hanging on the telephone

when i was a child
my father gave me a broken telephone

i took it apart
unscrewed it as far as i could
left it as a pile of pieces
a metallic jigsaw puzzle

i had no goal, no purpose in this dissection
i wasn’t trying to figure out how it worked
i just wanted to see its innards
laid out before me

it seemed so strange to think
how that mass of metal and wires and mechanical odors
could make something so useful

its pieces laid out like that
it was useless

in those days telephones felt real
they reeked of metal and oil and carbon
they had a dial that spun around
and a little catch for your finger
and a handset that was heavy and solid

i can still smell it
the sense memory is deep
i can taste its aura
dry and cracked and forlorn

this was how the world was back then
typewriters that creaked and aged
adding machines that were too heavy to lift
stereo speakers covered in real wood

my father made bookshelves from
cement blocks and two by fours
no sauder or ikea kits back then
everything had to be rugged but portable

we moved around so often
so everything had to have the appearance of permanence
but dissolvable in a heartbeat

my father’s favorite hobby was
going to auctions of dead farmers
and bidding on blind boxes
whatever’s in this crate
you’re not allowed to look
what are you willing to pay

i remember the patter of the auctioneers
the way the words ran together in a river of sounds
so quickly
laid on top of each other in an impossible tongue

one voice
multiple tracks of words
rapid fire yet completely discernible
going going sold

when we moved back to the city
my father got his fix from the salmagundi board
on the annual pbs auction
channel 56

he developed relationships with the people on the phone
as he called in his bids
but i could tell it was not the same

not the same as opening that blind box
full of greasy and rusting tools
for those hidden gems that would go on the wall
in his workshop

no taxidermied heads to boast of his hunts
his trophies were just-right wiresnips and
the hefty wrenches of yesteryear
where he could pretend to be the farmer
he’d always wanted to be

and me
i got a telephone
black and heavy and full of toxins
torn apart just to see its innards


04.22.23 – The Dream

(This is just a dream journal entry, kept here because it goes with the previous item and I don’t want to lose it. No deep reflections here, but if you want to read it anyway, go for it.)

So there was of course more to the dream than I put in that write-up. It was a very detailed and packed dream for something that probably lasted in real time only a few minutes.

I was at a conference in Chicago. The entire dream took place in my hotel room, which had two queen beds, typical hotel furniture, and a very strange shower, which I’ll get to at the end.

In the dream, I had a girlfriend. It was someone that I really did date years ago, but I haven’t spoken to in maybe 20 years. Anyway, she told me it wasn’t working and that when we got back to Detroit, we wouldn’t be together anymore, but then she got that look on her face like maybe she was rethinking it again. We’d already broken up three times, always initiated by her.

So I was alone in this hotel room, and my belongs were strewn all over the place because that’s what happens after a few days in a hotel room. I needed to pack to go, but I also realized I hadn’t taken a shower, so I tried focusing on that.

But people kept coming into my room. The door wouldn’t lock right; the metal arm/hook thing that’s meant as a security device was broken (as it had been in one of the hotels we stayed in during the power outage), and the door itself wouldn’t latch, let alone lock.

I was simultaneously at a fantasy/scifi convention, a student field trip (where I was a chaperone), and a class field trip (where I was a student). And the people that came by were mostly reflective of that: Field trip directors looking for specific students, fellow teachers asking questions, and so on.

Two of the students in my class came by to hang out. They were all packed and bored. At first, it was two women, 20-somethings, one blonde and the other brunette. Later, I noticed that the brunette had become a blonde man, the twin brother of the other blonde. They were exchange students, from Finland or Germany, or something like that.

They were not bothering me, just talking to each other mostly, so I let them stay.

But as other people kept coming in and interrupting my attempt to get showered and packed, I started yelling more and more. The last one I remember was a little girl and her mother, just other guests at the hotel.

Anyway, after I finally got undressed (apologizing to the two who were there, but they didn’t care), I got into the shower, but this was by far the weirdest part of the dream.

