Fragmented Tinkering

As I drive into work I have a thought
(Because when else would I have a thought?)
About how many people – me too! – find pleasure
In watching Let’s Play videos on YouTube.

But there is a soul-enhancing joy to be had,
By opening up your gadgets, seeing how they work,
And tinkering. You can take an old radio, and
Make it new, and with a little know-how even
Stream the audio of that Let’s Play video to it.

Maybe Locke and Marx were right, and that to
Own yourself, you must own your things,
And to own your things, you must tinker with them,
And on YouTube you can watch others tinker.

A Stoplight in the Pre-Dawn Morning

In the dark just-pre-dawn light,
I am sitting at a red stoplight,
At the edge of a town and an agricultural preserve.
The contours of hills are only just becoming distinct.

I glance in my rear-view mirror.
Behind me is an old, beat-up Toyota Corolla.
A couple is sitting in the front seats, barely illuminated.
They quickly lean over and peck eachother on the lips,
Before the light turns green,
And they drive on to their jobs picking Avocados from the groves
That grow outside of town.

Romance, Effendi, Romance

We sit and eat Teriyaki Chicken Kebabs, while watching
My parents’ dogs. What should we do now? she asks.
We could spend the evening writing poetry to each other, I say.
I’m so exhausted, I just want to watch TV, she says.
That is OK too, I say, and together we watch HGTV.

Later in the evening, she asks me, disbelievingly, what kind of poetry I write.
I guess realist poems, I say. I have never let her see my poetry.
You should write me a romantic poem, she says.

I am taken back to the Middle-East in colonial times,
When it was full of adventure, and pyramids, and tombs, and effendis,
And Sol Bloom and the Streets of Cairo and Maurice Jarre.
You could wear khakis then, and their pressed seams would remain immaculate,
Their soft but stiff fabric unsullied by sand or dirt or the decomposing detritus of ancient mummified Pharaohs.
Such wonder, such romance!
But now in their place are grubby terrorists with self-made IEDs.

She yawns, and I pour the rest of the wine into our glasses.
Tomorrow we will need to get up early.

A Break in the Rain

Driving down the freeway, it is raining.
The car stereo plays an album from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.
Traffic plays outside where the guitars do not sound.
A break in the traffic presents itself.
The rain beats down harder.

I switch off the windshield wipers, which were going back and forth every eight seconds.
I think of rolling down the windows; and speed up.

As I imagine the water drilling itself into the left side of my face, it pools vertically on my windshield, and I see, for a moment, a rainbow that is not there.
Traffic has built up again along with the water outside my car.

My car? I own it! I imagine rolling up the window.
I imagine straightening my tie.
I imagine slicking back my hair.
I stop, and present a grimacing smile to the brake-lights in front of me.
There you are, at last.

Some Advice for the Long-Dead Occupy Movement

Converge again, and create your tent cities of
Love and Hope and STDs and Public Safety Hazards.
Sit in your Circles again and Beat your Drums and
Talk and Live and create your Ideals. You must have your
Ideals.

Now; you have killed the grass on which your tents are
Erected. The Police will soon be ordered to
Evict You. The Politicians who once supported you, and
Told you to Stay as Long as you Needed to Effectuate Change,
Are discussing when to give the order.

Now! Before they come again! Pick up that Brick! Throw it!
Through the Window! Now is your chance!
Throw that brick through the window!
You can not destroy a corrupt system unless you enter into it,
Or you commit violence against it.

Your Drum Circles and Marijuana and Sharing Economy and
Consensus mean nothing, if you do not take up arms,
Or lay them down and enter into the Belly of the Beast.

Eugenia Place

The sleek, modern high-rise thrusts itself up,
Piercing the afternoon sky. Its translucent glass shaft
Shimmers in the clear wind, as its rigid cement blocks and steel beams,
Ribbed around the building, gleam.
What a phallic erection this is! Such potency,
And wealth.

But from its roof grows a mature oak tree.
It looks stolid and ancient. Its gnarled trunk
and yellowing foliage suggest the archaic;
A straight thing made crooked with age.
Its roots grow both shallow and deep.

