with "getting ahead of the pack," with "being on top." They all had it so easy! They grew up without any real obstacles, certainly not the kind of daily obstacles we knew! They had time to get a regular education, they had the luxury of being picky with their food, they could indulge their days in cuddling their overdeveloped self esteem.
We, the Latins, we came from poor backgrounds where people struggled to survive. By remembering how different our lives had been, we remembered how strange this place was. By invoking our Latin sisterhood, we also invoked the foreign, we made it come out into high relief. The foreign was all around us, the foreigner with a different language, the foreigner with a different understanding of life, the foreigner with different ways of seeing.
I was now part of that foreign world. I worked among them. In many ways I was one of them. But down here in the cafeteria I could see them once again as the Mexican girls saw them, as I once saw them before I got too close.
As I mentioned already, I liked to switch dimensions. Talking to the Mexican girls allowed me to do so. Ultimately, by talking in our own language, we invoked the sun of our tropical countries. The damp heat of a day outside in the open air, surrounded by palm trees and mangles and wild vegetation growing freely around us. Our feet remembered a ground of raw dirt, instead of ceramic tiles, where we used to wear sandals every day instead of high heel shoes.

I left the girls and the cafeteria. I could only have a brief moment there and the moment had passed. I walked back to the elevator, coffee in hand. As I was approaching it, I noticed a girl I knew. She was a Salvadorean like me, another Salvadorean who worked undercover in these regions of quiet greed and silky hardships.
I had learned from the Mexican girls that she was from El Salvador. I had talked to her before, thinking we would connect at some level. At the very least, we would be able to relate to each other based on our common nationality, our related memories. On top of that, given that we worked in this same building our jobs were probably very similar. We had come here from almost the same place, to do almost the same thing.
It was as if she was a mirror of me, a reflection that had sprung from me a long time ago and I was now finally coming to find her (or was I the reflection and she was the original? was she the one finding me?)
Based on all these various similarities, I figured our contact would come smoothly and easily. But, in practice, it was not so easy. In fact, it was awkward and easily broken. There was no clear reason for the difficulty that I could see.
The few times I talked to her, I found that she was making a strong effort to avoid talking in Spanish, an effort to maintain her ‘office-English speaking-persona'. She would hardly ever speak Spanish, or say much about herself to me. Maybe because those few times I saw her we had been surrounded by other people in the elevator, maybe the presence of those alien eyes forced her to hide her true face.
But this time, we were all alone in the elevator. It was only me and her. I felt very free to invoke my Salvadorian nature to her. I was already vibrant with its tropical syncopated rhythms after talking to the Mexican girls in the cafeteria.
I asked her how she was doing, how was her baby, how was everything. I asked it all in a very Salvadorian way, emphasizing certain syllables, dropping certain vocals, shifting certain consonants. I wanted her to come out and speak to me in Spanish, in our language, the language that drags memories back out of that place where we have left them, our home, the turbulent chaos where we grew up, where we played, where we cried and suffered, where we had our first living taste of reality.
She answered all my questions in Spanish. We exchanged questions back and forth for a few moments. I could feel she was getting comfortable talking to me and that made me happy. In the middle of the conversation I realized that I had never asked her specifically what she did, what kind of job she performed within the building.
The elevator kept going higher and higher, my stop was coming soon. So I rushed and blurted out the question that had taken up space in my forebrain:
“Y en que es que trabajas?” (What do you do for work? )
She replied almost immediately.
“Yo trabajo en…” ( I work in…) “….en, …en” (
I realized she was making an effort to say it in Spanish. I had forced her to switch to this dimension with me and now she was having a hard time remembering how to describe what she did in the language of this other dimension. It was as if I was forcing her to change her currency from dollars to colones and she was having some difficulty doing the calculations.
“Trabajo en….” ( I work on…)
She made another effort, but the word didn’t convert easily enough. She still had to work on it a bit more. Her face showed the amount of effort she was going through.
Suddenly, the elevator stopped. The doors opened. I said to her:
“Me lo podes decir otro dia.” ( You can tell me another day).
But just as I stepped outside, she yelled at me in a voice full of sincere triumph:
She said it just in time, right before the doors of the elevator closed, sending us both back to the foreign dimension that was our daily residence.
My mirror reflection had just confirmed my thoughts of the morning, in a manner too oblique to explain, too complex to repeat. I had inadvertently switched dimensions once again. You know what I mean?
As I walked to my cubicle, I looked at the thick windows, at the bright sunlight that managed to make its way through them, at the living energy that was so easy to miss unless you shifted your way of seeing, so invisible unless you flipped the switch.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Eyes

