Building a Bridge

The air in the council room hung heavy with smoke and tensions. There was one thing the committee could agree on, the bridge was in horrible disrepair. This was not the first time this had happened, the bridge was very old and had been rebuilt several times. The first bridge had been made of wood, simple fit and lashed posts sunk into the clay of the river bed, perfect for those on foot or traveling by horse. When the first bridge could no longer handle the traffic it was replaced by one made of bricks and mortar that was better suited for carriages and herds. The second bridge lasted longer than the first but was eventually succeeded by one made of iron and steel, metals smelted to withstand the elements and carry the heavy load of automobiles and buses. And although this bridge lasted longer than the first and second combined, in time it too had begun to bend and bow.
    In following with tradition, a committee was formed to decide how to deal with the matter. Currently that committee was in a state of disarray. After hours of debate they were no closer to a practical solution and had started moving towards an impractical one at an alarming rate, debating the merits of reinforcing the bridge with the national supplies of silver and gold. The main objections to this proposal stemmed from anxiety that this would make the nations gold and silver quite vulnerable to theft. To alleviate this concern it was proposed that a sentry would be posted to patrol the bridge and prevent any theft. However this idea led to some worry that the patrol might fall asleep on their watch and fail in their duty. By now exhaustion was replacing the tension in the room and most committee members were all too willing to accept that there must be some sort of modern medicine available that would enable the patrols to keep awake for the duration of their shifts.
   And so the head of the committee, fair in both complexion and temperament, hung her head in failure as despite her intentions and capabilities the vote For the Allocation of Amphetamines to the Patrols of the National Gold and Silver Stores as they Reinforce the Bridge passed with the necessary majority and the committee rested easy knowing they had done their part for society.

round and round

The bus plays the music of the spheres, it is a model of the universe, a miniature cosmos, a metaphor for everything, it is circles within circles, the first circle: the loop of the route along which the bus runs, tires spinning on their own smaller axis as they propel the greater cycle. There are other cycles as well that join with the turning of the wheels and the rhythm of the route to form a sort of orchestra. The roar of the engine provides a bass drum roll over which the back and forth swish of the wipers tap out a snare beat while the hiss and click of the opening and shutting doors and the clinking of the change in the box round out the percussion section. Strings are played by the squeaking of the breaks and the whine of babies over the consoling shushes of their mothers. And of course the bus is outfitted with its own horn section, rarely used but powerful in effect. The voices of the passengers provide the rest of the instruments, an ever changing parade of involuntary musicians, joining in a song that span forever. Sometimes a couple might duet with an overly loud conversation or a brave soul might solo into a phone. So few people on the bus notice the music they are making but the bus driver hears it all. There are pauses in the cycle, but always temporary and systematic, as much a part of the music as a pause between movements. Besides playing the horn, the doors, the brakes, the turn signals and calling out an occasional 'move on back,' the driver conducts the whole overture, keeping precise time, maintaining and enabling what is already written on the page, keeping the cycle running precise, the wheels circling the city as electrons circle the core of an atom, like a moon circles a planet, like a planet circles a sun and a sun circles within a galaxy, always wheels within wheels, rotating round and round, round and round.

down by the bay

I spent most of my tenth summer in the watermelon grove of Mr McNealy's farm. The farm was on a south facing hill in a small cove that sheltered it from the storms that frequently rocked the rest of the shoreline. The space was both open and secluded at the same time and perhaps it was this paradoxical bridging of opposites that appealed to me. Mr McNealy himself was not encouraging of my presence but nor did he chase me off like he did to the groups of older boys who gathered there to smoke the cigarettes they had stolen from their parents' purses or nightstands. Perhaps he was able to see the reverence I felt to the space and understood the fundamental level of importance the watermelon patch held for me. It was holy, a last refuge of magic and wonder during a time when I felt all doors closing around me. There are no particular events that stand out about the time I spent there, what stays with me is a specific feeling of slow inevitable transition. All across my life revelations were exploding around me like fireworks, lighting up glimpses of a world so much bigger than the simplistic models I had built in my head from pieces from childhood books and television shows, worlds of make believe, fairies and elves, that rewarded the good and punished the bad. But I was starting to see the strings moving the stories from the shadows, seeing the real world injustice and frustrations these stories were built to hide. The magical fairies grew up and got jobs, the paradise was lost. I felt stupid for believing in children's stories and angry at all those who had let me. My parents became the fallen gods of a make believe world. I had a curfew of nighttime which I would stretch as far as a could, waiting until the sky was partly dark and the first stars already visible before trudging begrudgingly back home. My mother would invariably be waiting in the kitchen with supper almost ready. She was a strong lady in all regards, and her strength supported her positive attitude amidst many difficulties and in the face of my newly darkened outlook. She and dad had split two years prior and we moved twice before she bought a house near the ocean and went back to school to study linguistics. Her optimism was what carried us through that phase of life, but sometimes it felt to me like her positivity only highlighted the confusion and anger that I was learning to carry. I loved my mother but that love often was buried beneath the confusion and jumble of emotions I would feel upon leaving the watermelon grove. She would always greet me in the same way, she would say hello, tell me dinner was almost ready and then ask a variation of the same question, “So, did you ever see a whale with a polkadot tail?,” “So, did you ever see a cat wearing a hat?,” “So, did you ever see a mango dancing the tango?.” I'm not sure when exactly this started or where it came from and I never asked. I never even asked her to stop, even though at times it was infuriating, an attempt to baby me in order to stop the avalanche of angst that was quickly starting to define puberty and adulthood. Usually I would head for my room without responding. Now, after many years, I better understand some of what she was saying to me. I regret it took so long but she must have known from her own life that transitions of understanding take time, that these concepts are difficult things to put into words and I was not in a place to listen. Now I can see that just as the world was bigger than my childhood view of heros and villains, so was it also bigger than my gloomy adolescent ideas of injustice and responsibility. The mind has room for both views and many more. She taught me that creativity and playfulness are not restricted to the young, they are always available, although maturity can make them harder to embrace. But everyday, like it was nothing, my mother would reach through space and time to bring back a silly little rhyme just to show me how easy it was.

