Henri-Marie Beyle

I wonder where the air goes when I see your face,
from what dark spring silence spills.
Where do tact and reason flee to form their crumbling, reedy nest?
Why do they return after you’ve gone, emboldened and girded;
only to scuttle away again, carrying bright blue thread and decaying roots?



In that room, it was only men.
It makes sense in a room where bodies burn – just men.

We came in behind the moss-green curtain, following the casket, men and boys. We came in, but we didn’t walk. Walking is something you do on your own – just two feet. We had twelve feet, and eight feet. We hung from each other’s shoulders and stained each other’s lapels.

My memory of the screaming has diminished; I can’t remember the texture or nature of it, just that it carried us. Few of us had ever actually wailed before (except as children) but here we had to. Here, we had to see what the hospital hadn’t shown us, what the eulogies had kept hidden.

We also had to do our job. The man who walked had a job to do as well. He knew about the feel of the casters on the floor and the heat of the green-enameled furnace. He knew about death, but not our death. He knew the song, but he couldn’t sing with us. He did his job and we waited.

Before we came to this room, my uncles did for him what my mother and aunts would soon do for my grandmother. They bathed him, preparing him. They washed the man who had stretched a family across an ocean and carried it, cupped in his hands, into two new generations. The man who waited with us when the whistle blew and we came out, dripping.

Behind the curtain, behind the man who knew our song but was deaf to it, we followed the casket. Inside, weighted by dozens of thick and dewy marigolds, he lay cleansed and prepared as hand lay upon hand, lay upon hand, lay upon bright red button.


Dudes, Dust, Day

This past week was not one of my best. It was interesting and daunting, but very far removed from nice. As Wednesday ended, the delayed weight of the past few months of new responsibility settled upon my shoulders and hung from my eyelids; I felt finished. In her typically mundanely miraculous way, though, my mom called just as I began to brim with self pity and lapse into sleep. I spilled my worries and she helped clean them up. As she restated everything that should have been obvious to me, I realized my reasons for self-abuse (not like that) were fairly unfounded and entirely useless. I felt better and went to bed…

I woke up at 4:30 feeling inexplicably spry. I raced to fill two mugs, one with coffee and one with oatmeal. I dragged the blanket and pillow onto the couch and in a strange bout of romantic, insomniac delirium, was brought to tears by a Steve Carell movie. Twice.

At some point I decided that what I needed was to go camping. Sleeping on the ground, kindling a fire, pissing in the dirt, rocking in a hammock, and thinking about nothing but shelter and sustenance would reorganize something inside me that needed reorganization.

Saturday morning, after spilling and then sitting in cornbread at Cajun Kitchen and buying a wig, Allan and I decided to leave later that afternoon for a campground in Ojai that I’d been to years before. I ran to the art store to buy some supplies while my clothes dried and my pack sat half-full. We bought some food and left.

My peerless navigation put us about 80 miles off course, though we hadn’t trekked too far before realizing we had neglected to bring the one thing that we actually might have needed to survive: water. So we compromised by stopping at a Vons and camping at Lake Casitas. We settled in and talked as the coals warmed, the air cooled, and the sky and lake purpled and dimmed.

The first time we truly noticed what was to become a consistent source of astonished amusement was when we caught the tail of a conversation: “Yeah, so there’s this dude on a stepladder bangin’ a horse and he gets kicked off.” Our neighbors, a gaggle of dudes who were quickly tumbling down the hill of life, gaining speed as they bumbled into ruddy-cheeked, beer-gutted, callously conservative middle age, had made their presence known. Allan noted that they seemed to have been the kind of guys who had only aspired to join fraternities, and so they had now created their own. I disagreed, thinking that instead they were still living that life in the moments that their bosses and spouses allowed. They still threw red plastic cups into the fire, called each other faggot if any two of them were standing together for any reason, made jokes about Jennifer Lopez’s ass that were at least nine years stale, and skirted around any form of reasonable, human conversation.

I know this seems judgmental, perhaps bitterly and snobbishly so. It might be, but we tried not to construct stereotypes. The dudes simply grabbed our hands (faggots) and stacked the bricks themselves. In the end, I can do no better than tell their story through their own words:

“So, I’m at Niagra Falls, youknow, and Niagra Falls is like fuckin’ Vegas.”


“Yeah, man. Like fuckin’ Vegas. I donno, there’s lights and shit everywhere. So I’m walking around with my wife and I’m fucking drunk as shit ‘cuz the company’s paying for it youknow. We go into this store and I see this shirt with this stick-figure dude on it and he doesn’t have a head and at the bottom it says ‘NEED HEAD.’ I laughed my fuckin’ ass off man. There was these two lesbians standing there and I showed it to them and those bitches got mad and walked out the fuckin’ store, man. I showed it to my wife and she nearly popped the baby out right there.”

