Thursday, June 14, 2018

Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City

Once I pass’d through a populous city imprinting my brain for future
use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions,
Yet now of all that city I remember only a woman I casually met
there who detain’d me for love of me,

Day by day and night by night we were together—all else has long
been forgotten by me,

I remember I say only that woman who passionately clung to me,
Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
Again she holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see her close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.

- Walt Whitman

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Sometimes I'll see a feather on the ground and I'll wonder if the bird it belonged to a ever flew over you, 800 miles from here.

 I'll wonder if it was ever so beautiful that you pointed it out to your daughter as she looked up with you, before ignoring it and going back to playing.

There are so many Oregon license plates here.

Every car, every truck, every jeep I see with that green tree - I wonder if they ever drove through Medford on their way here. If they ever drove past you. Or sat at a stop light next to you. If you were ever stuck behind it at a Dutch Bros drive thru waiting to your Pumpkin Latte and your daughter's straw of whip cream.

All of these thousands of hypothetical invisible coincidences that connect us but we'll never know.

And the only reason they mean anything right is because I can't touch you.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.

Like many Americans, I’m having politics fatigue. Or, to be more specific, arguing-about-politics fatigue. 

I haven’t run out of salient points or evidence for my political perspective, but there is a particular stumbling block I keep running into when trying to reach across the proverbial aisle and have those “difficult conversations” so smugly suggested by think piece after think piece: 

I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people. 

Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am. 
I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye. 

If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our world views that can never be bridged. 
I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they’ll never see (do you make anywhere close to the median American salary? Less? Congrats, this tax break is not for you). 

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters. 
There are all kinds of practical, self-serving reasons to raise the minimum wage (fairly compensated workers typically do better work), fund public schools (everyone’s safer when the general public can read and use critical thinking), and make sure every American can access health care (outbreaks of preventable diseases being generally undesirable). 
But if making sure your fellow citizens can afford to eat, get an education, and go to the doctor isn’t enough of a reason to fund those things, I have nothing left to say to you. 

I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings. The fact that such detached cruelty is so normalized in a certain party’s political discourse is at once infuriating and terrifying. 
The “I’ve got mine, so screw you,” attitude has been oozing from the American right wing for decades, but this gleeful exuberance in pushing legislation that will immediately hurt the most vulnerable among us is chilling. 

Perhaps it was always like this. I’m (relatively) young, so maybe I’m just waking up to this unimaginable callousness. Maybe the emergence of social media has just made this heinous tendency more visible; seeing hundreds of accounts spring to the defense of policies that will almost certainly make their lives more difficult is incredible to behold. 
I don’t know what’s changed ― or indeed, if anything has ― and I don’t have any easy answers. But I do know I’m done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves. 

Futility can’t be good for my blood pressure, and the way things are going, I won’t have health insurance for long.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hungry and hollow

Being what you are, there is no help for it.

You see, people don't hate you for being simple, they're on their guard against it, that's all. Your simplicity is a kind of flame which scorches them. You go through the world with that lowly smile of yours as though you begged their pardon for being alive, while all the time you carry a torch which you seem to mistake for a crucifix. 9 times out of 10 they'll tear it from you and stamp that light out. Your chance is merely a tenth, you see. But you're worth every fraction.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hello, stranger.

[A dream I just had, so I'm writing it down:]

The room was red, erotic, and dim. We were there, laying in an exhausted afterglow, lazily catching our breath. A conversation just happened, though I can't remember far back enough to say what was said. 

But I do remember her forlorn expression and her perfect Bambi eyes asking incredulously why I said that we were going to end one day. I guess I told her that. I tucked her hair behind her ear and sighed.

"Something I realized a long time ago and then again very recently," I hummed. "Everything is temporary - even permanent things. I've had a dozen women tell me how unshakable their love for me was and could love me - only me - forever and ever. That they could never have sex with anyone else ever again." 

I paused, lost in memory. Then continued in amusement.  "Do you know where they all are now? Married. To someone else. Kids. Pet dog. All that.

"I'm out of your league. I know I'm out of your league. We'll have fun, make our inside jokes. I'll fuck your brains out and take your body to places you've never been. But one day, I'll be ordering a shot for one and you'll be gone."

She winked her eyebrow at the suggestion.  I smirked sadly and assured her. "You'll find some better-looking guy, or one with more money, or who dresses sharper, and all of these little perfect moments will stop mattering to you. And you'll move on. And deep down I won't be able to blame you. Because To me, right now and forever,  you're so god damn beautiful and wicked intelligent that I have no idea how you haven't taken the world over already. The only theory that makes sense to me is that you simply have chosen not to yet.

