Category Archives: musings
You are King of the Sea, I said
and I King of the Sky.
Don’t you see me, see my wings?
See how I soar? See how I fly?
See how I launch myself from pedestals,
flapping wings of wax, of ambition and manmade edifice.
See how I can fly?
And he I imagine is an underwater king
though he spends most of the time
gliding across the tide on a battered surfboard.
I imagine him peaceful, innocent, yet fierce
like a sea turtle clutching a trident.
He sits aloft coral reefs, sprints across the backs of Great Whites
and can communicate with sea horses like Aquaman.
It was Sunday, the waves unsure, the sky cold and clear
Later, I could see the stars, and I pretended I could name each one
as if I had named them myself.
He explained, in his childish manner, about the rap industry and then
his theory of art
For a quiet boy from Long Island, a placid surfer dude who wanted to become a doctor,
you do not expect for him to care so deeply for art.
But on that Sunday, we reeled him into our nightly chaos
into our vices, into our storytelling.
And he explained, how art should asymptotically close to nature.
That Art should be a reflection of reality, of one’s perception.
Then we pretended to be great artists too, boldly shaping faces
sketching dinosaurs in top hats in the margins of our biology notes.
I drew an illustration of he and I
He the King of the Sea
Me the King of the Sky
See how I fly? I asked
And you’re in the waves, exploring the deep
as if in dreams, in sleep, you’ve been talking
searching for something to say, whether it be just a word or a sentence
See how I fall? I asked. See how I fall?
I don’t see nothing at all, you said, nothing at all.
And I said, keep searching, just keep seeking.
He is all show-and-tell, asking you to straighten up and drop your bags at your feet. Your first thought is that he might beat you up and steal your bags when he offers to “relieve your stress,” then you wonder whether or not he means to give sexual favors here on the street corner in broad daylight. Surely he knows he should take you behind the Starbuck’s, into the parking lot, if he intends to kill you or do anything else to you. Instead, he offers his chiropractic services—cheaper than a real one, with the same results, he promises.
You know that this is dangerous, that he could snap your neck, and he laughs off your worries. Natural for you to be frightened of a burly black man sitting on the street corner. You’re not sure whether he is homeless, but he smells that way, and you’re not sure whether he knows what he is doing as he takes your hand between his palms. You imagine action movies during which a James-Bond-look-alike twists a henchman’s neck. That simple: dead.
In a few seconds, you could be laying like that, and this man who has you in a stranglehold could walk away with your laptop computer. Maybe you should tell him that your computer isn’t worth it, to target someone with a Macbook Air or at least something that reliably can log onto a wi-fi network. Every law of childhood tells you to walk away, but fear of appearing racist and presumptuous keep you planted.
Don’t talk to strangers, your mother told you. But don’t judge a book by its cover. You’re slowly realizing the lack of real-world application of these outdated adages. You should be crossing the street, walking fast but not running in case it caused offense. You can feel his beard brushing against your neck as he heaves you into the air—crack. Not dead yet.
In Nuremburg, a one-armed Turkish man plays accordion for money. In South-East Asia, some street-dwellers offer dubious massages. But the Charlestonian who sits on a park bench all day with a pack upon his lap—he is not some petty hobo. He has skills, chiropractic know-how, despite having no official training or degree. You wonder for a brief moment whether it is unfair that licensed practitioners get paid so much while this man may or may not live underneath a porch.
Then you remember that this man is preparing to crack your neck, your back, your arms. He could incapacitate you. But each time, he offers relief. That crick in your neck feels better than ever. You feel limber as Play-dough. Maybe he wasn’t lying, you think, as you pick up your bag and stretch, feeling refreshed.
You pay him with half a Panini, and he asks you to tell your friends, though he doesn’t have a business card or anything. Rather, he sits outside of Fed-Ex, across the street from the art museum, offering his services to whatever subconsciously-racist, gullible kid walks by. He is a legend, an enigma, a stranger with a past likely as colorful as Charleston’s.
Four weeks later, the “Happy Birthday” Mylar balloon survives, defying gravity as it levitates beside his bed. When he wakes, he usually startles, peering into the darkness and waiting for IT to attack in his clownish terror. But the boy does not lay in his bed, but instead hunches over the desk writing on index cards, his arms, the walls, and his mind– any sort of memorization trick he can think of.
Periodically, he reaches for his laptop, opens up Facebook, wastes fifteen minutes reading a bland twitter feed. When he looks up to see the books and papers and notebooks stacked around him like a fortress, he closes the laptop and returns to work.
The boy is me, naturally, too lazy to use first person because after studying this much, can you even be sure that you inhabit your own body anymore? You’re a robot, a clone, that strange alien double agent sent into a high school to infect the student body as well as the teacher, but there are a few resistant students who team up and fight against you. Either that, or everyone’s losing their minds.
