Where.

Where “free” sits in your gut like rocks.
Where we believe the worst before the best.
Where we run from those who “help.”
Where a smile can turn into a nightmare.
Where we cling to those like us.
Where those who aren’t try to put us in our place.
Where everyone is “Too loud. Too angry.”
Where we’re “Too aggressive. Too much.”
Where we’re too this or too that but never enough.
Where bodies turn into Facebook banners.
Where “I stand with [blank]” is compulsory.
Where you don’t have to mean it though.
Where you don’t have to understand it though.
Where you support fighters but refuse to fight.
Where you clap others on the back for their sacrifices.
Where you choose to be a bystander.
Where it’s either follow your heart or your work.
Where it’s painful to truly do both.
Where it’s supposed to be a dream but
Where there’s barely any sleep.
Where we take what we can to not be where we are.
Where shadows mean more
Where the children are right
Where we should be scared IN the dark
Where we should also be scared in the light
Where the good guys — the laws are Hate
Where we, us, the “bad guys” are family.

Where I’ll kiss your head when I can
Because it might be the last time
I kiss you or give you a shoulder to cry on
And we constantly validate each other
And check in on each other because
It is not just about being a little sad
It’s about making sure we aren’t
Dragged under the waves. Because
Just in case you aren’t there tomorrow
– And God when I wake up please be there —
I search for your face just to make sure
You’re still here. I love you too much
Not fight for you and I’ll kiss you and
Kiss you and even if I hate you
I’ll still kiss you just in case it will
Keep you here until tomorrow.

 

 

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At Midnight We Won’t Care.

At midnight we’ll recite bad news headlines
At midnight we’ll point out where we’ve been
At midnight we’ll compare to-do lists
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll disagree about music
At midnight we’ll take turns pouring coffee
At midnight we’ll take turns pouring liquor
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll book plane tickets
At midnight we’ll read traveling books
At midnight we’ll be wide awake
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll watch documentaries
At midnight we’ll dance at your friend’s house
At midnight we’ll write some music
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll hear a neighbor shout
At midnight we’ll help them find their cat, Jo
At midnight we’ll look for better jobs
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll ride bicycles together
At midnight we’ll whisper ghost stories
At midnight we’ll lie next to the pool
At midnight we won’t care.

At midnight we’ll claw with our heavy hearts
At midnight we’ll laugh with our lips touching
At midnight we’ll cease to exist
At midnight we won’t care.

Powder.

So, what is the truth of this? Well this sky, for one.
On this day the Vegas sky will strike Avedis Zildjian.
Listen as the sky is dust’d with pastel baby powders.
“Happy Father’s Day,” on a jar of sand, a children’s
Jar, with a cotton top, to a child without a father.

In this softness through the dusk there stands
The vampish mountains. Past a while are silver
Grounds that sing cold and distant vespers.
How strange a thought for this small town, to
Hear the evening prayer. But then you’ll see,
That mercury, and know to not go there.

And there! A bright and terrifying factory in night!
Naught’ visible but gold and windows. Steam and
Smoke and yellow light. What are they making
There I wonder? Is it filled with time machines?
Are they making all these nighttime wonders
Keeping me from dreams?

You’d fall a hundred years across, into the desert
Caverns. You’d fly past waves of sand and rock
Until you find the water. What is the water? Hidden.
Dark. A city with no people. A hollow world without
A trace of earthly light or present.

Here I sit, in hubris and glow of light pollution,
The powdered sky’s been blown off course,
Perhaps to north, perhaps to south, the dervishes
Of earth take hold in trance towards earth & heaven.

Another kind of smoke will now curl across this land.
For now it tastes of time and salt, tomorrow tastes of
heaven. But what can we convey in words, that does
That feeling justice, of sitting on a mountainside
The desert rise’ above us?

These children should go home now, wherever that
May be. Someday and sleep through burning light
Until the brass, and sneaking out, once sky is filled
with powder. And quiet wait, until the ghosts go on
To find another.

Morning.

Open your eyes, it’s time to forget you were

Passed through by a shadow in dreams.

The shadow will float quickly away,

Scared by daylight and senses.

You know real things dreamt are only thoughts,

And thoughts are unreachable, forgotten.

Memories lose to the healing mind,

The mind forgets to remember.

Your mind doesn’t care what closed eyes see,

Your wants are not it’s concern.

The heart bellows out,

“My memories!” But

No. Too late. The

Alarm has rung.

Your dreams

Float away

And have

Ended.

A White Figure 8.

A WHITE FIGURE 8

It’s around noon and I’ve just sat down to dive into my work at PublicUs in the downtown district of Las Vegas. I can never study in total silence. I think too many thoughts at once and background noise helps drown out the voices. A man sits down in front of me digging through his things looking for a thick marker, but since he can’t find one he asks me if I have one. Actually, I’m constantly buying art supplies I never use (a symptom of my bipolar disorder), so I run out to my car and return a few minutes later with a thick art marker. I’ll always donate to the cause of art. This man shows signs of mental illness, and I can tell he probably gets people following him around a lot “checking in” with the people he interacts with, in case he’s bothering them. I understand their concern, but I tell the man who’s walked up to me to check in that it’s okay, that he isn’t bothering me. I don’t sympathize, since I myself have had a long history of mental health issues. Our interaction feels more like camaraderie.

My companion sits in front of me making jewelry out of random trinkets. He has an art box in the shape of a very large Lego. Red. He also has some kind of gemstone that’s cut nicely. “This is from my mother. I guess I should keep it with me huh? It is mother after all.” He said this as he pressed it to his palm and closed his other hand on top. Before he put it back into his Lego, he pressed it quickly against his chest.

