I scoff at their relationships and their gossiping.
And each time they fret over this or that deadline,
Or this or that television series,
I glance down from my pedestal,
And haughtily smile to myself.
Common people. So simple.
So naïve and simple.

And I turn back to my thoughts,
My unique, monumental thoughts,
The ones no one else could possibly have,
And I pretend to solve the problems of the world
As if its enigmas were solely mine.
As if I could make my mark.

And I think back to them.
And I remember: this is all for them,
All those countless cretins
Infesting the world beneath me.
And I wonder if it’s even worth the effort
To “help” them.

Am I missing something?
Why should I improve the economy
Or bring about “world peace”
Or whatever else they say they want?
Why can’t I just stay up here
On my very own pedestal?

But it gets lonely up here.

Sometimes I wonder if I got the directions wrong,
And up is actually down,
And I’m actually just puttering around in my own little pit
As they try to help me out.
And I’m just so ignorant
That I can’t tell they’re helping me,
So I just keep puttering around in my little pit.

I don’t know why I’m writing this.

As if I’ve got anything more profound to say.


The Mind is a Coupled Oscillator

Strictly speaking,
I’m not seeking
Some great panacea.

The world would be better
Without yet another
Snake oil salesman.

Yet I’m not content
To just make a dent
On my little corner.

I refuse to concede
That our world’s wisdom seed
Holds only finite potential.

The answers are out there,
The market’s laissez-faire,
But can I catch them?

I sense the prospects
Of latent progress,
Though not how to tap it.

When winds of change
Sweep past our plains,
Will I lead the currents?

But I’ll give it the old college try anyway.



I’ve done
a lot of thinking lately,
and I’ve reached
an epiphany.

Do you want
to hear it?
It goes
something like this.

There are two
types of people
in this world:
me, and—

there is only one
type of person
in this world.


Musings on Nihilism

Years down the road,
None of this will matter.
Everything I do,
Everything I have done
Will turn to dust.

My greatest loads
Will long have scattered
And I will rue
Having had no fun
As I lie down and rust.

There is no secret code
To reaching eternity. Rather,
We’re all just goo:
Dying before we’ve begun,
Treading paths for which we lust.

If this is what the future bodes,
Then my dreams should shatter.
I should try something new,
Make myself second to none,
Abandon all my “musts,”

Scuff the lines I’ve toed,
Spurn the folks I’ve flattered…
I have no clue
Which way I should run
—In chance I’ll put my trust.


Little Scraps

The carpet is fuzzy.
I’ve never noticed how remarkably fuzzy the carpet is.
And when I rub my cheek against
its off-white clumps, it tickles.

Slightly. Because it also scratches in an unpleasant way.
But then my eyes catch the dent in the wall
(or rather, the dent catches my eyes),
and I forget the carpet and remember

how my four-legged wooden stool
scraped there when you threw it aside after
climbing on top to turn on the ceiling fan because
it was such a hot day so many years ago.

And only then do I know that today’s another day
I won’t get up until the shadows on the wall roll east.


On an Intersection by the Freeway

“I specialize in marketing,”
he says,
a sigh betraying his fatigue.

“And I sell—
let’s just say I sell—brownie points,
or—that feel-good factor.
You know, conscience credits.”
This time, a wink.

“In a sense,
you can call me an entrepreneur-errant,”
he mumbles,
his snicker barely restrained.

“Appearance and dress—
they’re of utmost importance
in my line of business.
UT-most im-POR-tance.
An itinerant capitalist like me
can’t look like any other bum off the streets.”
Now, a furtive twitch of the eye.

“Still, my clients need to retain
some semblance of superiority,”
he muses,
“I’ve got to look shabby enough
so nobody wonders.”

He absentmindedly scratches his scraggly beard,
gazing wistfully to his right.
you don’t look too much like the giving type.
I’d best be going.”

“If you ever need my services, drop by.
Anything’ll do: a few quarters,
spare change in the cupholder.”

And with that,
he lopes off to the next car,
change bucket and cardboard sign in tow:
the ultimate peripatetic consumerist.

Figure out the Speech

Similes cluster like smeared eraser dust
On a page of metaphors haphazardly strewn.
(Synesthesia supplanting art—a little overripe)

Fretful fingers alliteratively rust.
The poet’s conceit must surrender soon:
“Ticonderoga, expunge your metonymous tripe.”


