Epilogue (Part V)

Previous: Part IV


V.

“The earth is on fire” used to be a metaphor.

Something to dramatize, to clarify, something to make things real in the way we understand realness. Now, it’s just truth. Now, the forests burn, the fields burn, the books burn, the waters boil and the plants die and the heat chokes up our perfect, invincible, powerful bodies and there’s no going back.

There’s no going back.

There’s slowing, and there’s adapting, if we care enough to do that. But the fire is here to stay.

“Metaphorically speaking,” you prompt hesitantly. And my first response is to laugh.

“You’re a writer,” I say. “So you tell me.”


Next: …

the things i still remember

“Wait for me,” he’d said that day…

I still remember his eyes. Amber-colored, soft and gentle. They lit up at the edges when he smiled, and then narrowed and seemed to draw forward when he was being intense, thoughtful, or serious. He’d gazed at me with those narrow eyes that day – the day he left, the day we both made promises we could not keep, knowing that he would not be coming back.

I remember his hair. Long, compared to most boys back then. Slightly ruffled, thick, and dyed in all the colors I never dared. I’d admired him for his hair, something that sounds stupid now. Sometimes, when I dream, strangers with unknown faces show up framed in his hair.

I remember the way he talked. When we talked about life and death, suffering and the universe, it was slow, thoughtful, heartfelt. When he talked about music it was different – open and passionate, and rising steadily in volume, although he wouldn’t notice it. He’d talked about music a lot, and I’d listened, letting him share this part of his heart.

These are the things I still remember. Now, after all these years, they are outnumbered by the things I do not.

For some time I thought I would just let this happen, this slow deterioration of memory. But today, for some reason, I want to fight it. And so I will start by writing these lists of the things I still remember. He had talked about writing a lot back then, whenever he’d talked about composing music. “You have to write it down,” he’d say. “Take what’s in your heart and what’s in your head, and find a way to articulate it on paper. Then later you can look at it and think about it and still remember.”

I wish I could find a way to articulate the things I now forget.

L/N: August 2-8, 2020


『because we will meet again』

Poetry Compilation・August 3, 2020・Full Text

I think this compilation is one of the more coherent pieces of my recent work. There isn’t anything new in it, since I felt that I had a lot to work with already. The key point in this compilation is the flow – the connections linking each poem to the next. The order was very deliberate, even the choice of placing the title piece at the end, and on the surface, figuring out an overarching theme isn’t hard. The message, maybe, is harder to place, but I’ll leave it up to interpretation. I really enjoyed putting this together and rereading it as a compiled work, and I might revisit it sometime in the future.


firelight in summer

Free Verse・August 4, 2020・Full Text

As noted at the end of the original post, I wrote this piece for a friend’s birthday. It doesn’t immediately read as a stand-alone birthday message, since it’s less a celebration and more a reflection – a recognition that “there won’t ever be another time like this.” The spacing and visual flow are key points, and there are several important, unidentified metaphors – the fire, the bridge, the music, immortality. In a way, you can read it as less a birthday message and more a message of mourning.


timeslip

Tanka・August 5, 2020・Full Text

Why a message about a new year in the middle of summer? Time is highly subjective and socially constructed, I’ve talked about it before in pieces like 『Anniversary』. The sense that another year has passed can happen for different people at different times of our social year, and for a variety of reasons. How do we mark our own time? Is it our own birthdays, or the birthdays of people we’ve lost? Or is it something else altogether?


smoke screens

Tanka・August 6, 2020・Full Text

Sometimes I feel that as barren and unforgiving as our human cities are, some beautiful pattern of life, some non-human fragments of nature, can still be seen under the surface. It depends on where you are, how you live, and whether or not you pay attention. To me, our cities are a mask – and not necessarily the good, effective kind. The question becomes, what exactly are they masking, and why? And what’s with ‘smoke screens’?


flux

Tanka・August 7, 2020・Full Text

There is a deadline coming up for me, and strangely enough, I can’t tell if it’s a deadline I’ve already met, or one I won’t be able to meet. There doesn’t seem to be any other option – either I’ve already done it, or I won’t be able to. Why can’t I tell the difference? Why don’t I have another choice? Everything is self-imposed and self-interpreted – and everything is in flux.


cloud cover

Tanka・August 8, 2020・Full Text

It’s rarely so simple as ‘good times’ and ‘bad times’. You can have clouds without storms, and rain without sadness. Someone might ask you how your day is, or how you’ve been, and it shouldn’t be unacceptable to say “just alright” or “I don’t know”. If unpredictable weather is hard to navigate, how are we supposed to put these unpredictable moments and feelings into two or three short words?


firelight in summer

     the days are getting longer now,
and I can hear the burning roar;
eating away at the boards beneath us,
     the flames turn strange colors in the night –
and your shadow in the firelight is blinding.
     whoever said we won’t live forever?
even spirits have nightmares now and then;
you shade your eyes against the falling stars,
     and watching you, I realize –
there won’t ever be another time like this.
     this bridge we stand hovers over a chasm of nothing,
an empty void mistaken for hell;
but my memories of that place still end in warmth,
     and the music behind us is unstoppable –
so when we fall, how bad can it be?
     the heat around us grows in tandem
and the stars, they start to dance;
flickering with what-ifs and what-could-have-beens,
     your eyes reflect my past and future selves
and our nightly tragedy becomes another chance –
     another chance to bravely fall,
another chance to die;
     another chance to become immortal,
another chance to rise.