"All of this... This is all temporary."

She blinked. As if that had all happened to her before and knew it was true... so she had nothing to say. 

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling in the dark, unable to let her see my eyes as I pushed forward with the truth. "I'm going to fall for you more and more every day, until one day you'll be the 'love of my life'. And that's when you'll leave for a good reason I can't even fathom right now. 

"So understand that every night with you is the very honestly the luckiest night of my life. And tomorrow night I'll feel all the luckier. And the night after that, luckier still. I know better now than to plan on forever. But because of that, I will never, ever take a moment with you for granted.

"I don't know anything about the future other than it's going to happen. And I hate that it does because it always changes what's good about now. 

"So," I said, turning towards her, my shoulder pinning the pillow down, revealing the rest of her moonlit face. "I'm just going to appreciate you right now, love. Soak this all in, enjoy these half-drunken, torn-clothes, delirious nights. I'm finally happy again right now. This probably won't last, but I'm happy. And it's because of you. 

"Which is more than I can say for any of the other 7 billion people in this temporary, fucked up world."

Sunday, February 26, 2017


It was Christmas morning.

I'd spent the last year and a half of my underwhelming existence trying to vindicate it all by pouring myself into one girl.
She loved me until she hated me... and hated me until she loved me... and then back again.
Our wheel spun every day, never knowing where we would land.
But it had to end here.

Christmas morning.

She was telling me she was fucking some other guy now just to get over me.
And she hated me so much that she kept... trying to tell me I was doing things with other girls... that I had to be by now...
I could tell she was yelling it so hard because she had to convince herself.
To make it easier.
But of course... there was never any other girl.
There was only her.
And her perfect beauty.
And all of our violence and supernova love.
But now there it was.

On that rainy Christmas morning.

Hearing those words... then reading them.
I wanted to go back... back... back in time... fix it all... be a better person so maybe she would be, too.
I thought terrible things.
She knifed those images into my heart with her perfect lips from 800 miles away, as if her only road to escape some self-inflicted guilt was to carve one through my chest.
Words crafted to obliterate.
And... I let each syllable whittle me to shreds.
For over an hour.

I loved her.
Then tried to hate her.
I failed at that, too.
And then somewhere I died.

It was the last time I spoke to her.

It was Christmas morning.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Death of a Bachelor

The poem she said reminded her of me.


1. I still have naked pictures of you. I want you to know that. I want to start this off right.

2. As I am writing this, the cat that you hate is peeing on the bed. That is what will be waiting for me instead of you.

3. I keep asking the same questions because I always get drunk right after we talk, and I can’t remember any of your answers.

4. I could decide not to drink, but you know how I feel about not drinking.

5. I miss your moan. It was one of my 3 favorite things about you.

6. You broke up with me the night before the national poetry slam finals. It’s sad how few people understand how shitty that is.

7. When you start to cry, I know that you’re feeling something - which makes me like you again.

8. Dream: Climbing through endless bodies, sweaty and writhing and inside of each other, I can see, but not the source of light, just the skin it’s reflecting off of; We find each other, ignore the rest, clinging to each other, the bodies straighten beneath us, go slick from the sweat, like a bowling lane, and we make love till I wake up.

9. I keep trying to find out if you cheated on me.

10.  I never cheated on you.

11. I think the guy sitting next to me on the plane is sleeping with you, that’s why he doesn’t like me.

12. So is the stewardess. You guys are going to have a threesome tonight.

13. Every time I am not looking directly at you you are having a threesome.

14. When we talk on the phone, your other hand is holding a penis.

15. The penis is bigger than my penis.

16.  All of your previous lovers cheated on you because you made them feel this way.

17. I never cheated on you.

18. I’m sorry I yelled at you.

19. You deserved it.

20. Dream:Looking from the outside in to my bedroom at my grandparent’s house, the one I was always scared to sleep in, the room is dark, I can hear your moan, not the rustle of the sheets or bodies slapping together or voices talking, just your moan, I can’t move, there is no light, just the open door and your moan.

21. This airplane is not bringing me home; It is simply dropping me off somewhere else.

22. When I get to the apartment, I will look that cat dead in the eye, and tell him that he is the reason why mommy left daddy.