Studying might not be the right word, though. More like boarding up a house in Florida before hurricane season or gathering your army for war. Washington, I have crossed the Delaware. I have faced the enemy, and he is no Fuhrer or vaguely-racist-depiction of Communism, but final exams.
As much as I would like to say that these exams are why I haven’t blogged in so long, I can’t say that. After all, the Mylar balloon has been there the whole time, egging me. Write, write write, and no doubt, I have been writing. Perhaps a little more than a week from now, when the waiting and preparing ends, I can write more. Also, I will be putting up videos of poetry performances in the next few days, so look out for those.
Sunday. Rain besieges the Holy City. I wake to thoughts of stray cats of Calhoun shivering under porches of abandoned houses, and I think of the homeless people curled up against the porches, peering through the lattice work, envious of the felines’ comfort.
When I wake, my heavy and hallucinatory dreams melt. Machine-gun fire rattles from above, rebel clouds releasing fleets of kamikaze rain that streak across the sky. Waking to such clamor, I fell back to sleep, wrapping my cocoon of blankets tighter around me. You’re supposed to write today, some voice inside says, and you’re supposed to get things done. How about breakfast?
I venture out finally into the morning dressed in an unseasonable outfit, the sky only dripping. But thirty minutes pass, the the heavens smile with crooked teeth, drooling on the buildings and the pedestrians. My body is a rag to be squeezed out, to be ringed into a bucket and thrown away. Returning in such a state, I strip off my clothes and climb under the blankets. You’re supposed to write today, some little voice says, but I drown it out. A few more minutes, I think, pushing my laptop away. I will work very soon, but let me sleep while this celestial war rages on.
My good fortune found me sitting down with famous Southern writer and political analyst Henry Cotton III, author of 7 Habits of a Highly Successful Secessionist. He is renowned for works such as A Southern Guide to California: Into the Eighth Circle of Hell, The Five People You Will Meet in Georgia, Chicken Soup for the Confederate Soul, Eat, Pray, Secede, and Three Mason Jars of Moonshine: One’s Man’s Mission to Promote American Values in a Liberal Land.
His newest work follows the efforts of anti-Obama protestors calling for the secession of 20 U.S. states. It focuses on how by seceding from the Union and creating a new Constitution based on allowing the minority vote to choose the presidency, these states will display what real democracy looks like.
Derek: Mr. Cotton III, what do you think spurred the recent secession movement?
Cotton: Well, Derek, Texas was basically its own country anyways. So, allowing it to break off and swim somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean seems like the best way to settle our differences. As for the rest of the states, it is our divine right to reject our government when we disagree with it. What do you think the Revolutionary War was about?
Derek: Or the Civil War?
Cotton: No, the War of Northern Aggression was not about rejecting government. We were attacked. Our values were attacked. We protected them.
Derek: I see. What are the chief complaints of the states involved? Why would they want to leave the United States.
Cotton: Well, recent research has brought to light that democracy has not been carried out in this land. For example, when a majority of electoral votes goes to somebody I don’t like, there must be a real glitch in the system, especially if that happens twice. For decades, real Americans have suffered attacks on our freedoms and rights. Just the other day, I went down to the Piggly Wiggly, and what did I see? Two men holding hands, infringing on my rights to be a heterosexual.
Derek: How unfortunate, sir. Well, what other reasons might you have?
Cotton: I know you think I’m just some ignorant hick, but I think that we have every right to secede if we want to.
Derek: No doubt. It’s actually in the Constitution. ““Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” one portion read, “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government.”
Cotton: That’s right. People say we’re unpatriotic, that we don’t know what we’re talking about, but if we disagree with the federal government, we actually have every right to secede.
Derek: If enough states leave the Union, will they form their own country, do you think, or will they continue on, each state as a separate, sovereign entity?
Cotton: I imagine a new nation with rise, one that our Founding Fathers imagined, one where we can carry guns to church without harassment. And anybody don’t like it, they can move up North to Yankee-land. We have survived long enough in enemy territory, ever since the Usurpation of Lincoln in the 1800’s.
Derek: Well, I thank you for your time, and I hope everyone buys his new book 7 Habits of a Highly Successful Secessionist. It’s a thrilling read about how you too can secede from the union!
I read a poem today in which two boys played in the backyard, a deceptively simple poem. The more I pondered the two stanzas, the more concretely I realized how little the poem was about—childhood innocence, friendship, etc. Should poetry be so hushed, so calm, so unobtrusive?
