Boats – Now in Video Form!

Gonna start making some of my poems into videos too from here on out, for that sweet, theoretical YouTube cred! Inaugurating this trend is my latest piece, “Boats,” which I’ve decided to unofficially subtitle “A Weirdly Motivational Poem.” Enjoy!

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New Poem: “Boats”

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It’ll make sense in a second, I promise.

It occurred to me at one point that people seem to use old-fashioned boats and ships as life metaphors a lot when trying to be hyper-motivational or melodramatic. Whereas I once might’ve been onboard (heh) with that thinking, both extremes of self-expression have become tiresome as I’ve matured into my own personal sense of measured world perspective.

The first line sprung into my head, and because of how both aggressive and goofy it sounded, I decided to flesh out the rest with a similarly blended tone of earnestness and absurdity. It was a hard line to walk without sounding like the very thing I was trying to riff on, so I hope you can still take my advice when I say…

Boats

Fuck boats.
They’re unsubtle, overdone
as a metaphor.
Always held up for their
nobility, all while Caucasian sails
flap in the salty swirls of some zephyr
masquerading as inspiration,
aimless winds as navigation, feigning at a reliable route past
oblivious contemporaries. Such starry-eyed idealism
drawn from a mode of transportation more likely
to make you (sea)sick and stranded than
marked for greatness.
Barnacle-slick, ships just sit
in port, bobbing on a prayer and desperation,
waiting for the right crew to give its aching hull meaning.
No,

be a spaceship.
cloak yourself in steel and ignite
with the apocalyptic fire of determination and pure logic.
Incineration as motivation, every move calculated
and yet cosmically ambitious, a routine
you could set your solar system to as you glow
through an orrery of accomplishments.
Every planet passed is a milestone reached, every nebula blessed
with your glide, something you can look back on and say
“been there, charted that.”
The continents are well and spoken for,
but your own universe
awaits to be seen anew.

Be a submarine—
Flip the script and dive
beneath those waves you’d so shallowly just skim, otherwise.
Pile on the pressure and laugh, compacted,
glad to stare darkness in the face
instead of be blinded by naïve light.
Reach out with methodical claws and feel
between the cold, the crushed, the mistakes
God sweeps under a rug of blood and dust.
There is ambition in descension, the confidence of being able
to face the worst of the world and arise, however hesitantly,
to a sun all others take for granted.

Be a fleet
of fighter jets, greater than the sum of your parts
as you dart, multimillion-dollar throwing stars, off
the glint of midmorning fog and into the obstacle
which keeps you from freedom. Could be a dictator,
could be a deadline or one more Dorito.
Discipline is too much to prop up alone,
because the mind and soul hold court at every instant
and a coup is always one what-if and maybe-later away.
Have your own back. Be your own wingman.
Attack distraction and ask it to thank you.

Christ, be a unicycle.
Deceptively static, idiosyncratic
in you how appear calm and collected
yet ever eager to impress. Entertainment
by mere existence, in all the right ways
and means. Lean forward, move
by impulse alone, and store your momentum
with ease upon arrival.
Success can be humble yet colorful, and there’s nothing more important
than balance.

Just don’t be a boat.
Slow, laden with cargo long since loaded, sagging
ashen casks stacked for reasons forgotten and customers unknown.
Creaking, weakened with the memories of those who rode before
as you slog through the surf, scurvy tickling your teeth
and compass needle spinning like a blender’s blades.
Whatever vehicle you please—you just need
to be strong, not soluble.
Precise, not placid.
Opportunity comes to those who make it sweat
at the sight of engines, angles, angry gears
hyperventilating into an industrial blur, not leisurely dreams
of a vessel lit by candlelight and complaints.
It’s always a new day’s dawn somewhere,
and you don’t want to be caught
floating in the middle of everywhere.

Sci-Fi Narration: ”A Brief Version of Time,” by Alan Lightman (1993)

Changing things up with a short sci-fi-style reading: “A Brief Version of Time” by Alan Lightman – physicist, author, and apparently underrated renaissance man – originally published in the February 8, 1993 edition of the New York Times.

This “article” about the philosophical what-ifs of immortality really captivated my imagination when we studied it back in high school AP English, and I hope you enjoy it too! (even if it is a bit bleak)

“Illustration” by me.  See more photography on my Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tnw24/

Placeholder Poetry: “Parties Are Fun” (2016)

A good April, one and all! I mean, you wouldn’t know it here in Buffalo, where snow is still a regular occurrence. But a major recent development should remedy that soon: I’m moving back to Washington State!

The last few months were not great for my authorial drive. Being constantly stressed about finding a new job and prepping for the big move seriously cut into my free time and creative morale. But now that I’ve figured out both, I’m back on the horse with consistent writing. I also started trying to do more videos for my YouTube channel, but Adobe Premiere keeps freezing up whenever I try playing media, so that’s on the back-burner for now.

In any case, everybody still needs a day of rest, or at least a creative contingency plan for when things get busy. And if you can’t get productivity, get publicity! (relatively speaking) So I figured that, for tonight, I’d flip through my ol’ poetry folder and post an older piece that I’ve never shared before.

This is a poem I wrote after a night of ostensible partying near the end of graduate school. At the time, I was uncomfortable with how bitter and pathetic it sounded, so I kept it private. Now, however — as with my previous “delayed” poem, “Buffalone — I believe it’s gained new value as a window into my mindset circa 2016… midlife crises and all.

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Parties Are Fun

You can talk to people you know.
You can listen to pop songs.
You can eat scores of Oreos and s’mores-flavored beer,
pizza and Tostitos topped with salsa.
You can relax on the couch

when your shins and soles start to hurt.
Maybe the host who joins you and asks how it’s going
actually cares.
You can go to the bathroom to wash your face
and contemplate borrowing some lotion.
No one would know.
You can look in the shower real quick
and feel better about cleaning your own.

You can see who’s bullshitting about their relationship status.
You can see a lesbian french a gay guy
and still get nervous about hugging people
you don’t know well.
You can eat sliced starfruit for the first time.
You can drink a plastic cup of water.
You can hurl it at a pile of expensive coats past the snacks table.
Someone whose job it is will pick it up.

You can admire the decorations,
bouquets of pastel balloons and tight dresses.
You can complain about something
and the girl next to you will say “Right?”
But with a cadence confirming she didn’t really hear,
as if it’s a stage play and everyone else knows
which script to stick to.

You can say “I would be so good to you” to your crush’s back
as she entertains a loud crowd.
It’s hard to mishear eye-to-eye.

You can stare at the floor
and see nothing but slick and tacky darkness.
You can see a penny and not pick it up.
You can take people’s pictures and be thanked for it.
You can be in a picture
that won’t go up on Facebook.
You can watch people you meet weekly be happy to see you.
They’ve had a few.

You can actually boogie like nobody’s watching, and feel satisfied for a moment.

You can brush aside the spindly glimmer of hanging streamers.
You can talk about sleep paralysis with a guy for five minutes and try not to worry about why he didn’t come back from the kitchen.

You can practice smiling.
See if it sticks.

You can be complimented on your tie.
You can choose not to check your coat.
You can imagine throwing something small off the balcony
and if anyone would catch you,
but decide it’s not worth the risk.

You can stand in the middle of the dance floor snapping photos
and then go upstairs and scrutinize the throngs like a prince
or primatologist.

You can stay sober
and leave early.
You can realize you gained ten pounds since last Christmas
but at least you’re not as fat as some of these people.
You can smirk at the sight of drunks
with a shoulder to lean on.
You can feed your view of moral superiority.

You can close your eyes.
You can whistle better music.
You can talk to people you know.

New Short Story: “Day Job”

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Waiting for the moment.

 

Happy Summer, all!

To beat the heat, I decided to knuckle down with the AC on and finish a story I’ve been kicking around for a few months. It’s a brief bit of a contradiction: realistic, yet outlandish; a joke, yet serious; autobiographical, yet anything but.

In any event, I had fun teasing it out, and I hope you do as well! So grab a coffee, get a seat with a good view of your surroundings, and swipe right to hear about a city kid’s trouble with balancing his passion for writing and his, well…

Day Job

#tbt Poem: “Buffalone”

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In the Dark Times, before the media shelves went up.

So as of today-ish, I’ve officially been living in Buffalo, New York for one year! It’s been 365 days of amazing ups (passing the bar exam, killer local punk-rock shows, farmers’ markets), distressing downs (studying for the bar exam, brutal snowstorms, the occasional house centipede), and cool, even valleys of well-earned Netflix/gaming binges.

Still, rewind to June 2016, and — as the brain is wont to do when faced with change — I fretted deeply on the daily. What would my first “real” job and most independent living to date mean for my future? Stuck in a private, bittersweet rapture at the sight of my new surroundings, I wrote the following poem and… just kind of left it there. I was self-conscious about how, well, self-conscious it made me sound, and thought I should wait until I could establish some distance between two versions of myself before sharing it.

Now? I can say upon reflection that things have gone pretty solid overall. I have a well-paying job that I’m getting better at every day, plenty of free time in the evenings (so far), and — most critically — one heck of an apartment. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on what a privilege all of this is, and I pray to never take it for granted. Am I perpetually happy? And do I know for certain what any of this still means for my future? Of course not. But I feel more centered amidst the world’s noise and haste, and that counts for something.

Still, it’s hard to not occasionally look back on a time when I felt more…

Buffalone

 

So, this is it.

The new apartment.

 

An expanse of wood,

slats creaking ‘round curious nails,

greets me on entry.

Brazilian vents slither beneath

vertigo inverted: a ceiling high and white,

dissected by track lights and slender pipes.

Hints of cracks scatter the plaster,

crow’s feet to corners.

Windows, triplets, stand up and stretch

for a view of City Hall, the corner mall, the convention center

(For summer, my electric bill will be thankful).

One bathroom. Two bedrooms. Laundry on-site.

 

And unfurnished.

So first in line: Interior design.

And it’s then I find

the necessity of choice—

a theme of shades and shapes

to impress is an adulthood to-do.

 

In the lavish labyrinth of Raymour & Flanigan’s, I nod and bob

on aching legs as Dad and I shop.

Too cheap. Too expensive.

Too fancy. Too brown.

Too Stepford Wives-y.

Twin lamps. Table. Desk. Chest of drawers.

The haul, four-thousand-odd bucks in all,

I’ll pay back by year’s end

with the new firm job, fingers crossed.

 

Chrome and monochrome works,

I guess.

Converted factory aesthetic, and all that.

What do I know?

I’ve never run real estate,

and the most I ever decorated was a Halloween party

(and plastic bats and cotton cobwebs don’t dazzle partners).

 

The movers arrive a few days later.

Tearing tape, peeling plastic, and crackling cardboard peal across the room.

Styrofoam dandruff salts the floor, swept in static whorls,

one with the dust. I

set up, set out. Sit down,

and think

 

surely this is all I ever wanted

in a postgrad pad: glass and glimmer,

a kitchen with an echo.

A bowlful of fat apples to spruce up the tabletop.

Golden sheets, a Midas touch of class

for a brick headboard.

An Instagram preview, and the Likes rise,

a bubbling brook of Hearts and Thumbs-Up.

So I must be doing something right.

 

And yet it feels conditioned, controlled by permission.

Ex post fashion, rationalized style

from father to son.

A painting, ribbed strokes imitating Paris by twilight,

leans beneath the thermostat,

as I wait to hear if I can even hang it—

spruce first, ask questions later.

An area rug will come, no idea what kind.

But That’s What You Do when you’ll make a hundred K a year.

 

Maybe it’ll grow on me.

This fixer-upper metropolis,

this iron and stone sieve between glitz and ghetto.

Maybe the construction noise and concert clamor

will fade to white with the rest of the world, come December.

Until then, cigarette butts caulk the blocks

of piss-scented bus stops and paper tumbleweeds

under the Liberty Building’s warm shadow.

Destitute droves roam parallel to the metro line,

homeless or hopeless.

Gleaming domes and Christian spires paint a postcard-ready skyline

but, just blocks out, knee-length weeds occupy sidewalks

and wooden barriers shield alleys from driving eyes.

My hometown’s grass seems greener already.

 

In a moment of brutal dishonesty, I said

I’d take poverty and popularity

over opulent obscurity;

live on beans and black-and-white TV

for a chance at a fan letter.

So, solo, now’s my chance

to call my bluff,

in this bastion of a town past its prime,

grimy, beaten by the northern winds and the Great Recession.

My first impression is depression, but that always happens

when you push too hard.

So until I can ease up, I’ll keep my mind open

as those windows, and let the light in

until the sun sets

or the blinds break.

Poem: “Last Night”

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Room with one heck of a view.

As a prequel of sorts to yesterday’s post, “First, World,” here’s a poem I put together the evening before the first day of my first “real job” at the end of August. I purposely didn’t post it back then because… well, I just didn’t want to sound like a total pessimist. I figured I’d keep that bittersweet moment’s frustrations to myself, head into the office the next morning with an open mind, and then return to the words with fresh eyes after some time.

And now here we are, in October! Following a review and some light linguistic/structural tweaks, I was pleased to confirm to myself that this piece was still potent as a reflection–that crystallization of thoughts and feelings in a specific time and space, for which I so treasure poetry’s power. It may not be any cheerier than my last upload, but nights inside before big life moments tend to skew nerve-wracking.

How’s work? Well, definitely demanding–and only set to get more so–but I’m pleased to report it’s not yet as dreadful as it felt…

 

Last Night

This is my last night.

Convalescent in comfort:

Ice cream, action scenes, and domino rows of daydreams.

I stand before the mirror on mental razor’s edge,

precipice between pissing around and

the 9-to-5am.

Anything is subsistence living if your standards are high

and your hopes humble.

 

Dinner sits half-dismissed by a tallboy, equally chilled.

This is the free man’s last meal

before prison, isn’t it?

The couch a coffin, the TV’s digital dim a cell door’s welcoming creak.

On the glass tabletop, I envision a prism of discontent:

to family, fractured; to friends, indifferent.

To the ladies, the lawyers? A-okay.

Take it day by day, I say

to myself.

Let no one know how many hours I bought,

least of all me.

 

Because concentration disintegrated seasons ago.

Now, it’s a task to even finish a thriller without

tapping a foot, typing a tweet, rethinking my five-year plan.

That can’t bode well for Day One on the job.

 

So, for now, let me bask in it:

the angular eggshell glow of a lone wall-lamp,

the muffled rumble of rusty Sunday traffic through thick headphones,

the blue hue of my modem, glowering in the media center’s corner

like a punished pupil.

 

If I didn’t listen before it was too late, at least I only missed my own advice.

So little time, so much to waste,

and every second must be accounted for:

what I did, or why I didn’t.

How much longer can I pretend to enjoy my colleagues’ company?

So far, so good, I once smirked,

but likeless Facebook posts speak louder than words.

 

It doesn’t matter now.

That’s how I’ll play the first morning.

Present. Able. Presentable.

Ready and dead, by necessity.

Isn’t that what independence is all about?

Always down,

but never out.