The tone coming from the device on the floor beside Teddy’s head stops and the electric-lady voice tells him that, if he’d like to make a connection, he’ll have to please terminate the communication signal and try again. The electric lady repeats herself, then again…and again. It’s maddening with the device still levitating above the floor beside Teddy’s head, still so close to his ear––the sheer repetition is insanity itself. Teddy groans once, then flops like a fish. The electric lady won’t shut up.
I can’t take it, Teddy thinks. Then, in an instant, without really considering the action, he throws himself over with a hard kick to roll his body. His right hand lands on the device beside him. In another instant, Teddy sits up just enough to throw the device against the glass window-wall of his accommodation, which looks out over the gray city as the rising sun begins penetrating the thick polluted sky.
A small metallic piece breaks from the ALLpod and its touchscreen display cracks when it collides with the window, on which it leaves a scuff. The metallic piece ricochets off the window, striking Teddy’s face, leaving a small cut on his cheek below his left eye. The ALLpod falls to the floor at the foot of the window and hovers there silently. The window looks out across the city from the thirty-seventh floor of the large accommodation complex. This neighborhood is filled with similar ones. They are the architectural equivalents of urban filing cabinets. Teddy is aware of the presence of the pain from the cut on his cheek, though it bothers him very little. In fact, it is practically imperceptible relative to the emotional anguish he has amassed from being so long in loneliness and decrepitude.
You see, as there was no damage to the brain itself (remarkably enough), Teddy is still quite capable of cognitive thought; however, he can’t quite manage to will his body to move. When he did gain some sense back after the coma, the doctors tried to get him to take medication, but he refused vehemently, confused and suspicious from his dilapidated condition and severe amnesia. Teddy remembers almost nothing of his life before the coma—except for his name and brief flashes of his youth—and finds only remnants lost amongst his dreams of who he had been more recently. His mind always seems to find a beautiful woman, her sharp smile, her look of sincerity, and the sense of guarded release he feels when she is present in his dreams. Teddy hasn’t yet been able to hold onto the thought of her long enough to place her in his past—if she was ever there at all. Teddy often wonders if perhaps she’s just a projection his subconscious has conjured to remind him what his life could have been.
Teddy has come to accept this decrepit, amnesiac life to a degree. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got here, so he goes along with everything for the most part. In his condition, it’s not like he could do anything about it anyway. And so he allows the doctors to administer pills during each of his regular visits, the most immediately forthcoming of which Teddy should really be getting to.
If Warner would only get here to scrape me off the floor, Teddy thinks. How pathetic and helpless I am. But I suppose we all have one handicap or another that we must cope with through the day-to-day. There’s always some vice, physical or otherwise, that prevents us from accomplishing the things for which we truly strive. What is it for which I truly strive? Teddy wonders.
Thus far, his habitual practice of derogating his own handicap by comparing it to the simple shortcomings of others isn’t really serving him. Thus far, it just gets worse—his handicap and how he feels about it. Teddy does his best to maintain some semblance of optimism and control, but he often doubts how much longer he’ll be able to persist like this, so he tries his best to avoid thinking of the past and future. He tries his best to live for each moment. Come what will, he tells himself. It never does.
12/11/13: Excerpt of the day
To be anything again would be a dream. I yearn to take risks, but can hardly keep from even defecating myself. Oh, what a curse it is to contemplate and long! I’d be much better off as a flower or a tree. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to perceive it, at least the tree itself is a life force and is there to feel its own self fall. There’s very little I feel these days—as if I am something greater than or equal to a tree. Can we both not feel the breeze? Do we both not need similar things? Does a tree need love? Do I photosynthesize? It occurs to me now that, on a biochemical level, love is actually a lot like photosynthesis.
8/22/13: Excerpt of the day
Felix enters the coordinates, engages the automated clutch, and sits silently as the vehicle operates itself through the somewhat desolate streets of Old Town. A green glow hangs between the fading sky and the silhouette horizon. The cragged skyline of the city rises and falls. For the first time in as long as he can remember, Teddy doesn’t quell his thoughts. They flow like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen over the edge of a waterfall. They are too many and varied for him to comprehend any single concept or conclusion. Teddy feels as alone as he ever has, but for the first time in as long as he can remember, he feels alive.
The vehicle merges onto the expressway. As it does, a sense of doom overcomes Teddy, who witnesses thirty-six lanes of traffic for the first time. The NPV brings itself up to speed and falls in with the crowded ranks of vehicles in motion. Each one follows a few mere feet behind the vehicle in front of it, at speeds Teddy can barely stand to experience. From the back seat of the NPV, Teddy lifts his legs up to his chest and bites his knees. Felix glances slightly back at him, but doesn’t remark.
To Teddy’s surprise, all the NPVs on the expressway remain in remarkable motion, slowing and accelerating in perfect unison, each vehicle remaining equidistant apart as they cross one another, like the staging of some chaotic ballet. Teddy’s anxiety lessens as he comes to the realization that he is safer than he feels.
Some time into the drive, they come to an enormous roundabout. Teddy gawks out the dark, chalky window at the endless mass of vehicles occupying the freeway junction. Dozens of expressways flow to and from the miles-wide impasse, which moves like a landscape of molten iron.
7/14/13: Excerpt of the day
The elevator door slides closed. Teddy looks down to admire his new tuxedo as the elevator begins its ascent. He turns to look out its enormous floor-to-ceiling window. He watches the dark, crowded city disappear beneath him and the cityscape horizon emerge, its tall buildings, endless roadways, and circulatory system of M Trans rails illuminated beneath the night sky. The city’s foggy haze dims the lights in the distance as the elevator skyrockets upward. Teddy puts a hand on the giant window to keep his legs steady beneath him. The elevator soon reaches the Penthouse Suite on the two hundred and twenty-second floor. It arrives suddenly and with a pleasant tone.
“Welcome back, Mr. Doe,” the elevator says as its door glides open.
