The Bar Prep Poems

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From a rainy day in Buffalo.

I return! While another hiatus from this blog pained me, it was necessary in various ways. First I was studying for the bar exam, then I was taking the bar exam (results pending, could go either way)… and then I spent two weeks abroad for the requisite “barcation”! A trip with family to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland was just the (plane) ticket; every day was full of exciting moments and Instagram-worthy sights like this:

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A final night near Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But for better or worse, the first of those pictures is more relevant here. For the opening weeks of bar prep, I tried to keep to the Poem-of-the-Week schedule. Eventually, though, my free time didn’t allow for even that, and I was compelled to spend the majority of my time inside nearly all day, nose to the grindstone. Still, I managed to produce a handful of comparatively short poems over a month and a half. Some were, quite honestly, “filler,” but into others I poured with relieving clarity my frustrations about life changes, the prep process, and contemporary world events. For convenience’s sake, I’ve consolidated five of the best “bar prep poems” for this post.

[1] Days

Like a path from campus to a mountain

on the horizon, the only thing separating me

from the past is days.

 

You see me in scenes, a scrapbook clasped shut when backs turn,

but life isn’t a film that ends,

that eclipses with a resolution, then back

on the shelf next to a new time and place

and cast of characters to select,

bound together by glue or gigabytes.

There’s no dividing line between baby teeth and a jaw clenched mid-final

but the one burned by sunsets.

 

So in my head, ten thousand times laid to bed,

I’m still just the kindergartner puzzling over how to count change,

smashing controllers over bad videogames,

screaming atop the stairs when I don’t get my way.

I’m still only the middle-schooler who can’t talk to a crush,

who says gay to complain,

who bullies one boy and punches another sitting down.

I’m surviving high school as I write,

plowing into puberty like a retaining wall,

cradling a pillow when I skip out on the dance,

doodling a dozen would-be book ideas like a whip to ward off the lion of writing them.

Undergrad runs in the background of my mind like a bassline:

Trudging cool Seattle streets alone,

mouthing lines of plaintive pop songs into a smog-lit sky;

always tired, never satisfied.

Sandwiched across square miles

between interchangeable exchange students

and liberal arts darlings who think heartbreak perpetuates the patriarchy.

And higher education still echoes

with every lesson but the ones I paid 100k for:

Nobody actually cares what you do for fun.

If you think they’re too good to be true, you’re right.

Maturity is not taking breaks for weeks straight and still wanting more.

A beautiful view, but no perspective.

 

We can look down that path

and plan a hike.

Boots. Trail mix. A mortgage and diverse portfolio.

Contemplating the climb is tiring enough,

but History isn’t the mountain—

it’s the backpack.

The burden we shrug and slouch under,

of expectations, adulation, admonitions, prescriptions and proscriptions

spilling out of every pouch and zipper.

Every day, every name learned and forgotten,

every skill taught and taken away,

every to-do and what-if determined or discarded—

absent a crack to the head, it’s going nowhere.

Held hostage by memories, there’s no talking down

trying to measure up.

And looking up, to another sunrise

Past the peak,

 

we can shift our legs, try to redistribute the weight—but in vain.

The load only grows,

and this trip, in the end, is solo.

 

[2] Enough

It’s never quite.

Upper back ache, slumped over

the monitor, mind strays—

the key-jangle of studies to come

and Wikipedia search possibilities.

Snap to, for another MCQ,

only to drift again,

shift like the apartment foundation

on leather under summer heat summoning swampass—

as if there’s time for laundry.

 

Preview, view, review,

and still not comprehend it all.

Breaks bend, extend into building a bookshelf

or Swiffering the kitchen.

My mind is a ball on a slight slope, always

in need of nudging to keep it from rolling away.

But I can be distracted by distractions

or by the thought of them;

either way, progress gets put on hold.

 

Surely normal people pay more attention, I say.

Maybe.

Maybe I got this far on charm and chance, a roll of the loaded dice.

Maybe less disciplined parents would’ve put me on Ritalin since middle school.

