The Loggerhead and Other Poems

The following poems are from my poetry zine The Loggerhead and Other Poems, which is available at BOOKMACHINE books + zines.


Abre Mis Ojos

I step out onto brisk silent streets
in my "safe" neighborhood,
with a copy of Luis Rodriguez's
Always Running/La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA,
tucked under my arm.

I'd borrowed it from 
a 16-year-old student,
my roommate's nephew,
also named Luis,
who lives in what could 
be called a "barrio"
of Orange County,
not five miles from where 
I grew up,

and I am struck by the fact
that it is possible to grow up
a bike ride away
from people whose struggle
is oceans deeper than mine.

In my mostly white, middle-class
elementary school,
I remember one Latino student
(we didn't call them Latinos)
who wore second-hand clothes
and went to ESL classes,
which I honestly thought
were for less intelligent students.
Ernesto spoke "broken" English
and could very well have been undocumented
(we didn't call them undocumented),
I had no clue what that meant.

And then in high school,
there was talk of Prop 187,
which, from what my elders told me,
was a good thing, 
"Get rid of those illegals,
those Mexicans."
But I remember feeling,
even then, though I couldn't
say why, feeling wrong about it.

In high school,
I learned about Martin Luther King Jr
and the Civil Rights movement,
but I didn't learn about Cesar Chavez
or Mendez vs. Westminster
or Doss vs. Bernal,
which happened 
a bike ride away.

Up until college,
I honestly thought Cesar Chavez
was a boxer.

It wasn't until after college,
after even graduate school,
that I began trying 
to fill in the gaps in my education.

Reading Always Running,
I feel a heaviness in my chest,
the heaviness that comes 
at that moment when you learn
that the person right beside you,
in school, in the grocery store,
has struggled and suffered 
in ways you were blind to 
all your life.  Toda mi vida.

But, as someone said,
"Reading is an exercise in empathy."
And, as the Good Book says,
"Lord, open my eyes."
"Abre mis ojos, oh Cristo."


The Flaneur

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect fl├óneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home."

--Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life


I am a Fullerton flaneur, 
I wander streets 
that have become familiar,
taking in the faces, 
the trees and houses
and coffee shops 
and bars 
and salons.

I walk to my morning coffee
past the museum plaza,
where the homeless gather
and skaters attempt kick flips
and bum cigarettes.

A well-dressed man
is talking real estate
into an android ear piece

and across the way Ernie sits,
wearing a sailor's hat,
listening to 
Creedence Clearwater Revival
on an old discman,
next to a shopping cart.
selling old coins,
an Indian head penny,
a dime from the 
Hoover administration.

In the college quad, 
the faces of students,
Arturo, the 22-year-old veteran
of Afghanistan, 
older than his years.

And in the library, 
Cheri is scrolling through microfilm,
old newspapers
and photographs from the 
1964 "Night in Fullerton"
when Norton Simon offered
to build his museum here,
but Fullerton was not ready.
Oh Fullerton, 
are you ready now?

Faces from the past, 
Florence "Flossie" Arnold,
Walter Muckenthaler,
and further back,
Domingo Bastanchury,
Charles Chapman,
Albert Hetebrink,
Herman Hiltscher,
the Klansmen.

and the faces of all the nameless
citrus workers,
Chinese, Japanese, Mexican,
the embarrassing and strange past,
now plaques and microfilm
and street names.

And one day,
I will be a face in an old photograph,
but not yet, not yet,
I have miles to walk
before I sleep 
in the archives.

On the way to Landon's,
I pass Terry and Nina,
heading to Mulberry St.

I borrow Landon's car
to drive to the pharmacy
and it feels weird to drive,
unnatural.  
I sold my truck
a year ago, 
and now I'm a wanderer,
a flaneur.

I buy Landon a Snoopy ornament
for his Charlie Brown tree.
Peace on earth,
goodwill toward men.

At night, I step into the cold,
headed nowhere in particular,
carrying a copy of Baudelaire.
Maybe I'll get a burger.

Corky is there, at Burger Parlor,
and we are sad together
for our mutual friend who has cancer.

Robert, 
stoned as usual,
leaning on his cane, 
his body bent,
smiling as I pass.
I shake his hand,
his crippled hand.

The former mayor,
now assemblywoman,
is out for her evening constitutional.

Inside Burger Records,
Bobby is pricing cassette tapes,
and Sean is in the back,
watching Warriors of the Lost World
on VHS.

At Max Bloom's,
The Third Man is playing
on an old screen, and 
Becky is outside 
scribbling song lyrics
into a notebook.

On the edge of downtown 
sits the Art Colony,
beside the railroad tracks,
beside the defunct packing houses.
And Valerie is painting,
and Mike is building 
new walls and lofts,
like the honeycombed walls
of a bee colony,
and Vince is buzzing about,
looking for a hammer,
a tape measure.

Baxter is there,
with passion 
in his stammers,
"You know why Fullerton 
is so conservative?" he asks,
"Hughes Aircraft."
Fuckin' Cold War.

Ricardo and Josue 
making concrete poetry 
and taking photographs.

Noah and Ezra,
drawing pictures
of the future.

Inside the gallery, on the walls,
a hundred photographs,
the faces of my city,

At The Continental Room,
Casey is spinning old punk records
and Troy walks out of the bathroom,
dressed as a bloody zombie,
ready to shred our faces off.
And all the cool kids are there.

At Mulberry St, 
Wayne is talking Red Sox,
and Kevin's eyes light up as I enter
because now we can talk about comics.
Photographs on the walls,
faces of men and women 
come and gone.

Jerry Christie, the former mayor
who came here every day for 25 years,
sat at the same table and ordered 
a salad that came to be known as
"The Jerry"

A painting of Debbie, a watercolor,
who had a raspy smoker's voice
that rose above the familiar hum
of the old bar,
and her widower
sips his Scotch 

Eusebio is there,
in a photograph circa 1985,
looking a little younger.

Faces of the original
Mulberry St. in New York,
Little Italy of the Five Points,
the faces of immigrants,
buying cheese wheels
and sausage
and tomatoes.

Midnight passes, and
new faces arrive 
from places like Riverside 
and Corona
and Huntington Beach,
as the restaurants become "clubs"
with booming bassy windows
and fat, stern-faced bouncers
frisking people for weapons.

I avoid these places,
but I observe the young men
in tight t-shirts,
the young women
in short shorts despite the cold.
I used to hate them,
but now, 
as with much I used to hate,
I observe and record.

At the Night Owl, a different crowd.
Singers, poets, writers, 
Ginsberg's "angel-headed hipsters,"
the nerdy brothers and sisters
of the clubbers.

And I feel safe among them all,
the bros and the hipsters,
the punks and businessmen,
the hippies and republicans,
the artists and the bouncers,
the homeless and the policemen,
well maybe not the policemen,
not yet.  

Miles to walk.