Teddy enters the suite and begins searching for a telephone. He scours every surface, most of which levitate, but he still finds nothing even remotely resembling a phone or a communication device of any kind. Teddy eventually figures to ask the room.
“Hello?” he asks aloud.
“Hello, Mr. Doe,” the room replies.
5/9/13: Excerpt of the day
“Goodbye, John,” says the voice of an electric lady, which seems to come from everywhere. Teddy looks about his accommodation for the source of the sound. His visual search reveals a small space, walled on three sides by bare metallic panels; walled on the fourth by a floor-to-ceiling window that looks out dimly onto a gray city, a skyline of both tall and squat buildings, complicated networks of crowded roadways and busy tracks running through the city like a circulatory system. His gaze across the small room continues. A small kitchen nook shares the wall adjacent the window with the door leading to the bathroom, kiddy-corner from where Teddy stands in the doorway leading out of the accommodation, which has just somehow spoken to him with the voice of an electric lady. His bed levitates in the corner to his right, opposite the window-wall, as do a few table surfaces around the room. The cracked ALLpod hovers against its induction dock mounted to the wall beside the bed. Teddy completes his scan of the room and, while he knows that he has occupied this space for many years, he feels he is only now discovering it for the first time.
2/8/13: Excerpt of the day
The rumble slows and then recedes, seemingly back into the belly of the earth. The people around Teddy pick themselves up and continue on their way, as though the sudden tectonic-plate shift had been an everyday occurrence. A few people remain lying in the walkway, either tending to their injuries or otherwise incapacitated by the pain. No one around the fallen pays them any mind.
Teddy crawls back to his feet against the side of a building’s external wall. Sweat pours from his face. He breaths are painful and panicked as he searches the crowd for evidence that the earthquake, or whatever it was, mattered to anyone. No one seems to care. His lungs burn as they breathe in the toxic air. Teddy then realizes that he’s leaning against the exterior wall of his accommodation building.
He slithers along the wall to the building’s entrance. He leans against the door until it slides open. Teddy falls into the silent space. The inner door opens and Teddy drags himself across the threshold into the lobby. The door slides closed. Teddy pulls himself to a seated position on the floor. He pushes himself against the nearest wall, leaning his back against the transparent surface. The masked passersby outside pick themselves up from the chaos and continue on their way. Teddy catches his breath, his head against the transparent wall. The lobby is quiet and well lit.
After a moment, Teddy wipes the sweat from his brow. After another moment, he scrambles for the ALLpod in his coat pocket and composes himself.
“I am Teddy Monroe,” he tells the device in between slow breaths. His demeanor conveys a sort of desperate matter-of-factness.
“That’s impossible,” the device replies.
“Mmmhhh,” Teddy grunts in frustration and then throws the ALLpod at the window-wall across the lobby. The supposedly unbreakable device shatters into dozens of pieces, each still functioning independently. The shards of the device levitate just above the floor of the lobby, a soft blue glow on each of the broken screens.
Teddy hears another distant rumble grow closer. The sound arrives swiftly, but does so less violently than before. Passersby brace themselves for the aftershock. It remains relatively mild. Teddy watches the lobby floor shake. The scattered pieces of the broken ALLpod remain wonderfully still floating above it.
Pontificatorily (stage 2)
Where have all the beleaguered thoughts
They tarry into yesteryear.
What state of such recompose has lingered in
that going by?
It’s one I swear I’ll never count again.
But what then of the illusory
non-matter that fills in all the strings and quarks
luminating your personisphere?
The dillydally you think of least
is the act you most regret
—that from which you most persevere.
It’s a sobering thought to get along
the thing you can’t remember
if you ever told yourself not
but you don’t mind much
that it griddles and grinds you;
you still do everything you can to pursue.
Pontificatorily (stage 1)
how do you say
how doesn’t one forget
i’m not wearing any clothes today,
it wouldn’t matter if you were.
so goes another month of tuesdays gone
so goes another sigh exhaled—
how do you blink your eyes
how do you close your mouth
if i had a right to speak my thoughts
i’d be a richer man
so what if fingers grinded to the bone?
so what if all good separatists die?
i don’t see you exasperating any old conventions—
the pious man once told the queen,
“this is God’s land; you can’t defecate here”
so the queen walked pensively many miles
to find the nearest toilet
how do you care less through the day
how have you not taken better care to keep yourself
from growing old?
i don’t know what i’m even doing here
i’m just doing what i’ve been told.
7/24/12: Excerpt of the day:
“Another remarkable characteristic of the material,” the ALLpod says, “is that its mono-magnetic force is strong enough to sustain gravities much greater than its own and still retain levitation. Theodore Irving Monroe famously held an event on the runway of a large international airport, to which he rode in on a circus elephant named Chloe and walked her onto a sample of the mono-magnetic material large enough to hold an elephant.”
The ALLpod shows the corresponding video footage. A short ramp leads Chloe up to the giant metal disk, which doesn’t budge under her enormous gravity. The ramp is removed, Teddy disembarks, and then gives the crowd a big ta-da from where he stands on the edge of the floating, mono-magnetic platform. He wears a less-ragged pair of jeans and an untucked polo shirt, his hair full and wild, as he jumps to the tarmac.
“But that’s not all,” Teddy says to the crowd of media onlookers amassed on the tarmac. He puts his foot up on the edge of the floating platform holding the elephant, and pushes it with a slow, somewhat labored kick. The mono-magnetic platform glides down the runway, and Chloe with it. She shrinks as she approaches the horizon.
The crowd, both awed and aghast, holds its breath a moment—and then erupts in cheers and applause. This is a remarkable discovery indeed.
“Chloe Floats!” the weblines read just moments later.
in spite all my intuitions
one couldn’t count on fingers and toes
the things that help the poet disappear
it’s the will of a man that keeps him walking
not the shoes on his feet
or the feet in his shoes
though both are helpful
it’s just one catastrophe after another with you, isn’t it?
