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Who am I?
Am I the convicted murderer? The comic book geek? The weight pit junkie? Am I the college graduate?
I admit it!
I am not the person I portray. I am not that person I want to be. Not exactly. I am not as strong, or fearless, or as selfless as I would like. Sure I try, but I am prone to profound despairs. I so very often want to surrender.
I never do. I always conceive some new ploy or stratagem. Some false hope. First I convince myself I am backed into a corner, bloodied beyond saving, then I come roaring out ready to fight. I hate myself for that sometimes.
Can any prison sentence rehabilitate that?
Am I my desires?
I would like to laugh more. I want to regret less. I want to live up to more of my ideals. I would like to impose less on the people I love. I want to be just as difficult to deal with as I’ve always been, Maybe in different ways. A little more inspired, a little less foolish. But only a little. I wish I weren’t so crazy. I wish, for just once in my life, someone would love me enough to not leave. No matter the obstacles.
Think I can fantasize that away?
Am I my own creation?
I have worn the skins of so many hastily scribbled characters. I have peeled each off, scrubbed and scraped each away. From each I kept something, clung to some aspect I could not simply cast aside. The faint lines left after erasure. Am I the sum of these collected pieces?
Am I that small core which decides these parts are worth preserving?
The distinction sounds academic, but to me it seems deeply important. Though I cannot articulate how. Or why. Does considering these questions determine who I am? Am I no more than the questions I ask? Am I the answers I come to?
Am I strong enough to lift that off my shoulders?
Am I a work in progress?
I learn. It takes awhile. I am learning that as I strive and sacrifice, I am, in fact, surviving through insanity. I have found that sometimes, with perseverance, I am, in fact, the hero I hope to be are not all that far apart. Sometimes. I have discovered the path to wisdom is paved with perpetually broken hearts. I am learning that the only fate worse that death is a perpetually broken heart. I am learning that my past and my loneliness are as inescapable as this cage.
Does a degree open these doors?
So, who am I?
An untethered island forever floating around the edge of the archipelago. Some flightless creature leaping from cliffs. A poet, writing with razors across wrists. Just some faceless specter passing through your life. The mixed metaphor which explains nothing and means everything.
A character study carefully wrought from chaos.
About “Character Study”
At some point when I first decided I wanted to write, I figured out that I would have to be willing to reveal painful and embarrassing truths if I was ever going to write anything worth reading. Character Study is a kind of self-portrait, intended as a way for me to understand how I saw those truths.
Character Study can be found in my collection Oubliette and in the graduate issue of Writers bloc.
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on this piece in the past and I decided to post it here to see what you all think and because it’s how I’ve been feeling this week.
If you would like to purchase a copy of my book Oubliette please contact me.
(For, Russ, Jodi, Eric, Vinny, Tom, John, Mikey, Brian, Steve, Amos, & Kim)
My mind is a cemetery
These blue-gray eyes regurgitate
Whose lives I’ve swallowed
And held inside for so long
I’m swollen with every death
Except my own
My thoughts slide across
Floors greased by blood from
Your slit wrists
And I wonder if I had enough
Spread this hand for you to hold
If I’d tried
To slam the door on the car
That became your coffin
If I’d been there
Could I have cut
The noose before it was tied
To connect bars to your neck
If I’d just kept
My temper and some patience
Would your bones have come to rest
In some unmarked bush
Left by vengeful fingers who
Couldn’t reach me
From the dumpster where
They dumped you
Carved open and squeezed
Dry of every heart drop
That’s when they killed me too.
Yet I linger mausoleum-like
Shoving ancient remains from shelves
To make room for new vacancies,
Your tongue less skulls
Crowd my shoulders crumbled façade
Which leave me empty
I have memories of fun and laughter where I am the only person still alive. So many of my friends are gone now that I often wonder how I’m still here; I, the least deserving of them all.
The original versions of this piece are longer, sometimes much longer, but I had to cut it down to approach something good enough for those it’s dedicated to. There are more names which deserve to be on that list, more stories that deserve to be told, I’m working on it.
It shines inside.
By threadbare cap’s brim
It spreads heat barely;
Still it lures
What would fly,
Elude the dark.
It’s light bounces
Around the walls and walls
To do any good.
It’s skin brittle,
Its filament thin-
A tiny shake
or slight crack
Could end all brilliance;
Blind to any
But these confines
Just beyond senses
The Cornell Prison Education Program has a kind of literary magazine called Writer’s Bloc and this piece was written in response to a prompt asking us to write a poem about an object in our cell which is a metaphor for our life (full, disclosure, I wrote the prompt).
Anyway, “Luke” means illumination and the poem uses my clip-on lamp as it’s symbol. I wrote the piece with the idea that I am never able to fully express the things I have inside me, I always fall short, and yet some people seem drawn to me-sort of pulled into orbit-but those people never seem to understand how very fragile I am.
I’ve never understood the strength people think they see in me or the light. I know I have beauty inside, I see a world much better than the one we live in and I try to impose the one onto the other. Is to try and fail continuously a kind of tragic virtue?
If I have any light worth sharing I suppose it’s my vision of that better world and my resolve to love sincerely. My sadness is the ever-present shade which caps my dreams and leaves me longing in uncertainty and self doubt. I am confined by more than concrete and steel
It could most properly be called a Cathedral. Not one of those decaying medieval edifices whose stout doors defiantly face the rising sun, daring medicants and fallen angels alike to do their worst. No, this place contained several citadels of holiness within an imposing curtain wall. Labrynthine pathways crouched between stone work huddled together from all pervading sin. The occasional rocky countenance of a gargoyle leered down covetously at passing souls, forever calculating. It was a proper place of foreboding.