The bars are closing,
but still I wander,
past houses,
some darkened,
some illuminated 
by the blue flicker of TV screens.
I don't want to sleep yet,
not yet.

Out of the shadows 
walks Mondo, beer in hand,
invites me over,
where a fire pit burns
and the faces of friends
flicker in the firelight
and tell silly stories.

Slowly people leave,
some in pairs, 
some alone,

and when finally 
I reach my door,
my neighbor is outside, 
smoking.
She is black and,
not long ago,
could not have 
been my neighbor,
but now we share a duplex
and the occasional smoke.

And in these faces and places
is my city,
connected by
invisible lines and webs,
orphaned constellations,
and, as Mike says,
"Everything is alive."


I Prefer Books

I've been sick the past few days.
Being sick is boring,
because I tend to watch too much Netflix,
old X-Files episodes,
so many episodes
that I start feeling like a zombie,
like the zombie
agents Mulder and Skully
encounter in season 2.

But today I felt good enough to go to school,
and on my break between classes
I started reading a book
by my friend Dan Joyce,
and I did not feel like a zombie.

I felt alive,
my head and heart full of life,
and I wanted to go outside,
and so now I am outside,
writing.

For this reason,
I prefer books to Netflix.


Oh, Fullerton


At the council meeting,

I saw people biting each others necks,
In this old Republican town of Chapman,
This town of 1920s Klan,
And citrus towns,
And strikes in the 30s,
The Citrus War,
And the 60s Rumford Fair Housing Act
That most people hated,
Except this guy Ralph Kennedy
Spoke his mind and got
Arrested with Cesar Chavez,
And then those crazy concerts
At Hillcrest in the 60s and 70s,
When John Schmitz was our
Representative,
He of the John Birch Society,
And then John Briggs,
Who proposed that gay teachers should
Be fired, and debated Harvey Milk,
And then the apathy of the 80s
And the punks like the Adolescents
And The Middle Class who hated that,
And then the changes of the 90s,
Restoring the Plummer mural,
Covered for nearly 60
Years because it was “too Mexican”
And then Ed Royce,
He of the Republican Establishment,
And then the reign of Bankhead,
(what a perfect name for a politician),
and then, and then Sharon Quirk-Silva
got elected, the first Latina council member
in a town that, for many years, segregated
its latinos, and still kind of unofficially does,
with those railroad tracks and
all they represent.
And then that guy Tony Bushala,
Wealthy inheritor/blogger
And his libertarian ideas,
And now here we are
And everyone is biting each
Others necks,
But I guess we’ve come a ways
And have a long ways to go.
At least we don’t have citrus towns any more,
In The Town I Live In.



Sunkist

It's appropriate that I'm drinking
a can of Sunkist soda as I read
an interview with an old orange
rancher from Orange County.

Sunkist was local brand.
It used to represent oranges,
but now it represents
sugary soda water.

And what do the oranges represent?
Power. Political, economic, local.
Unrecognized immigrant labor.
The Ku Klux Klan.

Patriotic parades.
Segregated housing and schools
and theaters and pools
Segregated people.

The haves and the have-nots.
First and second class citizens.
Church-goers blind to social injustice.
That is what the oranges represent to me.


Colonia 89

When I was in high school,
I took a trip 
to Ensenada, Mexico.

It was not Spring Break.
I did not stay at a sweet resort.
I stayed in a place called Colonia 89.

Here hundreds of families
lived in a cobbled-together
shantytown,

Freezing in winter,
sweating in summer,
living in huts of discarded junk.

While there, I helped build
a two-seater outhouse
and played some soccer.

Other people held Bible
studies, but I was glad
to just build something.

When I came home to
Fullerton, I remember 
experiencing "culture shock."

After being in a place as poor
as Colonia 89, I felt guilty
for living in such affluence.

By American standards,
I was middle class. 
By Colonia 89 standards,

I lived like a foolish king,
reigning over my stupid
empire of grass and stucco.

At the time, I remember
being confused.  Why could 
some have so much,

And others so little?  And why was
I born as one with so much,
while another boy

Was born in a cobbled-
together shantytown?
It was profoundly unfair.

Terms like "extreme poverty"
remain abstract until you
visit a place like Colonia 89,

And then they become
uncomfortably real.
As a high schooler,

I didn't understand much
about immigration policy
and global capitalism

And the history of conquest
and wars and revolutions
and industrialists and agribusiness

And terms like "repatriation"
and the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo
and how in the 1930s

Hundreds of thousands of
Mexican Americans were illegally
deported so whites could 

Have their jobs.  
I didn't understand that stuff.
I still don't.

What I do understand is this:
I have what I have not because
I worked harder than some poor person.

I have what I have because of
circumstance and dumb luck.


Election Night

On the election night,
I was in a place where 
there were no news vans
or reporters or big crowds.

I was at the Rialto Cafe,
in my hometown, listening
to a young veteran talk about
why he ran for city council.

He was not well-funded.
He did not have important
political endorsements.
He was just a guy who cared.


The Song of Solitude

Whether by circumstance or disposition,
I have remained single thus far in my life.
I am 32 years old.

For a long time, I longed
for a companion. I thought a woman
was all that could save me.

But then I discovered that this was not the case.
I learned to be alone.
It has its joys and pains.

When you are on your own for a long time,
you have to become comfortable
with your own thoughts.

You learn, or develop,
the rhythms of your body and mind:
when to take a walk, to sleep, to eat,

when to read, to write,
to listen to music, to go out,
when to stay home.

The hours, the days, are yours
to spend…some hours with friends
and family, some alone.

You learn to treasure this aloneness,
this solitude. Beholden to no one,
you are the captain of your fate.

This can be a rare and wonderful gift.
Many people spend their lives
in a succession of obligations.

Alone, you are free. Free to be
with others as you are, an individual.
Free to escape into solitude.

You get to choose how to spend
your minutes, your hours.
You can choose to write all day.

Inevitably, loneliness will come.
That's what friends and family are for.
No man is an island, even a single man.

When you are young, you might
have a lot of sex, a lot of partners,
some meaningful to you, some not.

As you get older, you might
go weeks, months, years with no sex.
You will take doses of pornography.

You must try not to be too hard
on yourself. Your chief joy
is creation: art, writing, music.

And contribution. This is another
of your freedoms. You are free to devote
huge amounts of time to giving.

Not money, not necessarily,
but creative action. You can get home
from work and spend 4 hours painting.

You get to do things like this.
People might ask, "Where do you find the time?"
and the question will seem silly.

You have loads of time!
This is your life!
You have hours and hours to spend!

You will sometimes wonder about
romantic love. You will be hard-pressed
to find good and inspiring examples.

In the relationships you witness,
the ones you read about or see in movies,
you will be generally unimpressed.

This can be a comfort in your solitude.
But still you will wonder
if you are missing something important.

Experience will teach you
not to settle, to wait,
perhaps for a very long time.

