THE HILL

I used to sit out and look at the stars.

They’d twinkle in the infinite darkness

Like the embers of my father’s cigars.

He used to sit with me—he loved to jest

About how each star was like a woman

Whom he had been with. He’d laugh through his beard,

‘Til the cough took hold. He’d call for his pan—

A small bucket that he had pioneered

To both carry and clean river water—

And I would run down the hill to get it.

I’d run past the house of Nat, his daughter,

Who’d sometimes come over to babysit.

Steve, her husband, would often visit dad

Dressed in a white coat. He’d never stay long.

But after, dad didn’t cough quite as bad.

Some nights he would even sing us a song.

But those glorious days are all but gone

‘Cause ma told me his heart went out at dawn.

——

 

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THE FORK

The drive home from work takes a short while. Some twenty minutes. It’s nothing special—I certainly wouldn’t write home about it. For the past few weeks, there has been a construction crew on one corner, where the road forks into east and west. I had never seen the construction crew working—I assumed they worked late at night, after I had left, or early in the morning, before I arrived. But today, things were different. As I was coming along the curve of the road that leads up to the fork, a construction worker with a large, abrasive red stop sign jumped out in front of oncoming traffic. The blue Toyota Prius that was three cars in front of me, slammed on their breaks, which caused the following cars ahead of me to do the same. I, like the cars in the lane parallel to us, did the same, and we came to a stop about fifty feet from the fork.

The construction worker was dressed in the abhorrent orange vest that they wear for their safety, with a pair of intimidating shades. It would not have appeared quite so bad if he had not had such a smug grin on his face—like he had done this solely to ruin the waning hours of our day. What was worse, is that there was a tractor with a towing cable tied to it backing up from between the fork—in that space where, if you were to drive full speed through, you would eventually hit a tree. Traffic was dead stopped, and the lanes were backing up. Still, this guy stood there with a grin on his face.

Now, I could not fault him—I mean, it is his job and he probably knows it better than I do. But the tractor was in the left lane—the one to head west. I was in the right lane, which heads east. There was a full five feet between the tractor and the lane—plenty of space to fit by. In fact he should have only stopped the left lane. I felt a twinge of anger inside me. The roar of horns behind us did nothing to calm me down, either. The incessant BEEP-BEEP BEEEEEEEEP of the horns was infuriating. I was looking around—behind me, ahead, to the sides—looking for a way out. And finding none.

Apparently, I was not alone in this feeling. In a surprising burst of speed, the blue Prius shot forward. The construction worker looked on in horror as the little machine whizzed by him. It was like the floodgates of a dam had been flung open, and our whole lane surged forward with waves of anger. But it didn’t stop there. We rounded the corner going faster—faster around the corner than we had ever gone before. Sixty, seventy, eighty miles per hour! We shot through the red light like a bullet (the blue Prius had not been quite so lucky. Its entry was met with a crater into a white Honda Civic. But small losses are needed for revolution. We sped and sped and sped like a herd of beasts through the road, until finally I came to my turn off point. I realized that I could not make my turn, and terror took hold. I was no longer the pack of noble animals coursing against the flood of a cruel system. I had become the wolf—the cruel, malicious hunter who decimated everything in my path.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #23 – OCEANS

The idea of love is infinite.

We’ve written sonnets, and ballads, and yet

We’ve made but a small drop in the ocean.

Like the sea, love is ever in motion—

A twisting and turning of great waters

Aloof from the laws of human matters.

Like love, the sea looks smooth from far away,

But up close it can turn into a fray.

Gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning.

A swirling vortex of hunger turning—

Be too kind, and find a knife at your throat;

Too callous and find you can’t stay afloat.

Too solemn and find yourself left alone,

Too lustful and find the pain you have sown.

But if you cast off to the wind with care,

You might not find yourself left quite so bare.

You might find yourself sitting on a boat,

Next to someone with features you have wrote

Into your memory like a career—

Except that they are the one you hold most dear.

