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Category Archives: Poems

Schrödinger’s AfterLife

Somewhere, there is a cat in a box
with a radioactive substance
rigged
to a vial of hydrocyanic acid.
Perhaps the substance has decayed
and the cat has died as a result.
Or perhaps not.

If the substance has decayed
and the hydrocyanic acid has been released,
then the cat is dead.
But there is no knowing whether or not that is the case.

As long as we do not know
how rapidly the substance has decayed,
as long as we don’t know
whether the acid has been released,
as long as we don’t know
whether or not the cat is dead,
the cat is both dead and alive.

So somewhere,
in some subset of possibility…

We don’t know what happens.
That’s what it amounts to.
That’s what it comes down to,
we don’t know what radioactive substances
might lie beyond the grave.
We’re the ones in the box, after all.

How can we,
the cat,
know that the rest of the world is still turning?
How do we know they’re not all dead?
How do we know what the hell is going on?

There are so many possibilities.
So many variations on this theme.
But as long as we’re still in the box,
as long as we still don’t know…

Somewhere,
there is a cat in a box
who is about to die.
It does not know what will happen
afterwards.
There are so many possibilities.

It could go to the cold place,
the place that might or might not
be a code for oblivion.

It could go to a place of reward
or of punishment—it’s impossible
to know which,
what arbitrary criteria would apply.

It could come back,
either as a cat again,
or as a human,
or an insect,
or a whale,
or a tree,
or a rock,
or a song,
or a feeling of desperate uncertainty in the face of profound loss.

Or something else could happen to it entirely.

Until the moment has arrived,
there is no way of knowing
what AfterLife will bring.
But standing at the threshold,
every conceivable possibility,
every possible outcome,
every final destination,
exists all at once.

As he hovers on the brink of death,
spinning at the precipice,
everything that could ever happen to him
is happening, all at once.
He is infinite.

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A Butterfly for the Mother

She gave me life and, yes, I love her still,
It knots up all the feelings in my gut
With meals she’s made, of which I’ve had my fill.
I want to give my thanks to her here, but…

I find it hard to write about my mother.
Why fumble with her sheer perfection?
Why scramble impressions like she was any other?
Try a pastry, or some other confection.

I cannot write about my mother’s ills,
I’ve suffered hardly any qualms from her.
What few there were have largely been my spills,
The ones that now to me occur.

For above and beyond he’s held me fast and tight
I shouldn’t do this, couldn’t do it right.


Welcome to the Museum

It isn’t what I expected.
The world shatters—that much I could’ve guessed.
The world shatters and the pieces fall back into darkness.
The world moves on in the wake of the dragons of time
and I turn away.

I wake up in the antechamber.
At first I try to tell myself that I have nothing to fear.
I’ve been good. I’ve been a thoroughly good person
I’ve loved my friends, I’ve kept my conscience
and I’ve never killed anyone
who didn’t deserve it.

But whom do I kid?
I don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s a fancy-looking room, though.
White marble, is what it looks like. Although I guess
what it’s actually made of is the past,
Shards of broken time.

“This is the Museum,” says a voice all around me.
“Welcome. Please
take a look around.
But try not to take too much time.
It’s polite to leave some for the Gatherer.”

Through the archway is a room.
The archway is not connected to the wall.
I could walk around the archway.
I decide I shouldn’t.
I decide it would not be polite.

“The first room is you,” says a disembodied voice.
I imagine the voice
somewhat incongruously
as a white guy in a hoodie.
That is the face of death, the voice of AfterLife, of hell.

But the images plastered all across the room
are fair.
Probably what any friends would pick
if my friends knew even half the shit I’d done.

In the middle of the room
not lined against the wall
there are full-bodied sculptures of everyone in the world
that I love
in the moment when I loved them most.
And on the walls are all
my most powerful memories, the good and the bad
pieces of me
Every single shard of my soul.

“This was your life,” says the voice
But it’s not in my head anymore. It’s right in front of me.
A white guy in a hoodie.
Except I can’t even call him white
Can’t even really see his skin—not his face, not his hands.
He’s not holding a scythe, I realize,
‘Cause my ass already got reaped.

“Come,” says the reaper.
Next room down, I die all over again.
It’s all right there in front of me, what happened.
Just a tunnel vision,
the event replaying all around.
That face.
The instrument of my destruction.

And then the world
Broken.
But behind the world, another moment.
The moment leading to it.
The moment, then, leading to that point.

The reaper asks the occasional question.
“What’s happening here?
What were you thinking?
How did you know?”

Sometimes I remember,
Sometimes I don’t know how I could possibly remember.
Sometimes I feel
like I should
But I don’t.