I looked through his eyes and the world took on another color. The trees were tinged with a bit more orange around their pointed tips, the sky seemed a tad more shiny, just a few degrees brighter than the way I remembered it being.
I had lived with a slightly dull sky, clouds that were white and trees that were green and yellow. Color was a thing which was learned, like religion and dining room etiquette. We had been a family of green and white and pale blue skies and now that my vision had shifted, it was not just the hues which had changed.
My breathing was somehow heavier, coming from deep in the pit of my stomach, deep in the bowels of this creature I had come to know as myself, but it was all different now. A heavier breath pushed my lungs out and up, my mouth had to open to compensate for the highway of air that sought to escape. Each inhalation came with a ringing tone, a sound only audible to me and the tiny birds in the trees just outside the window.
I had stepped into his skin, taking on a new set of habits, just as deeply imbedded in the fibers and filaments of his being as the ones I had somehow, wonderfully left behind. Baggage left in the train station, I no longer needed it. I was free of myself.
My morals, my interests, the groups of words and movements that could have been described with my character, all of them were scattered letters now without a source of light. Things which had been. Bright stars that had fallen, finding themselves now without pull.
Nothing I knew would work now.
But light seeks a source, and soon I flowed into him. I looked for a door, a small little door that I could jam open with my shoe while I sought to understand. His motivations and secret desires flowed, moving through me, up through the pit of my stomach into the wide open highway of my mouth that was his breathing. I was him. I was me, no longer able to distinguish the me that was with the me that is.
The outside world is no longer relevant. Convention, morality, right and wrong, they were for the rest of them, for the masses that submitted and followed without question, without a chance to ever fully become and blossom. They would stay like closed up rose buds on a thorny branch, waiting for a sun that was forever blocked by clouds.
Dreams were different. The nebulous figure of mother. Harsh, imposing icy looks that lasted for days. A kitchen filled with every needed implement of torture. Skies that could only bleed red.
I cried in the mornings. They were no longer his dreams, they were mine. The day was different now, the colors of the trees changed. The sky became purple, the birds no longer sang.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The King

What is the king like?

The chorus rumbled, loosening the answer from their stomachs, letting the deep sounds and grumbles manifest into words they knew the crowd would recognize. Things formed. Small things turned into larger shapes that had tails and wagons and little bits of paper that drifted after their tails like sparklers on a warm summer’s night. The room cleared of other thoughts, waiting expectantly, patiently. Silence rumbled from the stone floors and the mosaic tiles along the walls, waiting. And as they waited the things edged forward, the sounds moved into formation, and then the tongues sprang to life, knowing where to go, how to move.

What is the king like?

The answer came.
He’s arrogant and proud and likes the best things of everything. Deep red wines looking like fresh blood swirling in a crystal goblet. Satin sheets for him and his room of full-hipped lovers in little more than colorful scarves. He takes milk baths and freshly made goat cheese served on bejeweled platters. His world is that of comfort and opulence, pride that manifests only from his material power and earthly wealth.

The king? He cannot see that death comes to all, then beneath all spun, golden robes, beneath all skin are bones and flesh that eventually, sooner or later, turn to dust. Blinded by his gilded palace and bountiful gardens, his earthly finery and servants responding to his every desire, he has forgotten that death comes for all things.
One day he will take his last breath. He is not prepared. The core-shattering moment will come, it will come like a new dream and he will look out over the abyss and see that his life was full of things and pleasure and matter, but it was devoid of help.
Help would not come from slaves and servants and the maids of his palace. Help would be uncomfortable, it would pull at the self he had created, it would twist him in all directions, leaving him panting, looking for the window. But he has no help and he takes his luxury for immunity, but death does come.

He cannot see the moment, but the banished witch in her hut watches the events in the smoke of her fire. She can see his gasping last breath, the moment of transition when he truly realizes the time he has wasted, that he has done nothing that will take him towards the clear light of awakening. She watches the curling twists of smoke, knowing she cannot help him, for one must seek help.

What is the king like?
The chorus takes a breath of air, preparing for the next stanza. Again, inside, their answers release themselves from the inner walls of their bodies. They merge deep inside, then find their way out into the air in recognizable form.

Miles away from the thick woods and icy river and old witch, far down the path that turns to gold by the wrought iron gate of the castle, lives a king who is blind to the clear light. In the middle of spring, two days before the new moon, two lankly and well dressed men arrive at the palace gates. Seeking an audience with the king, they claim to be tailors of the highest order. Their credits include royalty throughout the old world as well as the new. Across the deep oceans of the globe, the most important men wear clothes made by their hands. Their secret is the magical cloth, they tell him. Cloth that can only be seen by the most deserving, royal, important men, all others are blind to its magic and colorful wonders. The king, knowing himself to be a man of the highest order, has the tailors make him a new set of clothes for the upcoming spring parade.

What is the king like?
He is dying, not from disease or old age, but atrophy. He breathes, but he dies. He lives, but he does not work, there is no world for him beyond matter. The skeleton behind his meaty cheeks has turned into vague promises he does not intend to keep, promises of the real, promises of a day that will be beyond his control. He cannot imagine such a time. His coffin is empty, for he does not believe in death for the glorious.

After many weeks of working in the stone room on the bottom floor of the castle, the tailors finish the king’s new clothes. In a room full of mirrors, they help him step into his beautiful new pants, his fabulous new shirt and electric robe. The tailors smile and nod, congratulating themselves on a job well done. But as the king looks into the mirror, he sees only thick bare flesh.
“Now you are dressed as all important men should be! And remember, only the truly deserving will be able to see your clothes, this magical cloth reveal true virtue.”
As he looks at himself, naked and covered in patches of thick hair, he nods, remembering his position, his stature, his glory. He begins to nod. “Yes! What fine work you have done! Amazing! Truly a work of art.”

What is the king like?
He is covered in the veil of his habits. A thin, silky veil that blocks out light. It covers him in worn patterns, making his sticky flesh turn to stone with each repeated thought and gesture.

