9.20.2015

Sketch

That last one was done for the word of the week, ink, brought to you by the good people at e.c. sketch, a weekly sketchbook project. I took the "any medium" aspect to heart and make stuff entirely unsuitable for Instagram, which doesn't like hyperlinks.

The Squid


I was born in summer, under a sun that shimmered on the waves. I was never much into superstition, but these days I second-guess my beliefs, and I wonder if it was all set in motion by that day. I still remember joking around with my buddy Mike, loitering one night, playing a silly game where we parroted the old wives’ tales from the neighborhood in our best imitation of our parents’ voices: “Calm seas, stormy life.”

Watching Janna swim was spellbinding. Me, I had always felt uncomfortable in my own skin, as if there was too much of me. I’d catch my reflection and frown at my chaotic mouth, my clumsy arms. But Janna had an instinct for teasing out the rhythm of the water. With sure and measured strokes, she’d relax into that rhythm and be carried along. I wanted to be carried with her.

I was born with three hearts. She occupied them all.

On dark nights we would hunt together. Afterwards we would drift arms in arms under the rocks, where it was chilly. Janna would pull me close for warmth, and we’d rest, a knotty tangle of limbs, a glorious mess. Those times I never felt too big.

She made me feel invincible. It went to my head, and we weren’t as cautious as we should have been. One night, we swam up to the shallows to watch the moonrise. Wide shafts of light filtered down onto the sand. It was too bright; we were easily seen. The dolphin charged lightning-quick, a torrent of muscle and deafening clicks. We both inked and tried to thrust away. We were blinded in the sudden flood of dark, then thrashed by the massive body. She flung out an arm and I clutched it. The dolphin’s perfect teeth tore through, snatching Janna and my arm. Screams and searing pain. I sank, I lost all balance. When my eyes adjusted, I could only make out the murky mass of my red-brown ink, mingled with the deep purple of hers. It still held the vague duplicate image of her form.

I limp along these days, thinking of the things we heard growing up. I weigh whether my tranquil birthday triggered all my carelessness, my recklessness. My nightmares end in a stain of red and violet and refracted moonlight. All the waters in all the depths of all the seas won’t wash out the memory. I hobble along and try to give advice to my old hearts: keep moving, keep pumping—consider the shark.

9.14.2015

The Sun Set

1
The sun set. The violence of the day melted away at dusk: the chokehold of morning, the broken bone, the bleeding ear. We cracked knuckles and relaxed into our desks. We flicked the switch; out poured music. We shucked armor. We nursed wounds. We wrote India.

Light lingered in the street. People shouted. Bars beckoned. The breeze persisted.

2
I could not wait for it to be over, for an idle day to pass into the night’s possibilities. A quiet, unyielding August heat hung over town. A slip of moon showed by late afternoon. What I wanted was to break the patterns we clung to. Someone would call. Someone would pick me up. We’d drive off. Then we could begin.

3
Day dissolves right there, over the water. We only notice sometimes. Would the moment lose its magic if we lived here, where we could always witness it? What are we thinking of: surprised at our own survival? Aware of the universal? How does the day unfurl in the other hemisphere?

Dogs play along the shore, attentive to the orbit of a tennis ball instead of celestial bodies.

4
Sunset, civil dusk, nautical dusk, astronomical dusk. I never knew about the precision of the coming darkness. We must have a mnemonic: She could never abide. She could never accept. Or: Selene comes, night awaits.

5
That sliver of time when Dad called us in for dinner. Mom just arrived home, and she examined the progress of her plants along the front walk. The Plymouth Grand Voyager ticked its cooling tick in the driveway. Pasta boiled on the stove, kitchen lights blazed.

6
The firefly shook the bark off her back and took wing at twilight. She tasted cool air and rustled through the marigolds. She swiveled her head when she noticed him shyly glowing beyond the pear tree. A warmth filled her belly. She smiled, flashed a pulse of green, and floated to greet him.

