Polaroid Frames

a future me rests against the bark of an old tree
and it seems my forest fear is long assuaged —
heavy dirt on my clothes — i’m clutching a rifle,
under the many pinpoints of alien worlds,
their magnificent lights sprinkled across
a deep blue wash like an eternal facade
manufactured by the imagination.

and i was no closer to placing myself
within this cold blink of time and space,
living in and out of polaroid frames
taken from an inseparable mixture
of dreams and reality

each day,
i secretly wished for enlightenment.
each day i knew that that was the
one way it would never come.

Delegation #2

in the 21st century, we took pills for headache,
weight loss, insomnia, anxiety, and depression
and called it modern medicine — most of us were
thoroughly clueless about the proper function
of our own body and brain, instead vesting in
the paraphrased conclusions of medical studies
sponsored by interest groups and
circulated by mass media.

some spent a decade in a serotonin daze —
exhibiting the strange side effects from the
poorly understood chemical manipulation
of the human brain, a biological hack sold
to a culture obsessed with the quickest capsuled fix that
could be backed by a scientific paper touting correlation.

it was easier to design drugs under a reductionist model.

Delegation #1

in the 21st century, we grew up entirely
on prepackaged grocery store meat and
called ourselves pacifists — we could
detect gravitational waves and surmise
the birth of the universe, but sentience merely
thickened into this terrifying mystery known
only by the subtle glint in an animal’s eye.

we fed ourselves blindfolded, every time.
for a nominal fee, a slab of nondescript
midwestern protein would simply arrive,
ready to be seasoned and cooked
on the suburban family grill.

we satiated our stomachs and smiled wide,
the Labrador ran far into the green field,
chasing after a tennis ball in a game of fetch.

Year twenty-four

Today is year twenty-four.

year twenty-three started with a kiss and
ended in a blur — doing the same thing,
every day, for eight hours a day, must be the closest
thing we’ve got to time travel. it also proved to me
that time-times-productivity is a biological constant
equal exactly to one: in every attempt i’ve made to break it,
i fell asleep with the light glaring into my eyelids and
woke up the next morning bloodshot and defeated.
    i still wake up every morning bloodshot and defeated.

year twenty-four is the year of startups.
it is either a pregnancy or an infection
— i’m still not sure which — of the brain
with a vision of fruition so palpable that
on paper and in talk it feels already half-way there.
but it’s a desert mirage, and the projected steps
to the first oasis invariably wind and self-multiply.
you need far more water than you actually have
and you know this — all you can think is
at least i’m not doing it alone.

year twenty-four is a responsibility to the next of kin.
it is the peculiar realization that though you failed
to figure out this corporeal existence for yourself,
you are already enlisted to sell the joys, pains,
lessons, and open questions of this mysterious ride
to the next generation of life. the truth is,
i feel i was never fit to and i may never be.
i don’t see what others see in me when i live
each day with a permanent kernel of skepticism
embedded in the back of my mind.

but if i could teach bryn and chase only one thing,
it would be that mom, dad, every other human being, and I
were born no different than they: a blank slate potted plant
thrust into a world of contagions ready to re-sequence
their minds atop the incumbent bricks of
second-hand superstitions and stale facts,
cultural norms and strong opinions — that all
parasites of thought masquerade like truth
as their means of continuing to survive.

year twenty-four is living down the street from your
5th grade friends again. somehow old constellations
resurface in your life and when you recognize them,
they seem to say you’ve changed far less than you thought.
it’s unclear to me whether we were brought here by
the hidden variables of our subconscious or
the coincidental tides of a random process,
but i suspect i may actually live to die never
having left one place — my eleven year old self,
making crass jokes on the pavement, a bit too sure,
not careful enough, walking around the courtyard
with friendships that never really had a beginning,
but felt like they always just were.

today is year twenty-four.

Smile

she was cursed with an angelic smile,
carved like a faustian wish made true,
her lips cemented into a secret note
all the men read to say
    she is having the time of her life

but she was writhing inside her cage,
rattling bars that wouldn’t ring through,
thinking why is he still looking at me that way,
if this will be another awkward advance
for the list this year.

i never danced with her.
i saved myself the conundrum of studying a false siren, and
stared stoically into the mass of turning figures, wondering
if i could really read the story of their lives in one expression

if someone could read something in mine

Empty

1am, driving back — the car’s 10 mile range warning
is now a thorough lie and i’m staring at the total eclipse
of the red needle on the final white line, falling imperceptibly

and the ebb and flow of many street lamp lights that live within it,
the uncertainty that stretches out like a waking dream
and a vigilant ear tuned to the silence —
they must have factored in a bias for idiots like me.

nine months now and i haven’t sat down to say good-bye.

testing, and i secretly hoped to be stranded for gas,
swaying my filled glass to its brink for a spill
i can actually handle in the span of one night,
the hard work of drudging two hours on the
shoulder of the road with a spare tank just to
taste the temporary relief of a problem solved.

three thousand emails to inbox zero —
i’ve been scrubbing the past with baking soda.
i’m anxious for the overdue start of my life,
for making it home on empty, for waking up
to a clean conscience, my grasp on opportunity
reinstated

Disconnect

it was packed full of white people dancing to 20s blues,
a generation of generations removed, washed up on the
beach of circumstance and the tail end of cultural change.
history was a hot potato cooled by the disconnect of time
and a fact no one here could possibly own, yet i still couldn’t
understand what it meant to dance to someone else’s music,
if interpretation was a matter of duty or just an ephemeral lens…

Mundane

i took the expressway to the very end,
thinking i would end up in some distant forest,
but all i found was that the road was shorter
than its name implied, a large T intersection,
and that contemplative drives always did sound better on paper.

the present has this nasty habit of steamrolling the imagination

we invented all the wonders of Mayan civilization
after the fact — i swear they spent their days
all the same, like us, fleeing boredom with
numbers, words, and ephemeral thrills

anything to pass the time

Ether pt. 3

        John had only one hour to make his way to the border of the suburban cell, racing the crest of martial law behind him. Any moment now and the dome would mandate a security sweep, approved by remote thumbprint — and while working under the protectorate had its charms, its eager militia was not one of them.
        So it was the back-country again: the lawless slump outside the reach of the habitat machine, the endless neglected ruins of space bombardment and the atmospheric imbalance that came with it. Above all, it meant the broken spirits of the outcasts that ended up on the wrong side at the end of the war. His identity badge would do him no good there. Neither would his clean clothes or shaven face, but he didn’t have the time to fix that.
        John laid down the badge on his desk and gave it a long parting stare. Its shiny insignia of a window paned dome glistened in the dark for a moment, reflecting a passing light outdoors. A small part of him welcomed the break from the overbearing suffocation of lush, climate controlled grass. A bigger part of him resented that unadulterated freedom always smelled like old, unresolved ash.
        He scooped up his backpack and left. He headed for the walls that gave way to osmosis. They could not keep out the disorder, after all.

Random Access (or lack thereof)

manila folders fall spontaneously
from the cabinets of my memory
to the floor of my mind and
they always land open.

i spend an inordinate amount of time
staring at those cluttered documents,
unshelved and ajar, replaying their
records in my head in the third person,
contemplating my regrets or my losses,
and in general wondering why the past always
looks to me like a series of haphazard tattoos
carved into my hippocampus.

at the end of the day, i sweep them up,
and cram them back into a random bank,
always making sure to crumple them first,
so that the static friction of their creases
might keep them stuck a little while longer.

i am well aware that this
does not make them go away
(and that this must be why
 i have such a wretched memory.)