Purple Shirt

it’s 9am and she’s wearing air jordans, cargo pants,
silky long hair, and a modest certitude that
makes you look twice — for once i can’t tell
if she got ready for this or if that’s just who she is.
another girl and another boy standing about
the airport, like everybody else, waiting for something,
projecting thoughts on a private 2 by 2 square on the wall

in the sky we leave behind the paths that never crossed

Quarter Life

we drove and listened aimlessly to late night 90s music,
maybe to submerge the conscious thought that
we never left square one. and in the static pockets
of the midnight radio broadcast, we wondered,
with open futility, who we were and where was home.
and it turns out there was nothing perilous or imminent
about the quarter life crisis — it was almost benign,
a contemplative tide that rose and fell each week,
each time gnawing, gradually, at your paralysis of identity.
    all i knew was who i didn’t want to be.

it was year twenty four when i figured out
the patterns of the stop lights


i was trapped each day by the need to do perfect
my words and overdue correspondence unwritten,
my thoughts foreclosed by a fictitious affliction, the wartime
letters of my feelings prematurely censored and undelivered,
my whole city on track to be the one blip that disappeared
on the next pass of the radar sweep — incommunicado.

i knew this and spent each night in an uncreative, tired daze,
of nothing but time-draining distraction and the persistent
wonder about those who waited on the one email from me
that i could not find a way to write — imagining their patience
giving each day to the kind of apathy you read in the remark,
    “oh, don’t worry about it”
which meant that i was already too late to convey
with any conviction that i cared. but i did…
all too much.

(inbox 130)


shoelaces were the last anachronistic holdout.
it was twenty fifty-five when they became vintage,
and the twentieth century man would barely recognize
any of the contraptions that inhabited everyday life —
nearly all things harbored intelligence, and even the
simplest materials were engineered ones,
with cryptic properties that defied intuition and
theory that could take multiple scientists to explain.

but though we were long past the days of
saturating shannon’s channel capacity,
long past the days of analog and even digital,
reginald’s radio never left us. the night time still
bloomed with modestly modulated carrier waves,
carrying the crackling articulations of a human voice
to everyone, and no one in particular. to many,
it was the same existential distraction it always was:
the ambient noise of concurrent life in society’s womb,
a lullaby to quell the darkness that swallowed the world
and left you a little bit more alone in the confines
of your room, wondering.

we never yearned to deprecate broadcast.

Inbox 121

the numbness of a long line,
the futile churning of a car’s repeated failure to start.
there was no motivation born of unfulfilled obligations,
nor the miracle boost of a well timed nap — only exhaustion,
every time, waking up in the light, and the quiet wonder at
where my energy has gone


re-animation begins with dissolving
a half-century of cosmoline statis —
mineral spirits are cheap, and like
all good solvents, coat your hands
in an invisible film of tack that
multiple trials of soap won’t strip,
and are volatile, wafting into large
spaces something mildly sweet
and most probably toxic.

i’m restoring life to someone’s former god.
a milled machine confidant that proved,
among other things, a patient scribe
to stories told loudly and only once,
written with strange scratches, dents, and
lead deposits to form a primary account on
history as nonrepudiable as it is undecipherable —
and in that there is both mystique and moral impunity,
majesty and oblivion, a tool living intermittently across
the generations of its own creators, because it was
engineered to both endure and admit their whims.

these are the days i feel a little bit more american.

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 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.