GRANDEUR (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

I Did

“I should, I could, I…”

How long will you tell these lies?

How long till “I did.”

 

Wasted Journey

Five thousand miles

And all I have to show are

Hunger pains and scars.

 

Grandeur

Do not be afraid

Of your first steps in success.

Fear taking your last.

 

The Nightmare

The nightmare whispers

Through the crack in the closet.

“Sleep, dream, and be freed.”

 

Background

You loved another

So I showed my love for you

Through restrained silence.

——

 

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THE SNAKE TOMB

The dream world snapped into existence before me, as if someone had flicked the light switch in a dark room. We were on a mountainside, staring out into the great expanse of the world before us. Ahead, there was a low valley basin, with golden-yellow foliage nearly a mile down. Beyond that, in the distance, there was a line of mountains, green with trees and stained lightly with the early hintings of winter snow.

“What are you dilly-dallying for again!” I heard a voice call to me. It was my cousin, a well cut man by all accounts. His eyes had the shine of adventure in them as we moved through the trees around us. I swallowed my response and moved after him. We were moving north, up the mountain to a small set of caves he had been told about by…something. I realized I had no idea how we had gotten there, or why.

The way up was treacherous. The ground was filled with muddy spots from the rainfall the previous night, and it slid and slipped unexpectedly with each new step. The lack of handholds caused me to constantly be gripping at thin air for balance. Eventually though, we found our way to the top, where there were a group of caves. They looked like three gaping mouths, ready to swallow us whole. We picked the one on the right, which opened the widest. The inside of the cave was blacker than midnight on a starless night, and I felt my own vision fade.

Once again, I awoke in the dream, at our destination, though I found myself alone. The place was a horrific sight. It was a cavern, filled with an industrial pool, which seemed out of place in retrospect, but in the moment the oddity fell to the background. The foreground was filled with an excessive number of snake bodies, as well as snake skins, spread throughout the room. They looked like the remains of a post-apocalyptic world. The bodies were rotting, like spoiled peaches, but the smell itself was far more rank than any fruit could be. I felt my stomach heave as I my eyes drifted along the pool. On one end, there was a massive snake, nearly ten feet long, and equally thick. Its skin looked half eaten, and pus poured from its one remaining eye. The empty socket was filled with the largest spider I had ever seen. It was curled up, but the black body was nearly the size of my head. Its long, spindly legs were pulled tight against its body. Fortunately, it appeared to be content where it was as I moved past it.

Suddenly, I felt the world careen before me as my foot slipped in a puddle of water. I put my hands out to brace my fall, but I plunged through the surface of the pool into the water. I splashed about for a moment, until I broke the surface to come back up for air. I cleared the water from my eyes, and looked ahead of me. Then massive snake was still there, staring off into the distance. Then, ever so slowly, its head began to turn. The sound of bones popping, snapping, and breaking filled the air as it came to look at me. The low hiss emanated from its jaws. The spider still clung there in its eye, which  stifled the red glow that had appeared there. From the other eye, the one covered with the remnants of its skin, pus dripped into the water while the reawakened beast pulled its focus on me.

Its jaws opened, and the stink of decay wafted through the air. My stomach churned. I had smelled death before, but it had never smelled quite so ancient. The beast reared back, then lunged toward me. It happened so fast, yet it appeared to me in slow motion. I could see the scales shift under its weight. The droplets in the air as I desperately scrambled to get away. It massive jaws surrounding my head. Then again, everything went black.

——

 

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TALKING ABOUT DREAMS

Hello everyone,

 

Today seems like a good day to talk about dreams. If you haven’t noticed, I quite like using dreams as a reference point for my poems. I never have really discussed this with anyone before, so I figured why not give it a shot today?

Dreams are an awesome, beautiful concept—fall asleep for a little while and have your brain entertain you. The irony for me is that I very rarely if ever remember my dreams. When I do, it is in the way most people remember them—fragmented images and broken strings of plot, often blurry around the edges. Yet after twenty-two years of life, I can place what makes a dream so “dreamy” with some amount of ease. The vivid colors, the strangely familiar faces…and so on.

