Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This evening

I made you a poster, and it told you the 130 reasons that I was in love with you. Truthfully, it was 122, but I fudged the last eight and hoped you wouldn't notice. For instance, I don't particularly like your toe nails, but I want you to know that I don't like anyone's toe nails, so you shouldn't feel offended. Nor do I like the way your arm goes rigid when you first fall asleep, and I feel the full weight of your arm, keeping me in place. I feel as though I should piece together an analogy, like the way a line of trees, jazz-handing the blued sky in winter constructs the aesthetics of a morning walk. It would be just like you to laugh at the thought of all those branches, waving at the sky. But you're asleep again, and I've run out of reasons to love you, so I'm going to rest my fingers now and listen the sound of the neighbor's baby crying faintly through the walls. I keep telling you life is full of such odd things if you stay awake deep in the valleys of night.

Image result for picture of the night

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Image result for picture of a rainbow

I used to chase rainbows in the faint glow of a sky streaked by rain. The sky, both muted and vibrant, gathering orange and gold into itself, waving the colors together as it were a loom, not sky. Every child, or so it seems to me, has this same story, looking up from a sidewalk spattered in rain, dropping a red bouncing ball, a small metallic police car, a doll, and shouting about the colors in the sky. No doubt, I think to myself, you like me, put down the car, raced across the house, tried to trace the arc of light to its source. What were we looking for? Was I hoping to find a deep well of light from which the rainbow was created, spinning across the sky?

Once or twice, I was close enough to the source to try and find it. I was in a large field, patches of grass cut through with hard clay gone temporarily muddy after the passing rain. I'd been playing soccer with my friend, Blake when the storm had arrived. We'd sheltered beneath the eaves of the low slung buildings at McManus elementary school, waiting for the rain to pass. Most days, we went home and played the video game Contra, for hours. But today, we waited for the rain to pass, so rare in the upper reaches of the Central Valley where I grew up.

And when it passed, we saw it, a covenant from God that he'd find some other way of killing us all next time, a rainbow. We saw that its terminus must be somehow close to us, just beyond the chain link fence, falling behind a row of small ranch style homes beyond. We ran quickly through the gates and into the neighborhood beyond, past the star thistle and into the yard, but the rainbow seemed to have moved further still, and we chased it to the next block. There stood a blue house with an American flag hanging from the garage, snapping in the wind. But we couldn't see an end to the light there either.

We chased the light all afternoon, down wide streets dotted by rain, past houses with rock gardens, with small square windows, past houses where dogs barked lazily from the side yard, and down the avenues already starting to grow warm.

Sometimes I feel that though I have not seen Blake in decades that he and I must still be chasing that same light through all the corridors and back alleys of our lives, hoping to discover the source of so much glory. Tell me, dear reader, do you think we'll ever find it? 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Movie Review: Columbus

Image result for columbus movieIt's rare these days that I see something so quiet. In fact, I'm writing about Columbus, a slow movie set in the modernist haven of Columbus, Indiana because I fell a bit in love with it. In the past year, everything in my life seems to demand an argument, action, an opinion, and while I believe that 97 percent of the time. Sometimes I want to step away from the argument, from the right way to think and just to be in the quiet space of being a human being wandering about this confusing and wondrous world.
If I were to summarize Columbus, I'd say long tracking shots of beautiful architecture, reminiscent in some ways of Richard Linklater, but slower because sometimes the characters aren't talking, the spaces aren't necessarily given meaning by the character's presence or absence. Rather, the movie seems to ask if the modernist structures have a meaning in and of themselves, apart from humans, in the way that a mountain is still beautiful whether we are beholding it or not. For me, this question of aesthetics and modernism is the real heart of the film. The movie is full of long silences, light on water, on the underside of leaves, but it never quite dips into the full reverie of Terence Malik either. It just seems to delight in the details of life. I too, would like to delight in the details.