It’d be cool, in a sense, to pretend my trials are extraordinary,

to install a glass ceiling for my work ethic

and laud those who run across it.

But I have everything I need,

 

for better or worse. The curse

of competence is discontent with just that.

Get a higher percentage. Run another drill.

Reread that sentence. Give me an example.

Every second, an opportunity

to move on, home in, bone up, flesh out,

and doubt, doubt, doubt.

If it turns out I fail, I know who to blame,

 

but it’s the same guy I’ll thank if I win,

until I reach another challenge again.

 

It’s the perfect cycle of panic, a silent fire alarm:

Everything will be okay

as long as I don’t think it will be.

Everything I try will suffice,

as long as I don’t think it’s enough.

 

[3] Catchup

There is confidence in when.

Consecrated delay, a prayer

for the future: another person, inverted

from this one: willing, able, stable.

The invisible blood blister of a torqued shoulderblade

rejuvenated to soft unobtrusiveness;

the paper-eyed dry gaze given a new coat

of sleep, to glaze over anew at the sight

of bullet points and blank lines to fill—

they’ll make more sense tomorrow.

 

Not postponed, just prejudged:

an assumption, wishful unthinking,

that this internet-addled eight-track mind

will digest it like fiber, when experience bangs on a sliding glass door,

mouthing in vain

to prepare for a restless nesting doll

of double-checks and jotted notes.

 

But it can’t all be blamed—we must maintain, whatever break it takes.

Vacuum judiciously. Clean the countertops. Do the dishes.

One wishes for a reason to season the day with chores,

those classic domestic dalliances,

and leave but a peppercorn of practice before bedtime.

All of the withdrawal from a sweaty slump before the computer,

none of the toothache-type guilt

from filling that gap with games.

 

I’ve seen this before,

the weekend’s allure. And sure,

it’s predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same.

Variety is the prize we crank a crane to catch after work,

because that goal won’t come cheap.

But if I can give myself permission to take one evening off,

the rest don’t have to follow.

 

[4] 2016

I know how it feels.

The rush of division.

The high of mighty.

Every catastrophe erupts a pyramid in our midst, and we all tumble down the sides

to make a point with the pain still fresh.

No war without retort anymore,

no riot without secondhand rhetoric,

and the Conversation inflates hate and cowardice until ambiguity asphyxiates.

 

They can’t be blamed.

Terrorism is a natural disaster,

police racing headcases to see who can kill faster,

and so it’s satisfying to put on our passive war paint,

lament the end of humanity and order

from our middle-class palaces.

Pity is mechanical, the sickening cyclical,

as if God ever cared to let hashtags be prayers.

 

But there is peace

in the median, when mean is the mode.

It may not make a great thinkpiece, hitpiece, or placard

thrust aloft in the background of a montage

of martyrs and marauders,

but ambiguity is a luxury long lost.

We can say “ok.” Meh. Maybe. I can see that

both sides have a point, but I’ll sit this one out.

The world has always begged for salvation, sagged at its four corners.

I can all but guarantee the same souls who say “Silence is violence”

crank their earbuds when they pass a homeless person.

 

I understand.

It’s the fear—deep, a hard seed in a bitter fruit—

that the labels we claimed as our base are just ornaments.

That anyone can kiss, kill, donate, or decimate

in the name of a cause we wanted to die (for).

That all we thought was solid is air.

 

It scares us, and so we compare

and contrast: root out the True Scotsmen,

trumpet excuses and exceptions.

Better to err on the side of spiteful

than admit that behind every title,

every Twitter handle or burnished badge, is

a person. Private. Finite. Tired. Trying.

 

We’re lying

when we act like this is as bad as it gets

or as bad as it’s been.

We have the power now to be patient—

to toe the line, keep more than two sides in mind,

and check our facts.

 

I know.

It’s alright.

But this world can still make sense,

if you don’t force it to.

 

[5] I Earn

my inertness.

Tell myself the difference is in the buildup—

a prog rock prelude, not a poppy count-off.

But the end is the same

four chords.

See? Easy enough.