When you are young,
this waiting will be a deep sorrow.
As you get older, you will be okay.

You will fill your heart
with other kinds of love:
teaching, community, making things.

The word, the idea of "community"
will become important to you.
People together. Weird and awesome.

People will become your "thing."
Knowing, understanding, loving, sharing,
even in your solitude.


When I am an Old Man

When I am an old man,
I hope I am not bitter.
I hope I never criticize
The younger generation
Without first remembering
What it was like to be young.

I hope I am not bored,
Or disillusioned, or grumpy.

I hope I have exactly
As much money
As I have now
(under $1000).

I hope I don’t own
Any property
Or status symbols
Like a nice car.

I hope I still seek out
New music every day,
Write every day,
Care about art.

I hope,
By the time I am an old man,
That I have written books
And taught a lot of students
About writing.

I hope I have wisdom
And compassion
And an open mind
And heart.

I hope,
When I am an old man,
I can say with sincerity,
“I followed my dreams,
And I never gave up.”


Friday is a Pain Holiday

I'm at Amerige Tobacco, picking up some smokes and iced tea. The Egyptian man who is the owner winces, and feels his abdomen.

"Next week, I have surgery. I have kidney stones."

A girl in the shop says, "It's Friday night. Don't be such a downer."

"I don't feel pain on Friday?" he asks.

"Friday is a pain holiday," I offer, and everyone seems to agree that this would be a good idea.



The Sense of Smell


My therapist once told me
that the sense of smell
is the sense most connected to memory,
and that made sense.

Because, sometimes, when I
catch the scent of a certain
perfume, it takes me back to
a girl I used to love.

I have a condition that
psychologists call
"Depersonalization Disorder"
which basically means

that I often feel disconnected
from myself. It is something
I have learned to live with.
I am okay, but I won't say it's easy.

But tonight, alone in my
apartment, I smelled my armpit.
I shower maybe two times a week,
so the smell was kind of strong.

And then I smelled my arm,
the hair and the skin,
and in those moments, I thought,
"So THIS is what a human is

supposed to smell like." The smell
was not unpleasant. It was a real
smell, like the smell of men who
lived thousands of years ago.

And the sense of smell, and the
memory of people I never knew,
my ancestors, reminded me that
I am here, that this is my body.




Stars

I awake at 2:21am and step outside.
I look up at the stars. The light pollution
prevents us from seeing a lot of stars here,

but I can see Orion and several others.
I remember when I was ten, in Yosemite,
lying on my back at night, looking up,

and seeing thousands and thousands
of stars. I recently watched a TV show
with Stephen Hawking, where he said,

in his computer voice, "Our galaxy,
the Milky Way, has over 200 billion
solar systems, and we are just one

of billions of galaxies in the universe."
That kind of info is really hard to
wrap your head around. What strikes me,

tonight, 2:21am, looking up at all those
tiny points of light, is that each tiny
point of light is a solar system, with

its own planets. Because we see them
every night, stars might cease to amaze
us, but if we remind ourselves that they

represent other worlds, millions of
miles away, they can be quite
astonishing. It's a nice reminder that

our problems and passions, while not
unimportant, are also pretty tiny, in
the vastness of the universe. For some,

the realization of our relative smallness,
might be grounds to say, "Our lives are
meaningless." But I take a different view.

Our lives are important because they
are the only ones we've got. And,
should aliens from another world

ever visit us, I would prefer that they
find our planet in good condition,
peaceful and beautiful and just,

sort of like how my mom always
made sure the house was clean
before important guests arrived.

Photobucket

Broken Spanish

Por Juan, who has worked harder for his American Dream than anyone I know.

Orale, Juan,
Lo siento
Para Los Estados Unidos
y el pinche immigration policies.

Lo siento para tus hijos
who are citizens,
pero tu, tu eres "ilegal"

They say your English is "broken"
pero mi Espanol is terrible.

I think, yo pienso que,
es el color de your skin,
that los politicos no gustan.

Pero, let us remember
la historia.
California used to be Mexico.
And so, creo que it is yo, not tu,
who must learn the other's
language.

Entonces, Juan,
this poema es para tu,
mi amigo.
Lo siento.

I am trying to learn,
pero yo,
like muchos Americanos,
tend to forget things.

Paradox

The older I get,
the harder it becomes
for me to reconcile
The golden rule and
the American dream.

Apocalypse

We did it!
We have taken over the world!
There are resorts
in the remotest regions!
Now what?

Hell is a Landfill

In the Bible,
hell is sometimes called gehenna,
which was a burning trash dump
outside Jerusalem.

The Last of the Mohicans

In a lot of American
literature by white people
like The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper,

Native Americans are presented
as a race whose time has ended.
despite the fact that ther were, and are,
thousands of living Native Americans.

Their persistant, longsuffering patience,
their continued reality,
has no place
in our imaginations.

Photobucket

My American Heroes

With apologies
to soldiers and police,
my heroes are not
among your ranks.

Here is a brief list
of some of my American heroes:

Harriet Tubman
Woody Guthrie
Sitting Bull
Harvey Milk
Alan Lomax
Odetta
John Muir
Cesar Chavez
David Foster Wallace
Jello Biafra

For my heroes,
courage was a function
of imagination.
Their strength was
not to wound but to heal,
to tell a different
side of the story.

God Did Not Send Us Here

We came here,
compelled by kings and fantasies.

But now we are here,
with muskets and strange diseases.

What the hell?
Let's conquer it.

Outside the Bars,
Fullerton, CA 2:17am


"USA! USA! USA!"

"Pussy!"

[indistinct voices punctuated by shouts]

"Fight! Fight!"

[beep of cop car]

[slam of door]

"Oh, oh shit!"

I could let it mean
almost anything.

For some reason,
I keep thinking of Rome.

Some nights I am among them.

Tonight I am laying in my bed,
in a rooftop apartment,
listening,

a privileged witness,
awoken from my dream.

Detachment and depression
have their purposes.

Jesus

Latin Americans, generally speaking,
have no problem naming their
sons Jesus.

Anglo Americans, generally speaking,
do. It would be like naming your
son "God's Son"
which, for some reason,
is offensive.

This is culturally significant.

Anglo-Americans tend to view Jesus
as an object of worship.
Latin Americans tend to view Jesus
as a model to emulate.

And so it was that Jesus Aguilar,
male nurse,
found himself in the care
of one William Chapman,
who was in the late stages
of dementia.

Jesus Aguilar's grandfather,
Francisco, had worked in Chapman's
orange groves and had, like all
Mexican-Americans at the time,
been forced to live on a
work-camp, while the Chapmans
lived in the "big house."

During the Great Depression,
Chapman had fired Francisco,
had him deported to Mexico,
to make way for whites who
needed jobs.

Like many late-stage dementia cases,
William Chapman tended to confuse
past with present.
He would often,
as Jesus changed his bed pan
or refilled his water bottle,
cry out,
"Who is this wetback?!"

