Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Sometimes I think my life is defined by the number of birds on the side of the highway I pass on the way to work, with eye sight shaded and music turned loud, fingers out the sunroof. How do birds get hit by cars? I mean squirrels, sure. Those morons are always sprinting across the road just as the UPS truck is pulling out, death wishes with furry grey tails they are, when they're not tight-roping across telephone lines or lurking in unsuspecting dumpsters. Possums, of course; blindly lumbering under your turning tires. But birds? Crows and pigeons and sparrows and gulls? They have the gift of flight, something we've longed for since the dawn of wishful thinking, and even they cannot avoid an instant, two-ton death?

There is a crow that's lying along that road, the name I don't know though I've driven on it nearly every day since I was eight-years-old, near-flattened to the black-top near the turn off for school. I saw it there yesterday morning. I saw it there yesterday afternoon, a little more flattened, a little more grey than black, turning into the cement on which it lay. I saw it there this morning, one wing sticking up straight, perpendicular to its death bed, the feathers fluttering in the breeze of a car zooming past at a breakneck thirty-six miles per hour, as though waving in greeting as I pass on the way south: "Have a good day." Will it be there tomorrow?

Sometimes I think my life is defined by the number of empty cathedrals I walk through, soaring ceilings causing cricks as you crane your neck upwards to make sure you don't miss a thing, because holiness hides in the highest of corners. Something about these big, empty rooms, sectioned by pews, organs, altars, demands reticence, slow steps, striding forward along the aisle way, can't stay still and stand in the back. Breathing deep, there's a certain smell that encompasses these old spaces, no matter where - Paris, Scotland, Seattle. They smell the same, like old books: a lingering presence of the thousands of feet who have paced these cement floors before, mounted these steps, gazed adoringly upwards at circles of glass and stone and story. So you breathe deep, closing your eyes, careful to let the exhaled sigh echo not too loudly.

There is a rainbow flag fluttering from the pole outside St. Mark's Cathedral, the church I'd only visited in the casualness of night before, the sanctuary coated in college students on blankets, in strangers leaning up against the same pillars, in hipsters straightening plaid as they stand for the apostles' creed. There is a earthy heaviness that accompanies the low-lighting and male harmonies of Sunday nights, the organ highs and lows that resound to the handful who'll stay after thirty minutes of can you call that church? There is still a reverence though, in the quietude of the wind of whispers, the shifting to face the front chapel. But walk in at one in the afternoon, and the light will knock you back, steal your lungs, and leave you, mouth open, staring.

"Oh my..."

The buckles on my boots jingle in the bright-white silence, bouncing off the thick-set columns holding up a dark-paneled ceiling. There's sunlight streaming through those many-paned windows. There are designs on those lanterns, blue and orange. No fear of tripping over someone's prayerful sleep. A lightness in the embrace of heavy holiness.

Sometimes I think my life is defined by reaching out. A note, an email, a letter, a smile. From you, from me. An acknowledgment that we are not living isolated on this tiny rock hurtling through space. We are not birds, hopping across busy streets, forgetting our wings in the face of certain destruction. We share things. We recognize the weight of what it means to be alive, to be breathing, to make choices, to say or not say what we think. We sink down onto that wooden pew that creaks under our weight, in the middle of the high-ceilinged sanctuary and know that someone has been their before, has felt that same awe, has breathed that same sun-lit air.

There is a restless itch behind my heart, something that says cry out to every person you pass that they are important and significant and matter, something that says be still, be silent, and be there. Something that asks is this enough.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

here and there

Because pretty soon we're going to look at one another from different cities.
Because this day will never happen again.
We'll be.
(photo credit)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Powell's in Portland in Pencil

Kneeling on concrete, cold where the floor meets bare skin, hands chalky from flipping pages, from breathing in wisdom, that old book smell.  Now here, looking out at bricks and fire escapes and one ways in the Pearl District, sitting at a counter in a room that almost just smells like bodies, pretending to belong.

Fingers trace the spines of small press chapbooks, eyes ache with too-old contacts, with sleepless nights, with life (there's life in these words; there's life in this complication; this is life.  We were missing it before).  We're all aspiring writers: what are you going to do to stand out?

I'm more and more rapidly approaching the point of just wanting to say "fuck it" and do this.  Fuck distance.  Fuck social expectations.  Fuck the rational or the right or the over-thinking.  If I say fuck enough, will that make me a hipster?

I'm a person who needs to reach out and hold on to things, which is why God and conversations are hard and people and letters are easier.  I need something to dig my nails into when I get scared, when my heart starts pounding, anything to stop the shaking.  I'm not saying you can't leave.  I'm just saying, don't be mad if I accidentally hold your hand every second that we're together because that makes you more real; that means that you're not just inside my head; that makes you distinct from me and could there be anything quite so liberating as coming into real-life contact with another individual, with someone who is not the crazy mess that is everything my senses take in, but is you, is real, is solid, is something that is not me.  You mean, I don't have to be isolated all the time?  Shut the fuck up.

In conclusion, this city is a hipster zoo and my breath is only steaming up the glass.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

seven and eighteen

So, I crashed into a wall at about an hour ago.  Not literally; don't fret.  Just one of those walls that jump out at you while you're shuffling along at half-a-jog, keeping up the energy, keeping up the positives, keeping up the motivation.  That wall says, "Maybe not," and all of a sudden you're sitting in mud at the base, with brick-burn on your face, looking up.

Maybe that metaphor was too extended.

My brain has reached capacity.  I can't find the right music.  Countdowns.  Words (listen to how the keys click).  A general state of shaking, deep breaths, long blinks.

Joel said today, "You're certainly not alone in your uncertainty."  There is a hopefulness in that, a solidarity, an essence of community.  My brain is muddled with abstractions, with trying to speak what I feel and trying to feel what's right.

Just sit for a minute, resting your head against the wall, humming to yourself, gathering the nerve (strength?  determination? sheer will power?) to stand up and clamber over to the other side.