41. King Pleasure

23 August 2022, 13:35

On the first page
Of a red book
Easily overlooked
Amidst paintings and artifacts
From the artist’s personal collection
A few lines stand written
(Var står det skrivet?)
In capital letters:

     WHY DID YOU TEACH ME?
     HE ASKED...
     WE TAUGHT YOU BECAUSE WHAT YOU
     ALREADY KNEW –

Talk to me,
Jean-Michel
Are you “HE”?
Why does “WE”
Respond and not “I”?

First, you wrote “BECAUSE” in black ink
Then, another hand (still your own?)
Swept in and struck it through
With red ink, writing “WHAT”
Did your English teacher
Have a bone to pick
With the question?

When she read what you wrote
Did she want to know your meaning
Or was she more interested
In you knowing hers?

How much time passed
Between black and red?

If I called Gary
Could he get me in touch
With your dear, departed soul
So you could answer my questions?

“Freshman Y--- P----- practices
In his garage at home to build enough
Confidence to break dance in public.”

A heroin habit severed their souls
From their bodies
Died too young
I miss him.
Hello, Gary
Pick-me-up

40. Sunny Rises

Occurred 28 July 2016, afternoon
(Recorded 17 August 2016, 11:49)

He turns twentyone, and the next day she takes him on a twentyone-mile day hike past Ramona Falls and up to Yocum Ridge near Reid Glacier of Mount Hood. It is glorious. He is struck dead in his tracks more than once. By what? Her and her surroundings. It feels like a positive experience, though there is one problematic scene. They are on the way back down, nearing the end of the trail, when she asks, “Do you have a best friend?”

“No, not right now. I’ve had best friends in the past, but I’m kind of on the market. I’m looking for a Jonathan to my David, y’know? Someone to knit my soul to. How about you?”

“No, I don’t either.”

They walk a little farther, and he asks, “Will you be my best friend?”

After a noticeable hesitation, she says, “Maybe, we’ll see.”

. . .

Occurred 12 August 2022, around 15:00
(Recorded 14 August 2022, morning)

The two of them are concluding their conversation. They are placing laptops into bags and cleaning up after their four-hour planning session when she says, “When have I been known to make good choices?”

He does not answer straight away. The retort in his mind needs to be edited, cut away from the script. He laughs and mutters, “Well….” He pushes the door to leave; she is behind him. “I was going to say something sassy, but all I can think of is, ‘You’re friends with me; that’s a good choice.’”

He thinks she laughs, too. Then, she replies, “That remains to be seen.”

. . .

Recorded 17 August 2022, 20:15

All he can do is write. He cannot be honest. Given the unlikely chance that he could speak his mind, what would he say?

“No shot, right?” he shouts aloud, in his bedroom, at his desk, listening to “Theme for Ernie” by Gábor Bolla. The memory dots are connected: “Maybe, we’ll see” and “That remains to be seen.” And that the date of realization is the same: 17 August. Six years later. Ducking irony. No wonder those five words have so occupied his mind. A sarcastic dagger, most likely. She did not mean anything by it. Taken literally, which seems unwise, they indicate indecision. An accidental slip of truth, perhaps. Who knows? She does. He does not.

He has written nothing much but prose recently. James Joyce has captured his attention; he is practicing for the Olympics in boat-rowing on the stream of consciousness. An open faucet. Say what comes to mind. “Men need to address skills deficits to meet healthier relationship expectations” (Matos). Alright, Mr. PsyD, show me how to use outdated statistics to make an argument about how men are emotionally immature compared to women. Gadz, the double standard! An article could never be written about how women might be less skillful in an area compared to men. That would be sexist. The doctor is touching a nerve in him. Fight or flight, baby. How is his emotional intelligence? “The problem for men is that emotional connection is the lifeblood of healthy, long-term love. Emotional connection requires all the skills that families are still not consistently teaching their young boys” (Matos). Why does he find this offensive? His own father, while not being very expressive of his emotions, taught him the importance of emotionally connecting with others. So did his mother. And his parents are living a long-term love. So, what gives? C’mon, Matos, why are you calling out men everywhere? Why paint with so broad a brush? Where is the fineness in your psychological arts? You want men (only?) to do the following:

Level up your mental health game. That means getting into some individual therapy to address your skills gap. It means valuing your own internal world and respecting your ideas enough to communicate them effectively. It means seeing intimacy, romance, and emotional connection as worthy of your time and effort. (Matos)

Mental health is a game? Holy Christ, man, these are people’s minds and well-beings on the line, and you are telling them they can “level up” like it is some virtual reality composed by programmers? Whoa now (pulls back on reigns). Except for the bit about therapy, check, check, and check. Everyone needs it, apparently. What trauma might he address in therapy? (None that he cares to admit in the open.) Is everyone traumatized, or is it possible to escape childhood and adolescence without gaping wounds from parents, siblings, friends, and romantic partners? If it was universally free, he would go. He would sit in a room with a credentialed stranger and say, “I am fine. My mental health is good. I am not depressed or anxious. My parents and my community did not defeat me. I do not think I am psychically damaged.” It is true, but there is no way to say it without sounding like he is boasting. Time for a poem. Let us play.