For my friend, E. Happy birthday.

『because we will meet again』


rainy season memories

alone on this night
rainy season memories
return to haunt me;
though we cannot see the stars,
their light shines through the downpour.


i see the light

i see the light
reflecting off a strand of silk that dances
but is still anchored, dances
but is still strong
and i close my eyes
afraid to look out the window at night because i don’t
know who will be there
waiting
or watching

i toss and i turn but it’s not the crickets that keep me
and your desperate words come and i call
and your voice
raw and breaking like i’ve never heard
painful and low because you didn’t know who else to talk to,
you’re sorry
but i’m not
i was never sorry

and i hit pause when you’re in the water
pause to stare at that stupid beautiful tattoo
branding it into my memory, it
means something to me
but i don’t know what
and we write and we write and we talk
until the last thing you write, those silent words
‘you mean the world to me’
and i have to swallow my heart again


anesthetized

shaking
to the point where i feel nothing
though others say it’s rolling like a boat, i
i just hear the demons
they’re banging on my bedroom door now
and i’m numb
hollow

part of me wants to invite them in, but i
can’t find my feet in the night
awake at 4am, my soul is wandering
ungrounded
homeless
i can’t feel pain and i’m not afraid
but this is when we are most vulnerable
you know

and in the end our souls alight
although the demons always visit twice
and you return me
to our shared dreamscape and we sleep
filling our voids with each other
and learning
to feel pain again


typhoon and aftermath

heat
as from a hair dryer,
filling the room
like steam I cannot see,
the warm cloud of your breath
expanding between us
enveloping
disguising
the morning fog rolls in around us
and your feet kick up the dust
and i follow
without seeing, i follow

the ocean throws up a mist
a salty spray that lingers on my tongue
and as it begins to rage, the fire comes
all sparks and embers and smoke-induced tears
and i think of you,
though no one would understand why

the stardust in the sea still glitters,
a reflection of the universe in your heart
and the flames lick at the shoreline and i,
i do not know what the waves are made of anymore
i do not know what i am made of anymore

i must be dreaming, i think
this scene is too fantastical
if i survive, it will become a nightmare
but you will be in it,
so i think i will not mind

i lay in my bed finding the empty space beside me
and the heat fills it, the waves wash in to fill it
unseeing
undreaming
phantom earthquakes tighten me like a screw
but at least they do not hurt, for the waves
the unknown waves soothe my scars
and reflect your eyes into mine

and i drift off to sleep, determined to dream
even if it will be another nightmare this time


Painting Dreams and Nightmares

dreaming unexpectedly,
her tears fall into the sand
thick ropes weave between our feet
as we walk into a foreign land

on fire, all of us and them
but together we still see
together we still see our dreams
and make them reality

she paints with the fibers of a noose
illustrating her nightmares from inside
and still we walk through the door to love her
so that we can say we tried

where we’re going, I won’t know
until I sleep tonight
but until I close my eyes this time
again I’ll hold you tight

until I close my eyes this time,
again I’ll hold you tight…


angels and demons, and goddesses

dripping just like blood,
the rain off her umbrella —
she speaks, and I dream;
if such a goddess exists,
why must she come to haunt me?


night visitors

sleep
like a night visitor,
a foreign stranger
who never planned to stay…

it was never meant to be this way.

i lay awake, trapped in dreams
and beside me you’re still feverish
you ask me if it’s night or day, and i say both
but it’s neither.
unsatisfied, you close your eyes
and something in me just can’t look away.

we spend our moments standing on a bridge
together wondering if we should burn it
“maybe this way we won’t have to choose…”
but the choice was already made for us
and we were too late to see it.

don’t tell me i’m naive.

if it must work out by the end i’ll make it work
but for now, we’re locked in separate dreams
hovering in the same space, our hands
just out of reach of our bodies
and our eyes
your eyes
glistening like stars in the night.


nothing else

with no other choice
I embrace your darkened form
in the strongest rain;
for you and for everyone,
there is nothing else but love.