(one must be willing to let it all get rearranged)
poets, plights, people, and playing cards
virtue is relative to the medium
sense the same as the jar it holds
counterintuition can often be the safest practice
because you know yourself well enough
not to trust your instincts
(no, it isn’t something you said
the wind just blew a funny way)
the world is rounder than it looks
my feet have left the floor
like i’m flying through a paper sky
I’m a much sillier person in person than I am on paper.
A breeze on the air, a blue sky.
He sees birds playing through the trees
and remembers they exist
and hates their freedom.
Two lovers sit on a park bench
Two men who appear homeless
wrestle over an empty bottle.
A third man throws
chess pieces at them.
A little girl throws breadcrumbs
into the pond
for the ducks,
which a little boy scares away
The little girl hits him on the arm,
then cries and runs to her mother.
The little boy looks back at the ducks
4/26/12: Excerpt of the day (a sneak peak at the next draft of Theodorus in Excelsis):
The mid-morning city passes by. Teddy stares out the van’s small, chalky window at the thin shadow trees—the alternating light-then-dark sidewalk beside the road—and the countless electric-combustion cars and the greenish air they create that obstructs his view. Through the sea of cars and the dirty city, Teddy watches the mono-magnetic M Trans glide through traffic.
It is like a metallic dream.
A far-fetched science-fiction tale:
Immoral robots have taken over the financial system! They were created by the hard work, greed, and ingenuity of the sons of America’s wealthy baby-boomer generation—but the robots immorality is a reflection of their creators, who are merely the cultivated seeds of a bygone generation, hardened by the drive to succeed that their fathers instilled in them.
They soon become the arrogant frat boys that populate America’s collegiate system, but they are plagued with more of an intellectual capacity than they know how to cultivate for themselves, so they go to business school to learn the building blocks of success, just as their fathers had hoped for them. And whether they are the top of their class or they just jump through the hoops, they all get their credentials. (Say what you will about them, they are not an ignorant bunch.) They then go to work for their fathers’ firms, or their fathers’ friend’s firms, or those of a friend of his. They are handed all the top-shelf accounts with a single-malt and a signing bonus, so they meet their quarters’ quotas with single phone calls. But they don’t stop at that. They suck profit wherever they can and find new ways to extract it from the cracks in the market, their clients profiting even more insurmountably than they do. Meanwhile, the rest of the poor slobs at the firm make calls and calls until their throats are dry and then they get laid off because of the economic slump, so the ones who entered at the top stay at the top and soon they begin toying with the market to see how far they can stretch her. They profit from their boldness and taking advantage of the regulations in place, soon defining the ones that are not. They become addicted to their success and cease to see beyond themselves. Their immorality begets callousness, even banality.
Yet, ultimately, the more money they risk the more they stand to gain and the odds are in their favor because the market has come to need their participation and that of their clients. (You see, the market doesn’t exist if you don’t feed her to cultivate growth.) And if they don’t continue generating astronomical profits, increasing year over year, the large investments that they make for their clients would cease to bolster the much smaller ones of the poor slobs without enough investment power to protect themselves from a down market—as she tends to be from time to time.
These business-school frat boys, now more arrogant and yet savvier than ever, pool their profits to build an army of robots to control the market, in part to ensure that she is never down again—but mostly so they can get old and fat in the luxury and comfort of their choosing. The robots that they created soon discover even deeper gaps and flaws in the market that their creators’ puny human brains didn’t have the capacity to realize. Before long, the utterly immoral but shrewd robots have such irrevocable control over the market that they suck all the profits from the investors trying to exist in the market on their own. These classes of people disappear from the market entirely—and the planet, of course—within just a few generations. As evolutionary time passes, frat boys and the robots they created are the only ones left because no other species had the business savvy or the stomach for it, so all the poor slobs went and died off.
The frat boys and the robots soon wage a thousand-year war against each other for control of the market. The robots eventually win and live in perfect harmony with her, dancing joyously together upon the decaying carcasses of their creators.
whimsical shoes remorseful
they don’t walk more
a cup worth of soup
making love on a cool spring morning
to a tin can
garnering ideas cultivates a sense of existing
everything boils down
but still nothing gets defined
the challenge has always been coming to terms with that
2/28/12: Excerpt of the day (from the not-so-immediately forthcoming novel tentatively entitled Modern Disparity):
…a thought occurred to me that had been festering in my head for some great while. I had so come to concern myself with the very immediacy of life that I gave up on whatever metaphysical soul might have remained caged in the cataclysmic void of my mind’s suffocating womb. I remember an ancient art and culture class in college I failed that made me study art from ancient Egyptian cultures, among others. The Egyptians depicted images on their walls of man’s heart weighed against a feather as a means to or from some sort of eternal satisfaction. A modern man isn’t seduced by such childishness; he has the privilege of weighing his heart against whatever he pleases. Nothing today is so light as a feather.
How does one exist in anything less than the forty-two minutes it takes until the laundry’s done? By “one,” of course, I mean myself and any of the useless thoughts I’m able to squeeze through the annals of my brain. It seems to me that the process of thought and expression is a little like consuming food and shitting it out: Somewhere in between something gets digested. What are these thoughts digesting in my brain? Are they the vitamins and minerals necessary to conjure a useful thought, just as they are the plaque and fat that clog the arteries and colon of my mind? One can only assume that consuming less mental food detrimental to thought—with all its creatures and creations—causes a great deal of less-disgusting shit to spew. Methinks I need to be more careful about what my brain consumes.