9.11.2015

In the Morning

In the morning we walked the length of the West End of Commercial Street. The street was narrow, and cars were delayed by tourists strolling and biking. We admired old homes, nearly all converted to inns with names like The White Wind, the Queen Vic. There was a larger one with rainbow-colored bunting, and we debated whether that was the right word for that type of decoration. (You suggested I ask my mom.) I liked the toothpaste green paint on a house after the road curved south.

We spent the first day at Herring Cove Beach, a narrow strip on the western edge of the cape. I was mostly drawn to the spot by an online review that claimed the beach’s placement meant the water was slightly warmer. The beach was not crowded. The sun was out and the sky was clear. The waves broke more frequently than our usual beaches, but they were small and rocked idle bathers along the shore. The sand was coarse, the ground under the waves rocky. I could not see without my glasses, and I worried whether the dark shapes below were rocks or something malevolent, waiting to sting or swallow.

There was a moment in the Harbor Lounge when we talked about an acquaintance. I said I sometimes don’t know if I’m in on the joke, or if there is a higher-order humor where he’s laughing at me. You didn’t think it was like that. I said maybe I have a general hang-up where someone might look at me and dismiss me, thinking “You’re a ridiculous person.” You said you never knew I felt that way. I said that it was the first time I thought to express it in such terms.

You asked about dream cars. I said convertible, and you chose your perennial Jeep Wrangler. Then we walked by a house with those two cars parked out front, and I whispered: “It’s happening! Our dream is happening in Provincetown!”

The weather was crummy the next day. I walked into many of the shops; you had to stay in to fill out forms for work over again. We watched Diary of a Teenage Girl. We went to a bar, which bumped their typical activities in favor of football. Fans applauded after each play, while I marveled silently at my apathy towards the New England Patriots.

And the pines on the dunes, twisted by wind: the tenacity of life.

9.10.2015

A Matter of Trust

Dear reader, you will simply have to trust me when I tell you that I wrote about 720 words today, accounting for yesterday and today. Shit got more personal than I care to post online. But, I can share a handful of observations from Provincetown:

  • Town is like a Stars Hollow by the sea, with colonial history and colorful characters. We saw our innkeeper Thom on the street last night, and we recognized our restaurant host as he biked past after dinner. (We learned his name was Peter when another resident greeted him.) Today we saw a movie in a theater that sat 70 people.
  • We took the dune tour. Regarding my quest to know the plants, I made notes of what the guide pointed out: the wild cranberry bogs, the beach roses (rosa rugosa), the rose hips, the beach plums (prunus maritima). And in the next moment, he was quoting Henry David Thoreau's Cape Cod.
  • I loved the beach. The wind is a constant suitor.

9.08.2015

The Harvard General Store

The Harvard General Store sits on an honest-to-goodness New England common in the center of Harvard, Massachusetts. The store abuts a graveyard for a neighboring UCC church. The store faces the south end of the common. The north end hosts another church (Unitarian), and beyond that, the ancient town hall, covered in scaffolding, undergoing restoration. The town was founded in 1732, a marker proclaims.

Sale items include: candles, teas, wine, beer, shirts that encourage eating local, a Harvard cookbook, and a laminated guide to Favorite Apples of the Northeast (marketed as “waterproof”). On September 9, 2015, the store ran out of drip coffee. Two travelers bought one hot latte and one iced latte, then mounted the stairs to the second floor.

The second floor runs the length of the building. It serves as a performance venue for local artists in the evenings, but waits untouched and unattended that afternoon. A brown grand piano presides over the northeast corner. A collection of reclaimed wooden doors provide a backdrop. Clumps of tables and chairs dot the space. A mural fills the southern wall. It depicts a winemaker pressing grapes by foot. Track lighting overhead and a modest flat screen television are concessions to modernity and the room’s nighttime function.

The visitors chose a pair of leather easy chairs by the northwest window. One switched on a tablet to study. One rose to tour the room.

He scanned the books for sale on the shelves in the southwest corner: The Chronicles of Narnia, Fifty Shades Freed, a pile of Alexander McCall Smith in hardcover, a volume of poetry concerning birds. He peered through the office door that hung open and glimpsed a topographic state map tacked above a dormant computer.

