20100328

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 na├»ve 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.

20100324

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.

20100321

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.

20100318

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.

All-Nighter

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

20100315

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.

20100312

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,
Who—

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
How.
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?

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

20100310

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.

20100307

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.

20100306

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.

20100304

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.

20100303

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.