The Mix

In the same room

You can find

Clusters

And clusters

Of people:

People

With different

Mentalities

And beliefs;

And people

That are very much

Alike.

He stood there

Carrying a strangled dead chicken

By the throat

And placed it next to

His other broken dreams:

Broken hopes and aspirations

Of love

That never materialized;

A harsh judgement of marriage

And family;

Emotional detachment

And suppression

Yet he carried in his pockets

Small pieces of candy

For his nephew.

Today’s his birthday,

He told me,

And for a second

His face softened.

For a second

His body regained life

And his spirits

Were lifted

From the dampness

And crudeness of life.

At the other end of the room

Stood a young girl

Carrying a birthday cake

Amidst songs and chants

And celebrations.

Today’s your birthday,

A friend told her,

Yet she looked down at her cake

Wishing it were a wedding cake

Wishing the celebration would have taken place

In a wide open space

With doves flying overhead

And people wearing white clothes

And cheering and clapping for her.

And that friend of hers

Wished for the same thing

Only he saw her in the white dress

Holding his hand

And walking down the aisle with him

While the broken echoes of those around him

Did their best to drown the voices in his head

And remind him

All was not fair and well

In the actual world.

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My Pretend

It’s funny how we tend to keep

Secrets

From those who are the closest

To us

Damaging truths that go unnoticed

Otherwise

Or stay buried within our tortured souls

We are afraid

As individuals

As nations

As a population

Afraid of seeing how far we can stretch

Truths

And extend them to others who offer us their shoulders

And hearts

Like bridges waiting to be crossed

Sometimes it is so much easier

To have faith in strangers

And confide in them

A woman used to repeat that to me

And I refused to believe it

Until I found myself sitting on the sidewalk one cold night

In a narrow alley with a small church at its end

Next to a stranger who was older than me

A stranger with a face

I couldn’t tell if it was a kind or sorry face

But it inspired me to tell a few truths I’ve been hiding all along

Shading from the people that were close to me

And others that weren’t as much

It felt good to put everything on the table

Or the dusty sidewalk

And waiting for the stranger’s response or comments

That never came

Convinced me even further that it was the right thing for me to do

Sometimes we reveal our truths

For the sake of liberating them

Without any kind of hope or expectation that someone will provide an answer

To them

And getting no answer that night

Was the best answer

I could wish for

And the sounds of the scattered wings of the few truths that left my sandbox

And ran out into the cold wild world

Was a comfort I never knew I needed.

Normalization

It amazes me that people still search for a way to be ‘normal’. They still look for a means to resemble other people, to be like them in every way.

Is this what the era of automation has turned us into? Has it shaped our minds into believing we owe it to ourselves to resemble others in every way?

Distinction has been abolished. Identity has been scraped and dusted away. There is no more distinction in the job, in the manner of speech, in the looks, in the preferences. Even in writing – a supposedly selfish and self-centered art – you only find replicas of a single writing style.

And now, now I am an old man on his deathbed writing this, now I am an old man on his deathbed writing this and thinking about much more than this; I am breathing the fresh air of nostalgia, the intoxicating air of nostalgia, remembering all that I am and am not, remembering all the things in life I was or wasn’t made to be a part of: school, university, cliques, drug circles, religious gatherings, family dinners, romantic getaways, camping trips, drawing, painting, dancing, writing…

But more importantly, I sit here thinking of the time, counting the time: it has almost been 6 months since I last wrote down a word. It has almost been half a year since my last contact with the word. And this feeling of shame that has developed during that time, this feeling that I have nurtured and that has grown into a sickness in me – like a knot in my stomach – has finally turned to fear: fear of approaching the word, fear of drawing down the syllables again.

Now for the first time I approach it again, try to get close to it, like a gardener delicately observing a single rose that has blossomed in his ill-maintained field, feeling it up, smelling it, afraid from ripping it out too quickly from the soil and killing it. Now I gaze at the stack of poems I had spent the last 3 years writing, not missing a single day. Where did that drive go? Was I being filtered and normalized like the others? Where was this invisible curve that defined the threshold of normality, the boundary we couldn’t surpass or exceed or else risk falling victim to confusion and disarray?

Now I sit on my deathbed, drained and weak, thinking about my friends, the people I’ve chosen to meet and befriend over the years: some of them are doctors, some are engineers, some are lawyers, some have turned into hobos, hippies, artists or masochists. I think about how none of them can save me now. The shadow of death was at my window, smiling at me, repeatedly tapping lightly against the glass to remind me of its eerie presence…

It was the only thing left for me now. It was the only thing waiting for me, welcoming me into its arms. But before I draw one last breath I think about the drink, the alcohol intake I have consumed over the years, how it numbed me for a few moments and made me feel untouchable…

Now it is all gone, and only my foolishness remains. Foolishness for thinking anyone could live vicariously through anyone or anything they touched, through others or by other means; no, we didn’t live through other people or by constantly producing acceptable art. There was always a threshold above us, even if at times we managed to forget it. That threshold was life itself, and it took the form of our body, our health, our sanity. Once that boundary was pushed or extended, it fought back and pushed harder, knocking us down to the floor.