 

Such is hindsight. One’s mind

might perspire—mental hyperventilation—

knuckles digging into bunched-up sweats…

only to lift this skin out of bed and have nothing to hold onto

now that the trial is passed.

 

The perspective, reflected in an invisible thought bubble:

Anyone can play games all day, but I worked for it.

Sure, I can backslide

on diet and discipline,

but at least most folks’ to-do is my back-then.

Burdens buoy me; I tell myself

the effort was there. The obligation was a station

I sat down and refueled at;

not a brick wall I blew through—drive first, take painkillers later.

 

It’s a temperamental tightrope, this balance

between decompression and depression.

A flat affect could be calm or sloth, depending on the audience.

Good thing I’m getting better at social cameras,

though the blooper reel never closes.

 

Don’t tell me I don’t deserve this,

I insist. I could list

everything I went through to get here, but it’s self-imposed.

No more external than drug abuse or loose morals,

just the converse.

Gotta spend money to spend money.

And it’s funny:

 

The less I work, the less there is to work out.

Time decides our priorities for us,

so when I want to do nothing

that matters, the choice falls

to the black-lit sharpened strips of digital time.

 

Let them be

kind.

 

Quick Update: Print “Pruritus”!

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Well, I had to put *something* here.

Like reading in print? Who doesn’t! Issue 44 of Sanitarium magazine, featuring my horror story “Pruritus,” is now available in paperback from Amazon CreateSpace.

Only $7.99 for mine and like eight other cool scary stories!

Cornell Law School: Class of 2016

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Welcome to the Wizarding World of Trevor White.

Yep! From 2013 to 2016, that’s a wrap for me on law school in the Ivy League.
What a quick three years! But, of course, it didn’t feel like that at the time. And I must confess that for months, I was ambivalent if not outright downtrodden about how I’d spent all of that. Like I’d done little else except except study and snack. But then, with motivation from within and without, I decided a few weeks ago to look both backwards and forwards with determination for the first time in a long while. And I realized… it’s not just about what I *did*, but what I *experienced*.
 –
I met Lewis Black and Penn Jillette. I saw Henry Winkler, John Mulaney, Steven Wright, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Hannibal Burress live. And the concerts! TV on the Radio, Ke$ha, The Flaming Lips, Icona Pop, Spoon, and Gordon Lightfoot. I visited France, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and even northern Ohio.
 –
I weathered a blizzard that cleared the streets of Manhattan. I helped get my team to the semifinals of an international moot court competition. I performed live poetry of both the slam and romantic varieties. I saw a blood moon and held a tarantula, though unfortunately not at the same time. I got my first story published outside of a college compendium.
 –
I made my best Halloween costume ever. I went to my first hockey game, lacrosse game, and full-out karaoke session. I sat on the senior board for the centennial issue of Cornell Law Review, and sat in the audience for the sesquicentennial of the entire school. I built my own computer.
 –
I helped stop a bee infestation during Thanksgiving. I volunteered at a soup kitchen, packaged food for third-world children, and helped build plant beds for a public park. I stood up for the First Amendment at the National Coalition Against Censorship, researched the future of AI with the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, helped the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project do just that, and made sure the International Human Rights Clinic continued to deserve its title. I hung out in a replica of Seinfeld’s kitchen.
 –
I made new friends, domestic and international. I drank in a bar made of ice and saw sunsets that looked forged from fire. And yeah, I got a job at a law firm. And throughout it all, Ithaca was a beautifully rural oasis.
 –
If all the world’s a stage, I want to thank my costars and those who enjoyed my performance, or at least offered constructive criticism instead of riffing in the cheap seats. So on a theatrical note (and since I’ve always best expressed myself through music, never mind not being able to carry a tune), here’s a song about old anxieties giving way to new optimism–to close one “playlist” of life and start anew!
 –

Poem of the Week: “Cornell Scraps”

Apologies for the lack of a poem last week! I had finals… and given the topic and scope of this piece, I decided it needed to wait a touch longer anyway.