Throughout our conversation there is a lot of muttering about various family members. Some I’m not sure are actually family, or if maybe he considers and refers to friends as family. He mentions a son, and then mentions a daughter half way through the conversation.

Midway on, a clear little glass box appears, accented by gold around the edges. My friend tells me it’s from his grandmother. He then starts to pull things out of his Lego box, placing them in between of us. It was a show and tell of colored pencils, pots of watercolor paint, matchbooks, cigarette butts (his boyfriend’s), and trinkets. Sometimes he’d say, “Oh this is yours!” And place an item closer to me (“How did it get in here I wonder?”), just to snatch it back a few minutes later (“Oh wait this is mine”). I really wanted to know how he knew certain things were mine. People (in general) tend to place strangers into imaginary worlds the moment we see them. “They look like the kind of person who would do this and wear that. They probably like to…” It’s automatic for us to create worlds for others. I think it’s a defense mechanism against the unknown, or loneliness. Maybe it was something a little like that. Or maybe I just really look like a matchbook collector.

The moment I remember best was when my friend pulled out a light pink paint pot and placed it in the center of everything. He had been naming all the colors of the paint pots, and this one he proclaimed, “White!” And immediately put it back. The rest of the colors he named correctly. (Or maybe we’re all wrong and pink is white and white is pink.) [… We could be wrong.] Pink was white to him in any event, and no other logic really matters. His hands bore the distinctive look of an artist. He is obviously someone who deals in fidgeting and rummaging and splattered paints. Graphite dusted his palms and was crammed under his fingernails. I smiled to myself; hands that show personality are fun and easy to love.

My companion had on a very flattering tan shirt with red stripes. He told me he wants to be a hairdresser and that he was 50 years old. Actually, he doesn’t look this age at all. Though his face did look aged, his stature was that of a 25 year old man. If I had to guess, I wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint.

The artist muttered under his breath quite a lot. A trait I can relate to. I wonder if the people around him daily are dismissive by now; tired of making an effort with someone who keeps talking while not being privy to who he’s talking to. He’s talking to you, maybe, but with the air of getting his story out — just in case you forgot; in case you never met him again; in case he forgot; in case the world ends at 9:23pm tonight, Eastern Standard Time.

Our friend pulls out a book from his bag and shows it to me when I ask what it is. Its cover is long gone, and has probably been pulled from a library bin sale. He lets me take a picture so I can remember what it was. (I wonder if the highlights are his?)

“Oh look at me, I’m acting like my sister. She got locked up in the loony bin.” I blink in reply. “Ah well, I need to get my life together.” He says this as he puts everything back into the Lego for the… I lost count. At this point I know everything in the box. (Though more paint pot colors kept coming out every time and I wondered how many more there were.) I smiled at him, “I think we all need to get our lives together.” We really do.

I gestured towards my things laid out in front of me, “I need to study, though I’m glad to meet you.” “Oh! Of course! Thank you for the marker, you’ve made my day. I like you. I like you a lot. You get it.” I know what he means. Our conversation was invigorating. He gets it too. He shakes my hand, and exits the shop to have a cigarette. Before he leaves he places in front of me a little piece of shrub that’s been ripped from its parent (probably a whim while passing by the plant in question), and a tiny number 8 refrigerator magnet with no magnet left in it.

It was white.

THE END

“What advice would you give to those still ~traversing~ undergrad?”

The one thing you need to hear I think (or at least what I would have wanted to hear) is that everything is going to be okay.

Those really upsetting moments when you didn’t do as well as you think you could have? Walk away. It’s done. It is what it is. Focus on what you have to do in the future. You can mourn for those moments on break, with a good movie and as much chocolate as you want.

Ask the teacher what they want. Don’t assume you know. Verbalize. Start dialogues with your teacher. You could write a brilliant theorem that changes the nature of x, but that’s not going to get you the grade if all your teacher wanted was one page of personal thoughts on z.

You’re going to overwork yourself if you try to put the extra mile into every little assignment. Ask the teacher how much an assignment is worth. Don’t burn yourself out over an assignment that’s worth 10 points. Just do what is asked of you.

Learn how to be by yourself. This is hard, and this navigates the huge line between mental health and survival etc. but you will be okay if you don’t have a lot of friends. Especially for those who are in a new place. Don’t jump at new friends just because you’re lonely, you’re gonna burn out. Plus, most of the people you meet in undergrad you really won’t know past graduation.

Find the importance of each class you’re taking, even if it’s just “this helps me destress.” You’ll do a lot better if you have a reason to care about the class. “There are no boring subjects only disinterested minds.”

Let worrying about other people’s work compared to yours go. Seriously.

Remember that school may not even be for you in the long run, and it’s okay to do only exactly what is asked to get through if all you want is to get through just to have the degree. It’s okay for that to be your goal.  There’s a lot going on in saying that with “hard work” culture, and “being the best” and job markets and such, but there are other things that can be done in life besides things requiring climbing higher education, and most of these things you learn in school can be learned by books. (There are exceptions of course, but this is dependent entirely on what you want to do.)

You won’t recognize just how much you’ve grown until much later, and undergrad feels like hell generally, but you’ll be okay. It will seem like a dream after you move on from it, a long and really strange dream.

95

Stop idolizing the mountain. You can fall all the way down, walk ’round the damn thing twelve times, waste a few years, and still never make it all the way to the highest peak. It doesn’t matter. You can still survive in the valleys below, beautifully and well. You can still pour yourself into the ocean, and traverse continents and climb through jungles. The diversity of terrain is what makes life worthwhile. Your elevation does not mean that much.