Two Thirty on a Tuesday in December

Five feet toe-tapping quarter notes beneath their seats. A kid in the crowd meows like a kitten and the audience howls. Some poor kid tried to clap between medleys. A teacher with a salt and pepper goatee and a baggy school hoodie on has four different smartphones in his palm. The lights are all up front. When anyone chirps into the microphone the whole system hums. Girlfriend leans on Boyfriend’s shoulder and the teacher sees and says nothing to her. Christmas music for high school students on a Tuesday afternoon in December. The Chorus dismembers and takes up instruments in their hands. They play Rudolph the Red Nosed Flat Note and We Wish You a Merry Solo. They sound perfect for what they are, as does the audience they play for. High School kids who bought two dollar tickets to get out of fourth period had no intention of paying attention to the show. Teachers with fourth period planning impressed into chaperones. The energy is palpable as kids cram together row by row, they know, there aren’t enough teachers to see all the hands. There isn’t enough light to see which mouth threw which knife. That’s what makes it a reward. And for the kids in the choir and band, they’re playing for the toughest audience of their careers: their adolescent peers. Every song speeds up from the start, from the nerves. Each shy note or apprehensive solo is heard. The kids in the crowd are distracted and loud but on the inside they could never do what they heckle. Imaginations set only to meddle. While those kids on the stage cling to metal, and do something with their breath akin to life after death, resuscitating inanimate objects into music.

The man with his back to the crowd shows them how every single day. The band director. The chorus teacher. Two English, two math, one science, all playing usher. It is for them, and they truly, shamelessly, despise us for it. Traps aren’t meant for the masses, but only the one. One animal in a trap could chew off a paw and get out. But three hundred kids, maybe twelve adults in the room, and the lights all turned down and the blinds all closed too, there’s no chewing off a limb. Two thirty on a Tuesday, last week of school, there’s no escape. It’s us or them.

The Voice

Take away the noise. The voice. The rippled ocean in the air. So that we are all ears. So that no one can hear. Except through the soles of their feet. Don’t pray with fingers intertwined but toes touching. Take a seat. Flee the heat. Fleet week. Anarchists in sailor’s uniforms. Soldiers by day, villains on the web. Spiders say thank you for your service while thinking damn I’m glad I’m not you, and I would send you into hell to save only the shadow of myself. Silhouetted soldiers on a bumper sticker on her car. It’s just a job. No one takes you so seriously as you do. No one is supposed to. Everyone will lie to your face and deny it under torture and declare they are honest. But in earnest, they disbelieve in the existence of the thing called truth. Some philosophical fragment encountered in their youth cautioned them into chaos. If education manufactured silent spaces, simply sought to take away the noise, no one would disbelieve the concept of truth. 

Swear on the past, equivocate the present, and promises for the future suture up the time in between. But no matter where you are looking, the proof is in the pudding. Can you imagine, coming to God, the real God, the only one we’ve got, having killed, murdered, in preservation of your own survival, and in reflecting on your own story, you can’t articulate the purpose of your life, the good you’ve done, the mountains you moved, nothing. You fought a war or sent soldiers into fire to save a forest you never explored. If a villain approached you with a blade and swore to end your life and you took nothing from them but the blade, you’d go to heaven with the real God there greeting you, beer mugs in both hands. If you went out on a frozen winter night and laid down in the woods and breathed in the roaring frothing air until it made you ice on the inside, God waits at the trailhead of your next adventure holding two glasses of wine. Take the pain because the pain came from the same thing the joy did and you’ll be there with all the ones you ever loved clutching sticky flutes of champagne. 

But if you go the other way, if you commit to kill a stranger because you are afraid to die, you could not enter heaven even cradled in the arm-crib of God itself. Even if that stranger was evil. It does not matter. The act of not desperately avoiding death would save a life, no matter the consequences, makes a better story. If you kill to stay alive, you better be able to articulate why. Why you. Why life. Life is an inheritance, not a recompense. You did nothing to deserve or earn this status. Killing picks up stones in the footbed of your soul. Which accrue, and grow, to become the very anchor that keeps you from ascending to the life that follows after life. You will be trapped in your own cocoon. Never taste nectar. Die a fat, insatiable caterpillar belly full of leaves, farmers cursing your name and gifting you blame. 

You call death what nature calls change. 

You are the powerful one in this equation. 

God is a third person omniscient narrator.

A disembodied voice offering us this choice.

You be my life after death, and I’ll be yours.

See It Sewn

A misty eyed mystified look across twenty four young faces. Masks make you realize how it all always was in the eyes. Skepticism. Judgment. A narrow fold of scrunched justices when brows get pulled down together. A good orator sits back in the seat where they stand. Let them stew in it a bit, before easing the queasy feeling of questioning what it was they just heard. A crooked smile is like a wide-brimmed hat, one should never leave the homeplace without it. 