a mouthful of eggs

He woke first and started to prepare breakfast before returning to wake her. The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon and around the buildings and trees that surrounded the apartment. She groaned and borrowed further beneath the blankets. When breakfast was complete he brought it into the bedroom on two separate plates, placing one on the bed next to her as he took a seat at the foot of the bed and began to eat off the other. He ate quickly with his hands in lieu of a fork. 'Breakfast is ready' he said through a mouthful of eggs. She muttered the word 'coffee' in a tone of both question and demand. 'Gotta sit up' he replied and went to the kitchen, eating as he walked. When he returned with two cups of coffee she was leaning back against the wall between sleep and stupor. He passed her a mug and moved her plate to the nightstand before sitting on the bed next to her. She breathed her coffee and mumbled 'Damn it feels early' before taking a sip. He said, 'Yeah, it is. And we probably shouldn't have finished all the wine last night. But we have a big day ahead, I want to get going early.' She looked at the plate on the nightstand next to her. 'I don't know if I can eat this.' He nodded, 'Just drink the coffee then, I'll eat it. We can get food later if you're hungry.' She stared into her coffee and after a pause asked 'Do you really think this whole thing is a good idea?' He turned his head to look at her and then looked forward. 'If I think too much about it I get terrified. But it feels right, doesn't it? So fuck it.' She smiled and looked at him. 'Fuck it' she agreed.

a curious boy

Jack Horner was referred to by the townsfolk who knew him as 'a curious boy.' Brushing negative implications aside the statement was, at it's heart, quite accurate, Jack was curious. He was a fountain overflowing with questions. His parents and school teachers were quickly overwhelmed by his barrages of inquiry and more often than not left his questions half answered or ignored completely. So Jack sought answers wherever they were most convenient. He sought them in the patterns of raindrops in puddles and the flickers of embers in the hearth. He sought them in the footprints left in the mud by the horses, in the number of steps it took him to walk somewhere. He sought them in the shapes of the clouds in the sky and the way a deck of cards would fall if dropped. He sought them in the hundreds of regular daily occurrences the rest of the town took for granted. To Jack there was no question that couldn't be answered if one was willing to ask. Had he been raised in a far away land, his inclination could have earned him some renown as a diviner or seer. However, the superstitions in Jacks town were of a more orthodox nature and folks looked upon Jack's practices and notions with fear, disdain, pity or a mix of the three. There were some who talked in hushed breath that he was involved in some sort of witchcraft or devilry, but most regarded him as odd but harmless, yet not to be encouraged or associated with. The town's children tended to look upon Jack as a prophet or charlatan and treated him with reverence or bemusement accordingly. Those that became overtly interested in his antics were strongly discouraged by their parents from becoming too friendly with the boy. None of the townspeople were openly disrespectful to Jack's parents on account of their son's behaviors, but invariably the emotions he triggered in people would pierce through the usual courtesies and leak into conversation through subtle changes in voice and expression. Mr & Mrs Horner, were good people and did their best to accommodate their strange child while always working to steer him towards more proper behavior. Jack's father, also named Jack, carved bowls, cutlery, combs, flutes, pipes, pins and other small knick knacks which he sold out of the store in the front of the house. Jack showed promise as a carver, but had a hard time staying focused with his head full of questions and would often abandon his projects part way through. The same went for his school work, where he was often chastised for uncompleted assignments, inattention in class and arguing with the teacher. Although it seemed that one so curious would flourish and find comfort in the world of academia, there was not room within the schooling of the day for Jack's alternative methods of inquiry, weather or not they provided the correct answers, and he was told to stop the superstitious nonsense and learn proper science, writing and maths. On the day the students were let off for their Christmas holiday, Jack's teacher sent a note home to his parents wherein she explained the situation and suggested that Jack may be better off not continuing his schooling and instead focusing on a trade. This distressed Mr & Mrs Horner, for while Mr Horner had done reasonably well for himself as a carver, they knew that if Jack were to have any other options, and any socially accepted place to channel his endless curiosity, it would be through higher schooling than they could give him. They resolved to have a serious talk with their son and early on Christmas Eve they sat him down. They explained that they loved him and wanted what was best for him and what was best and what was necessary was for him to pretend to be someone he wasn't. They told him they knew that he was smart and moral and whatever compass he had in his head steering him was alright by them, but not everyone would feel this way and in a healthy society everyone compromises for the good of the whole. They assured him that they did not mind if he continued to ask the universe questions on the future or morality or the proper course of action, what was important was that from then on it was kept private. They asked him if they understood what they were saying, whereupon he nodded and they all embraced. His father returned to the shop and his mother went out to purchase a few last minute gifts and supplies, both proud of themselves for having gotten though to him. So when Mrs. Horner came home to find the entrails of the Christmas goose strewn across the floor with Jack in the middle rooting through them, she decided that was quite enough. Ignoring his protests and explanations, she dragged him upstairs to wash up and confined him to his room while she set about cleaning up the mess. After a discussion with Mr Horner it was decided that Jack would for the coming days, be confined to his room except to attend the church service and to see the family and attend the morrows dinner, where he was to remain seated at the small table in the corner nook of the kitchen. The supper was a rather big to-do for the family, several aunts, uncles and cousins came from nearby towns and a several course meal was prepared. As Jack sat in the corner and watched his cousins play games by the hearth he was not jealous nor angry, in fact he was as happy here by himself as he would have been over with them. The feeling that filled him was confusion. Although the punishment itself was inconsequential to him, it caused him for the first time to doubt himself and he questioned his beliefs and the means by which he obtained them. Perhaps he was a charlatan devil worshiping dunce and so far mislead that he was not even aware of it. His head, normally full of so many questions, was now filled to the brim with only a single one, was he right or wrong? He wished deeply for some way to know and no sooner had he made the wish than his mother walked over to deliver a savory Christmas pie filled with meat and fruit. He asked that he be sent a sign through the pie, that if there was a plum to be found within his pie then he was not crazy or odd but a prophet, filled with a misunderstood wisdom and justified in his behaviors, if there was none then his parents and teachers were right and he had been a misguided fool. Ignoring his fork, he dug his fingers into the pie and oblivious to the heat began to delve through it until trembling he removed a plum and, standing upon his chair, held it aloft as he proclaimed to the whole room his saintliness.