 

And this is what I believe to be true:

That moments were crafted for me and you;

The moments I’ll cherish for forever

Are those when you and I are together.

Just you and I sitting under the sun

On our boat where nothing can be undone.

——

 

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HEROES IN AMERICA

My stomach growled with hunger pains,

Like a lion ready to strike.

I dug through garbage in the rain

Desperate for something that I’d like.

 

It was a black and frigid night,

Like something out of a novel.

Yet heroes overcome their plight,

While I sit freezing and grovel.

 

My toes are blue and frost bitten;

My overcoat tattered and torn;

My socks and shoes have holes in ‘em,

I loathe that I were ever born.

 

Of course, that’s just another day

As a Vet in the U.S.A.

——

 

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DYSTOPIA

“And we’ve returned for another exciting adventure!” The neon green man yelled out from the billboard screen. Exciting indeed, I thought to myself dryly. I was walking along the sidewalk on a dreary Monday, with the sky threatening to break above us. Like myself, everyone was dressed in gray. Gray shirts, gray shoes, gray pants, even gray scarves. I mean, certainly, not everyone was dressed in gray, but it had the gray feel to it. You know, when everyone looks so boringly the same? A couple people had preemptively put their umbrella’s up—though I wonder whether that’s because they expected the rain, or were simply too oblivious to realize that it was not falling yet. I could hear phones buzzing (nobody ever set their phone to ring anymore—who could really take the looks of wonder from strangers when an unexpected song burst out? This was no Disney movie).

I, personally, do not own a phone. Not that it’s a bad idea, but I do not have much reason for it. My family died out a few years back—my mom died after a bout with brain cancer, and I never met my father. If I need to contact friends I know I will see them at work. Work. Everyday, everybody would pile onto the tram and—what? No no no, the tram. There’s no cars where I live. There is the work space and the living space. Each tram travels along a massive circular railing, roughly 8 feet from the ground, with break points at each living space, and at each workstation. To save time, the chairs of the trams fall out and drop people from their seat onto a padded surface. This initially was a problem, until people realized (or rather, were told) that they did not need all the extra baggage they carried. There were printers at work, and everyone’s documents were paired between their workstation and their home. And besides, who has time to do anything special like that anymore? It’s not as though we had energy to do anything after we got off work at night.

After people got off the tram, they would walk through the narrow walkway back to their home. Roads were disposed of quite a while ago—they just took up too much space. The living spaces were already at their maximum safety height—at least, maximum in terms of cost efficiency to safety ratios. And the people had grown so obese that they were losing functionality sooner. A short walk to home on our own time was a little trade for both our health and government time. Still, I feel bad for the eighties. They live nearly ten miles away from the nearest tram stop. But, that’s punishment for low efficiency units.

I live in the fifteens. Fifteens are a great lot. They’re far enough away that the air is still crisp, but not so far that it’s a voyage to Tram Stop #3. There’s no “early to work” or “late to work” anymore. People come and go as they please. The companies decided it would be more freeing to do that. But there is a minimum work efficiency barrier, and in the even that it is not met the companies and the government have taken measures to motivate people to get back to work. They will limit warm water, leisurely Internet access, and reduce the quality of food flavor. Consistently low efficiency units are moved further away until they fix their problem—assuming their space hasn’t been reassigned yet. The fifteens are pretty high—I have worked quite hard to earn my flat. It even has a couch. You never really realize what it’s like to not have a couch until you sprawl out on one.

But enough thought about home. The walk to work from the tram station—Tram Station #92, to be precise—is quite a sight. The busy lights, the gray masses of men and women. It’s really something to look at. Everyone has a screen in their face, protective glasses on to keep the light from frying their eyes over time—early blindness was a sign of systematic inefficiency. The air was moist, yet as always it was nearly odorless. The light scent of rose petals wafted through the air. I’m told somewhere, a higher up has the last garden in the sector, and that we are lucky they leave the window open for us to smell it. Though, truth be told, I’m almost certain they simply pump the scent into the airwaves. Otherwise that would be a vacation attraction.