Now I’m a child, aging backwards into the past.
Memories more fleeting
Moments are fragments.
Motivations are mysteries now, closed books.
“A human life is like history,” says my Virgil.
“And it’s also not.”

The next room is bigger
The next room is infinite (almost),
every moment in the history of the universe
laid bare.
Except for the parts that were missing.
“This is the puzzle,” says the game-master.
“This room is where you will work and live.”

A crashing sound and hundreds of millions
of pieces of time come
tumbling into the room.
Some of the pieces are snatched up by worker bees
So small and far away
They might be people.

I see the recent past and I see the distance.
I see the nuance of Napoleon and Julius Caesar
and I see the evil of Hitler.
I see the Dark Ages as a rainbow of interpretations
and the sixties in black and white,
the crisp shapes not yet muddied.

“This is your existence,” says the Reaper, “plural.
And the gatherer will have her due.”

Is this all that is left to me, to us?
In the Darkness Behind our Garden
Is this all that there is to see?
Is this all that there is to hope for?

Is death nothing more than the past, alive again,
and is it already fading?


A Natural Disaster

It was always going to be this way.

You knew it from the moment you first laid your eyes on her.

You knew it when she turned her eyes on you,
even as she smiled.

It couldn’t be what you thought it was.

Still you fell in love.

You let yourself.

You had to.

There wasn’t any other way.

You let yourself believe there was something, anything.

Something you wanted.

Someone who wanted you.

And now there’s the rain.

It crashes down to earth as you slap your hand.

“No, no, don’t think about her.”

You let it sink it, let it seep through your clothes to your skin,
making you sicker.

You sneeze and try to hide it, but it’s like thunder.

There’s flooding in the city.

You wade through salty pools.

Might as well be swimming.

Might as well drown.

But there she is, safe inside on the other side of the window.

Does she even feel the rain?

Does she even see it? Hear it?

Maybe it’s best that the rain be kept away from her.

Just carry the stormcloud over yourself.

This is your storm.

You knew it was coming from the start,
and still you stayed.

Why make her suffer through it?


Three Word Sentences. Ten Long Years.

Assignment for class. Principles of Performance. Several years ago. “Last ten years.” Three word sentences.

Decided to publish. (Second time around.) Hope you enjoy.

September the 11th. Moment of silence. Tim walks out. “It’s not fair. Terror is everywhere. Now the US. What’s the difference?”

Americans in Belgium. Wars are starting. Who’s to blame?

Drama at School. Play: No Exit. Crush is Estelle. Liked her once. (“Stop watching me!”) Sentenced to Hell. I’m the Devil. Revenge is sweet.

School Trip: Greece. In a mood. Like the scenery. Not my classmates. Friends not here. All in Tenerife. (Alternate school trip). First time drinking. Make-up, strip-tease, camera. Pictures at school. Teachers all smiling. “That’s not me! Don’t need alcohol!”

Prom after graduation. Then left Belgium. Scant hours later.

Got into University. Sarah Lawrence College. Co-ed since ’68. Still mostly girls. “We black-clad lesbians!” 40,000 a year. Need Financial Aid. Stupid Belgian Taxes! Too late applying. “My parents’ fault!”

Summer in Montreat. Family friends come. Bring their daughter. She likes me. Our parents approve. My first kiss. It’s wonderful, but… It’s all wrong. “She’s too young!” My mother: “And?” “She lives abroad. Paris is far. Won’t work out.” Her heart breaks. Mine does, too.

Minding the Gap-year. Getting a job. Cleaning hotel rooms. Then the Carmike. (A movie theatre.) Only till Christmas. My parents return. I’m for Houston.

Living with Vandi. My big sister. And her son. Craig is twelve. Also, her husband. (Not Craig’s dad.) I’m making bagels. Waking at four. Not having fun. Not saving money. Houston’s a bust. Left after March. Back to Brussels!

Via New York. Visiting Sarah Lawrence. “You’ll get money. You’re already in!”

Months in Brussels. Then back again. Summer in Montreat. No cleaning rooms. (Not Christian enough.) Back to Carmike. Waiting for money.

College won’t pay. Parents “too rich”. But… Belgian taxes?!? “Standard of living”. Fuck Sarah Lawrence! Bitches not worthy! Made Daddy-ji cry.

Went to UNCA. (Deferred acceptance there. Thank the heavens!)

Lauren likes me. John likes her. Sara likes girls. But also me? Orientation is bizarre.

Classes are easy. Also, Ballroom dancing. Dancing at Work. (The Waltzing Belgian!) Going to compete? Audition for theatre. “The Frankenstein Project”. Playing God “Eshu”. Need Thursdays off. For dancing, right? Doesn’t work out. Gave up dancing. Better on stage.

