There’s something about those suburbs.
It’s the trees and all that oxygen, it must make people do things
they didn’t plan doing when they were young.
Marry, buy dogs, make babies.
Their brains get soft and full of farmers market honey, their lungs fill with
pioneer spirit and a nagging forgetting to turn something off kind of feeling.
Of course you get that in the city too.
But there the turned off switch never worked in the first place. The lights are on baby, all the freaking time and if the thunder ever threatens otherwise, the smart phones lie in wait.
In the city sometimes I think I’d like to be in the country, with chickens and a baby and grits.
Trapped in happy debt. Free to feed those little birds.
But that city fog comes creeping clouding in.
And then I’m by myself, forgetting. Compulsively cracking breakfast eggs until the yolks stop breaking.
There’s something about those suburbs.
Does man love Art? Man visits Art, but squirms.
Art hurts. Art urges voyages—
and it is easier to stay at home,
the nice beer ready.
-Gwendolyn Brooks, The Chicago Picasso
I was headed to the laundry room when I saw a dead dragonfly on the cement. And even upside down with it’s back parts all crunched it was still so beautiful and I thought, someone will step on it and that’s just awful.
So I picked it up using a magazine and flipped it over near the fence with all the ivy on it.
There are those moments when you already know something, but your brain tells you it can’t be so, and so you push it down and stick with the logic of the rational world. We all know things like that. You look at people and you know who and how they love, whether their parents are divorced, why they clutch so tight to their gucci bags.
Well when I flipped this dragonfly over, I knew it was alive.
Something about the springiness in it’s legs perhaps or the way the million parts of its green eyes shone.
Disturbed, I crouched and watched it.
Dreadful is how I would describe watching something come back to life. Or maybe I was watching something on the verge of death. It seems like the same thing. Suddenly the bug’s body twitched and I’m sure I made some audible sound of horror.
It began to crawl. A slow death march towards the ledge, the back half of it hanging on by not enough, with shaking wings failing to do what wings do best. But unable to stop that instinctive insect part. The part that says, fly, eat, mate, die.
It clearly wrestled with the die part.
I watched it crawl and felt that human need to do something. The other time I felt like that was when I was around six or seven years old and there was a baby bird dying under my watch. It was in the basement of our old house, wrapped in a box in a towel. My mom was at work and it was just me and my dad. He gave up, or maybe he already knew it was dying, just like I knew the dragonfly was alive. I got worms and cereal and was begging the thing to eat, because I could hear the starving in its voice. As it was dying I became hysterical and my dad picked me up and dragged me screaming away from it.
It wasn’t as bad this time, because dragonflies don’t make as much noise, but I still wanted to give it something to let it know someone cared it was leaving this world.
I went upstairs and pulled a basil leaf off my plant for it. I left the leaf near it and then walked away, reminding myself to check on it later.
When I went back later, it was gone. It flew away, or a bird ate it, or it was assumed into heaven. I hadn’t dreamed it because the basil leaf was still there. A little organic tombstone from a human undertaker. A physical marker to pin down the insect undead.
Lady the cat, shapeshifting into her true form.
I walked into a bathroom without a mirror
And so was forced to self-reflect instead.
It was a rough night, let me tell you.
I went back out to where my Albanian friends were sitting
and told them about my lack of reflection.
So what? They said. In Albania, there were never any mirrors
Just one small one in the bathroom that the men would use for shaving.
And here they hold up an imaginary mirror in their hands and pretend to shave.
Our server comes over and the mirror talk has gotten the Albanians riled up.
Pining for nationalism, one asks her, What does it mean to be an American?
What? the server says.
An American, you know, the Albanians say in their charming Albanian way.
Um, I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that, the girl says in her uncomfortable American woman way.
I don’t remember what I said. I think I told them to knock it off.
Later, when I’m laying in bed, upset and still without any mirror to show myself who I am, American or otherwise, I look up A Letter From Paul to the Corinthians.