Ever since high school, I’ve habitually taken notes. On what? Well… everything. Potential story ideas. Interesting quotes, overheard or imagined. Goofy puns or jokes. Rap lyrics. Concepts for inventions, videogames, and experimental art exhibits. 90% of the time, I have no idea what if any writing I’ll use them in. But, given the fleeting fallibility of memory, I’d always rather jot/type something down and never use it than forget it and be hard up for imagery or snappy dialogue later!

When I moved to Ithaca in 2013 for law school, I started a separate dedicated document just called “Life Scraps.” Later, I renamed it “Cornell Scraps.” Now, with graduation mere days away, I decided to really reflect on these random moments and musings for the first time. In so doing, I saw the potential for a substantial poem. And so, out of what I realized had become forty-odd pages of grievances, late-night confessionals, and idiosyncratic one-offs, I selected and abridged or expanded the most striking lines to produce this.

It’s long, disjointed, and may not make much sense, even by the end. But, for better or worse, that was the last three years!

3years

Three years of Ithaca being gorge-ous.

Cornell Scraps

 

I.

 

Outside my dorm window,

something chitters—cicada or sprinkler.

A bird call like a quick firework’s chirp.

An odor—either paint or rotten apples.

The common room, humid, smells of spirits, aflitter with tiny flies—

but at least they got the best Die Hards.

Cutlery comes and goes from the communal kitchen, like artifacts

passing through some high-tuition Bermuda Triangle.

 

At the dean’s home, a broken basketball backboard

heralds our class’s arrival at the drive.

Crickets congregate about white windowed reception tents,

drooping like jeans over hand-me-down dress shoes.

 

I’d moved in with optimistic discontent but,

walking ‘cross the gorge some evening next,

I felt a great emptiness within, as if

my life were a blurry eye, a voice gone hoarse mid-song,

as clouds closed over tentative night like a flowerbud.

And on weekdays, sudden bouts of belonging

fell swift to chronically displaced dissatisfaction.

I can’t stand Greek Row, but maybe I just lament not having a veranda

and roof to climb onto.

 

Mixer time. At the club,

the floor glows crime-scene UV;

it’s an arms race of debauchery,

and our livers are the battleground.

The nightly grind, never to mind by sunrise.

And that’s just the first week.

 

Fall’s descent brings sticky heat.

Thunder stutters, God

dragging a desk across concrete clouds.

Rain wreaks streaks, plasters the parking lots.

Inside sounds nice, but at a cramped laptop

my hopes are notes on a napkin, crumpled in anticipation

until the words blur to abstraction and all I have are withered strips

with no addressee.

 

Now, not saying class bored me, but I once wondered in one

what guy piled all that bread in a truck for the “We Can’t Stop” video.

Because my soundtrack is Skrillex and Joe Hisaishi,

for a romance with Holly Golightly meets the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,

dressed to the nine-point-fives by Hot Topic and Watson-Kennedy.

So I start to love going to sleep, because that’s the only time

I don’t dream. Rest unassured,

this head is not a pleasant place to be:

strung out on caffeine, blind ambition, and unrequited love,

my brain needs icing down.

I want to live life at the speed of verse—because of course

I would never kill myself. Not when this world still has synthpop,

Emma Watson, POG juice, butterflies,

and the tone it makes when you strike a tuning fork.

But with bedhead that’s passed “restless cop”

and “wacky high school sidekick” straight to “Goku,”

the rock-fountain trickle of my Brita refilling is a bit Sisyphean.

Life’s path feels like a backward shirt: it fits, but something’s off.

 

Winter waxes,

broken pie-crust tire treads in the snow,

and icicles dangle like fangs from parked cars.

Chinese takeout splays across the sidewalk like collapsed partygoers,

disgorging frozen neon pips.

Green signs glare down the halls: “QUIET: EXAMS IN PROGRESS.”

Still, I get to know a gal at the post office

through the letters I send and tees I test.

Granted, it didn’t last—like a bad twist ending,

she was out before a month.

But don’t worry, hon. Some day you will be in New York

and everything will be awesome.