With his new clothes he walks proudly into the square just beyond the iron gates to the castle. Nearly all loyal subjects of the kingdom are gathered on each side of the golden road that leads eventually to the river. Man, woman and child crowd to take a look at the king.
They all hide their surprise as they see him stride confidently down the road without any clothes. By the tallest black walnut tree one small child, no more than five years old, cannot hide his surprise as his parents do:
“The king is naked!”
The witch can see the child is not dead. The child is not stuck in patterns made of stone.

Monday, May 16, 2011


The question was asked, and I skirted it like a child running from a wave moving quickly across wet sand.
What is my nature? Too many things cloud my mind, opposing thoughts, statements made and then refuted. I search through the mess, looking for a simple answer. But even that word hurts to look at, like a glare from the sun that could burn to the core of me, making me blind and sweaty and full of hardened thoughts. And so I run skeptically, chasing foam and seawater though staying clear of its chilly touch. Every answer is a guess. But maybe that’s fine, just a tiny lap of water on my calves won’t hurt.
And so what am I?
Am I the moving arrow? The thing moving through time, the constant motion of work.
And this thing, this essence... I truly search for some word, anything to describe it, but it slips through even the most outstretched part of my mind. This thing invisible yet tangible. This thing, quiet and eternal. Energy. A lost sentence made of color, shape and turns.
My function? I am the vessel, the thing through which creation moves.
I am the open door, the portal to the other sides, the other places, the realms where there is different knowledge, knowledge without facts and dates.
On earth, am I the Other way? An example of something else, one of the many paths.
I am another option.
Am I the fish in the river, a creator on earth, choosing time over money?
Colorful, lazy, moving, working through tears, watching sunsets and computer screens.
Am I the future teacher, now the student?
I am a link in the chain, a pink tile in the mosaic of our lineage, another vessel that leads forwards and back. There are truths that cannot be explained, and with each small remembering, I become a stronger link into the past, connecting to the future that waits for my return.
I am the door.
I am the dreamer alone in my bed. I am the dream of another playing with fire and paint while eating donuts. I am the being that struggles under a cloak of confusion and learned rubbish.
I am the vessel, the fleshy pot holding something precious inside, the thing I have glimpsed rarely. This thing that I cannot describe, the essence I search to understand. I am the hidden, the cracked door. The flickering light.

And so I play with the thoughts, searching slightly for something, something, anything.
There are a dozen question marks behind my thoughts and each answer depends on the day, on the rain, on the mood in which I sit and listen.
A thousand changes and the questions turn in on themselves, becoming laughter blowing in the wind, a hint of jasmine as we tilt closer to the sun once again.
My essence is the shifting of time.
In motion.
So close.
Yet somewhere beyond the stars.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I walk the edge of understanding. A thin line with nothing below but life itself. I see it like a bird. The world we make with bits of mail scattered on the floor, string in the kitchen, cobwebs on the front stoop. It is where we breath and laugh, cry and scream. A life we are used to, one we know, one that stays. Earthly life with its marked streets and simple maps and clear colored markings. I walk the edge, balancing even as I sit cross-legged on my tan carpet, teetering. I look forward, into the speckled world of dominating blue and light washed hues.
When you sit in front of me, our eyes on each other, the room palpitating with yellow and whispers of bright explosion, my mouth on the verge of laughter, I look into you, into the you that is beyond me. I know then, for a simple true moment, you are the Other. You are Other. The word, making more sense than it can, than it should. The word, with all its explanations and discussion finally culminating in one moment, coming like a surprise wave out of the darkness, still focused for all its strangeness. It is recognition, taking me beyond the word, into gnosis.
Now as I write, so long since our last exchange, I sit in an empty auditorium. The chairs without people, the room full of judges. The many eyes of myself, staring into the empty stage, finding only me staring back.
I walk the edge, a clown balancing the egg of simple truth. I see you, your eyes, opening wide in the late morning sun. While what we know as life continues beyond the walls of our chamber, there is recognition. You are the Other. The boundary of my solitary stage is broken, for a moment, I am not in this room alone. I see you for what you are. I see the word, alive in experience. The light begins to shift once again, darkening the area around your face. My eyes are fixed, locked softly, somehow, on yours. There are no lines to define your shape, no word to describe your presence. There are only colors, vibrations dancing on a spectrum of perception.
One pure bit of experience, a simple understanding that we have tried to allude to with words and music and images that flicker across a screen. For one second, sometimes, bright in the morning, all of it, the explanations, the text, the examples, they all fade away and I see that the Other is right here, sitting in front of me, looking into my eyes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Him And Dogs Like Him

Supreme transit, it’s the nearly invisible vehicle in which opposing thoughts share the same metal lines, they move on a whim, crisscrossing the country, converging in neural networks with hyperbolic speed. In white and black robes, with little red books tinged with gold leafing and yard sticks that poke out from their underwear, they move through time, piggy-backing on waves of political enthusiasm and newly-sprung militia groups.