Jesus, who could very easily have
clipped Mr. Chapman's I.V., sent him
mercifully out of this would,
instead joked with Mr. Chapman,
"It's me, Jesus,"

as he washed feces and urine
from the back of the old
man's balls.

The Young Veteran

After class, one of my students,
a 35-year-old vet,
tells me:

"We need to get rid of the Federal Trade Reserve.
Did you know that it's an independent corporation,
not a government agency? They've been
screwing us since the 1930s."

Truth be told,
I did not know that.
Like most of my countrymen,
I have prefereed to remain
blissfully ignorant
of such things.

I am not surprised, though.
As a teacher,
I have a love/hate relationship
with money and my government.

In my adult life,
I have tried to navigate
between the perilous poles
of self-interest and altruism.
It is a never-ending struggle.

I have tried,
in my life,
to look into the heart of things,
to see things as they are.
In modern American society,
to do this,
you must become an archeologist,
a lonely digger,
reading alone by lamplight
books that have been
largely ignored
to find, hopefully,
glimpses of the truth.

The young veteran tells me,
after every class,
things that create, in my head,
what psychologists call
"cognitive dissonance"
He tells me how,
in myriad ways,
America is a contradiction.
As a veteran who has clearly
seen some shit
that would break my psyche,
he speaks, and I listen,
even if my gut reaction,
at times, is to disagree
or cut him off.

In my view,
there are at least three groups of people
who can speak from experience
about this contradiction
at the broken heart of America:
veretans,
minorities,
and the poor.

If we listen,
these people can tell us things
we had not even thought to ask.
But we must listen,
and be okay with
"cognitive dissonance"
to be able to hear
the largely unspoken message
of a riot,
a war,
a foreclosure,
a dead homeless man,
a barrio.

The answers may be
more complex than the questions.
But they must be asked.

Or maybe the answers
are not so complex.
Maybe the answer lies
in collapsing the contradiction
and asking,
from the broken heart of America:

Are we treating others
as we would have them
treat us?

A cliche, yes.
But some cliches become cliches
because they are true.
Others are hogwash.

And I am not talking
about politeness,
about courtesy.
I'm talking about goodness.
As Americans, we tend to conflate the two.
Most politicians are polite
(hence the origin of the word),
that's how they get elected,
but are they good?

For me, the only
quantifiable way to measure goodness
is action.
Boo Radley was not polite.
But he was good.

The young veteran's tone changes
when he talks about good.
You can hear it in the
shortness of breath,
a certain vulnerability about the eyes,
a softer tone.

"The only answer
I can see...
is spiritual,"
he says
with equal parts
comfort
and
discomfort.

Porn

The last thing I want this to be
is some holier-than-thou-type-thing.
That would be hypocritical
because I'm in the same boat
as you, so to speak.

But there are some tendencies
in 21st century American society
that, when I think about them
in a serious way...scare the hell out of me:

The massive popularity of Ultimate Fighting.

Corporate media.

The ratio of US consumption to population
compared with the rest of the world.

The Tax Code.

The 14th Amendment applied to corporations.

And internet pornography.

I ran into a female friend
at a coffee shop today
and, for some reason,
we got talking about porn.

When I told her that
the US porn industry
makes way more money
than Hollywood,
her eyes got sad and
she asked me,
with intense sincerity:

"What's going to happen to us?"

"I don't know."

We both agreed
that, putting religion aside,
porn probably has some detrimental
psychological/relational effects.

We both agreed
that dating, in the 21st century,
is weird, and not in
a particularly funny way.

Weird as in we literally
don't know how a relationship
is supposed to function anymore.

Weird as in we are
lonely and afraid and legitimately confused.

We both agreed
that this loneliness and fear and confusion
might, at some deep-down level,
be related to porn.

Not exclusively porn,
but porn is probably
a much bigger part
of the relationship picture these days
than most people
are comfortable
talking about.

The Loggerhead

There are miracles happening all the time,
every day, mostly invisible to us.
Many of them are happening in the ocean,
way down deep, those strange fluorescent creatures,
delicate as paper, ancient as turtles.

The life of the loggerhead turtle,
the sea turtle, is a miracle.
Buried alive, born in sand,
no larger than a child's hand,
its journey begins in danger.

Soft-shelled, it makes its
perilous trek from land to sea,
running from crabs and gulls.
Half of them do not make it.
And when they do, as newborns,
they must swim 70 miles to the Gulf Stream,
where perhaps they will find a life raft
of seaweed to bear them north.

But perhaps it will drift off course,
into the wide Sargasso Sea,
a purgatory of no current, no wind,
a wasteland of oil and trash.

But, in the lifespan of a turtle,
a few lost years are okay, even normal.
Perhaps it will make its way back
to the Gulf Stream, with its in-born
magnetic map of the ocean.

A loggerhead is, in fact, never really lost.
It carries the genetic memory
of its ancestors, millions of years.
It knows what to do.
It knows, for example,
to find its way to the Caribbean,
where it will wait for 15 years,
after which something inside it
will compel it to move along,
its purpose being elsewhere.

The loggerhead turtle
is capable of being alone for years,
just swimming and eating,
guided by the earth's magnetism
and millions of years of memory,
its inheritance.

It knows where,
in the vastness of the ocean,
to find a mate, one mate.
It knows, after 20 years or so,
how to find the shore where it was born,
to lay new eggs,
and start the whole cycle over again.

It knows these things with a brain
the size of a walnut.
This is a miracle.
At this point, arguments about
creation and evolution
collapse into irrelevance.
The turtle doesn't know how to argue.
It knows how to live,
with a tenacity and fearlessness
and grace that I will never know.
This is a miracle.

In some ways, in a lot of ways,
I envy the loggerhead turtle.
It goes through its life with unflagging purpose.
It knows, by heart,
when to swim like hell,
and when to wait for 15 years
in a kelp bed.
It knows how to listen
to the stillness of its own inner purpose.

And me, writing alone on a couch
at my parents' house,
my head messy with depression,
asking myself: What am I supposed to do?
My brain is like 15 times bigger
than the loggerhead's,
and yet I fumble around
and fuck up and live
in a haze of confusion,
unable to answer the question
a fucking sea turtle
doesn't even need to ask:
What am I supposed to do?

But I will not end the poem there,
because, messy head or no,
I still believe in miracles.
For I am also like the loggerhead.
I know how to listen to the stillness
of my heart, even when I have drifted
into the oily trashy wide Sargasso Sea.

I know that it is okay to wait,
sometimes for a very long time.
I know that it is sometimes appropriate
to swim like hell,
and sometimes it is appropriate
to ride a seaweed raft for a thousand miles,
or take refuge under a quilt
sewn by my grandmother
before I was born,
my inheritance.