Compulsive Insomnia

The sleepier I get, the less willpower I have.
The less willpower I have, the longer I stay awake.
The longer I stay awake, the sleepier I get.



it’s so easy to apologize.

i can do it now:

i’m sorry.

that was so easy,
and it doesn’t take

but doesn’t that
make you feel

such a simple phrase,
such a simple gesture,
why can’t all thi—

you don’t feel better?
why not?

i was sorry.

what more do you want, then?
i can’t give you anything else.
there's nothing else to give.

you should be the one
apologizing to me.
after all, you’re the one
making me feel guilty,
and i wouldn’t have felt guilty
in the first place
if you hadn’t been there
to make me feel guilty.

i’m really sorry.
really and truly sorry.
sorry from the bottom of my heart.

there. is that good enough for you?



me: you could have done so much with your intellect you could have built empires you could have demolished empires you could have you could have

you: but i didnt

me: but you didnt

you: no no i didnt rule the world i didnt cure cancer i didnt solve the mysteries of humanity i didnt discover new life forms i didnt alter reality i didnt

me: but you could have

you: i could have i could have but have you ever stopped to consider for a moment just ponder over your future

me: but of course of course i have considered my future isnt that what ive been doing all these years

you: no no you havent you havent because if you had you would be where i am today doing what i do today

me: what youre doing today today you are living your mediocre life with a mediocre home and a mediocre five to nine job and a mediocre five figure salary when you could

you: it was only ever a could

me: but

you: it was only ever a could

you: please please just stop and reflect for a moment consider your life plans consider the risks of success success is not likely it has never been likely it only happens to a few a very limited few and not even they know the reason they have succeeded its why theyre always discarding the fruits of their labor in debauchery in hedonism they never know when serendipity might turn against them so they spend as rapidly as they can theyre very confused do you follow

me: maybe

you: striving for modern societys definition of success is not the most sane action normality is the most rational path not abnormality the most intelligent decision is to avoid fame and fortune so you you should do as i have done and abandon your patrician dreams and embrace the plebeians blend yourself in make yourself invisible only in invisibility are you invincible

you: if youre smart enough youd realize what i say is true

me: then maybe im not smart enough


Valedictory Speech

Thirteen years and it has come to this. We have followed the great thoroughfare of public education, and now it is time for our paths to diverge. It is time for us to blaze our own trails, and it is time for us to wend our way into the wilderness alone.

To some, this voyage has been a walk in the park. To others—not so much. But from now, from the moment our fingers first close around those weighty paper certificates, we will once again find ourselves upon an even footing. Our slates will be cleaned and polished, receptive to the chalk of life. Our arms, outstretched, will be ready to accept the weight of power, the weight of responsibility. Our eyes, glistening with the resolute zeal of—

You’re not listening. You hear, but not really.
You think I’m just another boring orator,
Standing here to say what no one stands for.
But trust me. I’m not one you should ignore,
‘Cause I need to warn you the world’s got more.

I’m talking to the ones who do not listen.
I’m talking to the ones who cannot hear.
I’m not trying to be cynical or critical, intractable, unflappable;
I’m realistic, rational, pragmatic, practical. Maybe, a little controversial.
But that’s the point. You’ve got to know, you’ve got to see.
You’ve got to see to know and you’ve got to know to see.
We tell you that the world’s a snap:
Hard work always equates to hard cash
So why’s it hard for me to ask
Why we seldom see success in those who thrash?

I’m reaching for the ones who do not listen.
I’m reaching for the ones who cannot hear.
It’s luck, I say, just Lady Luck.
Who rolls her dice to tell you that you’re stuck.
Rich and famous, starved and shameless.

People will tell you that there’s a difference between book smarts and street smarts. I say, if school isn’t teaching you enough to survive on the streets, then you haven’t learned enough. But you don’t need me to chastise. You know it. You can feel it, somewhere deep within, that sense that all is not as it should be, that arbitrary tests and arbitrary facts—scaled to a level of unutterable inanity—are not, will not, and cannot be necessary to your lives. So listen:

“In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

I’m hoping for the ones who do not listen.
I’m hoping for the ones who cannot hear.
All words are meaningless and broken,
Unless you read them like they’re spoken.
Life ain’t easy; that you’ve got to know.
I see the timer, the countdown, so now I’ve got to go.


form & function

if form follows function
and function’s malformed
then function needs reform
so form’s not defunct
but reform’s a function
of information and time
and information forms
from a functioning form
so to reform function
you need to reform form
and since form follows function
reforming function requires
reforming function
tautologically speaking
thus either function’s malformed
or form’s defunct
or you’re forming funk
or you’re forming life


Shh. Don't tell.

“Congratulations. You must be delighted.
All your hard work paid off.” A smile.
Eyes crinkled in sincere pride. Genuine warmth.

I should say “Thanks.” I should be cordial.
I should take the offered hand
and recognize my recognition.

But instead, I want to say,
“What ‘hard work’ have I done today?
What meretricious feat have I paraded
to finagle this, this cereal box prize? I don’t deserve it.”
But instead, I avert my eyes.
But instead, I take the hand
and move on with life.

Tell me, before the glow dissipates,
the grins evaporate, the shadows and masks
of self-deception, introspection relax,
while reality unravels, my little devils
reclaim my name, assign the blame,
reveal my shame, take false acclaim.
Convince me. Remind me.
But please, if you will, blind me
from all these, my follies.
The truth I reject. I am perfect
to all eyes. It’s all lies.