The visitor did not notice the additional flight of stairs in the southeast corner until he heard a man trudge down. The man from the third floor stared, but crossed without comment.

9.07.2015

I Will Come Back from the Sea Whole

I will come back from the sea whole. (Now is not the moment for revision, but I’ll always make time for delusion.)

JP and I went to see An American in Paris. How to express dancing in words? He said the show uses dancing the way others use music. My limited vocabulary of music. I consult online. I think the section I like is the swells and flats of the “Andante ma con ritmo deciso.”

(Up swim days when Bob was obsessed with “Rhapsody in Blue.” I had a recording on cassette.)

The guncles wandered Brooklyn with the twins. Kevin interviewed the people we passed, asking about the neighborhood, contemplating a move. We walked Montague, the Promenade, and quiet pockets around Willow Place. Erin and Andrea used to live somewhere not far from a street called Pineapple, but I didn’t see it. We walked up Atlantic, past the old sail makers building, stopped at the usual bar, only this time with babies. I drank an IPA that tasted like coffee. We walked eastward into the heart, walked to friends in Fort Greene. Carlin told us of the family trip to England. They all eventually wearied of evensong. (Such a good word, though.) I talked to her brother about how the whole idea is to illustrate how deadlines are useful. Cousins visited. Squirrels darted across pipes. The boys got tired.

Back at home, Mike, JP, and I tried to calm them. I laughed when we sang Britney Spears (“It’s weird singing this to a baby!”) and “Careless Whispers” and they stared in silent wonder/confusion/alarm. I smiled thinking of all the parents trying to figure this shit out. They played with their toys: the owl, the hedgehog, the whale.

The city is empty of its people on Labor Day. I headed down Lexington and paused in the shade around Gramercy. I walked through the Farmers’ Market in Union Square. Cartons brimmed with heirloom tomatoes. (I search online and find another good word: nightshade.) I browsed in the Strand. I pulled Mary Oliver off the shelf and read “Starfish.” (“…while the sea poured its harsh song through the sluices/while I waited for the gritty lightning of their touch…”) I found she lives in Provincetown; maybe we’ll see her. I realized I got the detail about the bread wrong the other day. It does not matter. I bought the decaf espresso for my father.

Words cradled me to sleep? I persist in wishing to know all the names of trees. I make no ground towards accomplishing this goal. My thinking was just write double the words to account for the missed day. This is proving difficult. Sad: one day can’t fill enough words. However, it encourages me to jot down notes. More observant/open to the world?

JP packed up his office and, lacking a grandpa cart, brought it home in suitcases. Books are stacked about the place. He skimmed papers, sorting for filing or throwing away.

I searched for stamps, always forgetting where I last put them, certain the last time I would have told myself, “Here, this will make them so much easier to grab when I need them.”

I weigh registering for another race. One comes up that starts and ends at the pier by my grandparents’ old apartment. It’s been a big summer for me and that pier: I saw it every time we rode the ferry to Jacob Reis. The race is at the right time if I start training now, but it has two out-and-back loops, making it sound unquestionably terrible.

We want to organize our lives. We want to discard all the things. We want to donate the clothes and vacuum the floors. We want to update the software (Jesus Christ). We want to attack the checklist. We want to write better about food, nature, and dancing.

We received the change of address. We drank the smoked carrot margarita. We wondered how our new old friend is faring.

9.05.2015

We Saw Baby B Today

We saw baby B today. He has large blue eyes, chubby cheeks, and doesn’t want to go to sleep. Like baby R, he rarely blinks and drinks the world in. Like Imme, he wants to be a part of the conversation.

Baby B, who would have thought! What can I tell you of the world you’ve landed in? I can tell you of the easy generosity of your parents, the warmth in which they’ve always welcomed us and our friends into their home. I can tell you of that time just before you were born, of Christmas dinners and barbecues. How your parents would try to read Moby Dick to you. I can tell you how your father tried different names on his tongue, looking for the best one to yell angrily at you in your adolescence. (Carl!) I can tell you of times earlier, of the shining excitement I felt when your mother and I moved to the city.