Having grown used to brass, dramatic poetry, this caught me unawares. Why be so calm and cool and collected? Two boys running and throwing balls and pushing toy trucks around in the grass, all things I’ve rarely seen. Because childhood is rarely as innocent as we assume.
Why not write about two boys playing video games (we often played videogames), about how they shout at each other as each wins? Write about throwing the controllers at each others’ faces, knocking out teeth, bloodying their noses. Childhood is rarely flowers and sunshine and playtime before supper. It’s a constant war.
Children, in fact, are sufficient evidence that we as the human race descended from savages. They are cruel, selfish, and conniving.
And no one is as guilty as a child is. When a child steals, they spend the next few hours fretting over their sin, their black crime. When they lie, they burst with the need to say the truth. Adults do not share this tendency: we do not feel guilty about much past infidelity or murder.
I closed the book of poetry and put it away, thinking about times I might have played in the grass. Surely not as many times as I argued with friends over Pokémon cards or whether or not a certain Mario Kart race victory was considered fair. Do poems need to shout, to demand change, to radicalize, or can they fall light as clouds on your brain, invoking nothing serious, only the fabled innocence of children.
When voting for Gary Johnson, remember to not accidentally write “Gay Johnson” as a write-in. Especially do not accidentally misspell his name while Googling him, because while you may have been searching for his Libertarian policies, what you’ll get instead might be unpleasant.
Likewise, when spelling Barack Obama’s name, avoid typing “Osama” as so many people have. It will leave you with your head cocked to the side, perplexed at why suddenly the Democratic Party has become a terrorist organization.
Lastly, do not type Mitt Romney’s name into Google as “Mitt Romney” on the likely chance you’ll end up on his website, equally disheartened.
Despite the misspellings and misinterpretations of names, policies, and theoretical comings of End Times, go out and vote today.
We arrived to eat breakfast, though it was nearly time for lunch. I ordered a black coffee and she a chocolate waffle. For a long time, I sat uninspired with a notebook in front of me, too tired to transcribe what I was seeing. Instead, I contemplated the synthetic webs, filled with plastic spiders, decorating the establishment for Halloween.
Behind me, two couples sat facing each other, enjoying a post-church lunch in sweater vests and Easter dresses.
One woman refilled her coffee cup and sat down, frowning toward the waitress.
“Want some sugar, honey?” asked her husband, pursing his lips and leaning forward.
“No thank you,” she said. “Maybe just some Splenda.”
Besides being a fashionable asset to any face, “The Beard” is a statement, usually that “I am a man and can grow a beard, so deal with my stubbly insubordinate nature.” In some cases, growing facial hair has become the calling card for indie band members, Canadian lumberjacks, and brutally masculine movie stars (see: Sean Connery, Jeff Bridges, Mr. T). But can beards symbolize something other than masculinity and what implications can growing a beard have on a person’s psychology?
Those are both very intriguing questions that I doubt anyone could answer without first delving into weeks of research in an academic library. Because I’m rather short on time, I’ll rely on my flimsy conjectures and access to Wikipedia.
Well-known theologian of the second century Clement of Alexandria wrote extensively about the importance of facial hair. A Christian philosopher, he deemed beards man’s “natural and noble adornment.” In fact, an inactive user on a Puritan forum I found on the vast internet shared similar sentiments with the quotes he posted (thanks to anonymous Puritan guys researching ancient texts):
“How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them!…For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest–a sign of strength and rule.” 2.275
Not growing out your beard, Clement asserts, is womanly, which may come as quite an insult for bearded women.
“This, then, is the mark of the man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve. It is the token of the superior nature….It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.” 2.276
These quotes reflect that to shave one’s beard rebels against God himself, yet in today’s society not-shaving, not not-shaving, signifies an aptitude for rebellion. We view beards as belonging to badass transgressors and terrorist anarchists. Sometimes, then, beards can be seen as a sign of obedience and sometimes as a sign of rebellion. It’s strange that tufts of facial hair could signify two such disparate ideologies. Naturally, we associate not shaving with Amish identity as well as the religious identities of other factions (Jewish and Islamist faiths being two prime examples).
Then what is a beard by any other name other than nothing more than what it is?
Hair. On your face.
A beard can symbolize whatever you want it to symbolize. A beard, like many other universal symbols, can be used to instruct unconsciously in a myriad of ways and therefore are meaningless as well as full of meaning. Then, when you grow your beards, you get to choose what it means. Sort of like a tattoo. Perhaps you want to seem manly, or want to seem rebellious, or like my friend Andy can’t not grow a beard because your manliness refuses to hide itself.
The reason I’m contemplating beards: November is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. And to support awareness of a possibly awkward topic, men grow out their beards. Next time you shave, think about what you’re saying or not saying about yourself.