Working all summer. (Also taking classes.) Met Tadd working. I like fairies. Taught me astrology. Other stuff, too. Not saying more.

Car breaks down. I’m walking again. Five miles plus. Gotta make money.

Sophomore year starts. My siren appears. My delicate Ariel. She’s team Jacob. We were roommates. Sophomore slum hits. Then Hurricane Frances. Flood becomes drought. Water is infected. Classes are cancelled. Most students leave. Next week: Ivan. The Hurricane Hits. I’m still working. Trudging through rain. Still suffering terribly. Still punishing myself.

She’s so friendly. “Let’s be friends. Watch a play.” Jacob dumped her. Still doesn’t bite. Still sings, though. Wants me swimming. “Let’s be friends.” “I want you.” Not single now. “Still good friends?”

Vetoed this semester.

Montford Park Players. Conspiracy to recruit. (Ariel and Erinn.) Comedy of Errors. First Romantic Lead. Also, Henry V. Falling for someone… Nope, not interested. Then Sonia arrives.

She’s too young. “NC is weird. Laws are different.” (That’s a lie.) Her parents approved. Still awkward, though. High school girls. Not graduating, either.  Are you serious? Not going anywhere. Stopping this now.

No other prospects.

Play for KCACTF. Had a reading. Very last minute. During Exam Week. Reviews were mixed. Advisor hated it. (Didn’t read it? Could’ve prevented this!) Didn’t go anywhere.

Fragments of Sappho. Senior Project Play. An unparalleled disaster. “More girls,” they. But those girls? Not at auditions. Not finding them. People drop out. “April the 20th? Gotta get high. So terribly sorry!”

So what now? Got my degree. Couple of plays. Summer of Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Henry the Sixth. Cyrano de Bergerac. (That’s honorary Shakespeare) And Much Ado. All Bad Guys. Guess that’s me. Roped into “Romance”. (David Mamet play. 2nd favorite part!) Staying till Christmas. Then Brussels bound. “Need Christmas Carol! Know any Directors?” “Got a degree.” “You want it?” “I write, too.” Loved my proposal. Conflicted with “Romance”. “Not this year.”

Back to Brussels. And Ericka returned. Winter Solstice, Kaiserslautern. She’s a lesbian? I’m oddly proud. “Still want you.” “Not right now”. (Who said which?)

A year, writing. Vyxen in Faeryland. Siren and Banshee. Couple Short Stories. Learned Spanish, pequeno. And some plays.

Christmas Carol 2008? “You haven’t directed?” “I have, some.” “Nothing full-length, though?” “Not as such.” Nothing to show.

Returned October 2008. Looking for jobs. “Haven’t been working?” “Been in Brussels. Wrote all year.” “Don’t need slackers.” Hired at Target. Ringing up products.

Cast in shows. Oedipus for Kids. Into the Woods. Amateur Film Project. (Featured my ex. Much older Sonia.) And Titus Andronicus.

Only scheduled evenings. Schedule conflicts suck. Not leaving shows. Cut back working. Still too stressful. Made a mistake… Quit day job. Really bad idea.

Trained at Block. Did some taxes. Taxes oddly fun. Kind of mathy. But only part-time.

Jobless by mid-April. Assistant Directing Cymbeline. Argh! Not talking…

Back to Brussels. Belgian Master’s Program? Easy to register! Just walk in! (Except foreign diplomas. Those take months.) No one knew? Smacked around some. Kicked off campus. (Hair too long? Coat too long?) “No student card.” Fucking Belgians, anyway!

Another year wasted. Wrote some screenplays. Went to Conferences. Learned to Pitch. Had a job. Managing a database. Didn’t kill me.

Fuck it: LA! Gotta go sometime! Got some cash. Do some pitching. Write some more. Maybe make it? Still no jobs. Still no prospects. Getting awfully lonely.

Accepted for Masters! Catholic University, Leuven! (The Dutch one). Call it Q-Lovin. (Left my car. Bitch-face crashed it. Blamed me, though. Whole other story.)

Western Lit Masters. Yeah, I rock. Did a play. Lanoye’s Mamma Medea. Acting in Dutch. After nine years. Made some friends. Fell in love? Maybe a little. Tried not to. I can’t stay. Brussels is home. But I need… I need this. Applied for more. Got into SCAD. Flew to LA. Retrieved the car.  Crossed the Country. Listening to Audiobooks. Singing out loud. Always moving forward.


The Fall of Autumn

Autumn fell onto me out of nowhere.
She just tripped, I guess; she fell all over me.
It had been so hot out, I didn’t have a coat to give her.