Why   does the world insist that ignorance
is   preferable to pain when
it   comes to societal expectations
so   that a truly independent action becomes
impossible   even though all I need
to   know is that all I need to do is

Stay-at-Home Vacation

Luscious vistas on demand.

Watch the sun spill onto clouds
and drip across golden breakers.

And in a flash, different waves
(still gold) whisper, rustle,
Baked by the midday sun.

Don’t like fields? No problem.
Click. The rainforest at your fingertips.
Rare wildlife captured, frozen
for your viewing pleasure.

Still not to your taste? The Serengeti,
then. Antarctica. Yellowstone. Angel Falls.
Zoom in. Isn’t it
sharper? There’s no way
eyes alone could catch

all those details. Stay in air-
conditioned comfort. It’s better than hiking four
hours in mud, swarmed by bugs
for a momentary glimpse:
hard-earned, hardly seen.
No need to

get wet. It’s better than a real
vacation. Clean
er. Faster. Eas
ier. What’s
not t
o lov



what differentiates me from everyone else plenty of people have ingenuity what’s happening to them they’re all disappearing they’re all engulfed by the dream monster and it seems that they wither and stagger still resisting still believing still reaching still forgetting to remember to give up it’s what we aim for there’s no higher end than to consume and be consumed we’re all just copycats mediocrity is hectic help me?


Facsimile students assembled and riveted.
Individually shrink-wrapped.

Q.C. Passed.


They're all the same.

The music starts, a screech of noise
Inviting all not girls and boys,
But brazen youths in lieu of childs
All feigning age and painting smiles.

A shallow beat the music dons
To smother art in simple “fun.”
The beat—a beat—they’re all the same.
So regular it throbs with din.

Uncreative, noncreative, decreative, acreative.
An urge to follow, an urge to leave.
To submit, to join? Divided
Thoughts are better not dwelt.

Feet pound tiles imperfect unison
Synchronized ripples chaotic arrayed
Ulterior schemas spontaneous emerge.

Rigidity, fluidity, possibility, impunity,
But always the mantra—unrelenting, eternal:
“Is this humanity or merely insanity?”


Evening by the Shore

We waited outside amidst the softly stealing sunlight
Watching reluctant golds wink away from green blades,
Verdant swells that matched the ocean’s might.
The waves still shone with shallow shades.

The flushed sky laughed at earth’s last gleam.
Tired, we pressed our knuckles to our eyes
And marveled at the beads of steam
Skittering across our sight—just lies.

Until the old sun merely blinked and vanished,
And pulled its laughing light with it.
Our clocks wound down and languished.
Our beds cozy, nestled, and moonlit.

It really doesn’t take a mental leap
To know that evening’s when we fall asleep.


Still awake, he dreamt

The little boy—eight, at the time
—tossed and turned in bed.
Still awake, he dreamed of the future
And success and glory and acceptance
And all those other dreams
That eight-year-old minds conjure.

Listening through the flaking walls
Of his dusty, grimy apartment,
He heard cars passing
(Home, unfortunately,
Was too close to the thoroughfare).
Still awake, he dreamt.
He imagined himself in those rushing cars,
Zooming by with their rumbles and coughs,
Headlights winking with unwavering purpose.
Where were they going?
—To see the world? —To bear its weight?
—To uphold the channels which gave it life?

He tossed over again
And avoided glancing at the clock
Which mercilessly marked the time
And secretly revealed his guilt.
It was beyond his bedtime.
The mattress squeaked in rusty pain.
The blankets bunched together in a broiling tangle,
So he kicked them aside into a frustrated heap.

Between the din from the highway
And the murmurs which floated
From the chink of light under the door,
He swore an oath—to himself.
Whatever it took, however long he tirelessly worked,
He would get one of those zooming cars
And drive around with important matters.

Alas, it was late—school tomorrow.
And school the day after.
And the day after.

The bed was still hot.
He turned over again.


Lonely Buttercups

It was such a beautiful day—such a dazzling, sunlit day. I saw the essence of spring, of growth, of all the tiny moments clumped together in what we call life, and of an understated vitality pulsing from everything in sight.

I saw ducks waddle around and snoop for food in the soft mud. I saw undulating ripples dip onto the shores of a serene blue pond. I saw the invisible wind expertly sculpt a young hill.

I saw the lonely buttercups shimmer in the sun, reflecting its yellow brilliance. I saw them struggle, unabashedly baring their delicate gold petals to the cold, cold wind. Their stalks shivered and swayed with the dancing motion of the viridescent grass, but they were muted, slightly delayed—almost as if their motions belied a painful struggle.

I saw, and as I felt the raw defiance of the buttercups, tears welled in my burning eyes—eyes burning from a sharp, implacable wind. They swam with the yellow of the buttercups and transformed them into blurs of lemony bitterness. But these were selfish tears: not tears for the beauty of the buttercups’ struggle, but unbidden, personal tears that soured the sweetness of the moment. They were squeezed unwillingly from a locked compartment deep within me, and they trembled, uncertain and stale, before the lively wind.