It was happening now. He could smell it in the air. They whispered ‘constitution’ under their breath, the letters reeking of coffee as they spat out the word with religious zeal. They coughed up those letters, spilling the 2nd as if it was word inherited directly from an ancient bearded god.
Francisco was covered in the pulsing blue light of the nightly news, he watched every station, clicking through them in random order until he fell asleep just after10. As he fell into dreams that bulged in their shape and color, he wondered why those men in the news always waved the 2nd Amendment around like a flag.
What about him?
He saw those same people aiming, shooting, trying to take down his children’s right to citizenship, his grandmother’s right to drive to the mercado. They pulled the trigger, firing at sympathetic senators and congressmen, the black suits had jumped ship, leaving him and his family in the sun.

They all sweated, not just from the heat that had bleached even the heartiest saguaro cactus, but fear also dripped down their cheeks, glistening beads of worry dropped off their cracked chin.
Another gun went off, clack! in the night.
Everyone here owned a gun, all the white men that lived in the low foothills and the ranchers that wore red white and blue flag shirts. Yesterday he found his own American flag vandalized, the one that sat beside his Mexican flag.
No they didn’t sit, they waved in the breeze that seemed to come from the lowlands of hell. Pure heat to dry the beads of fear dripping down grandmother’s chin.
The dog lay on the ceramic tiles of the kitchen all day long, living in blissful agony, giving no thoughts to rights and amendments and the news stations. A dog was a dog was a dog. Mexican, American, Indian, dogs responded no matter what color skin delivered a bowl of water and a soft caress.
A dog was a dog was a dog. That’s how they thought of him, his family, the people with skin that looked like his.
A dog was a dog. Those men in their white shirts with guns at their waist, they thought all the browns were the same – Mexicans- a word that described fear instead of a country. A word that was just as ugly as the coffee-scented breath of its speaker.
No, they had come from farms in the valleys, from cities with museums and towns without plumbing, from mountains that touched snow and from the crashing Atlantic ocean. From the central umbilical cord of two continents and the southern hemisphere, from the highlands and the valleys and the places in between where women wore embroidered blouses and woolen skirts and carried babies and chickens alike. They were not the same, but they were linked by one essential quality in the eyes of those men with guns.

He saw the advertisements every night. He saw the guns in their holsters, the posters that could intimidate even the most hardened politician.
The men with the guns knew where to aim. The targets were set, they took down what every man in a suit wants most, pointed the barrel right at the pounding heart of power and squinted an eye. They aimed at those politicians sitting pretty on those shiny leather office chairs on perfectly clean plush carpet. They aimed, and- clack!
There were not enough shelters to hide the tears. The rivers flowed from Fernando, out past concrete dividers. When the insults came, causing the floods to mount, he lost it all, all the salt and all the water. It flowed from him a storm that dried on bleached sand, drying instantly in the land without rain.

He saw their guns, felt them pointed at him, at his family, at people with his same skin. Though nothing had really changed, he had become the villain. The constitution to which they always pointed, that 2nd point that they waved higher than flags, that constitution didn’t apply to him, not to him and the dogs like him.
Their policy was to shoot first. The targets were set, not one, or two, but the millions like him. How they loved their bullets, how they hated his music and food, the smell of his clean clothes, his daughter in pretty pink dresses, his tacos and beans, his lawnmower and round sweet wife, his son in school, his language and the rolling r’s of his tongue. How they hated him and his dogs, him and his enthusiastic use of English and the small home he painted every five years.

Them and those guns, them and the rights that they asserted. Them and those rights that they would deny him, the ones they would deny his children if they could. That Second Amendment they held tight to their heart, those words that they would spit forth, smelling like coffee and disfigured prostitutes, they shaped the world as they would like to imagine it, saw their chosen right as immovable while others were flawed. If his rights were not written in stone, then why did they scream for their guns?

Why did the men of highest power remain so quiet? Gently stroking their hands, rubbing their toes together, waiting to see what the tide of people would endorse before they walked to the microphone and made a statement.
They were always so scared to have an opinion. Only the men with those guns were solid in their statements, they were the ones that never changed, maybe they were getting harder, turning to stone, they were certainly never afraid to scream, their guns talked for them, clack!
Hitting his neighbor in the chest, taking away the breath of that young girl on the border, taking her father too. Their guns talked and not only did they have the right to have them, they thought they had the right to use them, declaring people like him the enemy. Turning his mother, that thick tree that bore a dozen lives, turning her into a villain, into a criminal deserving of a bullet. His children, turning them into aliens with only one signature.

He looked around with tear-stained eyes, unsure when it would stop, maybe now that the devil had sprouted naked from the ground. He wondered if it was ever gone, or had that dusting of sulfur merely hidden in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to come out the red door and find them.

He was now a criminal and the ones with the guns were free. The ones that murdered walked around and waved their striped flags and they would rest on the constitution like it was made for them alone, forgetting, perhaps never knowing, that this actually used to be his land, his and the dogs like him.
They didn’t knock on the door, they came in the night, that huge group with their guns and disease, their sickness that would spread, killing their enemy with only a coffee-scented breath discharged in their direction.