black and blue

glowing black and blue, the quiet night
and a beaten man is sprawling on the floor
from his back he gazes at the stars
and we gaze back at him, silent and torn

there truly could have been another way

he dreams of you and I watch him
knowing how much it would mean to hear your voice
but on this night you cannot speak
and I cannot speak for you, though I cry

he reaches toward us with his open hand
and we know he wants to join us
but you can’t bear to pull him to his feet
and we watch as he stands up alone

and we watch as he stands up alone —

because he needs to live another day


because we will meet again

laying here beside you,
and afraid to say goodbye
the sun burns itself out,
reflected in my eyes
if only there could have been another time
the world revolves around us still
and everything just comes and goes
like waves crashing on the shore, we rise to die, and I
I’m not afraid
because if our universe returns to the beginning again,
then we are nothing more than immortal

your voice echoes in the night
compounded by your pain, but it’s alright
we both believe that it’s alright
even the fall of a great star is beautiful,
and gives life to those who see it
and the day must break again,
you call my name and bring tears to my eyes
summon me, wingless, to the sky
we knew our lives were a mockery, a chase played out in reverse
so we broke it like a mirror and made our own game out of glass
even the shattered fragments driven deep into our skin came alive
we did our best to live, that time

and now new times are coming,
they will always come
we put our foreheads together and close our eyes
and as the shooting stars sing their songs, we cry
out of fear but unafraid
because there was never anything to be afraid of but ourselves
so I whisper my farewells without regret
and you hold onto your reply, waiting
for our next chance to speak and hear, waiting
for our next chance to no longer be alone, waiting
for our next chance to rise.


L/N: July 27-August 1, 2020


night visitors

Free Verse・July 27, 2020・Full TextCompiled in 『because we will meet again』

This piece is more or less a meditation on the feelings that come to us within the night. At that time when everything around us takes on a fuzzy grey appearance, it is easier for us to realize that things are not so simple as we think. There are many lines that seem contradictory or paradoxical – “i lay awake, trapped in dreams,” “you ask if it’s night or day, and i say both / but it’s neither,” “our hands / just out of reach of our bodies”. But in the night, when we dream, when we lay beside each other and gaze up at the stars, lines like these become less poetry and more truth. And isn’t that something special, almost magical, something to be treasured and respected?


caught

Tanka・July 28, 2020・Full Text

Try to live without making regrets, I’ve learned – but the problem is that regrets only become regrets in hindsight. In many ways, regrets are unavoidable. There are steps we can take to limit them – by frequently telling our loved ones how much they mean to us, for example, and spending as much time with them as possible – but you can’t do that with everyone all the time and still come out alive. We simply do our best and try to keep moving forward, and that’s all we can ever do.


Epilogue (Part IV)

Prose-Poetry・July 29, 2020・Part IV

This piece revolves around environmental justice. Specifically, intergenerational justice – the fact that the consequences of what we the living do with our planet will rain down unfairly on generations to come, and the younger generations who are already here. Recently, the youth of the world have leapt into a movement to try to bring attention to this injustice. I think it is essential that even if you’re older, you at least try to understand how they must be feeling. “You are borrowing this world from us,” I once wrote – can you not look into the future and try to ensure that the world you leave behind is one in which your children will thrive and be happy?


angels and demons, and goddesses

Tanka・July 30, 2020・Full Text

“We all have our angels and our demons,” I wrote once. Well, I suppose we all have our resident spirits and goddesses too. This tanka is pretty ambiguous and open to interpretation, but I think that even if you don’t come to any definite conclusion as to its meaning, you can certainly still enjoy reading it.


wondering

Tanka・July 31, 2020・Full Text

Our increasingly digital, globalized world has made it possible for us to make connections and all kinds of relationships with people all over. And one aspect of these new relationships that isn’t often spoken about, is the uncertainty that comes with injury, illness, and death. If the person you often communicate with online suddenly stops responding – for months, for years – you don’t know what happened to them. Maybe for some reason they suddenly decided they don’t like you. Maybe they got into a severe car accident. Maybe they have been claimed by the pandemic. Or cancer. Or they were a victim in a mass shooting or random robbery-turned-murder. At heart, you don’t know if they’re alive or dead. And if that person meant a lot to you, if your relationship had gone on for a long time and had been truly meaningful, that uncertainty hurts. Some people might say they prefer the uncertainty, because then at least there is a chance that the other person is still alive and out there – but that uncertainty will dig away at your soul forever. Years from now, will you still be happily hanging on to not knowing?


anesthetized

Free Verse・August 1, 2020・Full TextCompiled in 『because we will meet again』

There was a decently strong earthquake the other day. I ended up writing this poem about it. I was awake when it happened, very, very early in the morning, and I was awake for one of the strong aftershocks a few hours later. But, it was only the aftershock that I felt. My only experience of the main event was hearing the abrupt, violent banging sounds of my closed door rattling back and forth in its frame. Having not felt the shaking, I thought for a moment that someone was banging on my door – but I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t get up or turn on the lights, I didn’t open the door or get my phone or call out to the people I live with. I just lay there, watching, waiting. Out of this experience came this poem, a meditation on moments in which we feel nothing, moments in which we are numb inside and anesthetized, and how we resolve that hollowness by interacting with each other and teaching each other to feel again.