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Titanica, Titanica

Do you ever feel like a midlife soul within a collective midlife? The personal melds with the global, has sex with the Universe. Are plans folly? Intention goes astray. Yesterday and tomorrow battle over today.

I no longer identify with reality.

Just like that and in slow motion life became an escalating what the fuck sandwich. Another day, another bite, wondering what’s right. We are perpetrator, victim, enabler. We are actor and audience. We are complicit. No, we are deterministic. No, we are asleep.

I am watching the unraveling.

Truth and Untruth had a baby named Bullshit and we are fighting over whether to breastfeed it in public. The gaslight isn’t even subtle anymore. The valve’s been shorn off the main. All hail insanity’s rapturous flame.

We lean harder and harder on pander and spin. Anything. Everything. All to win.

Driven is a place in this world. An eyeless nobility. Nose to the stone. Grinder and ground. Go on, go on. Drive. To the top. To the bottom. Anywhere. Nowhere. By any means. As long as you keep going you’re already there. Glory be, glory be.

To a fabled fountainhead we forge upstream, as the costs float downriver lost in the dream.

Look at Mother Civilization. The pinnacle son, America. People made plans, built livelihoods. Smart people. People bursting with ambition and vision. They toiled. They killed and died. In this world it always ends up with the killing and the dying.

Merrily, merrily. To a karmic sea we can’t see.

Though we never thought the killing could be so pretty, so packed with dazzling ability. Holocausts within holocausts. A death omnibus. Our romance with vampires and zombies just an reflection of our undead mass + velocity.

If you look honestly there’s murder in everything of our making.

Every solution, every invention, milestone, discovery, victory, brought us to this place. God brought us here. Science brought us here. Freedom and Liberty brought us here. All our successes just turned out to be consequences.

The accounting in the millions and billions. Onward to trillions.

Meanwhile, there’s a war program for every ill. Meanwhile, they’re working on it. Meanwhile, something’s just around the corner. Meanwhile, a sovereign nation-religion keeps raping kids while it claims to save souls. Meanwhile, water flows where glaciers used to grow.

All signs point to escalation.

Debt is lifeblood. Make-believe fuel for a make-believe world, a guarantor guarantee bloodsucking jamboree. You get yours and they get theirs times infinity. We must keep creating negative nothing. What we cherish most, our children’s children we feed to this hungry ghost.

Shhh. Never admit that the present lumbers on because it eats the future.

And everything we overcame is still here. Still sharp. Sharpening. From the intersecting landslides of doubt and uncertainty grows the desire for authority. Enter the call for strong men to call for the heads of the straw men. Enter the wars of ideology.

Time for scapegoats and sadists’ magical thinking.

Fear loves assholes and so begins the persecutions. Time to rain pain on the powerless. Time for brutality without apology. Passive-aggressive inspirational internet memes. Shame as a means. Time to loose every imaginal scheme to keep our conscious clean.

We’ll blame anything but reality.

Everyone has the answer but you got to pay for it. It’s all in your head. Eat this. Don’t eat this. Think this. Stop doing that. Here comes the banning. Pick a side. Draw a line. They say everything is better, comparatively.

All our truths are turning up lies.

The Dali Lama said a thing. They say pot cures everything. Listicles Saved My Life. Someone said plastics were the future and they were right. The future is now choking whales, leaching into our cells. Omnipresent. Forever. 

Another massacre, another fit of thoughts and prayers.

The past haunts us while we yearn for its return while we forgive its sins—a long dystopia fascinated with predicting looming dystopias. The end is now! No, wait. Now! Now? Are we burning or glowing? Is it all continually growing or popping?

But we don’t dare stop. We won’t yield to the pain. 

We treat the existential dread, the dawning awareness, the collective grief aching in our veins, with a nonstop one-way ticket aboard Disney’s Denial Train. A prescription in a pill. A reform bill. New rights, extra daylight.

It’s heresy to say that it’s all in vain if we don’t get off the train.

Success means less for everything else, less of everything else, until ultimately, we’ll cut down the last tree. Just another being to add to the list of extinct things. There’s only so much that can be turned into the United Reality of We.

And still we won’t concede.

So many end days in the book we wrote, a pastime of crying wolf from the place at the bottom of its throat, oblivious to the thresholds and Rubicons we’ve already crossed on our boat. Bit by bit, and all at once, here come the throes. 

Here come the claims that we’ll always float.

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Shadow Work

Wreathed in wood, right angled
Stained blood-red, carved
With entwined vines of gold unbroken
stands a tall mirror

The clarity of its reflection too pure
Could be a doorway, a passage
If not for the part of framework at my feet
If not for myself that I meet

“Here is what you seek,” She says.

