THE RED RIVER

For the past three weeks, traces of red liquid had been found in the clear blue waters of the rivers, growing more solid with each passing day. At first, it was just a whisk, like a droplet falling in a cup, before it disperses and becomes unnoticeable. Then eventually, the water began to darken, from blue, to purple, to a beautiful shade of red wine. When it hit that shade, the water became undrinkable, and we knew we had to find out what was going on.

We began our trek up the river, to see what we could find. A few days later, it morphed into a bright, angry red, like a vicious sunburn. Eventually, we came to a massive forest, and followed the red river in. It was dark, like night, spackled with the occasional beam of sunlight peaking from in between tree branches. It was enough to light they way, but hardly bright. The angry red of the river looked more like smoldering ash in the dark. We began to worry when the sunbeams grew thin and orange—it meant the sun was going down, and all sorts of things could inhabit the forest.

We made camp, set up a fire, and picked roles for the watch. Mine was the last, which I was thankful for. It was easier to sleep through most of the night, and simply stay awake, than it was to sleep for a short three hours, wake up to keep watch, then sleep again. My eyes had glazed over by the time the first beams of sunlight touched down through the trees. It was like a heavenly ascension piercing through the heart of the darkness.

We kept this routine for another two days, marching through treacherous pitfalls and shifting terrain. All the while, we kept along the river, following its unexpected. It was growing wider, which we took to mean we were getting close to its source. A few hours later, the river widened into a lakebed, with a massive red waterfall, which, as it smashed into the lake, created a thin, red mist. The waterfall itself seemed to stretch off into the distance, far above the trees above us.

The unexpected base of the cliff met us as we drew closer, and we began our ascent upward. The way up was full of dangers, but eventually we crossed the upper threshold of the trees. The break of sunlight on our faces was soothing, as a cool glass of water is to a man returned from a desert. We could see the top, not far above the trees, and took the last hundred meters quickly.

When we reached the top, we were awestruck by the sight before us. Lodged in the middle of a massive lake—ten times the size of the one below us—was an enormous heart. It looked almost like a titanic boulder, bigger in size than any we had ever seen, beating fiercely, as though whatever body it had inhabited had been running for miles before.

And it was split in two, held weakly together by tethers at the bottom. From the center of the split sides, it was gushing blood like a fountain, pouring tons into the water around it by the second. The air stank of rot and decay, but the heart showed no signs of weakness. It was incredible to see something so full of life yet so broken. All we could do was stand there still, looking on amazed and frightened.

——

 

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SPILLED TEA

It was a fine summer day

 

the kind of day that is made

for drinking lemon iced tea

on white-cushioned porch chairs.

 

the kind of day filled with children,

laughing as they dodge between

sprinkler arcs and tree branches.

 

Which is why, when the phone rang,

we felt a kind of ominous shock

as the peaceful air was broken

by the impending sound of technology.

 

Part of me wishes we had smiled

and kept still in our cozy seats.

Part of me wishes we had unplugged

it and let the cord hang there, limp.

 

But the call of the electric siren

is a hard spell to resist,

and like Butes before us

we were seduced to answer.

 

The voice on the other side was sweet,

like a bar of milk chocolate

devoured far to hastily.

 

Your father had a heart attack.

 

And suddenly, that perfect day

felt utterly rotten.

——

 

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COMMERCIAL GIRL (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

By the Fountain

Palm trees in the spring

And clear blue summer fountains.

Seagull’s paradise.

 

Devoured

Buzzing mosquitoes

Evade flailing hands; they are

Eating me alive.

 

Overheating

Covered in hot sweat;

Wishing I could fall asleep.

This night seems endless

 

Heart Broken

Every other step

Feels like a thousand tons

When I’m without you.

 

Commercial Girl

One thousand eyes stared

As I walked you home tonight.

No wonder you asked.

——

 

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GREETINGS TO THE SUN

Water trickled down through Stephen’s short brown hair. He could feel the droplets twisting and turning through the maze of his hairline, before eventually finding their way to his forehead. The soft, refreshing air chilled the water as it danced along his face, carefully falling between the groove of his nose and his right eye. He could feel everything around him. The wind brushed through the grass, humming its afternoon greeting, while the leaves of the trees turned about on their descent to the ground; even the roaring of the river in the distance, where the trickle of water had branched off of, could be faintly heard.

