Monthly Archives: September 2010

The god of the forest walks Manhatten at night. The roaches turn their antennae to the sound of the wind. The streetlamps flicker. Fireflies take over. The cats–no dogs,they’re practically people–with their slow obsequiousness deign to stretch like bowing. Possums sing like birds. Birds sing like birds. Flies and lesser vermin turn their heads. Mice poke out from mouseholes to pay homage. Owls spread their wings. Coming up Broadway like owns the place–he does–the forest god struts in his tumescent glory, glowing black against the twilight sky, naked and tall, with a deer’s face, so serene.

The people and the dogs think he’s just another homeless guy, avert eyes, and think they live in an urban space: artificial and impossible for forests.

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pictures of you

you know how hard it is to photograph a dog, a cat, and a small child? that is what pictures of you look like.

the camera flattens you out, and loses your shape in the blurry edge of energy you have from the microscopic machines that hold your face together. the aqueous glow of the algae in your lips, photosynthesizing and photosynthesizing becomes a blur of smudged green like molded lipstick. the eyes are always red – blame the cameras in the iris.

hold still, goddamnit! can you just hold still long enough for one stinking picture! stop the sea anemones in your hair from grabbing floating fluff long enough to get one stinking picture.

i’ll soften the lens as much as i can, but it won’t do anything about the pudge in your cheekbones where you store the implants.

stupid post-humans. they never look good in digital, even when they throw their whole self into digital.

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man behind me is sleeping

we’re getting coffee and chai at a neighborhood cafe before trundling off to work. there was a man asleep behind mirror shades – business suit, nice tie – in one of the comfortable chairs. i sat in front of him, my back to him. she sips her chai and nibbles food. she stares at the back of my computer screen while eating, because she is waiting for me to finish edits on a book — the purpose of coming here was the wifi where i could review the final changes e-mailed to me — but there’s this man behind me, sleeping behind mirror shades. he hasn’t moved a muscle all night. i saw him here before, in the same chair. i saw him two days ago, at midday, when i rolled in for a fix while working on a book. he never leaves.

rumpelstiltskin is his name. he fell asleep before this place was a cafe. back then, it was a forest in a small, country town. he’s hidden by the magic that keeps him here. he sleeps and sleeps, while the ground shifts beneath him.

by the time he wakes up, all the cafe and the suburban sprawl will be a dream of chatter. we’re here for him, to talk where he can hear, and live our lives. we populate his dreams with this cafe, where the staff hasn’t changed since i moved into this town.

all the city is his dream, i think. he’ll wake up in a few more decades when the bubble breaks and it all falls into decline: forests taking back the streets, and rivers running where the streets are hot black tar. Everything will crumble in his dream.

i’m moving in two months; i won’t be back. maybe a few million days from now, if she –god forbid–leaves me, i’ll go on a pilgrimage through the places where people knew us by name. i’ll find the man who is currently sitting behind me. he’ll be shrouded in his own beard, sleeping on a stump.

i’ll order coffee from the squirrels who remember my drink — americano, room for cream; apple fritter — and leave a note for the man for when he wakes up.

“there were people here, sharing this place with you. they were happy.”

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On Hell

A place without the light of God means nothing to someone who does not feel it in this life. Hell, then, is this life, except without all the people convinced of Gods love, who are kind of annoying to the godless ones. No one is proselytizing in Hell. People just live, or remain dead, or whatever. They walk amongst themselves fucking and fighting like they did in life, and they don’t even realize something is missing. For them, it never existed to be missed. Have you seen the new bagel shop? The band plays every night, even Sundays. No one bothers about doing anything good. We drift like bohemians from fields of corn to Tapas bars where nothing is forbidden to eat, to opera halls where the dancers recline nude and beautiful while the band plays on and on and on…

Hell is where you never notice the difference.