“My reflection? That’s rather cliche.”

A knowing chuckle echoes the room.
“You cannot hide behind your wit here, my love,” She says.
“Did you not ask for my aid?”

“Yes.” I answer with a hard swallow, my fear naked.

“The peace lost to every war,
the trust missing in every doubt,
every brave act stolen by fear…
Redemption’s pantheon stands before you.”

“Self-help?” I ask. “God, there’s libraries filled with that.”

“No. Look.” She instructs. “Quit running. Remember your plea.”

“I am. I don’t know what I’m supposed to see.”

“Yes you do,” She states with certainty that slays. “Look.”

Image perfect
No smudge, no glare
No hint of glass, only air
My contour sharp, detail down to the hair
I’m avoiding my own stare

A gaze without defense
Held too long opens a door
Acknowledges something more
Looses what I fight to ignore
A lonely truth, unexplored

Oh no
I’m locked to pupil and iris
Bound by compulsion
My shaking arm rises, reaches, questions
The borders of my understanding

As fingertips meet,
mirror turns to darkness complete
and from the void stabs a midnight hand
Grips my wrist, pulls and twists

With a shriek I set my feet, lean away
Demand to know why I’ve been betrayed

“Help! Why have you lead me astray?”

“When denial is deep, truth is hard to seek,” She responds.
“I have answered your call. Will you answer mine?”

Stunned by the treachery
To a dark gate She’s lead me
and to its maw She’s fed me
A demon’s snare I cannot flee
My peril sets my fear feral
With tooth and nail I flail

But every move is countered
Equally reversed as if rehearsed
Intimate, familiar

A combat ritual
A deadlock eternal
An innate stalemate fate

“Friend or foe, forevermore.” She breathes behind my ear.
“I cannot deliver you from yourself.”

Photo credit, Flickr/Tony Hall
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Where Our Feet and the Sidewalk Meet

What if I were to bleed

There, on the street
There, where our feet and the sidewalk meet

Would you offer aid?
Scoff, throw some shade?
Maybe trod through,
complain in dismay?

Perhaps turn away?
In shame?
Look for blame?
Burn me with righteous flame?

Or better yet come to a conclusion
One that frees you from inclusion
Devise a heavy-handed solution
Whose true success is only continued delusion

Why are you so afraid
To just listen?
To imagine yourself
As another person?

Your life is only one
of infinite possibilities
And in one of them you end up me
Shared, is this blood you see

No reason to cloud what’s pooling between us
No reason to stay fear’s servant, incredulous

There it is.

Maybe it’s a place?
A space?
A room where we can embrace?
Acknowledgement is not a waste.

Maybe it’s just pain?
Not better, not worse, not in vain?
Can it just be?
Would you just sit with me?

Look at my wounds
I see yours too
Please, have a seat
Right here

Where our feet and the sidewalk meet

Photo credit: flickr/Drew from Zhrodague
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Something That Wasn’t

Man. Mankind.

Manhood. Manly. 

Manpower. Manhandle.

Who was my father? Did he know himself?

Mom would tell me to look in a mirror if I wanted to know what my dad looked like.

A sister that I did not know until I was 30 says she sees our dad when she watches me. When we spend time together it is only a matter of when she will mention this.

A gesture. A thought. “Dad talked to crows too.”

He was a ghost. Then he died. Nothing’s changed.

How can something that wasn’t be in me?

Towards the end he was sometimes homeless. Semi-homeless? One of the homes he lived in was a Gran Torino.

I could be homeless. It’s not far. My home could be a Corolla.

Who am I?

When I think of my son, I am afraid. 

Culture. Familial history. 

Genes. Consequences.

I don’t see my son every day. I changed.

He used to ask why when he was younger. “Sometimes you fall out of love.”

Sometimes you fall out of who you thought you were.

I keep changing. I’m less of who I was. More of what?

Not my dad, I hope.

Time is faster at my age. It’s all accelerating.

The glaciers are leaving. Agreements are cleaving.

Do you grab tight? Fight? For what?

Intention goes astray.

If it was about truth, we wouldn’t recognize ourselves.

I could have stayed. I could have pretended. 

We all pretend.

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Bourdain

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

 

Maybe life is bigger than us.
Maybe it is wider, deeper
than the sliver
of the drop
of the speck
we decide is everything.

Maybe make space for the troubled, the weak.
Maybe listen.
Maybe acknowledge and sit with their pain, your own too.
Maybe know it fully.