The shower door was stone and had to be move out of the way. The wall around the shower was covered in some sort of rocky grit, gray, that came off onto my fingers when I touched it. There was a ledge that was just barely wide enough to step on, and then a short tunnel that went away and down into the floor, getting smaller until only after a few feet it would have too difficult to crawl into (had I tried). The water source was a constantly flowing waterfall, as if the hotel had been carved into the side of a mountain. There was no place for soap or shampoo.

That was when I’d woken up, wondering if my shower water was the waste of the rooms above me, and whether my waste moved on to floor below me.

a plate of shrimp

last night i had a dream where i was trying to take a shower
that wasn’t the whole dream of course
i was in chicago with my (dream) girlfriend for some sort of conference
there were students there too
and other teachers

it was the last morning of the conference
sunday morning
time to get ready to go home
my girlfriend had just dumped me for the fourth time
and was considering getting together with me again
so she’d left me alone in the hotel room

i realized i hadn’t taken a shower
i had been wearing the same clothes the whole weekend
this was the fourth day
so it was time to get naked
take my shower
get dressed
get to the bus

but i was stuck on that first part

for one thing
people kept coming in my room
the door wouldn’t lock right
and so people would just pop in
i was getting ruder and ruder

there were two students who had decided to just sit on my bed
they were exchange students
a brother and a sister
they were from the college class i was taking
i let them stay
they were talking to each other and mostly ignoring me

but i digress

i was trying to take a shower
so i kept taking articles of clothing off
and every time i thought i was naked
i realized i still had something else on

there was a puffy winter coat that i’d found after i’d taken my sweater off
and several shirts underneath that
i took great pains to take the enamel pins off the lapel of the coat
even though they were affixed nice and firm
and the coat wasn’t in need of washing

as i was taking off one shirt i realized there was another one on top of it
and the last shirt was stuck to me
with sweat
or maybe because i’d never taken it off before

when digging down to my core self
i have used the metaphor of an onion
peeling back the layers
layer upon layer
but what if that’s all there is?
layer upon layer

we peel garlic and then realize
okay here we are at the meat
the good stuff
the stuff that makes this garlic

we peel corn
set aside the husks and the fluff
all the protective stuff
all that camouflage
and we find the brightness
the sweetness
the kernels that made us want to dig in the first place

but ultimately
onions are just layers upon layers
some edible some not
but still just layers

but i am not an onion
i am an ear of corn
i have a last shirt to remove
and then i will be naked

and in need of a shower



I’ve made it past the two-thirds mark for April. Some days I really struggle with new words, and I’m feeling like there’s a shadow of glumness that hovers over most of them. My inner child is now and has long been so very emo, but I also feel like I’m turning a corner.

Therapy? sings: “Happy people have no stories.” I fret that that means I’m doomed to glumness if I want to have stories, but just because some Irish punk rocker has an opinion about the drama of the world, something he likely got from reading too much Russian and French Existentialist literature, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

No offense to Andy Cairns, of course. He’s been far more commercially successful than I am, so I do think he’s likely on to something. Just, you know, saying.

Anyway, I feel like my daily pieces have threads running through them but at the same time are disconnected, and in a way they’re feeling redundant, like it’s time to start crocheting them together. I don’t know, though, I’m also worried that if I stop with the daily infusions of stream-of-consciousness, I’ll throw my hands up entirely.

I will have faith in the process for now. It’s only nine more days.

so anyway

so anyway
the other day i was thinking about how i was trained to always apologize
to always feel sorry for who i am and what i’ve done
and how that created a lifetime of shame
everything i do is wrong
it’s just not true
i mean
i know that i’m not perfect and that plenty of what i do is messed up
and i guess i should feel bad for stuff that i do legitimately mess up
but so much of what i supposedly did wrong as a child
was because my brain works differently
and i needed an operator’s manual
the other kids got their manual from their teachers
not directly
not overtly
just because that’s the way that the teachers operated
like i was a microsoft computer
in a room full of apples
and it’s not that my brain worked wrong but
hey hey hey
it should be obvious that if you try to run apple software on a windows computer
it’s not going to work
nobody’s fault
except the person trying to run software on an incompatible machine
and then it’s only their fault if they know better and then try anyway
which just between you and me
i think some of them were doing
point being though
that you wouldn’t expect the computer to apologize
for not understanding software that wasn’t designed for it
but for some reason
i was expected to apologize
and i still do
i still think there’s something shameful about how i react sometimes
as if
i haven’t had a lifetime of not understanding
and nobody gave me an operator’s manual
so i had to write my own
and it’s frankly not very good
very very very much still in draft mode
and i’m revising it every day but it’s still frankly not very good
so anyway
i’m tempted to finish off by saying it’s okay
it’s just not true
i mean
it’s still not okay and i’m still not where i want to be
but it’ll be okay
it’s getting there
and that will have to be enough for now



