10.19.2005

The thing is . . .

Chuckles,
“how funny things are alone,”
he says, “why
stop at nothing when so
much more is on the line?”
Turns and
carries himself away,
eyes down like
he didn’t know himself.
“How much, how much.
It’s more, anyway,
than’s worth it.”
Justifies,
he can know best himself,
and all the in-betweens,
the MIAs,
compunction makes his allies
neverquiteknowinghimselflikehealwaysthoughthedidandbelievedheshould
still
“Why think about it? Why
bother?”
It’s not so
bad
after all.

Sideways

The cool days gone,
Summer grows from the seeds
Sprinkled when we
Weren’t looking closely;
We rise, occasions
Loosely canons of our
Infinitesimalism.
Beakers of winter
Brew over hotbeds we
Ignored; we
Understood subconscious-
Ly, that was familiar,
A dream I remembered
Quietly in the morning
Until it looked like you,
Sideways and unsturdy,
In that way we
Feel. Dry champagne,
The metaphor of affection, I
Acquaint with the scent
Of your hand lotion
And that song I liked best
On the way to work.
They remind me of snow,
And, especially, of skiing.
The fatalists stand up
For a good look at spring
Moving into months
We forgot in our pockets,
And our words were raw
From rubbing them together.
Breath colors January
and pavement autumn,
While snow begins to think
Out loud,
Ready to speak the
Repetition of nostalgia.

Miss Fortune and Her Handmaids

I
In what love we forge oftener without words
we waste on songs so long attributed
to sleep misplaced, while kings are garments
of our mingled imagination, instruments
unto music we apocalypsed in utero.
This inflames such agile nostaglia
with strides like Icarus imagining weightless,
that we lose all feeling in extremities.
We, rocks in our pockets, sink not softly
but like bodies collapsing into open graves
while the dirge is sung mournful in our memory.

II
How much like are we to myths, unknown
to us? But vague remembrance, childhood
strung on macaroni bracelets, meets
halfway the weight forgotten days and
more before we had a chance to reconcile
our vergent selves. Lost, we find, are loves,
but still live endings sweeping up
the monochrome credits epitaphed to, often,
us. Clearly, things exist in outer chambers
and rooms less used that make our nocturne
notions swivel on simple feet. More than we
admit, the way the sun mornings thieves
our confidence and not till night resumes
command do we untuck our buried voices.

III
Dust varies happenstance like dawn descending
softly through our shadow, umbral image of id
platonic with our fortunes in variables
uncontrived and whispered to an ear awaiting
cold breath. So, with softly sounds, our energies move
maybe like misgivings, maybe like midweek dreams,
down from up the under side of sadness,
still reminiscent of our late lady self
and all her cunning wiles. The prostituting
inner parts allure our good nature backstair
and subtle till we can only mouth it
weakly as we exhale, the one word which matters:

Girl

You were all I wanted that I never knew I wanted.
Sweet honey, cool water, satisfying, satiating.
Unfairly, you carried the years I’d lived without you,
An ideal, imagined perfection, companion as I dreamed it only,
The monument of what I can’t, for conscience sake, call success
Defined by the expansive chasm of what I can’t call failure
Because I was not competing, was not trying with poor results,
Was not complying sympathetically, although I sympathized,
But I am not complaining: waiting was the wound that made health
Profound.

Conundrum

Your dilemma, inevitably,
is sub-mediocrity.
On the one hand, you
may lie, and profess my
genius, my talent, my
art. On the other hand,
if you boast my faults,
by requisite dissection
you have famed and
propagated your self-branded
failure, begging the question:
How can you sully me
without, by deed, sustaining
me?