Maybe heed, be witness.
Maybe yield.
Maybe heal.
Maybe begin.
Maybe become.

Maybe then imagine new worlds where we connect and belong.
I hope you will. I hope I will too.

Photo Credit: Flickr/richard pigott
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A Place

Maybe you pray. To a god. To a person.
To a way.
Maybe you are diligent.
Sharp. Disciplined.
Committed to a vision. Driven.
But you do not know who you are.
You do not know where you are.
In history. In time.
You can run, and do. You can fight, and have.

Blame is a means.
A place soothed by your demons and fiends.
All the arguments and agreements and the warnings of the prescient—
just gravel, cobble and asphalt to the destination of our will.

Falling apart is a place.
Tenets that no longer hold.
Never held, just lingered for a while.
You wonder why you hurt, claim you shouldn’t, but here you are.
That anxious rattle in your chest, the shallow breaths, is reason’s unrest.
I don’t know how to explain,
I can only hold this water in the cup of my hands for so long
while you shuffle and blink.

Losing faith is a place.
Becoming less of what you bought, of what you were taught,
is a death that makes space.
But you can’t even deal with the slaughter you sew—by hand and thought.
You let it all go so easy, then grip tight with righteous might.

Burdened, blind, or blithe—the truth works on us all.
The curse of consequence is shame.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Jack Blundell
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From Darkness, Light: Part 2

Hi.

In case you’ve just tuned in, Becky Tsaros Dickson and I are writing…something. These are words from the hip—a story peeled from the seat of our pants, and we know only a step ahead of you where it’s going. You can find part 1 here, along with an introduction of how this all started.

Here is Beck’s first installment. I’ll be back next week.

ps, We’d love to hear your thoughts as we move along. Feel free to leave us a comment with your questions and feedback. xo


 

From Darkness, Light: Part 2

The black spray paint on the side of the observatory said, “Thank you for smoking.”

Asa thought it summed up the state of the world succinctly.

Thank you for doing what you want.

Thank you for not giving in.

Thank you for being brave enough to be who you are.…

Thank you for sneaking out in the darkness to scrawl a message on concrete that might remind us it’s okay to feel how we feel.

It was a simultaneous reminder of everything that used to be, and everything that now was.

Think it and feel it, but pretend you don’t.

As an astrophysicist, Asa knew a thing or two about how physics and chemistry danced. Her life was dedicated to using those concepts to explain the birth, life and death of stars, galaxies, nebulae and everything else in the universe.

But now science, according to The Five, was no more. Not only banned, but held up as an example of how the world would end. An entire discipline of major study, foundational concepts humans use to navigate and save lives, deemed illegal.

Instead, The Five told them what to think and feel, how to behave, which ideologies to buy into.

Asa spent most of her time now pondering one simple question: What happens if everyone is right?

Is it possible to induce change without force, without argument, without right and wrong? To never use push or pull, only peace?

When people disagree, both parties think they’re right. Which makes the other person wrong.

You liked the movie and I didn’t.

Nobody is right or wrong, but we treat the other as though that’s the case. That what I think and believe and feel is right. Therefore you must be wrong.

And that belief — you are wrong — gives me permission to dislike you, or say and do horrible things.

It’s the stuff of war and death and destruction.

And sometimes preservation.

When The Five joined together — we are right! — it was because the rest of the world went to hell. A unified force of authority to maintain order among the 4 billion people remaining worldwide.

Everyone knew climate change was heating up. Ice caps melting, wild fires and flooding. Winter in New England from October to June. Volcanos and tornadoes, snow drifts and deadly droughts.

After the market crashed, power grids failed and Mother Nature got really pissed, Israel nuked Iran. Then India glassed the entire Middle East.

Every cliche regarding disease and Marshal Law was brought to life. Nearly half of the 8 billion people who inhabited Earth had died.

And The Five — America, Russia, China, Germany and India — now reigned together.

You want to eat and drink? Follow the rules. 

I am right and you are wrong.

It was not a slow descent. Within weeks, Asa’s lab was closed. Science, the one thing that might save them all from the outbreak and a melting planet, was banned. No longer taught in schools. Even medical care was needs-based, as determined by the government.

Because science, with all its research and experiments, allowed for independent thought and opinion. Science brought discussion and controversy. Science was an agent of change.

And how much more change could the planet withstand?

“Warrie, we are all going to die,” Asa said quietly. 

She twisted a strand of long, black hair around her index finger and shrank into her denim jacket. It was warm for November in Wisconsin, but a chill crept up from the base of her spine and bloomed in her chest.