23. Some of my friends pretend to hate you now. That’s why I love my friends.

24. When the plane lands this will all be my fault.

25. In Oregon, the sun sets like the sun should set. In California, it takes far too long. The glow is unbearable, like the whole sky is covered in sheets, the day threatening to start with or without you.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Idiocracy Personified

Trump now:

Obamacare: "Eh, not repeal. Just amend."
Investigating Hillary and locking her up:  "Nah, she's a good person."
"Draining the swamp": Appoints all politicians, lobbyists, and Wall Street leaders to his team.
The wall: "Maybe just a fence in some places."
Banning Muslims: "No, they're good people."
Deporting all illegal Mexicans: "Maybe just the criminals. The rest are good people."
Obama: "He's a great person and I'm honored to meet him."

And so, so much more.

You raging, insipid morons believed every one of his lies for over a year. But all right, that's fine; Chalk it up to general ignorance. But to keep defending him now - after he's gone back on every single promise he made to you - is just willing stupidity. Voluntary idiocy. He played on your anger for your vote, while the rest of us (the majority of voters) tried to warn you that it was a scam. And now he's not even trying to hide his lies - just shrugging and ignoring briefings and journalistic Constitutional rights while he fucking TWEETS, demanding apologies from people that didn't even do what he's accusing them of (Triple irony: He's the worst offender of his own accusations).

And now you say, "Just give him a chance"?

You mean after making fun of a disabled person on TV?
You mean after insulting the family of a fallen soldier?
You mean after saying John McCain doesn't deserve respect because he was taken prisoner during the war?
You mean after saying he could take a gun and shoot someone in the middle of New York and still get your vote?
You mean after telling gun owners to "do something" about Hillary?
Or do you mean after admitting to sexual crimes and bragging about "grabbing pussies"?
You mean after he's said he doesn't read books, just believes anything if it's on the internet, and claims he "has the best brain"?
After he looked at the cameras during a rally and asked Russia to step in and influence the election?
You mean after having to pay $25 million in settlements for lying to thousands about his fake college?
Or do you mean give him another chance after he said he would date his own daughter, that she has a "hot ass"?
Or after saying he thinks the thing he has most in common with his daughter is sex?
Or do you mean after he told two 14-year old girls he'll be "dating them in a few years"?
Or when he said a judge was unfit to make a decision because he of his Mexican heritage?
Or after he said that climate change is a hoax created by Chinese?
Or that women should be "punished" for having abortions?
Or do you mean give him another chance after he scolds people for not paying taxes as "un-American" but then calls himself a "genius" when we found out he hasn't paid taxes for decades?
Or that fucking hair.

I could easily go on and on.

Exactly how many chances would you like us to give him? Because he's not even President yet and we've already given him hundreds of chances for almost two years now. How many "chances" did you give Hillary or Bernie? Remember the outrage over "deplorables"? Go fuck yourselves. Your candidate told people to beat up protesters because it's what he did in "the good ol' days." This isn't about "chances".

It's about how you insist that you made the right choice, so you're going to stubbornly chain yourself to this Titanic-in-progress out of pure spite over a forward-moving culture that you desperately want to rein back because it makes you uncomfortable. And you are willing to sacrifice your own country in exchange for a human Molotov cocktail who promised you some delusional America that evolved for good reason - all just because you don't understand politics, choose to ignore facts and numbers that go against your personal ideological narrative, and refuse to grow the fuck up.

And that, everyone who asked, is why I unfriended you. And why I won't come over for holiday dinners. And my life is calmer and more intelligent for it.

I refuse to be associated with human beings who aren't intelligent enough to at least ideologically support the concept of common sense and decency.

Friday, November 6, 2015


March 2, 1955.
A young black woman is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Alabama.
Civil rights leaders and the ACLU rush to her side and she will be a symbol of the struggle against segregation.
Her name is Claudette Colvin and she's 15 years old.
She's also unmarried and pregnant.
Civil rights leaders and the ACLU decide that Colvin is not the best foot forward and stand down.
Eight months later, Rosa Parks happens, but during that eight months, a brilliant and charismatic young minister gets the attention of the community and is chosen to lead the bus boycotts.
If Claudette Colvin doesn't get pregnant, if they'd gone in the spring instead of eight months later, Martin Luther King is a preacher you've never heard of in Montgomery.

Who is Giuseppe Zangara?
He's a guy with a gun who fired five shots in February 15, 1933, killing the Mayor of Chicago.
Why? Because Zangara was standing on a wobbly chair.
And the Mayor of Chicago wasn't his target.
It was the guy the mayor was shaking hands with, the newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt.
If Zangara's chair isn't wobbly, Roosevelt never takes office and we swear in his running mate, John Nance Garner, a man whose political ideology was the basis for his opposition to a package of legislation that would be called The New Deal and we don't survive the Great Depression.

