I had a rare
moment of lucidity
but I squandered it
admiring the color
of a dumpster.
Although sages report the nature of awareness to be luminosity, this limitless radiance cannot be contained within any language or sacramental system. Although the very essence of Mind is to be void of either subjects or objects, it tenderly embraces all life within its womb. — Tilopa
The air doesn’t need to have cracks in it. You can fall right through the thing itself. It plays with pressure and motion, mussing your hair or pulling your boat against currents on a shifty sea. Cup it in your hand, out of the car window. Blow it. It makes shapes you can hear. It’s there when you laugh, the material of your voice. You suck it in when you’re shocked. Release it slowly and the world becomes relaxed. Breathe it, if you want to stick around to see how this all ends.
The airfoil hypnotizes the sky and we ground-dwellers, with a cocky new take on gravity, call it flight. Aloft, we hold ourselves in a makeshift certainty where heavier-than-air flight is possible, our nerves as jumpy about being seated in the sky as they are when a nagging fear gets us to doubting. The cabin is pressurized, the air outside losing interest in the meaning of weight. Travelers impatient, we race ahead through time, out of this purgatory, rehearsing in our imaginations the getting on with it. But objects are always stationary to the geometry of their own locus. The X and the Y form a point on a plane where the pilot admits, through a crackling intercom, that we’re all hurtling to our destinies.
And she even knows the temperature on the ground for when we get there, but for now, the clouds make faces at us through the windows, and the turbulence flexes our wingtips. Intrepid goers and comers with our itineraries and phones, minds in airplane mode, we submit to continuity and see landing as a kind of taking off into an alternate, less valiant sort of sky. Back on earth we breathe each other’s air with a sense of autonomy, a sense of privacy that is groundless. Meeting and parting, crossing time zones, our connecting flight is the unshuttered air above, the midwife of all our doings. Terminals, they are called, and we keep passing through them.
Airport now in the rear view mirror, flying down the highway, who can ever see how this all ends? It’s all just beginning, is it not?
We had shrimp for dinner, and later that night they came back to me, and they made up my dreams for me. The shrimp, that is, their bodies buried in the shallow grave of an appetite sated. Born shrimp, born to be eaten, a waking life of monotony, but their dreams are quite elaborate. You eat something, maybe something eats you, but dreamlife swings wide and hard, twirling like a centrifuge. The deep stuff pulled out of its shell.
The years were piled behind me like great mounds of bald tires in a vast rural tract bounded by chain link fencing, ablaze with morning glories. Something about the bent, linked wires attracts the vines. It was the shrimp dreaming, and myself, eating their dreams. The vines look a tangle, a thicket made of dreams, like intestines, dilated to accommodate the diaspora of displaced thoughts. They form vast tent cities, shanties of curiosity in the bardo of the seeking night. Dreams weighted down by heavy meals. Stomachs themselves, dreaming.
Bee-like, the shrimp dream of flowers. A trumpet shaped flower may one day dream me up. They have yet to name that color, that something-blue, rattling the ocular nerve. It is uncertainty. You call an endless thing infinite because you run out of time. You have to call it something. You are given your name. My bent, linked mind attracts these vines. In dreamland the dreams dream you.
In the morning we rise and dream up another day. The shrimpers return to the docks engulfed by clouds of frantic gulls. The birds take repast in open water. On the boat, cormorants, pelicans line up aft, on the railings, like a depression era breadline. They wait, dreaming of shrimp, then dive after the spoils as the fishermen sort the catch. They are in for some crazy dreams. I was caught out in a daydream and, snapping out of it, I got a whiff of salt. The gulf is dreaming and I am in that dream. At dock, the boats sway and the sun makes its way. The net booms point skyward, but no one seems to see this as a sign.
Do you ever crave mountains? And when you think of mountains do you think of hulking peaks of buttery mashed potatoes with scoop-dented crests, filled with steamy hot gravy? I face the water. Behind me the land stretches out flat, like water. I’m thinking of vegetables now. Or maybe I’ll fast. Try dreaming my own stuff, for a change.
I got 99 drafts
in my drafts folder, son
I got 99 problems, but
writing ain’t one
Blank page, writers block
sorry you are stuck
Bang you out a brand new draft
who gives a flying fuck
in my drafts folder, son
not a single thing is done
I got 99 revisions
on a simple fucking rhyme
I got 99 changes, and
it still ain’t worth a dime
This crap right here was completed in 15 revisions, yo. After 25, the WordPress editor throws up its hands and gives up on you. Dude, keep your day job, it seems to be saying.
Is the air, in and out
of my lungs, part and parcel
to a season’s drift into season?
Where would we be, out of the air?
Having days without weather
foundering, lost like a groundless
facile science, ungodly as a vacuum.
The weather is having us, we’re
in its pocket, under its watch
drumming in its rain, breathing in its
cloudless pomp, adrift in its seasons.
At all times, where we are
it seems to know.
The poem half belongs to the reader.
The poetry, the novel. Writers shepherd things into place, they are just words after all. The reader does half the lifting. But once they start gorging on films of literary origin, the teeth of the imagination begin to rot.
Consume the processed product of someone else’s imagination? Take the sirloin in pill form why don’t we. No gristle to pick from your teeth. Literature ignites the imagination, that’s what reading does. Watching a flickering screen, it is numbed. The imagination is anesthetized. But by all means, let Neflix make a Game of Thrones out of Garcia-Marquez, what could go wrong? Youth are remaking the world as we speak, it is not ours any more, us old farts. I worry about all the wrong things.
I have attitudes that mean nothing to anyone but me. They are like my children. I give them names and watch them grow up. Weep when they do poorly in school, or start stealing cars. It is a derangement I hold dear. One Hundred Years of Solitude will no doubt become the Breaking Bad of magical realism. It does not touch me. I have already built my own copy of that world.
Ever so slowly, I rise, and applaud.
together over time
years, piled upon years
into a kind of composite
where every lurch and pause is
fitted for reflection and echo, and
anchored in appetite, anticipating
the next meal, or fondly
recollecting the last
single minded, this go-round
so thorough it tends to obscure
the births and deaths that
will by definition have
had to occur in there
Still Life With Meals first appeared in the themed anthology Routine, published by Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, 2018.
I’m happy that they’ve accepted a flash fiction piece from me for their next themed annual, entitled The Year, expected out early 2020. Thanks to editor Kerri Farrell Foley. Submissions are still open, hint, hint.