thoughts and prayers
at the end of a steel barrel
do not stop the death
hurtling forth

thoughts and prayers
keep falling on the deaf ears
of children cut down
like weeds
inconveniences in the way
of the liberty to own machines of death

thoughts and prayers
are not what will stop
the next one or
the next one or
the next one

we need to fix the fractures
we need to fuse the fragility
we need to teach our boys
that the way to express themselves
is not to destroy others

there is a straight line
between the fist and the fuse
and until we redirect that path
we will only have empty

thoughts and prayers



left out
locked out
down below the waterline
floating in stasis
not drowning
but not breathing

embraced by the filigree
the layers of dishonesty
cocooned in the safety
of my self-victimization
not crying
but not laughing

simply here
between the sharp edges of reality
and the freedom of the dream

can i be so subtle
and still claw my way
above the surface?
and do i really want to?

(i’m so tired of purging
the clockwork of my emotional bulimia drains my soul)



at the end of sorrow
at the end of rage
there is a quiet
a pause
a simmering peace
that resolves into joy

i do not want ecstasy
i even struggle with spelling it
i do not want delirium
or heavenly bliss

i just seek the joy
that resides in the softness
of that moment
on the other side of darkness

it is the peace
in a summer sunrise
a slight chill in the air
before the world wakes up
and everything returns
to chaos


what’s wrong?

what’s wrong?
is my least favorite question
sometimes i don’t know the answer

i didn’t know what a meltdown was
even though i had them all the time
and so i trained myself to make something up
to find the fracture that caused the collapse
to explain the implosion and the sadness

public sadness is an obligation
it’s an obligation to stay sad
lest someone insist that i’m just doing it
for attention

they do not accept its capricious transience
they do not accept the way it wobbles in and out
and most of all
they do not accept that sometimes
sadness is a lie

meltdowns are not anger
shutdowns are not sadness
acedia is not depression
these are shimmering illustions
misunderstood moods

what’s wrong?
is a demand for explanation
when i have torn the banal quiet
and folded it into my overstimulated soul

it carries the faulty presupposition
that something tangible is wrong
that i can point to this thing or that
as an explanation

it can’t all be part of the mosaic
it can’t just be the moment where
the calm is tipped into chaos
it can’t be a summation of
really honestly now that’s enough

it is a confrontation
it is a demand for restitution
it is centering your discomfort
and not my overwhelm

if i said nothing
because nothing was wrong
then well-meaning armchair psychologists
would tear my chest open
with their fingers
run their fingernails
through the gore that was my soul
in search of

what’s wrong?

so i’d convince myself of an answer
an answer that they would accept
that kid was bullying me
my pet goldfish died
i’m stressed out from homework
i don’t understand this assignment
anything that they would accept

and so i programmed my own brain
to assign a cause to my sadness
a presupposition upon a presupposition

meltdowns are not anger
shutdowns are not sadness
acedia is not depression
these are shimmering illustions
misunderstood moods

how can something be making me sad
when i’m not sad in the first place
the hypothesis is false
and so the conclusion is irrelevant

so i’ll tell you now
what i wish i could have known
to tell them when i was a child

nothing’s wrong
because i’m not really sad
i’m just
for the moment
a little bit



it’s hard to keep up
with what i’ve already said
it’s hard to look back
to make sure i’m not saying
what i’ve already said

it feels like i keep saying the same thing
screaming at the same wall
tugging at the same strings
inside my memories

is there a goal
is there an end
if i tear down the bricks
to find the me within

is there a promise
that i’ll find anything
worth finding?

if you’re listening
i need you to scream something back
so i know you’re there