Field trip

I remember poking a hole in the end of an oatmeal can to make a camera. I remember laying leaves and pieces of grass on photosensitive paper, then setting it in the sun to make silhouettes. In the yard was a septic tank with a square cement lid you could stand on. That night I slept on a couch in a room full of other children. There were sleeping bags and the heat of summer, the discomfort of a strange place. A few mosquitos, but it was the moths I remember, fluttering around the naked lightbulb, until I slept.

Perhaps this memory static and done is a retreat. Right now my mind is like that pinhole with everything focused in a cone through its tiny space. A desperate ring clenching down, a collar on confusion, these foolish notions of control.

I once saw life yawning before me, from my high ascetic perch. I committed to wander in Samsaara, to dive in headfirst and through transformation escape it. But escape is not a guarantee. It all too easy to get lost in the tangle and the noise. Until one pops out of History, one’s in it up to the neck. Horrible dreams, like waking up with empty syringes hanging out of your face. There are monsters here.

A mind under pressure steams off in unexpected directions. Lately the hallucinations have gotten stronger. They are more like waking daydreams, and they’re not at all unpleasant. The other day in traffic a passing truck became the giant vocoded voice of some ancient animal or machine. As it heaved itself fantastic from the soil, it let out a raging, yawning, croaking roar, so deep and powerful that every vibration was a separate thundering explosion. A wind rose up around it, summoned by its voice, or by the bulk of its rising. I saw it like some primeval nature spirit in a Japanese anime, roused by Man’s foolish intervention, by the call of the ages. And it took my breath away.

Silent John

Silent John, backsliding after a stint in a Buddhist monastery, lit another cigarette and inhaled deeply. His eyes burned from the smoke, and nothing seemed quite right. The knot in his stomach told him the six White Castles he’d gobbled down were in heated negotiations with his digestive tract, which was accustomed to a strict vegetarian diet. Right now the tract seemed to have all its cards on the table.

“Gonna regret that one,” he thought. He monitored the discomfort with the dispassion of a veteran meditator, acknowledging it but not identifying with it. “TRY not to identify with it,” he thought, acknowledging this second thought as he contemplated the growing ash on his cigarette. Trying itself was a false approach, presuming a goal and a path, not the eternal state of present Being in which the true Self can awaken. “Yeah, whatever. I feel like shit,” he said aloud. The admission lightened his mood a bit and he chuckled, feeling a degree of inner relief after months of privation. He thought back to the events that had led him to the monastery in the first place, and the reasons he’d left three years later.

“Another Pacifico, please,” he said, laying a couple of dollars on the bar.

[feel free to add to the story]


i’ve been smelling things. sudden brief bursts of scent when none are around: feces, rusted metal, apple pie. it’s like some other sense has begun to atrophy, and brain is compensating by producing forgotten sensations. olfactory hallucinations? or vivid memories?

I’m not concerned. it hasn’t happened much.

writing this i catch the pattern, though. something i did not register as present before. a development which writing helped uncover. the archaeology of the present through word-digging.

false prophets

groaning steel

geese in formation

and what have they won with their Control?

looking through the fence

the ego paces back and forth along the fence it has erected, sniffing for holes, for the scent of intruders. it polices this boundary out of animal habit, muttering stories and dropping word dust to keep itself warm.

do you like it? or does it disgust you to see yourself slobbering along in these circles? the fence is rusting and the gate is locked, yet you keep the hinges oiled and pray for release. it is all foolishness — the ego runs snarling at the sound of any visitor, scaring them off or at least keeping them so far that they must shout their orders. as if someone will come with a key some day. as if the key could come from anywhere but within this fence. this worn ditch. this awful pacing.

Manhattan Lunch Hour

It is summer and the city is in heat. Snapshots of passing faces, staring up from the tedium of matter. Everyone has a texture; many have a story. Girl with tattoo on shoulder walking two dogs — one light brown, short hair, the other black and fluffy. Unshaven man, about 40, turns to look at her ass. His denim jacket is a shell on his wasted body. A punk teen sits against a building, massaging her boyfriend’s shoulders. His hair is dyed, his long legs jut into the path of pedestrians, ending in orange platform shoes. They are sheepishly enjoying being a spectacle. Spare change, sir? Black dredlocked rasta with shopping bags, palms forward, showing veined forearms. Faraway look. Bodies blur into a sea of thought. There are many lonely trajectories, and ample clusters of blind affiliation. Ambulatory pods of muscle and bone. I am one.

DNA, string of replication, the experience squeezes itself from one node to the next, compounding, complexifying, perpetuating itself. Like sap flowing, like crystals growing. I think of it and moan.