The movie had not changed, not a bit of dialogue had been altered. The policy, the billboards, the country and its actors. They smiled on those shiny posters, looking out at them, at that dried land and the browns and whites that dotted the landscape, those with power and bullets, those that lived like dogs under the sun, crying salty tears that ran down grandmother’s face, tasting not of salt, but of pepper.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Wild Song

It came like a freak wave. Rising up from still blue waters until I was enveloped in its forceful arms. It circled me with fuzzy golden light, blotting out the details of room and life. Chair, computer, lunch, the garden outside beneath a happy blue sky, they all faded into a blur of colors that quickly merged into a hazy sun colored blur.
There was no room, no city. I was no longer me. I was a body without memory, free of everything before this moment. Swirling around me with abandon, particles entered without permission, moving through the barriers of skin and bone, dancing beyond the laws of physics. The eye, the strongest point of this thing that can only be described as a wave, hovered above my head. I felt it there, pulling slightly.
I opened my mouth, tilted my head back and I began singing.
I was lighter than usual. As it went into me, I reached up into it. Reached out with sound, higher and higher I sang, letting the notes roll out pure and free. Dancing on meadows, rolling in bed. They did what they wanted, went where it felt right.
They came from me, my children, I opened up and let them go without a worry clouding the air. My eyebrows lifted, my body arched as though in orgasm. I closed my eyes though I could still see the hazy golden light all around. I saw the notes, watched as they jumped up and out, finally free of their chains.
These were not the tentative sounds I usually choked out, a body gripping, somehow always scared of the inevitable fall. Timid, quiet sounds just barely louder than the refrigerator that struggled for equal attention. This was all different. Not just a new world, a new planet with nine sided stars and monkeys that spun sugar into gold.
This was a warm bath with a shout. Force mixed beyond the bounds of anger, for it was a gentle wave, an ocean storm meant to free every part of me. A gift that found me in a city of millions, picking up on my particular scent of sticky sex, woods and sweat.
I opened my eyes, but they were closed. I lay back, but I was floating. I sang, but as I sang I kissed every part of the wave. I reached up, my voice touching its swirling shape.
As I sang, any remnants of fear were a far off memory, buried somewhere without a marker. It was just openness that rose up to meet the elements, sound moving to air. Light to fire.
The human had finally fallen. This was song without death fear. This was love without the thought of betrayal.
This was something that came to me. Something that came from me, to me, away and up, into the golden colored wave that took me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Order Of The Factors

I woke up this morning with a sense that it was too early to be up. It was a work day, but it wasn't time to work yet. I still had a couple of hours. I didn't want the night to end.
I had woken up at the wrong time but I was fully awake, all drowsiness had left me like water falling from a bucket, leaving it empty and ready for something new to come to fill it.
I looked at the clock and saw that it was an hour and half earlier than the time I usually woke up. A pain on the side of my hip had been bothering me for several weeks. It wouldn’t let me sleep for long no matter how hard I tried. I tossed and turned during the night, repeatedly pulled out of restless dreams by the recurring shocks of deep pain coursing through my body like tiny messengers wrapped in red flame.
I was wide awake but I didn't get up from the bed. Instead I lay there, vainly trying to understand what had just happened. My eyes were open but I just stared at the gray ceiling in a kind of dazed stupor. The questions that invaded my mind didn't have enough of a clear shape to require answers. Instead they just floated through my consciousness, mute witnesses to aftershocks of searing pain.
Without saying it to myself, I was making a last ditch effort to sleep some more, to find some remaining crumbs of restful peace before the day actually started. Maybe if I stared long enough, sleep would overtake me and I would recede into dreams for just a little longer, enough to let me flee the looming and unavoidable reality.
But my efforts were in vain. I was wrestled out of any remaining sleepiness by my insistent thoughts, by my shapeless questions, by my undefined images.
I looked out the window and saw that the sky was still dark, a dark blue fading into a lighter grayish color, a heavy night that was slowly but stubbornly changing into another ephemeral day. A touch of red was timidly showing up in the distance, over the roofs of the Victorian houses, all the way to where the very top of the Golden Gate Bridge could be glimpsed surrounded by white shining fog. A clear promise that the sun would be coming soon. Unusual for a city as foggy as this one.
I decided to get up and do something I hadn’t done in a very long time: I would watch the sun come out, I would watch it unfold its warm morning light over the city, a spectacle I once enjoyed in my youth but which had been nearly forgotten with the passing of time.
I stood up, went to the closet and picked some sweaters and shoes in case it was very cold. It's usually cold in this city where I live, very different from where I grew up. I'm still not quite used to it. Something inside of me still wishes it was different. As if the weather would follow my wishes, as if my wishes had a grain of objective truth hidden within their multiple subjective folds.
As I went through the choices in my closet, my memory went back to a particular day in the past. I couldn't remember the details of the day. I couldn't say what had happened or what I had been doing. I could only remember that I had been looking for something. It had been a day when, no matter how much effort I put into my search, I couldn’t bring myself to find that thing which I was looking for. I remembered that I eventually found a solution. The way I finally did find what I had been looking for was by sitting and contemplating the world around me for a long period of time. Quietly. Softly. Subtly. Without rush.
To contemplate in length seemed so easy, so simple. And yet I had not done anything like it in such a long time. Like waking up early, like looking at the rising sun. Things I had forgotten.
When I first moved into this apartment, I made sure I went out to the balcony early to sit and contemplate. I would do this for at least thirty minutes every day before engaging in my daily routine.