 

Nevertheless, anger breaks in waves—a planned impulse

—and from the crest I see the smooth sailing of adolescence

giving way to rougher waters of adulthood.

Predator or prey, adaption matters, and this ecosystem is more concerned

with cardigans, judicial interns, and Friday night shots

than Spider-Man, postmodernism, and riffing on Xbox One.

And if the girls don’t have their nose up in the air, it’s down in a book.

Resistant, I might’ve cried my vice is beauty, but

after a brief reflection that turned into a soul-search,

contemplating complimenting the strikeouts with Your free time is a lucky guy,

I put passion on a pedestal so high I couldn’t even see it.

Like standing with my back to a chasm, I know

some comfort awaits, biding time in a peripheral vision,

but if I don’t turn and look then it can’t entrance me.

 

But now that backwards shirt is just outgrown,

because setting my own standards isn’t productive—

it’s a tarred-feather coat of doubtful guilt.

An apologist’s résumé: I may have a 3.49 GPA,

but I clean out the sink after I drain the pasta.

Planning exodus from the land of milk and honey

to the land of wine and awkward small talk.

Sometimes I say things just so they’ll die from exposure to air.

With every new social circle drawn, I promise

I won’t be the neurotic guy again,

but finals week makes liars of us all.

 

Body of a jock, brain of a geek, soul of a goth,

schedule of a preppie, dreams of a hippie—I got this.

In NYC, there’s a leaky halal truck towed ‘round the corner,

plastered with an ad for the Heathers musical,

and washed-out, outdated tabloids stock the sides of sidewalk kiosks.

Of my Manhattan Madame I’ve said enough, except that

I don’t mind putting things on the back burner

as long as they weren’t smoking hot.

Sharing sleep and little else, I think of stupid things

to untremble my muscles.

I think of running out of bed

and lying against the wall of the ground-floor grocery store in my boxers.

I think of punching a brick wall.

I think of riding a bike into a fence, rolling over, and playing dead.

It’s like attraction is a garage door opener: enough distance,

and the signal just stops working.

So I can’t wait to go back;

there’s nothing left for me here but one-way sexual tension and dog barks.

 

II.

 

A leaf drags down the street, as if pulled by invisible string from a car ahead.

Flow but no focus:

I still haven’t seen The Muppets Movie, I think

from the back of a reproductive rights panel.

Got a formal text tonight—better put on my dress grammar.

But first, I have to drain complacency like a wound.

All my flights of fancy are in a holding pattern, or grounded outright.

At least, I’ve lost the ability to tell

how much intimacy between my peers is tongue-in-cheek.

I tell myself I won’t live as a dependent clause,

but irony is gonna play hell on archaeologists.

I worry the Internet turns the world into a circle of paranoid, passive potheads

dreaming in dark rooms.

We are hot dog culture: gross and ground-up, but easy to digest.

I’ve got this game I play where I try to see

how many people on Facebook won’t talk to me.

It’s up in the dozens, and I feel like

earlier in life was the film, and now’s just weathering credits

‘til the reel runs out.

 

Going back to sleeping alone is like reverting to DVD from Blu-Ray.

My heart is an open offer

but my grudges have half-lives, and

there’s nothing less interesting than beautiful people complaining.

So it’s fun wondering what I’ll look back on as so simple about this,

especially when true love is like a UFO: you don’t hear about it as much

now that everyone’s got smartphones.

If only I, Inception-like, could just spontaneously be talking to someone.

Until then, I identify as Straight But Not Applying It.

 

All of my takes are double-takes;

I think I’m developing smirk lines

from parties (or, “going friend-fishing”).

I’d say I felt like an empty seat, but people sit by those.

 

Snow floats in whips and whirls, confetti in a quiet blender.

A girl argues with a guy on a porch overlooking a shore of Solo cups—

well-lit, dramatic,

a Disneyland dark-ride of campus life.

Me, moving on is Indy trying to swipe the idol: I gotta really think it over,

and if the replacement’s not the same weight, then bring on the emotional boulder.

