all, prose & poetry

Past the pieces

He was a blur of faces, shapes and identities, familiar and half forgotten. His hair, dirty blonde and long, like the shy drummer she met online years ago, whose friendship she lost when they tried to become something more. His eyes and nose like the older all-american boy she knew in college, who flushed his drugs down the dorm drain one day and found Jesus in Connecticut.

His way with words and music, driven but scattered, like the teacher she had an affair with, who threw himself into every creative pursuit, as if desperately trying to draw or compose or write or fuck something out of his soul, always failing to connect that art to other people.

The way he glided out of conversations and spaces, so solid and present one moment, then gone the next, like an old roommate she had a short-lived crush on, who left a tangible, painful void when he disappeared, suddenly feeling so necessary, as though gravity itself no longer worked without his presence.

His voice, calm and thoughtful, with a touch of amusement, a bit like her former boss whom she had always aspired to sound like, and saw through the facade it was for a deeper storm of playfulness and fire within.

She thought about the endless permutations of people crossing each others’ paths, their layers of familiarity and strangeness intersecting to connect for one brief moment or a lifetime. She’d met him before, or pieces of him, liking and loving and hating them, losing them, only to come across them again on another body, in another space and another time. Their kinship happened before and would happen again.

She didn’t know what the universe wanted, throwing her past back at her in this human shape of roads taken and lessons not learned. She tried to see past the pieces she knew but never fully understood, into this abstract of a man, a stranger with a life lived and his own stories to tell of women who came and went, leaving traces of themselves in everyone he would encounter since. But the pieces of others wouldn’t part, his soul hidden safely beneath and out of reach.

“Good,” she thought. “Good.”

This was for the best. She wasn’t one to romanticize the past, painting over anger and regrets with sentimental lies and a varnish of what-ifs.

She closed her eyes and shook it off, all of it, the recognition and the memories he’d brought, the magnetism and the temptation to fall in. She centered on the now, this moment of music and fog and 2 A.M. beers and friends nearby. She let the melody take her over and danced, laughing and spinning. And when she opened her eyes again, there he was, dancing like no man she’d ever met before.



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Perception & Memory

“When someone looks at me and earnestly says, “I know what I saw,” I am fond of replying, “No, you don’t. You have a distorted and constructed memory of a distorted and constructed perception, both of which are subservient to whatever narrative your brain is operating under.

— Dr. Steven Novella

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Intentional, future-facing beings

The word Dasein refers to the work of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who argued that human existence is not a detached, speculative phenomenon but rather a grounded experience wrapped up in interactions with the environment.

Dasein literally translated means “here/there-being,” or more commonly, “being-there” or “being-in-the-world.” It emphasizes that Being is intimately connected to its context, and the idea that we cannot conceive of Being as a detached form of existence. 

We are not entities simply floating around in space; we are intentional, future-facing beings whose action is mediated by the objects that surround us. Thus, we cannot think about our existence as divorced from experience.

— Thomas Wendt, Design for Dasein 

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Expressing lightly the unbearable

“Writing is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable.

That we age and leave behind this litter of dead, unrecoverable selves is both unbearable and the commonest thing in the world — it happens to everybody.

In the morning light one can write breezily, without the slight acceleration of one’s pulse, about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in panic to god. In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all the furniture and scenery, and the bright distractions and warm touches, of our lives. Even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death.

Writing, in making the world light — in codifying, distorting, prettifying, verbalizing it — approaches blasphemy.”

― John Updike, Self-Consciousness

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This is how it is

The particles of bright crystals of sound permeate your body and mind from all directions. As a mass of long notes takes shape, there is a vigorous middle note, you can’t catch the melody but can perceive the richness of sounds. It links up with another mass of sounds, intermingles, unfolds, turns into a river which disappears and appears, appears and disappears.

A dark blue sun circles within an even darker moon, you hold your breath enraptured, stop breathing, reach the extremity of life. But the force of the pulsating sounds becomes stronger and stronger, lifts you up, pushes you towards a high tide, a high tide of pure spirituality.

Before your eyes, in your heart, in your body oblivious to time and space, in the continual surge of sustained noise, of reflected images in the dark sun within the dark moon, is a blast exploding exploding exploding exploding explo- explo- explo- explo- -ding -ding -ding -ding then again absolute silence. You fall into an even deeper darkness and again feel your heart pulsating, discern physical pain. The fear of death of the living body is concrete like this, the physical body you failed to abandon recovers its sensitivity…

…In the snow outside my window I see a small green frog, one eye blinking and the other wide open, unmoving, looking at me. I know this is God.

He appears just like this before me and watches to see if I will understand.

He is talking to me with his eyes by opening and closing them. When God talks to humans he doesn’t want humans to hear his voice.

And I don’t think it at all strange, it is as if it should be like this. It is as if God in fact is a frog. The intelligent round eye doesn’t so much as blink once. It is really kind that he should deign to gaze upon this wretched human being, me. His other eye opens and closes as it speaks in a language incomprehensible to humans. Whether I understand or not is not God’s concern.

There are no miracles. God is saying this, saying this to this insatiable human being, me.

Then what else is there to seek? I ask of him.

All around is silence, snow is falling soundlessly. I am surprised by this tranquility. In Heaven it is peaceful like this. And there is no joy. Joy is a side of anxiety.

Snow is falling.

I don’t know where I am at this moment, I don’t know where this realm of Heaven comes from, I look all around.

I don’t know that I don’t understand anything and still think I know everything.

Things just happen behind me and there is always a mysterious eye, so it is best for me just to pretend that I understand even if I don’t. While pretending to understand, I still don’t understand. The fact of the matter is I comprehend nothing, I understand nothing.

This is how it is.

—  Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain

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Failed to open

We’re skin and bones and arteries and nerve endings, and there are thousands of warehouses and digital archives scattered across the world filled with books written on why we behave how we do, and why we get hurt and how it’s all in our heads or our souls or in our nature as a species or in one or another god’s great plan for the universe, and they’re all wrong because there’s something else that’s deeper than souls and more intricate than nerve endings and chemical imbalances and heredity and childhood traumas that makes us need things, need others, write run-on sentences and long for what we cannot name or describe. We break without it and refuse to glue back. 

But the thought that won’t leave today is that whatever clues could ever exist to questions about the origin of the Solar System, but even more so — of humanity and its infallible fragility, crashed and forever scattered into the Utah desert, among the shards of a 260 million dollar space capsule, which traveled almost one million miles to the place where the gravitational forces of the Earth and the Sun balance out and captured solar wind itself; a space capsule the parachute of which has simply failed to open.

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Must be 

I look outside my window and see skyscrapers prickling up like porcupine needles. The grey sky is crystallizing and tightening its grip on brick and concrete. Instead of snow, the ragged cloud cover is raining with dust. 

It’s possible to see beyond. Miles and miles of cemented landscape like old, thick, goosebumped skin. It curves at the horizon revealing the creature’s shape. A spherical, gargantuan atrocity; turning slower and harsher, a rusted knob it has become; ceased to be organic long ago.  

I listen. It’s not quite silence and it’s not a roar. It’s the sound of something closing in, of something cog-like aligning, of something tightening and bracing. Must be night. Must be time stopping.
 
 
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