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5 years

5 years

For Naysan

My brother, the baby in the picture above, is getting married today. In honor of that, here’s something I wrote for him ten years ago, filled with all the angst and existentialism and melodramatic cussing in poetry that the twenties are ripe with :) But under all that are still some things that hold true.

and I’m still in nevada less than an hour outside of las vegas and little brother I got the desert riding on one side of me and a valley of green trees standing like numbered soldiers riding on the right 

and I’m driving between them with tears murmuring to a future not yet here and it’s like damn I wanna be in the desert find god like a cliche amongst the cacti and jackrabbits like a soul growing in something where nothing else does 

nature’s bone yard and cathedral in the same place the two go hand in hand like everything else like the sands on one side and the leaves on the other and little brother I’m thinking of you 

of carving a postcard out of my heart to drop into some ocean with a blink and a kiss and a prayer that my words will find their way to you cuz I got nothing but a stance standing always two sentences away from those tears 

murmuring to a future that’s not yet here talking like a schizophrenic past that doesn’t want to remove itself I got memories like shoulderblades 

and little brother I got a letter I want to write to you

cuz damn I’m missing something these days and I don’t know what it is and I want you to know this for the time that’ll come when you’re looking for yourself or maybe you already are and I need you to know 

my arms are wrapped around my ribs like an eagle wrapping talons around a thin branch keeping himself from falling and reminding the tree that it is alive and I don’t know which one is holding the other together the trunk or the thin sands locking fingers around it my skin is the color of a desert

and I’m trying to peel it off so I can pick it back up and throw it around my shoulders and shake it down over me like soft rain or a softer arm and little brother I know you’re wondering about the same shit all of us are shivering from and damn me 

cuz I can’t get out the words that’ll breathe you to sleep anymore cuz I ain’t any bigger than you anymore only older and baby boy

I’m now twenty-two sentences past those tears and my brain and heart are both still going like a goddamn engine that just won’t die and I just want to have nothing but two legs and the sentences that stretch between my kneecaps and my clouds climbing their way to a throne I know sits somewhere but dammit

this God thing is the last thing I want and this God thing is the only thing I want and these days it seems like days is all I’m doing looking for some shit that damn if someone looking like our mother and somebody looking like our father handed to the three of us but damn if this heart of mine ain’t thick skulled

and as stubborn as I am I know that shit’s genetic and that your knuckles are covering your own poems and damn I know you got the words to bend fire and damn I want you to catch a comet like it was a tadpole only to let it go like we once did letting it grow until the heavens are screaming goddamn shit motherfucker!look at that motherfucker burn with beauty

and you and I and every other goddamned person wondering what this hole is that sits inside every fucking one of us is and what’s it gonna take to fill it up–cuz it ain’t no lips and legs and art and hearts books and bottles

it ain’t the arms of paris ain’t australia’s roads and the branches of prague it ain’t a dream and damn it ain’t the memory (but damn those memories got their fingers so hard and deep into me my neck bleeds every time I open my mouth and my spine screams when I open my eyes and my fingers don’t know what to do whenever my hands open)

it ain’t none of that on its own cuz I been throwing wishes into me for decades now and I’m still empty and I still hunger and I don’t know what the thing is that fills our shapelessness but I know when it comes every one of us is gonna be staring up into the night or the day or the giant ass beacon of light or whatever it is

we gonna be looking up and by up I mean open cuz it’s gonna be in front and behind and inside of us 

we gonna look and whisper just as strongly at those same scarred heavens at that comet you were riding and I was riding and we were all riding before this earth fell off that shit and we’ll all be saying just as loud as it is:

goddamn shit mother fucker look at that motherfucker burn look at that motherfucker burn with beauty!

we are heavens naysan 

every last broken burning one of us is heavens

and I don’t know if you need this shit or even want this shit but I know I do cuz I don’t have anything but a hole in me that for whatever reason God fills everyday and somehow I empty it back out and dammit be like me don’t be like me I don’t know just 

catch Him catch whatever catch it all–this shit this poem this world whatever it is this place we live inside of is our graveyard and it is our church and I got the desert on one end of me and a valley of trees on the other and the sun burns on both and the moon listens quietly to both and I guess I just want you to be as small as you once were cuz then my paper would still be white as the snow and that would mean

that this shit that this shit could be anything

and I’d still be just two sentences in and staring forward

pick up your eyes hold the shovel with two hands remember everything miss none of it hold it all close to your beating birds love none of it love it all



Two-Minute Personality Test
By Jonathan Safran Foer

What’s the kindest thing you almost did? Is your fear of insomnia stronger than your fear of what awoke you? Are bonsai cruel? Do you love what you love, or just the feeling? Your earliest memories: do you look though your young eyes, or look at your young self? Which feels worse: to know that there are people who do more with less talent, or that there are people with more talent? Do you walk on moving walkways? Should it make any difference that you knew it was wrong as you were doing it? Would you trade actual intelligence for the perception of being smarter? Why does it bother you when someone at the next table is having a conversation on a cell phone? How many years of your life would you trade for the greatest month of your life? What would you tell your father, if it were possible? Which is changing faster, your body, or your mind? Is it cruel to tell an old person his prognosis? Are you in any way angry at your phone? When you pass a storefront, do you look at what’s inside, look at your reflection, or neither? Is there anything you would die for if no one could ever know you died for it? If you could be assured that money wouldn’t make you any small bit happier, would you still want more money? What has been irrevocably spoiled for you? If your deepest secret became public, would you be forgiven? Is your best friend your kindest friend? Is it any way cruel to give a dog a name? Is there anything you feel a need to confess? You know it’s a “murder of crows” and a “wake of buzzards” but it’s a what of ravens, again? What is it about death that you’re afraid of? How does it make you feel to know that it’s an “unkindness of ravens”?