I know to trust that thing inside me
(call it evolution/fate/soul/heart)
that compels me to keep going,
that I have many miles to swim,
many places to see,
creatures to encounter,
and a largely unspoken/invisible purpose
that is no less real
than my flesh and bones.

The loggerhead is totally okay
swimming alone for thousands of miles,
into the abyss of the Atlantic.
Other travelers will cross its path,
other strange wanderers,
each with its own journey and purpose
that has something to do with
its ancestors and with the future.

The loggerhead can survive
the cold of the arctic seas
and the warmth of the Caribbean.
Its heart is adaptable.
The loggerheads outlived the dinosaurs,
took refuge in the ocean
when the world burned and then froze.

They are the ancient ones,
who are guided on their journey
by the same invisible power
that turns northern skies
to green fire, the aurora borealis.

Humans and loggerheads have similar lifespans,
but turtles predate us by ages.
Humans are, geologically speaking,
relative newcomers to this planet,
still fumbling around
and fucking things up.

We haven't yet established
that invisible inner map
that guides the loggerhead.
We spill oil in the ocean;
the loggerhead holds its breath
and swims to friendlier waters.
We dip nets in the ocean;
The loggerhead grimaces and swims on.
It has seen worse threats, much worse.

Given such a humanity,
how do I resolve the poem?
There is no resolution, I suppose,
except quiet wonder at the loggerhead,
and the comfort derived
from such ancient miracles.

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American Pharmacies

I'm pretty sure that,
in most other countries,
pharmacies just dispense
medicine.

But, in America,
they are supermarkets
where you can buy clothes
and DVD players
and pop tarts
and booze
and cigarettes
and a Sham-Wow!

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Others

At summer camp,
come meal time,
we all assumed a pretty
aggressive, "me-first"
attitude.

When food came to our table,
it was a no-holds-barred
free-for-all to see
who could grab the most
chicken strips, or pizza,
or pie, or whatever.

If you were not aggressive,
or fast enough,
you might get stuck
with a plate of beans.

Observing this,
our counsellor reminded us
of Jesus' command:
"Do unto others
as you would have them
do unto you."

It was, after all, church camp.

Out counsellor, Jeremy,
suggested that,
before serving ourselves,
we serve the guy next to us.
He called this "others."

Grudgingly, we complied.

But when Jeremy wasn't looking,
we cleverly inverted
the Golden Rule.

We would grab a bowl
of pasta salad, for example,
and, heaping giant spoonfuls
onto our own plates
we would say, mockingly,
"others."

What we meant was
that the guy who got stuck
with the plate of beans
should be grateful
that his food went to
"others"
as we stuffed our faces.

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Business Degree

I am seriously considering
going back to school
for a business degree.

Not because I want to be
a successful business man,
but because I want to understand

business, from the inside-out.
I want to see what college
business courses are like.

Sort of like how David Foster Wallace
took accounting classes
to prepare himself

for his last novel,
The Pale King, which is set
in an IRS office.

I think, by understanding business,
I might get a clearer sense
of what is wrong with America.

As a student, I will
ask questions like,
"It works, but is it humane?"

If I am asked to give
a presentation, I will not
wear a suit and tie.

I will wear jeans and
a punk t-shirt that
exposes my tattoos.

I don't even care if I
get bad grades. I don't care
about grades anymore.

I care about understanding.
I hope my professors argue with me,
or are, at least, mildly annoyed.

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Lemons into Lemonade

To be happy in life,
you have to practice
turning lemons into lemonade.

I am speaking both literally and figuratively,
because there really is nothing like
a glass of homemade lemonade.

But the metaphor
about turning misfortune into fortune
is also important, I'm learning.

When my laptop broke,
I saw it as an opportunity
to read more books.

When all the music
on my iPod vanished, I thought,
"Now I get to find new music."

When my truck broke,
and I couldn't afford to fix it,
I thought, "Now I get to exercise more."

It's easy to go through life
wondering why raindrops
keep falling on your head.

But to learn to use those raindrops,
to see the hidden blessing,
is an occupation for the saint.

In America, we try to insulate
ourselves from pain,
and this is probably normal.

But, in my life, the most important
things have happened
when the insulation failed,

when I came into
direct contact
with life's bitter heart.

If I had not had a major
clinical depression
during my second year of college,

I may have never discovered
the importance of art.
Lemons into lemonade.

And if the art gallery I helped found
had not been a continuous
worrisome financial failure,

I might have gone along
thinking its purpose
was to make me money.

I don't think it's a coincidence
that out of the greatest tragedy
of American history,

human slavery and racism,
arose the only truly American
artforms: the blues and jazz.

I'm not saying the oppression
and suffering were justified.
Such things are never justified.

But the ability to transform
that suffering into beauty
was an occupation for

Charlie Patton and Son House
and Robert Johnson and Miles Davis
And Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

Out of his Siberian exile,
Fyodor Doysoyevsky gave the world
The Brothers Karamazov.

Same thing with Dante and the Divine Comedy,
Milton and Paradise Lost,
Picasso and Guernica.

The ability to crush
the bitterness of tragedy
into sweet song

Is an occupation for the artist
and the saint, who are
sometimes one and the same.

I'm not saying, "Seek to suffer."
I'm saying, "Follow your heart
with fearlessness and tenacity."

If you do that, in this world,
you will probably suffer.
But what will you do next?

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Christmas Eve

It's no secret that I don't attend church regularly.
I used to. But now I'm one of those people who only go
with their families on holidays.

Which offers me a unique perspective
on the church I grew up in
because I remember when it was all
so familiar, but now what strikes me most
is how unfamiliar it all is.

The music from the guitar and the
weird marimba thing and the organ
is unlike any music I ever listen to.
It is strange to me.

The lyrics are familiar.
Christmas carols and hymns.
The usual Christmas Eve fare.
But what it lacks for me now is the very
thing I seek out in music:
originality and real human emotion.

I feel no emotion about this music.
I look around to see if others do.
They generally seem about as bored as me.
So I ask myself: Why do they keep coming here?

Is it obligation?
For most, I suppose, it is sincere belief.
The belief is somehow separate from the
cheesy trappings of the place and the music.
Or maybe they just don't really seek out
new music. Maybe, for them,
the music and the building and the congregation
are somehow comforting.
For me, it is all vaguely unsettling,
because it is so disconnected from my life
or any reality I experience in the world.

Being the kind of person who can usually find
something interesting in the mundane,
I sort of tune out the music and start looking around
at the people, and wondering about their lives.
Like the 50ish guy with the styled hair and Vans.
What's his deal?

Or the old woman with the immaculate hair
and makeup, sitting next to a man
with a disability I can't quite pinpoint.
The man is dressed in green sweats
and he looks pretty disheveled.
Is he her son? What are their lives like?

At one point, two men walk down the aisle
hand-in-hand, and for a moment I think,
Is this church becoming more gay-friendly?
But then I realize that one of the men
has Downs syndrome, so he is
probably the guy's son, not his lover.
But you never know.
Maybe things HAVE really changed around here.
But I doubt it.

