Wednesday, March 28, 2012

little infinities

Broken-wristed beauty, you had me at 'hello'. The sky wouldn't be the sky if it came with instructions on How to Look Up and Be Mesmerized. There are some things that you're meant to fix and there are some things you're meant to leave in pieces.

Saltwater beauty, you have hands like a pair of moth's wings. Mercy and justice are separate things; peanut butter and jam are separate things; leather and lace are separate things. There are some things that you know and there are some things that you feel. The sky is blue. The bread is warm. This is your heart. The world is okay.

Carnivorous beauty, cannibal beauty, you're brimming with repression and aggression and compensation. You've got your sights set on Hell, but Heaven wants you bad. The only way to get anywhere is to get in a car and drive, and do you think we'd fall asleep in the car if we took a roadtrip to Heaven? There are somethings that you know and there are some things that you know.

Junkyard beauty, I never meant to let anything rust. I see the world in a series of blueprints---How to Build a House, if you will---but blueprints don't pay mortgages or read poems or wake you up to go to school in the morning. There are some things that are beautiful and there are some things that are not.

Threadbare beauty, go easy on yourself. Years and years and years from now, scientists will still be studying the exact velocity of your shrug, writing down numbers, saying "God must be real. God must be real". There are some things that are fact and there are some things that are less fact. 

A cappella beauty, you didn't follow the script. Your indifference was nuclear, you could've peeled back paint with your apathy, you could've fed armies with a single callous look. Freight-train eyes, that's what I've always called them: are you coming or going? There are some things that are fact and there are some things that are fiction.

Sandpaper beauty, I knew exactly what you were going to say: "I told you so". It takes some people a thousand years to perfect the art of being alone; it took you five minutes. You run laps to reach the moon. There are some things that take time and there are some things that kill time.

Satellite beauty, you've been picking up after me for quite a while now. I leave little paths of destruction, I leave little war zones wherever I go. If I'm the hurricane, you're the Aspirin. There are some things that move mountains and there are some things that move bike pedals.

Nitroglycerin beauty, I'll leave you a note on the refrigerator and it'll say: "I'm gone". Hallelujah, hallelujah. I have two hands and you have two hands, and that makes sense to me. The week will end and the sun will explode. You don't pick the people you love. There are some things you need and there are some things you want.

This has been The Devastation Diaries.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

your heart is a city, your mouth is a bridge

Sometimes when I'm around other people I play a game with myself called "If People Were Cities, Which City Would They Be?". Some people have suburbs in their eyes. Some people inhale sunlight, exhale beach breeze. There are subway people, there are downtown people, there are gridlock traffic people and country club people and Empire State Building people. Everyone has their own city because of the weather forecast of their outrage over a D+ on a math test, and because of their morning commute, and because of the way they rain, or sometimes, the way they pour.

I saw a man once that was so Topeka, Kansas that his hair was falling out.

I saw a woman dressed in red, and I've never seen New Orleans before in my life but there she was: New Orleans, as plain as tar. No Mardi Gras, no masks, just New Orleans on a regular Thursday somewhere in Salt Lake City. It's funny how something so big can look so small, city within a city, sitting on a bench at the bus stop; New Orleans, sipping her coffee.

No one is ever like the place they grew up in. Emily should be California, but she's Detroit. Not hollowed-out, eaten-up, burned-down Detroit, not hungry Detroit, but art district Detroit, and her hair would be the flag in the city hall. She's Detroit for the film in her camera, and for the way she walks.

I have a friend who is just like Anchorage. That's Alaska. Cloudy skies, but the kind that clear. Anchorage, Alaska is more forgiving than we gave it credit for. Who knew? Anchorage, and it's because his shoulders are Anchorage and his voice is Anchorage, and you think you're Juneau? I don't care about Juneau, you're Anchorage, because sometimes we have to force you to speak. Sometimes we don't.

Blond and a hundred feet tall, Addy Baird is somewhere southern. Atlanta, Georgia. Houston, Texas. All I know is that the people talk loud. She uses her hands when she talks.

I have another friend who is Florida. Tallahassee, maybe. Orlando. I don't know the difference, I just know that he's Florida because of his driving habits. He has the eyelashes of a Floridian. He's nicer than he should be, and that's Florida for you. Florida shoreline, Florida rain; I think there's even a certain shape like Florida in his posture.