the crowd goes wild

she lay in the sweat soaked sheets listening to the hum of the rotating fan drown out everything except the sound of the crickets and the snoring of the boy next to her. the heat made her irritable and the absence of light made the usually soothing sound of the crickets an easy target on which to vent her rage. she imagined herself running about, stomping on them with comically oversized boots. however this image filled her with a strange sense of guilt and in an attempt to balance it out she imagined playing a huge concert where right at the climax of their last and greatest song a gigantic cricket leg pierces through the ceiling and mashes the band into a human jelly. The crowd goes wild.
my third eye isn't open
but it blinks every so often
as i arise from rotten coffin
free of sin
bleached bones leaving their home
to start again
crows as my company
seeds as my food
stormy the weather
but sunny my mood
brooding on soothing
and soon bring fresh air from sea shore waves
breaking against the grains of glass
from solid to liquid it melts
s  l  o  w
over time
my hunched spine aligned with tree branches
iced over in winters
where snowdrifts hid misfit demons
that scheme in snow caves
with icy fingers and frosty breath
lost in depths
left behind alone
with only the sound of grinding
sand still in the hour glass
with its molasses drip

an expedition of sorts

So hard, so hard the first words, like the first drops of an overcast sky which release the torrent that is welled up behind them in waiting for the sign that it is time to fall. So long, so long its been since my pen has danced across the page in a jumble of conscious and unconscious imagery that has been held inside for fear of release, the making visible of all that I am too frightened to otherwise acknowledge or share. So here I sit, letting the water of my mind spring, rusty with the residue of the pipes in which it has sat stagnant for far too long, slowly start to flow again, consciously cautious not to break the leaky pipes with the full force of the pressure that has built. I wonder how many pages I must fill to see it run clear, wondering if even at its source it doesn't bubble up murky with the darkness of depths yet unexplored. This then is an expedition of sorts into the places I fear to tread, where all I wish to avoid sits waiting, plotting its escape, seeking only acknowledgment of its own existence and of its place in the whole of my being and so the world at large. The words are so small, yet contain an understanding of their own importance at levels I myself still do not. Thus I teach myself by distancing me from me. Is this then the purpose of writing? So that the universe may know itself, know me, teach me about myself? If only I can humble myself enough to accept its knowledge and wisdom what worlds could be accessed through these lines on paper, through these words and ideas that are of me and are me and are everything at once. How does one even hope to capture the experience of so great an existence inside such limited thoughtforms? Only through layers of abstractions and metaphors until it becomes clear that existence is made of these limited thoughtforms and ideas viewed not from a singular source, but from all angles, from a constantly shifting perspective I myself am to provide. But the truth, for now at least, is still murky, and necessarily so, for only that which is cloudy can be seen, while that which runs clear is all but imperceivable. And once truth becomes transparent all hope of holding it in words becomes as foolish as writing to find truth rather than joy.