After seeing Get Out, the thriller film about a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family (can’t say more than that, you should all go see the film), I think I can also talk about what makes nightmares so terrifying. At least some of them. One recurring one that I hear about is the nightmare where people have lost their voice. Often times, a loved one is in the distance, and something bad is about to happen to them. They call out—only to feel their voice catch in their throat. Try as they might, nothing happens, and they usually wake up in a cold sweat.

The movie took this idea a step farther, showing the conscious mind as trapped inside the subconscious in a “sunken place,” and it’s the core of every nightmare—the feeling of being powerless to do anything. Immobilized, silenced, and trapped. Not a place I would ever want to be. Personally, I think this is typically why I am glad when I cannot remember a dream—because even in dreams we seem to lack some amount of control, don’t we? In A Stroke of Red Ink, a poem I wrote fairly recently, I wrote about a dream that I had. Despite having pleasant factors to it, I still lacked control. Another dream that I remember fondly, is simply about walking through a void of ever changing color. It shifted and morphed, from wispy pinks to grassy greens, all through the color spectrum. I could almost smell the lush of flowers. Yet there was something unsettling about it—the fact that I was at the mercy of these colors. In an instant, they could have changed to a grotesque, bloody red, and suddenly I would have been in a hellish nightmare scape.

I think this is what makes lucid dreaming so appealing to people. All this power, this unchained imagination, reined in and harnessed, is empowering. Can you imagine waving a hand and watching the whole world change in front of you? The wind against your skin as you fly away? Can you imagine the person of your fantasies finally bending to your desires? It’s…well, it’s every person’s dream. What are your experiences with dreaming? Is it about power and control? Let me know!

——

 

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BEDTIME STORY

I used to tell my sister stories to help her go to sleep, back when she was little. One story I told her I remember like it was yesterday. The summer evenings back home were warm, but not hot like they are in California. Mom and dad were both out for the night, and Lizzie—that’s my sister’s name. Well, it’s actually Elizabeth, but that’s what I call her. Anyway, Lizzie was having trouble going to sleep as usual. I had tried music, I had tried lying down with her, I had tried making warm milk for her, I had even tried calling mom, though there was no answer, as I expected. So, now that all else had failed, I decided to tell her a story.

“Lizzie” I said, leaning against the doorframe of her room, “do you want to hear a story?” She turned to me with a huge smile on her face. Her eyes sparkled and her hands clenched together tight.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” She said, bouncing with every cry to emphasize her excitement.

“Then you have to get in bed silly.” She hastily tossed her toys in a pile and jumped into bed. I grabbed the blue plastic chair from her drawing desk and pulled it over to her bed, then turned the lights out and took a seat. We sat there in silence for a few moments, while I gathered my thoughts. I could hear her short, excited breaths as she waited. In through her mouth, then out through her nose. I took a deep breath, and leaned forward, with my elbows on my knees. My hands hung together loosely between my legs.

“Ok, this story is one is about you, but it’s about a you that’s in a different universe, so you have to picture it for me, ok?”

“Ok,” she whispered.

“Ok, so picture yourself, in a boat on a river,” I must digress, I pulled the setting slightly from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, “the sky is a blistering orange color, because the sun is setting, the edges of the night are creeping in. The river you are running down is large and strong, but you aren’t worried. You lay back in your boat, which is really more of a kayak now that I think about it, and look up at the clouds above you. They look inviting and happy. You see hummingbirds fly over you and can hear the little tweets of some unknown birds in the trees.

“You take a deep breath and feel at peace, but instead of drifting off to sleep you are compelled to sit up, and smell the fresh watery air. You look down the river and see it is leading you into a cave inside a mountain, but there’s no need to fear—this is where you were headed all this time. As you grow closer, the river slows your course, and you see the gaping opening of the cave, like the mouth of some primordial beast, stuck in time the moment before it swallowed its prey.

