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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!

    On Being A Wounded Animal Devoured In The Voracious Maw Of Fancy Ideas

    I like big fancy ideas that thwart common sense. My favorites come out of philosophies that try to kill themselves that are usually called post-something and Buddhism. Ideas like there being no ultimate distinction between self and other and further—kinda—that there, again ultimately, IS NO self; there’s no such thing. I like these radical ideas because if they were appropriated and expressed in practice, instead of verbalized in ever more refined and frustrating texts, we’d live in a completely different world. We wouldn’t need to force ourselves to be better or behave differently. We would actually be different and different actions would flow naturally from this new kind of being. What I mean to say is that it would kick ass.

    As the sloppy nonsense in the preceding paragraph displays, these ideas thwart attempts to speak about them because the moment you do, you’re upholding what’s trying to come undone. The first word of this post is “I”. But that’s no proof against the ideas. It’s merely proof that we’re embedded in grammar. There’s some funky shit beneath the way you and me and the world of things arise in language.


    I finished a 50K race last weekend but my body only showed up to run 28 miles. I had 3 miles to go and they were long ones. At the first hint of muscle fatigue, it set in quick and soon my quads, hams, and calves were all clenched up and cramped. I don’t know what you call that hinge on the back of your leg behind the knee but it felt like some sadistic fucker from a Cormac McCarthy novel slashed them both with a buck knife, spit a big gob of tobacco juice, and said I reckon that’ll make it hard to dance, pardner. Then he laughed at me and so did his friends. There was a dead rattlesnake in the road. I bet it was 5 feet long. Maybe 9.

    I tried stretching to no avail. I tried my usual trick of telling myself to just fuck off and run but a louder fuck off replied with the idea that my ankle was broken. So I walked. And then I limped. And then I hobbled while considering the economics of crawling. People running by stopped to ask if I was okay, if I needed them to send help but I just flashed a faint smile and waved them along. Volunteers at the aid stations said “You don’t look so good.”

    The race started at midnight and this 3 mile walk occurred in the haunting orange glow of the sun’s tentative emergence in the desert. I was a wounded animal mourning the cover of night. Daylight would expose me as easy prey. The desert in the morning has a way of making you feel like the last man on earth in a dreamy fake landscape. Surrealism copped its style from dawn in the Mojave. The finish line never came. And then it did.

    I didn’t pump my fist with confident pride as I crossed the finish line. I had no exalted sense of relief. I didn’t have the satisfied sense that I had accomplished something hard after months of arduous training. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that I felt the opposite of those things. I wasn’t disgusted with my performance. I didn’t feel like a failure. I was simply too crushed, ground to dust, to be the kind of thing that had such sophisticated relationships to itself. That’s not to say there’s no such thing as a cactus or a ghostly floating tumbleweed or miles and miles of deep beige sand.

    If I was anything at all, I was faintly hungry. But not for food. I mean a more wide ranging hunger that animates the world and makes even stones yearn for more. If there is a self that abides, it consists only in this empty hunger that gets us down the road.


    Waiting To Explode

    I’m discontented in a way that lacks content, which makes it redundant, so I’ll write. I think I want to fuck something. Don’t you?

    Or eat something or drink something or sob while I tell someone all my fears and secrets. I feel blurry. I’m formless colors like the person who moves in a photograph, caught between this and that, or a Pollock dripped and splashed on the floor when Jack was drunk and angry.

    This is not as black and white lonely man slow song with an acoustic guitar as it might sound. I know what’s wrong with me. I’m just a dog on a leash who needs to run.

    It’s been a lot of hard work getting ready and tonight, at midnight, I’m going to run 50K through the desert. For American people, for people who refuse to convert to a much more logical and convenient system of measurement because it somehow threatens both the Constitution and the solidarity of Christendom, that’s 31 miles. Right now, I’m supposed to stay off my feet, hydrate, and eat lots of carbs, which sounds simple enough but it’s not when you’re a bomb waiting to explode.

    So I bite my thumbnail, wavering between confidence and doubt and just wanting to hear someone scream GO! so I can at least begin to succeed or fail. I know I can run 15, 20, 25 miles. But my mind keeps dwelling on that last 6 (or, for not America, roughly 10K). I’ll want to quit. Everything will hurt. I’ll see my dead friends. Skip will talk to me like Ben Kenobi talks to Luke when he nearly freezes to death on Hoth. I’ll ask myself why I do these crazy things and I still won’t know. This not knowing will bleed into hearing Lou Reed sing “And I guess that I just don’t knowww.”

