A RICH LIFE

I have always had a strong imagination. When I was a child, there were nights where I would lie in bed, waiting for sleep to claim me, with more vivid fantasies about knights and magicians than the dreams that would follow. On the walk to school every morning, I would picture the world coming to an end in a new way, just to pass the time (and, perhaps, in hopes that I could somehow make the school explode).

Until one day I realized that I had to move on. The perfectly detailed gun battles, the stealth missions against giant aliens, the jumps from thousand foot buildings with a parachute—they all were too little for me. I started spending my time on schoolwork. Instead playing clips of unwritten movies in my head at night, I passed out with a pen in hand and a notebook under my head.

I got a degree in finance, and was set up with a steady job. The office walls had that dirty, faded white color that looks simultaneously unfinished and ancient. Things were pretty good. During my breaks, I got a brief moment to myself to breathe. I usually spent this time picturing what it would be like if I were outside, but company policy was that all breaks not spent on the can were to be spent in the break room. Then it was back to the tip-tap­ of the keyboard.

And that was twenty-five years gone. Nothing changed. The occasional pay raise kept me feeling humble about myself, while the company’s profits quintupled under a budget plan I had proposed. They even offered me full health insurance coverage—and I mean FULL. They even scheduled check ups for me, I was considered that important to the company. Plus, the big guys said they could write off any costs anyway.

Then the day came where the check up didn’t go so well. It was an overcast day, with the sun just barely peeking out from behind the clouds. The doctors’ office was colder than it was outdoors. I came in for a routine check up, which I had once a year, and the doctor found a strange clump in my chest. The tests came back a week later, and they told me it was breast cancer. It had progressed fast, too, and was likely to begin impacting my health seriously within the next two months.

The company gave me leave—something that came marking both my twenty-fifth anniversary with the company, and the tenth year since they monopolized the market (of course, in America they can’t call it that, but the results were the same). I went to Spain, to Germany, and a load of other countries to try to clear my head. The head of the Euro branch of affairs found me a top-notch place to stay at, and I began to burn through my hefty savings.

One night, I took a break from the parties and the escapes, and went to bed early. I was nostalgic about my life. I had called family, friends, and even past co-workers about my conditions. My childhood memories of imagining things before bed came back to me, and I closed my eyes to picture myself in a meadow. It started well, but soon I had lost myself in a story about beautiful queens and valorous knights.

And it struck me that I had never been valorous. There was no adventure to my life. Sure, I was frequenting the top of the top in society, but the blow was hardly fulfilling anymore. There were no roadside breakdowns. No struggles. No victories. Just fun. So much fun, that it didn’t feel special anymore.

The next day I took a walk through the street market. An old couple was deciding between two vegetables, while a child ran from his parents in ragged clothes. They all had such smiles on their faces. They had made it. No, they weren’t spraying champagne into crowds of cheering faces, or sleeping with gorgeous models, but they had the heart-wrenching expressions just the same.

I walked my way up through a cobblestone tower with a name I couldn’t pronounce and looked out over the world. It was a misty day, with just enough fog to coat the horizon, but not so much to cover the city. They didn’t have ledge guards here—if you fell, you fell. And as I stood there, I pictured the life I could have had. I could have ditched that class, went on that hike, or went to that dinner. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be standing where I was now—rich, famous, and utterly alone.

And I jumped.

——

 

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LAKEBED (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Lakebed

An empty lakebed

is the memory of life

cracking at the seams.

 

Messy Desk

Look at the piles

that I let build over time

like half formed towers.

 

Return Home

Dust lines the doorway

as hosts do at a party,

with cob web banners.

 

Speckles

The blank, white tiles

were mundane till the artists

speckled them with paint.

 

Good Night

Dear all seeing moon,

only you may know my life

when the sunshine leaves.

——

 

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PLACING AN ORDER

Stepping up to the register is the first mistake.

You’re never ready to order

and you’re never ready to respond

to the trick questions the cashier lobs to you,

 

even though it goes just like you rehearsed.