how colorless it seems to be forgotten
whereas milk laments all rational
in daydream breakfast cereal
profanity becomes mundane
singers scratch chalkboards
to experience the unbearable
everyone is too worried radical ideas
cast out the world
so pawning off insanity seems
the most logical source of income
and prosperity the hope
of so many endless dreamers
but still this gravity feels no exhaustion
because the souls of all the shoes in the world
couldn’t surmount its reliability
and a world without
doesn’t really exist
unless of course you’re willing
to keep feeling around in the dark
for something that feels close enough
to reality for you to stop giving a shit
whether or not it actually is
thanks for keeping the window closed
it lets all the cold air in
this poem writ a pair of days
because it meant little yesterday
and means considerably less so today
Teddy found something in himself it would have been impossible not to find. It is as though what he became, what he would become, was part of him all along. But it’s not like beating you over the head with it is going to make you any more keenly aware of the fact that I didn’t really write anything fiction here, for Teddy and his story. I’ve always been much too narcissistic for anything of that sort. I simply wrote myself into another character’s skin, as it withers and sags through the story of another dimension—one that ends as precisely as it began. The science of the novel is its predictability, the knowing that its story wouldn’t change from beginning to end. The fiction, I guess, is the one its characters create for themselves before and after they come into this existence—and the idea that simple conceptions have conceptions of their own. Such is man. Twisted up with his regret, Teddy inserts himself into his memory, so he can live a life that could have been: a life with Sylvie, a normal life, one filled with the comfort of knowing, what would surely seem pure perfection compared to the anguish and decrepitude he for so long suffered through. Such wonderful chaos Teddy has loosed beyond the page. How both sad and delighted I was to watch him disappear.
The days, as of late, have been filling up more—all the while these words beckoning to me, tugging at my arm, begging me to pursue. Teddy may be in Excelsis, but his existence remains mere fiction of mine, his life my satire. But what then is said of the satirist? How is he to come to terms with the limitations of his dimension? Of the many seasons forever unknowing—looking longingly at the stars, wondering if just to exist is knowing enough—the poet still only pours his heart out for things he knows will never be. How pointless it is to be sarcastic to oneself, Teddy thinks to himself, not knowing the terrible jab he’s just taken at the author, his creator. I am no different than Keats in the fruitlessness of my pursuit: He mused upon still moments in time depicted on a sylvan urn; I press buttons to create a character able to achieve the poet’s dream—but, alas, the dream is also mine. I am just as helpless, just as hopeless, as all those undying romantics who have long been left to forever wallow in their insatiability. So the days fill up and this need keeps tugging at my sleeve. How I both yearn and fear to take its hand, to follow where I know it leads.
the way the moon
holds the sky a little
bit brighter every breath
and how the road feels more open to sharing
when a good slow song plays
i dream once more
of pasts gone by
through life to limb
of futures to come
the soft wind and
a clearer mind
make one last
complete thought slip
into the open night
and december sounds more
than a lifetime away
I can’t write anything fiction. I’m far too self-serving for that. So I simply parade my thoughts around in metaphors and other people’s clothes, telling myself that I’ve created something that has any application beyond my own introspection. I project myself onto the page as some other thing, some intellectual voice with a more interesting perspective. I beat reality with a stick until it looks like something more amusing or more meaningful. And when I’ve worn my hands to bone, and when the sweat from my brow has distorted my vision, and when I’m too exhausted to breathe, I’ll gaze upon this thing I’ve created out of sheer hard-headedness and I’ll chuckle a half-satisfied chuckle—having diluted myself into thinking I’m no longer looking back at my own reflection, having beaten myself into such a wonderful delusion.
“periscope vernacular catastrophe daffodil”
people are just sounding boards for other people’s emotions
my cell phone knows me better than i know myself
nine:forty-seven on a thursday evening
i can’t describe something i don’t know exists
people who look like they’re angry and restless
it was nice being there again
but i think i enjoyed it better
the first time
everything tastes like meatball sandwiches now
11/14/11: Excerpt of the day:
An ever-fleeting storm dissipates beyond the deep horizon. She is best when she is less than serious, when she smiles like she did when she was just a girl. There it is. An honest smile. She looks back at me and is quickly to the water. Lime-green bikini disappears into the shallow of the sea. Will catch her. Sand wet now; more wet now than sand. Water at my knees. She swims. Know nothing other than her. Will catch her. However it has come to be, she here with me now, I do not care. What only matters is that she is here, and here with me.
Almost no sound. Quietness save for my thoughts and quick breathing, and the rolling surf. Consumes me, the sea, consuming her. Her skin in the water, water against mine. How soft the sea. Breathing deeper now. Could it be she that much better a swimmer than me? Knew that; must’ve. Hear her celebration, she to the rock before I. Had that been to what we were swimming? Racing were we? She’s beaten me. Tread to try to see her so victorious. Hold the water for a while; keep it still. Keep it there till through the sun you see her. Hold the water; sun in eyes; can’t see her; shade your eyes. There she is. Lime-green bikini.
Hold the water. Please be still the moment. How in love with her I was. Imagine this exists.
Teddy returns. Still sitting up in his bed. Where is it that I now exist, he thinks to himself. Hadn’t I already been that? How had I been there again? And where now has it gone? The illusion that you had been there just to remember the moment, but to not actually exist in it?
It’s been several days since a useful thought has come to me. More of the same old shit spewing from my brain. Sigh, fetter, waste. This is what happens when your best friend is a harmonica and your digital devices consume more of your time, energy, and love than actual people. I went to the Apple store twice today! Had to park in Santa Monica twice today! Had to feed my digital addiction—though I will say technology has eradicated most of my remaining excuses. There’s pretty much nothing I can do I can’t do with my phone, which leaves me infinitely more time, energy, and love to fiddle my literary self. See what I mean? This is shit. At this point, the best I should probably hope for is to go down in history as one of the truly great shovelers.
To what end
will my existence find?
To what extent
and on what ground
will my existence thrive?
These questions have
life has no meaning,
purpose, or resolution.