I guess the main conflict I'm feeling here
is what I feel every time I go to church,
which is about twice a year.
And that conflict is that I am uncertain.
I find Christian doctrine to be
unknowable,
like all spiritual knowledge.

And what I can't reconcile in my head
is how in the hell those people up
on that stage can have such strong conviction,
can talk about heaven as if they are talking about
a place that definitely exists, like Wal-Mart
or Angel Stadium. And they talk about God
as if they have a direct line to him.

I literally can't understand their certainly,
or at least the certainty they pretend to have.
Because for me, though I love Jesus a whole lot,

I am unafraid to say, "I don't know if heaven exists
or if, when you die, your body just rots and
your brain stops working and that's it."

I am unafraid to say, "I have no idea if Jesus was God."

I am unafraid to say, "I don't know if God exists,
because I can't know. As a flesh and blood human,
that's not one of the things I get to know."

I am unafraid to say, "Although I really do pray
a whole lot, most of the time I feel like
I'm just trying to calm myself down,
to comfort myself in the face of the
angst of suffering like crazy,
every single day,
and never really understanding why."

But, like I said before, I really do love Jesus.
He is my biggest inspiration.
Really. Truly. Unironically.

But, for me, when I feel closest to Jesus
is not sitting in a pew listening to
weird music,

but when I am
sharing a cigarette with a homeless guy

or playing rock music to a crowd
of drunk people,

or writing another rent check
for my art gallery, knowing
it has cost me thousands of dollars
I will never see again,
but still believing in the community
it incarnates,

or a conversation with a student
who is completely lost,

or sitting alone on Christmas Eve,
writing exactly what is in my heart,

or watching A Charlie Brown Christmas,
when Linus says to an almost empty
auditorium,

"Peace on earth,
goodwill toward men…
That's what Christmas is all about,
Charlie Brown."

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hello this

i summer in new orleans
by a sleeping cat i sit and read rimbaud
the sound of mazzy star from an old radio
and a single old black man laughing
new orleans. unreal city unreal city
shall we at least set our lands in order?
london bridge is falling down falling down falling down
but i am here, the water stains three feet high
on the walls of a hostel. and we are all of us here
together. a man from india a woman from england
i just decided to travel for a year.
and me ridin the rails. ultimate irony
that from such ugliness i might be born
upon this adventure of peace and freedom.

Manifesto

With a 99 cent can of iced tea in one hand and a well-worn copy of Infinite Jest in the other, I walk forward.

Through frantic days of broken cell phones and bullshit bureaucratic hoops made of memos I must jump through, and unchecked e-mails, and piles of ungraded papers and unopened bills, and a dwindling bank account, and where does my money go? Bills and booze and art. That's where. Some days I feel like a fucking mess, my head reeling with too many thoughts to hold all at once.

With a canvas bag strapped to my back (filled with papers, a notebook, books, and pens), I walk forward.

Through lazy depression days when the laptop sits on my lap like an anvil, pouring mindless shit into my eyes. How does an anvil pour shit, you ask? It just does. I am allowed sloppy metaphors on lazy depression days, on days when I take long day naps and wake up more tired, on days I do anything BUT grade papers, papers that loom over my other thoughts like henchmen.

I take long walks through downtown Fullerton, listening to punk music and dreaming of running for City Council, and ideas for novels, and art projects and songs. I take photographs of vomit and call it art.

What is happiness? Is it pleasure? If that's the case, all I need are cigarettes and cheap vodka. But when I awake with pounding head and sour stomach, I feel the opposite of pleasure.

Is life a struggle to escape pain? If life has taught me anything, it's that there is no escape from pain. Once I accepted that fact, I became happier. I stopped walking around, shaking my tiny fist at God for my digestive problems, for my depression/anxiety/detachment, for my loneliness. I stopped feeling like God, or life, owed me something. I started feeling like, if I am going to get through this life, I have to say "fuck it" and start living. Right fucking now.

I wanted to start a punk band, so I did it.

I wanted to open an art gallery, so I did it.

I wanted to write the great American novel, so I wrote the story of my life.

I wanted to make a zine about pop music, so I did.

I wanted to start an art magazine, so guess what? I fucking did it.

I wanted to create a variety show. I did it.

I have learned a valuable secret that gets me through my anxious mornings, my depression afternoons, my lonesome nights. If you want to do something, do it. Don't wait for a sunny day or perfect health, or financial stability.

And please, by everything that is holy, don't wait for retirement to do what you want with your life. You will find that you have wasted it.

Do it now. There are no excuses. If you really want to do it, you will find a way.

I am finding my way.

I have like 412 bucks in the bank and a maxed out credit card. Fuck it. Let's get drunk and play music all night. We will survive.

Let's be gangsters, not of violence and crime, but gangsters of love. Let's rip our pleasures through the iron grates of life.

And sometimes we will be happy, and sometimes we will not be happy. Let it come.

David Foster Wallace once said, "The more vapid the cliche, the sharper the canines of the truth it covers." Some cliches become cliches because they are true, and ghastly deep.

With this in mind, I will tell you a vapid cliche that is deeper than the Atlantic: follow your dreams, follow your dreams, follow your dreams.

The world needs you.

The Beatitudes (Remix)

Blessed are you when you are so broke you must look under the couch cushions for change to buy fucking toilet paper. Rejoice and be glad, for the Kingdom of Heaven is not far away.

Blessed are you when your credit card gets declined at your favorite bar and the bartender (your friend) says, "No worries. It's on me." Be thankful, for such was the case with the prophets who came before you.

Blessed are those who break their piggy banks and take the change to Ralphs to buy food for the week.

Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are the clinically depressed, for they shall learn compassion.

Blessed are the humble, for they know not the arrogance of wealth nor comfort.

Blessed are those who speak truth to power, for they are the peacemakers.

Blessed are the artists and writers and volunteers, for they dream of a better world.

Blessed are those who pour all of their resources into endeavors that bring them no financial gain, who live only for truth, beauty, freedom, and love, for they shall see God.

Financial Security

My truck wouldn't start this morning.
I had to take the bus and I was late to work
and I kept thinking, "Dammit. I can't afford a car issue right now."

Also, I'm probably gonna lose my health insurance
because now is not a particularly good time
to be employed by the state of California.

So, I'll have to buy super shitty health insurance
that won't help me in any way
because I have pre-existing conditions.

I don't have any savings to speak of.
My income changes with the seasons.
I am not financially stable.

I am writing this poem on my cell phone in a series of text messages,
while I wait for the bus, because my pen went dry
and I couldn't wait til I got home to get this down.

Anyway, here's the point: fuck financial security.
I have been on the brink of financial ruin
for most of my adult life.

I'm sorta used to it.
And this is what I have learned:
I can live on very little.

