They took us out to green pastures when we were young. Gentle folds of fragrant earth open to us, long warm roads winding to focal points beneath the horizon; wheat fields expansive. Open. Blue skies and the right to die beneath a willow with no one’s name. The dark mysteries of night and the thousand specks that beckoned us to the vast possibilities of life, out here in the frontier land. Textbooks’ covered wagons and dreams imprinted on pupils. Let the pupae bloom their wings. Scythes in our left hands, pens in our right. Honesty: what the mighty fought and died for. Tunes of freedom on the nightly news, red white and blue over the colonies and the untamed West and the Cadillac coupes that flew the ‘50s birds from their nests and the conservative… They pointed at green pastures when we were young. Danced naked unabashed, told us it was in the social fabric. We must not have read the final chapters. We didn’t commit to rote memory the organization of the indexed dates and names and categorical procedures for dictating the proper enunciations of freedom in this valley. We must’ve skipped some pages. There are lights inset behind the fabric of the dome, glow blue day sky; relax and enjoy the childhood spent spa-soaking the suburban expense — the pastures carved in grid-wise greed, stare up at the midnight specks of the dimmed-down lights of the dome. Sweat-shop saunas: success by the width of a hand-held; virtue by the desk jockeys beneath your feet. Climb the tower stairs of gold. Dollars glow neodymium green in shadowed bank vaults on computer screens and this is your pasture — run free. Raised on textbook patriotic histories, speak your tongue free, but know they’ve done no wrong. Your desk in preschool is not your desk in grade school is not your desk in college is not your desk on the fifteenth floor of JP Morgan. Starve now your organs; hear the children dying: In the honest candlelight of shakeboard cabins, breathe more deeply the binding’s glue and forsake the god-damned questioning — What shit still holds this together?
Futility in the pages of decades old poetry, mold in the bindings of our 50-year-old dreams. Do you remember cliff-diving outside of Santa Ana? The strangers we lived with in the woods, new friends from San Francisco. Dancing lost footsteps on the sidewalks’ lyrical chalk, a young folk band busking towards Denver. Making love in our tarp tent to the Magnetic Zeroes; rise to find dawn gilding the hills round Athens, Ohio.
The lyrics to our dreaming lives haven’t changed in 50 years.
Dear Dylan, Dear Kerouac, Dear Ginsberg, Dear Morrison
Because somewhere outside of Asheville we heard the hum, low, monotonous, whir of the processors. We thought we would run forever. One by one friends and lovers in graduation caps and office desks, and the hum of the processors grew louder. So, young and hungry and tired of running, we returned to retrieve our degrees. Fortunes awaited, long careers beneath the microscopes of progress. Happily ever after a fairy tale soundtracked by the clack of the keyboards; the digital hum of the screens.
Bookshelves burn and the inferno splits apart the neon glow we hid in our hearts. Flowers wilt and the passages of love decay. Dreams fall to darkness.
Hold my hand.
Long nights awake in bed, my tired circuitry is sparking with the energy of a jazz band. There is so much to be done in this life, but at 1am there is nowhere to go. Just to sleep. By 6am sunlight is faint, and my eyes are heavy enough to witness unconscious dreams of greatness on the dorm room’s concrete wall. The future on the concrete wall, a vortex of fog and the ghosts of future selves. The projector has been on all along – 8am awake to find myself sleep-screaming in the back of class. In the dream, someone telling me I’d been wrong. And in a few moments when I graduate I’ll be awoken by the screeching of a library desk. 8 hours of class, 6 hours of clearing tables. The kitchen is a cluster-bomb of aluminum line cooks, and the incredulous owner saying I yesterday called to quit my job. From my back on my mattress I had dreamt-up unemployment and I swear the projector had been turned on. The vortex on the wall it swirls; dreams no longer clearly separating from reality. Dizzying clouds of cigarette smoke in the heyday hours of a gentle trip. Today I am the professor of pharmaceuticals. Fog rolls down the basement steps to underground bars where bass-drops come in flavors of neon candy. I’ve been reading more Pynchon lately; Calvin and Hobbes for what might lie awake in the future’s fog. Tomorrow I can be a dentist; I can be a desk clerk. Tomorrow morning I can be quickly falling through the sewer grate, or founding an internet platform. I am going to write novels when I graduate, or I can uncover the next Watergate, or I will be the first to manufacture sheets of graphene. In a few years when I’m well on the road to my dreams, starting my own business and happily getting married, I’ll realize I’m awake in class, and they’re all frozen and watching me. Hope mocks me for being so dead wrong; the concrete wall is a facade, and all of life has passed me by on my back, long days awake in bed on my back. I awake to find myself still asleep in class, and everyone is watching, the vortex on my desk in a puddle of blood, where the pencil has dug a crater into the back of my hand.
Here on the roof day-drinking and we are quiet. The talk was small for the most part, and eventually when the talk began to loop ‘round to politics and the spirit world, we silenced ourselves, and gave ourselves room to think quietly. Up here on the roof day-drinking – Spring is new and Winter is old, and the cold that kept us cramped beneath blankets on the couch has turned into something refreshing and almost virile. The fresh air touches my groin. The sunlight fading near the end of a long afternoon, its grapefruit hues color the air. There is something faintly exciting about this time of day, a vague expectation of having something to do or to enjoy. Of places to go.