This is apparently part of a series to be printed on Chipotle cups, along with Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis. Some folks may love that, some may hate it. Me? I think it’s pretty rad. But is also rather irrelevant to the the wonderfulness of the actual content above.

A tiny play in one tiny act

A ping pong table in a garage in California. An 8 year old boy and 36 year old man are playing.

8-year old: I feel a little weird.

36-year old: How come?

8-year old: I don’t know.

36-year old: Well what kind of weird. Can you tell what it is, what it feels like?

8-year old: I feel awkward.

36-year old: Awkward?

8-year old: Yeah.

36-year old: Do you know why?

8-year old: No, I just do.

36-year old: That’s okay. I feel a little awkward tonight too.

The huntingtonlibrary's moonwalk! Via scanzen

The huntingtonlibrary's moonwalk! Via scanzen


"I want to die in Poland."


"I want to die in Poland."

The book circles me like a gnat. I circle it like a dog staked to a pole. Years it’s gone on that way.
We are Diebenkorns. Floating out if ourselves. The air leaking into earth & the earth spilling out of its shapes. Yesterday’s flight home. Almost touching down.

We are Diebenkorns. Floating out if ourselves. The air leaking into earth & the earth spilling out of its shapes. Yesterday’s flight home. Almost touching down.

Not even the music can. Austin.

Not even the music can. Austin.

MAY 10

In 2009 Mother’s Day was on May tenth and I was in Austin Texas working on a movie and stretching my heart muscles, getting re-accustomed to them and in a way I’d never known, deciding not to be afraid of it anymore. The night before I had talked on the phone to a girl who’s voice I’d only heard once before, six months prior and even then only about 30 word’s worth. She didn’t sound how I was expecting. It was lower then I remembered and there were a lot of pauses, hesitation. I probably sounded the same way. The girl had spent the better part of the previous week sleeping in Miami and now with a broken phone and only the ocean to shower in was ready to leave and for whatever reason she decided to come see me, a person she had only conversations of more than 30 words with via the internet. She had a wine-filled talk with me from Tulsa and a dream in April about our children and two weeks of late night gchats. When she told me online that she had a broken phone and was looking for where to go next I suggested Austin. She asked if it would be weird. I said I didn’t know. Praise the Lord that that was good enough for her to hitch a flight to Texas. 

Goddamn the sun was bright that day. Goddamn the heat was present once it sank down. The humidity made her short hair a mane. She was the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. Still is.

The fears in my life that I would walk with, I would cram into my heart. And so it became the scaredest part of my body. I’d tuck it under a lot of things. Didn’t want folks to know if it loved them. Got me into some trouble. Some trouble with other sweet caring people, mostly with myself, throwing it down a well and sitting down there on top of it, down in the dark water not wanting to climb back out for fear that tender thing I was hiding would find its way into some sort of soft light.

She got out of cab by the river. We took turns riding a longboard down a hill. I don’t do things like sitting on longboards and riding them down hills. But my heart seemed to be taking the reigns this time around, punching my fear cross its jaw and saying uh-uh, I got this one. 

We joined our friends at the swimming hole for Mother Day festivities. Everything was the easiest thing my life had ever held. On leaving we took the long walk around to the far exit. I heard my name being called out Anis….! Anis…! ANIS! There were two ladies sunbathing on the hill without shirts, swimsuits, or bras across their chests, waving me down to tell me they liked my poetry and wondering if I had any shows in town. I told them I had something that evening and with this girl standing next to me I did my best to  remain cool and non-plussed as if giving directions to topless women was part of my everyday life and nothing to feel slightly strange about. 

She stayed seven days and seven nights in Austin. She was gonna stay six but when I dropped her off at the airport on Saturday afternoon, the sky split itself wide open and the clouds shook so much rain out of them her pane couldn’t take off, so with a deluge of rain covering the Texas highway, I turned the car around to go pick her back up. We wandered through that week together, loosening one another’s knots. We rode a lot of bicycles. Roasted marshmallows by a canal. Standing up in the back of a pickup truck I kissed her as we rounded the corner of East 5th Street. We closed our eyes, held our hands together, and saw how far we could walk without opening them. Our first date was on Friday. We ate Mexican. She wore an orange dress. 

A week later after returning to Portland with her heart in my hands and mine in hers, without fear of cars, or love, I danced in the middle of the street, told my mother about a girl I was in love with, and set to work burying my guns in the ground. I didn’t need them anymore.

Five years later, I still don’t. There is something strange and fascinating to me about the age of the internet, the open frontier of it. There is no reason to share all this with an unknown mass. I have my memories and hold them dear. But I guess it’s sort of related to some of the reasons for creating things in general––to stake a place in the dirt that marks off a spot that respects those very moments we hold dear. My wife might find this overly sentimental, which honestly is something I still love about her. But whatever reasons contributed to this girl hopping on that plane and to Mother Nature keeping her nearby and to her wanting to take my name and give me hers two years later, I’m thankful, and enough that I want to remind my little patch of dirt of this. Fear is a strange thing. It rears up when you least expect it, reveals itself to simply have been hiding in the earth, even when you thought it had left for good. But even on days when I hear its rusty songs trying to break from out the dirt, my heart turns away from its fears. Even as autumn falls to winter, so winter turns towards spring, and April turns into May. Sometimes it works hard to do such, to move from thunder to water evaporating off the petals. Sometimes it turns just as simply and easily as it did that afternoon at Barton Springs. But it still turns. This I am thankful for as well.