So no, Buzzfeed, don’t tell me what my new favorite video is.

Don’t tell me who to hate.

Don’t tell me to nod politely at X times Y celebrity was more interesting than me.

This godlike technology is for education, entertainment—not building new wings

in my inferiority complex.

 

No, I want love like TV seasons.

Maybe it’s The Simpsons: on for decades, haters be damned.

Maybe it’s Firefly: a brilliant idea snuffed out in its prime.

Let’s make it a competition to see who can miss the other the most.

And hey, who do you think buys all those nightmares their daydream dresses?

At the least, someone in this subway, statistically, has to have nudes online.

 

Topside, sirens blurp like the Lord flicking water

beneath the trapezes of power lines.

I could admit I’m not confident, and you won’t mind

out loud—but the thought will still seep in, like a leaky pipe under an abandoned flat,

and I’m recycling-bound like To Current Resident.

If talk is cheap, then revenge fantasies are seashells and bottle caps,

so while I can’t act, I’m quite comfortable shouting in crowded rooms.

Trying to find the right song to unfriend old crushes to

while I move through Zeno’s Breakup:

Music for revoking any fucks previously given,

in tune with the phases of the mood.

Earbud cord peeks between my jeans and shirt like a spiritual insulin kit.

Balance doesn’t always mean staying in the middle;

it depends how heavy each side is.

 

Electric beats thumping out of a juice bar,

people staring at supercomputers,

glass skyscrapers soaring into the clouds…

Ever finally feel you’re living in the future?

Only this era, we’re building the meteor and bringing it down ourselves.

Everyone in my News Feed is closing deals, posing with koalas,

or bungee golfing in Antarctica, and I’m just taking a stroll, thinking

about how weird it is that Scooby-Doo had a laugh track.

 

My patience is the Earth’s crust: it’s thick, but crack it

and there’s nothing but ten thousand miles of fire.

I want to be a monitor, not a processor, never mind that

I once tried to avoid eye contact with a cardboard cutout.

Fluent in fantasy, my brain is a perpetual motion machine

that runs like The Hobbit: fast and distracting, but only ‘cause it’s closer to reality.

And yet my unfinished business as a ghost would probably just be watching

all the videos I bookmarked in undergrad and forgot about.

 

III.

 

The blood moon eclipse.

An aged penny if good,

a molding peach if bad.

Not even the cosmos gets me decisive.

I decided to make all the things I say worth saying

slowly, but I’m still making my goal a worst-case scenario.

 

Something went wrong, somewhere, in the past,

but it wasn’t just me.

Part me, part world, part my reaction to both.

Like short sheets trying to fit a frayed mattress:

pushing, pulling, coming off

at one corner for want of fitting another, never realizing

until I felt for its opposite and found it bare.

Or waking up to tatters beneath me, thinking it so secure the night before.

 

The rain was light yet thick, like falling mist,

suffusing streetlights with amber halos.

Another bar tab not bothered with.

They’re not even interesting assholes, they’re just boring assholes.

 

I lied when I said I’d rather die than do the same job forever,

I think. It just felt good to sound determined by choice for once,

because I need to make things—with my hands,

not my mouth and wallet.

And whether it’s an international bestseller

or the popsicle stick castle that went to shit in fourth grade,

it exists.

Substance.

Fighting back against entropy.

 

So what can you create today

that wasn’t there yesterday,

and that you’ll be proud of tomorrow?

Savoring the world is priceless like a funeral.

Good memory, bad memory—it’s still just a memory.

Not made but replayed,

and in three years,

I’ve repeated enough for a lifetime.

My First Published Story!

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Well, outside of college-based publications, that is. But yes: My short horror story “Pruritus” is now available alongside eight other cool authors in Issue 44 of the mad, macabre magazine “Sanitarium“! And for a low, low price to boot!