Amputation

1
beneath
such planets
as orbit

I
am
driving
you home

smell of
pine and pavement

silence

2
words later
our whiskers

darkness
being

these things
mean more
as I leave

3
the garage light
s h a t t e r s
the stars

I smell
your face
lotion
as we
kiss

goodbye

8.15.2005

The Essence of Failure

When I lost the last game of my high school soccer career, I failed. The team failed. At least we felt that way. We told ourselves that I think because it seemed easier to beat ourselves than to be beaten. We couldn’t allow the other team the satisfaction of beating us. No one wants to be beaten. They’d rather attribute it to some fault of their own; they’d rather act than be acted upon; they’d rather say things like, “it would have been different if I had done this or that,” or “if I had been on my game we might have won.” We said those things at least. I still say those things; I still believe those things, after all, you never really believe you didn’t stand a chance. You never really believe, even when it happens, that you’re capable of failure.
But if success was winning then we failed, and we failed well (that is, we lost by a lot) and of course there’s no going back to fix that no matter how much I wish there was. Life might just be too convenient if we could fix our mistakes. I guess that’s saying that there’s worth even in our failures, which sucks to say, but it may just be true. I’m still waiting to see.
I’ve seen shirts that say, “if you never fail, you’ll never succeed” which isn’t entirely true. There’s always at least one kid in your class in elementary that does everything right and makes you look stupid . . . unless you are that kid. I’d like a shirt that says, “if you never fail, you’ll never have to think about your failures.” Of course this is all a moot point if, like me, you can’t keep your hand out of the failure cookie jar.
Last year, one of my better friends lost his last high school game. I know I felt like I failed when I lost and if I felt that way, then he must have felt like Atlas letting the world slip. I lost by four goals. It was a team “effort.” He lost in shootouts. He was a good player and he was the only one to miss. But it’s interesting, while I look at my own four goal loss as a failure on my part, though there was probably little I could have done that would have made that big a difference, I couldn’t, and still can’t, think of his miss a failure. It would be easy to pin the blame on him, to say, “it would have been different if you had made that kick,” but I can’t. I don’t think anybody that night did, except him. I know he did; I know he still does, because I still dwell on my own loss. It’s easiest to make our own failures into mountains when they’re really just speed bumps on the way to something more important. It’s easy to expect more of ourselves.
I think, ultimately, I can’t pin that loss on Seth because I’m still hoping maybe my own loss won’t be pinned on me. I want to be justified. I want to feel alright about losing that game. I want to feel like it’s okay not to be perfect. I know it’s okay not to be perfect, but knowing is different than feeling. I know, though I hate to admit it, that when I lost, I lost to a better team. I feel like we should have won. I feel like we were the best team ever to dig our cleats into a soccer field. I think every team does and that makes losing all the more bitter. It destroys the flawlessness you see in yourself. It takes away anything that might have been special about you. Losing made me just another player on another team.
If that’s true, what about those who really are a success, but failed in some small way? Everyone who plays sports will lose eventually. It’s impossible never to lose. Likewise, everyone who plays life will lose eventually. Life is difficult for those who try to do it flawlessly. It’s much easier to simply accept that you will fail, then when it happens, it’s not such a shock and you’re a little more prepared for it. Getting to that acceptance is harder than saying it though.
Whether it’s losing a soccer game, flunking a test, misplacing your car keys, or disappointing a friend, losing is natural part of us, like eating or sleeping. If we go to long without eating we die. What happens if we go to long without failing? I don’t know that it kills you, but it certainly hurts more when it finally does happen. That was a big part of why that one game was so much different then any other game I ever lost. We had only lost three games all season. We were, in a way, setting ourselves up to be hurt. Failure doesn’t always hurt, but it does when you begin to think you’re invincible. It builds up and the longer you go the more you almost need to fail, just like you need to eat, then when it happens, it hurts, but it helps you too.