Only few of the plummeted ever got back up from such a nasty fall. The rest have their memory engraved on some stone panel planted in the ground. I don’t know which group I belong to, but for my part, I would like these words to be the bed of roses that catches me and carries me after I hit the ground.

And the rest of things, the rest of the world, were matters beyond me and out of my control, left to be decided by another force.

Hiatus

The Publisher brought me into his office. It was a big, oval office with a white floor. No carpets, no paintings, no family pictures – just a simple desk with stacks and stacks of scripts and papers and leaflets almost overflowing on the sides and dropping to the floor.

This man was clearly in love with his work. He was one of those people you could call “dedicated” or “passionate” towards his job. Ironically, it was also why he had taken a chance on me in the first place. He had chosen to work with me because he considered me one of the few remaining “dedicated” and “passionate” folks.

Well today I arrived and parked my car on the side of the road to avoid paying the parking fees. Today was a normal day compared to other days. The only difference was that today I walked into that oval office empty-handed. Usually I would be carrying a draft with me or a revised script, but today I had nothing but my mere image to present to my Publisher.

I posed in front of him and he looked at me in a strange manner. It was almost a funny manner as if he was waiting for the punchline to come. But it never did. I had nothing funny to offer him – in fact, I had nothing at all to offer him. Here was the problem, and it became quickly apparent to him that it was an irremediable one.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘what do you have for me?’

I didn’t answer.

‘Where’s the script? Where’s the draft you got?’

Still no answer.

His face turned a vivid red and he slammed the desk with his right hand. ‘Don’t tell me you have nothing for me!’

I was lost for words.

‘It’s been months, months that you haven’t written anything consistent to show me! What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to present to the market and the people?’

I exhaled a faint ‘I’ve stopped’ from my mouth.

‘What was that?’

‘I said I’ve stopped writing.’

‘Oh? Since when?’

‘A few months. I’ve decided I am now on a writing hiatus.’

‘And why is that?’

‘I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s because I need to re-invent myself.’

‘You mean, as an artist?’

‘Maybe. As an artist, as a person. I’m not completely sure yet.’

‘Well it’s certainly not the news I expected to hear. No Publisher is ever thrilled to hear one of their writers has given up writing.’

Given up? That seemed a bit harsh. It sounded cold to me. Giving up was like throwing away everything the word ever gave me or produced in my favor. It meant throwing away the dark nights, the sleepless hours, the bar fights, the lost college years, the family deaths and the lonely afternoons. It meant washing away every scar, every heartbreak, every breath I exhaled into the pages.

No, I wasn’t giving up.

‘Then what would you call it?’

Taking a break. Taking a step back and reflecting. Reflecting on how far I’ve come since I started journeying with the word. But he wouldn’t understand that. None of them would.

Some of the greats did it. Some of the greats stepped back and parted ways with the word for some time. Some of them even turned their backs for a long time – years – before finding their way back to the word.

‘Well, it looks like your mind’s made up.’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘Let me just ask you a final question.’

‘Sure.’

‘What are you going to do for money? How are you going to manage without any income?’

‘I haven’t really thought about it yet. I guess it’s all part of the re-inventing process.’

‘It’s a great shame to lose you. It’s a great shame to lose your works. It’s a great shame to miss out on what you could potentially offer this house.’

My works? I hardly recognized the last few pieces I wrote. It was like staring into a mirror and finding a different reflection. The essence was no longer there. The body and soul were stripped from my work. What I wrote was a defamation of myself, a defamation of my being.

But now was a chance. Now was an opportunity presented to me to start again.

Or at least I saw it that way.

‘Take care,’ he said while shaking my hand. ‘Don’t be a stranger.’

Little did he know I was already a stranger. A stranger to myself, a stranger to the work I produced, and a stranger to the word. I was reborn into this world an anomaly, an alien entity that did not know how to deal with the blank page.

So I walked out of that building a stranger, an emptiness, a blackness destined – or maybe just hoping – to be filled by the colors of the world I had just embarked into. And maybe somewhere along the way I could write something meaningful about it.

Tidbits 208517

Poem written by a man and read by a woman.

“I want to devour you”

I want to devour

your mind

I want to devour

your soul

and everything

in between

I want your words

to become the blood

pumping from my heart

through my vessels

circulating in my body

and keeping me alive.