When Sunny smiles
It brings out the best in him
When she laughs, it is like
The world will never end

When Sunny dreams
He dreams with her
The two are determinedly un-
Conscious, blissfully aware

Of the state of their relationship
They are appositionally opposite
In their personalities and would
Be incompatible if not for

The truth is he loves her
He does not love her
She is a series of contradictory
Statements with a tight waist

Facing east while he faces west
They pass in the night and wave
Hello in the morning at work
Teaching teenagers to read

When Sunny is silent
It allows him a unique
Opportunity to imagine
What she thinks about

She does not think about him
Thankfully, whatever feelings
He has are not reciprocated
She is sericated, queenly

He is plebian and does not
Know how to dress himself
Having never determined
A suitable clothing style

Nothing ever fits
Nothing is ever easy
It all takes so much work
But the Sunnys of the earth

Are covered with pearl-like drops
Of dew and tears, waiting
For themselves to uncurl
From being world’d too much

A poem is a made thing
Art should encourage mannerism
Her stylish style emphasizes
Artifice over realistic depiction

We tread in the footsteps of Old
Masters and paint nudes in comp-
Licated and contrived poses
Have you got acid color in your cheeks?

She breaks with unity
He retains it
She is dynamic
He never moves

The autopsy ends and
The moon coroner packs
Away his saccharine utensils
As Sunny rises.
Somewhere in Central Park

Works Cited

Matos, Greg. “The Rise of Lonely, Single Men.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 9 Aug. 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-state-our-unions/202208/the-rise-lonely-single-men.

36. The Black Parade

15 April 2022, 22:20

*If reading on a phone, open in browser and rotate screen to landscape.

Welcome to the Black Parade (Good Friday Remix)

When he was a young boy in Nazareth
His father took him into Jerusalem for The Feast
He said: Son, when you grow up, will you save
The broken, the beaten, the damned?
Will you heal The Patient slipping into stillness?
Will you think of your unfortunate father?
I will grow old, son, and they will not write about me
The inspired authors will leave me out of their narrative
And you will become their hero.

One day, I’ll leave you—
A spectral memory to guide you up Kranion
They will break you, beat you, damn you
And you will exhale your final breath
With splinters in your back
And thorns in your head
Your mother will watch
As bodies fill the streets
And your disciples turn away
In shame and fear, they will carry on
As carrion-feeders circle overhead
Hoping to feast on your decaying sóma
Those who came together for theória
Will return home beating their breasts
Your spirit, rent from its corporeal container
Will join the Black Parade, as mine did
When we are both dead and gone, believe me:
Our memories will persist in their hearts and minds.

In a world lurching between misery and hate
They will paint it black and shout loudly
In defiance: Why God? Where were you?
Given the choice to do and die
You will be both life for the lost
And father to the fatherless children
In the streets of the city marching
Behind their single mothers
Who pray in your name
As the prescient piano and diminished drum
Sound an unexplainable anthem of things to come.

He said: My name is Joseph of Arimathea
I am a member of the council
They call me good and righteous
But I am just a man (not a hero)
Give me his corpse, Pilate
For I did not consent
To the decision and action of my peers
And I have a tomb cut in stone
Where no one has ever yet been laid
We will wrap him in a linen shroud
And prepare spices and ointments
To preserve our decimated dreams.

Then, we will head the call to carry on
Though he was broken and defeated
And weary widows weep in desperation
I will not explain or beg forgiveness
For I am one who bears a scar
My name is Metōnymia
Like crown for king,
Grave for death, and as in:
          Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
          I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
          The evil that men do lives after them;
          The good is oft interrèd with their bones.

No evil did you, son
Nor will evil live after you
Only goodness and mercy
Will follow us as we carry on
Through the rise and fall
For we are not ashamed
Of the good news
Of the coming of the Messiah
We, too, sing the Black Parade
And give a cheer for all the broken
We don’t care; we’ll carry on
We want it all; we want to play the part
Do or die, in sickness and in doubt
We will forsake all others
And keep thee unto us for as long as we live.
The Skull

34. The Edge

3 October 2021, 14:59

Crouching on the very edge
I will say
That the Bible could be entirely
Made up
And when I die, I might become
Food for worms
And nothing more.

I do not believe this is true
Or at least
I have to hope with all my marrow
That it is not
For if I slipped off this edge
It would be
Into a dark and dreary chasm
Of uncertainty.

Hell, I am already uncertain
Of most things
Save for this—
     Verum esse ipsum factum
     What is true is what
     Is made
     We are real not because we
     Observe reality
     But because we, image-bearers
     Invent reality
     In great waves of poetry.
Between buildings

15. Bicycle, Angkor

26 January 2019, 22:02

I’m in Seam Reap now, and I got in a bit of trouble at Angkor. I climbed the wrong thing and was taken to a covered area to be talked to by a security guard and a man wearing a “Police” hat. They were friendly and talked about heritage while also reprimanding me for my actions. “I’m sorry, I did not know,” I repeated.

There are four salamanders/geckos on the walls in my hostel. I’m sitting at a table in the bar area, and there’s some house music playing, but I have my headphones in, and I’m listening/watching LTAT, the Saturday episode of Rhett & Link.

12:12

This is nowhere
I ever thought I’d be
Beside a tree
Sitting on the banks
Of Trapeang Srah Sang
A little lake several kilometers
Northeast of Angkor Wat.

I took off
My shoes and socks
Waded in, snapped a photo.

Prayed a poem, wrote it down
After fingering the dirt and mud
Between my toes.
14:18

Sitting cross-legged on Ta Keo
A temple-mountain-pyramid
Possibly the first to be built
Entirely of sandstone by ancient Khmers.

I’ve seen what I came here to see—
          but maybe there’s
          more to come.

My Giant mountain bike has carried me far—
          through a dark jungle
          on roads of pavement & sand.

I will read, now, before heading “home.”
17:44

“Am I annoying you?”
“Yes, honey, you are.”
“Humph.”
A bad joke, I know
It just sort of slipped out
While waiting in
Line for Phnom Bakheng
(The wife asked a question to her husband;
I answered for him, a stranger.)

This ride better have a loop-de-loop
It was like waiting for something at Disneyland
Or the DMV (that symbol of waiting).

But this sunset
Is worth it
(I’ve seen better;
Thank you, clear Oregon skies.)