And I felt dry, racking sobs. And I felt spastic shudders ripple through me. And between the glimmers of each salty tear, I felt the lonely buttercups shudder with me, spewing empathy and life to fill voids I didn’t know had existed. The lonely buttercups seemed to say, “You, who have not truly lived, here, have some of our life. We are so insignificant, so useless. Have some of our life. We do not need it as much as you do.”

And I took it—greedily. I stared at the lonely buttercups and willed myself to steal some of their blithe radiance, as if by taking their love I could make up for the negligence I had inflicted upon those I love. I burglarized from them with a sick sense of glee, not knowing that what I took they freely gave, not knowing that they replenished their stocks of luster at a rate commensurate with my own thievery.

And with the sudden realization that I was again taking unrequited love, my tears redoubled and my sobs grew more irregular. And I buried my head in soft cotton sleeves, and I buried everything in the realization that this was what I had always strived for: a sunny day amidst a field of buttercups next to a duck pond. And as I wallowed in self-pity, I didn’t notice the footsteps marching rapidly toward me, footsteps belonging to a sister so naïve yet so wise.

She pulled me to my feet, murmured an “I love you,” and dragged me off in a swift movement that brooked no disagreement. Then, with a momentary pause—as if she heard my mind—she plucked a lonely buttercup and pressed it into my hand.


Summits and Plural Pronouns

They had always told me that achieving the peak was impossible. I remember that specific quip, the little phrase they tossed around like an indisputable axiom: One mountain will always be higher than another.

We all implicitly understood this was a form of protection, to ensure that I would not be disappointed by failure, or by mediocrity. It was a testament to their love for me, that they sought to shield me, harbor me, from this of all anguishes.

They knew (and know) that they have done their duty. There is nothing else to do but wait—and watch. There is nothing else to say but the best of wishes—and that I cannot turn to them for reproach, for failing to warn me. But they also knew, as they still know now, that I would attempt to ignore their warnings, and that I would fight to attain the pinnacle of my mountain.

The root, here, lies in what exactly my mountain is, and in what scale it is measured. Do I measure myself by the heights of others, to set myself up for inevitable disappointment? I can never reach the shoulders of giants, though I might stretch my mind to stretch my bones. I can only reach for my personal potential and hope—with that blind hope which strivers and yearners uphold—that I will achieve it.

Yes, it may seem irrational now for me to relinquish my eyes, when I might enjoy watching others I pass. But when I reach my own peak, those selfsame eyes will incite in me envy, and despair, upon sight of the summits still above me. So the course I’m taking—my only possible course—will be a blind course. I will climb unaided by sight, but that only allows me to relish in the sensation of each footfall, of each wheezy, well-deserved breath.

Just because a mountain is not the tallest does not mean it is any less tall.


Something in the Night Air

I had it. I had it—just a moment ago. Perfectly sharp, perfectly formed, perfect in all respects—except that it’s gone now. But it was so beautiful and clear. You would have loved it. It was like a forgotten melody, floating by to caress my ears—but it went so much farther than sound. It was this point, of unfathomable brightness, of uncensored illumination, but it wasn’t light either—no, nor an aroma. It was, it was—I can’t even describe it anymore, but it was there, and it touched something inside me. It was there, and I held it, and I felt the warmth and the clarity, and it was simple and lucid and—but it’s lost now. There’s no hope anymore. It’s like chasing after a feather or a puff of dust. The harder you grasp, the more it eludes you. How I’d love for it to come back, to come back and leave me with more than just a tingle of pleasure and a pang of regret. How I’d love to share with you a fragment of bliss.


Subterranean Heart

Beneath clipped crystalline skyscrapers,
Beneath polished marble walls,
Beneath stained concrete blocks shouldering the skies above,
Beneath dark, puddled alleys tucked away from cacophonous thoroughfares,
Beneath crumbling sidewalks trodden into dust,
Beneath the maze of buried cables and pipes and wires and tunnels
Lies the heart of the city,
A pulsing, throbbing heart teeming with life,
Connected to color-coded arteries and veins, each cell bearing
Starched blazers (rehearsing for their corporate meetings) and
Headphoned sweatshirts (neglecting the problems of today to solve the problems of tomorrow) and
Panicked blouses (hushing their hysterical toddlers) and
Unshaven plastic bags (furtively watching for police officers) and
Sweaty neckties (hoping that the last interview succeeded in ending the unemployment checks) and
Sly trench coats (nonchalantly leaning into others during sharp turns) and
Stoic sunglasses (aloofly reflecting the rumbling, tumultuous windows).