 

I want to devour

your poetic thoughts

your shameless romantic gestures

your fearless disease-inducing

speech

your mind-numbing sentences

your eyes

your eyes

the delicate look

in your eyes…

even the drinks

you gulp down your throat

the food you eat

the people you like

or dislike

I want to devour them

all

I want to devour

everything in you

outside of you

and around you

 

And when these lines

draw a full circle

and go back to the start

I will reach out to you

again

like I once did before

only this time

it will not go

unnoticed

and my spirit

and my heart

will live through

these words.

 

Tidbits 2072917

Are you becoming what you always hated?

It was her again.

She had crept into my thoughts, crept into my soul, brushed the curtains aside and opened the window.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

She was scared, terrified of solitude and being alone. Yet she was all by herself inside me.

There was only silence to entertain her – well, silence and the still periodic beating of my heart.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

Still, I fear for her. I hear intermittent pounding coming from my chest. Was it her? Was it my still heart, or was it something else?

Whatever it was, I knew she couldn’t handle it alone. She needed help. But I needed help as well. Usually when faced with uncertainties like this, I resorted to some external force like alcohol or a good symphony to get me through.

But this time I knew it wouldn’t suffice. The normal tactics I usually deployed were useless.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

There’s that banging again. It’s getting louder and louder now. I can tell because it resembles the noise my neighbor makes when she chases her kid around the house to beat him.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

There’s gunfire now. Gunfire in my soul. Massive artillery and heavy weaponry lined up on the front lines. Soldiers and army men geared up for the fight of their lives.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

I can’t see her anymore. She’s lost somewhere inside me, and dear god I hope she doesn’t stray too far away along the dark path. Even I don’t know what’s hidden inside – deep, deep inside – yet she somehow insists on getting in.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

I remember grave-robbers. I remember the heavy sound of metal and gold and steel and iron and diamond being dragged through hot sand, well-wrapped and neatly adjusted in their bags. They are now indistinguishable and resemble ordinary grocery bags.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

It’s late, it’s always late in my mind. I’m always the last one at the party and the first to leave. I’m always the last one to catch a whiff of life, a smell of the cool northern breeze or a taste of the hot road as the car tires screech and the vehicle speeds up against the coast.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

I am a man of science. I am a man of people. I am a man of words.

No, maybe I am just a man. Or maybe I just am.

Are you becoming what you always hated?

She appears again. She rises to the surface of my soul and her face appears again. It is showing traits of sadness and anxiety; it is showing traits of depression.

Yet I remember that face, and even through darkness it still shines and I can see it is more beautiful than ever.

She looks intact, unharmed by the many devils contained within me that tried to slay her or persuade her to join them. Yet she is back, untainted and unscratched.

I want to talk to her. I want to ask her what happened. I want to know how deeply she has gone, what point she has reached and what she saw.

I want to know what she found.

But she is still, she is frail and still. Her eyes are the only things moving, and her lips flash a delicate yet weak smile.

The gunfire stops. I wait for her.

The loud noises stop. Still I wait for her.

The heavy pounding stops. I want to talk to her.

But she beats me to it and parts her lips, and with eyes fixated at me she only utters a single sentence that carries an eerie familiarity and silences all the combined sounds of the universe:

Are you becoming what you always hated?

Tidbits 20031976

My cat doesn’t care about death

My cat doesn’t care about death

or the dying or the dead

or the people that have left

My cat doesn’t care about death

 

My cat doesn’t care about outlaws

or vigilantes

or poets or romantics or criminals

or singers or rappers or artists

My cat doesn’t care about death

 

My cat doesn’t care about

the living living in hell

burning their fingers with ash-ridden smokes

going up their nostrils and down their throats

or the cancer patients lying awake on their death beds

My cat doesn’t care about death

 

My cat doesn’t care about the heartbroken

or the hurt

or the people lighting candles for the deceased

and gripping onto their last pictures

while grappling with the question of existence and fate

My cat doesn’t care about death

 

And I watch her play and frolic in the sun

outside on my porch

as I sit and weep the souls of the lost

the good ones are always the first to go

the good ones are always the first to go

 

And the people

both close and strangers

the people ask me

why are the good ones always the first

to go

and I stare at them with no answer

and only this to say:

the good ones always go first

that’s why

I’m still here

 

But my cat’s still here as well

and I’d like to imagine

that in another life

possibly a fair life

it was a human being too

and one of the good ones

maybe even one of the best this race’s ever produced

so why is it still here?

 

It doesn’t

really matter

because I’m here

yearning the souls of the lost and dear

and my cat

well

my cat doesn’t care about death.

 

Dedicated to the soul of Chester Bennington (1976-2017).

Rest in peace.