Somewhere within, he fled.
He ran down a corridor, open to a courtyard on one side, it’s ceiling covered in unhealthy crimson splotches. Past narrow pillars he could see rose bushes in tightly ordered rows, their blooms burst open like over-ripe fruit and wilting in the chill twilight. Amid the distance of storm-tousled skies he perceived spires, like spears, stabbing heavenward; slicing. Piercing out from the wound to the well. Laughter echoed around him like the swirling shadows cast by candle light.
His pursuer was close now.
The bag thrown over his shoulder was heavy. It had grown heavier as he’d run because of the need to accumulate the things in it. There had been no choice, it was about survival. Every fleet step of foot denied him some small portion of courage he would require to make his stand. Every length of ground gained was ground that would be lost later. Not slowly either, but all at once and suddenly. Fatigue fell over him like a shroud, blinding his mind long enough to trip him. Scraped knees and hands did not concern him.
The he realized he was cornered.
The hall had terminated into depressed gazeebo. A shortened pew gasped shortened out from each of its five sides. Some obscure idol rose from the center to gaze outward at the garden. He stumbled down to the far railing, kneeling on the bench there. Beyond the marching bushes the blank face of brickwork creeped out unabated in all directions. Not a single egress presented itself. Flash of lightening and again the laughter. Infinitesimally closer.
He turned back toward the statue. It’s face hung above him like the waning moon. Sculpted eyes gouged the space below it disdainfully. The nose bent over a mouth which had been shorn away. The debris of the defacement lay littered around the base. He was out of time.
The tendrils of It’s presence unfurled around the open space. He watched it approach with a sense of claustrophobia. Slender as a stiletto and sheathed in midnight robes, It’s sallow skin seemed to ripple with each fluid footstep. Lengthy strides precise and deliberate. Straight hair, the colorlessness of newly formed specters, descended below skeletal shoulders. Emerging from cavernous sleeves, spidery fingers crawled from hands webbed with scars. A blade striking from the darkness. This seemingly fragile vessel had traveled from the belly of some long forgotten age. The malignancy of It had claws grasping from eons past.
Sweat tore from him in torrents. The storm of mortal understanding-a flash which polished his mind with abrasive sands until it shone like a star. with a light that would not be seen until long after it’s source’s demise. The realization that the only redemption is found in the pulse of struggle is no simple acceptance. You must simply accept it.
But acceptance does not necessitate surrender.
He raised his fists, his only defense, but there came a billowing of black robes like the bellowing of brass bells-the silence.
Flash of lightening , another unhealthy crimson stain, and again the laughter.
About ” The Reality of the Garden”
This started as part of a very strange dream I had during a period when I was reading a lot of H. P. Lovecraft. Go figure. Anyway, I wrote it with the intention of telling a story about a man running from a personification of death/time within the confined of a labyrinth which I thought of as a symbol for our societal structure. The garden of life is always just a step away , but man never thinks to take it because he sees no way to escape that way. Man continues to flee within the structure because he thinks the structure was constructed to offer a way out, never realizing the structure circumscribes his existence.
I wanted to tell a story about humans obsessive beauracracy-building siphoning the joy from life, creating the rat race against time where only emptiness and fear are found surrounded by the structures man has constructed in an attempt to create meaning. That’s why the Church like setting and allusions to the religious belief.
Unfortunately, this has never become the story I wanted to tell. It really hasn’t even become a story. There are some great lines in it though, so it hasn’t been a waste. I’m sure I’ll continue to play with this periodically and maybe someday it will become something.
I’m sharing it because I’ve been drowning in a vicious sort of writer’s block, but I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about time so I’m hoping someone’s comments might stimulate some momentum.
under bended weeds
Not hiding, but unseen
Worn down by wind
Broken lawnmower blades
And winces at stubbed toes;
Sacrifices to lesser Gods
Who take what they can get
About ” Votive”
“votive came out of me musing about early hominids’ religious practices and what became of their religious artifacts, if any existed. I imagined that after so much time it was possible altars or other artifacts would be unrecognizable as anything out the ordinary. I also imagined ancient hominid gods forgotten in their unremarkable stones, living off of accidents like gremlins.
American Gods is one of my favorite novels, so with the television treatment of it now airing I thought this would be a good time to post this.
I admit it
Reluctantly, but still,
This desire to Surrender
If I know how,
Tired of this burden
Ticked down to nothing,
How many hours now
Have been dragged along
Pushed past razor’s
Edge against wrist
If I knew how.
Those moments always settled
By fist-imprinted rock bottoms
Of foes’ sharp tongues
Thrust through ” I told you”s
I cannot give them
So small a victory,
Though I should surrender
If I knew how.
I survive by defiance
And a fear they’re right,
Because I am a monster
with visage and past
Violent as any horror
I know this.
But I still can’t
Seem to figure
What the fuck
Is so wrong
with being me
That it makes everyone leave
Then I remember
Reluctantly, but still,
I’d leave me too
If I knew how.
This is less a poem than it is a vomitus emoting on the page. “Reluctantly” is what results from most of sessions at the “desk” ( I actually write on my bunk, though I occasionally kick my feet up on the desk) when I’m writing to purge but can’t seem to capture my thoughts on the page. I figure this happens when I haven’t yet obsessed enough 🙂
Believe it or not, this is a revision of “Reluctantly”, I just can’t seem to get it right. I’m never really done working on a poem, so I’ll continue to play with this one even though I think it will never be anything more that practice.
Anyway, I decided to share “Reluctantly” because I feel this way a lot of the time and I guess I wonder if anyone else does too.