——

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SNOWFLAKE

There’s a problem with being a snowflake,

Which is that, despite being beautiful,

It is crushed underfoot in human’s wake

And left for dead in a winter quite cruel.

And while it can glister like regal gold,

If left in light it will begin to melt.

Few snowflakes get to see their days grow old,

Even if in life they were made heartfelt.

Snowflakes are at the mercy of the wind,

And in the ravishing torrential air

Their valiant edges will find themselves skinned;

And their beaten bodies left weak from wear.

I think I know why people can relate

To the fragile life of a lone snowflake.

——

 

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OUT OF TIME?

I have been wanting to talk about time for quite a while. We have taken time to be a quantifiable idea—I mean you can look at the phone in your pocket and check it pretty much whenever. Or right now, in the corner of your computer screen. You can definitively say, “oh hey, it’s 3:00. Cassady has posted another piece of writing for me to read!” People love to say things like “Time waits for no man,” and “it was only a matter of time before __________ happened.” And that’s fine. I mean, I wear a watch, I budget my time. I live on a schedule for my day-to-day life. And that’s fine. In many ways, by monitoring my time, I have a greater ability to do the stuff I want to do in my life. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t schedule my life (whoa so meta right?).

But time is something we take super seriously, and it shouldn’t be that way. Time is just a measurement of distance, speed, decay and human perception. Really, think about it. How do you know the length of a day? It’s one rotation of the Earth. That’s the distance it takes for one point on Earth to reach its starting point at a set speed. How do we know how long a year is? It’s one revolution of the Earth around the Sun. How do we know how old a fossil is? We check where it was buried, use science to deduce how long ago the rocks it was buried with formed, and estimate from there. Time isn’t that serious. It needs to sound serious so people will make it matter, but it isn’t that serious. Time is a human construct.

All these measurements don’t happen if people don’t exist. We’ve chosen to measure sunrise and sunset as the period in which we can do things. But think about it, out in space, how do you know when a day is over? Without a watch, you don’t. Now, sure, your body might be able to signal to you that you are tired due to thousands of years of evolutionary development. That’s a circadian rhythm. Though theoretically, if a human were devoid of Earthly experiences they may never have formed one. In which case, where does time exist in space? Well, it doesn’t really, because time is a human idea.

Now, you’re a smart person. You read through all this and said to yourself “yeah, duh. But I still have to get to work on time, or else I’d get fired.” And that’s great. I have two jobs and am a full time student. I know what you mean. But since human life is fleeting, I’d like for you to take this idea into consideration when you are reflecting on your own life. Is the time you have really worth sitting through traffic to get to your dead end job, everyday, for the rest of your life? Is it not reasonable to take the week off to see something you’ve never seen before? You’re not just a number, you’re a person. People are special. We have the ability to think for ourselves. You could get up and walk out of this room, right now and—wait come back! What I mean to say is that you can make choices for yourself that change the course of your life. Certainly, you should think of the ramifications, but don’t be so focused on “this will take me a week to do and I don’t have that kind of time, so it’s not worth doing.” Instead, start thinking about things as “I want (or don’t want) to do this. So I’m going to do it, and if it takes a year or a week, then so be it.”

——

 

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LOVE POEM #22 – IL PLEUT

Il pleut

The rain is falling

 

 

A cascade of raindrops

Pour down from me tonight.

There’s no inkling to stop;

There’s no end in sight.

 

There’s no twilight moon,

No sun and no stars.

No flowers begging to bloom.

No streets for busy cars.

 

Mais il pleut encore.

 

The hearth has no fire,

The table is not set,

There is no bed to retire

From the cold and the wet.

 

All I have left is an empty couch,

An empty crib, and an empty house.

And an echo back to happy days

Which have trapped me in this mental maze.

 

Mais il pleut encore.

 

I can still see my daughter’s smile

By the grass, in the sun;

My wife resting on the tile

With her hair in a bun.