All this makes me wonder: is there actually some significance to failing? We say that you learn from your mistakes, but the unfortunate thing about that is we never choose to fail. It just kind of happens. If you don’t choose to fail then it also follows that don’t choose to learn (or you choose not to learn if you’d rather act than be acted upon). So is it better to succeed and never have to think back at four in the morning to things that went wrong and learn nothing or to fail and lie awake sleepless at night having learned that your not infallible, though you probably still don’t believe it. I guess that’s the issue for me. Pride makes it difficult to learn my lessons. I might have learned something from that game, but I’ve long since denied it, I’m sure. It’s probably still there like the dog’s chew toy that disappears somewhere in the house, and I might even dig it out some day when I’m rearranging my mental furniture, but for now I’m at a loss.
I think maybe failing is something I’m not good enough at yet to be judge and executioner of, yet I’m good enough at it to do it fairly consistently. I could fail in my sleep if I had to. I could probably even pat my head, rub my stomach, and fail at the same time, or at least fail at patting my head while rubbing my stomach. It can be somewhat hard to identify failure. There is no formula. There is no “if A and B then FAILURE” which is why it’s easy for me to say I failed but that Seth didn’t. Ultimately, I think we all think less of ourselves than need be. Our own personal qualifications for failure, our own standards, are set significantly lower than they are for other people, that way they’re easier for us to achieve.
I guess this is all leading to the question, “what is failure”? Is it not doing what you set out to do? Is it not rising to the level you feel you should have risen to? I’ve heard that you’re only failure when you’re a quitter, but I think it’s possible to be a failure at other times too. There are a lot of people that think we didn’t fail when we lost because of everything that came before that game, everything that made us successful. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then failure is in the eye of beholdey.
I still feel the painful failure of that game. I lie awake thinking about it; I dwell on it, how it could have been different, and how we could have, and sometimes, depending on my mood, should have won. But I’m only a failure to myself. I think to most people I was an unfortunate success that night. Maybe that’s just a nice way of saying failure though. I think maybe, that I shudder to admit, even to myself, that maybe my standards were just too high. If you’ll except nothing less than perfect then you’re bound to be let down.
The idea of failure is something we’re a little afraid to approach. Maybe it’s because it hurts sometimes. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll fail at approaching it, or at least, at approaching it successfully. And in the end, I think that fear is what it all comes down to. Fear is the backbone of the entire concept of failure. Everyone’s afraid to fail and wouldn’t failure lose all its power if we suddenly weren’t afraid of it anymore? Isn’t that what failure is - a fear of doing something, poorly wrapped up and disguised in some other word that tries to eliminate that fear? Wouldn’t we feel better about ourselves if we allowed ourselves the freedom to fail occasionally? And we wouldn’t be afraid that we might fail at this or that if we acknowledged that it could happen. It’s only when we expect to succeed, and fear that unforgivable failure, that failure really hurts.
My professors are always encouraging me to “allow myself to write a bad first draft.” I think they just might be on to something. I guess that’s what they get paid for. There is a certain freedom in allowing yourself to fail. You don’t have to expect as much out of yourself. That’s not to say that we ought to set low goals for ourselves. We just shouldn’t feel guilty, and even criminal, if we don’t achieve our high ones. Writing the bad draft isn’t so bad. There will be other drafts. Losing that game isn’t so bad. There will be other games. Failing isn’t so bad; there will be other chances.
I guess if I solved one thing I’ve found that if Seth wasn’t a failure, then I, despite all my feelings, can’t be either. My self-viewed success didn’t hinge on one shot like his and actually, it didn’t hinge on that game either. It was something bigger, even bigger than the season. It hinged on me. I couldn’t be a failure. I’d like to think that I’m good at soccer and that game haunts me, keeps trying to tell me that I’m not as good as I thought. That game was a failure to me, not because I lost, not even because it ended the season, but because it destroyed the thing I wanted so badly and had worked so hard to become. It shot me down, put me in my place.
I think maybe that’s ultimately what failure is: being put in your place. Since it’s mostly in your own mind, its effect must be destroying something there, in your mind, not something elsewhere. Losing that game never destroyed anything except my hope of winning that game and eventually winning a state championship. I guess then, there really is something good in failing, besides learning lessons that you will, inevitably, forget. Failing puts you in your place and that’s always good because we are always trying to climb out of our place into something a little too ambitious, a little too perfect. It doesn’t make it less painful, just more practical.