The love a partner hands over after forty years of marriage is the same love McDonald’s believes people have for its sandwiches. There’s no formal distinction between these two uses of this one word. I love my mother. I love Saturdays. Equitability doesn’t just raise the bottom, it lowers the top. Levels the heap. Squashes the pile flat as the earth was before we rounded down its corners.

Assigning students to produce in a room designed for them to receive. Sit quietly. That thing in your pocket that is quickly becoming your voice, it’s contraband in this space. You will use it to speak through for the rest of your life. It connects you to anyone who loves you and would fight for you no matter the stakes. Make no mistakes, your phone will save your life perhaps even from those publicly sworn to serve it. But if you glance at it during class, to check the time, no time to ask, you’ll lose it. They’ll take it. And you refuse to, they’ll send both of you home till Tuesday. 

Then this kid thinks, well I can’t go to college. This school thing is not for me. I can’t go four more years, my voice held hostage while I’m demanded to speak. Kids forming their perceptions based on tired, saggy, complaintive old people going through the motions is a recipe for the slow motion disaster being served at all our tables right now. 

I get it. School is a two bird, one stone design. Built primarily with babysitting in mind. But it is also a teacher trap, a catchall for those called to the one field government never sacked the revolution on: educating future generations. It is amazing. How far we’ve come. How drop-dead smart we are. And yet we haven’t figured out how to make a door we can close behind ourselves and once we do, no one can ever come through ever again. We can’t figure it out, because the universe is created in such a way where it can not be done. If a nation is formed of revolution, then it will be plagued by revolution until its dying day. The line stops when we find there’s a real plot to dumb down our children. I will not see mine censored into societally induced stupidity. 

A good orator is not in it for the applause. Jesus knows who rocks the boats, he doesn’t fear water, his time is set in stone. Before the end, you just want to know, there’s a touch of what was in you still out in the world, and if you don’t see it, a good orator will shell out the right words, and see it sewn.

Little Boy’s Beauty and the Beast

Why would you want a fancy prince when you already have a fearsome beast? You have the girl and the castle and servants all immortal, all entrapped within their service. What makes it a fable is the imaginary assumption anyone would try to fix the curse. Beauty and the Beast is a patriarchal vision. The whole thing starts with a kidnapping of an accidental trespasser who is then locked in a personal dungeon. Then, leveraging the old man for his young intelligent daughter. What is a redemption arc when it becomes twisted? Perhaps more of a redemption roller coaster with no resolution at the bottom, just little boys begging for another ride who will soon be carried to the car in tears for answering their parents’ fears.

Without a harrowing repentance, there can be no redemption. The greatest fiction is that a man turned beast at this point in his authentically cursed existence, is capable of innocent, consensual, passive and pacifistic love. To what gain? His cruelty to women is what birthed in him unimaginable magical power and prowess. He lives in a little boy’s paradise. In a world where our choices surrounding love will one day turn us all into monsters. Some unfortunate little girl dreams she’ll scheme to change the theme and turn the beast.

Like a Jekkyll and Hyde in reverse. Super human ability born of a curse. The tragic hero with the power to make the changes the world needs, but a slave to the sacrifices that power demands.

Beauty and the Beast could be a cautionary tale for father in laws, maybe, a fantasy for beast-taming bookworms, perhaps. But for little boys it is all about the beast. The ability to fight off wolves in the night. How those sharper claws don’t ever fully retract.

How having the power to protect also endangers the ones we love.

Hide. (part 3 of 3)

But I’m here now.

We will peel apart the atom like an apple and discover a seed in its center that is carved somehow with the chicken-scratch autograph of what can only be called God. Though that moment will ruin the word, it will rescue the world, and religion will mean story again.

Every action you commit to in this place creates the brightest light. Burned, pulled into the electrons that energize and power you on. And you will remember, lest ye be remembered, by the lives of all you have eaten, the lives you ran down in the road, the lives you put your hands on without permission. There is life, and consciousness, inside the atom, and therefore memory, and the ability to make decisions.

Push. Pull. Hide. That is what an atom can do. 

Ask yourself. Is that so different from you?

The Spotlight

The spotlight is not on. The switch has been flipped and it turned on.
But it clicked off before it was hot, and now it is not. Someone please
turn the spotlight back on. The tricks and switch-flips that turn things on.
Theater. A play. The one kind adults can do respectfully.
Sit in a seat and stare at a stage and give eyes a feast
of only the things that eyes like to eat. The tongue is the eyes,
the teeth are the ears, slurp down every sight,
chew up every word you hear.

There’s a dance in how an actor walks
and a song in how they talk
and if an actor knows their place
they’ll look the audience in the face
they’ll pull them up on stage
they’ll give them up their rage
and clone their tears in you.

That’s the only way you’ll smile later.
For the joy that is tied to sacrifice, some happiness conceives in pain.
The baby born is gut-busting laughter, oh wait, it’s twins, we’re in stitches.