“Thank you for smoking,” Warren read the graffiti and chuckled, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets. “Some of us don’t mind the idea of dying anymore.”

“You know, I haven’t done my job in 10 years,” Asa said, exhaling hard. She was certain Edwin Hubble and Carl Sagan were rolling over in their graves.

“Your job is to stay out of the fray,” Warren said.

He was the more pragmatic of the two. Asa always found it odd, considering he nearly died. Wasn’t that supposed to make a person more likely to take risks, get out there and live louder?

“I think people just want to feel safe,” she said. “When pushed, we react. It’s human nature. So what happens when there is no push?”

Warren thought for a minute, staring at the grass.

“I mean, how do we change without becoming what we reject?” Asa said. “How do you ‘win’ without force?”

Warren ran his hands through his hair, arching his neck as far back as it could go. The clouds were shades of November grey, lowering the sky, filling the air around them.

His gray eyes were wide open, but he didn’t see any of it. His mind was spinning.

Death was weirder than you think.

Warren thought it was a lot like losing your mom in the grocery store when your five. Those moments are when humans begin to feel for the texture of life. Danger: is it everywhere or only in your head? Are you terrified or is it all okay?

“You’re asking how to convince the entire planet that there’s nothing to fear. Because if nothing is a problem, then fear can’t breed. I think Winston Churchill tried that a hundred or so year ago,” Warren said.

He knew where Asa was going. He really wished she wouldn’t.

The Yerkes Observatory, where Warren and Asa stood now, was founded in 1897. It sat on 77 acres of undeveloped lakefront in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. The birthplace of modern astrophysics left to crumble. Pre-disaster, it was a developer’s wet dream.

From this perch, Asa had visions of a world where no one needs to be scared. Ever. A sort of mass meditative state where people realize fear is how they got here. Not science. Not climate change.

When no one is afraid, there’s no reason for war, no vying for power, no power to grab hold of.

It would be a deeply personal, but still collective, consciousness where everyone just understood you don’t need a reason to be happy or to feel good. You could just choose it.

The question became how to induce that state. She thought Warren, having nearly died, would understand how to convey that sense of peace. But first she had to get him onboard.

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All The Way The Fuck On

It’s time.

Time for roosters and crows
Relentless sunrises of thought
Nightbreaker tongues of light
Thunderlungs and Drumhearts
calling awake those who sleep

Time for deserters and dreamers
Faithful unbelievers
The sharers, the givers
Seers
Seekers of the undiscovered

Turn on.

There’s a part of you
that doesn’t suffer fools
that’s done being a mule
that didn’t swallow the rules
that is an unused tool

There’s part of you
a longing contribution that knows
a deep inside that always flows
a forgotten star that still glows
a wild wisdom in birth throes

All the way.

Scream. Cry.
Vomit. Shit.
Sprint.
Cut the artery.
This is an unruly party.

Uncork. Unlock.
Unpack. Unload.
Dump. Spill.
Open the valves, the gates.
Full throttle. Maximum volume.

Turn all the way the fuck on.

Photo credit: Flickr/Andrew Malone
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From Darkness, Light

First, a preface.

Writing is a lonely art and I’ve spent seven years spending a lot of time alone. Yes, I’m a better writer for the effort, and words on a page are the most important ingredient, but there’s big world outside of that bubble too. It’s the wild sea that diffuses our act of creation. What was mine is now not. Will it reach far shores or dilute into the depths?

The hierarchies faced are endless. Time, competition, privilege, economics, power—even rejection and dissent are a kind of acceptance. Acknowledgement is acknowledgement. But indifference? That’s an ice pick in the chest.

Maybe it’s just the chink in my armor. My familial history certainly reflects that observation. But we all are creatures of connection moving through a world that runs on disconnection.

In this world every act is loaded. Good. Bad. Success. Failure. It claims endless possibility but seating is limited and time is running out. It’s all on you, but in the hands of someone else. It turns us against ourselves before we even start. If you do grab the brass ring, you’re “invited” to do it again. And again. And again.

A repeated word looses meaning quick. It becomes a means. A cage.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when I write. When I pull out the bridle, I get a hoof to the face. When I plant a flag, the earth shifts. A deep hum in me that is as integral as an organ defies, disrupts. Its presence is familiar and alien. I’ve tried to cut it out and bled oceans. So I practice surrender. 

Whatever it is, it has no agenda. It just flows. Provides. My responsibility is to show up.