Your kitchen faucet has washers.
They keep water from leaking through the joints in the fixtures.
And that's what O-rings do.
They're giant washers that keep pressurized hydrogen from leaking out of the SRB, the solid rocket booster, that shoots the space shuttle out of the Earth's atmosphere.
These O-rings have been tested and tested under every possible circumstance but one-- cold.
They didn't test to see if the O-rings worked when it was cold.
Why would they even think to test for that? The thing's launching from south Florida.
When's it gonna be cold? On January 28, 1986, a cold snap dragged the overnight temperature down to 18 degrees and it turns out the O-rings stopped working below 40.
So 73 seconds after the Challenger lifts off, it converts itself into a bomb and detonates.

Sometimes it's just the one thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why we run the world.

70,000 years ago humans were insignificant animals. The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were unimportant. Their impact on the world was very small, less than that of jellyfish, woodpeckers or bumblebees.
Today, however, humans control this planet. How did we reach from there to here? What was our secret of success, that turned us from insignificant apes minding their own business in a corner of Africa, into the rulers of the world?
We often look for the difference between us and other animals on the individual level. We want to believe that there is something special about the human body or human brain that makes each individual human vastly superior to a dog, or a pig, or a chimpanzee. But the fact is that one-on-one, humans are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. If you place me and a chimpanzee together on a lone island, to see who survives better, I would definitely place my bets on the chimp.
The real difference between us and other animals is on the collective level. Humans control the world because we are the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. Ants and bees can also work together in large numbers, but they do so in a very rigid way. If a beehive is facing a new threat or a new opportunity, the bees cannot reinvent their social system overnight in order to cope better. They cannot, for example, execute the queen and establish a republic. Wolves and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than ants, but they can do so only with small numbers of intimately known individuals. Among wolves and chimps, cooperation is based on personal acquaintance. If I am a chimp and I want to cooperate with you, I must know you personally: What kind of chimp are you? Are you a nice chimp? Are you an evil chimp? How can I cooperate with you if I don’t know you?
Only Homo sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. One-on-one or ten-on-ten, chimpanzees may be better than us. But pit 1,000 Sapiens against 1,000 chimps, and the Sapiens will win easily, for the simple reason that 1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.
Cooperation is not always nice, of course. All the terrible things humans have been doing throughout history are also the product of mass cooperation. Prisons, slaughterhouses and concentration camps are also systems of mass cooperation. Chimpanzees don’t have prisons, slaughterhouses or concentration camps.
Yet how come humans alone of all the animals are capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers, be it in order to play, to trade or to slaughter? The answer is our imagination. We can cooperate with numerous strangers because we can invent fictional stories, spread them around, and convince millions of strangers to believe in them. As long as everybody believes in the same fictions, we all obey the same laws, and can thereby cooperate effectively.
This is something only humans can do. You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising that after he dies, he will go to Chimpanzee Heaven and there receive countless bananas for his good deeds. No chimp will ever believe such a story. Only humans believe such stories. This is why we rule the world, whereas chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.
It is relatively easy to accept that religious networks of cooperation are based on fictional stories. People build a cathedral together or go on crusade together because they believe the same stories about God and Heaven. But the same is true of all other types of large-scale human cooperation. Take for example our legal systems. Today, most legal systems are based on a belief in human rights. But human rights are a fiction, just like God and Heaven. In reality, humans have no rights, just as chimps or wolves have no rights. Cut open a human, and you won’t find there any rights. The only place where human rights exist is in the stories we invent and tell one another. Human rights may be a very attractive story, but it is only a story.
The same mechanism is at work in politics. Like gods and human rights, nations are fictions. A mountain is something real. You can see it, touch it, smell it. But the United States or Israel are not a physical reality. You cannot see them, touch them or smell them. They are just stories that humans invented and then became extremely attached to.
It is the same with economic networks of cooperation. Take a dollar bill, for example. It has no value in itself. You cannot eat it, drink it or wear it. But now come along some master storytellers like the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the President of the United States, and convince us to believe that this green piece of paper is worth five bananas. As long as millions of people believe this story, that green piece of paper really is worth five bananas. I can now go to the supermarket, hand a worthless piece of paper to a complete stranger whom I have never met before, and get real bananas in return. Try doing that with a chimpanzee.
Indeed, money is probably the most successful fiction ever invented by humans. Not all people believe in God, or in human rights, or in the United States of America. But everybody believes in money, and everybody believes in the dollar bill. Even Osama bin Laden. He hated American religion, American politics and American culture — but he was quite fond of American dollars. He had no objection to that story.
To conclude, whereas all other animals live in an objective world of rivers, trees and lions, we humans live in dual world. Yes, there are rivers, trees and lions in our world. But on top of that objective reality, we have constructed a second layer of make-believe reality, comprising fictional entities such as the European Union, God, the dollar and human rights.
And as time passes, these fictional entities have become ever more powerful, so that today they are the most powerful forces in the world. The very survival of trees, rivers and animals now depends on the wishes and decisions of fictional entities such as the United States and the World Bank...
...entities that exist only in our own imagination.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Still, all in the timing.