Crimson Truth

Red, red bricks.
Your gates have worn the faces of centuries.
Your statues have weathered wars and fought storms.
Your halls have clamored with secrets and whispered with chatter.
Your mortar has touched luminaries and welcomed lunatics.
Your fields have driven scholars and inspired athletes.
But you, yourself, are merely a decrepit husk:
You have upheld a name, but little else.

Red, red bricks.
I admire you as I admire school projects—
Surprised that hot glue and senseless hope still hold you together.


a sea of laptops
illuminate haggard faces
mired in equations
but dreaming of dreams.
no laughter
just a few dry sobs
and silent curses
at sadistic professors.
they rub their eyes
(bloodshot and weary)
blink at the fluorescence
and stretch their arms.
then: inspiration
a stroke of luck
prompted serendipitously
by patterns in the wall.
nearing completion
almost there
DONE!—with part one—
only nine more to go.

Drone Wing Light Jet Tremble Clouds

drone clouds light tremble jet wing
wing drone jet clouds tremble light
light wing tremble drone clouds jet
jet light clouds wing drone tremble
tremble jet drone light wing clouds
clouds tremble wing jet light drone

drone clouds
light tremble
jet wing


C'est la vie.

Until today, I have managed to avoid (for the most part) the sting of rejection. It’s been too long, apparently, since the two of us last sat and chatted. Once or twice, a few times (actually, quite often) I have glimpsed it as it entered the room, but I’ve always weaseled my way out of a conversation. Slunk out, with the excuse that I hadn’t actually tried my best, hadn’t thrown myself wholeheartedly into succeeding (implying of course, that had I tried, had I thrown myself, I would have been indomitable).

Vindictive arbiter that life is, it has thrust a squall into my halcyon life.

Rejection hurts. The pain stems not from the act itself, but from the knowledge that I have labored and strived and endeavored and yearned—to my utmost—for so long, only to be denied. I have poured so much of myself into reaching for success that any true failure (though it may be trivial beyond triviality) will jar my precarious self-conception. And so it has been jarred.

But I
Will not
Let this define me.

Did I not work, for the intrinsic joy of creating, improving? Did I not study, to satiate my curiosity in unraveling new horizons, encountering new universes? Did I not convince myself, that stumbles are inevitable in life, universal acceptance impossible in it?

In retrospect, it is a healthy time for me to become disenchanted from my delusions of power. It is a healthy time to realize that the world does not bend to my will—yet. It is a healthy time, as the blooms of youth still color my eyes, to learn that life is not fair, or else it would no longer be life.

A few days from now, I will brush off the dust, reorient my feet, and set off once more. In the meantime:
C’est la vie.


A Friend of Mine

There’s a problem, you see.
(Though of course, you don’t, you can’t, because your eyes aren’t mine.)
I’ve got
A friend, a friend, that’s all,

Let me rephrase that; start over.

A friend of mine, quite dear to me,
Has a problem. An issue of sorts.
And I was wondering, maybe, perhaps, if you could—

I guess that was a little too direct.
There’s a person, won’t say who,
And I’m rather concerned about
He.—Where was I, again?

Right. My friend. Yes. Well.
He’s a little, how might we call it,

Scatterbrained? (No, not literally.
His neurons are still intact, thankyouverymuch.)

Come to think of it, Saturday isn’t exactly right either.
Is it then, social anxiety?
He isn’t too great at explaining himself.
And each time he tries, he feels. Ashamed.
Shame’s the word. From all the faults and stumbles.
From all the inconsistencies and malapropisms.
From all the miniscule mistakes that no one truly catches,
And the shame layered like skins of an onion,
Layered and layered until a thin film of tears forms.
Throbbing tears of mortification and raw pain.
And he can’t tell any more if the fresh tears are from the onion,
Or the crying.

But if he gets carried away and forgets he’s speaking,
His ideas become coherent, cogent,
And they coalesce into—into, into. Into what?

It’s not, and I won’t—
There isn’t anything you can do about it
There’s nothing to be done.


What follows the pinnacle?

After averting your eyes from the sun, the world becomes desaturated, filtered through drab blue lenses. Effervescent nebules of light may linger, but they are only afterimages seared into the retina and brain. They serve no ulterior motive than to echo the illumination forever exiled from the mind.

People spend lifetimes recapturing these instants, unaware that, once attained, they become henceforth unattainable. Memory will elevate and pervert—thus further elevating and perverting—until the imagination can conceive no robuster hues or more concordant tones. What was once the image of perfection, if re-experienced, would lack the luster of discovery.

What comes next, when the greatest moment of your life is achieved? What further motivations are to be found, when self-actualization migrates backward from textbooks to history? What more is there to do, what further aims to reach, what summits to conquer, when Everest is tamed?

Unlike aspirants filled with zeal, those fulfilled are empty vessels, occupied only by the vacuum of ennui. Is the only solution a constant reevaluation of goals? An incessant, unnoticed redefinition of acceptable, so that success is never perfect, perfection is never achieved, achievement is never successful?

Pursue the sun, and you will only find blindness.