I kept this up for a while, until one day I suddenly dropped it. I couldn't really say why. I can't even say for sure that I noticed when it happened. Suddenly it was gone. Like so many things, it just fell out of rhythm, out of step. Maybe I didn’t get that much sleep the night anymore, so it was harder to get up early. Maybe I was just too lazy one day and I preferred the warmth of the bed sheets. For whatever reason, one day I didn't do it. And then one day turned into two, and two into three, and soon my thirty minutes of contemplation were gone and forgotten. Like old shoes or lost memories.
Today I once again remembered. Why did I remember today? I was struggling with pain all night, pain that wouldn't let me sleep. I couldn’t go back to sleep even when I tried with every trick I was aware of, every trick I had been taught.
It then occurred to me that it would a good idea to do that thing I used to do. The pain didn't allow me the easiest route so I had to pick the next option in its place, a route not so easy but full of its own rewards. As simple as that. So unpredictable. So completely beyond my conscious control.
I geared up and went to the balcony like I used to do.
Now the sky had more pinks and oranges than earlier, the darkness had disappeared rather quickly and had left behind a glowing whitish blue that suffused everything with its freshness and light. I heard a bird singing in the distance, I heard the honking of a bus coming from a few blocks away, I heard the tinkling of a little boy's laughter, I heard the murmur of a large sprawling city that was slowly waking up, maybe lost in its own city thoughts, maybe struggling with its own kind of urban pain that forced it to awaken from its concrete slumber even if it would have rather stayed asleep a bit longer, even if it wasn't quite finished with its strange city dreams.
I stood there looking and listening. I noticed my mind getting distracted, a stream of thoughts trying to explain what was happening, what I was trying to do, why I was doing it, how it would happen.
"Focus your mind on what you are seeing, don't worry about your tasks for the day, don't worry about what happened yesterday, don't worry about what will happen tomorrow, just place your mind on this that is in front of you, I just have to remember that one project that is due, I have to remember, I can't allow myself to forget. I just don't have to remember right now, right now I just need to look, look at all of it, but I should make a note, a mental note, but I have to set aside the mental note in order to look, look openly, look without thinking, just remember to get the laundry later, remember later but forget it right now..."
I slowly slid into disappointment. I was disappointed with myself, very disappointed, disappointed because I still remembered, I could still remember what it had been like once. I remembered that I didn’t use to do this before, I remembered that my mind had once been quiet, I remembered that I didn't have this long train of thoughts invading my sacred moments of open perception.
This didn't happen before. I used to contemplate and feel…feel and absorb all the beauty I could take into me, without getting distracted by explanations, without being pulled by responsibilities, without being shaken by running thoughts about obligations and random tasks. I could just sit and look and absorb. I got very disappointed and the dark disappointment just added to my struggles, a speeding downward spiral, a sliding avalanche of negative emotion I couldn't stop or set aside.
I opened my mouth to take a long, deep breath. I went back to a particular memory from my childhood, something I always wished for, something that always made me long to go back, even if it was only to live that one little moment, a tiny scene from a not so pleasant past.
I was probably 10 or 11. My father had promised to take us to the beach the next day, but only if we finished our homework in time. I loved the beach, I was really excited to go, but I had a lot of homework to do and I wasn't sure that I could finish it in time.
I made sure that I got up very early to do my homework before the trip. I jumped out of bed as soon as my eyes opened and I picked up my school notes, ready to start working. The homework was to fill a sheet of paper with the following phrase:
‘The order of the factors doesn’t alter the result’
The teacher wanted us to memorize this by writing it many times on a piece of paper. This was the way we were taught back where I came from. Repetition and repetition and more repetition. Rhythmic cycles of linguistic instruction, calculated to drill thoughts into a young mind overpowered by constant change.
I was getting ready to sit at my desk to do the homework, when I noticed that outside the window there were some extremely beautiful colors, shifting and shining and sliding and twisting just outside the glass.
I got on top of the desk so I could look at them. I stood up on the desk right in front of the window, my eyes wide open, my mind wide open, my attention wide open.
I saw the sky turning from deep black to shining orange and then to bright blue and white… I saw flocks of birds flying by, I heard the noise of some of the people in my house waking up, my father walking to the bathroom and yawning, my mother turning on the stove while whispering to herself. I heard a car passing by with the radio on, I heard distant footsteps coming from a block away, the sound of high heels tapping on cement.
All of it fit in perfectly. Like an enormous jigsaw puzzle made of sound and light, a puzzle I had never before been able to decipher. Everything fit with everything else. Nothing was out of place. Nothing was to be discarded, nothing was to be occluded, nothing was to be set aside.
I saw some black birds flying in perfect formation over the roof of the house across the street, I heard roosters announcing the coming of the brand new day, a new day which I was a part of, a day which I was meant to live.
I was taken away by all this perfectly coordinated beauty for what seemed like forever. I must have stood there on the desk, looking out the window, for at least a couple of hours. And yet it felt like nothing. No struggle, no effort, no pain, no purpose. I had completely lost track of time while I looked out the window, time had ceased to run in the way that I was used to. I forgot where I was or why I was there. I forgot everything except for the beauty that was all around me, the extreme and perfect beauty that surrounded me from all directions, the vibrant breathing beauty that called to me, that made me feel welcome, that made me feel alive.
I found myself standing on the balcony now, trying to do the same thing I had once done so easily, that thing I had done which I never meant to do, that thing which just happened on a morning so long ago.
But I was running into serious difficulty now, I was stumbling and crashing into intangible obstacles. I was having problems with this thing which once had been so simple, problems with something that had once seemed to flow unimpeded, soft and smooth and natural. It was not so easy anymore, not as easy as it once was, not easy at all.
Maybe I thought about it a bit too much, maybe the thoughts of loss were like dark clouds that prevented me from seeing openly. Maybe I had lost the gift of simple observation somewhere along the way and now I couldn't say where or how it had happened.
‘I used to have the experience and not the explanation. Now that I have the explanation I am looking for the experience. I can only find it if I get rid of the explanation that I once worked so hard to find. The experience, the direct experience, just like a child, just like the child I once was…just like the day I was working on my homework and the morning went away in a maze of colors and sound and light… the order of the factors does not alter the results… the order of the factors does not alter the results… it doesn’t matter what comes first, the experience, the explanation…the order of the factors doesn’t alter the results…'
And the morning opened up before me, slowly but surely, while I quietly did my homework, the homework I was finally understanding for the first time, the homework that spoke in a rhythm of simplicity and recurring sonic beats, the homework I still had time to finish.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Arms Of Sleep