I hope you find someone who is brave enough to enter your storm, 
and respects you enough to love the size of your waves. 

I hope you find someone who will relish the calm you can have, 
and who is eager to set sail on the expanse of your mind.

I hope you find someone that can't escape the love they have for you 
because now they have you in their blood -

always reminding them that you are the only sea worth exploring. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015


I think we all need something burning in the dark.

No matter how happy we are or how satisfied we become, there will always be that little pilot light in the corner of our hearts - flickering with memory and nostalgia - that just won't seem to ever extinguish.

Many people have come back into my life the last three years in an effort to rekindle that flame, see how warm the glow still feels after all of this time. Maybe it's a friendship, maybe it's an old romance, sometimes it's an old co-worker, trying to make amends over an expensive mistake. But in any case, the point remains the same: No matter how long it's been, no matter how much we've grown or changed, how far we've moved on, or how many of our own questions we've answered, that spark of human curiosity always wins out. It's a persistent little agent of our subconscious that is simply too innocently naive of rational thought to ever fade away.

Sometimes this is good. It allows bridges to be repaired, and old problems with aching joints that were weary from the weight of guilt and doubt to finally be free of the burden we inflicted upon our own selves. Many times it opens up new doors, new avenues and connections in our lives that we had gone without for so long; the light of life floods in, and the lessons we had been learning all these years finally come to fruition and reward our bravery with something new by having the courage to accept something old.

And sometimes that same curiosity is bad. It becomes an anchor to our hearts, only allowing it to move forward with painful tugs, dragging along mud and rock from the ocean floor of our psyche. With every push forward, there is a nearly equal pull back, reminding us that we failed before. That we still have something to learn, some wisdom we still have yet to extract. Worse, it can simply settle into the ground, leaving us immobile, and at the mercy of any waves or hurricanes life throws at us with no way to adapt or escape.

The inevitability of this flame is what keeps me humble. I don't reject it's existence when I feel it's fire, nor do I fully embrace it; I accept it. Walk over to it. And sit next to it. And then I watch it with a tilted head, and wonder why it moves the way it does - why it chooses to dance at certain times of the night. I refuse to be burned by it again. But I will let it close enough to keep me out of the dark.

Some people come back into my life only to feel warm again when they feel cold in their lives. And while I will always offer my companionship to anyone in need, I refuse to be used as a tool. I draw the line at being a safe haven when it's convenient only to be rejected as a human being the next moment for that same reason - convenience.

Others have come back into my life and I couldn't be more grateful at the luck, blind fate, God, or whoever or whatever had their hands on the puppet strings of time. I truly do not know where I would be today without a very select few individuals. Still others I admittedly wish (and hope) come back to visit me when they are ready to keep writing our story, to answer questions they long feared to ask... or answer.

Their time may come. Or it may never. I remain humble in that regard as well. Not every story has a happy ending. Hell, not every story even has an ending. Some stories cut off in the middle of the book and the best you can do is hope their last chapters went well without you. But until I die, I will always wait by my flickering fire, ready to talk with whomever decides to sit next to me again. 

I may sit alone sometimes, but never in the dark.

I'll always have my Curious Flame.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Lights. Camera. Fraction.

That's the thing about friends.

They're there, and they're not.

You're connected to them either via obligation or desire, both stemming from fulfilling social and emotional requirements in order to be deemed "normal". They set aside the traits in you that they disagree with, you do likewise with them, and you all go out to have the best time that's possible. To collect memories. In hopes that one day they all outweigh the bad memories and their value over time has accrued to a point of priceless bonds.

But what do you do if you're never truly invested? What do you do when you want so badly to be, but you just lack the wires to connect to the current? What do you do when you've been faking the motions for so long that no one even notices?

How do you tell your friends that you have no idea what a real friend is?

Where do you go when everyone you've ever known - from the fundamental foundations of your own parents to the furthest reaches of your emotional capacity, your loves - have all betrayed, lied and abandoned you at some point, and you don't trust a single person?

I'm not here.

I'm never here.

I'm just someone reading a script I've rehearsed a thousand times before I walked onstage. Reading lines to props in the background.

The stage is my home, and the play is exhausting.

But she was my greenroom.