Check out the purchase links below if you’re itching for a good read on…

Amazon Kindle

Google Play

Apple Newsstand

Pocketmags

Poem of the Week: Telling Phone

I won’t waste space talking about how significant smartphones are in daily life now, for better or worse. However, with that prevalence, I’ve come to notice certain common signals and phrases they convey can signify much more. Amusing or compelling? You make the call (or text).

tellingphone

 

Telling Phone

Smartphones are the only removable organ

that isn’t vestigial.

We used to read.

We used to dream.

We used to think.

What happened?

Now we just stare

and type.

 

That’s how these poems go,

I suppose.

But technophobia tires.

In this new externalized mind, I find

the best reminders don’t give notifications.

 

Delete all future events.

Personal or professional—a cover closes.

The promise of occupation, docked;

a silent hand stretching into eternity, light-blue to-dos snuffed

like candles a continent away.

What we end today sends soft shockwaves to the future.

 

Ask to join networks.

A pale Post-It note to be known.

The numbers are right in your palm,

so text, message, address.

Put a tie on and try on your best hello,

portfolio in tow—no matter the passion.

Associate is an active verb.

 

Reset Statistics.

A penciled-in schedule of piano ballads,

clickbait binges, and narrowly missed conversations

can add up.

At the first toll, Pavlov’s dogged intent

to stay bent for fear of breaking

into normalcy or nihilism.

But stare down a mirror

and remaster the past,

and how much time you can still unwind will surprise you.

 

Recently Deleted.

Snapshots stockpiled to prove a point

since filed, away.

Desperate headshots, thought better of.

Some moments are paint splattered,

glass shattered: never undone.

But others linger: Bruises,

proving a date’s denouement,

a radical phase’s erasure.

A handheld closet, cleaned out,

still leaves boxes

to soften the edge of our breakthroughs.

 

Update Contacts.

Fetch New Data.

Every so often,

a closed door locks.

Identity’s lineup takes one step to the right

and we proceed: a childhood song forgotten;

certain birthdays unobserved.

Headspace echoes, but not for long.

Friend Requests accepted.

Photo Album uploaded.

Never stop learning, yearning,

and turning: a slow, mental metronome,

with work and worlds opposed.

 

Do Not Disturb.

Low Power Mode.

Everyone deserves a decompression session.

Shutter, blinds-like, the light of obligation

for a spell and a song.

Half-speed for a hoarse heart

and a brain like a PC in overdrive.

And when those windows chunk-chunk open again,

the breeze feels like progress.

Not every day can punch forward,

but some can always kick back.

 

Hide Traffic.
Use True North.

Focus.

I know it’s hard to find

a wall for your awards

when so many corners scream for attention.

The Nietzchean beauty of webcam celebrity,

of viral stars soon to supernova,

of girls with green hair and raccoon eyeshadow—

stare into the amiss long enough,

and a million-to-one shot comes off

as the best bet.

The prospect of apocalypse

from either side of the ozone;

tending to the ending but still paying rent on time.

A symphonic centrifuge

of changing tunes

that pushes away as it straddles you in place.

But you have the tools, if you want to

look for them.

Zoning out or in, paint that target

Day-Glo and go hunting.

If life is binary, divided

into an eternity of switches,

stay green.

The pressure’s necessary,

but it takes a thumbs-up

to power on.

 

Poem of the Week: Summertimes

Summer is getting close! That it’s a beautiful season (at least at my latitude) is a given; that it can be a state of mind is a cliché. Still, I combined both sentiments under the same confessional-meets-inspirational attitude I’ve approached the form with lately and produced what follows.

IMG_2719

Sunset across the Central Park Reservoir, 6/6/2015

Summertimes

If seasons are sentiments,

summer is nostalgia,

even when the memories aren’t ours.

 

Halloween heralds a dry spell,

the last vestige of sugared debauchery

and test-pattern provocation

before winterwear and wool hats

shelter spontaneity.

Not to dismiss Christmas,

but the chances we treasure were taken

outdoors.

Yet this side of the solstice,

it’s too hot to be insincere

in body or mind.

 

By morning, the smog’s a balm,

calmly salving skyscrapers

and alleyways in sleepy haze.