Many mornings went like this for Stephen. He would wake early, and spend the early part of the day staring out into space, until the world around him seemed to morph into something that was outside of the usual. His imagination became a guiding force for his mind, and eventually those quiet hums would turn into an opera of music, and the trickle of water would become the medicine beyond human creation. The massive fields of grass before him would spin before him, faster and faster until suddenly everything became a wild green color, and distance and time seemed to flow as one together.

Today, Stephen was focused on the sun. At first, his eyes had burned with pain, but as the water coated him, he felt cooled. He had closed his eyes, yet behind his eyelids he kept careful track of where the sun was. The supreme being road his chariot across the sky, and the more he focused on it, the more Stephen could make out the hooves beating against the unseen road. They galloped through the sky with vigor, and he could hear their breath heaving in and out as the pulled faster.

Eventually, as he focused, he could hear the breath of a man along with them. He sounded like purity itself. His breath was like a long drink of water after a trip through the desert, or the first drops of dew falling from a crisp spring morning. Stephen felt his own body relax at the sound. Then, unexpectedly, his concentration broke as he heard a voice.

“We have a visitor,” a voice more sweet and light than honey called out to him. Stephen’s eyes snapped open. Only he was not seeing through his eyes anymore. It was like his body had fled, and he was looking through the sky itself

“Hello,” the voice said with a calm strength, “it has been far too long since I was given the chance to speak to anyone. Who might you be?” Stephen felt his voice catch in his throat.

“Ah, unable to speak, is it? Not many get the chance to meet me anymore. Not many look hard enough. Look around you.” The great man had been shielded by light, but the outward gesture of his arm was clear enough. Stephen turned, and saw the world from a different perspective then.

It was so small, so tiny, and yet unending in its size. Through the clouds he saw the trees, the river, and even the tops of the cold mountains. They all looked so small; so beautiful.

“It has been a long time since someone saw the world as you see it now. Perhaps you can learn from it. It seems like such a big world out there, and yet to us it is all connected.” Stephen felt his stomach tighten, and his vision blurred.

“It seems your moments hear are to be brief today. But I look forward to seeing you again.” Then with a rush, Stephen felt his body travel through the air, and suddenly he was gasping for air. The trickle of water had dampened his cloths, and the sun was growing low in the sky. How long had he been gone?

——

 

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SUMMER WEDNESDAYS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Summer Wednesdays

The morning grows hot

On this dry summer Wednesday.

Good to be indoors.

 

Beckoning Waters

The sky blue water

Beckons the thirsty pilgrim

To drown in it’s cold.

 

Tree Secrets

Scaling up the trees,

I find the grooves in the bark

Hold untold secrets.

 

Paranoid

When she calls my name

I hear hues of another

Hiding underneath.

 

Sheltered

Oh, to be a root!

Enjoying the cool soil,

Safe from harms above.

——

 

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SWARMS

Watching the people flock

To the Los Angeles food vendor

Is like watching the cockroaches

Swarming across the stairs.

The sizzling morsels,

Greedily devoured by

Greasy fingers and hungry mouths,

Are like crumbs for starving pests.

Oh, there are polite ones,

To be certain. They drift by

At a distance, with calm aloofness.

But the pack is like a mob,

And would turn on you

In a heartbeat, if it served them.

The screech of brakes

And the roar of horns;

Deafening to the average ear,

Remind me of our own insignificance.

That we are, at the heart of us,

Just another swarm of insects

Infesting the cracks in the world.

Our world, as we claimed it.

Though we have yet

To claim responsibility for it.

Oh hey I’m on vacation and can’t copy my normal stuff here.

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BLOOMS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Inspired

My life was hard fought,

But ‘twas my lover who said

To challenge the rain.

 

Nurturing

The fading twilight

Calls for the dust to settle

‘Fore the wind takes him.

 

Immovable

The lone river rock

Stands more still than the oak tree

While the water churns.

 

Pride

The summer sun stands,

Burning paramount today,

With torturous pride.

 

Blooms

Dear little flower,

Your red petals stand so proud.

Are you ever blue?

——

 

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A PERFECT MORNING

I sat, reading Basho, as the sunlight danced across the ever flowing stream. The morning that morning seemed to me the most perfect morning to ever exist. The chirps of the crickets were growing dim as they made their way to bed, while the butterflies stretched their wings for their morning flight. My eyes followed one of them, as it listed up and down, back and forth, around the dip in the stream. The stream crashed down there, creating a soft mist, like it were imagining itself as the waterfall. The breeze carried a hint of sweet moisture, as though Zephyrus himself had kissed the day.

