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A Slam And A Caw

All the fascinating people with the golden things to say were at a different party, earlier tonight. And tomorrow morning you will wake up in the wrong bed in the wrong house on the wrong planet, asking yourself how it happened that you arrived in this body and world and the tenacious situations created at their intersection. The toast will be burnt. The coffee too weak. The day too not what you dreamed. But then you will seek comfort, and find it for awhile, in a religion or philosophy that looks on the bright side. Good things are coming. Good things are coming. And you had good things, once, back when it wasn’t this, and, hey, chin up—it won’t be this forever. So you walk down the wrong street in the wrong city and imagine how good it will be when you finally do all the right things and wrest satisfaction and happiness from the throat of this life. It will be too hot outside and you’ll remember with a sigh that it was too damn cold not long ago. You imagine the conversations you’ll soon have with the people you love and they will forgive you or chase you away and you will play a kind of conversational chess down these contrary paths, crossing out what not to say while storing away all the golden things. And they will finally say please, stay for tea or tell you get bent and, when they do—either way—you will be very kind and magnanimous. And you will learn to play guitar and write songs that are already written except, this time, you wrote them and all the people love you and weep when you sign your autograph. When you die, they will be sick to their stomachs and all the cars will stop. The streets will be flooded with mourners mourning double, mourning both for you and a seat in the overcrowded church. The crammed mourners in the church will be in violation of building safety codes and the mourning firemen will pull wailing mourners outside, for their own safety, while the mourners inside form a line to the podium to say all kinds of golden things. Then a car door will slam and a crow will caw and your long paragraph of delusion will end and skip a line.

Because that slam and that caw just then, when it was now, will slam and caw through all your fantasies in a way that messes with your sense of tense. You will think I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw. No. I am someone who just thought “I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.” No. I am someone who just thought “No. I am someone who just thought ‘I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.’” and so on; you will chase yourself to the nearest edge of the moment until you and the world embrace in seamless weirdness that was always right here. It’s always right here, even when you’re not.

You will walk home then, down the golden street. Enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t.


Rising and Falling

They sat on the little girl’s bed. All the things of the world arose from the dark, cautiously, then suddenly: there, shining out in the shine, morning. She was 9.

“I don’t want to go to school, Mommy! I’m afraid to go to school!”


“Because there’s a quiz and I won’t know the answers! It’s too hard!”

“Oh, baby. It won’t be so hard. You wanna know what’s harder than not knowing the answers?”


“Being a little girl who’s afraid of not knowing the answers.”


“Sitting here in your cozy pajamas on your comfortable bed. Talking to your sweet mother and breathing, too. Over and over constantly breathing. Now that’s hard.”

“No it’s not.”

“Let’s make breakfast.”


What In The World?

The ship is leaving and the people are squinting, trying to see through the irrefutable fog. Just dropped you off; cried all the way home. How are you 11, today, as it rains in Las Vegas? Is it not still somehow now that on you the kitty is jumping? Nostalgia's not but a wilted abstraction for craving the stars. What I mean to say is that I am stunned. Amazed at such a thing as a you and a me, time, and this nonstop speechless world.


Just This Sock

Just this sock. All I must do, Franklin thought, is slide my foot into just this sock and that is enough, for nowforever. It’s all that can be done. Franklin had just emerged into consciousness, a goofy facade of togetherness and continuity in sharp contrast to the soupy reach of sleep’s oblivion. This impossible transition never failed to infuse him with confusion, this finding himself a person in a bed in a bedroom in a sociocultural milieu that arose hand-in-hand with him, awakening. What the fuck? Bam! KapowAnd there he was, not all the myriad this thats or other things, but Franklin, this particular creature with a nose and elbows, getting out of bed, getting dressed, one thing at a time. Such was the linear nature of being Franklin. However, previously sleeping, he had just then so recently been “not Franklin,” dispersed, gone, everything else, that the shadow of everything else clung now to Franklin like a hidden secret, quietly informing who he waswhat he was, his essence, his FranklinnessSo much so that, now, his putting on this sock was not merely a man putting on a sock in isolation, but ratherheld together by everything, arising with everythingit was, in actuality, a living expression of the entire galaxy of intimately interwoven everythings. Twelve crows cawed. An old woman, gnarled with wisdom, walked down the dusty road. A yellow flower, animated by the spark of ancient religions, smiled at the ominous spider. A big stone by the sea waited and waited. Stars burned. The butcher separated meat from bone. You ached with the same desire that drives the tides. There is kindness. There is crime. All of this is made of time. And Franklin, with his whole heart, in-the-world-with-everything, slid his foot into just this sock on a wave of presence that broke across the empty ocean and, there, where wave is water, he glimpsed the grand vacancy from whence everything emerges and everything vanishes, where nothing might be anything, maybe, possibly, isor—and he laughed, laughed, laughed, and said “There is no landlord; the rent is always paid ha ha ha!” How was your morning?