It is swept away
by inconsequence just as
bubbles rising to water’s
surface burst. There
is no knowing
that ever they had been
nor any kind of writing down
that would provide
With reason enough, I’ve been thinking over writing more and more…as of late. Beyond my current state of endeavors and affairs, I guess the best I can do to attempt to ascertain from whence these thoughts derive (as it were) is to attribute them, at least in part, to my recent encounters with Salinger’s Seymour an Introduction and Hemingway’s On Writing. I guess the best one can do is to wrap oneself in it as much as if it were the only thing preventing an endless fall into the incredible abyss of existence. With or without a great deal of pomp and circumstance, I’d like to point out here an obvious correlation—if only so apparent to its even-more-obviously self-serving identifier—between such a net of pursuit, as to be the only thing separating its occupier from an insufferable nothingness, and this lowly soul’s very existence. One questions into what such incredible abyss this nothingness resumes. One wonders, too, how it is that he or she (or they?) came to be dangling from this thing in the first place and why such insistence on grasping its decaying fibers with a fist so unyielding as to have become entrenched within itself over a life of never letting go. It is as the mouse tells Teddy: “The tree is there to feel its own self fall.” The writer is just a tree in the woods—as is a cucumber, an attorney, a Volkswagen, and the very concept of time itself. Each thing and unthing is the hero of its own story. The reason for its own being. I might as well just chop off my ear right now if I’m ever going to make such an effort to contradict existence. What a fruitless pursuit I’m sure that would turn out to be.
How many times is it going to take until you realize how good you’ve got it? No, don’t pick up the guitar and start playing music. You’re no musician. You’re a writer. So write! That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? Who the fuck am I talking to? I swear, it’s like there’s a million different voices in my head having a conversation that I’m not whatsoever involved in. How can I be having a conversation with myself? How am I ever to know which of the voices to listen to? Don’t listen to any of them. Then what? Do I just sit here writing about the sound of a million different voices? Who would ever want to read about that? I don’t know, maybe people who know what a million different voices sounds like. But if they already know what it sounds like, why the fuck would they want to hear what you have to say about it, or even go so far as to read something you’ve written on the godforsaken subject? I don’t know, maybe they just want something to relate to. I mean, isn’t that all everybody is trying to do, anyway? At least, I know that’s what I’m trying to do. That may be, but isn’t it going to be difficult truly relating to anybody when all you do is sit by yourself all day writing about how you’d like to relate to people? That’s sort of the jab-in-your-own-nuts conclusion you come to at the end of the novel, isn’t it? The part about Teddy looking up from his book. That’s the whole writer joke, isn’t it? “Put down this fucking book and go live your life,” is the point you’re trying to get across at the end, isn’t it? Well, that’s part of it, I guess. There’s also everything else. Teddy’s sickness. The indelibility of memory to die. Indebility isn’t a word. Don’t you think I know that? Of course I do. We’re both the same person, so you know everything I do. How is it that we’re able to argue like this so constantly, then? I guess we’re just different parts of the same person that, in such recurrent amplitude and frequency, come to a medium over time.
the thrill of hope is lost
in the petals of a gilded
that blooms away from
that what it once was
it is a two-leaf flower now
that grows and grows
one petal for my life the other for my love
how now rose grows was love
11/2/11: Excerpt of the day (from the award-winning short story entitled A Vain and Terrible Thing, or Therapy, or Mr. Mitchell’s Cock Charade):
What if I told you that I don’t have any clue how to write? Well, don’t worry because I’m not telling you. I’m telling me. I just watched Annie Hall and it got to me because things like that get to me and I could sit here forever and forever trying to reflect upon it, but that sure wouldn’t do any of us a whole hell of a lot of good, now would it? I’m just as worthless as I’ve always been, but this time I’m not going to try to be so lewd about it. I’ll try to put into words what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, and when I come out on the other side maybe I won’t be so dripping wet as I was the last few thousand times around. I’m neurotic and self-absorbed, and am just as dying as I’ve always been, only this time there’s no one else around to feel so goddamned sorry for me.
This is what happens when you run out of drugs and the porn gets old. This is what happens when you’re too grown up to feel lonely, but are still just as alone. This is what happens when it’s too cold to go outside and the only people who ever call are your parents and they just did, as a matter of fact, from sunny California, where January can be warm, but the golf is still sub par. This is what happens when you’ve got all the time in the world and not a goddamned thing to say to it. This is what happens, this is what happens…
My name is Clayton Abbey Mitchell and I think I may have just shit my pants, but everybody calls me Cam. So I’ve got this life and if it were yours I’m sure you’d feel pretty goddamned good about things, because Lauren is a dream and my two daughters smile like you can’t even imagine. They’re like little golden rays of sun, who—if your protein contributed to their conception as much as mine has—would make you as proud as the Virgin Mary herself, all moist and gooey from the seed of the Lord.
I can’t write anything fiction. I’m too narcissistic for that. So this is what happens when masturbation becomes your only means of self expression and you’re fresh out of ways to grease the wheels: The axel turns like something in a vice grip, helplessly unmoving, and the only way to squeak by is to fall apart all over the place. This is what happens when you lead the life you’ve always dreamt, but still feel that you’re going crazy.
I’m thirty-three years old, all my hair is still in its right place, and my wife tells me that my jaw is chiseled, my eyes are dark and honest, and that I’m hung like something out of an interracial porno. I teach at the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and am an accomplished novelist, having made the New York Times Best Sellers list six times now—and having topped it twice. I’ve been presented with the Pen/Faulkner Award and my most recent novel is being optioned for a movie. The Annual Literary Review calls me, “a new and promising literary voice fueling the embers of a forgotten art.” I’ve appeared on the covers of Esquire and GQ magazines. My wife and I have kinky sex usually more than once a day. My stamina is unparalleled. It is infrequent that she’ll have less than three or four orgasms during intercourse.
Lauren, my wife, is sexually and emotionally fulfilled with me as her partner and is quite a bit younger than I, but at the age of twenty-eight has borne two beautiful daughters, is energetic and loving and fun, and quite an amazing lay. When we stand facing each other on an even surface my lips kiss her forehead. Her breasts amply fill her modest C-cup bra, although without one they don’t sag a bit. She’s tan, especially for Iowa—and without the use of a tanning salon. Her legs are shaped like two perfect Plaster of Paris vases; she’s got the stomach of an athlete, ass of a teenager and she rarely wears panties, although when she does it’s either little boy superhero underpants or dental floss g-strings. Once when wearing baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt at a grocery store in Hollywood she was asked to be a toothpaste model. She blushed softly, then declined. That was several years ago. Her skin was then and is now softer than velvet, her eyes a deep green that, in direct sunlight, fade to a soft, soft blue. She only wears makeup on very special occasions. Her face alone could get you off.