    If I were a 50K race director, I would put heroin at the 40K aid station. Gatorade’s good but it’s not that good.

    A provisional answer to not knowing might be that I’ve always wanted to be something else. Someone else. More than I am. Remember in Dead Poet’s Society when Knox Overstreet had the sax and he—alive with poetry—said “Wanna do more. Wanna feel more. Wanna BEEE morrrrrre.”? I love that part. Or maybe I actually want to be less. Less substantial. Less static. Less of a thing, you know? Don’t you ever get tired of being a thing? (I bet you do.)

    I just wrote myself into my new answer to the question “Why do you run so much?”. I’ll shrug and say “I just get sick of being a thing.” So, early tomorrow morning, when there’s 10K to go and I can’t possibly run another step, I’m going to strike a match, light myself on fire, and limp between the crease of who I think I am.  

    Start anew.


    Falling In Circles

    If, one day, the sun set in just the right way and we fell in love, we would fall in love at a traveling carnival in autumn. Gasping leaves—red, yellow and orange—would fling themselves from their desperate trees, blow about and fall in the subtle wind. A rude drunk would shout and trip and the sun would slowly dip in the hospitable lake. But it wouldn’t be dark.

    Because we would be falling in love in the raucous glare of carnival lights, bright, variously colored and manically flashing. Slick haired tricksters would heckle us (Step right up!) and taunt me into playing games, to win you an enormous stuffed Panda because all sweethearts need enormous stuffed Pandas and I would try but I would lose because all those games are rigged, the hoop is just too small for that big basketball.

    But, like lovers, we’d ignore the metaphor about rigged games that can never be won and continue to dwell on falling leaves and falling drunks and falling in love in the setting sun.

    Because above and beyond all the games we never stop losing, aren’t we ultimately here for the ride? The Ferris wheel. The merry-go-round. The Tilt-a-Whirl. All those amusements that, after we have waited so long in the yawn of rigid lines, break the mold with the irrational joy of circles. To what end this love? Exactly.

    There’s no end to the way the Ferris wheel turns. No place where the merry-go-round begins. Night and day. Seasons. The years. We’re dizzy, disoriented, distorted by funhouse mirrors. And then we circle back, hand in hand, to ride the roller coaster again. Here is our metaphor. Falling in circles. We would fall in love at a traveling carnival in autumn. We’d fall asleep every night and rise every morning. Again and again with nothing to win, no losing, no lines and no stuffed Panda bears.



    My son turned 13 today and I didn’t write a post called “13” because I was blocked. I still am. But here’s the thing. Writer’s block always contains the seeds of its own demise. It can block you from what you want to write about but it can’t block you from writing about writer’s block itself. When writer’s block blocks your subject, it becomes the subject. So fuck you, writer’s block. I win.

    When I tried to write about my son turning 13, I couldn’t do it. I’ve read all kinds of arguments about the way we should or shouldn’t write about our kids, about what’s off limits, about parent blogs messing up kids’ lives by making them use hard drugs and become porn stars but I’ve never paid it much mind. I just write what I want. There’s so many rules right outside the door. What good’s a blog if you can’t light things on fire?

    Nonetheless, my son becoming a teenager resisted articulation. I was blocked. It refused to be said.

    I waded through clichés about how HARD it’s going to be, being a teen. And it is. The breach between being a boy and a man can swallow you whole. But it felt wrong to dwell on all that so I tried to invoke the joy of adolescence because it’s in there. Remember? Do you remember your teenaged friends? The extent to which adolescence was hard created a kind of super fondness for the people who helped you through it. I remember Dan Parker and Bryan Rypstra like old war buddies.

    And for all the awkwardness, ignorance, and confusion that accompanied the gruesome mutation into a sexual being, it was pretty damn cool too: those jolting new waves of desire without clearly defined aims. Stacie Scott’s ass was just different somehow. I wanted to—arghhh—do something to her, you know? New feelings, new thoughts, and—good God—so many forms of new actions that created secrets and guilt and the certainty that I was mad but wondrous. My God this shocking body. That poor cat.

    I remember writing Kerri Wolf love letters. I remember waiting to give them to her, nervous to sweating. I remember kissing in the basement like we were starving to death with our ears trained to the possibility of footsteps on the stairs. That wasn’t so bad. It was strange and beautiful; it wanted to be poetry.

    So turning 13 and beyond was both terrible and wonderful but the fact remains that all these ideas recoiled when I tried to address them in relation to my son’s 13th birthday. And it’s only here, in this 7th paragraph (again, fuck you writer’s block), where my block begins to find its logic. It is precisely this unsaying that defines my son’s movement into teen life. This inability to speak about him, his resistance to being said, the fact of his emerging own life apart from our relation creates the substance of the block.