Some ignorant wedding masses start with Love is patient, but laying there lost under so many covers, I started where it counts:
If I speak with the languages of men and angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.
Through a glass darkly, I see.
Social media can be a real bitch. As a writer, the temptation to fall back on Miley Cyrus references and cute cat videos can be overwhelming. After a while, one’s language skills can start to feel like so many drowned sailors, clinging to rational thought in a relentless sea of social media meaninglessness.
On Sept. 9, Jimmy Kimmel revealed his part in the staged “Worst Twerk Fail EVER" video, which depicted a twerking upside down woman who falls into a glass table and then lights her pants on fire. The 37-second video - a subtle nod to ol’ Miley herself - attracted nine million views in six days.
So Jimmy Kimmel was having some fun at our expense. Making us chow down on a buzzword feast. Allowing us addicts to gnash our teeth on the purest online fluff available.
But, as all good addicts know, too much fluff can rot the old teeth, and so let us turn to that master of clairvoyance, Christopher Hedges, for a little illumination on all things buzz-worthy.
In Hedges’ “Empire of Illusion, The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” he writes:
Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, untimely deaths, train wrecks—these events play well on computer screens and television. Internal diplomacy, labor union negotiations, and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images.
Which brings me, logically, to “I Heart Boobies" a campaign started by the Keep a Breast Foundation as part of a "positive approach to breast cancer dialogue."
Campaigns like I Heart Boobies and, more recently, “Cliteracy" - a New York art project designed to inform the female anatomy-curious masses - are image campaigns, which feed us complex health and social issues in a neat and tidy little word box, which, should we choose to swallow, allow for less and less meaning in our daily lives.
I Heart Boobies is a saccharine piece of hard candy that should make anyone who’s ever endured breast cancer want to choke. All of cancer’s ugly, painful complexity is scrubbed away, leaving a pop-able, infantile easy-to-gulp nugget for Americans of all ages to ingest.
And meaning well doesn’t get you off the hook. While artist Sophia Wallace says her Cliteracy project stems from her need to educate the “clit”-ierate, incompetent masses, her call to higher education encourages those masses to ride a giant gold clitoris and wear shirts decked out with phrases like “Solid Gold Clit.”
To go back to Hedges:
In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality…The ability to amplify lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless news cycles, gives lies and mythical narratives the aura of uncontested truth. We become trapped in the linguistic prison of incessant repetition.
Or, as George Orwell wrote in “1984,” “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” The more we hear simplistic crap repeated as a society, the more our heads become full of crappy simplistic thought. Thinking about a woman losing a part of her physical body to cancer is hard, much easier to just love breasts and call it a day.
Having cancer and being a woman with a clitoris in America are difficult enough things to endure. Fight the urge to buy boob bracelets, ride on giant clitorises, and troll on women filming booty videos for their boyfriends. And for god’s sake, stop re-posting that garbage on Facebook. Your brain - and your Facebook friends’ brains - will thank you.
A morbid poem, for a sparkling Friday the 13th. Brought to you by some soul’s sharpie scratchings on a bridge in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Mary Shelley would be proud.
Life still resonates
In us and the echoes
of its memory coagulate
our resolve to believe
in this fading stance
The reaper himself
Trembles in front
of so noble a cause
Our two souls
shall be one
from now on
Until yet a few more
Deaths do us part
And in the absence
of the proper authority to do so:
We hereby declare ourselves
Husband and Wife
A most morbid union
bringing hope to this bleak land
in dire need of tolerance
-Victoria and David ESTEP. June, 2013
The weary days are coming
The weary days are here
The love that once roamed rampant
Has crumpled into fear
Overcome by tidal waves
Of sorrow and despair
A scraping of the brush
A tangle of the hair
And through it all the time
A thing that likes to run
A watch that clocks oblivion
A start so almost done
For the ultimate Maudlin Thursday, listen while reading the poem above.