“You cross into the darkness of the cave—your eyes take a moment to adjust before you can see clearly. You pull a lantern from your bag, and a small box of matches. Your first two strikes prove fruitless, but on the third the match erupts into flame. Using your other hand, you shield the match from them wind, then slip it inside the lantern. When the wick has been lit, you carefully extract the match, and wave it out in the air. The smoke of the match trails off into the darkness, and you toss the remains into the river. You—”

“But that’s littering!” Lizzie intervenes. The pout on her face is clear from the sound of her voice, though there’s a yawn in her voice. She was on her way out— her protest a last defiance before sleep overtakes her.

“Hold on, let me finish. Ok, so what I meant to say was you were about to throw the remains into the water, but then thought better of it. Instead, you ground the extinguished match out on the side of your boat. You raise the lantern onto the pole in your boat, to give a dim light to the cave. The river has slowed your boat to a crawl, and you can see that it seems to stop ahead of you. Strange. Where did the water go. Ahead, there is a shore, and when the water approaches ankle deep, you hop out and pull your boat to shore. The water is cool, but not cold. Your boots slosh in the water, and stick to the sandy floor with each step. Once your boat is secure, you pull out your bag and look at the floor. Fatigue pulls at your eyelids, and you decide to set up camp. You wave your lantern around, to observe the area around you. To your surprise, there’s a pile of wood, sitting as if for a campfire just for you. You set your things down, and light the fire. The wood takes to the fire immediately, and you are warmed. You lie down, and feel the weight of your day pass over your shoulders, the heat of the fire licking at your backside. You feel comfortable, despite your loneliness, and you drift off to sleep.”

I leaned back in my chair, and took another deep breath. The moment of truth. Was Lizzie asleep? I paused and waited. Silence. She was out cold.

——

 

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A STROKE OF RED INK

Hier, I had a dream

Where I was writing in French.

I forgot the end.

 

But I can recall

So much of what transpired:

I spoke to a girl.

 

She was fiery

With red hair and charisma;

We had met in class.

 

I was not myself—

For I too had confidence;

Enough to tell jokes.

 

We strolled hand in hand

Through the green grass and great trees

To a lone meadow.

 

We talked for a time

Through the sunset and the night

On a bench we’d found.

 

But lo and behold

It morphed away, as dreams do,

And I was alone.

 

Scrawling at the page

With an ink quill of crimson,

I wrote frantically.

 

I tried to capture

The story of her and I

Against my dream’s tide.

 

And the tide pulled me,

Like the Somme river:

Quite unstoppably.

 

I was in a room

With a poor, crying black girl

Who I didn’t know.

 

I wrote her story.

She was raped today.

“C’etait mon oncle.”

 

She cried out in pain.

It was a man she had loved

Driven mad with lust.

 

I put my hand out

To try to comfort her cries

But she was too far.

 

A mile away;

Then two, then three. Yet her tears

Were still crystal clear.

 

I began to drown

Under the weight of my guilt.

The pages were damp.

 

A sea of red ink

Swallowed me in a vortex

And left me bloodied.

 

And in Erebus

I found myself at judgment.

With a tipped scale.

 

They were all golden:

The coins, the desks, and the chairs.

Save for his red pen.

 

MY red pen, rather.

The irony of writers:

Judged at their own hand.

 

And He said to me…

Alas, the dream cuts off there;

In a stroke of red ink.

——

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ONE LAST DREAM

I think I’ll dream a dream tonight

A dream about a magical flight

A dream up to the skies above

Where I can see those that I love.

 

A dream that shows me down below

A dream covered in clean white snow

A dream where Jacque still rides his trike

That’s a dream I think I would like.

 

I’ll dream one last dream ‘fore the end

A dream more sweet than all I’ve penned

‘Cause how on Earth can we transcribe

The beauty that our minds provide.

——

 

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HOT CHOCOLATE AND STORMS

Close your eyes and open your mind

Never forget that you’re one of a kind

 

That’s what mama used to tell me

On rainy days, while we watched TV.