    He’s stepping into the light of being the main character in a story that evades the reach of my narrative. He’s not my character to write anymore. He needs to be partially released to his friends and the perplexity of girls (or boys).


    Happy 13th, birthday, J. I ran full throttle as you toddled toward the street and I said no no no when you tried to play with knives. But now, instead of so actively protecting you, I have to allow you to erect a wall—this writer’s block—between us, so you can thrash around alone (sometimes), and forge your way into becoming who you are. But I’m not worried one drop. You’re such a delightful boy, full of jokes and sparkle, and I know I’m going to love the man you become.

    When I made your birthday card, after I decorated the front and wrote “Happy Birthday” inside, I paused, wanting to write the truest, most honest thing I could muster. So I wrote “I love being your dad”.

    I love being your dad.


    Life & Death In Michigan

    Do you remember that post when I was brushing my daughter’s hair and I thought What will you do, little girl, when they find your dead daddy hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home? Creepy. I know. But the thrust behind writing that post was my need to question the substance of what I think, to mine it, explore, to find figurative gold in the literal ore. With this approach to what you think and feel, more depth accrues, life opens up in mysterious ways, becomes richer, and you might discover hidden tunnels in yourself that lead away from your constant role of literal protagonist in a static biography. The world is suddenly filled with whispered secrets yearning to be heard.

    NONETHELESS, in spite of my attempt to deliteralize my goofy thought, when people heard I was going to Michigan, where my boyhood home remains, I received more than a few requests to stay the fuck away from oak trees. But I needed to see it: the house, the church across the street, Randy’s house two houses down, the bedroom window, the oak tree. But check this out:

    How’s a guy supposed to hang himself from that wee thing? Apparently, my oak tree was struck by lightning and this is its paltry replacement. That little tree made me smile. Look how it tenaciously reaches. I’ll be here awhile.


    You wanna see something scary?

    Not everything needs to be written.


    On some upper level of the mind where thought has not yet dripped into feeling, I knew that my grandpa had died and my uncle too. I heard the news. I burned candles, stared out the window, and wrote about them. But will it make sense to you when I try to explain that they didn’t feel dead until I was home? I sat next to my aunt at dinner in a seafood restaurant. But my uncle wasn’t there in a way that was stark and menacing. He no longer held his place in the town that raised him. He didn’t drive its streets or coach the football team. We visited my grandma but my grandpa wasn’t in the basement sipping scotch. He wasn’t home.

    I found quiet places to sob in my hands.


    God, I love my mom. She’s a little tree, origami, where I’m from. She took me to the cemetery to show me the growing family plot and water the flowers. I listened as she whispered to her mom, her dad, and her brother. It took me a lot of books to unlearn enough to speak to the dead, to listen too, but she does so instinctively, quietly, from her own gentle heart and the wisdom borne of suffering. After the flowers were watered and the stones were patted with kissed hands, she showed me this:

    It’s my feet, standing on the ground reserved for my burial.

    “Dance with me, old woman!” I cried, dancing on my grave, extending my hand. Surrounded by death there is still time left. “This is where things get blurry, mom.” I lectured, shaking my ass. “This is where the dead become real and we fade into fictions!” I did the robot. I did it well. “Where distinctions fall and we ALL come to dance!” Actually, I did the best I could. I lied about doing the robot well but, in my imagination, I dance like a star.

    My mom just shook her head and smiled at me. “You’re crazy.” she said. She says that all the time. My mom’s blue eyes are so big and deep, you could dive right in them. She’s where I’m from.


    Very Bad Poetry Night

    Greetings neglected blog readers. I have been away and now I'm not and other things.

    How are you?

    If your response is positive, I am pleased. If your response is negative, I am sorry. Both of my reactions are of course laden with the proper nuance that your particular situation requires.

    Enough bullshit. Time is money. I wish time was something else like love or candy but it's not. It's money.


    If you're not a regular Black Hockey Jesus reader, you'll need two pieces of background information in which to contextualize this post and enrich its meaning.

    1). I'm concerned with, troubled by, and excited about issues of identity. Who is concerned with, troubled by, and excited about issues of identity? See? Exactly. It's totally confusing.

    2). I have cool friends who throw the best parties.

    These two facts recently met, shared interesting conversation, went to bed together, had crazy porno sex, and I'm trying to get a baby metaphor in here but I'm tired of this sentence.