Our oldest daughter, Josephine likes to paint abstract creatures in art class at school. She can read better than any thirteen year old I’ve ever met, though she is only six. She’s emotionally more mature than I am and a conversationalist to boot. The thought of her dating in ten years or less terrifies me because she has her mother’s light mahogany hair and beauty-queen face and when she looks out the window she tells me she wants to fly.
Our younger daughter, Juliet, is cuter than a bell, but a terror, nonetheless. She’s only that way because she’s two and has the most innocent face you’ve ever seen. She could get away with genocide. Her hair’s so blond, it’s almost white and her laughter erupts like a mountain of joy, her cries like an ocean of sadness. She trots about like she owns the galaxy, but is comical as hell. She makes all sorts of messes and funny faces and we love them both to inconsolable death. Their mother tells me now is the time to begin preparing for puberty. The fear is overwhelming.
I love my wife more than anything imaginable because I know she feels the same for me, plus the sex is great. The sex is always great.
I wake quickly this morning from a dream of aimless wandering, naked in a pasture, dandelion pixies floating on the softest wind. My waking is abrupt and I feel the air rush out of my lungs like I’ve just been dropped from a lifetime above. The first thing I see upon opening my eyes is the ceiling, vast, empty and a creamy shade of white. The only sound is my deep and panicked breathing. A late morning erection protrudes from my boxer briefs. Lauren had woken hours ago. The bedroom air is comforting, although, even now I still feel out of place.
I jump out of bed as though I’m late for a class, but at the same time am fully aware that it’s June and I don’t teach in summer sessions. My erection quickly subsides, coming to rest again in its usual place, twisting slightly to the left and only a few inches from where the fabric of my black boxer brief’s ends. Lauren measured it once. It is allegedly huge.
I struggle with the bed sheets for a bit because they refuse to let me go. I flail my arms about, grunting and, when I can’t escape their grasp ,yell out to them, “Fucking let me go.”
At that I hear Lauren walking up the hall to our bedroom. “You up, babe?” she calls from down the hall. A unspecified terror washes over me for fear that she will soon become aware of my erratic behavior when she finds me there, wrestling with the bed sheets, which tangle themselves around my legs and, as I struggle further, only force myself to the floor. My face thumps down on the dark, brown hardwood floor and just at that instant I hear Lauren chuckling at my burden.
“Those sheets can be complicated, can’t they?” she manages to jest in between her minor fits of laughter. She approaches as I roll myself over so I’m facing up but still wrapped in the sheets. They’re soft, but evil and a cool, almost bluish shade of white. She stands above me with her crippling half smile, half-sympathetic gaze.
“I’m hungry,” I say slowly, pathetically.
“Well, it’s almost eleven,” she lets me know, still holding that same look of hers. “You want breakfast or lunch ‘cause the girls already ate?” I remain conquered on the floor and am somewhat distraught by the question and the new awareness that I’ve slept through all the morning. These troubles must show upon my face because Lauren bends at the knees, then at the waist in her casual morning clothes to bring her face to mine. She kisses me and, for an instant as her inexplicably soft lips begin to open up to mine, I forget everything I’ve ever known.
“There’s left over pancake batter,” she tells me softly, sweetly when we’re eventually through with our lasting oral embrace. She’s looking through my still sleeping eyes. “How ‘bout I whip a few up for you just the way you like ‘em?”
“With whip cream and a smiley face?” I clarify before she kisses me once more, this time even softer, but on the forehead where I feel my brow furrowed from the lingering confusion that I am, in fact, awake. Lauren rises slowly like a movie, backing out of the room as if she wants to jump my bones right then and there in the dull, late morning sadness that I notice drifting about in heavy clouds across the half-benevolent sky, through the giant Victorian window that consumes almost entirely a wall of our bedroom as it all begins caving in, coming down on me like a universe imploding.
She backs through the bedroom door, turns, pulls her flannel pants down just enough to show me the top of her perfect ass and that she, like most days, isn’t wearing any panties. She looks over her left shoulder and wets her lips. She fades into the darkness of the never-ending hallway and now, with my erection blood-filled and robust again, I hide myself beneath what’s left of the bed sheets so that I’m not forced to endless terror as the walls close around me, making it impossible to breathe.
I’m still able to perceive the light through the white sheets, but all else remaining outside of them seems much more distant to me, like somehow I’m falling through the floor. I feel my eyes swell with inevitable tears, but as I take in another breath, congested slightly from the diminished space within my bed-sheet world, I come back into existence, dragging the fabric from my face to reveal my bedroom helplessly unchanged. Even the clouds outside have drifted from my view, making way for a promising, yet impossible blue; the blue of Midwestern summer days floating over oceans of homogeneous corn, open fields of prosperous grain atop over plowed soil, still miraculously able to produce the things it always has, season to dying season.
This is what happens when you feel like all the world is sitting on your face, rubbing its tight, pink button forever across your nose, but then you come to and realize that the whole time you’ve been sticking it to her from behind, barely able to make out even the back of her flailing, malignant head. So this is what happens when a summer day goes by entirely without notice, you look out the window to find the night already descended and then down at your world, your wife, who you’ve been plowing all the while. You’ve got no idea how the corn keeps on growing.
Somehow it does.
insert something thoughtful here.
The Poet’s Patience
The poet is a patient man.
He has to be.
You see, the poet spends
all his days
trying to pick
the perfect thing to say
and, moreover, trying to
put it the perfect way;
yet, even after he’s long
gone and dead,
the poet tarries on.
He waits many generations,
scores if not hundreds of years, until
what he says and how he says it
burn into the soul of man.