From up on my roof I can see the road and how it wraps the planet. Long dusty stretches of highway; rust-eaten gas stations in Michigan. Romance in Venice, let’s take a walk on the pier, and feel the anticipation of eager kissing as the lights in distant Malibu one by one come on. Finding matronly strippers at Brinkley’s in Philly, maybe later tonight around two. I could be in Denver by midday tomorrow. Brick alleys waiting to be explored in Hoboken, histories of unsung drunken melodies pitched into the ivy along Boston’s side streets. I can meet a young woman whose name is Mica and for a night pretend we’re in love. Pretend we’re in love and escape our shadows, we’ll leave them behind 1,000 miles down the road.
There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing beside my bed. Just standing there, really, for long afternoon hours.
Bills are tacked to the walls to keep them from getting lost. They’re difficult to find once the power’s turned off. I admit I have never voted: confusion filing my application to the Selective Service. I tried to drive to Walgreen’s to buy Benadryl for my existential allergies, and spent the day in the driveway listening to NPR. I can’t sleep at night because I get nothing done all day. I can’t do anything during the day because I’m exhausted, nightly staring at a blank ceiling leaves me exhausted. My wife leaves me notes in the freezer each morning, before she leaves for work. She must be suspicious I’ve been hogging her vodka. The notes are to-do lists.
- Keep kid alive
- Pay bills
- Buy health insurance
- Finish school
- Find work
- Don’t quit on me
I let her watch TV all day while I fall in and out of dream-drenched sleep. She stays put – I know she won’t get lost… There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing on the floor, playing dolls with my daughter.
The man is a black latex suit, a featureless creature keeping closets full of dead rats. The rats were allowed to feast on dreams and desires (To prevent these from reappearing through the ends of the rats’ intestinal tracts, the vermin were drowned in bleach). Flies swarm the closet, and this corner of the soul is closed tight.
The black latex suit wore a cap and gown down the graduation aisle.
The black latex suit couldn’t smile at the cake to celebrate anything at all.
The black latex suit finds it hard to speak with the bottom of his throat at the back of his teeth.
The black latex suit has made no mistakes. It understands what is required to fill the plates at the family table.
Strung up on the wall is the black latex doll, for the machinery to use for its pleasure.
Here are ten years spent searching for the antithesis of a life uselessly lent to Keurig machines brewing, daily traffic migrations idling, flat-screen TV’s streaming: Here are the screams of the mad-eyed peeling their scalps to let out the vacancies eating away at their brains. Here are the years spent shifting desks in dormitories where your youth went for a degree in death management: You found yourself crawling naked hysterical on the sidewalk well past sun-rise. You took the plunge and scrapped gum from the sidewalk, making yourself a lunch to carry downtown for a day staring listlessly at trees in the park, where you found, on a pedestal, a mirror looking down at you. Here are your dreams above the obscurity of the crowds – a PhD in philosophy, Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.
Here are the scars on your forehead the time you realized the ceramic-tile wall-corner could set free the termites tunneling hollow through your head. The termites hurt worse: unconsciousness was blissful. Then: three years later dragging your guts pornographically through the bars you realized the misfortune well-spent on bathsalts in a single boarded-up bedroom – the obscurity you feared was waiting right here beneath your piss-stained mattress. In a dumpster you found a desk and picked up reading the Existentialists where last you had left off – Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.
Here are the months you spent hitchhiking both coasts because the idea of getting lost beat finding your way through the mainstream maze that still makes no sense. Remember the time you cried, head to your mother’s chest, about the nihilism of this and that? It thundered true then and it thunders true now, with your shoestrings dangling through the holes in your soles. Is there lunch left in your pockets? Did you manage the time to find the ticket for your shuttle-ride to the stars. You are 35 and still longing for your home with your child and wife, and they are there, and they are waiting – for you to find they are the meaning.
Mr. Little Camus you would’ve changed the world.
The future is felt like a big open sore, suppurating raw – like putting fingers in the wound, to pay the future any mind. I can give it no concern. I am supposed to file forms to meet important collegiate deadlines, but I think I’d rather just sit staring at the back of a stranger’s head. I am supposed to pen a ten-page paper but again I’ll hand in four, with five-inch margins, the product of a seven hour last-minute slog with my forehead on the keyboard – time now is better spent browsing news-column comments and disturbing Japanese porn. Every day has the same routine – standing staring at the dormitory doors, thinking and shrinking at the notion that this wave was set in motion without my consent. I find myself biding minutes by the hour looking forward to exhaustion, just so I can sleep, and forget, and not be bothered by the fate that I’ve had double-stuffed down my throat. For what if I do go through the doors? Attend every class and score a 4.0GPA? I’ll only find myself wandering through the motions of a life I’ve named Regret. But the passion that I had for the one thing I was good at – I sit here staring at a camera I’ve lost the will to lift off my lap. This would be best just to forget.
You’ve been dumped into the vortex (the bottom is endless), now cling to the walls, or find yourself hurled through the perpetual swirls of an abyss you’ll never breath free from. You have a choice – etch your name on the first rung you can manage hold and hang there for your life of regret. Or plummet – follow your dreams down the vortex picking blackened breadcrumbs from the sidewalk just outside your cardboard door…
… The swirling black mess suppurating raw in my chest, I’d rather sit here and stare at old dust-motes and forget, that time regardless passes on.