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dear oprah, or a reading "app" for readers

make me this: a libraryville. i wander the stacks of the application library, earning points for reading different things. my tiny avatar wanders the stacks of literature and non-fiction, browsing shelves to build up points as a reader, unlocking new books, new authors to fill your beautiful shelves that you can share with others and wander at will, along with unlockable perks for your avatar and your library: gothic shelves, sparkling librarian glasses, owls, spiders, various book-related attire.

the books would each load a chapter at a time, thereabouts, upon the screen. one merely has to read the page, and click completed. occasionally, there would be an easy q&a to fill in about the chapter just read to, you know, keep people honest.

begin with the simple classics: frankenstein, a christmas carol, twelfth night, then as you unlock points by reading, you earn points that unlock new libraries: a season in hell, elric of melnibone, i know why the caged bird sings, brave new world. get enough points to unlock contemporary classics: beloved by toni morrison, burning chrome, middlesex. keep at it, adventurous reader and unlock enough points for house of leaves or haunted or vellum.

the library changes to reflect your reading taste: gothic for goths, cambridge for classicists, modern for modernists, and potter-esque for potter-esques.

if you run out of points, by blowing it on costumes and pets for your avatar or limited edition book covers for your personal library, you have to go back to classics to rebuild your pyramid of points: illiad, don quixote, borges, dickens, dumas. then, fair reader, you can use points for vandermeer, kathy acker, aime bender, miranda july.

share your books with friends for half points off every page they read. level-up by sharing your library with other readers.

dear oprah, please put this together for us. facebook would be fine. iphone,too. whatever. send your lawyers after all the rights involved, and secure the developers and artists for the task.

it could be bigger than farmville, you know. it could be the foundation of the future of school.

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Chasing dreams is what we do here. We wake up with strawberry on our tongue, soon forgotten. The flavor never touches the tongue. Chase the dream and root it out. Lick everything. Lick paintings because they are red. Lick music because it has the ephemeral nature of a dream. Lick books for they fit in your palm like strawberries do in a bunch. Taste and see until you have plucked the right flavor from the pages of the cuckoo’s egg that holds inside it the hologram, the closest representative, the distant cousin of the strawberry you dreamed. It came so close to your lips you knew how sweet and dark and full of juice. All through the dream you chase it. In the dream you’ve almost won. It’s in the lovers palm. It’s held out to you.but before you can taste it, it is gone. Awake, craving strawberries. Craving. Licking everything that touches the place in your mind where you can harvest them.

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I have noticed that all the roads in Georgia warp back upon themselves in a disaster of urban planning. Driving to new places, I often feel like the kitten trapped in the center of an endless tangle of yarn. thing is, the shops don’t change — the restaurants. I pass different boxes and colors and letters that are all relatively similar. The houses in long lines and tracks are all from the same waves of builders, and all look like pretty similar if you squint a little. Painted differently, perhaps.

If I was in a bubble, or a matrix, this is kind of what it would be like. Roads looping back on themselves to maintain the illusion at the edge of the world, and quickly placed assets that convey a depth to the world without actually requiring too much in the way of total variation.

These thoughts kept me up at night. I squinted at the stars, and pondered the possibility of a glass dome. I looked upon the woods at the city limits and wondered why no walkign trails continued on beyond the treeline, and why no farms or ranches extended out that way. The maps told me there were highways, but among the forested hills of Georgia, and the way the roads twist around so much, it would be easy for a skilled architect to hide the illusions. If I took a compass in hand, and walked in a straight line for thirty miles, would I reach the end of the world?

How could I tell? I am trained to go to work every morning, shop at grocery stores and relax in establishments that are indoors. Even the campgrounds are cordoned off around approved rivers. There are wild places, but I am not among them.

Did the ecology collapse outside this bubble place? Did we get sent here to save the life outside of it? Are we experiments, studied or perhaps forgotten.

Late at night, I walk the streets along a path of safety lit by strategically-placed lamps. Last night, I saw a herd of deer grazing in someone’s yard. They were small, no taller than my chest. They looked at me nervously, like I was about to chase them off my neighbor’s yard. I looked back at them. They had huge, glassy eyes, like black lenses. They held as still as street lamps.