 

But like the sky they have faded to gray

And I am plagued with anguish:

The fact that they were taken away

‘Cause they spoke another language.

 

Et il pleut encore.

——

 

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BEAR REPUBLIC ALE AT DINNER

I’d like you to picture yourself at a table, dear reader, staring across the table from a subtly beautiful member of the other sex—or the same sex, if that is your preference. Or someone else entirely—just someone you are attracted to. It’s someone you have known for quite a while, yet you do not know who they are today. Can you do that for me? Maybe they are a friend, former lover, or just an acquaintance from a previous time in your life. Whatever the case, they sit there, a couple feet away from you, looking deep into your eyes. They smile, and laugh, and the world seems a little smaller than it has to you in the past few days. Because the world is indeed quite big. Almost twenty-five thousand miles around, in fact. In some areas, you could go for miles and miles without seeing anyone.

You could cross the arctic, trekking through frost and snow, until your boots were soaked through and your arms were jittering, and you would come across nobody. Just a vast, frozen ocean of white, dwindling year by year as humans heat up the planet. Or march through the Sahara desert, the heat of the sun bombarding your skin, while the coarse, dry air rips apart your throat in every breath. Still, you would see no one. Perhaps you would cross paths with a scorpion, as it scuttled through the dunes, or in the snow you might be so lucky to see a polar bear and avoid it’s wrath—for the polar bear certainly will not forget the harm we’ve caused it.

Yet instead, you are here. Sitting, laughing, perhaps even with a beer in hand. Perhaps all this talk of bears has made you thirsty for a “Racer 5 IPA,” the popular Bear Republic Brew Company’s fine amber-brown concoction. The sting at the back of your throat might even catch you off guard, and cause you to stare at the glass a bit after the first sip. Oh, but you’re a well-seasoned drinker—as all people are these days. Except your partner, who has never even tried an IPA. They take a sip—the foam dancing its way onto their upper lip—and cringe for a moment before composing themselves. Wasn’t that cute? I like to think so. They brush their lip and you make a kind remark, asking how they liked it—though your need to ask is superfluous, you saw them cringe. Yet you are anxious. They are, in fact, quite lovely. Not lovely in the classic sense, not by any means. I mean, their facial structure doesn’t display the characteristics of a model. And they certainly don’t have the same well-toned body you and I have both become so accustomed to on our social media outlets. But still, they are beautiful. Maybe it’s the way they look away for a moment when you’ve made a fool of yourself. Maybe it’s the way their lips contract while you engage in conversation—have you ever seen someone so attentive to your words? It feels like something special. Something you’ve never shared with anyone in your life.

Can you picture it? As the low hum of the music plays in the background; the cheers of the crowd watching the game, and the bustle of busy waiters and waitresses as they move from table to table? Everything is in harmony, and you—and your partner—are there alongside them. And that great, big world out there doesn’t seem quite so daunting to you anymore. All it took was for you to believe.

——

 

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OFF RAMPS

My whole life I have pondered

Who and what I should be.

A writer, a scientist, a teacher.

Even a card game player.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

At least, that’s what they tell you.

“Follow your dreams!”

 

But sometimes,

The world is not so kind.

Sometimes I have found myself at the crossroads

Where I’ve had to choose left or right.

Right or wrong.

Kind or cruel.

 

I like to think I chose kind,

The path grassy, and with want of wear,

Though in truth, don’t we all?

And for those of us who know we haven’t,

Is it worth trying to wander back

To the road less traveled?

 

Zeppelin told me

There was still time

To change the road I was on.

What they forgot to mention

Was that to change roads,

I would need to find an off ramp.

For a U-turn in L.A. traffic

Would prove perilous.

 

And on that off ramp

I might see

All the homeless men, women and children

That I have left in the cold.

 

I mean, I didn’t leave them there—

Our corrupt society did that.

…And yet, my car seats four,

But I ride alone.

 

So perhaps, I can change.

But that change can only come

Through the pain of the past,

A pain often left in the shadows.

——

 

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