The switches flip on and this time they stay. Two actors eyes locked backstage
tighter than a lock. More like a chestnut. No key quite like a hard object.
They crush it. And uphold buried treasure in the palms of their hands
before frozen styrofoam mannequin face-spaces on the fronts of hollow heads.
Fill them up with likenesses of whatever frightens them
and reminding them of events hard to live through
but delightful to behold through the refracted lens
of other people’s problems.
It helps to spotlight the drama.
We cork and ferment our trauma.
That is why it is opening night.

And after all these years, I find the theater
a place I can play with my pain
and raise a toast to all my fears.

Clear cold now

On a clear cold now, with a coat of snow on the shimmering hillsides, the train in town sounds like a truck coming up the road. The moon is bright and round buried behind clouds. But a minute ago it was naked in the woods. Shivering in the snow. Like daylight on a different world, ghastly, ghostly, opaque. Like the moon glimpsed its reflection in the snowshine for the first time and realized it wasn’t beautiful the way it thought it was. But pale, a sickly light no good can come by. A gossipy glow whispering what’s going on in town. The train is. Hear. 

Eyes go through windows easier than rocks do. Vision. A cold trickle of steady err. For the eyes are blind to cold. Skin sees cold a mile away. But a clear cold window hoods the body’s hood and skin is blinded by wood stoves. 

There are more coyotes in a farmer’s imagination than were ever born in the world. Tonight they circle these woods injured in yipping droves. The instinct to play prey. Mm. Compliments to the chef of camouflage. God overblesses a worthy enemy. 

Moonlight is like the water that escapes the body with the blood. It’s the thick semi-translucent plasma that gets called empty space even though it’s heavy and sticky and gelatinous. Moonlight is a ridiculous phrase for the very same sunlight bouncing off a nearby rock that is very likely actually a broken off part of earth. Taking two hundred words to describe how it looks bouncing off snow that is actually regular old rain it just happens to be cold. The way moonlight is in existence, but you can still look through it, ignore it, like it isn’t. 

Moonlight is the color of memory. 
Staring through a window at three am. 
It just occurred to me.

High as a kite

Strangers can’t sense your synthesis.

They don’t know you’ve been going through shit.

You don’t look like you’ve had a breakthrough. You look broke.

You look like you left something bleeding in the bathroom.

You look high as a kite about to be on a plane.

Strangers don’t know what they do to you.

We all betrayed our true selves in a bathroom.

We’re all strangers. In public.

We’re all each other’s mirror.

I believe they call that revelation.

The problem with Narcissus was he couldn’t lift up his stream and carry it around with him in his pocket like we can. Self-awareness is not the same as self-perception. Unfortunately. Philosophically, we’re four generations all living at the same time struggling with the same disadvantage: disadvantage. When it comes to witnessing one’s self, all of us come blind.

I had this idea recently, I think it’s related, that it is not a third eye, but the second mouth which lives in our minds, and all senses feed. I had this idea when I was thinking about the nature of an eyeball. A receptacle, a trash can filled with recycling. Receiving, not really creating. And that’s a poor analogy for consciousness. Considering how much reality imagination is responsible for making. A mouth breathes, in and out, and that you behind the you is not just pulling strings but also reaching out and tying them to things, maybe it should be called the third hand.
See. See how hard it is to see yourself clearly.

To talk about how it feels to feel and make up perfectly parallel analogies. We have no control. No comparison for an ideal life. The one human who did it right. Sure enough, many have tried. Problem is, they said they wouldn’t, but they really did just up and die. Our great philosophers filled our heads with what ifs and wait and sees, and almost none of them fought to hold on to life in the breakneck manner which was passed down to you and me. They left their model incomplete. They never warned us the third eye speaks. And that it isn’t an eye. It’s a disgusting sloppy pair of lips we shove stuff in to spit stuff out and swallow hard and peel back and shout.

It took cameras cheap enough to fit into a commoner’s pocket to show us who we are. And we’re hypnotized, by all the things the storytellers of our society never wrote down. We’re demanding of ourselves to be some new creature because we have never seen us before, even though the latter can true while the former remains demonstrably false. Nothing new in the last fifteen thousand years for Man. Learning something new about yourself isn’t really news.

I believe they call that revelation.

So many Disney movies

I am a corpse already. Still possessed by the courtesy to carry myself around. You’re welcome.
I am a democrat. Of course I’ve never affiliated with the party.
I am conservative. I’d rather not explain. You see?
I am an animal rights activist. But I also eat breakfast.
I am Christmas decorations and Thanksgiving mishistories and so many Disney movies it’s dizzying. My eyes. Two things I own that still regularly possess me. My only ways to see are not all that concerned with me. Aimed out the other way.

Vision isn’t for the beholder. Unlike eyes, that gets clearer as we get older.