Another 10 Haikus from the Mechanical Turk

The rain is falling
The storm is almost upon
night is so dark now

—–

A dog barks so loud
His owner is very proud
The dog starts a crowd

—–

Wispy strands fly off
I watch the soft magic flow
Of dandelions.

—–

The world is changing
Will it be better or worse
Let’s see together

—–

Some Rose buds are red.
Some rose buds are orange and white.
Give me fifteen cents.

—–

Painful swollen jaw
Can’t eat anything but soup
Wisdom teeth suck

—–

haikus are silly
but are kind of fun to write
case in point above.

—–

I am so tired
My bleary eyes start to shut
Peaceful dreaming now

—–

Trees are painted red
Crunchy leaves beneath my feet
Fall season is here

—–

Black, gray, and yellow
The sky clouded, the moon bright
Driving through the night.

The Stoic Alcoholic

As I read the online journal of a man I once knew in high school, I think to myself how little I know, and how much I can offer, and how arrogant I am. He has led a difficult life, is depressed, and is giving up drinking, after going on a month-long bender that is really itself the continuation (conclusion? he hopes) of a multi-year bender, which is perhaps itself only one part of a life-long bender. On Facebook I congratulate him for his grasp at sobriety, and suggest cognitive behavioral therapy as something that might be effective in dealing with the depression that seems to lie behind the drinking.

I do this because I believe that cognitive behavioral therapy is a light form of stoicism, which I believe because I once read as much on Wikipedia. I tell myself, and others, that I am stoic, and that the stoicism of Xeno and Epictetus and Aurelius works for me, although it is often hard to practice. But to be honest, while it often works, it does not always work, and it is not particularly hard. Time will pass whatever happens to me, and through detachment I can merge into the world, and accept that, as Pope said, whatever is is right. But then that sentiment’s applicability in a world in which police (without any judicial penalty!) beat homeless people to death, and schools are places of shootings, and, and, and… is perhaps in question.

I don’t think about this, however, as I read his online journal, in which he lays bare his soul and his struggles with depression and alcoholism. I do think that I would like a drink, and when I get home, I walk to our bar-cart, pour myself a bourbon, drink it down, and then pour another. I need to slow my roll I told myself several weeks ago, and I did. But now I am rolling again, moderately.

Please Ignore the Meaninglessness Below

On a Gossamer Shore stands
Liberty herself, weeping into her
Spiderweb’d fingers, clasping gently
Seventeen Tons of Empty Pages
Upon which are written Dollars, Cents, and
Pounds Sterling. Accounts Jumble
Together and Apart, as White Papers and
Blue Memos Cascade out from her Wavy
Hair, which waves Goodbye to all that,
As she bends down to present her
Alabaster Ass to Every Passer-by or
Onlooker, of which there are None.
The Bialetti Moka Pot burbles up Sickeningly
Strong coffee, which she Drinks Down Deeply,
Converting it into a Syrup which is
Thick with a Lack of Meaning,
And Best Served over Cold Pancakes.

Waking Up from a Mugging

My eyes open and I see a low yellow light
Vaguely illuminating an empty parking structure.
My chest is cradled by a cool, gravelly, black asphalt.
A dull, tired pain throbs in my head.

I try to get up, but my muscles don’t work.
I loll my head from side to side, and do not see my car.
My mouth is dry and salty. Oh, to lay down my head,
And rest. How nice that would be.

But I should call her, to let her know I am alright.
Am I? I fumble in my ripped pants pockets,
Feeling for my phone. It is not there.
Wait, my chest pocket is poking me. My phone is there.

My eyes drift unfocused at its screen. She is there.
I push my finger on her picture. The phone calls her.
I tell her I have been carjacked (have I?).
She says she will come pick me up.

My face is wet, dripping. I am so tired.
My head aches, my mouth is dry. Hungover, I curl my
Left arm to my face, and lay them down, on the asphalt.
Blood runs from my nose and mouth, and pools
On the ground around the crook of my elbow.
I am comfortable; I have laid down my burdens.

I watch the blood drip from my face, peacefully,
And disinterestedly contemplate my fate.
Why am I unafraid? The blood continues to run.
My suit jacket is caked in it. Ruined.

Oh, to close my eyes and drift away. But,
Instead, She finds me, lying in a pool
of my own blood, just around the corner from my car,
Broken, tired, aching, alive.