Character Study

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Votive

Low-lying stone

under bended weeds

Hinderant

Not hiding, but unseen

Worn down by wind

Silently unyielding

Belligerent monument

Altar to

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.

 

 

 

 

Reluctantly

I admit it

Reluctantly, but still,

This desire to Surrender

If I know how,

Tired of this burden

Sometimes life

Ticked down to nothing,

How many hours now

Have been dragged along

In solitude?

Pushed past razor’s

Edge against wrist

Of surrender-

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

Even that

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

Movie Villain-

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.

 

About “Reluctantly”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn

Tonight while walking I saw

a daffodil sprung alone

along a spar of rotted wood

as though washed there

on tides of waving grass

Between chain-link fence

And the wall it faced

Away from me

Leaned into concrete and braced

Against it’s own shadow.

Rooted in dusk.

Yellow petals paled at edges

as if bled out around it

Onto pools of dark and floodlight

I wanted so badly

For either of us to reach

Back through the dappled gloom,

Bloomed despite our respective cages,

To grant the other a little color-

But then,

Why should a daffodil be different

Than anyone else?

.

About “Turn”

I pass a small rectangle of grass, enclosed by a chain-link fence, on my way to school.

It was a little after 7 pm, early April, and I noticed a lone daffodil growing in the middle of the grass. It caught my attention, not just because it had blossomed before even the dandelions, but because rather than leaning towards the east or some other area of sunlight it was turned toward the thirty foot concrete wall and growing within the shadow of a guard tower. I thought ” I understand” and I watched that daffodil every evening on my way to school as it’s petals began to fall off and it became almost indistinguishable from the weeds springing up around it. I guess I understand that too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About “Plain Jane”

I know this isn’t the greatest craft poem ever. It’s kind of a cutesy forgettable piece. The woman who originally inspired it is anything but forgettable. I had a rare chance to just hang out with someone whose company I enjoy and noticed she had dyed the ends of her hair blue in such a way that the color was only inside the spirals of her ponytail. I commented on how long it must have taken her to create such a cool effect and her reply was that she was such a plain Jane that she had to do something. I believe said something about her being better off that looking like central-casting’s wet dream for convict #2 in every prison movie ever made. (that is, me), but I was still thinking about her comment later that night. It really bothers me that she thinks of herself that way, she’s this totally amazing person, a beautiful person – “Plain” would never be in any description of her. So I wrote this for her.

Because it’s a personal message, I never planned to share this piece with anyone but her, however two women in the last four months have expressed similar sentiments to me with as little reason. It got me wondering why and while I don’t have a complete answer, I have come to the conclusion that feel good songs by pop stars who don’t know the women who feel this way probably have a minimal impact at best. I decided to share this piece because I don’t know ANY plain Jane’s. I’m not sure such a thing exists. If someone makes you feel like a plain Jane, it probably means they are too shallow and uninteresting a person to get to know who you are. If you feel like a plain Jane because of what society pumps, well, society is at fault for Jerry Springer, the Kardashians, and cops among it’s more egregious offences. Basically, fuck society.

I just wish this poem was better.

Plain Jane

What could be more common
Than that brown hair?Neither dark nor fair     All its gold    Sunk in light styles    Reflects the shine    Of subtleness, of care

What could be more common
Than eyes umber plain?
Such empty clay
No compassion
Nor empathy
They reach out     And give it all away
What could be more commonThan a face so bare?No Flash or flair     Host lips     Which when smiling     Make me forget     Anyone else is there

 

Quetzalcoatl

Incendiary horns

Lead soot-stained tail

Serpents body grips heart

of Jaguar

Combusts in steel-scaled coils

Relentless hunter

Stalks

Takes

Devours

Pilgrims lost as sacrifices

In ceaseless accelerated crawl

Sawed off cries less heard

Under low rumble

Of iron throated roars

Accumulated in bluffs and peaks

And ash-riddled skies

Splash crimson darkness

Against ascendant sun-

Reached steps

Rise north to more nowhere

Wishes betrayed

Like burned out stars

Finessed and left

In wake

Of the Beast.

 

 

About Quetzalcoatl

I began writing this piece after reading, The Beast, I  believe the author’s name is Oscar Martinez, an amazing book about the dangers central American’s face as they cross Mexico, by foot and train (the titular “Beast”) to reach the United States. This book was a revelation for me. I had no idea the danger, exploitation and desperation people face on the journey across Mexico. I knew there was no way for me to capture their experience, but I had to write something. I focused on the train as the embodiment of the Aztec Serpentine God, Quetzalcoatl. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Aztec culture and I’m not in a position to do much research on the subject so what follows may be completely off base:

I am under the impression that the Aztecs were a powerful empire who often sacrificed conquered peoples to the Aztec Gods. The Aztecs, being in the area of central Mexico, felt like a reasonable stand in for the Mexican gangs, corrupt officials, and coyotes who prey on central American immigrants; however, I eventually decided not to focus on people at fault because there are just so many-and many of them no Mexican at all, but U.S. Citizens and Central Americans too. In short, there is an entire system of inter-related exploiters destroying entire generations, so I tried to represent that system in the symbol of the train as a blood-thirsty God. I utilized the “ess” sound throughout to get the reader to think of snakes, hissing etc.  I also liked the idea of using a lot of hyphenated words as a visual representation of connectedness-the connectedness of us all as humans and Americans and the way a train connects geographic locations with it’s speed and it’s tracks.

I could go on for a long time about this piece. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and it’s been through a half dozen revisions, but I’m still really unhappy with it. I thought I’d share it to see if anyone has any ideas or can correct any misinformed influences.

Thanks for stopping by!