Of course, most television shows and movies are about shipping. And so the movie also centers on the relationship between a young woman, who works part-time in a library. She's a year beyond high school, far too intelligent to just be shelving books but she's also not sure if she can leave behind her mother for an offer to a study with a famous architect in New Haven.  The young woman develops a deep and soothing relationship with an architects son, in town to witness the decline of his famous father after a sudden heart attack. The son of the architect, like the young woman, has a tendentiosu relationship with his father. Thus, both of the characters are temporarily bound to Columbus because of their parents, and it's in this temporary in between space that their relationship flourishes, traveling between architectural marvels and talking about their parents, their lives, or just the way that a sunken living room was designed. In short, it's slow. But it's not agonizing. Rather, it's slow in the way that it's slow to watch the subtle v that the water makes as it passes the body of a swan.

It's rare to find a movie so in touch with stillness, with the way that a piece of sky, set between two long beams can be achingly beautiful. The filmmaker, Koganda, is a video essayist, and his essay about modernist architecture and the internal struggle we have with our parents, with growth and change, is a mesmerizing one. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

James Baldwin

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns, and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Just like in Peter Pan, the summer I turned twenty-seven, I lost my shadow. He hopped on a train headed east, said he was flying out to France because he heard the women there were pretty. I was ashamed of how shallow my shadow was, who had, or so it seemed to me, been birthed from my body. But that changed things for me, for the rest of the summer, I only went out at night, avoiding light as others sought it out. I wandered the darkest alleys and began to appreciate the shades of darkness in a new way. I could see that darkness had all sorts of tones, and the large black mass of a trash can was somehow darker than the asphalt as were the branches of a large tree still hung with sickening yellow leaves. I realized that the darkness gathered in places just like the light, and I thought to stay that way forever, far away from my shadow, chasing the darkness, a decision, I have rarely regretted. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Sometimes in late winter, I feel myself sinking as the leaves do, beneath a thin veil of water. And I try and pull myself up by smiling at everyone I see during the day. This morning on the bus, I smiled at an elderly woman toting groceries from the Wal-Mart that's just around the corner from my place. She looked away, and I looked away. I felt that we'd actually connected, not in the moment that our eyes locked, but when they turned from each other, watched the tattered remains of leaves in the trees, the street skimming by like memory. We spent the rest of the bus ride just like that, not looking at one another at all. I've never felt so close to anyone. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It has been a while

Tonight I am certain that I don't have a writing bone in my body. I think instead of a crow, dark feathers ruffled by the wind, digging round with its velvet beak in search of flies, as I am in search of words, digging and digging.

I haven't written anything in weeks. I keep imagining that something will happen, like ice thawing, on a warm spring day, and words and ideas will come spilling out of me in a torrent.

But tonight I am tired again, and I can't imagine successfully stringing together words on a page, thoughts on the quicksilver surface of the mind, which is more like a small puddle, reflecting branches and sky, than an instrument of logic and grace.

I'm not that different than you, I think, sometimes in the dark. My daughter asks why there is a flashing light in my room. "Tell me a story," she says, "about a time when you were hurt or sick. Or someone else was hurt or sick."

I remember a different story I told her years ago, when she was three and sleep was lapping at the darkness in the bedroom. In that story, I was, as I often seem to be, tired to the bone, and she wanted to hear a story, so I started talking in that dream like way that happens just before sleep. I said that I was an octopus and that she was a fish. I told her that the fish and the octopus were swimming down and down, into the dark, dark sea. I told her about the kelp and ship wrecks, the rays of light scattering on the ocean.

And in that state, I kept saying that the fish and the octopus were going further and further into the dark. Finally, the fish gets tired, I told her, though I don't remember now if her eyes were closed. And I said, well I said something that you only say on the verge of dreams, when sleep rocks you in its gentle wake. I'll tell you that story another time though, when this scattershot mind has the grace to turn it from a story about sadness into art.