They raised their hand lackadaisically,

and you hustled on stage for your cue.

 

Then, before your audience of two,

you forgot your lines.

 

It takes a moment

of dead stares, silence, and avoidant eyes

to realize you’re losing the crowd,

and the time comes to ad lib a new order.

 

“One cheeseburger, with grilled onions

and no pickles, please, I hate pickles.”

They smile, take your money, and pretend

not to notice that you forgot to order for your date.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #65 – AT THE RESTAURANT

The world feels so still

in the restless banter of the restaurant

where the TV is blaring

and no one is staring

at us, sitting in the middle of a haze

waiting to whisper words

through the puffs of smoke.

——

 

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CAMP OUT (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Messages

The wind came knocking

and the rain left a letter,

but no one answered

 

Hungry

Rot pays a visit

looking to find a quick bite

in my fruit pantry.

 

Drowned

Drain another glass

until at long last you drown

all your failures.

 

Soda Pop

Brown sugar liquid

bubbling an addict’s tune

with an icy kiss.

 

Camp Out

The rest are away

out on a voyage of dreams.

My eyes sail skies.

——

 

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DREAMS. IN. SPACE.

Last night I fell into a dream that started at an intergalactic academy. The headmaster, a short, plump woman with a deep red hair, was dogged about the need for utter obedience in her subjects. She walked us through the school to demonstrate the success this obedience had gained her—highlighting slave labor that she had used to turn a profit for her and the rest of the administration.

Being the big mouth I am, I said something to her about the horrible conditions this meant for the poor students, but when I did, she rounded on me in anger. She called security, and I had to high tail it back to my space shuttle. I made it back, and the flight crew took off. We thought it was exceptionally strange when they didn’t chase us. Two hours passed, and then we suddenly heard a tapping sound outside the ship. Din-din din-din. It was eerie. Then it repeated. Over and over and over, and we realized that whatever was out there was making to come in. We began to throw on our spacesuits. I had nearly gotten mine on when the whole roof of the shuttle burst open, and we flew out into the dead of space. I had just enough time to get a last gasp of air before we entered the cold nothingness.

The icy world on my face stung, and the tears that flowed from my eyes froze before they had journeyed far. It wasn’t before long that my lungs were pounding and the fluid in my eyes began to freeze. In front of me was the mirror from the space shuttle, and I saw my reflection—blue in the face, with my hair flying out in all directions. I thought I was going to die. Then from behind me, the strangest thing happened. A vulture, with massive black wings, descended into the plain of view to land on my shoulders. They’ve come for me. I thought, though I couldn’t really say who “they” were. The vulture placed a clawed foot over my mouth, and suddenly I could breathe. Yet it didn’t help my vision, and the water in my eyes ran cold until everything was just an icy plane, followed swiftly by blackness.

 

So I don’t know what this dream means. In the moment, I thought the vulture was from the academy, come to kill me, but then it magically saved me. Perhaps if I hadn’t woken up in real life, my dream self would have woken up as a slave to the academy. Or maybe not. I know my disdainful reaction to the sight of slavery was well in my character. Perhaps it as something to do with the nature of unbalance within the school system—though who can say for sure. Anyways, those are just my thoughts. Let me know what you think! Do you have any strange dreams like that? Tell me about them in the comments!

 

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PEOPLE WATCHING IN PARIS

I spent the afternoon at a small café in Paris, which could hardly fit the family two tables down from me. They had a string of three children toppling off the edges of the red backed booth—two girls and a boy. The girls were older, in matching pink dresses, and the word that ran through my mind was “starbright” when I saw their smiles. The boy, on the other hand, was more stoic than a Buddhist meditating, as if had been shot with 20 CC’s of chill-the-fuck-out by his parents. He wore a red t-shirt and navy blue shorts, and had donned a matching navy blue baseball cap.