I can tell you how our paths intersected over years. When your father flew to France, when your mother lived in Boston for a summer. When we walked the leafy campus. When your mother and Brooke waged a war of attrition against their roommates over toilet paper. When we chased down a bus, a baguette strapped to your mother’s backpack. “You could surf on the wave in his hair,” and failing to stifle our laughter. Awkwardly watching classmates perform “Is this sexual harassment?” skits in Business French. So many more stories from this era, I should try to capture them.

I can only tell you from the middle of the story, because it stretches even further back, to debates and math teams, to high school slights, to high school dances. Still, I can tell you of your mother’s handwriting, and of the time your father painted her a canvas, colors bold and textured.

I can tell you that today we sat with you, and ate baked French toast, and drank coffee and mimosas. We talked of careers, the new house you would move into, and family. I can tell you of the time before, and I can’t wait to hear from you of all the times to come.

9.04.2015

All the Pregnant Ladies Say Fuck Almonds


All the pregnant ladies say, “Fuck almonds.” I can safely conclude this among those that had gestational diabetes. (Again, here, n=2. For literary reasons we are unconcerned with sample size.)

There was an art installation in the Flatiron Building, twisted metallic trees.

The second book of the Neapolitan novels starts with Lila giving Elena a box of notebooks that she needs to hide from her husband. Letters as identity, like an essay I wrote for a French class. In Lettres d’une Peruvienne, the lover returns the letters. In Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby, she asks for them back, and the guy says he’ll never agree to return them. Letters as a piece of yourself, in ways that all this newer technology cannot replicate.

“That mailbox story--that was the worst.” The days when our mail would overflow but we wouldn’t bring it in and the pink notice came through because they were holding our mail at the post office. “My god, he’s my boss,” she thought.

Is it a trick of light or the day’s haze or are the trees already thinning? Quickly falls the evening. The sky stayed gray but never gave up rain. A bride being photographed outside Gramercy Park. A buttery lobster roll for lunch. Bitch session in the cellar. Wine, slate. A drink with tequila and pineapple kissed with foam. Then entranced by murals on the Lower East Side. I wanted to linger over the hearts and bright skulls. I liked listening to stories about horse races.

Plans for another relay. Nostalgia for old shows, old jokes, from the way, way back. “The synapses sparkle and flare,” I wrote a decade ago. I haven’t used it yet so throw it in here. The original question was something about alcohol and choices. Full circle to tonight, the film about the German girls and the monster they create.

Which of your gods have fallen, and which have you propped up? Don’t get hung up on lines you don’t like. Now is not the time for that. Now is time for deadlines and thresholds.

9.03.2015

Poets Love Plovers, I Can Safely Conclude

Poets love plovers, I can safely conclude after this summer (based on a sample size of 2). This bird was heretofore unknown to me.

This morning we woke to sad news. Always lose words when confronted with death, how to express condolences. In India, too, where words can run flowery, and when there is a question, one has a “doubt.” Problems that search engines can’t solve. And then saying place yourself in one’s shoes. Time stops. Punched in the solar plexus, wanting to howl a great big fuuuuuuuuck.

In the canyon of the buildings on 24th street, I spy a woman offering food to a man and wonder if she could be Jesus. The man takes the food, he cries out unintelligibly.

Then I start singing Sia. “Chandelier.”

Jessmar’s birthday today. Last time at home I laughed thinking of her pages of purple ink scrawled in the yearbook, her angry circles around my terrible headline for the Forensics team (“Cats Can Speak, Too”): “WHAT???”

These days were made for gelato. The city is humid but the light is liquidy and golden and makes you want to take pictures. People in the park, in twos and threes. All iterations. A thought rattles about radical relationship structures, but I can’t pin it down. Legs overlapping, scripts being read, kickboxers sparring, even a poem about possibilities sketched on concrete. I should have stopped in the grass.

Fruit flies on the wall. Or a hair at eye-level in a bathroom at work. Everything a distraction. Rage, rage against the dying of the battery. Greasy keyboard. “This article has multiple issues,” says Wikipedia on Jesus and Messianic prophecy.