This was followed by the touching story of how he left his wife at the hospital so he could go home and change because he wanted to be sure he was wearing his hilarious dinosaur fart joke t-shirt when his second child entered the world. Apparently his clearly unreasonable wife didn’t approve.

Saturday night went quickly as we ate, talked and fed the fire. Luminous R/C planes wheeled silently above the lake, tiny knowable UFOs.

I woke up with the dawn and jogged a very small arc of the lakeshore. I waved past fruitless fishermen and interrupted the hunt of a few sagely patient, stark-white heron. After coffee and oatmeal the day began to warm. I sat in my poorly-hung hammock, read and thought of nothing else. I sat and experimented with charcoal until at Allan’s suggestion I began my “sick dragon.” While he diligently helped clean the remnants of dozens of past campouts, Allan found an incredible artifact:

After a few hours our tents came down, we filled our packs and drove back up the coast.

This post seems to be one of those things that can't end elegantly, and so it has to simply end. Maybe then I'll just let it end on a soapbox: take a day to do the thing you love. You might find it gives you a hell of a lot more than you thought it could.


When Poems Come From Assignments...

I began yellow and screaming, under warming lamps and the professionally dim scrutiny of nurses.

I am from dark, unending wells of love and sacrifice, from eight dollars and a suitcase, the backs of liquor stores, and the registers of Peoples Drugs. 

I am from Bauji's hands and Biji's enormous glasses and smile. I am the product of their open arms and boundless, precise care; one of many.

From melted butter pecan ice cream and Ovaltine in a shallow steel bowl to Coke-Milk and spongy, greasy pizza crust. From my grandfather's white head, white chest, white shorts, white towel, and white sandals as he waited while we held our breaths.

I wore brown boots and stomped through fields of clover. I watched bees' bodies shudder and fail, enrobed in crushed grass. I melted crayons over lines of ants and stared, amazed at how they stopped and died, red, yellow, and burnt umber. 

I am from the tree that burned, from the glass embedded in a friend's knee, thorns embedded in a cousin's tongue, and from my name mown into my neighbor's lawn. I am from the wonder that sparked and sustained a child's absurd cruelty.

I am from the pungency of spice bush, stringy moist roots and ashes. From hours after school in the forest: derelict treehouses, rotting bark, and muddy blind life.


I love:

(inspired by Pam's blog and my waning desire to actually write paragraphs)

  • my mother
  • the heat of bodies under blankets
  • smelling baby heads
  • how small, surface impacts of deliberate love and care sometimes add up to cataclysmic, geologic transformation
  • when my dad really tries
  • coasting
  • when noise becomes music
  • climbing trees until I am high enough that I should stop, then climbing more
  • seeing my aunt cheat at cards and board games
  • kids running while holding hands because they need to share
  • the juncture that separates the pads of my cat's paws
  • hilarious misspellings
  • healing injuries with cotton balls, humor, and Band-Aids
  • absurd and unselfconscious children’s drawings
  • unrepentantly awful jokes, including Knock-Knocks
  • remembering love with a heart that’s whole
  • the way good memories tend to glow, uncorrupted by truth
  • starting a campfire using only last night’s embers, then feeding it until it doesn’t need me anymore
  • when strangers smile
  • the way sea water feels thick and coherent when you skim your hand across it
  • drinking coffee and eating oatmeal in bed
  • when anyone or anything falls asleep on me
  • camping for so long that seeing yourself in a mirror is a surprise
  • when a kid asks me about my skin and I explain it, and they go, “Oh, cool.”
  • the swirl of hair at the nape of my brother’s neck
  • bird bones



  • crepuscular
  • verdant
  • fatso
  • redundant
  • patsy
  • vanilla
  • robust
  • supine
  • lupine
  • fervent
  • melodic
  • pustule
  • hawk
  • jaundiced
  • retroviral
  • inhibit
  • vestigal
  • metastic
  • bovine
  • hydrophobic
  • virulent
  • burgeoning
  • astringent
  • ascend
  • abscond
  • Judas
  • pulchritude
  • sepulchre
  • coprolalia
  • and I have renewed ambivalence toward: auspicious


dubious beginnings

It's strange starting something whose failure you're anticipating. I don't read blogs, don't particularly like the word "blog," and don't know many people who regularly update theirs.

I have thought about writing one for a while, but I wonder how long I can self-consciously type to an unknown and most probably nonexistent audience. But, as my grandfather never said, wondering never built any bridges, so I might as well write.

Here are some of my intentions:
  • to not abandon this within a week or two - to persist
  • to post interesting and strange and beautiful things
  • to use this as a catalyst to create interesting and strange and beautiful things
  • to type without too much fear or self-doubt, but a little of each
  • if ever I mention this to people in real life, to never use the word 'blog'
In my fine tradition of minimal commitment, let's see what happens.