    Vanessa and Jeremy throw a party. So they invite a bunch of people over for drinks, put out a veggie tray, and a bunch of middle aged people have conversations about the economy and what's going on with their 401ks. Wait. No.

    Vanessa and Jeremy instruct you to invent a character, come to their party as that character, remain at the party in character, and provide a performance on camera. What kind of performance? The only requirement of the character you invent is that he or she needs to be a very bad poet because, after all, the name of the party is Very Bad Poetry Night. So at some point during the night, you go in the garage and recite your character's very bad poetry in front of a huge green screen and crazy hot lights while Jeremy films you. Then (and this is of course after the actual party party), he edits the whole damn thing and builds a website.

    I told you. Cool friends. The best parties. I'm not bragging. I just luck into this kind of shit.


    So here's a link to the poetry of Chris Heart. Again, this is Chris Heart. It's a mistake to say this is Black Hockey Jesus acting like Chris Heart. It's the same mistake people make when they say that Black Hockey Jesus is really Heather Armstrong. In a way, that's true, but in a truer way, none of us are these static things that can be known. We're never the same thing long enough to be a name, Names are games. But the fact that there's no such thing as you is no cause for despair. It's only terrible and meaningless from the nostalgic perspective of your illusion. But the joyous secret that lingers inside being no one is the cracked open vast expanse of all your provisional and possible someones. You can be anyone. You already are. Of course I'm the man represented by my social security number. But I'm also Black Hockey Jesus. I'm also a lost yellow dog with jangling tags. I'm an asshole. I'm the gentlest woman you've ever spoken with - just hearing my voice calms your storms. I'm a mountain. I'm a motherfucker. My name is Chris Heart.


    Thank you, Vanessa and Jeremy, for being Vanessa and Jeremy and for not being Vanessa and Jeremy.


    Questions And Answers

    People have been asking questions and I've been answering them. Do you have any good questions? Well then ask them. Questions are good writing prompts and I'm bored.

    Here's an interview I did for Ohdeedoh. Some woman got uptight in the comments about the word "vagina" and it made me smile.

    And then, on someone else's blog, a commenter asked me a few questions about love. I answered here because my last post is so deathy and I just wanted to take it down a notch with some love. I love love. The Beatles said it's all you need and they seem like nice boys.


    CURIOUS COMMENTER FROM ANOTHER BLOG THAT I ALREADY COMMENTED ON: “BHJ, will you write for us what you see love as? How you see love? What makes your heart pound and your body crave another person?”

    Yes. And no. I’ll try. I’m awake and alone, trying to stay sober and wanting to write, so I’ll try. But I can’t begin without stating the obvious. I have no idea. I just got divorced. What the fuck do I know? But I can riff on it. Sound some notes. If only to use love to get me through the night.

    Love, you will have all figured out by now, is a big stupid lie. However, it is of course—by far—the best and greatest lie of the many lies we tell ourselves. The blindness cliché is apt. You’re blind to the flaws of your beloved in addition to being blind to everything else. Love collapses and intesnifies your vision to a single point. It’s a megawatt spotlight that only shines upon and illuminates the object of your love while also distorting the shit out of it. Love lies about what you love. Love creates meaning where it simply doesn’t exist in any absolute way.

    But ain’t it grand? We need to free lies and falsity from all their negative connotations. Being constantly duped is required to be a self in the first place, to even be a you at all. So imagine the massive web of deceit it takes for a lie (you) to love another lie (someone else). It’s completely delusional. A delightful illness that keeps the fire warm.

    Take, for instance, your baby. Nobody cares about your stupid baby. Are all 6¾ billion of us wrong or is your baby really the most awesome thing that ever took a shit in a diaper? Or what about the the things we create, the way—when we’re making them—we block out everything else? Me and my friends are all writing books, steeped in an atmosphere of insane blind love, and for what? To what end all this singleness of intensified vision in a fury of creation? There’s no way to rationally defend love but don’t you dare mistake that for an argument against it.

    Rationality is for people with calculators and long boring lists of things to do.

    So when you ask me what makes my heart pound and my body crave another person, I can’t really tell you, can I? There’s no recipe of characteristics or qualities that create an equation for what I love. Rather, love messes up my equations, smashes my calculator, misplaces my list of things to do, and yanks me off my path. So I guess that. Love changes my path and messes up my plans.

    Time to abandon equations for metaphors. I’m walking down the street with a day full of plans. I see a woman get on a bus and, suddenly, I’m on the bus too. I’ve forgotten everything. I don’t know where I’m going.