And, adulthood aside,

the city’s so pretty at night:

A leviathan Lite-Brite patchwork

that, tracing the seams by sidewalk or subway,

all but pushes you to take center manhole

and twirl mid-intersection,

taking in a panorama of possibilities,

unburdened by overcoats.

Karaoke. Barcades. Broadway. Stargazing.

Sweat sticks, prickles the scalp,

but anything’s ignorable when you’ve got one thing

to look forward to.

 

But one year, waking in single digits to blinding curtains,

packing week on week with tours and to-dos like a tight suitcase,

changing the bassline of every newfound tune into car horns,

verses to cursing,

the beat to forty thousand footsteps

never headed my direction,

I pined for

 

a pine forest

and cabin in foggy solitude.

The film-pitch future

a dozen Tumblrs promised us Millennials:

A little loft; bereft of box spring,

a mattress buttressed by boughs of Christmas lights

and a standing fan.

Hardback classics scatter ‘cross the shelves and hardwood

in improbable stacks.

A skylight, so glow-in-the-dark stars

can compete with the real ones.

And a throwback van, foldout couch its cargo,

to park and ponder in crystal-cool Vancouver,

the doors as wide as our minds.

 

We could swim

(of course there’s a lake adjacent),

shadows casting sky

on the water, swaying ‘round our ears like a flipped pillow

that relaxes the intermittent chitter of insects unseen

into a cool throb.

Like childhood just went on vacation

and came back with perfect clarity.

 

And, in abstract,

companionship.

A clammy collage of models and male entitlement.

I said I’d settle for a metalhead belle

with a key for a necklace, a nervous system

of mandalic tattoos, Chucks shoes,

a wardrobe full of flannel and beanies,

a septum piercing, hair down to her gauges,

and a look of withering eroticism that says

I have been around the block, boy,

and you are nothing special,

but if I offered to eat a whole pack of Air Heads and then make out,

she’d reply your favorite flavor first.

 

A closet quarter-life crisis.

Development not arrested but under surveillance,

we tell ourselves it could happen.

#LifeGoal. #RelationshipGoal. #Dream.

Pepperoni pizza and Netflix.

Soft-focus photography as a five-year plan,

if only we can finally get on that penny-farthing of conversation.

Can we go forward to the time when…

Ironic it’s the ambient heat and happiness

that out our ennui.

 

 

I writhed under deadlines,

dull stares, and thoughts of forever

at crowded post-semester pregames that left my skin singed

and tank tinged with scents of cannabis and flip-cup flecks.

Partying as pantomime.

When someone asked why I wasn’t more upbeat, I replied

I’m just a different kind of person.

 

Yet, waiting for the wind, I realized

caution can be thrown without it.

Looking back

over the fence, to that growing grass, I decided

I wasn’t buried but planted.

And now, sunglasses on, shorts at the ready,

three months can mean something

more than either amusement or acting it.

Some summers may be legendary,

others mundane,

but there’s no shade to take in desperation.

In flying to the future,

some baggage must stay at the gate.

 

So with the regrets, frets, and what-ifs left to bleach—

all things not considered—

I guess, if I could keep one memory

for when the sun is high and the sky is Kool-Aid blue,

 

It’d be the fire pits.

Campouts, as a kid.

The smells: the blackly savory taste

of a BBQ lit anew, the bellicose tang

of fallen fireworks across my grandparents’ lawn.

The give and pull of comfort,

brother and I racing around the flame to flee the breeze.

Family on mossy, knobby logs, monitoring impaled marshmallows

that’ll either alchemize to gold

or go up in the embers like the Terminator.

The greasy security of copious sunblock still intact:

Head, shoulders, shins and nose.

Two yellow jackets trying my patience in tides.

Smoke and bare knees.

Quiet. Close.

No worries except the Mario level I’m stuck on

and if I ate too many hot dogs.

 

A composite,

probably.

Selective reflection, a doctored Polaroid

in the corner of my mental mirror.

But one unhindered by trying

to right a wrong, race a clock,

or chase a secondhand fantasy.

And that’s warm enough for me.