I found my mind drifting about to the world around me. The rocks, the trees, the grass—each more alive and beautiful than the last—seemed to have their own tale built into the fabric of their being. The rocks, with cracked lines, shunted edges, and overturned hides, wove a simple, solemn tale about the world. They had watched, waiting and listening, for something the happen. They slept with an eye open, but even in their waking hours they never seemed to be alert. It was as if they had been caught in a state of constant lethargy, but they were kind to me nonetheless.

The trees told a greater tale, full of age and mystery. Unlike the rocks, the trees had been alert and unrested. Their aging minds grew wild with thoughts of their sapling days, where they could still branch their roots out and feel themselves move. Now, they stood as the protectors of the stream and it’s creatures, sheltering it from the outside world. But trees are often presumptuous. They have lived for so long, they do not see the world for as it is, but as it has always been. They foolishly ignore the hearts of men, and the men before me could do little but crawl up the branches for shelter from various beasts. But now—now they come with axe and fire and steel, hungering for great conquests.

The grass told me about this. The grass has felt them tread long and far. Their soft feet, which had once been like a gentle touch, now hammered against them like nails with their steel-toed boots. Men ran where they once walked, and they tore up the grass to make way for their stone houses. Grass had its children shrivel up and die as men stole their drink, and choked to death by the machines of their wars. He told me of his cousin, the moss, who was fished from the waters and thrown to dry out on the banks. Grass had seen weary times, but had endured in places, both thick and thin.

In the distance, the mountain called out to me. She had seen the days, come and gone, and heard the warnings signs. Yet these days, nobody listened to the mountains. Her voice had grown slow, and as time moved faster, people no longer could pause to appreciate the wisdom she had to offer. Even I, the antithesis of my peers, felt the itch of hurriedness shoot through my veins as I listened.

But I found her words important, nonetheless. She had told me to remind men of the slower days—where they woke as they chose and slept as they needed. Where the food they ate was held sacred, and the animals they slaughtered had names and lives. She asked me to remember the stream, as I had remembered my family, and to keep it from illness and abuse. I cannot say that I, myself, can achieve my task alone. Yet on such a perfect day, I felt the urge to try. So I set out, not knowing what terrors lay ahead, to help my fellows stop their journey for a moment, and appreciate the flowers.

——

 

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THE END OF DAYS

If all men are dogs,

Then are all women frogs?

And are all mice men?

What’s that make children then?

 
But we all drink water;

We all have a father;

We all feel the pain

That’s driving us insane.

 

The pain of being alone,

Stuck inside a world

That’s bigger than our own.

 
Do you remember the days of old?

The days when our family

Was more valuable that gold.

 
Days before the calamity,

When we became preachers

Of goodness and chastity.

 
In the days where our leaders

Didn’t sell us out to greed,

And the land was our teacher.

 
Those days when we were free.

Free to be, you and me.

But those good days have long gone past,

The end of the world has come at last,

And machines order us throughout our days,

Because we let them put us in this haze.

——

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THE CHERRY TREE

We used to spend our evenings back in the country popping cherries. The sticky, sweet juice ran down the sides of our greedy lips, leaving us like a vampire after finishing his meal. Nights like those were beautiful. The dusty horizon faded from yellow, to orange, to pink, to purple, and finally into the deep blue-blackness that marked bedtime for most people. But for us, it was a secret thing; a special thing.

A cherry tree at the end of the day is a beautiful thing to see. After hours in the field, one certainly works up an appetite. The dirt and grime of the day seeps into the innermost pores of the skin, filling the cracks in our broken skin with a thin layer of powder. To hold the soft, dainty skin of a ripe cherry, taught and firm, between our thick, meaty fingers, was like holding the essence of purity between the fingers of corruption.

The best cherries always sat at the tops of the tree. Perhaps this was because it was late in the seasons, and all the low hanging fruit had been picked by the passersby. But we would spend hours a day there, watching the time shift around us. We would climb up the branches, until there were but little spindles of tree for us to stand on. We would reach out as far as we could, fingers straining to catch a cherry or two, while the rest of our body was stiff; carefully balanced like a tightrope walker. Until finally, in a moment of release, we would have the cherry, pop it in our mouths, and enjoy our prize.

But those days are long gone. The cherry tree was cut down, replaced by a care facility for the elderly. And while I am happy that my father will get the care he deserves (at least, that’s what the facility has promised, once he come to need it), I am still saddened that our liberties as maturing young adults were torn away from our hands. We no longer spend those late nights together, feasting on the pleasures of youth. We simply sit, and watch, and wait for the end of time to bear us a different fruit.

——

 

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