I am totally okay with being moderately poor.
Compared to most of the world,
I live like a fucking king.

And besides, I don't need much money
to do what I want to do with my life:
be creative, make stuff that means something, contribute.

The book says, "Do not store up for yourself
treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal."

The Wall Street thieves and Capitol Hill thieves
and all manner of moth-men
cannot take away from me what matters most.

So, I will not be afraid.
I will consider the lilies of the field.
They don't give two shits about Wall Street.

So while men in suits scramble
for the scraps of a broken system,
while my elders encourage me to save and invest,

I'll keep on writing, and teaching, and living.
The things I love have nothing to do with money,
I have chosen to invest in different things.

Taking a Walk in the Dark

You might stumble sometimes,
but you might also end up in
some pretty interesting places.

Valentine's Day

I think it would make things a lot easier to explain
if I had been abused as a child.
But I was not abused.
Or, if I was, I have totally repressed the memory.

I had a pretty normal childhood.
Not perfect, but pretty good.
Except I got mono twice, which sucked.
My parents aren't even divorced.

Thus, it seems there is no easy
explanation for the fact that
I am 31 years old
and I have never been in love.

I do have a tendency toward depression and anxiety,
but, these days, who doesn't?
I have had exactly two nervous breakdowns.
I was never hospitalized, just medicated,

and I went to a lot of therapy.
I would wager that I have had more therapy
than the average 31-year-old American male.
And yet, no love.

There have been a few girls
who I have liked a lot.
But two of them
I never even dated,

And the other one,
I dated for like two months in high school.
Plus, she is married now,
and not to me.

I have been in two
sort of serious relationships.
Both girls were Asian.
I don't know if that is significant.

With both girls, it was the same.
They were both nice, attractive girls
with whom I had similar interests,
but I could never say "I love you" with any conviction.

Over time, I felt like they loved me
and, because I could not reciprocate,
I dumped them.
Which raises the question, the million dollar question:

Am I incapable of love?

Now, I have read The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis
and I know there are different types of love,
Some of which I have experienced:

There is brotherly love, friendship.

There is agape, God's love.
(stop snickering, atheist readers.
I believe in God's love. I just do.)

There is love for one's family.

I have experienced these loves
and, were it not for them,
I don't think I'd be alive.

And then there is eros:
romantic love, Valentine's love,
and that is the elusive one for me.
Oh, elusive eros.

Maybe I have experienced it,
and just don't know it.
That is possible. But, at best,
all I can claim is:

I may have been in love.
(But I'm pretty sure I haven't)

I have friends who tell me
they have been in love lots of times.
And I wonder: what do they mean by "love"?
How do they define "being in love"?

What is love?
Is it a feeling?
A state of being?
An idea?
All of the above?

I just don't know.

When I think about the fact
that I have never been in love
I can get pretty bummed out.
It's a bummer.

But then, there's another part of me
that rejoices in my independence.
Because I am not in love, here's what I get to do:

1.) run an art gallery
2.) get a master's degree
3.) start a punk band
4.) start an art magazine
5.) run for city council
6.) write poems like this
7.) travel wherever the hell I want
8.) meet girls in bars
9.) host a weekly variety show
10.) stay out as late as I want
11.) spend a whole day drawing a comic
12.) spend my money on tattoos and records

So, I guess, while I wait for love,
I'll keep following my heart,
which has led me this far,
so it can't be completely defective.

Depersonalization

Depersonalization. Walking along Harbor Blvd, I look at my reflection in passing building windows.

Depersonalization. Standing in my doorway, looking out at overcast, rainy skies. A lone seagull beats against the falling rain.

Depersonalization. I take these medications, I go to therapy just to be functional. I have passions and I follow them, but sometimes it is like a striving in the dark, like a fight to be here fully. But I don’t need to be happy all the time. I just need to mean something.

Depersonalization. I tell myself that I want to feel these things, but some of them are so potentially painful that I don’t know if I can bear them. If I felt the full weight of unbelief, of loneliness, of fear, of general bewilderment at life. What is hard is surrendering control, letting the feelings pass over and through me like waves, knowing I will survive.

Depersonalization. Two years ago, age 29, when it was so bad I wanted to die, and I broke down and sobbed and wailed like a baby in my parents’ arms.

Depersonalziation. We think that, as adults, we are so composed, so mature. However, beneath the surface, there are all these leftover childhood fears, insecurities, selfishness, anger, loneliness. It gets buried, but comes out in our dreams, our actions, our relationships, our mistakes.

Depersonalization. I feel a compulsion to write. I feel writing will help alleviate my suffering. I understand something about myself—writing is my bridge to reality. Sometimes when I write something, I feel a compulsion to read it over and over again, as if to prove to myself that I am here, that I exist.

What the church taught me about politics

Democrats are evil.
Democrats are not Christian.
Liberal = morally wrong.

Republicans are good.
A bigger military is good.
"Big government" is bad,
unless it applies to the military.
George W. Bush is a good Christian.
It’s good to mix church and state.
Abortion and homosexuality
are the main issues.
Social programs, education,
and health care don’t really matter
when deciding who to vote for.
Higher taxes are always bad.
Poor people should be able
to take care of themselves.
They shouldn’t be so lazy.
Illegal immigrants
should be deported ASAP.

When I was in junior high,
In the early 90s,
My youth leader at church
Was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh.
He hated Bill Clinton.
He had bumper stickers on his
Truck calling Clinton “slick Willy.”
In 8th grade, I found out that
My junior high youth leader
Was also a child molester.

As I get older, I wonder
if Jesus was really
The Republican I thought he was.

This Is It, Bitches

This is it, bitches.
When the chips are down,
how are you gonna roll with it?
Why am I writing like a gangsta rapper?
Because I am a fucking gangster.
I’m still gonna keep doing this.
4 life. Til I die, fuckers.
I’m mad as hell.
So here it comes. Listen up, now.
The money is never enough.
I don’t get paid for doing this.
You can take your money and
Go fuck yourself.
I’ll take my anxious struggle
Over your safe comfort any day.
All my favorite artists are poor.
The rich ones, the ones who know
“the business”—those are the ones who
lose their souls.
I don’t give a shit about business or
Marketing or whatever.
I know how to follow my dream,
And that is all I need to know.
I will make a way.
Where there is a will, there is a way,
And I’ve got will to spare.
I am all Will.

Listen. Here is my problem with
Most Americans:
They are motivated by money.
If something doesn’t give them
Immediate financial reward,
They don’t do it.
And I’m not talking about hobbies,
I’m talking about what they choose to
Really invest themselves in,
Like, personally.

I dream for the day when people
Will wake the fuck up.

Listen up all you rich kids,
You who do what you want
On your parents’ dime,
You don’t know how this feels.
Your dreams are paper.
Mine are made of bricks and mortar.
I have carried them up mountains,
Every step a struggle.
Take your free cars and vacations
And easy jobs
And cram them up your ass.