It is what she longs for, that big white cat. She just wants to curl up, let the sunlight warm her up, and then drift. Let’s just drift. Forget it all.
I want to forget. Forget the project, the articles, the words to write, the things to create, the music to make, the work to do that seems to rip at every part of me, making me visualize ropes and running and knives and parking lots in far away places where the night is cool and calm and no one talks.
I want to do all that.
She wants to do all that too, that big lazy cat. So let's take the road of sleep, that big fat white bed with its comfy flatness and thick blanket arms. Let’s just go together because it would be so nice.
Only, they won’t let me. They know what will happen to the big fat cat. The masses await. Their perfectly creased uniforms, their lines, drills, repetitive movement and cat calls. The deadening regimen. They know just how to invade, one dream at a time.
One little nap and then all thoughts become one. Soon there will be no dreams, no drawings or songs. One thought, it is just a train away, as my mom would say.
I shower and pack and sit waiting in my silk jammies, just ready to go. I am tired and the night is dark and cold and there are too many collages to make, so many videos that await my hands and attention. The list is so long, stretching not just through and over this lifetime, but into the next and then the one after that.
On a cold night like this, it seems like too much. The bed looks good and the cat, that big cat is purring, waiting for me to join her.
The train is going, straight to dreamland as my mother would say. They are all calling my name, don’t I want to join them? Their hands urge me forward, the memory of the endless drift beneath a world of warm arms, soon I won’t have to think and struggle.
Just get into bed and let the engines start. Soon, we will be among the masses. The starch, the formation, the highly scripted existence laid out like a simple map. It is all there, just outside the window.
Bodies without life. Smiles without purpose. Breath without creation. It is all right outside.
My cat is there, waiting for me to slip into bed. Just for a moment, just one little nap.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Mysterious

I see a thousand mirrors in all directions, all obscured by a thick fog that emerges from my own eyes.

The mysterious engulfs me. There are no final answers, or maybe any answer at all will do. (I know this.) (I don't know this.) There are no reasons that can't succumb to cruel twisting by my restless mind. I can stop myself from doing or speaking occasionally, but my thoughts run through me unbidden, like a horde of unruly children. They make reality in their image. They create the dark funhouse through which I now roam, eyes peeled open, hesitant, unsure of the next step.

There is so much that is completely out of my hands. (I know this.) (I don't know this.)

I hear the sound of a chainsaw up on the hill that overlooks my home. I hear it come and I hear it go, then I hear it come again. I picture the man using it, I picture a thick piece of wood breaking in two. I feel the deadly vibration of the metal blades. Lethal danger and usefulness in a single vibrant machine.

These things I do, these things that I leave nameless, they never had a safety seal. To truly live- to be truly alive is to awaken to that which is uncomfortable, scary, and dangerous. (I know this.) (I don't know this.)

The outside world, the concentric circles of wonder and danger, it is all ruled by that same incessant clamor that dominates and defiles the fragile sanctuary under the dome of my skull. The twisting habits of my mind call things to me in secret, without my consent, making of me a sleeping witch, a conjurer of illusions which can only fool me in the end. The unspoken things die away in the world of endless electronic babble.

The universe outside is still wild, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. Stars are created and burst open into cauldrons of silent destruction, earthquakes ejaculate fire from the depths of the earth, humans continue to die despite modern technology and all the disposable prayers of all the corrupt religions that cover the planet.

Through the wall, I hear the neighbors bickering for the remote. I hear them often.

There is danger as the machine perceives a threat, there is danger while moving against the current, there is implied danger whenever something happens, almost anything at all. The perception may be very subtle, as subtle as the touch of a single current of wind slipping through the cracks on a window, a voice through a thin wall.

There are things without name or face. Lacking these qualities, they borrow names and faces from the storehouses of my mind, long corridors of dusty boxes and broken toys. When the borrowed guise no longer suits their purpose they vacate the shapes and sounds that once clothed them, and I am left with their empty shells, shells that refer not to their nature, but to my own, as it is from my nature that these shapes were borrowed.