Bibliophiles and Bookworms

I found them in a bookstore once or twice.
Chance encounters, really.
Haven’t seen them since.
I suppose they must’ve gotten carried away.

An odd couple they made, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder.
Situated firmly, quiet and stable.
Though one often slumped
And seemed to curl in upon herself.

Studious, studious demeanors.
Quite proud, I might add.
I’d often find myself staring at them,
Lost in contemplation for a few moments.

They never noticed me watching.
They never noticed anything.
They just carried their pages upon pages.
They just leaned on each other, slightly.

The two of them always seemed tired.
Her, especially.
She had an elegant quality, that one.
Perhaps from the weariness she tried so valiantly to hide.

But I noticed, as the hours slowly passed,
How she gradually slipped lower and lower.
She always caught herself, though.
Arrested her slender form just before it was too late.

One day, she finally fell.
I stooped to assist,
Helped her up,
And put her back on the shelf.


Formic Interstate

Dual channels.
One speckled with red; the other, white.
Little ants lined up in rows,
Wending their way between the lanes.
They trail and stream and scurry and check,
Each sheltered in a slick carapace,
Each oblivious to the others’ intents.


Delicate Balances

There are moments in life, brief instants, when the concept of human mortality is thrust to the forefront of our minds. These moments stem, a philosopher might conjecture, from an intractable fear of death and what it represents—the unknown and the unknowable.

What must the skier think, when hurtling down Black Diamond slopes? What must the tightrope walker think, when peering over the abyss? What must the safari wanderer think, when stared at coolly by a lethal serpent? The lightest tremble of a muscle, the slightest misstep, divides the world of dreams from the world of ghosts.

How startling it is, to realize that the visions and aspirations meticulously erected over a lifetime can be so wantonly forsaken. To realize that hunger can carry you to the Styx in a few weeks, thirst in a few days, asphyxiation in a few minutes. To realize that the apoptosis of even a few crucial cells can trigger the collapse of an entire citadel, can spark the mass suicide of trillions of otherwise healthy citizens.

We are delicate, delicate balances. Tipped too far, we tumble.

I am not the first, nor the last—and definitely not the most eloquent—to consider this topic. But it is such a pity that society places so negative a stigma upon the discussion of death. It is not morbid to study life. Why, then, its counterpart? With a healthy appreciation of its power and its fickle nature, we are all drawn: to ponder, to wonder, to blunder along and surrender to whatever truly lies yonder.


Post-Midnight Strolls

At night the streets are peaceful.
Sodium streetlights bathe the world in orange,
And sidewalks forget the footsteps of the day.

No, you won’t see any stars.
Our cold, cold lights became too jealous
And banished them from the skies.

But you can jump into the lanes with impunity.
Just be alert for youthful revelers
Screeching heedlessly by at double the speed limit.

Apart from that, the night is safe.
The curb dozes tranquilly,
Breezes rinse away the asphalt’s stress,

And ponderous apartments hide slumbering 9-to-5ers
Behind windows that gape
Like emaciated mouths.

Heat seeps from weary tires, weary engines.
Seeps into the air and seeps into the hearts
Of lonely stragglers trudging their way home.



It’s over. Done. The last stretch sprinted clear through the finish line. The explosive finale bursting through retinas and eardrums only to fall—blind and mute—as spent, acrid ash.

What, then, comes next?

There should be withdrawal symptoms. There should be the pain, the void, the post-stress collapse, the binge sleeping. There should be the obnoxious absence of what had previously tyrannized my time, the overcompensation of a battered immune system jerking the body back to homeostasis. I feel them, looming in the distance. Brief, imperceptible throbs of panic growing steadily, threatening to crescendo, threatening to commandeer my sanity.

And yet.

A deep breath, eyes closed. I can control it, curtail it. Exhale, exhale. Focus my mind, find new pursuits. Exhale, exhale. Diversify my interests, dally in more leisures. Exhale, exhale. It’s time to distract myself from life; it’s time to live my distractions.

Fin,” says the French film.


The Anxiety of Influence

New thoughts are new to no one but the late.
To those who mimic though, they seem to flow,
While seldom are they simple to create.

The brain may murmur, fester, and berate,
But rarely are ideas apropos.
New thoughts are new to no one but the late.

And fraudsters sidestep and equivocate,
Recast precursors’ thoughts into their own,
While seldom do they simply go create.

Yet some whose efforts never will abate
Will always strive to innovate although
New thoughts are new to no one but the late.

Fresh notions have their own peculiar trait.
Once found not difficult are they to grow,
While seldom are they simple to create.

That even this is old must be but fate.
Still I imagine, even as I know
New thoughts are new to no one but the late,
While seldom are they simple to create.


Awkward Conversations

She asked if I had been there before.
I hadn’t,
But I said “Yes” anyway.
Don’t ask me why.
The clouds just dropped me a whim.
It was all for the better, I think.
Perhaps if I had said no,
The conversation would’ve ended immediately.
It ended anyway.