The Path To Treatment Was Long And Meandering

The path to treatment was long and meandering.

The driveway, with a 10 mph speed limit, wound lazily through a bunch of lush landscaping and statues of various religious figures. Treatment centers have it all wrong. The road to recovery does not roll through Eden. We had barely entered the triumphant iron gate to begin the long sober journey when Skip yelled Stop! Shit. Bryan winced. Here was the true path to treatment, a maze that often ended before it started. Bryan and I froze in the front seat, speechless, angry. We didn’t turn around to look. We didn’t want to see. That’s how it was with Skip. You just stared straight ahead and waited for what would happen because something always happened.

He got out and I hated him as he stumbled toward the front of the car. We had driven 3 hours and he was about to fuck it up and I hated him. I hated him for constantly fucking up and for always fucking up at the very last second. He climbed on the hood and muttered something about readiness and sobriety and Plotinus. Bryan and I were a pissed off choir of admonition: C’mon! Get off the car, Skip! You’re gonna get kicked out before you sign in! Off the car! Get off the car! Christ, Skip! Get off the car!

But he just stood on the hood, clutching two beers.

Bryan and I spoke with our eyes about how we should just drive. We shrugged our defeated shoulders and shook our tired heads. The only alternative was sitting there until he needed more beer. Bryan took the car out of park and smirked. We lurched forward and Skip fell to his knee. How could this end well?

But he regained his composure and popped open a beer. He tipped the can to his mouth and posed like a statue in the garden as the car crept toward recovery. Bryan laughed in disbelief as I stared ahead. Skip switched poses with every deep gulp, mocking the gravity of his own demise. Inside my chest occurred a blurry conversation between hating and loving. Which was which? My eyes met Bryan’s and we laughed and laughed.

Skip popped his 2nd beer, this hilarious failure.



Sometimes, when I listen to traffic and feel lonely, I miss cigarettes. The best thing about cigarettes is the perpetual need for something that is readily attainable. Nicotine is nothing like Truth or Justice. You have to fight for Truth and Justice and all you get in return is pepper spray, probably, or maybe a big welt from a rubber bullet. But nicotine is easily ingested by inhaling tobacco smoke. So you crave and satisfy, crave and satisfy; it’s like little Hero’s Journeys all day long, freeing you from the plague of identity, launched into the archetypal cycle of mythical time. As night follows the day and the snake swallows her tail, Mr. Jones knocks and you spark one. Too bad they kill you.

Your life wants to kill you. Get lonely and let it. What’s the worst that could happen? I read a story this morning about a little boy watching the smoke from an incense stick burning by his dead mother at her funeral. It made him very pensive and lonely and he got hip to evanescence. Say it with me now, slowly: 
evanescence. Disappearing, vanishing, fading away. Smoke has a lot to teach. Smoke’ll get you lonely. And to die from loneliness is the only way to flower into light. 

The man I rent a room from threw a New Year’s Eve party at his house with a big bonfire in the backyard. The smoke appeared to me as a ghost using the alchemy of fire to eke out a brief haunting presence. Memory. Old friends. Up in smoke. The smell stayed in my coat. Midnight came and went. The people came and went. Like everything else in this great big world. I quietly considered some resolutions: run, listen to smoke, keep burning, stay alive. When the fire was out and everyone had gone, I ate a piece of cherry pie in the dark. I don’t remember things as sharply as when I was a younger man. The future is none of my business.


Before Shutting Off The Lights

“Let’s walk the dog.”

“We don’t have a dog.”

“Baby, please. Don't be so frustratingly literal.”

“How then? Figurative?”

“Yes. Metaphorical. Like a simile.”

“Like a woman with a dog.”


“Like a trip to Spain in springtime.”