I’d ask her why one guy would say a phrase

That put their enemies into a daze.

 

And she’d tell me to figure it out

Otherwise all the questions I spout

Would cause a storm, like the one outside

And I shouldn’t expect the world to provide.

 

I’d sit in wonder and sip my hot chocolate

And my consciousness would move off it.

But deep down my mind would be turning

To find the answer for which I’d been yearning.

 

And my mind would spin ’til I was dizzy

And I’d worked myself all up into a tizzy.

Then I’d pass out for a minute or two

Seduced to sleep by the warmth of the brew

 

And in my dreams I’d be lucky to find

An answer that was indeed one of a kind.

 

And from that message I’ve brought this to you

A reminder that if, to yourself, you stay true

The storms outside won’t be quite so scary

And a night by the fire will make you more merry.

——

 

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SPEAK. THINK. LOVE. DO.

Speak.

Every breath you take

Is one closer to your last.

Every statement you make

Is one to change the past.

 

Think.

Every moment you live

Is one to learn from.

Every thought you give

Is one to teach them.

 

Love.

Every smile on your face

Is one to brighten the day.

Every person you embrace

Is one less sad life on the way.

 

Do.

Go make yourself known.

Go change the country.

Go out on your own

And make this grim world more sunny.

 

 

Hope you liked that poem! Let me know what you thought!

 

MOVING AND MONEY

Hello everyone,

 

Let’s talk about our almighty ruler today. The dollar. Today’s writing was inspired by a friend’s post on Facebook. He asked how much more a job would have to pay to justify moving states for work. Which is quite a loaded question, and I gave him a short answer since I have no doubt that a long form answer probably won’t be something that he will read. I also used watered down examples because I think exact numbers might be harder for him to grasp conceptually—I know they would be for me. I’ll also be doing this in examples today. Let’s get into it!

So lets say that at your current job you make $20,000 (moving forward I’ll refer to numbers like this as “20K”), and living expenses in that location cost 15K. The job you would be moving to pays the same, however the living expenses of the area are only 10K. That’s 5K more in your wallet per year. Which is nothing to scoff over. Moving costs, what, maybe 5K? So your first year is a little tight, but as you settle in, things have a significant up tick.

Let’s take another example. Let say your job has a significant increase in pay from your current job. 50K, instead of 20K. Living expenses in that area are 25K. I think you can figure out for yourself that this is significantly better net pay than either of the other jobs. That said, what if this new job also requires more hours out of you? That average American works roughly 45 hours per week, to my understanding. If your old job only made you work 35 hours a week, and this new one requires 50 hours, you suddenly have lost a lot of free time to explore life.

This accounts for one of the more difficult aspects of moving, because it is not easily quantifiable. What if you’re really close to your family, but this move will leave you across the country from them? What if you absolutely hate your family but your dad owns the business that is offering you this new job? What if your partner has a good job at home, and would have to find a new one or leave you? Suddenly it’s not so simple. And I don’t have an answer for you. But I do know that, at the end of the day, while money can’t buy happiness, it can produce more avenues to happiness. If you can live without seeing your family constantly, but want to still have access to them, maybe that new job is good. Enough extra money means you could fly back for a weekend to visit them every once in a while.

Of course, there are so many factors to moving that it’s hard to say for sure. But if it is for a job, factor in more than just an increase in pay, because you could end up with a real problem on your hands if your living expenses are too high when compared to how much you are making. At least, that’s my two cents on the issue. What do you think? Am I totally wrong? Are there factors I missed? Let me know!

LOVE POEM #7 – THE DEAD OF NIGHT

She walked down the hall

Dressed in purple-blue night robes

In the dead of night.

 

The door was askew,

With a dim light flickering

To keep the room lit.

 

She snuffed the candles,

And faded into the dark,

Flooded by moonlight.

 

Her gaze was caught then,

And she turned to the window,

With a Cheshire grin.

 

She drew them open,

Embraced by his cool night breeze,

And she felt quite warm.