My explanation’s long overdue, I fear.
I checked it out months ago,
But it’s just been sitting on the shelf
Cultivating a blanket of dust.

I use big words. They make me feel smart.
Psychoanalysts will tell you
That I’m intellectualizing,
Satisfying some innate thrust of the ego.

Maybe that’s true.
Maybe I should try
Rationing my words,
From now on.

Personally, I think it’s just how I write.
Or how my brain compensates
For lack of sleep.
Don’t worry. I don’t get the rationale either.

Is that long enough for you?
I’ll be fine if you’re fine
With dropping the fines.


The windshield squealed a lethargic blink.
Raindrops rolled off a weary eyelash.

Reluctantly, they traced glass contours.
And chased after seasoned cousins.

Engulfing each other like macrophages.
Tears rinsing orphaned grime.


I wonder how tops feel...

Excitement! Exhilaration! Enthusiasm!
Epileptic swirls—like fruit in a blender.
Not a stumble, not a swerve, not a single startled wobble.
The tune of confidence unerringly hummed. Whistled while working.

Skitter around with a staccato tap tap tap TAP.
Aimlessly meander. Nonchalantly window-shop.
Find a groove, find a groove, find a groove, find a—


Stable, serene,
Familiar, fatigued,
Monotonous, malcontent,
Curious, capricious,
Eccentric, erratic.
Lurching in circles,
as if drunk on gravity.

A final listless dip.
A last frenzy of rushed effort.
Harsh, harsh scrapes along the harsh, harsh ground.

Silence and stillness.
Stillness and silence.
Apathy and nullity reclaim their thrones.


Do you really smile
That edgy smile
Each time you type

Because if you do
I don’t envy you
Your lips must hurt
So much by now.


You Can't Blame Us

Ah, yes. I remember that.
But we were infants in those days,
Too immature to see beyond our selfish noses.
You can’t blame us for youth.

Passion? More than enough, I daresay.
But our minds were yet unfilled with concerns.
The rose of knowledge had yet to blossom.
You can’t blame us for ignorance.

I suppose we could have begun by that age.
But we’d been freshly thrust into the world,
Still unused to shifting paradigms and effecting change.
You can’t blame us for inexperience.

We’re sorry now, if that counts for anything.
But you see, life had been hectic lately.
We didn’t have time to concern ourselves with “posterity.”
You can’t blame us for busyness.

Maybe we could start now.
But you shouldn’t trouble us with your affairs.
It’s your problem now.
You can’t blame us for senescence.


March Through the Skies

The clouds in formation marched in unison.
Sporting immaculate starched uniforms.
They leisurely marched across fields of blue.

Unhindered by roads. Undaunted by fences.
Unleashed by the Sun’s terse, “March through the skies.”

So they marched like soldiers. Soldiers to war.
Ceaseless. Restless. Unfurling their wisps.
But ever marching. Ever rolling to unknowable adversaries.


I remember...

…flying smugly through grammar worksheets,
multiplication tables, handwriting practice.
stickers and “Good Job!”s.
school was easy, then.
no homework on weekends.

…and single file lines down reverberating halls.
toes on the silver furrow,
whispers bubbling like a teapot—“Hush!”
whispers again—“Shhhhh.”
spittle everywhere.

…or darting out of class at the recess bell.
scrambling to the swings:
rusty, squealing swings
that pinched fingers
and left purple bruises.

…but the sandbox trumped all.
desiccated, scalding grains
over a dense, moist layer.
building towering castles.
sand caked on arms and legs, in shoes and hair.



We drove away from the world for a day. Away from the harsh glare of freeway billboards. Away from the perpetual hum of filtered, conditioned air. Away from trimmed lawns, from dusted tabletops. Away from right-angled envelopes and right-angled walls and right-angled spreadsheets on right-angled LCDs.

To a backdrop unblemished by try-squares or straightedges. And we danced in the dappled sunlight. Ran our fingertips across century-old bark. Sprung from decaying stumps to soar momentarily in the sky.

Never before had the air been more cleansing, than at the moment we rushed through it. Never before had the ground felt more alive, than at the moment we landed on it.

We forgot our spreadsheets that day, under a mossy canopy of spindly limbs, watching a single dusky cardinal blush amidst denuded twigs.



I’m simply too quickly distracted
By life and its wondrous splashes,
                Its galvanic sensations,
                And light palpitations,
—What was I saying again?

Synopsis of My Life

Defiant was I as a child.
Of late though my temper’s been mild.
                Still I am quite sure
                That in the future,
Once more will the world make me riled.


From Now On, Call Me Pluck

Naïve I was, when once I strived
To court Success as naught but Drive,
When all the while, her beau was Skill,
Whose crafty fingers did her thrill.
So now I see the tragedy
That unrequited work can be.
Yet still I toil as if confused,
For Pluck is never disabused.