I’m not advocating the practice. It’s unnerving. Even I tried, how could I? I can’t draw you a picture. It’s not divine, not a mindset. It does not conform or comfort. It offers no guarantees, only itself. Words fail. Definition makes it wink out.

Clearly, I’m in the weeds. And maybe, maybe, that’s the point.

What if it’s not about me? Or you? What if it’s about us?

That’s why I said yes. Becky Tsaros Dickson, a writer who’s been a friend since I started putting words to paper, reached out of the blue with a question: “Want to write a blog series with me? Fiction. We just feed off each other and see how long we can keep it going.”

I haven’t explored writing fiction, being more drawn to memoir and reluctantly possessed by poetry, but I sent Beck a strict 500 word submission of fiction that I recently gave to Lidia Yuknavitch and Chuck Palahniuk for the possibility to work with them in a small writer’s group to develop into a book. It was kindly declined, but Beck liked it so we agreed to use it. In many ways I’m predictable as the sunrise, but I do love a whim. Just becauses. Random acts. I’m a chaotic creator, after all. So, we are going to give this a go.

This first installment is my original submission, minus the last paragraph which was way too explain-y and not enough show-y. Beck will write the next installment and we will alternate weekly, publishing here on my website.

No guarantees, my lovelies—maybe 500-1000 words a post. Beyond that we don’t know much more than you, and probably won’t as we move forward. But we are willing to take a shit so that we might shine. Possibility works best that way.

Thanks for taking the journey with us.


From Darkness, Light

“Civilization is just a story,” she said.

It was just she and he—her colleague, her lover, the only part of her she hadn’t lost to these times. The university had closed the observatory years ago but she still had a key.

The place that called itself “the birthplace of modern astrophysics” was now a tomb.

She looked at him, the dim light making him more a silhouette than a person. “Change the story, change our path. Simple,” she said.

“You are so tragically romantic it hurts, Asa. You can’t change billions of people’s minds like flipping a switch. Even if you could, not overnight. Are you a god?”

There had been billions more not too long ago. Before.

Asa looked up at the telescope, all 63 feet of the largest refractor telescope in the world, its presence dwarfing all except the domed ceiling above, the dome that was sealed shut. “Remember when you were in the hospital, what you said to me when you thought it was the end?”

Warren shuffled his feet and didn’t answer.

“You said you felt free. A kind of free you didn’t know existed. You said that you loved me, loved me more than ever, more deeply than you could describe.”

Warren took a hit off the joint he was holding, his face faintly lit by the cherry glow. “Yeah.”

“What if everyone felt that, Warrie.”

“That they were gonna die? We’re all gonna die.”

“Stop pretending to be dumb. You know what I mean.”

“So, like, they were told that they were gonna die soon? Together?”

“Yes. Like no choice. No outs, no exception, no denial, no deferral. Doubtless. Certain eminent annihilation.”

“Pfft. It would be instant chaos.”

“Would it?”

“People would die, Asa.”

She took the joint from him. “The Five will try to bury the news to avoid panic. But we won’t let them.” She took a long hit and waited.

Warren went silent for a moment and then broke out in howls of laughter. 

“The idea is insane. You’re high as fuck, Ace.”

“No higher than you, Warrie. No more insane than the world.” Asa peered into the eyepiece, filling the darkness within with memories of the glowing surface of the moon. 

“Remember back in the day when the joke was a bumper sticker that said “Giant Meteor 2016?” she asked.

Warren smiled. “Those were the good days.”

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Everything’s Fine and Other Lies

I chose to write these words
instead of a 25 year career
keeping food under lock and key
I chose to rent a room
over owning a home
in the American dream
I chose poverty by design
and everything’s fine

I remember more birds
and open fields
when I was young
I remember my awe
of the Earth, of life
and how it danced
Now I mourn its distance and decline
I’m too busy and everything’s fine

I wanted to be an astronaut
and the President, wanted
to win the gold in the Olympics
I wanted to sing, to make movies
I wanted to draw, spend my days creating
How’d I end up trying to die and doing time?
Oh well,
I’m alive and everything’s fine

People hold White Jesus in one hand,
their Orange Savior in the other
as the marble veneer is
starting to peel and chip
The fabric pulled too tight
and beginning to rip
Saving science is up to Bill Nye
Hawking is dead and everything’s fine

Byrne talking in my head,
“My god, what have I done”
My beautiful boy is only fourteen
and I’ve brought him in during
the closing scene, burdened with
an incurable autoimmune disease
to serve the sentence of our crimes
Sorry son, the world is burning

I love you and everything’s fine

Photo credit: Flickr/Blondinrikard Fröberg
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