I spit hot fire this afternoon,
Because it is how I deal
With overdue rent, and taxes,
And bills I cannot pay.
I will find a way,
And people in comfort who
Do not understand,
Fuck them too.

I breathe hot fire this afternoon.
I am a dragon, a fucking wolf.
I don’t take no excuses,
I don’t abide by laziness,
I don’t give entitled motherfuckers
The time of day.
You ain’t entitled to shit,
Except, this afternoon,
My fiery anger. And rehab.
You are entitled to rehab, maybe,
When your trust fund runs out.

I have a friend who once told
Me he was gonna change the world,
And then he became a rock star.
He hasn’t changed a damn thing.
I helped create an art community
Where there was none.
I have changed something
In this world.
That rock star may be rich and famous,
But I was the one who changed the world.

You say I’m bragging.
Well, I usually keep pretty quiet.
But not this afternoon.
This afternoon I am John the fucking Baptist.
I am Bill fucking Hicks.
I am a loud and angry man.

If you see me today,
I will probably be quiet, even shy.
But know that I am a
Fire-breathing, ninja-star throwing
Samurai unicorn wolf.
You will tremble.
You will tremble.

Little Pig-Faced Men in Suits

Little pig-faced men in suits
send shivers down my spine.
Bribing politicians
and calling it lobbying.
Profiting from war
with defense contracts
and oil contracts.
Watching the war
on media channels they control
Spinning genocide and imperialism
into progaganda about
freedom and terrorism.
Watching the war from board rooms,
counting profits.

Little pig-faced men in suits
driving luxury cars
in gated communities.
And I wonder:
How can they sleep at night?
Do the faces of burned children
haunt their heads,
resting gently
on Tempur-pedic beds?
I hope so.

Little pig-faced men in suits
have been doing this for years.
George Washington:
a slave-owning aristocrat
whose face is preserved on money,
a fitting memorial.
Why do we put our
politicians faces on money?
Because they are for sale.

Every war we have fought
has been, first and foremost,
about money.
Not freedom.
Not democracy.
(See the collected works
of Mr. Howard Zinn)

Why did we go to Vietnam,
Iraq, Kuwait, etc.?
So that, after we had
destroyed them with missiles,
we could destroy them
with capitalism,
with sweat shops,
with lax labor laws,
with Nike, Wal-Mart, Chevron.

Little pig-faced men in suits,
you belong in jails,
way more than the minorities
you've exploited with
racist housing policies.
You made the ghetto,
not them.

Little pig-faced men in suits,
I realize things are
more complicated than ths.
I realize I might be wrong.
But consider this:
If there is even a shred
of truth to what I'm saying,
we're still fucked.

Faith

"Let go of what you 'know'
and honor what exists.
Son, that's what bearing witness is.
Daughter, that's what bearing witness is."

--David Bazan

Gimme a little wine
and I'll talk to you about Jesus.
When I'm sober, I'm pretty
quiet on the subject.
I am full of fear and trembling.

You know that thing Ghandi
said about Christians,
that he loves Jesus
but doesn't like Christians.
Amen to that. Sometimes.

I am afraid to talk about faith.
I think it was Thomas Merton who said,
"When people try to talk
about faith, their words
are blind lions
looking for springs of water
in the desert."
Amen to that too.

To paraphrase Kierkegaard,
for most people "of faith,"
faith comes way to easily.
For me it is really really hard.

I mean, seriously,
how can someone believe in God
in a world of genocide
and Wal-Mart and
clinical depression
and cancer and death?
How can someone who has
known chronic pain
even begin to think about
the idea that God is love?
How indeed.

The thing that pisses me off
about a lot of Christians is that
faith is equated with knowledge.
They claim to 'know' the Truth.
Listen up, you don't know shit.
No one does.

Whenever I see a Christian
living comfortably in a surburban
house, driving an expensive car,
working some corporate job,
going on cruises, eating expensive
dinners, I think:
What the fuck do you know about Jesus?

The problem as I see it is this:
most Christians put their hopes
in the afterlife, in heaven.
But what is heaven?
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is within"
and "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Meaning it is here, now, in this life.
What we do in this life is just as
important, probably more important,
than what we will do in that
unknowable realm of the afterlife.

Whenever someone asks me
if I am a Christian,
I usually say:
"I am something between
a Christian and an agnostic."
It is the most honest answer
I can give.

I don't know.
But I have faith.
For this reason,
I feel super uncomfortable
in most churches.
People at church
don't want to hear
about uncertainty.
They want knowledge,
They want comfort.

For me, faith is discomfort.
It is not knowing,
It is fear and trembling.
It is blind lions.

Metroid

The life of a bounty hunter
is one of desolate loneliness
mixed with great adventure.

Alone on the planet Zebes
with no companions,
only a hoarde of enemies.

When I was a child,
Metroid was my favorite game.
I didn't understand why.

Something about the aloneness
and the fight for survival
on an alien planet.

I connected with it.
Something about loneliness
and adventure.

I don't know why there were weapons
on the planet Zebes,
or who put them there.

But finding those weapons:
the freeze ray, the high jump boot,
was like finding golden treasure.

And the loneliness was okay.
I could defend myself
with the Varia suit.

I learned to survive
and even to love the alien world
and when I destroyed Mother Brain,

The joy was mixed with loss.

My Dream Is Local

I don't really know how else to say this,
so I'll just write it.
Every once in a while,
all this stuff will come welling up
from somewhere in my gut,
into my heart and head,
and I have to write it or I'll be miserable.

My roommate tells me I grind my teeth at night,
and for the millionth time, I think:
Why did God (or evolution, or both)
give me all this mental shit?
Why, after like ten years of therapy,
do I still grind my teeth,
do I still feel detached,
do I still suffer?

But then another thought comes,
and this is the one I carry gently in my heart
like a wounded bird:

Without my pain, I would not be writing,
I would not own an art gallery,
teach English,
run for city council,
make art.
Without my pain,
I would be another ordinary consumer.

It is my pain that has shaped me,
that still compels me to create.

So I will bear it.

I've never been too good at fitting in,
and the older I get,
the more thankful I am for this.

I woke up from another dream
about my novel.
In the dream, I felt so defeated,
like I am a failure for not really
trying to get it published,
but then I awoke and dreamed a different dream,
which is real:

A small, independent publishing company,
right here in good old Fullerton:
Hibbleton Press.
I will self-publish because my ethos is becoming:

My dream is local.

I don't need international fame and fortune.
If I can do what I love
here in the town I live in,
and make a difference,
i will be content.
And I am doing it. Now. I am doing it.

I can't solve the problems of the world,
but I can make the place where I live a little better.
And together, we can make it amazing.

I think, without my pain,
I would be content with a wife,
two kids,
a house,
some corporate job.
But, thank God, I was spared just in time.
My pain, my strangeness, set me free.