6.01.2005

Emotions Can Be Felt

It's geometric;
The kiss of fog
Parting, like the curtain
To an unseen audience.
It's formula
Not Eulcid, but babies
Spat up on their mothers.
The rhythm of wit,
The isosceles sarcasm,
A spear of dew
Rolling down a drop
Of grass
Into the handshake
Of two strangers
Under the neon
Midnight.
I sing this body
Eccentric,
Into several spheres,
Planets orbiting the nucleus
And moving into solar
Eclipse, into alignment,
Binary hacking into identity,
Or a scope zeroing
On the heart.

Life After Winter

I
The roads stretch like cats
Finished napping,
Shaking off the resilient
Outline of winter.

II
Blossoms explode
Into rising temperatures,
Approximate ancestors
Of smiles and warm feelings.

III
Stars, like outraged vikings,
Conquor the clouds,
Vestigial leftovers
Clinging to existence.

IV
Waking with the window
Open to the smell
Of rain, I set
The alarm back an hour.

Hymn of Longing

My heartbeat sounds different
In the cool silence of my room
Than it does in the romping room,
The tabernacle of struggle
(For the realness missing sometimes)
Where the old women bang
Their tamborines and dance
Like they were making wine
(Or perhaps drinking it),
And the old men pluck grapes
For them and prophecy
Fires into our bellies (while
We wait on the wine).

The young are left behind
(Because they are silent
And self-conscious),
And often, when the mountains
Begin to tremble,
I feel like I am searching
For a bunker, or crawling
Under barbed-wire baricades,
My gas mask snug against my cheeks,
As banners fill the front of the room,
And the movements, the vibrations
Of the dancers grow so immense
I am afraid the floor will collaspe
And we will fall into some
Special precinct of hell for those
Who sang the songs for the songs themselves.

5.11.2005

When You Exhale

For the last time only,
Only the last thing you think
You see is important.

As the gasp ignites,
Other eyes are little fires,
Flames flushing out the remains

Of pitri dish goodbyes,
And the carpet is softened
In our sifting footsteps.

Greeting card condolensces will follow
Like funeral confetti, party favors
From the guests at parting.

It's strange that earth and tears
Are so akin, while the sluggish catepillar
Explodes into adult beauty,

Spreading its wings triumphantly
Toward the gold eternal morning.

3.30.2005

Contemplation on Waiting

Like something out of Hollywood, I stood
At the door looking into March, a cup
In my hand, a glaze in my tired eyes, my stare
Vacant, wandering. The window would
Not let you, out there somewhere, make it up
On time. I rode the surf to everywhere

That you might be: in prison, or worse dead.
I feel like a mom, wondering from her child
And we are not at all related. We
Are simply similar cogs of similar heads
That think on parallel lines into wild
Untainted places where no eye can see.

Contemplation on Coffee

It’s four A.M. Coffee always starts
This way, the three-legged beast that gallops out
The big red barndoor of the midnight wake
In search of pasture good for food, for art,
For all between, and, finding it’s not about
To blossom into morning, leaves it’s ache

In tired eyes. It’s main mark, it’s dream-
Like machinations, or solvent there unto,
Continues long beyond the pallet’s con-
Sciousness, punctuated by the roaring stream
Of random thoughts that make a passage through
The body till the bladder sends them on.

The Great Divide

What faith can man employ to keep in frame
the things beyond our flesh, the things outside
of time and reason which we can never claim
to circumvent, which can never be denied
by flesh. God, Himself, has built these feet
beneath us, and, with onward-heralding call,
He asks for faith of us, still incomplete,
that stands apart from these. It seems a small
thing for God, who is not marred by out
restrictions, to understand the sweeping span
of time all at once while we yet lack the power
to find, in even this moment, a trace of Your plan.
You who know eternity so well,
remember us, whom time and reason fell.

A Once Perfect Image

By definition flesh is flawed for we
have blemished it, perverted what was made
in God's own theme, what was created to be
perfect. We, in our supreme crusade
to die, have deperfected the divine
reflection that once was cast from heaven's throne
upon the waters below. That decline
of flesh, frail, by nature both eager and prone
to sin, sponge-like in a legionous sea,
the viral host itself of all opposed to God,
God assumed for us, but sinlessly,
blemish unimbibed or fleshly flawed.
For that which is sin's home but not its native,
He, sinless, died that we might, sinful, live.

Of Name Unspeakable

My God of name unspeakable, You are
somehow eternally blood appeased and sac-
rifice saturated though I am far
myself from appeasing and filled the more with lack
than have. For all the want in me for You,
I am ever sin-seeking, ever sin-
sought, as one wave to beach yet due
or magnet to magnet drawn, the serpent's kin
itself, not only fallen but creating fall
as well. You look, with innumerable mercies past
the blood and death I owe that stand to call
inadequate my righteousnessless cast.
For all of me that can't be what it ought,
The price is paid, the debt already bought.