“Yes. Freed from the tyranny of selfhood. Out, into the world.”

“Like opening the curtains.”

“Throwing them open with pomp and grandiosity.”

“The white sail in the black breeze.”

“Lake Michigan!”

“Is the ice cube, I wonder, happy or sad to melt in a glass—”

“Of water or lemonade?”


“Overjoyed. Remember? Like the curtains and Spain.”

“But still melting itself. It might be sad.”

“I suppose there’s no telling.”

“Or both somehow.”

“Comes to the same.”

“Like sex and the dream.” 

“Yes. Let’s walk the dog.”



The Parable Of Me And The 5 Deaf Kids

By chance (how else?), I found myself at a table with 5 deaf kids. This is the way life goes. I mind my own business, right in front of me and, eventually, I find myself at a table with 5 deaf kids. Try it. Mind your own business and see where it goes. It’s all about the business.

So there we were, at a table, me and 5 deaf kids, thrown together by the culmination of all the Mysteries (like the flower blooming and the engine starting and so on) and the relationship bearing on us was such that the 5 deaf kids read a word and, together, taught me how to sign the word. Now I, maybe like you (or maybe not like you if you, unlike me, are naturally insightful about—and grateful for—all your blessings), have lived my entire life in the presence of sound, immersed in sound, so near sound and in sound and of sound that I’m actually unaware of sound as sound. Do you follow? Sound is granted and that’s how I take it: for. It’s so there, I don’t even notice. This is not to say I don’t hear. I do hear, all the time, but I never notice hearing. Because I live in a sounded world within (here, hear, in here, inhere) the privilege of hearing, I never pay attention to sound or hearing because attention isn’t necessary. Sound is given. Unless you can’t fucking hear. Now if men or white people or heteros or any other recipient of all the good things want to read this little story and interpret “hearing” as a symbol, that’s all well and good. But I’m going to get on with it.

First, before I get on with it, I ought to make a not so easy confession. Here goes: I didn’t want to play the ‘Learn To Sign With 5 Deaf Kids’ game. You are no doubt wondering “Why? Why didn’t you want to play the ‘Learn To Sign With 5 Deaf Kids’ game, Black Hockey Jesus?” Well, I didn’t want to play the ‘Learn To Sign With 5 Deaf Kids’ game because it seemed to me like a waste of goddamn time. Which is to say I am a selfish prick with functioning ears. The only redeeming quality I sometimes possess is an unlocked door to a closed mind. It can be opened. It does, sometimes, in fact, open.

The first word was hide and, to sign hide, you put your upturned fist on top of your flat hand (like a rock on paper) and—whoosh—you hide your fist beneath your hand. Hide. Now, though I just provided a very clear and concise description of how to sign hide, at the time the signing of hide was not so apparent. The 5 deaf kids were fast and, though I mean no disrespect, impatient. All 5 kids were either signing hide too quickly or whipping their hands in the air with animated disgust at my sign fumbling fingers. After many furrowed brows and some hands on instruction, I finally mastered hide (and WTF, old man?). At the first signs of their celebration and delight, I was hooked. Imagine Helen Keller finally understanding water with Anne Sullivan. Same thing. Whatever.

After that I was lost in the intensity of teaching and learning and language. There, with them, but also removed, in awe. They cycled so quickly from finger wagging disgust to smiles and high fives. They taught me to sign sing, crawl, write, splash, listen, pull, hop, march, and sweep. And with eyes trained on their hands, obsessed, seemingly consumed with the urgent new concern to learn sign language, I—upon further reflection—sought only to please them. Sure, there’s a bunch of things to think and say about the nature of being and language, about where we truly dwell, houses of vision and sound or both, signification, and, by extension, the inherent privileges that accompany seeing and hearing and communicating and being. But this was simpler than all that. This was just education and pleasure. Here was a man who for awhile groped at the air with his big hands to evoke joy and acceptance from his happy and able teachers.

When it was time to go, instead of drawing a word from the pile, they asked me if there was a word that I wanted to learn. I grabbed a book from my backpack and, ever ignorant, screamed “HOW DO YOU SAY… BOOK?” Like little birds flying, their hands—all of them—came together so quickly, palms up, and I smiled at 5 little books as they opened and closed, book, or was it maybe the wings of 5 big butterflies flapping or 5 outstretched cups to receive an offering that snapped closed into 5 prayers?