    Now why this might happen resists explanation—except it’s fun to imagine past life entanglements or the eruption of gods in the faces of people—and I can only talk about instances of this happening to me in terms of singular events that, of course, are not generalized formulas for making my heart pound and/or my body crave, etc. So after all that hoopla, here’s a collage of events that took possession of me and melted the world.

    She was on her tip toes in the book store, trying to reach a book about gnomes. She brought a pear to bed and ate half by candlelight. I watched her shadow flicker on the wall, delighted that she brought a pear to bed. I heard a waiter—I was two tables away—ask her if she wanted a drink. “Ab-sa-frickin-lutely!” she replied and smacked the table, a tiny woman with a scratchy voice. I saw a woman in a black bikini floating on her back in a salt pool. Her eyes were closed. I don’t know how long I stood there. It could’ve been days. On the phone she said “Mayybee” like a purring cat. My hand’s path up her leg in the back of a taxi, around her hip to her waist. I heard a woman in the grocery store say “You don’t understand. I’m very particular about cheese.” She caught me watching her brush her teeth and smiled. She said she didn’t like popcorn and ate half my popcorn. Once, it was just a woman’s petite wrist as she pushed on a door handle and I nearly blacked out. She sat at her computer wrapped only in a white towel. I watched her fingers intuitively pecking keys. She reached for her glasses. Stopped to look at me. Her wet hair.


    After Kinnell And The Things He Tells To No One

    Yesterday. when I was brushing my daughter’s long blonde hair, I thought What will you do, little girl, when they find your dead daddy hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home? These are the kinds of things I, like Galway Kinnell, tell to no one. “Those close to me might think / I was depressed, and try to comfort me. / At such times I go off alone, in silence, as if listening for God.”

    But as you have already figured out, discerning reader, I did tell you this thing that I said I tell to no one so, of course, my integrity is called into question. How can I possibly be trusted?

    When I was in 8th grade, I was the president of my middle school’s student council. A young politician. Again, how can I be trusted? The day before election day, the candidates had to give speeches over the school’s intercom. Of all the things to remember in these otherwise mostly forgotten lives, I remember Darrell Thatcher telling the whole school: Tomorrow’s the day! Thatcher’s the way! Why do I remember that as clearly as this morning’s breakfast? I have no idea. I don’t remember my own speech or my math teacher’s name.

    I kicked Darrell Thatcher’s ass in that election, I was president, and Darrell Thatcher shot himself in the head. I’m not suggesting that the loss of the middle school presidency caused his suicide; it was two years later when we were 16. But—we can’t help but wonder—what if the student body had decided on that day that Thatcher, indeed, was the way? How would things be different? Oh, but this is a dead end, futile, whipping rocks at the wall.

    You don’t have to trust me. You shouldn’t. The story is true even if it never happened. Consider what it might mean to go alone in silence and listen for God. Go on. Now consider again.

    If I trusted myself, I’d be dead. I need to let things like What will you do, little girl, when they find your dead daddy hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home? float through my head while examining them like a strange new species of insect discovered in the basement. Darrell Thatcher needed someone to teach him that thoughts such as these are not instructions or commands.

    I suspect that the idea of killing one’s self is a call to figuratively kill one’s current self, to change, transform, become someone else. I suspect that the idea of killing one’s self is actually the profounder fact of selflessness demanding to be realized. I suspect that the oak tree of my boyhood home has something to do with me going back to Michigan next Tuesday. I suspect that my daughter will soon not need me to brush her hair; the way she needs me is passing away.

    Question what you think. Be suspicious.

    Because I also suspect that there’s danger in allowing any of these figurative interpretations to become as literal as mistaking the desire to die as the literal desire for death. There’s no place to rest and simply trust yourself. Galway Kinnell doesn’t want people to comfort him. He wants to listen for God.

    Maybe the things we think and say aren’t about us at all. Maybe they sound off merely to hear themselves sound. Because there’s joy in being heard. Listen to those vowels dancing through that macabre question. The assonance and the alliteration in the hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home. Maybe that’s just what it sounds like to brush a little girl’s hair, when a rat’s nest turns into long strands of shimmering gold. What if the secret of memory is that it’s made out of poetry? Tomorrow’s the day! Thatcher’s the way!

    My buddy Andy whispered “Look. They tried to cover it with his hair but, dude, you can see the hole in his head.” I imagined Darrell Thatcher putting a gun to his temple, closing his eyes, and flinching. I wondered about the things he told to no one, how loud they must have been. So loud. Can you imagine? Louder than God.

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