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On Nirvana

Now is the time and the time is now. Stand up and claim your destiny. The glittering light of joy inside of you must be thoroughly crushed. Raise your hands if you feel the light inside of you. Everyone raise your hands if you have hope. We must destroy it. The men in masks are waiting outside to lead you to your glorious destiny. They wear masks because masks scare people, and in case anyone is hiding any escape attempts on your persons, the masks will make sure even escapees will not know who are the ones who have come. Boots always look the same. Truncheons will keep you in line. This is your glorious destiny; embrace it. To the interrogation chambers and solemn dining halls of institutions we will send you. Joyfully, you will accept your new place in the world, and stay up late at night wondering if tomorrow is pizza friday in the cafeteria because it is your favorite day. Joyfully you will embrace the electroshock therapy for the feeling afterwards of having touched the cosmic eye, where all your impurities are wiped away until you are reborn holy and clean.

it’s time, all you who feel the breathe of god upon your bones to stand and be counted. stand up and announce yourselves. that way, you can be led away from this life, and taken to a monastic place of stark walls and eternal contemplation of the divine.

Why aren’t you so happy about this? Isn’t this the heaven you asked for? Isn’t this the ordered peace you demanded from your Holy God in the next life?

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We Were Fish

Used to be, we were all fish. We ate everything that fit in our mouths and moved like it was still alive. Didnt matter what it was. I ate an earring once, and it’s still in there, cutting at my stomach lining. I wear the hooks and lures with pride. I got the worm – and the worm did not get me. My boss wants me to remove the hooks because it looks unprofessional, but I want to remember the old ways when we were fish. I remember swimming in an ocean so deep and wide it was everything that existed. There was no such thing as rock. The closest we had were mollusks and barnacles stuck on bellies that had gotten too big and slow. Sun was nothing. The water was our warmth. We pushed ever onward, mute with sputtering mouths, while the whistles of the whales were our sparrows and parakeets and pagers and cellphones. We were fish, in flashing silver swimming always. We made big schools because back then traffic jams kept you safe and we were grateful to be packed together like that, pooping in each others faces. It was a good life when you didn’t know any better.

I’m not like them. I remember exactly what happened when we were fish. We swam into swirling matrimonial beds of softest kelp and whisking grasses. We spawned en masse and anonymously like some kind of primordial shadow of Internet pornography. We left the babes behind because we were fish and we had to swim to live, to find food and good water, chasing the calls of the whales who had gone on ahead. Years later these fish would find us – all of us. It takes a village to raise a fish. No one knows who is responsible. We are all equally responsible for all of them. The young ones looked at us with our huge, muscular, shimmering tails, and our hook badges of honor and our empty-eyed pride in being fish who swim in schools and eat anything and keep swimming. The young ones, some of them joined us proudly. Some of them yelled at us for abandoning to crabs and terms. The angry ones swam off.

We were fish. We weren’t supposed to care. But, then, some of us did.

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I’m no sucker

I wanted to make sure he understood that I was no sucker for his cheap tricks. I showed up with both me eyes in full working order, no leprosy, and walking successfully on both my legs. I had my own wine, and my own loaves and fishes. I wasn’t going to share with anyone because I am not one of those suckers for a gaunt face or a hand outstretched palm. Nobody gives you anything in life. You have to grab it, hold it, and fight off anyone that tries anything suspicious. That’s the first thing you learn on the bus before you even have your route figured out, or the cost of the fare. People will take advantage of you let them. But not me.

I walked around in front of all those sick people. I didn’t let any of them touch me.

When it was my turn I didn’t believe for a minute anything was going to happen. Nothing at all would happen.

The wizard called to me from behind the curtain. I brought all my stuff with me, so he could see I didn’t need anything from him. His magic was nothing to me. He asked me what I wanted from him, if I needed anything.

I told him it was all a sucker’s game giving away all that to people for nothing.

The wizard gave me a giant bird. It tore my liver out on the spot with a beak like sandpiper – those scalpel beaks. He offered to save me, but I told him where to stick it. It was all his fault about the bird, and I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.

***Edit to add: typing on iPhones is always a bit wonky. Fixes and changes made.

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