The mysterious is forgotten, denied, wrapped in linguistic structures. When it shows its face I will call it an exception and the enduring rules will be maintained. Maybe it is the other way around. It is the bugs, the quarks, the exceptions that are the rule and my desperate attempts at order are the exception. (I know this.) (I don't know this.)

Maybe I was once a tribe. Now I have been broken into small nuclear units in a larger world, units weakly held together by national borders, language, government.

Instead of embracing beauty in an existence of chaos and moving artfully with the flow of energy- I struggle, I crave safety. I let others decide what is good and bad for me. Laws are crafted in far away rooms- old dying men determine what is legal and illegal, moral and immoral, good and evil. I take it in and abide, sometimes shaking my head, something nodding as I slide back into sleep.

There is a flock of birds outside my window competing for scraps of bread. Their cries are shrill and pregnant with desperation. Not unlike my own cries of need when a wave of energy has become too much and I find an urgent need to release.

My brittle fortresses of order will eventually crumble. (I know this.) (I don't know this.) The hot breathed broken faced Real will lumber and slither and dance in, wreaking havoc over my bones and rambling thoughts, thoughts now bodiless, flowing out free as they once were, broken up, discarded, bits and pieces of moments that will never be together again, not in quite the same way, raw matter to be absorbed into the icy turbulent endlessness of the Real. I am always grasping for answers and peddling them and buying them and clinging to them, but they are only words clung to in desperation. (I know this.) (I don't know this.)

Maybe when I look I can’t see the contour of my face or the glint in my eye, but as I hear that bird chirping like a metronome at 5 in the morning, as I see school children running to the white ice cream truck, the mirror reflects more than the skin over my cheekbones, more than the black sphere at the center of my eyes.

I am hiding from the true answer, I am always hiding from the mysterious abyss that looms beyond the constructs of the tongue. (The tongued mind wagging furiously as though it could fan off the eternal with its chatter.)

I have never been free of the mysterious, it was always clinging to me like a skin. But some part of my self, some part of me, recoiled from it and began to spin the great con to hold it at bay.

Deeper even than the body, reflected back are the habits I carry from form to form. Quick moving bursts of energy that move in cyclical patterns, shapes that are hard to grasp, but I can see their trail. Fallen timber, cyclones of anger, streams of tears. If I look, I can see the path of each invisible impulse, like subatomic particles in a cloud chamber flying towards unknown destinations, leaving behind a record of their passing.

Safe, protected, secure, assurance, solid, invulnerability…
these words have cloaked me in artificial meaning and false structured reality.

If I claim to have answers, I am once again a liar, an artisan of the con. Always. There are no exceptions. There are no answers. No words that can hold the Real absolutely. (I know this.) (I don't know this.)
All that I have experienced has been a play of consciousness. There are no reasons but mind, there are no words but sound, there is no band but only silence.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lusus Naturae

They were born with legs but no arms.
Arms but no legs.
A body that stands alone.

There were pinheads and worms, bearded women and clowns.

We watched with fascination though slightly cracked hands, watching with horror, watching with sorrow, looking with a mixture of disgust and pity.

The claw-footed man. The freak of nature. The DNA that mixed and morphed. The body that was tangled and torn. Beneath the tent they were the wonders of the world.

The amazing twelve fingered man.
The magnificent musical stylings of Max, Block Head.

We came for the hot dogs and cotton candy. Came for the beach. The waves and sun, the slides, the lights.

They hide, not in the shadows as we would all expect, but beneath colorful canvas tents that announce their arrival. We wait for the right time, letting the lollipops sit, letting only parts of our imagination wander into the tent. When we finally move through the parted doors, we find nature staring right back. Birth and bodies in all forms, hands that have twisted and turned into tails. Legs that are arms and hands that are ears.

Their bodies point to our own destiny. It is not all two feet and two hands. There are variations in the middle, some that twist, some that never separate, some that never grow. I look into the mirror, looking through cracked hands that cover my eyes. They are words, those bodies, those things, they are words stripped of love by the candy-eating crowds.

They watch us through bars, through social walls made of heavy brick. Babies stare, mothers cry, I watch through the thin cracks between my fingers. Cross yourself and pray. They move from field to field, town to town, carrying their lions, their tricks, their wonders. They are the freaks, sparking stares and quick glances, sudden bursts of curiosity and horror.

This ticket allows me to look. For thirty-five minutes and a paper ticket we stare at the distortion of nature, the wonders of the planet, the amazing freaks of the sideshow. One ticket and the world opens its sleepy eyes, the people that hide from missing toes and extra eyes.

We who call ourselves normal, who hide our perversions and defects. We who have no extra arms, but carry everything inside that begs to rip apart and turn into evil eyes and sword swallowing demons. All of nature twists inside us, turning and re-combining, turning us into mutants.

Soon I will don my silver sequined hat and fishnets. Soon I will be Lydia the tattooed lady. Soon I will be the wondrous mystery from Egypt, the gypsy with three eyes, the mother of twenty snakes.

Soon the hidden cracks will leak, the hands will spread wide and our true selves will pour, decrepit and slow, hissing as we meet the wind. There will be secrets and slime, muttering and new positions added to every act. Soon it will all begin, but for now they stand alone, the freaks beneath the red tent.