Passing Through Fire

You men of faith, whose inner fires dwindle,
whose spirits tremble with timidity
at the thought of stirring up the dark, rekindle
what lies dormant somewhere underneath
the burned out soot and ash, cool and grey
that we have learned to tolerate and ignore.
Rake aside the embers that died away
and bring to air the underlying store
of warmth and energy. Fire has not
a neutral spirit. We were made to burn,
not to sit in shadows but in hot
response to God, and let our fanning turn
To flame. For that which waits to be relit,
May God’s consuming fire kindle it.

3.23.2005

Contemplation on Darkness

It holds no form its own but takes the shape
Of anything it hides behind, although
Often in flux or flag or otherwise
In strange dissimilation, a vicious rape
Of anatomy. It doesn't feign to owe
Allegiance as it chooses its disguise.

It's thick like yarn unwound completely or
A wool sweater unraveled to a pile.
It creeps and crawls like ivy up a wall,
Claw over claw, the deft assassin corps
Maneuvering through land mines, all the while
A coward, for the light still makes it pall.

Contemplation on a Cat

Like the black ooze of tar spilled across
The ground or like molasses seeping through
a recipe or like a shadow's form
Framed behind the lump where light has tossed
Its silhouette against the wall, a shoe
sliding on a foot, a quiet storm

Building in the west and blowing in,
A lump of algae ushered in from sea
To rest on the sand, a tired unshaved face
Rolling over on a pillow, tin
Scorched in fire till it crumples, a tree
Growing from an oriental vase.

Contemplation on Early Spring

The damp world waltzes to the clear
Ring of rain, winter's promenade
From royal court to beggar's corner's bed,
And spring, December's long-time captive, here
Begins its dance, not the measured trade
Of winter's melancholy, but instead,

The turbulent jive and swing that leaves its breath
Upon the window panes and downs its gin
Between the rhythmic footfalls of its rave,
The raucous neighbor who brings cold's early death,
Then bears its funeral pyre as next of kin,
Amidst the din of music, to its grave.

End Times

The first horizon,
Jawline over Eden,
God's teeth sinking in,
Juicy, rotting -
He spits seeds
Still cultivating,
And washes out
Our mouths with rain -
Then, a smile
Painting promise,
He hangs a sign:

Workers needed:
No deep sea divers,
Only firefighters.

My Generation

We speak left-handed,
Words reflecting in our eyes
Like the half moon in this hollow
Half-winter lake, stirred,
As it were, by the Spirit's descending,
And we slip our bodies in,
If only in our minds,
Like ice cubes into tea,
Mellowing feeble March
By the diffusion of our Voices.

We walk left-handed
In the holes between
Footprints toward the sky
We see falling,
Feet angled into new agendas
Like a fascist in sackcloth
And ashes singing the national
Anthem backwards through the butt
End of a lit cigarette
As certain octaves slip into coffins.

We think left-handed
While science tells us we are
LD bi-polar psychos,
Statistics shoved into pidgeon holes
(and it reaks of pidgeon dung here),
The glitch in the program
That freezes up the mainframe
And steals your identity
(But we are only stealing it back)
To buy expensive plastic surgery.

Loaded

Life, the blurry apparition,
Like driving through winter
When the snow and salt
And ice white out your windshield,
Stands on one leg,
Not quite the promenade,
Nor the dance we feel
Between our toes,
But rather the lost expression
Of the ill-newsed,
Holding to a form of espionage
Although we routinely deny
Its deception, but
Rather the awkward sleep
Of flamingos against the pink
Of sundown, where
Our lives, we think,
Sink into dim waters,
When really the sun,
Because the earth
Is the revolver,
Doesn't set at all.

1.26.2005

The Rooster Crows

This silence gapes Nero
Into our burning obituaries,
Which we carefully
Polished and embossed
To reflect our face
When we peered,
Like off a tall building
Into wheezing traffic,
Objectively in.
My bookmarks are blowing,
Curtsying to court jesters,
And I forget myself,
What I am about.
There is a point
To every season;
Some have accepted
(I may say cajoled)
My wriggling torso,
And I am pidgeon-holed
To a specimen board,
Which feels something like
What crucifixion must have,
But I have yet to bear a cross.