Their mother was a tall, lanky woman, with thin arms, thin legs, and a thin waist—one she clearly paid careful attention to maintain. Her daughters were the spitting image of her: tall for their age, strikingly blonde, and beautiful. But where their smiles were bright and full of happiness, their mother’s was full of anguish, as if nothing could have annoyed her more than going out with her family that day. To contrast, their father was the height of personable. He had kept the waiter around for minutes, prying the youth out of his shell until they were both cracking jokes, and before long the manager had to pull her employee back to work.

They came and went, and I sat, drinking my coffee in the sunlight. It was a cool day, where a few minute indoors could leave you chilled, but a minute outside would melt the ice right off your backside. A good day to be people watching. The beautiful maids in sundresses walked around less in a step and more in a dance, and their partners never seemed to have the same sense of rhythm about them. They looked a bit too porcelain for my taste, but lovely nonetheless. I was particularly struck by the elderly couple that passed by when I took the last few sips of my drink.

I had never seen a couple with more swagger make their way down la rue. They were both in exceedingly white clothing, bleached to the point of blindness, save for matching pairs of Aviator sunglasses, which covered their eyes entirely. Unlike most elderly couples, there was nothing feeble about how they moved—they might as well have been going to the gym to beat up on some college athletes. Their grim expression was fitting a pair that had survived a world war, and didn’t hope to survive into another. But they too came and went, and my mug was finally empty. I left a couple notes on the table, beneath my cup, grabbed my bag, and started walking home.

——

 

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THE LAST SIP

I always loved looking in the sinister whisky glasses, with two clear, fat ice cubes barely contained within the small, cylindrical walls of the cup. The satisfying pop of the stopper, pulled from an equally extravagant crystal decanter, builds the anticipation of the moment. The first splash or two of the amber-gold liquid sets the tone of the pour. If the ice is cold enough, it will crack in half with a satisfying crunch, then those shallow splashes create tiny arcs off of the ice, until they eventually settle into the base of the glass.

I always prefer the glass left half empty, especially to start the day. Any day like today is full of wonder, tranquility, and anger. Whisky will pull in a similar sense of self-hatred. Strong, powerful, and above all else, contained. The first sip always stings, which is why I swallow it along with the second and third all at once. It slinks through the throat, like magma through the canyon—burning and renewing the land in one fatal swoop.

But it’s always the last sip that always gets me. Most often, people forget the last sip. They see a fleeting ounce left in the glass, and down it quick, like an actor in an old western film. They typically follow it with a satisfied Ah, and perhaps even a quick wipe of the chin to catch any excess the slipped through their lips. It’s dignified, hearty, and full of meaning. But the last sip still clings to the sides of the glass, drifting back into the base of the glass, forgotten beneath the melting cubes inside.

The bartender will pick the glass up, throw the residue to melt away into the sink, along with all the other forgotten memories. Quite the waste of perfectly good booze. One that, after many downed glasses and agonizing headaches later, I have learned never to miss.

The last sip is watery and cold. I like to catch each ice cube in my mouth, lick it clean, then spit it back out. If they split clean apart when the glass was poured, I might even chew one down to cleanse the palate. Catch the glass in your lips, and tilt your head back. The little droplets will form together, then slide down the side as a team, like a group of fish joined to impede the approach of a predator. In excitement, you might lift the glass in the air, as if to say to the onlookers “this moment is mine.”

And the drop will dangle, afraid, or perhaps teasing you there to build anticipation, before falling for ages in those inches between the glass and your outstretched tongue. Your throat might feel dry, as though this were the last drop of water on Earth, until it coats your mouth with the strength of a thousand oceans. Then finally, your glass is empty, and you might realize you’ve become an alcoholic.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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THREADS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Threads

One thread cannot hold

the weight of a broken tree,

no matter its strength.

 

Up Late

The sun is up high

yet my eyes have just opened

in a groggy haze.

 

Dish Mountain

The pots suspended,

precarious as climbers

hanging without ropes.

 

Lying Beneath Trees

Trees look like angels

silhouetted in sunlight;

their leaves are their wings.

 

Five O’Clock

Shadows on my chin

feel like dry blades of grass

before they brittle.

——

 

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