Only then will he have
for it, he will have
had to have
which is why
the poet is
a patient man.
10/30/11: Excerpt of the day:
…The bus ride is slow and there are many stops. The time, too, is slow, but Teddy enjoys watching the city-street day go by.
A man who is seemingly homeless, or else he just cares very little for his presentability and personal hygiene, boards the bus, pays the fare with twenty or thirty coins (grumbling to himself all the while), sits down beside Teddy, and begins saying things to him, leaning over in his seat so as to place his whispers closer to Teddy’s ear.
“Have you ever had a conversation with a dog?” the man then asks. “The thing just sits there like an idiot while you pour your brains out to it, and you’re never going to have any fucking clue whether or not the thing has any idea what the hell you’re saying.” The man bursts out in a hysteric of laughter at his own remarks, folding himself in half at the waist and grabbing his stomach to do so. “I guess that’s about how I feel right now talking to you,” the man manages to utter between his fits of hysteria, laughing so uncontrollably as to project saliva onto the side of Teddy’s face. “You stupid fucking dog,” the man bursts, adjusting himself in his seat in order to point a finger at Teddy. The man falls out of his seat laughing. His laughter is so uncontrollable it almost seems contrived.
“You calm down back there,” the driver says authoritatively, turning from his seat to make certain the man’s acknowledgment. “I’ll kick you out right here,” the driver threatens.
The man’s laughter and hysteria subside, as though disappointed that his fun is over. Then, once the driver’s gaze returns to the road, the man throws himself from his seat to the aisle floor of the bus, so that he may drag his ass across it like a dog would. As he does so, the man’s tongue hangs from his mouth and he pants—like a dog. The moment before the driver turns around in reaction to the mild commotion, the man leaps back into the seat beside Teddy, avoiding validation of the driver’s suspicious glare. The man then chuckles to Teddy familiarly.
“I’m just fuckin’ with ya, anyways,” the man tells Teddy, his conversing now more restrained and his tone less accusatory. “I know you’re not a dog and I know you know what I’m saying. You sure do act like a dumb fuckin’ dog sometimes, though. You know that? Sure ya do. That’s some bullshit they been putting you through, though. I’ll tell you. In their defense, though, I guess they had to, you know? You know what I’m saying here? Ya smell me on this one? Sure ya do. I sense some sort of thought coming out of that brain of yours. That brain of yours, indeed,” the man says and, although the decibels he allocates to his voice do not constitute much more than a whisper, the man’s conversational demeanor approaches a rant. “That’s why they’re doing this thing to you, you big fuckin’ idiot. I guess I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t, though, but would any of us really be here if you hadn’t? Wouldn’t we? You know what I’m saying here? Ya smell me?”
“Eh cann cewtunuly smeh ugnu,” Teddy manages to utter. A momentary silence hangs about the air, then the man bursts out a quick, hard laugh, and then quickly contains himself, covering his mouth with both his hands to do so.
the lonely boy slowly slipped away against all things refined,
awakening then one morning to find the sound of his own breath
echoing off the mountains his self-squalor has adorned.
such walls the lonely boy had created by sheer hard-headedness
and earnestness of will. obliging that which he has for so long
forgotten to know, the lonely boy grew into a lonelier young man;
though, in spite of himself, scaled hitherto indivisible bounds.
always are the seasons going;
alone in one's kingdom
one forever remains.
though it feels many lifetimes have fallen away, the lonely
boy, now man, defies such resignations; instead to dance
amongst the chivalry of his morality's shortcomings, but
the echoes beckon to oneself
to stay, so
one becomes what one
What does one say when one sits down to write? He could speak of the sound of somebody outside wheeling the big plastic garbage can to the curb, or cars going down the road, or planes across the sky, or of his incandescent thoughts dancing through his skull. He could speak of everything wrong or of everything right. He could speak his mind or pretend to speak somebody else’s. He could piss and moan—and he undoubtedly will—but of all the things one could say when one sits down to write, he’ll never reveal himself to you.
He’ll only show you who he was or will be, or would be if he weren’t so preoccupied with showing you how he wants to be seen. He’ll show you how articulate he can be, without ever actually giving you anything worth giving your thoughts over to completely. He’ll beat himself over the head for you, just to show you how recklessly benign he is to the whole thing, and how much he’s willing to suffer just to show you what he wants you to see.
But then, through all his pomp and circumstance, all his base vulgarities, all his dog and pony show, he finds a glowing white gem of something human right there beneath his narrative skin. He looks at you from the page, holding his discovery out to you so that you may do with it what you will. And he learns to hope for nothing more from having shared the thoughts that come to him.
10/26/11: Excerpt of the day (from the award-winning short story entitled A Vain and Terrible Thing, or Therapy, or Mr. Mitchell’s Cock Charade):
I wake this morning to a dream of empty hallways, vast silent bedrooms. I walk past a window and there seems to be a dark brown dust blowing all over everything, covering all of it. I don’t think much of it, so I wander more about the apartment. I walk past the large mirror in my bedroom, only to find two reflections of myself. The one on the left is me in my flourishing youth, with an unkempt pile of hair atop my head and the slightest hint of a facial hair just below my mouth at the bottom of my chin. The reflection on the right is me how I look right now, in my boxer-briefs and a tee shirt, and with shorter hair, still disheveled from my sleeping.
I stare confusedly into the mirror at my two reflections. I raise my left arm up a bit to test the reactiveness of these me’s in the mirror. They both move accordingly and then, quite slowly and magically, the reflections begin to drift into each other, creating a single image that I’m not able to entirely distinguish or define. The picture is about to become clear, when suddenly I hear a radio news broadcast come on in static.
I look about the empty apartment to find from where this news derives and, although I can’t quite find it, the information is coming in clearly. The voice on the program is talking about the dust outside that I’d forgotten about. I go back to the window in my bedroom to see again what all the fuss is about. The dust is blowing everywhere, covering absolutely everything with a healthy layer of that deep brown. The voice on the broadcast is saying how it has something to do with the eucalyptus trees and how the city can’t seem to do anything about it.