I'm friends with Philadelphia, too. She's the Fairmount part up north, every color you can think of. Collarbones, freckles, boots; they all mean the same thing: Philadelphia. She wanders off, she makes lists. She has neat handwriting.
I've met Alpine, Utah. I'm friends with her. She has blond hair and high standards but we run out of things to talk about. I said "hell" once and I don't think Alpine, Utah has ever forgiven me for it.

I've got a brother in the Philippines and that's funny because he's Chicago. He's Chicago in the Philippines, born and raised in Utah County. Long legs, big vocabulary. Chicago.

My mother is Boulder, Colorado. She wakes up early every morning. She bakes bread for you, she knows everything, she wants a light blue car.

My father is Helena, Montana. I don't know. I can just tell.

There's a boy that's Albuquerque, indecent sometimes, blue-skyed and red-haired, he digs his elbows in. Albuquerque wants everything in the whole entire universe.

The girl who used to be my best friend is Reno, Nevada. I'm not going to elaborate on that one.

I know everyone. I know every city.

I know Rochester and San Antonio and Burbank and Wichita.

Strangers, I love you. Strangers, you're the biggest cities in the world.

Bri, you're Omaha, Nebraska. It's the color of your hair.

Jacob, you're Mitchell, South Dakota, ankle-bearing and indifferent, I hear no one wants to live in Mitchell. Okay, okay, everyone sort of wants to live in Mitchell.

Rachel, you're Sugar City, Idaho. Just listen to the sound of it. Sugar City: pastel sky, and I'm sorry that I'm not more familiar with it. 

And another Rachel, I think you might be Astoria, Oregon; it's up north on the coast, and it's lovely there.

Juliana, you're Jersey City.

Roah, you're Manhattan, you're all of it; you've got the slums and the skyscrapers, you've got street vendors, and you've got the places where people walk across bridges with shiny shoes on their feet.

Jonah, you're Boston, you know why: the circles under your eyes, your wrists, you're smart and you walk like you're late for something. Everything.

Austin, you're Mesa, Arizona. Other Austin, you're Phoenix, Arizona. I guess it's the name.

Collin, you're Providence, Rhode Island and I'm sorry if that's not accurate. It's this thing you do with your eyebrows. I'm not a bitch.

Ben, you're Baja, California. It's almost Mexico. You don't have to wear your shoes there, or so I hear.

Autumn, you're Auburn, Maine (I think). I asked around. I like your clothes.

Köbi, I hear you're Jackson, Mississippi. Or Casper, Wyoming. There was some dispute.

Jesse, welcome to Phoenix, Arizona, and the weather is fine.

Morgan, you're Cambridge, Massachusetts. The glasses gave you away. We like you. That surprised us all.


Brendon, you're Honolulu, Hawaii. Aloha.

Cara, you're Charleston, West Virginia but maybe that's who you were three years ago. I haven't been around much. You've got such long legs, you were so mean.

Okay, okay, let me take a breath. I have some apologizing to do. This was probably a bad thing that I just did.

I've been all over the States, I've seen everything, I've seen everyone. You're a tourist trap, you're a ghetto, you're a street sign and a city capital.

I want you to know that I'm not happy just sitting on the pavement. I'm not happy just visiting the museums. I take the bus, I have a city library card. I'm a native. Wherever you are, I'm a native. I belong here.

Five Things That I Want to Apologize For:
1. I'm sorry if you read this whole thing. Really, really sorry.
2. I'm sorry if this is about you.
3. I'm sorry if this isn't about you.
4. I'm sorry if I don't know you.
5. This isn't everyone I know, or everyone I love, or everyone I hate. Some people are cities. Some aren't, I guess. Sorry, sorry, strangers and loved ones, the ones I didn't add but should have, the ones who I hope will never see this; I didn't mean to offend you, I meant to say that I like to travel.

One Thing That I Will Not Apologize For:
1. I'm not sorry for what city I gave you. You want your own city? Write your own post.

This has been The Devastation Diaries.

jealous because i can be

Here is a poem that I love. It's name is "How to Like It", and it's about everything, and it's by Stephen Dobyns, who is a genius. I can't explain it right. I can't explain why I'm jealous, because here's the catch: there shouldn't be anything extraordinary about this poem. But it's got this weird combination of Heaven and Hell and I love that, and I can't describe it but it's okay because I don't need to. Here it comes.