What I Have Here Written

I have set out to change the world, to make an impact upon society, to ensure that my name will forever be etched in the annals of humanity. But though I might clearly view the destination, my mind is still shrouded in mist. My eyes see only immediate affairs, and my feet travel only familiar paths. Trudging through my quotidian life, I cannot seem to acquire the initiative to imbue each moment with purpose.


Why must I be confined:
—to the sleeplessness which haunts each muffled night?
—to the acquiescent torpor which seeps into each sleepwalked day?
—to the listless apathy which mutes each unvoiced thought?
—to the restrained passion which yearns for a clear purpose, strains against the dams of normalcy, and probes for a vector, a channel, a conduit through which I can flourish?

Sometimes I wish I could lead a normal life, shrug off the mantle of future leadership, and find contentment in mediocrity—but these moments pass quickly.

In less than a day, I will once again quietly assume my burdens. I will once again recall the monotony of tracing footprints. I will once again forget what I have here written.



We live in uncertainty.

Uncertainty: hamartia to adolescent hearts. The promise of a shared tomorrow is tempered by the nagging fears that a blink of sleep will take you away. That the frenzy of our youth will be spent and exhausted. That our capricious whims will leave us stranded, separated by inarticulate seas.

Our words need not supplant our kisses, but my lips will soon tire of mere capers. And yours will yearn once more to tickle my ears.

So teach me your mannerisms. Tell me your silly anecdotes. Show me your life—so that the flare of passion in this moment can mellow out into persistent embers.

Kiss and Tell

Her fingertips intertwine with mine in an almost painful grip. Her hair envelops my face, lightly brushing my flushed cheeks. Her eyes shine so brightly that they glimmer like blurred candles.

My heart quickens. I feel hers too, through the thin fabric of our clothing. Like a sunset’s celestial waltzers, we inch inexorably together. A swift peck on the ear. A nibble on the jaw.

The lightest caress of our lips.

But I know it cannot last. I know it with the certainty of a mariner watching the night sky, with the panic of a toddler lost in a crowded mall, with the resignation of a Friday night office worker careening toward that deadline.

We share a sigh, an ebb in the tide of endorphins coursing through our heads. And I draw her in closer.


Our Sense of Wonder

Condensation nuclei.
                Altocumulus castellanus.
Convection currents.
                Cumulus congestus.
Wind shear.
                Cumulonimbus incus.

What happened to our sense of wonder?



So utterly lost.

Glancing up from starched pages.

The lives ensconced therein still swimming before my eyes.

Are the hands before me any more real?

More real than the plot?



On the Way Home

Rainwater glistens on the coal-black streets.
—What will they think when I tell them?
Frenzied wipers whisk away freshly fallen beads.
—How should I introduce the topic?
The light stays obstinately red; my turn signal ticks.
—Will they still accept me?
Soft splashes and brief white glares herald each passing car.
—I stare ahead in silence.


Flock of Migratory Birds

Swooping, diving,
Dipping wingtips in unison
To bank.

Risky dodges
With fleeting feathery flaps:
Show offs.

As one
They catch a breeze
And soar.


Eyelashes in Sunlight

Iridescent like shimmering pearls.
Rippling like oil-filmed puddles.
Translucent like fragile fish scales.
Distorted like prismatic marbles.

All gone in a saccade.


Sunset in the Street

Bold inflexible lines vanish before you into tangerine-tinged horizons. Glints of steel posts—of marble pilasters—of glass rectangles—mirror the dying sun, flinging their scintillating rays onto the concrete under your feet. The reflections flicker—gleam—whisper.

Let the final dregs of warmth gambol past your face. Allow the wind’s invisible wails to dry your stinging eyes. Feel the modulating rush of passing cars.

Lean forward into the cold. Taste it. Embrace it.


Problem Set

What creates an “us”?
The intimacy of physical contact?
Secrets exchanged in covert whispers?
Meaningful glances shared at awkward moments?
The tacit understandings that arise from mutual telepathy?

Please submit a research proposition to investigate the various aspects of this problem. Be certain to describe the steps of a laboratory method that can be conducted to quantify results.



I will be embarking on a great journey this year—and it appears that my sails are already slack. The doldrums, it appears I have reached. Before I have even begun.

Yet mischief brews a murky potion. The horizons ahead froth and roil in dusky turmoil. This upcoming storm looks rather ominous, and I am beginning to doubt that my woven threads can withstand its keen gusts.

But survive they will. For these care-worn canvasses are not the products of hasty weaving. They are not the discarded products of reckless machinery, nor the delicate handiwork of unprepared dilettantes. These heavy tarps hold the cumulative brine of years of sailing—and many years will yet pass before they wear out. Care has been taken in tying each knot, in intertwining each strand of warp and weft. Care, in preparation for such futures as this.

The wind still promises to be fickle, but I defiantly stare ahead. This year, I have but one resolution: