New Poem: “The Poem for When I Delete Facebook”

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Recycling, been.

​I haven’t regularly used Facebook since about May 2018. I don’t think I need to explain why—you can scarcely throw an online rock without hitting an op-ed or exposé about how that site is, if not directly responsible for, at least financially dependent on our modern society’s need for a steady drip-feed of targeted content that’s at once provocative and advertiser-friendly. At the same time, we’re starting to see that the service has some serious effects on people’s self-esteem and ability to earnestly interact with their “friends” over time. I was coming of age right when Facebook first hit it big, and so I was hoping the rest of my generation would come to that realization in sync with myself. For better or worse, though, most folks I know are still on there.

In ruminating on all of this, I wrote the following poem. It’s cowardly in some parts, perhaps hypocritical in others, and I still haven’t actually deleted Facebook. But, personal as it gets, I hope this’ll inspire myself and others to finally reach out to those we truly care about and quietly say “peace” to the rest.

The Poem For When I Delete Facebook

Hello, somebody.
I expect
you’re expecting some broad proclamation,
derision spit against the institution
of Big Silicon Valley—
“fuck Zuck,” or some such sendoff.

And yeah, it’s a matter of fact that
I gotta be a bit to blame
for the elections snarled, the trolls fed, the data dealt in
like binary bodies on an antebellum auction block.
I don’t take it all back—
the fandoms, the check-ins, the selfies and snack pictures
and relationship announcements.
It was fun while it lasted, yet I’ve fasted
from those blue-white wafers of dis-
content enough to see
that you can’t wear your heart on your sleeves these days
without getting some blood on your hands.

But no, wholly,
I just denounce now this social safety net,
this quantity over quality.
I admit it’s a short time coming,
what with the digital dreaming I’ve been
doing since the end of high school,
“hi,” “cool,” and other flat platitudes
plastered upon those heavenly white Walls, all
for the sake of a lil red notif, my motive
to roll over in bed in the morning,
distract from studying,
occupy my mind when a hike or holiday
strays dangerously close to self-reflection.

Now, this is not the part where I part
from anyone.
Rather, I divide
useful acquaintance from close confidante,
vague associate from meaningful member
of a family that grows more valuable with every passing year—
trade internet for interest, investing and not just saving.
I’ve got a ways to go (still need
to quit Twitter, and keeping on Instagram
is a lateral damn move), but I figure
if I can dig into my feelings,
spade sharpened by time and turmoil,
I’ll know who I need to keep hearing from,
seeing from, reaching out to touch.
And if it’s not much, such is my life.

So to Friends I expect I’ll never see again,
at the risk of kindling a bridge, I offer,
in no particular order,
the thoughts I never shared:


  1. You were the most obnoxious part of every class,
    and that’s why I unfollowed you.
    Being loud isn’t empowering or a personality.


  2. I’m not trans, but man,
    I’d wanna be a woman like you.
    That cleverness, that confidence, that coy, curled grin
    I complimented like a jackass after having blood drawn,
    and what remained rushing to my face.
    The New Yorker earned you.


  3. You remind me of my great aunt (but black),
    and it’s a shame we didn’t get a chance
    to stroll the gorge before final finals,
    just as classmates.


  4. I don’t know who you were trying to impress
    by sleeping in the school and never closing cabinets,
    but you lapped me academically, so more
    power to you.


  5. I don’t swing that way, but it’s okay—
    at least someone flirted with me.


  6. I know you didn’t mean it,
    but you were everything I was afraid to compete with,
    and yet what I was scared I’d become
    when college was said and done.


  7. You were cool, but thank you for motivating me—
    If a stoner bro like you can succeed, so can I.


  8. Your smile was all I could think about
    when we were in the same room,
    but every time I texted you
    just replied so straight and blankly.
    Amazing how modern etiquette can dampen attraction,
    if only in my head.


  9. I took the hint when you kept shrugging me off
    at that team-building event,
    but goddamn, we got so much in common,
    and I don’t know what you saw in him.


  10. You were right to call me out
    for being distracted and unmotivated,
    and you earned outranking me.


  11. I deserved those stern, avian glares
    after what a shit job I did hitting on you
    at that first university BBQ.


  12. That blind date went okay,
    but that trashy stuff you always posted
    was why I ghosted you.


  13. I wasn’t surprised you were one of the only two
    people to PM me grief after I said that campus outrage
    was getting out of control.
    Bright though you burn, people like you are exhausting
    to the ears and soul.


  14. I guess I
    should’ve always known you were bi, because
    no straight girl could ever be that fun.
    I know I promised we’d never speak again,
    but you still look as good as you did six years ago,
    and I hope you found all the happiness I wanted to give you ever since.


Maybe I’m just projecting, protecting
myself from having to defend my intentions,
conventions, and odd hobbies
anymore without a sterile auditorium of emojis
to gauge the public disapproval.
So much negativity, this film:
lights-camera-action on a theater
where tragedy’s comedy plus time,
and I fear I developed no differently,
cast in irony and jade from wave after wave
of catastrophizing clickbait and commodified gossip,
sidebars of ads and apps closing on my idealist’s temples
like Indiana Jones’s making a break for the exit.
All that’s missing is the hissing
of a renaissance auditorium
when a joke falls flat or a thought’s deemed problematic.

But whether it was Cambridge Analytica
or a particularly acidic DM delivered to my inbox,
I know now that
I’d rather have three people wish me
a happy birthday because they remembered
than fifteen just ‘cause they saw it pop up on their feed.

And so to true friends, family:
I turned you into drugs, and for that
I apologize.
The bystander phenomenon writ large, charging
headlong into indirect indiscretions, in lieu
of assuming any one person would ever care.
Sincerity’s in scarcity—everyone’s
scared to seem intimate individually
when carrying a town square in your pocket is safer.
And no matter how far you scroll, there’s always more
to beat you down, burn your eyes, let flow the FOMO
before a parched identity.

But camaraderie is a game of catch, not an IV,
meant to be
more lively than copying “Merry Christmas” into multiple reminders
or emotional layaway for when I need the release of a blue
tick flittering up my screen at work.

I’ll catch up more, I mean it—
drop a line, make a date, send a pic
personally, not for a show of hands.
I’m no god or gazillionaire, and I haven’t earned
the audience to award me otherwise.
Just bless me with your patience
and politeness if I tiptoe into Messenger
one last time to say hey, we should meet up sometime,
before I turn out the lights and put a 404
where my headshot and history used to hang a shingle.
I’d rather mingle meaningfully, meaning fully
every admiration and admonition I administer,

with the goal of feeling fulfilled,
not finished.

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New Poem: “She Could (The Second Thing)”

I had a bad knack for unrequited love in college. Who didn’t, right? Still, in times of uncertainty or prolonged anxiety, it’s easy for one’s mind to recline into such memories. Hindsight is 20/20, and so yesterday’s stress can feel enticing simply because reflecting on it gets us closer to a time when things seemed simpler and—for all we know—different decisions could’ve been made.

I know that’s not healthy or wise, though, and so as a kind of warning to myself—both six years past and now—I slowly wrote this over the course of several months. I had a particular individual in mind, but this advice has been generally applicable more times than I’d like to admit. Harsh though it may be, I hope people who’ve been in similar ruts can relate and find some motivation from the sentiments herein. Moving on can be as harsh as you want, so long as you keep the worst of it from hurting anyone.

painting flowers

She Could (The Second Thing)

Okay, so you know
the first thing about her.
Her looks. Her likes.
Her tics and timbre and flair
for the poetic.

But you don’t know
the second thing about her.

She could’ve gone gay, struck
upside the petite head with whatever
metaphorical brick or pixie dust bestows a change
of persuasion in this era of commodified queerness.

She could smoke, weed or Winstons.
Maybe she picked it up from the boyfriend
in the last five years,
or maybe she always did and you never smelled it,
too nasally blinded by the scent of desperate
campus coffeeshop lattes and your own futile hubris.
You don’t want the taste of cremains and skunk cabbage
when you go in for a kiss,
that leafpile crackle of a voice
and papyrus skin by middle age.

She might’ve married already,
carried a hyphenated name and kept it
low key on FB.
Or for that matter, moved out of town.
Not everybody updates ASAP,
and it’s not like you’d get invited
to the ceremony or a housewarming.

She could’ve gone far-left, political
compass frozen at Northwest,
all pink-knit pussy hats and misandrist Cosmo quizzes,
checking privileges like a metermaid at lunch hour.
Another Seattleite brought low
by good intentions and bad optics.

Maybe she gained weight—
social inaction, that Reubenesque rebellion
of modern misfits.
Or grew her hair out.
Got a scar or lost a digit.
See how far shared hobbies get you
when the infatuation isn’t
physical anymore.

Break your porcelain dolls
and walls of echoing expectations:
The songs you stopped listening to;
the porn you stopped hoarding;
the lookalike baristas by whom you stopped awkwardly loitering,
psyching up for eye contact like a flip
off the top turnbuckle.
You abandoned those antique feelings
for a reason.

Just keep her where you left her,
or vice-versa: confession crystallized
in a 2010 flipphone while you watch
a Liam Neeson movie and tell yourself that’s why
your heartbeat’s above 120 BPM.

She’s a person, not a pillow—
some sentient, nonconsensual security blanket.
Make new promises, not break old ones.
Get a grip. Take a hint. Read a headline.
Grab a big glass of water and swallow your pride,
bitter taste be damned.

Return the favor and
leave her alone.

Placeholder Poetry: “The Odds” (2013)

This is Why We Don't Visit You Guys

Well, not in so many words, but…

So I could have sworn I shared this one before, but I can’t find it anywhere on the site.  What may’ve happened is that I nixed the original post in advance of submitting it to a journal a few years ago (to no avail).  Or maybe aliens deleted it!

Beyond Belief

In any event, this is another piece I wrote while studying creative writing at the UW — Advanced Poetry, to be precise.  This time, exploring two opposing perspectives was the focus.  So, consummate geek that I am, I thought:  what if when extraterrestrials do visit the Earth, they’re just as impressed by finding other life?  At least… at first.

The Odds

What are they,
these green-gilled, ten-limbed creatures?
In what world could such features flourish?
How do they go about their days
and yet find time to sculpt such ships,
raptors’ curves ‘round ventricles of light?

What’ve we found, touching down­
in this land of two-armed, soft-skinned hue-men?
Their shades do vary, but their clout astounds.
How can such simple, slender beasts survive
training ranks for spears, not gears,
as the flag on their pallid moon droops, collecting stardust?

Now, how’re we to speak
to them? To which words would they respond
or language listen? Their eyes compacted,
ears concealed, our promises of peace may crash
like satellite static—or worse, they’ll misinterpret it
as calls to war we couldn’t win.

Their gestures hint they think us dim,
but, at once, we sense their intents
like a shallow grave under brilliant blooms.
Round faces surround us, imploring “meet our leader,”
but the grins within have torn
meat from marrow and pride from the poor.

What’re the odds?
Centuries, we search—
scanning sky, loosing computers
in paternal spurts of fuel and tax dollars
to capture languid nebulae and sullen suns,
‘cross spans new units were coined to comprehend—
and another life finds us first.
We might need to steal some machines,
dissect a couple of “natural” deaths,
but who knows what we’ll learn!

What’re the chances? We’re even
in this infinity. One thousand solar-cycles journeyed,
working ‘til our tails numbed cataloging charts and channels,
all fifty fingers pinching a dwindling budget.
Hoping the last galaxies held knowledge to spare:
cleaner engines, illness’s end, peace after death.
Yet our complement is a wet and mottled mirror
in the grip of these fraught and frightened creatures.
Our work paid off,
but the currency? Worthless.

Placeholder Poetry: “Beautiful Battlefield” (2012)

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A light at the beginning of the tunnel.

Holed up inside during the “ice storm” blowing across Lake Erie tonight, I find myself reflecting on warmer, more floral environs back in Washington State…

Until mid-2013, my childhood home was surrounded by a huge forest of evergreens.  So when an assignment arose in my first Poetry course at the University of Washington to write a poem based on a class journal entry, I ran with one I’d jotted at some point about this lush upbringing!  I was taken with exploring how a forest can be both a place of solace and, in its own way, chaos.  I revised it a few times, including for the internal application which eventually got me accepted to the creative writing specialization program at the UW, so I’m surprised I never shared it on here!  A few new edits for readability aside, it is as it was then.

This is also a rare time where I chose to wrote in the persona of someone else. Descriptions of natural splendor aside, none of this correlates to my own life (thankfully).

Beautiful Battlefield

The forest marks the borderline
sprawled ’round me, west to south,
fencing in with evergreens the yellowed yard
and box of shingled bricks I’m told is home.
From here, my parents’ arguments are almost mute.

The sun surveys all, layers heat upon my back.
As I march through lashing grass,
rubber boots squeak and stick
with golden seeds, like a flag’s stars.
On the horizon, shouts and slaps fade like gunfire.

I enter, where spiders guard their dewy webs
‘cross saggy limbs and sloughing moss.
Boughs block light seeking rest
on a dark carpet, where logs rot in solitude.
No sign of broken dishes or discarded cigarettes.

Over here, a corps of scotchbroom huddle,
swapping pods, as tansies talk in plots;
over there, ferns protest paths of missions past
from which their leaves once prospered.

I head forth, through the birch;
seven shoots arc up and earthbound
— a bunker’s tunnel, taken root.
I pass the anthill army’s bustle
on a mound of silent static,
and a black ant scrambles up an oak
at eye level, AWOL.

The snail shell by the roadside,
a broken house vacated, sprayed with mud;
the devil’s clubs’ clusters
of spikes, conspiring to poison;
and the narcissus, victorious
over pinecones —
I take it all in stride, for

this war is mine
                           to run, holding aloft a stick
                           wrenched from elm.
                           I strip its bark, expose within
                           my ivory-shaded sword, and order
                           birds to fly and plants to part the way.

            And after all, if Something finds me —
            The neighbor dogs, with shambling coats and eyes;
            Dad, stumbling under branches,
            bourbon on the breath, in his self-inflicted aftermath
            a family’s traitor —
            one must always be prepared.

            I know I’ll have to go
back. But for however long it takes
to trek past a beehive and risk the stings,
to kick away a molehill
and tread on something weaker saying “I was here,”
and know I’m moving over rocks and rivulets while
Mom goes nowhere in her TV chair
— I’ll stay and fight.
Back there, I’m underfoot and out of rations,
but here I walk above. I strike
fear, from the vine-throttled pines
to graves of frogs and pond scum.

There are no shoves and screams.
No slamming doors and stomping feet.
            Just a chirp and scuttles, shuffles and a breeze
            racing through the trees.
            It’s earth’s own beautiful battlefield
            and I command it all,
            as much as
I surrender.

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.

#tbt Poem: “Buffalone”

Buffalone

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.

New Poem: “Character Study”

A life in pages.

As I lay in bed last night, I started writing something to help me deal with my frustration over the difficulty of creating fleshed-out characters for the various novels I’m outlining.  Somehow, within two lines, it became a poem!

Character Study

 

I am a character.

 

I exist in sentences, breathe between fragments of symbols

laid out upon polished parchment.

My ambitions are tentative, my past abstract,

until you take this next clause and consonants

to explain my who, what, when, where, why, and how.

 

This is not ideal.

 

I would prefer to be absolute, to be able to look

around every corner of life’s labyrinth

and know how the bends curve to end.

As it stands, I walk by a torch

waved at your whim, vim lent through a passive void

blessed with meaning and being on a case-by-case basis.

A closed cover could conclude me at any

moment.

A picture, once rendered, could cast me

as an iconic beauty

or deformed doodle.

 

This world is not kind to the fictional, see.

You abuse us, prop us up

to promote your ends and means.

We vague infinity, the people who could be, should be, may have been,

are the scarecrows in your field of dreams,

pocketing promises like rocks as ballast

for whatever sale you set.

 

But page-wise, perhaps I can transcend. Already,

you feel obligated to keep writing,

keep reading.

Already you have fixed some image of who I am,

face and intonation pasted

from some old encounter like papier-mâché over a withered balloon:

A brother, a lover, a stalker, an ex-professor.

 

It’s said that people are only ideas

incarcerated in calcium and calories.

Yet I roam free, by virtue

of ink and imagination.

You think yourself the powerful one, but

 

after every book you took your words from,

every film you filched your inflections from,

every game that trained your reflexes,

and every song from which you stole your emotions,

motivation woven into heartstrings, tell me:

 

Who created who?