How To Like It
by Stephen Dobyns 

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept-
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

 I told you. I told you. It's something about the way your veins feel open after reading it, isn't it? It's something about the way your hands feel empty, isn't it? Get jealous. This is good.

This has been The Devastation Diaries.

how to fly, and other myths

how to fly,
and other myths

late one night in the pouring rain, i heard a sound like glass breaking and trees falling, like milk spilling and children singing, i heard four hundred hands turning keys in four hundred locks, i heard fathers waking up and putting on their boots and rubbing their eyes. i thought i heard it. i thought i heard it all. i thought i heard the song of a morning dove and of a magpie, i thought it heard it, but no, it was only the sound of two thousand years of men trying to get back their youths, trying to rewrite history, trying to strip the past bare and leave it as this: "we did a good job. we did a good job".

This has been The Devastation Diaries.



Stretched thin, that's what I am.

I'll sleep when I'm dead.

This has been The Devastation Diaries. 

Kind of.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

karma police

Listen up, because I'm about to tell the truth.

Just kidding.

What I'm about to do is tell you how to fry a fish. 

But first, someone to explain string theory to me.

You're calling my bluffs, you're doing me favors. You think I'm polite? You must have me confused with someone who can fall asleep at night. Insomniacs are never polite.

This is all that I am: homesick.

I ain't beautiful, I'm just rich.
I ain't praying, I'm just preaching to the choir.

We ain't drunk. We ain't mute. 

I know a hundred thousand words but the only one I can think of is: Glory. Glory. Glory. I don't know what "glory" is, but I'm pretty sure that God had it.

Are we blasphemous? Nah. We're holy. We're devout.

Didn't you come here to fry fish? I'm distracting you, aren't I? I'm disappointing you, aren't I?

My best asset as a human being is greed. See how greedy I am? See how human I am?

I apologize. I know that all you want from me is the truth about frying a fish, but I just want you to hear me speak. I want you to say: I hear you, I hear you. I want you to say: Forget about the fish. Tell me another one.

I tried writing a love poem this morning but the only thing I wrote down was: "REMEMBER TO BUY MILK AND BROWN SUGAR". I have a shopping list for a love life and lined paper is the cruelest way to break someone's heart.

This one goes out to all the boys in bands.

Are you wondering about what kind of frying pan you're going to need? Are you wondering about butter and trout?

Let me be the one to break the news: there is a hole in your heart that never stops wanting. There is a page missing from the Bible. There is a fish in a frying pan, and you'll burn it if you don't do it right.

I hear you, I hear you.

Well, I've talked enough for one night. The paint is drying, the house is getting cold. I'm all out of clichés, I'm all out of colloquialisms.

You want to know how to fry a fish? Do you really want to know?

Okay, okay. Here's the secret, here's the truth, here's the thing they'll write on your headstone because you told them it was the key to the universe. Here's how to fry a fish.

You put some oil in the pan, and you fry the fish.

You fry the fish.

This has been The Devastation Diaries.


the courage post

If courage was a human being, he'd be ugly. 

Courage would be obscene. He'd burn your ex-lover's letters without permission. Instead of passing you the dinner rolls, Courage helps himself. You say "God", and Courage says "Who?" He's inattentive, thick-necked, ham-fisted, and patronizing. Courage's face turns red when you say, "give me some air".

You say, "now I'm going to climb Mount Everest". And Courage will just say, "Why don't you just let me handle this. Okay, dear?"

Courage doesn't trust you with the car. Courage doesn't let you do the taxes. Courage tells you to wash your hands, and then wash them again.

Let me do something for myself once in a while. Why does it take courage to tell the truth? Why does it take courage to tell a lie? I'm not courageous, I'm just trying to communicate. I'm not courageous, I'm just a liar.

I'm sorry.

This is really irreverent. This is really vulgar. Courage isn't ugly, Courage isn't evil. I just want credit, I'm just selfish. Courage has good intentions, but Courage and I are strangers. We're not very civil. He walks on one side of the street, I walk on the other. We bicker about the weather forecast and the cost of gasoline.

The only thing I have in common with Courage is that we both take our tea without milk.

We don't date smokers. We have clean fingernails. We're broke.

I guess it takes courage not to tell the whole truth. I guess it takes courage to behave appropriately.

I'm sorry: this isn't a poem about courage, it's an apology.

This has been The Devastation Diaries.