The ships go out, the shipments come in, the cat sits contented, and I resist sin.

Now we break to chat with my colleague in Singapore. How to pick up the thread?

I need to escape the neighborhood for some fresh ideas. I have Italy on my mind. I return to this question of making a cul de sac come alive. I crack my knuckles and my vision blurs. I was going to make another rhyme.

9.02.2015

I Slipped From the Dream

I slipped from the dream just as it was getting menacing. Phil, a singer from college, wandered in drunk in the early morning, waiting for a party to start.

We had a goodbye lunch for Angela. “Are you seriously comparing vegans to ISIS?” “Yes!”

I imagined the raised eyebrows of coworkers when I brought in the nachos. Hey, leave me alone. Draw me a Venn diagram of our vices.

In the park the vendors worked to set up food stands for Madison Square Eats. Everyone sweating, painting, stenciling.

We looked at calendars. I e-mailed. We made up exclamations based on people’s names. Heavens to Josephine. [One-Syllable Name] Almighty! We planned for gelato. So much of today was about scheduling.

Paltry.

I wonder when BeyoncĂ© will have a song called “Hotfix.” Word autocorrects her name!

Waiting for the elevator I thought maybe some character will emerge that is not me.

I’m not really sure about this starting fresh thing.

I told Adam to slow down, he thinks and talks faster than I can catch up.

The basement is too hot. The blueberry skin got stuck in my teeth. I told two people I was going to Cape Cod; they said, “Where’s that?”

Lifeblood. Algorithms. Both good words. What did Tennessee see? Just what Dani saw.

We played on the beach with the kids. We built a sandcastle for a princess and a ninja turtle, with a great central tower and a long entrance road. I read a poem, it made me think of Andrew, I need to send it to him, he culls his Sufjan list.

I finally tasted that root beer that everyone had this summer.

In the darkening evening, the cleaning ladies sat together on the benches lining the park. The great hull of the building faded away. Let’s trade secrets and cigarettes.

Renewed effort. The basement is too damn hot. Put in your headphones, turn up the fan. News about the Pope, and trains couldn’t make it from Babylon.

9.01.2015

Journal

End of summer thinking, planning, trying to wring the most out of each weekend. Yesterday I wrote 330 words in my journal and thought this could be a target to aim for. Must alternate between written bitchlog and digital bitchlog. I wonder what I ever could get out clearly typing. Fifty words right there!

I won’t look back. Things won’t connect, or they will.

Raina dreamed I had a son named Aziz Hudson. I dreamed of touching a man’s beard, and he said it felt nice, and he leaned into my hand like Jade does when I pet her neck. I dreamed of cats that don’t pee on the bed. I dreamed of doing things in fall. I planned most weekends, but not the wedding. I don’t dream of perfect vision, only glasses free of smudges.

It’s sad to think about how you sometimes need to leave your usual just to think. I went to L.A., and while maybe that was mixed, I had above-average dread of the return trip. Like how you can only think at 30,000 feet, or how in any given day you will push thinking off just to check off your To Do List. That Bored and Brilliant woman may be on to something.

Eliot dreamed of Halloween costumes. I dreamed of dinosaur notebooks. I spent money online. I try not to repeat myself. It is a crutch.

I read Hannah on the train. I am inspired! I get a text message from Ro with my name spelled wrong on a Coke bottle, she says I’m the only Brian she knows/cares for. I steal that slash from her. It is dear to me. I send a text to Yvonne.

My mother fights with her sisters. She scatters her uncle’s ashes at sea. Left to our own devices the rest of us drink.

I saw Matt play guitar at Bowery Electric. He sings of break-ups and not wanting to grow up. It reminds me of a poet who says something about all the past being grist for the mill, because his singing and my writing and that Chabon line about writing the same damn thing over and over. Then I have to go search for it. (“Afternoon Happiness,” Carolyn Kizer: “All life’s awfulness has been grist to me.”) I don’t want to take time to look up the link but then suppose it is good. Then I send the poem to JP.

I grasp at blueberries. I devour the coffee ice cream.