Just then the phone rings and, as I lull over to pick up the receiver, I continue staring out the window at the dust-blown sky. The caller I.D. only reads ‘charge’ and I wonder, Who could possibly be calling me collect? “Hello,” I say into the phone and an operator’s voice comes on, except it’s a new operator, not the one I’m used to. Funny, I thought that operator had been a recording, but apparently she had done something to get herself fired so that this new electronic lady is now asking me all sorts of curious questions.
She asks me for the time of day and I answer her to the best of my ability. Then, she asks my name, which I tell her, and then a question that sticks out to me as especially odd.
“From which planet are you receiving this call?” she asks.
Puzzled, I don’t speak at first, but then I answer, “Earth, I think.”
The operator then says thank you and asks me if I would like to accept the interplanetary charges. My mind is entirely blown, because I realize suddenly that this must be it: A phone call from another planet. Someone somewhere is finally going to put things into a real perspective for me. Or perhaps this is a collect call from God and he’s going to answer everything. What an opportunity is this?! And above all people they have chosen to call me from Heaven or some distant galaxy, but before I say anything I consider what replying “yes” to accepting the charges would really imply. I mean, how much would an interplanetary collect call cost me? I almost consider hanging up the phone, but then I realize that a several-thousand-dollar phone call, or more, would look absolutely absurd on a phone bill and I’m sure I’ll be able to talk my way out of paying for it.
“Yes, I’ll accept the charges,” I say and, just as the other end of the call clicks over to whoever is making this remarkable phone call, I think to myself, This can’t be possible. I must be dreaming. And suddenly I wake. Damn it. I have again talked myself out of receiving an answer. I mean, what kind of a jerk tells himself he’s dreaming when he’s about to take a collect call from God? How like God, though, to call collect. As if he can’t afford the long distant charges.
I leave my apartment to meander about the day. Gray day. A bird dances on the wind, floating with the sky. Disappears into the clouds. East Campus shuttle. Pretty girl. Thin, pale legs.
Today is warm, a balmy sort of warm that makes one wonder as to the nature of these autumn days. Is the sticky air causing this perspiration or am I simply nervous to encounter the day? Is it possible that the sky could actually be that endless shade of blue or am I again under the delusion that someone is trying relentlessly to trick me into feeling that this might be better than I had expected? The Iowa River reflects the sky as I walk along its muddy banks. A lone man rows a thin boat down not quite the middle of the river and his long, narrow oars hardly break the water. It remains a still, still river.
The sky bends to the horizon, the sun follows along its arch. I can’t tell if I’m sleeping or awake. Either way, I hope God calls again soon. I’ll know what to tell that old man now.
10/25/11:From the altruistic ending:
Here I sit, swallowing the effervescent flow of the open night / I watch too many movies and my constant wallowing does nothing for me any longer / Europe goes and goes before me eyes / van Gogh stares at me / Versailles passes by / the Venus de Milo has no hands with which to get me off and the brutal sun has set with endless arms / my dreams feel like colorless hallucinations and a cleaver cuts through and through the back of my thoughtless skull / I am an abstract painting walking past these sorry walls / light cuts through the trees / I am an abstract painter cast before a simple room / the Mona Lisa doesn’t smile and I can’t get a picture of her so I rub my hands by German fires / beneath a blank horizon / in a blur a man rolls down a scattered road, down which a naked woman sits under far too high-reaching trees / she barely touches her impression face and again the screen goes blank / I watch too many movies / I almost forget why I came into my room / I remember again and take a pillow back to where I lay.
10/24/11: I wonder to myself now if it is possible to be both contented and fulfilled. What need to pursue fulfillment is there if one feels contentment? Can the poet pursue both those ends? Can the poet have both what he wants and what he needs? This poet can only hope. He hopes it is not merely a dream, and he wonders...
In the midst of pursuing his one pursuit, Teddy forgot to live. With all his persistence, his drive, his aspirations, Teddy failed to become a complete person. He existed only to chase a dream and now his life is but a dream he can scarcely remember. He dreams now what could have been, so that is what he chases.
10/23/11: Excerpt of the day:
Teddy goes into a bar. Orders a beer, asks for a straw. Has to repeat himself until the server understands. Sucks the beer up through the straw, his head filled with sad, lonely thoughts, as it bobs spastically atop his retard neck. Teddy finishes the beer. Orders another. Spills it accidentally with his clumsy retard hands. Leaves. Heads to the bus stop. The colors all around are changing. Where light becomes into the night there’s a thousand shades of saffron. Like the sun in Santorini, Teddy thinks to himself. The fiery orb as it sinks into the Aegean Sea. Teddy sits twisted up in his wheelchair. He feels very alone. He’d be crying if he could. Dandelions have grown up through the cracks in the sidewalk. A wind blows, carrying the dandelion pixies about an endless cosmic sky.
Of so many seasons unknowing
just to exist is knowing enough:
The rhapsody and tambour of it all,
but if it doesn't breathe
you're not sure it's living.
To all things a greater consequence.
Ugliness sleeps well.
Beauty has repercussions.
Sigh, fetter, waste.
Holes in another pair of underpants.
10/21/11: Welcome to Plight of the Poet, the website devoted to my yet-unpublished novel Theodorus in Excelsis. Today, the 28th anniversary of my birth, seemed an appropriate day on which to launch this website and introduce my novel to the world. Please peruse these pages, which I designed myself, as they will surely whet your appetite for the novel itself—to appear in print and digital formats as soon as I find a publisher savvy enough to realize its kinetic (dare I say electromagnetic) potential. Please also be sure to “like” Plight of the Poet on Facebook and follow me on Twitter by clicking the icons at the bottom of this page. You can also follow my daily thoughts by keeping up with this blog—so you too can learn of the poet’s plight and of the inter-dimensional gallivanting its persistence inspires…