I couldn’t give her my coat, so instead
I wrapped my arms around her.
There’s a comfort in being with Autumn.
She may not have the fire that I’ve had in the past,
But there’s a temperate beauty at work.
It gets dark when it’s supposed to
and she asks me to bed
and she doesn’t get upset when the roaster crows.

The earth outside is covered in a blanket of leaves.
The trees shed those clothes to feed the earth with mulch.
This is how the past gets buried.
Raking the leaves off the driveway every morning,
I peel back the layers of Autumn.
As she sheds her leaves, leaving herself naked before me,
I shiver.

I know what is coming.
One day, Autumn will leave me.
She knows that I won’t need her anymore.
I suppose, though, that this is only fair,
since she never really needed me.


Lines Written a Few Light-Years above Tintern Abbey

(with apologies to William Wordsworth)

Five years have past, here on this ship; but back on Earth,
It’s more like fifty. Traveling so swiftly, so close to light-speed,
Time itself bends and tarries. And still I rise and still I plummet
Into the desperate Void, and again I hear the engines hum,
Their soft purr the only sound in the quiet of the sky, beyond
These breaths I take of recycling air, the only wind there is
For me to feel.

The dawn has come, according to the chronometer,
And it is day at Tintern Abbey. For one fleeting moment,
She is turned to me, and with telescopic imagination, may see—
But I am past the sun and she will not see me today,
Nor will her children’s children, that might have been mine,
Had I stayed.

And I again repose, inside my Hermit’s cave,
My backward-facing terrace, to watch my home recede,
My only comfort now these bulk-heads, hardly bulkheads anymore,
But the very skin protecting my organs and my mind
From the harsh, cold nothing Outside.
And now, with blinks
Of half-dreaming consciousness, with a somewhat lonely understanding
And relief that in this moment, there is life and food for future years,
I dare to hope, as long as the compilers don’t give out.

But there are few promises to be got, and untold dangers.
The computer chirps, a sound not harsh or grating,
But of ample power to chasten and subdue, and in her voice I catch
The language of the heart I might once have had. On the screen,
She shows me how time has passed and all my aching joys are now
No more, and all her dizzy raptures. Once again do I behold the man
I once was, before I was laid to rest here and this ship
Became a living Soul, how then I was more like a man
Flying from somewhere that he dreads, than one seeking out
Such empty realms as no human soul has seen before.

I cannot paint what then I was and yet I see it still, traces
Like shards of former selves in this AI’s programming.
For I can so inform the mind that is within her
As to approximate a feeling and a love that have no need
Of a remoter charm, by thought supplied with deep impressions
Of pleasures not remembered but felt in the blood and felt along the heart,
And by these means I can say that I am still
A lover of fields and of streams, of forests and towns,
And cars and sports and TV shows and iPod Touches
And intimacy, and of all of you who still behold them on that green Earth.

Therefore let the distant sun shine on you all in your solitary plight
And let the currents of space and time be free to blow against me.
When my lonely pod shall be an Ark for all lovely forms,
Then memory be as a resting place for all sweet sounds and harmonies
Oh! now, if solititude and fear and pain and grief are to be my portion,
Here at least I can look up all my tender joy as healing thoughts
To remember thee through all the years of this my life.

So must we see life into merest things, even out in these barrens,
To lead our fragile, precious minds from joy to joy, yet
While I behold in thee what I once was, my dear, dear Sister,
My daughter, my trusted steed, still I must hold out hope
That out there, somewhere, Nature still abides, the vacuum
Teems with life and though I may well have left behind
All that has ever been known and called “Life”,
That nature and statistics will allow this arrow shot past the sun
To yet somehow find some mark, that some wayward benefactor
Might yet see this flare shot into the night, might catch it, and,
Like the shooting star it so desperately tries to mimic, put me in her pocket.

If this be but a vain belief and the Universe devoid of any
Alien Life, if we are truly as alone in the dark as I, here,
Deprived of the many shapes of joyous daylight,
How oft, in the spirit of longing, may I turn to thee and ask thee
Why?
Thou Dreamer in the Void, thou infinite realm of possibilities,
How often must my Spirit turn to thee!
If I must stay here, where I no more can hear men’s voices,
No more look into women’s eyes, if I must abandon
All the trappings and all the pastimes of the home I once had,
If I should die here on this ship, my home fall into disrepair
And fall into a distant sun a billion miles from Tintern Abbey,
Then at least for now in this precious event in space-time,
I have you, my dearest Friend, my dear, dear Friend,
To help me stare out into space and bring context and meaning
To the Universe.